So, where was I with our story? Oh yes! We had finally reached California! We were all pretty excited about that. MadMac and I had both visited California previously before we had ever met each other, so being there together and with our kids was an awesome new experience. And now our kids had also gotten to see and experience Arizona and New Mexico’s geography on our journey to the Golden State. Watching the changing landscapes from Savannah, Georgia all the way to Texas, and now the desert and mountain terrain changes through the southwest has all been great learning experiences about the geography of our country that they could have never gotten through textbooks. We also took time during our travels across these states to learn fun facts about them as well as their history and how they fit into the history that we had also learned for Texas. Roadschooling is awesome!
Pio Pico RV Resort
Once we were settled into our new spot in the Pio Pico RV Resort & Campground we took some very needed rest and relaxation days after traveling for a whole week. We explored the resort we were now staying in and found it very much to our liking. This Thousand Trails Resort has a north side and a south side on either side of the main road that runs through the area. It is nestled into the mountains here about 20 minutes from Mexico, so it’s a common sight to see Border Patrol driving through the RV park and up along the mountain trails around the resort. The north side of Pio Pico is right along the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge and the south side is located north of the Otay Mountain Wilderness which is in the San Ysidro Mountains. According to the Allstays App this resort is at an elevation of 633 feet, putting you a partial way up into the mountains, which makes them look like rolling hills around you during your stay. It is a very beautiful location! Pio Pico allows ATV’s and dirt bikes to be ridden on the mountain trails, which is probably quite fun, but some visitors might find this very noisy.
Since the Pio Pico Resort is made up of sections on two different sides of the road, it is quite spread out and large. The south side is the busiest and nicer looking section of the park. The pools and lodges are on this side including a Youth Center with toys and gaming consoles to play on. They have a Country Store that is very well stocked and then there is also the Coyote Canyon Cafe inside the Activity Center with delicious meals all day, with different home cooked style meals for supper each night….the kids wanted to go there all the time! The south side gets full really fast and has sewer hookups, if it’s full you have to go to the north side with no sewer and check each morning if any sites have opened up on the south side, that is, if you want to be on that side. Personally, for us that was just more trouble than we wanted to deal with, so we chose a spot on the north side (since the south side was full when we arrived) and we stayed there for the entire visit.Our site on the north side of Pio Pico.
The view from our door.
The view from behind us.
No Sewer? No Problem!
With the north side not having sewer hookups, we got on Amazon and ordered a waste tote and had it delivered to the park. Quite a few of the California Thousand Trails do not have sewer hookups, so having a portable waste tote was going to be a must while we explored this state. When one of your tanks is full you just hookup the waste tote, dump your tank into it, then you pull the tote with your vehicle to the dump station instead of having to drive your whole RV to the dump. Glamorous isn’t it? LMAO! It’s part of life, thankfully the hubster takes care of all that 😛 The horror stories of how he has seen some people dumping their waste at the dump station is very cringe worthy though!
Internet, Cell Service?
With this resort being inside the mountains the way it is, cell services are pretty hit and miss, signals bounce around the mountains and go nowhere. Some have claimed to find luck with signals in the parking lot of the family pool and youth center, as well as in sections E and H on the south side, especially if you have a booster. Thankfully, the park offers internet for you to purchase based on the duration of your stay, so it’s affordable, and not too terribly bad…except for busy weekends when it gets bogged down.
The north side of Pio Pico had a playground that was hidden away and a little hard to find. It was a bit of a walk to get to from our spot, but was good exercise getting out and walking to it. This playground was similar to the one at Colorado River TT. On the south side they had a newer type of playground near the family pool, and another very basic playset by the adult pool.
Staying in campgrounds and preserves like Thousand Trails out in the wilds of nature, you HAVE to be aware of what kind of wildlife you may come across. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts other parks have had deer, scorpions, crazy spiders, and of course snakes. Being in desert regions means you will most likely come across rattlesnakes at some point! So be on the lookout! One evening the hubster noticed a trail in the dirt/gravel around our truck that was obviously made by a snake that must have traveled through our spot. Yikes! Thankfully we never came across anything ourselves.
