Tag Archives: City

Life in Morgan Hill
April 19, 2010
March-April.  We get settled in Morgan Hill.
This oak shade corner has a history plaque. In the background is Starbucks where we drop in for a latte once in a while.

This oak shade corner has a history plaque. In the background is Starbucks where we drop in for a latte once in a while.

We are getting settled in Morgan Hill. We live a mile from Tennant Station, now a shopping center located on Monterey Rd. and Tennant Ave. A plaque in the corner (California Historical Landmark # 259) commemorates the history of Tennant Station.

“This famous Tavern and Stage stop was located 21 miles from San Jose on the road to Monterey. The 21-Mile House was built in 1852 by William Host. Beneath a spreading oak that later was called the Vasquez Tree, the house was sold to William Tennant in November 1852. Now destroyed, this stopping station was a place where horses could be changed, fed, and stabled, and where tired and hungry passengers could refresh themselves.”

Almost no one has driven south to visit us in Morgan Hill.  My old joke, “I never go south of Mountain View” has turned around to bite me.  Apparently my attitude is not unusual.  My friends look blank when I suggest they drive down to visit us at our RV park and go out to lunch in Morgan Hill.  They also have no clue as to where Morgan Hill is located and the thought of driving on those freeways with the chance of getting hung up in rush hour traffic — oh no.

I give my sister, Sally, credit.  She came down on her day off to visit us in Morgan Hill.

Oddly, although they live in San Francisco, James and Lilia visit us often and we go out for brunch or an early dinner.  And even odder, Karen who lives four hours north in Clearlake, came down to visit me after an early tax preparation appointment in Campbell.  I took her to Rosy’s for their famous fish tacos.  I suppose those who are used to driving long distances are the most flexible and mobile.

I drove up to Fremont to see my old friend Carlene, and she took me out for a marvelous lunch at the Afghan Village. And each month I drive 67 miles north to go to my Women’s Group in Berkeley. I’m so glad to be back in the area where I can attend Group on a regular basis.

Walton & Sons Masonry has settled into their new quarters.  The unfinished offices are finished with trim, carpets and door handles with locks.  The yard is sorted and organized and equipment is tucked away leaving empty space where we will compact the ground — if it ever dries out and stops raining.

The weather has been unbelievably wet and rainy.  We’ve never seen so much rain in California.  By April the dry season should be here.  But it continues to rain.  We are all amazed.  Is it El Nino?

Rain or no, I drive fifty minutes back and forth to my home turf not only for sales and storage reasons but to meet friends for lunch.  I often combine socializing with various appointments such as acupuncture, dental, annual medical visits, beauty salon, and the like.

Tuesday, March 16.  Our Honda CR-V gets bashed in a parking lot.

The cars are having an inappropriate relationship.

The cars are having an inappropriate relationship.

I’m always wary about being in a traffic accident but it never occurred to me that my car would be attacked in the parking lot at Dinah’s while I had lunch with friends.  But that’s what happened.  I came up to Palo Alto for a 1:30 pm dental hygiene appointment at Foothill College.  I arranged to meet Dona and Joann for lunch at Dinah’s at 11:00 am.  It was our first warm day and the first day we’d been able to sit at an outdoor table.  We enjoyed our sense of springtime while we caught up on our news over lunch.

At 12:30 pm when we walked out to our cars, I found the front of my Honda demolished.  I was pulled up facing the sidewalk that borders the Trader Vic Restaurant at it’s eastern exposure.  Parked on the corner next to an end cap island I had the protection of a huge cedar tree planted in the island.  How could anyone hit the front of my car?  The cars parked in my row face west.

Parking spaces on the other side of the island face north and are on a 90° angle to the spaces where I was parked.  They also pull up to the sidewalk that borders Trader Vic at its southern exposure.

A woman entered the parking lot traveling east and she intended to make a 90° left turn to park.  She missed.  She pulled in on an obtuse angle headed straight towards the front of my car.  She hopped the curb so that her front wheels were up on the sidewalk when she hit high on the front hood of the Honda, well above the fender.  (No, it wasn’t a Toyota.  She was driving a Ford Taurus.)

The force of the blow pushed the front of my Honda on an angle that caused it to hit the Volvo parked to my right.  A lot of sickly yellow fluid was bleeding out of the Honda and running down the pavement.  Apparently this had just happened because two women, the driver, Cheryl, and her companion, Kelly, were standing there staring at the mess.  I couldn’t believe my eyes.  I couldn’t absorb how it could happen that my car would be on an angle pushed up against the Volvo (as if I hadn’t parked correctly in my stall).  And I couldn’t comprehend how the Ford could be up on the sidewalk in a face-to-face confrontation with my Honda.

The lady who owned the Volvo came out from lunch with her female companion.  Suddenly, three older matrons were all busy trying to exchange vital statistics.  We kept misplacing purses, insurance papers, pens, notepapers, and keys.  I felt completely confused.  “Now where did I put my head?”  We were all shocked.  I needed to take down information but I also needed to find the number for the dental department at Foothill.  Clearly I was going to miss my appointment.  However, everything was very civilized and amicable — a Palo Alto tea party.

