Archive for the ‘Palo Alto’ Category

El Camino Calendar

Thursday, October 7th, 2010

Pumpkin Pyramid

More great events coming up this weekend are listed below in geographical order. Be sure to check out my El Camino Calendars page for a list of venues which always have a variety of activities going on.


20th Annual Giant Pumpkin Weigh Off

Uesugi Farms Pumpkin Park
14485 Monterey Rd. • Morgan Hill, CA 95037

SATURDAY, OCT. 9, 2010 at 1:00PM
awards immediately following
CHECK IN: 9:00am-11:00am
http://www.uesugifarms.com/


World Zombie Day Movie Night

Sunday, October 10 · 6:00pm – 9:00pm
SLG Art Boutiki & South First Street Billiards

World Zombie Day is the day that all undead across the world join together as one to help fight world hunger. Almost every city that has ever hosted a zombie walk will be joining together on October 10 to shamble along for world hunger.

Zombie-o-rama central are going to put our own unique spin on things, so we will be having a World Zombie Movie Night. Get in your favorite zombie attire and come by South First Street Billiards for an early evening of dinner, drinks and pool. The shamble on over to the SLG Art Boutiki for a zombie movie screening.

No make-up required, just bring yourself and a canned food item which we will donate to a local food bank.

What better way to spend 10.10.10

South First Billiards is at 420 South 1st St, SoFA District, San Jose, CA 95113.
The SLG Art Boutiki & Gallery is located at 577 S. Market Street, San Jose CA 95113.

Facebook | World Zombie Day Movie Night


Downtown San Jose Zombie Crawl

Thursday, Oct. 7th, 2010

Dress in your zombie finest and get killer drink specials with the purchase of a $3 VIP wristband

8-9pm- O’Flaherty’s, 25 N. San Pedro Street, San Jose CA 95110
9-10pm- Old Wagon Saloon, 73 N San Pedro St. San Jose, CA 95110
10-11pm- Dive Bar, 78 E Santa Clara St, San Jose, CA 95113-1804
11-12am- Voodoo, 14 S 2nd St, San Jose, CA 95113-2501
12-1am- Johnny V’s, 31 E Santa Clara st, San Jose, CA 95113

$500 Costume Contest
Facebook | 2nd Annual Downtown San Jose Zombie Crawl


Silly Bandz Pizza Party

Create It! Ceramics and Mosaic Studio
Town and Country Village
855 El Camino Real, Suite 108, Palo Alto, CA
6:00 to 8:00 pm, Friday, October 8, 2010
$36/child & includes all of the SILLYNESS you can handle!

Your kid(s) will love our special silly bandz pizza party! We are going to press the Silly Bandz as a technique to paint with to a silly bandz jar, play silly bingo games, win silly prizes, eat silly pizzas and drink silly juices!
http://www.createitceramics.com/


3 Minute Game Show

Great Mall
447 Great Mall Drive
Milpitas, CA 95035

The Great Mall is hosting Disney Channel’s “3 Minute Game Show” this Sunday, October 10, 2010. Bring the kids down and join us from 1 PM – 3 PM at entrance 2 court. Children from the audience will be chosen to participate in games and given a chance to win prizes!
http://www.greatmallbayarea.com/


Hispanic Heritage Month Celebration!

10/8/2010
Join The Shops at Tanforan and La Kalle 105.7 to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month via an exciting display of cultural dance performances. We hope you can join us!

Also enter to win a $500 mall gift card; must be present to win.

LOCATION: Lower Level, in front of Old Navy

TIME: 5:30 – 7:30 pm
The Shops at Tanforan | 1150 El Camino Real | San Bruno, California 94066
http://www.theshopsattanforan.com/


The Best of El Camino Real

Saturday, October 2nd, 2010

On September 22, Metro, Silicon Valley’s weekly newspaper, put out their “Best of Silicon Valley” issue, 2010 edition. It contains the readers’ choices and editors’ picks of the best locations, goods, and services available in Santa Clara County and beyond. Of all the “Best of” lists out there, Metro’s is the one I’ve always valued the most partly because it always brings the wacky with unique categories like “Best Place to be a Scarecrow”and “Best Place to Buy an Accordian,” but mostly because it delivers. Some of my favorite joints in the South Bay proudly display coveted Metro “Best of” placards. They have weight with me, and they’ve earned my trust.

It’s no surprise Metro is so in tune with quality in the Valley. As it so happens this is their 25th annual list, a noteworthy milestone. They know what they’re doing and they do it well. You might even say too well: the sucker is pretty large. This year the printed list is 80 pages long. I scanned every page with glee but quickly realized what the problem was. They covered the entire Valley including, shockingly enough, businesses and locations that are not on El Camino Real. Yeah, I know, right? I understand their reasoning. Conceivably someone could find themselves on, say, San Carlos Street and they can’t easily get to El Camino and they desperately need to buy some sporty sunglasses. In such a scenario a two-dimensional “Best of” list could hypothetically be handy. All the same I took it upon myself to scour the list and extract for you the best of the “Best of,” the winners which are located on extended El Camino Real.

The list is below, presented not by category but in rough geographical order. Winners that are tagged with “#2” or “#3” came in second or third in the readers’ polling; otherwise they came in first or were simply awarded by the editors. This was a big copy-’n’-paste job so I apologize in advance for any errors I might have injected.

As I was putting this together I noticed that the list is heavily weighted towards Downtown San Jose. Then I remembered: Metro Silicon Valley is headquartered on El Camino, at 550 South First Street, in San Jose’s SoFA district. Now we know why the list is so good.

