[Best of Silicon Valley 1999]

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Editors' Choice


Metro writers on the valley's best sports and recreation

Coyote Bait and Tackle
Short, Fat, Juicy Ones: Three-year-old Breanna Browne of San Jose judges the goods at Coyote Bait and Tackle while father Neal lends support.

Best Place To Buy Blood For A Catfish

Coyote Bait & Tackle
8215 Monterey Rd., Coyote

Not that long ago, Grandpa used to cut himself a bamboo pole, dig up some fat nightcrawlers from under the mulberry tree, trot over to the Guadalupe and catch a mess of crappie or whatever for Grandma to fry up for supper. The average sport fisherman needs a bit more assistance to pull in a catch these days, and the best place to get it is the Coyote Bait & Tackle Shop on Monterey Road, a few miles north of Morgan Hill. Some of the help is decidedly low-tech: tubs of wriggling live bait, for example (like crickets and minnows and crawdads), and boxes of metal weights, some of which seem big enough to knock a fish unconscious. But there is also row after row of multi-colored rods, metal reels as fine-tuned as a bicycle gear, lures specially festooned and colored for each particular kind of fish, and one rather strange item: a lure for catfish labeled "Blood. Not for human consumption." There are even boats for sale for those who forgot theirs. Anyway, expert counter help is available for the submarinally confused.
Jesse Taylor

Best Old-Fashioned Amusement Park

Kelley Park
1300 Senter Rd., SJ

Long before there was the mega-entertainment of places like Great America, kids in San Jose had to amuse themselves with the relative sedateness of a trip to the local park. Life's most festive occasions (birthdays, quinceañeras, Fourth of July picnics) were reserved for Kelley Park--146 acres of former prune, walnut, cherry and apricot orchards tucked away behind a sylvan row of trees on busy Senter Road. For a kid, this long strip of narrow parkland was the perfect place to lose Mom and Dad for a day in the urban woods. The park is bordered on one end by Happy Hollow Park and Zoo (where many of us city kids first encountered exotic animals) and on the other end by the Japanese Friendship Garden, whose arched bridges, bonsai trees and koi lakes recreate the calm and magic of the Korakuen Garden in Okayama, Japan.
Sarah Gaffney

Best Plane Ride On New Year's Day, 2000

Aerial Advertising Company
Oakland Airport

While most people are desperate to avoid flying when the clock rolls over to the dreaded triple zero, there's one Bay Area pilot who can say with absolute certainty that his planes are Y2K-OK. Milo Tichacek's airplanes were built before the end of World War II, when zero and one were just the first two steps on the way to the number two. Tichacek, who does most of his business skywriting and dragging banners over the Bay Area, also gives rides in his early-1940s German biplanes. Made of wood, fabric and steel, the old-time flying machines top out at 120 mph, but they're the most reliable planes around. The cockpit is open and the engine is surprisingly quiet, he says--much more so than the engines in modern propeller planes. Some patrons like to dress up in the flashy pilot garb of the 1930s, complete with goggles and a long scarf, getting a taste of a time when flying was more than just the quickest way to get to a business meeting.
Jim Rendon

Best Hope For The Gold

Santa Clara University Women's Soccer Team

Santa Clara University assistant coach Brandi Chastain won a World Cup title and introduced the concept of clothing-optional soccer to the world, but she's never been part of a national championship as an SCU player or coach. This year's squad could change that. With 10 starters returning from last year's 22-1-1 squad and the addition of 1998 Gatorade High School Player of the Year Aly Wagner from Presentation High, the Broncos are the favorites to win it all.
Mick Normington

Best Free Baseball

Stanford University's Sunken Diamond

Stanford's Sunken Diamond is one of the best places to watch baseball anywhere in the country. The fact that the team regularly contends for the College World Series only adds to the pleasure of taking in a game at this picturesque ballpark. If the price of admission is too steep, simply bring a lawn chair and take in the game from the shady knoll just beyond the right field wall. It's sure cheaper than a Giants game (not to mention warmer), and the free seats are closer to the action than the popular rooftop across the street from Wrigley Field in Chicago.
Mick Normington

Best Road Game (Outside Of License-Plate Bingo)

The Quito Road Roll

Heading west on Highway 9 out of Los Gatos, turn right on Quito Road and, just before you reach the end of the concrete island, shift your car into neutral.

From there, the game is entirely dependent on courtesy--so many Silicon Valley drivers may be at a distinct disadvantage. If you come within 10 feet of the car ahead, you must apply the brakes. If a car behind you comes within 10 feet and you're under the posted speed limit (which on Quito includes numbers like 19 and 22), you must cede the game and apply the accelerator. The game ends at the Pollard intersection. If you manage to pull up to the waiting traffic, you have beaten roughly even odds; if you reach the intersection itself, that's a maraschino on top.

