My GPS: A Homicidal Maniac

I’ve wondered for a while now whether my GPS is trying to kill me. My suspicions were confirmed on my drive from the Russian River to Bodega Bay.* As the name suggests, Bodega Bay is on the coast. The journey was going well enough as I drove north along Hwy. 1 in my RV with my Smartcar in tow. Then the Bitch (my fond nickname for my GPS) abruptly told me to turn right (east – away from the ocean) on Windy Lane. She was quite insistent: “In 500 feet, turn right on Windy Lane.” As I approached the street, she repeated the command several times and I swear her voice became louder and more insistent: “Turn right on Windy Lane. Turn right on Windy Lane.”

As soon as I turned right on Windy Lane, I knew I had made a serious mistake. Ahead was a steep, narrow, twisty old road full of potholes. Further inspection revealed that Windy Lane was a one-way street, not that I could have found a place to turn around or back up anyway.

I continued on for no more than a quarter-mile until the Bitch had me make a left turn and then a right turn, putting me right back on Hwy. 1 North. What, then, was Windy Lane about if not her own amusement and/or attempt at homicide?

Windy Lane: I'd far prefer to have remained on Hwy. 1.

Windy Lane: I’d far prefer to have remained on Hwy. 1.

But she wasn’t done with me yet.

When I came the street on which the Porto Bodega Boat and RV Park was located, she led me not to the RV Park but to a gravel parking lot of an apartment building. “Your destination is on the right,” she assured me. At first glance, it seemed to be the back way in. But when I came to where it appeared a gravel lane continued on, I was confronted instead with two large green garbage bins. The Bitch had led me to a dead-end.

The road appears to curve around to the left.

To me, the road appears to curve around to the left . . .

. . .  but then garbage bins block the way.

. . . but then garbage bins block the way.

Swinging wide, I tried to turn around. A sign on a wood post firmly imbedded in the ground in front of some trees warned, “No Parking.” I couldn’t complete the turn without knocking over the sign. I contemplated doing so, however, the Toad most likely would have hit the trees. I backed up what little bit I could, until the RV was about to hit the side of the car. Then went forward, sharply turning the RV’s wheels. No go.

Time for Plan B: Unhook the car from the RV. Back up the car and park it in the apartment parking lot. Back up the RV and turn it around. Drive the RV to the right location. Park the RV at the Office. Register and receive my site assignment. Back the RV into my assigned space. Return to the apartment parking lot. Pick up the car. Drive the car to the assigned space. Simple, right?

Wrong.

The twisting and turning of the RV placed the car at an angle that increased the pressure on the pins and rods that affix the car to the tow bar. The task of detaching the car was beyond my strength – even using tools.

I went to Plan C. Swearing, weeping, beating my chest and in general carrying on. Then Plan D: I placed a call for help to the RV Park.

Three guys showed up. Working together and using my tools, they were able to detach the car from the tow bar, allowing me to go back to the remaining parts of Plan B.

When I registered in the office, the woman told me I was not the first to miss the entrance to the RV Park. She makes it a point to explain its location to people she speaks with when they call in to make reservations. I had called on a weekend and spoke with Heather. Who said nothing.

Since at least two of my loyal followers have posited the theory that I’m a scout for women who may in a few years follow in my RV tracks, here is my advice based on this particular experience (and frankly I’m embarrassed I didn’t take the following precautions myself from the get-go since it now seems so obvious):

1. Ask the RV park if there are any “tricks” to finding them.
2. Look up the location of the place you’re going to on Google Maps. This will not only prevent you from taking unnecessary, GPS-assigned “short-cuts” but also may give you a more accurate route to your destination.

Duh.

* If the name “Bodega Bay” sounds familiar, it may because it was the location of Alfred Hitchcock’s` movie, “The Birds.” I’m here having a great time with the Northern California chapter of Loners on Wheels (NOR-LOW) and we watched “The Birds” last night, identifying the shooting locations, making snide comments about Tippi Hedren’s acting, and noting that no matter how dire the situation, she always made sure she had her purse with her.

Oh no! Where's my purse?

Oh no! Where’s my purse?