Rosso’s Furniture

#3 Best Furniture Store
6881 Monterey Road, Gilroy

Tony Di Maggio’s Pizza

Best Stromboli
3852 Monterey Hwy., San Jose

Road Rider

#2 Best Motorcycle Shop
2897 Monterey Hwy., San Jose

Southern Lumber

#2 Best Alternative to Home Depot
1402 Monterey Hwy., San Jose

San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art

Best Art Gallery
560 S. First St., San Jose

San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles

#3 Best Art Museum
520 S. First St., San Jose

San Jose Stage Company

#2 Best Theater Company
490 S. First St., San Jose

WORKS/San Jose

CIMG0292Best Gallery for Weird Art
#3 Best Art Gallery
451 S. First St., San Jose
I’ve been to WORKS three times in the past month, every two weeks, and each time the exhibit has been completely different. They turn this place over fast and frequently. I loved the most recent (OP)Space installation.

South First Billiards

Best Place to Play Pool
420 S. First St., San Jose

Miami Beach Club

#2 Best Latin/Salsa Club
417 S. First St., San Jose

Bayonne

#3 Best New Restaurant
399 S. First St., San Jose
This is high on my list of places to try, featuring lighter Southern fare.

Agenda’s Wednesday salsa night

#3 Best Latin/Salsa Club
399 S. First St., San Jose

Wet

#3 Best Big Dance Club
396 S. First St., San Jose

Cherri Lakey & Brian Eder

Best Cultural Guerillas
Anno Domini, 366 S. First St., San Jose
I was unaware until now that this pair deserves a lot of credit for the cool, creative vision which San Jose’s SoFA district has become recently.

Brix Nightclub

#2 Best Gay or Lesbian Bar
349 S. First St., San Jose

California Theatre

Most Romantic Movie Watching Spot
345 S. First St., San Jose

Symphony Silicon Valley

Best Symphony/Classical Group
325 S. First St., San Jose, performances at the California Theatre

Original Joe’s

Best Moderately Priced Italian Food
Best Late Night Eats
Best Martinis
301 S. First St., San Jose

Four Points by Sheraton

#3 Best Boutique Hotel – San Jose/Los Gatos
211 S. First St., San Jose

Soula Power Yoga

Best Yoga Studio
200 S. First St. #70, San Jose

San Jose Taiko and the Bangerz

Best Collaboration
SoFA District, San Jose
So sad I missed this live. Check it out on
YouTube.

SubZero Festival

Best Urban Uprising
San Jose

Children’s Musical Theatre San Jose

Best Children’s Theater
271 S. Market St., San Jose, performances at Montgomery Theater

Tech Museum

Best History/Specialty Museum
201 S. Market St., San Jose

Tech Museum Store

#3 Best Toy Store
201 S. Market St., San Jose

San Jose Museum of Art

Best Art Museum
110 S. Market St., San Jose

San Jose Museum of Art Museum Store

#2 Best Gift Store
110 S. Market St., San Jose
Dang, now my Christmas gift-buying secret is out!

McCormick and Schmick’s

#2 Best Seafood Restaurant
#2 Best Happy Hour
170 S. Market St., San Jose

The Fairmont

Best Hotel
Best Luxury Hotel – San Jose/Los Gatos
170 S. Market St., San Jose

Fairmont Hotel Lobby Lounge

#3 Best Jazz/Blues Club
#3 Best Hotel Bar
170 S. Market St., San Jose

The Grill on the Alley

#2 Best Martinis
172 S. Market St., San Jose

Music in the Park

Best Local Festival
Plaza de Cesar Chavez, San Jose
A couple years ago I took my son to Music in the Park to see his first live rock band, Smash Mouth. He’ll always cherish that night.

San Jose Jazz Festival

CIMG1444#2 Best Local Festival
Various venues, downtown San Jose

Linda Ronstadt

Best Official South Bay Cultural Treasure
Mexican Heritage and Mariachi Festival artistic director
I include her as an El Caminoan because the 2010 San Jose Mariachi Festival culminated at Plaza de Cesar Chavez, which I also count as El Camino. It’s a long story.

Bill’s Beer Steamed Hot Dogs

Best Bacon Hot Dogs
Market and Santa Clara streets, San Jose

Hammer & Lewis Fashions

Best Name for a Downtown Store
19 S. First St., San Jose
It’s a San Jose thing. You wouldn’t understand.

Good Karma

Best Vegetarian Overall
#3 Best Asian Vegetarian
37 S. First St., San Jose

E&O Trading Company

Best Asian Fusion
#2 Best Malaysian Restaurant
96 S. First St., San Jose
Mmm…corn fritters…

Umbrella

#2 Best Hair Salon – San Jose/Sunnyvale/Los Gatos
2 N. Market St. #100, San Jose

Erik’s Deli

Best Deli/Sandwich Shop
2 North Market St., Suite 105, San Jose
717 E. El Camino Real, Sunnyvale
1350 Grant Rd., Mountain View
Multiple locations

Ballet San Jose

Best Dance Company
40 N. First St., San Jose

Picasso’s

#3 Best Tapas/Small Plates
62 W. Santa Clara St., San Jose

San Pedro Square Farmers Market

Best Farmers Market
San Pedro and Santa Clara streets, San Jose. Fridays, 10am-2pm

O’Flaherty’s

Best Irish Pub
25 N. San Pedro St., San Jose

Peggy Sue’s

#3 Best Local Burger Place
29 N. San Pedro St., San Jose

Sonoma Chicken

Best New Restaurant
Best Dining Value
Best Family Restaurant
31 N. Market St., San Jose
Multiple locations
I’m not sure how this counts as new, but I don’t argue the other awards. Apparently they dropped the “Coop” from the name.

Satori Tea Company

Best Place for a Destroyed Nervous System
37 N. San Pedro St., San Jose

Britannia Arms, San Jose

Best British Pub
#2 Best Sports Bar
#2 Best Pre-Sharks Game Spot
#2 Best Restaurant Patio
#3 Best Happy Hour
173 W. Santa Clara St., San Jose
Metro readers really really like this place. Can you believe I’ve never been there?

