Quirky Silicon Valley Hobbies

Due to the amazing multicultural mix in Silicon Valley, it has been hard to order or quantify specific quirky endeavors, sports and hobbies for this page. However, these activities seem to be tops in terms of area participation:
  • The San Jose Giants, the Sharks and the 49'er's, not necessarily in that order. Despite the ongoing controversy over Levi Stadium parking and traffic in Santa Clara, Silicon Valley residents love their local sports teams. (Plus, where else can a local girl scout troop sleepover at a major sports arena be pre-empted by a Beyonce' concert, or where returning residents may read giant NFL play-by-play screens as they land at our local airport? Despite the fact that many of us can't afford tickets, our Valley enjoys an amazing level of sports philanthropy and comittment from all of the above organizations, which benefits our local kids month after month. A win-win all around.
Link to: The San Jose' Giants  - San Jose Sharks - San Francisco 49'ers
Levi Stadium (Wikipedia Commons)

  • Bocce and wineries have been close companions in California for many years, with some Wine Country and Monterey/Santa Cruz venues referred to as "Bocce Wineries." Bocce, the Italian version of Boules (the "rolled" form of Petanque) is played by rolling a small wooden pallino ball (also called a "Jack") down a rectangular pit covered with ground oyster shells (or in some cases, artificial turf). Two opponents (or teams) then toss larger green and red wooden balls ("boules") to try to get closest to the pallino and knock opponents' boules away. The player (or team) with a boule closest to the pallino, wins. 
Locally, Campo Di Bocce hosts the largest number of indoor Bocce courts in the area and has been home to California tournaments, although many area cities are adding outdoor Bocce courts due to the game's local popularity. City park Bocce sites are still difficult to find online (Santa Clara Country Parks does not offer a "Find a park" with Bocce as a "By Activity" option, sadly), however Backesto Park in San Jose now has a newly renovated oyster shell Bocce court which has been the home for tournaments, and the City of San Jose has courts in a number of their parks, if you search by "Bocce" on their Web site.

  • Cycling (including indoor spinning and outdoor spandex-wearing team events) aka: "the new Silicon Valley form of golf," plus newer community cycling groups which promote themed, monthly night rides and bike charity team events for corporate groups, as well as mapped recreational rides for adults and families:
    • One the largest groups for recreational group rides and commute cyclists is SF2G, started by Google employee, Scott Crosby in 2005, who designed the group to create a "posse" for Google, nVidia, Apple, Facebook, and other high tech employees who wanted to ride from homes in San Francisco and the Peninsula, to jobs in Silicon Valley. The group claims to be more virtual, with an active email list for both commute group assemblage and organizing more recreational weekend rides with routes offered online.
    • A second group, San Jose Bike Party, meets on the third Friday of the month at 8 p.m. and tours the Valley with planned routes, sometimes in costume or by theme, and often including visits to area food trucks. This group also does some evening charity rides, plus a few rides for kids and parents on Sunday mornings.  The club now has between 2,000 to 4,000 riders participating in night events, with approximately 100 volunteers helping to organize each event.
    • Peninsula Bike Rides offers similar themed night bike rides on the 4th Friday of every month in the Mountain View, Palo Alto and San Mateo areas.
    • TurningWheelsforKids.org is a wonderful group which holds free bike repair clinics, offers "Bike Build" events for area corporate employees, and donates new bikes to Bay Area and Valley kids.

  • Dance: Ballroom, Club, Swing, historic and ethnic dance is very popular here and the Valley is home to many dance classes and dance events, both for kids and adults. Special groups include those which focus on learning Hula, celebrating Bollywood, and vintage dance lessons and attire for Art Deco and Swing period music events, as well as historic balls celebrating the era of early French royal courts, the Renaissance, Scottish balls, and English Country Dance. (see my Dance Page for more in depth coverage of dance events, period costumers and guilds, as well as the Historic Re-enactment section which follows below.

  • Oeil de Perdrix ("Eye of the Partridge") refers to the pale rose color of partridge eyes and oddly enough, pink foot corns, in French. The term also refers to a delicate blush wine which originated in the Champagne region of France, as Middle Age vintners struggled to create white wine from red grapes, to better compete with Burgundian wines which were popular with the French royal court.  (Benedictine Monk Dom Perignon would later perfect a white wine from red grapes, creating a sparkling wine which would become known simply as, "Champagne.")
The first California Oeil de Perdrix-style wine was developed accidentally from Zinfandel grapes in a 1975 "stuck" fermentation at Sutter Home Winery. Since Sutter Home winemaker Bob Trinchero was not allowed to call his accidental blush wine, simply, Oeil de Perdrix by the ATF, he called his wine, "White Zinfandel," which became a tremendous commercial success.