Buyer Beware

Buyer Beware

I’m not saying it’s their fault. But I decided to become a member of a private RV “resort” with facilities throughout much of the United States based on the recommendations of two people. One is a woman who lives in my parents’ senior living complex.  She and her husband used to travel in an RV from coast-to-coast on business, staying at these particular parks. Since anyone who lives in my parent’s place is, by definition, wealthy, I figured her recommendation was a good one.  And by “good” I mean that the parks would be frequently by fairly well-to-do people. The fact that I could afford membership should have tipped me off that things have changed.

The other person is a friend’s husband. He and his first wife (now deceased) used to alternate staying in these parks with camping out in National Forest Service sites, an arrangement based on length-of-stay restrictions. What I didn’t think to ask, however, was how long ago his first wife died.  Had I known the answer would have been decades, that too would have alerted me that the situation may very well have changed.

Then there’s the website, which had pretty pictures and superlative descriptions of amenities and tremendous cost savings. Seeing as my background is in public relations and I continue to write website copy for clients, I should have known I was looking at stock photos (ones you purchase for use in publications and advertisements) and angles that showed facilities at their best advantages.

Without directly naming the RV “resort,” I will compare some descriptions with photos of what I found.

BASKETBALL and TENNIS COURTS. Problems start with the missing nets . . .

BASKETBALL and TENNIS COURTS. Problems start with the missing nets . . .
HORSESHOE PIT - Horseshoes are replaced by dead leaves and upended plastic chairs.

HORSESHOE PIT – Horseshoes are replaced by dead leaves and upended plastic chairs.

Sign for "Sandy Banks Beach"

Seems the sand is missing.

Seems the sand is missing.

LAUNDRY ROOM – Only one washing machine and dryer.   Note open-air feel of the facility, cleverly created by avoiding the use of actual walls.

LAUNDRY ROOM – Only one washing machine and dryer.
Note open-air feel of the facility, cleverly created by avoiding the use of actual walls.
Opps, forget about the single washing machine.

Opps, forget about the single washing machine.

A couple of other amenities to forget about:

Gated Entrance. Gate cannot be closed since the power outage a few days ago.

Clubhouse.  has been dark for days. It wasn’t possible to watch football on Sunday, because the TV was fried by the power outage. Should be repaired about the same time the washing machine and gate are fixed.

Now it’s your turn. Here are some questions I’d like you to answer. Each correct answer is worth 2 points. A perfect score is 10. Answers will be posted in a future blog.

1. Can you identify this structure?

TT playground

 

 

 

2. Is this couple staying here?

TT active adults shown

3. Is this man staying here?

geezer

4. Is this family staying here?

TT RR family

5. Explain in no more than 25 words how you would sit at this picnic table. 

TT RR picnic table

 

Tracks of My Tears

The most common question in the emails I receive from friends is, “Where are you?” Although they’re asking for a physical location, I’m claiming poetic license to respond literally as well as metaphorically.   

I was “stuck” for two weeks in the spacious Oakland home of my brother and sister-in-law, where I slept in a spare bedroom (and was honored to be joined at night by the old cat); was fed by my sister-in-law The Foodie;  helped by my brother in dealing with an RV repair shop manager; included in Gary and Faith’s synagogue services for Rosh Hash Hashanah and Yom Kippur; and invited by their friends to parties in their lovely homes in the Oakland Hills with killer views, good wines and wonderful food.  I’m currently in a run-down RV park in Cloverdale, CA, frequented by men with missing coffee-stained teeth and couples who start drinking heavily after lunch and don’t quit until bedtime.

Quite an adjustment. Which is why I’m staying in Cloverdale for a few more days, reviewing what’s gone well and figuring out what’s next.

What’s Gone Well

Traveling with Cousin #3 went very well. She was the best travel companion a girl could ask for. Not only did she have a positive attitude toward whatever the day dished out, but she also was terrific at finding items I lost in the RV. (And here you, like me, thought it wasn’t possible to lose items in 132-sq.-ft. living space.*  I can assure you, it is possible.) Cousin #3 took care of the laundry, got to know the layout of the campsites and the stories of our neighbors, and took responsibility for our first BBQ, which continued well past sunset and led us to conclude that if we started the BBQ immediately after lunch, we could have dinner before it got dark.  I learned a lot about Cousin #3 that I didn’t know, from her enjoying shucking corn to crediting Nixon’s bombing of Cambodia as the reason she was able to graduate from college. (She was flunking her classes her final semester at UCLA and would go to the library to study but instead ended up reading science-fiction books. The bombing led to the Student Strike, which led to cancelled classes, which in turn led to professors automatically passing their students for that semester.)  Something else I didn’t know about Cousin #3: She worries unnecessarily and incessantly about . . . well, everything. I dread to think what she in turn learned about me. Surely my occasional explosions about important missing items that I could not possibly have misplaced would be on that list. Come to think of it, small wonder she found my missing items. It was self-defense.