Hotel De Anza

#3 Best Luxury Hotel – San Jose/Los Gatos
233 W. Santa Clara St., San Jose

Hedley Club Lounge (Hotel De Anza)

#2 Best Hotel Bar
233 W. Santa Clara St., San Jose

Schurra’s

Best Chocolate Shop
840 The Alameda, San Jose
A surprise win, but well-deserved. It’s special to me because I stopped by Schurra’s for an ice cream cone the day I created this blog. Sadly Bill Mundy, former owner of Schurra’s and father of the current owner, passed away last month, another sad loss to The Alameda.

The Watergarden

#3 Best Gay or Lesbian Bar
1010 The Alameda, San Jose
Recently I walked by this place, heard water running, and wondered what it was. Now I know.

The Usuals

CIMG0391Best Boutique-Gallery Crossover
1020 The Alameda, San Jose
The now classic “I heart SJ” tee shirts made them a lock for this prize. Congratulations to Mari and Mike, friends of AllCamino!

Recycle Bookstore

#2 Best Local Independent Bookstore
1066 The Alameda, San Jose

J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines

Best Local Winery
1000 Lenzen Ave., San Jose
Also a great place to throw a party. We held my wife’s birthday party there a few years ago and it was a hit.

Tee Nee Thai

CIMG0141Best Thai Restaurant Beer and Wine List
1423 The Alameda, San Jose
Near and dear to me, the subject of my very first blog post.

Planned Parenthood

#3 Best Organization Making a Difference
1691 The Alameda, San Jose

YMCA

#2 Best Health Club
1717 The Alameda, San Jose
Various locations

KSCU-FM (103.3)

#2 Best College/Independent Radio Station
500 El Camino Real, #3207, Santa Clara

The Off Ramp

Best Bicycle Shop
2369 El Camino Real, Santa Clara
2320 El Camino Real, Mountain View
Funny how similar the two addresses are, but they’re nine miles apart. That’s El Camino!

Russell’s Furniture

Best Furniture Store
2645 El Camino Real, Santa Clara

Santa Clara Ballet

#3 Best Dance Company
3086 El Camino Real, Santa Clara

Orchard Supply

Best Alternative to Home Depot
3615 El Camino Real, Santa Clara
777 Sunnyvale Saratoga Road, Sunnyvale
Multiple locations

Fish Market

CIMG0964Best Seafood Restaurant
3775 El Camino Real, Santa Clara

Trader Joe’s

Best Budget Gourmet Selection
727 Sunnyvale/Saratoga Rd., Sunnyvale
590 Showers Dr., Mountain View
Multiple locations

Rooster T. Feathers

Best Open Mic Night
New Talent Showcase, Wednesday
#3 Best Comedy Venue
157 W. El Camino Real, Sunnyvale

Armadillo Willy’s

Best Barbecue
161 E. El Camino Real, Sunnyvale
Multiple locations

Peninsula Beauty

Best Beauty Supply
328 W. El Camino, Sunnyvale
642 San Antonio Road, Mountain View
1043 El Camino Real, Redwood City
Multiple locations

Beck’s Shoes

Best Shoe Store
711 Sunnyvale-Saratoga Road, Sunnyvale
Multiple locations

Adamson’s French Dip

#2 Best New Restaurant
806 W. El Camino Real, Sunnyvale
Now I’m really excited to try this place.

Palace BBQ Buffet

#2 Best Korean Restaurant
1092 E. El Camino Real #1, Sunnyvale

Hotel Avante

#3 Best Boutique Hotel – Palo Alto/Mtn. View
860 E. El Camino Real, Mountain View

Kabul

#3 Best Middle Eastern Restaurant
833 W. El Camino Real, Sunnyvale

Chaat Paradise

#2 Best Indian Vegetarian
165 E. El Camino Real, Mountain View

Home Consignment Center

#2 Best Furniture Store
141 E. El Camino Real, Mountain View

Amber India

Best Indian Restaurant
2290 El Camino Real #9, Mountain View
600 W. El Camino Real, Mountain View

California Billiard Club

#3 Best Place to Play Pool
881 E. El Camino Real, Mountain View

Lozano Brushless

Best Car Wash
2690 W. El Camino Real, Mountain View

Frankie, Johnnie & Luigi Too

#3 Best Moderately Priced Italian Food
939 W. El Camino Real, Mountain View
My favorite Italian family. Now I want bruschetta.

Fry’s Electronics

Best Computer Store
340 Portage Avenue, Palo Alto
Multiple locations

Dinah’s Garden Hotel

Best Secret Garden
4261 El Camino Real, Palo Alto

Dan Brown’s

Best Vintage El Camino Bar
4141 El Camino Real, Palo Alto
And may I point out that this is the best category name ever!

Westin Palo Alto

#2 Best Luxury Hotel – Palo Alto/Mtn. View
675 El Camino Real, Palo Alto

Cantor Arts Center at Stanford

#2 Best Art Museum
Lomita Drive at Museum Way, Stanford

Hobee’s

Best Omelets
#3 Best American Restaurant
#2 Best Breakfast
3150 El Camino Real, Palo Alto
67 Town & Country Village, Palo Alto

Kirk’s

Best Local Burger Place
75 Town & Country, Palo Alto

LaBelle Day Spa

Best Hair Salon – Mtn. View/Palo Alto
Best Day Spa
95 Town and Country Village, Palo Alto
36 Stanford Shopping Center, Palo Alto

Lavande Nail Spa

Best Pedicure
240 Stanford Shopping Center, Palo Alto

Kepler’s

CIMG0505#3 Best Local Independent Bookstore
1010 El Camino Real, Menlo Park

Beltramo’s

Best Wine Shop for Bargain Hunting and Splurging
1540 El Camino Real, Menlo Park


Around the Bay in a Day

Tuesday, September 7th, 2010

CIMG0261

Last November I took a bus ride up El Camino Real from San Jose to San Francisco and blogged my impressions and observations. To avoid giving myself whiplash, that day I only looked out the right side of the bus at the eastern side of the street and doggedly ignored the left side so the job was only half done. Last Friday, September 3, 2010, I completed the task, taking the reverse bus trip from San Francisco down to San Jose, observing the west side. Back in November I scribbled all my notes on the bus by hand in a notebook and ended up taking four months to type them all up. It’s not that I’m a slow typist, it’s just that the scope of the project was much larger than I anticipated. For the second trip I found a more efficient way: I live-tweeted my journey.