The hotel concierge called the police and AAA —as of course, all three of us are members.  He and an officer kibitzed because the officer couldn’t make an accident report on private property.  It took some doing for AAA to separate the Honda from the Ford Taurus.  Because of the height on the sidewalk the Taurus slightly lifted up the front wheel of the Honda.  The two cars were enmeshed.   AAA tried pulling the Taurus backwards, which didn’t work.  He tried pulling the Honda backwards.  Finally he elevated the back end of the Honda and was able to break the two cars apart.

A small curious crowd gathered.  A very handsome young man was taking photos.  He approached me and in a strong accent German accent asked me what happened.  It struck me as a silly question.  I didn’t know what had happened either.  I looked into his lovely blue eyes and said, “These two cars are having an inappropriate relationship.  We can’t get them separated.”

“Really?” he said, very polite but full of doubt.  Perhaps translation failed him….

Cheryl tries to explain what happened to the watching officer.

Cheryl tries to explain what happened to the watching officer.

Anita owned the Volvo.  She was in a hurry but couldn’t pull out until my Honda could be separated from the Ford.  She whispered to me, “That woman should never drive again.”  Once she could get out we saw that damage was negligible.  She only had a small nick on the driver’s door.  Days later my favorite waiter at Dinah’s told me that she had said to him, “If you’d brought my bill sooner, this (accident) wouldn’t have happened” (to her).  Juan felt terrible!

Cheryl, the woman at fault was very embarrassed and felt terrible.  I talked to her and she said, “What we all need now is a donut!”  I couldn’t help but like her.  She was with a friend whom I recognized.  Kelly used to own The Palo Alto Baking Co. on California Ave. where I bought many pastries and loaves of bread.  I was actually thrilled to see her.  She sold the business and the bakery has never been the same since.  We all chatted while we watched AAA try to separate the cars.

When the cars were all free another watcher asked me if I planned to drive the Honda.  I looked at her in horror.  What?  With the front end crumpled up and liquid on the ground?  I don’t think so.  I had every intention of having AAA tow it to an auto repair place.

Eventually Cheryl and Anita drove away with their companions and even the Taurus had little damage.  My car had to be loaded onto the AAA flatbed.  Dona had stuck around for a while and offered to take me somewhere but I told her to go and I would call her if I needed her.  It was 2:30 pm before we were ready to leave.  The AAA driver dropped me a few blocks away at Enterprise.

The entire time I was back and forth on my cell phone with Dennis.  I tried to explain the accident but I couldn’t clearly describe such a bizarre incident.  I need one of those new phones that take photos and can send them.

At Enterprise I rented a black four-door sedan, a Pontiac G6.  I had to sign a contract that included “no pets”.  Ha, ha.  I often take Rudi with me and I’m not going to stop.  I drove out of Enterprise and caught myself feeling guilty about the accident. In my head I cautioned myself to drive carefully because I had just wrecked the Honda. Our brains play strange tricks on us.

After stopping at my favorite German butcher to buy corned beef for St. Patrick’s Day, I went to the AAA storage yard to retrieve a few things out of the Honda.  By 3:30 pm I was driving home in a strange car during heavy rush hour traffic.  I got home safely at 4:30 pm and lay down with a big headache!

Later I called Cheryl to be sure I’d given her the correct information.  She said she was sitting in front of her fireplace eating popcorn.  She said she needed to have a good cry.  She’s never had an accident before and didn’t know what had happened.  I’d like to get to see Kelly again so I suggested that the three of us should get together at Dinah’s when this is all over.  Cheryl cheered up and said she certainly owes me a lunch so we agreed to it.

Cheryl’s insurance, California Casualty, accepted full liability for both cars and is paying for everything.  They’ve been great.  Repairs will be about 10K+ in addition to car rental fees.  The Pontiac is fine although I miss the GPS in my Honda.

Monday, March 22.  We rediscover San Juan Bautista.

Dennis walks by a very old structure, Casa Juan de Anza, built in 1799. The inset shows the sign on the wall ahead of Dennis.

Dennis walks by a very old structure, Casa Juan de Anza, built in 1799. The inset shows the sign on the wall ahead of Dennis.

It was a sunny day when James drove down to visit us so we decided to take a scenic drive south. We found ourselves passing Hollister and heading to San Juan Bautista. We’ve visited this cute small town many times before. We like to tour the Mission and look at the antique stores on Main street. On this occasion we simply renewed our fond acquaintance with Dona Esther’s Restaurant. They serve terrific Mexican food.

Tuesday, April 6.  We take a hike with the dogs along Coyote Creek Walk.

Sunny days have been rare so when a clear day arrived we grabbed the dogs and drove twenty minutes north to a small parking lot by Coyote Creek, north of Bailey Ave. We hadn’t hiked there yet. From the parking lot we walked south along a wide waterway parallel to Monterey Rd.

We were surprised to see a speedboat go by with a waterskier. We discovered that a club has rights to use that section. We crossed a canal on a bridge and then crossed Metcalf Rd. to follow the creek south. We walked about five miles round trip. It was a pleasure to see the big oaks and the green meadows. The pink Scottish Thistles are blooming. I know they are lethal but I love the look of the flowers.

Of course the dogs had a great time. The stickers that adhere to their paws and hair are not out yet so they can be comfortable as they run to investigate along the path.

Sunday, April 4.  We have Easter Brunch at the Crow’s Nest in Santa Cruz.

