Friday, September 28, 2012

TRANSIT REPORT: Sacramento, California 2012

Picture courtesy of Wikimedia
mav under CC-BY-SA license

The capitol of the Golden State has a fairly decent system.  When in the area, especially on weekdays, you'll want to take advatage of it as the traffic here can be pretty unbearable at times.

Sacramento Regional Transit - or the RT - runs a network of buses and 37.5 miles of light rail covering a 418 square mile service area but for some reason does not serve the airport (Yolobus provides this service).
Picture courtesy of Wikimedia
lensovet under CC-BY-SA license

Light Rail consists of three lines, the Blue, Gold, and Green.  In practice, it's kind of like four lines because the Blue line goes both north and south of the downtown area so it's like a line to the north and a line to the south.  To the north, the Blue line's terminus is the Watt/I-80 station near McClellan Field (formerly Air Force Base).  The south end of the line is at Meadowview Road, about 4 miles south of downtown.  The Gold Line comes in from the east.  It starts in Folsom and continues past downtown to the Amtrak station, connecting with the Capitol Corridor train.  The Green Line runs from 7th and Richards, north of downtown, to the 13th Street Station downtown.  All light rail lines converge in a transit plaza two blocks west of the Capitol Building.  Here is the system map.
Picture courtesy of Wikimedia
Griffin5 at en.wikipedia under CC-BY-SA license

Buses handle the rest of the area and are useful to get to Old Sacramento, Raley Field, and ARCO Arena.  Here is the system map.

The basic fare for both bus and light rail is $2.50 for adults and $6 for a day pass.  Persons with disabilities get half off both of those fares.

Yolobus - As noted above, if you're flying into Sacramento, this is your only transit option.  The cost is $2.
Picture courtesy of Wikimedia
Todd Evans under CC-BY-SA license

The Capitol Corridor is a commuter rail service provided by Amtrak.  It connects downtown Sacramento with Auburn and Roseville to the Northeast and the Bay Area to the west with the terminus in San Jose.  The service from San Jose runs via Fremont, Hayward, Oakland, Martinez, Fairfield, and Davis.  Fares vary according to distance.  Check the website for more details.

All the above transit options are 100% wheelchair accessible.

We've personally found the transit in Sacramento to be a great way to go, especially during the week.  If you're there on the weekend and have a car, you might want to use that instead but transit will still keep you connected if you don't.

Copyright 2010 - Darryl Musick

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

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

FIELDS OF DREAMS - Season Wrapup - 2012

Our Field of Dreams reports might not be complete, but they’re up-to-date, meaning that every existing Major League Baseball stadium that we’ve seen a game in has been posted. 

Meanwhile, we still have four stadiums that we either have visited but not seen a game in, or…in the case of Oakland…it’s been such a long time that the information is no longer valid. Here are those four stadiums and our limited impressions of them…

Comerica Park, Detroit, Michigan – Great looking stadium in downtown Detroit. Whether that’s good news or bad news depends on your opinion of the city. There’s a kid’s play area in the outfield featuring a little Ferris wheel and the tigers on each side of the scoreboard let you know what the home team is.

Here are the stats:
Opened: 2000
Surface: grass
Construction cost: $300 million
Capacity: 45,010
Field dimensions: Left Field – 345 ft.; left center – 370; Center Field – 420 ft.; right center – 365; Right Field – 330 ft.
Home team: Detroit Tigers (American League, MLB) 2000 - present
Events attended: none, just visited the stadium when the team was away.

The View from the Former McDonald's

U.S. Cellular Field, Chicago, Illinois – A fairly unloved replacement for the legendary Comiskey Park, home of the White Sox. Steep, the upper deck is set fairly far back. The front row of the upper deck is farther away from the field than the last row of the old stadium. It’s also famous for its exploding scoreboard, which shoots off fireworks when the Sox hit a home run.

