Tag Archives: San Jose

Guadalupe River Trail

Guadalupe River Trail through downtown San Jose

Guadalupe River Trail through downtown San Jose

Today we took a bike ride on the northern end of the Guadalupe River Trail. Tom and I have ridden the southern end, which is called the Upper Guadalupe River Trail from Chynoweth to Almaden Lake but have never attempted the lower end. The Guadalupe River starts in the Santa Cruz Mountains and flows northwards to the San Francisco Bay at Alviso. The Guadalupe River Trail more or less follows my route to work and recently parts of it have been paved over. It now runs continuously from the heart of San Jose to Alviso.

It was early when we started out and even though the sun was up, it felt a little chilly. We drove into San Jose along Monterey/Route 82 to Woz Way. We thought parking would be easy on a Sunday but we were wrong. There were a couple of car parks open but one charged $5 and the other $7, so we decided to park on the street somewhere. Finding a street where parking was allowed was impossible but we were lucky to find a parking meter right next the the trail. As it was Sunday, parking was free so we lucked out.

When I checked the route the night before it looked as if the trail ran along each side of the river but I was wrong. We started on the west side, riding through a little park with the purple painted Children’s Discovery Museum on our left hand side. It was all very pretty with information boards along the way and an elegant footbridge in the center of San Jose. The trail on the west petered out and we had to negotiate a couple of hairpin bends to cross over the river and join the trail on the other side.

It was interesting to ride through parts of San Jose I had never seen before and there were a number of parks along the way. For the most part it was picturesque. When we passed under Highway 87 we spotted a pair of ducks busily supervising their nine ducklings. There was a more depressing side of it as well as we passed a number of homeless people asleep in their sleeping bags with all their possessions next to them in shopping carts under the bridges and underpasses.

Giant hands covering a parking garage at the San Jose Airport

We passed the HP Pavilion – home of the Sharks – on our left as we rode through another park called Arena Green.  Here there was a big children’s playground which also had a carousel. Sadly, due to the budget cuts, it has been temporarily closed down. We saw a sign ahead which said ‘Trail Detour Ahead” and once again we had to dog leg up and cross to the other side. We could see why there was a detour because an event was being set up with stalls. We never did find out what the event was for even though I checked online when I got home. I discovered there was a Fantasy Fair being held somewhere on the Guadalupe River Trail that day or it could have been something to do with ‘Little Italy’ which we cycled through shortly afterwards. I never knew there was an area or, to be more precise, three areas close by, in San Jose called Little Italy. We passed a few restored houses where new businesses were opening up. Might be worth doing a walk around the area one day.

Once again we found ourselves crossing over to the other side. After we had cycled under Coleman Avenue we found ourselves in an area called Guadalupe Gardens where a maze of trails intersected. By following the broken yellow line in the middle of the trail, we were able to stay on course. It is here that the Heritage Rose Garden can be found. Yet another trip of discovery to be made in the future.

Once passing under Taylor Street we encountered more trails off to the left. On my way home from work in the evening, I drive down Coleman and through the middle of San Jose and never knew this trail even existed. To think there is this oasis of peace between Coleman and the ever busy Highway 87. Until recently there was a huge homeless camp between the trail and Coleman Avenue but about a month ago it was completely cleared away and there appears to be no trace of it left. I wonder where they all went?  About the time we cycled under Hedding Street, we caught our first whiff of jet fuel and knew we were approaching San Jose Airport.

Before long we were passing under 880 and the end of the runway. We saw a sign showing how much parking cost at the airport.  Would you believe it costs $30 an hour to park but it is only $22 to park all day.  I know which car park to head for in the future. (I found out afterwards that the sign is misleading.  $30 is the daily maximum in the hourly lot). Soon we were passing the parking structure. This building has received a lot of criticism since it was built in 2010 not only because public parking is only available on the first level (rental cars take up all the other floors) but also for the public art on the outside. It depicts a lot of hands gesturing either ‘welcome’ or ‘farewell’. I’ve read that some people find it creepy saying it looks more like ghoulish hands rising from the grave. For the record, I quite like it because it is different.  For the last few years I have passed it many times on Highway 87 but today I was able to view it much closer. Tom noticed that there are two layers to the artwork. The mesh behind is just a back drop and the hands are made up with white plastic disks, 368,718 of them to be precise.  The artist is Christian Moeller and the hands were modelled by Silicon Valley residents.