Dennis and I drove on the Watsonville Rd. across Mt. Madonna to Capitola to celebrate the Equinox on a sunny 21st of March. It was such a nice day we were able to sit on the patio at the Crow’s Nest — with a little help from the wind protection of windows and the heat lamps overhead! The Crow’s Nest is a marvelous restaurant by the Santa Cruz marina and the beach. We had a great time and I enjoyed a wonderful dish of eggs benedict served over crab cakes. Oh my! It was delicious.

After brunch we dropped Chris at home and followed Jeff to a surfing store where we bought a boogie board as a belated birthday present for Sara’s son, Camron. We found Sara and the kids at Cowell’s Beach by Cliff Dr. and Manor Ave. We walked down the steep wood stairs to the narrow sand beach and found it crowded with Equinox sunbathers and swimmers. It is a perfect beach for children who can play in shallow pools or wade and swim in shallow water. Beginning surfers like Sara can swim out farther and get a good ride.

We enjoyed ourselves so much at the Crow’s Nest that we decided to return for Easter Brunch. This time we were joined by my sister, Sally, and Jeff’s friend, Sara. Easter was cold and windy so this time we did not sit outside. We had our same waitress, Rachael, and she took our group photos for us. We had a good time talking to her also.

Monday, April 19.  We stay busy with errands, appointments, and social dates.

From under our table umbrella, this is my view of flowers at the patio entrance. The gardens at Dinah's Hotel are so beautiful.

From under our table umbrella, this is my view of flowers at the patio entrance. The gardens at Dinah’s Hotel are so beautiful.

I continue to make runs up to Palo Alto two or three times a week. On Wednesday, April 7th I visited my acupuncturist, Catherine Burns, at Real Health in Los Altos and then met Becky for lunch at Dinah’s. On Friday, I had an early Dermatology appointment and afterwards I did some errands at Stanford Shopping Center before resting up with lunch at Dinah’s and my latest Kindle novel, “Wolf Hall” by Hilary Mantel.

(I’m becoming an overnight expert on Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII’s Chief Minister in 1532. He was a brilliant lawyer, parliamentarian, humanitarian, and religious reformer. Too bad I know it will all come to a bad end in 1540. Henry VIII was an ungrateful cuss. Wolf Hall, I’ve learned was the birth place of Jane Seymour and Cromwell’s daughter-in-law, Elizabeth Seymour, the Queen’s sister.)

Tuesday, April 13th was a very hectic day.

Dennis and I drove together to Palo Alto to keep his 10:30 ophthamology appointment. After breakfast at Dinah’s. Dennis dropped me at Foothill College for my 1:30 pm dental hygiene appointment (the one I’d missed on 3/13 when my car was damaged). We did this because I would not be finished until after five and with two of us, it would be faster to get home during rush hour if we could carpool.

Oddly, when we were in Palo Alto, Magnuson Auto Shop called to say our Honda was ready to pick up. While my wonderful student dental hygienist, Karen, worked on my teeth, Dennis picked up the Honda, transferred stuff from the Pontiac and let Enterprise know that we would be returning it. After Dennis picked me up, we drove both cars to Enterprise to turn in the Pontiac. Then we sped home in the diamond lane. After 28 days I’m so glad to have the Honda back. The Pontiac is low and it is hard to climb out of it. The Honda is higher and I feel I have better visibility. The repairs cost something over 7K — less than estimated.

The next day I drove the Honda to Los Altos at Sally’s request to help her help the children on a decoupage project for their mother’s birthday. They had painted flowers and people on heavy paper so I had them cut out their paintings and arrange them on a tray Sally had prepared. Then we glued and glued. It was lots of fun for all of us. Afterwards the children rested while Sally and I sat outside in the sun to enjoy her delicious pork roast sandwiches served with her marvelous strong coffee and cream.

Not a good day to go out, it was pouring rain on Sunday, April 11th when we drove to San Jose to meet James and Lilia at the Saint Claire Hotel on Market and San Carlos for brunch at Il Fornaio. We got a window seat and enjoyed watching people hurrying by with umbrellas. James and Lilia haven’t seen Avatar yet so I wanted to go next door to the Tech Museum to see it again — this time on the IMAX screen. But no one else in our party was interested. What old fogies!

On Thursday Chris Soden drove down from San Jose to visit us. In the late 80s, Chris made Dennis a grandpa with two beautiful daughters, Denise and Jenny. She divorced Dave but she is still a daughter to us. We showed her our motor home and where the masonry is located and then walked around downtown Morgan Hill before having lunch at Rosy’s by the Beach.

I’ve rented a smaller storage unit in Morgan Hill and now I must get busy moving things from our Mountain View storage or getting them sold. On Wednesday I will show four trunks of “vintage clothes” from the late fifties/early sixties to Katherine (Trappings of Time), a vintage clothes store buyer. She will take them on consignment. And I must get ready for my May Day flea market sale. I’m sharing a double stall with my friend, Becky at the next De Anza Flea Market. Busy, busy, busy.

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.

Florida Tornado and Siblings Unite
June 19, 2007

St. Augustine, FL, Day Ten at Camp Barlow

Day Thirty-five in our bus.


