The Tour of California will bypass previous stops in Sacramento, Auburn, Davis and much of the rest of Northern California this year. But from Bakersfield to Beverly Hills, the nearly 750-mile trek will offer the race's most diverse route.
Combine new cities, new mountain climbs and a new time trial, and even the most discerning enthusiasts will have numerous subplots and overall strong racing to consider. But just as with any cycling stage race, fans who visit the starting- or finishing-stage cities of the May 13-20 event will want to find things to do before and after each stage.
San Francisco, the Stage 2 starting city, is a global travel destination with countless options. Clovis, the Stage 4 finish location known as the "Gateway to the Sierras," is less heralded.
But for anyone with a spirit of adventure, the race's stage locales offer a wide scope of before- or after-race options.
Stage 1, Santa Rosa back to Santa Rosa; 115.9 miles, 10:50 a.m. start.
How nice of organizers to begin the race on a Sunday when it's happy hour all day long at Russian River Brewing Co.
Plenty of brewpubs have great beer with great names. But this pub and eatery in the center of town stands alone. It's the home of the ales dubbed Mortification, Damnation and Perdition, but also Salvation and Redemption.
It's also the epicenter for connoisseurs of the renowned Pliny the Elder. The double IPA's description: "well-balanced with malt, hops and alcohol, slightly bitter with a fresh hop aroma of floral, citrus, and pine."
How long the supply will last during the opening day of the country's biggest bike race is unknown.
(Russian River Brewing Co., 725 Fourth St., Santa Rosa; 707-545-2337, www.russianriver brewing.com).
Stage 2, San Francisco to Aptos; 117.1 miles, 11:05 a.m. start.
Coffee aficionados know what they want. Which is why in Oakland and San Francisco any nearby competitors of the Blue Bottle Coffee Co. likely are frustrated.
From its humble one- location start based on Central Europe's first coffee house (the Blue Bottle in Vienna), it has grown to six Bay Area outlets serving what many consider the best caffeine anywhere near the City by the Bay. There are also two locations in New York.
Lines are often long, particularly for New Orleans-style iced coffee and the wondrous pairing of poached eggs with cornbread.
(Blue Bottle Coffee Co., headquarters: 300 Webster St., Oakland; 510-653-3394, www.bluebottlecoffee.net).
Stage 3, San Jose to Livermore; 115.3 miles, 11:15 a.m. start.
It's no secret that drive-in movie theaters are dwindling. But nostalgia is what West Wind does best. The Capitol 6 Drive-In is part of the collection of drive-ins and public markets owned by the San Rafael-based company that's in California, Nevada and Arizona.
The Capitol 6 Drive-In shows double features only, with adult admission $6.95 and $1 for children ages 5-11.
Drive up, turn your stereo to the designated channel and break loose with your favorite bring-along food and beverages or treats from the snack bar.
If you're staying in San Jose after the start of Stage 3, Tuesday night is Family Fun Night with adult admission $4.95. West Wind, which also owns the Sacramento 6 Drive-In, promotes the movie-watching joy of yesteryear with a dazzlingly hip website.
(West Wind Capitol 6 Drive-In, 3630 Hillcap Ave., San Jose; 408-226-2251, www.westwinddriveins.com).
Stage 4, Sonora to Clovis; 130.2 miles, 10:35 a.m. start.
If an establishment looks exactly like what a funky coffee shop should look like, that's plenty of reason to visit. If its name is B S Coffee Shop, it's a must stop.
The nondescript exterior and name belie the daily offerings. Trays of freshly made cinnamon rolls quickly confront customers. Melted butter is the house condiment of choice. Equally popular are biscuits served with sausage gravy, bacon gravy or both.
Beyond its generous homemade breakfast treats, B S Coffee Shop is aptly named. Its endearing owner's personality defines "character."
(B S Coffee Shop, 233 Sunnyside Ave., Clovis; 559-299-2000).
Stage 5 time trials, Bakersfield back to Bakersfield; 18.4 miles, 1 p.m. start.
Buck Owens was born in Texas but died in 2006 in Bakersfield, the city he called home and helped make famous. Owens had dozens of country hits, including "Streets of Bakersfield" in 1973. Eight years earlier, the Beatles recorded Owens' standard, "Act Naturally."
Owens called Bakersfield the inspiration for the music he called "American music."
That's reason enough to visit the Crystal Palace, the nightclub, eatery and museum that honors Owens.
Specials include Dwight Yoakam's Baby Back Ribs and Brad Paisley's Southern Fried Catfish. All entrees, according to the online menu, are served with "Buck's homespun scratch biscuits and fresh squaw wheat bread."
(Crystal Palace, 2800 Buck Owens Blvd., Bakersfield, 661-328-7560; www.buckowens.com).
Stage 6, Palmdale to Big Bear Lake; 115.7 miles, 10:25 a.m. start.
With a finish elevation of 7,000 feet and with long, exposed climbs and expected high winds along the route, indoor relaxation will be warranted after a rugged day in the elements. The Bowling Barn in Big Bear Lake Village seems like an ideal elixir.
The old-style exterior is a contradiction to the 16-lane interior facility with a modern scoring system. The bowling alley bar is called Alley Oops, which management boasts has the best prices in town.
Billiards and darts, high-definition TVs and arcade games are also offered. There's no reference on the establishment's website to whether altitude changes the dynamics of bowling, but it seems like a worthy project to tackle. And it's a good thing Stage 6 is scheduled on a Friday. The Bowling Barn is open until midnight.
(The Bowling Barn, 40625 Big Bear Blvd., Big Bear Lake; 909-878-2695, www.bowlingbarn.com).
Stage 7, Ontario to Mount Baldy; 78.3 miles, noon start.
Mount Baldy is one of the highest points in Southern California, which means eating and drinking at 10,000 feet is different. Familiarity works best at Mt. Baldy Lodge.
The restaurant's burgers, chili, barbecued chicken, steak sandwiches and hot chocolate with big chunks of marshmallows get major props on social media sites. The wait staff treats everyone like locals.
The cozy lodge is open 365 days a year and has wood-burning fireplaces. Mount Baldy is 43 miles east of Los Angeles. But combine the mountain's extremes with its old-style lodge and it easily could be far more remote or at least it might be fun to pretend.
(Mt. Baldy Lodge, 6777 Mt. Baldy Road; 909-982-1115; www.mtbaldylodge.com).
Stage 8 time trials, Beverly Hills to Los Angeles; 42.6 miles, 10:10 a.m. start.
Eight days of watching bicycle racing can be exhausting, and a long drive home likely waits. Comfort food cures almost all ailments, and the Original Pantry defines comfort food and is just a few blocks from the finish line.
Opened in the 1920s, the diner does history and hearty well. It's an oasis tucked amid skyscrapers, a convention center, sports stadium and the general hustle and bustle of downtown Los Angeles.
The waiting line at peak hours goes around the block. Menus are on interior walls. Watch the veteran servers work their craft; take their advice, since they know what's best.
Homemade chili bean soup, fried chicken, steaks and eggs, and spaghetti and meatballs often reign. Unless otherwise agreed upon, everything comes with a huge pile of sourdough bread and homemade coleslaw. Save room, if possible, for apple pie a la mode. Breakfast is served 24/7.
(The Original Pantry, 877 S. Figueroa St., Los Angeles; 213-972-9279; www.pantrycafe.com).