Lindsey Kuper (lindseykuper) wrote,
Lindsey Kuper

Seeing Silicon Valley by foot (and other things sane people never do)

It comes as no great shock when people recommend bicycling over driving as a way to get a feel for a place. For me, running is even better -- I'm often amazed, when I run through a place that I've previously only cycled through, at how much more Technicolor everything is when I'm on foot. So I've been trying, when I have time, to hit the local landmarks that way, by running to them. Seeing Silicon Valley by foot is, as they say, counterindicated. But I'm attempting it anyway.

A few weeks ago, I tried running to the Apple campus from my place, a trip of just over six miles each way. My route started out on the Stevens Creek Trail, followed El Camino Real for a while, and finished up along De Anza in Cupertino -- that is to say, it was pretty, then ugly, and then sort of pretty again once I actually got to Cupertino.1 I didn't bring a phone, a map, water, or anything at all besides my apartment key and the clothes I was wearing, so I just had to trust my memory and instincts as to whether I was actually going the right way. It was therefore quite a thrill when I actually showed up at my intended destination, although I was so tired and dehydrated that I thought I might actually walk the whole six miles back to Mountain View. Things are really far apart here. After a few minutes of walking, though, my legs just started jogging again of their own volition, and I let them carry me back home that way.

Emboldened by my quasi-success going east, the following weekend I made a serious effort to run from my place to The Dish, which lies to the west. Once again, I didn't bring a phone or a map. I thought I had my route all planned out and memorized, but I missed a turn and stayed on El Camino headed west for too long. Then, when I finally picked up the route I was supposed to be on, I couldn't figure out any way to be a pedestrian on "Foothill Expy" without putting myself in mortal danger, nor could I find the notionally-less-highway-like Miranda Avenue that supposedly goes next to Foothill. I headed south on Arastradero, hoping that eventually I'd be able to continue west on some alternate route, but each of my attempts to turn west failed sooner or later due to lack of sidewalk. Where I did end up running, at least, was quite nice. I saw a vineyard! I saw horses grazing on the crest of a hill!2 It was almost like I was legitimately in The Country, instead of just endless suburbia like, let's face it, my entire trip to Cupertino had been. And eventually, I found myself at PARC, so I suppose I did run to a landmark, if not exactly the one I'd set out to find. (Here's the route I actually took, as best I'm able to reconstruct it.)

Then, this morning, Alex oniugnip and our friend Alec and I attempted a run along the recently opened part of the Bay Trail that goes next to Moffett Field, a bit north of where we live. I quote from this page to give you an idea of the ridiculous amount of effort that must have gone into making it possible for us to run on that trail today at all:

For many years, the San Francisco Bay Trail had a significant gap in it in the South Bay. On one side was the trail complex at the Sunnyvale Baylands. On the other side was the Stevens Creek Trail and its connecting trails. In-between was Moffett Federal Airfield. The means of connecting the trails to the west and east was on a stretch of existing service roads 2.4 miles in length. Preventing the connector trail from opening was 2 locked gates, but it was more complicated than that. There was a long list of legal, environmental, safety, and security issues to address first, involving many public and private parties. Finally, on September 20, 2010, all the issues had been solved, and the trail was ready to open. An opening ceremony was held on the Sunnyvale Baylands end, near Lockheed and Moffett Field. The organizations involved with the trail segment were ABAG's San Franciso Bay Trail Project, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, NASA Ames Research Center, Cargill Corp., the 129th Rescue Wing of the California Air National Guard, the California State Coastal Conservancy, the City of Mountain View, the City of Sunnyvale, and Lockheed Martin.

Yeah, so I'm glad I didn't have to be in those meetings.

On the trail, we kept getting attacked by clouds of insects, the gravel hurt Alex's minimally-shod feet like hell, and the signs along the fences of the Lockheed Martin and NASA facilities on the inland side didn't exactly make us feel welcome.3 We did get to see what I'm pretty sure was a great egret in flight, though, and we eventually made it over to Sunnyvale, where we ran by Yahoo! headquarters before finally finding a light rail stop and heading back to Mountain View. It was by sheer luck that Alec had money for the light rail, and that it was even in service. (Our original plan had been to run back along the trail, but since Alex had been quite literally howling in pain by the end of the gravel part, we reconsidered the plan.) I headed home, while Alex and Alec, who are even more crazy than I am,4 picked up the Stevens Creek Trail and got a few more miles in.

Where should I run next? I'm thinking about making a second attempt at the Dish next weekend; what other suggestions do you have?

  1. Although that Outback Steakhouse that's right in the middle of the Apple campus is messing with my perception of Apple employees as hipster vegetarians who don't go to chain restaurants.
  2. As it turns out, there's a horse pasture right next to VMWare, and to my utter delight, there's a sign on the gate reading, "Please do not feed fingers to the horses."
  3. Signs that forbid trespassing are standard. Signs that forbid photography merit a raised eyebrow. These signs actually forbade sketching.
  4. Alec is only 20. He's never done more than fourteen miles or so, but he's thinking about running a marathon next month because he doesn't know yet that things are hard.

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