It was very hot on Sunday and Monday and we spent part of both days driving to RV sales lots to look at fifth wheels for Jerry and Marsha. Because I’m from California where weather stays very much the same each day, I got into a mindset that everyday would be similar — hot and sunny. On Tuesday, we got a surprise.

In the morning we walked the dogs on the beach. Marsha and Jerry had appointments but their houseguest, Teri, walked with us on the wide beach. The beach here is miles long and with a permit, people are allowed to drive on it. They bring all their gear, park on the beach and set up for the day. But this was early and the sky was overcast. We had it to ourselves. The dogs loved it and wore themselves out running back and forth on their extended leashes. We walked about a mile on the firm low tide sand, south down to the Matanzas bridge and back.

We returned about eleven. The dogs were wet and sandy. I rubbed them down and left them tied outside the bus. They like the thick, matted grass because it is cool and cushy. It was hot in the bus. Marsha and Jerry had decided on their fifth wheel and bought a 30’ Dinali. Jerry had promised to deliver his camper to Gore RV sales as a trade-in. He and Dennis worked to load it on Jerry’s truck. When they were ready they asked Teri and I if we wanted to go with them. We could stop for lunch afterwards. It was a spur-of-the-moment decision. Teri and I got into the back of Jerry’s super cab. Dennis drove. We left the bus with the dogs tied up outside (to stay cool), door open but screen door shut, windows open and the vents on the roof up with fans running.

There were dark clouds on the horizon but we’d gotten used to the overcast and didn’t think about it. Jerry didn’t say anything about a storm brewing. Merrily we drove away. We drove about fifteen minutes to Gore’s RV and pulled in just as it began to sprinkle. Jerry said, “We’ll unload this real quick and then go back home to make sure everything is OK.” He went to get a salesman. Then it began to rain hard. No one wanted to unload the camper and now we worried about rain getting into the bus. With the camper still on the truck we turned back towards Jerry’s home.

Jerry, a Korean Veteran, is ever the optimist. “Don’t worry. Lots of times it rains on the west side of the Intercoastal and never makes it to the east side.” But within minutes it became clear that this wasn’t going to be the case. Suddenly we were in a downpour and a very strong wind had come up. We approached the bridge over the Intercoastal but within minutes we couldn’t see the road. We pulled over. Gale winds buffeted the top-heavy truck and debris flew around us. Later we discovered that it was a tornado with 65 mph winds. We were on elevated ground and out in the open so we caught the brunt of it. We waited for the worst to pass through and then slowly drove over the bridge. I was afraid we’d be blown over sideways into the water. We were all worried about the bus and the dogs. Finally we pulled into Jerry’s yard.

I was amazed at the dogs. They were calm and showed good sense. They had crawled under the bus by the steps and the front door. They were wet and lying next to each other and peering out at us when we got to them. They didn’t bark or act excited. They were quiet and subdued. In the wind and downpour I unclipped their leashes and got them inside. I’d left their towels outside and we had no extra towels. Jerry went running to get all the towels in the house. The bus was drenched from stem to stern. Dennis and I went running around closing windows and vents. Jerry came with towels and we began to mop up water. I quickly toweled the dogs and told them to get in their beds, which they did very promptly.

My monitor and keyboard were wet but my Mac G5 is protected under my “desk,” the dining table. Dennis’s router and laptop were wet. The printer was wet. All the counters and furniture were wet. Bedding and carpet were wet. Thank goodness our floors are tiled and not carpeted (except the bedroom). They were puddles of water. We pulled the plugs on the computers and printers and wiped everything dry. Jerry scooped four small juice glasses of water out of the pocket behind my passenger chair. It was swiveled around with the back facing the open window and door

It was still pouring rain when we finished with the bus. We carried the dogs into the house and I toweled them dry again. I put them on a blanket that I found lying on the garage floor. It was an old throw from Jerry’s camper. Teri had been working on picking up the house. The screened-in porch in the house was a mess with chairs blown over and broken potted plants thrown on the floor. The wood Adirondack chairs on the dock were blown over. One was in the water but they are tied down and can be fished out again. Jerry’s red lifesaver chair and his Camp Barlow sign were blown over. A small corner of the metal roof had peeled up. Some siding from a neighboring house came off. All things considered, not too much damage

Dennis was so mad at himself. He kept saying, “I’ve read about this. I’ve read the warnings: ‘Never leave your bus open to the elements anywhere except in California. Weather can change quickly everywhere else in the country.’” We made a huge beginner’s mistake: we left the bus. We left the bus open and blithely took off — without a thought.

Nothing was damaged and everything dried out. The computers and printers are fine. The pillows dried with no visible water damage. I had to use Marsha’s large washer and dryer to dry our bed coverlet and we did a lot of laundries for the sheets and all the towels. The large electric awning performed exactly as advertised; it retracts automatically when sensors detect wind. The bands that hold down the smaller awnings all snapped off their hooks and rolled up. However, all were in good shape and no damage was sustained.

We got off easy. I kept saying to Dennis, “This is a good lesson. We’ll never let this happen again.” Now I’ve memorized the location of the three toggle switches that raise and lower the three fan vents. I don’t want to lose any time getting them closed when it starts to rain!

(It takes 15 sec. to lower each vent and in addition, maybe something over a minute for one person to close all the windows. There are 8 windows plus the door in the living area. There are 4 more in the bathroom & bedroom areas. Some slide vertically and have a difficult hook. Some slide horizontally and are heavy to push or pull. Despite silicone lubricant treatments, they tend to stick.)

