Saturday, December 5, 2009

Cool stuff you don't find in a car

When you drive a car, there tends to be one obvious and self-evident route to your destination.  I figure in the 10 years I've lived north of downtown, I've made the trip something like 2,000 times.  And probably 1,980 of those trips involved the same roads each time.

On a bike, though, the route isn't so pre-ordained.  Too much traffic on 16th Street?  Skip through the Salvation Army parking lot to 17th... or 18th so the park doesn't get in the way.  For me the best route is seldom the most direct, but rather the least trafficked or the most scenic.  Although, it must be said that "scenic" is a term seldom applied to approaching downtown Sacramento from the north.  "Pungent" and "A little scary," yes... "scenic," not so much.

It was on just this kind of bike route that I rediscovered one of the coolest businesses in Sacramento.  The New Roma bakery is tucked off the main streets in a residential neighborhood that long ago lost its luster.  It wasn't positioned to draw customers from the highway, but to serve the families in the houses alongside it.

It's a relic from another time... when you bought cakes or loaves from the people who made them that same day.

On Friday, I rode with Jan to her downtown hair appointment.  While she was at the salon, I pedaled over to New Roma for a sandwich, a coffee and a long sit in one of the white resin chairs sitting outside the front window.  I ate my lunch, watched the kids play at recess in the school across the street and took in the sights for an hour.  I planned to buy dessert, but couldn't manage another bite after two "samples" offered by the ladies behind the counter -- baseball-sized hunks of cake; chocolate raspberry and half-and-half.

It was an awesome way to pass the time.  I felt like Tony Soprano sitting outside Satriale's, except without my crew and with (slightly) less fear of being whacked.  And it was a great experience I'd have missed entirely had I been in a car instead of on my bike.

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