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.

Paradise Shores – Bridgeport, CA

Bridgeport sits at almost 6500′ of elevation along the 395, which is one of the most interesting and beautiful highways we’ve driven. The town is small, maybe 500 people, there’s no real grocery store and the few services offered include a couple gas stations, a couple hotels, an auto parts store, a couple restaurants, a post office, and a Mono County Sheriff’s office. Gas is ridiculously expensive and along the Bridgeport Reservoir where Paradise Shores is located, there was a cloud of flying bugs like we’ve never experienced before. At first glance, Bridgeport — and the surrounding area — is somewhere to pass through as you drive to some other destination, enjoying the view of the Eastern Sierras as you go. However, after spending four nights at Paradise Shores with zero signal from our AT&T phones (no worries — our Verizon phone & hotspot worked well), we felt we definitely could have spent more time there. According to Charlie and Kelli of Instagram’s SlowDownSeeMore, who were Work Campers at Paradise Shores for the season (which is April to October), the best time to visit the area is June, when the snow has melted, all of the roads are open, and the waterfalls, rivers, and lakes are at their best. We’d love to return to the area and experience some of the amazing hikes and hot springs that we missed out on on this visit.

Paradise Shores RV Camp

2399 Hwy 182, Bridgeport, CA 93517

www.paradiseshorescamp.com

  • Full Hookups
  • Bathrooms with Showers
  • Laundry
  • Outdoor Kitchen
  • Fish Cleaning Station
  • Community Fire Pit
  • Access to Bridgeport Reservoir
  • Kayaks
  • Propane Fill
  • Trailers for Rent
  • Recycling
  • Dog Wash

Paradise Shores is by no means an RV resort. While it has all of the amenities you’d find at an RV resort, it offers them in a very laid back, kitschy, hippy kind of way. If it were a restaurant, the sign on the door would say, ‘No Shoes, No Shirt — No Problem.’ This is definitely not a big rig friendly place, and that seems to be by design. The owners seemed to have planned the park in a way that makes its visitors hang out outside, whether they’re chatting with neighbors or relaxing in the broken-in couches around the community fire pit; though, preferably when there are fewer bugs. The sites are snug, even for our 27, and there’s not a whole lot of privacy. Some people may be turned off by the overall size and coziness of the park, but it worked well for us. Honestly, when we weren’t eating, sleeping, and working, we were out exploring, so there was no need for a place that’s a little shinier and more manicured. Besides the lack of AT&T signal, which is obviously not Paradise Shores fault, the only other negative mark I would give it is there wasn’t a great option for walking Max. First, because it was small with no grass. Second, because it’s right on a highway, so the only place to walk outside the park is along the shoulder of the 182. And third, the owner’s dogs wander around off leash, and while they’re very good dogs, Max takes issue with off-leash dogs that approach him. We definitely will return to the area at some point, but may try staying about 30 miles further south down the 395 in Lee Vining due to its proximity to Yosemite and its cute, small mountain town vibe.

Site 28
Snug spot, but it did what we needed it to.

There are SO many things to do and see in the area, and we ran out of time for most of them, but here’s what kept us busy during our stay in Bridgeport:

Yosemite National Park

“It is by far the grandest of all the special temples of Nature I was ever permitted to enter.” -John Muir

Yosemite is our country’s third national park, established in 1890. The Mono Basin National Forest Scenic Area Visitor Center, managed by the US Forest Service and operated in partnership with the National Park Service and the Eastern Sierra Interpretive Association, is located in Lee Vining, about a half hour drive from Paradise Shores. The visitor center is a wealth of knowledge for how to experience the natural wonders in the area, including Yosemite. From the visitor center, it’s a 15-minute drive along the stunning Tioga Pass to the east entrance of the park. From there, it’s about another 20 minutes until you arrive in Tuolumne Meadows. All of Tioga Road is closed during winter, approximately November to May, which means you can only enter the park from the west side during that time.

We were in Bridgeport from a Saturday afternoon to a Wednesday morning and would only have Sunday to explore Yosemite, as week days = work days. Because of Max and the fact that we don’t like leaving him alone in the Airstream all day, we had to decide between staying on the east side of the park where we could go for a hike and get back home to him in a timely manner -or- bring him with and drive through the entire park, knowing we wouldn’t be able to do any hikes because dogs aren’t allowed on trails. We chose to bring him with so we could take our time driving through the park to Yosemite Valley, which is where the bulk of Yosemite’s annual five million visitors hang out. Obviously, not the ideal way to visit Yosemite, but our day trip gave us a good idea of what, where, and when for a future visit.

Tuolumne Meadows
Tenaya Lake
Distant View of Half Dome from Olmstead Point
Family Photo at Olmsted Point
Yosemite Valley
Ansel Adams Gallery in Yosemite Valley
Doing a little exploring in Yosemite Valley with a closeup of El Capitan

For those that have never been to Yosemite before, Yosemite Valley is basically a small town. There are hotels, a medical center, a museum, a visitor center, restaurants, a grocery store, a post office, and even a courthouse that handles misdemeanors that take place within the 750,000-acre park. Of course, there are also campgrounds and waterfalls and trailheads to what I’m sure are amazing hikes that we hope to experience in the future, sans dog. Yosemite is a lot like Glacier National Park, as in you CAN just drive through the park on the main road and see some great sights, but in order to really experience the park, you need to get (miles and miles) off the main road via your own two feet.

Mono Lake in Mono Basin National Forest Scenic Area

From the information received at the visitor center: “One of the oldest lakes in North America, Mono Lake is at least 760,000 years old and has had many fluctuations in size. Mono Lake has no outlet. For thousands of years, streams have carried minerals into the lake and evaporation has removed fresh water from it. As a result of this process, the salinity content is over twice that of the ocean. Because of these high salt concentrations, the lake offers a delightfully buoyant swimming experience. Although no fish can live in these alkaline waters, Mono Lake is one of the most productive lakes in the world, supporting trillions of brine shrimp, alkali flies and migratory birds.”

