But an hour before dark after the city of Tracy I began a climb into a canyon separating the valley from the Bay Area and the orchards gave way to fenced-in wind farms on the fully denuded slopes, some populated by grazing cattle. There were periodic locked gates to dirt roads to service the towering structures, but there was no way around them. One that I stopped to investigate that I thought I might be able to slip through had a couple of guard dogs that I didn’t even notice in the waning light until they started growling.
Rather than being able to pull off the road and camp wherever I pleased as I had been anticipating, I had to call upon all my wiles to find a spot to disappear into for the night, an all-too common occurrence on this trip. It has me longing for France, where there will be no stress or challenge finding a place to camp with pockets of forest everywhere and the slim chance of being discovered no concern, as if I am, I know I won’t be run off and castigated as a vagrant.
I was hesitant to pause and snoop at possibilities down embankments or behind buildings or in corrals until it got dark, as there was a bumper-to-bumper stream of cars on their return commute from Silicone Valley. Hardly a car was headed my direction. This torrent of traffic was another stark reminder of California’s terrifying car culture. Cars are everywhere and generally in a hurry. I would have to get an early start the next day, as I knew I would be camping somewhere in this canyon and the next morning would be subjected to everyone driving the opposite direction.
When I came upon a sign warning of trucks turning, the first side road in miles, I hoped it would provide the flat and secluded nook I was in search of. It led to a huge dump up a winding road deeper into the canyon. Before the guard house a dirt road ventured to just what I was looking for—a hedge of bushes that I could disappear into. It wasn’t as quiet or secluded or as aromatic as a flowering peach orchard, but it sufficed.
Besides peaches, the valley had provided two Carnegies. The first in Patterson was a subdued red-brick building with no flourishes other than two sets of three tall rounded windows on either side of the entry. It was now a museum. Its exterior had no plaques or anything identifying itself as a library. Though a sign on the door said it was open, that was not the case, so I can’t report if there were any relics inside relating to the building’s past.
The Carnegie in Newman twenty miles up the road was now an office building and celebrated its connection to Carnegie calling itself the “Carnegie Professional Center.” Its tenants included a lawyer, an auto insurance salesman, someone offering counseling and a driving school. And there was room for more according to a “Vacancy” sign out front.
A plaque let it be known the building was on the National Registry of Historic Places and that it was one of 142 Carnegies built in California, neglecting to include the state’s two Academic Carnegies. The pleasant Prairie-Style building had bright orange trim that looked freshly painted. The hallways within were adorned with historic photos from the town’s past. Another of the town’s pleasing features was an eight-armed roundabout just off the main highway. The new library was off one and the old library down another. Adding to the French-theme of the roundabout was a branch of the French bank BNP Paribas with its flock of flying birds logo.
My sleep at the entry to the dump was interrupted periodically by trucks rumbling in and out. Even getting an early start before seven I couldn’t avoid the rush of wage-slaves to work. But with no cars coming from the opposite direction up from behind me, the stream of vehicles whizzing by me on the narrow, winding road could give me a wide pass.
It was ten miles to Livermore, another of many large sprawling towns in Californian that I’d never heard of. At least they generally havebike lanes, so I didn’t need to cringe at cars brushing too close. It’s Carnegie was a gem, another contender for the cover of a book on the state’s Carnegies. It sat in the middle of a large town park that it had all to itself. The town expressed unrestrained appreciation and gratitude to Carnegie for his generosity, naming the park for him. There were no less than four plaques on the building, now an Art Gallery and History Center. One referred to the addition of a fountain and another was Bicentennial-related, stating “Andrew J. Carnegie Building, Constructed 1911, Beautified and Rededicated in the spirit of our American Revolution July 4th 1977.”
One more canyon separated me from the Bay Area and the Carnegie in San Jose. The direct route on an interstate was less than 30 miles. The bike route was ten more. The final twenty miles through the urban sprawl was once again tolerable on roads with bike lanes, some even with separators. But with the temperature in the 50s, I was the lone cyclist, as has been the case in these travels other than in San Francisco.
I sped right past the San Jose Carnegie despite its stately columns, as my gaze was focused on the other side of the street looking for an address of 1105, when it was actually 1102. Before I could stop and check the address when it wasn’t at 1105 I heard, “Hey George, over here.” It was Hilary, another long-time friend from the Telluride Film Festival who lives in the Bay Area who had come to meet me at the nearest Carnegie to her.
It was one of two Carnegie funded in this large city. The other was the Main Library, which had been demolished in 1960. This stately Branch had a large glassy addition. Two of the exterior walls of the original library were enclosed inside the new library. The old library now served as a Family Learning Center, one room full of computers and another a small auditorium that also functioned as a classroom, as it was being used when we peered in. The original entrance up a set of stairs, that Hilary had been sitting on when I zipped by, was closed.
After a quick look inside Hilary and I went in search of lunch. Going on-line she had discovered a Vietnamese restaurant two blocks away. With a large Vietnamese community in San Jose, she knew that would be a good choice. But it was closed on Tuesdays. Another google check showed a second Vietnamese restaurant two blocks to the other side of the library, but when we got there we discovered it had been replaced by another business.
There were a couple of nearby Mexican restaurants, but Hilary was going to be eating Mexican that evening with a friend in Sausalito on the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge, so to our good fortune we ended up at an Afghan restaurant, which we had all to ourselves. We had a sensational hearty stew, which neither of us could finish. There was almost enough left to fill my Tupperware bowl.
It was going to be a long day of driving for Hilary, over an hour to Sausalito from her rural home on top of the more than thirty minutes to San Jose to meet me in the opposite direction, but driving long distances is so matter-of-fact it didn’t phase her in the least. Cinema dominated our conversation. Besides the Oscars she had also watched the Spirit Awards for independent films held the night before the Oscars, also in Los Angeles.
Our friend from Telluride Barry Jenkins had won best director and best film for “If Beale Street Could Talk.” Hilary said that as usual Barry gave touching and heart-felt acceptance speeches. He said he had been hoping Lynn Ramsey, one of three women in the best director category along with him, had won, as she had been very gracious to him when he had been in the student program at Telluride and she had spoken to the students. As usual, when we’re together we revel in our good fortune of being able to contribute to Telluride and always look forward to the next festival, not only for the films, but the wonderful camaraderie of everyone who attends year after year.