Coffeeneuring 2018 Ride 1: Queen of de Niles

Sunday, October 14, 2018  / 10 miles /

Ever see Charlie Chaplin in “The Tramp”? It was filmed in the little town of Niles, California in 1915. Niles was Hollywood before there was Hollywood thanks to Essanay Film Manufacturing Company opening an operation where the weather was more favorable than Chicago. Starting in 1912 lots of the Broncho BIlly westerns were filmed here also, starring the A of Essanay, Gilbert Anderson, who is considered the first big star of westerns. Essanay only lasted 10 years but launched film or film-related careers of other future stars such as Gloria Swanson, Wallace Beery, and even Louella Parsons, who sold them a screenplay before her gossip career began.

Niles is now incorporated into the city of Fremont, but it still has its own distinct downtown. There are lots of nice little houses and cottages there that are getting fixed up. There’s a restored railroad that has short rides. There is a silent film museum and assorted Broncho Billy and Chaplin doodads around town. The wife and I have gone there for a Sunday drive many times. By bike you can get there easily on the Alameda Creek Regional Trail.

My Beautiful Wife (MBW) and I drove across San Francisco Bay to Coyote Hills Regional Park where she could do some fall migration birding while I rode the Alameda Creek Trail the 10 or so miles to Niles.

Nice start from Coyote Hills Regional Park, overlooking a marsh. San Francisco Bay is the other side of the Coyote Hills, which are to my back.
Now we’re on the Alameda Creek Trail. That’s the creek over there on the left. Really. The trail is atop the levee that guides this Wild and Scenic [sic] Creek.
Lots of little dipsy-dos under arterial roads and freeways.
GOAT and goat. The water district had three herds of goats chomping on the vegetation in the creek.
I’ve switched to the other, unpaved, side to head into Niles because it’s easier to get into town from this side. The trail gets less scenic as you get to the head of the trail. But the mountains are nice. Good setting for westerns.

I stopped at the Niles Community Park to figure out a place to meet MBW and where coffeeneuring can officially occur. I found Devout Coffee on Niles Blvd. Right down the street from the silent movie museum but hmmm right next door to the biker bar. MBW and I exchanged texts and I wandered around town on my way to the coffee house.

Nicely redone, eh?
Great little cottages in this town. Lots of untoward goings-on during the silent film studio days, I hear.
The old something-or-other and the jail next door. Or was it a strong room?
Don’t see many of these so obviously advertised these days.
Quonset hut home, anybody?
Those were the days.
Niles on the hillside, the devil’s workshop on the main drag.
All that’s left of the Essanay Studios is this museum. And a few Charlie Chaplin and Broncho Billy references here and there.
a row of Harley Davidson motorcycles
Pokey fits right in with the biker bar clientele next door to the cafe. The owner of the red Harley in the foreground had a few tips for me: “Make sure you stop traffic when you back in and nod politely to everyone you hold up…. When you leave make sure you peel out and make a lot of noise.”

The coffee shop was so different from what I was expecting. Very sleek. And full of Silicon Valley types although a group of coffee-swilling bikers were hanging out in the back. We could only get our espresso drinks made in a certain way, with double shots. We didn’t want even decaf coffee that strong. I couldn’t understand the process that made them do it their special way despite the explanation. Turned out to be good though, and good pastries that were not your Costco specials.

Devout Coffee is soooo hipster. But it is secure enough in its hipness to be right next door to a biker bar.
two coffees, a scone and a bicycle helmet
Proof of coffeeneuring: MBW met me at the cafe where we had a good espresso drink and a darn good buckwheat black raspberry scone.

Edit: I’ve been falling down a rabbit hole following more about Chaplin and Broncho Billy and silent films. This was interesting, about the moment at the end of The Tramp that the Tramp became The Tramp, and where it was filmed in Niles Canyon:

tricycle tricycle tricycle I want to ride my tricycle tricycle tricycle I want to ride my tricycle I want to ride my trike I want to ride my tricycle I want to ride it where I like (And I like to ride my bicycle too)

11 response to "Coffeeneuring 2018 Ride 1: Queen of de Niles"

  1. By: Suzanne Posted: October 16, 2018

    What a nostalgic place!
    I love that – make sure you peel out and make a lot of nice. I’m going to try that next time.

    • By: NancyG Posted: October 17, 2018

      I want to be there when that happens. ;’-)

    • By: Kathleen Jones Posted: October 18, 2018

      Yeah, I want to see that too, Suzanne. And I especially want to hear you peeling out on your e-bike.

  2. By: Rich-Illinois Posted: October 17, 2018

    Niles is a fascinating place, the motion picture museum particularly — didnt realize Chicago was once the motion picture capital.
    Enjoyed the photos of Niles and the bicycle trail — Thanks!

    • By: Kathleen Jones Posted: October 18, 2018

      Thanks, Rich. It’s a nice little place in that canyon. Not far away though … tract homes. It’s a little island.

    • By: Kathleen Jones Posted: October 18, 2018

      More things start in Chicago than some are willing to tell ….

  3. By: Lah Posted: October 17, 2018

    Wow! Thanks for the interesting background information. I knew nothing about Niles. Hope you weren’t tailed by the local P.I. while you were there. One thing great about our bicycles is they can’t peel out and they are so much quieter than motorcycles. Looks like you had a very enjoyable time.

    • By: Kathleen Jones Posted: October 18, 2018

      I shook off that guy no problem. Happens to me all the time.

  4. By: NancyG Posted: October 17, 2018

    Something learned. I did not know about the town of Niles nor any pre-Hollywood history of film. Very interesting Kathleen. Thanks for the story. Nice trip through the town.

    • By: Kathleen Jones Posted: October 18, 2018

      Thanks, Nancy. I learn something new about that place every time I visit.

  5. By: Tony Cullimore Posted: October 19, 2018

    I liked the way your ride blended in with the bikes. Surprised it wasn’t “r-ejected” as an upstart wannabe.

    What an interesting town. I can see you are enjoying getting away from your normal trails. Coffeeneuring is great – makes you do the new.

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