Tag Archives: California

At Home in the South Bay
November 12, 2007

Mountain View, CA, Day 66 in our Walton & Sons Masonry Yard.

Six months in our bus.


I can’t believe we’ve been parked here in the masonry yard for two months. We had been on the road since we left our house in Los Altos on May 9th and we returned on September 7th. I guess four months of a very, very new life was exciting but also exhausting. We needed time to sit back and rest and absorb all that we had done and experienced.

We are happy and comfortable living in our 400 sq. ft. (+or-) home so were able to simply rest and enjoy our familiar surroundings. Of course I was overjoyed to be back in my home territory. I couldn’t wait to go back to my old patterns — a weekly round of appointments and lunches or dinners with friends.

This letter is really an ode to places I love and people I love. It’s a limited and narrow view of the bay area, a glimpse of some of my favorite places but hardly a comprehensive survey. We all love our hometowns, if not the place where we were born then the place that we discovered, the place we fell in love with, the place where we gladly put down roots. This is my place. I lived on Long Island in Port Washington, NY until I was ten. I was raised in southern California, the southern part of Los Angeles in Redondo Beach. But it wasn’t until I came to Palo Alto in the San Francisco south bay that I fell in love. This, I knew, was my home forever. This is where my boys were raised. This is where I worked. This is where I met and married Dennis. So here’s a brief survey of my life in the bay area during the months of September and October in 2007.


I moved to Palo Alto with Stan Parry and our boys in 1972. Only a few blocks away from our apartment, I immediately discovered Dinah’s Shack, or more accurately a simple grill restaurant called Dinah’s Poolside Restaurant. Situated by the pool, they serve breakfast and lunch indoors or outdoors depending on the weather. It’s been my home away from home ever since.

I think this happened because of the beautiful garden environment at Dinah’s. Until Dennis and I moved into a house in 2000, I always lived in apartments— that’s 27 years of apartment life. I love to be outdoors and I like to eat or read while I sit outdoors. So Dinah’s became my outdoor place. The pool and gardens are situated well away from the traffic noise of El Camino. For me, it became a peaceful and beautiful oasis.

Ray Handley, a contractor, created Dinah’s Garden Hotel fifty years ago. Originally known as Dinah’s Motor Hotel it was located directly behind the famous Dinah’s Shack restaurant, an old red building sitting by El Camino Real. Handley and architect, Robert Royston, invented a new hotel look, a garden hotel. Situated on five acres the original hotel had 40 units. Each had terraces or decks and they were interspersed among two lagoons and a large swimming pool. A rich landscape of plants with vibrant colors was established.

Dinah’s Shack, Stickney’s, St. Michael’s Alley, Prime Rib Inn, L’Omlette (Lommies) — all gone now but not forgotten. The original restaurant, Dinah’s Shack, was a classic favorite for generations of Palo Altans. In shades of bordello red, the decor was Victorian ornate. Somehow it was formal yet casual and friendly. I’m glad that I can remember a number of dinner occasions at Dinah’s. (I also remember a wealthy Texan flirting with me at the bar saying he was a pilot and inviting me to fly with him to his ranch. (Darn it, I declined.)

So upon our return, my first stop (and many after that) was lunch or breakfast at Dinah’s. (They’re famous for their omlettes.)

In the late 1990s the old Dinah’s Shack restaurant building was finally condemned and torn down. In it’s place, Ray built a gorgeous restaurant for Trader Vic’s. http://www.dinahshotel.com/about_us.htm

For photos of the original Dinah’s Shack, see this excellent page.http://www.mariposaresearch.net/santaclararesearch/SCBIOS/DINAH’S.html


Well I don’t always sit around Dinah’s eating and reading. I also discovered the Bay lands as soon as we moved here. Out by the airport you could walk by the bay in a few places. However most of the sloughs were smelly and too marshy to be able to walk. The levees and walking paths built around the bay came many years later.

Now in Palo Alto and Mountain View as well as many other bay cities you can walk on interconnected paths around the bottom of the bay.  Today these paths are favorites for bird watchers, hikers, joggers and bikers.  I usually park at the end of San Antonio Ave. in Mountain View and walk out on the levee northeast towards the Palo Alto Baylands Trail. On my left is fresh water Adobe Creek. On my right is the Charleston Slough salt pond. A mile and a half walk brings me to a bridge and gate that regulates the flow of water into the wetlands along the levee. It is a tidal dam at the confluence of Adobe Creek, Mayfield Slough and Matadero Creek.

Along this trail I can see fresh water birds on one side and salt water birds on the other.  It is a marvelous place that gives me a view of the coastal mountains that separates the Santa Clara Valley from the ocean.

