Watts (chipotle) wrote,

Notes from the road

So it's quarter past five and I'm in a Starbucks in San Leandro. Beautiful Downtown San Leandro, except that there's not much downtown here despite the "historic downtown" banners, and the Starbucks isn't beautiful. It's a Starbucks. I pulled off 580 with the intent of stopping at a little coffee place, though, and the somewhat more interesting-looking coffee shop I passed a couple blocks away was closed. (San Leandro looks like one of those towns that by and large vanishes on weekends.) The Starbucks doesn't qualify as historic, either, since it's a new building. I passed by some interesting residential areas on the way here, interesting for looking very non-upscale and for having a high incidence of Spanish architecture. This isn't as common in the Bay Area as all the San This and Santa That names imply.

I decided I haven't been around the East Bay area enough, so I'd make a (relatively) quick trip to Mount Diablo State Park out east of San Ramon. Around noon I headed up I-680.

Now, one of the oddities of the Bay Area is that it has interstates which are actually scenic routes. Sure, every place has areas with pretty stretches of big highway--the section of I-75 through Hernando County north of Tampa Bay, for instance, is remarkably pretty. But there aren't big swaths of freeway that have been granted official Static Scenic Highway designation. Here, though, there's several: I-280 up the peninsula to San Francisco, and I-580 and I-680 in the East Bay. And they really are pretty.

I hopped off I-680 in Dublin, around "Sycamore Valley Road," and found it surprisingly charming. It had a bit of a northeastern feel, in no small part to the (surprise) sycamores everywhere. I'll see if I can remember to head out this way in autumn.

As you head along Diablo Road away from San Ramon, though, the landscape changes yet again, to chapparal capping bare rock cliff faces as the state park road winds its way from around a 400-foot elevation to the nearly 3900-foot elevation at Mount Diablo's summit. Every curve in the road is another vista point. Fom the highest points you can see all of San Francisco Bay. I imagine that on the clearest days, you can make out the High Sierras when you face east.

I'd intended to stop somewhere along the path, or perhaps a snack bar at the top, to do a little writing and reflecting. (I brought my frequently-neglected C programming book with me to pretend I was going to work through a chapter, but let's face it--views like that don't really inspire programming.) But the very small and crowded visitor center at the top wasn't a good place for camping out with a laptop, and as pretty as the picnic areas were along the way, the wind was cold--not cool, cold. I took a few pictures, some obligatory panaromas, some shots of wildflowers, a couple images of vistas that I don't think I captured very well. (My biggest weakness in photography at this point, I think, is the weakness that separates good photographers from merely competent ones--producing images that capture the feeling of the moment.)

So I left the state park by taking the north access road rather than the south, heading through a small part of Walnut Creek and then across on 24 to I-580 rather than back down on I-680. And that's how I ended up here.

I still haven't been around the East Bay enough. I want to explore Berkeley more than the brief exposure I had with Shaterri a few months ago. There's a lot of parks out here that might be worth visiting. If I go farther afield, of course, there's Yosemite Valley.

And I'm sure there's a good coffee shop out here somewhere.

Now back homeward. I doubt we'll make a restaurant I want to try with the group sometime soon (Helios, in Cupertino), but maybe tomorrow.

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