The Last Hurrah: Our Final Stay

When we would spend prolonged periods of time in the San Diego area, we preferred to stay at Surf & Turf RV Park in Del Mar. You can read about our previous stays there here and here. This is a barebones park that is essentially a gravel parking lot (though some trees are present) surrounded by a fence. Water and electric hookups are available and a pump truck comes around three times a week to empty your tanks. However, Surf & Turf decided to upgrade its hookups and install sewer connections this year, so our usual spot was out of commission temporarily. Our plan was to wait it out in the meantime across the street at the fairgrounds, where there are 58 RV sites with full hookups. They don’t take reservations, so after spending our one night in Temecula, we contacted the fairgrounds to make sure they had a spot for us before heading that way. The response: We’re closed until December 6th. A bit of a problem seeing as it was November 20th.

Surf & Turf is also owned by the fairgrounds, so I can only assume that both places are getting a little primping at the same time. We found ourselves in quite the predicament. After driving 750 miles from our condo in Bozeman to pick up our Airstream in Clackamas, Oregon where we had some work done, and then driving more than 1,250 miles to Southern California where we planned to spend the next four months, we appeared to be without a place to stay.

We both felt sick to our stomachs. How were we going to find a place to stay in San Diego County with no notice in late November? There are not many options for extended stays in an RV in the area and there are even fewer options that would be considered anything close to affordable. It might be possible to string together a few nights here and there at various regional parks and state beach campgrounds, but that wouldn’t work for us. We had very recently scrapped a lovely part of our route that would have taken us to a beautiful olive oil ranch in San Ardo, a week in Pismo Beach, a few nights in Ventura, and a few more nights in San Juan Capistrano, in order to arrive and get settled in San Diego earlier than originally planned in order to take care of some new work commitments and a personal commitment that required an airport. We needed to be able to stay in one place for the foreseeable future. We had ever only stayed at one other RV park in San Diego County for an extended period of time – Escondido RV Resort – and there were things about it that we didn’t care for. You can read about that stay here. However, we went back to our ‘it’s best to know what to expect then not’ school of thought, and decided to reach out to them first. Ultimately, thanks to a recent cancellation and moving a guest to a different site (you’re welcome for the upgrade!) they were able to get us in that day for a one-month stay. Phew! Our plan was to move to the fairgrounds after our month was up, and then hopefully Surf & Turf would be open.

At the time, we had no idea this would be our last time hitching up, our last travel day, and the last place we ever stayed with the Airstream — more about that shortly.

We had gotten lucky. We had never left such a long stretch of time to chance like that before, and this is why. Even though we had a plan that seemed like it would work, it didn’t. After almost four years of Airstreaming, mostly full time, we continued to learn lessons and experience things we hadn’t before. Some people are able to float from one place to the next without much of a plan in place and still sleep soundly at night – we are not those people.

We made the uneventful 33-minute drive down I-15 to where we’d be spending the next two months. (That’s right, TWO months — more about THAT shortly as well.) The RV park was everything we remembered it being: cramped, noisy from the nearby interstate, and with a cell signal that for some reason drops to sometimes unusable levels the moment you drive in. We wedged ourselves into our site with zero inches to spare and breathed a sigh of relief.

RV Park Stats

Name: Escondido RV Resort

Address: 1740 Seven Oaks Rd, Escondido, VA 92026

Website: www.escondidorv.com

Dates Stayed: November 20, 2021 – January 20, 2022

Site: 66

Rate: Whatever They Feel Like Charging + Electricity

Amenities:

  • Full Hookups
  • Restrooms with Showers
  • Laundry
  • Dog Run
  • Pool with Spa
  • Propane Fill
  • Wi-Fi
  • Cable TV
We just barely fit into our site. Actually, sometimes we hung over a few inches. The sites on the lower level of the park are small, with many people not able to fit their vehicles completely in their sites, making navigating with an RV and backing into sites more difficult than it should be.
We backed up as far as we possibly could while still having the steps over the concrete.