There is a road that encircles the lake from which you can turn off to various parking areas and trails that offer views of the tufa, as well as access to the surrounding Mono Craters, a series of rhylolitic domes. We visited South Tufa, known to have the best tufa formations. There’s a .75-mile loop trail that parallels the water’s edge for a bit, and then loops back to the parking lot through the beautiful golden sagebrush. Dogs are allowed on the trails but not in the lake.

Again, from the visitor information: “The tufa (too-fah) tower formations show what nature can do with a few basic elements. The strange spires and knobs formed when fresh water springs containing calcium bubble up through the carbonate-rich lake water. The combining of these waters forms calcium carbonate, a whitish limestone deposit that forms the basis of the tufa formations. Tufa is found in many alkaline lakes throughout the world.”

After we visited the tufa towers, we planned to drive the June Lake Loop Road based on the advice of SlowDownSeeMore. We made it as far as June Lake Brewing, which was also a recommendation from Charlie and Kelli, and the fantastic Mexican restaurant across the parking lot, Gordos. After we were done eating and drinking, we were tired and decided to head for home. Next time!

Bodie State Historic Park

Bodie State Historic Park is a 30-35 minute drive from Paradise Shores in Bridgeport. The last three miles of the road is rough and rutted, requiring a speed of 10-15 miles per hour. I would not recommend driving it with an RV of any type — we actually saw two different RV’s (one motorhome, one travel trailer) make u-turns and drive back out because of how rough it is.

Bodie is a true Wild West, gold rush ghost town, once home to 8,000 people, 30 mines, and over 60 saloons. While only about 5%, or 110, of the buildings remain from the town’s 1877-1881 boom, it’s easy to picture what life was like in this harsh climate. Bodie is at an elevation of 8,379′, which makes for hot summers and long, cold winters. The boom years were over quickly as unsuccessful mines began closing. The population dropped fast and continued to dwindle into the 1900s. Mining continued until 1942, which is also when the last residents fled. Bodie was designated a California State Park in 1962 and is now preserved in ‘arrested decay,’ which means the buildings’ roofs, windows and foundations are repaired and stabilized, not restored.

Entrance is $8 per adult and an extremely informative booklet with map is available for $2. There are restrooms, but that’s it as far as services. You may want to bring water and snacks if you plan to spend a few hours, which is definitely possible. Dogs are allowed, just not in any of the buildings.

The view of the town from the cemetery.
The Jail
The Methodist Church, built in 1882, is the only church still standing in Bodie.
The Church’s Interior
The Miller House – It seems as though residents just took personal belongings and left everything else behind when they left.
All that remains of the bank is the brick vault, with the safe still inside.
Originally a lodging house, this building became the school after the first school was allegedly burnt down by a juvenile delinquent. In 1879-1880, the school saw its highest enrollment of 615 students. It closed in 1942.
The Swasey Hotel

Bridgeport, CA

Back in Bridgeport, there’s not a lot to see, but the beautiful courthouse, which serves Mono County, is the state’s second oldest courthouse and has been in continuous use since 1880. Around the backside of the courthouse is the old Mono County Jail. It was opened in 1883 and served Mono County until 1964. It had six cells, two washrooms, an office and a dining area. It’s very small and only takes a few minutes to explore, but it’s free, so it was worth a quick look.

 

Bridgeport is an interesting area that is definitely worth a stop for a few days, or a even a few weeks, though we offer these tips:

  • Visit in June or late September, as it was still pretty hot during the second week of September while we were there.
  • Fill your gas tank beforehand. Gas was $5/gallon when we were there and there was nowhere within reasonable driving distance where it was cheaper.
  • Hit the grocery store before heading to Bridgeport. There is a little market in town, but it’s really the only store in town and is more like a grocery/hardware/pharmacy type of store. Slim pickings, for sure. We drove down to Lee Vining where the market is also small, but much better stocked, with better choices and some actual produce.
  • Bring bug spray. I don’t know if it was the time of year or the fact that where we stayed was right on the reservoir, but the bugs — mosquitoes, flies, moths, and anything else that flies — were out in full force.

 

Zephyr Cove Resort – Lake Tahoe, NV

We loved Zephyr Cove! This is such a beautiful campground and we are already looking forward to the day we can return. It’s also a very expensive campground, the most expensive to date for us, but we treated our five nights there as a mini vacay and that helped us justify the price ($75/night). We were in site 134, which is a nice, long pull-thru. We were so glad we got a pull-thru due to the roads being narrow throughout the campground and the smattering of trees everywhere, which made getting into sites very difficult, especially for larger rigs. Our site was considered a ‘standard’ site, though I’m not sure what the difference is from the ‘premium’ sites, most of which are back-ins. We watched many Class A motorhomes and fifth wheels struggle with both getting in to and out of their sites, so even though the website says they can handle 40+ feet, I’d say this is not a big rig friendly campground.

We pulled into Zephyr Cove on Labor Day, so it was very busy, but really cleared out the next day. The week was peaceful, with the campground filling up again on Friday night — Zephyr Cove definitely seems like a summer weekend destination.

Zephyr Cove Resort RV Park & Campground

Address: 760 US Hwy 50, Zephyr Cove, NV 89448

Phone: (775) 589-4906

Amenities:

  • Full Hookups
  • Pull-Thru Sites
  • Cable TV
  • Tent Sites
  • Airstreams for Rent
  • Restrooms with Showers
  • Laundry
  • Store
  • Dump Station
  • Propane

There are three Airstreams available for rent. Looking at the Zephyr Cove website, they look to be 30′ International Signatures.

The RV park and campground is across the street from the main lodge of the resort. The resort offers cabins, a restaurant, a gift shop, a beach on South Lake Tahoe with beach bar and volleyball courts, lake cruises, marina with rentals, and horseback riding. We spent a lot of time at the beach relaxing and enjoying the amazing weather. The lake is so clear and refreshing!

