(Our family is on a five month RV trip. We are journeying West from Dallas, TX and making our way up the Western coastline finishing in Washington state before we streamline our way back to CO for the summer.)
If there were something to complain about our site in San Diego, it would be the six-foot chain link fence between Mission Bay and us. Apparently the fence was to keep us out of the wildlife reserve (a.k.a. the murky duck habitat). Whatever. Anyway, I didn’t care for it.
What the San Diego site lacked, Newport Dunes made up for it in spades. WOW. We fell in love with this RV Park the moment we arrived. Once again, our site backed up to a bay but this time, without barriers. No fence. No murky duck area. Just paved walking paths, mature trees, and green grass. Just ten steps from my door, I squished soft sand between my toes. Little slice of heaven to be sure.
While the sky boasted the most brilliant blue in Newport Beach, a dark cloud hovered over my heart. In just three days, I’d put my oldest child, Blake, on an airplane back to Colorado. It was time, I knew, for him to get back and see his dad. He’d only ever planned to stay with us on this journey for a while. But that while had come suddenly.
Blake is the adored offspring of my first marriage. A marriage in which I wasn’t faithful to the man I married or God who witnessed it. I’ve openly shared my wrongdoings with Blake, and besides my husband, he knows me best. We are friends, partly because we share a love for coffee, but mostly because I’m vulnerable before him as a woman turning from sin and seeking after God’s heart. He, in turn, is a wise sounding board offering deep insights from the Holy Spirit. It is good.
When Blake was in elementary school and middle school, I was traveling around the US shooting on location for HGTV. When the timing was right, I’d pull him out of school for a day or two and take him with me. He enjoyed working with the crew behind the scenes, learning more about interior redesign, and touring cities we visited together. Since Blake split time between his Dad and me, these mini getaways allowed us undivided time. When the show ended in 2009, my husband encouraged me to continue taking an annual trip with Blake.
Now, as his time on the RV trip was coming to a close, John urged me to plan some alone time with Blake. My younger homeschool students had recently made some poor choices causing a visit to the principal’s office (dad). Their discipline included expulsion from any weekend fun. Their bad timing created space for some memory making with the 20-year-old man-child.
On Saturday morning we worked out at Orange Theory, showered, and drove fifty miles to Universal Studios. What should’ve taken an hour took two. LA traffic. That is all. The park was closing at seven o’clock and we stood in line for tickets at three o’clock. Thankfully, the ticket guy offered us the discounted ‘late day arrival’ VIP pass allowing us front of line access to most attractions. We swooped it up, flashed our pass throughout the park, and enjoyed every attraction at the park within four hours.
On our drive back to the RV Park that evening, we saw an amazing fireworks display along I-405. We wondered what arena was close and celebrating an event. Then we passed the Anaheim exit and it dawned on me…Disneyland. Duh! Tomorrow’s destination.
We started Sunday morning off at Saddleback Church pastored by Rick Warren. Then Blake and I drove through more LA traffic and entered Disneyland around two o’clock. Blake was seven or eight years old the last time we were here. He had no memories except those we’ve shared with him over the years.
The trip stuck in our minds because we drove sixteen hours from Denver to LA, stayed in a dumpy hotel in Newport Beach, and spent three days at the park begging Blake to ride the rides. No joke. The kid was so afraid of rides we had to bribe him. We’ll give you anything in the park if you’ll ride Indiana Jones. Finally, at closing time on the third day, he was able to select a Star Wars Tie Fighter off of the shelf. We won! Or did we?
Blake has taken crap about that trip for twelve years. This time, he was determined to conquer his fears and earn his man card. And earn he did. We rode and rode and rode rides shutting down the park at midnight. We both had an absolute ball making his leaving on Tuesday a little easier on me.
We spent the rest of our time in Newport on the local beaches, wandering around Balboa Island, working out with a Real Housewife of Orange County, and exploring Laguna Beach. I also enjoyed sitting in my camp rocker under the shade tree overlooking the bay visiting with passers-by on the walking path.
The people I’ve met at the RV park are all different. They hail from different states (or countries-many folks from Canada), different professions, and drive different RVs, but share a common theme. They’re seeking a simpler life, living with less, spending time with the people in their lives that matter most, and going against the grain to make it all happen. I love hearing people’s stories.
Our neighbor lady’s story at this site sticks in my mind. She’s an energetic sixty-ish widow from Canada that reserves her space in this RV Park three years in advance. Her husband died fifteen years ago and she’s chosen to spend the winter months in Newport Beach near her two adult children and their kids. She stores both her fifth-wheel and her immaculately kept Bentley Continental in California.
She used to drive her rig and set it all up herself but that changed seven years ago. Now, a company delivers her rig to her site, hooks up her sewer lines, and preps everything for her arrival from Canada. Six months later, she boards an airplane with her beloved schnauzer and the service company reverses the process. She can clearly afford to own a home or a condo nearby but consciously chooses this lifestyle instead.
In a million years, I never once considered that I’d be RVing or contemplating spending our twilight years in RV parks. That’s all changed. I even find myself encouraging folks we meet along our travels to give it a try. Gosh, I’m becoming my parents!
The RV lifestyle isn’t for everyone but it’s available to all. It’s not always easy but nothing worth having is. It’s not free but it’s freeing. It requires tearing down some chain link fence but you’re living free from boundaries. I quite like it.
Next Stop: Malibu, CA
Any snowmobile trailers in the rv park?!! 🙂
Haven’t seen any yet but y’all will fit right in! Yours is pretty tricked out!
Nicely done – the next best thing to being there with you 🙂
Love your transparency Natalie. Love how you have always carved out special time with Blake, memories he will cherish always. I keep telling Randy lets sell it all & live on the road. But, he’s not ready. So, thank you for letting me get a glimpse of what it would look like. Love you.
Thanks for your encouragement Roxanne!
Natalie- Most of my memories of you include Blake as a little guy. As time as passed, Blake served as a window to the near future for what to expect with Jake.
I know first hand how tricky it can be to stay close to our man-children, (love that expression!) You have done a brilliant job of building a relationship with your oldest child built on honestly and mutual respect.
Thank you for the example and inspiration! Hugs to you, your man-child, students and, of course, the principal.