Marsha came home and fixed us hot dogs. It was perfect for hungry people who just finished battling the elements. We were starving and we were celebrating the fact that we had not suffered any permanent damage. We had a hilarious late lunch as we discussed our wet and windy adventure.


We greatly enjoyed meeting Teri. She works for the University of Texas at Austin so we hope to visit her there whenever we pass through that area. Before she left we all enjoyed a dinner by the ocean at a small local seafood restaurant, South Beach Grill on St. Augustine Beach.

Everyone loves Jerry’s dock that sits over the Intercoastal. You can swim and there is always a cool breeze off the water. It faces the bridge and you can sit to watch the sunset. On Wednesday, two of Marsha’s co-workers, Alan and Kevin, (middle school teachers) came by with a bunch of summer camp kids in two boats. We all watched while they swam to the beach and ran out on the dock to jump in the water and do it all over again. Oh to have that kind of energy again!

The dogs love it here. Now they are so clear about where the front door to their bus/home is located and the doors to the Barlow house and the perimeters of the front yard and the side and back yard (the Intercoastal and the dock) that we let them run free whenever we are outdoors to keep an eye on them. Rudi stole granddaughter Marisa’s foam soccer ball and has been having a wonderful time wrangling it around the beach and in the water. The dogs have been made to feel welcome in the house and promptly made themselves comfortable on one of Marsha and Jerry’s soft chairs.


We were able to dump our gray (washing) water into the bushes at the side of Jerry’s yard (by an empty lot), but the day came when the black tank registered full. Dennis had to move the bus off the soft lawn and drive to Flying J to dump the holding tank. It took some worry and maneuvering to get off the lawn and straightened out on the long driveway. Then Dennis had to back out onto A1A south. Jerry stopped the traffic. No one seemed to mind. By then, Jerry’s camper was moved so when Dennis and Jerry returned, Dennis was able to park the bus on the side loop of the gravel driveway.


My brother, Jerry Barlow, is nine years older and my sister, Sally Barlow Perez, is 21 months younger than me. Our parents moved from Port Washington, Long Island, New York when I was ten years old so Sally and I grew up in Redondo Beach on the west coast and we remained in the west as adults. Jerry remained on the east coast and raised his family in Smithtown, Long Island, so we have had few opportunities to visit and see him.

As soon as we arrived here, the four of us began talking about how great it would be for us three siblings to be together at one time. Sally lives and works in Palo Alto, CA where Dennis and I lived until a month ago. Marsha made a surprise move. She called Sally and then bought tickets for her to fly to Florida for an extended Father’s Day weekend. Jerry had extensive open-heart surgery on May 11th — just a month ago. Events like this tend to put life in perspective and the importance of family connections rises to the surface. Marsha said this was her Father’s Day gift to Jerry. He was very touched. It was a gift to us all!

Sally arrived at the Jacksonville airport, more than an hour’s drive north from here. Marsha and Dennis met her 12:30 AM arrival and we were all reunited over a late breakfast Friday morning, June 15th. Of course she was excited to see the bus — our new home.


What with fifth wheel scouting and a tornado, up until then, Dennis and I had done little sightseeing. Now with Sally’s short visit, we became serious, immediate tourists.

On Friday we spent time on the beach. On Saturday we toured Old St. Augustine. We visited the Lichtner Museum http://www.lightnermuseum.org/ and Old St. Augustine Village. http://www.old-staug-village.com/

On Sunday Dennis, Sally and I took the Ft. Matanzas tour. http://www.nps.gov/foma/ At midday, Marsha’s daughter, Nicole came by with granddaughter, Marisa. In the afternoon, Sally, Marsha and Dennis toured the St. Augustine Fort, Castillo de San Marcos http://www.nps.gov/casa/ and the Oldest House (Gonzalex-Alvarez) in St. Augustine.   http://www.staugustinehistoricalsociety.org/

Jerry and I have less energy. We met them for Father’s Day dinner at Cap’s Restaurant, located 4 mi. north of St. Augustine and 2 mi. north of the Vilano Bridge on A1A north. We sat at an outside table in the bar and waited 45 minutes for a table. It was fun to watch the Father’s Day crowd and the kids climbing all over the trees bordering the beach. However, as a referral to others I would have to say the place is scenic and fun but the food was less than ordinary. http://www.florida-secrets.com/Restaurants/NE/Caps.htm


Monday morning, Sally, Marsha and I drove on scenic A1A north to Ponte Vedra Beach where we shopped in the Sawgrass Village Mall and had a lovely lunch on the deck of the Aqua Grill. (Go try their green fried tomatoes for an appetizer!) We dropped Sally at the Jacksonville airport at 2:00 PM and I think she got home about 11:00 PM Pacific Time.

Well! Life is certainly a lot more exciting when you live on a bus! We aren’t disaster people — honestly we aren’t — but here we’ve come through a second scrape. We’ve also had another very busy week and a very social week. It was great!

Dogs Don’t Talk
May 25, 2007

Huntsville, AL, Day Four at the US Space & Rocket Center RV Campground, #6

Day Ten in our bus.


Get Away from the controls_sm

Dateline Friday, May 25, 2007, Huntsville, AL.

