Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Sand Devils Reunite at the South Pacific Room

Hans was in a surf rock band, The Sand Devils, for the last seven years in San Diego. After a few practice runs over the last couple of weeks they played at The South Pacific Room; a tiki themed party pad in Vista. The guys sounded awesome! You'd never know they hadn't played together for five months!

Derrick and Roxanne have put a lot of thought and creativity into turning their family room into a South Pacific-inspired oasis. Check out the detail in the photos below. Many of the carvings and lanterns are hand made with exquisite detail. It would be easy to sit in this room and be transported to another place where the palms outside are swaying in the tropical breezes...

And now some pics of the band in action! As you can see, it was hard for me to hold still!!!

I think we all agree, house parties are the best! Intimate setting, right up close to the band, with friends and family! Many thanks to Derrick and Roxanne for hosting a fun party in their beautiful home.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Playing Tourist in our Former Home Town

We've been visiting our old favorite places near the beaches and bays and kind of playing tourist around San Diego. Some random shots from the past few days...

My favorite RV decoration in our campground
At the Big Bay Balloon parade 

Woody  seems to be on a collision course with the street!

Late afternoon under Crystal Pier

Sunset from Crystal Pier in Pacific Beach

Fabulous blooming yucca at Cabrillo National Monument
I'd love to visit this every day for a time lapse of the bloom!
Taken from the bay trail at Cabrillo Monument, a tall ship passes downtown San Diego.
Tidepooling at Sunset Cliffs
Sweet Rosie finds the sunny spots in the RV while we are out on the town..

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas from the Beach!

We've moved to Mission Bay RV Resort to spend a month on the coast. If you are in the area you're welcome to stop by and visit us at Site 139. The RV park is nothing fancy but the location is divine! Miles of bay and beach trails right outside our door.

Here's a few photos from the past few days...

Hans makes us an awesome Latte Ovaltino each morning!
Then we head out to see what Mother Nature has to offer...

What a beauty!

A sunny morning in La Jolla...
Diving just in the nick of time.

This body surfer caught a perfect ride!

Morning grooming in the sun. Check out the contortion artist bottom right!

Bathing Beauties!

Don't hate me because I'm beautiful!  :-)
Freckle Face!

A drizzly Christmas Eve morning doesn't stop the surfers near the Pacific Beach pier.

Merry Christmas to all...wishing you a warm, healthy and happy holiday!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Campground Review: Santee Lakes Regional Park and Campground

I lived my entire life in San Diego up until this past August and Hans spent 28 years here so with most of our families and many of our friends here we knew we would be visiting regularly. Lucky for us, there are many camping options in this city. One of the best full hookup RV parks in town is Santee Lakes. Winter is the best time to stay in Santee because it can be one of the warmest communities in San Diego during the summer.

Padre Dam Municipal Water District built Santee Lakes in 1961 "to demonstrate the promise of water recycling". Over the years more lakes were added and recreation was introduced. Today, the park includes seven lakes, beautiful day use facilities, a teen center, fishing, bird watching, peddle boating, playgrounds, cabins, 300 camp sites, a pool and hot tub, laundry and covered RV storage topped with solar power that covers 50% of the entire parks energy usage.

We had a lovely site, #163 in the Willow Loop. The loop itself is lightly traveled and our site was adjacent to an expanse of grass that separated us from the main road and the pool and clubhouse/laundry facility. We also had good afternoon shade, something that would be very important here in the summer! It was very dark and quiet at night.

All park roads are paved and camp sites are dirt with a picnic table. This was our first experience with a dirt site and boy were we glad we bought a patio mat while in Quartzsite, because the dirt was annoying. In fact, the dirt was really our only complaint about the whole campground! Too easy to track it in the rig.

The park is situated along and beyond the lakes, up Sycamore Canyon. The first half mile into the park is day use only, then you reach the office building and the camping sections begin, with the first two camp loops flanking lakes 6 and 7, sites in these loops are pretty close together. Willow Loop has lots of nice shade trees but maneuvering into a spot can be a bit tricky due to the trees and curvy roads, the sites are quite spacious with good separation. The Oak Loops are the newest and have very large, mostly pull through, sites at a premium price.

We arrived a couple of days before Thanksgiving and the park was probably 95% full for the holiday weekend. For the rest of our stay the park was only about 50% full, with a surge in occupancy each weekend.

The park holds all sorts of scheduled events to keep campers engaged such as Monday night potluck, Thursday morning coffee and sweets, Friday night family game night. 

