When Your Hometown Becomes a Destination

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Before Sactown was the Farm to Fork Capitol we were (and still are) the City of Trees. The trees lend elegance to our neighborhoods and lower the temperatures by at least 10 degrees.

I’ve lived in Sacramento most of my life. For the first 25 years everyone was content with being the Capitol and a rapidly growing suburban county. As Sacramento-native Joan Didion called it, people had a more mid-western sensibility about their wealth and well-being. Our problems were hidden. The community was segregated with waves of white flight out of South Sacramento to the burgeoning suburbs.

Our claim to fame was that we were “close to everything.” It was a great place to stop if you were on your way to Tahoe, or Napa, or San Francisco or Yosemite. Sacramento is at the confluence of two great rivers–the Sacramento and American–and a gateway to the Delta, but it’s attraction for the longest time was it was at the confluence of two great highways–Interstate Highways 5 and 80.

People in the community liked that it was a less expensive, quieter place to raise children. People would complain about “the traffic” that wouldn’t register on the Los Angeles traffic meter. We also don’t have to worry about earthquakes and our floods appear to be managed for now.

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Local artists Suzanne Adan and Michael Stevens created Kit & Kaboodle, an exhibit for kids at the Crocker Art Museum. The Crocker is very kid friendly, and has a great cafe for adults.

The developers who ran local politics began to beat the drum for putting Sacramento on the map and making it a world class city. In the mid-eighties they had a lot of new houses to sell in Natomas, so land speculators and builders began the dubious proposition of making Sacramento famous by bringing a professional sports team to town. The Kansas City Kings basketball team arrived in 1985 to great fanfare and a new stadium in Natomas. It did raise Sacramento’s profile but it also gave other cities opportunity to mock us for being a Cowtown.

Periodically ever since, someone–a mayor or other city booster–declares Sacramento a destination. Self-declaration doesn’t count. In the travel world you have to be anointed a destination by the Conde Nast magazines. Or the New York Times travel editor. Preferably both.

At last, thanks in large part to the spotlight that Sacramento-native Greta Gerwig shone on our fair city, Sacramento is getting the attention that some would say is long overdue. The New York Times just released “36 Hours in Sacramento“!  It is so weird to read about the places you eat or shop regularly as destinations. Lovely too.

Once in my first professional job after grad school, the National Geographic hired our little think tank at UC Davis to review an article they were doing on the Great Central Valley. We looked at their map and shook our heads. They had Gilroy on the west side of the Valley. There were other errors as well and they didn’t correct all of the mistakes we identified for them. It made me skeptically at National Geographic maps ever since.

I love the 36 Hours series, but now having read the writer’s suggestions that would have you crisscrossing all over Sactown, I am going to refer to the 36 Hour recommendations but take the schedules with a grain of salt.  Thanks for the shout outs for local favorite restaurants and shopping destinations. We have always had a vibrant arts community and now more people are taking notice.

Sacramento has also been in the news lately because of the police shooting of an unarmed black man. Stephon Clark’s death has tested our community and revealed some problems many would rather ignore. Hopefully we will all learn from and begin to reform the inequities so we can truly achieve “great” status.

 

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New Urban Wood Recycling Center

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Today the Sacramento Tree Foundation celebrated the grand opening of the Urban Wood Center. Sacramento, as the City of Trees, has many mature hardwood trees and some of them have to be removed at the end of their lifespan. These ash, london planes (sycamores), redwoods and oaks can be a tremendous source of high quality wood for artisans and woodworkers. Affordable too.

The Tree Foundation created this venture to divert these logs from the waste stream and repurpose the wood to a higher and better use. All of the proceeds go to support the mission of The Sacramento Tree Foundation. There are wood slabs, dimensional cut boards, and ready made planters.

You can find the products and prices on the webpage, or you can visit the site at The Depot Thursdays 11:00 – 3:00; Friday 11:00- 3:00; Saturday 9:00 – 4:00 or by appointment Monday – Wednesday.

 

 

Not Every Adventure Needs to Be Big

 

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At least once a week I go on an adventure with my grandson Calvin who is 16 months old. He reminds me of the joy and wonder of noticing the things we adults often overlook. Like the inlaid wood and carving at the Crocker Museum. Or the joy of going to the nursery in springtime.

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Where is Gramma J?

Today we went to the Plant Foundry in Oak Park, Sacramento, California.

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The challenge is getting plants whilst enjoying it from a wee man’s perspective. So glad my daughter was along to help out this time.

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In a recently published book, 1001 Things to Do with Kids in Sacramento by Sabrina Nishijima, there are many ideas for kids of all ages. I have been looking for more ideas so I plonked down my debit card to buy this from Time Tested Books on 21st Street near K. Just remember, sometimes you can keep it simple and have a great adventure, like the time we never made it into the Railroad Museum because the wooden sidewalks and rocky paths were so fascinating.

 

*Post originally appeared in Adventures of American Julie on March 11, 2018.

Farm to Fork at Hook & Ladder

We took advantage of the tail end of Farm to Fork Sacramento’s restaurant week at Hook & Ladder. My friends were visiting from out of town and they are adventurous eaters. I wanted to try someplace none of us had been. The menu offered two choices of an entree, plus two choices of main, plus two choices of dessert. My friend and I made sure we tried it all–3 dishes each for $35 per person. Our other friend ordered the peach and pesto pizza.

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It started with a craftsman cocktail with a clever name. So clever the gin blotted it from memory.

