Our last episode ended in Desert Hot Springs, CA, where I golfed my brains out and we rode on an exciting tram ride into the mountains overlooking the Coachella Valley. Here’s a summary of the subsequent twenty days.
January 9-10 (Wednesday-Thursday): We eventually decided to make our next leg a straight shot up to San Jose with an intermediate pit stop in Bakersfield. (Throughout the trip, I was unable to answer the lyrical question playing in my head: Dionne Warwicke continually asking “Do You Know The Way to San Jose?” Luckily, Google Maps knew.) Our drive to the Shady Haven RV Park in Bakersfield on Wednesday was pleasant and uneventful. We stayed in a nice, quiet spot with full hookups, showers, laundry, cable TV, and non-functional Wi-Fi for two nights ($29.50 per night with our 50% Passport America discount). It was nice to have the distraction of the cable TV since all it did while we were there was rain. The park manager told me the Wi-Fi would be back in service shortly, and that it was really fast – they just needed to replace one part in their router. It did eventually come on – and it actually was really fast, the fastest we’ve had at any of the places we’ve stayed – but not until a couple of hours before we left on Friday. Such is life.
January 11-27 (Friday-Friday-Friday-Sunday): When we left the park in Bakersfield, the fog was so thick I couldn’t see to the end of the block. Luckily, once we’d crept along at a snail’s pace for a half hour or so, the fog lifted, and we had a fine drive the rest of the way to San Jose. We had reserved a rental car at the San Jose airport, since driving the RV in heavy Bay Area traffic and along narrow residential streets as we went to visit our friends and relatives might not have been the best idea. This concept was borne out as we approached San Jose and got sucked into a vortex of frantic California drivers tearing along at lightning speeds, changing lanes with abandon, slamming on brakes in some mystical, whimsical fashion, meanwhile turning me into a quivering mass of jelly. Somehow, I made it to the airport, where Pat jumped out once we sighted the car rental building. I then shakily drove back to the town of Morgan Hill, several miles south of San Jose, and checked into the Coyote Valley RV Resort. Pat joined me there with a nice, new VW Jetta that ended up getting 45 mpg during our stay while the RV sat at the park resting up for the next leg of the journey.
The RV park turned out to be a nice, rather sleepy place with full hookups, showers, laundry, Cable TV, Wi-Fi (abominably slow) – all the usual RV park stuff. However, this being the Bay Area, there were no discounts to be had, no Passport America, no senior citizen deal, no AAA rate, just “gee you’re a nice guy and all, but just pay your bill, please.” One unexpected benefit was the Coyote Creek Golf Course, literally within walking distance from the park. Amazing how this can happen even without planning. (I played there on Saturday the 12th and Saturday the 19th, enjoying good weather the first time but a waterlogged course the second. I apparently left my game somewhere back in the Coachella Valley along with any trace of strength in my right shoulder.)
The stay at Coyote Valley ended up being our second longest in any one place so far, second only to the marathon in Desert Hot Springs. We were originally planning a two week stay, but ended up extending that by three days when we were unable to book a place at the State Park we wanted to visit next. (You’ll have to wait for Part 9 to find out where that is). During our stay, we visited three couples who live in the area:
- On Sunday the 13th, we went to see Chris and Ali, Pat’s sister’s son and his wife, who are living in Palo Alto until Chris finishes his Ph.D. in Materials Science at Stanford. We met them at the training studio where their cute dog, Artie, was going through his paces. We then went for lunch with the three of them at a nice restaurant with outdoor seating in Palo Alto, after which we got a personalized tour of the Stanford campus, including Chris’s research lab. It was a lovely day and we thoroughly enjoyed catching up with Chris and Ali, and meeting Artie, of course.
