|The Mother Road, Route 66: Day 12 (Map)||
< Back to Day 11
San Jose, CA to San Francisco, CA (via Lick Observatory, CA) - 145 km (90 mi)
The reason we slept in San Jose was the Lick Observatory.
In the 1800s, James Lick was one of the richest men in California. As his life was nearing its end, he started to think about constructing memorials to himself. His ideas included building massive James Lick statues on the coast of California & erecting an Egyptian-sized pyramid to himself in downtown San Francisco. Thankfully James had an astronomer friend who convinced him to build a more useful memorial: an observatory in the Lick name.
Between 1876 and 1887, horse and mule-drawn carts brought building supplies to the top of of Mt. Hamilton. A kiln was constructed nearby to make bricks, which dramatically helped the effort by reducing the amount of supplies needing to be brought up the mountain.
If you're wondering why we went to an observatory, it is was on U.J.'s bucket list & I honestly enjoy helping people see the things they want to see on this Earth.
The State Route 130 leading up to Lick Observatory was incredible because it was about as straight as Sir Elton.
Take a look at a portion of the road.
Once we crossed the last highway out of San Jose, it took us 45 minutes to cover the 17 miles between us & the Lick Observatory. The curves steadily pushed us to each side of the car, while I nervously peeked over the road's edge at the steep hillside beside us. After about 100 curves we broke out in laughter at the silliness of the road, not realizing that we still had 265 curves still ahead of us.
The 365 curves were engineered for horse-drawn traffic, because horses prefer pulling heavy objects up shallower slopes.
(aside: If you study the above picture, you can make out 2 cyclists just to the lower-right of centre.)
We arrived at the observatory before its opening hour.
Although it was muggy atop the summit, the neoclassical buildings forced us to walk around. We discovered the pleasant garden fountain of the main building, a self guided tour in another telescope building and plenty of colourful wildflowers.
When the main observatory building opened, we had to wait a few more minutes for the tour to start.
I walked around the well maintained building & marveled at the amazing photography of Laurie Hatch - I'm not easily impressed by pictures, but she takes some truly spectacular shots.
There were also several interesting slide shows & displays...as well as this working seismograph!
Eventually no one else was showing up & the observatory lady started the tour.
I have to admit that I don't remember much of what she said because I was gawking at the cast iron staircases and handrails, which looked like they were originals from 1888.
I do remember her telling us how an astronomer traveled here from Germany and didn't get a single clear night during his 6 week stay. Poor guy.
U.J.'s picture of the actual telescope is amazing, so we will use hers.
There is a long list of discoveries made with this telescope; the most interesting to me is that of Jupiter's 5th moon, Amalthea, on September 9th, 1892.
As the tour was wrapping up & we were still the only tourists at the observatory, U.J. inquired if we could see the area beneath the movable floor, the area where you can find the tomb of James Lick!
Along with his wishes of an observatory being built, he also wanted his casket moved from the SF Masonic Cemetery to the top of Mount Hamilton, so that he could be buried beneath his telescope.
The ancient stairs which led beneath the floor were steep & barely wide enough for me. I was elated that U.J. asked the lady for this special access, as I realized that we were seeing something that the average tourist misses.
Also, you should notice the shaft to the right of the light beam in the above picture: this is part of the hydraulic floor which can move up & down a total of 16 feet (to allow the astronomer to look through the telescope at different heights without a ladder).
Going back upstairs, we thanked the lady and went on our way. Going down that crazy State Route 130 was 1000x more frightening than going up, as now I could see all of the drops and was uncomfortable with U.J.'s speed down the mountain. She was growing amused, I was growing infuriated.
We also saw the Google StreetView car, but I just checked and they must not have been recording.
I fell asleep on the way to San Francisco not because I wanted to miss anything, but simply because I couldn't keep my eyes open.
Arriving in San Francisco, we went downtown in hopes of going to Alcatraz this afternoon.
Those plans were kyboshed when we walked over and found a sign informing us that the next available tour was in two days! The tour is that popular?!? That many people make reservations that they can fill up 2 days worth of spaces with people?!? They must not take very many people over to that island at a time...
The two of us suddenly had an afternoon free because we were no longer going to the island of lighthouses and abandoned penitentiaries.
We had no backup plan, so I proposed looking for Californian schools, as Californian schools are the things made up of BMX & skateboarding dreams, present in about 85% of pro videos.
So we drove around and punched schools into U.J.'s GPS, in hopes of stumbling upon one of those amazing schools. As we approached each one on the GPS, I fantasized about living out the dream of hitting their smooth ledges and dreamlike staircases.