Heavenly Village is a short drive from the RV park, and has shops and restaurants as well as the Heavenly Mountain Resort Gondola. The gondola, which only operates on the weekend during summer, offers panoramic views of Lake Tahoe as it carries you the 2.6 miles to the top. There’s an observation deck, cafe, and gift store at the first stop of the gondola. Continue to the top of the gondola for the Tamarack Lodge, where you can get a typical ski lodge lunch that’s of average quality and overpriced. Bar 9150′ is also located there. During the winter, Heavenly Mountain offers 96 different ski trails. During the summer, visitors can enjoy climbing walls, ropes courses, zip lines, a roller coaster, tubing and hiking trails. You can also take the chair lift further up the mountain to get better views of Lake Tahoe and access more hiking trails.

Depending on where you are on the mountain, you’ll find yourself in one of two states.

Our time in Tahoe was all about relaxing. We enjoyed sitting by the fire every night (buy your firewood before getting to the campground where it’s $$$). We also enjoyed meeting up with fellow full-time Airstreamers Marc and Paola (Instagram’s Cruising Slow). The weather was perfect and the only thing we’d change is how long we stayed. We wished our stay had been longer at Zephyr Cove, which will definitely happen during our next visit!

Bordertown Casino and RV Resort – Reno, NV

Bordertown Casino and RV Resort

Address: 19575 Hwy 395 North, Reno, NV 89508

Phone: (775) 677-0169

Amenities:

  • Full Hookups
  • Pull-Thru Sites
  • Cable TV
  • Laundry
  • Restrooms with Showers
  • Dog Run
  • Propane Fill
  • Gas Station
  • Casino with Restaurant
  • Dump Station

This is a great little RV park with 50 sites; all but two are pull-thrus. It’s a couple hundred yards from the California/Nevada border, hence the name, and a 20- to 25-minute drive into downtown Reno. The sites have long, level, concrete pads with beautiful green grass. The laundry and restrooms are a little dated, but are clean and get the job done. Upon checkin, we were each given coupons for the casino for $5 in slot play, a free drink, and a $1 off food at either the deli or restaurant in the casino — and we happily used them all. The casino is small with all slots, a bar, a deli counter and a busy restaurant with phenomenal prices. The people that run the RV park are very nice and extremely accommodating and all of the other guests were very friendly. While there isn’t much to do in the immediate area, we would definitely stay here again — it’s clean, quiet, and convenient to the highway.

 

Lassen Volcanic National Park and Hat Creek Hereford Ranch

Staying at Hat Creek was our biggest and most costly mistake to date…

When we left the NorCal Coast city of Trinidad, we headed inland. We had booked two nights at Del Loma RV Park in Big Bar, but as we were driving, we were feeling pretty good and like we could handle a couple more hours. I called Hat Creek Hereford Ranch, which was our next destination, to see if we could add two more nights to our stay. We were able to, so we kept on driving to Hat Creek. We hadn’t paid a deposit at Del Loma, so canceling was easy and free. We should have known we were going to have an issue when we went for a stretch of almost three hours during our drive with no cell signal. When we arrived at Hat Creek, we had no signal on our AT&T phones. Before checking in, we should have checked our Verizon phone and hotspot, and tried all of our phones with our WeBoost, but we didn’t. When I checked in, the young woman at the counter mentioned that we were staying a long time – originally 7 nights, now 9. We were staying so long because we wanted to explore nearby Lassen Volcanic National Park and Burney Falls. And though we usually travel on weekends, we chose not to this particular upcoming weekend because it was Labor Day. Anyway, I made the comment we were only staying if we could get a strong enough cell signal to be able to work, seeing as we work full time. She said nothing. I paid our remaining balance and we went to our site.

After getting set up, we realized we had no cell signal with either Verizon or AT&T, and our WeBoost did nothing for us. We tried using their wifi, but that kept dropping and wasn’t even strong enough to open web pages. We were in a pickle. Seeing as it was a Sunday, we were going to stay put for the night because we didn’t need to get online for anything. After talking through our options, we decided we needed to move on the next day. There was no way we would be able to last more than a week without a cell signal. That evening, we drove up the road a bit where we noticed we had gotten a bar of signal earlier in the day when we had driven to the grocery store. We parked on the side of the road, in the darkness, and surfed the web to find a new place to stay for the remainder of the week and the holiday weekend. We found a place in Reno where we were able to cobble together two different reservations in order to cover most of the time, and then we adjusted our next reservation in Lake Tahoe to arrive a day earlier.

The next day, we explored Lassen Volcanic NP for a few hours and stopped at the tiny post office where we had had our mail sent. We headed back to Hat Creek Hereford Ranch to pack up, hitch up, check out, and hit the road. We were already fully hitched up and parked in the driveway when I went into the office to check out. The same young woman was working, along with an older woman who I assume is the owner. I told them we had to leave because there’s no signal. They seemed a little befuddled, but I explained that we work full time, and there’s just no way we could stay. The older woman asked if we had tried their wifi, and I said we had, but it was pretty slow and kept kicking us off. She explained how their wifi used to be great, but a recent wild fire caused an electric surge that basically blew up their previous setup. The internet company had replaced the equipment, but the speed wasn’t nearly as strong or fast and it would be getting fixed soon. She tried talking me in to staying a few more days, but I said that we were already hitched up and had reservations elsewhere. She then got a little defensive, saying, “Everybody knows there’s no signal here!” I explained we weren’t from the area and did not know that, but it was our fault for not doing better research. This is when I found out their refund policy, which is they don’t do refunds. If you cancel more than seven days before your reservation, they’ll refund the deposit. If you cancel within seven days of your reservation, they keep your deposit. If you’ve already checked in and paid, they refund nothing. I tried arguing that technically we hadn’t checked in yet for our original reservation, so I should get a refund minus the deposit, but it was a no go. We had nine days booked at $44 per night (plus a $5 reservation fee), for a total of $401. Yikes. She felt bad, so she did refund $100 and credited us with two free nights to use in the next two years. Seeing as we had stayed one night and were checking out late on the second day, we counted it as two nights. When subtracting the refund, the two credited nights, the two nights stayed, and the reservation fee, we ended up eating $120, or about three nights. Of course, that’s if we end up using the two nights of credit.

