Sweet Southern California

Our last stop before heading eastward was near the San Diego area.  After spending time boondocking down dirt roads off of Highway 395, our rig was looking pretty dingy.  It was time to try out our first truck wash for big rigs, so we found a place along our route called Little Sister’s Truck Wash and pulled in around lunchtime to get everything looking spiffy again. 🤩 Plus, it was “RV Fridays”, so we even got a little discount on our wash.  That being said, it still cost over $100 to get the truck and trailer washed, so it’s likely we won’t wash the entire rig again for another 3 months.  

After making everything look all shiny and new again, it was time to face Friday rush hour traffic. 😬 The roads are not quite as rough as the Bay Area, but close enough that it was unpleasant at best working our way to Temecula.  I survived the roads and the traffic, but it made for a very long day.  Thankfully, the weather we were greeted with was amazing, which is definitely one of the big draws to Southern California (SoCal).

We finally arrived at our first destination: Sweet Oaks Winery in Temecula, CA, which is wine country in SoCal.  Sadly, we did not get a chance to do a wine tasting while we were staying there, as our hosts Michael and Donna already had a day of wine tasting planned for us.  But, we were fortunate to stay up on the hillside among the vineyards, so it was quiet, with a cool breeze and the views were breathtaking.  Not a bad start to our experience in SoCal, if you ask me. 😍 The winery participates in Harvest Hosts, but we were able to pay to extend our stay by booking through HipCamp instead.

Temecula, CA: Wine Country

Temecula offers an extensive array of wineries to visit.  Donna and Michael have been thrilled about its proximity to their new home and the overall vibe, which they believe suits them a little better in comparison with Napa Valley.  We went to four wineries during our day of wine tasting.    

To start, we had a wine tasting and charcuterie plate at Doffo Winery, which not only had really friendly staff and plenty of places to relax and enjoy your stay, but they also have an incredible vintage motorcycle collection.  It’s not something you see every day, so between the atmosphere and the wine, I highly recommend visiting if you are in the area.  You won’t be disappointed in the wine, the views or the motorcycles. 😊

The day was heating up fast, so although we had not planned to do a tasting inside at Robert Renzoni Vineyards, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise since it was much cooler inside the tasting room.  Parking was a bigger challenge here (they had valet parking at Doffo), but the person helping us with our tasting was very nice, and Matt and I ended up buying a couple bottles of wine.  They have a fairly wide selection to choose from, and are known for serving up delicious fresh pizza as well, so bring your appetite if you visit this vineyard.

Next up was one of Michael and Donna’s favorites due to its casual vibe and lovely back patio: Lorenzi Estate Wines.  As such, they became members of Lorenzi’s wine club.  Not only do they have some notable red wines to choose from, but they also have Winemaker Events, with an evening of dinner and featured wines.  We had such a relaxing time here enjoying a glass of wine and escaping the heat of the day.

We were all getting very hungry at this point, so we finished our day at Avensole Winery.  The menu was enticing, so we all indulged a little on the food and left with full, satisfied bellies.  Though we didn’t participate in a wine tasting here, they do offer several award-winning wines to choose from.  

After a day with lots of sun, heat, and wine, we were ready to head back.  We gave Michael and Donna the “grand tour” of our humble abode we now call home, accidentally invited a lizard inside, said our goodbyes and called it a night.  It was a lovely day of catching up, enjoying our beautiful surroundings and the wonderfully warm weather, especially after experiencing the cold snap from the week before.

Guajome Regional Park

Our next stay at Guajome Regional Park was just 15 minutes away from Michael and Donna’s house.  Truth be told, we only spent a few nights at the park, because we spent the rest of the time staying at Michael and Donna’s, but it is a nice park, and we did meet some friendly neighbors during our time there.  Like Anthony Chabot, this park also closes the gate at night, but they have a night entrance, so there is no curfew.  The bathrooms are also locked up and require a code for use after hours.

I enjoyed this park and am glad we found something so close by that was also affordable.  The sites are spacious, there are plenty of trails to stroll along, a few lakes or ponds to enjoy, and the area is frequented by walkers, runners, bikers, and equestrians.  It is more rustic than manicured, but has some interesting plant life and a “nature walk”, which wasn’t drastically different than the other trails, to be honest.  But, the park does have children’s play equipment, picnic areas, and a section that has outdoor gym equipment, horseshoes, a pickle ball court, volleyball court, a chess/checkers table and a nice view of Guajome Lake.

The only major con we experienced while staying at this park was the traffic noise.  The north border of the park is Highway 76, which motorcycles in particular like to open the throttle so everyone in the area can hear. 🙄 Aside from this, I think it would be a great place to stay if you can handle partial hookups.  There is a central dump for black and gray tanks, but sites only have water and electric hookups.  Overall, I would came back to this park to stay if the opportunity arose.