Thanks to my brother’s help, buying the Smartcar went well. Together we figured out how to hook the car up to the

You may not be able to see the tracks of my tears behind my dork sunglasses. Also, my hands are shaking.

You may not be able to see the tracks of my tears behind my dork sunglasses. Also, my hands are shaking. I’m about to leave Oakland towing a car.

RV.  The car is giving me the flexibility I wanted to visit towns and, eventually, cityscapes and museums. Working from the RV is going well.

I have a couple of clients and their assignments have come in at opportune times. I’m comfortable working from the desk/dinette in the RV and usually can connect to the internet using my iPhone’s Personal Hotspot.

I’ve also been able to see friends, and that’s gone well. Several people accepted my invitation to come slumming and spent time with me at the Oceanside Harbor over the extended Fourth of July weekend. Earlier this month I visited friends in the Bay Area, an occasion that included quite the haircut and the ride in The Rich Widow’s Ferrari. I also met the boyfriend of my friend, The Rich Heiress, who happens to be 70 years old. I am deliberately publishing her age to ensure she won’t identify herself, not even in a lawsuit.

The "toad" shown pretty much in proportion to the RV.

Look behind the RV for a red arrow pointing down at the “toad”

Yesterday I arranged to meet a college roommate, who lives locally, at the Francis Ford Coppola Winery.

I’m well physically and emotionally, due in large part to eating well and exercising regularly. In fact, I eat and exercise as if my health and ability to travel depended on it. Next weekend I’m going to a Bay Area RV Meetup at a lake in the El Dorado National Forest, so I am taking steps to get out there and meet others with similar interests. I know the weekend will go well since the worst that can happen is I get some good material.

So that’s the long answer to the question about where I am. I’m in Cloverdale. In the future, I think I’ll call these times of planning “going through a Cloverdale.”

* Measurement may be slightly exaggerated since it includes the bathroom and the slide-out in an extended position.

Los Angelenos

Nothing prepared me for living in Los Angeles. Not growing up in Chicago, nor living in Manhattan. Not my many years in the San Francisco Bay Area, not my recent time in San Diego.

Nothing. Nada. Zilch.

"LA is a great big  freeway"

“The traffic” in LA refers to more than congestion.

There’s the traffic, of course. I thought “the traffic” simply referred to crowded freeways. But the phrase goes far beyond traffic jams. “The traffic” encompasses an entire attitude and set of behaviors the likes of which I’ve never seen before. And hope to never see again.

The attitude and behaviors can be summed up in three words: Sense of Entitlement. Every driver believes he or she is entitled to merge at the front of the merge lane; that other cars must get out of the way at the gas station so that he or she can access a pump on the other side; that red lights are not meant to stop traffic in which he or she is driving; that pedestrians have no right to cross the street when the “Walk” sign is lit if it interferes with his or her ability to make a right turn. And of course that a parking space belongs to him or her – even if another car is posed to back in.

Whether on a freeway or street, using a turn indicator to change lanes is a sign of weakness. No matter their distance, cars will invariably speed up to prevent you from switching. It’s an automatic reflex triggered by a turn indicator.

Twice – twice! – in my month in LA I was yelled at for littering. Me. I’ve never littered in my life. What’s more, I’ll have you know I’m the pro bono ghostwriter for Marin Clean Highways. The first scolding came from Mel, the George Zimmerman of Beverly West Wood in Culver City. I was walking Cousin #1’s small dog, Gypsy, when she pooped in deep ivy. Cousin #1 had assured me it was not necessary to scoop up residue deposited in the ivy, which would require (1) finding the stuff and (2) disturbing the resident snakes. Mel interrupted his conversation with a neighbor to raise his voice and berate me. He wouldn’t let me finish my explanations. I left the area feeling utterly humiliated. From then on, I would pretend to scoop up poop from the ivy, tie the bag and throw it away. I later found out Mel sent my cousin, who was in Uzbekistan (Kyrgyzstan? Tajikistan?), an email reporting my errant behavior. Cousin #1 laughed it off and recounted the story of Mel reporting her violation of leaving her dog home alone for several days, during which time the dog barked incessantly. My cousin complimented Mel on his hearing, since Gypsy was 20 miles away in Topanga Canyon at the time.

