We are still on the street, this time in Redwood City at one of our old haunts (map). We parked a half block further east, in case we are still here tomorrow morning, so that we'll be less in the way of, and further from the noise of, the fencing and tree service companies of which I wrote several posts ago. Notwithstanding my prediction that we would not return here, when we moved the bus Friday night from another familiar spot across the freeway in Menlo Park (map), we figured it would be fine over the weekend, when these businesses are closed.
We've received quite a number of comments, emails, and even raised eyebrows among our local friends about our parking situation. They range from bemusement to incredulity to horror, with the universal question being "why?" Many of our long-term readers will already know the answer, but for everyone who has been asking (or just wondering), perhaps I should shed some light on the situation.
There are really three reasons why we spend so much time on the street here in the bay area: cost, convenience, and, for lack of a better term, environment -- roughly in that order. These, of course, are the same factors that drive our parking decisions everywhere else, too (minus the "scenic" factor that comes into play in many places), but the bay area is an acute case because of the nature and length of our visits and the economics of the area.
For the uninitiated, the SF bay area is, overall, the single most expensive metropolitan area in the country, bar none. One side effect of the ever-increasing value of real estate and cost of doing business here is that over the last three decades, virtually every transient RV park and campground has been driven from the area. Places that were originally developed as RV parks a half century ago have morphed into low-cost housing, mostly full of trailers of roughly the same vintage, many of which could not be moved with anything short of a flatbed and a wrecker. They no longer sport the "RV park" moniker, instead going by trailer court or some such, and few of them accept transient or "overnight" guests, renting instead on a long-term lease. A small handful of these places might have one or two vacant spaces that they will make available for overnighters, but they are generally unappealing (that's the "environment" piece of the equation).
Mind you, I have nothing against these kinds of places or the people that live there, and I spent a year living in just such a place in San Jose a decade ago. That was in my 32' Fleetwood, before we bought the bus, which likely would not fit any of the spaces in that park. As a side note I will mention that finding that spot, lo those many years ago, was something of a challenge, because most of these parks forbid motorcycles outright, and my Gold Wing was my daily driver at the time. So even if we found a spot at one of these places today, we couldn't even pull a scooter out to run to the store.
There remain today just two transient RV parks on the entire bay side of the peninsula. Candlestick RV Park, which is a bit too far north for us, runs $79 per night. And here in Redwood City is Trailer Villa, a relative bargain at $64 per night. This latter park has two sections; a relatively small newer section for transient guests, and a much larger and older section similar to the parks I described above. Trailer Villa also has one of the very few public dump stations in the area; I think it's $15 or so just to use the dump.
Regular readers know that we are also members of the Elks, a membership we maintain strictly for the access it affords us to a good-sized network of Elks lodges that allow overnight RV parking. The number of lodges where we can park diminishes every year; here in the bay area there are now just four lodges which we can use. All of those have stay limits of 3-5 days, with the exception of San Jose, where it is two weeks but they are not strict about it. The going rate at the three lodges with hookups is $18 per night, which is a good deal better than the best rate at either of the commercial ventures, even the monthly rate.
Even $18 per night, though, is considerably more than it costs us to live off-grid. In temperate conditions, we end up running the generator about an hour and a half per day, for a total cost of about $7.15 at our current cost of fuel. Even factoring in moving, say, ten miles per week to comply with the 72-hour rule only adds another $1 per day. That's less than half what staying at the San Jose Elks would cost. On the other hand, when conditions are less temperate, such as mid-summer when we need air conditioning a few hours each day, or in a cold snap when a few hours of heat might be needed, the economics quickly flip-flop, and you'd find us at the Elks in those situations.
With regard to convenience, there is a great deal to be said for parking within ten or fifteen minutes of folks we are visiting or errands we are running, and that, too is a factor. And with one car between us, it's nice to be parked within walking distance of transit options when we need them. Lastly, we find the street to be more private and even more peaceful than the other available RV options here, where the furthest you can be from the rig next door is a mere ten feet or so, and usually much closer than that. Ironically we have more trees and other greenery next to us on the street than anyplace else we can park in the bay area.
Speaking of one car between us, we turned our latest rental car back in at the San Jose airport yesterday morning, after just one week. That's because our friends in Menlo Park bought a new (to them) car last week, thus liberating the old family minivan for our use. They didn't really have room for both cars in the driveway (making a total of four), and they can't leave a car on the street overnight in their neighborhood, so we are helping solve their parking problem while they try to get the minivan sold. We'll also help by getting it cleaned up a bit for any prospective buyers, but tooling around in the mommy-mobile has raised a couple of eyebrows among our other friends.
While we still had the rental car, we ended up driving all over Oakley on Wednesday looking at rentals for my cousin. We did find a place that would take a short-term month-to-month, in the same school district as the house on which they are trying to close. So at least we made some progress on that front, opening the door for his family to come out later this month. We are hoping they will be here before Thanksgiving, although that is not a slam-dunk due to the size of the task at the New York end. In any case, my cousin himself will be here, so we are planning to spend the holiday with him if not the whole family. Without a firm date for their arrival, it's also not possible to plan our own departure or where we might head next, so at this writing anything past the end of the month is a big question mark.
In the meantime we have been extremely busy catching up with friends, and still have not made it through the whole list (we know more people here than anywhere else in the country, naturally, having lived here for two decades). I try to use the time between visits to catch up on my huge backlog of projects, including writing articles for the newly re-launched Bus Conversions Magazine, and to keep my eyes open on the boat search front. And, of course, junkies that we are, both of us are processing a lot of reports coming out of the northeast on the Sandy relief operations. Speaking of which, the Red Cross sent us an updated donation link, which you can find at the top of the sidebar; if you want to help the relief efforts, money is the best way to help, so please give generously -- all American Red Cross disaster assistance is funded by donations.
Tomorrow our 72 hours will be up, and we will move yet again. I expect we will remain in the Redwood City and Menlo Park environs, or possibly San Carlos, for the next few days.