Fremont: The Suburbs Are More Interesting Than You Think

Fremont, California (Michael Halberstadt)
Centerville Station-Fremont, California (Michael Halberstadt)

From the outside, Fremont is a sleepy suburban city in Silicon Valley. Well, honestly from the inside that’s more or less true too. Though with a few quirks that make Fremont a fun place to explore if you live in the area.

Dotted between the stucco homes and strip malls is a quirky views of America’s past and future.

My journies to the past this time included my first stop: the Pioneer Cemetery of Centerville. Centerville is a neighborhood in Fremont now, but I assume it was a town at one point judging by some of the headstone inscriptions listing place of death as Centerville. Frankly the place was a bit rundown- and there was a major construction site nextdoor preventing too much rest in that final resting spot. One headstone listed a guy who’s year of birth was in the 1700’s- something rarely seen on headstones here in the west.

Pioneer Cemetery, Fremont, California (Michael Halberstadt)
Pioneer Cemetery, Fremont, California (Michael Halberstadt)

From the cemetery I noticed what appeared to be an old train station behind me. Finishing up with the cemetery, I dragged my kit along to explore and low-and-behold it was a handsome little station that was converted to a cafe. The platform is still in use for Amtrak’s Capitol Corridor. On the other side of the tracks there’s a lovely little park with a covered historic railway waiting area.

Fremont, California (Michael Halberstadt)
Fremont, California (Michael Halberstadt)

All was good, well except for one thing. I was thinking about this- there has to be a series of Murphy’s Laws for photography. The rule in play here was the attraction of dirty, ugly or aesthetically unpleasant stuff to the most interesting landmark. It could be the workers in fluorescent orange jackets cleaning up, traffic cones, the strategically placed utility pole blocking the best view of a facade. However in this case, it was a pile of garbage in a shopping cart underneath the Centerville train shelter. Presumably left by a homeless person, who either abandoned it or was coming back at some point, the cart had a undersized adult bike (popular with the druggies) and most unfortunately a filthy large *RED* sleeping bag partially unfurled.

Oh well.

This really was a beautifully done park however aside from the crap and few druggies hanging out there. Wisteria draped off to the left and right of the shelter, and the old station was just across the way with a handful of waiting passengers. The sign atop the station and shelter reads: “Centerville – to San Francisco 40 1/10 m. – to Ogden 799 4/10 m. – Elevation 57 feet.“*

Otherwise the space was beautiful. I stopped in the cafe and got coffee and a snack. The lady inside said she recently bought the business. It was really cute inside as well, though empty- perhaps because the time of day- it was about noon on a workday. The coffee was really good, I’d definitely go back.

Fremont, California (Michael Halberstadt)
Fremont, California (Michael Halberstadt)

 

Next stop was the Shinn Park & Arboretum. My timing was off, this would have been much better had I arrived earlier when the sun was less harsh. This looks like a grand old farmhouse that lost its farm to suburban sprawl, but gained some gorgeous gardens. I was presented with the Murphy’s Law of Photography again when a city of Fremont truck drove up and the dude in the fluorescent orange jacket ran around cleaning up. I’m keeping the Shinn park in the back of my mind for a place to photograph again and maybe get a picnic in on one of the pleasantly shaded tables.

Fremont, California (Michael Halberstadt)
Mission San Jose-Fremont, California (Michael Halberstadt)

I headed back to familiar territory- Mission San Jose. Though I already have plenty in my photo library, I wanted to apply a few new techniques.

 

Fremont, California (Michael Halberstadt)
Wine on tap- The Vine – Fremont, California (Michael Halberstadt)

I headed back to Niles- more familiar territory and after a few snaps managed to find a happy hour sign. The restaurant- The Vine had a $2 off drinks on tap, and they had not just beer but wine on tap. I couldn’t resist. I walked in only to find a surprisingly empty restaurant. However continuing to the back I found a bustling patio and enjoyed a chat with a couple of locals with a glass.