In my thirties and forties I spent many, many lone hours walking on the baylands. And many more hours walking with my girlfriends and then with Dennis. So of course, right away we had to go take a walk on the baylands.

For fun you can look at panoramic tours of all these trails on the baylands. http://www.virtualparks.org/parks/baylands-text-list.html

Here’s a nice site that describes what you see along the bayland trails. http://www.abag.ca.gov/bayarea/baytrail/vtour/map3/access/Btpalto/Btpalto.htm


Some people look to athletic activities or seek thrills for entertainment. I guess I tend to seek places that bring me comfort. I got to Dinah’s for good food and peaceful relaxation in a garden environment. I love to take peaceful nature walks in our coastal hills or on the baylands. And I also love to window shop at one of the most beautiful shopping malls I’ve ever seen: Stanford Shopping Center.

Stanford is an outdoor mall, “an open air center” and along every walkway in the mall you can see gardens. It’s a “shopping center disguised as a park.” Everywhere I see gardeners tending incredible displays of flowers in the extensive planters situated throughout the mall. The gardeners are always ahead of the season putting in annuals at just the right time. I used to walk around the mall just to get ideas for my flowerbeds in Los Altos. The array of blooming plants is amazing and they make the attractive stores seem even more luxurious.

And the stores are also amazing. The department stores of my thirty-something shopping days, I Magnin, J Magnin, Emporium, and Saks Fifth Ave., are now gone. In their place came Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdales, Nordstrom and of course, Macy’s remained. Of course the mall has everything: fashions from the Gap to Tommy Bahama, gifts, books, stationery, jewelry, luggage, children’s, spas, upscale grocery and specialty foods, (Williams-Sonoma Grande Cuisine), electronics, (the Apple store and Sharper Image), and oh my gosh — the home furnishing stores: Crate & Barrel, Polo by Ralph Lauren, Pottery Barn, Williams & Sonoma, to name only a few.

In my thirties I used Stanford to get ideas. Then I went to JoAnn’s Fabrics and my sewing machine to try to duplicate what I’d seen. In recent years I was able to buy more of the clothes and furnishings I liked. But now, I’ve no room for these things. I’m back to window shopping. Fortunately for me, Dennis likes to window shop. We have done together for years and emerged no less nor more broke than when we started out.


My best shopping buddy is Dale. She and I are on the same wavelength. We like the same things and we have similar ideas on how we want to decorate. Dale stole a couple of hours on various days to do Stanford with me. I wanted to change the décor on the bus just a little bit with an autumn seasonal theme. She helped me make decisions.

Several special occasion eventS have occupied our time and attention. Steve and Jenny Montez threw a BBQ party at their home in Morgan Hill. The occasion was a thank you to several of our masons who volunteers their time to help Steve finish his BBQ counter and patio. Dennis donated some spare stone materials. Steve is our BBQ King and he turned out a huge banquet for us.

And it’s that time of year again…. Mercy, I am surrounded by Libras. In mid-October, we always have a big Libra birthday dinner at the Mountain House Restaurant up on Skyline Blvd. I’m the only Sagittarean in this group. I’m the hostess. It’s awful. No, I’m kidding. Libras are the sweetest people on earth. We ordered desserts and I asked our waitress to bring each dessert with a burning candle. She did — and gave me the FREE birthday dessert with a candle! We had a hilarious time.

Becky is the gal who helped me sort, pack and sell all my things at the Los Altos house when we were getting ready to buy our bus and become “fulltimers.” Becky worked with me all day, every day for the better part of four months. I can never thank her enough — nor repay her properly. When she decided to get rid of some of her stuff at a flea market sale I was right there, ready to help out. Flea markets are not my thing. I don’t go to them. But we both had fun doing this one. I kept myself amused during the day with merchandising — rearranging “Luci” our sewing manican dressform and the sale tables.

There was more socializing for us when our Cotton Club had a reunion at Ron and Becca’s home in Castro Valley. We all used to meet in my backyard once a week to let our Cotons de Tulear play together. Ron and Becca served a wonderful dinner and our dogs were all thrilled to be reunited so they could run around in a pack barking and chasing each other. It was wonderful to see Debbie and Dan and breeder Ron Hiskes.

Finally, we were able to visit with our favorite people, Myrna and Roger. This couple is very popular and their social calendar is always booked up far in advance. They are gourmet cooks so an invitation to dinner at their lovely home is greatly anticipated by us.

