Pechanga RV Resort – Temecula, CA

While we were in Lone Pine, or possibly when we were in Bridgeport, we decided to change our upcoming plans a bit. After Lone Pine, we were originally supposed to drive around the south end of Sequoia National Forest, up the west side, and spend a few days right outside Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks. We were then going to spend a night in Bakersfield and then drive to Escondido, where we had booked four weeks. But we were tired and it was going to be a lot of driving in a short amount of time, which wasn’t very appealing at the time. We scrapped the trip to Kings Canyon and Sequoia (there really should be an east entrance into the parks from Lone Pine) and booked a week at Pechanga RV Resort in Temecula. We already had plans to stay at Pechanga for three weeks later in the fall, it looked really nice, and we were familiar with the area, so it made sense to us to stay there.

Pechanga RV Resort

45000 Pechanga Parkway, Temecula, CA 92592

www.pechanga.com/rvresort

  • Full Hookups
  • Pull-Thru Sites
  • Cable TV
  • Wifi
  • Restrooms with Showers
  • Pool with Two Spas
  • BBQ/Grill Areas
  • Community Firepits
  • Gas Station with Mini Mart, Diesel, Car Wash and Propane Fill
  • Horseshoe Pits
  • Fenced Dog Run
  • On-Property Shuttle Service
  • Security Patrol 24/7
  • Walking Distance to Casino and Restaurants

Pechanga is a resort and casino run by the Pechanga Band of Luseño Indians. The resort itself just underwent a 300 million dollar renovation, doubling its size and becoming the largest resort/casino on the West Coast. It really is beautiful and with nine restaurants, a buffet, live entertainment, clubs, lounges, retail shops, a concert venue, a golf course, and a spa — it’s more than just a casino. And if you sign up for a player’s club card, you get a 5% discount at the shops and restaurants.

During both of our stays, we stayed in one of their deluxe sites. While the deluxe site is the lowest level of their sites, it’s one of the nicest sites we’ve ever stayed in. It is a back-in site with an 18’x55′ concrete pad and nice, green grass separating you from your direct neighbor and a tall hedge separating you from the sites behind you. The other more premium sites have amenities such as pull-thrus; sites with picnic tables; sites with a gazebo, grill, and fire pit; and buddy sites, which are sites that face each other so that if you are traveling with friends, you share a large patio area. The pull-thru sites are a little longer at 67′, but otherwise all the sites are the same size as the deluxe sites. Pechanga is probably the cleanest, most well-maintained place we’ve stayed. The pool, laundry room, and restrooms were attended to every day and spotless. Actually, the entire resort/casino property was super clean.

For the most part, things are fairly quiet at Pechanga. However, the weekends can get a little rowdy, especially if it’s a long holiday weekend like we experienced (Thanksgiving). During our four weeks there, there was one incident with one of the guests of the RV park where security had to be called who then called the Pechanga Tribal Rangers, who responded very quickly and handled the situation quite efficiently. Because of the 24/7 security and prompt response from law enforcement, we felt very safe there. I’d also like to note that the Pechanga Fire Department is directly across the street from the RV resort, which is especially reassuring during fire season in Southern California.

Pechanga is part of the Passport America network, which is a discount camping club that gives you 50% off at participating parks. Each property applies it’s 50% off savings differently, and at Pechanga, it’s Sunday through Wednesday on deluxe sites only. Sunday through Thursday has a rate of $50, while Friday and Saturday are $60, unless there’s a holiday which increases the price. The whole reason we got the Passport America membership was because we knew we’d be staying at Pechanga. During our four weeks total that we stayed there, we saved $350 (14 nights at $25 instead of $50), which really made the annual membership fee of $44 worth it.

The one drawback is that guests staying at the RV resort aren’t allowed to use the main resort’s fitness center and pool, which are both sooooo nice.

While you can’t tell from the photo, the deluxe back-in sites are super long and we had no problem fitting our truck.
The pool is very nice with a spa located on either end.
This is Buddy the security robot. He zips around in the lobby of the hotel.

