To the Spaceship

July 29, 2018  /  22 miles

I decided to play tourist for a day by heading over to the new Apple campus called Apple Park. Some call it the spaceship. Or a halo. It’s pretty famous around these parts if you’re a techie or a Macolyte. I figured I could ride around the campus on nice quiet Sunday morning. I mean, I knew I wouldn’t be able to get on the campus itself due to security, but I thought I’d be able to see the main building and just have a nice suburban ride.

I noticed when researching the route that there’s a visitor center. I thought it was for people checking in for meetings and such, and that it was probably closed on a Sunday. It was across the street from the campus along with some other Apple office buildings.

And we’re off! Beautiful suburban riding. The best Silicon Valley has to offer. Well, my town is a bit of all right. The other two I visited I never really cottoned to as a place to live.
Busy day on the bike path. It’s a lovely Sunday.
Here’s a different bike bridge over a freeway.
We seem to have come to a fashion dividing line. Either you’re a cashmere type, or you’re out. We don’t mess around in Silicon Valley.
We’re through the worst of the suburbia and across the street on the right is the first glimpse of Apple Park.
But first, some history! An old thing! In the background is the Glendenning Barn, something that was built in a previous millenium.
More on the Glendenning Barn. After the agricultural history, a lot of Silicon Valley history here: Varian Associates, HP, now Apple.
My first glimpse of the spaceship is through the trees.

When I got to the campus I turned into the empty lot across the street and stopped for a snack. It was a warm day and the shade of the trees was welcome. A guy in a security car drove by me slowly, giving me a friendly wave.

I stopped for a snack at this parking lot at the closed-for-the-weekend visitor center. It was one of my best views of the building.

While I was munching my apple (ha!) I noticed that there seemed to be a lot of activity in the next parcel. I couldn’t see clearly because of various types of vegetation. As far as I remembered it was a condo development near those buildings. Busy place, I thought. My phone had locked up so I couldn’t check the online map for a bit. When I did, I saw that I was actually not where I thought I was. The visitor center was next door. Oh.

I was wrong about a quiet Sunday in an office park. Oh so wrong. That visitor center is a destination. A mecca. A tour bus heaven. The visitor center was teeming with people. I was glad I was on my bike because then I didn’t have to circle the parking lot looking for a spot.

Oh. I wasn’t really at the visitor center. I went next door and I parked my bike. I still didn’t see the building properly, but I could suddenly make out that there were lots of people over there.
Like lots of people. In a very Apple-design-gestalt building.
Like, tour buses full of people.

I was gobsmacked by how wrong I was. I mean, I was really surprised. I could not get over it. I walked around with my mouth hanging open.

It’s very cool building, actually. It’s also very Apple. Well designed with its usual attention to detail.

The main attraction is a model of the campus but it has no detail, it’s blank, grey. I was laughing to myself at all the people taking photos of the model with their iPads. Then I looked closer. The iPads were inscribed with the Apple logo and the word “Park.” And I looked closer still. The iPads have a VR app so you can tour the campus virtually. Ooooh. So that’s what the line is for. Well, I’m not a line person so I moved on.

I saw this cool monochrome model of the campus. I chuckled to myself at the people taking photos of the model with their iPads. But then I looked closer.

I learned that the model takes up about a third of the ground floor. The store takes up the middle. The cafe takes up the rest. Of course there’s a store. All the cool Apple products. You can even get Apple Park t-shirts etc. In the cafe I went for the $5 latte to have the complete experience. Apple Pay or credit card, no cash. I don’t know who designed the tables and chairs but I even loved them too.

I sprang for the $5 latte and used my Mildred alias at the cafe.

The second story has a seating area and gives you another view of the halo across the street. Of course you can’t get into the campus itself unless you’re an employee, so that’s the best you can see it unless you do the iPad thing.

When I went back downstairs I saw the line for the model was much shorter since a couple of tour buses had loaded up and left. I decided to line up. There was an amazing amount of staff. One gal was in charge of herding the lines, one person was at the head of the line with a stack of iPads, one person walked me over to the model then handed off me and an iPad to another person who explained how to use the app. The app was pretty cool. If you swipe up you can pop the roof to see the office and cubicle layout. There’s a time slider so you can see the campus at different times of the day and night, and with animated traffic. You walk around the table to view different parts of the campus.

