Tag Archive | Sacramento

California Marathon Road Trip: Jon’s First Marathon

The day had finally arrived – the reason for our trip – Jon’s marathon.  The 31st Annual California International Marathon.  December 8, 2013.  Jon was ready for this.  He had been training for months.  He had run some 25 mile runs.  He was cross training with swimming, weights and the stationary bike.  All that was left was to get out on the course.

The start time was 7 am, and despite choosing a marathon in California in December so the weather would be warmer, he was greeted with an unseasonably low Sacramento temperature of 27 degrees.  Jon was dressed in shorts, long sleeve shirt, short sleeve shirt, running hat and gloves and his socks and shoes.

As we watched all the bundled up runners pile out of the cars, he got worried that he had under-dressed.  “Look, they are all wearing pants and sweatshirts…” he said to me.  I reassured him that these California runners weren’t used to running in below freezing temps, but he ran when it was far colder.  If he put more layers on, he would just be too hot.  I wasn’t completely convinced that he wouldn’t get hypothermia, but I must have sounded confident.  He got out of the car to go up to the start line.  Fortunately, it took so long to get to the front of the line of cars in order to drop him off, that he really didn’t have much time to wait before the start of the race.

Unfortunately, the California International Marathon isn’t all that spectator friendly.  I dropped him at the start, but there is no place to park there to see the runners start.  I didn’t feel like parking more than a mile away and trying to find my way back to the start, in the dark, alone, and in subfreezing temps.  Jon was on his own…

I headed back to the hotel for a leisurely breakfast and shower, then made my way to downtown Sacramento to find the finish line.  Jon told me he expected to finish at about 3 hours, 30 minutes, but I wasn’t too sure about his estimate.  He always estimates that he will be much slower than he is.  So I left lots of time.

An early runner – in front of the California State Capitol

An early runner – in front of the California State Capitol

I got downtown at about 9:10 am, and made my way over to the finish line.  There were some bands playing, some people cheering, and a Santa riding a reindeer – sorry, the reindeer was not real, just a costume, and sadly, I didn’t get a photo.  It was still cold – only in the 30s, but I found a spot right by the finish line and settled in for the wait.

Inspiration for the last half-mile!

Inspiration for the last half-mile!

Jon was wearing black shorts and a gray shirt, along with approximately 2,000 other runners.  I might be exaggerating here, but I’m not.  There were several false starts, as I spotted men coming toward the finish and did a double take before realizing it wasn’t Jon.

Jon made good in his estimate, finishing in 3 hours, 28 minutes and 27 seconds.  Amazing!  That is a race pace of 8 minutes per mile!  For 26.2 of them!  I can’t even do that pace for one mile!  I was very proud of him, but he was so cold after he stopped running that we didn’t hang around long at the finish celebration.  It was a long limp back to the car with a stop for a hot tea on the way.

Jon (at left) about to cross the finish line

Jon (at left) about to cross the finish line

Jon’s attempt at a smile – he was tired, cold and in pain!

Jon’s attempt at a smile – he was tired, cold and in pain!

Back at the hotel, Jon took off his shoe to reveal a bloody right foot.  I accused him of not trimming his nails.  It wasn’t until a couple days later that we discovered the culprit.  A large (about the size of a penny, but thicker, and much sharper) PIECE OF GLASS that was sticking up through the sole of his shoe.  He said that he had felt something about a half mile into the race, but kicked at it and just kept running.  At one point he thought that the pain was just his foot cramping.  Apparently my husband either has an EXTREMELY high tolerance for pain, or he has no nerve endings in his foot.  He says the piece of glass, “just adds to the legend.”

So who knows how well Jon would have run if he had not had a large piece of glass puncturing his foot for 25.5 miles of the race.  But I do know, he ran well, and I couldn’t be more proud!

And Jon, remember we aren’t going to make marathons in California a new tradition.  I love you, but our next vacation won’t be in California!

(And in case you are worried – the foot didn’t get infected…)

Sacramento Wildlife Refuge Preview

Jon and I got home last night from a trip to California.  I’ll be posting about it soon, and posting the rest of my trip to Olympic National Park, but in the meantime, I thought I would share this photo from the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge.  Enjoy!

Sunset at the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge

Sunset at the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge

California Road Trip: Leland Stanford Mansion

Our very last tourist activity of our California Road Trip was visiting the Leland Stanford Mansion.  It is in downtown Sacramento, surrounded by commercial buildings and concrete.  It looks a bit out of place, to be honest… but it wasn’t always that way.  The two photos below, show the Mansion as it really looks, directly in front of a gigantic glass and steel office building – and the photoshopped Mansion postcard that you can purchase in the gift shop…  (I didn’t take photos inside, so I have scanned some of the postcards I purchased for interior shots.)

