Sports & Recreation

Writers’ choice

Illustration By Terry Allen

Best bocce-ball gathering

East Portal Bocce Club
Hidden amid the fig and persimmon trees of East Sacramento is the aptly named East Portal Park, a gateway to leisure and home of the city’s finest bocce-ball courts. Italian communities used to reside predominately in these neighborhoods; thus the bocce courts, kumquats and bitter cherry trees scattered throughout the area. This year, however, the East Portal Bocce Club boasts the United States Bocce Federation national champions (the championship was held in Stockton during the last week of May). The men who were victorious this year are only four of the 150 regulars who partake in league play at the East Portal club. Needless to say, you had better hone your skills before showing the pallino who’s boss.
East Portal Bocce Club, 1120 Rodeo Way,

Best place to catch a flying frankfurter

Raley Field
Any seasoned baseball fan will tell you that one of the great pleasures of attending a ballgame is eating ballpark food. So, what’s the quintessential ballpark treat? The hot dog, silly! Now, a trip to the concession stand for a hot dog will set you back $3.50. But wait; before you spend your hard-earned cash, you might be able to score yourself a free frankfurter. How, you ask? Well, during every River Cats game, those energetic Rally Cats launch about 20 dogs into the stands. The frankfurters, shot out of a Miller Meats Hot Dog gun, are capable of flying up to 300 feet. Grab your glove and get ready to catch yourself a flying frankfurter. You’ll know the time has come when “Who Let the Dogs Out” starts blaring over the loudspeakers.
400 Ballpark Drive in West Sacramento, (800) 225-2277,

Best reason to ditch class at SCC

William Land Golf Course
Sacramento City College’s lack of on-campus parking has prompted students to leave their cars in William Land Park while they attend class. Of course, this led to students playing hooky and teeing up for nine holes. William Land Golf Course, the modestly challenging nine-hole course flanked by lines of students’ cars, offers affordable tee times for a quiet afternoon on the links. Certainly the par-three third hole, guarded by towering sycamores and flanked by cavernous bunkers, is enough to cajole the most dedicated of students from their respective academic obligations. Be sure, however, to play after 6 p.m.: The course’s twilight rate is easily the best golf deal in Sacramento!
1701 Sutterville Road, (916) 277-1207,

Best refurbished walking loop

UC Davis Redwood Memorial Grove
You won’t believe you’re still in the Sacramento Valley as you stroll under the peaceful canopy of the just-redesigned (but still majestic!) redwood grove on the UC Davis campus. A new trail, picnic areas and meditation spots now exist beneath this mini-forest of about 300 Sequoia sempervirens (coastal redwoods) that were planted on campus, along the north fork of the Putah Creek, in 1941. A quick stroll from Mrak Hall or the Mondavi Center gets you into the grove. Soak that up and then continue along the creek on the four-mile loop trail that heads through the UC Davis Arboretum and beyond. Keep walking, and you’ll happen upon plenty of treats, like the Peter J. Shields Oak Grove, with its 80 types of oak trees; the Ruth Risdon Storer Garden, a bountiful one that features flowering perennials, flowers and trees from all over the valley; and the Carolee Shields White Flower Garden, with its karma-centering gazebo and white, fragrant, “moon-viewing” plants that are gorgeous by day and seem to go radiant by moonlight. Loop back eventually to the magnificent redwoods and take a deep breath. You are one with the trees. You are peace.
UC Davis campus.

Best monument to a departing King

The life-sized Vlade Divac mosaic at Sal’s Tacos
Vlade Divac may be a Laker now, but he’ll always be a King at Sal’s Tacos. The West Sacramento eatery is notable for its cheap, authentic Mexican food, but the décor is the real treat for Kings fans. After “retiring,” Sal’s Tacos owner Sal Galvan had a little extra time on his hands, so his daughter gave him a book on making mosaics. Evidence of his new hobby is all over the restaurant now, including the bathroom and ceiling. The bright mosaics vary by subject, but Galvan’s newfound love of basketball is prominent. Three or four years ago, Galvan couldn’t have cared less about the sport, but then his son-in-law took him to a Kings game. Galvan was hooked. Now, Sal’s Tacos is home to life-sized mosaics of Divac and Brad Miller, as well as pieces featuring Peja Stojakovic, Chris Webber, Mike Bibby and Bobby Jackson. A mosaic of Doug Christie is in the works, and Galvan’s hoping Divac will sign his mosaic before leaving Sacramento behind for good.
400 C Street in West Sacramento, (916) 372-3892.