Here’s a taste of what it’s like to see the campus using the iPad. At night the ring glows.
When you swipe up the roof lifts and you can see the office configuration.
They even have the Glendenning Barn! If you swipe up, the barn floats upward to reveal a little surprise: a cow and some hay bales.

In addition to the seven or eight staff at the model, there was the usual crowd of people in Apple T-shirts in the store. There was lots of security, including watching people leave the doors near the model to make sure the iPads didn’t leave too. There was janitorial staff busily cleaning the glass doors over and over again as visitors came and went. I talked to one staffer about how amazed I was; she said it’s had been like that since the place opened last November. All the staff were suspiciously cheerful, as if they lived to help people love Apple. I wanted what they were on.

I took a pleasant way home, laughing almost all the way about how wrong I was about a quiet Sunday near Apple.

aerial view of the Apple Park campus showing the ring building.
A snippet of my route. You can see where I first stopped, thinking I was at the visitor center. For scale, the tiny rectangular objects top and right edges are single family homes. Yes, we crowd them in in this part of California but really…. The two oblong buildings on the lower part of the photo are parking garages. They are built right up to a freeway. They are enormous. I think I read that 10,000 people can work at Apple Park.

12 response to "To the Spaceship"

    • By: Kathleen Jones Posted: August 23, 2018

      Thanks, Bill. That was the first time I used Mildred. Usually it’s Your Majesty.

  1. By: Lednar De Nalloh Posted: August 22, 2018

    Wow..Is Apple now a religion and followers are bused in to worship at the high temple of holy roundness?
    Very interesting ride. US$5 for a coffee, I think you now hold the Cyclelife record.

    • By: Kathleen Jones Posted: August 23, 2018

      I prefer to think of Apple as my lord and savior. Definitely not a cult. And $5 is nuthin for a latte in these parts, really.

  2. By: Scooter Posted: August 22, 2018

    Thanks for taking us on this great tour, Kathleen. What a symbol for our society – I wonder if archeologists will find it millennia from now and wonder what it was all about. Can you see it from space? And do you know why it’s in the shape of a circle instead of an apple?

    • By: Kathleen Jones Posted: August 23, 2018

      I wouldn’t be surprised if you could see if from space. I don’t know why it’s a ring but Steve Jobs wanted it and it got started through the planning process just before he died.

  3. By: Suzanne Posted: August 22, 2018

    So nice to see a post from you again, Kathleen! Great insight into Apple antics! I would have loved the iPad views of the campus, too.

    • By: Kathleen Jones Posted: August 23, 2018

      Thanks, Suzanne. Yes, the VR was very interesting. So well done.

    • By: Kathleen Jones Posted: August 24, 2018

      You’re welcome!

  4. By: The Navigator Posted: August 23, 2018

    Great to see you riding and writing, Kathleen! All that tech stuff seems so foreign to us country-folk 😉

    There has been a big furore over here about the VIC government giving Apple the green light to tear down a building (just built in 2002) in the main public square in Melbourne and build a flagship Apple store. Many people see it as an intrusion of corporate business on a public space and feel appalled that something like that would be given approval in a beloved public space. They’ve just given it an ‘interim heritage protection order’… so the saga continues.

    • By: Kathleen Jones Posted: August 24, 2018

      Hi Em,

      That’s a really interesting conundrum. I have to say that I’ve usually liked the Apple stores that have replaced non-descript buildings, and they’ve always drawn a lot of people which enlivens surrounding businesses. On the face of it a 2002 building doesn’t sound necessarily worth keeping (getting used to that sort of thing in my neck of the woods – Microsoft just rebuilt their whole Silicon Valley campus near me and those buildings were just about that old). There were no photos of the building that I could see in either article so I just don’t know. But people are not happy, so I’m glad Federation Square gets at least temporary heritage protection until people figure things out. Good luck, Victorians!

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