Thursday, March 22, 2007

Lord I'm coming home...

My Daily commute from Work (San Jose) back to Tracy !

Maybe it is the angle of the sun at this time of the year, or maybe just because it is a clear day, but by God, we live in such a beautiful part of the country. The green rolling hills, the wide highways, the blue skies and pleasant sunshine... This is what struck me about the pictures I took on the way home, especially those near the Altamont Pass and the scene off Highway 680 North just around Fremont. Very beautiful.

I am beginning to enjoy my drive home every day from San Jose to Tracy ! I find myself actually looking around more at the hills, (the spring colors), and less at the ugly traffic. Going home is a good thing, no matter how far I have to go to get there.



I have as usual braved the speed of the open road (Today traffic was close to non-existent) with one hand on the steering wheel and the other clutching the plunger on my ancient camera... enjoy the pictures, perhaps many of you Tracy residents see this every day of your life but are too tired or concentrating on the road too much to take in the beauty of the hills.. (in an effort to stay alive).. Some peripheral scenes may look familiar.

Click here to view videos of the commute.

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We start our journey on Montague North heading towards the 680 Ramp. You need to cross 880 first. The second picture is just after we cross 880, before we get to Great Mall Parkway.
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After we cross the Great Mall Pkwy, We get to the 680 Exit. Take 680 North to Sacramento(click image for more detail)



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The most Beautiful sight !
This stretch of highway is very scenic because of the lovely hills in the background. This is on the Milpitas to Fremont stretch of road. There is this one house I always look at when passing by, you can see it on the hill-top (4th picture). What a great view of Silicon Valley he must have. It is the white one at the top of the hill. It really took my breath away. The photo really doesn't do it justice.
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Washington Blvd exit.
This was a scary picture to take.
I couldn't slow down and folks were going at a standard 70mph
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Now come all the Fremont Exits.
The Mission Blvd Exit is usually crowded, but not so much today. I left work at 6:25 pm, so it was still bright out (days last longer at this time of the year thank god) The green hills look so beautiful, I really can't describe them beyond that, without sounding vulgar. :-)
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After Sunol comes a few Pleasanton exits
(The evening cloud color in these pictures remind me of Vanilla sky)
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Here is the stretch of highway between Pleasanton and the 580/680 Junction. Long straight road, lots of Highway Police lurking. Careful of your speed here.(click image for more detail)



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Next Exit Tracy (before the 580/680 Junction at Dublin)(click image for more detail)



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Here at the 680/580 Junction, I take the Tracy exit.
It is the half-way point of the journey.
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Usually there is a Killer Traffic Jam right here (Santa Rita Rd), fortunately today, it is about 7:00pm as I pass Oracle, so no traffic jam, yay ! Also to my Left you can see the Regal IMAX cinema.(click image for more detail)




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From Livermore driving up the Altamont Pass up-slope.(click image for more detail)




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Altamont Pass road. Nearly there, I love this part of the trip.
In the First picture you will notice a Large Christian Cross cut into the Hillside.
When it gets dark sometimes the edges light up (it has powered lights along the edges)
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The Gateway to Tracy
When I see this Arch I know I have reached Tracy... I think of it as the "Gateway to Tracy", even though it is just a bridge with a rail track passing over it.(click image for more detail)


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Mountain House exit and Defence Depot Exit, nearly there...(click image for more detail)



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Home at last!
The 11th Street 'City of Tracy Fountain'.
And don't forget, the nice ornamental street lights.
The last picture is the Intersection of '11th and Corral Hollow'
I'll be home in 5 minutes... :-)
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It took me exactly 54 minutes to reach home today.

I was so excited with all my photos, that I came home and started uploading them straight away. Took me a whole hour.. haha!!I will bid you adieu for now... it is 9:30 pm, dark, my wife thinks I am nuts and my dinner is getting cold..

Good night and sweet dreams.

Click here to view videos of the commute.



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Monday, March 19, 2007

Terminator of the weeds !!!

I spent half my weekend playing TERMINATOR in my back yard. I traded my Dick Tracy mask for my Axe Wielding Barbarian getup.

So, I bought one of those weed whackers and '
went to the mattresses' on my weed infested back lawn. I started by putting the safety guard on the weed whacker, but then decided that it was going too slow.., so I removed the guard and let the weedster rip with about 8 inches of cord. I was splattered with chlorophyll, sap and plant matter as the leaves and weeds exploded in sprays of green (see pics of before and after below)

I originally wanted to take a picture of myself destroying the yard, but unlike driving a car and taking photos, I wouldn't recommend or even try taking a picture with one hand while holding a rotating blade spinning at about 5000+ rpms, so I drew myself instead :-)

Here's a sketch I made of what I looked like when in the heat of battle !!!


Some may recognize him as Slaine the Barbarian from 2000AD comics.
(Yes I drew it myself and added the green on computer after I scanned it)


Finally I got my yard to look semi decent and now I am planning to landscape it beautifully with a barbecue area, cypress trees and a gazebo. I got about 3000 sq ft, so I am going to have fun doing this.. I spent part of Sunday spraying the entire place with about 2 gallons of Roundup.

BEFORE and AFTER (back)



BEFORE and AFTER (side)


Not bad for a novice barbarian !
:-)

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Take a Ride with me !

