Saturday, February 21, 2009

More of Nature's Beauty Around Jojoba Hills RV Resort

Jojoba Hills RV Resort

The image startled me so much that I tugged on Ed’s elbow pulling him by the sleeve to see. A small rainbow illuminated the usual dull gray granite counter top in the coach kitchen.

“Look!” I exclaimed. “There’s a rainbow right here. Do you know what’s at the end of the rainbow?” I asked rhetorically. Without waiting for a reply, I pointed my finger at the red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet rays and jabbed at it. “It means we’ve found what we are looking for, our pot of gold so to speak, a place to consider for an eventual permanent home for our coach Dolly’s Pride.”

We already have an address of Rainbow Drive through Escapees in Livingston, Texas but I think the real rainbow might be in Aguanga, California at the Jojoba Hills SKP Resort. Ed and I arrived at Jojoba Hills on February 18thwith the understanding that we could stay on a rental lot for a limit of 28 days. We registered and paid for one week due to my hesitation. “What if we don’t like it here?” I whispered to Ed knowing that we had just left an RV resort where we had planned to stay for two weeks but we’re itching to leave in two days.

Now, I am savoring each of our 28 days. Jojoba Hills is a southern California RV membership park with 283 sites for Escapees RV Club members. It is located off Highway 79 S some 17 miles south east of Temecula, California. This rather bland summary does not give a full description of Jojoba Hills.

Here’s what we found: Smiling people who offer warm welcomes, invitations to participate in Clubhouse activities, and generous Escapees hugs. High desert scenery dotted with giant rounded boulders and hillsides covered with flowers in colorful bloom. Panoramic views of snow topped mountains like Mount Palmer reaching 6,150 feet high. Comfortable temperatures for flip-flops and sleeveless shirts even though snow is within sight. Amenities including a heated swimming pool, library, miniature golf course, sewing room, craft room, billiards room and more. Activities beyond happy hour and pot luck dinners like hiking and pre-arranged day trips. Volunteer opportunities both on site and off. Strong cell phone and Internet signals because the lone pine tree on the hill is really a cell tower in disguise. No speeding cars since the speed limit is 9 mph. No noise from traffic or planes. Quiet neighbors. And, star filled skies. Ed and I are ‘over the moon’ impressed!

“Are you on the list?” We’ve been asked numerous times meaning: “Are we adding our name to the bottom of a possibly two-year wait list to make this a permanent place to roost?”

We’re still not sure; but when the time comes to end our roving days, we’ll look again at this spot at the end of the rainbow and think about the day a rainbow lit my kitchen counter.

February 22, 2009

Jojoba Hills Resort

45120 Hwy. 79 S

Aguanga, CA 92536

Exploring San Bernardino National Forest

“Let’s leave in an hour.” I love hearing those words after Ed drains the last bit of his morning coffee from a favorite Pier 1 mug.

We would explore the area around Aguanga, California in our Toyota Corolla. Our first stop happened to be the Jojoba Hills RV Resort Office for a regional map and recommendations for a Saturday drive. Go right on Hwy 79 S to Temecula or turn left onto Hwy 371 to Anza. Neither would be disappointing assured the ladies in the Office. We took a left.

We had not traveled far on Hwy 371 when we saw the sign for the Cahuilla Casino. The casino greeter offered us free memberships in the Players Club and $15 each in playing credits on the slots. This sounded like a good deal for entertainment so we both handed over our driver’s licenses as ID. I activated my card on a nickel slot machine betting the max. The red, white and blue bars and sevens rotated crossing the payout line sometimes giving me a 15-cent win, sometimes rewarding me with a big win of 75-cents. I am a recreational gambler so these small gains thrilled me. I pulled myself away from the machine when my credits hit bottom, 15-cents. Ed refused to initiate his Players Card, promising me that he would let me use his $15 when he brings me back some other day for a brief visit. The free Coke was all Ed needed to be content.

In the heart of Anza, we found a Swap Meet at the Community Center. For my friends back in Pittsburgh, this translates to Flea Market. I searched all the tables for a gnome like the Travelocity one to carry with us and photograph. And, I hoped to find a rock hammer to crack open some of the big rocks I collected in the Arizona desert. I had no luck finding these treasures. Ed went on a search for a knife for us to carry in our backpack. With little negotiation, he paid $5 for a Buck knife. I tasted my first kumquat at a farmer’s stand; I’ll stick to my favorite fruits – oranges and grapefruits, thanks. Then, the farmer offered me a box of brussel sprouts – the whole box for $5. At Kroger, the value would be closer to $20 for the quantity. We had a deal and I took cash from Ed’s money clip and the farmer did not have to pack up that extra box of vegetables in his van.

For lunch, we ate at a picnic table in a church yard. Fresh grapefruit, nuts & raisins trail mix, sandwiches and chunks of cheddar cheese satisfied our appetite. The distant mountains made a picture perfect view from our seat.

As our ride continued on Highway 371, mountains no longer seemed far away. The elevation increased. The road got curvy. Pull-offs gave way for slow moving vehicles and photo opportunities. Patches of white snow glistened on the steep mountains. We entered the San Bernardino National Forest.

At a crossroads of Highway 371 and Highway 74, we turned west on Highway 74 toward Idyllwild. Expansive quarter horse ranches spanned both sides of the road. We immediately thought of our equestrian expert daughter Suzie at the same time and nodded in understanding. “Suzie,” we both said.