If you’re unfamiliar with tweeting, it means I used my cell phone on the road to type and send text messages to the Twitter service. Twitter messages, or “tweets,” are limited to 140 characters each so it enforces brevity. A great advantage is that every message was timestamped and geocoded by GPS so I have a complete record of what I saw, when I saw it, and where I was. I tried to live in the moment and just write what was on my mind which means whatever happened to catch my eye out the bus window. I know it’s a pretty pedestrian read (irony intended) but I hope I conveyed a sense of El Camino’s diverse profile.

Follow allcamino on Twitter

Below are my 167 tweets from that day from my brand new @allcamino twitter account. It took some effort to extract them all from Twitter’s web site. There are web apps that do this but they didn’t work for me because they rely on Twitter’s search engine which failed me, returning only six tweets (?!). I wrote a Perl script to convert their HTML to the format I wanted for the blog. To improve the readability I put each time stamp and location stamp against the right margin above each tweet. You can click the location links to open a Google map. My live-tweeting strategy worked great. Last year it took me four months to finish the writeup. Here I’ve done it in less than four days.

I cleaned the text up, fixing obvious two-left-thumb typos and grammar issues, but the content is largely raw and uncut. I’ve put a few editor notes in [square] brackets and added hyperlinks for your reference. I’ve written broader post-trip comments in between tweets in italics. You’ll see a bunch of the photos I took, many from the windows of the buses. Please excuse their quality. (more…)

Math Olympians

Sunday, August 15th, 2010

CIMG0897Eight young American women kicked butt in the 2010 China Girls Mathematical Olympiad held August 9 – 13 in Shijiazhuang, about 100 miles from Beijing. They brought home to the USA five gold medals, one silver medal, one bronze medal, and one honorable mention. Four of the girls are from California, three from right here in Silicon Valley. One of the gold medalists, Lynnelle Ye, proudly represents El Camino Real; she just graduated from Palo Alto High School, she’s been taking advanced math courses at Stanford University since her junior year, and she’ll be attending The Farm in the Fall.

The China Girls Mathematical Olympiad is an international event where young women attempt to solve six math problems in nine hours split over two days. No calculus is required but the problems are…challenging. Here are a couple samples I found from a similar competition.

  1. Prove that for each positive integer n, there are pairwise relatively prime integers k0, k1, …, kn, all strictly greater than 1, such that k0k1kn – 1 is the product of two consecutive integers.
  2. At a certain mathematical conference, every pair of mathematicians are either friends or strangers. At mealtime, every participant eats in one of two large dining rooms. Each mathematician insists upon eating in a room which contains an even number of his or her friends. Prove that the number of ways that the mathematicians may be split between the two rooms is a power of two (i.e., is of the form 2k for some positive integer k).

Ironically as you see the competitors are given the answers; they have to provide the proofs. It’s  the mathematical equivalent of essay  questions.

Palo Alto’s Lynnelle Ye as it turns out is a bit of a superstar, having placed fourth in the Intel Science Talent Search and second in the Siemens Competition in Math, Science & Technology. Don’t let their math prowess mislead you. From the blog postings they put up on the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute page, it’s clear they are well-balanced, bright teenagers who made the most of the extraordinary adventure they had touring China. Some excerpts:

“I’m the romantic fluffy type who wants to talk about the scenery, because Hong Kong is the coolest place on Earth. So cool that I even bought a few refrigerator magnets. I think I’m going to build my castle here when I grow up.”

“Yesterday, we went to Ocean Park for most of the day. It was awesome! We got to see a lot of animals, including giant pandas, red pandas, sea otters, chinese alligators/crocodiles, dolphins, and sea lions. My favorites were by far the giant pandas. They were so cute! (I wish that I could hug them 🙂 ).”

“So, today’s classes were lots of fun. First we had Polynomials with Po-Ru, where I got to brush up on interpolation. Then we did awesomely awesome constructions problems with Ian. Finally, in the afternoon, Carlos showed us some really cool angle-chasing problems. In fact, one of them is now my new favorite math problem!”

Congratulations to these exceptional young ladies! They’ve got math skillz, and they’ll go far.

MSRI 2010 Olympiad

[Source: San Jose Mercury News]

Booo!!!

Friday, August 13th, 2010

El Palo Alto, the giant redwood that gave the city its name, has been tagged by graffiti vandals. I am disgusted. This is so wrong on so many levels I hardly know where to begin.

Stanford University SealThis towering redwood stands over the bank of San Francisquito Creek in Palo Alto near the county line. It’s over 1,000 years old. According to lore it’s where Don Gaspar de Portolá and his expedition camped in 1769 after having discovered San Francisco Bay. It was said to be the tallest tree for miles around so it’s always been a landmark, a defining feature of the region. It dominates the seal of Stanford University and leads the band out onto the field at football games. (If that makes no sense to you, just Google it.) El Camino Real lays beside this majestic tree, humanity’s parade paying tribute as it marches by.

I suppose I shouldn’t judge, but it’s deeply disappointing that someone could deface a historic landmark like that. The police are investigating but I suppose the perpetrator may never be caught. At least we have philosophy. The tree has withstood a lot in the last millennium. It used to have a double trunk; one was lost in a violent storm. Pollution from the nearby Southern Pacific railroad nearly poisoned it, but still it stands. The senseless graffiti will fade as will the vandal who put it there, but what El Palo Alto teaches us is that goodwill always endures.

