Wednesday, September 26, 2012

CLASSIC TRIP - Sacramento, California 2004

NOTE: I apologize for the blurriness of the Capitol photos, flash photography is prohibited within the building.

After a trip to San Francisco, we decided to take a different tack and head over to Arnoldland…Sacramento.

Our hotel for this trip would be the Hallmark Suites (now the Hotel Sierra - Ed) in Rancho Cordova, a suburb seven miles east of Sacramento.

Day One - Wednesday (July 7th)

We arrive at our hotel around 4 o'clock. It's a decent if generic looking place but my wife immediately takes a dislike to the room offered and has the front desk change us to a second floor room. I don't really see a difference in the room except maybe the parking lot noises would bother her…but I'm not going to argue, we're here to have a good time.

We've spent the day in Napa Valley so, after grabbing dinner at a nearby In 'n Out, we just relax in the room.


Wow! What a fabulous breakfast they serve here at the Hallmark.

We walk over to the nearby light rail station to catch a trolley into downtown Sacramento. Great system they've got here. Quick, efficient and manned by friendly, professional drivers. $3.00 ($1.50 for disabled or seniors) (now $6 and $3 respectively - Ed) buys you an all day pass good for the bus system too. Traffic on the nearby freeway is at a near standstill but the train gets us downtown quickly. Our only (very minor) complaint would be that the bench seats on the trolley aren't very comfortable for a long haul.

The driver drops us off at a stop about two short blocks to the Capitol Building. We walk over and follow the signs to the accessible entrance…actually, they have two. One on either end of the building.

You must go through the ever present airport style security that is a mandatory feature of today's government buildings but once inside, you're pretty much free to roam wherever you want. There is a tour desk in the basement that provides a group tour of the building…which we would not end up taking as you'll soon see.

Instead, we encounter the hallway that leads to the governor's office with gold relief lettering over the top reading "Arnold Schwarzenegger" just above the slightly duller lettering reading "Governor". We ask the highway patrolman standing guard outside if it is alright to go in and he says it is.

In the lobby there are no seats for visitors so a number of serious looking people in suits are milling around the desk of the receptionist. She informs us that, yes, the governor does entertain visitors when he's not too busy…a group of students got to go in and meet him not too long before we showed up…but that he's very busy right now (this was the time of intense budget negotiations as the state budget was eight days late and counting).

Hanging on the wall was a Detroit Pistons jersey and several jars of food products made in Michigan. The governor lost the traditional bet when the Lakers lost to the Pistons in the NBA finals and he had to wear that jersey to work one day.
In Front of The Governor's Office
Upon exiting the governor's office lobby, I spy a building office directory. I look up our state senator and our state assemblyman's offices…which are both on the third floor…and tell my son and wife we should go up and see them.

We do. First up is our state senator, Bob Margett. I tell the receptionist that I just wanted to show my son where our state senator worked. No problem, she welcomes us and has us sign the visitor register. Sen. Margett is not there, but she shows us his office and asks, "have you toured the building yet?"

Upon learning that we haven't, she quickly gets on the phone and asks if we can return at 2:00. We tell her we can and just like that, she sets up a private tour of the building for us. She then takes us over to the Senate Chamber and shows us Sen. Margett's desk on the floor of the chamber and then takes us back to the office. We chat for a few minutes and then take our leave to head over to our assemblyman's office.

At that office, of Assemblyman Dennis Mountjoy, we again tell them we're constituents and wanted to see where our representatives worked. A couple of legislative aides are working there today and they have us sign their register and show us Mr. Mountjoy's office (he too is out today). There are many enormous models of airplanes hanging from his office ceiling and the aide tells us that the assemblyman likes to build radio controlled model aircraft…but that he doesn't actually fly them because he's afraid they'll crash expensively on landing (Mr. Mountjoy is also a pilot). The aide chats us up quite awhile telling us about different
politicians she's worked for, what Tim's college plans are, etc., and seems genuinely pleased to have a conversation with some constituents.

After our visits, we have a couple of hours to kill, so we head over to nearby Old Sacramento to have lunch and ice cream.
On Our Tour Through the Capitol Building
At 2:00, we return to Senator Margett's office and meet our tour guide. She takes us again to the Senate floor and explains about the renovations that took place about twenty years ago, the history of the place, and how the color scheme (red) was copied from the House of Lords in England. Then it's over to the Assembly chambers for much of the same kind of information (they're green, after the House of Commons), down to the Library where rare books and works of art are on display, the rotunda, and then some recreations of old capitol offices such as the treasurer and governor that are on the first floor. It's a fun and interesting tour and the building, at least the original old part, is quite beautiful.

Afterward, we return to Old Sacramento to hang out for awhile. This is, like the name implies, a very old part of the town that has been preserved in a state park. It consists of about four blocks of old Gold Rush era buildings along the riverfront with a few mysterious looking back alleys in between. Most of the buildings are used by shops, restaurants, and bars so it's kind of like a mall in old buildings. On a hot day (as almost every summer day in Sacramento is), the walk along the big river is very pleasant and pretty. The state railroad museum is also here and looks very interesting but our tour of the capitol leaves us with only about fifteen minutes to spare before the museum's closing time, so we'll leave that for another trip.

We pick up some fresh fruit at a produce store here, try several samples of taffy at a candy store, pick up some souvenirs at a few of the shops, and then catch the bus back to the pedestrian mall where we can catch the trolley back to the hotel.

Back at the hotel, we swim in the crowded pool and then enjoy the hotel's free happy hour. Afterward, I walk over to a nearby Wendy's and procure dinner for the three of us which we enjoy in the room.


