Living in the Walton Masonry Yard
November 5, 2007

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

Five months, 22 days in our bus.


Have you ever spent time in a commercially zoned area? Have you ever lived in a masonry yard? Have you ever lived on a half-acre of cement ground surrounded by construction equipment and materials?

Well no, I never had. And I wasn’t looking forward to it. Seemed like it would be ugly and noisy. That’s what I thought when I was still living in Los Altos and sitting on my pretty patio with a view of our wonderful garden.

But I’m a different person now. I’ve been living in a bus and looking at all sorts of views that were sometimes garden-like and sometimes not. We stayed in the Bankston RV sales lot (shades of gray and white). We stayed on the lawn of my brother’s Florida home (shades of green and blue). We stayed at the Allegro Campground (shades of gray). We stayed in crowded city RV parks (constricted views of the neighbor’s RV) and in spacious RV parks on the plains (views of dusty greens and browns). We were treated to some vistas of cliffs and rivers and shady green parks with massive trees.

Our private RV site at the masonry is situated on approximately a half acre of asphalt. Parked on the edge of the loading pit facing the fence that separates us from Michaels back parking lot, we face due east.

After we arrived we parked in the yard where there was already an electric outlet. The masonry had a regular RV campground 50 amp outlet installed and then a pipe was installed in the cleanout to bring it up to ground level for a place to use as a dump. Dennis has to back up from our parking place to the gate to the cleanout dumpsite by the building, so we put in the slides and do that as necessary.

My tolerance level has been stretched and pulled into a new shape. Thank goodness, for now I am free to be less fussy about my preferred environment. I was just happy to be back on home territory and surrounded by family and friends. And our new masonry yard home has surprised me. I love it. I don’t have green lawns or flowers but I have a huge space and a big sky. Yes, a big sky — with lots of stars. I have the gift of wide horizons and I can see sunrise and sunset all from this one position. At night I can see a much larger canvas painted with many more stars. It’s wonderful.

So often in a house in the suburbs our view of the sky is small. Sunrise and sunset are events that are blocked by neighbor’s trees and rooflines. My view of the sky in Los Altos was limited to a small patch straight overhead. In the early morning I had to move around the yard to catch a glimpse of stars and planets. From the patio over my neighbor’s fence by the side of his house I could see Venus in the east. From the far side of the lawn I could see the setting moon between two trees.

Is the masonry yard ugly? I guess it’s all in the eye of the beholder. I see the area as a series of sculptures and architectural structures. Perhaps because the space is wide the contents of the yard are all set off in fascinating patterns of shapes and forms. I like to look at them. We have a floor of gray asphalt but it is not a gray environment. The equipment and the masonry materials are colorful. The California sky and commercial buildings around us bear colorful shades of yellows and reds. I even have some small leafy green trees set about the new Michael’s back parking lot as well as the more distant palm trees lined up in front of the Costco building.

Is the masonry yard noisy? Well again I guess it’s all in the ear of the listener. I think it is surprisingly quiet. About mid-morning the workers and trucks are generally loaded up and gone to various jobs. Sometimes the Pettibone, a boom reach forklift, moves around the yard picking up pallets. Often the bobcat loads trucks or moves materials into or out of the warehouse.

Surprisingly, I find I like the company. I do my work in the bus and all around me men are doing their work. There is a great vibe. I feel their pride and sense of productivity and their comradeship. I hear them call to each other. We are 90% Hispanic so often I hear Spanish. These men seem happy. I hear them laugh and joke. One guy who drives the bobcat calls out “beep-beep, beep-beep” whenever he backs up the bobcat. It is his joke. Sometimes I hear phrases of songs. No one plays loud music on a boom box. That would disturb me. Dennis says they never do — whether we are here or not. What I hear is the normal sounds of equipment and the voices of working men and it seems very pleasant to me.