San Diego is a destination city so camping is not cheap. We paid $670 for one month, plus a $30 deposit toward our electrical use. Premium sites are a little more.

The park is in a canyon and the farther in you are the worse your cell and internet reception will be. With our booster, we got 4G internet service most of the time, it would have been much worse without the booster. We had the best luck with our cell phones outside the rig. We did not try the parks wifi service.

Site #163 in the Willow Loop
Big sitting area with good separation from our neighbors
View from our door is a big expanse of grass with the pool/restroom building and trash across the way.
We definitely enjoyed having the grassy area nearby.
Sycamore Canyon open space in the distance.

Sample lake view...lots of birding at Santee Lakes!

Rosie is still not completely sure about this leash business!

View of Mulberry Loop along the lake and some of the rental cabins.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Winding down our stay in Santee Lakes

It's been wonderful to stay a whole month in one place. We've been busy little socialites since San Diego is our former home town. Lots of visits with family and friends...and we're only halfway through our stay in this city.

It's been a lot of fun showing our new home to family and friends. I think that folks who may have been skeptical about our lifestyle change have seen how comfortable and happy we are and can now understand what the draw was for us. Having minimal possessions and the ability to travel continuously in the comfort of our own home makes sense for us for now.

We've divided our stay in the San Diego metro area between two distinctly different parks. Santee Lakes (review pending, but we loved it!) is in the Eastern (inland) part of the city, situated on several lakes of reclaimed water, amidst rolling hills, in a very lovely setting. Next we move to the waterfront at Mission Bay RV Resort for a month.

Best of all during our stay here we've met several folks that we know we'll see again further down the road. Blogging has turned out to be an excellent social link for us, allowing instant connection to others living this nomadic lifestyle.

We met John and Pam after reading their comment on someone else's blog that they were in our RV park. We've since gotten together for a couple of hikes and happy hours and we plan on meeting up again in Tucson. Check out their post on our fun day exploring some of San Diego's beach towns. And here's a photo from our exploration of metro San Diego, crossing the Spruce Street suspension bridge:

Spruce St Bridge with John and Pam

We met Dave and Sue via John and Pam at a happy hour and they are also heading to Mission Bay in a few days...where we intend to see another couple we've met in the past. As Nina says in this post, "RVing is so darn social"!

We also met Dan from Denmark who stays at Santee Lakes each winter. We had an instant connection with Dan over a mutual love of music and got together with him on several occasions. We hope to see him here next year.

Though it's time to say Farewell to Santee Lakes for now, I am certain we will return to this beautiful and friendly park.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Birds, Birds and More Birds at Santee Lakes

So happy we chose Santee Lakes as our home for a month because this place is a birders paradise! My bird books and binoculars were freed from our San Diego storage right after we arrived in town.

I had never spent any time searching out birds before, having recently obtained a couple of bird books and finding Hans' old binoculars during our "purge and pack" departure from San Diego; but now I find myself hooked, even with a cheap pair of binoculars. Once you really start searching for and focusing on the birds, you see all sorts of fascinating behavior and the birds are gorgeous up close. Looks like I've got a new hobby for the road!

Santee Lakes is the perfect setting for this past time with its seven lakes surrounded by miles of chaparral covered hills. The signs around the park say there are over 170 types of birds here...hours can be spent happily trying to find them all!

We've even had several Wild Kingdom moments...we observed a Coopers Hawk stalking a flock of Coots and catching one, and we've seen a group of Crows chasing a Red Shouldered Hawk with something in its talons (baby crow perhaps?) right outside our door only about 10 feet away, and the local Osprey pair are quite active soaring over the lakes on the lookout for fish!

Here are a few of the beautiful birds I managed to catch on camera:

LOVE the markings on the male Wood Ducks; female in brown, with a Coot scooting past.
Snowy Egret in the breeze

Cormorant taking off...

They love the afternoon sun on their wings. They hang out like this for hours.

Coots feet make me smile!

All aglow in the afternoon light.

Green Heron posing in the half light

Friday, December 14, 2012

Tasty Bits

Since we're back in our former home town, San Diego, for the first time since we became full time RVers, we've been doing a LOT of entertaining. Gotta show friends and family our cozy new home, you know!

All that entertaining means I get to do a lot of one of my favorite things: cooking! Here are a couple of recipes we've enjoyed recently:

First off is a wonderful Cranberry Orange Chipotle Compote. This thick and chunky sauce is not too sweet and has just a tiny little kick from the chipotle. You could certainly kick it up a notch with an additional chipotle pepper. So far we have loved this sauce at room temperature on grilled pork tenderloin and on ice cream and even on Norwegian lefse with about a multi-purpose sauce! I am positive it would be just as delicious on poultry or a mild white fish.