Best place to catch a rowing competition

Lake Natoma
If you’re into rowing, you’re in the right place. Last year, Rowing News named Lake Natoma the best place in all of North America to row. Sam Sweitzer, rowing coordinator and special events manager at the California State University, Sacramento, Aquatic Center, located at the lake, said that’s largely because of the relatively calm water. Lake Natoma has 2,000 meters (the sprint distance for rowing) of straight protected water, without much wind, current or tide. There’s a fully equipped seven-lane buoyed race course, and the aquatic center has all the amenities—start docks, platforms, launches, etc.—to run local, national and international races. The NCAA Women’s Rowing Championships were held there in 2004 and will be again in 2005. Sweitzer also touted the beautiful viewing area at the final 300 meters of the race course. In between dips in the lake, viewers can sunbathe on grass or sand and watch the rowers glide past the finish line.
Off Highway 50 at Hazel Avenue, Event information at

Best place to get on the American River

Lake Clementine Trail, Auburn State Recreation Area
Often, the obstacle to enjoying the American River is that the air is too hot, the water is too cold, or the place is too crowded. But this relatively flat two-mile trail leads to several choice locations for a dip. About three-quarters of a mile from the trailhead, a steep trail leads to Clark’s Pool, a paradise for warm-blooded loafers, with its shaded, sandy beach and calm water that has been heated (slightly, mind you) by the sun-warmed water from Lake Clementine. From Route 80, follow Route 49 to Auburn. Pass Old Foresthill Road, cross a bridge and park on the right. The trailhead is across a street behind a green gate.
El Dorado Street at Old Foresthill Road in Auburn, (530) 885-4527,

City Water Intake Facility

Photo By Larry Dalton

Best soul in a baseball broadcaster

Johnny Doskow
Listening to the renowned sports broadcaster Chick Hearn as a boy in Los Angeles taught Johnny Doskow everything he would ever need to know about his field of choice. After more than a dozen years of calling games in other minor-league towns, Doskow hit Sacramento as the voice of the Sacramento River Cats, the play-by-play guy baseball fans in town have come to know. Doskow brings each ballgame to life for Sacramento fans, broadcasting nine innings at both home and away games on KSTE 650 AM. Off-season, he serves as a general booster for the team, speaking to students and local organizations about his love of the game and his passion for the broadcasting job. Heart and soul is what this guy is all about.

Best place to work out with a celebrity

Capital Athletic Club
It was already the place to go if you wanted to watch legislators, lobbyists and local media heroes get their cardio on, but now the Capital Athletic Club can boast Arnold Schwarzenegger as a regular visitor to its well-appointed weight room. When the governator comes around, you’ll feel just like you’re hanging out in Venice during the golden age of Gold’s Gym, except without the steroids and orgies and stuff. Just don’t ask Arnold to spot for you—his security folks get a little touchy about that.
515 Eighth Street, (916) 442-3927,

Best place to practice your golf swing when nobody’s looking

The driving range at Haggin Oaks
Among the signs of a maladroit golfer are the repeated “whoosh” of club missing ball and the 10-foot drive that squibbles off to the side. Better that such neophytes (we hope they’re neophytes) expose their shortcomings at 3 a.m., when the good golfers are either passed out from heat exhaustion or just getting up to shower for an early-morning tee time. The driving range at Haggin Oaks accommodates such nocturnal duffers: It is open 24 hours a day May through September (and until midnight in April and October). With 100 hitting stalls and an automatic ball-dispensing machine, Haggin Oaks removes the need for human interaction and, with it, potential eyewitness accounts of your humiliating swings and their shameful results.
3645 Fulton Avenue (at Interstate 80), (916) 575-2525,

Best place to see rock stars get sweaty

Bodytribe Fitness
Rock stars are a notoriously weak and flabby bunch. In fact, given the particular stereotypical bent of rock stars to wallow in the mire of drugs, sex and alcohol, it’s a wonder they survive long enough to play a single show. Bodytribe Fitness wants to change all that—one local rock musician at a time. With the gym’s appointment-only clientele including members of the Kimberly Trip, St. Simon 3 and Ghetto Moments, as well as various other local-music scenesters, hanging out at Bodytribe is something like hanging out at the old True Love Coffeehouse, only with heavier stuff to carry around. In fact, rumor has it that Bodytribe may be hosting future “True Love in Exile” shows. Keep your ears to for details on that.
920 21st Street, (916) 444-2384.