Elsa and Dennis Walton, owners of the infamous hijacker dogs, Rudi and Margot, currently have their Tiffin Allegro Bus parked next to the Winnebago Vectra that was destroyed by their dogs last Monday. Relations between the two neighbors was strained on Monday and Tuesday.

However, insurance adjusters did their magic and now the two couples are able to visit and discuss the event. Roy is a retired Boeing executive and Wanda is a retired nurse.

Adjustors have looked at the damage and insurance has agreed to give the Cantrels a rental bus so that they can continue their trip. It will take months to order parts and repair the Vectra. Estimates for repairs run upwards of $38,000 or more. Rental costs for a bus will add another $10,000. to total costs.

Although Rudi and Margot appeared to be shocked immediately after the crash, they have apparently agreed to keep their story to themselves. When questioned as to how and why the incident occurred, all they would say is “dog-gone.”

The only other witness to the accident was a couple who happened to be at home in their RV at the campsite when the accident occurred. They heard the crash and came out to find out what happened. Elsa was clearly distraught and they offered her sympathy and care. After some talk they invited the Waltons to dinner for that evening. They said they wanted the couple to have a good first night in their first RV park in their new bus. Ross and Cindy Peatfield of Boston, MA served the Waltons a delicious steak dinner in their 2000 Winnebago bus. They did much to make the Waltons feel better about the terrible disastor caused by their dogs.

The Bankston people and the insurance people saw humor in the incident. “I’d put those dogs under arrest,” said Mr. Bankston, owner of Bankston Motor Homes in Huntsville. Bankston will handle the repairs to the injured Winnebago bus.

Jeff Aber, insurance agent for Dennis Walton said, “I thought it was a big German Shepherd. How could two little dogs cause this much damage?”

“I always leave my dog in the truck with the engine running,” said a sympathetic Bankston employee to Elsa.

James, the Bankston technician, was philosophical. “You might have prevented the Vectra owners from being in a terrible crash on the road over the long holiday. Who knows? Look at the bright side. It’s only property damage. That truck could have killed someone sitting in the campsite.”

Nevertheless, the future of the two dogs is in some doubt. “They currently live under a dark shadow,” said Elsa. “They may be under motorhome arrest for the remainder of their lives.” However, the owner of the two accused Cotons accepts her share of blame. “I was very nervous when we moved the bus. I wanted to be sure everything went right. The dogs picked up on my frame of mind. When I left them in the car alone they got agitated. I should have turned off the motor and I should not have let myself feel so hurried.”

The truck has been removed. It sustained $3,000 in damage. Together with the insurance claim, it was traded in for a 2007 Honda CRV EX-L with GPS and Moonroof. The Waltons plan to use this vehicle as a tow car for their new Allegro bus. The dogs are not allowed to be in the car when the engine is running. And when Margot jumps on the driver’s seat of the bus she is chastised by Dennis. “Get down! You are not allowed to drive this bus.”

Elsa has nightmares that Margot will jump on the parking brake and the bus will roll down a hill and crash into a ravine. She plans to cover the panel of bus levers to the left of the driver’s seat with a plastic box turned upside down. “All RVers tell stories about some accident that occurs on the first day in their new RV. But the damage is always to their own RV. The refrigerator door pops open and orange juice spills out or a high branch clips something off the roof. But they don’t destroy someone else’s RV. This is rediculous. It’s over the top. It’s off the charts.”

Dennis, a sub-contractor and the owner of a masonry construction company was remarkably sanguine. His business has caused him to survive many disastors. He was calm and philosophical and only reflected that his insurance rates would skyrocket next year. “This story beats them all,” he comforts his wife. “You’ll have great articles to write for the American Coton Quarterly and for the Tiffin RV Network.”

“After this, I don’t think Coton owners are going to want to be related to Rudi and Margot — or me!” she replied. “As for the Tiffin RV people? They are going to write us off as a menace to RV parks everywhere.”

Under House Arrest
May 22, 2007

Huntsville, AL, Day One at the US Space & Rocket Center RV Campground, #6

Day Seven in our bus.

Headline_medsmDateline Monday, May 21, 2007, Huntsville, AL.
Two small dogs, each weighing less than thirteen pounds, are being held for questioning after they hijacked a Ford 250 turbo diesel pickup truck from their owners, Elsa and Dennis Walton. The hijack occurred at approximately 10:45 AM in the RV Campground next to the U.S. Space and Rocket Center at One Tranquility Base in Huntsville, Alabama. The Cotons de Tulear are accused of driving the truck backwards for approximately 100 yards. It crashed into the front end of a 2005 Winnebago bus.

The Waltons arrived in Huntsville five days ago after driving across country in the pickup truck packed with the dogs and some of their household goods. They traveled from Los Altos, CA to purchase a new motor home from Bankston Motor Homes in Huntsville. They stayed in the Bankston sales lot while they learned how to handle their new 42 foot diesel pusher, an Allegro Bus built by Tiffin Motor Homes of Red Bay, AL.

On Monday the Waltons secured reservations at a nearby RV campground next to the US Space and Rocket Museum off I-565. A Bankston service technician helped them negotiate their first move into their first RV camp. James Wallace of Bankston led the caravan in his truck. Dennis Walton followed driving the new bus. Elsa Walton followed driving the Ford pickup truck. All three stopped in the driveway of the campground to determine in which campsite the bus was to be parked.

