Greg Brown mural in Palo Alto.

Neighborhood Walks

COVID has most of us homebound and with a minimal radius to explore. I thought I’ll give you some ideas to spice up your daily neighborhood walks. While most of these specific walks are for Silicon Valley, the ideas should transfer to other areas. So, grab your mask and get your steps in with these walking ideas:

Garden

Sign reads: 
Green Garden of Mountain View
Conserves Water
Reduces Waste
Provides Habitat

We are blessed in the Bay Area with a long growing season. To get inspired for your own vegetable garden you should check out the local community gardens and wander around. There are plenty of Native Plant Gardens in the area. The Santa Clara Valley Chapter of the California Native Plant Society has a great list (https://www.cnps-scv.org/gardening/gardening-with-natives/69-public-gardens-of-native-plants-69).  In the same category, Mountain View’s Green Garden Showcase features front yards that are examples of California Native Plants, water wise gardens, and environmental friendly practices.(https://www.mountainview.gov/depts/pw/services/conserve/landscape/showcase.asp)

Art

Rodin's thinker (part of the Gates of Hell) at Stanford University.

With all museums closed right now I admit I’m a little art deprived. 

Sculptures are great outdoor artworks you can still admire. One of the largest collections of sculptures around is on the Stanford Campus. You can limit yourself to Rodin, it’s the largest in the U.S., or go around campus and find other inspiring pieces.

The Triton Museum in Santa Clara features a sculpture garden on the premises. (https://www.santaclaraca.gov/Home/Components/ServiceDirectory/ServiceDirectory/1260/2661)

Some local towns have maps to their public art works. I found the bike racks in Los Altos a welcoming change and great for kids to try to find them all!

If you are more of a mural enthusiast I recommend San Jose, Redwood City, and Palo Alto.

Some examples of public art:

Santa Clara: https://www.santaclaraca.gov/our-city/about-santa-clara/maps/art-statues

Los Altos: https://www.losaltosca.gov/publicartscommission/page/public-sculpture

Palo Alto (map): https://www.google.com/maps/d/viewer?mid=1AUOuWuDvI0_jAbZYvvY_JBD9lIs&ll=37.42470074587974%2C-122.16085689067381&z=14

History

San Jose History Walk (Number 25)

San Jose as the first Capitol of California has a rich history to share. They compiled a history walk for downtown. No need to print out a map, you can just follow the signs. If you would rather have a digital idea or would like to print out the brochure, here is the PDF: https://www.sanjose.org/pdf/downtown-san-jose-historic-walking-tour-guide

Japantown in San Jose offers historic information on their benches.

A few other towns have  lists of historic buildings. Rich Heli has compiled three historic walking tours for Mountain View: https://rick-heli.info/mvtour/

Shopping

High Delta Market a window art installation in Palo Alto.

While most shops are currently closed, most downtowns invite you for a nice evening stroll on main street. Mountain View, for example, closed off their downtown area for most car traffic. The other night I walked by an exercise class. Also window shopping is an option. My favorite non-shopping window is in Palo Alto at the Future Institute.

If you feel the need to acquire something while on a walk, check out a little free library near you or in some other neighborhood.

Nature

Greg Brown mural in Palo Alto.

I love the fact that we are able to walk to our neighborhood park. If you want to mix it up, why not explore another park near you? 

Canopy has  multiple self-guided tree walks: https://canopy.org/our-work/tree-walks/

Animals

Buddy the new donkey of Bol Park, Palo Alto.

Birdwatching while walking is always a great pastime. If you want to see egrets you should check out the Google campus.

Bring the kids for a peak at the donkeys in Bol Park

Do you have ideas for fun activity walks?

Keep Safe. Use Social Distancing. 6 ft apart. Groups of 10 person or less.

Share your COVID-19 Experiences

Everybody agrees that these are strange and unprecedented times. The new normal will be walking around with a mask and getting used to not touching our faces. To survive a pandemic is an accomplishment and we are bound to record this as best as we can.

A lot of local history museums in the Bay Area are accepting your quarantine stories, photos, and other media.

San Francisco

Sign in front of a bar in Mountain View offering white flour, yeast and toilet paper. Plus a delivery robot.

California Historical Society, the official historical society for the State of California, has a website with a form to invite you to answer a few questions about your experience with COVID-19.

https://californiahistoricalsociety.org/initiatives/tell-your-story-california-during-the-time-of-covid-19/

Some local history museums are also collecting your descriptions of the pandemic. 

Cupertino

Cupertino residents may share their experiences and media with Cupertino’s Historical Society. They have an online submission form: 

bit.ly/CupertinoCOVID19

Sunnyvale

One Way sign at the Safeway in Sunnyvale.

If you documented COVID-19 related events in Sunnyvale, please submit them to the Sunnyvale Historical Society and Museum Association: 

https://heritageparkmuseum.org/blog/documenting-the-sunnyvale-experience-of-covid-19

Los Altos

Sign at a busstop in Mountain View. Is this an Essential Trip? Yes -> Okay to Ride. No -> Why are you even here reading this?-> Go Home. Stay Home. Stop the Spread.

The Los Altos History Museum is asking residents of Santa Clara County to submit and share your stories, photographs, or other items documenting your experience with COVID-19. https://www.losaltoshistory.org/documenting-covid-19-in-santa-clara-county/

Campbell

The Campbell Historical Museum is also asking for artifacts and journals that represent this crisis.

https://www.campbellmuseums.com/how-to-document-the-covid-19-pandem

Disposable glove trashed in a parking lot.

Santa Cruz

is planning on an exhibit with your submissions. In These Uncertain Times is scheduled from October 16th, 2020 to April 4th, 2021 the MAH will exhibit how daily lives have changed in the pandemic through community-sourced artwork.

https://santacruzmah.org/exhibitions/uncertain-times

Artist are also asked to share their work at the Tenderloin Museum’s virtual gallery

http://www.tenderloinmuseum.org/shelterinplace to show life under lockdown: Shelter In Place

Writing about this time might help you to work through it. How are you coping?

If I missed a history museum in the area that also collects submissions, please add your information in the comment section. 

Gingerbread house, Los Altos

Find the gingerbread houses

The 32nd annual gingerbread exhibit in Los Altos had to relocate from its usual location, the now demolished Hillview Community Center. (It will be rebuilt). This year you can stroll through Los Altos downtown in search of the gingerbread creations. From December 10th to the 22nd of December, eight businesses and City Hall are showcasing locally made gingerbread houses. 

Gingerbread house, Los Altos

In each location, you can pick up a passport that lists all locations that have the gingerbread houses. But you have to find the first one! Once you find one, you can have your visit stamped. Some places let you hunt for it; some have multiple houses to show off; one had a little quiz.

Gingerbread house, Los Altos.

On December 19th, 2019, from 4-6:30pm, all participants, their families, and hosting businesses are invited to a Gingerbread Exhibit Crawl in Downtown Los Altos followed by a special reception at the Los Altos Youth Center. 

While I started out looking for the exhibit I stumped a few businesses asking for it. A lovely helper at Linden Tree bookstore called the city to ask where they were, I went to my first place, received the passport, but no edible house to view. It turns out the distribution wasn’t as smooth. (With such fragile deliveries, all needed to be done carefully, and hence ran a bit behind.)

Also the  Linden Tree store keeper referred us to a two-story, life-sized gingerbread house in the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco. I’m sure that one is hard to miss.

Gingerbread house, Los Altos.

The four gingerbread houses at city hall are right by the entrance. I wasn’t able to get my passport stamped, as everyone was busy helping customers. If you can get all the stamps you can show your completed passport to the Recreation and Community Services desk (400 University Ave), you will be entered to win a gift card. 

Have you seen gingerbread houses around?


Sandwich board advertising Los Altos First Friday.

Dance on the Sidewalk – First Friday, Los Altos

Many cities in the Bay Area have a First Friday established. San Jose, Oakland, Campbell and Santa Cruz, to name a few.

Band playing in front of Linden Tree bookstore, Los Altos.

I always wanted to go to one, so two weeks ago Friday was my first. Since I did 50 things to do in Los Altos, but missed out on the First Friday, this was my time.

I was early and most of the musicians were still setting up at 6 pm. But by 6:30 pm every corner of downtown was filling the air with music. All different styles are present from polka to rock and folk.

Band playing on State and Main, First Friday, Los Altos.

Livin la vida loca was the opener from a band that played on one of the larger stages on the corner of State and Main. To the side were the girls from the dance school, nervously awaiting their turn; around the picnic tables, people feasting on carry out; an elderly group enjoying wine and tapas; a couple dancing. Los Altos knows how to party!

Drummer of the Ruse, First Friday, Los Altos.