Because of the versatile quality of today's dryer, contemporary Oeil de Perdrix-style California blush wines and their lower alcohol content, they seem to be enjoying a resurgence in Silicon Valley and around the state. Learn more about these unique wines at: https://winemakermag.com/29-a-rose-by-any-other-name (I disagree with the author, however. Many contemporary Oeil de Perdrix-style wines are well balanced and dry, with a fruity nose.) Ask to taste a balanced Oeil de Perdrix-style wine at your local wine bar or seek out the professional sommelier at your local Whole Foods' wine department for recommended blush wines.

  •  Food Trucks seem quietly huge in Silicon Valley. Roaming Hunger provides a link to San Jose food trucks and their locations, both in real time on the Web and via apps. San Francisco's Off the Grid holds a weekly food truck festival in the parking lot at the Cupertino Whole Foods market on Tuesdays from 5-9 p.m., plus similar events in Sunnyvale and Menlo Park locations. 

  • Historic, Military and Re-enactment Groups (see my Dance Page also.) I recently heard of one Society for Creative Anachronism West Kingdom group who decided to host an indoor croquet party in Steam punk attire at an IOOF hall in Mountain View last year, which seemed like a fun idea which I hope they will repeat this year.
The largest historic re-enactment groups linked to Silicon Valley 
are the above SCA/WK group, Principality of the Mists and their POM Santa Clara regional groups.
The American Civil War Association, the Period Events and Entertainments Recreation Society or PEERS (know for their formal balls), and the large Art Deco Society of California, which has Swing era events in San Francisco, Oakland and areas South , are also very active in SV. PEERS has a Links page with more historic re-enactment groups related to dance and performance guilds.
There are also older military, antique plane, motorcycle and single-stroke engine aficionados here, commemorating platoons and specific military units who served in foreign and North American conflicts, as well as the transportation used during those ongoing conflicts. The Military Vehicles Collectors are one such group which holds shows in San Jose's History Park (generally in August). MilitaryBikers.org also host local rides and events for bikers and historic bike collectors in our region.

  • Home Wine Making Clubs and Domestic Vineyards are quietly active in the Valley, as many homeowners with acreage convert part of their home property to small vineyards for California's Fruit and Nut Tree and Grapevine Property Tax exemption, or purchase grapes from commercial vineyards in the region, for home crushing and vinification. 
Domestic (and historic) vineyards are particularly visible along the hillside regions of Los Gatos, Monte Sereno, Cupertino and Saratoga, and can be viewed in the agricultural regions surrounding Gilroy, Morgan Hill and San Martin. The Watsonville Road drive to Hecker Pass/Highway 152 has some lovely, rural wineries and vineyard acreage listed on the Santa Clara Valley Wine Trail. Santa Clara Valley Wineries also provides a helpful online map of the region on their Web site.
The Santa Cruz Mountain Winegrowers Association also lists urban and rural wineries within the 840-mile Santa Cruz Mountain AVA, which includes the Santa Clara Valley region, plus wineries between San Francisco and Monterrey. They provide a passport program for tastings and passport events. (Some estate vineyards will sell grapes to home wine makers.)
Fermentation Solutions in Campbell is a hub for many home wine producers, offering advice for new winemakers, rental crushers, bottling systems, how-to books and other supplies, along with home brewing supplies. The staff is well versed on the Silicon Valley region with the ability to connect newcomers with regional home wine making clubs, since clubs can be difficult to impossible to locate online. The store hosts an annual Harvest Party and Pot Luck dinner where customers may taste other home winemakers' vintages and share harvest stories.
Wine Maker Magazine hosts an annual international competition for home winemakers on the East Coast, as well as an annual home wine making conference in the Napa/Sonoma area, offering conference seminars for new and experienced home winemakers. Their online magazine site is a good source for free wine making tips and locating home winemaker clubs, although their club search tool was not working at this writing (yet clubs in all states are still visible for scrolling, although frustratingly, not in any particular order by state.)
(Comment: With the strong interest in home wine making and home vineyards in the Silicon Valley region, hopefully a Silicon Valley Home Winemaker's Association and Web site will be created soon, so area clubs are more accessible to newcomers. CDA)