While Temecula is located inland in Riverside County, it’s just north of San Diego County and east of Orange County, at about a 45-minute drive from the coast. It’s location and lower home prices have led to an increase in residents in the past few years. Because of the increasing population, there’s been a building boom when it comes to both commercial and residential properties. It seems as though most parts of Temecula are brand new and everything is beautifully maintained. While every store and/or service you could need is available, the one thing Temecula lacks is the small town, local charm you find in the beach cities of San Diego and Orange Counties — that is until you drive to Temecula’s wine country. Temecula Valley is home to about 50 wineries scattered throughout the rolling hills. You’ll also find a number of horse ranches and the opportunity for hot air balloon rides. The Temecula Valley Balloon & Wine Festival is held each June, pairing the two things the area is best known for. Whether you prefer reds or whites, you’ll find something for everybody at the various wineries — some with just tasting rooms; others with restaurants, gift shops, hotels, and spas.

As we had lived in North County San Diego for a bit, we have visited Temecula a handful of times over the years — it’s always a nice place to take people that are visiting from out of town. During our stay at Pechanga, my sister and brother-in-law were celebrating her birthday in San Diego and drove out to Temecula with some friends to spend the night. Travis was out of town on business, but I was able to join them for an afternoon of lunch and wining. We started our day with a few tastings and lunch at Wilson Creek Winery, known for their Almond Sparkling Wine, and then moved on to Akash Winery & Vineyards, then Oak Mountain Winery’s tasting room, which is known as The Cave. If you’re concerned about drinking and driving, you’re able to hire a car or book a wine tasting tour that will drive you from one place to the next.

Wilson Creek Winery
It was nice to spend some time with my sister who I usually only see once or twice a year!
Akash Winery
All of the wineries are gorgeous and so peaceful!

Another part of Temecula to explore is Old Town. Old Town is the historic center of Temecula. It has an Old West vibe and offers restaurants, shops, museums, and a community theater. The area is becoming more modernized with some great, modern restaurants (1909 has great food, cocktails and beer) and new condos being built.

I didn’t take many photos of our time in Temecula because to us, it’s not a new place. That’s why it’s also a little difficult for us to give an objective review of our time at Pechanga. It’s a great RV resort and we would stay there again, but definitely for a shorter amount of time.

Literally on the Road to Financial Freedom

This post will discuss all of the financial aspects related to RVing full time, including initial costs, static bills, cost of gas, lodging costs, and the amount we’ve been able to save over the past year. This is an account of our personal financial experiences with regards to full-time travel — other people’s experiences may vary. There is A LOT to cover, but first…

A Little Background Info

Different people choose the full-time RV lifestyle for different reasons. There was not an ‘aha moment’ for us that made us decide to trade our life of living in a rented condo in La Jolla, California for life on the road in an Airstream. We had recently sold our home in San Marcos, which is in San Diego’s North County. We had no need to or set plan; it was just a really good time to sell as we were able to make a healthy profit from when we purchased three and a half years earlier. We moved to La Jolla, enjoyed ocean sunsets from our balcony, and took advantage of living in the walkable Village of La Jolla.

We had talked about full-time RVing at different times during the previous years, but there was always a reason not to. We owned a house. We had a dog with a lot of health issues that needed regular access to his vet. We had finally established a good friend group after years of living in the San Diego area with only knowing a handful of people. Travis has to travel fairly often for work and we didn’t know how easy it would be to fit that in. But all of a sudden, those reasons fell away. We sold the house. Our sweet golden doodle had passed away. We’d be able to visit our friends whenever we wanted and they could meet us somewhere on the road as well. And planning business trips would just have to be part of the route planning process, making sure we were near airports at certain times.

When the option of full timing started to creep into our conversations again, we decided to look at what RV options are available and what they cost. We visited a place in San Diego that sells Airstreams as well as every other type of RV — fifth wheels, travel trailers, motorhomes, etc. Travis had always been stuck on an Airstream, but I wanted to make sure we explored all options. Of course, we ended up deciding on an Airstream. This particular dealership didn’t have the exact layout we were interested in, so we scoured the interwebs for both used and new in the length and layout we wanted. After looking at a used Flying Cloud, we decided we definitely wanted to buy new and we definitely wanted an International. We found what we were looking for at Airstream Orange County. To read more about the buying process, check out our post Buying an Airstream.

