Sports and recreation

Writers’ choice

Best target in the NBA

Sacramento Kings
Our two Kings—Vlade Divac and Peja Stojakovic—led the charge as Yugoslavia beat Argentina to win the World Basketball Championship in Indianapolis a few weeks back. But before beating Argentina, the Yugos whomped the USA team—composed mostly of NBA second men, e.g. no Shaq, no Kobe—and knocked it out of medal contention. It was no surprise to anyone that the Yugo team looked and played a lot like—surprise!—the Sacramento Kings, with its emphasis on all-around team play and good old-fashioned basketball essentials instead of superstar pyrotechnics. In fact, the most profound comment about the USA loss came from NBA Commissioner David Stern, who said maybe its time the NBA “learned from people who are playing the game the way we used to.” Uh huh. Well, Stern or no, thanks to Vlade and Peja’s roles in helping Yugo steal the championship from the USA, the Kings now have a larger-than-ever target lasered on their backs for the upcoming NBA season. But no problemo! Our guys love a challenge.

Best Kings player

Mike Bibby
Former point guard Jason Williams, with his no-look passes and counter-culture flair, left big shoes to fill when he was traded. Mike Bibby not only filled them, but he brought to the Kings a consistency and grit under pressure they needed to be a championship team. And NBA champion is exactly what the Kings would be now if the other Kings players had risen to the heights that Bibby hit during last year’s playoff series against the Lakers. Players like Vlade, Webber, Peja and Christie all have their individual strengths and charms. But Bibby is the team’s heart and—after just signing a seven-year, $80-million contract—its future.

Best bowling alley

Country Club Lanes
I know what many of you are thinking: bowling is boring. You enter a noisy warehouse-like structure, yellowed by fluorescent lights, put on some ugly shoes, grab a nondescript black ball, go to your assigned lane next to some blue-collar loudmouth, and play your game, trying to keep score despite confusion at calculating strikes, a nubby little pencil and a overheard projector that reminds you of being back in junior high school. Well, times have changed, my friend, because bowling at Country Club Lanes is nothing like that. Arrive a little before 9:30 p.m. and the only changes you might notice are computerized scoring systems (complete with amusing graphics on the monitor) that do everything for you and day-glow colored balls. Then, at 9:30, the overhead lights go out, the black lights (ah, now I understand the neon motif and why the balls and shoe laces are crazy colors) and disco lights come on, and the DJ takes the mike to pump up the party. Pretty soon, there are as many people dancing as bowling, or sometimes both at the same time. And best of all, this place is open 24/7. 2600 Watt Ave., (916) 483-5105.

Best collection of misfit critters - Folsom City Zoo

Best river running company

River Mountain Adventures
When you arrive at the river camp run by Maria Dean and her pack of friendly guides, it’s like arriving at a family reunion—if you came from a family of river-based lifestylers. They know every nuance of the South Fork of the American River like an attentive lover knows his mate, although they are as apt to have your raft spinning through the nasty sections as they are to guide you deftly around obstacles. It’s all about thrills. You can make a full weekend of this Class III rafting, running the Gorge Run below Coloma on Saturday and the Chili Bar Run run above on Sunday, and camping out at RMA’s riverside camp in between. 7291 Hwy. 49, Lotus, 1-800-RMA-RAFT.

Best place to sink a hole in the after-hours

Golfland/Sunsplash Entertainment Center
Any daylight visit to Roseville’s Golfland/Sunsplash Entertainment Center (that castle with frozen flags and four-story-high waterslides near I-80), usually means throwing yourself at the mercy of the wolves—packs of loud and musty runts that junior high schools dump there by the busload. But, when your nightlife is a tough choice between a Seinfeld rerun and a visit to Borders, why not use your leisure time to practice your putting at a pee-wee golf course. It’s open past midnight, with its extended summer hours, and, given the local youth’s attitude toward curfew laws, it can be hopping. Please be patient; families often will not leave a hole until little Johnny hits 20 putts. But, with the cool breezes from the speeding freeway cars and the lamp-lit festivities, the experience beats any other late-night hangout. Improvise with your club. Unorthodoxies like the “pool cue,” and the “drop the damn ball in the windmill’s revolving door” are always popular with the young at heart. But do beware of the water traps, unless you enjoy sloshing your hand through a pitch-black stream for a lost ball. 1893 Taylor Rd., Roseville, (916) 784-1273.