Oh, site 66. You are divine during the sunny hot days, with all the shade you provide. However, once winter hits and the rains come, your lack of sun makes for an incredibly damp, muddy stay, made worse by the sprinklers going off every night. Also, road noise, almost constant sewer smell, and not a whole lot of outdoor space — two thumbs waaaaay down from us.

A few more notes about the RV park:

(You may want to read about our previous stay to understand where some of these are coming from.)

  • The bulky cable boxes have been switched our for coaxial cable hookups at the pedestals. We use streaming services, so this was not a benefit to us, but at least they’ve upgraded this since our last stay.
  • The AT&T signal is still atrocious within the confines of the RV park.
  • They offer two levels of WIFI: 850kbps speed free for 3 days, meaning you have to sign in every 3 days; and 5mbps speed available for 1 day ($5.99), 1 week ($12.95), or 1 month ($39.99). We opted for the 1-month plan, as we needed to work and the speed of the free WIFI wasn’t going to cut it.
  • One load of laundry costs $7.00. And you can’t make it a full load, because if you do, it won’t dry completely, even on the highest setting.
  • Since our last stay, they’ve shifted from being just a short-term stay RV park to having many long-term residents, or people living there. This means that it’s difficult to get one of the nicer, larger sites in the upper part of the park, as many are occupied for the foreseeable future.
  • You may have noticed that I wrote ‘Whatever They Feel Like Charging’ for the rate. There is no rhyme or reason to their rates. They fluctuate, they surge, and two people in two identical sites may be charged drastically different amounts. We were at their mercy. And don’t get me started about what they charge for electricity. Again, whatever they feel like charging.

Anyway, a few days after getting all settled in, we ran a bunch of errands, which included Travis getting his booster shot. He felt fine for the first 24 hours, normal fever & exhaustion for the next 24, and then started having chest pains and shortness of breath. After 24 hours, we decided to go to the ER on Thanksgiving. He ended up being admitted due to an elevated troponin level. Troponin is a protein found in heart muscles that is typically only measurable after a cardiac event. Anything above 40 usually signifies a heart attack. Travis’s was 13,000. The staff at the hospital was very calm and professional, but it was clear this was unknown territory and serious. While it seemed the booster was the culprit, the cardiac team did their due diligence and investigated any possible causes as well as thoroughly examine his heart to make sure there was no permanent damage. He had x-rays, EKGs, an echocardiogram, an angiogram, and a cardiac MRI. Everything looked great, considering, and his troponin started to trend down. He was released a few days later as there really isn’t a treatment for his diagnosis, which was myocarditis. That means one of the layers of his heart was inflamed. They confirmed Travis was one of the few people to have myocarditis as a result of receiving an mRNA vaccine. But Travis went above and beyond by having an actually unheard of troponin level — his doctor said he was a 1 in 5 million case. The staff at the VA Hospital in La Jolla was great and we felt very fortunate to be somewhere that he was able to receive such incredible medical care. After being released, he was instructed to take it easy and not lift anything greater than 5lbs. Walking was fine, but no hiking or any other activity that would get his heart rate too elevated. It was because of this, that we decided to see if we could extend our stay at Escondido RV Resort to two months, so that we wouldn’t have to worry about the bit of stress that hitching up and towing can bring. They were able to extend our stay in our same site. While I’m not a fan of the RV resort’s billing practices, they were VERY accommodating.

In the following weeks, we kept a low profile so that Travis could recover, but we did get to spend some time with friends by way of lunch and dinner dates, as well as one of our favorite past times — trivia at the brewery. It was kind of a weird time. With Travis’s illness, the holidays, and COVID still hanging around, the lovely, eventful, social winter in San Diego that we had previously imagined was kind of anything but. We were somewhat detesting the RV park. The weather was crap. The annoyances of living in a small space were becoming overwhelming. We were missing our condo in Bozeman — the space, the king-size bed, the washer & dryer, the dishwasher, even the low humidity (seriously, it was SO damp in the Airstream). We had talked about selling the Airstream a number of times during the previous months, and maybe even year. There were a number of reasons discussed, and I plan to go into them in more detail in an upcoming post, but for now you can refer to this post for a few of them. But the time felt right. Like, really right. So, we listed it. And we sold it. To read more about the selling process, check out this post.

