Sunday, July 29, 2012

Our 2008 Winnebago View J- RV Tour

Here she is, our 2008 Winnebago View J, or as we fondly call her, "Winnie." We love to explore in our little rv, and get out as often as we can. 
We decided to purchase this model for several reasons. First, its diesel engine is dependable and long-lasting (knock wood). Made by Mercedes, these little guys have a great reputation for quality. So we were able to purchase an older model and not worry so much about it falling apart on us. Also, the View consistently gets between 15-17 mpg, making it a very fuel-efficient vehicle. It gets better gas mileage than many passenger vehicles on the road!
Possibly most important to our family, the Winnie is slim and trim (relatively) making it easy for almost any driver. We wanted to get an r.v. that both my husband (who can drive anything) and I would feel comfortable driving. I have even taken her out on a solo trip, and have no qualms about doing so! It's actually really fun to drive. It's also very easy to park and because it is so little (again relatively) it can almost fit into a standard parking space, so parking and camping spots are simple to find.
For those of you curious, here is what some of the interior looks like. The fabric is a little 70's chic, but since we have three (messy, VERY messy) kids, it's almost always covered in protective fabric (read: dropcloths for children) anyway. 
Here's the dinette. We were enjoying Thanksgiving dinner in Sedona, Arizona here. As you can see, it comfortably seats four, so we purchased this little stool which is comfy enough for us, and super-easy and light for storage during our drives.
Our fridge and freezer have been perfect so far. I can always (barely) squeeze in just enough food for our trips. Our longest time out has been for 10 days so far and we made it perfectly. Any longer than about a week, we need to shop and replenish our fresh supplies.
Little vanity sink outside bathroom.
Toilet and shower. It may look tiny to you, but it's a glorious, amazing commodity to me, a mom of three active kids who love to play in dirt or beach sand. It's so nice to let them fully enjoy themselves, knowing they'll be neat and clean at bedtime. Ahhhh....
Our master bed. Very cozy and comfortable. We sleep better in the r.v. than at home. Maybe it's the vacation, but I'm seriously thinking about getting a bed like this for our house. hehe. We've topped it with a memory foam piece purchased on amazon and cut to size. Then use regular sheets and blankets. Perfect!
Our kitchen includes a stove-top, and microwave/convection oven combo unit. It also has a great large sink. 
Just some of the plentiful storage in the View. There is so much well-thought out storage that we always have extra space left after packing. And with five campers, I think that says so much about the Winnie's design. We love it!
The kids love the bunk above the cab. The girls sleep up here normally, but all three of our kids have fit there and slept well on occasion. There is also a TV/DVD player but we need to do some upgrades as the player stopped working right after we got it! Anyway, it's a great feature for the drives, as we can use it to play our own movies on it through our own devices.
 So, that's our tour of the Winnie. Hope you've enjoyed it. We sure love our mini-home away from home, and are very thankful for it!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

RV or not an RV? Winnebago View or Bust

So, my husband and I had the RV bug. Well, really we had the camping/outdoors/hit the road/see more scenery/get out of the house/get to hike again bug. And with our three kids we really felt like the easiest and most enjoyable way to do that was to buy an RV. 

As I mentioned, my hubby had been researching them for quite some time now, and had really taken a liking to the Winnebago Views. Of course selecting the right RV is so subjective, but after really evaluating everything, this model seemed to fit our needs best.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Big Sur & Big Changes for us

 In 2010, our family experienced some big changes. We sold our house, and moved to a slightly larger one, and welcomed our third child into the family. Little baby boy L made his appearance in the summertime, and we were thrilled to have a bedroom for him when he arrived. hee hee. Unfortunately, when we moved, we had to give up our little pop-up trailer, as we no longer had room to store it at our new house. Don't worry about "old trusty," she was re-homed with my brother-in-law and his new wife. They are still enjoying the heck out of her.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

El Capitan, San Simeon, and wind storm in Gaviota

So, we had such a great time at El Capitan last time, we wanted to try it again. This time, feeling more confident, armed with our trusty camping book, and better able to navigate the reservation web site, we decided to take another trip there when our youngest (at the time), "K" was a few months old.

We reserved our now favorite site (sorry, I just can't share, some things just must remain sacred). You probably wouldn't like it anyway. I mean, these favorite spots are so subjective. I'm sure you understand, right?
Pretty private space, with a few trees and a view of the ocean behind us. However, this was also the favorite site for an ENORMOUS raccoon who visits us every time we reserve it. He is not easily scared away either. 