Each of our workers will wave to me as I walk into the warehouse or as I drive out of the yard. It reminds me of the southeast where we noticed that everyone waves and the environment is friendly. Rudy, the yard and warehouse manager also kids around with me and tells me to ask him if I need something to be carried from storage to the bus — or vice versa. He orders materials and schedules the truck drivers. I hear him calling in the morning, “Happy Monday.” He says he does it to bug the guys as they return from the weekend. But I like it and I know he is really saying, “Every day is a good day. Every minute is a good minute.” He’s a positive guy — a hard worker but also full of jokes and laughter. He imbues the yard with good energy.

Here at the masonry I am close to many conveniences. I’ve always lived in the suburbs. When I took a walk it was a scenic walk where I looked at neighboring houses and yards. To do errands I had to drive. I’ve never lived where I could walk-not-drive to do a few errands. I really like it. I am less than a five-minute walk from: OSH (Orchard Supply Hardware), Costco, Bed Bath & Beyond, REI, PetSmart, and Office Depot. If I want to pick up a snack I can walk to Starbucks or TacoBell or In&Out. Our masonry location gives me a remarkable sense of freedom. I can get my exercise and accomplish a few errands. It’s fun.

I particularly love Starbucks. I wake up early but Starbucks is ready for me. They open at five on weekdays and five-thirty on Sunday. Usually I make my own coffee but sometimes I feel restless. I dress and put Rudi on a leash. We sneak through the masonry and out the front lobby door. Rudi is thrilled to have me to himself and get an early run on all those bushes along the way. He hurries to mark everything that is important. I skip the traffic lights and we run across the empty boulevard. I put him on a table next to the window so he can see me inside. He’s well trained and not an anxious dog. I tie his leash and go inside. I put pastry and Venti Lattes into a small bag and carry it back to the bus for Dennis and me. Oh I do love this little early morning outing when few are about and the sky is fresh.

And then there’s Michaels. Call me superficial, but I am absolutely delighted to be living next to Michaels. I’ve bought a few small things but it’s not about the shopping. It’s about the creativity, the stimulation to my imagination, and the potential for all kinds of crafty projects. I just like knowing it is there — at my fingertips, so to speak.

Michael’s is a large presence because I am an early riser. I make my coffee and sit in my cab chair and pull the windshield curtains. I watch the sun rise over Costco — just beyond Michael’s back parking lot. This is like raising the curtains on a play. Because in the dim early morning light, just beyond our fence, I often find that a forty-footer truck backed up to Michael’s receiving bay. I see heads bobbing around in the bay and I hear the voices of those who carry the cartons off the truck and those who receive and decide where things go. I can hear the excitement of the woman who directs receiving. It feels like Christmas once a week or more. All those cartons — all that stuff! Later, if I go into Michaels, I see men and women in red aprons unpacking cartons piled up in the aisles. Shelves are always stuffed to the max — first the theme was Halloween. Now it’s Thanksgiving and Christmas.

While I make my coffee I let the dogs out to “go potty.” I don’t have to put them on a leash but they are trained to do their business quickly and return to the bus. I take a peak at the sky while the dogs sniff their favorite territories, the piles of dirt and sand and gravel. Then they come running back to the bus and I give them treats — broken bits of lamb or beef sticks. Then they chew on a Twistix or a Pork Chomp stick while I sip my coffee and watch the sunrise.

Of course the dogs love the masonry yard. For four months they were on a leash everywhere we went. They didn’t get to run about. We could only take them for walks on their extended leashes. They are young and they are fast and they love to run. We keep them in the bus during the day. But as soon as the gate is locked at three or four in the afternoon, they are free to come and go. They’ve explored every nook and cranny. They play hide and seek between the tall pallets of stacked bricks and blocks. They race around the yard in a huge circle, one chasing the other. They slide and skid on loose patches of dirt. They climb the mounds of dirt and sand and gravel. They dig or play King of the Mountain. They chase balls.

Metal scaffolding stacked up makes a marvelous maze. Rudi goes down the long “hall” and then comes back on a higher level. Margot follows. Piles of sand are irresistible. The dogs nearly disappear as they reduce a pile of white sand into a level beach.