After that, the brownie points multiply exponentially. If you hit a green light and reach the other side of the intersection, you are a studmuffin. If you reach the end of the subsequent island, you're a studmuffin with poppy seeds. If you reach the top and begin rolling down the following hill, you've just done something the author hasn't pulled off in 20 years of this silly-ass game. If you reach Cupertino, congratulations--you've just invented the perpetual motion machine.

Please obey all laws, and please--no wagering.
Michael J. Vaughn

Best Almost-Urban Redwood Grove

Redwood Grove Nature Preserve
482 University Ave., Los Altos

A short distance from downtown Los Altos is the village's best-kept secret, the perfect getaway for strolling, picnicking or simply relaxing. Operated by the Los Altos Parks Department, the Redwood Grove nature preserve off University Avenue isn't visible from the street. A wooden footpath that feels miles from suburbia meanders through the stately grove along Adobe Creek. A 10-minute walk brings one to a small meadow with picnic tables, the naturalist's home and the Nature Preserve, which holds an open house every third Sunday of the month. In fall and winter, the creek surges and sometimes brims over; in summer, camps use the facility. Free and open to the public, the Redwood Grove beckons just minutes from downtown. There's no parking at the grove itself, so walking is a must.
Ellen Murray

Best Place To Roller Boogie

Golden State Roller Palace
397 Blossom Hill Rd., SJ

Having survived the '80s backlash against all things disco, the Golden State Roller Palace remains an excellent place to "rex" to the Jackson 5 and "shoot the duck" without angering any animal rights groups. Twentysomethings in the area will remember it fondly as Aloha, the Hawaiian-themed mecca for childhood birthday parties, chicks with big hair and Joan Jett couture. Today, the Thursday Adult Nights are literally "too cool for school." Middle-aged couples skate hand-in-hand to the retro R&B, hot young hipsters practice the lost art of roller disco and the occasional rookie can injure her coccyx without some bratty 12-year-old pointing and laughing. Not to be missed are the "tech-geek by day, roller-god by night" aging men whose stunning moves both put others to shame, and, well, kind of make them giggle. They offer birthday parties, hockey and jazzercise in addition to open skating. Call for schedules.
Christie Cooley

Best Place To Earn The High Score On Galaga At 1965 Prices

Nickel City
1711 Branham Ln., SJ

Remember Dig Dug? Or Frogger? How about Galaga? Ms. Pac Man? Those of use who survived the '80s no doubt remember blowing plenty of lunch money trying to conquer these old-school arcade standards. Plenty of video-game classics can be found at Nickel City. And get this--they're all free. Sort of. It costs $1.95 to get in. But once inside, the aforementioned games don't require any coinage to play--just a delicate tap of the start button will suffice. The newer games in the front of the arcade only cost a nickel or two. A great cheap date or night out with the kids.
Will Harper

Best Place To Get Your Gore-Tex Fix

Western Mountaineering
2344 El Camino Real, Santa Clara

For those who put more thought into buying their next ski coat than their next car, Western Mountaineering is a great place to indulge in all things Gore-Tex. It's more fun if you can throw around terms like "microporousolymetric film" and "false twist textured 70 denier yarns," but it's not a requirement. Marmot offers highly technical items from the Alpinist Parka to the full-body Monsoon Suit, not to mention every variation in between. There are also items from the North Face, Mountain Hardware and Arc'teryx to satisfy any need for breathable, water-resistant fabric.
Mick Normington

Best Low-Tech High-Speed Experience

Dry Creek Road, SJ

Short of joining a Caltrans crew, the best way to attain an intimate knowledge of asphalt is to take up long-distance urban Rollerblading. You will immediately gravitate to those few precious strips where the shoulders are wide and the blading is easy: Prospect Road from Saratoga-Sunnyvale to Lawrence Expressway, for instance, or the spanking-new black stuff on Stevens Creek between Lawrence and 85. For cheap late-night thrills, however, there is nothing to match San Jose's Dry Creek Road. Starting at Union and heading east just past Meridian, this millionaire row offers a snakelike roller derby of undulating banked curves with an easy downhill slope, gorgeous houses with big spooky trees, and asphalt as smooth as a baby's bottom. The wealthy homeowners have even arranged for the moon to rise and set on a line directly above the street (or so it seems). Dry Creek's only daytime flaw, a paucity of shoulder room for navigating around those big gardening trucks, is nullified at night, when you're likely to go the whole route without spotting so much as a headlight.
Michael J. Vaughn

Best Place To Ride In Circles And Never Get Anywhere (Parts I and II)

Billy Jones Wildcat Railroad and Bill Mason Carousel at Oak Meadow Park
University and Blossom Hill Rd., LG