On Halloween Eve, James suggested we should meet him for breakfast at Alice’s Restaurant. Okay, why not? It takes us about thirty minutes to drive up the hill. We left in fog but came out above it to sunshine. Alice’s is to James what Dinah’s is to me. It’ s his favorite hangout. They know him when he comes in and bring him that mug of coffee right away. Alice’s Restaurant is on the ridge of the coastal mountains in Woodside at the junction of Woodside Rd (CA-84) and Skyline Blvd (CA-35) — the La Honda crossroads. It’s named after singer-songwriter Arlo Guthrie’s talking blues song. And yes, many bike riders stop here.

Now Jim drives a jeep but I remember when he drove a little two-seater Triumph. He lives in the city and I think this is when he got in the habit of taking a pleasure drive down the mountain and over to Pescadero to cruise along Pacific Coast Highway — with a stop at Alice’s Restaurant on the way. Lots of fun!

Best of all, we were able to get my women’s spirituality group together. I love these women. We’ve been meeting since 1983. We used to meet every other Sunday afternoon. Now we’re lucky to get together once every one or two months. Our locations are more scattered now and we usually meet in a central location with Mary and Sophia in Berkeley. Recently, I saw Sophia in Denver and I saw Karen at Clearlake. But I haven’t see Mary or Jimmie for ages. So this was a great treat for all of us. Jimmie is an artist who lives in Orinda. Mary is a therapist. Sophia is a teacher in special ed. Karen is a graphic artist. We are all seekers of enlightenment.

Jimmie has been recovering from back surgery. That’s her little dog, Bubba. Mary spent a month in India at Oneness University to learn how to be a Deeksha giver. She just returned. Sophia just went back to school. Karen just returned from three weeks in Spain and France where she took two workshops in printmaking.


I’m perfectly happy here at home. But I guess I feel that if we have this marvelous motor home then we should be traveling and utilizing it. I feel as if I no longer have a home where I can entertain. My boys are unmarried and do not have homes or families to create holiday events. I don’t want to be away from my sons and my sister and nephews. But I feel that I should find romantic new places to see how others celebrate the holidays.

In any case, Marcel and Dale with her son and daughter, Brandon and Colleen, are going to Santa Fe to spend Thanksgiving with her brother’s family. We are invited to join them. So in the spirit of our new life and new adventures we accepted. We plan to leave for Santa Fe tomorrow.

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.

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….

We Visit Karen in Clearlake
September 6, 2007

Clearlake, CA, Day 2 at Konocti Vista Casino Resort, Marina & RV Park.

Three months, 23 days in our bus.


On Tuesday we left Ashland at 8:15 am and arrived in Corning, CA by 1:00 pm. This was an easy trip of 185 miles. The day was overcast with big clouds over the Siskiyou Mountains. Then it began to rain hard. It let up as we headed south out of the mountains, but poor Dennis. Four days of polishing the bus cancelled out. Raindrops marred the exterior and soon it was also covered with dust. Keeping the bus clean is an unending job.

Corning RV Park offered a convenient halfway place to stop and that was about it. Situated in an old olive grove it offered little plots of grass and very old wooden picnic tables. It is fun to look at the old disheveled olive trees. Standing on splayed legs they had masses of electrified hair standing up in topknots. They made me think of caricatures of the demented scientist. We drove into town looking for dinner, but nothing doing. No restaurants. We stopped at the Olive Pit and Dennis bought some jars of spicy garlic and Italian garlic and olives stuffed with garlic. This was sort of the equivalent of me buying jam on other occasions. I am neither garlic nor an olive fan. Must be something lacking in my English/Polish DNA. After the Olive Pit we picked up to go at Burger King and went back to our bus. We ate at our picnic table in the gathering dusk under the olive trees with Dennis dipping into his garlic jars.


On Wednesday we left Corning at 8:20 and we headed south on I-5 towards the CA-20 exit near Williams. We found ourselves driving under a thick dark cloud that covered the entire central valley. What could it be? We noticed dust devils and wondered if wind had created a huge dust cloud. It was low and thick. We couldn’t tell if it was caused by smoke or dust. After we turned east and headed up the mountains towards Clearlake we climbed above the cloud and left it behind. However by Wednesday night the cloud had moved west and covered all of Clearlake. The air smelled smoky and the sun set in a ghastly red haze.

We were concerned about driving around Clearlake and getting to our chosen RV campground. We’ve visited Karen in Clearlake before and we’re familiar with the roads. We knew they would be tight for a big rig. We made our approach around the south side of the lake on CA-53 and CA-29 to Lakeport and then turned on Soda Bay Road.

