Letters From a Bus
November 2007: Home Base
4th entry for September/November
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At Home in the South Bay

Mountain View, CA, Day Sixty-six at Walton Masonry RV Park, Site #1

Monday, November 12, 2007 — Six Months

I can’t believe we’ve been parked here in the masonry yard for two months.  We've been on the road since we left our house in Los Altos on May nineth. We returned on September seventh.  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-) bus-home so we've been 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 errands, together with lunches and 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.  I loved my university towns of Honolulu, HI and Eugene, OR. But it wasn’t until I came to Palo Alto in the San Francisco south bay that I fell in love.  This, I knew, was my home forever.  This is where my boys were raised.  This is where I worked.  This is where I met and married Dennis.  So here’s a brief survey of my life in the bay area during the months of September and October in 2007.

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

I think this happened because of the beautiful garden environment at Dinah’s.  Until Dennis and I moved into a house in 2000, I always lived in apartments— that’s 27 years of apartment life in the bay area.  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), Rickey's Hyatt (another garden hotel) — 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, friendly and fun.  It was unique. 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.)

Above: Ray added rain protection in the nineties.
Below: There used to be a diving board on the left.

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.

Ray is quite old now but I still see him frequently having lunch on the patio at Dinah's. He's traveled extensively and brought many of his treasures back to put on display at his hotel. The elephant above is one of a pair that sit in front of the hotel and are carefully covered every time it rains. I benefited from his love of beauty which he made available to me and others.
Left, my table is ready for lunch with my book, bookprop, notebook, reading glasses and cell phone. As usual I've orderd avocado, lettuce, tomato on sourdough toast. It's the best in town.
Proprietor of Dinah's Poolside Restaurant, Sharon Magnusson. I've known Sharon and her family since 1972.
Dinah's Poolside Restaurant, 9/18/07
Saturday breakfast with Dennis on the patio.
Dinah's Poolside Restaurant, 9/15/07
In the seventies, when my boys were young, I used to bring them to Dinah's for breakfast and then let them swim in the pool. At that time Dinah's pool had a diving board, whereas our apartment pool did not. So this was a big treat for them. After eating I would sit on the other side of the pool to watch them. I'm sure the hotel staff knew I wasn't staying there and yet no one objected. That was before insurance rules made this loose kind of tolerance impossible.
Juan and Carlos — I've known these guys for years. They are very good to me and know all my preferences. Carlos asks about Rudi if he's not with me, "Where's Fifi?" Juan speaks to me in Spanish and I answer and he replies in French. We think we're hilarious. Dinah's Poolside Restaurant, 9/15/06
Well I didn't sit around Dinah’s eating and reading all the time.  I also discovered the Baylands as soon as we moved here.  Out by the Palo Alto Airport and near the San Francisco Bay channel by the Yacht Harbor, you could walk by the bay in a few places.  However most of the sloughs and marshlands were smelly and the ground was too wet 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.

Way out on the Baylands Trail, looking southwest across the Charleston Slough salt pond towards Mountain View and the coastal hills beyond with Skyline Blvd. running along the ridge connecting many more open space preserves. Baylands Trail, 9/20/07
Looking northeast across fresh water Adobe Creek as it widens out and runs along the edge of a huge marsh towards the Palo Alto airport and the former Palo Alto Yacht Club at the mouth of a San Francisco Bay channel. Looking back across Adobe Creek, surrounded by salt marshlands, towards the Stanford campus. That's the Hoover observation tower standing out against the hills.
These guys are new to me. I've seen the small Brown Pelicans that dive in the deeper waters of Adobe Creek. At certain seasons I've seen the big American White Pelicans who swim in teams on Adobe Creek driving fish ahead of them. But I've never seen these smaller white pelicans with the black wings. I think they are called a White Pelican.

On my walks I commonly see Snowy Egrets, Great Egrets, Great White Heron, American Avocets, Shite-tailed Kite, Western Meadowlark, Cinnamon Teal, Least Tern, Allen's Hummingbird, Long-billed Curlew, Thayer’s Gull, Tricolored Blackbird, Ruddy Duck and Mallard Ducks, and many more that went unidentified.

On occasion, when I'm lucky I've spotted Clapper and Black Rails, and Black-Crowned Night Herons. I've never seen the Burrowing Owl or the Short-eared Owl or the Salt Marsh Harvest Mouse.

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

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

Some people look to athletic activities or seek thrills for entertainment.  I guess I tend to seek places that bring me comfort.  I go 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 luxurious stores seem even more attractive. 

And the stores themselves are 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.  Naturally 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 New York 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 appreciates beautiful things and he likes to window shop.  Together we've strolled these lanes for years and emerged no less nor more broke than when we started out.  But 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 some decisions.