The Leland Stanford Mansion - Built 1856-1857 - Second Empire Architectural Style The Home Today Without the Commercial Building Photoshopped Out

The Leland Stanford Mansion – Built 1856-1857 – Second Empire Architectural Style
The Home Today Without the Commercial Building Photoshopped Out

The Leland Stanford Mansion Postcard - Country Setting

The Leland Stanford Mansion Postcard – Country Setting

Leland Stanford was born to a successful farmer in New York in 1824.  He studied law and was admitted to the bar, and then like so many others of the period, he moved west.  To Port Washington, Wisconsin.  In 1850 he married Jane Lathrop and they settled in together, but unfortunately, his law office and his entire collection of law books was destroyed in 1852.  Why is all this important?  Well, because after the fire he decided to follow his five brothers to California, where he discovered that he loved the hustle and bustle of the Gold Rush and was quite successful operating a store selling supplies to miners.  Shortly after, he and several other businessmen pooled their resources and founded the Central Pacific Railroad, and Stanford was named President of the company.

In 1861, Stanford ran for California Governor and was elected to a two-year term.  In the grand scheme of things, he really wasn’t Governor for very long… In 1868, while the Central Pacific Railroad was under construction, Stanford and his buddies created the Union Express Company, which merged with Wells Fargo and Company (you know the express company which delivered money and mail…) and they they managed to acquire control of the Southern Pacific Railroad, which Stanford became President of.

If all this robber baron finagling is confusing, no worries, because what you really just need to know is that a) this guy played a big part in the railroads to the West Coast, and b) as the President of the Central Pacific Railroad, he got to drive the ceremonial last spike at Promontory Utah, where the Central Pacific Railroad met the Union Pacific Railroad.  Talk about something to tell your grandkids!

But sadly, he never got to tell that story to any grandchildren, because Leland and Jane’s only child, a son named Leland, Jr., died of typhoid fever while traveling with his parents in Italy in 1884.  As a result of the death of their only child, Leland Stanford decided that if he would not have the opportunity to educate his own child, then he would educate other children.  He set up an endowment that created a university that perhaps you have heard of: Stanford University in Palo Alto.  The University was named for Leland, Jr.

But the mansion, you ask…  The mansion was built between 1856 and 1857 by Shelton C. Fogus.  It wasn’t quite a mansion at that time – only 4,000 square feet.  The Stanford’s remodel of the home between 1871 and 1872 would raise the home by twelve feet (remember my last post where I explained that Sacramento was prone to floods?), add a new bottom floor and a new top floor and expand the square footage to 19,000 square feet!  And he wasn’t even Governor anymore at that point!  It was at this point that the very distinctive Mansard roof was added.

The Music Room in the Leland Stanford Mansion

The Music Room in the Leland Stanford Mansion

Stanford died in 1893, at the age of 69 and Jane kept the home until 1900, when she donated it to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Sacramento, who gave it to the Sisters of Mercy to be used as an orphanage.  In 1932, it was handed over to the Sisters of Social Service, who converted the orphanage into a home for dependent high school girls.  These are girls who have been removed from their homes for various reasons, abuse, juvenile deliquency, etc. and they ended up here in an attempt to give them some sort of home life that they couldn’t get in their own homes.

The State of California acquired the property in 1978 through eminent domain to be used as a state park, but allowed the Sisters of Social Service use of the home until 1987.  Our guide told us that the Sisters of Social Service were ok with getting out from under the home at that point, as the cost of upkeep of the mansion had become a burden.

The State then completed a major restoration of the home, restoring most of the home to its 1870s look.  One of the things that the nuns did is to preserve the original walls and layout of the home – instead of knocking down walls, they added walls in places where they could easily be removed.  They painted and wallpapered too, but they didn’t damage or remove the original architectural elements, having plumbing and electrical wiring worked around the features to avoid damaging them.  And the orphans and girls apparently treated their home with respect – that doesn’t seem to happen so much anymore…  The restoration project left one wing of the home as it looked during its time as a Girls’ Home, and it is interesting to see the differences.

The home is now open for tours (on the hour), except when the current Governor of California is using the home for special events.  The tour begins with a 15 minute video about the history of Sacramento, the Stanfords, and the home, and then you get to visit all but the very top floor of the home.  Our guide was very knowledgeable about the home, and you could tell she is very proud of it – she should be, it is awesome!

The Master Bedroom of the Leland Stanford Mansion

The Master Bedroom of the Leland Stanford Mansion

A lot of the Stanford’s original furniture and the home’s accessories (sconces, doorknobs, etc.) are still in the home.  When I asked how they came to have so much of the original furniture, when the home had been a girls’ home and an orphanage for almost 90 years in between, the guide explained that the nuns had put all of the furniture up into the attic for safekeeping.  They did sell off some pieces when they needed money for the home’s upkeep, but many of the original furniture pieces and accessories weren’t sold.  Stanford was very proud of his association with the railroad, and he had furniture custom made to look like trains – the guide showed us a sideboard that had the distinctive look of the front of a train, and wall sconces designed to look like train lanterns!