Based on campground descriptions and reviews I had chosen Edgewater Resort and RV Park at 6420 Soda Bay Road, Kelseyville. But as we began to negotiate the 90º angle turns that distinguishes this road (apparently farmers managed to keep their acreage sacrosanct and the highway must turn this way and that around the farms) we became more concerned. We thought this resort was on level ground before the road begins to climb up around the mountain. After we passed the State Park we knew we were in trouble as it would be difficult to turn around. (We would love to stay at the State Park but there limit is 35’ for RVs so we don’t qualify.) As we crawled around tight corners and brushed under trees Dennis began to cuss and I began to feel apologetic and guilty for making a bad decision. Finally we reached the address. Fortunately, Dennis did not try to pull in. He passed it and pulled over into an empty dirt parking lot by a small restaurant. We had to leave the bus and car where we stopped and walk back down to the “resort”.

I was too sick and too upset to remember to take photos so I can’t show you what a dirt hole this place was. All of it was dirt — no gravel roads, no gravel sites. The entrance was narrow and all of the sites were not demarcated by strips of lawn but by some boulders dumped together or by the big trees that shaded the entire area. Now on a hot day shade is good but one wants to mitigate it with dappled light, perhaps some green bushes or a few flowers. This shade simply made the area appear to be dim and dirty cavern. The sites were do-able. The staff was friendly. One drove us around on a golf cart and showed us three sites that were possible choices. But backing into them would be a hassle and if we hit one of those boulders? Big damage. No thank you. We left. How could Edgewater promise so much and deliver so little? I think the answer is that they have a waterfront location and a boat launch. People with smaller trailers who bring their boats probably like it. Once again, our bus is our permanent home and we’re a little fussier about where we take our home. http://www.edgewaterresort.net/

Ooooh. Dennis was hot under the collar. He couldn’t turn around without unhitching the car. I had a second RV park lined up so I drove the Honda and he followed. Back down Soda Bay Rd. we went to Konocti Vista Casino Resort, Marina & RV Park, located off Soda Bay Rd at 2755 Mission Rancheria Road, Lakeport. The casino does not pretend to offer more that a cement parking lot for an RV Park. But the sites are large and convenient with no obstructions. They weren’t busy and we had plenty of room to spread out. It wasn’t beautiful but it was clean and convenient. We much preferred it to Edgewater. Take a look at the photos. At least it’s clean. It also is on the water has a boat launch. http://www.kvcasino.com/kvc7/Hotel/kvcrvbpark2005.htm

What is a resort? According to my Word dictionary, it is “a place that is popular for recreation and vacations and provides accommodations and entertainment.” By that definition, both RV parks qualify. My idea of a resort was more along the lines of the hotel resorts we visited in Hawaii. I thought they offered beautiful landscaping, shops and services. Silly me. I was expecting more. However, I have to conclude with this thought: I think Edgewater is resting on its laurels. I think the time will come when they will have to make a better entrance and wider sites that are well defined, clean and pretty.

As soon as we were settled we put the dogs in the car and drove back up Soda Bay Rd. to West Riviera Heights where Karen has a little house with a view of the lake. We’ve visited Karen before and stayed overnight at her house. This is the first time we’ve had our own accommodations. I’ve known Karen since the early seventies when we both worked for Atherton Industries. She knows Stan Parry and she knew my boys when they were little. She’s a graphic artist and a big character. I always enjoy being around her. She was standing by ready to make breakfast for us. She is a terrific cook. We had a late breakfast but it was delicious. I was starving and more than ready to sit down and relax. The dogs know Karen and her house and her two cats. So it didn’t take long for everyone to settle down and get the status quo resolved — which means the cats established authority and the dogs agreed to settle down.

Afterwards Karen got in the car with us and we came back to Konocti to show her our bus. Then we did a few errands and went back to her house and darned if she didn’t make us a delicious dinner.


On Thursday the Lake County Record-Bee answered our questions about the smoky atmosphere. The layer of smoke was from two wildfires. There was one in Quincy, approximately 195 miles northeast of the town of Lakeport (situated on the north side of Clearlake). The other was in Morgan Hill about 185 miles southeast of Lakeport. In Quincy, 15,000 acres “charred the once luscious landscape, in a devastating burn called the Moonlight Fire that started about 9 a.m. on Monday.” The Bee went on to say, “Though the fires are a great geographic distance from Lake County, the danger the fires pose to the public is eminent. People with respiratory problems, heart disease, the elderly and children should limit time outdoors. The air management district issued an advisory stating that smoke from the Moonlight Fires is expected to reach unhealthy levels for sensitive groups.”

