Anza Borrego with the Chen’s

Our friends, the Chen‘s, contacted us about potentially going camping with them during their kids’ spring break. We found out that it would work out and we both made reservations at the Palm Canyon campground at Anza Borrego State Park. We had been to Anza many times in the past but they hadn’t been there since before they had their 4 kids! We set it up for 4 nights starting on a Monday.

They invited us to come down on Sunday to their house and watch their eldest son perform in high school play. Good deal! We decided to leave on Saturday, stop part way and head in to their place on Sunday. This enabled us to do most of the packing and setup on Saturday since I only planned on going 148 miles to Valencia. I had found a few places to overnight for free in Valencia/Santa Clarita from a new website called One option was a truck stop technically in Castaic. Another was an industrial area in Santa Clarita that held a great deal of promise. Roxie thought that the Camping World would be a better choice for her. The website stated that there was no parking at this time even though there had been in the past. I checked the Camping World website and it stated that they DID allow overnight parking. I called the store and they confirmed their website so we stayed there:



It was a good night and very uneventful. We got up, did a bit of shopping at the WalMart next door (which states NO overnight parking) and got on our way. We went straight down I-5 through the belly of Los Angeles, with the 31′ trailer, at the suggestion of George (Chen). Surprisingly there was very little traffic and it was a easy drive.

The Chen’s live at the top of a hill accessed by single lane road that is relatively steep and turns at the end near their house. He had an incident on the road a while back with his 25′ Airstream where he was stuck going up and sliding back down for about 30 minutes before he was able to get up the hill! No thanks! We opted to stay down the hill on the street by an avocado grove:


This is the day that the fun started. We started to disconnect the trailer by putting down the tongue jack. I went up by mistake and retracted it all the way. Not usually a problem. I went to extend the jack but it would not go. Odd. I tried up and down again but no go. I tried the light on the jack and it worked! The label on the jack stated “if the jack and the light do not work, check the fuse”. It also said “if the jack does not work but the light does, the fuse is OK and the internal thermal protector has to cool off so try later”. OK. Try it later but I want to disconnect the truck. Luckily this replacement jack (remember my previous blog post?) had a place on the top to put in a 3/8″ socket drive. I pulled out my socket wrench and started cranking. This obviously took a bit of time and effort but it worked. I thought I would wait until the next day to let the thermal protector cool down. The other issue was the tongue had to be jacked up a bit since the road is not that level.

That fun behind us we did a few errands. During one of these errands the truck (new in Sept) had an issue. The left turn signal was stuck on. If I let the signal go, the truck left signal was always on. I could turn it off by holding the signal in the right turn position, which I did for the rest of the day. However there was NO way to make a right turn signal and I could not signal with my arm because it was holding the signal stalk! I knew I needed to get this fixed. The local Ford dealers opened the next day (Monday) at 7am so the plan was to head there first thing. Oh, the play was very fun and entertaining (West Side Story).

We dropped the truck off at 7AM and had it fixed by noon. This pushed our departure back by at least 4 hours but I sure felt better about the signal working again. Now I just had to fight the tongue jack. It was still non-operational, the thermal protector must have still been protecting. The socket wrench was called into action again. My drill didn’t work and even started smoking (!) when I tried it. We got everything going and caravaned to Anza Borrego. We headed south through Temecula and toward Julian and then through the desert:


We got there about 6:30 but it was still light. Of course I had to do a lot of cranking and jacking while there because our spot (6) was very LOW in the front:



It was nice to get there and the weather was very nice.

Tuesday we all got up a bit late and decided to go to Julian for a late lunch and walk around the town. All this was new to the Chen’s so it was nice to let them see some of the sights around there. The weather in Julian was much different than Anza Borrego, cloudy and a bit cold. We had a fun lunch and time wandering around the town. On the way back the road was curvy and Roxie was not in the front seat so she had a bit of an issue, all down the side of the Chen’s Yukon. We stopped at the dump station on the way back and I rinsed it off with some help from George. That evening we got a nice campfire going and chatted for a while. After about 1 hour the wind started. That ended the campfire rather abruptly and was a premonition. The Chen’s planned on hiking the Palm Canyon trail the next day. Since we have done this before and Roxie was fighting some back pain we decided not to go on the hike.

All night the wind howled. It was disconcerting at time as I heard the underbelly aluminum skin banging around. I guessed the winds were hitting about 40+mph but I figured we two the trailer at higher speeds than that. The AM wasn’t much different. The night before we had everyone over around the fire so there were footprints all outside but after the wind here is what we saw:



The Chen’s continued on with their hike. When they got back they appeared wind swept. They stated about getting sand blasted numerous times on the hike. I tried sitting outside for a bit but I also ended up getting blasted every once in a while. Her is a composite shot from George:


We have had wind before but at least this time it was warmer than other times. We took a short drive in the afternoon down to Agua Caliente County Park to see their campground and hot water pools. George tagged along and Roxie didn’t get sick! On the way back we spied this vehicle:


The wind continued unabated that evening and everyone sequestered into their trailers. It was not much fun. The next AM we all reached a consensus that we just needed to leave and give up on the last night. The wind had changed. Now it was just be breezy then it would hit high speeds for about 2 minutes then calm down. It was teasing us. We packed everything up, I did my arm work with the socket driver to hookup the trailer. We headed out east toward the Salton Sea. We ran into some very bumpy roads near the intersection with CA86. We ended up having lunch at the Love’s truck stop in Indio.

