We Return to Our Home in the Bay Area
September 9, 2007

Mountain View, CA, Day Four in our Walton & Sons Masonry Yard.

Three months, 27 days in our bus.


Home! We made it safely back home! What is home? It isn’t just a house, obviously. That’s gone and yet I feel like I’ve come home. It’s home territory and friends at home. It’s calling friends, “I’m home!” It’s checking out my favorite haunts. It is knowing the easiest way to drive somewhere and the best restaurants and the best places to go find something you need to buy. It’s recognizing the light and the quality of air. For me, it is coolness — marine air — no 90 or 100+ degrees. We can go back to sleeping with our windows open and expect to get a cool breeze. It’s heavenly.

I grew up in California. I grew up below the Palos Verdes Peninsula and Rolling Hills. That’s what California is — rolling hills. I fell in love with them when I was a child. Along the coast from San Diego to San Francisco, California has a Mediterranean climate. There is a dry season and a rainy season. The two don’t cross over — but some rainy seasons don’t bring enough inches of rain and there are drought conditions. That means that during our drive south through California we saw the familiar burnt-out yellow-brown hills, the Wheatgrass, Oat-grass and Wild Rye, among others, mowed short to prevent fires. We are back into California oak savanna (live oak) and woodland (valley and black oak) country. The gigantic live oaks dot the rolling hills. In the distance they provide a green covering. Close up they are each a monumental individual spreading their tremendous limbs like a great round shade blanket over the parched earth.

Right now there is tremendous fire danger. But in another month or so, the rainy season will begin. After only one rain, the hills will change from burnt umber to a soft fuzzy green. Winter is our California summer. Winter is when the hills will be green.

I suffered from the heat while we were gone. I am used to a moderate climate. We didn’t have control over our travel plans for the summer. We picked up the bus in Huntsville, AL and then we went to see my brother in St. Augustine, FL because he was recovering from a heart attack. We spent three weeks in the northwest corner of Alabama to get repairs and additions put on the bus. Then we slowly made our way home through the plains states — and it was hot. The entire summer was spent indoors in A/C hiding from 97º heat. Next time I intend that we will have a plan. We will go north in the summer and south in the winter — I hope.

We left in our pickup truck to go pick up our bus last May 9th. So as of Sun. Sept. 9th, we had been gone from our home area for four months. And as of Sun. Sept. 16th we will have lived in our bus for four months. That seems like a long time to me. Meanwhile, we will be home for several months. We need to catch up on the mundane details of life — doctor’s appointments, eliminate more stuff from storage, repack the bus — and other duties.

I have been sick. At this point I can’t say whether it is caused by allergies or whether I caught a head cold. Sometimes I’ve even had a mild fever with chills. I have asthma. All this started as soon as we hit the west coast. It got worse in Eugene and much worse in Ashland. I have an appointment with my doctor on Monday so then I’ll find out what’s going on. Meanwhile I’ve lost sleep and I’m very tired.

We could have played it safe by going back on CA-20 west to I-5 and then south to 680, making our approach to the bay area on the east side. But we decided to take CA-20 north to Ukiah and then US-101 south. We crossed the Golden Gate Bridge with no trouble and we handled the stretch of 19th Ave. that leads us to I-280 without problems. We took the Palo Alto exit on Page Mill Road to El Camino, drove up Charleston Rd. and voila! We were home. We left at 9:30 am and we were in the masonry yard by 1:30 pm. Hurray, Dennis. You did it. We brought this bus home, safe and sound.

It hardly seemed possible that we were really back in our hometown. Dennis pulled into the masonry yard and stopped in front of the loading dock. Rudy was running the Pettibone. He stopped and came over to greet us. Our Operations Manager, Steve Montez, and his wife, our Secretary, Jenny Montez, came out to greet us. One by one they came out to admire the bus and take a peek at it even before we put out the slides. My old friend, Sylvia Gartner, our Office Manager, came out. Armando, our Estimator, came out. It was old home week. Everyone was amazed by the height and width and length of the bus. Photos don’t do it justice.

They had a surprise for us. In our masonry yard, a hook-up for 50-amp will be installed on Monday. Over the weekend we are running the generator for electric power but after Monday it will be just the same as when we are in an RV park.

After everyone left for the weekend we celebrated by going out to eat at our favorite local restaurant, the Fish Market, and I had my favorite dinner, trout with cole slaw and rice. We brought home an extra loaf of our favorite bread — sour dough. The availability of sour dough bread means we are at home in the San Francisco Bay Area, for sure.

There was still an overcast of smoke from the Morgan Hill fire but not too bad. The weather when we pulled in was typical for the bay area, a fresh marine breeze off the bay and 75º temperatures. What a pleasure. We slept with all the windows open that night and we weren’t hot.