Eventually we got out and took the beautiful scenic drive into Chula Vista (one of the suburbs of San Diego), which is a very pretty city and is about 8 miles from downtown San Diego. There were times when the roads we were driving on were level with the roofs of houses in neighborhoods just below the road because of how the neighborhoods are stair stepped up the hills! You can also see an Olympic Training Center here.Eastlake suburbs in Chula Vista.
On the drive into town you can often see people parachuting overhead! Such a sight to see the skydivers falling overhead! This neat experience is due to Skydive San Diego being located on the main road into Chula Vista from the Pio Pico RV Resort.
Mountains and skydivers.
Mountains, beautiful views!
Tourists Living Like Locals
You may notice throughout our travels that we don’t rush from place to place like some families seem to do, trying to cram everything into a short amount of time. That’s just not us, LOL! I’m sure it’s an awesome way to see so much of our country, especially if you’ve only got a year or less to do it, but that’s just too fast for us. We like to settle into each place and relax, and really take in the atmosphere and life of that area. Staying 3 weeks at a time (and sometimes longer) really allows us to soak up the new environment we find ourselves in.
Sightseeing in our new locations and experiencing each new place that we stay in as if we are locals through the need to shop for groceries, clothes, gadgets, and other such daily life things….really adds layers to our lifestyle that you just couldn’t get by going on vacations to visit these places. Soaking in the new area and living like locals really helps in getting a feel for what it’s like in each destination, but we also do touristy things and use our tourist’s eyes to take it all in and not take it all for granted like so many of us often do when we live somewhere for years.
During our stay here, we did some more downsizing and purged the STUFF that was in the tough boxes we were still carrying around in the bed of our truck. The hubster ended up giving the boxes to various rangers in the park. Yay for purging and downsizing! It’s an ongoing life choice for sure 🙂 We were freeing our lives of more junk that we had thought we needed, but 6 months down the road we found we didn’t really need those THINGS after all! We also needed to make room for bikes! While we were staying here at Pio Pico we began to realize that we really wanted each of us to have our own bicycles. Bikes would give us all more exercise as well as making it easier to travel around in the RV parks. As other RVer’s will tell you, when you buy new things in this lifestyle you have to get rid of other things to make room for the new! So we did 🙂 And bicycles are much more useful and important than random STUFF we didn’t really need!
Important Things to Know When Traveling to California
Another layer added to the experiences of traveling full-time is learning about the different do’s and don’ts in each state. The differences between each state can be quite interesting as well as educational.
When we arrived in California it was a REQUIREMENT to conserve water. The state had water restrictions set in place because they had been under a drought for so long, but as of my writing this the restrictions have been lifted and each water district sets its own conservation standards. Some of the RV parks are more strict about it than others, but all of them mentioned (in the paperwork they hand to you) the need to practice water conservation. When living in a typical house the average American is able to flush, pour, and drain gallons upon gallons of water into the city sewage system or even their own septic system in their backyard without much thought about the amount they might be using. However, while having to dump your black and grey water tanks every time they get full you really become aware of just how much water you use on a daily basis and it really helps with learning how to conserve and use less water. This is something we feel is very important for the kids to learn, as well as ourselves.
Another restriction in California because of the drought is that you can’t have wood campfires, it’s too dangerous. Fire pits have to be up off the ground and can only be propane, fake fire logs, charcoal, etc…..you don’t want to be the cause of a catastrophic forest fire! Also of note, California campgrounds will have ‘Spare the Air’ no burn days; this means that nothing is allowed to be burned on these days to help cut down on air pollution, so it’s your job to check and find out if it’s a no burn day before you start up a campfire.
Border Patrol Check Points
Another travel tidbit about coming to California that many people may not be aware of are the border patrol check points that you have to pass through before entering California, and I’m not talking about illegal immigrants, that’s not the only thing they are looking for. Depending on the time of year they will ask you if you are carrying any fruit or vegetables, or even plants! This is very important, because these items can pose risks to the agriculture in California. If you are not aware of it, a huge quantity of the United States’ produce comes from California, so this is a BIG DEAL. Plants and produce being brought into the state can potentially have pests in them that could inadvertently spread to crops and cause damage!