Best time traveling trip back to the Gold Rush

Empire Mine State Park
If you want some interactive entertainment to spice up a history lesson on the Gold Rush, visit the Empire Mine, the most productive hard rock gold mine in America. The docents go all out. Eerily committed to their roles, they guide you down into the entrance of the mine and breathe life into the various artifacts and tools by playing the parts of miners. They also point to the mansion on the hill and tell unflattering stories about the prosperous family who lived well off their hard work. After this engaging performance, you can wander the grounds, tour the mine’s administrative offices (which are still intact), visit the mansion, and compare rocks and metals of dazzling color in the onsite museum. 10791 East Empire St., Grass Valley, (530) 273-8522.

Best local LPGA pro - Natalie Gulbis

Best way to show your dog who’s boss

Dog experts claim one of the best ways to show love to your dog is to establish some rules. And not who gets the apartment on Wednesday nights and who does the dishes—save those rules for your roommate. I’m talking basic commands: sit, stay, come. They’re commands that can save you from the embarrassment of chasing your dog around the dog park shouting “Muffy come here right now or no Gravy Train for you,” and can, in the case of traffic or an unexpected slip of the collar, save your dog’s life. Petsmart offers eight weekday and evening training sessions for less than the price of a officer-issued citation for an errant canine. After completing the course you and your canine good citizen can visit the store to pick out all sort of doggie goodies like rawhide bones and dog friendly tennis balls. Various locations.

Best collection of misfit critters

Folsom City Zoo
The first question I asked was, “There’s a zoo in Folsom?” Having a small boy with a keen interest in all God’s creatures can make one a sort of critter connoisseur, always seeking new, safe, animal encounters to keep the tot entertained. But even folks who’ve lived in Sacramento for years don’t know much about the Folsom Zoo. Upon arriving, the next question I asked was, “Why do they have that dog in a cage?” It’s just one of the oddities of the place, which it turns out is a “rescue zoo,”—part jail, part refugee camp for wolf-dog hybrids, discarded pet monkeys, crippled birds of prey, “problem” bears and mountain lions and other beasts, most native to the Sacramento Valley and foothills. If this sounds kind of awful and sad, that’s because it is. But that’s life for animals and humans trying to coexist on the urban fringe. The truth is, these misfit critters are happier, safer and healthier than they would be if the zoo hadn’t adopted them. In the proper context, the Folsom Zoo is an educational opportunity for kids and adults to learn about animals native to this area, and what happens when their world and ours collide. Folsom City Park, at the corner of Natoma and Stafford sts.

Best local LPGA pro

Natalie Gulbis
While you’re wearing your Adidas golf shoes and swinging that TaylorMade club of yours, keep in mind that a local-girl-made-good is making more than putts on the pro tour—she’s making big bucks. Natalie Gulbis, the 19-year-old phenom, joined the Ladies Professional Golf Association this year and led the race for Rookie of the Year until the final stretch when she finished second to Beth Bauer. With four top-10 finishes and more than $240,000 in winnings, the former Granite Bay High School golfer’s first year has been sensational. Look for her in television and magazine ads for Adidas and TaylorMade. By the way, her average driving distance is 250 yards. Annika Sorenstam’s is 264. Get all the photos and stats you want at

Best place to get blasted

Best place to exercise the kids in body and spirit - Fairytale Town

American River
If you like Rambo movies and want to shoot big guns like he does, the American River on a summer weekend is the perfect place to unleash your pent-up energy without spilling any blood. At first glance, your fellow rafters seem to be floating peacefully down the river, but as you pass them either wave a white flag or prepare to get wet. Very wet. (Actually the white flag will only get you laughed at.) These benign-looking families of five, groups of Japanese tourists, partying students and crusty beach bums will smile innocently as your water craft begins to come alongside theirs, they’ll even wave their beer cans and say hi, but then, without warning, they’ll pull out monstrous homemade PVC water guns and shoot you with high-powered blasts of river water. This is supposed to be fun, but the way some of these guys come at you, you have to wonder if you look like their ex-girlfriends or if they’re mad about not being 20 anymore.