After selling the Airstream, we moved into a hotel. We weren’t ready to leave San Diego quite yet and Travis had a followup appointment with his cardiologist scheduled at the VA in La Jolla. However, after they called to change it to a virtual visit (because, COVID), we decided there was no reason to hang around any longer. We had just seen our friends again at trivia on Thursday night, the doctor called on Friday, and we bugged out Saturday morning. We spent Saturday night in St. George, Utah and made it back to Bozeman Sunday evening. We had rented out our condo for the months of November and December, so we spent many hours cleaning that night and unloading the truck. We finished getting things situated in the condo on Monday, as well as doing load after load of laundry, and then emptied out the Airstream’s storage unit.

We were officially no longer Airstreamers.

A Few Days in the Desert: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

The drive from Temecula to Anza-Borrego is a bit curvy with grades, so our short drive day took a little longer than expected, but it was worth it! As previous San Diego residents, we had never been here before, which feels a bit blasphemous now. The nights are quiet, the sky is huge, and the stars shine bright — all things everyone could use a little bit more of in their life, I believe.

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is the largest state park in the lower 48 and lies in three Southern California counties, making up one-fifth of San Diego County with its 600,000 acres. It’s also a certified International Dark Sky Park, which is “a land possessing an exceptional or distinguished quality of starry nights and a nocturnal environment that is specifically protected for its scientific, natural, educational, cultural heritage, and/or public enjoyment.”

There are multiple campgrounds throughout the park ranging from no reservation, dry camping to reservation needed, full hookups. As with many California State Parks, and state parks in general, getting a reservation isn’t the easiest and does require some planning. We were able to reserve two nights in the no hookup section of Borrego-Palm Canyon Campground a few months ago, and at a later date, after a cancellation, were able to reserve two more nights in the full hookup section.

NOTE: Check in time is 2pm with no exceptions, and they definitely adhere to it. We arrived at 1:38 and they let us preregister, but would not allow us to go to our site. We drove over to the Visitor Center where there is RV parking, and bought some souvenirs and picked up all of the literature we would need for our visit, before heading back to the campground.

Borrego-Palm Canyon Campground

200 Palm Canyon Drive, Borrego Springs, CA

www.reservecalifornia.com

  • Dry Camping Sites (Max Length 25′)
  • Full Hookup Sites (Max Length 35′)
  • Dump Station
  • Restrooms with Flush Toilets
  • Token-Operated Showers
  • Water Spigots
  • Fire Pits
  • Picnic Tables
  • Shade Structures in Dry Camping Sites
  • Firewood for Sale

Our first two nights were spent in Site 72 in the dry camping section of the campground. The literature for the campground states that the max length of these sites is 25′. However, our trailer is 28′ from hitch to bumper, and we were able to squeeze in while still being able to park our truck at the front of the site. When reserving a site here, I looked at not only the listed length on the website, but also the Google Map satellite image where I could see that we’d be able to back up quite a bit further than the length of the pad. Not all of the sites would have fit us, so do your research if you have a longer rig — we were definitely the longest trailer in this section of the campground! The sites in this section are sporadically placed and offer more distance from your neighbor than the sites in the full hookup section.  The sites with the best views are 73, 75, 77, 79, 81, 83, 84, 85, and 87. The restrooms and showers aren’t anything special, but they are clean and all individual, so you have privacy and safety.

An iPhone photo in no ways does the night sky any justice, but as you can see, even with bright moonlight and campfires burning, the stars were out in force.
We just fit into our site!
We backed up as far as we could without hitting the shade structure and still being able to deploy our awnings — which is key in the desert without A/C.
Our site was a little odd in that the fire pit and picnic table were opposite the door side of our trailer, but the site itself is spacious with nice views.

We spent the next two nights in site 33 in the full hookups section. All of the sites here are pull throughs and the sites with the best views are 50 and 51. The sites here are definitely longer, with us being able to park our truck in the same direction as the trailer, as opposed to perpendicular to it. Also, when friends visited, they were able to park their car at an angle behind the Airstream.