CIMG0211

[Source: Palo Alto Online]

Anna, Bella

Sunday, August 1st, 2010

Anna Eshoo

The Hill magazine has named Congresswoman Anna Eshoo one of the 50 most beautiful people on Capitol Hill for 2010. The California Democrat and Atherton resident represents the 14th Congressional District on the Peninsula which covers a stretch of El Camino Real from Sunnyvale to Belmont, mysteriously omitting San Carlos (District 12). District maps…go figure. At 67 she is the oldest hottie on the list. She beat out her fellow Bay Area El Camino representatives Jerry McNerney (D-CA11), Michael Honda (D-CA15), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA16), and Jackie Speier (D-CA12).

IMG_9372

The magazine write-up notes her “Sophia Loren-esque” look and how she enjoys soul-restoring walks along the Pacific Coast. She’d better enjoy it; she represents the entire coastline between (not including) Half Moon Bay and Santa Cruz! I’m a little disappointed she didn’t mention the romantic car washes or Nachos Bellgrande to be had along El Camino, but I assume it’s because she wants to keep them our little secret, California’s last unspoiled wonder.

Click here to see the entire slide show at TheHill.com.

Rep_Anna_G_Eshoo

Music@Menlo

Saturday, July 31st, 2010

PZ20090205-011
The Music@Menlo chamber music festival is going on now. It started on Friday, July 23 and concludes Saturday, August 14. The schedule is packed with daily concerts, open rehearsals, workshops, and discussions. The theme this year is “Maps and Legends” and the works performed will describe a musical landscape spanning time and space. They will include pieces by Vivaldi, Brahms, Dvořák, and others.

The performances take place in various venues in and around Menlo Park, including Stent Family Hall and Martin Family Hall at Menlo School in Atherton, just off El Camino Real. Some concerts charge admission and several events are free. The festival began in 2003 but I’ve never checked it out before. I’m going to try to  catch one of the free lunchtime programs. I shouldn’t get lost on my way to the theater; I’ll have musical Maps and Legends to guide me.

Music@Menlo

Chamber Music Festival and Institute
http://www.musicatmenlo.org/
Now through August 14, 2010
Menlo Park, Atherton, Palo Alto

El Cinco de Mayo

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010

Years ago when we were young and foolish my wife and I thought it would be fun to celebrate Cinco de Mayo with dinner at a Mexican restaurant, so we drove all they way up to Palo Alto to one of our favorites, Compadres Bar and Grill on El Camino Real. This, as it turned out, was a horrible idea. In honor of Cinco de Mayo, the restaurant decided to turn itself into a full-on Cancun-style party bar so they removed 80% of the dining tables to make room for wall-to-wall revelry complete with thumping music, plastic cups, sticky floors, and Corona girls. More bar, less grill. Not our scene. With most of the tables gone, we had to wait something like an hour and a half to be seated. Why didn’t we just leave? I have no idea; like I said, young and foolish. When we did get seated in one of the few tables cowering in the farthest corner of the place, the service was harried and the food was not their best. Who can blame them?

The following year we were a lot smarter. We went to Compadres again…but on St. Patrick’s Day! We had the place to ourselves. And where did we celebrate Cinco de Mayo? At an Irish Pub in Sunnyvale! No waiting. Two cultural celebrations fully satisfied. Only in America!

I’m sad to say Compadres is gone now, having abruptly shut their doors in 2008.  Many a Stanford alum will raise their margarita glasses in memory of their sizzling fajita plates. If you want to take a chance and mark Cinco de Mayo with a fine Mexican meal, there are many places to choose from. If you see a Corona girl though, sal si puedes! I could list for you all the Mexican restaurants on El Camino Real but that would be too obvious, so here’s a sampling of restaurants named El Camino Real, found all around the world. You can find a little piece of El Camino Real wherever you are. As long as you’re, you know, near one of these cities. ¡Viva!

Toledo
El Camino Real Fine Mexican Food

Toledo, OH
http://www.elcaminorealoh.com/
Voted #1 authentic Mexican restaurant in Toledo! I can guess who was the #1 inauthentic restaurant.


Ann ArborEl Camino Real Fine Mexican Food

Ann Arbor, MI
http://www.elcaminorealrestaurant.com/

Wow, there’s something really familiar about that logo, but I can’t quite put my finger on it…


El Camino Real Mexican Food

Fullerton, CA
http://www.urbanspoon.com/

I’m surprised there aren’t hundreds of these in California.


PhillyEl Camino Real

Philadelphia, PA
http://www.bbqburritobar.com/
Unusual menu serves Mex and Tex. BBQ and burritos!


El Camino Real Authentic Mexican Food

Toronto, Ontario, Canada
http://www.realcamino.com/
It’s shut down, but we won’t hold that against them. It was a great URL, though. Why didn’t I think of that?


El Camino Real Mexican Restaurant

Connersville, IN
http://local.yahoo.com/


El Camino Real Mexican Restaurant

Bardstown, KY
http://www.menupix.com/


El Camino Real

Kansas City, KS
http://www.kansascity.com/
Cheap street eats! You had me at “cheap.”


LondonEl Camino Fresh Mexican Grill

London, England
http://www.elcamino.co.uk/
Okay so it’s not a “Real” Camino—Her Majesty might object—but it gets honorable mention because hey! It’s in England!


