Saturday, March 31, 2007

Santa Clara British Bike Show and Swap Meet

This Saturday afternoon was the big Bay Area British Bike Swap Meet and Show in Santa Clara. It was the first year I've owned a Brit bike so I wanted to check it out and look around for a cool cafe seat that was an option on the 1971 Tiger. This was also the longest ride I took the Tiger on, from SF to San Jose. It held up well with 70 mph as the top comfortable speed on the thing. Lots of leaking oil under all the Brit bikes (see above photo) Guess that is one of the things they never could figure out. Also, lots of motorcycle nerds. I had ever really thought about it before but they basically are the same as computer nerds; pudgy white guys that are not very well socialized and dress funny (see below photo). Walking around I ran into lots of old timers talking about the good old days on their Greeves or Ariels. It was a hoot. I also hung out under a tree and watched as passerbys checked out the bike (see below photo). Check out the photo album here

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Mount Diablo Ride

I've always wanted to see the famous Mount Diablo from the seat of my motorcycle. I've heard about it for some time and decided it was a good day to take the plunge (see future posting about Sportster upgrade). A few co-workers and I had made tentative plans for a Sunday afternoon ride and we mapped it out (see above map). The view from the top was amazing! You could see the entire Bay.

Frank and his baby Honda showed up at my place and we scooted over to Chris' in the East Bay. Frank had never taken his 'sycle across the bridge so it was a bit of an adventure. The traffic was mild so we were able to take it slow crossing and the cars also broke up the wind so his 250cc'es of fury didn't get knocked around too much.

Chris, BTW, is the Chris who I sold the GB500 to in an earlier posting. He has done a nice job sorting it out and even washing it. We hooked up and headed into the Oakland Hills via Grizzly Peak and wound along through Tilden Park.

We got a few greasy burgers at the local Nations'. If you are in the Bay Area you should try it out. Decent burgers but known for the pie. I've been letting myself go a bit as you can tell from the above photo. Something about being in London and not having to shower or shave anymore.

Two of the other Horsemen of the Apocalypse. The view north towards Benicia was great as you can tell from how excited Frank and Chris are. I tried to liven things up a bit as I was channeling a bit of Ozzy / Gene Simmons

Monday, March 19, 2007

Urban Archeology

What started out as a productive but average Saturday fixing some windows and staining some deck rails turned a bit odd as I heard this very loud knocking at my door. I was out back and I had my stereo blasting and set on random with lots of Black Sabbath and Judas Priest so it was hard to hear anyone out front. I figured it was some friend that showed up and was trying to convince me to actually leave the house. Ha! No way. It was a group of three urban archeologists that asked me if they could take soil samples of my backyard and possibly do some digging. I had no idea the full extent of what they really meant. I said sure, go ahead. The yard is mostly weeds anyway and I figured it wouldn’t get any worse. In the back of my mind I was wondering what they were trying to steal or sell me.

They started by using this 5 foot long tee shape instrument and were probing the soil looking for what would have once been the out house / garbage dump of the house. Specifically they were looking for an ash layer about 5 to 10 feet down. Maybe it would clear things up to explain a bit about my house. It was built sometime before the 1900s but all the records burned down in the San Francisco fire of 1906 so we have no way of knowing exactly how old the place is. What I do know is that the bathroom was added on at some point so at one time there was an outhouse (we hope). What these guys were saying was that in addition to the outhouse, often homes would dig a large hole or fill in an existing dried up well with their garbage / sewage and that was what they were looking for. Old garbage. They would use the probe to find an ash layer or a soft spot deep in the soil and dig down to check it out.

