Posted in: Campground Review, Exploring California, Halloween, Holidays

Chula Vista RV Resort: Campground Review

For our time in San Diego, we stayed in Chula Vista at the Chula Vista RV Resort*. This is a RV Resort; so there were RVs only, no tent camping. (*NOTE: This site closed in 2021. They opened a larger resort close by.)

Chula Vista is in a great location a little south of San Diego. It was close to highways for easy access to San Diego and grocery stores. The closest grocery store was less than 10 minutes away. There are a ton of Costcos in the San Diego area. Most of the beaches and attractions were within a 30 minute drive. Los Angeles was about 2 hours north. Chula Vista was also close to Tijuana, Mexico (we didn’t cross the border though due to COVID).

There were lots of amenities at Chula Vista RV Resort: an office store, a laundry, a heated pool, a hot tub (closed-COVID), a putting green, three horseshoe pits, two community charcoal grills, a fire pit, a nice sitting area by the bay with chairs, two bathrooms/showers, a fenced dog area, and a dog wash.

The laundry room had 8 washers and 10 dryers. It cost $1.25/load to wash and $1/load to dry. The coin machine was in the office. There was a small fenced dog area and a seating area with glider chairs by the laundry room. We often sat in the glider chairs while waiting for the laundry to finish.

The office sold ice (always a crowd pleaser) for $2.16/ 7lb bag. They also sold a variety of convenience type items: RV essentials, some groceries, and a few souvenirs/postcards.

You can get mail sent to the Resort as well. We loved this option. I even managed to sneak in a few Christmas presents (gotta love Amazon Prime)! The mail is sorted and stacked in the courtyard behind the office. It is covered, so we didn’t have any problems with weather while we were there.

Chula Vista is a gated RV resort, so the front gate locks around 7:00pm. There is a night guard on duty, so you had to call if you needed in after hours (or to get out before the gates open). There is also a gate code for the bathrooms, and the pedestrian door leading out to the bay.

This campground was really great at maintenance and garbage collection. There were garbage cans situated every few RV spots. If you had recycling, you just placed it at the base of the garbage can and they would collect it. I saw them coming around multiple times a day to keep up with everyone’s trash collection.

They also offered weekend events. These varied from food trucks, to drive by Happy Hour (a guy playing a guitar and singing on the back of a truck that drove through the campground), $1 donuts on Sunday mornings, light up bike parades (they also offered the lights for sale before the parade).

We were very excited to see what they did for Halloween, as campgrounds are normally known for being very festive at that time. However, due to COVID, they cancelled trick or treating through the resort. They did come up with a replacement event with some games, crafts, and caricatures. This event was lots of fun for the kids. They had bag toss into pumpkins, ring toss, pop the balloons while blindfolded (the balloons had a piece of candy inside), and an egg balance walk (while mummified in RV grade, toilet paper). The caricatures were amazing. We talked to the artist for a little bit. He was a math teacher who also does caricatures. His name was Scot de Pedro (email is scotdep@hotmail.com, shared with permission).

Although many people ahead of us took off their masks for the caricatures, we kept ours on. We thought it would be a great marker of the times we are living in.

The one slight negative of the resort, which they can’t really control, was some air noise. While there was not a lot of street or harbor noise, there was a lot of airplane and helicopter noise. It seemed like the helicopters were the main source of noise and they seemed to fly over frequently at all times of the day/night. (It was close to the Naval base and to the US/Mexico border.)

We stayed at Chula Vista RV Resort for a whole month. So we got the monthly rental rate, but we also had to pay an electric rate. Their rate was $0.22/kwhr. We managed to rack up a $200 charge for electric.

We really enjoyed this campground and would stay here again. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of regulations when it comes to calling yourself a RV Resort. In our opinion, Chula Vista lived up to the title.

Instituting a new campground rating system based on trailer hitches.

Chula Vista rated a solid 4 out of 5 hitches.

