Sports and Recreation

Writers’ Choice

Photo illustration by Chris Sickels

Best Kids’ Spots From A Bygone Era
Fairytale Town and Funderland
Both of these Land Park attractions date back to the ‘50s and it shows. They’re a bit faded and ramshackle. Fairytale Town is chock-full of odd and old play structures, including a giant Swiss cheese, a similarly oversized foot and a Jack and the Beanstalk slide. But beware, opportunities for pinched fingers and nasty spills abound. Funderland features a slew of old-school carnival-style rides, including a carousel, a tiny but fast roller coaster and log flume—all manned by surly high-school students and all $1.50 a shot. Perhaps the best ride is the miniature train, which labors around the park in a cloud behind its noxious diesel engine. Both spots offer a combination of nostalgia and seediness that make them charming in today’s era of sterile, Disney-fied and litigation-proof kids’ spots. Fairytale Town, 1501 Sutterville Road, (916) 264-5233. Funderland, Sutterville Road and South Land Park Drive, (916) 456-0115.

Best Stretch Of American River Parkway
Sunrise Boulevard to Folsom Dam
On this well-traveled path of 32 miles, many have seen deer and turkeys in the grassy fields and rattlesnakes lurking by the road. For the weekend bike rider this incline of 11 miles up to the dam provides a heart-pounding challenge, and the rolling hills and twisting turns provide some fun. It also pays to keep your eyes open.

Best Walking/ Hiking Gear
REI (Recreational Equipment Inc.)
From deluxe first-aid kits to a delectable freeze-dried meal of peasant omelette with potatoes and sauteed onions, REI carries everything and anything you can think of for a quick stroll through the woods or a week-long expedition in Yosemite. If you’re not sure where to go, check out the array of literature and maps covering every nook and cranny of California and beyond. REI carries footwear ranging from Gore-Tex for the hardcore hiker to Merrell for light hiking and walking. Cool-Max, the fabric that wicks sweat away from the body, can be found all over the clothing department along with insulated material for the brutal cold. REI, 1790 Expo Pkwy., (916) 924-8400.

Best River Cat Player
Steve Ontiveros
Steve Ontiveros may not technically be the “best” River Cat. That distinction would probably go to outfielder Andy Abad, who had a great season after spending a year in Japan. But if the presence of Ontiveros on the 2001 River Cat roster didn’t reaffirm your love for baseball, then nothing will. The 40-year-old pitcher has had two, count ’em, two arm surgeries during his professional career, which included stints in Oakland, Philadelphia and Seattle. Along the way he appeared in an All-Star game in 1995 and won the American League ERA title in 1994. Those accomplishments aside, this is the year he proved himself a gamer. Until numbness to his pitching hand sidelined him in late August, Ontiveros started 15 games for the Cats and had a 7-6 record with a respectable 4.54, a team low for 15 or more starts. Truly inspirational.

Best Young Golfer Turning Pro
Natalie Gulbis
This 18-year-old phenom from Granite Bay High School is turning pro after her freshman year at the University of Arizona. At 14, she was one of the youngest golfers to qualify for an LPGA tournament, the Longs Drugs Challenge, which is held every year at Twelve Bridges Golf Club. Gulbis is attempting to earn her way onto the LPGA Tour by participating in the qualifying tournaments in Florida this month and in October.

Best Golf Course
Twelve Bridges Golf Club
If there’s one problem with the majority of courses in Sacramento, it’s the fact that they leave us flat. We know it’s a flood plain and the area is flat for a reason, but it can get boring. Not much up and down in the fairways to test your side-hill iron shots and there’s little undulation on the greens to truly challenge your ability to read greens. We head up to the foothills near Lincoln to elevate our game and get a change of scenery. It’s more of a challenge to choose the right club to get the ball uphill to the green and there’s plenty of that on the back nine of this pretty, hilly course, which hosts an LPGA tournament. We hear the owners may be selling home sites nearby, so get some rounds in before the houses disrupt the view. Sure, it’s a pretty penny to play here, but why not put yourself to the test? 3070 Twelve Bridges Road, Lincoln (916) 645-6730.

Best Mascot Ever, Anywhere
Monty of the Sacramento Monarchs
If you’ve ever been to a WNBA Sacramento Monarchs game at Arco Arena you will likely fall in love with the team’s mascot, Monty. This giant gray dragon dances and hops, shakes his big round belly, hugs the fans, and is always creating some mischief. Cuddly, silly and fun, when he’s not teasing the fans by tossing mini-basketballs into the crowd, he’s making them laugh by dancing on his head, sitting on their laps, even praying on his knees during home-team free throws. The greatest thing about Monty is that he helps us laugh at ourselves and reminds us that sports doesn’t always have to be as serious as it sometimes feels.

Best Place For A Pickup Game Of Chess

Photo by Larry Dalton

Best Place To Get High In Davis
One of California’s original climbing gyms, this indoor facility is one of the coolest in the region. Beyond having a first-rate climbing wall and ever-so-loyal clientele, Rocknasium hosts special events such as a rock climbing summer camp for kids, cycling teams, a “portable” climbing wall and plenty of classes—from beginner to ultimate—in climbing techniques, balance, body position, gear, etc. The business’s Web site lists a final class in, uh oh, something called “self-rescue.” Be careful out there. 720 Olive Drive, Suite Z, Davis.