Well, gee. That group included me. No wonder I had asthma. I was anxious to go home where the air is clear and fresh next to the bay lands; but just one problem. Morgan Hill is only 35 miles south of Mountain View and the bay area was blanketed with a cloud of smoke from the 11,000 acres burned in that fire! What a homecoming….By Thursday the sky was a little less dark but hardly clear and clean, Karen had to go to Ukiah for an afternoon print class so we went over to visit in the morning and she made us her special waffles. Late afternoon she came back from her class and met us at the bus and we took her out to the Saw Shop Gallery Bistro, an excellent continental restaurant. We ate on the porch and Karen was discussing the pros and cons of certain restaurants. She said, “Well this is a country restaurant. Remembering the poor food available to us in some areas over the past few months, I was struck again by how spoiled we are in California. It might be country in Clearlake but the standards are urban. Dinner was delicious.

After dinner we walked down the each side of the main street in Kelseyville and looked at the shops. It is a cute town with a nice little bakery and coffee shop among other things. We kissed Karen goodbye and got ready to come home on Friday.

Emigrant Lake, Ashland, OR
September 3, 2007
Ashland, OR, Day Four at Emigrant Lake RV Park.
Seven weeks, four days in our bus.
Margo on table_sm

My sentiments, exactly.


On Thursday we drove from Eugene to Ashland, another easy two hour transition south from the Willamette River National Forest to the Rogue River National Forest.  We are settled about six miles outside of Ashland at Emigrant Lake RV Park.  The RV park is carved into an upper and lower loop on a hill above the lake.  We lucked out and backed into a site with two fairly mature trees that provide much needed shade and an excellent view of the lake and it’s launch ramp.

The RV park is fairly new and most of the trees are small so larger trees are an asset.  Other than that there is no landscaping and it is hard to understand why they didn’t put in a sprinkling system and some grass while they were at it.  Walking the dogs is an invitation to an hour of grooming to remove the millions of immature thistles that grow on those pretty little green plants with the yellow flowers. In a month they will have very large thistles.  We look down on the tent campers in the older part of the park across the lake and they have the luxury of tall shade trees and green grass.

Settled in by 2:00 pm on our sun-baked hill with a temperature of 87º we watched the wind rise and dark clouds stream in until we were hit by a thunderstorm about 3:30 pm.  It was a sudden and forceful thunderstorm.  I saw lightening hit the hill above us and we all lost power for a while. About 4:30 we thought it was over so we decided to go into town to find a grocery store.  No such luck.  We were hit by hail as we drove and I couldn’t believe the size of those little icy pellets.  We had to detour around a flooded intersection but we finally found a Safeway and ran inside to shop.  We had the dogs with us in the car because the rain and wind were so noisy that we figured they’d freak out if we left them alone in the bus.  Armed with comfort food and staples we returned to the bus with a temperature that had dropped to 67º by 5:00 pm.  Pretty amazing.

Our immediate decision was whether to continue on to Clearlake on Friday.  We’d made plans with my girlfriend, Karen Magnuson, to be at Clearlake for Labor Day.  However, we didn’t have reservations at any RV park there and we were worried about the approaching holiday weekend in terms of traffic and a place to stay.  The distance is 300 miles and that is possible but we prefer to make shorter jumps.  I was starting a head cold and didn’t feel up to making a big push.  So finally, we decided to stay put where we were safely ensconced out of traffic for the long weekend.


On Friday I actually slept late and woke knowing that I didn’t feel well.  I still don’t know if I have a cold or allergies but now I suspect the latter.  I cough and sneeze and have a sinus headache but on Sunday we drove to a higher elevation amid evergreens to see Howard Prairie Lake and I began to feel better.  Here by Emigrant Lake we are in oak and meadow land and there is a lot of dry, yellow grassland.  I’m allergic to grass and a nearby farmer just harvested his hay, so that may be the problem.  So Friday was a day of rest and we sat outside in the shade watching the lake and the activity of backing a trailer down the ramp to launch or retrieve a boat.  It’s a very long ramp because the lake is very, very low.  On Friday we even rallied and used the campground fire pit to light coals and BBQ some steaks.  Wow.  I think this is only the second time we’ve cooked over a campfire in more than three months.


On Saturday we made an effort to go into Ashland.  I’ve driven through before but never stopped to see the town.  The festival is still going on and there are many plays to be seen.  But I don’t feel up to more than a few hours of activity.  We sat on the balcony of Greenleaf for lunch and then walked up the main street, Siskiyou Blvd. to look at the shops.  The town is crowded and we had to park far above town at the top of beautiful Lithia Park.  We enjoyed walking on the paths of this lovely park as much as the town itself.  Ashland is a beautiful and charming town with much to offer.  We will have to plan to come back to take advantage of the plays and concerts.  Right now, I’m just not up to making the effort.