Oak Meadow and adjoining Vasona parks in Los Gatos are among the most serene and picturesque spots in the valley, and the Billy Jones Wildcat Railroad is the best way to view them both. A one-third-scale--and real--1905 steam engine locomotive powers the five passenger cars that wind around lakes and wooden bridges over duck-filled, free-running streams, past groves of willow and sweet-smelling eucalyptus. Near the train station is one of the most luscious (and apparently undiscovered) blackberry patches around. If a train is just too modern a convenience, there is the 24-horse Bill Mason Carousel nearby, built originally for the 1915 San Francisco Panama-Pacific Exposition. Listen to that goofy calliope music or the creaking mechanism as you read signs that show what Grandma had to put up with ("So sorry, ladies must ride astride!"). About as fast as a car stuck in traffic on the parkways, but far more enjoyable.
Jesse Taylor

Faber's Cyclery Schwing for a Schwinn: Bicycle guru Anthony LaRiviere of Faber's Cyclery in the parts yard of his shop on South First Street, where old Schwinns go to feel young again.

Best Y2K-Compliant Transportation

Faber's Cyclery
702 S. First St., SJ

Faber's Cyclery first opened its doors for business in 1912, and from the looks of the place, not a thing has changed. The wood-frame building on the corner of Margaret Street and South First leans dramatically toward the street, as if it has grown tired of standing over the years. Inside, Anthony LaRiviere and his brother Alex deal exclusively in old cruisers, mostly Schwinns. Alex, a true student of the fat-wheeler, can tell if the coaster brake on a 1937 Westfield is original equipment. Anthony can disappear at will into the chaos of rusting bike frames and emerge with the exact part needed to get a 1973 Schwinn banana seat back on the road. Soot-smudged and usually smiling, Anthony can often be seen cruising First Street in his eclectic two-wheel concoctions. Indestructible bikes are Faber's game: no fancy alloys, suspension or digital odometers to seize up on Jan. 1. Just pure cruising satisfaction.
Michael Learmonth

Best Place To Outfit The SUV Of The Future

Christensen's Saddlery
1471 S. De Anza Blvd., Cupertino

Though four-legged mammals that weigh in at about 1,000 pounds are hardly the hottest new thing in suburban transportation, this valley has a thriving community of horse-folk. Some may just like the look of them outside the Italian-style villa in Woodside, but there are others who actually climb up on the beasts and do their best to master the equine arts. For those brave souls, Christensen's in Cupertino is like a clothing store, hobby shop and community center all in one. The store's billboard is thick with ads for horses, farms that board horses, riding instructors, even equine dentists and orthopedic veterinarians. There are new and used saddles, halters, bits, leg wraps and anything else a horse-and-rider ensemble could need. And later this year, when you find yourself sitting on Stevens Creek watching your car have a Y2K meltdown, you might be thankful for this phone number.
Jim Rendon

Best Little Piece O' Montana

Flycasting at Los Gatos Creek County Park
Dell and Hacienda avenues, Campbell

The sun is setting over the pond now, but Howard refuses to leave until he achieves that perfect cast. He readies the line in one hand and whips back his rod with the other, then brings it forward, sending the line out in a low, graceful arc, tracing it over the water until it nears the target, then pulls back to flick the end of the line to the surface like the tongue of some great delicate insect.

Perfect. Time to go home. Howard packs his gear and heads off into the herd of taillights on San Tomas Expressway.

Yep. Right there at San Tomas and the Los Gatos Creek Trail one can find two small square flycasting ponds at the northern end of the Los Gatos Creek County Park, with multicolored target rings, picnic tables--even a tournament schedule from the San Jose Flycasters should one reach the River Runs Through It level. And on the way out, laugh at all those pathetic hook-fishers at the percolation ponds.
Michael J. Vaughn

Best Place To Ride In Circles And Never Get Anywhere (Part III)

Niles Canyon Railroad Boarding Station
Corner of Main Street and Kilkare Road, Sunol

When was the last time you rode on a steam engine train? (Steam engines came just after covered wagons and just before diesel engines and Greyhound buses as the preferred way to get around Old California.) A ride on the Niles Canyon Railroad is a way to experience life in our area when campuses were orchards and the skies were smog-free. Niles Canyon, where the train ride operates, is itself one of the most breathtakingly picturesque spots in the vicinity of the Santa Clara Valley, a deep river gorge cut through the mountains between I-680 and Fremont. Best of all, the ride returns you to Sunol Station, where you started, so your car is already there waiting for you. See the poles of the original transcontinental telegraph line, ride past the gullies where Gold Rush-era bandito Joaquin Murieta used to hang out, or ogle at the historic spot where Charlie Chaplin's The Tramp was filmed. Resist the temptation to shoot at buffalo from the train windows, however, as Old West passengers used to do. Some old-time experiences are best left in the past.
Jesse Taylor

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From the September 30-October 6, 1999 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 1999 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

For more information about the San Jose/Silicon Valley area, visit sanjose.com.

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