Lesson Learned: Do better research – on both cell signal and refund policy.

Honestly, I don’t know what happened with this one. We ALWAYS check the cell signal; both with Campendium/Google reviews and the Open Signal/Coverage apps. We totally dropped the ball. In the future, we’ll keep to weekend stays for non-signal areas.

It’s also important to note that we’ve lost money on canceling reservations before. We lost a night’s stay worth once and multiple reservation fees, but altogether it probably adds up to about $60 or $70. We do our best to avoid cancelations, but sometimes we book far in advance at national or state parks, because you have to, but then change our minds. It’s just part of the full-time lifestyle.

Hat Creek Hereford Ranch RV Park & Campground

Address: 17855 Dory Road, Hat Creek, CA 96040

Phone: (530) 335-7171

Amenities:

  • Full Hookups
  • Pull-Thrus (but not really)
  • Laundry
  • Restrooms with Showers
  • Tent Sites
  • Picnic Table
  • Fishing/Swimming Pond

The park itself is nice and quiet. Farmland borders it, so there are happy cows and goats out your window. It’s peaceful and quaint and rustic. The layout is a little haphazard, with sites in odd locations and directions, and nothing that delineates one site from the next. Above, I mentioned that there are pull-thrus, but not really. We were able to pull into our site easy enough (after relocating the fire ring made of rocks and driving up an incline), but at the front of our site was a retaining wall. In order to drive out of our site, we had to drive at an angle down an decline. We didn’t have any neighbors, so we were able to get in and out of our site easy enough, but if we did have neighbors, neither would have been very easy. We were there for such a short amount of time that we didn’t use any of the facilities, so I can’t comment on those.

Site 3 – The four picnic tables in the photo show how close together the sites are.
The surrounding area is a beautiful country setting.

The location is pretty remote, with the small city of Burney a 22-minute drive away. That’s where you’ll find a Safeway grocery store, a Rite Aid, a post office, a few places to eat, and a few hotels. The Burney Falls Visitor Center is a 25-minute drive and the Subway Cave Lava Tubes a 20-minute drive – neither of which we had the chance to visit.

Lassen Volcanic National Park is about a 35-minute drive. If dry camping is your thing, there are plenty of places to stay outside the park (National Forest campgrounds) and within the park itself. Lassen is a mostly-unknown, little-visited National Park that has all the best stuff: Volcanoes, mountains, lakes, mud pots, sulfur springs, steam vents, waterfalls, and enough trails to satisfy every hiker from novice to expert! We’re really looking forward to a return visit to explore the park more fully like it deserves.

 

 

Azalea Glen RV Park and Redwood NP

After spending more than four weeks on the Oregon Coast, we moved on to the California Coast. Trinidad, California is a beautiful little city with sweeping coastal views, shops, restaurants, and a population that consists mostly of vacationers.

Views at Tepona Point
Sunset at Trinidad State Beach

Azalea Glen RV Park

Address: 3883 Patrick’s Point Drive, Trinidad, CA 95570

Phone: (707) 677-3068

Amenities:

  • Full Hookups
  • Pull-Thrus
  • Restrooms with Showers
  • Laundry
  • Cable TV
  • Dog Run
  • No Smoking
  • Recycling

Azalea Glen is a small, quiet RV Park with just 38 sites. About half are permanent residents and are clean and well kept. The owners of the park seem to be amateur horticulturists, as there are beautiful flowers throughout the property, as well as a small green house. Azalea Glen is located about 10 minutes from downtown Trinidad, right across the street from Patrick’s Point State Park, and about 15 minutes from Redwood National Park’s Kuchel Visitor Center.

Site 21 is a Private Back-In Site
Site 21 Viewed Through Pull-Thru Site 38
The Office is Surrounded by Beautiful Flowers
The Greenhouse
Sites that back up to the pond also have decks, but these sites looked fairly short and don’t leave room to park a tow vehicle.

Patrick’s Point State Park is home to a rocky coastline with barking sea lions and interesting tide pools. There are a number of trails that wind through the park and down to Agate Beach. Sumêg Village is a recreation of a Yurok village that is used for cultural and educational activities that preserve the heritage of several neighboring tribes: Yurok, Karuk, and Hoopa. There are three campgrounds within the park with a total of 120 sites. A day pass is $8 and there’s a nice visitor center with information and souvenirs. Patrick’s Point is shrouded in fog much of the year. During the summer, sometimes fog does not burn off for several days at a time. Clear days appear most frequently during spring and fall. Rainfall averages more than 60 inches a year — most of it falling between November and April. Temperatures are moderate much of the year, with only about a 10-degree difference in average temperatures between summer and winter. Summer highs average 62 degrees, with winter lows to 38 degrees.

The View from Wedding Rock
Agate Beach
I found the rocks on Agate Beach to be very interesting.
A Family House in Sumêg Village

Redwood National and State Parks represent a cooperative management effort of the National Park Service and the California Department of Parks and Recreation. This includes Redwood National Park, Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, and Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. This was the most oddly laid out National Park we’ve been to, with each of the four parks situated along the 101 in about a 50-mile stretch. There’s really no entrance/exit, at least not in Redwood National Park. We have a National Parks Pass, so entrance is free to us, but we never saw a pay station. We assume that one is supposed to pay the entrance fee at one of the visitor centers.

The Tall Trees Trail is a 3.5-mile loop trail that is accessible by permit only. Permits are available at the Kuchel Visitor Center, are free, and are limited to 50 per day. We stopped in at 10:30 on a Wednesday morning and had no issue getting one. The trailhead, which is a 45-minute drive from the visitor center, is at the end of Tall Trees Access Road, which has a locked gate. Disclaimer: The road is rough — I’d recommend a high-clearance vehicle, although there were plenty of cars that made the trip. When you get your permit, they also give you the combination to the lock, which changes daily. This trail is not the most spectacular part of the park, but due to its remoteness and limit on visitors, it’s very quiet. We only saw about ten other parties in our time on the trail, which was about an hour and forty minutes. FYI: There’s a pit toilet at the trailhead.

