Tag Archives: Mountain View

Betwixt and Between
March 8, 2010
Morgan Hill, CA, Maple Leaf RV Park — 1 month
Monday, March 8, 2010 — Fulltimers 2 Years & 10 Months
Sunday, December 12, 2009. A Surprise 70th Birthday Party surprises me.

Ten years ago my sister, Sally, gave me a beautiful, intimate 60th birthday party at her apartment.  A few of my best friends were there and thanks to Sally, it was a really special evening.  I wanted to be home with my family and friends to celebrate my 70th in a similar fashion.  Sally and I planned a small dinner party at her apartment.

I must say that by the time we arrived in Mountain View on December 7th, I was feeling tired, stressed and depressed.  There was the pressure of finding a new place for the masonry and for our RV.  Due to financial worries I decided to let my hair go back to my natural brunette and find out how much gray I have.  But Sally would have none of it.  She had big plans.

On Thursday Sally invited me to lunch.  She is a full time nanny to three kids for two working attorneys.  I met her at the new home of Nancy and Joe in Los Altos.  Sally is so happy and she looks great.  She showed me around and then we went in her car to pick up the two little girls at Kindergarten and at Pre-school in the church opposite the shopping center where I used to live.  It made me feel very nostalgic.  I read “Humphrey the Lost Whale” to them while Sally fixed their lunch and they ate.  Then they went to their room to rest and we had lunch.  She fixed shredded chicken mixed with leftover egg salad on open face sandwiches with lettuce and served with coffee.  It was delicious.

I told her I had an appointment to get a haircut Friday morning but Sally wanted my hair dyed to cover the gray.  Unbeknownst to me she called her stylist, Lisa, and got an appointment for me at 3:15 pm that very day.  She told me to be there and said it was her birthday treat.  There was no taking No for an answer so I accepted.  Of course, Sally had an ulterior purpose.  I didn’t know that she was planning to stage a big surprise party in this very house.

Lisa and I decided to do a Chestnut color to cover the gray and go back to more of my original color.  We figured the gray wouldn’t show as much when my hair grows out.  She gave me a good cut and when I left I felt happy that I would look semi-decent for my seventieth birthday.

On Friday Sally called to ask if we would stop at Nancy and Joe’s first before going to her house for my birthday dinner.  She said they wanted to see us and that we could visit for an hour and then go to her house for dinner at 7:30.  It seemed odd but I agreed.

Saturday I woke early.  It was a depressing rainy day.  We did some errands and I figured out what to wear.  I chose my new low hip jeans, a long sleeve REI undershirt for warmth and my silk floral blouse to look festive.  I felt like I was starting to get sick and I knew I looked tired.

Of course, Dennis and everyone but me knew about the surprise party at Nancy and Joe’s.  I didn’t have a clue.  We turned onto their street and I saw a lot of cars parked and I said to Dennis, “Someone on the block is having a party.”  We parked in the driveway and when I got out of the car I heard talk in the house and I said to Dennis, “I thought it was just us dropping in to say “hi” but maybe they are throwing a big party.”

I rang the bell.  We had a bottle of wine and a peppermint candle as housegifts.  Nancy opened the door and as we greeted her I saw my son, Jeff, standing behind her.  Then I saw a few others in the background but I still didn’t understand.  I said to Jeff, “I thought you were going to meet us at Sally’s apartment.”  Sally greeted me in the hall and pulled me into the living room.  There, twenty-some people were gathered and shouted “Happy Birthday!”  I was stunned.

I had such a mix of emotions.  I didn’t believe my eyes.  I thought, no, this doesn’t happen to me, and I felt confused at the sight of all those familiar faces grouped together at one time.  Then I was overwhelmed with happiness.  I’ve been so lonesome and here were all my friends at one time.  So I just started greeting and hugging people individually and the party started.

Sally threw a marvelous party.  She had it catered and Mexican food was delivered.  There was a big rectangle cake with two boxes of candles.  Jeff’s steady girl friend has three children so I asked them to help me blow out the candles.

There were various dining tables scattered around the living room and recreation room.  I just floated and caught up with all my friends.  It was a terrific party and I think everyone had a good time.  I was a bit “out of it”.  There was a table of presents but I never noticed it.  After everyone left I saw the gift table.  But I’m glad I didn’t open them during the party as there was so little time to visit with each friend.  (I sent thank you cards to some and then got distracted with moving. If I didn’t thank you allow me to do so now….)

