To San Jose – It’s Game Day!
I eventually find a place called Grace’s Table for breakfast, a place recommended by Steve, the wine tour guide. I have bacon & egg, fruit & juice plus coffee. It’s a bit expensive at $23 but then it is Napa. However it was good and fills me up for the day. I check out of the hotel and set off for the short drive to San Jose, about 100 miles or so. It’s a nice bright sunny day and there’s good scenery to start the journey as I travel along Highways 12, 121 and 37. I then turn onto Hwy 101 South. The scenery is still good as Hwy 101 winds its way through the mountains to the north of San Francisco.
I get glimpses of San Francisco Bay to the left as I get nearer to SF. The towers of the Golden Gate Bridge come into view in the distance, with more of San Francisco Bay and the city itself in the background. A great sight. The highway bears right again and then the towers are right in front of me in all their glory. After crossing the Bridge I’m in the heart of SF but I make a wrong turn off Hwy 101. I rectify the error and find my way onto Marina Boulevard. I stop at San Francisco Marina Yacht Harbor to stretch my legs for a few minutes before recommencing.
Over the Bay Bridge
Back driving along the shore, I’m heading towards the Bay Bridge, or the San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge to give it its full title. It’s turned into a bright, sunny and almost cloudless day – and it’s also hot again. I drive along The Embarcadero past all the various Piers in some heavy and slow moving traffic. Then its up I-180 E onto the Bridge. I’m going this way to San Jose rather than down Hwy 101 because I’ve never been over the Bay Bridge before. Or driven on I-880, whereas I’ve done Hwy 101 many, many times from my days when I used to travel to Silicon Valley on business.
On the initial part of the Bridge however I’m underneath a roadway and I can’t see anything of the Bay, which is disappointing. Soon after though, I think about halfway across, the Bridge changes into a side-by-side carriageway arrangement. After this I can see off to the right towards Oakland and down the San Francisco Bay for some good views. Onto I-880 S and suddenly there is loads of slow moving traffic as I head past (what was at the time) the Oakland Raiders stadium to my left.
I begin to wonder if I might be late. Thankfully though the road clears a few miles further on and I make good time, arriving at the Arena Hotel in San Jose just after 1 pm. The hotel has since closed. It’s been a good drive apart from some heavy traffic in SF and on I-880. After check-in at the hotel I pay my Golden Gate toll by phone. Soon after I head out at 2.15 pm to find the San Jose Diridon Light Rail station (VTA) for transport to Levi’s Stadium.
On The Train To Levi’s Stadium
I get a train ticket and the train arrives, but it’s quite slow going. There’s loads of Seahawks fans on board, as well as plenty of 49ers. The train pulls up at the stadium stop and I just follow the crowds towards the Stadium. However there’s heavy security with body scanners to get into the stadium and I don’t have my actual ticket yet. I have a Will Call ticket, which means I have to be escorted to the Ticket Office by a security guard. He takes me to the Office and thankfully all is in order. I am given my real ticket and I can now go inside!
It’s very busy inside already at 3.45 pm – kick off is 5.30 pm today – with loads of people milling around. I walk all the way around the stadium on the concourse level taking in the sights. I grab a beer and hot dog for a late lunch, take lots of photos and, frankly, I get a bit emotional at having made it there… My first ever visit to Levi’s Stadium. OK, it’s only a football stadium, but I think it’s amazing I’m here. I find the Levi’s 501 Club and go inside. It really is a ‘Club’. It’s a separate area inside the stadium with its own entrance, complete with numerous food and drink stands.
The air conditioning inside is well needed because the temperature has risen very high again. Whilst waiting at the train station I was boiling hot and it’s still very hot now. Despite the plethora of food and drink stands in the Club, at half-time I discover that there are still large queues. I chat to a hostess and discover the Club stays open for an hour after the game, serving food and drink. Talking later to a security guard, he tells me that the VTA runs until midnight. So I decide I’ll hang around after the game to have a beer and miss the post-game crush at the station.
49ers vs Seahawks
The game gets underway after the usual razzmatazz. It’s all a very impressive spectacle but the in-game announcer and music is way too loud, almost deafening. “Make some noise” we fans are exhorted to do, but it’s bloody noisy enough without us thank you. My seat is in a great position, which is about the best thing I can say about the game as the 49ers are unbelievably bad. Something is very wrong with this team this season and it’s not even a contest with the Seahawks.
A Seahawks fan near me is being extremely provocative towards the home fans and a few shouting matches break out over his goading of the locals. I’m concerned this might escalate into violence but at half-time he goes off somewhere. What an asshole. He’s asking for trouble, behaving like that. For whatever reason the dickhead doesn’t appear for the start of the second half, so thankfully any nastiness is avoided. He does eventually re-appear sometime in the 4th quarter but this time he keeps his mouth shut.
As the 2nd half gets underway my phone alarm sounds and I open up the British Airways app and do an online check-in for the flight home tomorrow. How cool is that? Boarding pass on the phone…
As the 3-20 rout of the 49ers develops the stadium starts to empty but I stay until the bitter end, by which time the place is pretty empty. Not a good sight. At the final whistle I grab a beer and another hot dog in the almost empty Levi’s Club. After about 30 minutes I leave to go to the VTA station. There’s no queue and a train turns up straight away, so I board with ease and even get a seat. Good plan Sir!
It’s about a 10 minute walk from the downtown station to the hotel and I’m back there just gone 10 pm. It’s been a good, even great day in places – apart, of course from the result…