commentary · experiences

“Little Things” goes to the Golden State

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“Camping and getting outside in any form is an escape for the soul; being outside is a reminder that we are all part of this world together, and part of mother nature. It is so wonderful to be able to experience all the world still has to offer.” – Adria Milewski

Matt and Adria brought “Little Things” home safe and sound from their first camping excursion to Antelope Island, UT. They successfully parked her in the back alley behind their home without incident; no yelling or unwarranted killing of indefensible plants took place.

Although their first experience with the vintage camper was hindered by mother nature’s unforeseeable wrath, it was also blessed with her unmistakable brilliance; enough to make them see more positives than negatives; enough to incite them to plan their next trip; enough to make good on their promise.

Second Camper Trip: East Canyon State Park, Utah, September, 2014.

With the addition of a new spare tire, a mirror, and some Christmas lights; “Little Things” was ready for trip number two with the newlyweds and Cora.

Just 45 minutes northeast of Salt Lake City, East Canyon State Park provided Matt, Adria, and Cora with a quick escape from their hectic weekday lives. With a 608-acre reservoir nestled within the protective walls of nearby mountainous ridges, East Canyon State Park provided the trio with recreational activities like paddle boarding, hiking, and leisure moments filled with witnessing mother nature’s miraculous timeline; sunrise to sunset.

“With enough wilderness to make you feel like you’ve gone away for a bit,” Adria explained, “an East Canyon two-day getaway was just what we needed for a quick a recharge; always resulting in excellent camping pancakes and a refreshed state of mind.”

Third Camper Trip: ‘The Big One; California or bust’; Thanksgiving, November 2014

With the addition of a memory foam mattress and new blankets, “Little Things” was rejuvenated and ready for her biggest trip to date with her new owners; a 700-mile trek from Salt Lake City, UT, to San Clemente/San Diego, CA; approximate travel time, 10 plus hours.

This week long excursion required the tow come from Matt’s truck instead of the Subaru, which meant that the trailer would be sitting up higher; in other words, travel speed could not exceed 65 mph; no one likes a wobbly trailer. And if you’re wondering, darling Cora held down the fort back in Utah.

First Stop: Kyle Canyon, Nevada

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Kyle Canyon, NV

The kids’ first stop was not on their itinerary, but well worth their time; Kyle Canyon, Nevada, about 30 miles outside of Las Vegas. “It was an absolutely, breathtakingly beautiful and incredibly underrated canyon, in the middle of nowhere, and I remember the stars just being so bright the night we got there. What a nice place to sleep and breathe in the piney smelling air,” Adria reflected.

 

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Matt ready for the next leg to San Clemente, CA

The next morning, it was the pleasing smell of bacon, eggs, and French press coffee, that filled “Little Things” with a sense of camper pride, not to mention fueling the kids for the longest portion of their trip to Southern California. After 14 hours of listening to audio books and sharing light-hearted and deep conversation, the pair arrived in San Clemente, CA, excited and ready to explore.

Second Stop: San Clemente, CA

The campground at San Clemente State Park offered the pair a premium campsite on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. “The only weird part was the coin operated showers…but oh well it’s still showering while camping right?” Adria joked.  (I personally recall these showers from my childhood, in the 70’s; it was better known as ‘the hurry up, wash, and rinse routine.’)

IMG_3933Once “Little Things” was settled into her site, the duo ventured out. “We were able to ride our bicycles down through the huge bluffs to the beach and go for walks,” Adria reminisced. “We could also ride to the pier, where we satisfied our craving for Mexican cuisine; indulging in the most amazing fish tacos and margaritas in Southern California; how could they not be amazing with the border so close!”

Biking was a fun alternative for the couple, but it was the surf that truly got their attention. Although Matt and Adria currently called Utah their home, they both grew up in the Northeast, which made them more than ski bums; they were surf bums as well. After experiencing the cool surf conditions of the Atlantic Ocean in Maryland, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire, riding a board in Southern California would undoubtedly give the term ‘surfing’ new meaning.

First up, San Onofre State Beach; a 3,000-acre state park located in San Diego county, California. (1) Besides the sand and the surf, San Onofre State Beach also offers its visitors a rich native American history. “The site of Panhe, which was one of the largest Acjachemen villages, that is over 8,000 years old and a current sacred, ceremonial, cultural, and burial site for the Acjachemen people, is now within San Onofre State Beach. (2)

“The surf was the best we’d ever had! San Onofre and Doheny State beaches, both a short drive from the campground, were our favorites for the mellow long boarding waves,” Adria remarked.

“Surfing to me, means not shivering your ass off in in freezing waters to get a good break. It means sunshine beating down on you the whole time, with the option to get big waves, or mellow long boarding waves at almost any given moment. It means relaxing, having fun, and being warm in the sun with friendly people around also enjoying themselves. Not to mention, you can go surfing without a wet suit if you want in November or February, which feels glorious! Surfing in Southern California is what surfing means to me now. Surfing a beach in any other part of this country just doesn’t compare,” Adria explained.

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Besides the stellar surfing, the beyond excellent fish tacos, and the intriguing eclectic shops, where they grabbed some fridge magnets commemorating the trip, the sunsets were beyond compare.