Fremont, California (Michael Halberstadt)
Fremont, California (Michael Halberstadt)

My next journey was only a couple miles in distance but a huge cultural shift. If Fremont is known for anything it’s its South Asian population. There’s a substantial number of Afghanis and lots of Indians, Pakistanis and other nationalities and those with roots in the Subcontinent. I’d visited San Jose’s Gurdwara a number of times. In addition to being really interesting to look at and a pleasant variation from the middle American ‘burbs- the Sikh places of worship are great to visit. One major reason is that people are super-duper nice! And they are not camera phobic. Guys with turbans typically come up and say hi and tell me to feel free to photograph.

Fremont, California (Michael Halberstadt)
Fremont Gurdwara, Fremont California (Michael Halberstadt)

But in this case in the Fremont Gurdwara in addition to all this- a gentleman introduced me as Sing came up and asked me if I wanted to see inside and have a meal? Well why not? He put a head covering on and handed me a dollar bill to drop into the offering inside. We chatted while sitting on the floor while I asked all the dumb questions about Sikhism and he did his best to answer. He then took me to the cafeteria and we drank chai and he gave me a few Indian sweets balls of sweetened ground chickpeas. I was a bit shy about taking any photos inside and don’t have a lot to show for this photographically, but it was an experience I really enjoyed.

California Nursery Historical Park, Fremont, California (Michael Halberstadt)
California Nursery Historical Park, Fremont, California (Michael Halberstadt)

Next stop I stumbled upon the California Nursery Historical Park- I believe this is a city park still in progress. On the site was a rose garden, not in the best of shape with an old faux windmill themed storage closet at the center. A bunch of fenced off delipidated greenhouses were off in another corner. There was also the a Vallejo Adobe off in the corner. The adobe building was fenced off and locked (as was the restroom next door unfortunately as I would have liked to have visited both.)

Fremont, California (Michael Halberstadt)
Fremont, California (Michael Halberstadt)

I’d hoped to get some of the neon Niles signs but they weren’t on- so last stop was the big Niles gate sign and I packed up and went home. But I’ll be back – no question!

*This just reminded me, the presumably old train station sign gives the elevation- relevant to my previous post. The centerville sign reads 57 feet- and I checked with the tool from my previous post: 57.126 feet. Not a whole lot of sinking below sea level.

 

—– further reading: ——

Pioneer Cemetery
Centerville Station
Shinn Estate

—- silly lines I hoped to use but didn’t —-

I can see for Niles and Niles

3rd Blog’s a Charm!

Oakland Museum of California (Michael Halberstadt)
Oakland Museum of California (Michael Halberstadt)

This is a new record here at SiliconValleyStock! I’ve photographed three separate times, then processed the images and now am blogging my third blog today.

Oakland Museum of California (Michael Halberstadt)
Oakland Museum of California (Michael Halberstadt)

Boy am I tired!

Oakland Museum of California (Michael Halberstadt)
Oakland Museum of California (Michael Halberstadt)

It started out with a visit to Old Oakland’s Farmers’ Market, then there was an unexpected detour after meeting some friends at Rockwall winery in Alameda and seeing Google’s Makani in action.

Lake Merritt, Oakland (Michael Halberstadt)
Lake Merritt, Oakland (Michael Halberstadt)

The third time that’s the charm was a stop at OMCA’s Friday Foodtruck Festivities- and a few night shots of Lake Merritt.

Lake Merritt, Oakland (Michael Halberstadt)
Lake Merritt, Oakland (Michael Halberstadt)

I won’t write much here, just enough to get a post up for the third time today!

Go Fly a Kite!

Makani, Alameda CA (Michael Halberstadt)
Makani, Alameda CA (Michael Halberstadt)

It’s no wonder Google is changed their name to Alphabet. Their business endeavors are a veritable alphabet-soup so as to have a hand in just about every subject under the sun. I’m a regular chaser of self-driving cars and do my share of stalking the Googleplex and document other Google’s fingers in various pies.

Makani, Alameda CA (Michael Halberstadt)
Makani, Alameda CA (Michael Halberstadt)

But Google also has a project within earshot of my house on my fair Island-city of Alameda. They bought out Makani- an alternative energy company that has an unusual way of generating wind energy. The concept basically is flying up a “wind kite” that once reaching a high-ish altitude where the wind is stronger and spins around sucking up more wind energy while tethered to the ground.