I would recommend to anyone visiting the Redwoods area, whether you have a few days or only a few hours, to visit the Lady Bird Johnson Grove Trail. It’s a 1.25-mile loop that’s absolutely breathtaking. It’s also the most popular trail in the park, but Redwood doesn’t seem to get nearly as much love as other parks, so you won’t be fighting through crowds. We visited Lady Bird Trail a little after 5pm and there were only a half dozen cars in the parking lot. It was a clear day and the light was perfect!

There is a plaque that stands in Lady Bird Johnson Grove where Presidents Nixon and Johnson joined Governor Reagan in 1969 to dedicate this 300-acre grove to Lady Bird Johnson and her campaign to preserve America’s natural beauty.

We really enjoyed the time we spent in the Trinidad area. It’s a beautiful part of the country that we look forward to revisiting at some point.

The Oregon Coast – Part Two

Our original plan after Winchester Bay was to make our way to Crater Lake for the Crater Lake Rim Run. Because of a wild fire burning in the northeast corner of the park, we had been keeping an eye on the air quality conditions, which got worse everyday. A few days before the race, we decided to pull the plug on the trip. We didn’t want to drive all that way to see beautiful Crater Lake in a smoky haze and we didn’t want to put our health at risk by running the race. We were disappointed about canceling a trip that we had been looking forward to for four months. Months worth of our route had been determined by this trip to Crater Lake and this became a learning experience for us — DO NOT plan things so far in advance. Anyway, with Crater Lake out, we had to figure out where we were going to stay. It was a weekend, in summer, on the Oregon Coast, with three days’ notice — not easy conditions. We called around and checked online for more than two hours for anywhere along the coast from Coos Bay to Florence, and I happened upon one site available at Jessie M. Honeyman State Park for the three nights we needed.

Jessie M. Honeyman State Park

Address: 84505 Highway 101 S, Florence, OR 97439

Phone: (541) 997-3641

Amenities:

  • Full Hookups
  • Yurts
  • Tent Sites
  • Hiker/Biker Sites
  • Restrooms with Showers
  • Picnic Table & Fire Ring
  • Firewood for Sale
  • Dump Station
  • Water Fill
  • Playground
  • Lake with Boat Rentals and Swim Beach
  • OHV Access to Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area

Check in isn’t until 4pm, which was a little tough for us because we came from Winchester Bay, 35 minutes away, where check out was 11am. We pulled over in a turnout on the way to kill time, but we still got to the campground around noon. Since I pre-registered, they basically checked us in at that time and said we could drive past our site to see if the previous people had left yet (check out is 1). We drove through, scraping our sway bars on every single gigantic speed bump along the way and saw that the people had not left yet. Per the check-in person’s advice, we drove back out and pulled into the day use area to wait. There is a lot of parking in day use, including some RV spots. We ate lunch and explored the area a bit until 1, and then headed back into the campground – after we removed our sway bars. This time the people were gone and we didn’t scrape any speed bumps.

We stayed in site H381, which is one of the shortest sites throughout the huge campground. When we pulled up to it, we weren’t sure we’d be able to back into it, as it was at the opposite angle in regards to the direction of traffic and it was small. Even the camp hosts right across from us were certain we wouldn’t fit. We inched our way back and forth until we got in and once we did, we noticed the site was much longer than the labeled 31 feet, just difficult to access. We had an electric and water hookup, but as this was a short stay, we only hooked up electric and used our full freshwater tank (which we filled at our last place) for the duration. This is a huge campground (over 400 sites) and its main draw is the access to the dunes right next door. Because we were in H Loop, the loop directly next to the dunes, all we heard all day long was the engines of the various OHV vehicles, but beggars can’t be choosers.

Cleawox Lake is located within Honeyman Park. The Lodge offers a swim beach, restrooms, and boat rentals. We rented a kayak for an hour ($10) one morning and paddled around the lake a bit. The lake isn’t huge, so an hour is really all you need.

Honeyman State Park is a few miles south of Florence, one of the nicest little towns you’ll find on the Oregon Coast. There’s a Historic Old Town district home to restaurants, shops, and art galleries. We ate at three different places in Florence, and Bridgewater Ocean Fresh Fish and Zebra Bar was by far the best! We also did some shopping at a great little store in Florence called Artêfacts.

Heceta Head Lighthouse is located 12 miles north of Florence. Of all the Oregon lighthouses we visited, and we saw 6 of 9, this one probably has the most picturesque location. First illuminated in 1894, the 56-foot tower sits 205 feet above the ocean. There’s a half-mile, uphill walk from the parking area, which has a day-use fee of $5, which was free for us with our State Park campground pass. There’s also a network of trails around the lighthouse, including one that connects to the popular Hobbit Trail. The lighthouse is currently closed to tours due to restoration. Also on the property is the old lighthouse keeper’s house, which is currently used as a bed and breakfast.

The beach in this picture is adjacent to the parking area. The bridge is Hwy 101.
You’ll notice a white curtain is drawn inside the top of the lighthouse. When a lighthouse is functioning, the lens around the lightbulb is constantly in motion. When the lens stops turning and sits still, there’s potential for a fire to start by sunlight passing through the lens, which is basically a very strong magnifying glass. The curtain is drawn to prevent this from happening.

While we were grateful to find a place to stay somewhat last minute, we wouldn’t stay at Honeyman State Park again unless we had to. It was too loud and too busy for our liking; although, being in Florence was really nice.