So I had a fabulous seventieth birthday.  As it happens I’ve always had terrific Something-Oh Birthdays.  When I turned forty I met all my friends at Bourbon Street in the Old Mill and we danced all night.  We had such a great time.  When I was fifty Dennis took me to Hawaii for a two week vacation.  When I was sixty, Sally gave me a beautiful little party.  And now, a big surprise party for my seventieth.  My sincere thanks to Joe and Nancy for lending us their beautiful home. You all really did pull off a big big surprise party.

Monday, February 1, 2010.  Between times at Coyote Valley RV Resort in Morgan Hill.

We spent the rest of December packing up the masonry and moving the business to Morgan Hill.  I spent the month sorting and moving boxes out of our warehouse storage room into public storage in Mountain View as well as a large room in our new office building in Morgan Hill.  On January 4th we drove to our new “home” at Coyote Valley RV Resort. (See Previous, my letter #200 “A Moving Saga”.)

January was a very tough month for both of us.  Our new location in a very nice RV park was pretty and pleasant but very expensive compared to our free digs in the Mountain View masonry yard. Coyote Valley RV Resort was also inconvenient.  We were in a rural area seven miles north of Morgan Hill.  We had pretty farm country surrounding us with views of the green hills and the trails

of Coyote Creek Park within walking distance.  Although our location put us twelve miles closer to Mountain View, we were also twelve miles north of the new masonry office in Morgan Hill.  The divider on the Monterey Highway prevented a left turn to go south.  If you forgot your cell phone, you had to make two U-turns and drive four miles to come back for it.  Groceries and errands were in shopping centers five north or ten miles south.

Of course we share our one car and normally we go out together to explore a new town.  Here, in a semi-permanent situation we each needed the car to go our separate ways.  Dennis wanted to spend some time at the masonry but not all day.  I wanted to drive to Mountain View to work on selling the things I’d placed in public storage.  I was also catching up on medical appointments in Palo Alto and I wanted to re-connect with my friends.  Dennis and I were at cross-purposes.  I think we were both in shock after a month of very hard work and we both felt aggrieved and very cross.  Other than our two-month winter holidays sojourn in Mission, TX a year ago, we’ve never stayed in one place for very long.

I felt dreadfully homesick, lonesome and completely cut off.  After a year and nine months of travel I was finally home.  But I wasn’t home.  I was in a brand new situation forty miles south of my hometown area.  A great big traffic blob called San Jose, obstructed my path between Morgan Hill and Mountain View.  We are on the wrong side of rush hour, so I have to be mindful to drive north after 9:30 am and return south before 3:00 pm.  Getting caught in rush hour traffic can add an extra hour to my fifty-minute drive.

I’ve lived in the South Bay since 1973, but the entire city area south of Sunnyvale and Cupertino or Campbell was foreign to me.  I knew how to navigate into San Jose if necessary but that was rare.  I never had any reason to venture into the shopping centers of Blossom Hill in the southern portion of San Jose.  And I never drove further south to take advantage of the gigantic shopping centers and the outlet malls in Gilroy.  Morgan Hill is a little town between San Jose and Gilroy.  Frankly, I’d never heard of it much less seen it.

My southern orientation was west of San Jose in Los Gatos or across the Santa Cruz Mountains in Santa Cruz.  My westward orientation was west of Palo Alto across the coastal mountains to Half Moon Bay.  I rarely found any reason to drive east across the Dunbarton Bridge to Fremont or any of the East Bay towns.

I lived in Palo Alto for 27 years and I lived in neighboring Los Altos for seven years.  When I needed to shop I drove north into the famous garden mall of Stanford Shopping Center.  If anything, I was northward oriented.  I was comfortable driving to San Carlos or San Mateo.  In terms of cities I thought of San Francisco, not San Jose.  So, in short, I was home but not home.  I found myself on the moon, in a completely foreign environment and cut off from my home base by distance and an impenetrable thicket of traffic.

Finally, I sat down and made this map.  I made it to try to get myself situated with a mental picture.  I felt disoriented.  Where was I relative to Mountain View?  What cities lay in-between?  Exactly where were they?  What paths would work best to get me over the mountain, so to speak?  Did any shortcuts exist?  In terms of mountains, what was the shortest distance to visit my sons in Santa Cruz?  I used to be north of the Santa Cruz Mountains and I took CA-17 through Los Gatos to cross these mountains.  Now I was due east of the mountains and I needed to learn about CA-152 and the mountain pass to Watsonville, a coastal agricultural town south of Santa Cruz.

