Following on from A life changing trip? San Francisco – Part 1 Where I shared the concerns I had about travelling a big distance, here I share some things I did on holiday.
Harley and Me
I am 50 and it is about time I had a good mid life crisis. Being in the USA I feel it is the right time to start, so one of the first places I visited on my trip was the Harley Davidson shop in San Jose. It was motorbike heaven. Surrounded by every type of machine imaginable, and I could see myself cruising off into the sunset on a warm summer evening.
Balance is one of my problems and I don’t think riding a two wheeled motor would be a positive life decision, so I sat on the three wheeled bike, and I could imagine myself living the dream. Caught up in this I bought a pair of Harley boots, and my partner bought me a hoodie. My regret is I did not buy a hat too, but I did not want to succumb totally to my consumerist desires.
Later in the holiday I took a few pictures by one of the many inlets in San Francisco Bay. I felt like a million dollars as we took my photos, and the fit and healthy people of this suburb walk and ran by me as I sat on this two wheeled beast. Unfortunately, I realised I need to be a little more realistic, and I also took some pictures on my four wheeled transport.
That crisis didn’t last too long. 😄
We based this trip in the bubble of tech. Surrounded by Apple, Google, Facebook, Oracle, and countless other businesses starting, closing, and promoting. It is a unique place and is full of apparent contradictions. Housing in the area we stayed can cost US$1.5 + million and rents are equally high. Close to where I stayed there was a Tesla showroom, which I visited, and on my walk back home (using my FES device) I passed a bus stop which seemed to be a home for two homeless men, one of which was obviously physically disabled. It is this stark contrast which is surprising. In the midst of such wealth and consumerism to find such poverty.
It also surprised me in the cul-de-sac there were no footpaths (sidewalks), but on the busier thoroughfares they had them. It seemed strange. It emphasised to me how much the car is pivotal to the lifestyle. Even on the highways they have carpool lanes for cars with two or more people in them. On a six-lane highway only one lane is dedicated to the carpooler, yet the other five are used by single occupant travellers. Surely it should be the other way, if they want to incentivise more efficient travel.
On my walk back from the shops, during a quiet time on the road (about 2pm) I noticed the aggression of the drivers. Beeping, switching lanes quickly, tailgating, and not letting drivers out from a minor road. I know I live in a very rural place, but even in the local large town (Galway) I don’t see this, and it made me uncomfortable. It is true I have a slow pace of life because of my illnesses, but I am not unique in this, and there are many disabled in the USA. How can they integrate into this high paced, aggressive life? It must be difficult.
Every day I use Facebook, and it is part of how I communicate with the readers of this blog, and Messenger is how I chat with family and friends. Having the opportunity to tour the Facebook complex was something I lept at, and it was incredible. The complex is huge, with employees moving from one part to another on bicycles or electric cars provided by the company. There are thousands of employees of this company, and they cater for their every need, from food (free restaurants) to medical and dental care on the campus. They really look after their staff.
It also impressed me on how easily I could get around in my scooter. It was accessible, and despite the heat (it reach 39C that day) I never felt awkward, or a problem. We got to see their new office building which is massive, and the roof is a park, with trees, and beautiful seating area’s, with views over the bay. I also had a delicious lunch where I got to eat some foods of my childhood, cornbread, mac’n’cheese and barbeque ribs. This meal was close to the main square on Hackers Way.
Milling around me were thousands of people, all employed by the one company, all with one focus, making Facebook the top social platform. It took me awhile to understand how enormous it really is, as this main street looked like any pedestrian street in a city centre. Yet this is not a city centre, but the pivot around which the online communities I am part of rotates. These people make it possible for minority communities, like people with chronic illnesses, to connect, and to feel part of something, most importantly, not to feel alone.
In tomorrows post I will be sharing my experience of using cannabis for my pain and mobility. You can see this post here.