Tag Archives: Palo Alto

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?