Best roller-coaster ride on a bicycle

Folsom branch of Jedediah Smith Memorial Trail
On a nice summer weekend, the bike trail along the American River Parkway can look like Highway 50 on a morning commute. Groups of cyclists are screaming around corners and confronting groups of unknowing pedestrians who don’t know to stay on the adjacent foot path, and it puts everyone in danger. There is a less crowded and fun route that branches off at mile marker 28.2 and then takes you back down the trail along Lake Natoma. First, go over the pedestrian bridge that crosses the American River and leads into Old Town Folsom. Then, jump on this route behind the Lake Natoma Inn and get ready for a scenic trip that provides what bike riders call “rollers”—small and numerous little hills. The trail helps out with plenty of twists and turns that offer a little challenge and a lot of fun. We suggest you get out there on a weekday morning and go “Weeeee.”

Best motorcycle ride

The Latrobe Road loop
This 220-mile journey includes some of the best back roads the area has to offer. Now pay attention; you don’t have a global positioning system. Take the Latrobe Road/El Dorado Hills exit off of Highway 50 and head north, and you’ll find yourself on the infamous Salmon Falls Road. At Pilot Hill, take Highway 49 north to Highway 193 east, which deposits you in biker-friendly Georgetown. Gas up, grab some grub and head east on Main Street, which becomes Wentworth Springs Road, surely the most perfect stretch of motorbikin’ highway around. Take hairpin-heavy Icehouse Road south to Highway 50. Head east to Kyburz, pick up tiny Silver Fork Road south to the Mormon Emigrant Trail and ride south to Highway 88 south. Turn on the afterburners. Peel off on Shake Ridge Road and take Fiddletown Road west toward Plymouth, where it becomes Old Sacramento Road. Ride west to Latrobe Road, turn north, and you’re back where you started: tired, saddle sore and grinning from ear to ear.

Best Monarch

Yolanda Griffith
We can sing the praises of many Monarchs: The team that coach John Whisenant extols for its work ethic is made up of exceptional athletes who share a love of the game and a will to win. But we have to admit that two-time Olympic gold medalist Yolanda Griffith carries a particular burden as the backbone of the team, and she does it with grace. Currently averaging 14 points per game, the 6-foot-4-inch center-forward is an intimidating inside presence that other teams strive to shut down. And those long, agile arms have plenty of uses on the court: She’s ranked first in the WNBA in offensive rebounds and second in steals. The veteran came over to the WNBA in 1999 from the failed American Basketball League, where she was a standout for the Long Beach Sting Rays. Her first year with the Monarchs was so impressive, she was named the league’s most valuable player. Six years later, she’s still the one.

Best King

Bobby Jackson
Lots of us are not exactly approaching the upcoming Kings basketball season with the enthusiasm of years past—what with Vlade gone and Peja wishing he were. But don’t despair; all is not lost. We do have at least one excellent development to look forward to: the return of Bobby Jackson! Yes, the injury-sidelined Kings guard will be back this season with a passion. Jackson’s always been the heart and soul of the team anyway, a true-believer type who leaves everything he has out there on the court at the end of each game. The NBA’s ultimate Sixth Man is also a good and decent man who runs affordable children’s basketball camps and owns one of the coolest, most underappreciated sports ventures in the region: Basketball Town in Rancho Cordova. Bring this man your bored, your underachieving, your couch-potato teens and watch his place transform them. The return of Jackson is one of many reasons for burnt-out Kings fans to believe the glass is still half-full.

Best free water fun

The fountain at the City Water Intake Facility
It’s not what you might expect from public art, but the water-fountain sculpture at the City Water Intake Facility (and can’t they come up with a better name for this flat-out gorgeous pumping station?) does double duty as a hot-weather fun zone. It’s easily accessible from the American River Parkway—you can actually ride your bike through the plaza-level fountain to cool off on your way to Discovery Park. On warm days, it usually has a few of the under-10 set giggling, whooping and squealing as they soak themselves. The fountain/sculpture/mini-water park, designed by Guy Marsh of New Mexico-based Sundance Water Design, sends a programmed series of water bursts into the air. Streams of water arc, sometimes high and sometimes low, but always glimmering on sunny days. It’s one piece of a larger series of public art, including the structure itself, which is supposed to resemble a giant dragonfly hovering over the river. In any case, on a sweltering day, there’s nothing like a random squirt from a beautiful fountain.
City Water Intake Facility, Jibboom Street.

