My new bicycle (Ritchey Break Away) and I took off to San Jose without incident. It took me about an hour to put it away. Although it was fairly easy to disassemble by simply unscrewing the correct screws with either a 6, 7, or 8 mm hex wrench, it was quite difficult to insert all the pieces into the bag. And although I managed to place everything by shifting parts around, things did seem to rise out of the top of the bag more than I would have liked.
I took a 6AM flight on Saturday to San Jose, which I later discovered was a mistake. The people from Playphone kept me in an all day meeting until about 6PM. We did then go to dinner, but once again I found that eating with people who talk a lot keeps me from enjoying my food. It was a dinner I was being paid to eat, so perhaps I shouldn't complain so hastily. I was exhausted at 9PM, so I pleaded to be driven back to the hotel. It would have been nice to go out with Saji, whose company I enjoy. Perhaps I will next time?
The hotel, located on a major road through Cupertino, receives quite a lot of guests working or training at the local Silicon Valley businesses, such as HP. It probably was built in the late 70s or 80s, the same vintage of the hotel I usually am at in San Rafael. There's a few oddities in the room. In the bathroom is a black and white TV which is tuned using a dial, like an old fashioned radio. The room has an Ethernet jack (no wireless) and you have to go down to the front desk to borrow it ($50 fine if you fail to return this $2 cord.) Business hotels are soulless affairs. (I suppose one exception is the "Dormy Inn" I stayed at in Akihabara, with the open air bath on the roof.)
I made a mistake of not bringing or buying a map. Luckily the hotel front desk had one, but all the points of my interest were off the left side of the page, up in the hills surrounding the valley. The valley — formally farms, now strip malls, housing developments, and some small universities and colleges — was not interesting at all for bicycling. I saw some serpentine roads snaking off the edge of my map and knew that these would take me into the better geography.
On my way to the edge of the map, I tried to avoid some major roads by entering the housing development areas. I got lost and turned around. I ended up on some road that took me south, not west. Of course then I ended up off the bottom of the map. I stopped a woman and asked for directions. She told me to turn around. Finally climbing the hills, the roads got increasing confusing. But I followed the major roads to the Stevens Creek County Park visitor center, which provided me with information further west.
My bicycle took me up some fairly steep hills, covered in sage brush and straggly vegetation. It was about 70-80 degrees, sunny and dry. I passed an ugly reservoir, with numerous fisherman lined up on the banks fly and cast fishing.
Continuing on, there was a road to the right which follows the creek. Although I had no idea where it might take me, I had hoped someplace scenic at the end of it. The creek burbles down the hill quite steeply, and although the road seems somewhat flat, climbs quite significantly. The road (Stevens Canyon Road), walled in by steep terrain on both sides is forced to criss-cross over it. Along the way are ugly, dilapidated houses, trailers, etc., with signs warning people (especially government officials) to stay the hell off their property. The elevation and constant shade of the valley wall and trees made it quite chilly. Signs near the wooden bridges warned of ice. Stevens Canyon Road ends at a gate and I was forced to turn around.
I returned to the main road and continued around the county park, climbing uphill into wine country. There was a winery at the top of this small mountain. The founder, a NASA test pilot back in the 40s and 50s, started the winery as a hobby. Numerous pictures of strange experimental aircraft and planes were hung up on the walls. Below was the usual winery gift shop merchandise. His children run the business now. The shop tender (his daughter) allowed me to sample some the wines (which I did not actually enjoy as much as I had hoped) and provided me with a map and some directions down the hill.
Coming down the hill was much faster than the climb. I was warned of blind driveways and other drivers so I stuck to the middle of the lane. I met up with a major road (the one I mistakenly took to the south), and went further south into Saratoga village.
Saratoga village, unlike the strip malls which surround it, actually has a bit of personality. Of course, it's vaguely the same personality in most tourist towns: Art galleries, expensive clothing stores, romantic (pretentious) restaurants, knick-knacks for grandmas and children, ice cream stands, etc. I noticed a sandwich shop that attracted quite a few local bicyclists, who were sitting outside in their jerseys and bicycle shorts, enjoying a drink or some food.
The uniform of cyclists is quite garish, but it allows us to easily identify each other. I ended up talking to a few other cyclists about the area. Two men Tom and John (or Dave, I forget) allowed me to join them on their ride and took me on some more interesting back roads back to my hotel.
One of the men asked me if I knew any crazy cyclists in Seattle. I told him I actually don't know of any. I asked what he meant, he gave me an example of Race Across America. I said I never heard of it. It's a 3000 mile race where there are no rest periods. People on tandems take turns sleeping on their bicycles.
I returned to the hotel, packed my bags and left.