SUMMARY OF CAMPGROUND:

Our rating: 4 out of 5 hitches

Cell Phone Reception: AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile

Laundry: Yes

Bathrooms/Showers: Yes

RV Sites: Pull Through, Back-in

Pop Up Tents/Gazebos/Outdoor Rugs On-Site: No

Amenities: picnic table, community fire pits, fenced dog area

Cabins: No

Tent Camping: No

Full Hook-ups: Yes. 30/50 Amps

Pool: Yes, heated

Food On-Site: When we were there there was food truck once a weekend and Donuts on Sunday mornings. There is a restaurant within walking distance.

Camp Store: Yes

WiFi: Yes

Accepts Mail: Yes

Fishing: No

Posted in: Exploring California, Museums & Tours, School, Sightseeing, YouTube Video Link

The USS Midway: Top Notch Naval Museum

The USS Midway is a decommissioned (retired) aircraft carrier docked in the San Diego Bay. It now serves as a top notch naval museum that is open for tours. It cost us $82 for the four of us and was well worth the money. (Ticket costs are: $26/adults 18-61, $22/seniors, $18/students 13-17, $12/youth 6-12, $10/veteran.)

As with most things these days, there are COVID restrictions: your ticket is a timed start to control total visitors on board at once, masks are required, 6 feet social distancing is encouraged and it seemed like many parts of the vessel have been removed from the tour.

The boys loved the Midway. (All of my boys.) We got to see:

Several bunkrooms – these were so cramped it is amazing they didn’t go stir crazy.

The Captain’s lower quarters – really nice, but according to a Yellow Hat (tour volunteer) the Captain only used this area while the ship was in port. The Captain slept up top by the bridge when underway.

The radio facilities control room – amazing to see how they transmitted classified information over the decades of the aircraft carriers service.

NOTE: Some of the ship was closed or roped off. I’m not sure if that was due to renovations or to COVID. (For example, the website lists the chapel and sick bay below deck, and the bridge and quarters above deck, but these weren’t open.)

There was a free audio tour available. You held the device up to the headphone symbols and a recording started. You listened by holding it up to your ear. You could also connect to the tour on your phone.

NOTE: Ben was excited to get to the tour and was worried about parking so we got to the tour at least an hour before our start time. We listened to most of these audio tracks in the truck. He was grateful we did because we did not bring headphones and it was hard to hear some of these recordings while on the deck.

The flight deck of the carrier had so many planes and helicopters displayed. Most of the aircrafts had folding wings. These were really neat to see, and of course growing up watching Top Gun, Ben and I liked seeing the F14s. The Midway Museum also had all the helicopters that have ever taken off from an United States aircraft carrier. Amazing to see the older ones.

I think the whole experience was really well done. We spent over 3 hours at the museum and Ben wished we had longer. We ended up closing the museum down. With the audio tour, lots of informational signs, and eager Yellow Hats ready to help, it was a great time. The kids enjoyed learning which is a solid accomplishment for any museum. I would definitely recommend it if you are in San Diego.

Posted in: Exploring California

California Recycling Tax

In California, in an attempt to encourage recycling, there is a tax on all drink bottles and cans when you buy them at the store. To get that money back, you have to drop these off at a dedicated recycling center. We had just been recycling through the campground until we noticed these charges on our receipts. They appeared at CA Redemp VA and CRV Tax on our receipts.

Don’t get me wrong, I am all for recycling. We did it at home for many years. However, it’s a pain in the rear end to drive to a recycling center, especially when you are from out of town. It is not an intuitive process, at least at the center I went to. It wasn’t well marked from the front of the parking lot. After driving around a little bit, I finally called the number on the website. The person I spoke to on the phone was very polite and helpful in finding it.

She was not the person at the booth. The person at the booth was not a happy person (which I can’t really blame them having to be there all day). To exchange your recycling, you separate cans and plastic bottles into different tubs. They then dump them into a different tub to weight them. (This station paid you by weight.)

Some of the receipts with the bottle tax/fees.

During our stay we went twice to the recycling centers. We only got back $5.84, which seemed really low based on the fees/tax we ended up paying in the stores. Just on the Costco waters, we had a $2 tax on the pack of water ($2.99/40 pack). We bought at least 2 packs of Costco water, plus probably about 15 packs of fizzy water, sodas, and Monster. The math just didn’t add up with the fees from what we bought and what we got back. Granted, in the first week or so, we recycled at the campground. But even if it was only half of what we bought, we should have gotten more back.

Posted in: Exploring California, Food, Sightseeing

Visiting LA: Beach, Stars, and a Sign

Since the Fair Foodie Fest was further north, we decided to visit Los Angeles on the same day. On our way into Los Angeles, we stopped at the Bagel Shack for breakfast. Their bagels were really good, nice and soft. We picked a berry cream cheese, which had bits of berries in it! The strawberry and chocolate chip did not have a very strong flavor, although they were still a nice bagel. Things like bagels and donuts are just more expensive here: small cream cheese $3.50, 1/2 dozen bagels $9.

We drove up to Venice Beach first and walked around. Ben and I had been there many years ago, before we had kids. It was still just as unique as I remember it. The scammers with CD’s were still there, lots of touristy kiosks and shops, street artists, etc. The size and amount of homeless camps set up along the sidewalk and the beach seemed much larger than I remember. And of course, there were still rollerskaters, rollerbladers, bikers, and skateboarders. VIDEO: Walking Venice Beach, Los Angeles, CA

We walked down to Santa Monica Pier and walked around. The Chess Park was neat and there were a few people playing. The boardwalk/pier area was really fun to see. The rides and games were not open, but many of the restaurants were. People were enjoying the beach, exercising, or walking around. We even saw a dance class being held outside.

The “original” muscle beach at Santa Monica was closed, although a few people snuck past the fencing and ropes to use some of the permanent equipment. The muscle beach at Venice Beach had several people there as well.

We drove over to see the Chinese Theater and the stars in the sidewalk. It was a little crowded and also hard to park the truck, so we just drove by and took in the sights. On our way out, we saw the Hollywood sign on the hill.

Nick took the Hollywood sign picture!

Posted in: Exploring California, Sightseeing

Surf Lessons at Pacific Beach, San Diego, CA

We decided to get the boys a surf lesson. When/where else would they be able to do it? Plus, they’re still pliable as kids and not as breakable as we adults tend to be. 😉

We chose a surf shop at Pacific Beach, Pacific Beach Surf Shop. We got them in a lesson together. The temperature was a little cool, both in the water and out.

The shop provided the boards and wet suits for the lessons. The kids also wore a bright yellow/green shirt over the wet suit. Lessons were 1.5 hours long, starting out on the beach learning about the board and how to stand on it, and then moving out into the ocean.

Their instructor, Angie O, was very encouraging and patient with them. She did a great job. Every time they got on the board she cheered, even if they fell off quickly. I think it helped give them confidence to keep trying.

They both managed to get up on the board in the water. They also made it into shore on the board a couple of times. There were plenty of wipeouts as well, but they kept getting back on. We were proud of them.

Since we didn’t take the lessons, the boys wrote a little bit about their experience! 🙂

Hey Guys! This is Will. How are you? The surfing thing was cool. We only learned about it 2 days before the event and I was pretty excited. It seemed like forever until we got to surf. We got there and talked to our instructor for a few minutes and she got us wet suits that were maybe 1/8 or 1/4 inches thick. They felt like winter coats all over your body except not hot. We went down to the beach and she taught us about all sorts of things such as how to swim with the board, how to get up, and how to, well, surf! We even got to ride the waves a couple of times and one of their guys got a couple of pictures of us. It was super fun and if you are looking for something to do in San Diego I would recommend, if it is in your budget, getting surf lessons.

Hello, my fans, this is Nick. You may have seen that Will and I went surfing. It was really cool. It was hard to get on to the board at first but we got it at the end. We did 30 minutes on land and then a hour in the water, it was fun. I made it about 4 to 5 times all the way back to the shore line. Some advice is to not go all the way to the shore line at the start. The reason is it will hurt if you do not land right. I got thrown off the board and got sand in my eyes on my first try. Another tip is that the wet suits are really hard to get on, but not as hard to get off though. Our instructor was really nice and was really good at teaching us how to get on the board and surf. She gave us most of the instructions on land and some in the water. That was my experience surfing!

Posted in: Costco, Exploring California, Halloween, Holidays

Finding a Pumpkin Patch in San Diego

One of our Halloween traditions has been going to a pumpkin patch with our friends Dave and Megan. We have been going for years, even before either of us had kids. We wanted to keep some of our traditions going while on the road, so we looked for nearby pumpkin patches. We planned on FaceTiming with our friends while they were also at a pumpkin patch.

This year’s group picture

We ended up choosing Bonita Pumpkin Farm. It wasn’t too far from our campground and it was listed as one of the “farm” locations for this company.

There was a line to get in, as they were limiting the number of people in the area (COVID). You entered under a tent, with hay bales and decorations for picture taking to the right, and the check out to the left.

Walking straight ahead through the tent area, there were rows of pumpkins. Off to the right were port-a-lets, a petting zoo (it looked like goats only), and a cut-your-own sunflower patch. They also offered a hay ride and a train ride. There was a small patch of pumpkins growing, just much much smaller than I was expecting. We did see large boxes of pumpkins behind the petting zoo by the bathrooms, so I think most of their pumpkins were shipped in.

Top Right Corner: You can see the small pumpkin patch and part of the sunflower field behind it.

The sunflower field was off to the right of the entrance tent, behind the petting zoo. You could use one of their clippers and cut your own for $2/stem. The sunflower field was bigger than the pumpkin field! They were really pretty (and one of my favorite flowers).

Back home, it can be a little bit of a hike through the fields to find the right pumpkin and they loved finding the biggest one. When they were younger, we carried the pumpkins, but as they got older we made it a rule that they have to be able to carry their own pumpkins. The kids have to be able to carry it back to the hay ride (to get back to the cashier), to the check out line, and to the car. It’s worked so far, and the kids love picking out their pumpkins. Here in San Diego, the pumpkins were a lot more expensive, so they had a price limit and ended up with smaller pumpkins that were very easily carried.

It was a different experience than I was expecting, or used to. I guess growing up in Ohio, we were spoiled and used to a larger sized farm for our pumpkins. It was still nice to catch up with our friends and do a virtual pumpkin patch together.

We did also get a larger sized pumpkin later in the day at Costco.

Comparison of Bonita Farm, Irons Fruit Farm, and Costco Pumpkins

Posted in: Exploring California, Food, Sightseeing, YouTube Video Link

Drive-Thru Fair Foodie Fest

Ben once again found a unique event to go to: the Drive-Thru Fair Foodie Fest held at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, California. Admission was free and if you made a reservation online, you got a free mini funnel cake. The event was only held on weekends in October. We weren’t sure exactly how it would work, but it sounded like a fun experience and definitely something new.

We went in the later afternoon, a little before dinner time. Although we put in the address on the website, it was a little hard to figure out how to get into the stadium. The first couple of gates were locked and there were not signs up directing you where to go. We finally turned into this maze of a parking lot with concrete barriers and cones. We saw a few people coming out that way and gave it a try. There was finally a small (8.5×11 size) piece of paper taped to a pole with an arrow for the fair food. There was nothing closer to the street though, making it extremely hard to find.

There was a small line when we arrived, but it moved pretty quickly. They had a few non-food booths set up along the way to give it more of a fairground/festival type of feel. We had already pre-planned on what we were going to eat, as the food was not exactly cheap. We stopped at booth #1 for a gyro ($12.93), booth #3 for a giant turkey leg and roasted corn on the cob ($21.55), and finished it off with a funnel cake ($11.85) from booth #5. We did get our free mini funnel cake when we entered, but it was just big enough for everyone to have 1 bite. The booths only took credit cards and charged tax as well.

Ben is a nut and had carnival themed music playing on his phone to help set the mood.

At the end of the food line, they had stuffed animals on display (the kind you would win at a festival) for sale. You could also play ring toss from your car! We didn’t play, but it certainly was an ingenious idea.

There was another side parking lot where you could park and eat your food. It was a good thing we stopped: funnel cakes were not meant to be eaten in a car!

Posted in: Exploring California, Halloween, Sightseeing

Drive-Thru Haunted Trail: Scream Zone, San Diego, CA

Ben heard an ad on the radio for Scream Zone, a drive through haunted attraction. California certainly is creative with keeping Halloween going through COVID. We tried to get tickets early in our stay, but the earliest we could get them was for 10/22. They sold completely out rather quickly.

It was quite an experience. It was held at Del Mar Fairgrounds. They had two events going that night: Scream Zone and Mainly Mozart (movie/music event), quite the odd combination! We drove on what looked like a utility road behind the fairground, past campers, storage areas, equipment. It was about 6:45pm, already dark, and it was a little unsettling driving back there.

Driving behind the fairgrounds: it’s almost like the haunted trail has started, but it hasn’t! Sorry for the lack of pictures. Photography and videos were not allowed along the trail.

We drove past a mini fairground food area with the option of funnel cake, gyros, and light up gear. They had a soundtrack you could tune to online while you drove through and had signs when to switch tracks.

Some of you may be wondering why the heck I was there, because although I love Halloween, I hate horror movies and haunted houses. You could customize your experience a little bit. If you wanted more of a scare, roll your windows down. Less of a scare, keep the windows up. I kept mine up the whole time. Ben and Will had theirs down. Nick mostly had his up, although he did try it down a few times. After he about hit his head on the ceiling from jumping after a startle, the window stayed up almost the rest of the drive.

The trail incorporated motorized figures, statues, and real people to create the scenes. The actors all wore masks (face masks/COVID, not just Halloween type masks) as well and were not allowed to touch you (although they did come right up to the window!). When it was your turn to enter the trail, you turned off your headlights and slowly traveled down the road (3mph limit).

At one point, Ben had a clown come towards the car, drop down, somersault, and pop up next to the truck and blow a horn. Everyone jumped on that one.

From my side, the beginning of the trail was a little scarier with more actors coming near you. We got there right when it opened, so maybe not everyone was in place yet? The exit gate was also still shut, so we had to wait a couple of minutes until someone came to open it.

It was a really neat experience for the boys, and I think they did a great job of working within the COVID restrictions to still be able to offer a Halloween event.

Posted in: Animal Sightings, Exploring California, Injuries, School, Sightseeing, YouTube Video Link

Sunny Jim’s Sea Cave

There are 7 caves along the La Jolla coast. Most of them are accessible only by water, but Sunny Jim’s Cave can be walked to through The Cave Store.

The history of the Cave Store goes like this: Gustav Schultz, in 1902, hired two men to dig out a tunnel down to the cave. (It took 1.5 – 2 years to finish, depending on the information sources I read.) He then charged admission to walk down and see the cave. The original path did not have lights or stairs. The stairs were added in later. The store claims there is 145 steps; however, Will counted 142 (including the ones beginning at the store level).

The store employees said it is still the original foundation for the store, which is pretty cool! It’s a great hidden spot on the coast, so apparently smugglers also made use of the cave many years ago. There is still a charge for admission ($10/adults, $7/kids ages 3-17). You can also book your time online, as reservations are required due to COVID.

I definitely took the stairs slowly, as they were uneven, some slanted to one side, and some were wet from moisture dripping out of the rocks.

Once we entered the cave area, we saw a large sea lion resting on a rock in the cave. He had a fishing hook in his mouth. The store employees said he frequently comes in to the cave. Video: Walking Down the Tunnel to Sunny Jim’s Sea Cave

If you are in the area, I think it is definitely worth the trip to see it!

Other links about the cave/tunnel: Atlas Obscura, La Jolla.com

Posted in: Exploring California, Sightseeing

Quirky Tourist Stops (San Diego)

San Diego has a lot of quirky locations to visit. We’ve managed to see a few of them this past week.

Mini Taco Bell: This mini Taco Bell is right next the drive thru at one of the restaurants. It is easy to miss as it is under a tree and a little hidden. The back of it looks like a utility box. The boys got a burrito, so they were very happy to get lunch out.

Harper’s Topiary Garden: This is someone’s personal garden on the hill in front of their house. The topiary gardens were crafted from existing plants, so it must have been a lot of work to form the figures.

El Campo Santo Cemetery: The cemetery is located in Old Town, San Diego. The cemetery was partially paved over to make way for a streetcar. Only one grave was moved! The road and sidewalk now cover the grave sites, although there are small medallions to mark the sites.