The Silicon Valley probably has the densest concentration of geniuses in tech and internet businesses in the world. It is home to Microsoft, Apple, IBM, Google, or Tesla but also Stanford University and NASA.
We took a day of touring to scan the different campuses of those ruling the digital world. Only we must learn the hard way, that while the internet may be free and open to most, the headquarters of its "kings" are not.
First stop: Apple
Microsoft's successor is in the process of constructing a huge spaceship. While its first campus, the so-called Infinite Loop consists of rather square buildings, the Campus 2 in Cupertino is in fact an infinite loop. The circular construction stretches like a stadium on a 2.8m sq ft space. The ring itself is over a mile round and will host 13,000 employees.
When we attempted to get on site, we were stopped and asked to leave or else be accused of trespassing. Our media (and good people with at least 6 Apple products) status did not help and we did not dare fly our drone, which we acquired in an Apple store. Someone else did however.
Second stop: Facebook
Facebook, the social network that claims to have 1.6bn active users a month - we are among them, too - sits in the Silicon Valley as well. The company also likes to call its headquarters a campus and just added a new building along the lines of open exchange and creativity.
This time we got a little further in and curved the parking lot, which held an impressive number of electric vehicle charging stations and a sky blue bike share system. When we started to take pictures of the bikes and e-mobility facilities, we were stopped however. Security then gave us an email to contact Facebook's public relations but our urgent message was returned as failed delivery and we had to leave campus. A few pictures we took with us and would love to hear from the media people.
The internet giant has 20,000 employees sitting in Silicon Valley, that is almost half of its 55,000 workers worldwide. They camp in the Googleplex but smaller offices can be found all over Mountain View. As Google now also operates a testing programme with its own electric and autonomous cars, we could see those cruising around as well. They only drive 25 mph an hour and so we were able to chase one on our 20mph Haibike. Google operates a bike share as well but without motors.
Just before sunset we made it to Tesla in Fremont. The facility where they make electric cars, nowadays the Model S, Model X, and soon the Model 3, is a former production site of General Motors. It is huge but rather unspectacular from the outside as it is first and foremost a factory. Inside however, a most modern production line with red robots builds the luxurious electric cars.
We tried to get a factory tour in advance but as Tesla is just tuning the line for the new Model 3 it was impossible to schedule a meeting. We could however drive around and have a little photo and interview session without being interrupted by security.
Surprisingly, there were only few Superchargers to recharge a Tesla on-site, compared to the numerous gas guzzlers parked there.
Today was also the last day for me actively riding the e-bike tour with my fellow Pedelec Adventurers. It is '"Good-Bye" as Europe is calling and one of us has to make sure you stay up to date and to take care of media relations as the team turns towards the wilderness, where internet will be scarce.
Ride safe & travel happy, my friends! I will follow.