 

Bastendorff Beach County Park

Address: 63379 Bastendorff Beach Road, Coos Bay, OR 97420

Phone: (541) 888-5353

Amenities:

  • Water and Electric Hookups
  • Tent Sites
  • Cabins
  • Restrooms with Showers
  • Playground
  • Dump Station
  • Picnic Table and Fire Ring

While the address for Bastendorff Beach County Park says Coos Bay, a more accurate location is Charleston, a small fishing village eight miles southwest of Coos Bay. Because of this location, the campground is a 20-25 minute drive from what Coos Bay has to offer. The campground shows its age and we wouldn’t stay here again, but it did the job. There is no area to check in, but I always put the information (confirmation number, site number, hookups, balance owed) in my calendar on my phone, so I knew where we were going. Our site was very private, though just barely long enough to park our truck in front of the Airstream. The campground was pretty quiet, except for the distant fog horn that sounded every 20 seconds or so throughout the night. Access to the beach is a half mile down the main road. This was the only beach of all the beaches we visited in Oregon that was gross. Garbage. A man peeing. Excrement that was possibly human. Apparently, up until very recently, people were allowed to sleep on the beach. Sounds dreamy, right? The area was more of a homeless tent city than a nice family getaway, so the city put the kibosh on that. We spent five nights here, and as it was only water and electric hookups, we had to conserve water usage so as not to fill the grey and black tanks. We made it through the week, but did end up dumping a grey tank that was at 100% capacity.

A few miles south of Bastendorff Beach is the Cape Arago Lighthouse. It is currently owned by the Confederated Tribes of the Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw Indians. There is no (legal) public access to the lighthouse, but there is an overlook just south of Sunset Bay State Park. The fog horn that sounds through the night comes from the Cape Arago Lighthouse.

There are three State Parks just south of Bastendorff Beach: Sunset Bay State Park, Shore Acres State Park, and Cape Arago State Park. Oregon has 36 state parks along the coast. The main purpose of these parks seems to be to preserve the land, as opposed to preserving a historic interest, recreational potential, or a natural wonder, as you find in other state parks. These coastal parks are generally trees with some trails that lead to one of the many beaches. Don’t get me wrong — I love that Oregon has set aside all of this land for public access! It’s just that so far, the many state parks we had visited in the previous four weeks on the coast had all been the same without much excitement. Shore Acres State Park was a little something different than the usual.

Shore Acres SP was a delightful and unexpected little park. It was once the grand estate of pioneer timber baron Louis Simpson, and features a beautiful botanic garden. There’s a formal garden, a Japanese-style garden with lily pond, and two rose gardens. Of course, there are also trails, one of which leads to secluded Simpson Beach. There’s also an observation building, which sits where the Simpson mansion once stood, to protect you from the elements as you view the ocean. We were lucky enough to see a lone grey whale just off shore.

This is a nice little park if you’re in the area. FYI: No dogs allowed. They are not allowed outside of vehicles. Also, there’s a $5, cash only, parking pass fee. There’s an onsite gift shop that does accept credit cards.

The Coos Bay and North Bend area is the Coast’s largest urban area and you’ll find more restaurants, shops, and services here than most anywhere else along the Coast. We visited 7 Devil’s Brewing a couple of times while staying at Bastendorff Beach and I’d recommend a visit if you find yourself in the area.

 

Humbug Mountain State Park

Address: 39745 Hwy 101, Port Orford, OR 97465

Phone: (541) 332-6774

Amenities:

  • Pull-Thru Sites
  • Water & Electric Hookups
  • Tent Sites
  • Hiker/Biker Sites
  • Restrooms with Showers
  • Picnic Table with Fire Ring
  • Dump Station
  • Firewood for Sale
  • Short Trail to Beach

This was a really nice little campground with 90 sites; two-thirds tent, one-third RV.

There is a short trail to the beach from the campground, and seeing as through the campground is the only way to access the beach, it’s very unpopulated.

There are a couple of trails within Humbug Mountain State Park. One is the Humbug Mountain Trail, which is a moderately difficult 5-mile loop. The other trail, the Old Hwy 101 Scenic Trail, is 2.6 miles one way and is part of the 425-mile Oregon Coast Trail. We did a portion of the Old Hwy 101 Trail.

This gate is off to the right as you drive into the main part of the campground.
Some portions of the trail were black top, some gravel.
There are wild berries everywhere!
There are some pretty great views!

Port Orford had some of the prettiest coastal views we had seen up to this point, including the views from Battle Rock City Park right in town.

We visited one last lighthouse while in this area — Cape Blanco Lighthouse. It’s the oldest standing lighthouse on the Coast and is the westernmost point in Oregon. Just up the road from the lighthouse is the Hughes House, a restored home of an early settler (whose son was a lighthouse keeper at Cape Blanco for 37 years). The views from the lighthouse are gorgeous, but the wind, a calm 22 mph while we were there, is something else. This is not somewhere I’d like to experience a winter!

Humbug Mountain in Port Orford was a great place to wrap up our stay on the Oregon Coast. We ate at a couple of restaurants in Port Orford —  we’d recommend The Crazy Norwegians. We also hadn’t been at a place with laundry facilities for a bit, so we hit up Busy Bubbles, which is a (very clean) laundromat AND a self-serve car wash (which has a bay large enough for an RV). There are a few places we wish we would’ve had time to explore, the city of Bandon being one of them, but we’ll definitely be back!

Off to the Redwoods!

 

The Oregon Coast – Part One

A little less than a month ago, we were sitting in Spokane, complaining about the endless heat that we had been experiencing for the previous eight weeks, and we decided enough was enough. We had a route planned from Spokane through central Oregon (Deschutes/Bend areas) to Crater Lake, where we were going to run the Crater Lake Rim Run mid-August. All of these areas were forecasting temps in the 90s (not to mention quite a few wildfires), so we scrapped the plan. We had been seeing Instagram posts from people on the Oregon Coast that were enjoying temps in the 60s and low 70s and we decided we wanted to be those people too. As the Oregon Coast is very popular this time of year due to the rest of the country basically melting, we knew it’d be difficult to find spots, so we wanted to have definitive reservations. We searched and called and called and searched, asking places if they had ANY availability during the date range we were looking for. After piecing together 5 nights at Harborview Inn & RV Park in Garibaldi and 10 nights at Winchester Bay RV Resort in Winchester Bay, we filled in the blanks with one night at the Lincoln City KOA (which is actually in Otis) and three nights at the Waldport/Newport KOA in Waldport.

