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Things I saw on a drive around San Francisco Bay

2012-02-07T01:23:02+00:00

You hear about things, but you never really get a sense of immediacy about them until you see them. On the advice of my navigation unit, I drove through Santa Clara and San Jose on I-880, around the south end of San Francisco Bay to Oakland, then up I-580 and west on the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge over the San Pablo Bay to Marin County. It was a pretty drive, and it only took a couple of hours.

  • I have heard of Solyndra, the failed solar technology company which got a $535 million government loan from the Obama administration, and then promptly went bankrupt. I saw their brand-new, now-empty plant next to I-880 in Fremont. It’s a pretty building. I read that a few of their remaining workers were smashing brand-new glass tubes from Germany in the parking lot a few weeks ago, parts for which Solyndra still owes $8 million.  
  • The Tesla car factory, which used to be the New United Motor Manufacturing Incorporated plant, is right next door to Solyndra. The NUMMI plant was a joint venture between GM and Toyota, and made variants of the Toyota Corolla car and the Toyota Tacoma truck until it shut down in 2010. Now Tesla has bought a small part of the NUMMI site and is using part of the 5.5 million-square-foot manufacturing plant building to build the Tesla S electric sedan, slated to begin delivery of new units in mid-2012.
  • Oakland is a gritty, run-down place. It reminds me a lot of Cleveland, except it has dozens, hundreds of container cranes at the docks, looming over the city. I saw a mountain of containers that must have been 100 meters high. Oakland is (or was) the main industrial site in the Bay area. It’s still the fifth-largest port in the United States. That’s why, every time the Occupy Wall Street protesters shut down the port, it has a huge negative impact on the economy, because roughly 200,000 jobs in the area are involved with the shipping industry. This is one of the reasons the city has finally begun cracking down on the protesters, even as the protesters become more and more violent. The city can’t afford their presence, or the disruptions they cause, any more.
  • Berkeley, home to the University of California at Berkeley and many Communists and anarchists, is much smaller than you’d think. If you blink, you’ll miss it on the highway. I missed it. I wished I had brought along a nuclear weapon just so I could offend the Berkeley City Council with its presence.
  • On the west end of the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge (I-580), facing Berkeley across the bay, sits the prison of San Quentin. It’s very picturesque. I had no idea where San Quentin was until I saw the prison towers and the signs. San Quentin is the oldest prison in California (1852), and houses most of the male death row inmates.
  • I had no real concept of the Bay area’s geography, so I didn’t even know the San Pablo Bay existed, north of the I-580 bridge. I had heard of Vallejo (on the east end of San Pablo Bay), and I had worked at Martinez further east, years ago, but had no idea where I was at the time. It’s a lovely area.
One Comment
  1. 2012-02-07T15:07:44+00:00 15:07

    I’d like to visit SF but husband doesn’t particularly like it. While in the Navy, Greenpeace activists pretending to be tourists got on the ship and hung a banner protesting nuclear powered ships. The activists resisted arrest and force had to be used. The funny thing is that it was a steam-powered ship.

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