At site 33, there is shrubbery and a palm tree to give some separation from the neighboring site.

Borrego Palm Canyon is one of the quietest places we’ve ever stayed. People seemed to go to bed pretty early, but especially in the dry camping section, where there are a lot of tents and vans.

There are about 110 miles of hiking trails throughout Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and there are three trails that leave right from Borrego Palm Canyon Campground:

  • Trail to Visitor Center — Dog and bike friendly; Flat; Easy; Paved; .7 mile one way.
  • Panoramic Overlook Trail — Moderate with loose rock and 300′ of elevation gain; 1.6 mile roundtrip.
The wildflowers are out in force!
View of Borrego Palm Canyon Campground from the overlook.
  • Borrego Palm Canyon Trail — Fairly flat with loose rock and some scrambling; 375′ of elevation gain; Currently open portion is about a 2.25-mile loop.
The landscape along the trail is absolutely beautiful!
We were lucky to see at least a half dozen endangered Peninsular bighorn sheep.
Friends from Oceanside drove out to spend the day with us and the Ocotillo.
Due to a fire, the portion of the trail that leads to the palm oasis and waterfall was closed, but there was still a lot of beauty to see along the way, like these beavertail cactus.

Another fun hike that’s about a 25-minute drive from the campground is The Slot, which, in cased you haven’t guessed, is a slot canyon. The road to the trailhead, where you’ll find pit toilets and a parking lot, is about 2 miles of washboard gravel, but not awful. It’s an easy, 1.6-mile out and back hike through a narrow slot. There’s an option to make it a loop if you continue past the end of the slot, but as we didn’t have the AllTrails app open to follow the correct route (there’s no defined trail) we turned back after a bit because we didn’t really feel like getting lost in the desert that day.

This is what it looks like when you exit the end of the slot canyon — it’s pretty wide open and difficult to tell what direction to go, so make sure to have a map!

Galleta Meadows is privately owned land in Borrego Springs that’s home to over 130 metal sculptures by Ricardo Breceda. The Meadows are unfenced and open to the public — and definitely worth a visit if you find yourself in the area!

Our stay in Anza-Borrego was our last stop before wrapping up our winter in California and it was definitely a highlight! There’s a lot of boondocking to be had in this area, but seeing as this was our first time here, we took the safe route and stayed in a developed campground. And as it got really hot on Friday of our stay, we were glad to have an electric hookup to use A/C. Of note, gas is extremely expensive out here. Make sure to fill up before the trip out and search for gas stations a bit removed from Borrego Springs if you need to fill up again. About 45 minutes outside of Borrego Springs, we passed a gas station that was at least $1.50 less per gallon. Also, there’s a small market in town that is a catchall type of store and has the necessities — but I would not call it a grocery store. If you need specific items, bring them with you.

Escondido RV Resort – Escondido, CA

Our very first week as full-timers was spent in Escondido, in San Diego’s North County. We rolled back into Escondido 266 days later. We had quite literally gone full circle. Seriously, check out our travel map — we actually went in a full circle, extending as far east as Wisconsin, between our stays at Champagne Lakes RV Resort and Escondido RV Resort. We had 7500 miles, 16 states, and 50 different stops under our belt. We stayed for six weeks, which is the longest we have stayed anywhere. We were looking forward to being in familiar territory — the house we sold that allowed us to buy our truck and Airstream was literally 15 minutes away in San Marcos — and spending time with friends. We were looking forward to California burritos and the ocean and trivia at the brewery and being able to slip back into a normal routine. We were looking forward to having a temporary home base that actually felt like home. And we definitely got all of those things while staying at Escondido RV Resort!

