“Karen,” who prefers that we don’t use her last name, lives in a Silicon Valley Hooverville: a line of Jaycos and Winnebagos, Pace Arrows and Tiogas, parked along the side of El Camino Real. Spanish explorers blazed the trail (its name translates to “the royal highway”) to connect their missions as they were colonizing early Alta California; now the road runs amid the luxe campuses of tech companies, spreading their own kind of cultural hegemony.
In this stretch through Palo Alto, six lanes of suburban traffic whizz by Stanford’s manicured soccer fields, stadium, and wooded jogging paths. Like much of Silicon Valley, the area somehow feels both harried and tranquil, a pastoral pressure cooker that squeezes out anyone who can’t keep pace with its strangulating cost of living. Those inside the RVs are reminded of how they’re being left behind by each passing car that oh-so-slightly jars their home. Whoosh. Whoosh. “It’s like getting hit in the head,” as one resident puts it. “Not real hard—but just hard enough, to where you just want it to stop.”