As this was their first camp spot it was felt that a “pull-through” campsite would be preferable because it would be easier to pull in and pull out of the campsite. The campground director was not present but she instructed Elsa to speak to the campers in site number 23 and ask if they planned to move into site number 6. If not, then the Waltons had permission to go into number 6, a pull-through site.

All three drivers left their engines running as they walked through the campground in search of number 23. A few hundred yards away from their vehicles they heard a crash. They turned and saw the Ford truck facing in the opposite direction about a hundred yards from the position where it was left parked behind the Walton’s bus. The truck had crashed into a bus parked in site number 5.

“How could this happen?” said Dennis Walton. “It’s impossible. You can’t take the truck out of Park without stepping on the brake.” He asked his wife if she’d left the truck in Reverse.

“No,” she replied. “I was going forward. I had no reason to go in reverse. If I had inadvertently put the gear in Reverse the truck would have moved backwards immediately. I was out of the truck for two or three minutes before it began to move. I definitely left it in Park.”

Elsa left the truck parked behind the Walton’s new bus on the campground road facing east. The truck backed up on the road and around a curve in a west and north-west direction. It then left the road and followed the downward slope of the land making a complete half circle and heading east — backwards. Passing between many trees it came to a stop after sheering off the front end of a 2005 Winnebago Vectra bus. The bus was parked facing north. The east bound rear end of the truck grazed the front end of the bus and tore off the fiberglass cap on the front end. It dented the fuel tank of the generator and brought the rear view mirrors to the ground.

“This is one for the books,” said James, the Bankston technician.

“I am dumbfounded,” said Dennis.

“Oh what are the poor owners going to say?” asked Elsa.

The dogs were hustled into the Walton’s new bus and are currently under house arrest. Margot is the alleged perpetrator who jumped on the brake. Rudi is the alleged perpetrator who leaned on the gear shift and attempted to steer the truck backwards. The two worked as partners to pull off the heist.

Bankston people copied the VIN number of the injured Vectra bus and traced the owners who were contacted by cell phone and brought back to the campground. Roy and Wanda Cantrell, recently of Redondo Beach, CA are fulltime RVers who live in their bus. They are in town to visit their grandchildren. They have a grand tour planned for the summer with their oldest grandson. They were devastated that their plans had to be cancelled.


We Are All Systems Go For Launch
May 19, 2007

Huntsville, AL, Day Four at the Bankston Motor Homes Sales Lot.

Day Four in our bus.

DennisHomework_sm Saturday, May 19.  WE LEARN HOW TO MAINTAIN OUR NEW HOME.

Every day we learn more about how to live on this bus. It is like operating our own city. We control our own water, electricity, gas, heating and cooling, and garbage. All our utilities are in the basement of the bus — underneath the floor where we live. It is like living in a highly technical satellite in space. It is so much more sophisticated than our little house on Frontero Ave. that was built in the fifties. We have to learn about amps and fuses and batteries. We have to change filters and check coolant levels.

We have something called AquaHot that provides us with hot water.  Inside, the coach has a thermostat that controls three zones: one in the living area, one in the hall/bath area and one in the bedroom.  There are settings for each zone.  For example I can set the LR to 72 degrees and the BR to 69 degrees if I want.  And there are modes.  Do you want OFF, or heat or cool by electricity, or heat or cool by gas and electricity?  We had no A/C at Frontero and we had one thermostat that controlled the heat for a 3BR 1.5BA house.  There were two zones: the LR was cold, cold, cold and the BRs were hot, hot, hot.  And the forced air was very noisy.  This system is so quiet you don’t know it is running.

On Friday, May 18th, we walked across the street to sit with Ray Cyree and we signed the paperwork.  Dennis made me write a check for the balance of our down-payment, $44,000. I was so nervous I misspelled and wrote fourty-four. So much for the English Lit. major. Now we officially own our 42′ Allegro Bus.  We went out to dinner — at the Red Lobster again, but this time we were less tired.  We celebrated properly with a touristy lobster and shrimp dinner.

The next day we looked at the briefcase of papers we must study to manage these behemoth. There are all these controls that tell us about our tanks.  Do we have enough in the fresh water tank?  (You want this to be full.) Is the gray water (used, soapy) tank full?  Is the black water (you know what) tank full?  (You want these to be not full.) Learning how to dump and clean these last two tanks is quite an operation.  We have automatic awnings that go over the patio area and we have a keyless (code) entry and we have storage on pull-out slides in the basement.  On the roof is a King Dome in-motion satellite dish (for TV) and two solar panels.  (One keeps the battery charged for the residential refrigerator and the other helps to charge the other batteries.)

I was asked about our Internet system.  Dennis has a Dell laptop that is wireless.  We have a wireless Canon printer.  We have a Novatel Air Card supported by Verizon and a Kyocera router that supports the air card so that we are both wireless to it.  I have an Apple AirPort wi-fi card installed in my G5.  In effect, we have our own wireless system.  We named it “The Bus.”  (We don’t have to park near a Starbucks to get on the Internet.)