To my big surprise I discovered that the great bowl of Santa Clara Valley narrows down and extends southward all the way to Gilroy.  Known as South Valley, it is part of Santa Clara County. After I outlined the territory I decided it looked like a bending tulip.  I-101 is the bending stem.  I-880 and I-680 define the east side of the blossom while CA-85 and I-280 define the west side.  The yellow tulip blossom comprises the major part of San Jose and Santa Clara Valley.  The pink fill area from Cupertino to Mountain View to Palo Alto and Stanford to Los Altos represents my home turf for more than 34 years.

During the month of January when I drove around the streets of my home turf I found myself weeping.  Every corner, every building, every park brought back memories. I think this homesick feeling was a delayed reaction.  We were so busy packing and selling in 2007 when we left our Los Altos home and drove to Alabama to pick up our new motorhome.  There was no time to say goodbye and to grieve over our departure from my hometown.  Since then we’ve been home for very brief periods.  For almost three years we’ve had the distraction of travel and new sights.  Now, I found my sense of loss was overwhelming.  It would have been easier if we were still parked in the masonry in Mountain View and I could easily drive around to re-visit my favorite spots.  Instead we were almost an hour away. During that first month in Morgan Hill I felt as if I just got my home back and then lost it again.

Thursday, February 4.   We move to Maple Leaf RV Park in Morgan Hill.

We only spent one month at Coyote Valley RV Resort.  The Monterey Highway and the train tracks were extremely noisy and the location was too inconvenient for us.  On February 4th we moved ten miles south to Maple Leaf RV Park, also located on the Monterey Highway.  The park is just south of Morgan Hill and a mile away from two big shopping centers.  Immediately across the street (with a crossing traffic light to make it easy) is the masonry offices and yard.  It is easy walking distance.  Also Maple Leaf is set back from the highway and the train.  It is quiet.

Although the park is nowhere near as nice and yet nearly as expensive as Coyote Valley RV Resort, we find that we like it.  Sites are tight but it is quiet.  This park has many permanent residents who work in the area.  Often no one

is parked in the sites on either side of us and we have a sense of space.  Our bedroom frames a nice view of the small mountain, Morgan Hill, which sits by the town of the same name.  There is a huge lawn in front of the park near the highway.  This is a good place to walk the dogs.  It is lined along the highway by decorative cherry trees.  We enjoyed watching the pink blossoms emerge and then fall.

Now if I need to take the car to Mountain View, Dennis can easily walk across the street to his masonry office.  In terms of sharing the car, peace reigns.

Sunday, February 28.  We take a scenic drive up to Henry Coe State Park.

We finally got a semi-decent sunny day so we decided to go explore.  Dennis kept mentioning Henry Coe to me.  He was there long ago and I thought I might have been once.  It’s very conveniently located from Morgan Hill.  We take walks nearby along Coyote Creek just below Anderson Dam located on the east side of I-101.

Above Anderson Dam, Coyote Creek provides the water for the 7.8 miles along Anderson Reservoir which, sits (ominously) just above Morgan Hill.  It is the largest man-made lake in Santa Clara County.  (A major quake centered near the 240 foot high earthen dam could cause it to fail which would send a wall of water 35 feet high into downtown Morgan Hill within 14 minutes.)

Coyote Creek in the Diablo range to the east drops down from the 86,000-acre watershed in Henry W. Coe State

Wilderness.  It is the second largest park in California.  Coe Park, as locals call it, consists of a series of high ridges separated by steep canyons, with occasional level valley bottoms and distinct peaks.  Most of the ridges run around two to three thousand feet in elevation.  Canyon bottoms are generally a thousand to fifteen hundred feet above sea level.

The area encompasses parts of three major watersheds: Coyote Creek, Orestimba Creek, and Pacheco Creek.  Coyote Creek flows into Coyote Lake and Anderson Lake, and then north through San Jose into the San Francisco Bay.  The park protects part of the California interior chaparral and woodlands ecoregion.  Large parts of the park are covered in chaparral  and oak woodlands. Most visitors at Coe Park hike or mountain bike or backpack on the numerous trails within the park. There are about 200 miles of dirt roads and trails in the park. Park headquarters is less than a one hour drive from San Jose and yet this vast park is not well known to San Francisco Bay Area residents.  I think this is because most of it can only be seen by hiking.  Only a few roads available for motorized vehicles.

Love is in the Air
On our way back down we saw this amazing sight and stopped quickly. Opening the doors quietly we felt we might be looking at a fake. It looked like a totem pole. The vultures at the top of the telephone pole were so still they seemed like sculptures. However, they were real and they maintained their postures and concentration for many minutes while I snapped photos. Eventually they both flew away — perhaps to another rondezvous….

