Gigantic golf balls, Aurora, CO.
Gigantic golf balls, Aurora, CO.
A lovely Sunday in NorCal seemed like the perfect moment to check out one of those always-wanted-to-see-it semi-local attractions. And so it was that we packed into the Cherry Bomb and barrelled down the 280 to visit San Jose's Winchester Mystery House.
For those unfamiliar with this spot, it's a gi-normous mansion built in the early 20th by a widow/heir to the Winchester Repeating Rifle fortune. The batty Mrs. Winchester was reportedly terrified of being visited by ghosts shot by her late hubby's weapons (must have watched too many episodes of "Most Haunted"), so she kept adding on to her bizarre mansion, which is loaded with doors that open into walls, stairs that crash into the ceiling, and pretty much 13 of everything. (Mrs. Winchester was apparently a rare triskadekaphile.)
You can witness the massive scale of the Winchester Mystery House on Google Maps; it's the sprawling complex in the lower left below. (Also, if you look 1/2 a block to the northeast, you'll see the charred remains of Santana Row, which is now a buzzing upscale outdoor mall/condo complex, but was, shortly before the satellite did its thing, the scene of an awesome and horrific fire.)
From a much lower vantage point, you can see the insane distribution of spires, peaks, towers, and solaria that characterize the house.
The house tour itself was interesting if a little disappointing, completely eschewing talk of ghosts and focusing mostly on the screwball architectural follies and eccentricities of Mrs. Winchester.
But enough about the house. Let's talk about the non-supernatural visitors. So, who populated Mansion Tour #37 besides us sophisticated, tasteful, and wildly intelligent urbanites?
Mostly people with healthy bellies and matching t-shirts.
For more info on the Winchester Mystery House:
Episode 30: "The Phantom Freeway"
While looking on Google Maps for the location of my local Volkswagen dealer (responding to a recall notice), I was somewhat stunned to see a freeway that doesn't exist anymore.
Google's full of outdated images, but it was still a little jarring to see the Central Freeway in its pre-knockdown glory. The east-west portion is still intact (and still connects to I-80/US-101 just a mile from the Bay Bridge), but the one-way portion that curves to the north, crosses Market Street, and drops motorists onto Fell Street is long gone. If you look at the scene using the awesome, awesome new "hybrid" feature, you'll see the "Fell Street Expressway" is unmarked, and it lingers over the rest of the map like a ghost.
The Man is currently in the process of rebuilding this ramp, this time as a two-way road, but only as far as Market Street, where it will connect with the new Octavia Blvd and run past the new Hayes Green. (You can see a map of the project here.)
In the meantime, the Fell Street Expressway, a monstrous scar on the neighborhood but also an irreplaceably convenient shortcut for us westsiders, lives on in the digital memory of Google Maps.
Sights of America:
1. Kezar Stadium: Original home of the San Francisco 49ers. If the Niners still played here, right in the middle of the city, I'd become a fan. Note Hippie Hill just to the north. Drum circles are undoubtedly happening.
2. Ralph Wilson Stadium, home of the Buffalo Bills, if that's not too obvious.
3. Santa Cruz Boardwalk. Check out the roller coasters.
4. San Andreas Fault, in Carrizo Plain National Monument.
Sights of Japan:
1. Tokyo Dome.
3. Active volcano on Miyakejima Island. Hot hot!
All kinds of good stuff today:
1. Moscow: Red Square, the Kremlin, and St. Basil's Cathedral. Zoom in; the detail is excellent.
2. Huge crop fire, Russia.
3. Very strange layout of houses, streets and farms, Ukraine.
4. What the hell is this? It's in Luxembourg City, and I can't find it on any maps.
5. The Blue Lagoon, Iceland: A geothermal power plant where you can swim in the mineral rich effluence. An ethereal experience.
6. Mount Kilimanjaro, baby. Yes, it only has one peak.
7. US Air Force Base, Afghanistan. Check out all the bombers!
For more "Fun with Google Maps," click here.
Great news... Google Maps quietly added high-res maps outside the US!
Today, we start in Brasilia, Brazil, a planned city that's shaped like a bird. Brasilia is home to some unique modern architecture:
1. National Theater. Wow!
2. Cathedral of Brasilia. Wowie wow!
3. National Congress. Note the strange oblong sculptures on top of the building.
4. TV Tower. You can't really see it, but it casts a lonnnnng shadow.