If the dogs are outside and I want to drive the car out the gate, I have to put the dogs in the car to drive to the gate (or put them in the bus). Otherwise they might run under the wheels of the car. I open the gate, drive out and then put them back inside the yard as I shut the gate. If the dogs are out when I come home they hear the car and come running to the gate. I open the gate and let them jump into the car. Then I move it inside, shut the gate and drive the three of us to the bus. What a terrific welcome home greeting: two dogs running low to the ground, as fast as they can go, to meet me at the gate. I will miss that when we leave.

Sundays are very entertaining. The warehouse behind the masonry yard has been converted to a church. They have a big parking lot but they are overflowing on Sunday. They have permission to use most of the business parking lots around here. Our parking lot is full from about eight to three on Sundays. We had a problem with people blocking our gate but when the church security and traffic guards became aware they quickly took care of it with signs and red cones. We sit and watch the crowds along our fence come and go all day. On Halloween night they put up a stage in their parking lot and threw a big party with an outdoor band. The sound system was so powerful it bounced the sound off of our bay doors by the dock. Lucky thing I enjoyed their rock & roll dance music!

As this has been our home for two months, we have taken over various convenient nooks and crannies in the yard. On weekends I love to walk to Starbucks and back. I place our camp chairs in the pleasant warmth of the morning sun and take a few brick and make myself a footstool. We enjoy our lattes and pastries as we chat and survey our masonry kingdom.

Later in the day, after work hours when the gate is shut, shade is hard to find because the front door, the passenger side of the bus faces south. I could sit on the shady eastern driver side of the bus but that would be in a narrow alley between the bus and the dump truck with no outlook to enjoy. So I move our camp chairs about to take advantage of little triangles of shade created in corner stacks of brick or block. Brent has added to our little patio by setting up his new toy — a marvelous computer driven telescope. Brent also helped me to set up a worktable with metal A-frames and scaffolding planks so I could wash the dogs. We left it up and it makes a handy picnic table too!

Our friends are anxious to visit us and see our bus so we’ve hosted many visitors here in the yard. I collect photos of each visitor as we proudly show off the technological wonders of our amazing coach-home. Of course they marvel at the beauty of our real cherry wood cabinets and limestone floors as well as the comfort of our cab chairs and couch and the amazing amount of space that we are able to enjoy.

In our Los Altos house I used to hold playdates for Coton dog owners. On a smaller scale I’ve returned to this tradition with my friend Ron Hiskes, a Coton de Tulear breeder. Ron, the breeder of Rudi and Margot, has brought his dogs over several times after hours. We sit outside as we used to do and watch our dogs play and chase each other all around this new environment. It is such a large space that we can get terrific ball retrieval contests going with the dogs having to run long and hard to beat the others and get that tennis ball. We have a collection of balls in a box set up high on a stack of brick. Now balls are scattered all over the yard. Kibitzed

One evening we even staged a small dinner party for some of our previous Cotton Club members. Ron brought Cesar and Bani; Becca and Ron brought Murphy and our five dogs played while we sat outside for a simple BBQ dinner. The setting was rustic and my deli food choices were not the best but our companionship under candlelight, stars and moon on a warm and gentle fall evening was beautiful indeed.

During our time here I thought I would do a lot of sorting in our storage room in the masonry warehouse. It’s a terrific area located by a bay door so I can have lots of sunny warmth and light. I’ve gone through a number of boxes and dug out what I feel I need to have on the bus. But I’ve been so busy gadding about that I must confess I’ve made small inroads. Much of it is stuff that didn’t sell. I need to get busy and do Craig’s List and Ebay to move some of these items out. I suspect much will end up at Goodwill as I add to my “Don’t Need” list. We’ll be back here in January so Dennis can visit his Melanoma specialist at UCSF-Mt. Zion. I’ll chip away at these piles of boxes a little bit at a time….

Meanwhile, life is good here at the masonry.

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