February – March. I occupy my time selling things on Craigs List.

I actually enjoy my current pastime of selling things on Craigs List. These are the items that never sold from our estate and yard sales in 2007.  We stored them in the masonry warehouse in Mountain View and then I had to put them in public storage when we moved the masonry to Morgan Hill.

Our 10 x 30 unit at Peninsula Storage Center costs $320 per month so my goal was to empty that unit and eliminate the cost of public storage ASAP.  I developed a routine.  I would drive to Mountain View to sort and organize and select certain items.  Those had to be measured and I took sales photos.  At home I would write up descriptions of these items, which usually meant doing some research and coming up with a price.  After posting my descriptions with selected photos, I had to keep track of calls, text messages and e-mail.  Things that didn’t sell had to be re-posted in seven days.  With prospective buyers I made appointments and then drove to Mountain View to meet interested buyers with hopefully several people lined up on one day.  The money received really wasn’t worth the time and effort.  But I got some satisfaction out of the process and the extra cash has been very handy. Also I’ve more than paid for the expense of public storage.

I’ve tried to concentrate on large objects but I’ve sold an odd assortment of large and medium size items.  My huge L-Shaped Corner Computer desk cleared out a lot of space.  I sold the Combi-Cycle and our portable massage table.  I sold my mothers fifties Wegner-style twine wrapped folding chairs.  I sold ten folding metal pet fences that I used to keep our dogs out of the flowerbeds.  I sold two beautiful old antique trunks.  Now that springtime is here I finally sold our gigantic and heavy cedar arc hammock set.  I sold inexpensive little items like a pet crate and expensive little items like our tow car Brake Buddy system.  My big coup was the sale of our Borega Spa for $2500.  It was covered and stored on a pallet in the masonry yard at Morgan Hill.  A lucky couple up in the Santa Cruz Mountains got it.  Recently I sold my stylish Bamboo Chaise to an art dealer in Santa Cruz.

I got sidetracked for a week when I started to look at my two Erector Sets.  My father gave me a large red wooden box on my 8th or 9th birthday.  It was his 1929 No 8 Trail Blazing Zeppelin made by Gilbert Erector.  I’m sure it had the gondola and was in beautiful shape at the time.  For his sake I tried to show some interest in it but I don’t recall building anything with it.  Some time later it was given to my cousins as young boys and now it is a mish-mash of parts.  I also inherited a red metal box that holds 1949/50 No 6 1/2 The Electric Engine.  In it are three engines and a bunch of parts to build the White truck.

After much investigation online I discovered a number of Gilbert Erector set fanatics who collect, restore and reassemble the original set boxes. I found collector, Bill Bean of Dayton, OH, with his very complete website,  http://www.erectorset.net/index.html  and I drew excellent information from him.  I discovered a fascinating guy who combines news about a Lindy Hop dancing group with information on A. C. Gilbert Co.  At his website http://www.jitterbuzz.com/erector.html I gained a lot of excellent information about my two Erector sets.  I admire these two collectors who have put together such helpful and complete websites.

I discovered Big Al who sells original and reproduction Erector parts on e-Bay and I found a restored, fairly complete No. 8 Zeppelin Set selling on E-Bay starting at $895.

At http://www.acghs.org/ there is an A. C. Gilbert Heritage Society.  Did you know that “The Man Who Saved Christmas” is A. C. Gilbert?  They made a TV movie about him that aired on CBS on 12/15/02.  It starred Jason Alexander and Ed Asner and Bill Bean helped make the props.  For $11.49 you can buy the Blu-ray DVD on Amazon.com.

Next thing I knew, I was considering reassembling my inherited Erector sets and I located inventory parts lists for both of them.  Now I have to compare what I have to the inventory lists and then we shall see if would be worth it to try to put these sets back into something like their original shape.  It would be an interesting project although I still have no interest in doing the actually assembly of a zeppelin or a White truck.  So I have set these fascinating boxes aside for the moment.

Saturday, March 6. We schlep stuff to the DeAnza Flea Market Sale.

My sale plan also called for doing a big flea market sale. With my friend, Becky’s help and advice, I signed up for a double stall sale (four parking spaces) on February 6th at the De Anza Flea Market held once a month in Cupertino in the parking lot of De Anza College. Naturally it rained all week and I had to cancel our plans, losing my $60 deposit.

