Monday, November 20, 2017

Rancho Oso Thousand Trails

So let's get the worst out of the way first.  OMG - that last mile into the park is a nail bitter, especially if you are not the driver.  I think the driver is so busy concentrating that he or she doesn't have time to be petrified.  If you do not already belong, you may want to join the Facebook group, Thousand Trails (Outdoor World) and Encore, The Good and The Bad.  It's an excellent place to learn about the different parks, and to share stories about your experiences.  The road into Rancho Oso is often discussed.

Okay, I'm being a bit of a drama queen here.  While the road is twisty and has some sharp turns, it is more than wide enough for a big rig and tow car, or in our case a 40' fifth wheel pulled by an F-450 dually.  The scary part comes when you meet someone coming down the road in the opposite direction.  If it is a single car, it's not so bad.  There are some wide spots in the road where they can pull over to allow you to pass.  I don't know what one would do if they met another rig and tow vehicle.  Luckily, I didn't have to find out.

My take away from this is that if you plan to come to Rancho Oso in Santa Barbara, CA, plan to arrive after 1pm, and when you leave, plan to hit the road between 9 and 10am.  You will be fine.

Getting into the park was the only "bad" thing about our stay.  Once you get down the dreaded hill, it is a lovely site.  There is a working horse ranch there, lots of pasture with horses and cows.

The full hook up section is in tiered rows.  I had been told that cell and data signals were horrible, but we camped in the middle row of the tiered levels, and were able to get a decent 3G signal.  This was good for phone calls, texting and a little website surfing.  Streaming video, not so much.  They do offer wifi in the clubhouse, but we didn't try it.

As far as the basics - the power was good (all 30amp spots), the water pressure decent.  Sites are close but not necessarily tight.  There is not much in the way of privacy.  We were able to get our Direct TV satellite up and receiving a good signal.

They had these cute wagons to rent as well as cabins and a tipi!

I did a few loads of laundry while we were there.  The washers and dryers were decent.  I think it was $1.75 to wash and $1.50 to dry.  The dryer ran about 30 minutes and our jeans and towels only took one cycle.  Bathrooms were clean, and the showers had privacy doors.

We camped here in the middle of the week, and there wasn't much going on.  We did take a jaunt outside the park (which help me get a little better handle on my fear of that mile long driveway into the park).  We went into Solvang and Buellton.  The primary goal was to visit the Mission Santa Ynez, but as long as we were out and about, we stopped for lunch at Pea Soup Andersens.  I can now cross that off my bucket list.  Anyone who has travelled 101 in this area has undoubtedly seen all the signage for this restaurant.  It was on my list because I like pea soup but husband doesn't, so I don't get it very often.  The pea soup itself got about 2.5 stars.  I prefer my soup to have chunks of potato and carrot and ham.  The soup they serve is a pureed version.  It tasted fine but I prefer something of a little more substance.  We made a quick stop at the local Albertson's and then back to the park.

I think I have made this confession before, but I'm not much of a tourist.  I like seeing different parts of the country, but I'm not one to go to cutesy towns and window shop.  Solvang is the Danish equivalent to Leavenworth's Bavarian themed town in Washington State.  Cute if you like that sort of thing.

I will say the countryside is pretty.  We enjoyed our short stop at the Mission of Santa Ynez.  Husband enjoyed reading the history.  I enjoyed the collection of art.  There is a $5 admission fee.

And last but not least, a few random shots from around Rancho Oso.  The ground squirrels were fun to watch.  They moved so fast, it was hard to get a good shot.

I can understand why people like this park, especially if you have kids and go on the weekends.  Lots of activities and things to do.  The rattlesnake warning signs were appreciated but freaked me out a bit.  We will probably not go back because I hated the road in, husband hated the flies, and we both like a park with a little more privacy.  That's just us.  If we were younger, braver and travelled with kids, I can see the appeal of this park.  It is one of those where you just have to go and see for yourself.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Expenses - Week #2

This week we stayed in two different Thousand Trails campgrounds.  In the first campground, we paid $5 per day for 50 amp upgraded electric service.

Camping Fees                $  30

Diesel Fuel                     $ 129

Total                               $ 159

Total to date:                  $ 701

Morgan Hill Thousand Trails - Micro Mini Review

While we were camping at San Benito, we decided to drive up to Morgan Hill which is only about 50 miles to the north.  This park had been closed for quite a while after the flooding had done significant damage earlier this year.

We had never been to Morgan Hill before.  The surrounding area is lovely - vineyards, farms, horse ranches.

The only ranger we met was the one at the gate.  She was new to the park, but very friendly, even if she wasn't very familiar with the campground.

From things I had read before about Morgan Hill, prior to its recent re-opening, this park had made some good improvements.  The roads were graveled and well filled.  The trees were trimmed, and displaying fall colors.  The campsites, including the tent sites, were well maintained and clean.  Some of the spots were tight.  There were a few spots that could accommodate larger rigs, but more were situated for rigs about 30' and less, in my opinion.

