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California RVing Part I - Bolsa Chica State Beach

Updated on March 9, 2016

Long Beach Skyline

Scottsdale to Long Beach

Here’s something to consider when traveling by RV – there is considerable preparation involved in making sure things don’t fall, break, rattle, or become projectiles while driving. In our case, a few things end up on the floor (usually books, maps, and the like) and the contents of the cupboards often rearrange themselves in ways that require some straightening up. This is probably a very different experience than with those big, luxury rigs but that’s not how we roll. Our 25’ Tioga, as cozy a home as it makes, has kinks and quirks that require patient and consistent attention to maintain that coziness. So, a trip with several short stops gets monotonous after awhile. Books on tape, music, and other diversions are fun but it’s still a lot of sitting to get from destination to destination, sometimes without much moving around in between. Having done this plenty of times, there’s an appeal to staying longer in fewer places.

The Desert Drive

The old Hadley's - here in the background - is closed.  The new Hadley's is less like a fruit stand and more like a Boston Market.
The old Hadley's - here in the background - is closed. The new Hadley's is less like a fruit stand and more like a Boston Market.

As I write this, we are beginning our 5th week of a 2 month stay in a sweet little mobile home community nestled into a neighborhood in North Long Beach that’s new to me, even after living 46 years of my life in this town. We’ve been getting around on foot, by bus and bicycle and, mostly, by car as generously loaned by my friend, Aimee. More on life in Long Beach later, though. After our week at the beach, we traveled to Northern California for a few weeks to be detailed in my next post.

The Captain and I crossed the California border from Arizona expecting an In ‘N Out immediately following the welcome sign. Palm Springs, home of Hadley’s and the frequently mentioned/craved date shake came first. On our last visit to Santa Clara, Jim went on so much about wanting a date shake that my sweet sister Cindy brought home ice cream and dates, got out the blender and made him one. This was not an economical mess by any stretch. It was delicious but that shake was but a memory when there (after thinking we’d missed it) was Hadley’s. The luxury of the date shake did not negate the desire for the aforementioned In ‘N Out burger or vice versa. Sure, we’d seen one in Texas and another couple in Arizona but this, for me, is a California thing and I didn’t want it in some other state. The crowd at the first In ‘N Out after the border was about as big as I’ve seen and I have seen my share of throngs looking for just that taste. Truthfully, I can’t remember just now which came first, the burger or the shake. What does stay with me is the melancholy of driving through Palm Desert, where my Great-Aunt Bea lived and where her sister, my Great–Aunt Clara kept a home in the same senior community. I have made countless excursions to visit them over the years - sometimes with others, more often alone - to soak up all that love over card games, walks, church services, cinnamon rolls, and tight hugs that lasted a long time. Even though they’ve left this earth since our move from Long Beach to Madison, my heart’s memory kept them in the desert. Of course, when they were there, a date shake on the way home was just overkill.

Welcome to Long Beach

We rolled into Long Beach around 7:00. Our pal, Bill, was waiting with homemade burgers and a spot to boondock for a couple of nights. This allowed for visiting with him as well as Paula, who lives around the corner, repairs, and running over to spend an afternoon with Gretchen and her girls. This is the best way to spend time with a busy mom and teacher - bring your laundry and just roll with their day. It was especially fun to find out from the girls about their new brother who will be joining the household in June. When it was time to leave, Jim and his son Conor came to get me and we went back to Bill's with some Char-O Chicken - another thing Madison needs. Paula had left fresh lemons, just like she used to when I lived upstairs from Bill. She also loaned us a car for our week down the coast. Nice, huh?

Palm Springs
Palm Springs
Bolsa Chica Sunset
Bolsa Chica Sunset

Beach Week

The time had come to sit still for awhile. To that end, we moved to a spot reserved months ago at Bolsa Chica State Beach. This is nothing but a parking lot with hook-ups steps from the ocean. For decompressing, you can’t beat a few rainy days at the beach. Throw in some El Niño quality surf and you’ve got yourself a regular storm spectacular. No matter the weather, my soul’s natural atmosphere is made of salt air and sand - it fills me up like nothing else. We did get a bit of sunshine – it’s still Southern California, after all. Here’s another tried and true travel idea for a long trip with lots of action: make time to regroup. We mostly ate in, went for walks between rain showers, rode bikes once and had a fire on the one dry night. A couple of friends came by to visit and we wandered away a little but, mostly, we took advantage of the opportunity to be quiet for a while. It was especially nice of my pal, Paula, to loan us a car for the week. There’s not much to walk to from Bolsa Chica and the weather limited the biking errands. As the waves came further ashore each night we weren’t altogether sure we could stay the entire time planned. The camp host let us know when we checked in that in case of flooding, he wouldn’t leave without hollering out a warning on his way out. The night they got to the point where we said we’d leave (the fire pits), we slept through it and changed the line in the morning sun. It was so dramatically beautiful. With the wetlands just across the road, the variety of seabirds at Bolsa Chica (“Little Purse”) is extraordinary.

Lounging at the beach

Click thumbnail to view full-size
A nice view from any direction.Some days require books and snacks in your bed fort.Wish I'd captured the three pelicans just before this one.Our front yard
A nice view from any direction.
A nice view from any direction.
Some days require books and snacks in your bed fort.
Some days require books and snacks in your bed fort.
Wish I'd captured the three pelicans just before this one.
Wish I'd captured the three pelicans just before this one.
Our front yard
Our front yard | Source

Being good stewards

The rain, contrary to popular belief, did not end the drought California has been experiencing for some time. Things get green pretty quickly which is misleading. People who’ve never experienced a water shortage don’t do the water on/water off/water on shower. The pay showers at Bolsa Chica were like a game. With plenty of room for two, 50 cents got you two minutes. If you can’t imagine how this works, remember, you don’t need water while you’re soaping up. We never used more than 4 minutes of water and next time, the goal is two – unlikely, but worth a shot with a couple of extra quarters handy, just in case.

Our glorious environment inspired me to take a bag out and fill it with litter strewn about by the wind. Passersby picked up a little, too, and one young mom and her little boy stopped their bikes and filled another bag. It was clear this wasn’t their 1st beach clean up. By later that day, the wind had brought as much back again but, just the same, it was a worthy effort.

Good morning!


After the rains

The last morning of our Bolsa Chica stay, my friend Jennifer came to take a walk at the Wetlands across the street from our campsite.

This is a beautiful ecological reserve that runs along Pacific Coast Highway but feels far away from city life. We went out early and saw an amazing variety of birds. I'd been there the week before for a shorter walk with Gretchen and her baby. Only 20 minutes from Long Beach and free, it's definitely worth visiting another time or two before leaving town.


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      2 years ago

      Wow I can't believe the birds you saw! Looks and sounds so beautiful. Soak up that sun and salt air for me please. When are y'all heading back? We miss you on the block!

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      2 years ago

      So good to see your shining faces. Thanks for the update. What great photos! John and I are looking forward to seeing you come April.

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      2 years ago

      You sure got some wonderful pictures. I have great memories of Bolsa Chica bonfires. My beautiful California will always be home to me no matter where I live.

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      2 years ago

      Just seems like a continued incredible trip... ups and downs, ins and outs!

      The beach seems to suit you and what a better place to regroup and have a little mindfulness! Sounds just lovely! Surely enjoy your photos and posts! I also know how much work they are... they are much appreciated on this end! love!

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      2 years ago

      So glad to see you are safe and warm. You guys look fabulous. Spring is springing here - snow is melted, robins are hopping, weatherman is calling for 62 tomorrow.


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