Through Silicon Valley to Alum Rock Park

While I will not call this ride to Alum Rock Park through the heart of Silicon Valley ideal for casual tourists, it offers a compelling list of things to do along the way.

We start at West Valley Mall in San Jose, one of the world’s most congested shopping centers during the Christmas holiday. Park, spend $500 at Macy’s, and then head off.

Head east on Forest Avenue, going under Interstate 880 right from the start. The first part of the ride we’ll call Medical Row. Here’s where you can stop at O’Connor hospital for your outpatient surgery, or see what ails you at any one of the dozens of other medical centers on Forest. Route map provided.

Cosentino’s Salad Bar. On the way back you can stop at their excellent salad bar and have lunch at the well-manicured outdoor sitting area.

Rose Garden. It’s listed in Wikipedia, so it’s world famous. You’ll see 3,500 rose shrubs of 189 varieties. I haven’t counted them. You’ll have to take Wikipedia at its word.

Rosicrucian Museum. The world famous Rosicrucian Museum is filled with mummies and other artifacts from Egypt. I’ve never understood this organization and its purpose, but the grounds are immaculate, it’s open to the public, and the visit is well worth the cost. Take the guided tour to get the most out of the experience.

The Alameda, or El Camino Real, is the oldest road in these parts. It used to have street cars running between downtown San Jose and Santa Clara, but they got ripped out for — what else — cars.

As you pass under the Caltrain tracks at Stockton, just to the left off Stockton is the College Park Station, immortalized in Jack London’s Call of the Wild.

After crossing busy Coleman Avenue there’s more scenery, the Guadalupe River Park. What a great place for a park. You can watch jets, wheels down, coming in for a landing at San Jose International Airport. Bring your earplugs.

The Taylor Street crossing of 87 isn’t bad as overpasses go.  At First Street you’ll see the long lost street cars, called light rail today.

Gordon Biersch Brewery. Taylor Street has an assortment of housing and restaurants along the “avenues,” 1st through 21st. At 357 W. Taylor there’s the Gordon Biersch brewery. It was founded by Dan Gordon and Dean Biersch, opening their first brewery restaurant in Palo Alto, California in July 1988.

The Hwy 101 overpass has no exits or on-ramps. Ramps were planned, but a protest by local residents (good for them) put a stop to it, and now we have a super-wide overpass with the right bridge a glorified “bike path.”

Flea Market. This Latino haven for all things affordable has ethnic charm, including some great vegetables stands. There has been talk of shutting it down, sadly.

Make a left at a T intersection with a light,  Educational Park Drive. Pick up the sidewalk that parallels Penitencia Creek. In a short distance you’ll cross the creek.

Immediately turn left into a grassy park. Follow the path through the park headed northeast, the creek on your left.  Cross Jackson Avenue and stay on the path next to the creek. Coming up is a bike path under Interstate 680. Watch your head. Not much clearance here.

I-680 underpass

I-680 underpass

This place used to be a hangout for gangs and was seriously trashed, but a local resident cleaned up the mess. Admirable work!

Alum Rock Park. The trail ends at Capitol Avenue and more light rail. Go left and stay on the sidewalk for 200 yards to Penitencia Creek Road. Cross Capitol at the light, continuing on Penitencia Creek Road. Stay on this road for about 1.5 miles to reach Alum Rock Park. Check out the mineral springs at the end of the park.

Loop around the park and return the way you came. It’s about 18 miles round trip. I take this route often but I never appreciated all there is to see, until now.

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