And here is a spicy Potato Cauliflower Curry. This vegetarian (or vegan if you leave off the yogurt topping) curry is hearty and warming on a cold winter evening, served over rice along side a good red wine.

The curry is especially nice made with fresh cooked chickpeas which are worlds better than canned. Dried chickpeas just need to be soaked overnight, then thrown in a crock pot the next day with fresh water on low setting. At the end of the day they'll be done and ready to use in curries or hummus immediately. Plus, they are easy to freeze for future use at a moments notice, just remove from the freezer and add a couple of rinses of cold water to the container and they are ready to go.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Reflections on Three Months Full Time RVing

Happy Holidays to all our readers from sunny San Diego!

We appreciate your taking the time to read our little blog. It's been fun to share this major lifestyle transition with our family and friends and to meet new friends on the road through the blog.

So...We now have three months of full time RVing under our belts! Here's our first impressions of this major lifestyle change...

We started out by purchasing the rig in Boise because that was the only place in the West that had the model and decor option we wanted. That turned out to be a wonderful way to start because neither of us had ever been there before. Most of the places we have visited in the past three months as we made our way to San Diego have been new to both of us, making everything about this lifestyle a new adventure right from the get-go.

The first couple of days were a bit overwhelming with all we had to learn. Had we known better, we would have pushed the dealer to do a better job of instruction when we picked up the rig; even though they were aware we were brand new at this, in hindsight the delivery process was pretty unorganized and incomplete.

Our first few moves to new campsites were full of anxiety...but we now know what we need to do and it's no longer stressful, it's just life. It takes about half an hour to pack the rig up, and less than that to set up in a new site.

We've had very few hiccups with our new Montana. Had to replace the galley sink vent, we have a GFCI outlet that trips occasionally and one fender skirt that is now cracked due to having to continuously tighten the screws...the last two items will be repaired at a dealer when we switch RV parks here in San Diego. All in all a pretty pain-free start...knock on wood!

We've towed the trailer about 1700 miles in three months and stayed in 5 states and 15 campgrounds. Now we are settled in San Diego for two months visiting family and friends, before we head to Tucson for a month.

We like the idea of settling into our stops for at least a week at a time, and maybe 2 - 4 weeks is better. There is a lot of research involved with every stop we make so frequent moves can sometimes seem like a lot of "work". The "work" usually includes: researching campgrounds and their reviews, researching things to do in the area, and may cover several locations as we decide where the next stop should be. We are thankful to be doing this in the age of the Internet!

Of course, for longer stays we'll need to be in areas where there are plenty of things to keep us interested and occupied, but so far several places we've stayed have seemed like we've only scratched the surface.

Also, when you have a number of things you want to do in an area and only a few days to pack it in to, there is no down time! One of the things we wanted to do more of in retirement is relax, without feeling pressured to go do stuff, to cram it all in. We've really only managed to incorporate good stretches of relaxation into our last few weeks of travel.

Before we started this lifestyle we were a bit worried about finding places to stay that were appealing, not just parking lots. We didn't want to spend a lot of time in RV parks that were just rows of sites with each RV jammed right up close to the next RV. While the state park-type campgrounds (McDowell Mountain, Yuba, Usery Mountain) were definitely more relaxing, beautiful and spacious and our preferred type of campground; it turns out that the typical RV park, with rows of RV's next to each other, are not always so bad. Each place you stay can be pleasant depending on your needs at that particular moment, plus our home is so cozy we are always happy to retreat inside to our own personal sanctuary!

One big factor in the appeal of each place we've stayed is: we've never had bad neighbors. RVers are very friendly folks. People are always happy to stop and chat, or lend a hand or some advice, or join in a happy hour.

The main purpose of retiring early into an RV was to be able to travel long term, in comfort, with our kitty, without breaking the bank, without the impersonal feel of hotels or rentals and eating out all the time. We have accomplished that in spades. We are enjoying the beauty that is all around us, from the amazing comfort of our own home that holds everything we need. We can move on whenever we choose, to wherever we choose. Retired life is most excellent!

We'll be in San Diego until January 20th, when the adventures begin anew as we head out on the road again. We'll spend a month in Tucson starting January 25th at Justin's Diamond J RV park, but have no firm plans beyond that...and we like it like that!