Dining Room Sideboard - With Locomotive Motif

Dining Room Sideboard – With Locomotive Motif

And one last thing that our guide explained – why our tour was free!  Apparently during the budget crisis a few years ago, the mansion was transferred from the California State Parks Department to the Legislative Branch – after all the Governor maintains an office here and uses the home for events.  Apparently, the Legislative Branch of the California State Government is not allowed for charge for its services (that makes sense, being government for the people and all…) but they have interpreted that to mean that they are not permitted to charge admission to see the home.

If you have a chance, do visit, and I hope you enjoy this beautiful home as much as we did!

California Road Trip: Old Sacramento and the Underground Tasting Room

Our last full day of vacation had arrived… Well, that’s not quite true, because we had one more after that, but it was dedicated to making the all day drive from California to the very northwest corner of Washington.  So anyway, our last full day of touristing was in Sacramento.  We were there to visit Jon’s friend Pablo, and so Jon could enjoy his old stomping grounds.

Me at Old Sacramento with the Delta King Riverboat - Now a Hotel

Me at Old Sacramento with the Delta King Riverboat – Now a Hotel

We started our day with a return trip to Old Sacramento.  Jon took me there the first time we visited Sacramento before we were married.  I know it is touristy, but I do enjoy the historic buildings there and the fact that they are almost all built before the turn of the 20th century.  The earliest is from 1852, just after a terrible fire swept through the city.  Sacramento was also prone to severe flooding, so in the early 1860s, they began the process of raising the city of Sacramento.  However, they simply raised the level of the streets and not the buildings.  The first floors of the buildings became a basement, and the original second floor was now at street level.  There is a historic underground tour, but unfortunately, it was only on Saturdays (we were there on a Friday).

Old Sacramento Historic Buildings

Old Sacramento Historic Buildings

The several blocks of Old Sacramento today are part of the Old Sacramento State Historic Park.  Almost all of the buildings in Old Sacramento today have been re-purposed into tourist shops and restaurants, and there is also a museum on the history of the railroad that is an excellent stop (we didn’t go this trip, but we went a couple of years ago).

Jon and I had lunch in a little sandwich shop and then headed over to The Underground Tasting Room, to sample a couple of their wines.  The Underground Tasting Room is shared by two wineries, Fenton Herriott Vineyards and Twisted Twig.  You can choose a flight from either winery, or a combined flight with wines from both places.  The tasting room is set below the current street level on the original street level of Old Sacramento, and has a little enclosed patio seating area with a fountain.  It was a warm sunny day and we enjoyed just sitting in the sunshine.

The Underground Tasting Room in Old Sacramento

The Underground Tasting Room in Old Sacramento

We were the only ones there when we visited – a couple was just leaving as we got there – and our server was gracious and friendly.  We decided to sample the Fenton Herriott Vineyards selections, as they make some white wines in addition to the reds, where Twisted Twig is reds only.  Here’s what we had:

2011 Chardonnay: Aged on neutral oak.  It tasted of light oak and cream with an herbal finish.  It just wasn’t really my style.

2012 Rose: Light flavors of cranberry and raspberry – good, but I was a bit turned off by a bitterness on the back of the throat on the finish.

2009 Merlot: This wine had a medium body and was very fruit forward with light tannins.  It is ready to drink now.

2007 Twisted Twig 2007 EPIC Cabernet Sauvignon: We did get to sample one Twisted Twig wine because the Fenton Herriott Cab was unavailable.  It had heavy tannins and was a very bold cab with a nice balance.  It had begun softening but would hold up for a while longer.  It was good, but I felt that the $38 pricetag was a bit much.

2009 Tempranillo: We ended with this wine which tasted of smoke, light cherry and coffee.  It was very drinkable and delicious.

Fenton Herriott is a small, family-owned winery – their wines have a production of 100 cases or less for each one.  The vineyards and winery are located in Placerville, California.  To be honest, I was hoping to like the Fenton Herriott Chardonnay and Rose more than I did, but I was pleased with the reds, and it would be worth a trip out to the winery when we are in the area again.  We purchased a bottle each of the Fenton Herriott Merlot and Tempranillo and headed on our way to our next stop – the Leland Stanford Mansion!

Planning for the California Road Trip

Jon and I had some vacation scheduled for mid-March and of course, it fell to me to make a plan about where we should go.  Jon needed to take his vacation before the busy spring/summer season starts.  For those of you who have followed this blog, you know that I was also dealing with my sweet kitty Martini, who was undergoing chemo treatment for lymphoma.  I wanted to go to Virginia, but I was too anxious about flying somewhere and having something happen to Martini, so we decided on something within driving distance.  Sadly, we made the decision to euthanize Martini on March 1 – she was no longer holding her own against her lymphoma.