For reasons that are a mystery to me, we had no Internet available in Corning, CA or at Clearlake, CA. So much for this computer savvy state! In Mountain View I caught up on my email and discovered a reminder from my son regarding a big party on Saturday.

Jeff is the manager of the Pigeon Point Lighthouse Hostel, operated by the Golden Gate Council of Hostelling International, a nonprofit membership organization. For half a year now he has been planning a 25th Anniversary Festival at the Pigeon Point Light Station State Historic Park. It was serendipity. I was home just in time to be able to attend. http://www.norcalhostels.org/news/p,3046/


On Saturday, we put on the generator and left the A/C on in case the dogs might get too hot and left them in the bus. I knew they wouldn’t enjoy the crowds at Pigeon Point. The festival was from 1 to 5 but I wanted to be there a little early so I could say hi to Jeff. It was a typical fall day by the beach, overcast in the morning and sunny in the afternoon — neither too hot nor too cold. The length of the hostel in front of the cottages had tables with displays and down towards the lookout point by the foghorn room was an entertainment area with some chairs set up.

Jeff did a great job. There was entertainment ranging from the Banana Slug String Band, and the San Francisco Scottish Fiddlers, to a Santa Cruz marimba band, Sadza, with dance music from Zimbabwe. There were lots of activities for children led by naturalists who belong to the Hostel Adventure Program and there were wonderful exhibits from California State Parks, the Peninsula Open Space Trust, the National Marine Sanctuaries and the Ano Nuevo State Reserve. Dennis and I enjoyed hotdogs and eyed the chocolate dipped strawberries and strawberry shortcake. We looked at the silent auction but didn’t bid on anything.

I was delighted to run into old friends. Jeff’s dad, Stan Parry, and his wife, Melinda, were there. I got to talk to my old friend, Chris Bell, an old buddy of Jeff’s from high school days. I ran into my old high school friend, Larry George, and his wife Elin. I hastily wrote to tell them about the festival and surprise — they didn’t have a plan for the day and came over from Livermore to attend the festival. What a terrific surprise to see them. We had a great time at the festival and it really felt like a homecoming celebration for me. www.calparks.org


Gail Swain’s “Full Spectrum” is available in stores now. Over twenty musicians and singers are on board to tap her “full spectrum” style of singing including folk, jazz, rock, classical, and original compositions.

After we left, Dennis and I drove a few more miles south on Hwy One to 2001 Rossi Road to take a look at a fairly new (well new to me, it was built in 1999) “eco adventure resort”, Costanoa. Now these people don’t even have the word resort in their name and yet they offer amenities such as a lodge, cabins and tent bungalows, in addition to an a modern RV park. There is a general store, bar & grill, and even a spa. There are very few RV parks available to us in the bay area so they are the only game in town by the coast and by RV standards, they are expensive — $50. per day during the week. But our stay here at the masonry is free so I think we could afford to go over to the coast once in a while. !   http://www.costanoa.com/site.php

Ohmigod! There’s a Starbucks immediately across the street from the masonry. This is big trouble. Sunday morning we walked over and got the first Venti nonfat lattes that we’ve had in many moons. We sat inside because the morning fog was still in. I treated myself to a Starbuck’s apple fritter and we were both just so happy to be able to go sit in a Starbucks. What a treat.

Dennis has been in this immediate area for ? years and in this particular building for ? years. When we started here, this part of Charleston was an empty road that led to an entrance on US-101, the Bayshore Freeway. There were empty fields around us. There were some office buildings and a Taco Bell. Then they built OHS (Orchard Hardware Supply) is two doors down from our building. Later they built Costco and a shopping center next to the freeway entrance. Last year Peninsula Building Materials put in a building across the street from us. And now — there’s a little shopping center just across the street with a Starbuck’s. The neighborhood has grown up around us. Now, the coup de grâce — immediately next door to the masonry they are opening a new Michaels store. Within walking distance! They could open any day and then Dennis is soooo in trouble. (Michaels is a fabulous, very large craft and hobby store. They have everything.)


For most of Sunday I stayed in bed and rested. I have very bad asthma. I cough all the time. Makes me tired. Dennis worked at his desk. In the afternoon we did a few errands and got the car washed. This is the first full service car wash we’ve seen since we left. Everything we’ve run across has been do-it-yourself. The Honda is clean again. We picked up some to-go from our favorite Chinese/Burmese restaurant, the Green Elephant Gourmet — light and delicious for someone who doesn’t feel well. I crawled back into bed.

I hope I feel better soon. Now that we’re in our home base, my To-Do list has suddenly built up again. I have appointments to make, errands to do and a few things to buy. Hmmm. Feels like home….

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