How We Make Money on the Road

Before I get into specifics about what we paid and what our monthly expenses are, I should explain what we do for work. We own an ERP consulting business. I won’t get too detailed about what that is exactly, but the basic gist is that we install, upgrade, and customize a particular software that manufacturing companies utilize. We owned the business for six years before hitting the road full time. We typically work remote from home, but depending on what projects we’re currently working on, Travis might travel to visit a customer on site once or twice a month. As far as work was concerned, we were already living a lifestyle that made transitioning to full-time travel easy. If you’re interested in more information about our business, check out our website here: Bird Rock Solutions

Initial Expenses

There are two major expenses when choosing to travel full time — the Airstream and the truck to pull it. As stated above, we purchased our Airstream brand new from the dealership. This is definitely NOT necessary. Used, almost new Airstreams can be found if you have enough patience. Some people sell their trailers after only using them a handful of times. Now that we know what to look for, we would feel confident buying used. While Airstreams do hold their value pretty well, it’s definitely cheaper to buy used. Many people buy vintage Airstreams and renovate them, which is definitely a cost saver, but you need the right skills, a lot of time, and a good work space — three things we did not have. We ended up purchasing a 2017 27fb International Signature. We had the dealership install solar panels, Maxxair vent covers, and a Blue Ox weight distributing and sway control hitch. The total cost for the trailer with the add-ons and tax was $87,612.11.

Next, we had to buy a truck that could tow the trailer. We knew NOTHING about towing or trucks, so we did a lot of research. We ended up purchasing a 2017 Ford F-150 XLT 4×4 Supercrew with a 3.5L V6 EcoBoost engine with complete tow package. It was a demo vehicle with 249 miles, so it was considered ‘used’ which helped with the price. There was a rebate if we financed, so of course we did that, but we paid off the loan when the first payment came due. The total price for the truck with tax, which we absolutely love and has every feature we need, was $47,138.56. To read more about the truck buying process as well as it’s features, read our post Choosing a Truck.

All in, we paid $134,750.67. That’s a big number. Huge. Thanks to the proceeds from the sale of our house, both vehicles are paid off, so we own our ‘home’ outright. Again, this aspect of the full-time lifestyle can be done for much cheaper. We bought both vehicles brand new — many people buy used. We bought an Airstream — many people by SOB (some other brand) because they’re less expensive. We had decided that because we planned to full time for quite a while, we wanted to start out with two vehicles that we would know the entire history of. We would know the maintenance. We would know about any damage or malfunctions. Everything would be clean and we would be the first to use it, sit in it, sleep in it, shower in it, and use the bathroom in it.

Static Monthly Expenses

Just like anyone in a bricks and sticks house, we have monthly bills. Our static monthly bills consist of the following:

RV Insurance ————$112.20

Truck Insurance ———-$92.40

Life Insurance ———–$219.58

Disability Insurance —–$76.92

Health Insurance ——-$480.46

Storage Unit —————-$59.00

TOTAL:                     $1040.56

You’ll notice that phone and internet are not included in our monthly bills. Those items are paid for by the business, so I don’t include them in personal expenses.

Cost of Gas

This is going to greatly depend on how much you travel, your vehicles gas mileage, how much weight you’re pulling, and what speed you drive. When they first start out, many full timers spend a lot of time moving from one place to the next. We did. It’s exciting to be out there, exploring, being able to go anywhere you’d like. But it’s also expensive. And time consuming. And exhausting. We hit the road January 15, 2018 and as of November 24, 2018, have spent about $3,040.00 on gas while towing. That’s just while towing — gas used while exploring or living our everyday life is not included. We also put on over 7500 miles. Again, those are just towing miles. While towing, we generally drive 60mph and we get about 14mpg.

Lodging Costs

For lack of a better term, lodging costs include the cost of the actual site where we park the Airstream, but also reservation fees, taxes, pet fees, electricity, and park entrance fees. We’ve paid anywhere from $0/night to $75/night. There are so many options when choosing where to stay. We’ve stayed at private RV parks, KOAs, city parks, county parks, state parks, national parks, casinos, Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) campgrounds, and on a family friend’s farm.