Best Place For A Pickup Game Of Chess
Weatherstone Coffee
It’s Sunday afternoon and you’re in need of a little mental stimulation, a matching of wit and strategy with some random soul, a test of your mettle. That’s right, we’re talking chess, that ancient game of kings and pawns alike. If you play … I mean, if you really play … then you should know about Weatherstone, where the chess heavies gather each Sunday in an atmosphere so relaxed and laid-back that it belies what’s happening on the board. The serene patio scene combines with the turning of mental gears to create an almost meditative state in the minds of chess aficionados. Checkmate. 812 21st St.

Best Balls
Haggin Oaks Golf Super Shop
You want balls? They’ve got balls. In fact, Haggin Oaks has so many balls to choose from you’ll go crazy trying to decide. As golfers, our lives aren’t as simple as, say, Tiger Woods', who plays only one kind of ball (Nike, duh?!). Noooooooo! We have to take the balls on test flights through trees, sand, water and tall grass (not to mention the occasional duck poop). By the time the ball gets into the hole it doesn’t even give that nice “ka-plop” sound anymore because it’s covered with so much flight debris. But, ahhh, it is soothing to walk into this golf super store and eye the candy. It’s a golfer’s paradise. So much promise. So many dreams. So many … BALLS! Fulton Avenue and Capital City Freeway, (916) 481-4653.

Best Name For A New Basketball Arena
McClatchy Court at Raley Arena at Tsakopoulos Point
There’s little doubt that if a new arena does somehow get built downtown, its naming rights will go to the highest bidder. So what the heck, right? If you’re the Maloof brothers, why not rake in as much cash as you possibly can by milking every local fat cat in sight? Obviously, a new arena would be their toy—they can name it whatever the hell they want.

Best Reason To Wake Up At 5 A.M.
River City Rowing Club
For those insomniacs lying awake at 5 a.m. wondering what the hell to do with yourselves, you might as well put your wakefulness to good use and wander on down to the Port of Sacramento where, way before the sun even blinks an eye on the West Coast, you’ll find a dedicated and fun group of people lugging boats the length of a semi-trailer down to the glassy river. If you’re like me and lacked the commitment in your college days, RCRC provides the welcome opportunity to get back on the water and feel the thrill of being part of a team. Every May it offers beginners’ courses, and throughout the year the various teams, ranging from high-schoolers to masters, compete in national races. If rowing until your lungs collapse isn’t your idea of fun, members can opt for the fitness and recreation alternative. Call Coach Arthur Ericsson (916) 419-7088 or visit www.

Best Place To Spot Beautiful Women
Arco Arena
It’s the NBA playoffs and all eyes are on the court. Well, maybe not. The Kings are walking on the Suns, the beer is flowing, and the eyes are wandering. Sacramento is not the women-watching capital of the West, but on game nights it’s in the running for a playoff spot. The best place to be at halftime is the promenade that circles the arena. Spring has sprung and fantastic looking women are out for a stroll, and to be seen. Skimpy and tight are the watchwords for fashion this year, at least among the attendees. What makes the arena the place to fall visually in love? When Kings tickets cost this much, people tend to get dolled up before strutting their stuff. There’s something about competition and money that brings out the nastiness in all of us. Could it be that some of the really attractive women are on the prowl for an overpaid King? Sad to say it was a short playoff run.

Best Reason To Get Back On Your Bike
Girls, if you spend your Monday mornings listening to your male colleagues yacking about their cool mountain biking adventures on the weekend and wonder what it would be like to pedal your own way through the dirt, mud and scrub, then this is the perfect organization for you. Whereas a man’s idea of fun is going over the handlebars and breaking a wrist or collarbone, being part of a women’s biking group allows you to ride through some of the most breathtaking scenery around, from the Sierras to the coast, with a cool bunch of women, no machos in site, and a social, fun atmosphere being the agenda of the day. Rides are scheduled every week and weekend and have room for both the beginner and the most bruised-knee amoung you. But remember, with SASS, fun comes first. E-mail Sue at

Best Fishing Hole In Midtown
Southside Park, 6th & V streets
Why lie on the couch dreaming about the big one that got away, when you can land a lunker within spitting distance of the Capitol? The California Department of Fish and Game stocks the small lake at Southside Park, and several other small lakes around town, year-round. Right now the catfish and bass are biting; when the water cools down in December, January and February you might hook a trout. And if you’ve never fished and need help putting that worm on your hook, on September 22 Fish and Game will sponsor a free Fishing in the City clinic at Southside Park—with loaner rods, tackle and bait provided. Call (916) 358-1644 for more information.

Best Place to Imagine Sacramento Doesn’t Exist
Cosumnes River Preserve
Before European settlement of California, the area between the Sacramento and American rivers was home to a vast valley oak forest growing in the rich soils that accumulated from frequent flooding. Although that forest is long gone, you can get a good idea of what Sacramento once looked like by visiting the Cosumnes River Preserve, a joint project of the Nature Conservancy, Ducks Unlimited and several local, state and federal agencies. The Preserve offers great hiking, kayaking and bird-watching opportunities, and you can sign up for guided tours. Keep an eye out for river otters, beavers, bobcats, sandhill cranes, kingfishers and many other species. (916) 684-2816 or www.cosumnes.orgt.