Had a busy weekend, much of it spent in Oakland.
The Endgame RPG Flea Market. The weekend started with an RPG flea market at Endgame that I've been helping to advertise through RPGnet. My biggest challenge for me was actually getting the bins of books that I wanted to sell to Endgame. Fortunately, we've had a hand truck for a couple of years, so I just loaded them up at around 10am on Saturday and then started pushing my truck of games downtown to BART.
I've never used the elevators at BART, so that was the first part of the adventure. It turns out that they're set up purposefully inefficiently, for the most inconvenience to the disabled. You get on one elevator at the street and take that down to the "concourse" and then you walk a ways and take another elevator from the concourse down to the actual BART station. The idea is that you swipe your ticket in between the two elevators, and that split of the elevators might make sense if, say, one were in front of the BART gates and the other behind ... but instead they were just at random places in the station. And so my first experience with the BART elevators was lots of walking. I actually had to walk about 3 city blocks in Oakland to get from the bottom elevator to the top one, because one of their street elevators was out of order. And then I had to walk back those three blocks.
The other thing I learned: the elevator hallways and the elevators at BART smell of pee. Sometimes strongly.
And the third thing: it's easy to avoid paying for BART if you take the elevators. At least that's what the young lady who took the elevators with me at 12th Street and at Downtown Berkeley did.
The actual flea market was lightly attended, which was pretty much what we expected for a first event. We had four people selling things, and all told there was a pretty good amount of product. Buyers were supplemented by the Dresdacon III that was also running, so that was a plus. All told, I sold $75 worth of RPGs I didn't want, and immediately turned that around for a Pathfinder: Rise of the Runelords book. Maybe I'll run that someday when Kingmaker is done (though next I'm thinking of something besides 3e/Pathfinder). Perhaps more notably I traded several things for a variety of indie RPGs, which I think will help in writing new Designers & Dragons articles. The whole thing was really an RPG Swap slash Flea Market, and the Swap was probably the best part of the thing for me.
Looking forward to it again next year!
The Mormon Temple. After I got home, around 3pm, I decided to go for a bike ride up the hill, as part of my regular hill-climbing and exercise this year. I went up to Lake Temescal and from there somewhat spontaneously decided to keep going to Montclair (mostly because I wasn't tired, despite the 2 mile drag of ~50# of RPG books earlier in the day). When I got to Montclair, I decided to see if I could ride out to the Mormon Temple, which I see so often when I'm in the lowlands or across the Bay.
It turned out that the Temple was only about 1.5 miles on, on a pretty straight shot, so I headed over there. What I didn't realize because I was looking at things on my iPhone — rather than Google's more detailed maps online — was that those 1.5 miles included a lot of up and down. I did the whole ride, but the uphill got a little tiring. At least twice I thought about going back and I definitely decided that I'd never be doing this ride again, and then I made the turn over Highway 13, toward the Bay, and suddenly my breath caught in my throat ...
The Temple was off to my left, but it was the view that I found so astounding. You just cross the freeway, going over a rise as you do, and suddenly Oakland and the whole Bay and everything beyond is all spread out from you in an enormous vista. Totally beautiful, and I think one of the best views of the Bay around. After that the Temple was almost an anticlimax. It's a neat building and the grounds are beautiful (not that I went on them), but it may be more notable when seen from afar. What did surprise me was how full of life and activity the grounds were. I also found it a real contrast to the evil that the Mormon organization was doing in our state four years ago, when they were actively advocating putting bigotry and hatred into our state constitution.
Anywho, after that I rode down many steep streets, finally leveled off at MacArthur, skirted the top of Lake Merritt, then headed home. Ironically I got to within several blocks of Endgame where I'd been earlier that day. Total ride was 16 miles. I was out from about 3.30-6.00, but that was with a stop by Trader Joe's for burritos, cookies, heirloom tomatoes and a candy bar.
The Bicycling Oakland History Tour. This morning, Kimberly I headed back to Oakland for a bicycling history tour of Oakland, which was sponsored by the Oakland Museum. We got there at 10am for the ride, which also included the docent and 7 other people (most arranged into couples I was amused to see).
It turns out that the museum has something like 8 different bicycle tours that they do, covering Brooklyn, Fruitvale, Alameda, historic downtown, and who knows what else. Today's tour was the Lake Merritt tour, which means that we basically did a big circle of the Lake.
We stopped at lots of interesting places.
One of the first particularly neat places we saw was the old masonic Scottish Rite Center, just past the southwest corner of the Lake. It's a slightly weird building with neat stained glass highlighting various religions that were welcomed by the center. So, one window had a Star of David, another a cross, and another a celtic cross. Kinda cool. But what astounded me was that the place is now a mosque. Our docent said they have blankets over those stained glass windows on the inside, but that they've (thus far) opted not to take them down.
(There's a newer Scottish Rite Center which is large and visible from the Lake.)
The next place that really caught my idea was the Whole Foods northwest of the Lake. Turns out that it used to be a power generation building for the trolleys that ran from Oakland to Berkeley. Amusingly, the excess heat was used to heat some public baths nearby. Apparently there are some pictures inside which I'll have to check out at some point. Our docent also explained that the trolleys were the reason that streets like Telegraph and Shattuck break the Berkeley-Oakland street grid. Telegraph branches off of Broadway at a 20-degree angle or so, then Shattuck branches off of Telegraph. It's all because the streetcars couldn't make sharp turns!
We spent quite a while in the Lakeside Park at the north end of Lake Merritt, where our docent took us through the gardens and showed us many neat features. The Dawn Redwoods were cool; they have leaves that look a lot like Redwoods, but they were thought extinct (and only existed in fossils) until they were rediscovered during World War II. The trunks are also very cool because they twist as they go up. All around neat. The rest of the gardens including a bonsai garden and a Japanese Tea Garden were all very attractive too. Now I know to go here if I opt to read at Lake Merritt rather than at the bird sanctuary (where I have read before).
We rode around the rest of the Lake pretty quickly. The Cleveland Cascade east of the Lake was particularly cool. It's a big set of stairways in the hillside that once upon a time had water running down the middle. Still stunning today. The coolest part of the story was that it was totally overgrown and lost in the '50s until rediscovered sometime afterward.
We saw the old Kaiser convention center on the south of Lake Merritt, which is a woefully ignored space, and then it was back to downtown proper (and once more within several blocks of Endgame). After the tour, Kimberly took us out to lunch at Spice Money, and then we biked home.
The tour was cool, the docent was great (very knowledgeable about a variety of topics), and we'll definitely be going back for some of those other tours in the future, if we can figure out which tours they're doing when.
I was planning to do some writing (Designers & Dragons) and programming (Armorica) this afternoon, but after a little bit of Designers research and a bit of recreational reading, I fell asleep. Well, I guess a nap was in order after two early mornings and two days of busy activity.