The trip finale! I can’t believe this amazing adventure has come to an end. After 3 months on the road, Southern California provided the perfect send-off. We spent our time at San Onofre and in Encinitas catching up with friends and getting some good walks in before heading to Los Angeles to catch our flight to Australia.
First stop, San Onofre State Beach south of San Clemente. The ‘Trails’ part of San Onofre is a 6-mile stretch of coast sandwiched between an inactive nuclear plant and an active US Marine Base. You can see reeallllly expensive military helicopters circling overhead while strolling on the beach, they have it all in California. I thought it was a little bit strange, but it was definitely the highlight of California for Atlas. It is the perfect doggy beach, miles and miles of off-leash ball-chasing along uncrowded white sandy beaches. Happy Atlas.
At some point each day we hit the limit of the public beach and were confronted with a “Danger Keep Out” sign posted by the US Military. The thing is, no one seemed to pay any attention to it. The first day I stood at it for a minute or two contemplating what to do; on the one hand, I had Operation Exhaust Atlas to deliver on, and the other I have the US Marines telling me to keep out. Hmmmm…
The forbidden beach was perfect for walking and throwing Atlas his ball and what do you know, it wasn’t crowded! Yep, I went for it. Operation Atlas tipped the scales, my boy has a very long plane ride in a few days and he needs to be exhausted when he gets on that plane. I’m sure the US Military will be understanding given our circumstances. Surely?
Now I will say that the other trespassers seem to prefer their beach activities be done in the buff. Yep, Millie got to see her first nude sea fishing, nude yoga, nude sleeping and one awkward case of nude man smiling at us.
We got to catch-up with my friend and former colleague from Snowbird, Nima, while we were there too. Nima was staying with family and friends up the coast about 10 miles and rode down to visit us at the Trails on his e-bike. Nima and I had had lunch in the RV before my big Snowbird send-off party back in September. It’s so fun to think of all of the amazing places Atlas, Millie and I have visited since seeing him last! It was great catching-up on all of the Snowbird news. Thanks for visiting Nima!
We had a bit of a crazy afternoon while we were there though. Millie broke out in a skin rash on her face, arms, legs and belly. Most of the hikes we’ve done the past couple of weeks in Central California have had Poison Oak warnings posted and I feared the worst, Atlas must have got some oil on his coat and transferred it to something Millie had been touching. Oh no!!!
I stripped the whole RV down and put all of us through a good scrub down and shower…. it’s amazing those words fit into just one sentence because it was a monster work effort and left Atlas and Millie both out for a nap. Unfortunately our efforts were in vain, an ER doctor took one quick look at Millie and told me it was definitely an ingested allergen and not topical. Argh! Happily we got her rash cleared up and she’s doing just fine.
San Onofre was fantastic but our next stop I have been looking forward to for months, Encinitas! Ahhhhh Encinitas. I’ve spent a lot of time here over the years and have some close friends I’ve been really looking forward to seeing.
I first visited this wonderful town in about 2009 when I was staying in nearby Carlsbad for a technology conference. I arrived a few days early to explore the coast of North San Diego County and when I got to Encinitas, Highway 1 was closed for the town’s street market. I decided to get out and have a look around and I’m so glad I did because I fell in love with the beach community right then and there.
Encinitas is where I would live if I moved to California. It has it all: gorgeous beaches, lots of surf, a laid-back culture and a whole bunch of great shops, restaurants and bars. It’s the kind of place where no matter the day, it feels like the weekend.
I came back to the same technology conference each year for about 6 years but that wasn’t enough Encinitas for me, so I made some trips down in between too. I’d get off the plane from Utah and trade my down jacket and snow boots for a tank top and flip flops then spend a few very relaxing days surfing and walking around town. It was always such a delicious interlude from the insanity of managing a ski resort during the winter season.
I got really lucky and got in on someone’s cancelation at the San Elijo State Beach campground. The campground sits on the bluff between Highway 1 and the ocean and is a short walk into town. I’ve walked by it hundreds of times over the years and so I was really excited to get to camp here.
My favorite part of visiting Encinitas wasn’t the surfing or long walks in the sunshine though… it was catching up with my now good friends, Dan and Paul and their families. Dan and Paul founded and developed the technology company that ran our resort’s retail system. Over the years, both came to be very dear friends and we’d catch up socially when I visited. We did some fun ski trips over the years at Snowbird and Jackson Hole too.
Paul and Alison stopped by the campground and it was so so so good to see them and introduce them to Millie and Atlas. Ahhhh. We went for a walk on the beach to catch the sunset and a sea fog moved in while we were there, it was pretty surreal; one minute we’re looking out at the ocean and sunset with perfect visibility and the next it was hard to see more than 30 feet away. Paul grabbed us some fish & chips and we had a nice long chat over dinner in the RV. Was great to see you both, Paul and Al, I’m going to miss our chats!
Dan and Linda had us over for Sunday brunch and we had a lot of fun catching up especially because their son, Jake, and daughter-in-law, Dana, came over too and brought their gorgeous baby-boy, James. What a hottie! Millie is going to have a big crush on him one day for sure. We had fun catching up. I’m going to miss you guys!!!
After a wonderful visit in Encinitas we turned the RV north for the first time in over a month and headed back up the coast to Los Angeles. This incredible adventure has come to an end, it’s time for us to turn in the keys and jump on the big plane to Australia.
I thought back at all of the places we’ve visited in the past 3 months: September in Colorado witnessing the fall beauty in the high mountains, October in Arizona and Utah gasping at the immense and beautiful desert landscapes and November was a relaxing month along the rugged and very beautiful California coast. What a trip it’s been!
I could stay on the road another few months, it really has been a very rewarding journey. I love love love that I got the chance to show Millie and Atlas so many of the West’s great landscapes and that we’ve had this quality time together.
RV life with a baby and a dog has been fantastic. In some ways it’s actually easier than living at a fixed address because the ordeal of getting out of the house and going somewhere with a baby doesn’t really exist, you open the door and you ARE somewhere. Millie has been a total champ giving me 2-3 hours everyday, like clockwork, to get my driving done, thanks Millie! I’m not going to miss emptying the tanks though and I am looking forward to bathing in a real shower again.
For our last night we stayed at Dockweiler Beach RV Park. Did you know there’s an RV Park right under the flightpath for LAX? Every 2 minutes a massive jet roars overhead, yep, every 2 minutes, all day and night. Not really a location that inspires relaxation, or you know, sleep, but I wanted to be close to the airport for our flight the next night.
I spent the last 24 hours packing up and cleaning out the RV, anything really to take my mind off having to hand Atlas over to the doggy courier service when they came for him. I think I’ve done a good job with Operation Exhaust Atlas, but just to finish him off I took him out twice to throw him his tennis ball.
When the doggy courier came, he was ready to have a good long sleep, success! I, on the other hand, was a mess… I cried so hard when I had to hand him over. Definitely worried how my boy is going to do and am going to miss him terribly. He has a flight to Singapore, comfort break there, flight to Melbourne, 10-day quarantine there, flight to Brisbane then a courier ride down to near Byron Bay where I’ll be anxiously awaiting his arrival. Poor Atlas!
I had a ton of stuff to get over to the dumpster and was running out of time so I called an Uber for some lunch and then tipped the guy $50 to do a dumpster run with his car for me, ha. Gotta be creative!
After a long day of packing and cleaning it was finally time for Millie and I to head to LAX. Brett from the RV rental company met me at the entrance to the RV Park and then dropped us off at the airport. Now that’s service!
The flight back to Australia went very well. I had a bunch of Delta points to burn and so I got a Delta One ticket with Millie as an infant-in-arms. I was a bit concerned at how we’d do on a 15 hour flight but it really couldn’t have gone better. The suite in front of us wasn’t occupied and the very nice hostess crew offered to make up the bed for Millie to sleep in!!! Wow. That’s right, my girl got her very own Delta One suite for her first airplane experience. Millie, if you’re reading this years from now, it’s probably the one and only time, so I hope you enjoyed it!
As if that wasn’t amazing enough, the staff offered to watch over her if there was turbulence so I could get some sleep too. Wow wow wow, thanks Delta! Millie slept almost the whole flight, waking a couple of hours out from Sydney. She didn’t cry once and I was one happy Mama.
I caught my first glimpse of the Australian mainland and smiled. How strange to be coming home, to Australia, after living abroad my whole adult life. I had a fantastic life in Utah with a successful career, good friends and plenty of outdoor adventures. I have no idea what lies ahead for us in Australia but I’m excited to find out.
Until the next adventure.
-Elevated, over and out.