IMG_2868 (2)“If you want to see a sunset that will knock your socks off, go to the West coast! You will not find a better sunset anywhere in this country; of that I am convinced. The purples, oranges, pinks, and blues are unbeatable,” Adria reflected.

After staying four nights in San Clemente they continued their trek to Silver Strand State Beach, a one-mile-long sandy beach with RV campground practically sitting on the border of Mexico. As the pair drew closer to the campground, a bit of panic set in as they missed their exit; finding themselves with a one-way ticket to Tijuana with no passports in hand. Luckily, they found a place to turn around, regained their bearings, and found the campground without issue.

But oddly enough, the pair did not totally allude border patrol that day; they were in the campground as well checking campers in. “They’re kind of intimidating,” Adria recalled, “and so were the massive RV’s that cowered over our little vintage camper.”

In the end, with a water tank unit that did not meet campground code requirements, “Little Things” was ousted from Silver Strand State Beach, leaving Matt and Adria in search of another campground, and during the Thanksgiving holiday, with no reservation, that wouldn’t be easy.

Third Stop: Pacific Beach, San Diego, CA

With their search now heading into the evening hours, they were starting to lose faith, but, finally came upon “Campland on the Bay,” a campground located right near Pacific Beach.

“We were just so thankful to have a place to park…but it was a really weird place to camp,” Adria said. “Even these really nice retired Canadians who had the site next to us were like…”yeah, we usually don’t stay at places like this but we couldn’t find anywhere else.”

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Campland, San Diego, CA         Photo credit (1)
Between the massive RV rigs and the outdoor flat screen TV’s set up at various campsites, Adria and Matt found the campground a bit bizarre. “That just didn’t feel like camping to me,” Adria commented, “T.V. while camping?” For Matt and Adria, Campland felt like the carnival of all campgrounds; it had that ‘Wally World’ feel.

 

“Campland was most definitely cheesy…but, considering we had no reservation and it allowed us to still be on vacation, we made the best of it. At least we had nice neighbors and a good fire ring, and we didn’t have to drive back to Utah yet.” As you can see, Adria is quite the optimist!

The resilient campers looked at it like another adventure. Pacific Beach was close by, old friends were visiting the area as well, and the smell of Thanksgiving was in the air. They would spend three nights taking in the sights and sounds of Campland and beyond.

“On Thanksgiving morning, you could smell people preparing their turkey dinners…funny to smell Thanksgiving at a campground…but I’ll take it! It smelled delicious!” Adria said.

Pacific Beach, deemed a neighborhood in San Diego, CA, kept Matt, Adria and their friends busy. “The boardwalk, officially called Ocean Front Walk/Ocean Boulevard, is a pedestrian walkway that runs approximately 3.2 miles along the beach.” (3)

 

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Pacific Beach with Crystal Pier cottages in background

Adjacent to the boardwalk is the Crystal Pier, a public pier and hotel, which was a huge draw for the four friends; shopping, long boarding, and sampling local cuisine filled their days. When they weren’t with their friends, Matt and Adria choose to fill their time with more surfing; making the drive back to San Onofre and Doheny beaches.

 

 

IMG_0310 (2)When Thanksgiving day arrived, their friends joined them for lunch at a hotel located on the beach. “We had the most amazing Thanksgiving dinner I think I’ve ever had! Both the spread and company were comparable to Grandma’s Thanksgiving, I have to say; if not better,” Adria reflected.

Last Leg: “The long drive home.”

By weeks’ end, the inevitable happened; it was time to go home. With the sweet anticipation of a weeks’ vacation now in the past, the long trek home could have been arduous, but the duo decided to make it last just a bit longer, taking an unplanned detour to stay by the Virgin River in Arizona for a much needed recharge.

The Virgin River is a tributary of the Colorado River in the U.S. states of Utah, Nevada, and Arizona. The river is about 162 miles (261 km) long.[2] It was designated Utah’s first wild and scenic river in 2009.” (4)

IMG_3802With only a can of soup and some water to sustain them for the evening, the newlyweds found it was all they required. “Again, such a magnificent night under the stars; it was magical, and the soup wasn’t half bad either,” Adria joked. “This was one of my favorite camp spots yet.”

IMG_3800Just like their unexpected stop at Kyle Canyon, Nevada, their last stop on the way home also proved to be worthwhile. “We didn’t know how amazing they would be until we stumbled upon them,” Adria remarked.

The last word: California trip in the books!

“Besides the surfing in California, my fondest memories of this trip were the two nights spent camping in Nevada and Arizona. Sometimes it is the unexpected stops that we have along the way, the ones that are completely not on your radar, that can really take your breath away. It was my favorite kind of vacation; despite the hiccups that are part of vacationing, our time was filled with a new adventure every day. It was just what Matt and I were craving.” – Adria

As for “Little Things,” she made it home in one piece; possibly her biggest trip to date. The kids seemed to be on a roll with taking their vintage camper on the road, which begs the question, “What’s next?”

Would “Little Things” get some much needed rest; would Cora demand to go on the next trip; or could a major move be in the making? Only time would tell.

References:

(1) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/San_Onofre_State_Beach

(2) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panhe

(3) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pacific_Beach,_San_Diego

(4) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virgin_River

Photo credits:

(1) https://www.bing.com/images/search? – (Campland on the bay, San Diego, CA)

 

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