01 August, 2012

Day 27, 379km: Silicon Valley

Started the day in San Francisco. Initial objective of the day: visiting a bit more the city then going to Los Angeles (600km away). So that was ambitious. Waking up late and checking-out at 11am sealed it, there was no way I could be in Los Angeles that evening. So I set off for a different itinerary, as we'll see below.

The "crookedest" street
I visited a bit more downtown San Francisco and took some nice videos. I have to find a way to edit GoPro videos quickly, right now it's taking me an hour (literally) to do basic stuff like cutting out the useless sequences. Add in 30 minutes for upload, that's unmanageable. If anyone has experience with basic editing of H.264 files please let me know, I'm lost here.

Then I was on my way south, I knew I wouldn't make it to Los Angeles so I started looking for places to go to. And it hit me. I was going through the Silicon Valley ... ! I have to admit I didn't realize prior to that morning that I would go through it. Again, superior planning.

So I made a quick mental list of the places I wanted to go to:
- Stanford
- Google
- Apple
- Intel
- Microsoft (that's in Redmond)
- Valve (that's in Seattle)
- SpaceX (that's near Los Angeles)
- Caltech (that's near Los Angeles)

Cool! Four of them where within 20km of each other or so. It was very cool driving from one place to another and seeing the different kind of neighborhoods these people are working in.

Started with Stanford University
There are a huge number of tech companies that started in Stanford so I thought this was an appropriate place to start my Silicon Valley tour. This was a huge campus, nice place with lots of trees, walkways and wide avenues. Very quiet though but since we're in July I guess there weren't many students there.

Then headed to Google, my favorite of the pack
I had mixed feelings about my visit of Google, on one hand the place was as you'd expect. People playing volley outside their office, lots of patios with people working outside, free bikes everywhere (Google colored) on the other hand, it wasn't at all visitor friendly. I entered a couple buildings only to be told each time that there were no facilities for "tourism". Apparently you can arrange visits with their PR team but I didn't prepare anything.
They have a really big office campus, and the place was nice overall. To give you an idea, their office is basically a huge complex, off the highway and nicely arranged to feel comfortable although it's in the middle of a random business estate, not much around. People walking around in t-shirts with stuff like "Google DNS & Everyone casual looking but cautious, maybe slightly paranoid "Excuse me, are you working here? Are you here to see someone? Ok then you should go talk to the lobby."
Although to be fair these people are working.

Next was Apple, mostly because the address is so cool "1 Infinite Loop"
At Apple, same thing. No visits of the HQ possible. Their office complex was really big and actually spread across several streets. The buildings looked absolutely ordinary. A few restaurants in between them. The crowd was less casual than at Google. Apparently "wearing" a Macbook Pro is mandatory if you want to work at Apple. More than a few people with a suit. Not really an exciting place, although I remembering reading that Apple plans to build a new, huge and cool looking HQ.

Intel. They got it right.
The last on my visit list (as it was the southernmost of the 4) was Intel. They are the only one who got it right with an entire area of their HQ dedicated to tourists. A museum, store and dedicated parking lot. Smart people at work.
On my way I also saw a lot of other tech companies HQ. Broadcom, Cisco, EMC, McAfee, Yahoo, Extreme Networks, Symantec, Alcatel Lucent, Intermedia. That was cool. Although I'm not sure these were all HQ, probably some regular offices among these.

So anyway Intel got it right. Maybe because they were founded in 1968 so Google is a kid in comparison.

An Altair 8800, sold in 1975 as a kit
I wasn't the only geek there! Also the museum was genuinely interesting
So that was nice. They even had CPU (Core i5) earrings sold in their store ($300 the pair). Fun stuff. And really a well done museum, one can learn a lot about computing and microchips there.

All in all, visiting these 4 places made me realize that while this is now not organised, I'm sure in 5 years max there will be Silicon Valley tours with full visits of the offices and discussions with engineers. Maybe this actually exists already, I don't know.
But that was cool doing my own "pilgrimage" into the Silicon Valley.

Back on California HW1
After this I was back on the coastal highway! Now I have to admit this isn't what I expected at all, as you can see above this hasn't much in common with the Sea, Sex and Sun. Ok that's mostly because I have very limited knowledge of California's geography :)

15 degrees C and windy...!
I intended to camp at KOA somewhere north of Monterrey. Full. Tried nearby campsites. Closed.
Alright ... it was 6pm at that point and that smelled bad. I decided to continue south on the highway and stop at the next city.

Amazing views and drops on the highway.
The fog was building up and the temperature dropping. But there were quite a lot of traffic so I assumed there must be "things" nearby so I kept on driving.

See the lighthouse on it?
The night fell very quickly with all this fog. I reached the resort area of Big Sur at sunset. Tried the campsites first. All full. Then tried the motels. All full. That started to sound really bad. The temperature was about 12 degrees C and the night had completely fallen. The fog was still there though.

Last I tried was the hotels. There were two, one had vacancies. Price for a night: $540. Thanks but I'll pass.

The coast lit by moonlight. Beautiful.
Now the problem is that after this place (Big Sur) the next city was 100km. There were a few hotels on the way though (my GPS counted 3) so I decided to try it. The fog was very dense, so much that on some sections I couldn't drive with the helmet's visor closed. Fog would accumulate and I wouldn't see further than 20 meters. So I had to drive in a dense, 12 degree C fog with the visor opened, at night.
I was seriously cold.

Another thing disturbing is that at night with all the fog I couldn't see the road but only the reflective lights on the center lane and the side of the road. Which is fine. Expect that I couldn't see whether the road was going up or down, just make out the curve. If you have ever driven a motorcycle you know how disturbing it can be driving into a downhill curve thinking it's an uphill curve.

After an hour of this ordeal I was seriously cold and exhausted. I continued driving until I saw a National Park campsite (the "official" ones, no showers, no electricity but at least somewhere to sleep). The sign said full but I thought "f*** it I'm cold, tired and starving, I'll sleep here no matter what". Luckily the camp's host was still here so he directed me to a big common place where I setup my camp.

First time I setup the camp in pitch darkness. That went okay. Warmed a can of Chili and fell asleep shortly after around 11pm. That was a long day.

Hope all of you are fine!

1 comment:

  1. Have you left few resume where you stop by?
    That was your chance, Guigui!!!