We tried again for March 6th and once again we had clouds and a 20% chance of rain.  Becky and our friend, Myrna, both volunteered to help.  (Dennis had no choice but to help.) We all voted to take the chance so we turned out at 5:30 am, met in Cupertino at 6:00 and were inside setting up before the 7:00 opening.  Wow, it was a lot of work but also lots of fun.  We had perfect weather, neither too hot nor too cold and a big crowd turned out.

I sold a lot of small household-type items.  I took four lockers filled with fabric remnants of all kinds and sizes, plus old patterns and a great deal of trims and other notions.  There were lots of craft/hobby items.  We took back about a quarter of what we brought and sent some of that to GoodWill.  I made almost $600 so it was well worth the effort.  I am sharing a double stall with Becky on May Day so I have a second shot at selling fabrics plus perhaps some books and other small items.

Over the months I have emptied half of our unit and we recently found one in Morgan Hill that is half the size, 10 x 15, for less than half the price, $152.  Everything will be moved to Morgan Hill by April 30th and some items will be left on the truck for my second De Anza Flea Market sale on May Day.  Some of the objects in the Morgan Hill storage unit I will keep. Things left over to sell will be small in size.  Eventually I think I can get our stuff down to a 10 x 10 unit.  I think it is acceptable to have everything we own on a -400 sq. ft. bus or in a small storage unit, don’t you?

A Moving Saga
February 3, 2010
Morgan Hill, CA, Coyote Creek RV Resort, Site 10 — 30 days
Wednesday, February 3, 2010 — Fulltimers 2 Years & 9 Months
Wednesday, February 3.  A Moving Saga; in which we shift a masonry company and our personal storage in two weeks.
Approaching Boron, CA in the Mohave Desert.

Approaching Boron, CA in the Mohave Desert.

Our seven-year contract for our masonry location in Mountain View, CA expired at the end of the year.  We thought we could extend until April and we thought we would have plenty of time to find new quarters.  But the owners had found a buyer (Blockbuster) and wanted us out. We needed to find a new location — fast.  We learned about this situation in November 2009 when we were still in Florida.  We knew our time was limited so after our doctor’s appointments we drove home as quickly as possible.

We pulled into the masonry yard on Saturday, December fifth.  On Monday, Dennis rallied his real estate agent and began looking for cheaper masonry rentals.  We had 2,000 sq. ft of offices, a 13,000 sq. ft. warehouse and a 30,000 sq. ft yard and we paid 15K per month.  Our location near US-101 and CA-85 was ideal.  Most of our custom residential work is in the Bay Area so Dennis wanted to stay near Mountain View and match what we had as much as possible.  But he wanted to reduce our rent to 5K.  Of course this was impossible.  He looked at many places over the next two weeks but found nothing suitable.

On Friday, 12/18 we still had not secured a new place.  By then we had seventeen days to get out — and that included the non-work days of Christmas and New Years.  Our deadline was Monday January 4.  The weekend was a work loss so we actually had twelve working days to accomplish a moving miracle.

The staff offices are finished and very pleasant with interior and exterior windows to give an open feeling with plenty of light

The staff offices are finished and very pleasant with interior and exterior windows to give an open feeling with plenty of light

We had seen a property in Morgan Hill that was available immediately.  The price was right — $3,120 / mo.  The offices were very pretty and larger with 3,200 sq. ft.  However it had no warehouse and at 15,000 sq. ft., the unpaved yard was much smaller.  Our Operations Mgr. lives in Morgan Hill so on Saturday Steve went to see the owner.  They struck a deal but the owner wanted to meet Dennis so we drove down on Sunday.  We gave Perry a deposit and asked to start moving on Monday.  He was surprised that we were in such a hurry but he agreed.  His yard was not yet compacted and he hadn’t put up a fence.  Half the offices were being renovated and not finished but half were ready for us to move in.

Monday, 12/21, Dennis scheduled every man available to report to the masonry.  He went into high gear and stayed that way until our last day.  The yard and warehouse were crawling with more than two-dozen men, half a dozen trucks and several forklifts and bobcats.  I’ve never seen anything like it.  Dennis rented a 62’ flatbed and driver and a second flatbed half as long.  They took one or two loads a day to our new location 40 miles south.  By New Year’s Eve all but a few items were gone.  He accomplished the entire move in ten working days.  We left the property “broom clean” as agreed.

This is how much equipment had to be moved:  11 semi loads (the rented flatbeds) plus about 110 loads in four masonry trucks of various sizes from a 650 down to a 350.  The yard all around our Bus was filled with covered pallets and equipment.  It was chaos.

