Sports & Recreation
Best way to get your feet wet
Outdoor Adventures at the University of California, Davis
Sea-kayaking classes with Outdoor Adventures are all about wiggling into wetsuits, paddling until your arms go numb and mastering an unwieldy watercraft that wants to sit on top of you in the water as much as you want to sit on top of it. But once you have the skills, afternoons are spent gliding past uninhabited islands on glassy waters, as snorting sea lions follow the team down the California coast. That’s why it’s customary to become addicted and join the Outdoor Adventures guides on trips ranging from Lake Tahoe to Baja California, Mexico.
The Barn at the University of California, Davis; (530) 752-1995; http://campusrecreation.ucdavis.edu/oa/index.html.
Best place to get a healthy sweat going
Bikram’s Yoga College of India
In a city that relies so heavily on air conditioning, it seems unfathomable to some that anyone would choose a 100-degree room as the site of their workout. Attend a session at Bikram’s Yoga, however, and you, too, just might find the combination of body contortion and sweat dripping onto your sticky mat to be oddly soothing. The high heat allows participants to stretch muscles, ligaments and joints more easily without injury during the studio’s 90-minute classes. Instructors guide students through 26 poses with directions that are easy to follow—at least in theory. Execution is rough at first but improves with time and practice. Followers say this sweaty brand of yoga aids everything from stress to migraines to hangovers. Regardless of why you go, just be sure to arrive on time. The doors are locked once class begins.
2400 16th Street, (916) 554-7678.
Best place to hang out on Friday night
Nothing builds trust like knowing the only thing keeping you from plummeting 40 feet is a piece of rope and your partner’s ability to follow instructions. So it goes at Sacramento Pipeworks, where the adrenaline flows freely. The indoor rock-climbing facility has 10,000 square feet of terrain peppered with routes of varying degrees of difficulty. Admission, equipment and optional safety classes are discounted to $5 each on Friday evenings. First-timers can take a course that covers the use of belay equipment, knot tying, basic climbing and the all-important braking. Once you’ve demonstrated your mastery of skills—and signed a liability waiver—you’re ready to scale faux rocks. That first time to the top is quite a thrill, but an even bigger rush hits as you look back and realize it’s time to be lowered to the ground. Take a partner who won’t let you down—until you’re ready.
116 N. 16th Street, (916) 341-0100.
Best place to get bowled over at 3 a.m.
Country Club Lanes
Under the inverted illumination of the black light and the brilliant neon light show flashing from the disco ball, a seemingly normal bowling alley is transformed into a late-night hot spot. With the bright white pins and multi-colored florescent balls glowing vividly and the ever-changing music blaring at a nearly deafening level, Country Club Lanes’ “Glo Bowl” sessions feel just like a party (complete with the $5 cover charge). Bowling often takes a back seat to the atmosphere and excitement; people often attend without ever throwing a game. The alley holds these events nightly, each with a different time and musical theme. From the 1980s to Top 40 to karaoke, great music fills the 24-hour alley through the wee hours of the night, making it a great place to be after everything else has long since closed.
2600 Watt Avenue, (916) 483-5105.
Best place to sneak in nine holes on your lunch break
Bing Maloney executive nine-hole course
The fact that it’s a golf course with green grass supplies a sufficient reason to escape from the drudgery of the workday; that it’s a short, par-29 course supplies sufficient time to play a full round and still get back to work before your boss gets angry. The setup is optimum for fast-paced play: The nine holes are stuffed into a tiny area, meaning each hole runs right into the next, so there’s no need to rent a cart. The holes are short, too, with five holes measuring less than 100 yards each (the second hole is a mere 56 yards), so club selection isn’t a strain. The backdrop of the busy Sacramento Executive Airport provides the perfect aesthetics for an escape from reality. Sure, it’s not much of a challenge, but it’s better than spending your lunch break actually eating. Where’s the fun in that?
6801 Freeport Boulevard, (916) 433-2283.
Best Sacramento sports team not named after royalty
While the Kings get much of the area’s recognition and the Monarchs get a healthy amount, the Capitals of the World TeamTennis league just go on winning titles (five since the team moved to Sacramento in 1985, the most of any team in the league). The team regularly boasts some of the league’s best players and even throws tennis legend Andre Agassi into the mix twice a year as a celebrity player. The team plays 14 matches in a rigorous July schedule, consistently drawing thousands out to the makeshift courts near Sunrise Mall. Perhaps the pinnacle of the team’s greatness came earlier this year, when the Capitals hosted a celebrity match between basketball great Rick Barry and the incomparable Dr. Phil.
(916) 638-4001, www.saccapitals.com.