The lodges and pools looked well kept.  I'm not sure if they had to be replaced after the flooding, but they certainly looked clean and fresh.

The City of Morgan Hill appeared to be a nice place.  There was a nice shopping area, including a Trader Joe's which was a nice surprise.

I thought Morgan Hill was a nice little campground, especially for smaller rigs.  We have a 40' fiver, and probably would not try camping here, at least in our current situation.

San Benito Thousand Trails - Mini Review

We spent a week at the San Benito Thousand Trails resort in Paicines, CA.  It has moved up to the top of my list of favorite parks within the Thousand Trails system.

I should warn people reading this that we are very boring travelers.  I like nothing better than find a camping spot with some privacy (or a large site if there are no trees or shrubbery providing privacy), my favorite camp chair, a nice view, a good book and an adult beverage (depending on the time of day).  Husband and I are not really sight seers.  We don't like crowds.  We are not into cutesy shops.  We are more of the good area restaurants, a vista view point, good wifi and satellite signal type of people.  Many bonus points if there is any wildlife viewing from the campground.  So with that said....

I loved San Benito.  We saw bobcats (a first for me outside of a zoo), deer, birds, chipmunks and the like.  I hear there are fox, bunnies and skunks, but we did not see any of those.  I can attest to smelling the skunks, however.

We are still at the beginning of our re-entry into full time traveling, so we haven't done much of anything but sit and enjoy.  We had good Verizon cell service, and both Verizon and AT&T wifi signals were strong.  We had a good spot through the trees for our Direct TV signal.  We were able to stream shows without a problem.  We were in site #400.  It was a 50amp site, for which we paid the upgrade fee of $5 per day.  For $30, I didn't have to think about what appliances I was running at what time.  I got my laundry done in our Splendide Washer/Dryer combo.  We were lucky in that although we were not in a perimeter site (which is usually my choice), there were no rigs parked behind us, and so I had a nice view out my back window.

As far as venturing out of the park, we didn't do much other than to go into Hollister to do some shopping.  We ventured up to the Costco in Gilroy and got stuck in all the chaos and traffic around the outlet malls. Gilroy may be the Garlic Capitol, but I'll just get my garlic products at the local grocery store, thank you very much.

This park will definitely be on our annual rotation, maybe both coming and going from Washington.  Next time we will try for a spot nearer to the river and on the perimeter, and maybe I will get a chance to see those bunnies and foxes and skunks.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Expenses Week #1

Fulltime RVers are often asked how much it costs to live this life style, and the basic answer is "It depends."

I'm only keeping track of money we spend on campsites, fuel and propane.  Our food expenses generally remain the same.  We eat out a few times a week, just like we did at home.  We have a Thousand Trails Elite membership which allows us to camp for free for 21 days at a time at their membership campgrounds.  At some point I will do a post on the whole Thousand Trails Buy In or Not discussion, but at this point I will just leave it at this.  In week #1, we had 2 nights of free camping.

Camping Fees:     $ 226

Diesel Fuel:          $ 287

Propane:                $  29

Total                      $ 542

Our first week was more expensive that I expect the rest of the trip to go.  We will be staying in more Thousand Trails campgrounds, and we won't be traveling as much each week.  And because we will be in warmer weather, hopefully we won't be needing as much propane.

Birds, Anyone?

I laugh at myself, as I enjoy watching the birds.  I distinctly remember being a teenager and rolling my eyes at my grandparents as they went on and on about watching the birds, and the birds they saw here and there.  OMG, it had to be about as boring as watching golf on TV.  Now in my 60s, I find bird watching much more pleasurable; I find watching golf on TV just as boring as I did 45 years ago.

Here are a few of the birds I've seen at San Benito Thousand Trails in Paicines, CA.

Mexican Scrub Jay

California Quail - it's fun watching them scurry about.  

Yellow billed magpie

I think the next time we return to this park, we will pick a spot closer to the creek.  We love watching the wildlife.  We did take an evening walk last night and spotted a few deer, but it was just getting dark and I couldn't get a photo, darn it!

Friday, November 10, 2017

Paicines, CA

We are happily camped at San Benito Thousand Trails in Paicines.  As Thousand Trails Elite Members, we can camp here for up to 21 days.  We selected a pull through spot in section H.  If the spot behind us does not fill over the weekend, I should enjoy a great view for the week we will be here.

It took a while, but we finally got a Direct TV signal.  We chose a 50 amp spot, although it does cost us $5 a day for this, over the 30 amp services in other spots.  We can easily make it work with 30 amp service, but the view and location are more important to me than the extra cost.

As of this writing, we have only been here a few nights.  We've walked around the park but haven't checked out any of the amenities here (family and adult lodges, laundry, family and adult pools, hot tubs, putt-putt golf, etc).  What we have been enjoying is the wildlife.

There is a family of bobcats that hang out over in the A section of the park, near the fenced dog run area.

I've read that this park also has a large number of deer, raccoons, foxes, and skunks that visit.  Hoping to see some of these during our stay.  And I'm excited to capture photos of the wide variety of birds and then to identify them.  Stay tuned!