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The California Questionnaire: Levi Leipheimer VC_Questionnaire_LeviLeipheimer_Supplied_LevisGranFondo_JimFryer_1280x640
Jim Fryer

The California Questionnaire: Levi Leipheimer

The 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 favourite 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.


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Harriot Manley/ Sunset Publishing

Northern California

Discover the San Francisco Bay Area

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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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San Francisco's cable cars are the only mobile National Monuments.
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Thomas H. Story/ Sunset Publishing

Golden Gate Bridge

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See one of the world’s most famous landmarks, spanning an elegant bay

With towers soaring 227 metres into the sky, its span arcing across the mouth of San Francisco Bay and all of it painted bright red-orange, the...

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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

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


Rock rolls into the wine country with this three-day event in Napa that features 2019 headliners Imagine Dragons, Neil Young, and Mumford & Sons. With more than 80 performers in the May 24–26...

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Jessica S./Flickr
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San Francisco has only one drawback - 'tis hard to leave.
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Taste the delicious dishes from these amazing California chefs

From a pastel coloured 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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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 child-friendly fun zones that...

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John/ Flickr

Get the Spanish spirit at this colourful event. Stroll the grounds of Gloria Ferrer Caves and Vineyards with a glass of bubbly, and take in a whirl of passionate music, flamenco dancing and food....

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Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards
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World-class accommodations in world-class locations

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

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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. Artisan cheeses, emerald-green olive oils, local wildflower honey—California’s farmers’ markets are...

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Laura Flippen
From Gold Rush history to 8th wonders 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
Make memories at some of California's family-favourite beaches

Sand, water, and children-it’s a natural combination for easy family fun. These sandy beaches offer appealing, family friendly features, such as calm water for new swimmers, tide pools for...

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Alex Farnum
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
Sample ultra-fresh, hyper-local, and downright amazing

When you come to California, come hungry. This is a state that really knows how to cook. Amazing and innovative chefs sprinkled with Michelin stars work with local farms and artisanal food...

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Old-fashioned fun in the Golden State

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

Safari West
Tai Power Seeff
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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 children 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...

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Peter Alfred Hess/Flickr
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 actvities...

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Photo by Michael Saechang/Flickr
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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...

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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...

Where to release your inner fashionista

Shopping is an art form in California. Whether you are in search of the perfect cocktail dress or an authentic Mexican piñata, you will find it here. Want to sample fresh fruits and...

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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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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...