Best bike tour in the region
Tour of Napa Valley
The first thing you hear are the birds crying out in the cool morning air. It makes a cyclist wonder if the birds ate those violet-colored grapes hanging low on the vine and the juice has fermented in the little warblers’ tummies. People from around the world pay big bucks to cycle through these vineyards and roll over the pretty hills of Napa Valley because it is a neat place to do it. The Eagle Cycling Club of Napa has organized this event in August for everyday riders—2,000 of them. It starts at the Yountville veterans home and divides into riders wanting to go either 30, 65 or 100 grueling miles. You blow past the big wineries, such as Beaulieu Vineyard, and also notice the smaller vintners that you only see on wine lists at expensive restaurants. There’s a well-placed rest stop with fuel like potatoes, fruit and tasty homemade cookies. A few more sweaty miles on the scenic Silverado Trail, and then it’s back to Yountville for a barbecue, some oldies music from a live band (Wooly Bully!) and a welcome jump in the pool.
Eagle Cycling Club in Napa, (707) 226-7066.
Like every other fan in Sacramento, we’re still reeling—heartbroken—over the loss of Hedo and Scot. But we can’t help but feel optimistic about the way the upcoming Kings season seems to be shaping up, especially with the acquisition of promising all-star center Brad Miller. (After all, we still have Chris, Vlade, Peja, Mike and Doug to keep things familiar.) Of course, the wizard behind the curtain when it comes to the keen caretaking of the ever-evolving Kings is Sacramento’s own former NBA player Geoff Petrie. Twice honored as the NBA’s Executive of the Year (1998-1999 and 2000-2001), Petrie has the perceptive magic it takes to put the right guys on the floor together, not just for this season but for all the ones ahead. Like all great executives, Petrie understands that you sometimes have to sacrifice big time to make big-time leaps. Let’s hope that’s the case with the Miller trade. Meanwhile, we’ll take Petrie’s management magic over the Lakers’ buy-me-a-championship attitude any day of the week.
Best excuse to head for the hills
Nature lovers tired of fighting traffic to Tahoe should consider a hike to Feather Falls, the sixth-highest waterfall in the continental United States. The trail head is outside Oroville, and the two-hour drive passes numerous fruit stands along Highway 70. The last 12 miles, on Lumpkin Road, feel like the motorist’s equivalent of slalom skiing. From the trail head, hikers may choose from two well-maintained paths: The 4.5-mile route has benches for resting and passes a waterfall on Frey Creek, and the 3.3-mile trail is narrower and has more tripping hazards. Both paths are lined with moss-covered trees, ferns and poison oak, and offer views of Bald Rock Dome, rising 2,000 feet above the Feather River. The two paths join for the last half-mile. It’s a rocky stretch with a steeper grade, but the view from the wooden overlook pays off. Water plunges 640 feet onto a bed of rocks and sounds like the pounding surf. It’s the perfect backdrop for lunch or to contemplate the meaning of gravitational pull.
East of Oroville in Plumas National Forest, (530) 534-6500.
Best football team
The Sacramento Sirens
They’ve won two national titles and have a 22-0 record, but most folks aren’t even aware Sacramento has a professional football team. The Sacramento Sirens won the championship in the now-defunct Women’s American Football Council last December and then knocked out the previously undefeated New York Sharks in July to take the title in the Independent Women’s Football League, as well. Although their annual pay amounts to about enough for a pizza and a pitcher of beer, these women take hits—and give ’em—while outscoring opponents by an average of a whopping 45 points. Even NFL junkies need something to do during the off-season; the Sirens’ March through mid-summer schedule should provide a winning gridiron fix. The Sacramento Sirens play at Capitol Christian High School.
(916) 492-5450, www.sacramentosirens.com.
Best River Cat
Named the Pacific Coast League’s Rookie of the Year for the 2003 season, shortstop Bobby Crosby has it all—good looks, speed, a strong arm and a .308 batting average. The fifth player in club history to get 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases in a single season, Crosby has proven himself the position player to watch. Crosby’s talents were recognized again when he was selected, along with teammates Graham Koonce and Justin Duchscherer, to play on the All-Pacific Coast League team. The downside to Crosby being such a fantastic player is that he is likely to move up permanently to the major leagues in no time at all, especially considering the A’s have announced they can’t afford to re-sign shortstop Miguel Tejada. In fact, he was called up to the bigs near the end of the season. It was nice while it lasted.
Best bike shop for the uninitiated
Bicycle snobbery runs deep in Sacramento. At some stores (which shall remain nameless), the staff will barely deign to help you if you’re not wearing spandex shorts and cycling shoes. Ask for something simple, such as a basket or a bike lock, something that lets them know you’re not training for the Tour de France, and watch the salespeople look off into the distance and the cashiers snigger behind their hands. Then, head over to Pacific Bicycle for helpful, friendly service. The staff at Pacific always can find what you need, and they’ll never laugh while you try to describe the “black brake-handle thingy” you’re looking for—at least, not until you’ve left the store. 2409 J Street, (916) 447-9118.
Best introduction to whitewater rafting
American Whitewater Expeditions
I continued to paddle, though what I really wanted to do was lunge to the safety of the other side of the raft. We rapidly headed—sideways—toward a wall of rock. But our crew of six followed the guide’s instructions and avoided becoming river roadkill. This daylong trip on the Lower South Fork of the American River serves as Whitewater 101. We practiced paddling and turning in the early section, a smooth stretch with small rapids. We drifted past Sutter’s Mill while our guide talked about currents, the gold rush and American Indian history. Our biggest fear in that first section was the other rafts, whose occupants doused anyone in range with their Super Soakers. The second portion of our 15-mile trip took us through a granite canyon, and the gorge cut the river’s width, providing a quick succession of Class III rapids with names such as Satan’s Cesspool and Hospital Bar. By the time we reached Folsom Lake, we promised to return next season for a Class IV adventure.
www.americanwhitewater.com, (800) 825-3205.