Sunday we drove up to Howard Prairie Lake Resort where we stopped to have breakfast.  It’s about thirty minutes from Ashland at an elevation of almost 5000 feet.  We took Hwy 66 to Hyatt-Prairie Rd., which led us past Hyatt Lake and then down to the larger Prairie Lake, which is about six miles long and one mile wide.  All three lakes, Emigrant, Hyatt and Prairie are reservoirs.  The 60,000 acre feet of water from Prairie ultimately makes its way down to Emigrant before being diverted into the irrigation system that feeds most of the southern Rogue Valley.  Prairie Lake has campgrounds with 250 sites. It is also one of the largest inland marinas in the Northwest.  We looked at the RV sites and decided that we would not want to bring the bus into these sites because they are tight and dark — located under evergreen trees.  The place is attractive for young families, boaters and sportsman but it isn’t what we require.

Breakfast at the lodge was adequate but we had to grab our food and run from the patio to the indoor dining room.  I can share my meal with several wasps but when they build up to six or more and get excited over my sausage, I take the prudent course and evacuate.  We brought the dogs with us and gave them a short walk.  We made a loop by driving back down to Emigrant Lake on Dead Indian Memorial Road.  I guess I don’t need to ask what happened there.

Emigrant Lake has been entertaining for one who doesn’t feel well and sits around a lot.  Our situation gives us an excellent view of all the RVs parked on the hill above us.  We are in Site #4 and immediately in front of us is site #5, a very desirable pull-thru.  We pulled into it when we first arrived.  It took us about ten minutes to figure out the park reservation system and the OPEN or OCCUPIED signs.  We saw that we could stay in #5 on the 30th but it was reserved from the 31st through the 3rd.  So we backed into #4, which had no reservation sign and no OCCUPIED sign.

After that we got two days of cheap entertainment.  Every newcomer pulled into that site.  You could hear them thinking, “The gods are with me. Somehow this nice big site hasn’t been taken and I’ve scored the perfect location.” There must have been a dozen big trailers that pulled in and then pulled out.  Some figured it out sooner and some later.  Some actually hooked up and then had to unhook.  Finally a large trailer stayed overnight on Thursday (30th) — but he did not leave by noon on Friday (31st).  We watched as the camp hosts asked them to leave.  Later the hosts told us that the trailer squatters said they’d paid for the weekend and wanted a refund.  They made a fuss.  Of course the money goes into envelopes and is collected by the rangers and of course the campers knew it was reserved.  They were working on the “possession is nine tenths of the law” theory — but it didn’t work and they had to leave.  We awaited the arrival of the legally reserved RV with some anticipation.  They pulled in late on the 31st — a fashionably late entrance. They were everything we could have hoped for.  They are a big toy hauler (trailer) pulled by a huge Peterbilt truck.  It is overkill but showy.  There are lots of teens, friends with trucks, boats and bikes and equipment of all kinds.  This is serious stuff. There is room behind the truck cab for people to sleep.

This place is actually surprisingly quiet.  People go to sleep early and get up early to launch their boats and go fishing.  There are no noisy, drunken parties.  Well there was the couple that woke me Friday morning about 3:00 am.  They were down on the launch ramp with his truck running and headlights shining into the water.  It was a loud domestic squabble.  Apparently she walked out of the camp and down to the boat launch and he followed in the truck where they yelled a lot and he demanded that she get in the truck.  She didn’t and he finally gave up and drove back to camp.  She walked back.  That’s the only disturbance we’ve had, so I don’t call that too bad.We had almost four full days here so it gave us a chance to catch up on housework and just hang out. Dennis polished the entire bus from top to bottom. The dogs got to sit outside and be with us. The Labor Day holiday campers got to enjoy their boats and the lake. I coughed and sneezed. Is it allergies or a cold?

On Tuesday we will be back in California! We will stay overnight near Redding or Red Bluff or maybe aim for the Corning RV Park. On Wednesday we will be in Clearlake to see Karen who owns a home up on the hill in Kelseyville.

If the Ford Don’t Break I’m Alabamy Bound
May 16, 2007

Huntsville, AL, Day One at the Bankston Motor Homes, Sales Lot

Day One in our bus.

MovingIntoBus_smThursday, May 10. We drive to Burbank for doctor appointments at USC.

We left Los Altos on Wednesday, May 9th. Finally we are on the road in Dennis’s Ford 250 pickup truck with the new camper shell installed. We drove with the dogs and some of our goods from Los Altos in the San Francisco Bay Area to Burbank, CA in the Los Angeles area for doctor’s visits. We stopped in Burbank at the Holiday Inn so that Dennis could have a CT scan and see his cancer doctor at USC Norris Cancer Research Center in Los Angeles. Dennis got a clean bill of health and we made plans to see Dr. Weber next November in his new research facility in Tampa, FL.