We parted ways with the Chen’s as they did not have far to go to get home but they wanted to stop to shop at the outlets in Cabazon. We were thinking of stopping at Sam’s Family Spa but I was really bummed about the jack (more about that in the next blog entry) so we just ended up heading home. We had some fun times on the trip but all in all it was a interesting trip bordering on difficult.

But it is always good to see the Chen’s…

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

We had another 3-day getaway so it was again time to find a place to go to.  I thought a coastal location would be nice.  Get out of some of the heat we bear here in the Central Valley of California.  We have done the Pismo area many times.  I started to look at State Parks on the coast in the LA area.  Not much available but I did find 2 spots at Emma Wood State Beach in Ventura.  I got one of the spots and told our friends, the Chens, about it and they got the other spot.  So we had the location set.  It is nice because we rarely go to that area of California but it is only a 3 hour drive.

We headed down there on a Friday and started up the Grapevine in 104 degree weather.  When we got to Ventura it was 65 degrees and had a marine layer going on.  We got there about 3 in the afternoon and saw our site.  The state beach site says the site will handle 25' of RV and ours is 25' so I thought it would be perfect.  Not exactly.  I don't know what kind of foot measurements they were using but it wasn't any I was used to.  I also looked at the site at  The spot was very short so this made backing in difficult.  Also about 15' of the spot was paved with a 4" drop to the dirt at the end of it.  Naturally this meant that my wheels would drop off the asphalt before my tongue was off the road.  This was the ugly part:

I depleted almost all my orange blocks on this setup.  You see under my stabilizer jack?  You see the creative situation of stacking?  That is because there was a rock right under where the jack sits.  I had to improvise.  Speaking of ROCKS!  Look a bit further back.  You will see a BIG rock right under our frame.  This caused issues when we were unhooking.  I could not get the tongue up high enough to get the trailer off the hitch ball.  So I unlocked the hitch in the receiver to slide the hitch out of the truck.  This did not work but the ball did come out.  We were disconnected!  But I was thinking how the heck am I going to hook up when we leave?  Oh well, that was 3 days from now.

Our friends, the Chen's arrived a couple of hours after us and had a few issues with the short spots but were able to get setup quickly.  George still hasn't posted his story from Death Valley!  Come on George!!  The Chen's only had one evening of camping we visited with them for a bit.  It was nice to be in the cool weather.  That evening we also saw numerous dolphins, seals and other aquatic life swimming by.  This thrilled children and child-like adults.

Emma Wood State Beach has about 90 spots right on the coast.  This makes this locale pretty popular.  Hence the bad:

This shows the proximity of vehicles to the road AND to each other.  But you live with it to get the good:

This is what we came for.  Right on the ocean.  Wave noises!  Sea breezes!  Ocean smell!  Sunsets:

The first full day we visited with the Chen's until they had to leave.  Too bad they couldn't have stayed longer but we made the best of the time we had.  At least they were right next to us:

The next day we headed to Santa Barbara to spend the day.  The last time I was here was for a CETPA conference in 2005 but I didn't venture out of the hotel much except to eat at the first Habit burger I had ever seen.  On our day we walked the downtown area and ate at a nice little Italian restaurant, the Olio pizzaria.  Very nice and their butterscotch pudding dessert is amazing.  After getting tired of walking we drove around sightseeing a bit before returning to the trailer for another sunset:

All good things (bad and ugly too) must come to an end.  Now the issue of hooking up with the rock issue.  The previous day I tried to chip away some of the rock with a hammer and screwdriver.  I was able to get a bit off the sides but not off the top.  I figured I am going to just jack the tongue up as far as possible.  We were able to get connected with very little issue, thankfully.  Further south from where we parked there is a section of road that is right next to the ocean AND it is getting worn away from the ocean.   You can see the ocean water pooled on the road in this shot::

We said goodbye to the coast and the cool weather.  The drive takes us over a very well traveled road, for us and the general populace.  I-5 and the Grapevine.  I can't count the number of times that we have been up and down that hill.  On the way back it happened that lunchtime was coming up.  Roxie had the idea of stopping and making our lunch at Fort Tejon State Historical Park.  One of those places we are always curious about but never stop because we are on the way somewhere.  So we stopped and had lunch.  After lunch we visited the park and learned about the local history of that area.  Learned the route is called the 'grapevine' because grapes grew wild up the canyon, not because of the roads' path.  While we were there a group of children were learning how life used to be at the fort.  They were making washing clothes, making wood and metal items, baking bread, making butter, making adobe bricks all under the guidance of mentors.  It was fun to see that and probably more fun for the kids.

The rest of the route was uneventful except right as we got home.  About 10 miles from home we saw a large dust cloud coming from the west, like a haboob.  The race was on.  Get home before it does.  I decided not to back the trailer into it's spot but just back it in front of the house.  As soon as it was backed in the wind hit!  We ran into the house and waited out the storm.

Can't wait to get out again.