In early 2007 when we ordered our Bus we staged many yard and estate sales.  What was left over was stored at the masonry in a 510 sq. ft room that Dennis built inside the warehouse.  It had a pull-up garage door and another big door opened into the larger warehouse.  We’ve never been back here long enough to deal with this left over storage.  So that was (and is) my New Year’s job.  While Dennis directed the masonry move, I worked very hard in our personal storage area to make decisions about what to keep, sell, give away or throw out.  There was no time to sort.  I had to rent public storage near the masonry and I put my sale items in a 10 x 30 unit.  These were things that never sold including some large pieces of furniture.  I didn’t have time to sort boxes so I threw stuff out and if it was questionable I sent it to be placed in a 15 x 15 office room in Morgan Hill.  I put in nine solid days of work.

Oh my gosh! Steve did his best but there is not enough space. It looks like a bomb hit. We've had lots of rain and our new "yard" is a muddy quagmire. There's not a speck of free ground left and barely room enough to drive to the office building.

Oh my gosh! Steve did his best but there is not enough space. It looks like a bomb hit. We’ve had lots of rain and our new “yard” is a muddy quagmire. There’s not a speck of free ground left and barely room enough to drive to the office building.

On January fourth, we moved to Morgan Hill.  Dennis managed the packing in Mountain View and Steve Montez managed the receiving in Morgan Hill, so we hadn’t seen the new offices since we rented them on December 20th.  What a mess!  Office materials were mashed into the finished side of the offices.  Outside, materials and equipment and rain-covered pallets were everywhere.  The yard was muddy because of rain and it can’t be compacted until it dries out.  There was no room to park.  Rudy was directing a boom forklift and bobcats.  Over the next week he somehow managed to stash things off to the side and out of the way.  Right now the yard looks like Sanford & Sons.  We still don’t have a fence.

Coyote Valley RV Resort on the Monterey Highway.  It is ten miles north of the new masonry and thirty miles south of the old masonry.  With an extra wide space and with a clubhouse, fitness room, pool, and dog-run available, it is luxurious but expensive.  We pay about a thousand a month as opposed to zero in the old masonry yard.  It is nice but isolated in a setting between farm fields.

We are on the east side of the highway, which has a barrier so when you exit you must turn right and drive a mile north before you can make a U-turn to go south. If you forget your cell phone, the round trip with two U-turns (at lights) is four miles! We are six-plus miles north of the town and shopping malls and supermarkets, so it is not a convenient location.

Our site is fairly near the highway, which is extremely noisy — especially during rush hour or when the streets are wet. Other sites at the back of the park get the constant hum of traffic from the freeway, US-101 which runs parallel to the foothills about a mile away. So in terms of traffic noise it’s six to one; half a dozen to the other. However, the kicker is the the railroad track that runs parallel to the highway on the west side. Passenger and freight trains run frequently all day and night. Whistles are blown for long or short lengths of time depending on the engineer. At night, the engine sounds like it is about to roar straight through our bedroom. It breaks up our sleep and is most disconcerting.

On the plus side, we are near Coyote Creek Park so we are a half-mile walk from a pedestrian/bicycle path that runs north and south for 26 miles.  The trail crosses through open fields dotted with oak trees. The hills are green and covered with mustard blooms. I’d love to take more advantage but this is a very wet year and every day we have gray cloud cover with periods of rain. There is also a lot of tully fog.

Now my job is to drive to Mountain View to sell stuff and get rid of our public storage bill.  So I am still under the gun to hurry.  I sell on Craigs List and I’ve reserved space for a Flea Market sale on February sixth.  Next I must sort the stuff piled up in the office.  At least the time frame for that is not so pressing.

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.

MONDAY, NOVEMBER 12. PALO ALTO IS MY FOREVER HOME.

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.

GOING OUT TO BREAKFAST: DINAH’S SHACK SPOILED ME.

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

WALKING ON THE BAYLAND TRAILS.

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

I LOVE THE STANFORD SHOPPING MALL..

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.

CATCHING UP WITH FAMILY AND FRIENDS.

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.

TRAVEL PLANS

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.

MONDAY, NOVEMBER 5. LIFE IS GOOD HERE AT THE MASONRY.

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.

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 7. WE ARE HOME.

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/

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 8. WE VISIT MY SON AT PIGEON POINT LIGHTHOUSE.

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

http://www.flickr.com/photos/13194476@N06/sets/72157601942509052

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.)

SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 9. REST DAY.

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….