Guadalupe River Trail heading towards Alviso

Guadalupe River Trail heading towards Alviso

We continued parallel with the runway and rode past the terminals. The trail crossed a bridge and we were once again on the east side of the Guadalupe River. Then we rod under 101 and suddenly we were in the country, or so it seemed. On our right we had a huge expanse of green fields and the river flowed serenely on our left. As we rounded a bend we spotted a blue heron standing motionless in the river. We must have startled him as he took off and disappeared. There were ducks swimming around and a couple of pairs of Canadian Geese were noisily calling to each other. The sun was shining and it was a pleasure to be out enjoying our exercise.

The next underpass was at Trimble Road. It was here in 2005 that the fossilized bones of a Columbian Mammoth were found. They are on exhibit at the Children’s Discovery Museum in San Jose. It was on this stretch of the trail that we passed the back of the old Rockwell Collins facility in San Jose which closed down a few years ago. In my previous job I visited the place on many occasions and it brought back many memories including the BBQs which were held at the rear of the building. The building has remained unoccupied since then and it is sad to see.

We turned back when we reached Montague Expressway. Our intention is to return soon to finish the journey from here to the mouth of the Guadalupe River in Alviso.

 

Bill’s Cafe in Willow Glen

Our first sight of Bill’s Cafe was a bit off-putting. Outside a sign said ‘A Willow Glen Tradition’ but it looked a bit run down. We hoped to be pleasantly surprised by the interior. The building is near the junction of Lincoln and Willow. It looks large from the outside and has an outdoor patio.

It opened at 7 and as it was 6.55 we had a few minutes to wait. One good thing about the place is the large car park to the side.

Walking into Bill’s through the patio began to change our opinion slightly. Flowers lined the sidewalk and trees shaded the area. The inside is not that well lit and it has no windows. It is L-shaped and large with mirrors which make it appear even larger. Padded benches line the walls. There are both booths and tables & chairs. At the counter are 9 chairs, six of them are wooden with a coffee cup carved into the back.

The menu is very extensive plus a board with two specials on it.  Tom ordered the Petaluma Scramble with chicken, apple sausage, mushrooms and spinach and topped with Swiss cheese and salsa $8.95.  It came with hash browns and toast. I ordered the oatmeal, which came with sliced bananas brown sugar and raisins.  The coffee was $1.95.

How to describe the interior; Art Deco? No.  Retro? No. Maybe Mis-match.  Anyway, it was different. One wall was a mural of a restaurant scene which is best described as stylistic in muted colors and the people had slightly asymmetrical faces. Several large framed watercolors graced the walls and, near the bar area smaller watercolors with a foodie theme.

We were almost the first customers to arrive and for half an hour it remained nearly empty. At 7.30 the locals started arriving and made their own way to their favorite places. By the time we left and 7.45 there must have been 50 plus in Bill’s, so obviously a  popular eating place.

My oatmeal was served in a large, shallow bowl on a plate. Would you believe it, there was a paper doilley on the plate. Sliced bananas decorated the center of the oatmeal. There was so much oatmeal in the bowl that it overflowed onto the rim. The brown sugar and very modest serving of raisins were in small plastic containers with lids and, along with a stainless milk pot with lid and a long graceful spout, were served on a plate which also had a paper doilley. Tom’s scramble filled his plate.

The oatmeal was hot and good.  It was not steel cut oats but it wasn’t the instant variety either. Tom’s verdict on the scramble – “a little bland but not bad”.

The restroom was in no way remarkable at all apart from the fact that it was large, dim and the door was grubby. There were large tiles on the walls, the mirror was ornate and the trash can was decorated.

