This past weekend I made a quick trip to my old stomping grounds in Palo Alto. Regrettably there was no time to bike around, but I had some time to walk around downtown. Some things have changed in the 20+ years I’ve been away, but some things are still the same.
Palo Alto Bicycles is still around. I don’t know if the mix of bikes is much different than in the past. Mostly high end road and mountain bikes (although back then, they were mainly steel, and they also sold a small boutique brand of components called “Avocet”). I still have some of their saddles.
Just down the street was the Stanford Theatre, still going strong. It opened when I was in town, and I still have vivid memories of seeing the premier of “Brazil” there, although that was atypical programming for them. The Stanford has the advantage of not having to be a profitable enterprise.
I’m still sad about the other theatre in town, the Varsity, that at some point got converted into a Borders, and of course that means that now it sits empty. It was a wonderful repertory movie house and occasional music venue. I remember when Van Morrison played there.
There are bike racks all over the Stanford campus, not surprisingly. I didn’t have a lot of time to walk all over campus, but what little bike infrastructure that I saw wasn’t terribly impressive. I did like this sign though. One fun fact about this sign is that it is only about a hundred meters away from the shop where I believe the Xtracycle was first conceived.
My hotel was a little away from downtown, along El Camino Real, which is a very pedestrian and bike unfriendly streetscape, with three lanes of traffic in both directions, plus curb lane parking. You are taking your life into your own hands if you cross away from a stoplight.
At this intersection, the triangle island have gaps to accommodate bike traffic, which implicitly steers bikes across the crosswalks with the pedestrians. That is a McLaren dealership in the background, which is a sign that some people around here have too much money.
I do miss some things about living in California, but living in Palo Alto is not one of them. I feel much more at home in Toronto.