From Borrego Springs to San Diego

Finally leaving the BLM land just outside of Joshua Tree, we drove onwards towards Borrego Springs. Having recently seen a cool picture of some of the sculptures that are here, we wanted to go and visit it ourselves. A check of Overlander, threw up an RV park in one of the golf resorts here. Normally something I wouldn’t be even slightly interested in going near, this one offered showers, laundry, water and a pool for $10, now that is tempting. Deciding that we wouldn’t be able to do all those things for less than $10 anyway, we decided to give it a try. a relatively short drive through the desert later, and we arrived.

Heading into reception we got shown the price list which I think had the cheapest site as around $65. As I had read the reviews, I mentioned we wanted the dry camp site and was then told it was $30. The first night at $10 dollars was still something that they offered, but they certainly don’t advertise, pretty happy to have got there in the end we left to get ourselves sorted.

It wasn’t until some-time later, as we sat in the Jacuzzi drinking some beer that we thought we wouldn’t mind another night of this.

Enjoying not being on a schedule for what felt like the first time in a while, we were enjoying taking our time. There was even a fenced dog pen for Aimee to run around in, as we couldn’t let her have free reign. Someone had told us earlier that there were a lot of coyotes in the area and that a few people had already lost their smaller dogs. An extra day would also give us the chance to use a bit of internet and do some proper washing.

Aimee still evading coyotes…

The following morning we went over to the office to tell them we wanted another night, we noticed that when we arrived they had given us a survey which said if we filled it in we got $10 off the next visit. We thought we’d try and blag it and asked if they’d give us the next night for $20 rather than $30. I was pleasantly surprised when they agreed, because as the woman at the desk said, “I love your accent, is it Australian?”. Australian or not, I was certainly happy to get some cheap camping in and use a whole load of facilities.

This meant we spent an entire day lazy around the pool and try to top up our non-existent sun tans, while having some beers and doing our blogs. By the end of the day, the washing was done and we had made good use of the internet.

Ready to move on now, we made one final use of the showers and also used the free gym, before packing up to leave. We wanted to visit the sculptures that were our original reason for coming here in the first place. The nearest ones were only a few minutes down the road and we headed off to have a look. The first ones we came across were scattered around in a field, just off the side of the road. It’s not really what you expect as you’re driving along, to see a ginormous scorpion in the field next to you.

Right next to it is this larger than life beast.

There were lots of others, including tortoises, camels and elephants.

Then we came to this. Apparently it’s a sheep?

Further along down the road is a giant serpent, which was pretty cool.

There would also be more on the road back down south, and although we didn’t stop to look at these so much, it was interesting to be able to look out across the desert and see random metal creatures scattered through it. the area that they cover is really quite extensive and there must be hundreds of these sculptures. It shows what the weather is like here, these are only thin sheet metal, some are a bit wobbly if you touch them. Wouldn’t have lasted 5 minutes back in England…

Being surprisingly organized for us, Lee had already contacted several VanAlert people in San Diego, and one had confirmed that we could stay on his drive the following night. Although we were pretty well stocked up from the resort, our batteries could definitely do with charging and we need to get a new tyre sorted and the wheel aligned before we hit Mexico. We had also booked Aimee an appointment at one of the local animal hospitals to get a health certificate in order to cross the border.

In the meantime, we had one more night to stop off in the wild. Lee had been trying to sell our story to local newspapers and radio stations to try and get us a bit more publicity, and hopefully cash, coming in. BBC West Midlands had responded and said they wanted to do a radio interview on their morning show, which for us about be coming up to midnight. This meant we needed to find a spot which had good phone signal when we parked up, something that is not normally top of our priority list.

We wound our way south, through the mountainous road of Cuyamaca Rancho State Parek heading for a spot on that promised peace and quiet. Whilst pulling over now and again to appreciate the views.

Diverting off from the main road onto a very narrow but still tarmacked road, we made it to the suggest spot. It was indeed a tucked away and quiet place, with what looked like some great walks in the vicinity. Unfortunately it had no phone signal, so we kept going. The road was steep and narrow and occasionally had some very large potholes. After another mile or so we reached a large lay by, and had not only space to park but decent reception too.

We still had time to kill as we had arrived just before sunset, but would need to be up till at least midnight for the phone call. Up here we had gone past around 4,000 feet again and the air was noticeably colder. Not going to be running around in my bikini up here. In the end, the radio station called us at around 8pm, and did a pre-recorded interview, which suited me fine.

Getting into van life means that by default you tend to shift your days more in line with daylight hours. We camp around a lot of people that seem to enjoy enthusiastically getting up between 5-6am, while chatting loudly about how great it is that early in the morning. While this is a bit too much for me, I do tend to get up around 8am, and probably even earlier if I’ve had a good night’s sleep. Compare this to England where I resentfully dragged myself out of bed at 7.30am for work each day, if you had told me I would voluntarily get up at this time I probably wouldn’t have believed you. This does mean now that we rarely go to bed past 11pm, even if we’re not out of bed that early, the chances are that Aimee is ripping open our pop top windows at 6am anyway which does not warrant lie ins. One final factor to getting up earlier comes into play when you are wild camping. Often we are in spots that we are technically not supposed to be in, and therefore it pays to be out and on your way earlier rather than later. This mountain top was a good find though, and we weren’t going to be bothered up here, despite there being more through traffic than I imagined.

A lovely, and peaceful night later, we awoke ready for the last leg of our American trip. In San Diego, we would cross into Mexico and spend around a month there. First things first, we decided that we had time for a short walk in the local woods before taking Aimee to the vets at 2pm. After finding our that all of the roads were closed, we abandoned the van outside a locked gate and made our way on foot.

The path was littered with gigantic pine cones, which was all a bit too tempting for me.

We followed the road down into Horse Haven campsite, that looked like it was shut down for the season. From here you can pick up a small trail that takes you to Little Laguna Lake. Aimee came along for the trip, which was nice. It was the first time she’d been on a walk with us for a while. It’s a nice easy trail which goes through some woodland until you reach another campsite where they were doing some building work.

After this you cross a meadow where I saw more woodpeckers in five minutes than I have seen in my entire life. The air around if alive with the birds and the noise of the hammering away at the trees. The evidence of this is clear to see in the bark too.

By this point Aimee was flagging a little and we alternated carrying here off and on. The little lake was in view now and covered in ducks. We took the path that would loop around the back of the lake and then re-join the initial route out.

We walked past some workers who were slightly confused to see a cat on a lead, and then back into the forest.

Returning back to the van I just had time to scoop up some pine cones that were definitely necessary. Having wedged them under the dashboard I validated the need for these new additions as they would stop Aimee climbing up into our wiring, a purely practical decision.

It was time to head to the vets and get Aimee her health check sorted, an hour or so later we were there and soon we had the necessary paperwork sorted. Aimee wasn’t impressed about having her temperature taken, and growled and howled at the nurse. Soon though, and $75 poorer, we were all cleared to go. We got a pizza from the shop next door and also discovered that the local off licence sold the nice peanut butter stout we had tried at new year in Death Valley.

Knowing we didn’t have to faff around with trying to park in another city (apparently overnight parking in Walmart is prohibited in a lot of south-west California, as we had learnt out the hard way) we headed down to the beach for a walk on the seafront for the rest of the afternoon.

We walked down and along the breakwater at mission beach.

I acquired some new succulents to replace the ones that Aimee had destroyed, and we settled down to watch the sunset on the beach. We tried to bring Aimee, but she is still terrified of the sea and we had to take her back to the van in the end. The two of us enjoyed another lovely west coast sunset, before heading to our van host for that night.

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