Private RV parks usually offer nightly, weekly, and monthly rates. Staying somewhere for a month is a good way to save on monthly costs; however, where the park is located is very important. We’ve paid $340 for a month in Pahrump, NV, but have also paid as much as $1900 for a month in Escondido, CA (San Diego County). While city, county, state and national parks don’t offer different rates correlating with your length of stay, they also don’t raise prices for weekends and holidays like private parks and KOAs do. For example, we’re paying $85/night for the Thanksgiving weekend at a casino RV resort, when it would usually cost $50 for the Thursday night and $60 for the Friday and Saturday nights. In contrast to that is our four-night stay in Death Valley National Park over the New Year’s holiday. The campground in Death Valley is always $36/night, regardless of day of the week or if it’s a holiday.

In addition to the nightly, weekly, or monthly rate, you may find yourself also paying for:

  • Reservation Fees – Expect to pay a reservation fee at state or ACOE parks. The reservation fee is the same price whether you stay one night or ten, so this is something that can add up if you move around too much.
  • Electricity – Electricity is generally always included unless you are staying a month or longer somewhere. When you stay a month, expect electricity to be an additional charge.
  • Pet Fees – Some places charge them; some places don’t. Since January 15 until today, we’ve paid $32.00 in dog fees, so it’s not a very common thing.
  • Taxes – This is another one that can sneak up on you. Some states don’t have taxes. Some places include the tax in the rate. But some places tack on the tax at the end and you end up paying quite a bit more than you thought you were going to.
  • Park Entrance Fees – Another thing to consider when making a reservation is if your site is within an area that requires a daily entrance fee. National parks, national recreation areas, and state parks are definitely places that have daily entrance fees. Sometimes it makes sense to just pay the daily fee; sometimes it makes sense to pay for an annual pass.

From January 15, 2018 through November 24, 2108, we paid a total of $13,236.46 for all lodging costs. That’s an average of $42.29/day or $1268.67/month. That’s definitely higher than we would like and we’re going to work on lowering that number next year. We have about 5 and a half months worth of reservations booked next year already and we’ve been able to lower the number to $33.63/day or $1008.90/month.

There are a number of memberships that will help lower your lodging costs; these are the ones we use:

  • AAA – Many RV parks give a 10% discount. Member rates vary.
  • Good Sam – Many RV parks give a 10% discount. $27/year. I can’t even calculate the amount of money we’ve saved with our Good Sam membership; hundreds, probably.
  • KOA Value Kard Rewards – 10% off at all KOAs. Earn points that can be used as discounts on stays. $30/year. We’ve saved almost $100 this year with our membership. Additionally, we’ve earned enough points to get $25 off our next stay.
  • Harvest Hosts – A network of wineries, breweries, farms, museums and similar locations that allow RVs to park one night overnight on their property for free. Currently $49/year; increasing to $79/year 1/1/19.
  • Passport America – Save 50% at over 1800 campgrounds/RV parks across the country. $44/year. We’ve saved $410 this year with Passport America alone.
  • America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass (aka Interagency Annual Pass) – Free entrance into federally operated national recreation sites (such as national parks). Free entrance for up to four individuals at National Park Service sites where per person entrance fees are charged. If you are camping in a national park, you will need to purchase either a weekly pass or annual pass specific to that park. Prices vary from park to park. The other option is to purchase an Interagency Annual Pass for $80. Because entrance was free our Interagency Pass, we’ve visited a number of national monuments we wouldn’t have otherwise visited.

Our Current Financial Situation

Our average monthly cost to date for lodging and gas is $1560.04. This amount includes water and electricity. Pre-Airstream life, we were paying $3400/month for rent for our 2-bedroom condo in La Jolla, not including utilities. Obviously, our basic living expenses have decreased dramatically. Thanks to our lower monthly expenses and the fact that we’ve had our busiest year to date business-wise, we’ve been able to concentrate on building our savings, investments, and retirement accounts. Our business is set up as an S-Corp, allowing us to have a SEP IRA to which we can contribute up to 25% of our gross salary, which we were able to do this year. We’ve also been able to save about 16.5% and invest about 15% of our gross income. We don’t have any loans and we don’t carry a credit card balance. We are truly in the best financial state we have ever been in and the only reason we’re able to save and invest so much is because we live in our Airstream full time. While some people live the full time life in order to lower their expenses so they can work less, we plan to work the same amount for the foreseeable future in order to continue to contribute to our financial future and set ourselves up for true financial independence.