Makani, Alameda CA (Michael Halberstadt)
Makani, Alameda CA (Michael Halberstadt)

Today Makani was testing out one of their kites when I was driving back from a meeting at Rockwall. They even started up the engines- and I realized then the sound of which was one of the mysterious sounds we occasionally hear at our house!

Makani, Alameda CA (Michael Halberstadt)
Makani, Alameda CA (Michael Halberstadt)

I took the opportunity to get a few shots (and even some crappy stock video) of the tests in action. I spied a colorful Google bike way off in corner of the lot complete with a pirate flag and parked nearby to get a shot of the bike and kite together.

Google Mountain View (Michael Halberstadt)
Google Mountain View (Michael Halberstadt)

There I noticed a gal in a blue hardhat with a video camera and a dSLR pointed at the kite. She came over and we had a nice chat. I’m so used to the Google people shouting (figuratively) “get off my lawn!” So it was a pleasant change of events. In any case she introduced herself as Andrea and a quick search came up with her blog… check it out here.

Lofty Views of Old Oakland’s Farmers’ Market

Old Oakland Farmers' Market (Michael Halberstadt)
Old Oakland Farmers’ Market (Michael Halberstadt)

Continuing with my stock photography coverage, I headed to Old Oakland’s Farmers’ Market. Historic Old Oakland is picturesque already, but the Farmers’ Market added to the photographic appeal. There’s something nice about a city where there’s no car traffic. And that’s one nice aspect to urban farmers’ markets. There are all the colorful produce and flowers to brighten the place up. Pedestrians filling the streets add to the aesthetic charm. And best of all, I can photograph from right in the middle of the road!

Old Oakland Farmers' Market (Michael Halberstadt)
Old Oakland Farmers’ Market (Michael Halberstadt)

Back to Oakland

(with my apologies to Tower of Power)

Oakland, California (Michael Halberstadt)
Rooftop Garden- Oakland, California (Michael Halberstadt)

Living in Alameda as I do- I have a tricky relationship with Oakland. For those not familiar with Oakland and Alameda let me give you the Cliff Notes version.

Oakland, California (Michael Halberstadt)
Oakland, California (Michael Halberstadt)

Oakland is a city about half the size of, and located across the bay facing east from San Francisco. It’s a beautiful city, full of architectural treasures and bustling urban textures and cultures. Oakland also suffers from a very high crime rate. By contrast Alameda is sleepy suburban island city that was separated from Oakland artificially to make way for a shipping channel for the Port of Oakland. Alameda is known for being very different from Oakland, despite being minutes away from Oakland’s urban core.

Oakland, CA (Michael Halberstadt)
Oakland Skyline, CA (Michael Halberstadt)

I really love Oakland, but am apprehensive of letting down my guard and drag my expensive camera gear along. Not in some areas- including some of the most beautiful: the hills, Mountain View Cemetery, Jack London Square. After signing up for a bunch of extra insurance and splitting up my camera kit, I’ve opted to venture into Oakland’s urban core and start documenting whatever we call the state of the city of Oakland now- between poverty and gentrification, dilapidation and renaissance, beauty and destruction.

Oakland, California (Michael Halberstadt)
Oakland, California (Michael Halberstadt)

A few areas I’ve covered thus far… the rooftop garden of the Kaiser building. Pretty cool having a tranquil garden and pond atop a large downtown building.

Oakland, California (Michael Halberstadt)
Oakland, California (Michael Halberstadt)

Another area I’d covered in the last few days is around Lake Merritt. I’d done some research to find there are a few points of interest I was unaware of. For example, there’s a bonsai garden there. It happened to be closed (despite the stated hours) the first day I went but open the next. Also around Lake Merritt is Children’s Fairyland and the WPA gem of a Alameda County Courthouse.

Oakland, California (Michael Halberstadt)
Oakland, California (Michael Halberstadt)

I’ve got plans to go back, there’s so much to cover!