I photograph a Pottery Barn sofa with pillows, above left, and then decide on two of the pillows to combine with my Tiffin pillows. Also from Pottery Barn, I added a beige cotton knitted rib throw to complete the look. Rudi likes it. Pottery Barn, 9/17/07; The Bus, 9/24/07
Left: One of the open park-like areas near Macy's.
Above: Shopping is such hard work. Dale and I pause at a cafe to grab a soup and slice of pizza before tackling our next decorating challenge. Stanford, 9/15/07

Several special occasion events also occupied our time and attention. 

Steve and Jenny Montez threw a BBQ party at their home in Morgan Hill.  The occasion was to thank several of our masons who volunteered their time to help Steve finish his BBQ counter and patio. Dennis donated the stone materials.  Steve is our BBQ King and he turned out a huge banquet for everyone.

Right: Steve and Jenny Montez in their newly completed patio. Morgan Hill, 10/6/07
Above left, Dennis with his Operations Mgr., Steve, and below, with his son, Brent Walton. Right, Jenny Montez relaxes with a margarita. Above right, masonry volunteers. What I want to know is where are the wives and girlfriends of these guys? They all came alone and left their women at home. Morgan Hill, 10/6/07
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 one out with a burning candle. She did — and gave ME the free birthday dessert with a candle! We had a hilarious time.
Here's the whole group after dinner, sitting in the bar. There's James standing over Dennis and me in the dining room and James with his fiance, Lilia. Michael sitting with fiance, Melissa, is Lilia's son. Woodside, 10/13/07
My friend, Becky, left, is also a Libra but she couldn't make our big Libra dinner. So this gave us an excuse to go out for another marvelous dinner. My sister, Sally, right, got treated for her birthday also, although rather late as she is a Virgo. In early September she was out of town and so were we, so we had to make up for her missed birthday date. We went to the Cantankerous Fish in Mountain View and had delicious dinners. Mountain View, 10/20/07
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.
The sale was in a parking lot next to a huge antique store in San Carlos. Becky stands by watchfully and looks pleased with our results. I amuse myself organizing the teddy bears and dressing Luci, our sewing manican. San Carlos, 10/14/07
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. Above, Ron watches the dogs. Elsa holds Margot and Becca performs a delicate scissor operation — trimming bangs. Castro Valley, 9/30/07
Of course I wanted to visit with my sons as much as possible. (Above left), my oldest, Jeff, dropped by and we went out to dinner at the Fish Market with James and Lilia. Palo Alto, 9/16/07
We drove over to Capitola a few times to see Chris. We brought him back to Mountain View so he could see our bus. He lives within walking distance of downtown Capitola and the beach. (right). He just moved to a new apartment so he was anxious for us to see that, (above right). We had lunch at one of his favorite places, Chili's, on 42nd. St. Then we took the dogs for a walk in a nearby park, (left). Capitola, 9/27/07
What else happened? Several times I took Rudi over to the house where my sister is a nanny. We sit in the yard and visit while the three children nap. Rudi got completely excited to be running around free on a lawn. He looks like a mop! Los Altos, 9/14/07 In October we got surprised with rain. It came very early this year. Mountain View, 10/10/07
I went to Adobe Vet in Los Altos to buy some D/T (dental food) for the dogs and saw this wonderful sight — a family of Havanese being conveyed in a baby carriage. Los Altos, 10/10/07 Dennis is pausing in a conversation — not sleeping. He ignors Margot who continues to insist that she should perch above his head. Mountain View, 10/14/07
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.
What happened? Myrna is serving up and my photo of Dennis with his neice is all fuzzy. San Jose, 10/27/07

And where's a picture of Roger? I have to throw in a photo of the four of us in Hawaii on New Year's Eve just to make up for my lack of good photos. Kauai, 12/31/05

Below, I couldn't resist a photo of the glass cabinet with their collection of match holders and the beautiful crystal sculpture of an exotic jellyfish. San Jose, 10/27/07

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!

Dennis and James linger over a last mug of coffee. Alice's Restaurant, Woodside, 10/31/07
Some outside views of Alice's Restaurant, Woodside, 10/31/07
Finally, just before I left town, we were able to get my women's 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. I saw Sophia in Denver and I saw Karen at Clearlake. Haven't see Mary or Jimmie for ages. So this was a great treat for all of us. Jimmie is an artist. Mary is a therapist. Sophia is a teacher in special ed. Karen is a graphic artist.

Jimmie has been recovering from back surgery. That's her little dog, Bubba. Mary spent a month in India to learn how to be a Deeksha giver. She just returned. Sophia just went back to school. Karen just returned from three weeks in Spain and France where she took two workshops in printmaking. I'm about to leave for Santa Fe, NM.

Jimmie, Mary, Sophia, and Karen.
Jimmie's house, Orinda, 11/4/07
Jimmie, Mary, Elsa, and Karen. Orinda, 11/4/07
Elsa Walton, Walton Masonry RV Park, Mountain View, CA, Monday, November 12, 2007