  • Petanque (also called Boules or Lawn Bowling) like its cousin, Bocce, is popular in Silicon Valley, yet uses larger and heavier steel balls (boules), plus a smaller wooden cochonnet (target ball) than the pallino used in Bocce. Unlike Bocce, which rolls all boules, Petanque boules are tossed. 
The game is a simple one: draw a circle and stand in it, then toss a small wooden ball (the "chochonnet") anywhere that is relatively flat in your yard, or in a park. Two or more players will then stand in the circle you made and alternately toss steel balls (boules, usually around 71-73 mm) to see who can get closest to the cochonnet (or knock opponent's boules further from the cochonnet), to win points.
Monte Sereno and Saratoga combined forces to add a Petanque area to one of their bordering parks, due to the growing popularity of this sport among all ages, however, the game is designed to be played (literally) anywhere outdoors or indoors with a solid surface (there are soft sets which will not mar indoor floors), so courts are optional. There is a very active San Jose Lawn Bowls Club in Willow Glen, plus La Boule Joyeuse, an active Petanque club in Menlo Park. The Federation of Petanque America has more information about play rules and locating clubs, on their Web site.


  • Microbrewery and home brewing groups, plus brewing education and tasting events are also very popular here. Whole Foods in Cupertino is rumored to be remodeling in Fall 2014, to create an new focus on micro-brewing supplies, education and a new micro-brew bar, in the front of the store. 
    The Silicon Valley Sudzers hold monthly meetings to talk home brewing and taste beers, and Whole Foods has a dedicated home brewing team.
    The annual Silicon Valley Beer Week event is held at beer-centric restaurants and microbreweries in the valley. A Beer Week Venues page shows area eateries and brewers devoted to craft beers, yet does not mention Gordon Biersch, which hosts KraftBrew Summer Fest early every August at its brewery on Taylor Street View: "Explores extreme environments, remote locations, and uncharted worlds. We conduct applied research in computer vision, geospatial data systems, human-robot interaction, planetary mapping and robot software."
IEEE SCV RAS Chapter:  "IEEE Robotics and Automation Society – Santa Clara Valley (SCV) Chapter. SCV Chapter is the Joint chapter for Santa Clara Valley(SCV), Oakland East Bay(OED) and San Francisco(SF)."
Silicon Valley Robotics: Hosts the annual Robot Block Party in Palo Alto, provides mentors, a robotics directory and advances robotics as a profession. 
Hobby Clubs and Entertainment: 
HomeBrew Robotics Club: "HBRC members have a range of expertise in robotics that includes beginners, experienced amateurs and professionals. There are no age restrictions, so if you have an interest in the field of robotics, please join us." http://www.hbrobotics.org/
Robot Film Festival: Robots featured in film and live performance, with awards. Video Archives of past films are provided online. Films are judged by notables from the Robotics entertainment industry. (Screenings are found around the country and were located in San Francisco this year, with some local robotics club members attending.)
Student Groups and Student Mentors: 
LEGO, VEX and FIRST Robotics teams, advisers and competitions are very active here, most likely because we have more engineers and fabricators to act as advisers to elementary and high school students in our region.
  • Some teams use VEX Robotics educational kits for elementary, middle and high schools, and participate in VEX competitions.
  • National robotics competitions, where some of our local teams compete, may be found at RobotEvents.com

  • Ukulele Groups are pleasantly ubiquitous in Silicon Valley.  Ukulele Source, owned by Smiley and Janet Kai is the hub for instruments and supplies for the many area ukulele clubs and groups who jam and teach newcomers soprano, tenor and concert ukulele, for free in the valley. 
The most accessible of those groups, the San Jose Ukulele Club, also offers Song Books and many downloadable songs for free (for educational purposes) along with free lessons, plus a free syllabus with tips for new ukulele players.

The Silicon Valley Ukulele Club is also very active for more experienced ukulele players. SVUC lists a subgroup which meets at the NASA Ames Lab for a Tuesday 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. jam session.

For those who want a more Hawaiian "sand in your toes" ukulele experience, Sons of the Beach (a subset of the Santa Cruz Ukulele Club) gather to play their ukuleles each Saturday from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. (plus Wednesdays at 5:30 p.m.) on the beach terrace behind Kinde Grinde (near the Crow's Nest) at the Santa Cruz Yacht Harbor.

---Catherine Alexander Bright, SiliconValleyLibrarian.org