Unfortunately, we went to 10 different schools and none of them panned out. The only one that was even close, was Martin Luther King Jr Middle School, but it wasn't worth hoping a 10ft fence to ride a simple 12 stair.
The majority of the schools were shoehorned into the neighbourhoods as there wasn't much free space to be found. I really should have been smarter and realized that there
Scratch that, I just searched the internet for 30 seconds and already found the Wallenberg 4, which is a damn famous spot from skate videos - and was all of 10 blocks to our west and closer than our furthest travels.
I now realize that we could have spent our San Fran afternoon more wisely, but it wasn't a complete waste as there was intriguing house after intriguing house for the 30-odd city blocks that we drove in search of schools.
I didn't think I would really care for San Francisco, but I was impressed with the neighbourhoods we explored. There were a lot of neat houses very close to each other and it created an enjoyable city to drive through.
The commercial buildings of San Francisco were not lacking either.
A walk around the business district would have been another good way to spend our afternoon.
Eventually we parked and walked for a while before finding the subway/streetcar, which deposited us right in front of the San Francisco Giants' home stadium.
We weren't so fortunate to get cheap seats again & comically had to pay some coin for very poor seats.
Entering the stadium and going up to the 3rd level, I loved how open the concourse was to the city skyline, especially because it was comfortably warm and the sun was shining at a welcoming angle.
The bridge you see in this picture is the Bay Bridge which connects San Fran to Oakland. We didn't spend any time near San Francisco's famous Golden Gate Bridge.
Construction of AT&T Park started in 1997, and the Giants moved from Candlestick to their new home in 2000.
In this age of corporate sponsorship, the stadium has had 3 different names in the last 11 years: Pacific Bell Park, SBC Park & AT&T Park.
Since the Giants were playing their hated rival, the Los Angeles Dodgers, we were already at the park early to ensure we were able to purchase tickets.
As previously mentioned, it didn't sound like we had very good tickets and as we took our seat, we were a good distance from the action (see above).
The spectacular view over the bay and the city made up for the distant baseball views.
It's not as if I'm a Giants or Dodgers fan, so tears weren't streaming down my face because we had to buy such distant tickets.
It was surprising how chilly it got as the game played on though, I was comfortably wearing my toque & had my sweater done up.
U.J. and I got into the Landsharks and other various beers, racking up the free orange Giants cups.
The above shot is from the 8th inning when I needed to retrieve beer at last call.
As I waited in line, I had a good laugh as some drunken Californian who offered me a high-five towards the Giants...then realized that the orange in my hat was for the Baltimore Orioles, not his beloved Giants - "ohhhh, woah, that's a Baltimore hat! Oh no! Go away!"
I was also amused as there was a girl holding a friend's purse and looking completely unimpressed...while her friend had her tongue down some guys gullet, all of 2 feet away from her. I was dying laughing inside, but trying to hold it back...simply giving the girl one of those 'tilt-head-pucker-lips-that's-too-bad' looks, to which she shook her head.
The funniest thing was that the two of us enjoyed our game in San Francisco much more than Anaheim, even though we had such worse seats.
The terrible seats panned out because we had a few brazen, drunk Dodgers fans near us: they were standing up and cheering on their Dodgers while getting heckled and harassed by all of the Giants fans.
These arguments continued for all nine innings & the benefits of seeing a rival game was apparent.
It was refreshing to have no worries about where we would sleep this night, as we found out that our friend Jackson was in town & house sitting.
After some crumby Mexican, we chatted with Jackson for a while, before hitting the hay after about an hour.
Onto Day 13.
Windsor,ON to Mooseheart,IL via. Michigan City,IN
St.Clair,MO to Bentonville,AR via. Cuba,MO & Mt.Magazine,AR
Conway,TX to Albuquerque,NM
via. Armadillo,TX & Tucumcari,NM
Albuquerque,NM to Williams,AZ
via. Flagstaff,AZ & Winslow,AZ
Williams,AZ to Rialto,CA
via. Oatman,AZ & Needles,CA
Rialto,CA to Pasadena,CA
via. Salton Sea,CA & Mexicali,Mexico
via. Big Sur,CA & Monterey,CA
San Jose,CA to San Francisco,CA
via. Lick Observatory,CA
San Francisco,CA to Hickison Petroglyphs, NV
via. Sacramento,CA & Carson City,NV
Hickison Petroglyphs,NV to Casper,WY
Casper,WY to Winner,SD
via. Keystone,SD & Oral,SD
1 - AT&T Park - Wikipedia
Go Back to the Main Page of this Website