Letters From a Bus
November 2007: Home Base
3rd entry for September/Novembe

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Living in the Walton Masonry Yard

Mountain View, CA, Day Fifty-nine at Walton Masonry RV Park, Site #1

Monday, November 5, 2007 — Five Months, Three Weeks

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. 

So this is where we're living now.

Six palm trees on Charleston Road mark the front parking lot at the masonry entrance. Front entrance and gate to yard in back.
Orientation: (See photos below)
Our private RV site at the masonry is situated on approximately a half acre of asphalt.  

East: Our bus faces due east and is parked on the edge of the loading pit facing the fence that separates us from Michaels back parking lot.

Southeast: Scaffolding is piled up in the southeast corner of the yard opposite the fence that separates us from a church.

South: Masonry materials are arranged along the south fence that faces the church.

Southwest: Equipment such as mixers and trash bins are lined up in the southwest corner.

West: Dump trucks are parked along the west fence.

North: To the north is the entrance gate and the masonry building.

The lobby at the office building entrance has samples scattered on the floor.

The locked front door is propped open with a stone while Rudi and Margot anxiously wait to go out for a walk.

The bus faces the loading pit. The loading pit and dock. The bus is just to the left of the blue camping chair.
This is what our parking site looks like when the bus is not parked in it. We park parallel to the flatbed (back end is seen on the left of the photo). On the right is an old warehouse that has been converted to a church. Scaffolding is stacked in the southeast corner by the east end of the church.
Masonry materials are stacked up on pallets along the south fence. A long view of masonry materials in the southwest corner by the west end of the church.
Masonry equipment such as mixers and automatic dump trash bins sit in the southwest corner of the yard. On the west fence is an office building and behind it is their parking lot. Masonry trucks are parked along this fence.
Facing north is our entrance gate with an office building on the left and the masonry building on the right. Robert in the yellow shirt installs the outlet. Dennis in red and Steve in navy stand around and kibbitz.

We parked at a spot in the yard where there was already an electric outlet.  After our arrival, the masonry had a regular RV campground 50 amp outlet installed. Robert, an electrical contractor came out to install it for us. That's his two white vans parked near the bus.

Robert came back to visit us and see our bus and Rudi made himself comfortable on his lap.

Dennis had a pipe installed in the cleanout located near the masonry warehouse. This brought it up to ground level and gave us our RV dump. 

This means that Dennis must back up from our parking site to the gate where the cleanout dumpsite by the building, is located. So we bring in the slides and move the bus whenever necessary.

Left: View of the yard from the bus facing south from the dump station.

Right: Bus parked by the masonry near the entrance gate.

Bus parked next to the masonry. An office building is on the left. Dennis waits and watches while Rudi pokes around the trash bins.

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.

The bus is backed right up against the entrance gate. Because of church parking problems, "Don't block" was painted on the gate.
Sunrise on 9/10/07 at 7:17:50 AM. Walton Masonry yard. Sunrise on 9/14/07 At 7:04:46 AM The palm trees stand in front of the roofline of Costco.
Sunrise on 9/21/07 at 7:08:16 AM. Walton Masonry yard. Sunrise on 9/27/07 at 7:22:30 AM. In the seventeen days between these photos the position of the rising sun has moved from left of the trees to behind the trees.
Sunrise on 10/5 at 7:20 AM. It is unusual to see clouds or have a threat of rain in early October.
Sunrise on 11/12 at 7:54 AM (Standard). Look how far the sun has shifted. On 9/10 it was rising to the left of that big tree.
Sunset on 10/19/07 at 7:22:16 PM. An early storm gives us a spectacular sunset. Walton Masonry yard.
Sunset on 10/19 at 7:22:26. Walton Masonry yard.
Sunset on 10/19 at 7:22:26 (left) and 7:22:36 (above).
Is the masonry yard ugly?  Well, you're reading the gal who switched sites in Ogden when we had a view of the trash bins! But here we aren't paying $25. a night and the location is in my home area. That makes a big difference.

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 in the new Michael’s back parking lot — as well as the more distant palm trees lined up in front of the Costco building.

Unusual Shapes: Spheres and balustrades among other forms that are made of limestone or precast cement are piled on top of a pallet of brick. Apprentices made a chair from stone and rebar and left it next to an assortment of other odd things by the backdoor of the warehouse.
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.
Inside the warehouse facing the back door and bay doors. Overhead are lights and also skylights so that the place is never completely dark. We walk through it to get to the offices and the front door. Sometimes the boomreach Pettibone forklift is parked right in front of us. This time it's loaded with sand.
When he was small, my son Chris could never miss the arrival and departure of the garbage truck. He trained me. So in the early morning, I leave my coffee and run out to get photos of a visit from the garbage truck.

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

A material truck is delivering concrete brick pavers from McNear. Notice camp chairs situated in various shady nooks near the bus. This is a great spot for a Sunday morning latte. 10/8/07 at 12:11 PM
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. 

Above left, a delivery truck departs in the early morning. Above, I look up to see a repair man staring down at me as he works on a tall lamp in Michaels's parking lot.

Left, Michaels finally opens.

Below, I am always entertained by the employees who unpack all those cartons and then treat themselves to some trampoline fun while they jump to pack down the trash bin.