Before I go any further, I want to explain the wonderfulness that is the Oregon Coast. Thanks to Oregon’s 1962 Beach Bill, the public has free, unrestricted access to all of the state’s beaches. The 36 State Parks (averaging one every 10 miles) found driving down the 101 allow for numerous places to pull off to enjoy the view, picnic, use a restroom, or stroll on the beach. The 362 miles of the Oregon Coast is really the perfect place for a road trip!

 

Harborview Inn & RV Park

Address: 302 S 7th Street, Garibaldi, OR 97118

Phone: (503) 322-3251

Amenities:

  • Full Hookups
  • Pull-Thrus (Kind Of)
  • Hotel
  • Laundry
  • Restrooms with Showers
  • Bay Views
  • Crab Pod and Cooker Rentals
  • Cable TV

Harborview is a small RV park and hotel on Tillamook Bay, in the small fishing village of Garibaldi, just north of Tillamook. Most of the sites are drive-in sites, meaning they cater to motorhomes, as the hookups are on the opposite side for a backed-in trailer. We had site 7, which they consider a pull-thru site, though that involves driving down a curb, which we realized when we were leaving our Airstream isn’t able to do. Our site was labeled as being 52 feet, but was much smaller, so we had to park our truck elsewhere, which is fine due to the number of parking spaces they have around the hotel. The site was very level, we had full hookups, and the weather was perfect — so we were literally happy campers. Sites 23 thru 30 are waterfront sites with great views, but honestly, the view from every site is pretty decent.

Site 7
Max LOVED the fresh air and watching the world go by outside the open windows!

The town of Garibaldi is very small, but does have a decent little grocery store and a nice gas station. For those who have never gotten gas in Oregon — it’s state law that they pump it for you. The gas station employee started panicking when Travis tried to pump it himself, not knowing the law, though you can pump it yourself after 6pm. There are also a few restaurants, a few shops, a Coastguard station, and a train that does scenic rides to Rockaway Beach and back. Garibaldi’s location on Tillamook Bay, as opposed to the ocean, seems to allow for more clear, sunny days than other parts of the coast. Rockaway Beach is only a 10-minute drive north, yet any time we drove through there, there were overcast skies with a thick marine layer.

We had delicious fish tacos at Source, a restaurant right in Garibaldi. Their hours are weird, so make sure you check to see if they’re open before you go — but definitely go!

An intact former U.S Coast Guard Lifeboat Station sits at the end of a pier across the bay from the RV park. It became fully operational in 1937 and could accommodate two 36-foot motor lifeboats and one 26-foot oar-powered surfboat. It was decommissioned in the early 1960s when the Coast Guard relocated to a new facility.

The view of the pier from Harborview Inn & RV Park.
The decommissioned Lifeboat Station is open to the public at various times.

It’s a short drive (about 12 minutes) down to the famous Tillamook Creamery. They recently completed a huge expansion with a food hall, retail space, production process viewing area, and of course, cheese samples. The place is chaotic, but the food is terrific (check out their menu here) and there are ice cream flavors found nowhere else. I highly recommend a visit, but pack your patience.

The food hall has three parts: Area to order from the menu, which is full of deliciousness using local ingredients; Ice cream; and Yogurt & Espresso Bar
Oh. My. Word. The cheese curds. The BEST we’ve ever had, and that’s saying a lot as were were born and raised in Wisconsin.
The retail area has Tillamook food products and logowear, gifts, and products from local companies such as beer. Lots and lots of beer.
Mmmmmm!
You’re able to watch the full manufacturing process during the self-guided tour.
Of course, you have to finish the day with ice cream! Travis got the special batch Pendleton Whiskey & Maple and I got the Caramel Toffee Crunch.
Cheers!

Cannon Beach is a 45-minute drive north from Garibaldi. We made the drive twice; once to visit the beach and Haystack Rock, and the second time to eat lunch at Pelican Brewing. It’s a beautiful little town, probably the nicest you’ll find on the coast, but during the summer it’s BUSY. Just know going into it that parking might be tough, but the beauty of the beach is worth it!

Haystack Rock – You know it’s going to be big, but when you see it in person, it’s really BIG!
It was such a beautiful day when we visited — windy — but beautiful!
The beach is so big too!
Max loved running around on the beach!
Pelican Brewing has decent food and good beer.

During our stay in Garibaldi, we also made a few other stops while exploring:

Cape Meares Lighthouse – Inactive, Built in 1890, Tillamook Bay

Tip: When driving there, follow the route along 131, not Bayocean Road. Bayocean Road is closed near the end and the lighthouse is not accessible by car this way. It should take about 40 minutes from Garibaldi.

Short Beach – Pretty much every beach on the Oregon coast is beautiful, and there are a lot of them, but Short Beach, just south of the Cape Meares Lighthouse, is above average. The trail from the road through the woods to the beach feels like a secret and opens onto the beach, which also feels like a secret.

 

Lincoln City KOA

Address: 5298 NE Park Lane, Otis, OR 97368

Phone: (541) 994-2961

Amenities:

  • Full Hookups
  • Pull Thrus
  • Tent Sites
  • Cabins
  • Laundry
  • Restrooms with Showers
  • Cable TV
  • Playground
  • Horshoes
  • Propane Fill
  • Dumpstation
  • Dog Area (Not Very Good)
  • Breakfast (For a Charge)

We stayed at the Lincoln City KOA for one night. The campground is located on Devils Lake, though you can’t actually see the lake from the campground. If we had been in the area longer, I’m sure we would have explored the opportunities the lake had to offer. Our site was a pull-thru, which is what we always try to get when we’re staying somewhere for just one night. We generally fill our freshwater tank and empty our black and grey tanks before leaving our previous spot so that when we pull in to our new spot for one night, all we have to do is hook up electricity, which makes for an easy set up. The only way I would stay at this campground again is if it were in a pull-thru site like we had. The campgrounds sits on a hill, but the pull-thrus are nicely leveled and easy to pull in to. The back in sites on the opposite side of the street from the pull-thrus would be difficult to get into because you have to back in uphill with a lot of speed bumps in the way. Things level out at the bottom of the hill where there are cabins and more back in sites, but those site are small and very close together. There’s an onsite Mel’s Kitchen, which offers a pretty large breakfast menu.

