When I lived in Arizona, a summer trip to San Diego was almost mandatory. Not only did we get out of the desert heat, we got to visit one of my favorite places: the San Diego Zoo. Since moving back to the northwest, trips to San Diego are a lot harder to come by. Instead of a quick six-hour drive, you have a plane ride. The plane ride is actually quicker, but with security and cost, it is not easier. However, with the gray skies and cold temperatures of the winters in my new home, a winter trip to San Diego is something I crave more than I ever did my previous yearly pilgrimage.
So, this year, I have a plan. I haven’t told any of the other involved parties my plan, but they are going to love it.
My new husband has been pushing for a trip to Catalina Island. My sister, who recently retired, has taken up with a gentlemen with an RV. My proposal: we all meet in San Diego this winter, probably sometime in February after the holiday madness has calmed and the winter doldrums set in.
The RV Crew
My sister’s plan is to leave right after the new year and head south. Last year, it was Texas and New Mexico. However, if I can persuade them, this year it will be Arizona and California. I have learned so much about RVing from them. It really is a very different frame of mind. My sister has not yet committed to a full-time RV life and I don’t think she ever will, but she does love it part-time. The community feeling that occurs in RV parks is what strikes me. My sister and her companion have regaled us with multiple stories of teaching newbies the RV ropes, being helped by fellow travelers when the dogs needed watching, group Thanksgiving dinners, RC racing, and outrageous pinochle games.
Last year’s trip to the Texas coast was amazing. My sister and friend took daily trips to the beach, sea kayaked, and watched a dog go fishing by himself. Their dogs loved it! My sister’s Havanese has never been so dirty. She was always pretty good about getting baths and being brushed, but on the coast they became daily occurrences, just so she would be allowed back into the trailer. She managed to get some amazing pictures with just her phone of her dog and the coast. Then they traveled north and ran into an amazing display of wildflowers. Apparently, spring in Texas is a lot like spring in Arizona, sometimes nature gives you a beautiful carpet.
Back to my plan, the trick will be convincing them to brave the crowds of San Diego. They tend to head for less crowded places, which I am sure does not describe Southern California RV parks in the winter. However, they have been talking about Florida and how can California be worse? Besides, in late February, there is the flower bloom in the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and the rugged beauty of Joshua Tree National Park. Both are easy day trips from San Diego that could easily become extended trips for hiking with the dogs.
The final piece of the puzzle, for my sister anyway, will be Magic Mountain in LA. With a promise of paid entry and a companion on the roller coasters, I think she will be dying to spend part of her winter in Southern California with us.
My husband likes to travel and we did not get a honeymoon. He really liked the idea of a Catalina Island honeymoon. I was not excited about that idea until I started doing my research. There is much more history to discover and activities available on Catalina than I thought. There are several fascinating historic landmarks, including the Catalina Casino Building, the old clubhouse from when the Chicago Cubs had spring training on the island (1921-41, 1946-51), and author Zane Grey’s old residence which is now a hotel.
Interestingly, about 88% of Catalina Island is controlled by the Catalina Island Conservancy, a private nonprofit organization established in 1972. Its main goal is to protect the island and balance conservation with recreation. One of their big concerns is the Catalina Island fox, one of the few native species. It is found nowhere else in the world. In 1999, a virus outbreak decimated the population, reducing it to 100 animals from 1,300. Through the Conservancy's efforts, the fox has rebounded to a population of 1,812 in 2015. Other interesting, but not native, wildlife includes a herd of bison and bald eagles. I am excited to hike and bike the islands, with the opportunity to see the fauna.
The main incorporated city on the island, Avalon, has some great dining and shopping. There is nightly live music and plenty of patios to enjoy food and the weather. We will not be bored.
However, if I am going to get my winter pilgrimage, I want to do a few things on the mainland. So, if we are meeting my sister, I will be able to convince my husband to only spend a few days on the island, then explore San Diego and Magic Mountain the rest of the time. Besides, I know he will love the San Diego Zoo as much as I do. I can easily spend one day there and another day at the Zoo Safari Park. In case you haven’t noticed, I’m oriented to the animals. The only bad thing about the whole trip, we won’t be able to bring our dog. However, I am sure we can get our fix from the RV crew’s two dogs.
So, I have it all planned. Now, I just have to convince everyone else it’s the perfect plan.