Today, the breakfast room is full of hard bodies! Seriously, there are men and women here who have muscles upon muscles and not an ounce of fat. Many are wearing Olympic ring jewelry, Olympic t-shirts, and Olympic hats. I ask someone what's going on?

I find out that today is the first day of the Olympic Track and Field Finals, taking place just down the road at Cal State Sacramento, and that many of our fellow hotel guests are Olympic hopefuls. So, for the rest of our stay, we'll now be surrounded by some of the best athletes in the world. I don't know how many actually made the team, but at least one that was there - Hazel Clark - made the women's 800 meter team. We'll be cheering on our fellow guests this summer as they go to Athens. Go Hallmark Suite athletes!

Well, as interesting as this is, we're not here for that…we're just on vacation.

After breakfast, we head to the northwest to go to the Gold Rush town of Nevada City. We have two reasons for being here. First, my wife wants to go to the V*Tae company store (they make many lotions, oils, and other beauty products that she really likes) and, second, to go hiking.

Six miles north of Nevada City, on Highway 49, is the Independence Trail. This is a wheelchair accessible trail…two of them actually…that wind around 5 miles through the mountains and along side the Yuba River.

You see, back in the Gold Rush days, miners thought it would be nifty if they could just blast away at the gold-bearing hillsides with high-pressure hoses. The dirt that washed away could then be sifted for gold. This was a much faster way to get at large amounts of ore than by using pans, sifting boxes, or digging. Only bad thing was that this was causing a huge environmental problem. Not only were permanent scars being placed on the mountains, the dirt was polluting and silting up the fish filled rivers and whole towns downstream were being flooded.

In one of the earliest environmental rulings, the Supreme Court ruled the practice a private and public nuisance and outlawed it (Woodruff v. North Bloomfield Gravel Mining Company, 1884).
Left over was the network of water flumes used to redirect the water. For many years, farmers took the water they provided but eventually they fell into disuse. Someone figured out that the size and shape of these flumes were perfectly suited to a wheelchair and so the people at the Sequoya Challenge refurbished these flumes into trails that wheelchairs can navigate.
Today, you can even take your chair right up to the river's edge and, if you're able, take a dip in the swimming hole there.
Along the Independence Trail
We go up a mile or so and have a small picnic at an overlook where we can see the river. There is a good bit of poison oak here, so we have to be careful, and walking in the flume ditch is a bit like being in a tunnel. There are spectacular views, springs (with the accompanying bug filled swamp), rock tunnels, and lots of trees and shrubs. It's not the very best accessible trail we've been on (that would be either the West Fork trail in Azusa Canyon in the Angeles National Forest or the Trail of 100 Giants in Sequoia National Monument) but it's still a very good trail.

Afterward, we head back down to the valley and spend the afternoon cooling off in the hotel pool, enjoying the happy hour, and having dinner at a local Fuddrucker's.

That evening, we watch the Olympic Trials on TV trying to spot our hotel neighbors.


At breakfast today (have I told you enough how good breakfast is at this hotel? Mmmmm…) I chat with the couple at the neighboring table who are parents watching their kid compete. I tell them we watched on TV the night before and they tell me a litany of complaints they have with TV coverage of their sport.

I have to agree. I am sick and tired of the "up close and personal" features of the Olympics and the dearth of actual competition coverage. Last night it was all Marion Jones. All her struggles, trials, and accusations of steroid abuse. When the actual race came, it was along the lines of "MARION JONES came in SECOND PLACE…and someone else won…but again JONES CAME IN SECOND!"

There are hundreds of athletes in town this week, but unless you're one of the top few superstars of this sport, good luck in trying to get someone to notice you.

We drive into Sacramento today (being the weekend there's little traffic so driving seven minutes beats a half hour on the train) and head over to Sutter's Fort.

Over thirty years ago, I came here on a 7th grade field trip. Back then it seemed on the edge of town. Today, the fort sits on a square block park surrounded by houses, apartment buildings, churches, and a hospital.

It's kind of like visiting one of our state's missions with the rooms built into the adobe walls surrounding a central yard. A docent demonstrates the art of fur trapping (no animals were harmed for his demo), another demonstrates arms with a musket firing, and a blacksmith is hammering away in a room in a corner.

It's interesting and two to three hours is about all you'll need to explore here. Afterward, we have lunch at a crepe restaurant just up the street near a bead store that my wife wants to shop in.

We spend another afternoon in the pool before heading up the road a ways to have dinner at the Cattlemen's restaurant in Folsom. Whenever I'm up this way, I like to have dinner at one of this chain's restaurants (most of their locations are in the Central Valley) where I can have a delicious steak with all the trimmings.

If I'm not mistaken, they used to have their own herd but now use beef from Harris Ranch, the giant feed lot next to Interstate 5 in Coalinga. It's still very good meat but prices have gone up. Since we all want to eat steak, we order the giant 42 ounce porterhouse dinner and split it three ways. It's plenty of food for us and more affordable than buying three separate dinners.

We make it back in time to partake in one more happy hour. Tomorrow we'll be checking out after one more sumptuous breakfast with the Olympians before heading down Highway 99 to go home.

One more note…on the way home in Livingston (home of Foster Farms chicken), we have lunch in the Foster Farms restaurant here. Highly recommended. Of course, you'll want to order the chicken.

Copyright 2004 - Darryl Musick


  1. quite an interesting tour in political offices. i hope we also have that here

  2. Independence Trail very much looks my speed, especially at this time of year. Totally craving the outdoors.