Site 12 – Fairly Level
Site 12 – Decent Privacy from Neighbors

We were able to get settled in early and quick enough to do the Cascade Head Trail hike, which is about a 10-minute drive from the KOA. Rumor has it this is one of, if not thee, most beautiful hikes on the Oregon Coast. The hike is about five miles roundtrip, but can be extended a tad in order to make it about 6.5 miles. It starts out in a forest which then opens up to a hilly, prairie area. No dogs are allowed on this trail due to ground nesting birds. There are pit toilets at the trailhead parking lot. The last part of the trail between the lower and upper viewpoints has a pretty good incline, which makes this a moderately rated trail.

 

Waldport/Newport KOA

Address: 1330 NW Pacific Coast Hwy, Waldport, OR 97394

Phone: (541) 563-2250

Amenities:

  • Full Hookups
  • Pull-Thru Sites
  • Cabins
  • Tent Sites
  • Fire Pit & Picnic Table
  • Laundry
  • Restrooms with Showers
  • Playground
  • Recycling
  • Bay View Sites
  • Cable TV

Guys, we loved this KOA! It was small, well maintained, and had great views of Alsea Bay from many sites. The laundry room was nice (and busy), there’s a community fire pit that’s lit promptly at 5pm every evening, and they have recycling bins, which is so uncommon for pretty much everywhere (sad, but true). Our site was a small back in, but we had no trouble getting into it.

We had a nice view of Alsea Bay out our back window.
Site 18 was small and cozy but also nice and private.

We loved the little town of Yachats (pronounces Yah Hots), about a 15-minute drive, and wish we would’ve discovered it sooner. We ate at Yachats Brewing and it was soooo good! Fantastic farm-to-table food that felt real good in our tummies and Travis really enjoyed their beer too.

We were a little busy with work while we stayed in Waldport, but did explore the area a bit. We took a nice long walk on the beach at Ona Beach State Park. We stopped in at the Cape Perpetua Visitor Center which is located in the Siuslaw National Forest. There’s a campground and a number of trails here and we hope to be able to explore it more thoroughly some day. We also stopped at Seal Rock and Thor’s Well, which is a bowl-shaped chasm along the rocky shore that seems to magically fill and empty in conjunction with the waves.

Ona Beach State Park
Cape Perpetua Scenic Overlook
Seal Rock
Seal Rock
Thor’s Well
Thor’s Well

 

Winchester Bay RV Resort

Address: 120 Marina Way, Winchester Bay, OR 97467

Phone: (541) 271-0287

Amenities:

  • Full Hookups
  • Pull-Thru Sites
  • Cabins
  • Laundry
  • Restrooms with Showers
  • Cable TV
  • Playground
  • Bay Views

We were able to score a spot at this beautiful RV resort for 10 nights! We had to move once, but it was well worth it as this was one of the nicest places we’ve stayed. It’s probably the best place we’ve stayed in regards to Max, as there’s a nice, long paved trail along the bay, lots of green grass, and dog waste bag dispensers throughout the park. As with the other places we stayed along the coast up to this point, we didn’t experience any of the wind the Oregon Coast is known for, thanks to being on the bay and not the ocean. We probably had more grey days than sunny here, but it was still much better than the heat we would’ve had if we had stayed on our original route.

Pretty much every site has a view of either Winchester Bay or the Umpqua River, as the resort sits on a peninsula.
We first were on Site 45, then Site 41. Both are one of their small, interior sites. Plenty long, we just needed to park the truck elsewhere.
We spent many nights outside by the fire, enjoying the sunset.

Winchester Bay is just south of Reedsport, where you can find grocery stores, gas stations, fast food, restaurants, a hospital, a post office, and the visitor center for the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area. There are a few restaurants and shops in Winchester Bay, but this is another quiet little fishing town like Garibaldi. We ate at Griff’s on the Bay twice, which is located in Winchester Bay. Their fish and chips are so good!

The fish was lightly breaded and so buttery!

We also ate at Harbor Light Restaurant in Reedsport, which had AMAZING pot pies and dessert to satisfy anyone’s sweet tooth. We drove down to Coos Bay, about a 30-minute drive, to 7 Devils Brewing for dinner one night. Again, great beer and food.

The Mill Casino in North Bend, just north of Coos Bay, had a Food Truck Off one weekend that featured 20+ food trucks, live music, and beer. Each food truck had a $2 sample available in addition to their regular menu, so we were able to get a taste of what quite a few had to offer.

The Dean Creek Elk Viewing Area is located in Reedsport, and is just a short drive from the RV park. Every evening a large group (about 100) of elk wander into a field to graze. It’s a pretty neat sight, seeing so many large animals altogether.

The Oregon Dunes Recreation Area stretches approximately 40 miles along the Oregon Coast from Florence to North Bend. There are large sections set aside for off-highway vehicle (OHV) use, and you’ll find many campgrounds in that 40-mile stretch that cater to the OHV crowd. Winchester Bay has OHV access points by Umpqua Lighthouse State Park. We did the short hike from the John Dellenback Dunes Trailhead in Lakeside, which is just south of Winchester Bay.

We really enjoyed our time in Winchester Bay, as well as everywhere else along the coast thus far. It’s been great having such nice weather and moving at a little bit slower pace, which is what you find in these small coastal towns. Tomorrow we head up to Florence to continue exploring the coast, so look for a post about The Oregon Coast – Part Two soon!