Escondido RV Resort

1740 Seven Oaks Road, Escondido, CA 92026

www.escondidorv.com

  • Full Hookups
  • Restrooms with Showers
  • Laundry
  • Dog Run
  • Pool with Spa
  • Propane Fill
  • Wi-Fi
  • Cable TV
Site 110

As I try to write this review, I keep typing and deleting. On the surface, Escondido RV Resort is a great place to stay. It’s well landscaped, well maintained, and the people who run it are very nice. It’s right off I-15 and one exit north of the 78, which is the main east-west highway in North County San Diego. As we lived in North County for a bit and most of our friends live in North County, we were able to get to where we wanted to go within a decent amount of time. The trade off is that the resort is RIGHT off the 15, which means the sound of traffic is pretty audible most times of the day from most parts of the park. We were lucky with our particular spot (site 110) as it backed up to a tree line that helped buffer the traffic noise. The Wi-Fi was decent but in order to access it we needed to set up a (free) account and reconnect to it daily. They had great HD TV, but in order to use it, we needed to borrow a cable box from them to hook up in our trailer. There is very nice landscaping throughout, but it’s watered every night and the sprinklers tend to be pretty aggressive with their spray field and leave behind hard water spots on the lower half your trailer — so, obsessive trailer cleaners beware. There isn’t one blade of grass in the park, which is understandable as it’s Southern California, but leaves a little to be desired when walking a dog. There are two different dog areas, one on each level (the park is set up on two different levels). The one on the lower level is fenced in, so it’s off leash, but is quite a hike to get to if you’re staying on the upper level. The one on the upper level is small, but doable. Both have wood chips as a base. Rod McLeod Park is located right next to the RV park and is accessible through a locked gate from the upper level of the RV park. It’s a big grassy space with a playground and restrooms, and was a nice alternative for walking Max. However, due to it’s seedier side — people living in cars in the parking lot, a handful of homeless people, and quick transactions of some sort taking place — I didn’t feel comfortable walking Max by myself and would only visit the park when Travis was around. The laundry room was nice and clean and the machines used credit cards instead of coins, which is fantastic. The only issue is that the credit card machines didn’t always work. A few times I had to try multiple cards and one time, the person in the office had to run a special card through the reader in order to get the machine to work. Also while we there, someone tried to steal a bike from someone’s site. Luckily, the maintenance guy saw him and stopped him. The bike was retrieved, but the would-be thief ran off before the cops arrived. Obviously, there is potential for theft at ANY place we stay, which is why we never leave anything of value outside.

With all of that being said, none of those issues are anything that would prevent us from staying there again. But there is one thing — the AT&T signal in that area is terrible. Basically non-existent. Luckily, we also have a phone and hotspot on Verizon, so along with their Wi-Fi, we were able to work without too many issues. We just weren’t able to use our personal phones very dependably, which was pretty inconvenient. 

And our very last issue with Escondido RV Resort was the price. When we first booked our stay there, if was originally for four weeks, so just shy of a month. At that point, we understood why we weren’t getting the monthly rate. But we changed our travel plans and a couple weeks before arriving, we extended our stay an additional two weeks. Six weeks. Which is more than a month. Which means we should have received the monthly rate. But we received the weekly rate. While they were very nice and gave us a nicer site — we were supposed to be on the first level, but they moved us to a larger site on the second level — I didn’t understand their explanation as to why we weren’t getting the monthly rate, and honestly, I don’t even remember what their explanation was anymore. The only benefit to paying the weekly rate versus monthly rate is that electricity was included in our rate and is not included in the monthly rate. We paid about $1900/month with the weekly rate when the actual monthly rate for the spot we reserved was $1100, so yes, we were frustrated. To add to the frustration is what I recently found on their website:

$800 if you’re in an Airstream?!? Must be nice!

I don’t want to sound like a complete Negative Nancy about Escondido RV Resort. There are some really great features too:

  • They make filling your propane tanks very easy. You just set your tanks at the end of your site and they’ll pick them up, fill them, and return them.
  • There’s a small swimming pool and spa that are nice.
  • They have a deal with the nearby LA Fitness where you can get a free 2-week membership.
  • You can have packages delivered there.
  • The close proximity to I-15 can’t really be beat!