My Daily Commute from Tracy to San Jose :-)

Ok now before I write this I just wanted to share the process of taking these photos. I took them driving at close to 70-75 miles an hour on the 580/680 freeways. Yes that's right, one hand on the steering wheel and one hand clutching the camera. I have this really old PENTAX digital camera with no steady shot or sports mode, so some pics might be blurry. Needless to say, it was pretty scary at times and I really pissed off this guy driving behind me in a Dodge RAM3500 because at one point I was weaving a little on the Altamont Pass road. It is dangerous and I wouldn't recommend it. (Kids, don't try this at home, or out of it) Anyways I survived and have compiled a lot of pictures showing you what the drive from Tracy to San Jose (where I work) can be like...

Google Map (For indicative purposes only)

I Left home at 9:30 AM and reached work at 10:40. It took me one hour and 10 minutes. It is usually a 45 minute drive, but only when there are no stops in traffic flow (Unlike today). I avoid rush hour as much as possible, because EVERYONE (and I mean half the population of the Bay Area) is trying to get to work at the same time and you might be in for a 2 hour drive if things get bad (as in 'parking lot' trafffic jam). The trick is to leave home at 9:30 AM or slightly after it, so that the commute is not too bad..

Click here to view videos of the commute.


The first thing I learned is that you need a dependable car. Very often I see these old cars (usually 12 years or older) pulled over to the side of the road. Usually they break down or run out of gas. Which is why the first order of the day is to fill about $10 worth of gas (per round trip) in my trusty little Volkswagen. It is a very sturdy car and gives me great mileage (20-24 city, 30 highway). Ofcourse you could always buy a Camry, Accord, Civic, Prius or Corolla, nothing wrong with them at all. (You might even get better mileage)
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Eleventh Street leading up to the 205 highway is extremely pretty and has broad open streets with very ornamental street lamps (that was the first thing I noticed when I drove into Tracy for the first time).
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A little bridge flies you over 205 and merges into 205-West and your journey begins...
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Mountain House is a planned community located in unincorporated San Joaquin County, approximately 5 miles northwest of the City of Tracy. The community has an approximate population of 3,000 people and that's all I know about that for now.. have never been there.. I might just make a detour someday just to see what all the fuss is about.. They don't seem to have much infrastructure yet.
I took this one pic after I passed a Carrier loaded with Toyota Priuses (?). Looks like the commuters these days love em. Btw, The Chevy VOLT is supposed to be a new electric car releasing soon.., it looks really cool. Hope to get one when it does come out..
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Here are a few views I snapped just before the Altamont Pass. When this highway is empty, I really like driving on it. Notice the Windmills all along the periphery of the photos, some people think they are an eyesore, but I think they are just beautiful... They are so neat and clean and hell, they even provide electricity. Truth be told I don't like the traditional windmills (like the farm ones, or the dutch windmills) but these white ones are elegant and look like rows of lilly white flowers from afar. Oh and I like cows ! (and NO I am not gay) :-)
I did grow up on a farm though...

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The Altamont Pass is gorgeous to me because you can see folks driving in the opposite direction (into tracy) but they are nearly a mile away. The view is really breathtaking. I wish I could actually stop and sit on the hillside and watch the cars go by.. (hmm.. sounds like a song or something).Oh by the way, I nearly lost control of my car trying to take the next 2 pictures. You can see I nearly drove off the yellow line... That was frightening :-p(click images for more detail)


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You can see Livermore from this downward slope. The next exit after the slope would be Vasco Rd (That Takes you to Brentwood). After that you have a few more Livermore Exits like Portola, Livermore and Airway.. now THIS is where the trouble starts traffic wise... (usually)
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Welcome to Santa Rita Rd. Now depending on whether or not you are spiritual, this stretch of road right till the 580/680 Junction can literally be hell. (You're supposed to pray to Santa Rita that you don't have to wait too long). Luckily I have never waited for more than 10 minutes, but remember to leave home later to avoid the jams here... The Trucks make it even worse, but hell they gotta earn a living too right ? Driving a truck can't be much fun in this traffic. (I wouldn't want to be in the truckers shoes). (click images for more detail)

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After a very minor 5 minute jam (courtesy of Saint Rita), I reached the 580/680 Junction and took the road to San Jose. This signifies the half-way point of my daily commute. Now the traffic tends to be a bit faster all the way down to Milpitas. Don't forget your tinted eyewear (shades that is..)... the sun shines directly into your face (Which explains the silhouetted pictures from this point on) (click images for more detail)

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The 580/680 junction is in Dublin and once on 680 you drive through Pleasanton, Fremont, Sunol, till you reach Milpitas. The drive is Very Scenic. Took a picture of this police cruiser waiting for the occasional idiot to zoom past the cone zone.. :-p (gulp)(click images for more detail)

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A few more pics whilst breezing through Fremont (Mission Exit to 880 would be here). I pass Mission Blvd, then Automall Pkwy. Traffic is now non existent and the drive is very smooth. Remember... Leave late, resist the temptation to get stuck in traffic :)(click images for more detail)

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Once I see and cross the Jacklin rd exit, I know I am just a few miles from work and breathe a sigh of relief. I take the Montague Expressway exit. Last month this time, Montague expressway was all I had to travel on to work and back (San Tomas / Montague). Now of course being in Tracy puts a whole new map route on the table. (click images for more detail)


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Ah work at last... Now to earn my daily bread. (click images for more detail)

Thanks for taking this journey with me. I will post another perhaps of the drive to Tracy. Please feel free to comment or email me with any extra tips I may have missed out on...

That's it... for today.


Click here to view videos of the commute.