Change of Plans

As I have written about in earlier posts, Yellowstone National Park was on our calendar for May through October.  Our planned 5-month stay involved working for Yellowstone Association in their Old Faithful bookstore, where we were looking forward to reacquainting ourselves with old friends and meeting some new folks.  Well, as life would have it, a change of plans is now in the works as some unforeseen medical tests needed for Terry have caused us to postpone our trip.  Given the abundance of excellent doctors and medical facilities in the San Diego area, we feel it prudent to stay put for the time being.

Now for the positive news.  A cancellation here at San Elijo State Beach has allowed us to stay right where we are for the next 30 days (thank you so much Bill).  During this period of waiting for test results and possible other procedures needed, we plan to stay near metropolitan areas in California.  We still have so much to explore in California, so we will most likely do just that once June rolls around.  The beauty of this lifestyle is the ability to quickly shift gears, allowing us to move a few things around on our bucket list.

Although we will miss friends who we were very much looking forward to spending time with, we believe things happen for a reason, even when the path forward is unclear.  Staying in California feels like the right thing to do at this moment and with faith guiding us, how can we go wrong?

Since Yellowstone was to be our destination, I feel it only fitting to honor this first national park with a few photos that were captured during previous visits.  If you haven’t been yet, what are you waiting for?  It is a magical place even during the winter.  And while you are contemplating a visit, check out this fabulous photography blog site featuring the hunt of the Yellowstone red fox in the winter. We have seen a video of this and it is amazing!

Given our change of plans, if any of you out there have spent time in northern California and have some memorable experiences or recommendations for places to stay, we would love to hear about them.

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Workamping at San Elijo State Beach

San Elijo State BeachHard to believe we have been here at San Elijo State Beach 2.5 months already, with only a couple more weeks to go.  Thought it was about time to tell you about this little jewel that keeps people coming back year after year, some 20+.  Many of those who frequent this beach are locals, some living in Encinitas, right across town.  The smiling faces tell the story.  Many come for the surfing (some of the best in the state we are told), some to watch their kids build sand castles and splash in the surf, some to take strolls along the water’s edge, taking in the sights, sounds, and smells that engulf them, and others to rekindle friendships year after year.  Many boast that this is the best state beach on the California coast.

Life on the rocks

One big draw other than the beach, we believe, is that you can literally walk out the campground gates, cross the Coast Hwy, and you are in the sleepy little laid-back town of Cardiff, which boasts some pretty decent restaurants, a Sambazon Acaí Cafe (check it out for a yummy organic, superfood fruit bowl) and a great gourmet grocer, Seaside Market.

Self Realization Fellowship Encinitas
Buddha Healing Statue ~ Self Realization Fellowship

Head north out of the gates instead and walk to Encinitas, which seems to be the focal point for many of the little towns surrounding it.  Much larger than Cardiff, it has huge grocery chains, big-box stores, great restaurants to entice anyone, wonderful consignment stores, and lovely boutiques to browse through.  Our favorite Encinitas restaurant so far, for a nice dinner out, is 3rd Corner, a first-rate little bistro/wine shop.  Choose a bottle of wine in their shop, if you like, and they will uncork it for you at your table.  And their entrées are killer to boot!  If you like craft beers, Union Kitchen and Tap is the go-to place, and Kim’s Vietnamese is just up the street for good pho.

Solana Beach artwork
Tennis anyone?

Solana Beach, just south of San Elijo, is another laid-back beach town with some trendy shops and a great Thai restaurant, Bangkok Bay.  Cedros Avenue is a colorful street lined with shops that has something for everyone.  The walk back to San Elijo from Solana Beach looking out over the ocean never disappoints.

Outside the San Elijo State Beach campground, at the corner of Chesterfield and Coast Hwy 101 sits a somewhat controversial statue entitled “Magic Carpet Ride”.  Commissioned by the Cardiff Botanical Society and designed by local surfer and sculptor Matthew Antichevich, this 16 foot bronze statue was originally designed to represent a surfer performing a “backside floater” (whatever that is).  A lack of funds prevented the sculptor from including the surf in this piece.  Serious surfers criticize the design as being too thin and effeminate, the feet and hands being positioned incorrectly, and resembling more a novice than experienced surfer.  Locals have dubbed this statue the “Cardiff Kook”, surf slang for a wannabe surfer.

Cardiff Kook
Hey, who you callin' a kook?

Like him or not, the local community has had great fun adorning him for local birthdays, holidays, charitable events and remembrances, such as 9/11.  Many of his wacky costumes have been captured and can be seen here.

With 171 campsites (both hookups and non-improved sites), tent campers and RV’ers large and small (their rigs that is) take up residence at San Elijo. Most reservations are made online through Reserve America, many 7 months in advance.  If you are lucky enough to snag a cancellation, the gods are indeed smiling down on you.  During the busy season these are few and far between.

View of south end of campground

Amenities include public showers, camp store, wi-fi (very spotty), and it’s home to the original  Bull Taco, an “inauthentic Mexican” joint serving up breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Bull Taco Cardiff
Bull Taco, known for its "inauthentic Mexican" food.

It is a draw with the locals and other campers as well, allowing for take-out or the chance to sit on the deck enjoying a fish taco, watching the surfers or the setting sun.  The smells wafting out of this little haven make your mouth water as you pass by.

Also on the grounds is the Eli Howard Surf School, an overnight surf camp run by Emily, hubby Greg, and their two beautiful, energetic dogs.  Emily outfitted our granddaughter Alyssa with a wetsuit and boogie board while here on vacation and made her feel totally at ease.

