Trip distance: 8.4 mi (cycle), 6.9 mi (car)
Time to reach: 1 hr 5 min (walk / LRT (VTA train) / walk), 44 min (cycle), 12 min (car)
Round trip cost: $4
About the Class and Studio
Address: 1042, Park Avenue, San Jose, CA 95126 (SJ Downtown)
Bike parking availability: None
Class schedule: Mon/Tues/Thurs: 7:00-8:00 PM, Sat: 9:00-10:00 AM
Fee: $10 for dropping in(first class is free); $50 for 5 classes (1 class is free); $100 for 10 classes (3 classes are free)
Studio: Large wooden floor hall. Mirror on the long wall. Well ventilated. Single restroom (separate for men and women) that doubles up as changing room as well.
Context: After much research on places near and far, accessible by reasonable means and within reasonable duration, I zeroed in on Elite Ballroom where Joe Valderrama conducts Zumba classes. His fitness classes have excellent reviews on Yelp, each one with a rating of 5/5. So I just had to try this out.
Commute to the dance studio:
1. 23 minutes: I walked to the Orchard Station.
2. 33 minutes: The train arrived just as I reached the station. In fact, I had to jog a bit to swipe my Clipper card and be ready to board the train in time.
These 30 minutes in the train were the most harrowing. First, a couple sitting a few seats ahead of me kept making out, audibly so. Second, the crowd hopping on the train kept getting weirder and weirder as we approached and entered deeper into downtown. I was getting more and more uncomfortable and feeling slightly scared too. There were other normal-looking people too traveling on the train, a lot of Indians returning from work, but nothing helped me relax. As if this was not enough, a stout, crazy-looking guy started singing very loudly. With his earplugs on, he seemed to be singing whatever he was listening to. He was insanely loud. He was crazy. I could see that the other passengers were freaking out too. One of the guys sitting in my row on the other side of the aisle clapped for the singer and mentioned that he sings everyday!! The words are different but he sings to the same tune. I was relieved when I got down at the Diridon Station.
3. 9 minutes: The walk from the station to the studio was short but the route had a lot of turns, so I had to keep looking at the map.
From the very fact that I was in downtown and with the sort of experience I had in the train, I was a little freaked out and on my guard. I was suspicious of everyone walking around. Nothing had actually happened! I was just psyching myself out. The area and type of houses and establishments were not giving me a lot of confidence. It just wasn’t the area and people I was used to.
Anyway, I realized that I had reached the studio an hour earlier and it was closed. I now had to look for a cafe where I could while away some time and sit and rest my legs that I was going to need for the dance workout. Thanks to smartphones and smartapps! Thanks to Foursquare! The nearest and known brand, Starbucks, was half a mile away, another 10 minutes walk. So I headed to it. More zig-zag route with several right and left turns. I ordered coffee and decided to change my clothes in the restroom at Starbucks. I was not sure if the dance studio would have a place to change and whether now I will have time for it there.
This time when I reached the studio back again, at 6:45 PM, it was thankfully open.
Zumba experience: I met Joe. He seemed like a nice guy. He answered all my questions and had me sign a waiver and the guest book. And then I just waited for the class to start.
The crowd composed mostly of women; well, all women. I didn’t see any guys, until when the class started, just one at that. A lot of girls were sitting on chairs lined up against the wall on the opposite side of the mirror. Many others were already sitting on the floor, reserving their place in the class for when the workout began. Some others had placed water bottles on the floor to hold a place for themselves.
Good that I had changed at Starbucks. The studio has a single restroom that doubles up as the changing room. With so many women folk, it would have been tough to get time to change and be ready in time. Everyone came in already dressed for the workout.
There were two of us who were first timers. Joe dimmed the light at the start of the class. I instantly liked the music and the steps. I tried to pick up a lot of steps. The energy was high. All the others seemed extremely good at following and remembering all the moves. There were two other girls who were up front and helping Joe in guiding us with the moves. But for me, it always seemed easier to follow what Joe was doing. I started getting a side stitch past the half session. I kept going as the energy was addictive and I was thoroughly enjoying myself. I had fun!
After the class, I ran to the restroom to change back into my jeans and T-shirt, a bit guilty of taking over the room for a good 5 minutes. But everyone had left by the time I came out. Guess everyone drives down and they don’t spend time here freshening up.
Commute back: It was night and dark and deserted. Of course it was. It was 8:10 PM. I started walking back to the station. Google Maps was telling me to take a different route and to go to a different station. I forced it to give me the same route that I had used to reach the place. Gosh! There was nothing to panic. Again I was psyching myself out. It was just that it was night-time and I was in an unknown neighborhood, with an earlier freak experience.
As I was walking down the sidewalk, I heard someone coming from behind, rather quickly. As the sound grew louder and closer, I got scared and turned back. Just a night runner! He actually apologized!! Probably, because of the look on my face. He switched to the road to pass me. Phew!
Reached the Diridon Station. Was glad to see a crowd waiting for the train. Checked the map. Checked the direction. The train came in soon enough. From a distance, I could read the destination label in red on the train — Mountain View Downtown. Correct, that’s the one I need to take. What!!! T F. It actually went on the other track to the opposite platform. What just happened??
Whatever did happen was a result of my stupidity. Why did I wait on the same platform on which I had gotten down earlier. I should have been on the other side for going in the reverse direction :-(.
I crossed the tracks to the other platform and waited for the next train, which was just a half-hour away :-(. Sandip was going to be picking me up at the River Oaks Station. He had already reached there and was freezing in the cold. Oh, this night was turning out to be so long. Thankfully, I had cooked before leaving for the class.