Ranch land gave way to park trails. We stopped at one where snow still lay crusted on the ground. Playfully, Ed whacked me with a snowball and I whacked him back. We tested our coordination using a broken tree branch as a bat and flailing snowballs as balls. I called our game quits after a snowball I surprisingly hit burst into icy granules spraying my face, neck and camera lens. Ed and I didn’t walk too far along the trial because it narrowed to muddy, uneven ravines eroded by melting snow. Instead, we paused to take some photographs, collect prickly sharp pine cones as mementos, then returned to our car for a quit consultation of the California map.

We decided to skip a visit to Idyllwild just a bit down the road and retraced our route back to Jojoba Hills RV Resort. Though the route was the same, the view from our descent through the mountains and forest on Highway 371 seemed more breathtaking that the ascension. Our exploration was complete and I’ll be waiting for the next time when Ed says, “Let’s leave in an hour.”

February 21, 2009

Route 79 S from Aguanga, CA

North on Hwy 371

West on Hwy 74

Mountain Scenes Around Jojoba Hills RV Resort

Desert in Bloom at Jojoba Hills RV Resort

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

California Crossing: Oceanside, CA

Day 6

Once again, Ed and I have run out of road. Our westward journey crossing California brought us to Oceanside, a coastal town on the Pacific Ocean. It’s here that Highway 78 west intersects with Highway 101.

We enjoyed our explorations of Highway 101 along the Oregon coast last fall. Seals, sand dunes, lighthouses, and undeveloped coastal shorelines are now fond memories captured on hundreds of digital photos. By contrast, the shoreline here is lined with beach houses and condos behind a protective, unnatural seawall of granite boulders. Signs warn: “no loitering” – “keep off” – “private property”. Life guards and armed police patrol the shore in marked vehicles. Pay to park lots near the beach enforce fees 24-hours a day. If you ask long-time residents to comment on Oceanside, we heard repeatedly, “It’s better than it used to be.” When pressed to explain, they gesture with head down commentary about crime and gang activity which are now more-or-less under control.

Boondocking is not an option here, not even in the Wal-Marts nearby. We have spot #42 at Paradise by the Sea RV Resort. Our coach is parked on a concrete driveway just separated by our car and a lone palm tree from the neighboring RV. Security cameras watch over the property. The gate to the beach walk is locked at 7:30 PM. A $15 refundable deposit gets you a key to the park’s restrooms with hot showers. My Verizon air card runs faster than the complimentary Wi-Fi. We have cable TV for the first time in 4 months. The hourly Amtrak train drowns out the sound of the ocean waves.

We’ll be here for a week to take care of some business, visit friends in Los Angeles, and see the famous San Diego Zoo. We’ll walk the beach between the pier and jetty. We’ll enjoy seeing children splashing in the icy cold waves. And, we’ll stand with our feet in the sand and fix our gaze on the tall ship passing along the horizon until we move on to another new venue.

February 8 – 15, 2009

Paradise by the Sea RV Resort

1537 S. Coastal Highway

Oceanside, CA 92054


California Crossing: Dos Picos Regional Park in Ramona

Day 5

The wipers screeched across the coach windshield. Rain pelted the metal roof making loud pings. The road ahead faded into a thick gray fog. It was time to call “quits” to the day’s road trip.

Ed found Dos Picos Regional Park on the outskirts of Ramona, California. After a quick call to Ranger Kyle, he confirmed site #14 for our large Prevost and headed down a road labeled “Dead End.” We’d been down dead ends before with the coach. I asked for assurance that road lead to the park. Ed promised I wouldn’t be helping him to disconnect the car and dolly to enable him to back up; this was the road to the park. The dead end road wound through California horse country where paints and quarter horses seemed to be enjoying the rainy day.

Dos Picos Regional Park sets in a grove of oak trees. Although the maintenance crew keeps the branches trimmed to give 14-foot clearance, the branches hung heavy with rain. A blacktop park road with raised curbs wound between the trees. We didn’t want to damage the trees, curbs or coach so I put on my purple plastic raincoat and grabbed the walkie-talkie. Did I mention it was still raining?

One overhead branch with a stray elbow barely cleared our roof dome. And, the dolly rose up over the curb on one turn. Our site was not a pull-though so the car and dolly needed to be unhitched…in the rain. Both Ed and I felt soggy wet by time we settled in for dinner and a beer, wait…we were out of beer! Well, we simply settled in for dinner.

“I thought it didn’t rain here,” I commented.

“I heard there’s a drought,” Ed replied then called me a weather jinx.

The rain did stop early enough for us to take a walk and explore Dos Picos Regional Park. We found walking paths through the oaks, an inviting redwood pavilion for group gatherings, and scenic viewing areas of California’s rolling hills. The park was immaculately clean with plenty of room between RVs to make you feel like you have your own green country lot.

Ed said over and over, “This is the nicest campground we’ve ever stayed in…better than Watkins Glenn, better than Banff, even better than Roger’s Rock at Lake George.” He was over the moon about the place and so was I. One night didn’t seem like enough, but in the morning when the sun shone bright, we unhooked and continued our California crossing.

The County of San Diego Parks and Recreation Department operates Dos Picos Regional Park. Our partial hook up cost $24. Saturday ranger programs meet in the amphitheater weather permitting.

February 7, 2009

Dos Picos Regional Park

17953 Dos Picos Park Road

Ramona, CA