So, the idea of a California Road Trip was born.  I had been aching to get to San Francisco to see The Girl with a Pearl Earring, the famous painting by Johannes Vermeer.  The painting is currently on display at the DeYoung Museum until June, on loan from the Mauritshuis Royal Picture Gallery in the Netherlands.

Jon had been itching to visit Point Reyes again; he took a day trip there when he lived in California and really enjoyed the small town on the coast.  And what do you know?  Point Reyes National Seashore is there – an opportunity for me to get a stamp in my National Parks Passport!

We also wanted to visit the Northern California coast – we have seen most of the Oregon coast and the Southern California coast, so it seemed like it just had to be done.  There is also a National Park there – Redwood National Park.  Coast Redwoods are the world’s tallest and oldest trees.

And no trip to California would be complete without wine.  We have visited Napa, Sonoma, and the Santa Ynez Valley, and we wanted to add another wine-notch on our belt so to speak.  We had heard that the Anderson Valley is known for their Pinot Noirs, with cool night temperatures from the coastal fog that settles in the valley.  It sounded like a win!

To round out the trip, I planned visits to Monterey and Sacramento.  Monterey because I have heard nothing but good things about this little seaside community.  And Sacramento because Jon’s long-time friend lives there.  And I think Jon secretly wants to relive his memories of living there.  Or perhaps not so secretly.

So, just like that, we had a plan.  Who am I kidding?  I google-mapped distances, figured out where there were historical sites and national parks, tried to plot overnight stays in the most convenient, yet still affordable locations, and asked Jon 57,975 times for his input.  Which was answered each time with a “Yeah, I’ll look at it tonight.”  And finally I just planned what I wanted to do.  Because secretly (or not so secretly), I would rather just do what I want to do, and hey, if Jon isn’t going to provide input, then who cares!

And that is how the California Road Trip was born.  My series of posts will be coming over the next few weeks!

Sacramento and the Mountains

The second full day of our vacation, we decided to go see Fort Sutter in the middle of town. Fort Sutter was established in 1839, as a part of a land grant to John Sutter, a Swiss immigrant who used his land grant to set up an agricultural empire, called New Helvetia (New Switzerland). Sutter became well known as a generous person when he provided aid to the trapped Donner Party in 1847, and as a result, his Fort because the Motel 6 for travelers on the early pioneer route. Eventually, the properties were overrun by gold seekers and Sutter was driven out – the Fort is all that remains. It was restored to its 1847 status based on maps found in Germany. We wandered around the Fort, but we didn’t take the tour. It has the feel of a children’s pioneer exhibit – with lots of people wandering around in costume, showing visitor’s how to make candles or create iron horseshoes. Educational, but just not what we were into that day.

The Crocker Museum is near Fort Sutter, so we went there next.  The Crocker is a fine arts museum (the traditional kind, not modern art), and if you have never been there, go. The Crocker Art Gallery was the brainchild of Judge E.B. and Margaret Crocker, who bought the property in 1868 and commissioned an architect to build them a mansion and an art gallery to house their growing art collection. The Italianate style mansion and attached gallery buildings were completed in 1872. The Crocker’s had amassed a collection of art from their tours of Europe between 1869 and 1871, which included Dutch, Flemish and Baroque paintings and drawings. Margaret Crocker donated the art gallery in 1885, and since that time, the collections have grown to include American art, ceramics, Asian art, and pretty much every style you ever learned about in your History of Art class. The place was huge, and apparently now that a 2010 expansion is complete, the Crocker is now 3 times larger. I want to go back and see how much more of their collection they have on display. At any rate, when you go upstairs, they have a gallery room that is floor to ceiling paintings. I imagine they have the most valuable paintings at eye level, but Jon and I had a wonderful time just staring up at the wall and trying to pick out our favorites. That’s hard to do when the walls in that room were covered with at least 100 paintings.

The Crocker wrapped up our visit to Sacramento, and we headed back up to the mountains to make a visit to Grass Valley and Nevada City. We found a little diner called the Classic Cafe to have a late lunch in, and really enjoyed our burgers.  If you have seen the Hallmark Movie “The Christmas Card”, you have seen the Classic Cafe.

The Owners Home at the Empire Mine

Next up on the agenda after my need for food was satisfied was the Empire Mine. The Empire Mine was an extremely elaborate mining operations, with tunnels radiating outwards and downwards under the earth for several miles. At the mine’s Visitor Center, they have a map showing all the mine shafts, and showing which ones are currently filled with water. Apparently this is the major problem with the mine – the groundwater eventually began seeping back into the tunnels.