Tuesday, May 15. We drive to Huntsville, AL.

We’re Alabamy bound.  (“If the train don’t stop and turn around, I’m Alabamy bound, I’m Alabamy bound.” — a ragtime melody composed by Robert Hoffman in 1909 and sung with many versions and by many artists as rag, folk song, blues, old-time, and jazz.)

Immediately after seeing Dr. Weber, we turned eastward to Huntsville, AL. We left LA and drove to Kingman, AR on Friday the 11th . On Saturday the 12th we drove to Albuquerque, NM where we found time to see Old Town and have dinner in the oldest private residence in the city. On Sunday the 13th we drove to Amarillo, TX and on Monday the 14th we made it to Clarksville, AR. On Tuesday the 15th we arrived in Huntsville, AL and stayed in our last motel.

Wednesday, May 16. We meet Ray Cyree at Bankston Motor Homes.

On Wednesday morning we finally got to go to Bankston Motor Homes to meet our salesman, Ray Cyree, and to see our new bus. Ray had it hooked up to power and water and told us to move into our new home that very day. We felt very shy and hesitant. Is it really okay to move into this strange new vehicle? We haven’t even paid for it yet. Is it really okay to sleep in the sales lot? Won’t we be a nuisance? We barely know how to hook up the water and turn on the tap. Can we turn on the electric lights? We brought in sheets and towels and the stuff we would bring into a motel.

It’s Not Easy Letting Go
May 8, 2007

Los Altos, CA, Two days before DD — Departure Date.

Last two days in our San Francisco Bay Area home.

I arrange items in the patio for a yard sale.  Linens are on hangers behind me.

I arrange items in the patio for a yard sale. Linens are on hangers behind me.

Tuesday, May 8.  It took A Year of Preparation to Become RV Fulltimers.

A year after the clinical trial, when melanoma did not return, it took no time to decide that Dennis needed less stress and should get away from his business. I knew he loved to drive and would love to travel. We quickly decided to pare down and become full time RVers.  With this goal in mind, it was simply a matter of how and when.

We spent a year in preparation. Dennis had to prepare his staff to manage without his daily presence. And we needed to research the right RV for us to buy. I wanted a bed with side windows for adequate ventilation and I wanted bedside counters with drawers beneath. I also needed table/desk space and Dennis needed a desk. And I wanted to be sure the kitchen had counter space for mixing and preparation as well as enough cupboards for pantry food items, mixing bowls and cooking pots. During that time we discovered Tiffin Motorhomes and the ’06 Allegro Bus. They seemed to offer more of what we wanted then any other maker of motor homes.

It is not easy to get rid of a lifetime collection of… “stuff”. It’s difficult emotionally, physically and mentally. I’m a collector — of books especially but also of objets d’art, and the paraphernalia that surrounds arts and crafts endeavors. I like family history and doing genealogy research and I’ve kept all the family letters and other papers. Some things could be kept in storage but certainly all furniture, kitchen gear, books and most objects had to go.

Big decisions are easy for me. But give me a million small decisions and I bog down quickly. Unfortunately, I’m not good at sorting.   A small and messy drawer full of junk will stop me cold. What is this widget? Do I need it? Is it a part of something else? How do I decide how to distribute a diversity of items such as pencils, pens, small notebooks full of scribbles, business cards, a small framed photo, loose photos, my father’s compass, post-its, passport, a mala bead necklace, small brochures, a small bottle of old pills, scissors, nail polish, pocket Kleenex, and an old pair of prescription glasses.

If items are connected to sentimental memories I am immobilized. A little lego toy, the collar of a pet long gone, childhood junk jewelry, my mother’s favorite teacup, my father’s old and cheap chess set; these items stop me cold. I literally don’t know what to do with them. How can I throw them out? How can I not?

We ordered our new ’07 Allegro Bus in January and Tiffin Motorhomes said it would be ready by June. I struggled to prepare but at the rate I was going, it would have taken five years to get ready to move. On Valentine’s Day I panicked and called my old friend, Becky Pieper. We are opposites: I am artistic, impractical and messy. Becky is practical and extremely neat. She was an executive secretary but since retirement, she’s worked for companies that do estate sales. I knew that she would know how to proceed.

My dear friend, Becky Pieper, helped me every day for two and a half months.

My dear friend, Becky Pieper, helped me every day for two and a half months.