Even though the food was OK, I doubt we will return. The dim light inside made it somehow too sleazy for a breakfast venue. There are other Bill’s Cafes in San Jose on The Alameda and on North Bascom so maybe we should try them out one day.

Bill’s Cafe
1115 Willow Street
San Jose, CA 95125

Hobee’s, North San Jose

Hobees Restaurant in North San Jose

Hobee's Restaurant in North San Jose

After our early morning bike ride on the levees at Alviso, I really fancied a bowl of oatmeal and Hobee’s is the best place for that. The nearest Hobee’s to Alviso on the way home is at River Oaks Parkway. This branch is a bit off the beaten track but it happens to be within walking distance of where I work.

As it is Mother’s Day, we were expecting a few people around but hoped Hobee’s at River Oaks would be less crowded. It was just after 9 when we pulled into the car park but already it was crowded. Tom did manage to find a parking spot where the bikes on the back of the car didn’t impede anybody.

Inside it was full but, as the wait was only 10 minutes, we decided to put our names down. We found a shady spot on a bench outside while we waited. It seemed we were called in no time at all.

Inside Mother’s Day helium balloons decorated the place. Over the cash registers by the entrance though, was a banner which said ‘Happy Birthday’. That might reference the fact that Hobee’s is celebrating 25 years of being in business. On the tables, a handwritten sign in the plant pot said ‘HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!’ While we were looking through the menu, I was presented with a huge chocolate covered strawberry, decorated with a swirl of whipped cream and served on a small plate. It was delicious. Tom asked where his was and was told to come back on Father’s Day.

The Hobee’s menu always has specials on the front cover. Today’s specials all make reference to mother in some way. Tom chose Mother’s Special Salmon Omie served with coffee cake instead of hash browns. I, of course, went for the oatmeal.

This is one of the better Hobee’s – not that I have been to all of them. There are nine altogether and I’ve only been to five. I like the way this one is set out. There are no booths or seats up at a counter, just pine tables and chairs. Apart from the seasonal Mother’s Day decorations, the normal decor is big, bright prints of fruits and vegetable on the walls.

Hobee’s oatmeal is self serve from a bar. What I really like about their oatmeal are the sides to go on top. Today I was spoilt for choice with seven bowls to pick from. Beside the brown sugar, there were raisins, shredded coconut, cranberries, flaked almonds, mixed nut nibbles and walnut halves You can also help yourself to a piece of muffin. Sometimes it is small pieces of their famous coffee cake on offer. And, of course, you can visit the bar as often as you like.

Those are the good points but today I have three gripes. The oatmeal was very runny (but it tasted fine); the piece of muffin I had was stale and there was no milk. I did ask for milk and was promised someone would bring me some to the table. It never arrived but it was OK because there was milk on the table for coffee so I just used that.

I was a bit disappointed when I visited the restroom to find only one, very small picture of a couple of plums, on the wall. The restroom was very clean though with hot water and piped music playing softly in the background. There could, of course, have been the same music in the restaurant but due to the volume of noise out there it was impossible to hear.

We both enjoyed our breakfasts and we will come back to Hobee’s again and again.

Pete’s Family Restaurant, South San Jose

This is the nearest place for breakfast to our home and we used to come here a lot but haven’t been for some time.  Today, as we are just running errands in the area, we decided to pay them a visit.

Pete’s is large and a real diner with numerous red upholstered booths with comfy seats in all sizes, some of them curved.  There are a few tables at the back though.  At the counter there are 11 stools.  Every time we have been here in the past there used to be the same guy sitting at the counter in the same place and he was there again today.  At first I didn’t think it was him because he looked different.  It may have been the red checkered shirt he was wearing today which hid his trademark suspenders.

There is very little decoration here as such.  Certainly no pictures or photos.  On the wall behind the counter are newspaper articles but from where I sat in a booth next to the window I couldn’t see what they were about.  There were a few pots of dried Thanksgiving type of flowers plus one large dried flower arrangement sporting a smiling scarecrow.