Best combination full-body workout/religious experience
Davis Aquatic Masters
Masters swimming keeps adults age 18 to 81 fit and supple through personalized coaching during hour-long workouts held at every convenient hour. As graceful and intense as a good yoga session, swimming even strikes some as a transcendent experience, and it can be an intensely personal one because swimmers only compete against themselves—unless they choose to travel to places as exotic as Greece for international races. Whether a newbie prefers the butterfly to the backstroke, or the breaststroke to freestyling, masters swimming will increase the swimmer’s speed, smooth out his or her style, and introduce him or her to dozens of other swimmers who are improving their heart rate and muscle tone after leaving their high-school days behind.
Best at floating like a butterfly
Tangela Smith, Sacramento Monarchs
My optometrist noticed my bright purple Monarchs shirt and told me about fitting a “really tall girl” for contact lenses. He told her, “You ought to play basketball,” to which she replied, “I do—for the Monarchs.” That’s the kind of anonymity the Monarchs’ Tangela Smith has in Sacramento, in spite of her six productive years on the court. The 6-foot-4-inch forward-center doesn’t get as much attention as flashy Ticha Penicheiro or crowd favorites Ruthie Bolton and rookie forward Kara Lawson. What she does is get the job done. Currently averaging 12.6 points per game with an average of 5.5 rebounds, Smith can take the heat under the boards, has a consistent jump shot and surprises opponents with an occasional three-pointer that’s downright pretty. Hers is the sort of solid performance that makes a big difference in close games and that kept the Monarchs competitive to the end of the Western Conference finals.
(916) 419-WNBA, www.wnba.com/monarchs. (Monarchs tickets are $8-$31.50.)
Best place to enjoy the American River
Near the red bridge in Fair Oaks
The Sacramento area is teeming with wonderful private spots to enjoy the water. Of course, publicizing those would mean destroying what makes them special: the fact that they are secret. But there’s a lot of river. Do some searching, and you’ll come up with a spot of your own. If you haven’t the time for a trek away from civilization, though, and you’re in need of a fairly quiet space to swim, head to the old red bridge in Fair Oaks. Take Highway 50 east, Sunrise Boulevard north and then Fair Oaks Boulevard east. Stay on Fair Oaks, which will become Bridge Street. Where it dead-ends, park for free along the side of the road. Then walk across the old red bridge—the view never gets old—and down to the river. Go past the bike and horse trails and public bathrooms, and there, amid the blackberry brambles, you’ll find numerous tiny beaches. Even on a hot August day, you shouldn’t have to walk too far to find a space of your own. It’s quiet enough to enjoy the sounds of fish jumping, herons cawing and the American River flowing swiftly west.
Best store for triathletes
Total Tri Sports
A number of Sacramento sports stores carry running, biking and swimming gear year round, but with the increasing number of triathletes in Sacramento—there are at least a dozen races a year here—it makes sense that there would be a store just for them. Enter Total Tri Sports. In addition to carrying running, biking and swimming essentials, the store sponsors the Sacramento Triathlon Club, posts fliers about triathlon-related events within the region and even holds events of interest to triathletes, such as the recent seminar about Polar heart-rate monitors. Owner Chris Ross knows quite a bit about the sport, too. He’s training for his first Ironman Triathlon, which is coming up next May.
719 56th Street, (916) 457-0100, www.totaltri.com.
He can launch a ball off the tee as far as any of them. He is athletic and handsome. One of his coaches said if golf were the NFL, the 22-year-old from Dixon would be the No. 1 pick out of college. And yet, perhaps his best attribute is the simple fact that he is a nice guy and not an obnoxious phenom. Nick Watney grew up playing the Davis municipal course, and he remembers his manners. He smiles at the cameras and crowds and is respectfully in awe of his competitors on the PGA tour. Given sponsors exemptions right out of California State University, Fresno, because of his All-American status, he burst on the scene at the Reno-Tahoe Open when he tied for 10th, picking up a tidy $66,000 and proving nice guys from small towns can be winners.
Best place to get chilly like Willy
Iceland skating rink
Forget the Old Navy Holiday Ice Rink downtown with its fickle schedule and melty outdoor rink. Iceland has provided families, adults, figure skaters and athletes with a smooth skating surface year round for more than 65 years. Not content with the usual ice-rink fare of skate lessons and birthday parties, Iceland also hosts full-length theatrical productions like Jesus Christ Superstar on Ice and Friday night rock ’n’ roll shows. Iceland also provides daily skating opportunities, but thrifty folks know the discount sessions happen Sundays at 6 p.m. and Mondays and Tuesdays at 8 p.m.
1430 Del Paso Boulevard, (916) 925-3121, www.icelandsacramento.com.