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(This arti­cle may or may not con­tain affil­i­ate links. What does that mean?)

What could pos­si­bly go wrong? Four boys jostling in a small space, no hus­bands to pawn them off on for a few sec­onds of peace? Well. This. This could go wrong.

having a hard time x10

hav­ing a hard time x10

And it did. Over and over again. But that’s not the whole sto­ry. The idea was born after my hus­band told me he was going away on a surf trip with our old­est son, Kyle.

The big boys bonding while surfing in Ixtapa

The big boys bonding

He chose to go the one week of sum­mer when there would be no camp. So, while they got to go do this:

view of their world for one week

view of their world for one week

I would get to do this

crazy kids

just anoth­er day in paradise

No. I refused to let it hap­pen. So, I asked the boys: what should we do?

adventurous boys

You talk­ing to ME!?

We had to do some­thing. I did­n’t think I’d sur­vive the week with­out hav­ing to becom­ing a zoo keep­er and find­ing a way to re-invent the hokey pokey. Plus, I want­ed to have some fun too. I’d been think­ing a lot late­ly about San Diego. It’s where I went to col­lege and a place I’ve always loved for it’s beau­ty and peo­ple’s friend­li­ness.. There’s a beach camp­ground in the north­ern part of the coun­ty called San Onofre State Beach. I used to tent camp there with my girl­friends, pre-mar­riage, and then our fam­i­ly start­ed RV camp­ing there post­par­tum. It’d been years and I want­ed to go back.

San Onofre surfing zinc

This was the last time father and son, Kyle surfed here

I booked our camp­site on a web­site called Reserve Amer­i­ca. Most camp­sites nation­wide can be booked there. Because there is such a high demand for space in some camp­grounds, you’d nor­mal­ly have to make a reser­va­tion 6 months in advance (the ear­li­est you can reserve a camp­site in Cal­i­for­nia) and it still was­n’t easy. You’d have to get on your com­put­er, your smart­phone and your friend’s com­put­er at 7 in the morn­ing and keep hit­ting refresh until you found a site you could call your own. It’s like win­ning a crazy radio sta­tion con­test. For some rea­son though, there were still plen­ty of spots avail­able when I looked at dates two weeks out, so hurray!

Tip #1: Stay at San Mateo Campgrounds 

Since we want­ed to be around the San Onofre State Beach area, there are a few camp­ground options but if you want to be as close as pos­si­ble to San Onofre State Beach, then you have to stay at the camp­ground there. How­ev­er, there are two dif­fer­ent areas to choose from, the ones at San Onofre State Beach and the ones at San Mateo Bluffs. Its tempt­ing to choose the San Onofre State Beach ones because those sites are clos­er to the ocean. I made this mis­take the first time I went. They’re also clos­er to the 5 free­way and the rail­road tracks. When you final­ly lie down after a long day at the beach, it feels like the cars are inch­es, instead of feet, away from rolling over your head. Instead of falling asleep to the ser­e­nade of ocean waves, you’re awake all night pray­ing not to get hit and pop­ping awake every 5 sec­onds after drift­ing off between pass­ing trucks. When the train rolls by, you get the extra added plea­sure of hav­ing the ground bounce beneath you. Earplugs might help but not by much. The San Mateo Bluffs, on the oth­er hand, are a 5 minute dri­ve away, still very convenient.…and qui­et. Just do a search for San Onofre SB and under “Nar­row Results” click on the drop down menu called “Loop” — then select a San Mateo Bluffs site from there.