Besides the financial benefit, full-time Airstream life has allowed us to see places in our country that we would have otherwise not seen. There have been amazing places, there have been some not-so-amazing places. Every person we’ve met, every city we’ve traveled through — everything has helped us understand and have more compassion for our neighbors. Except maybe our current neighbors who allow their dogs to poop in our site and don’t clean it up.

 

 

Boulder Creek RV Resort – Lone Pine, CA

After Bridgeport, we continued south on the 395 to another equally interesting location — Lone Pine. Lone Pine, California is best known for the numerous Western movies and TV shows that used the unusual rock formations of the Alabama Hills and the peaks of the Eastern Sierras, including the lower 48’s highest peak — Mt. Whitney, as their backdrop. John Wayne, Gene Autry, Errol Flynn, Roy Rogers, Cary Grant, Bing Crosby, Humphrey Bogart, Clint Eastwood, Steve McQueen, and Mel Gibson all starred in Westerns shot in and around Lone Pine. As the Western era died out, the filming in Lone Pine slowed, but didn’t stop. Kevin Bacon’s Tremors, Kevin Costner’s The Postman, and Russel Crowe’s Gladiator all shot at least partially in Lone Pine. Over 400 films, 100 television shows, and countless commercials have used Lone Pine and the Alabama Hills as filming locations.

Lone Pine is also home to the Eastern Sierra Visitor Center, which is run by the US Forest Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, and Eastern Sierra Interpretive Association. The center provides visitor, wilderness, and highway information for the Eastern Sierra, including the Inyo National Forest, Death Valley National Park, Manzanar National Historic Site, Sequoia and Kings Canyon Parks wilderness, Alabama Hills & BLM Bishop Field Office public lands, and Owen Lakes and Los Angeles Department of Water and Power public lands. Panamint Springs, located on the west side of Death Valley NP, is 55 miles from Lone Pine, while Furnace Creek on the east side is 100.

There are a handful of restaurants, a small grocery store, a hospital, an airport, a golf course and numerous services, including a car and RV wash, located in Lone Pine.

Boulder Creek RV Resort

2550 S. State Hwy 395, Lone Pine, CA 93545

www.bouldercreekrvresort.com

  • Full Hookups
  • Pull-Thru Sites
  • Cable
  • Picnic Table
  • Fire Pit
  • Laundry
  • Restrooms with Showers
  • Swimming Pool & Spa
  • Fenced Dog Run
  • Playground
  • Cabins
  • Dump Station
  • Mini Mart
  • Propane Fill
  • Horseshoes & Basketball

We stayed at Boulder Creek RV Resort for three nights. It’s a very nice resort, with trees for shade and the largest dog run we’ve ever seen at an RV resort. It was quite hot during our stay, so we explored during the mornings before the temperature got too high, worked during the day, and spent a lot of time at the pool and hot tub in the late afternoons and evenings. They serve muffins and coffee every morning in their clubhouse, which for some reason is home to birds and baby tortoises — you’ll find the adult tortoises outside in an enclosure.

Site 28 with a view of Lone Pine Peak
Site 28 is on the end of a row of pull-thrus, so we had a nice ‘patio’ without the view of a neighbor’s sewer hose!

Things to Do Around Lone Pine:

As stated above, Lone Pine has been the backdrop to numerous film and television shows. The Museum of Western Film History can be found in downtown Lone Pine, just a short drive from the RV resort. The museum is a very comprehensive, very interesting collection of Western film and television memorabilia that also contains exhibits from more recent pop culture movies that also filmed in the area. There is no entrance fee, but a $5 donation is recommended (I think this helps keep their non-profit status). And leashed dogs are welcome!

Museum of Western Film History
The Plymouth Couple from High Sierra, the 1941 film that made Humphrey Bogart a star.
Russell Crowe’s training school costume from Gladiator. The landscape of Lone Pine was used for Maximus’s camp.
In the movie The Trail of San Antone Car, Gene Autry’s character (Gene’s stunt double) jumped this Buick Roadmaster while on horseback.
A Graboid (sandworm) from Kevin Bacon’s 1990 film Tremors
Robert Downey Jr.’s suit from 2008’s Iron Man
The Dentist Wagon from 2012’s Django Unchained

Seven miles north of Lone Pine is the Manzanar National Historic Site. Manzanar was one of ten war relocation centers built during World War II to temporarily house people of Japanese ancestry following FDR signing Executive Order 9066. Between March of 1942 and November of 1945, more than 10,000 men, women, and children lived at Manzanar — most of them U.S. citizens. While almost no original structures remain, there are re-creations of barracks, a mess hall, and a latrine. The visitor center features exhibits about the camp and area history. There’s also an informative film and a pretty comprehensive bookstore and gift shop.