Eli Howard Surf School
Eli Howard surf camp

This has been our first workamping experience and what a great place it has been to cut our teeth.  The job itself has been fun, allowing us time to visit with the campers at check-in or when motoring around in our golf cart to make sure all is well.  This gig also gives us a tremendous amount of downtime, which is what retirement is supposed to be all about, right?  The entire San Elijo staff, as well as other camp hosts, have been wonderful, making our experience one we hope to repeat, here as well as in other beautiful settings. What a great way to see this country, meet interesting people, and feel you are contributing to the community where you have settled.  This is a volunteer position, as many are, and given the economic conditions in California, we hope in some small way we are helping to keep state beaches like this open for generations to come.

Our friend Bill, a founding member of the non-profit Friends of Cardiff and Carlsbad State Beaches, is passionate about preserving these beaches and has been working diligently to do just that.  If you are interesting in workamping here, this is the site to visit.  Can’t beat San Diego whatever the season!

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Dress Rehearsal is Over

Yes, our “dress rehearsal” is now over and we are ready to go live, and yes, there is some work involved here, albeit it small compared to what “work” looked like for us pre-retirement.  We have had the luxury of training while the campground is still closed for the season, instead of OJT, which is how most of us have been accustomed to learning jobs over the years.  And beauty of all beauties, there was even an actual training manual involved, thanks to our industrious instructors.

One of our first official duties as camp hosts was to clear away an area where we could plant some native shrubs.

Frank in his OSHA-approved footwear & Terry, clearing the site for planting

Bill thought it would be great for each of us to plant a shrub that we could come back to 20 years from now and look upon its progress.  At this point I am glancing over at Terry and see him doing the math.  No, I couldn’t actually see him counting.  He has long since progressed beyond using the finger method.  I could tell by the look on his face that he is looking 20 years into the future and wondering if he will still be standing upright!

Terry & me planting our shrub

Planting these shrubs was such a good idea, as it gave us a solid connection to this state beach.

As a wrap-up to our training, we had a short meeting, followed by a pot-luck and bonfire.  It gave us an opportunity to get to know one another better and at sunset, we all stood at the cliff fence watching the sun slip below the horizon.

I have to shout out a quick thanks to our instructors Bill and Lisa, for hiring us and for providing such a welcoming, supportive training atmosphere.

We have thoroughly enjoyed Bill and Lisa since meeting them several years ago and look forward to getting to know them a little better in this new environment. I love this photo of them, so relaxed, which is how it should be here.  I particularly was drawn to Lisa in this photo, as her expression pulls me back to memories I have of my dear friend Barbara, too soon gone.  Barbara, such a force of creativity, wonderment, compassion, a true gentle spirit, loved by all. Lisa is much like Barbara and her expression, for me, embodies a sense of pure contentment, which draws everyone to her.

We are looking forward to our time here, working with the public, which I’m sure will offer some interesting stories, and exploring the area beyond the campground.

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Will Somebody Pinch Me?

We have spent the past week training for our first workamping gig in the San Diego area.  Picture this, we are sitting outside at a picnic table, warm sun on our backs, cool breeze gently moving the pages in our manual, and the ocean in our peripheral vision (more so if we are not paying attention to our instructor).  How could anyone possibly use the word “work” in a sentence describing this?  But yes, this is the job we have signed up for, camp host at San Elijo State Beach.  Oh, the agony of it all!

Our friends Bill and Lisa, who have spent many a year at this place, are passionate about the preservation of the California State Beaches, which has been a concern due to governmental funding issues.  They helped to set up the non-profit Friends of Cardiff & Carlsbad State Beaches for just this purpose, of which Bill is a founding board member.

Yesterday was a short day for training, so back to our rig and a quick change into something more comfy and we are off to the beach for some exercise.  There is so much to see on this stretch of sandy beach, from the surfers at Swami Beach, an area we are told holds the best surfing in California, the dolphins and whales we catch a glimpse of occasionally, the multitude of shore birds searching for tasty little morsels, children busily building sand castles, young and older lovers strolling together, and joggers effortlessly moving (how I wish my jogging was) along the beach.

Marbled Godwit

It is wonderful to start down the beach, then take one of the many long staircases up to street level (which are also great for strengthening your legs), to wander along the sidewalks of Encinitas, window shopping, while I wind my way back home.  There are so many interesting shops and restaurants, that if we are not careful, we could do some real damage here.


Back home, a little more exercise, clean up and I scurry off to do some grocery shopping.  Trader Joe’s is just a couple of miles from where we are staying, as is Whole Foods, Sprouts, and a few other interesting looking groceries.

As I return home, walking up to the RV I hear some great tunes wafting out from the windows.  Terry has figured out how to fix our DVD player and has the Eagles Farewell Tour playing.  This day just continues to get better!

I quickly put the groceries away and after some chopping and dicing, get the pasta sauce simmering.  Terry puts himself in charge of the drinks and hands me my glass.  Ah, the aroma of a glass of good red (which I have not had in my hands for a while) is quite intoxicating.  The song Love Will Keep Us Alive begins to play and I am such a sucker for all of Timothy B’s music!  I look at my husband and motion for him.  He complies, because that’s what he does (sometimes) and we dance. Shame on you!  You thought this was going to be a post tagged for mature eyes only, didn’t you?  Nothing like the Eagles, the ocean, and a California sunset to get you into the mood to dance.  And I would say this is true whether you have a partner with you or not.

After dinner, with a nearly full moon to guide us and the pounding surf as our symphony, we strolled down the beach to round out a most enchanting day.  Love truly will keep us alive, wouldn’t you say?

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