Campground Reservation Tips (how not to pummel an agent)

Anyone familiar with camping (especially in California) is probably well-aware of the difficulty acquiring reservations at the popular campgrounds. It can be extremely frustrating to say the least. The first time I tried to reserve a spot in Yosemite, I could not even believe what I was up against. The week before the reservations were going to open for summer camping, the hubs & I had looked through the campgrounds, chosen our favorite one, even picked a site out. We were so excited to get our spot. At 8 a.m. sharp, I had my computer ready, and my mouse-finger clicking. I also had the phone on, dialing the reservation number. I tried online, I tried calling...I felt like pummeling someone when I got off the phone (and computer). The reservations had been completely filled within 6 minutes. INSANE!! Needless to say, I didn't get a site. The customer service representative I spoke with on the phone was completely un-helpful, unhappy, sluggish, and apathetic. He would have been a good candidate for my pummeling, I thought. I felt totally defeated, and didn't know how anyone could possibly get a reservation in this %$@# state. I spoke to many of my friends who had lived in California much longer than we had, and asked for their advice. They brushed me off, saying things like, "Oh yeah, it's a pain. We don't even try." What the heck?! At the same time, I heard lots of people talking about camping trips to Yosemite, so I knew there must be a way. I was determined to find out how to get a site!

The Holy Grail for CA Campsites

After the good fortune (aka pure luck) of finding (aka stumbling upon) the beautiful El Capitan campground, my husband and I mused about the absolute randomness of our campground selection so far. After all, our first camping trip in California had been just north of this little gem, and let's face it, that place was not even close to this one in beauty or enjoyment. We had no idea about the quality of campgrounds here. And that was not for lack of trying. We had purchased the only book we could find about California Campgrounds, we had googled the heck out of the internet, blindly searching for "good campgrounds in California" and everything else we could think of. Of course, we had looked on the state and national park reservation sites, but they were not very descriptive, and didn't have any sort of reviews listed. It was a monumental and daunting task to try to find the really good parks.

Then, we found this: 

Monday, July 23, 2012

Beach Camping: El Capitan

We had such a fantastic time at Lake Mary, we just could not wait for our next camping trip. Our neighbors told us about their favorite campground, El Capitan State Park, near Santa Barbara. Ironically, we had been just north of this campground for our first camping experience in California. We were excited to try our hand at beach camping, and we just knew our little girl would love it too.

El Capitan is a very desirable campground, and it's really difficult to get reservations for it. We decided to try our luck in the off season, and booked a site in October. It was beautiful, and though there were other campers there, we had our choice of several premiere sites.

Camping in California; Santa Barbara and Lake Mary

Speaking of camping in's a little complicated. Don't get me wrong. I love California. I think it has some of the most beautiful landscape you could imagine: mountains, oceans, cliffs, beaches, forests, redwood trees, deserts (not my thing, but everyone's different :) Anyway, you get the point. It's a beautiful state. But the red tape, and the crowds, and the traffic, and the tiny campsites, and the lack of privacy, and the bears... it can all be rather daunting when planning a trip. After Yosemite in 2002, we  decided to try our luck on the California State Park Reservation System for our next trip, and found what looked to be a pretty campground just outside of Santa Barbara. At the time, we were tent camping. We had a great time! The campground was "woodsy" and rather private, and close enough to easily drive to Santa Barbara for fun and a pizza night.

In 2006, we were gifted an older model pop-up tent trailer. By this time, our little R was about 18 months old, and a little better in the car. We were getting antsy to try our first camping trip with our daughter.
Our trusty pop-up trailer

A Taste of Camping in California

Prior to having baby R (in 2002), we had attempted to take a trip to Yosemite National Park in California. Clueless and carefree, we drove to Yosemite without reservations. After all, in our native state of Arizona, we never needed a camping reservation. Of course, when we arrived, the campgrounds within the state park were completely full, and we ended up at a campground just outside the south entrance to the park. It was still beautiful, and amazing, and we *almost* had a great time there. You see, we had done some research prior to our visit, to see if our dog would be allowed within the park. The website said pets were allowed only on paved areas in the park. We figured that would be no problem. Unfortunately, there were only a few areas where the dog was allowed, and everywhere we went (within those paved locations) we were approached by staff who reminded us of the rules firmly. It was really frustrating and beyond annoying to be constantly approached, when we were following their rules.

Beautiful scenery within the park

The beginning

As a young(er) couple, my man and I were both working in the corporate world, making good money, and enjoying life. My job as a commercial real estate property manager allowed for wonderful perks like free weekends at exclusive wineries and ski resorts. It was amazing. We spent time driving the curving country roads near Napa, California and explored the rugged beauty of the mountains near Beaver Creek, Colorado. We spontaneously decided to drive up the west coast one evening; rented a convertible and watched the sunset as we cruised with the top down, and the ocean breeze blowing softly around us. It was a fantastic time. We both remember it fondly, even now, 13 years later.

Jeep-ing around Big Bear

Since Big Bear was only a few hours away, we decided to bring the Jeep along with our  RV. This way we'd be able to try out some of the ...