Bike Party

Saturday, April 17th, 2010

bike_party_2010_april by billmo, on Flickr

Friday night, April 16, 2010 San Jose Bike Party hit the El Camino Real, bringing their two-wheeled high jinks to Sunnyvale, Mountain View, Palo Alto, and Stanford. Bike Party is a volunteer group that organizes monthly bike rides through the streets of the South Bay, attracting hundreds of riders. In contrast to the edgier and more confrontational Critical Mass, Bike Party seems to be a more festive and light-hearted event, but still a serious ride. Friday’s route was 27.57 miles long.

bikeparty  191I first heard of Bike Party last year when they rode past my house in the middle of the night. I was asleep in bed when I was awakened by a couple neighborhood dogs barking their heads off. I could hear voices and strange mechanical noises coming from outside in the street. That’s not so unusual; it’s a busy street and occasionally we’ll have boisterous pedestrians or vehicles going by. But this time the noises didn’t stop and the dogs kept on barking so I went to the window to see what was going on and slipped into the Twilight Zone. There were bicycles rolling down the street. Wave after wave of bicycles. Dozens of them. There were mountain bikes, road bikes, stunt bikes and beaters, riders in costumes, hipster types, and nerds in reflective vests. I thought I was dreaming. I went outside in my pajamas and found a couple teens from the neighborhood already standing on the curb, watching the spectacle. They’re the ones who told me it was Bike Party, being much hipper than I.

When I learned Bike Party’s route this Friday included a big chunk of El Camino, of course I wanted to go see the fun and maybe take some pictures. However we went to the anniversary celebration at Calvin’s and I stayed too late enjoying the festivities so by the time I got up to Palo Alto the ride was pretty much over. I saw a few isolated stragglers but hardly enough to constitute a party. I stopped to chat with two riders fixing a flat tire who told me they estimated there were a thousand riders out. I asked how the ride on El Camino was and they replied, “too many cars.” Fair enough.

I reflected on how tragically unhip I am. I drove my car to try to get a look at a celebration of bikes, and missed the whole thing. Ironic and sad. I drove over to the ride’s end at Sunnyvale Town Center and strolled up and down South Murphy Avenue to see if I could spot any riders enjoying a post-ride beverage at the many nighttime watering holes there, but all I saw was this well-populated rack. As it so happened several bars had the Sharks’ hockey playoff game against the Colorado Avalanche at HP Pavilion on their TVs, and as I was walking back to my car I heard the whole street erupt in cheers as Devin Setoguchi scored the game-winning goal in overtime to even the series 1-1, thrilling the home crowd. Friday night on El Camino the good times just rolled.

A Pilgrim’s Odyssey, or There and Back Again, Part 3

Saturday, March 27th, 2010

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The Palo Alto Caltrain station was the county-nental divide for my transit trip up El Camino Real. It’s where I left the VTA system which serves Santa Clara County, and boarded the SamTrans Route 390 bus which serves San Mateo County. I had a few minutes to wait so I spent them studying the posted maps and schedules. That’s when I spotted a notice that was as welcome as it was unexpected: select VTA and SamTrans routes accept each others’ day passes in Palo Alto. I could use my VTA pass to board the SamTrans 390! For free! Sweet!

Time : 1:50 PM
Place: Palo Alto Caltrain Station
Route: SamTrans 390 to Daly City BART
Fare: $0.00 w/VTA day pass!
Total: $6.00

The 390 arrived after a few short minutes. It was an impressive articulated coach. I boarded and flashed my VTA pass with just a hint of nervousness that it would be rejected, but my papers were indeed in order so I had no problem at all. The train station is the startpoint for this route so the bus was empty. I had my choice of seats and selected one on the right side as I planned, stowed my backpack at my feet, and settled in for the long ride up the Peninsula.

I’ve lived in Santa Clara county for a while now and I like to think I brim with civic pride, but I have to say honestly that the SamTrans 390 was nice. Really nice. Frankly it blew the VTA 522 off the road, which pains me to admit. The windows were clear (no wrap!), the seats were comfy, and the air conditioning was luxurious. Best of all its general pace was much more leisurely. As we pulled out of the station past the historical marker at MacArthur Park and turned onto El Camino, I could literally feel myself relax as I sat back and prepared to enjoy the ride.

I hate to bag on VTA but I’ve always been ambivalent towards it. There was a period when I took it every day to work and regularly took it to special events downtown. It’s an adequate system, but I wish I could say it’s great. The fact is it’s troubled with low ridership, high fares, and increasingly infrequent schedules. Part of the problem is that the county, especially San Jose, is so gosh-darned spread out with relatively little population concentration that it’s tough to service it efficiently. Plus in our history we’ve been blessed with some boom times, most recently around the high tech industry, that resulted in a solid suburban middle class and drove the adoption of a car culture. So our buses are not world-class. I do have hope for the future of VTA given new high-density development around transit hubs and the plans I’ve seen for dedicated-lane Bus Rapid Transit, but we’re not there yet.

Back to SamTrans, I noted with approval the aptly named El Camino Park as we drove by, then tried and failed to spot El Palo Alto the landmark tree as we crossed San Francisquito Creek; I think it’s just not visible from El Camino. And then just that quickly we left Palo Alto, left Santa Clara County, crossed into San Mateo County, entering Menlo Park.

The Tesla Motors dealership is a hopeful spark in contrast to the three or four closed car dealerships just up the street. There are still plenty of gas stations though, additional reminders of El Camino’s car-serving nature. Jeffrey’s Hamburgers stands out as an eye-catching diner; I’ll have to check it out soon but it will be competing with some of my favorite burger joints past and present on El Camino. At Ravenswood I saw the first historical bell of the county and it was a standout because it’s the first I’ve seen that isn’t hanging from a trademark shepherd’s crook guidepost. Rather it’s hanging on a yoke which I presume is how they were mounted in the actual missions.

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I took pictures of this bell, and these were pretty much the only photos I managed to take out the bus windows all day. The only reason I got these is that I lucked out and the bus was stopped at a lengthy red light. I had planned to take many more, but I was overwhelmed simply trying to look vigilantly out the windows without missing anything. It was hard enough just taking notes; photos were beyond me.

The light finally turned green and I was treated to the ultra-hip Menlo Center and the sublime Kepler’s Books. I noted a historical marker at Triangle Redwood Grove, and that Gaylord Indian Restaurant had closed. Gaylord at the Stanford Shopping Center used to be a favorite with my family and my college roommate. I still miss it.