Becky came over that very day and I showed her all that needed to go: the living room filled with book shelves, the kitchen, the office filled with more book shelves, the two bedrooms and bathroom, the patio, the garden room and green house and the small storage building at the back of the property filled with bank boxes holding books and papers and fabrics and craft materials and old clothes. I showed her my work calendar and the dates I’d reserved for yard and estate sales.

Becky took on the challenge and would not agree to be paid. She was vehement about that. Then she took charge. She gave me orders that very day. “Pull out all those big empty pots from the green house. Get out the hose and wash them and stack them neatly.” I’ll be back tomorrow at nine o’clock.” She left and I did what she’d told me to do.

The next morning we pulled everything out of the greenhouse. They went into four piles: Keep, Sell, Trash, and Goodwill. When the greenhouse was empty we washed the windows and shelves. Then we put potted plants, fertilizers, and garden tools on the shelves. We washed ceramic pots and placed them on the shelves. Later Becky put price tags on every item. We finished the greenhouse and in one day I got more done then I had during the previous week. With Becky working beside me I was able to keep going. I was happy and relieved to place all the millions of small decisions in her capable hands. She knew value and what would sell. She knew what to sell, throw out or give away.

At first I argued about prices. “That ceramic pot cost me $20. It’s only worth fifty cents!!??” Then I gave up and left it up to Becky. I needed a leader and I’d elected Becky. What would be would be.

Tiffin upped the pressure when they announced our motor home would be ready by early May.  For the next 80 days, from mid-February until the beginning of May, Becky showed up every morning at nine o’ clock and worked beside me, always for four and sometimes for six or eight hours. She was my partner and my guiding light. I could never have managed without her. She is cheerful and hard working and she has a great sense of humor. She showed up with treats for my dogs and all she would accept from me was a lunch sandwich and sometimes a dinner.

Becky can sort through a bank box filled with junk papers in a flash. In each box she found at least one treasure and I always looked forward to hearing her soprano clarion call, OH MY GOD!” Amidst old bills and magazines she’d find my high school diploma or some other equally important item. Becky is a treasure who knows how to find treasure. She emptied our garden room and then set up tables to display yard sale items. She declared all craft items to be valuable. She took my sewing notions and distributed them into Ziploc bags filled with a hodgepodge of threads, buttons, snaps, trims, and quilting squares of fabric. She ironed and folded linens and fabrics. She bundled everything from stationery cards and wrapping paper to boxes of costume jewelry. I never looked at the sales price tags. I didn’t want to know.

I had a camera light and we set up a place to photograph art objects that Becky declared could be sold on e-bay. I started an e-bay store and spent a lot of time putting things up for sale. Other sales items were put on Craig’s List but most items were set out for future yard or estate sales. My sister, Sally, still works full time but she came over to help on weekends. She and Becky had a great time teasing me over the things that I had saved in some box. Sally made all of our sale signs and always worked as my sales cashier during our yard and estate sales.

Lilia Welsh, James Boyer, Sally Barlow-Perez and Becky Pieper got us through our sales days.

Lilia Welsh, James Boyer, Sally Barlow-Perez and Becky Pieper got us through our sales days.

All in all we had five sales days. Many friends came over to help and to buy. For the indoor house “estate” sales, I had friends and family stationed throughout the house and yard to guard our sales items and make sure that every shopper ended up purchasing from Sally. Our dear friend, James Boyer, stood by to help dismantle stereos and TVs and his girlfriend, Lilia Welsh, also pitched in. I had sons like Brent Walton and Jeff Parry to help move heavy furniture items. My son, Jeff, is a gardener so he dismantled the green house and kept it for future use. The sales days were huge and exhausting efforts that began at 7:00 AM and didn’t end until 2:00 or 3:00 PM. When the last shopper left and the pizza arrived that was the signal for everyone to collapse into whatever chairs were still left unsold.

Unexpectedly, the sales were also lots of fun. They were successful and productive. I mourned the departure of beautiful possessions but I took joy from total strangers who were clearly thrilled with their new purchases. Instead of weeping over the loss of beloved items, I began to see them as being reborn into new homes with newly appreciative owners.

I realized that I had come to feel weighed down by my possessions. I had too much and I felt guilty about my accumulation of unsorted boxes filled with books and papers and crafts. I had trunks crammed with old clothes that needed to be eliminated. The more we sold, the lighter I felt. In the long run, it was a relief to let them go.

I think what I regretted most was leaving the garden and patio that we had designed, built, planted and nurtured. Los Altos and the San Francisco Bay Area in general have a moderate climate. It was possible to spend many leisure hours outdoors — whether gardening and reading or cooking, eating and entertaining. I will always miss my wonderful and beautiful garden environment.