While I make my coffee I let the dogs out to “go potty.”  I don’t have to put them on a leash and they are trained to do their business quickly and return to the bus.  I take a peek 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.

Rudi likes to play around the stacks of plank and the frame that is used to haul big slabs of stone. Rudi drops his ball between the slats and then cries while he tries to get it back. Rudi loves to create a problem and then overcome it. He loves to drop balls into water and then he struggles to get them out. But here he often can't reach underneath to retreive his ball and then I have to get into undignified positions to find them. Often I can't reach them either.

Piles of sand are irresistible. The dogs nearly disappear as they reduce a pile of white sand into beach rubble. Margot has her nose poked into the shovel of the Pettibone. What's in there?

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!

Left: Our driveway facing the gate to the yard. The church puts up cones and a sign saying "No Church Parking" in front of our bay door. Middle & Right: Facing the street. Our parking lot is full as church goers depart.

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!

Brent Walton works for the masonry as a Class A driver. He's been laid up with a torn meniscus and cartilage damage in his knee. On 10/9 he had surgery and stayed on our couch bed for a few days while he recuperated. Above, Rudi snuggles with him and provides comfort. Three days later Brent was sitting outside with us enjoying the morning sun.
On 10/27 we all sat outside on a sunny Saturday to sip our Starbuck's lattes. Brent brought out his newly delivered telescope and asked his dad to help him as it's tough to do stuff when you're on crutches. Dennis helped him set up his brand new Meade DS-2000 Series Reflecting & Refracting Telescope with #497 Autostar. They had a happy day trying to figure out how to assemble it and use it.

I watched and kibitzed while I sat and combed the dogs in preparation for much needed baths. Then Dennis had to help me! That bath water is heavy and those dogs are slippery.

First Margot and then Rudi meet a horrible fate. It takes two of us as a team to hold and soap and rinse. Look at that dirty water!
A cleaner Rudi and Margot are invited to come with us to the Pettengill home for dinner that evening. Rudi is allowed to sit on their white couch. He's almost a match.
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. 
On 9/26 Ron came over to see our new bus. Dennis showed him around the masonry also. Ron brought Cesar and Bani so we had four Cotons running around.
Hey that's my old '85 Ford pickup. I drove that for years and I loved it. It had a camper shell on the back and I used to have picnic lunches by the baylands sitting on the tailgate. We sold it to the masonry. Above drinking water from left to right is Rudi, Margot, Bani and Cesar. Cesar is Rudi's dad and Margot's grandfather.
It was a hot afternoon so we were sitting in the shade by the bus. After running around the dogs sat together to rest and play. Above right Rudi licks Bani. He especially loves Bani and they have always been close friends.

On the evening of October 21 we even staged a small dinner party for some of our previous Cotton Club members.  Ron brought Cesar and Bani. Becca and Ron Karliner 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.

A most unconventional setting for a dinner party and I had to struggle to dig up the supplies that I used to have so easily at hand! At six it was still hot and we all got cozy in a shady corner by the brick stacks. By seven we could spread out to our borrowed masonry folding "dining" table. Left handed Brent, still on crutches sat at the end of the table. Dennis is going to the bus for supplies of some kind. By eight in the gathering dark we were able to enjoy candlelight and a waxing full moon.

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, the amazing amount of space that we are able to enjoy, and the technical marvels that make it all possible.

My sister, Sally Barlow-Perez and her son, Tavis Perez. Septembe 21, 2007. On the bus in the masonry yard. Tavis Perez and his wife, Francis. November 6, 2007. On the bus in the masonry yard.
My son, Jeff Parry. September 16, 2007. On the bus in the masonry yard. Sally's son, Severin Perez. October 12, 2007. On the bus in the masonry yard.
Our friends, James Boyer and Lilia Welsh. October 14, 2007. On the bus in the masonry yard. Melissa Torres and Lilia's son, Michael Luna. October 14, 2007. On the bus in the masonry yard.
My friend, Becky Pieper, who helped me pack up the house and sell our goods. September 10, 2007. On the bus in the masonry yard. Our friends, Franklin Flock and Dale Dunlap, our personal trainer. September 15, 2007. On the bus in the masonry yard.
Where are photos of my son, Chris Parry, and my nephew, Colin Perez, and so many other friends who came to visit us? Did I forget to take a photo of them or did I lose a batch of photos? My apologies to them.
My friend and acupuncturist, Catherine Burns. September 21, 2007. On the bus in the masonry yard.

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.

The bay door gives me plenty of light and sunny warmth when I want to look for something in storage. The boxes against the wall on the left were labeled "Bus" and hold items I thought we might want. (Remember we took a pickup truck with a few essentials and drove to Alabama to pick up our bus.) Now we are loading some of the items we feel we want to have. Most of the rest of these boxes are left over from our yard sale. We will try one more sale and then it goes to Goodwill. Some of the boxes will stay here as permanent storage or as transitional seasonal items.

On this day, Rudi chose to get very wet and dirty. I had to hose him off and then towel him dry. Then he and Margot were confined to the storage area while I went through some more boxes looking for my missing winter clothes! November 7, 2007, Walton Masonry yard.

Elsa Walton, Walton Masonry RV Park, Mountain View, CA, Monday, November 5, 2007