The Way to San Jose

Before I booked my flight to San Francisco, I should have asked my two friends in San Jose the best way to get there. (Background music – Do You Know the Way to San Jose?) It turns out there is an airport within a few miles of here. Michael had sent me directions by BART and Caltrain to get to his place from San Francisco, but his housemate, Karen, graciously offered to drive the hour to come pick me up.

Michael used to teach with me in Vermont but moved to the west coast many years ago. He lives with a couple from New Zealand and the four of us got to know each other better over dinner at Sweet Tomatoes that evening. There was a buffet dinner filled with delicious, and mostly healthy, choices and this produce-starved Eastern girl showed little restraint filling her plate with all kinds of fresh, California fruits and vegetables.

In the morning, we headed out for a walk on one of the many trails around this area. Walking in shirt sleeves in November under the California sun is definitely a treat and one that people in this area are able to take more for granted. With all the snow in New England recently, I was especially grateful.

Michael is an educational travel agent so he helped me book my final flights home. I had several options so I wasn’t an easy customer but we put together a great itinerary (and it really is no problem to leave here on a 6 a.m. flight for the right price).

Coincidentally and conveniently, Michael lives just a few minutes away from my Southern Tier cycling friend, Candice and her partner, Carmen. I packed up for the short trip and moved into Candice’s beautiful home. She has a group of women called The Babes who do bike rides on Fridays.

Fortunately for me, she also rides on Wednesdays. I unpacked my bike things for the first time since my ride with Sandra (another ST friend) back in Virginia. Candice led me through the campus of San Jose State University nearby on our way to the train station.She is a great tour guide, pointing out things along the way. She is also very comfortable with urban riding so I tucked myself in behind her on my borrowed bike as we wove through students on bikes and skateboards, in and out of bike lanes and along busy roadways to the original 1930’s art deco train station.

This was the first time I have ridden on a train to start a bike ride, which they do regularly here. There is a car for bikes at both ends of the train with bikes downstairs and seats for the people upstairs. Each bike is labeled with a destination so they can be arranged for quick on and offs at the many stations enroute.

The bike car filled up as we rode along to our destination of Palo Alto. We were meeting friends on the campus of Stamford University for a 30 mile ride. Among the group was someone I was especially excited to meet – Pam Perkins. She and I have many cycling friends in common and after reading my Northern Tier blogs the last two summers, she felt like she already knew me.

Just off the train, it immediately became clear that we were in a land of bikes. There were bike lines and riders everywhere and I was happy to be one of them. There was a particularly challenging left turn on the campus where there was a steady stream of bikes coming our way and unlike in a car traveling on a road with traffic lights, there was hardly a break in the traffic.
Bravely following Candice and her friend, Sandy, who met us on the train, we made our way through the gorgeous campus to meet our fellow riders.

All of the women I met, including Pam, are WomanTour alumni, a particularly passionate group of cyclists and always fun and interesting people. I was in good company all day as we made our way through the campus to begin our ride, already chatting away like old friends.

We headed up into the lower reaches of the Santa Cruz Mountains aka the hills above Palo Alto. It was another perfect day for riding- sunny and comfortable temperatures. It got a little warmer as we climbed but then we turned off into Woodside. This was a unique experience for me,riding on oak shaded winding roads in an area known for its celebrities, horses and multi-million dollar homes. This is where the CEO’s of the Silicon Valley have their residences and we could only see the gates and little glimpses of the mansions inside the gates. There were people riding horses here and there and more private stables than I’ve ever seen.

On Alpine Road, appropriately named, we climbed up a narrow road with a deep forested gully on one side and a straight up bank on the other, complete with a mother deer and her fawn.


The last part of the ride was a sweet downhill. I hadn’t realized how much climbing we had done but enjoyed the ride down to Portola Valley where we had our lunch. We ate outside (in November -ah) and enjoyed more local food – a BLAT sandwich (BLT with avocado) and garlic fries with garlic from Gilroy, just down the road. Here we said goodbye to Pam and Debbie to ride back to the Stamford campus.


Back on campus, Sue gave us a quick tour. We walked through the Rodin exhibit at the college museum and then explored a huge sculpture, first from a balcony and then got to walk around inside the giant metal construction.

We also rode through a cactus garden.

Finally, we saw an Andy Goldworth sculpure made out of rubble from an earthquake several years ago.

Back at the train station, I tried a blood orange soda before making our way back to Candice’s house in time to meet up with her many neighbors and friends at the Garage, a wonderful neighborhood bistro known for its huge and delicious burgers. By the time we walked back to the house, my head was filled with all the names and stories of the many people I had met, including many Babes, that day. What a great welcome to California and another full day on the road. As I sat under a lemon tree in Candice’s yard, once again, I was bursting with gratitude for all the people and experiences I am having on this trip.


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  1. Phyllis Biegun

     /  November 3, 2011

    Enjoying your trip. I had no power for 4 days following an early storm. There wasn’t much snow but because the leaves were still on the trees there was tremendous damage. Apparently even a little snow weighs a lot. Hope to see you during your eastern break.

  2. Mary Blake

     /  November 3, 2011

    How I wish I could have been on that ride! I love the picture of you and Pam. I’m following you faithfully. Mary

  3. elva9833

     /  November 4, 2011

    What fun you are having – I knew you would love Pam – give her and Candice my best!!! Wish I were with you!


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