- On Tuesday the 15th, we visited with an old friend, Donna, and her husband, Dennis, at their lovely home in Mountain View. I first met Donna at Sandburg Junior High School in New Hope, MN, on the first day of seventh grade. I spent much of the subsequent two years mooning over the lovely young girl, but, being a super shy Finnlander, was incapable of communicating my interest to her. Sadly, she went on to attend Cooper High School while I went to Robbinsdale. Somehow, I got over this loss and went on to finish high school and college, get married not once but twice (after my first unsuccessful attempt, Pat and I have had a blissful almost 40-year partnership, with many more years to come), and to have three wonderful sons and a great career. So why were we visiting my junior high crush in sunny California? It just so happened that the high school reunion planners decided to do a combined 50th reunion with Cooper AND Robbinsdale alums in 2017. This got me to remembering Donna, and as a result I just so happened to decide to go to the reunion, dragging Pat along to keep me in line. Donna didn’t actually attend the reunion, but I just so happened to run into one of my Robbinsdale classmates who just so happened to be Donna’s first husband. He was nice enough to give me her contact info, and voila! When I let her know we would be in the Bay Area this winter, we agreed to have our own little mini-reunion at her home. Our visit was great fun. Donna fixed us “an Excellent Lunch to go along with our Excellent Adventure,” during which we shared old stories and caught up on each other’s lives. She also gave us a personal motor tour of Mountain View and provided us with a parting gift of delicious oranges and kiwis grown in their own back yard garden. It was also fascinating to meet Dennis, who was very gracious, especially under the circumstances (some yahoo from Donna’s past showing up on his doorstep). He was in the process of retiring from a long career at the NASA Ames Research Center (the process having been interrupted by Trump’s idiotic Government shutdown). He also introduced me to a new word when I reiterated Donna’s mention of the “excellent” lunch – the lunch could just as well have been called “eximious,” Dennis told me. (So, Donna ended up marrying an introverted aerospace engineer who is a bit nerdy and enjoys unusual words. Hmmm, he almost could have been me! But let’s not go there, shall we?) The only downside to the visit was that it rained all day long, as it had on Monday and as it continued to do for much of the subsequent week.
- On Monday the 19th, we visited Connie, one of Pat’s old school chums, and her husband Scott. Pat and Connie both attended school from Kindergarten through 12th grade in Bricelyn, MN. Unlike me and my old friend, though, Pat and Connie have kept up over the subsequent years, serving as bridesmaids at each other’s weddings (that would also be my wedding) and catching up at various reunions along the way. I also attended Scott and Connie’s wedding in Portland, OR, and we visited them when they first moved to San Jose some 30 years ago. On Monday, Scott and I played golf at Moffet Field Golf Course on the grounds of the NASA Ames Research Center while Connie and Pat spent the day catching up. The golf course was drenched, with no carts allowed, as a result of all the recent rain (at least it didn’t rain while we were playing). That made the very long course play even longer. I was lucky to break 100, but the sheer number of pathetic excuses for golf shots left me such a broken golfer that I decided to give up the game. Nevertheless, we had a great time, although Scott had to give me a pair of dry socks to wear since mine were soaked through. After golf, we enjoyed a delicious meal fixed by Connie and Scott before heading back to the RV park. On the way back, I decided not to throw my clubs in the trash, just in case.
During the remainder of our stay at the Coyote Valley RV Resort, we mainly gadded about the Morgan Hill area in the rented Jetta, often dodging raindrops as it continued to rain off and on the whole time. We went to see a movie (On the Basis of Sex, about Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the last great hope for liberals like us), went to a local winery for a tasting, and also rode several times on a very nice bicycle trail adjacent to the RV Park and the golf course.
Our final Bay Area adventure was on Friday the 25th, when the rental car was due back at the San Jose airport. Rather than risking another trip with the RV through the madhouse traffic, we decided on a clever means to return the car. First, I drove to the local Caltrain Station in Morgan Hill – a sedate drive with the RV – while Pat followed in the Jetta. Then, she drove me and the Jetta to the San Jose airport rental car center. After we returned the car, we caught an airport shuttle to the nearest Caltrain station and caught a train to San Francisco. Once there, we gadded about the vibrant city, first taking a bus to Fisherman’s Wharf, then walking to Ghirardelli Square, then riding the old streetcar line, and finally catching the light rail train back to the Caltrain station. We then took the Caltrain back to Morgan Hill, had dinner at a nice BBQ place, and finally drove the RV back to the Coyote Valley park. Visiting the big city was quite exhilarating – the only blemish was the half dozen or more homeless people we saw in just this brief visit. If only someone could come up with a humane way to help the unfortunate ones who cannot keep up with the high cost of living in the Bay Area.
As a grand finale, we were visited once more by Scott and Connie on Saturday the 26th. They picked us up at the Coyote Valley RV Park and then on to a lovely dinner at an Italian restaurant in nearby Morgan Hill. Now we’re finally off again for the next leg of the adventure. Check back in a couple of weeks to find out where we go next.