Best place to get a spring in your step

Fleet Feet on J Street
Not everyone runs, but most of us walk, and even those of us who are couch potatoes generally have feet. The problem is how doggone sore those dawgs can get. In spite of all the ads out there for cheap shoes and cheap shoe stores, nothing says “happy feet” like a pair of really good athletic shoes that have been properly fitted. At Fleet Feet, they don’t just measure your feet—although they do, for length, width and arch size—they also look at how you stand, check out your gait and ask questions about what sort of activities you actually perform with your feet. Although they don’t much care whether you’re going to run a marathon or just start walking to work, their careful fitting results in comfortable shoes that put a spring in your step. Fleet Feet also has plenty of other fun casual and sportswear, including those heartwarming “Life is Good” products. Oh, yeah, it has socks, too.
2311 J Street, (916) 442-3338.

Best online resource for anglers

American Fly Fishing Co.
Whether you’re brand-spankin’-new to the sport of fishing or you’ve been reelin’ in stripers ever since you were a small boy (or girl), you have to know where the fish are biting—otherwise, you’ll just sit around twiddling your thumbs all day. The American Fly Fishing Co. Web site offers frequently updated fishing reports that are crammed with useful information garnered from staff members, fishing guides and customers. Anglers of all skill levels can find out what fish are biting and where, the best times of day to fish and what flies to use. See “Fishing Reports” on the site—it covers about 20 Northern California lakes, rivers, reservoirs and creeks, including some in our own backyard.
3523 Fair Oaks Boulevard, (916) 483-1222,

Best park for escaping the noise of the city

Curtis Park
Sure, Land Park may be home to Fairytale Town, Funderland, the Sacramento Zoo and the William Land Golf Course, but all those attractions can mean traffic and crowds on the weekend. For those looking for something more quietly charming, we recommend a visit to the lesser-known neighborhood of Curtis Park—in particular, the community park. Tucked away from any major thoroughfares, Curtis Park is lined with picturesque homes, most of which were built in the 1920s. With two lighted tennis courts, a basketball court, a softball field, a baseball field, a children’s play area, a one-mile dirt running path and a large grassy picnic area, Curtis Park has something for the whole family—without all the noise.
At the corner of East Curtis Drive and Montgomery Way, (916) 277-6060,

Best remedy for stripped nipples

The Bicycle Business
Is your spoke nipple stripped? Does your chain ring flex too much? Or do you have no idea what the hell we’re talking about here? No matter—whether you’re a hard-core bike freak or a total novice, the folks at The Bicycle Business will actually take the time to talk to you and tell you exactly what needs to be done to get your steed up and running. Plus, you get a great cross section of world-class bikes, a tremendous selection of used racing frames and enough parts on display to get any pedal-powered gearhead drooling. All that and no snobby attitude. Sure, there are lots of great bike shops in Davis and Sacramento, but this one just feels right.
3077 Freeport Boulevard, (916) 442-5246.

Best place to play on a snow day

Lake Tahoe Sno-Parks
Rent them, buy them or borrow them, but get a pair of snowshoes or cross-country skis and take in the miles of low-impact, no-experience-needed, jaw-droppingly beautiful trails on the California side of the Lake Tahoe area. The easiest way to get started is to park at one of the 21 maintained Sno-Parks, pick up maps and then snowshoe around Echo Lake and up into Desolation Wilderness, or glide through the aspen groves at Taylor Creek. By sunlight or moonlight, you can explore the best of the Sierra while listening to the constant crackling of snow falling from branches and rivers bubbling under patches of ice. The best part: You’ll be far away from the crowds of downhill skiers and boarders, but you also can bring a sled if you want to stay near your car with the kids—and have fun acting just like one of them.
Off Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation Division; 1725 23rd Street, Suite 200; (916) 324-4442;

Best quasi-legal recreation trail

Abandoned rail spur in Land Park
There’s a movement in this country called “Rails to Trails,” which calls for tearing up abandoned railroad tracks, cleaning up the soil and paving new recreation trails. It’s an expensive and time-consuming process. And it seems that in some parts of Sacramento, folks aren’t willing to wait. One old railroad spur, running from the Sacramento River through Land Park and South Sacramento, already has become a sort of unofficial recreation trail. Following the tracks from the river to South Land Park Drive, behind the La Bou, you run into the first of the fences and no-trespassing signs warning that the tracks are strictly off-limits. But in fact, South Land Park residents routinely ignore the no-trespassing signs and have turned this archipelago of fenced-in railroad easements, from Land Park to Fruitridge Avenue and beyond, into impromptu dog runs, hiking trails and meeting places. This trail may not have the amenities of Sacramento’s “official” recreation trails, and it might not be strictly legal, but why wait to start turning rails into trails?
From the Sacramento River Trail, south of Broadway, follow the tracks over Interstate 5 and toward Land Park.