How to enjoy Southern California resort life—on only $5 per day!

After a couple months in Arizona, we are indeed back in California, and like the students backpacking Europe in the 70s, honestly living the high life on “just $5 per day!” And, like any good sensational internet come-on, I’m not going to give away the details just yet. But unlike those articles/advertisement/suckers of time, I won’t make you click through pages of ads to get to the kicker. You just have to enjoy the pretty pictures of how we got here!

Our repositioning cruise from Sedona to Southern California was too far to make in one  chunk, so we planned a few nights stopover in Congress, AZ, at a park in our RV club.  North Ranch was beautifully landscaped, with flowering cacti everywhere.  The park even has a dedicated desert garden, planted around a towering saguaro estimated to be more than 400 years old. Our favorite part though, was having electric hookups for the first time in 5 weeks.  There’s nothing more magical than a microwave after a month of solar living!

Our next overnight was an area we’d usually avoid once the weather warms up, but when we learned that our friends Dave and Max were in the Palm Springs area, we braved the high 90s to hang out.  Camping fees in the Inland Empire are outrageous, so we planned to stay in the free lot of a casino, and just cope with one night of heat. When we pulled in, it was 96, and not predicted to dip into the 80s until late that night.  Soupy’s wonderful Mamaw and Papaw (ie: Dave and Max) had a great idea: we left her with her litterbox, food and water in their RV, which was parked in a shady resort with the AC on full blast. She had a lovely time lounging on their recliners in the temperate air, and we enjoyed a night out without worrying about cooking the cat!  We had burgers and fries at Woody’s, and then ate delicious Hawaiian flavors at Lapperts Ice Cream.  We love hanging out with Dave and Max–they’re always up for food adventures!

One more day of travel through the wild traffic of Southern California, and we made our destination, the mythical dirt-cheap resort.  Jojoba Hills is another park in our RV club, but it’s so dang nice that it’s by far our favorite.  It has a stunning pool and hot tub area that overlooks surrounding Mount Palomar, a huge library, workout room, tennis courts, clean showers and bathrooms, and the famed Mediterranean climate. Although it’s a 55 and over park (for those who live here full time), the demographics skew to the younger end, and the residents are super active, with all kinds of clubs, from hiking to photography to remote controlled cars. It feels like you’re in a swanky private resort with all the amenities….and we are here for just $5 per day!

The secret is being members of the Escapees RV Club (only $35 per year) which gives us access to dry camping in all the parks for only $5 per day. I know many of my readers are mostly here for the travelogue, but I want to make a quick pitch for Escapees for the RV folks.  If you’re going to be traveling by RV in the southern United States, check out the map of locations. If even one coincides with an area you’d like to visit, it’s worth it to join: even if we had just stayed at this one park for a week, the total cost for the week would be $70–$35 for the membership, and $35 for a week of dry camping.

We really made the most of our membership since we finished working in December, and we’ve stayed at 6 parks in the system. (Rainbow’s End in Livingston, TX, Tra-Park in Pecos, TX, Dreamcatcher in Deming, NM, Saguaro in Benson, AZ, North Ranch in Congress, AZ, and Jojoba Hills in Aguana, CA.) I did the math, and since January 1, we have stayed 55 nights in an Escapees park, (including when we left the rig in Texas and traveled back to Ohio) and spent a total of $447–an average daily cost of $8.13! Considering that a “budget” cost for a night in a park is usually more like $25-30, we do really well with this membership!

We will be returning to work pretty soon, so the first order of business was some serious R & R–we went to the pool and hot tub every day.

We hiked in Idyllwild, a mountain town at 5,000 feet. The scenery was great, but you know you’re in Southern California when you see spray painted tags in Wilderness areas.

We met up with Mike, who we met while working our first year of Amazon. He took us up a hill on the edge of the park for a bird’s eye view of the whole RV park.

Our main event was a trip down to San Diego to see our Chicago friends, Ann and Nathan. Ann is researching graduate school options, and trying to decide between San Diego and Tucson by visiting both. One of the best things about a mobile life is that when they told us they would be here, we could plan our route to coincide with theirs! We had a fabulous day, eating sushi and In-N-Out Burger and ice cream. (But not all at once!) I loved seeing the ocean; Torrey Pines State Beach had free oceanside parking and a long expanse of clean sand and water. Only Nathan was brave enough to go swimming.

It was just an awesome week.  Next, we have to start changing gears–we got our start date for the resort.  Weather permitting, we will move in the week of May 9, and see if we remember how to work!


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