Soon the businesses went away and El Camino became all trees, fences, walls, and the backsides of really expensive homes. Welcome to Atherton. Many of these houses back right up to El Camino, but I presume none of them has an El Camino address. When the neighborhoods cleared and we got to the business district it felt very close with two-story buildings butting directly against the sidewalk, like a tall narrow corridor. There’s a distinct village feel, but severe and a little creepy, like the kind of place you read about in pulpy horror stories. Pleasantville by day but at night, no one will hear your screams…

Atherton is wide but short so before I knew it we rolled into Redwood City. I jotted something about “SF Water Dept.” but have no idea what that was a reference to. I may have become distracted because around this time the air conditioning on the bus shut off and the heat snapped on, throwing me for a loop. We passed the Target at Charter Street then the SR 84 junction, our first highway crossing in quite a while. Harry’s Hofbrau made me nostalgic with its old-timey decor. There’s an El Camino bell posted nearby at Chestnut Street, welcoming you to town. Franklin Street Apartments provide some residential density convenient to the shops and transit at bustling Sequoia Station, but Maguire Correctional Facility looms soberly behind it. A quick look down Broadway reveals a classic and historic downtown (“Climate Best by Government Test”). The Ben Frank’s hot dog stand is as iconic and appetizing as ever, but it overlooks the too-close at-grade Caltrain crossing which was the scene of a shocking tragedy last year. I chuckled at the odd alternating type sizes on an “EL CAMINO REAL” street sign, then noted with satisfaction that the Caltrain tracks are at a higher, safer grade by the time it crosses over Howard Ave. This stretch has some big culverts which are cool to look at. Somewhere along the line I noticed a couple free newspaper boxes for the Daily Post and Daily News.

As we cruised into San Carlos I stuck dogmatically to my strategy of only observing the right side of the street. That’s when I discovered that in San Carlos, there is no right side of the street, just gravel lots and train tracks. The Caltrain tracks are so close to the road there’s no room for proper businesses so most of it is left open. The businesses that should be there seem to be on the other side of the tracks, on Old County Road. The San Carlos Caltrain depot at San Carlos Avenue however is an eye-catching exception, and is graced with a bell. Things open up shortly and there’s a posted notice for proposed development north of the station, which is a recurrent theme. San Carlos Plaza, a shopping center, leaves no doubt that the right side of El Camino is indeed open for business. Trivia break: this paragraph contains the name “San Carlos” seven times. San Carlos.

Belmont is frankly more of the same. There’s a bell near Harbor Blvd. and another at the Belmont Caltrain station at Ralston Ave. By then the right side narrows to a gravel lot again. Then something surprising happens: El Camino must gain a little elevation because the sight lines clear and you gain an expansive view of the San Mateo Bridge and the East Bay hills. Google Street View tells me this occurs around Marine View Street and Mountain View Avenue. Someone was paying attention when they named those streets.

Now entering San Mateo, the county namesake. I had assumed it is the largest and most populous city in the county, but sadly it is neither. However we started to hit the first heavy traffic of the day around SR 92 so clearly it’s big and populous enough. The first thing I wrote down is there are no sidewalks at 42nd Avenue. Yumi Yogurt was a happy sight at 38th Avenue but it has no sidewalk either. I noted Hillsdale Shopping Center even though it’s on the other side of the street; an unforgivable mental lapse. However I was back on track with Ana Furniture which stands on the correct side of the street, across from the mall. Peninsula Station is a mixed-use development appealingly sandwiched between El Camino and Caltrain. This section has a kind of retro downtown feel with small sidewalks culminating with the highrise Tower Plaza building. There was a line out the door at Heidi’s Pies, people no doubt picking up orders for Turkey Day desserts. There was no rush though because Heidi’s never closes. Ever. Bridge Point Academy was the first school I had seen in a while, and The Beading Frenzy wins for the best business name of the day. My wife and my mom have both been into beading; the imagery in the name describes the ensuing mania perfectly. Scenic Central Park is bounded by 5th Avenue—a sly homage to Manhattan geography—and is the gateway to downtown San Mateo. There’s a multi-level parking garage at 2nd Street which is great since downtown is so strollable.

One notices that there are a lot of churches on El Camino in northern San Mateo. The Church of St. Matthew and St. Matthew’s Episcopal Day School occupy beautiful grounds near St. Matthews Avenue. Notably up to this point in San Mateo the street signs say “S El Camino Real” but here they switch to “N El Camino Real.” Indeed the address of the church is One South El Camino Real and this is where the numbered cross streets begin, starting with 1st Avenue and continuing into the forties as you proceed south. San Francisco and Santa Clara of course were Spanish Catholic missions that became cities and counties. San Mateo separates them but there was never a mission here, rather a satellite Franciscan outpost where San Mateo Creek—whence the region got its name—crossed the Royal Road. It’s notable then that here at the equator of the city, where north becomes south, on the El Camino virtual meridian there is no Catholic chapel but rather an Episcopal church. The Episcopal “big-C” Church as an institution was founded during the American Revolution to replace the Church of England in the newly independent nation. So in a sense the Episcopal Church of St. Matthew, built in 1865 on the site of the abandoned mission outpost, represents the region’s Americanness, a Yankee stake in the Ohlone-then-Spanish-then-Mexican ground, the footprint where Mateo got kicked out and Matthew was shoed in. Fittingly here at the crux of San Mateo’s history and culture is placed an El Camino bell marking the spot where a mission might have been.

