[Best of the Santa Clara Valley 1997]

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Best of Santa Clara

Best Radio Show For Sk8boarders
Forget "Love Line"--there are more important issues to talk about, like skateboarding. On the Frontside Boneless Show, DJs Poser and Smokebreak spin lots of Fat Wreck Chords-style skate rock (Lagwagon, NOFX, Guttermouth) but also talk lots of thrasher shop. The hosts are veteran skaters and their show mirrors the sport's rebellious and fast-paced spirit. It's often hilarious listening, especially when they're capping on "fruit booters" (in-line skaters) or giving away free swag. The DJs also do trivia contests, discuss skate tricks, interview bands and local shredders. Poser waxes a wee philosophical about the whole thing: "Once a skater, you're always a skater," he says. "It becomes the way you look at the world. Like, how many times do you step off a curb during the day? When you're a skater, you look at the curb and see something totally different."
Monday nights, 9pm-midnight on KSCU(103.3 FM) Santa Clara University (408/554-KSCU)

Best Ecological Island
Amid the commercialism around Mission College exists a unique sanctuary for a single endangered species: the burrowing owl. Mission College is home to the largest number of burrowing owls--20 all told--in Santa Clara, but there are other "little ecological islands" with one or two owls throughout the city, says John McLemore, a Santa Clara City Council member. One of those islands can be found at Santa Clara University, home to approximately six owls. Overall, 30 or so owls live in the area. In the last 10 years, habitat loss has cut the overall population of burrowing owls in the Bay Area in half. The pressing use to which the owl digs have been put? Parking lots.
3000 Mission College Blvd., Santa Clara

Best Excuse to Buy a Spa
Residents of the city of Santa Clara enjoy the lowest electricity, water and utility rates in the region. In a recent survey of 105 cities and agencies in the nine Bay Area counties, Santa Clara's combined water, sewer and electric service charges were lower by more than 35 percent. "Santa Clara owns its own electric utility company," says Lori Garcia, a Santa Clara resident and planning commissioner. "The city has provided [power] to its residents and subsidized it to keep the rates low." The low rates are made possible by Santa Clara's 101-year-old Utilities Department, which has purchased all of the necessary utility transformers and grids within the city limits. Santa Clara has been generating its own electric power since 1896, when the city constructed a lighting plant.

Best Culture Cluster
Culture vultures can satisfy their thirst for knowledge about history, art and technology all within a 19-mile radius. Santa Clara, a city with a population of under 100,000 people, boasts no fewer than six museums. The historical repositories chronicle the Mission period of California and the area. The founding of Santa Clara can be traced at the Headen-Inman House. The Harris-Lass Historic Museum sits on the site of Santa Clara's last farm. The Historical Railroad Museum houses iron-horse memorabilia. And technology buffs can boot up at the Intel Museum, which displays the computer chips that gave Silicon Valley its name.

The two art museums, the Triton and the de Saisset, have different focuses. The Triton serves as a showcase for contemporary art, whereas the de Saisset (in addition to its exhibitions of contemporary art) shelters a permanent collection of artwork from the Mission period.
de Saisset Museum, Santa Clara University, 500 El Camino Real, Santa Clara (408/554-4528)
Harris-Lass Historic Museum, 1889 Market St., Santa Clara (408/249-7905)
Headen-Inman House, 1509 Warburton Ave., Santa Clara (408/248-2787)
Historical Railroad Museum, Santa Clara Station, Railroad Avenue and Benton Street, Santa Clara (408/243-3969)
Intel Museum, 2200 Mission College Blvd., Santa Clara (408/765-0503)
Triton Museum of Art, 1505 Warburton Ave., Santa Clara (408/247-9340)

Best Place to Get Railroaded
Every day, like clockwork, trains pull in and out of Santa Clara Station, where the familiar bellow of a train conductor calling "All aboard!" has rung out for the last 133 years without interruption. Built in 1863-64, the Santa Clara Station is the oldest-known continuously operating railroad station and passenger depot in California--and perhaps west of the Mississippi. The original way station on the San Francisco and San Jose line, it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1985.
Railroad Avenue and Benton Street, Santa Clara

Best Architectural Preserve
With its adobe homes, Victorians and 1920s bungalows, the Old Quad area represents a living museum of architectural styles. Encompassing approximately 100 blocks, the dense neighborhood features several beautiful streetscapes and historic homes, with nearly every major California architectural genre represented. Two of the homes are original adobe structures dating back to the days before Santa Clara officially existed. The now-very-official city of Santa Clara offers a walking-tour brochure listing 37 of the homes in the Old Quad.
El Camino Real and Lincoln Avenue over to The Alameda and Winchester Avenue, running up against Santa Clara University

Best Vending Machine
Any soccer mom or dad knows about Off the Wall, a warehouse converted into an indoor soccer arena with net-fenced AstroTurf playing fields. This sports center has thoughtfully provided something for the hypoglycemic chauffeur: a vending machine that dispenses a tantalizing selection of frozen confections, from Firecracker Popsicles to Haagen-Daz vanilla and almond ice-cream bars. As an added benefit, snackers get to watch the goodies get retrieved by a Rube Goldberg contraption that rivals Krazy George as a sideline distraction. After a selection is made, a hose swings across the offerings, stops and lowers itself onto the treat of choice. Its powerful suction hoovers the bar gently to the front of the vending machine, where it softly drops the sweet within reach. Hunger loves a vacuum, putting a positive spin on the epithet "it sucks."
700 Mathew St., Santa Clara (408/988-6900)

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From the Sept. 18-24, 1997 issue of Metro.

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