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California Questionnaire: Levi Leipheimer VC_Questionnaire_LeviLeipheimer_Supplied_LevisGranFondo_JimFryer_1280x640
Jim Fryer

California Questionnaire: Levi Leipheimer

California Questionnaire: Levi Leipheimer
A world-class cyclist rolls out his favorite things about the Golden State

As a world-class pro cyclist who competed in top international events until his retirement in 2013, Levi Leipheimer has seen much of the world. Yet the three-time winner of the Amgen Tour of California, an eight-stage race which loops around the Golden State each May, chooses to live in the Sonoma County town of Santa Rosa. We caught up with Levi—who still puts in 15 to 20 hours each week in the saddle on roads or trails—to learn more about why Northern California gets his vote as the best place on earth.

Where do you live? Santa Rosa, California.

Why there? When I turned professional in 1997, I moved here from Montana because of the roads, the cycling community, the cycling history, the weather, and the proximity of a major airport. It’s the perfect place for a professional cyclist to live.

Who or what is your greatest California love? Sonoma County. One thing I’ve learned traveling the world is that it’s best here. We’ve got so many routes—the redwoods, tiny roads with character, the ocean bluffs, the oaks. I never do the same ride twice.

What is the biggest misperception about Californians? We’re all surfers. I have surfed—once—and it wasn’t even in California. I think people have this idea that it’s all about Hollywood, and surfing, and movie stars—which obviously it’s not, especially in NorCal.

What is the stereotype that most holds true? We enjoy being outdoors. An outdoor activity is a requirement here—it’s mandatory. And we really are on the cutting edge of technology, health and fitness, and nutrition.

What is your favorite Golden State splurge? Especially here in Sonoma, we’re famous for wine, beer, and food. I’m not much of a drinker, but I enjoy food, and I’ve got a sweet tooth. Wild Flour bakery in Freestone is really good. Taylor Maid out in Sebastopol is a great spot for coffee, muffins, and cookies. It’s a cool town and the halfway point on an easy, flat ride.

Time for a road trip: Where are you going? Drive up to Tahoe, either ski in winter or in summer, mountain bike in summer, swim in the lake, and go for a hike. Then drive down to Yosemite for more great hiking. Sometimes I take it for granted, and you say, “Oh yeah, Yosemite, whatever,” and then I go and it’s amazing, and I feel stupid for not going there more often. From Yosemite I’d go down to Mammoth, then Mount Whitney. It’s all pretty awesome.

If you could decree an official state culinary experience, what would it be? Really good Mexican. We all have our favorite Mexican restaurant and our favorite dish. I’m usually a burrito guy. I ride my bike so I can eat them.

Best California song? Anything by the Red Hot Chili Peppers or Jane’s Addiction really means California. Beach Boys music—that’s pretty classic, right?

How would your California dream day unfold? I’d wake up, have my oatmeal or a protein shake and espresso, then go for a ride with friends. We’d road or mountain bike along Sonoma’s King Ridge or Coleman Valley Road. It’s a great way to spend a nice, warm summer day with views of the ocean. Then I’d have Mexican food and a movie.

California Questionnaire: Levi Leipheimer VCW_TI_5_BayLoop_Hero_Manley_1280x642_sized
Erica Davis/Getty Images

Northern California

Discover the San Francisco Bay Area

A crimson bridge, cable cars, a sparkling bay, and streets lined with elegant Victorian homes—San Francisco is undeniably one of the world’s great cities. Located along the Northern California at the state’s distinctive bend in the coast, the region has an alluring magic that stretches beyond the bay to diverse cities with nightlife and trend-setting cuisine.

"I left my heart in San Francisco, High on a hill, it calls to me." —singer Tony Bennett

The Bay Area is also home to some of the world’s finest wine country, including Napa Valley and Sonoma, plus waterfront towns, dramatic beaches, and the tech-savvy southern end of the bay known as the Silicon Valley, where lunchtime ideas at Google, Facebook, and Apple, turn into the next brilliant innovation. 

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Erica Davis/Getty Images

Half Moon Bay

This delightful little beach town possesses serious surf DNA and is just a short drive from San Francisco

Half Moon Bay is situated 45 minutes south of San Francisco on Highway 1, but it might as well be half a world away. Home to the world-famous...

California Questionnaire: Levi Leipheimer VC_Sausalito_Hero_Stock_RF_508260845_1280x640
Eiojo Torpe/Getty Images


Explore this quaint town that’s just over the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco

Just north of the Golden Gate Bridge, a steep hillside covered in chaparral and eucalyptus drops from Highway 101 to a flat, sunny shoreline, two...

California Questionnaire: Levi Leipheimer vc_ca101_resorts_winecountry_aubergedusoleil_videostill_1280x640

4 Awesome Wine Country Resorts

Luxurious spas, farm-to-table dining, and easy access to dozens of wineries—these Napa and Sonoma resorts offer the indulgent getaway you need

Ready for some “me time” amid decadent surroundings? Reserve your spot at one of these spectacular Wine Country resorts.