After a few pilot holes they determined that the place that they were looking for was more or less under the landing of the deck stairs. They began digging about 2-ish and ended up going down about 15 feet in 5 hours. It’s kind of hard to tell from the perspective in the photos but it was about the depth of two people or more. I thought that it was amazing that that much dirt could be moved that quickly but they said that they had a lot of experience. What a way to spend your weekends. I’m assuming they weren’t pros. They ended up using a short shovel because the hole was too narrow for the long handled type. Also, they began using a bucket to bring the dirt up as it was too deep to toss the dirt out or too messy as the water began to fill up in the bottom and turn everything into mud. You can just see the tee handle, bucket rope and short shovel in the photo below

As they were digging through the layers of soil they would yell excitedly at each other, “this is a 70s hole, I’m sure of it” or “this better not be a 90s hole cause I missed a date to dig this thing”. What they were talking about, of course, was that it was a garbage pit from the 1870s or 1890s. Amazingly, they began to pull out a few intact bottles and note that they were just 1880s common bottles. The ones pictured are (in the top photo from left to right) a Vaseline bottle, an inkwell and a bottle of shoe polish. There also were plenty of broken dishes and pottery but it wasn’t generally recognizable but did give clues about the age of the strata. At one point they handed me a broken bottle and plate that they claimed were Gold Rush / Civil War era. You could see all the air bubbles and irregularities in the glass, nothing like the smooth clear ones I’m used to, that I take for granted.

This was about in the middle of the dig and they felt that there were many more bottles down there but they just needed to go down a bit deeper. So the digging continued for a while more and they began to see the outline of the sand walls of the well so they had found the right spot. You can just make out the lighter colored edges in the hole in the photo above. The problem was there just wasn’t that much “garbage” in there and as it got darker and nothing significant turned up they called it a day and filled the hole in. They hosed off their gear and thanked me for letting them dig and handed me the other bottles that they found. One was a beautiful square medicine bottle. They told me that medicine was always kept in square bottles so that the blind will recognize them by shape. Is that true? They also found two more generic ceramic type bottles from Glasgow, Scotland that they said were bought in bulk and filled with a variety of things. They ended up keeping a small China bowl and a porcelain doll head. They said that a lot of the plates and bowls they found were "China" and that they were thrown away because it was cheap and disposable at the time.

It is amazing to think that this history has been buried in my backyard, right under our feet, for a hundred years. I think about the people who lived here in this house and wonder what they must been like. What did they do for a living, where were they from, where their descendants are now?

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Personal Webpage Redux

I finally got around to sorting out my personal website. I hope to get some more albums up and will let everyone know as I do. Let me know what you think.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Sleeping in Seattle

So I took a friend up on her offer to visit Seattle. Yeah, like I haven't done enough traveling recently. She is planning on selling her house and wanted some help getting started on fluffing the place up a bit. I get to sleep in the guest room, eat her fabulous breakfasts and enjoy Seattle. It was impulsive but what the hell. The funniest part was that her house looked WAY better than mine (see photo above) so the whole time she was saying how it could look better I kept thinking about what a big turd my place is. Sorry, how much "deferred maintenance" there is to do.

Between painting the porch and repairing the back deck, we managed to get an amazing burger and beer at King's Hardware and some tasty small plates and cocktails at Sambar. King's is one of those new old places. It was obvious that it was some old dive that had been fluffed up to look, well, amazing. They had walls covered with cool old wallpaper, deer heads and vintage signs for beer. The best part is that they serve a great burger. You know the kind your get at a good summer BBQ with all the crispy bits around the edges. Yummy. I got the three pack of sliders with a tasty order of hand cut fries and a cold Maritime Pacific Pilsner (see photo below of Suzanne and her Dirty Sanchez impression).

Next up was Sambar. A quaint little bar tucked in the back of the quaint little restaurant Le Gourmond. Great atmosphere and tasty drinks. We ended up getting the frites and something else that was great but that I was too smashed to remember. Suzanne had the Vesper martini (like from the new Bond movie) and I drank some of their French reds.

Lastly we headed over to the new to Seattle Olympic Sculpture Park I like this particular shot as the vanishing point and angles of the lawn and edging disappeared behind the metal tree. Also, the blue of the sky that day really added to the green red of the grass. I took some great photos but go here if you want to see a great blog of it as it was being built.