We have seen in discussions online where people argue and complain that this is ridiculous, California is stupid, etc. etc., but it is very important to preserve so much of the produce that our country depends on. Therefore, if you have a house plant of some kind that you have had for many many years, or you are growing your own traveling produce/garden and you don’t want to have it confiscated, you may need to research if it could be considered a risk to bring it, and leave it with family or friends or come to the state when this potential problem won’t be an issue.
Oakzanita Springs RV Campground
We enjoyed our stay at Pio Pico very much, but eventually had to move on to another destination. Next, on our journey we traveled a little bit eastward in San Diego County, to Oakzanita Springs RV Campground. According to the website, this location is at 4,000 feet elevation in the Cuyamaca Mountains and is right next to the Cuyamaca State Park. It was a beautiful campground, but a little tight maneuvering around with a 34 foot travel trailer. All the sites were up and down hills, and some were even hidden by trees and brush, making some of them quite cozy spots. This Thousand Trails campground is smaller than most of the ones we have visited so far, and there were only a few sites available for us to pick from.
An important note to point out for anyone headed to this campground: When coming from Descanso on 79 you cannot safely turn into this park from this direction and you MUST continue driving past the campground to a turnout location further down the road. Once you’ve turned around and head back down 79 from the other direction you can make the turn safely into the park. When making this reservation they will email you this information to make sure you know before arriving.Our site at Oakzanita Springs.
Playgrounds? Sewer Hookups? Amenities?
This campground had a good playground and we were able to choose a site very close to it in Section-A, partially seen in the above right picture. Further back in the picture is the volleyball area and the pool. However, to be close to the playground we had to give up the option of having sewer, which is mainly available in Section-B, there were only 7 sites in Section-A that had sewer and none were available. Also, of note, Section-B was listed as having low voltage problems which can cause damage to the electrical equipment in your rig. They do have a Country Store, and the map says there is a kitchen and dining area in the Activity Center, but we never went to it. There is also a large dance floor outside with a BBQ Area.
It was at this campground that MadMac once again regaled us with his night time escapades with taking out the trash where he encountered a mountain lion dashing across his path. We of course had to tease him and claim it was just a large dog, HAHA! But, there was indeed a mountain lion roaming around the park even during the daytime! Thankfully it never approached anyone. There were also wild turkeys wandering along the road that leads to the campground.
Internet, Cell Service?
Oakzanita Springs is high enough in the mountains that signals don’t bounce around and disappear, so our Verizon jetpack worked great here. They don’t have internet for purchase, however it is free to use at the lodge.
Sightseeing & Shopping
The Cuyamaca Mountain area is very scenic and the homes and small town of Descanso have a western rustic type feel to them. The town is very small with limited shopping choices, so we ventured out to El Cajon to a western styled Walmart, HAHA! I took a picture but it seems to have disappeared from my photostream I was using at the time 😦 It was at this Walmart that we each chose the bicycles that we wanted and added them to our travel gear! For our littlest one, we chose a pull behind type carriage instead of a seat added onto the bike, because it felt safer for her. Riding our bikes at 4,000 feet elevation was quite the workout, especially after living at sea level for the last five years, LOL!
A rambling note about stores….The different types of Walmarts that we have encountered in our travels is somewhat fascinating, LOL. As well as how they differ in their bagging choices across states and even from city to city. Surprisingly, some Walmarts only have paper bags, while most use the typical grey plastic bags or white ones, there are a few of them that use a thicker white bag with a green leaf design that is a re-usuable bag; and depending on the city regulations you may have to purchase your bags or bring your own re-usuable bags. Learning the grocery store chains that run across the states is also an interesting observation, many stores are run by the same companies so the rewards/discount memberships from one will work at another.
