Cyclists shouldn’t miss this riverside treat
By R.E. Graswich
At a certain time each day, the most beautiful place in Sacramento is Oak Hall Bend. Don’t worry if you’ve never heard of it. What really matters is how you get there. You can walk, but the best way to approach this exquisite patch of geography is by bicycle.
Pedal down Riverside Boulevard. Just past the modest hill that ascends at 35th Avenue, turn right and go onto the levee. Ride 100 yards and behold Oak Hall Bend. From Pocket, catch the levee at Zacharias Park and head north about one-quarter mile. You’re there. No cyclist should miss it.
Sacramento is a cycling town. This spring, when the coronavirus began to wipe out socialization, bars, restaurants and retailers, a local resident interested in buying a bike—or an experienced road biker eager to upgrade—could find six excellent cycle shops between H Street and Sutterville Road.
The options are endless. All price ranges, makes and models. Test rides may be problematic due to contagion concerns, but Sacramento has been lucky in the shadow of pandemic. There were no state-mandated limits on cycling.
A person who wished to ride from Midtown to Folsom on the American River Bike Trail could make the 30-mile trek without detour. The landslide that closed the trail near the Orangevale bluffs in 2017 was finally cleared in February. The trail’s reopening crossed the finish line a month before the virus.
Beyond cycling, we can argue about the city’s status as a sports town. I’ve always thought it was a lousy one, at least compared to Chicago, Philadelphia or Boston. This isn’t Sacramento’s fault. To be a great sports town, you need great sports teams.
Sacramento is the type of sports community where the accurate descriptor is a cliché that deploys the words “one” and “horse.” True, Sacramento has been relentlessly loyal to its NBA team, whose championship trophy cabinet hasn’t been touched since 1951. But otherwise? Uh, we almost beat the Lakers.
So forget basketball. The Sacramento cyclist has better options. Midtown, East Sacramento and Land Park are lovely places to ride, especially for cyclists who don’t clip in. Downtown remains treacherous, even without the traffic that normally makes J and L streets hazardous for two wheels. Light rail tracks are a minefield for bicycles. Modified Regional Transit schedules prompted by COVID-19 mean fewer trains, but they don’t make tracks less dangerous.
The Riverside trek to Oak Hall Bend is not a perfect ride. Too many motorists treat Riverside as a speedway. But it’s better than Freeport or Franklin. From Broadway, a cyclist without gears can reach Oak Hall Bend in 12 minutes. The golden hour is 30 minutes before sunset.
Oak Hall Bend is a half-mile south of Chicory Bend. It’s where the Sacramento River makes a sharp northwest turn, a jag that must have kept riverboat captains awake on foggy nights in 1928. The Riverfront Apartments keep watch over the site. The residents inhabit a special place.
My former Bee colleague Carlos Alcalá discovered the origins of Oak Hall Bend while researching his 2007 book “Sacramento Street Whys.” Checking the 1909 city directory, he found advertising for a hotel on Riverside Road called Oak Hall. The owner was Harry G. Hoag. He sold cigars, liquor, food—“Hot Chicken Dinners a Specialty”— and rooms. The place eventually became a whorehouse and was torn down in 1949. The river bend behind the hotel endured.
Much of the Sacramento River Parkway is closed for repairs. But Oak Hall Bend is open and must not be missed. Here’s why: It’s where the Sacramento River seems to pause and reflect back on itself, glancing over its shoulder. The setting sun makes the water shimmer and dance. At that moment, the cyclist’s life has no limits.
R.E. Graswich can be reached at email@example.com. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento.