Front of the Alpine Inn, Portola Valley.

Stop by where the internet began

If you followed my 50 things to do in San Mateo county you might already know where the internet begun – at least in this area. 

The plaque outside the Alpine Inn, declaring the beginning of the Internet age.

A plaque at the entrance of the Alpine Inn in Portola Valley reads: “On August 27th, 1976, a scientist from SRI International celebrated the successful completion of tests by sending an electronic message from a computer set up at a picnic table behind the Alpine Inn. The message was sent via a radio network to SRI and on through a second network, the ARPANET, to Boston. This event marked the beginning of the Internet Age.” 

Founded in 1852, the Alpine Inn is the second longest continuously running tavern in California. In May of 1969 it was registered as a historic landmark (#825). Just recently Zott’s, as it is known by locals,  reopened after extensive renovations by the new owners.

Beer with charcuterie board at the Alpine Inn, Portola Valley.

The Alpine Inn is a jovial beer garden. They still have hot dogs and burgers on the menu, but we enjoyed the woodfired pizza and the charcuterie board.  Afterwards we played a game of cornhole (bags can be borrowed from the bar). 

The beer garden at the Alpine Inn, Portola Valley.

Currently they are open from 5 pm to 10 pm, but plan on having lunch hours soon.

The Alpine Inn is by far my favorite beer garden in Silicon Valley. Do you have a favorite beer garden?


The Apple 1 computer at the Historical Society and Museum in Cupertino.

View the Holy Grail of Computers

Cupertino is mostly linked with Apple. The garage where Steve Jobs and Steve Woziak build the first Apple computer is in Los Altos. But the first office and all the preceding offices are mostly in Cupertino, including the old headquarters at Infinite Loop and the new ‘spaceship’.

So it shouldn’t be a surprise that the Cupertino Historical Society and Museum  is currently showing: Homage to the IT Revolution.

Entrance to the Historical Museum in Cupertino.

This traveling exhibit will be here until June 2020 and it is well worth the time. The Italian curated exhibit by a group called BasicGallery takes you on a journey of the visionaries of personal computers from 1975 to 1985.

Olivetti's Programma 101 at the Cupertino Historical Society and Museum.

It starts out with the first personal computer, the Programma 101, manufactured by Olivetti in Italy (1965). In a small space they have packed a cornucopia of information, illustrating it with the responding artifacts and stories about them. There are all the famous players you would expect, like the Commodore 64 and Atari 400, and of course multiple Apple computers. All artifacts are labeled with launch date, launch price, and units sold.

Apple 1 computer with keyboard, monitor, original package and letter from Steve Jobs, at the Cupertino Historical Society and Museum.

The star of the exhibit, titled in the showcase as the Holy Grail, is the Apple 1. This is believed to be the only surviving complete kit, of the 50 sold Apple 1’s, with the original box and a personal letter from Steve Jobs!

You can listen to interviews of key players at that time, like John Sculley, former CEO of Apple Inc., and Steve Wozniak (Co-founder of Apple Inc). The introductory video is online:

http://www.basicpress.com/contenuti/media/resultmedia.asp?id=143654

I highly recommend this free exhibit (donations are welcome), from Wednesday – Saturday 10 am – 4 pm. Please call ahead to verify that the museum is open (408) 973-1495.

What is your earliest personal computer experience?

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?

Sam's Castle, Pacifica

Tour Sam’s Castle

Have you ever noticed the castle up on the hills in Pacifica? It has a fantastic history and lots of stories and artifacts. They open the doors to Sam’s Castle once a month for a tour. I was very happy when I got invited by the Mazza Foundation to see the castle. The Mazza Foundation is a  private philanthropic foundation established by the estate of our founder and last owner of Sam’s Castle, Sam Mazza.

Sam Mazza's throne at Sam's Castle in Pacifica.

The castle was built by Henry Harrison McCloskey in 1908, as an earthquake/fireproof home. Pete McCloskey, former California congressman, learned about his grandfather’s former home while canvassing in Pacifica with his dad. But the true king of the castle was Italian immigrant Sam Mazza. Sam acquired the castle in 1958 and was also the main decorator who had a reputation for collecting eccentric pieces.

Light refreshments after the tour of Sam's Castle, Pacifica.


Our hosts Jeannette, CEO of the Mazza Foundation and Bridget, author of the book ‘Sam’s Castle’ welcomed us. After a short movie of Sam Mazza’s life as a castle owner we learned a myriad of stories, from ghost stories to historical tidbits and tales from contemporary witnesses while inspecting some of the rooms. The tour ended with a light snack in the dining room overlooking the ocean.

They also hold music salons and high teas as special events. Please see the Mazza Foundation web site for details.

Chandelier at Sam's Castle, Pacifica.

A perfect outing for history buffs and location junkies like me. The place is full of Interesting nicknacks – and to preserve these, no one under 18 is allowed inside. I loved the opportunity to see the interior of this unusual place and enjoyed the history.

Have you been inside Sam’s castle?

Disclosure: I was invited to see this place. My review is an honest recapture.




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?




Call me Ishmael phone, Los Gatos library

Call me Ishmael

Call me Ishmael phone, Los Gatos library

“Press any button to hear a story from an anonymous bibliophile about a story they loved.”  This is the sentence you hear when you pick up the receiver of the old pay phone in the Los Gatos library.

Reviews are read from different book lovers. Unfortunately there was no volume button. Some recordings are hard to listen to from the recording quality and the speed of the reader. But the personal account is priceless. Some are short and sweet but most of them are true personal recollections.  

Press 0 and you’ll hear a pitch for ‘Call me Ishmael’ or if you are at home in front of your computer you can watch their YouTube video for their earlier kickstarter project.

Current book selection from Call me Ishmael, Los Gatos library

Currently the book selections are from Sarah Boynton’s Pyjama Time! , a picture book, to classics like Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, to the Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger.

If you like to record your own review you can do this by calling 774.325.0503. On the CMI website you can also listen to featured calls.

Los Gatos library (front entrance)

A fun way of learning about new books! The personal touch of the stories makes it feel like a friend is telling you about a book they loved, and the Los Gatos library is a great place to hang and discover new books.

What book would you review?

Reach & Teach store in San Mateo

Buy something at Reach & Teach

If this is your year to become more sustainable maybe Reach & Teach in San Mateo can help. They were awarded the 2014 Sustainability Awards from Sustainable San Mateo.

Store front of Reach & Teach, San Mateo

This small store has everything from games to books to fairtrade tea. It is a great place for buying a gift. You could even fill out their gift advisor form online. But if you go by the store and need some advice, they are happy to help and might even play some games with you! Most of the games are unique titles that are not usually found in other game stores, teaching the players about peace, equality and sustainable living. One of the games is their very own invention: CIVIO – A civil rights game.

Games you can try out at Reach & Teach, San Mateo

Their slogan is: “transform the world through teachable moments”. Reach & Teach got founded as a subsidiary of Craig Wiesner and Derrick Kikuchi’s award-winning educational consulting company, WKMN Training, LLC. If you like to learn how you can make a difference in this world, best to stop by the store and get some ideas.

How will you be more sustainable in 2019?


Video arcade machines at High Score, Alameda

Get a high score

We went to the Pinball Museum in Alameda before and I was surprised that they also have an Interactive Arcade Museum.

Playing arcade games at High Score, Alameda

High Scores on Park St in Alameda (or B St in Hayward) is another rainy day option. $6 buys you an hour of fun, if you plan to stay longer you might want to invest in a $12 day pass. Teach your kid who is boss in Mortal Kombat II or eat some dots and ghosts in the classic Pac Man. A lot of these games are multiplayer, so, bring a friend or a few kids. You can also celebrate your next birthday or organize a team building event. The atmosphere is loud and crowded, but on our visit there you could always find a machine to try a game.

arcade inspired art

I liked the arcade inspired artwork above the video games and the Donkey Kong photo opp outside.

Pac-Man arcade game at High Score, Alameda

Which one is your all time favorite arcade game?


BAMPFA sign, Berkeley

Explore the Dimensions of art

A rainy Sunday is a great excuse to go to a museum. I convinced my family that the Dimensionism exhibit at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA) would be worthwhile.

On the first floor the Harvey Quaytman: Against the Static is on display till January 27th and an excellent beginning of a study of shapes, textures, and colors. There will be a gallery talk on January 24th, at 5:30: Artist John Zurier joins curator Apsara DiQuinzio for a multifaceted look at Harvey Quaytman’s art.

A new exhibit that was not yet open last Sunday still brought me a lot of joy by just peeking at it and I can tell this will be a new highlight. Unfortunately you can’t touch the furry creations of Masako Miki but MATRIX 273 opened January 9th and runs till April 28th, 2019.

All these forms, shapes and colors will introduce you to the next level (on the lower level): Dimensionism: Modern Art in the age of Einstein. The modern artists interest in science, named Dimensionism, includes Kandinsky, Miró and Picasso. I really enjoyed the works of Isamu Noguchi, his sculptures representing the cosmic view with pleasing shapes.

Harold Edgerton’s Milkdrop Coronet was fascinating, not only the image, but the fact that he in 1933 invented the stroboscopic method of taking photographs with stroboscopic light, creating the illusion of freezing an action.

Staircase in the BAMPFA, Berkeley

The blood red stairway up to the Babette Cafe felt like being captured in an Andy Warhol print. But the friendly staff and yummy cake were well worth the transformation!

Thanks to Discover & Go, a service our library offers, we were able to get in for free. Usually adults pay $14, but there are many discounts available. People under 18 are always free. On the first Thursday of the month gallery admission is also free. The museum is open Sunday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 11 am – 7 pm, Friday and Saturday 11 am – 9pm. Since everything can change, it’s best to check online.

What is your favorite Dimension?

Storefront of The Record Man, Redwood City

Browse vinyls at The Record Man

Records and listening station at The Record Man, Redwood CityOn entering The Record Man store in Redwood City I got greeted by Gary the owner. “What brings you in today?” I replied: “I heard it is an institution.” And I was right. Not only is this a magnificent place to shop for records – they have over a million vinyls – there are ten (!) rooms to wander. Some rooms have record players to listen to your finds.

Records and DVDs at The Record Man, Redwood CityThere is also a store in the back for DVD’s, video games and even comic books. If you like a deal they have their annual parking lot sale in October where each record is $1. To be up-to-date on the parking lot sale you should join the mailing list archives@recordman.com.

Two things that are not for sale are the two paper mache dogs of Nipper, the HMV (His Masters Voice) loPaper mache Nipper at The Record Man, Redwood Citygo of the British record label.

Gary told me after 30 years of reinventing himself as The Record Man, the store has two more years in the current location.

This is indeed an institution! I hope it will survive somehow somewhere in the Bay Area.

Have you browsed records lately?