Here are the stats:
Opened: 1991
Surface: Bluegrass
Construction cost: $167 million
Capacity: 44,321
Field dimensions: Left Field – 330 ft.; left center – 375; Center Field – 400 ft.; right center – 375; Right Field – 335 ft.
Home team: Chicago White Sox (American League, MLB) 1991 - present
Events attended: none, just visited the stadium when the team was away.

Wheelchair seating is spread out, mostly in the top row of the lower deck and into the outfield. The seats we examined look like they’d be a good place to watch a game from. There’s a very good ADA information page on the team’s website, including a map of wheelchair accessible seating. It’s one of the best we’ve seen.

Transit is excellent with an adjacent, wheelchair accessible Red Line station of the Chicago L.

Rogers Centre, Toronto, Ontario, Canada – The first successful retractable roof stadium. Notable features include the hotel in the outfield and artificial grass that causes no small amount of consternation and injuries to visiting teams. Located right next to the CN Tower.

Here are the stats:
Opened: 1989
Surface: AstroTurf GameDay Grass
Construction cost: $570 million
Capacity: 49,539
Field dimensions: Left Field – 328 ft.; left center – 375; Center Field – 400 ft.; right center – 375; Right Field – 328 ft.
Home team: Toronto Blue Jays (American League, MLB) 1989 - present
Events attended: none, just visited the stadium when the team was away.

When we went here, we went in a side door to see if we could get access. We walked right in…no one was there and the entrance went right to the seats. This was just before 9/11 so I assume the security has improved since then. That day, though, we wandered throughout a completely deserted section along the third base line. Originally, we had planned to see a game but when we found out they charged more for wheelchair accessible seats than comparable normal seats, we declined.

According to the team web site, wheelchair seating is dispersed throughout the stadium. The team has one of the weakest ADA information sections on their site, so you’ll want to call them at 416-341-3004.

While they are improving slowly, current Toronto transit is weak in accessibility.

Picture courtesy of Wikimedia
Bryce Edwards under CC-BY License

Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, Oakland, California – Actually, my wife and I saw a game here way back in the 1980’s. The stadium has undergone massive changes since then, so it wouldn’t be fair to review the stadium on such old impressions. I do remember there being very little shade, however. Oakland is a team dating back to 1901 when it started in Philadelphia. The Athletics moved here from Kansas City in 1968. The team has had some well known and controversial players such as Jose Conseco and Mark McGwire. Others to wear the A’s uniform include Hall of Famers Dennis Eckersley, Catfish Hunter, and Reggie Jackson. It’s also a multipurpose stadium, shared with the NFL’s Raiders, so it has some of the largest foul ball territory in the league.

Here are the stats:
Opened: 1966
Surface: Bluegrass
Construction cost: $25.5 million
Capacity: 35,067 (artificially limited)
Field dimensions: Left Field – 330 ft.; left center – 367; Center Field – 400 ft.; right center – 367; Right Field – 330 ft.
Home team: Oakland Athletics (American League, MLB) 1968 – present, Oakland Raiders (NFL) 1966 – 1981, 1995 - present
Events attended: one

A few things stand out about the Coliseum. First, the team has trouble drawing a good crowd, even when it is playing well. I remember seeing them in the playoffs with tickets still available at the gate. To alleviate this, the top deck was covered with a tarp taking those seats away from fans and artificially limiting capacity to under 36,000. Football capacity is almost double.

A new, and in my opinion, very ugly upper deck was added to center field to accommodate Al Davis’s desire to sell more tickets to football games. This deck has become known as “Mount Davis” in his honor.

The team had a proposal to move to nearby Fremont a few years ago that fell through. Now, it is in talks with San Jose to move the team there.

Wheelchair seating is available on most levels. The team maintains a very good ADA page on their website that includes a map of wheelchair seating. Call (877) 493-BALL for tickets.

Transit is very good to the park via BART, a subway that services the station via a pedestrian bridge only open on game days.


Copyright 2010 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved