Fall 2022 Episode 7: Pismo Beach, California

We didn’t begin our fall 2022 journey intending to explore four major California macro climates, but once we visited big cities (San Francisco and Riverside), a lake in the mountains (Big Bear), and a lake in the desert (Part 1 Lake Havasu and Part 2 Lake Havasu), the only logical location to end our trip was the beach. So after a one-night stop at Mountain Valley RV in Tehachapi, it was on to Pismo Beach.

On November 5, we drove to Pismo Coast Village RV Resort where we had enjoyed staying in February 2020. Fortunately, they had a spot to accommodate us for a week. A storm was brewing offshore, so we spent the first few days of our stay cleaning the trailer, washing clothes, and stocking the pantry to prepare for rainy days ahead.

Beyond Pismo Creek and a strip of more dunes is the ocean
Watch your step

Once the rain cleared, we went hunting for a vegetable and fruit stand where we picked up fresh-from-the-fields produce. Then we ate at Old Juan’s Cantina. They served one of the best mole chicken enchiladas I had ever tasted. We’ll stop there again if we ever get a chance.

It had been a long time since we had seen rain, so we settled in the fifth wheel with our blankets and turned on the tube. The Long, Long, Long Trailer starring Desi and Lucy Arnez was only a few minutes into the beginning. This was perfect timing since the resort was hosting a Vintage Trailer Rally, filling the resort with restored old-time travel trailers of all sizes and shapes. Someone even had the kind of trailer featured in the movie with posters of Lucy and Desi. As we walked the lanes gawking at the rustic and newly refurbished rigs, we thought the first trailer we had purchased in the early 1980s would have fit right in. Our rig included a 1977 Dodge pickup with a 1954 Kenskill painted to match. We had good times in that trailer with our kids.

Pismo Beach Pier

Walking distance from Pismo Beach Pier is a benefit of staying at Pismo Coast Village RV Park. Not too many people out and about walking the length of the pier. Fishing, surfing, swimming, playing in the sand, or setting up chairs near the busker to hear the tunes were some activities enjoyed by other visitors.

Storms in 1884 damaged the first pier built in 1881. It was rebuilt with an additional 100 feet in 1884. In January 1904, a storm took 100 feet of the wharf, and by 1905 only a row of pilings remained across the beach. The current pier, originally constructed in 1924 and the victim of additional storm damage over decades, reopened in October 2018 after a full rehabilitation project that took 18 months.

From the information panels on the boardwalk, we learned the commercial harvest industry hauled out an estimated 6.25 million pounds of Pismo Clams along the coast between 1916 and 1947. Today, regulations permit only recreational clammers. Be sure to follow the licensing, size, and limit amounts designated by California Fish and Wildlife. It takes Pismo clams five to eight years to reach the harvesting size of 4.5 to 5 inches. Any clams found on the beach that measure less than 4.5 inches are required to be reburied at the site found. This will help the recovery of the Pismo clam population.

A few blocks up the street, we found Brad’s Restaurant and lucked out, getting a table right away. A bowl of clam chowder, sourdough bread, and a glass of wine was all we needed to satisfy our hunger.

Pismo Beach State Park Monarch Butterfly Grove and Dunes

The Pismo Beach State Park Monarch Butterfly Grove was also only a walk away. The Western Monarchs arrive in Pismo in late October and early November, migrating from parts west of the Rocky Mountains and as far north as Canada. How is it possible for such delicate creatures to travel up to 2,000 miles a day at a 10,000-foot elevation? Imagine the strength and endurance they possess to accomplish such a feat. They’re definitely hardier than me.

When the storms blow in with strong winds and rain, the butterflies cluster together on the eucalyptus tree branches to protect the individuals from blowing away. The temps were cool during our visit, so it was hard to locate the clusters. They looked like brownish leaves.

The Monarch Grove butterfly count in January 2022 was 22,000 and in 2016 28,000. Between 2016 and 2022, the low count was 1,995 in 2020 and the high count was 12,075 in 2017. It will be interesting to see what the numbers show in late January 2023. It sure seemed like a good turnout to us.

We finished our stay at the butterfly grove by crossing the bridge spanning Carpenter Creek and into the campground area to access the dunes. The crisscrossed trails took us over and around the sandy peaks.

Oso Flacko State Park

The boardwalk over Oso Flack Lake was our first time walking across a lake. But first, the trail took us through a tunnel of arroyo willows, wax myrtles, and Spanish moss. It was easy to spot the poison oak that was flashing its fall colors.

On the other side of the lake, the dunes took shape. Clumps of silver dune lupin, coyote bush, deer weed, and dunes paintbrush dotted the landscape.

We stopped at the viewing platform to enjoy the views and warily eyed the steep sandy hill that led down to the beach. We passed on going farther. This was a leisure walk on mostly flat surfaces, after all. Climbing back up a steep sandy hill would have turned it into a workout for which we were unprepared.

And so, our Fall 2022 adventure came to an end after our week at Pismo Beach. The holidays, doctor visits, house upgrades, and a backyard landscaping project have kept the fifth wheel parked beside the house since November. We’re not yet sure when we’ll load up and drive off for another adventure, so this will be our last post for a while.

Safe Travels

Fall 2022 Episode 6: Lake Havasu Part 2

Our two-week stay was too busy to pack into one post, so here is the rest of the story about our time in Lake Havasu City in October 2022.

We’re suckers for a parade, especially small-town parades like the London Bridge Days Parade. So we packed up our lawn chairs and headed to McCulloch Blvd. to celebrate the 51st Anniversary of the London Bridge. The parade theme was Life is Better at the Lake.

Hey, Mickey. Over here.
Side-by-side owners showed off their off-road buggies
A show of force by the Lake Havasu City SWAT team
US Border Patrol’s Horse Unit
Parker Marching Broncs

Later in the day, it was on to the London Bridge Marina to watch the costumed paddle boarders and kayakers navigate the Bridgewater Channel from Rotary Park to the bridge. It would have been fun to join the Annual Witches Paddle, but my wrist hadn’t quite healed enough.

Here they come paddling up the channel
Moms, dads, kids, and even dogs joined the event
Big turn out for the Annual Witch’s Paddle

It seemed like the whole town comes out for Lake Havasu Fright Night on October 31. We joined my sister Merri, her daughter Tracy, and her daughter Bobbi. I liked the idea of concentrating the trick-or-treating in one location. Given that many of the homes are built in hilly areas, and some are second homes and unoccupied full-time, gathering downtown worked out well for the kids and parents alike.

Outta my way. I’m here for the treats
Bobbi (dressed as Wednesday) and friend checking out the dragon
Hey, Garfield
Don’t look up
Bobbi tries the ring toss and gets a five
I’ll take one from this bucket, and another handful from that bucket
Isn’t that the red-headed witch paddler we saw a few days ago?
Turn around, Tracy and look at the sunset.

Parker Dam at Take Off Point

After a busy few days, my sister Merri needed time to herself to take care of chores, so Jon and I went for a drive along the California side of the river. We can’t drive that route when we’re pulling the fifth wheel because trailers are banned from crossing over Parker Dam.

Before crossing the river, we stopped at Take Off Point, where there is a boat ramp, fishing piers, shade structure, picnic table, and if the fish are biting, there is a fire pit to cook lunch or dinner. Parker Dam is close enough to capture a few photos of the lakeside of the dam.

View of the lake side of the dam
Darn, Jon left his fishing gear in the truck

We were lucky this great blue heron was unafraid of people. He or she posed for us from its perch on the rocks.

Great blue heron posed for our photos

BLM Rock House Visitor Center

Next, we crossed the bridge and stopped to take photos of the river side of the dam before heading south on Parker Dam Road. Boy, how things had changed. The Bureau of Reclamation used to give tours of the dam. Not anymore.

About eight miles south of the dam, we pulled into the BLM Rock House Visitor Center. Neither of us remembered a visitor center along the river. Signs appeared at the entrance of all the resorts along the river, noting that the RV resort or campground operates in cooperation with BLM.

Rock House Visitor Center

There wasn’t much to the center other than a few displays inside and a clean restroom. The facility host said it had recently reopened after having been closed for a few years. The landscaping looked okay out front, but in the back and on the side, the plants and hardscape were definitely in need of attention.

Rock House Visitor Center
Boat launch at Rock House Visitor Center
View of the Arizona side of the river


My sister Merri hadn’t been to Oatman ghost town for a while, so we took the drive out there. This is a Route 66 attraction for those interested in traveling the historic route. It was a gloomy day and a bit windy and cold too. The burros were a no-show in town. It wasn’t until we left we saw them moseying toward town. We wandered around, stopped in a few shops, and raided the candy store.

Merri walks past Jenny and Jacks Artifacts
A tinkling sound of wind chimes came from Fast Fanny’s porch
The Oatman Hotel established in 1902.
A few facts about the Oatman Hotel
“Look, Jon. A candy store. Maybe they have the penuche fudge you’ve been looking for.”
Nope. It’s too short. Do you have a longer one?
Step right in for a whiff of leather

More sunsets

As the sun slips below the horizon, painting another awesome sky, we close out this post and say goodbye to Lake Havasu.

And to all a goodnight

And that’s a wrap of our Lake Havasu visit. What’s up next? Let’s see. We’ve been to the mountains, then to the desert. How about the sea? Join us next time for another stay at Pismo Beach.

Safe Travels

Fall 2022 Episode 4: To the Desert and Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree was the next destination on our list. On October 18, 2022, we arrived at JT RV and Campground. The dirt and gravel lot comprised back-to-back full hookup sites running down the middle of the lot with shade trees. Electric and water sites lined the perimeter for tents and RVs not needing the sewer.

Joshua Tree Saloon

After setting up, it was time for a bite to eat. Joshua Tree Saloon served ribs, a variety of fried seafood, hamburgers, sandwiches, salads, tacos, and quesadillas. They also had a long list of wines and beers, on tap or in a bottle.

Such a happy face after a long drive.

The hidden entrance is around the back, through the patio area. The outside bartender showed us the way. Multiple TVs keep patrons entertained while waiting for their meals, and the corrugated steel panels and antiques contributed to the rustic appeal.

Acoustic live music in the patio bar area
Eclectic decor
A bar just isn’t a bar without TVs

Joshua Tree National Park

We didn’t plan our visit to Joshua Tree National Park on the same day we last visited the park five years earlier. It was just one of those flukes. Our blog post dated January 11, 2018, talks about our visit on October 19, 2017. It wasn’t until I was drafting this post that I realized the date matched.

Watch out for the cholla. They’ll latch onto the cuff of your pants and hang on for dear life.

We concentrated this visit on the west side of the park where the Joshua trees are more concentrated and where a few road pullouts include information panels that describe the terrain, plants, and history.


The arrangement of plants in the photo below looks like a professional landscaper had a hand in their placement. The rocks strategically piled in front of a juniper and flanked by yuccas have a balance to them.

Professionally arranged?

Joshua Tree National Park gained monument status in 1936 and national park status in 1994. What is unique about this park are the two deserts that meet within the park boundaries—the Mojave Desert on the west side and the Colorado Desert on the east side. The over 800,000 acres of both high desert and low desert environments allow a diversity of plants and animals to thrive.

At one stop there was no trail, so we picked our way around boulders, juniper and creosote bushes, and avoided the beaver tail and cholla cactus, stopping every few feet to take pictures behind us so we could find our way back to the truck. Then we followed other trails nearby and here is what we saw.

Not sure what this is called, but it was a pretty color
Love these little hedgehogs
Dinosaur teeth? No, that’s how the rocks formed under ground and after erosion.
Behind piles of rock, we found this valley
Joshua tree specimens
Seed pods once were beautiful pale-yellow blooms
Joshua trees come in all shapes and sizes
Beavertail cactus
Yellow wildflower
Juniper in rock
Don’t shoot. I’m only armed with spikes.
Time for a rest
Even dead trees can stand tall and majestic
I wonder what this Foo dog is guarding?
Climbers have several choices for scaling the jumbo rocks
I see a huddling raptor. What do you see?

Barker Dam Loop trail led us to Barker Dam and Lake. The lower portion of the dam was built by the Barker and Shay Cattle company, creating a lake from rainfall for watering their cattle. In 1949-50, the Keys family added the upper concrete layer. Although we saw a few puddles when we visited in October, apparently winter and spring are the best chance to see the lake full. Average rainfall currently is around 2–5 inches compared to 10 inches in the early 1900s.

Winter and spring are the best time to see water in Barker Lake
Barker Dam
Soaking up the view.
JT next to a creosote bush
Close up of creosote bush with fuzzy seed balls

From the Barker Dam trail, we took a spur that led to petroglyphs. Unfortunately, someone had the bright idea of outlining the drawings with paint. The paint makes them easier to see, but ruins the original art. What a shame.

Vandalized petroglyphs

Coming up next, we drive through the transition zone between the Colorado and Sonoran deserts to the south and the Mojave desert to the north. Our destination: Lake Havasu to see family and friends.

Safe Travels

Fall 2022 Episode 3: To the Mountains and Big Bear Lake

Big Bear Lake fall season had arrived

Holloway’s Marina and RV Park

On October 6, trees flashed their flaming fall colors as we parked our trailer at Holloway’s Marina and RV Park, our home for seven nights. At Holloway’s, visitors can rent a pontoon boat, charter a fishing boat, buy marine parts, have service work done, or park an RV.

Big Bear Lake 17′ below normal in this photo

It would have been nice to rent a pontoon boat one afternoon, but the lady recommended not eating the fish due to Blue-Green algae, a bacterium that can be toxic. Shoot, no fishing for Jon and no trout dinner for us.

Plenty of boats to choose from

Then we eyed the Pirate Ship. Who doesn’t like an entertaining sail around the lake on a pirate ship? That didn’t work out either. The ship’s schedule didn’t match up with ours.

Ahoy, matey!

Although the boat rides would have been fun, the weather and nature entertained us with fog floating through the landscape and the sun kissing tops of trees and mountains.

Blue tarped figures are boats prepped for winter
Kissed by the sun

The main reason we chose Big Bear Lake for a visit was to meet up with our son, Kevin, and his better half, Bailey. They were attending the Adventure Van Expo over the weekend as vendors. While we waited for their arrival, the Big Bear Discovery Center and the Big Bear Alpine Zoo kept us busy.

Big Bear Discovery Center

The Big Bear Discovery Center in Fawnskin is mostly geared towards children ages 2–7 years of age, with its Nature Discovery Zone that serves as an outdoor classroom with interactive play areas. Their website describes different activities that are offered, but there were none during our visit. The center is a large building with lots of space inside, but it was mostly empty, except for four volunteers at a desk and display tables with T-shirts and stuffed animals for sale. Perhaps they were renovating? The volunteers gave us a pamphlet that listed 13 hikes ranging from an easy 1/2-mile path to a difficult 10-mile trek.

Big Bear Discovery Center building
Discovery Center grizzly bear statue

We selected the 5-mile out-and-back Alpine Pedal Path from the Discovery Center to Serrano Campground for its gentle slopes up and down on asphalt pavement. The elevation of 7,000 feet was enough for us to contend with on our first day without worrying about Jon wrenching his knee again on a rocky surface.

The path links to the Cougar Crest and Pacific Crest trails
Over the bridge and through the underpass we go
Typical tree seen along the path
Crumbling rock formation

Big Bear Alpine Zoo

A zoo in Big Bear? How did I ever miss it? The Big Bear Alpine Zoo (formerly named Moonridge Animal Park) was established in 1959 after a fire scattered wildlife and a group of people got together to rescue some of the animals. It is owned by the Big Bear Valley Recreation and Park District, a Special District of the County of San Bernardino.

Look! A zoo in Big Bear

The Friends of the Big Bear Alpine Zoo, created in 1989 as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization raises funds and coordinates volunteers to support the zoo. The zoo is open daily from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm. On snow days, they may open late or not at all.

Sturdy compounds house the animals

The zoo’s mission remains a 100% rescue facility. All of the animals on display came to the zoo for rescue, mended, but unable to live in the wild. Birds have missing or broken wings. A bear is missing a leg. And some of the animals have adapted too well to human contact, making it dangerous to release them into their natural habitat because they no longer know how to find food or hunt or protect themselves.

Wild Critters on the Playground

Animals currently on display include a bald eagle, red-tailed hawk, white pelican, great horned owl, grizzly bears, black bears, and a gray wolf. Due to the double fencing, it was difficult to get a good photo of the animals, but here are a few.

Sleeping fox
Bald Eagle
Gray Wolf

Adventure Van Expo

And now, on to the Adventure Van Expo. Camping in a van is nothing new. Could it possibly trace its roots back to the covered wagon days when families loaded their possession to travel thousands of miles across the country? I didn’t dare slide into that rabbit hole of research, so I leave the question for others to answer.

Vans showing off their builds

More recently it seems, converting vans for camping or even living purposes has gained in popularity for at least the past 10 years or maybe longer. And where popularity grows, so do expos and cons. The fifth 2022 Adventure Van Expo organized eight expos in 2022 and has scheduled eight more for 2023. Over a two-day period, the events draw 60-80 vendors and up to 6,000 attendees, according to their website. Attendees can browse the many van conversions on display and for sale, and purchase all the accessories needed to enhance their #VanLife.

No remaking the bed everyday in this one, just pull it down from the ceiling
A sink, stove top, and microwave. What more can you ask for in such a small space? Oh, yeah. A fridge. There’s one of those too.

So, back to the product Bailey designed and curated for display and purchase at the expo. The CampIt includes everything required for the preparation, serving, and cleanup of a meal around the campfire or grill. Contained within a wooden box the size of a banker’s box and weighing in at around 23 pounds, are a tablecloth, cutting board, knives, spatula, tongs, serving spoon, roasting sticks, bamboo eating utensils, scrubber, hand sanitizer, soap, can and bottle opener, reusable plates, bowls, and cups, and much more.

The CampIt vendor booth

On Sunday, Jon and I manned the booth while Bailey and Kevin walked the expo to make contact with potential vendors. Videographer Van Haulen made a video of Jon and me talking to the videographer. Click here to take a look. It’s a long video, and we don’t show up until the end at 15.18 minutes, so zip forward.

To see Bailey in action, check out this video where she’s a featured new vendor. She shows up at 2.56 minutes. Of course, she’s the expert, knows her product well, and did a much better presentation than Jon and I did. All of the items that fit in the box are displayed. Or go to thecampit.com to learn more.

Next up in our fall adventure, we head to the desert. Join us while we explore Joshua Tree.

Safe Travels