Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Memory Lane

We are parked in the day use lot for Bair Island (map), part of the Don Edwards S.F. Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Bair Island itself is closed, and has been for nearly four years, while the FWS and its partners continue to place clean fill on the island as part of a massive wetlands restoration project. Ironically, the project has been delayed by lack of development in the region, making clean fill hard to come by.

During the closure, this lot seems to be used only by a handful of people who arrive twice daily in their cars to let their dogs roam on the powerline right-of-way immediately to our east, and as overflow parking for the marina immediately to the north, which is how we came to be here. This marina is where our friend Martin keeps his boat, and he introduced us to the harbormaster here. The harbormaster gave us keys to use the laundry and bath facilities, and issued us parking placards. Technically the placards are only valid in the marina's own lot, which has no room for Odyssey, and carry no weight here. But in the week we've been here we have not been bothered.

The local constabulary only patrols here on a complaint basis, relying on the harbormaster to call them if anything untoward is happening, but, of course, he already knows us. If anything, we are an extra set of eyes on the property. If the lone USFWS ranger in the district ever comes by, it is possible he would ask us to move along, but the harbormaster knows him and gave us his name, just in case. We've already scoped out some nearby on-street options if that comes to pass.

We're here because Louise is helping out a friend nearby, and this spot is conveniently located. She's gone most days, while I either work on projects around the house, or take the car we've borrowed to run errands or visit friends. We've been catching up with local friends over dinner most evenings, and we also had a nice visit with Martin and Steph on the weekend, just a few minutes from here. We are hoping that at some point during our stay, the weather will actually be nice enough to take the boat out; it's been cold and rainy almost continuously since we arrived here.

Taken with my Android, uploaded to Picasa, edited with Picnik, and posted on Blogger. I'm such a Google pawn...

Yesterday after dropping Louise off downtown, I drove to Mountain View for lunch at the Googleplex with my friend Brent. When I had suggested Tuesday for lunch, Brent was not aware that a giant event on campus would make it nearly impossible for me to park, as well as ace us out of the canonical dining option, Charlie's Cafe. Brent declined to tell me what the hubbub was about, citing company policy, but at dinner last night with our motorcycle group, which includes some Google alums, I was informed it was a visit from Lady Gaga. I ran into her (unmarked) tour Prevost on my way off campus.

I'm not sure why, since I've had friends at Google for over a decade, but this was my first visit to the campus. The core consists of most of the old SGI (Silicon Graphics) campus, which was considered large in its day. But Google is larger, and their reach spans a half mile in either direction. That means that not one, but two buildings in which I worked in the 90s, for two separate companies, are now Google offices. (For the curious, those companies were Pyramid Technology, which was headquartered at 1350 Charleston, and Metaphor Computer Systems, at 1965 Charleston.)

I spent a few minutes driving around both my former haunts. The lone dining establishment in the neighborhood, the Sports Page bar/burger joint/sand volleyball court is still around, although it is hard to imagine how they compete with unlimited free food at Google, not to mention the countless pool tables, sports equipment, and even bowling lanes at the Internet giant. And I remember a period just before the turn of the century when these complexes were rather distressed, to the point where one of the old SGI buildings was more or less donated wholesale to the Computer History Museum, which still occupies it today. Google has certainly been a boon for the neighborhood.

This neighborhood where we are currently parked has not fared as well. If you look at the satellite view you will see a basin immediately south of us that looks as if it should contain a marina, and indeed it did, until 2001. A developer bought it in the late 90s intending to build a giant project, to also encompass Pete's Harbor to the north, involving nearly 2,000 homes, plus commercial and retail space. Some 300+ publicly available boat slips would be eliminated, replaced by a mere 60 slips unavailable to the public. The developer had already evicted over 200 boats, many of them live-aboards, from the old Peninsula Marina and ripped out the docks before Redwood City voters shot down their plans.

The marina has sat empty ever since, in a lose-lose-lose proposition that deprived nearly 200 people of affordable housing, the developer/landowner of a decade of marina revenue, and the city of spending residents. The handful of buildings surrounding the marina have trickled their tenants out over the course of the decade, including the Diving Pelican restaurant just last year, and the whole complex is a ghost town. It looks like they will finally break ground soon on a much smaller-scale project that has buy-in from a larger set of constituents.

In the meantime the lack of attention here has been good for our parking situation. We will be here through tomorrow morning, making it just over a full week. Tomorrow we will roll down to San Jose where we will be parked for four nights at the Silicon Valley Chapter of the American Red Cross. We will be helping teach the hands-on technology training there Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. On Monday we need to find a place to dump our tanks before coming back here to Redwood City for a while longer.

I had a list of projects I intended to tackle during this downtime, but I've hardly made a dent since the list grows daily. I mentioned it's been raining, and shortly after we arrived the left side awning control crapped out again. Unlike the last time this happened, when the awning self-deployed (I have since installed a transmission-in-gear interlock to prohibit this), simply drying out the control board did not cure the problem. I spent the better part of two days poking at the proprietary board with my meter -- it is again commanding a constant "deploy" signal -- but was unable to suss out the failing component. It is possible that the logic chip itself is now fried.

Without a working control board I retracted the awning manually using an adapter on my portable drill, and we can not deploy it. Fortunately it is on the north side at the moment. The board is no longer made; Girard offered to sell me a similar board for $570, but instead I ordered the more modern replacement direct from a Somfy dealer for $190. That board will not connect to our existing anemometer-type wind sensor, so I also had to order the $190 vibration sensor that attaches directly to the awning face rail. If that works well I might order another setup for the right side so I can get rid of the pesky anemometer, which we've broken off the roof twice.

The cold, rainy weather has also meant we've been running the heat quite a bit. That uses up battery, and so we have to run the generator an hour or so each day to keep them up to snuff; while the genny is running we shut off the diesel-fired heat and use the electric heaters instead. The one in the bath area, which heats the rear of the coach, has developed of late an annoying habit of tripping its little built-in thermal breaker when it tries to start, and here with daily use I finally had enough and decided to take it apart to see why.

As they are fond of saying on Mythbusters, "well there's your problem." There was enough animal fur packed into the unit to knit a whole new pet. What I could not get out with a brush or the vacuum I had to remove little by little using a pair of long, fine needle-nose pliers. So far, no further breaker tripping has been observed.

1 comment:

  1. These rolling houses need as much care as our house does. Replaced the motor on the electric steps yesterday. Scratched the blazes out of my arm on a sharp point on the step before I realized what was happening. Cool crawling under the rig and replacing an upside down motor. Your repair projects are always interesting Sean. The pump motor or whatever it was, was super. Gave me some ideas. Looks as if you two are having a good winter. It got rather cold in Benson (8). We're in Mesa now and have been since 3/1. Starting back to Wis. on Friday with a couple of stops planned on the way. Ed Thomas


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