I liked the Ruse, a trio of high schoolers that played next to the Tasting Room. Ready to rock, they were constricted by someone who thought the drums were too loud. They made the best of it while waiting for a damper. I’m sure they will play a lot of First Fridays, and who knows, eventually stand on a large stage. 

View into Viewpoint Gallery, Los Altos.

First Fridays are, of course, happening on the first Friday of the month in Los Altos from 6 to 8pm. Some stores might be open longer and the two galleries in town usually have receptions. 

What a great way to invite you to linger downtown. 

Do you like to dance on the sidewalk?


Bike bike rack, Los Altos

Park your bike

Dog bike rack in downtown Los Altos.

It’s been hot the last couple of days. High temperatures and exhaust are causes of smog. That’s why we had ‘spare the air’ days the last couple of days. Since I’m not too impressed with public transportation around here I usually enjoy my bike rides. 

In 2013 the city of Los Altos started the artistic bike rack policy. Businesses and property owners are allowed to install interesting bike racks in front of their property. In 2015 and 2016 the city had a bike rack competition

It makes for a great treasure hunt. Try to find them all!

Squirrel bike rack, Los Altos
Leaves bike rack, Los Altos
Ice cream cone bike rack, Los Altos
Owl bike rack, Los Altos

Do you have a favorite bike rack?


Table setting at the Los Altos History Museum Silicon Valley Eats exhibit.

Foodies reunite in this exhibit

The last time I went to the Los Altos History Museum I came back with some old recipes. This time it was again a food inspired exhibit that spiked my interest: Silicon Valley Eats. Silicon Valley was formerly known as the Valley of Hearts Delights with orchards and canneries. This  is the natural starting point for this exhibit. I liked the different menus from restaurants in Los Altos displayed on the wall.

Place setting at the J. Gilbert Smith House, Los Altos.

There were a lot of information about new and inventive foods. Did you know that 80% of the world’s population eats bugs?

The J. Gilbert Smith House next door also has a Silicon Valley feel to it with its scavenger hunt-like exhibit about Gadgets Galore! Our guide pointed out different old mechanical devices. For example, there is an adding machine – and in fact, all it does is add.

Adding machine at the J. Gilbert Smith House, Los Altos.

In the spirit of invention, the History Museum can point to the walnut huller. They own the prototype and the actual working huller. All invented in Los Altos.

Part of the walnut huller, Los Altos History Museum.

Both exhibits run through early September and are free (donations are appreciated). The Los Altos History Museum is open Thursdays to Sundays noon – 4 pm.

This was our first group outing. Thanks to everyone who joined me! If you like to be included in future group activities contact me, or sent me an email under untilsuburbia@gmail.com.

Are you a foodie?

Rose bush at the Los Altos Nursery

Go plant shopping

By the rate I tell you about public gardens you must know by now that I do like seeing growing things. A nursery, a place where they grow plants and sell them, is the perfect outing if you just needed to see some greenery. I did end up buying some plants anyway, but enjoyed the view nonetheless.

Los Altos Nursery painted by Will Maller.

I learned about the Los Altos Nursery at Los Altos City Hall of all places. At City Hall, in the council meeting chamber, they exhibit local artists depicting some of their favorite places in the city. I was drawn to the image from Will Maller, titled Los Altos Nursery, showing a little bridge over a fish pond. The description revealed a much deeper history of this commercial business.

Accounts vary but by around 1915 the Furuichi family had bought 5 acres of land and began farming on Hawthorne Ave. By 1942 the Furuichi were forced out and detained to Heart Mountain, an internment camp in Wisconsin. George Furuichi served in the 422nd Infantry Regiment. Ironically, after the men were placed in the camps as a security risk , they were drafted out of the camps into the US army.  The 442nd was almost entirely comprised of second generation Japanese Americans; it is the most decorated unit in U.S. military history. Thanks to Frank and Marge Rossi, friends of the Furuichi, who protected their property, the Furuichi were able to return to their land, unlike other Japanese Americans who lost everything. In 1947 they established the Los Altos Nursery.

Koi pond at the Los Altos Nursery

The little bridge with the koi pond is still there. Hidden with bamboos and some buddha statues watching over it, it is the perfect entrance to this well loved establishment.

Buddha statue at Los Altos Nursery

Open from May to September, Thursdays – Mondays 9 am – 5 pm.

Have you been to the Los Altos Nursery?



