Sunday, February 12, 2006
Getting the hell out of Dodge
Silicon Valley is much more sexy in concept than in person.

From Po Bronson's The Nudist on the Late Shift:
[There] are two problems of portraying Silicon Valley:
  1. There is very little there, there.
  2. What is is shrouded in secrecy
Silicon Valley isn't particuarly pretty. It's a big flat part of the inner peninsula that was near a big city, had plenty of space to put in big ugly office buildings, and happened to be near Stanford. Yes, cool stuff happens here. But it happens in cubes and boardrooms. The constant churning tides of capitalism are crushing and surging different companies' fortunes, but you'd never know it standing on University Avenue. We, too, have to read about it in newspapers, magazines, and the web.

I oftentimes forget how boring it is here and spend my weekends hanging around the area, hitting up University Avenue or (Mountain View's) Castro Street, or, worse, putting in a few hours at work so I can grab some food and not cook.

This is stupid. In nearly every direction, there's marvelous beauty. To the south is Santa Cruz and Monterey. To the west there's a bunch of state parks and the gorgeous coastline-hugging Highway 1. To the north, there's the city of San Francisco and Marin County. And if you're willing to put in the time in the car, there's Tahoe and Yosemite within a reasonable drive.

When I have friends in town, it's a good time to play tourist. As I said, Ali's around, so we've been hanging out a lot. Last week we spent some time in San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, and the Marin Headlands.

I had decided I wanted to visit the famous Muir Woods (one for reputation, and two since Muir was a Wisconsin alum and used to live in North Hall where the political science department is today. The small woods between Bascom and Lake Mendota there are also called Muir Woods).

On Saturday, I called Justin and Ali, picked them up in Oakland, and headed back into the city and over the Golden Gate into Marin. I suggested we stop by to see Point Bonita (to which I've never been), as it's only open 12:30 to 3:30 on Mondays and weekends. The lighthouse is gorgeous, but it ended up chewing up a bunch of time. Justin wanted to be back in the city for the Chinese New Year, so we ended up just getting a late lunch in Sausalito and dropping him off in the city. Ali and I met up with a another Wisconsin alum and went to see Why We Fight. We then crashed at Ali's cousin's house in Oakland.

The next morning, we got out the door bright and early and headed right for Muir Woods. It was gorgeous. We ended up hiking all the way from Muir Woods to the Pacific Ocean at Stinson Beach and back, walking a huge loop and going covering elevations from 0 to 1500 feet and probably covering 10 or 15 miles. After a late lunch at Stinson, we took the less-traveled Matt Davis Trail back up.

When hiking, I have the unfortunate habit of ignoring when the sun sets. This is a regrettable attribute. At some point while laboring up the Matt Davis Trail switchbacks, we realized we were running out of daylight. We ended up coming down some pretty steep and dangerous trails with little light. We came out of Muir Woods in near darkness, without a flashlight. An annoyed ranger was there to greet us in the parking lot, wondering if the last car belonged to us.

What was did was pretty irresponsible. In the last few hundred yards, walking across the boardwalk in the short deserted touristy path through a patch of redwoods, I said to Ali, "You know, we're pretty stupid."

"Yeah, but just smart enough," he replied. A half hour more might have been real trouble.
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