Scope out the views

Although I’m now officially an old man, I’m still trying to prove otherwise. On Sunday I biked from San Jose to the top of Mt. Hamilton, site of the Lick Observatory. (On a clear day, you can see the domes from Silicon Valley). It’s about a 20 mile, 4200 foot climb to the summit, and 20 back again. It wiped me out. But the Tour of California did Mt Hamilton and Sierra Road on a 120 mile stage into San Jose. Those guys cannot be human.

The ride was worth it though. I finally got to tour the grounds and see the old telescopes: the 36 inch Great Lick Refractor and the 120 inch Shane Reflector. Elegant instruments, from a more civilized age…

The only time I’d been up there was 19 years ago, at night, when the place was closed to visitors. It was the first week that I was in California as a summer intern at Intel. I arrived with two other Canadian graduate students from MIT. We “Three Amigos” had just gone out for dinner with our manager when I caught sight of the domes reflecting the setting sun. I had the bright idea of driving up to the observatory, even though I had no idea how far away it was.

So the three of us piled into the rental car and I drove up the steep switchback road to the summit. It seemed to take hours, and when we finally arrived at the summit, there was nothing to see but “No trespassing” signs. On the way back down, I had to stop while poor John got sick on the side of the road. That was our first ill-advised adventure of the summer, and set the tone for the next few months…

Lick Observatory - Wikipedia
Lick Observatory - Wikipedia

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