During our stay here we began making plans for our oldest daughter’s birthday. If you read about our traveling adventures going to California, then you might remember she wanted to spend the day at the beach on the Pacific Ocean and watching the sunset. We just had to figure out which beach would be the perfect one to fulfill her wish. We had to decide if we wanted to stick around the San Diego area for her birthday or head up the the beaches around Los Angeles. After researching the different beaches we now had access to on the West Coast, she decided that she would like to see La Jolla Cove in San Diego, that promised to be a fantastic sunset viewing location as well as the best place to see seals and sea lions in nature outside of a zoo. Once we had that figured out we decided to go back to the Pio Pico RV Resort to be closer to San Diego to celebrate her birthday.
Back at Pio Pico – South Side
Sewer Hookups? Amenities? Internet? Wildlife?
When we arrived back at the Pio Pico RV Resort & Campground, we were able to find a site open on the south side this time. Woohoo, sewer hookups! The hubster was pretty happy about that, HAHA! The spot we chose was along the row next to the cabins near the gate, and was very close to the drive up to the Activity Center and Coyote Canyon Cafe. Our new spot also happened to be right next to another family, so the kids got to play a bit with other kids 🙂 Plus there was a wide swath of green grass covered land behind us for them to play around on, which was nice after the last two spots being mostly dirt. We discovered that the park wifi works better on the south side compared to the north side for some reason. And this time around a rattlesnake was spotted next to the nearby dumpster! We really enjoyed riding our new bikes all over the park during this visit!
La Jolla Cove
The time finally arrived to celebrate our oldest daughter’s day of birth! As part of her birthday celebrations she requested to eat breakfast for supper at one of her favorite restaurants, which is Denny’s. We decided to take her to the one in La Jolla, and she got her meal for free because it was her birthday, LOL. Afterwards, we headed to the beach to catch the sunset and see some seals and sea lions. La Jolla is pronounced La Ho-ya, and the origins of the name is disputed by historians. They aren’t sure if it originates from the Spanish word La Joya meaning “the jewel” or from a Native American term Woholle meaning “hole in the mountains”. Either way, it’s a beautiful place to see and experience. We managed to get a perfect free parking spot immediately upon our arrival without having to search for one and our girl was all smiles as soon as she was out of the truck! 😀
La Jolla Cove is made up of sandstone cliffs with beach areas in between, and there are sea caves that you can tour with kayaks and paddle boards. The cove is within the San Diego-La Jolla Underwater Park which spans 6,000 acres of ocean bottom and has 4 different habitats making for an abundance in marine life creating a popular location for snorkelers, scuba divers, and swimmers, as well as migrating whales that can be spotted close to shore, in addition to the seals and sea lions.
Homes stair stepped up the hills
Seals and Sea Lions sunbathing
The waves crashing up onto the rocks were pretty majestic, and watching the seals and sea lions come swimming up out of the waves onto the rocks was pretty cool too!
On the sandy beach area they were piled up in front of the stairs for us people to come up and down, making it a little difficult to get around them without them barking at you! LOL! Sadly, some people weren’t very respectful of them, and were antagonizing them on purpose 😦 Thankfully, the lifeguards intervened and put a stop to it pretty quickly. The marine life here are protected pretty strongly and this type of behavior is not allowed.
Overall, the birthday girl was pretty excited to be here! 😀
And the little man was enjoying the experience as well 😀
Love this shot!
They grow up too fast!!
Daddy took the little ones down onto the rocks! Ack!!
This one was fascinated with that bird up there, LOL.
Group shot! 🙂
And the sunset begins!
The birthday girl took these shots herself as she enjoyed watching the sunset happening.
We think they turned out really good!
And down it goes past the horizon…
After the sun was gone, her interest turned to the moon. Check out the craters on the moon!! We were pretty impressed with the camera’s ability to pick those up!
After the sun had set and it was dark, we headed back home to finish off the day with her little party. She chose a Monster’s Inc. theme, obviously, LOL. She said, “it was the best birthday ever!”
Thanks for stopping by! 🙂