Best bike shop

Bicycles Plus
It’s easy enough to find a bike shop where the clerks know bikes, but can you find one where the clerks are both passionate cyclists and passionate about customer service? Not so easy. Novices have come to believe that they’re supposed to get snubbed, but it’s not necessarily true. At Bicycles Plus, the staff is into the whole bicycling lifestyle, the whole leave-the-daily-grind-behind thing, but they also go for the broadest possible inventory, sell stuff autographed by the likes of Lance Armstrong, and have built a lot of helpful tools into their store. The store has a computer program that takes your stats and then tells you exactly what the dimensions would be on your ideal bike. The store also has a scale to help you weigh various bikes, and gives away maps to help you navigate the trails around Folsom. Life’s short, as they say. Enjoy the ride. 705 Gold Lake Dr. #320, Folsom, (916) 355-8901.

Best place for new golfers to get in the swing of things

Mountain Valley Golf Center
Don’t let a silly thing like a shank, a pull, a hook or a whiff keep you from learning the great game of golf. In fact, no matter how experienced you become as a golfer, chances are these shots will still rear their ugly heads once in a while, but you can minimize your pain. Mountain Valley Golf Center is a friendly place that caters to learning golfers as well as the more seasoned players. Beyond just its driving range and chipping, putting and bunker areas, there’s a practice hole you can reserve for at least an hour all to yourself. Its short 9-hole course is also an ideal spot to fine-tune your game. An added bonus: One of California’s top golf pros, Duke Nicholls, is here to hook you up to his computer swing analysis system and start you on your way to that beautiful and effective swing you’ve always dreamed about. 19241 County Road 102, Woodland, (530) 669-7324.

Best place to free your soul

A Moving Experience
Like to dance but hate to feel stupid in front of others? Then don’t call it dancing, call it Sweating Your Prayers or Making Waves. Get into the mood with A Moving Experience every Tuesday night and find your rhythm in the variety of music that ranges from Enya to techno. Their motto is, “If you move it, it will change,” and it’s true: dancing without form, moving the way you feel, fast or slow, liquid or linear, will lift your spirits out of your workday mode and into a lighter and more joyous place. This dance style is the foundation of Gabrielle Roth’s body of work, and is a series of healing maps for the body, mind, heart and soul to lead you to a path of awakening. While the practice itself is the essence of simplicity, it has the power to catalyze deep healing and creative expression. Fair Oaks, (916) 880-1015.

Best place to exercise the kids in body and spirit

Fairytale Town
Hidden in a canopy of trees across from the Sacramento Zoo at William Land Park is Sacramento’s premier place to activate the young ones —mentally, spritually and physically. We’re talking Fairytale Town, where Peter Pan, Jack-be-nimble and that Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe still rule, even over Saturday morning cartoons. A kind of throw-back park from another era, Fairytale Town doesn’t have flashing lights or electronic movie-themed rides, so the kids wind up making their own fun by racing the Crooked Mile, running through King Arthur’s Castle (no parents allowed!) or climbing the beanstalk giant’s enormous foot. Everything’s based on books, e.g. the blue plastic Magic Key, which allows kids to operate storytelling and song-singing recordings at each of the fairytale sets. In Fairytale Town, imagination rules and low-tech rocks! 3901 Land Park Dr., (916) 264-5233.

Best place to throw things at your family

Wild Adventure Paintball
Usually when you see a bunch of guys hiding behind trees, wearing face paint and camouflaged clothes, you get a little scared, but at Wild Adventure, it’s just part of the scenery. Wild Adventure Paintball promotes paintballing as a family activity with parents and kids playing on the same team or against each other in a safe, park-like environment. Obviously, a family paintballing trip means parents had better consider their disciplinary choices if they’re going to ensure they don’t get splat! during the next game. Ten miles north of Woodland, near Zamora, (916) 396-7435.