Los Altos Farmers Market

Buy local produce

Every farmers market, like every downtown in Silicon Valley, has their own feel to it. In my opinion the most exquisite is the Los Altos Farmers Market. Every Thursday evening, 4 pm – 8 pm,  from May to September, State Street between 2nd and 3rd,  transforms into a community haven.

Naan bread in an oven, Los Altos Farmers Market.

I started my journey into the market at the intersection of State St. and 3rd. A waft of smoke from a BBQ grill was blowing in my direction. My attention got quickly drawn to the man with a stick, pulling out round flat loafs of bread from a circular oven. The bread was sticking to the sides. Seeing the line for the Indian food, that this bread was part off, was another indicator for a recommendation you don’t need to check your yelp for.

Woman pressing a tortilla at the Los Altos Farmers Market.

All of these food stalls were competing on the high level. The rotisserie chicken looked as amazing as the food from the Oaxaca kitchen, where a woman, in traditional embroidered apron, was pressing tortillas.

Twinkle Dee Star, kids entertainment at the Los Altos Farmers Market.

Behold, this is not only a food truck affair. You can get your regular fresh, local produce here, too. Everything from olive oil to meats, over to fresh cut flowers, baked goods, vegetables, and fruit.

Even the kids entertainment was plentiful. Face painting, Lego building, and music make it a relaxing experience for the whole family.

Squash at the Los Altos Farmers Market.

The Los Altos Farmers Market is certainly smaller than the neighboring Sunday Mountain View market, but it feels like a step up from the market hussle and bussle to a shopping delight for all senses and age groups.

Which one is your favorite Farmers Market?


Redwood grove in Los Altos

Take a forest bath

Shinrinyoku is Japanese and literally means forest bath. It’s about the relaxing effects walking in a forest can have, improving our wellbeing.

Redwood Grove Nature Preserve, Los Altos.

Forest hikes are plentiful in the Bay Area. If you live in Silicon Valley and need a quick dip in a forest I recommend the Redwood Grove Nature Preserve in Los Altos, right next to Shoup Park.

Looking up at at group of redwoods, Los Altos, CA.

The information at the entrance talks about how almost a century ago redwood saplings from the Santa Cruz Mountains were planted by Emma Halsey. Due to the lack of fog drip the health of the redwoods is declining and the risk of falling increased. Therefore this beloved park is going through a mayor overhaul. With the help of Grassroot Ecology, a non-profit in Silicon Valley, the Redwood Grove Nature Preserve has been replanted and restored with more locally appropriate plants. One of their achievements is the Adobe Creek Streambank Stabilization Project. An info table shows how they bioengineered the creek to flow in a slower pace.

Walkway through the grove, Los Altos.

The walkway through this little grove is amazing and in great condition. Calm sets in immediately. The path meanders through the grove with the Adobe Creek crossing a few times and adding the sound of flowing water.

Boarded up Nature Center at the Redwood Grove, Los Altos.

Nevertheless the rest of the grounds needs some serious TLC. I could not find the rose garden, even though it is advertised on the map and on the cities website. The Nature Center is all boarded up and some raised garden beds are overgrown.

If you take the steps up from the nature walk – part of it is blocked by a fallen tree and you have to crouch underneath it to get by. I appreciated the pink ribbon that marks the poison oak bushes. Also a boy scout troop has labeled some native plants.

Are you into forest baths?

Typewriter at the Los Altos Town Crier

Visit a tiny museum

This probably doesn’t deserve the title museum, but it is an excuse to visit the Los Altos Town Crier, the weekly local paper for Los Altos.

Town Crier Bell Collection, Los Altos

The bell exponents can be viewed from the outside and show an expressive array of different bells from around the world. There is the cow bell and the prayer bell, a dinner bell, and a souvenir bell. Bells from Portugal, Switzerland, Mali, and Indonesia to pick a few of the countries.

Different bells, Los Altos

You may go inside Monday to Friday from 8 am to 5 pm and look at the curious displays of former glories. There are a few typewriters, or as the sign says: “This antique contraption was a popular typesetter in the last century. It was superseded by chips made from sand.” My favorite exhibit was the rock labeled: “A hunk of history”.

'Hunk of history' at the Los Altos Town Crier

The hallway up to the offices is walled with posters of the old Town Crier.

Hallway of the Los Altos Town Crier

If you are in Los Altos, please stop by this little ‘museum’. It doesn’t take itself too seriously and makes for some chuckles. Or if you have grandchildren you can show them some of the things from the good old days.  

What is your favorite item of former glory?