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Chao Kusollerscharlya/Shutterstock

Spotlight: Berkeley

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See a stunning museum, shop, and feast in the Bay Area’s most outspoken city

A haven for backyard artists and coffee-shop philosophers, Berkeley has deep roots in the Flower Power movement of the 1960s and ’70s. But...

Make memories at some of California's family-favorite beaches

Sand, water, and kids—it’s a natural combination for easy family fun. This sandy dozen offers appealing, family-friendly features, such as calm water for new swimmers, tide pools for intrepid...

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Alex Farnum
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Russian River Brewing Company


The co-owner of the wildly popular Russian River Brewing Company in Santa Rosa shares her story, along with a few Golden State favorites

Natalie Cilurzo will never forget the day everything changed for the Russian River Brewing Company. It was February 5, 2010—the first Friday in...

California Questionnaire: Levi Leipheimer VCW_D_SFcity_CableCarWharf_1280x642_0
San Francisco's cable cars are the country's only mobile National Historic Landmark.
Taste the delicious dishes from these amazing California chefs

From a candy-colored pastry shop to Michelin-starred dining rooms, top restaurants run by celebrity chefs dot the Golden State. And even if you don’t know these chefs from the TV...

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San Francisco has only one drawback - 'tis hard to leave.
Rudyard Kipling
Kid-friendly fun zones, special kids' menus & amazing wine for the grownups

Sure wine country is romantic, but now it’s a surprisingly great destination for families too, with a growing number of vineyards trading in elegant tasting rooms for kid-friendly fun zones that...

California Questionnaire: Levi Leipheimer VCW_SI_T5_John_preview_686x885
World-class accommodations in world-class locations

Head to the heart of California’s cities for luxurious stays at world-class accommodations. From San Francisco’s historic hotels to celebrity hot spots in Hollywood and Beverly Hills, California’s...

California Questionnaire: Levi Leipheimer PalaceHotel_LynGateley_preview_686x885
Lynn Gately/Flickr
San Francisco itself is art, above all literary art. Every block is a short story, every hill a novel. Every home a poem, every dweller within immortal. That is the whole truth.
William Saroyan
Farm-fresh produce, culinary adventures

Juicy heirloom tomatoes and just-picked strawberries. Super-sweet peaches shaped like mini UFOs. Artisanal cheeses, golden-green olive oils, local wildflower honey—California’s farmers markets are...

California Questionnaire: Levi Leipheimer VCW_SI_FarmersMarket_T4_CV_DavisFrmMkt1_Flippen_preview_686x885
Laura Flippen
From Gold Rush history to the 8th wonder of the world, visit these favorites

If there was ever a box of chocolates—and all of them delicious—it’s the rich collection of natural treasures, fascinating...

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Amy Meredith/Flickr
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Courtesy of Alonzo King LINES Ballet

Performing Arts

Museums, music, and a hint of bohemia

Nested near the city’s cupola-topped City Hall, impressive performance spaces in San Francisco present some of California’s—and the world’s—...

California Questionnaire: Levi Leipheimer VCW_D_Sjose_Hero_TerminalB_1280x642
Courtesy of San Jose International Airport

Spotlight: San Jose

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Tech savvy, international flair

The first hit of this city’s unmistakable techy-ness starts right off the bat—if you get here by plane. Meet Space Observer, a 26-foot/7.9-meter-...

California Questionnaire: Levi Leipheimer Livermore_TaiPowerSeeff_1280x642_sized
Tai Power Seeff


Ranches, vineyards, and relaxed appeal east of San Francisco

With warm sun and wide-open spaces cradling vineyards, ranches, and wine-country estates, the Livermore Valley makes an appealing destination just...

It's simply a very romantic place. Just one look at any of those streets, and you couldn't be anywhere else -- it's so beautiful, and there's that location, and the sense of the free spirit. ... Who couldn't become ravenous in such a place?
Julia Child
Old-fashioned fun in the Golden State

Historic oceanfront playgrounds, classic city-park charmers, boisterous adventures—smaller theme parks and attractions offer an array of ways to play.  These smaller parks offer old-...

Safari West
Tai Power Seeff
Where to release your inner fashionista

Shopping is an art form in California. Whether you're in search of the perfect cocktail dress or an authentic Mexican piñata, you'll find it here. Want to sample fresh produce? Try our farmers...

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According to legend, Winchester Mystery House's maze of passages and building oddities were designed to confuse the ghosts of those killed by Winchester rifles.
Kids get an inside look at wildlife, space, and more

From cool ways for your kids to learn about wildlife, to an insider’s look at a space station, to a chance to walk through a rain forest or learn about the night sky, there’s a bumper...

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Peter Alfred Hess/Flickr

San Francisco Bay Loop

Check these amazing experiences off your bucket list

Kiss a beluga, see cool movie props, and learn about Walt’s secret hideaway on exclusive and behind-the-scenes tours at California’s theme parks and attractions. Here’s a roundup of worth-the-...

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Michael Saechang/Flickr