Things To Do in the Area

We were pretty busy during most of our stay in Escondido, but most of that entailed hanging out with friends and visiting our favorite restaurants, stores, local sites, etc. However, here are a few things you should check out if you’re in the area:

San Diego Zoo Safari Park

www.sdzsafaripark.org

Pretty much everyone knows about the famous San Diego Zoo, but a lot of people outside of the area have not heard about the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. While the zoo is located down in San Diego, the safari park is in Escondido, just 20 minutes from the RV park. Like the zoo, you’ll find gorillas, tigers, lions, elephants, cheetahs, rhino, giraffes, and a variety of other animals. Unlike the zoo, you’ll find the park’s rhino, giraffes, antelope, wild ass, zebra, and buffalo roaming about in a free-range exhibit called African Plains. From the tram, you’re able to see how the animals interact with those within their species as well as with animals from other species. The newest exhibit, Walkabout Australia, is home to kangaroos, wallabies, cassowaries, and other animals from the Outback. You are able to walk through the enclosure and get up close and personal, sometimes even pet, the resident wallabies. 

A giraffe looks for a snack from one of the Caravan Safaris, which is a tour you can take for an additional cost.
Sisters Joanne and Leslie can be seen playing in the Gorilla Forest
The park’s elephant herd recently added two babies. Pictured here is Zuli, born on my birthday this year!
Tiger Trail is such a beautiful exhibit! On this day, the big cats were enjoying some meaty bones.
A kangaroo strikes a pose in the newest exhibit, Walkabout Australia
Due to being rejected by their mother, the wallabies were hand raised and, therefore, very comfortable with human interaction. This is 11-month-old Laura.
The Safari Park, as well as the Zoo, is also a botanic garden and home to some really beautiful and interesting plants.
I have no idea what this is, but it can be found in the World Gardens section of the park.

Hiking

While staying in Escondido, we went on two hikes. The first hike is kind of a San Diego bucket list hike. Anyone who’s been in San Diego long enough has heard about the hike to Potato Chip Rock. The hike begins at the Mt. Woodson Trailhead along the shores of Lake Poway in Poway, which is about a 20 minute drive from the RV park. It’s one of those hikes that you need to start early, for two reasons: 1) The sun gets blazing hot in this area year round and 2) you want to beat the crowd that makes the journey to get THE shot for Instagram. There’s a parking lot with restrooms and a place to fill water at the trailhead. It’s free to park on weekdays but there’s a $10 fee on weekends. Leashed dogs are allowed on the trail. The trail is 7.6 miles roundtrip and is rated hard on AllTrails, probably due to the 2,000 feet of elevation gain. We hit the trail at 6:30am and were in shade the entire way to the top. Once we made it to Potato Chip Rock, we ate some breakfast while we waited in a short line to get some photos. It took us about 3 hours and 15 minutes, not including down time at the top. The way down started to get hot as we were in direct sun, and we were very glad we started early. Make sure to take water and sun protection!

We had beautiful sun rise views on the way up.
While waiting in line, we ate scones, because we fancy.
Tip: Find the most social-media-savvy-looking person in the crowd to take your pics!
Tip: Look at photos on Instagram before you make the trip to find oh-so-clever photo ideas.
There are a lot of fun and interesting rock formations along the trail.
This is a good representation of the quality of the trail.

The second hike is the Lake Hodges Overlook Trail out of the Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve in Escondido. It’s a moderately difficult, 6.4-mile trail that’s about a 15-minute drive from the RV park. There’s a parking lot with small visitor center, water fill, and restrooms at the trailhead. Dogs are allowed. There are actually a number of different well-marked trails within the reserve that lead to various overlooks with picnic tables and shade structures.

Beautiful views!
This photo was taken on a different day we hiked the trail, when the lake and surrounding mountains weren’t shrouded in fog.

Breweries

You won’t have a difficult time finding some great craft breweries in San Diego County. One that you should definitely check out if you’re in the area is Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens, which is about a 10-minute drive from the RV park. Besides being a brewery, Stone offers a full menu as well as wine. The interior of the facility is nice, but the draw here is the outdoor patio and one-acre beer garden, complete with koi ponds and fire pits. It’s a beautiful property and while I don’t have any photos to post, trust me that you won’t be disappointed.