The San Diego Zoo

Although Matt and I don’t often go to the zoo, the San Diego Zoo is known for being one of the best in the country.  It is also one of the largest and you would be hard pressed to see it all in one day, especially considering there is a separate Safari Park in Escondido.  We spent about 4-5 hours there and still only saw about 75% of the main zoo.  I have always had a hard time seeing animals in captivity, but am aware of the essential role zoos plays in wildlife conservation, providing a place for animals that would not survive in the wild due to injury or other maladaptation, or were otherwise recovered from the black market.

We started our visit by having lunch at what is likely considered the best venue in the park, called Albert’s Restaurant. And, it really was a lovely sit-down meal.  If you want more than your typical overpriced carnival fare, this is the place to go.  I was fortunate to come across the San Diego Zoo app, which came in really handy for finding our way around, looking for places to eat, specific exhibits, etc.  

As a whole, we had a positive experience and were thankful we went on a weekday.  The San Diego Zoo is a popular attraction, so be prepared for crowds.  I was impressed with the plant life, and we both really enjoyed the walk-in aviaries in which the birds had a little more room to spread their wings, as well as the gelada and baboon exhibits.  I was personally thrilled to see a small insect exhibit featuring a very colorful beetle, large grasshopper and a praying mantis.  It was a beautiful day to tour the zoo and a nice break from our normal outdoor activities.

Our stay with Michael and Donna

When I still lived in the Bay Area, Michael was one of the first people I met, and a few years later I met Donna.  Having known them for a couple of decades now, they are like family to me here on the west coast, and it has been a long time since I have had the opportunity to spend time with them after having moved up to Portland.  But now that they had resettled in SoCal, it was the perfect opportunity to spend time together and see their fabulous new home.  Plus, Tuan, Donna’s son Jeff’s partner, was celebrating his birthday at the end of the week, so they planned to come down from Los Angeles and we were happy to join in the festivities.

We took a break from trailer life for a few days and stayed with Michael and Donna at their beautiful house in Vista overlooking the Vista Valley Country Club golf course.  They put a lot of work into their new home, including the landscaping, and also created a hummingbird paradise with about 10 different hummingbird feeders.  It truly is a spectacle to watch these tiny birds zipping to and fro across their patio, battling for a spot at their favorite sunny bird feeder.

While visiting, we made many delicious meals together, I took advantage of Donna’s home gym space, and Matt and I did a covert walk around the golf course to get up to the “infamous 200 steps”.  Technically, we weren’t supposed to walk on the golf course, but we snuck onto a few paths so we could wind our way up to the steps.  The 200 steps gave us a good workout and connected us to a neighborhood road that had sweeping views of the golf course and valley below, and then we made our way along a fire road to loop back over to the house.  

At the end of the week, Donna’s son Jeff and his partner Tuan came down from Los Angeles to visit and celebrate Tuan’s birthday.  Prior to their arrival, Michael made two stellar cakes, Donna made a decadent lobster bisque and macaroni cheese and I made cacio e pepe Brussels sprouts.  It had been ages since we had all been together, so it was lovely to enjoy a big meal and each other’s company.

Lobster bisque, mac and cheese, cacio e pepe Burssels sprouts, and wine of course!

Final night and Escondido RV Resort

We extended our stay by one night so that we could also go out to eat as a group one last time.  However, finding a place to stay last minute on a weekend is challenging no matter where you are.  After calling around to several places, we found one spot available at the Escondido RV Resort.  The person at reception who greeted us was very friendly, and the place was clean and tidy, but it was very close quarters.  Plus, the entire park is surrounded by a triangular section of major roads, so it is also quite noisy with road traffic.  In a pinch, it was what we needed, but I wouldn’t want to stay here for an extended amount of time.  Funny side story: the lizard that came in while we were at Sweet Oaks reemerged when we arrived in Escondido. 🦎 I hope the lizard found a way out before we left the next day. 🤞

Common Side-blotched Lizard on our blinds

Jeff and Tuan picked us up, and we drove down to meet Michael and Donna in La Jolla to eat at Eddie V’s Prime Seafood, which was packed to the gills with patrons, most of which were also celebrating special occasions.  Our service was excellent, and the food was superb.  I don’t think there was a single thing we ate or drank that wasn’t to our liking.  I was surprised to discover there are Eddie V’s spread across the US, so if the other locations are as good as this one, you will be in for a treat.  Tuan received a fiery flambé birthday dessert, which we all oohed and awed over, and we eventually said our good byes and headed back. 

We were so grateful to spend this time with Michael, Donna, Jeff and Tuan, to reconnect despite spreading out across the west coast, and to share hugs, laughter and heart to heart talks as if no time had passed. Much love to you all and thank you for hosting us. ❤️ Now we begin our mosey eastward, starting with Indio, CA near Palm Springs, Coachella and Joshua Tree National Park in the heart of the desert.  Much love to all of you readers as well, and thank you for continuing to follow us on our journey. 🥰

2 thoughts on “Sweet Southern California

  1. My niece and her husband just moved to Temecula with my great nephew. My sister and her husband followed so they could be with their first grandchild. We’re heading down there next week! My sister lives it there. Good wine! Love traveling with you!

    Liked by 1 person

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