Manzanar is a National Park Service site and entrance is free, but we made sure to buy a couple of things in the gift shop in order to support the site, which is a very important, yet sad, part of US history. Dogs are allowed in all outdoor areas.

Manzanar was in operation from Spring 1942 until November 21, 1945
When Manzanar closed, a significant number of prisoners refused to leave because they had no place to go after losing everything when they were incarcerated. They once again had to be forcibly removed from their ‘homes’.
Manzanar held 10,046 incarcerees at its peak, and a total of 11,070 people were incarcerated there.
These gorgeous watercolor portraits hang in the visitor center, honoring some of those incarcerated at Manzanar. “I’ve always believed in the principles and promise of our country.”-Rose Matsui Ochi

Manzanar was arranged in 36 blocks. Each block contained 14 barracks, a men’s latrine, a women’s latrine, a laundry room, a mess hall, an ironing room, and a recreation hall. In most blocks, up to 300 people crowded into the barracks. Everyone ate in the mess hall, washed clothes in the public laundry room, and shared latrines and showers with little privacy. The ironing room and recreation hall offered spaces for classes, shops, and churches. Over time, people personalized their barracks and most blocks evolved into distinct communities.

Exterior of a Barracks
Interior of a Barracks
Interior of a Latrine
Interior of a Mess Hall
Within a couple years of closing, all the structures had been removed, with the exception of the two sentry posts at the entrance, the cemetery monument, and the former Manzanar High School auditorium. There are signs throughout the 6200-acre property marking what used to stand in each spot.
The kanji on the obelisk in the cemetery means ‘soul consoling tower’.

The Mobius Arch Loop Trail is the most hiked trail in the Alabama Hills Recreation Area, which is well known for free, dispersed camping with interesting vistas. The trail is accessible by driving Whitney Portal Road from Lone Pine and turning right on Movie Road. Obviously, Movie Road is so named because this is where many of the areas movies and television shows were filmed. The Lone Pine Chamber of Commerce has a great self-guided tour on their website that guides you to some of the more well-known filming locations. There is a parking area and signs at the Mobius Arch Trailhead to let you know you’re in the right place. The trail is only 0.6 mile long and is a nice, easy hike with beautiful views.

The roads in this area are gravel and can be quite rough at times. There are a number of small roads that branch off from the main roads, and while you can never truly get lost because Mt. Whitney is always in view and acts as a compass, it would definitely be possible to lose your way just a bit. Do some research before heading out into the Alabama Hills and know that summers are very hot and there isn’t much shade to be found.

From what I’ve read, Mobius Arch Loop Trail is the only trail that’s well marked.
Mobius Arch
Dogs and horses are allowed on the trail and throughout the recreation area.
Mt. Whitney makes an appearance at the right interior of the arch.
Heart Arch
The rounded rocks of the Alabama Hills are a stark contrast to the jagged peaks of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, but both were shaped during the same uplifting occurring 100 million years ago.
Looking back at Lone Pine Peak (12,949′) and Mt. Whitney (14,505′)

Of course, the main attraction to the area is Mount Whitney itself. The most popular route to the top is the Mt. Whitney Trail, a 22-mile out and back trail with about 6500′ of elevation gain. It can be done in one day, but you must start early (like, really early) and it takes 12-16 hours. You can also spend a night on the trail at various camps, the most popular being Trail Camp, located at about 12,000′. This helps you acclimate to the elevation, but means you have to pack more gear; however, most hikers will leave their extra gear at camp while they complete the trail to the summit and pick it up on the way down. Permits are required any time you hike Mt. Whitney and there is a daily quota from May 1 to November 1. To find out more information about permits and summiting the highest peak in the contiguous United States, check out recreation.gov, AllTrails, and this blog post by the Hiking Guy.