The second scolding came from a woman my age. I was kicked out of a restaurant’s front patio for trying to eat

What! ME litter?

What! ME litter?

a taco purchased elsewhere. I sat down there in the first place because I had Gypsy with me and as near as I can tell, there are no benches in LA. I’m pretty sure the city’s attitude is if you aren’t driving, you shouldn’t be there. Anyway, I understood the reason for the request and immediately and politely complied. I walked around to the other side of the building, which had no doors or windows, and sat on a ledge. What I didn’t realize is that a woman – the restaurant owner perhaps – had followed me. When she saw me sit down, she yelled at me and pointed to the street, accusing me of contributing to the litter. Since the litter consisted of fallen tree leaves, I didn’t really see how it was my fault. Or anyone else’s, for that matter. Nevertheless, out of sheer spite I took my time moving on and assured her I had been thrown out of better places. (Which is true, by the way. Some friends and I were in an upscale bar frequented by 30-somethings in the Gaslamp District of San Diego on a Friday night when one of the owners showed us to an elevator, which let out onto a dark alley. That was the first indication we were not welcome at that particular establishment. My friends were insulted, but the whole incident was handled so politely and smoothly that I was actually impressed.)

My next sitting spot was further out of sight on the stairs of a closed office building. Shortly thereafter I saw a patrol car. Believing that the lady had called the cops on me, I ducked behind some bushes. The police spotted me, gave me an odd look and moved on, denying me the experience of being cuffed and driven around in the back of a cop car.

Other only-in-LA experiences include the Mexican gardeners, who are everywhere; and the Mexican maids, who also are everywhere. And signs on lawns, much like the ones posted during political races, promoting shows for the Emmy Awards. Naturally, I was in a neighborhood full of gardeners and maids.

The wealth and the way money is spent also appear unique to LA. In Topanga Canyon, several homes were pointed out to me that had been purchased and remodeled and/or re-landscaped (one endeavor included removing hundreds of grapevines), only to have the owners decide they didn’t enjoy living there. Since most had held onto their homes in Encino or Hollywood or Beverly Hills, they could easily move on.

Norma Desmond

Norma Desmond

Lest it seem that there was nothing I liked about Los Angeles, I want to note the thrill I got from seeing signs and sites that are the stuff of legends and song lyrics. I laughed every time I spotted a freeway sign for “Antelope Valley Freeway” remembering a Firesign Theatre routine from when I was an undergraduate at Berkeley; hummed “Free Fallin’” when I drove through Receda; and declared, “All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up,” when I was on Sunset Boulevard. And of course sang the refrain, “LA is a great big freeway” (from Do You Know the Way to San Jose?) pretty much all the time.

As an added benefit, I can now fully appreciate the humor behind a Saturday Night Live daytime soap opera skit “The Californians,” in which a doctor assures his patient that his cancer is actually good news because he can get chemo treatments in Marina del Rey, “where’s there’s lots of free street parking.”

The Usual Questions

Where am I? Oakland, CA, staying with my brother and sister-in-law.

Why? I’m having work done on my RV so that I can tow the Smartcar.

What Smartcar? I purchased a used Smartcar to tow behind my RV. I found it was difficult to get to places such as grocery stores — let alone museums — from campsites.

How’s that working for you? Too early to tell. Ask me in a fewMe in Ferrari weeks.

What else is new?  I visited friends in Marin County (the Golden Gate Bridge connects San Francisco to Marin County) and felt as if I was spending time at a resort/spa. For example, when I visited the bathroom in the middle of the night I didn’t need to climb down a ladder. Also, while showering, I could keep the water on the entire time.

Anything else? I rode in a Ferrari. Also, I had my hair cut really short. I mean really short.

Me in Ferrari

Why? My friend the Urban Legend (rich widow) kept her late husband’s Ferrari. Oh you mean my hair? Because I’m camping. All the time. Also, this way I can wash my hair quickly. See reference to turning shower water off, above.

Will you be posting a photo of your new haircut? Yes, just as soon as it hair grows out a bit.

Will you posting more blogs soon? Absolutely. Lots to write about.