We enjoyed the very competent service and ordered our drinks. I decided to splurge and try the cocktail. This is about twice what I normally drink. Actually, I rarely drink so how to measure? It was tasty and had a fun name I can’t remember. Sign of a good drink.

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Corn soup (cold)

We dug into our fun appetizers and agreed that we’d like more of both. But wait, we have entrees coming and a huge pizza for Nora.

We were comfortably digesting when our desserts arrived. Our server brought plenty of forks without asking. Yummy.

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Hook & Ladder is at S Street near 16th Street in downtown Sacramento. You can make reservations on Open Table. This is a good idea on the weekends. The atmosphere is not fussy, but not overly casual. And with cocktails $10 and over and a main in the high $20s, it is a good date spot or place to gather with well-heeled friends.

 

 

Poets in the Park and Ice Cream Too!

20160826_153712There have been several features in travel magazines about the Poet Laureate Park in the space between the Natomas Library and Community Center. The poets featured include many Sacramento poet laureates (who knew we had such?). The artist Troy Corliss created these poems in metal art calling them, “Poet’s Path: Circle of Laureates.” (2015)

20160826_153527There are other things to entice a family to seek out this park. Besides the library, there are two playgrounds, a picnic area, a green with a fitness track, and a rose garden.

20160826_153059It is much like McKinley Park in East Sacramento. I have never explored Natomas except to go North on Truxel toward the basketball arena. Instead turn south and find this lovely collection of public delights.

20160826_153015Saving the best for last: after a stroll through the park in the summer heat I was ready to google “nearest ice cream” when I spied Ms. T’s Good to Go Cafe. I ordered a handmade ice cream sandwich. I chose the just baked chocolate chip cookies and took my sandwich to a cafe table in the courtyard. Yum! Yum! It is worth a stop all on its own.

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Enjoying a Little Bit of Vietnam

My friend Anita and I were planning to meet up for lunch and she suggested that first wo go to the Happy Day Spa for a full foot massage.

20160530_141731I was not sure what to expect. They accept walk ins but Anita made reservations. We waited a few minutes and then we were escorted into a softly lit room with two long rows of cushy spa beds (like those sometimes uses for pedicures or facials). We sat down and removed our shoes. You keep your clothes on, but for the best experience where loose, comfy clothing. The spa attendant put our feet in warm water (so use the restroom before you start, haha).  The “foot massage” is actually a scalp, neck, arm and leg and foot massage. It is incredibly relaxing. It was just $25 for a full hour so I gave a generous tip.

Then we walked around the corner to the Vietnamese restaurant in the adjacent strip mall. Our expectations rose for the authenticity of the food at Bon Mua when we realized we were among the few non-Vietnamese people in the restaurant. The food was delicious. We enjoyed a great conversation about our mutual mentor the late Pearlie Reed, and ate till we were full.

Anita suggested that next time we save room to go to Vampire Penguin for shaved ice cream. Yum. Could have been a trifecta.

 

Amgen Tour of California Returns to Delta

Tour of California is one of the best professional road races in the USA. It is a competition for both men and women and is attracting world class teams.

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Peter Sagan won the World Championship Road Race since winning Tour of California 2015. Will he be back to defend his title?

This year the race will start in Southern California and then conclude in Northern California. Stage 5 will start in Lodi. The final stage (8) will be in Sacramento.

 

“May 19, 2016 – Men’s Stage 5

Stage 5 will usher riders from the beautiful vineyards of Lodi to a long gradual ascent to an uphill finish in South Lake Tahoe, reaching a peak elevation of 8,600 feet – the highest in race history. The ride, essentially a 130-mile climb that gains in elevation from 50 feet to 6,650 at the finish, will showcase California’s diversity, from the rich soil of the Central Valley to the mighty peaks of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.”

The VIP hours for the start are 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. If you want to view from the street downtown–plan for breakfast and watching the controlled start. They will be out of town after a few minutes. You can sometimes see your favorite riders and get autographs outside their team bus.

“May 22, 2016 – Men’s Stage 8

The capital city of California has hosted the Amgen Tour of California Overall Start for the past two years as well as individual stage finishes; 2016 will bring its first Overall Finish. This sports-crazed city is thriving with a new stadium under construction and several national sporting events taking place throughout the year.

The course will travel along the Sacramento River and cross Tower Bridge twice before returning downtown where fans will anxiously wait along the traditional finish circuits around the Capitol building.

Last year was the closest men’s race finish ever with general classification champion Peter Sagan winning by a mere 3 seconds after earning an intermediate sprint time bonus and bonus seconds on the final stage sprint. What excitement will this year’s final race day hold?”

“May 22, 2016 – Women’s Stage 4

The overall champion will be decided after 20 laps of a downtown Sacramento circuit on wide, fast roads. Fans can expect shakeups until the very end — last year, Sacramento saw a thrilling women’s finish when Trixi Worrack’s (GER) general classification win came down to sprint time bonuses and the final sprint for the stage.”

The festival is usually staged on 10th Street in front of the Capitol. The streets around the capitol will be blocked off most of the day. Ride your bike downtown and enjoy a fun Sunday outing. Watch the women’s circuit race and then watch the final laps of the men’s race. Final prize presentations follow shortly after each finish.

I am hoping Peter Sagan returns to defend his title. He is one of the most exciting professional riders in the world. Watch as he avoids a crash on the cobbles at Paris-Roubaix 2016. He’s the cyclist in white on the right who also avoided a spectator on the grass! Mad bike skills.