Adventures don’t have to take you far from home. Are you a cycling fan? Instead of saving for years to follow the Tour de France in Europe, try a regional stage race. Such as the Amgen Tour of California. And, heck, you really don’t even have to be a huge cycling nut to enjoy the day.

Amgen Tour of California 2014 Peloton Climb to Cool

The peloton climbs quickly up Highway 49 from Auburn to Cool, Calif., during the 2014 Tour of California … and yes, Therese Iknoian is as close to the action as this photo makes it appear. And, no, she did not get run over.

HI Travel Tales is lucky to be based in a cycling mecca in Northern California – so lucky in fact that the Tour of California has come through or near our home base nearly every year since its inception. And of course we have made it to the side of the course many of those years.

Cycling fan or not, we are sure you will fully enjoy the pomp, circumstance, parade and social revelry of a stage at a cycling event like the Amgen. Pack food and beverages. Schedule a rendezvous with friends. Pick a spot on the course. Get there early enough to set up your little base. And enjoy hanging out in the spring sunshine (assuming it is a sunny year or at least one without deluges).

Amgen Tour of California athletes warming up

No other sporting even that we know of allows such close and intimate contact with world-class athletes. Here, in 2009, prior to the Day 1 Time Trial in Sacramento, Saxo Bank team members warmup, including Andy Schleck, rear, who went on to gain the top place at the 2010 Tour de France after Albert Contador was stripped of the title on doping charges.

Really, it doesn’t have to be about the cycling – although the cycling is indeed cool. We promise anybody with a heartbeat will find the hoop-la of the day invigorating — from the parade of pre-race course vehicles and smiling cops on motorcycles, to the colorful appearance of the smoothly snaking peloton in the distance or being within arm’s reach of the pedaling cyclists.

Nevada County has seen the start of the Tour of California race twice – once when a late May snowfall made a trek around Lake Tahoe for the cyclists impossible. And, in May 2015, the race will kick off its second day in the visit-worthy Gold Country town of Nevada City after Day 1 in Sacramento. Look for 120.4 miles of historic foothill beauty from Nevada City to Grass Valley, down to the American River, through the town of Cool and out to a finish in Lodi.

In 2010, the Amgen course wound out wildflower-lined country roads to a narrow double-hairpin switchback on a one-lane road over a canal. HI Travel Tales was one of a few dozen who scoped out the location, claimed a spot on the canal two hairpin turns up and settled in for several hours. “Hey there to those in the box seats!” yelled an announcer over a loudspeaker in a pre-peloton vehicle – setting up a roar from our little crowd. And it was breathtaking indeed to see the flowing pack of color sweep around the first of three turns as it slowed and headed up the hill toward us.

The Amgen Tour of California cyclists were gone in minutes but the memories remain, making you hungry for another experience. And that’s why HI Travel Tales will again be course-side at the 2015 Amgen Tour of California.

HITT Tip: Study maps of the Tour of California race’s eight stages  to determine great viewing spots. Hills and turns are better than flat since you’ll likely get a longer look at the cyclists than just a blur of color as they roar by. Then be sure to get there plenty early and have a load of patience in your bag. Cycling is a lot about the wait – but that’s the social nature of cycling, the fun of hanging out outdoors with like-minded souls.
Heads up! This information on the Amgen Tour of California was accurate when we published it on HI Travel Tales, but, as we know, traveling is all about changes (and inflation, sadly). Please be sure to confirm prices, transportation schedules, hours of operation, safety and health considerations, request for perfect weather during your entire visit, and any other important details before your adventure.