We are now completely unpacked and settled in.  All systems are go and all my worries have been set aside.  The shower is excellent.  The toilet is fine.  The washer and dryer are terrific.  There is enough room for my clothes.  I can still see my TV programs and I still have my computer and Internet access.  We’ve made breakfast and used the propane stove burner and the microwave. In short — we are comfortable.

But life doesn’t slow down.  On Saturday, May 19th we went to a Huntsville Honda dealer and made a deal to trade in Dennis’s Ford 250 diesel truck for a new Honda CRV, EX-L.  Our sales rep, Ann Lawrence, will look for one that is fully loaded with all the bells and whistles — GPS system and moon window, 4-wheel drive, etc.  (The bus is black and gray with some dark black-brown (taupe?) so of course we must have a silver Honda.  By the middle of next week we should be set with our tow car.

A word about Huntsville and/or Alabama.  Wow.  I love southern hospitality.  These folks are on a different planet from California.  They walk slow and they talk slow.  All waiters and waitresses stop to chit-chat with the people at their tables.  They search for commonality or tell stories.  Everyone says sir or ma’am to everyone else all the time.  Young people LEAP to open doors.  One apologized for not getting there soon enough.  Ray Cyree has made us feel very welcome and so has Bankston Motor Homes.  I am flabbergasted.  Yes, the food is fattening and everyone here agrees that most people are overweight.  But here’s an odd thing.  Old men and women who look like they should be cranky — aren’t.  They walk slow and smile and look — pleasant!  What’s in the water here?

We are happy and excited.  Mikey likes it.  We would like to make time to see more of the Tennessee Valley and the mountains also.  But first, off to St. Augustine, FL.  My brother Jerry is recovering from open heart surgery and we are anxious to visit him and his wife, Marsha.

Can you see Rudi looking out the door? Curtains are pulled across the front window to keep the bus cool and for privacy. The awnings could be out but are not. Bankston Trailer Lot, Huntsville, AL.  5/20/07

Can you see Rudi looking out the door? Curtains are pulled across the front window to keep the bus cool and for privacy. The awnings could be out but are not. Bankston Trailer Lot, Huntsville, AL. 5/20/07


Hooray! Hooray! We’re in our new Bus.
May 18, 2007

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

Day Two in our bus.

ElsaComputerTable_smThursday, May 17.  WE MOVE INTO OUR NEW HOME.

Hooray!  We’re in our bus!  We slept here last night and today we’ve unpacked a lot of stuff from the truck.  We’re getting settled in.  AND I’ve got my own computer and I can type on a regular keyboard — much easier than trying to type on Dennis’s laptop.  AND my wireless Internet is up and running.  (It’s named “The Bus”).

Dennis has driven his new bus. He acts like he’s driven it all his life. No problems with highways or freeways. We went into a big parking lot and Ray had him practice backing up. With the rear view cameras projected on the computer monitor installed on the dashboard, it is not too bad. I practiced also and learned to drive the bus in circles around the parking lot. I didn’t take it out in traffic though!

We are parked in the Bankston RV lot in Huntsville, AL and we will stay here until Monday morning.  They are the soul of southern hospitality and have done everything for us to help us feel at home in our new coach.  We signed up for Direct TV so last night I was able to watch “Lost” while lying in bed just as I would at home.  (There are three TVs and the living area has 3 remotes: Local TV, Satellite Direct TV, and Surround Sound.  It seems very complicated at the moment.)

Our numbers air bed is very soft and comfortable.  For the first time since we left the water bed, Dennis doesn’t have a backache and he doesn’t feel all achy.  I actually feel happy in our new home.  It is new and beautiful and comfortable.  The new smells from chemicals used in making the bus needs to be aired away — so we’ve had every window open since we took possession.  It isn’t bad, but it is there and I’m hoping it will go away after awhile.

The air here is beautiful.  There was a rain Wednesday night and it cleared out the “smog” from the fires in Georgia and Florida.  There is a “cold” front so at night it’s been about 55 degrees and right now at 4:30 PM it is 80 degrees.  There is a wonderful, cool breeze and the air is “soft” with a wonderful feel to it.  The breeze is lovely and blows through our coach and we have wonderful cross ventilation.

Dennis has his computer center at the little computer table behind the driver’s seat.  I have my computer center at the cantilevered dining table.  I sit with my back to the wall (& slide out window) and face the driver’s seat.  We placed the wireless printer on top of the kitchen counter next to the couch.  It is perfect!

Yesterday a woman from Georgia, Gwen, showed me how to stow some things.  She told me about cupboard liner paper that grips the things that sit on it.  This morning we went out for breakfast (Denny’s) and then went to this gigantic Target where we bought groceries and household supplies.  I bought this stuff that looks like foam or also looks like waffle fabric.  It nails down things that sit out on a table or counter.  I have it under the dog’s food bowl and under my keyboard, etc.  I also put it in the cupboards for the dishes.

We want to be very shipshape and neat and not leave a lot of stuff sitting out because it is easy to look junkie.  So we are putting the toaster and coffeepot off the counter and into cupboards when we’re not using them.  My G5 sits under the dining table and is hardly noticeable.  I put my monitor down on a non skid bathmat on the desk when we travel so it won’t get hurt.

The dogs are adjusting.  They are happy to have some activity and not be in the truck riding all day.  They stick close to the bus and they haven’t tried to run away.  Already they know this is home.

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.