My parents live in San Mateo, a short stroll from El Camino. As it turned out, it took nearly three hours to get to their house from mine by bus, an amusing family factoid. I’m tempted to laugh at how impractical this mode of transportation seems, but in fact there was a passenger who got on the 522 with me in San Jose, transferred to the 390, and got off in San Mateo. People do it. As I was pondering this we entered Burlingame and were reminded by a familiar historical marker that Juan Bautista de Anza had been there 230 years prior. A public parking lot at Burlingame Avenue is convenient for shoppers and diners. Near Floribunda Avenue I spied a bell and not much further the wonderful onion domes of the Church of All Russian Saints. Russians have a long history in California, but that’s a topic for another time. Crossing Broadway downtown gave me a sense of déjà vu, having crossed Broadway in Redwood City already. There seems to be nothing but churches and apartments here, and I was struck how there were no pedestrians. After the businesses and apartment buildings faded we entered another zone of backside fences shielding single-family dwellings, similar to Atherton. The difference here though is the corps of venerable landmark eucalyptus trees. A bell at Rosedale and Peninsula Medical Center at Trousdale were my final Burlingame observations.

In my life I’ve been to San Mateo too many times to count and to Burlingame maybe a dozen or two, but north of there San Mateo County is the wild unknown to me. Some of those cities I’ve been to a handful of times and others not at all to speak of, particularly not their El Camino profiles. It was actually kind of wonderful finally to experience these cities which are household names but which I had only visited in Google Maps excursions. Let me tell you, when you start a blog about a street, you wind up spending a lot of time in Google Maps. A lot. This in a nutshell is why I undertook this trip. There’s no substitute for being there.

At Millbrae Avenue this bus turned off of El Camino for the first time to stop at the spectacular intermodal bus-BART-Caltrain Millbrae station. That’s when I realized how close El Camino is to US 101 here, probably the closest I came all day. By now it was after 3:15PM so school kids started boarding the bus, happy and chatty, ready for their long holiday weekend. Their presence brought a lively if slightly rowdy change of atmosphere. Back on El Camino, on the 1000 block there’s a bell. A little further a tree in front of the Mission revival Best Western El Rancho bears some kind of historical marker, but I don’t know what it signifies.

San BrunoSan Bruno gets a standing ovation: their street signs sport their city seal which contains not one but two bells. Bravo! Now that’s some El Camino pride. In reality much of El Camino here is a commercial hodgepodge. It is happily broken up at “The Avenue” A.K.A. San Mateo Avenue, San Bruno’s deliberately-branded downtown shopping district. There is an actual bell here, presumably the model for the seal. I wonder though how those traditional downtown storefronts fare in the shadow of The Shops at Tanforan and San Bruno Towne Center. Malls kill commercial strips; that’s the perennial challenge for city planners. So is traffic, which again got heavy as we approached I-380. I don’t think I’ve ever been to Tanforan, and I was until now unaware that there’s a Hooters there, right on El Camino. Look for more in a future post. I will of course be looking for signs of improved morale and career advancement opportunities after their CEO’s epiphany on “Undercover Boss.” Plus I want to see the barstool trick.

This is where I became aware of San Bruno Mountain rising before us. Ironically it is actually in South San Francisco, “The Industrial City.” The mountain really anchors and defines South City. There’s something else in South San Francisco: the headquarters of See’s Candies. I love candy and I love chocolate; I wonder if they give tours? After a while I noticed the road starting to ascend, and sure enough by the time we got to W. Orange Avenue we had gained a bit of altitude as we started to cross the northern tip of the Santa Cruz Mountains. I saw some big honking crows here. Kaiser Permanente Hospital looms large and Park Station condos and Archstone Apartments cozy up to the South San Francisco BART station, which again we had to turn off of El Camino to get to. The bus passed a Costco I had actually stumbled upon once years ago while looking for gas, and nearby there’s a bell. Treasure Island RV Park has a playful name. Here’s something to ponder. San Francisco and South San Francisco are in different counties, as are Palo Alto and East Palo Alto. Fascinating.

Something else that’s fascinating is the city of Colma, “City of Souls.” To make a long story short, in 1900 it became illegal to be dead in San Francisco so Colma grew as a city of cemetaries to hold the San Francisco deceased.  As you roll through Colma it’s literally cemetary after cemetary after cemetary. King of them all, at least from a bus on El Camino, is Cypress Lawn. Holy Sepulchre, Batman, is it ever gorgeous with manicured lawns, serene landscaping, and elegant structures. A nice place to visit. People do actually live in Colma, as evidenced by their landmark police station, and it has a homey village feel. Colma does have a bell, right in front of Eternal Home. Bill Graham is buried there. Here though there are graves just feet away from El Camino which was somehow a bit shocking, but a frank reminder that not every final resting place is a country club. I made a note of pedestrians at the walkway to D street; it could be they were the first people I saw in town. Sidebar: the Colma Historical Association claims that “Colma” is an Ohlone word meaning “many springs” but I don’t buy it. I’m convinced it’s an acronym for “City Of” something, but I don’t know what yet. “Lawn-Mowed Acres”? “Little Motion Anywhere”? “Last Mortal Address”? What do you think?

I noticed the street signs changed to some cool-looking blue ones with a bird logo and indeed the street name itself changed to Mission Street which means we were finally in Daly City. Mission Plaza at Citrus Avenue is a large retail center and there’s a bell in front. The War Memorial Community Center and John Daly Library complex are newly remodeled civic jewels and Landmark Plaza are condos in progress. My main impression was how similar Daly City is to San Francisco, dense and hilly. A spectacular view of Sutro Tower, not to mention some distinctly urban traffic, underscored this notion. Then at long last we reached the storied top-of-the-hill in Daly City, which I was very satisfied to see has a bell planted firmly at its peak in a place of honor. I’ll go out on a limb and claim without substantiation that this is the highest-altitude and westernmost bell in the Bay Area.

The bus turned off Mission onto Hillside to head down to the Daly City BART station, the end of the line. It was about 4:00 PM. I gathered my things, disembarked, and prepared to board Muni for the final push into San Francisco.

Next installment…Do You Know the Way to…?