One Year on the Road

Rancho Oso RV Resort

Our site under a tree.

Rancho Oso RV Resort is in the Santa Ynez mountains east of Santa Barbara. It’s a huge and well-kept resort with a focus on horse-boarding and a large riding stable. It has nice cabins for rent, as well as covered wagons and a tipi. The sites are in tiered rows, with trees, so each has a view of the mountains. The lodge is an old stone house built by the original owner of the land in the early 1900’s. Coming from the run-down San Benito resort, we were pleasantly surprised by this place and wished we’d scheduled more than two nights.

Caution: The last mile to the resort is up a steep, narrow, windy road. An RV and car can squeeze past each other in some places, but I’m not sure what we’d have done if we met another rig. (We’d have to unhitch the Honda to back up.) I was glad we arrived well after checkout time, and we made sure to leave an hour before checkout, to avoid arriving rigs.

Road Friends

When we planned this year-long trip, we expected to meet lots of people along the way, some of whom we would click with enough to exchange information. Before today, we hadn’t found other RV resorters very welcoming. In the last place, we parked next to a woman who stayed inside her trailer with the curtains closed and preacher radio blaring. The only person to actually talk to us there was a bitter woman in the midst of a divorce. Her husband had laid claim to both their house and their vacation home and left her only the 5th wheel to live in.

But here, we had our first really positive “road friend” connection. We had just pulled into our site when a woman in a car stopped to ask how we liked the campground. She was staying down the road and was scouting this one out. When she mentioned that she was alone, into her second year of traveling in an RV, I invited her to lunch.

Mary Quinn.

Mary Quinn is a retired English professor who taught in Santa Barbara, then San Diego. When she retired, she moved to Colorado, but a year ago, rented out her house and bought herself a 38-foot RV. She had never even been in an RV before, but she loves the lifestyle so much, she’s now put her house on the market. She’s a strong, wiry 68, and she handles every part of the standard RV maintenance herself, clambering up to the roof to add new sealant, leaning out on ladder to reattach mirrors. She says it keeps her in good shape.

It was one of those instant connections, where the more we talked, the more we discovered we had in common. And we all laughed at the serendipity of our meeting. Mary swears she doesn’t normally stop and talk to strangers, and I’m never so quick to invite someone in. We could have easily visited for hours. But after lunch, she politely insisted on “getting out of our hair.” We exchanged info, promised to keep in touch, and off she went.

How strange, this new life of short connections with strangers. Some of whom you edge away from, and others you leave thinking, “Hey, wait— don’t go.” For months at a time, that might be all we have. That and each other, which so far is wonderful. And intermittent electronic interactions with those we’ve left behind. We might find ourselves starving for lingering dinner conversations with close friends, long walks with dogs to catch up on each other’s lives, impromptu summer barbecues with drop-by’s. Then again, we might find our lives filled with impromptu lunches with strangers who become friends.

An excited Aly at the airport.

Getting Aly

We’d picked this place because it was near Santa Barbara, where we were scheduled to pick up our god daughter, Aly, who was flying down from Seattle. So Sunday we drove into Santa Barbara, with a quick stop at Solvang, a cute Scandinavian tourist town that Kate remembered fondly from her childhood. We wished we’d had more time to explore both Solvang and Santa Barbara, which is a very beautiful beach/university town.

Aly is very much our daughter, and Bailey is very much her dog. When we saw Aly come out of the quiet little airport, Kate let Bailey out of the car for a dramatic reunion full of whines, yelps, and spins. Not unlike the soldier/dog reunion clips you see on YouTube.

We drove back to the resort, where dinner was waiting for us. (We’d used the timer on the convection oven to bake a chicken pie.) And at bedtime, Aly got cozy in the bunk that lowers down over the front seats. (I’m glad we got the model with this bunk. It’s nice not to have to make up the dinette bed each night.)

Aly and me.

Trail Ride

Aly’s always loved horses, and I used to own one. So I’d booked us a trail ride for the morning, before we had to leave. We were the only riders on that early Monday morning, so we had a private tour with our guide, Alison, who was cute and likeable and clicked with Aly. She took us up into the foothills, through shady woods and grassy fields filled with wildflowers and sage. The mountains look so barren from a distance; I was surprised by the beauty of it all. It was a gorgeous, warm morning. Our horses were well-behaved and well-cared for, and the ride was just ideal. Well worth the $40 apiece.

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5 thoughts on “Rancho Oso RV Resort

  1. Laura Davis

    I love your description of your new friend and your musing about how relationships will be different on the road. You’re just starting since you’re still with friends now, right?

    Where’s the post about your stop in Santa Cruz? We’re waiting?

    Love from laura (in Idaho visiting family and old friends–with a massive arbor of plum blossoms right outside my window).

  2. clbrown23

    Hey Jennifer, Love the posts and especially the pictures….Was hoping you would have an open house of your RV while in Santa Cruz…perhaps another time. Your time here was brief..!

    I was wondering what resources you use to decide where to stop each night? You mentioned Harvest Hosts…Are there other RV associations or online resources you are using or just tips from friends and your hosts along your journey?

    As Laura mentioned you have just started your journey and still in familiar California territory amongst friends and family….I will be curious to see how things change as you venture beyond the State. And also curious as to whether you feel inspired in other ways to do something different in your life such as start a new project or hobby such as painting or something you have never done before such as write mystery novels?

    All the best to you and Kate and the dog kids too! CB

    1. Jennifer Meyer Post author

      Hi, Candace. Sorry we didn’t get a chance to have an open house for Bessie in Santa Cruz. Once we got her snugged in, we didn’t want to move her!
      I keep meaning to add a resource page with links. Kate is the main researcher and she’s found many helpful sites. I’ll try to work on that soon. One thing we learned is that in Oregon, you can park at any highway pullover for up to 12 hours. So you could legally camp at some beautiful vista pullover. I’ve also heard that rest stops west of the Mississippi are good for overnights, but in the east, not so much. And we’re not beyond stooping to Walmart parking lots.
      We did bring some paints and art supplies in the hopes of discovering the artists within, but so far it’s all I can do to keep up with photos and the blog. And some point, I expect we’ll have more down time, but we’ve been packing it in so far.

  3. clbrown23

    Hi Jennifer, This link might have some good resource links for free RV parking at Walmart state-by-state (not all allow it), RV dump points, Casino locations, Truck-stops, ($24.95 subscription for a mobile app of 12,000 free parking spaces) and (free parking on private property) and of course Harvesthosts all at this link! Resource link would be great when you have the inkling to gather everything in one place. Enjoy. CB

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