I noticed there was oatmeal on the menu.  It was there before and I’d never had it because I thought it was instant.  I questioned the server today but is was a painful experience.  How do you ask the question?  I tried – ‘Does it come out of a packet?’  ‘Yes’, she said but then I thought that of course oatmeal comes out of a packet whether it is instant or not.  ‘Is it cooked in a pan?’  Yes, was the answer.  Good, maybe it is the real thing.  ‘Is it cooked in a large pan early in the morning and kept on a very low heat?’  ‘No, it is made to order’.  Um… not so good.  It sounds instant to me but I thought I would give it a try ($3.50). Tom ordered Joe’s Special ($9.25).

As the food was served very quickly, I knew it was the quick cooked variety.  It came in a large dish on a plate.  At least there was plenty of it.  On a separate plate were the brown sugar and raisins in small plastic pots with lids (two point against) and the milk in a stainless steel jug which looked like a small teapot with its lid and long spout (one point for).  The taste of the oatmeal, I must admit, was pretty good.

Tom enjoyed his scramble.  One thing you can say about Pete’s is the portions are generous.  He particularly likes the hot sauce here – Pepper Plant made in nearby Gilroy.  In his opinion it is better than Tabasco, which he says has a metallic taste.

Another uninspiring rest room without a trace of decoration at all.  There is an ornamental concrete urn in the lobby outside but it is empty apart from a few bits of trash.  The restroom is functional but the white wall tiles, the chrome grab bars and the top of the toilet brush holder could do with a wipe over.  On the plus side the room smelt nice and the water was hot.

Shall we come here again?  Yes, it’s a cozy place, the food is good and it’s convenient.

Southern Kitchen, Monterey Highway, San Jose

What do you do on a wet weekend? Well to cheer yourself up, you go out for breakfast.

We wanted to try somewhere different without travelling very far so Tom did a search on ‘breakfast in San Jose’ and our zip code. Southern Kitchen came up and it’s pretty close. We’d passed it many times on Monterey Highway but had dismissed it as a bit of a shack. A quick check on Yelp to see if there were any reviews and we were so surprised. Lots of rave reviews, so this place we must visit.

It was 9:30 when we set out on this rainy morning. The car park at the back was nearly full. That is a good sign to start with but also meant we would probably have a wait – the reviewers had warned as much. We were lucky though and were seated straight away, even though the place was packed.

It’s not very big but its well set out with 9 two seater booths, 8 four seater booths, two larger booths, several tables and chairs and 8 places at the counter.

We were shown to a two seater booth at the side, right under a hatch through to the kitchen. We could hear them working in the kitchen but it was a cheerful background sound. There was music playing but it was lost in the general hum of conversation around us.

The menu choice is vast and exciting. Now I usually have oatmeal but today my eyes strayed to the rest of the menu and was tempted. I succumbed to that temptation – afterall it was nearly 10 now so it was more of a brunch than a breakfast. Our friendly server took the order – Country Benedict for Tom (country sausage on top of English muffins, two poached eggs, topped with hollandaise sauce) at $8.95 and California Scramble for me (eggs, broccoli, mushrooms, Jack & Cheddar cheese, topped with hollandaise sauce) at $8.95. We both had hash browns (extra crispy for Tom) and I had wheat toast as well.

Time to look around at the decor. There was the usual amount of paintings, mostly of views and flowers. Other assorted objects were hung on the walls including a collection of old tools and bizarrely a thick white rope round the ceiling line.

The food arrived 15 minutes after placing our order. The portions were big and they were steaming hot. Tom nearly cleared his plate but I struggled to get through two thirds of mine. Take my word for it, the food is good and the hash browns were just as Tom liked.

The restroom though could only be described as grubby but functional, apart from the fact that the toilet paper had almost run out and there were no new supplies in sight. One good point in its favor is the water was nice and hot. Some decoration on the wall would have cheered the place up a bit.

We have found a new place to go for breakfast and we will certainly be back here again.

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