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Grand Tour.15-A Journey To The Googleplex

A couple of months ago, I set out on my latest “Grand Tour” Amble. But this was no ordinary amble, no this felt more like a journey to the center of the earth. For on this day I was traveling to Google’s world headquarters, or as it has come to be known, the “Googleplex”. Here’s the route, and as always, it was accessed via public transit, in this case, via CalTrain’s San Antonio station, and included a sojourn out to nearby Shoreline Park. Here’s the 5-milish route, and, of course, courtesy of Google ™ :-/

As you might imagine, in these parts, walking through this suburban neighborhood to get there can generally range from bland to grim to inhospitable, and that was the case most of the way, though there were sidewalks at least:

I was really not sure what was waiting for me. I knew the Googleplex was some kind of campus. The notion of the suburban corporate campus is a relatively recent one in the grand arc of building design, really taking off in the 1950’s. One of the prime examples was Eero Saarinen’s General Motors Technical Center outside Detroit. Of course, in the hands of the 1950’s modernist, the campus was meant to embody the promise of the corporation, expressed in a pristine modern language, with every detail reinforcing the whole.

But the champion of  every detail re-enforcing the whole was Frank Lloyd Wright. Mr. Wright often insisted, and was often given the chance, to design everything down to  the napkin holders. His most noteworthy shot at the corporate campus was the Johnson Wax Building, with its infamous wax-like interior columns:

But of course, that was the 50’s. Its a different world, not to mention this is laid back Silicon Valley, and Google. I wondered, was there security? Was it gated?  Was it more of a collegiate campus, a “traditionally bland office park”, or a new model, an emerald city on the hill, pointing us all in a new direction, whilst embodying the company’s internet ingenuity.

I was not sure where the ‘campus’ began, or when I had entered its hallowed grounds, but suddenly two people whooshed past me- and not in a car, but on bikes, painted suspiciously with Google’s telltale rainbow. Then I saw a sign, then another, and that was it, I apparently, had arrived. I was underwhelmed- it did as it turns out have the styling of a very bland 80’s office park. In fact, here is it what it looks like from the air , and of course, courtesy of GoogleMaps  ™:-/ :

The only real hint that this might be a bit different than your run of the mill office park were the bikes. But I intended to venture in , look inside if I could. Again, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but when I thought about what I might find, I couldn’t shake this image:

Uh , Mr. Oz, why does my Google Ap keep crashing?

Continue reading “Grand Tour.15-A Journey To The Googleplex”

Walking Into The Fog- A Trip To Ocean Beach

The ambling has been continuing lately, its just the writing about it that has been absent. A busy and immensely distracted summer. But ‘Ambles carries on, with an eye towards a book deal. “Stairway Walks Of San Francisco- 6th edition”…..give me a break.

We live on the west-facing side of Nob Hill. And as this is home and office, I am here most days. And from my perch, I live with the fog. At times it envelops, at other times, it is…..out there, to the west. I find it alluring in a way, a bit of a tease, the way it advances, then retreats, and repeat. I like the fog, just not a week of it without sun. Like the predictable cycle of the fog, us San Francisco dwellers repeat each summer our complaints of its arrival, as though it is a new and unheard of phenomenon. But I must say, this summer, the complaints were louder, and I would agree- it seems to have been, until a few weeks back, a particularly cold and foggy summer.

In the heat of it one day(?), we,  instead of following the natural inclination to flee this cirrus invasion, dove into it,  heading west for a journey along Ocean beach and its surroundings. Here’s the route:

We journeyed out on the 1-California. The sun was out on Nob Hill, but very quickly, the battle between sun and fog was on, and by the heart of the Richmond, the sun wasn’t even trying. As we lumbered up from 32nd Ave to the Legion of Honor, (my favorite Bay Area museum), it occurred that this grim day might be better spent inside, soothed by the likes of Ingres and Manet. The Museum would have to wait. Continue reading “Walking Into The Fog- A Trip To Ocean Beach”

Grand Tour.13- Toddlin’ Along The Carquinez Strait

Happy New Year loyal reader. The Grand Tour starts anew in 2010, after the holiday recess. Actually, today’s post recaps a trek taken last year , a very long amble along the edge of the Carquinez Strait, from Martinez all the way to Vallejo, a 13 mile monster. Urban Ambles nearly required medical attention as it lumbered  on to the ferry for the ride home, though a soothing Pabst Blue Ribbon (yes, I was that thirsty) helped immensely. Here’s the route:

We accessed this route by train, hopping an early morning Capitol Corridor Amtrak train from Emeryville to Sacramento – it stops in Martinez. It really felt like we were going somewhere this morning, it felt positively Grand-Tourish, I mean the real kind. What is it about settling in on the train, (and I’m not talking about the whine of BART), but the 2-3 miles out of the station satisfying muted clickety clack of the rails beneath you. Seat, coffee, map, and book- check ,check, and check. Simple pleasures.

After heading inland from Emeryville, passing thru the industrial backyards of the East Bay, we return to the water’s edge, along San Pablo Bay. Eventually, suburbia’s enthusiasm for the Bay gives way past Rodeo, and the Bay narrows down to the Carquinez Strait, the entry  marked by the Carquinez Bridge. We continued on to our destination of Martinez, and its sharp new train station.

Disembarking in Martinez, we have arrived in the county seat of Contra Costa County. There is a pretty well-preserved downtown here, and, as it is a county seat, it’s a somewhat robust one. I am also told it was once home to John Muir  (his home is  a museum there). We make our way past the immediate retail zone, and into a very pleasant residential neighborhood, it populated with great examples of early California Victorian vernacular homes, all part of a historic district, itself worth more exploration. Eventually , one ascends the hill at south edge of town, its edge marked by a somewhat scraggly cemetery:

Martinez Victorian
Martinez Cemetery




Continue reading “Grand Tour.13- Toddlin’ Along The Carquinez Strait”