Tip #2: Have an RV delivered to your site

We are bar­gain trav­el­ers and always try­ing to get the best deal. Nor­mal­ly, when we camp, my hus­band goes onto Craig’s List and finds a pri­vate par­ty from whom we rent an RV for a frac­tion of the cost of rent­ing from a deal­er. We dri­ve it our­selves. We stuff our SUV with every­thing we’ll need for the week or so that we’ll be using the RV and trans­fer every­thing when we arrive to the place it’s parked. It’s not hard when you have some­one help­ing but I did­n’t have the time or ener­gy to do all that on my own with two crazy kids. I had heard of com­pa­nies that do drop off rentals of trail­ers. It turns out, every camp­site has their own com­pa­nies they’re con­tract­ed to allow RV drop offs. I called to see which com­pa­nies were autho­rized to drop off at the camp­site we chose and I was told Luv 2 Camp was my tick­et. I was a lit­tle annoyed that there was­n’t a few to choose from (some camp­grounds have this option) but rent­ing from them end­ed up being about the same price as rent­ing a near­by RV , dri­ving it to the camp­ground and then pay­ing extra to have them stock it with all the essen­tials Luv 2 Camp would already have includ­ed. Remem­ber, we’re going for easy here. Besides, they were cool when I spoke with them and told them what we were doing and gave me a free night for an hon­est review. So with the foun­da­tion of our 3 night trip in place, all I need­ed was to recruit a trail blaz­ing friend with kids to be my part­ner in crime. I found my kin­dred spir­it in my friend, Lori, whose hus­band is NOT into camp­ing and wished her well as she packed week­end gear for two boys and a mommy.

lori packs surfboards and gear

Not afraid of heights

her car

her car

my car

my car

Tip #3: Use a list to remember what to bring

I’m pret­ty sure I have per­ma­nent mom­my brain, which is a form of tem­po­rary amne­sia that affects the hor­mon­al­ly-charged and sleep-deprived moms in ear­ly par­ent­hood. Only mine nev­er seemed to have gone away so lists are a must. There are sev­er­al that are help­ful for camp­ing but I used the one at GoRVing.com to help me remem­ber all those lit­tle items that non-reg­u­lar campers might for­get. Like fire­wood (they sell this at the camp­ground for $6 a bun­dle if you do for­get) or a first ‑aid kit. (We use col­loidal sil­ver first ‑aid gel and band-aids to heal most­ly every­thing.) You must bring a first-aid kit because some­one always gets hurt.

Ouchy

Ouchy

Not sure why with my mel­low kids.

Not afraid of heights either

Not afraid of heights either

Luck­i­ly, Lori’s boys were mel­low so they sort of bal­anced my jump­ing jelly­beans out.

Shaka bra

Sha­ka bra

Sort of.

Doing the dab

Doing the dab

Even with a list, we did­n’t make it to the camp­site until about 7pm ‑after all the last minute shopping…

he's only pretending to be helpful

he’s only pre­tend­ing to be helpful

…and fight­ing that went on through­out the day (every­thing takes MUCH longer when you must stop every 2 min­utes to break it up)… https://youtu.be/QBUSJ920yoo …every­one was super excit­ed to see the RV trail­er all set up and wait­ing for us!

inside of the RV

the calm before the storm

the welcome dab

the wel­come dab

We unloaded our stuff fast because the inmates were get­ting rest­less and hun­gry. I had brought salmon to grill on the camp­fire pit and Lori tossed togeth­er a sal­ad and pas­ta inside the trail­er. That’s the real­ly nice thing about hav­ing an RV. You get a smidgen of com­fort next to the rugged wild.

wild grill!

wild camp­fire!

How to build a campfire:

All you need to build a killer camp­fire is dry wood stacked in a tepee for­ma­tion, news­pa­pers beneath it and lighter flu­id sprayed over the whole set up. Per­fect every time.

the perfect fire for the perfect night

the per­fect fire for the per­fect night

One thing I did­n’t love is the rental com­pa­ny pro­vid­ed dish­es and cups that were all plas­tic. In real life, we try and stay away from plas­tic, espe­cial­ly with hot liq­uids, because of all the car­cino­genic and hor­mon­al­ly dis­rup­tive chem­i­cals that it leech­es. So we just put paper plates and cups on our shop­ping list for the next day (there’s a Ralph’s about a mile away). We would tem­porar­i­ly forego our com­mit­ment to the envi­ron­ment so we would­n’t have to do dish­es or poi­son our­selves with plas­tic. I think Moth­er Nature would under­stand. The next day found us up ear­ly and excit­ed for the beach after a deli­cious break­fast of eggs, hash browns and turkey bacon. Score anoth­er point for the stove­top inside the warm RV.

Morning Sunshine!

Morn­ing Sunshine!

We packed our beach gear and set out.

remember the days when you'd only bring a towel and baby oil to the beach?

remem­ber the days when you’d only bring a tow­el and baby oil to the beach?

One great thing about camp­ing at this camp­site is that your park­ing pass for the camp­ground is also good for the beach park­ing lot. Try to get to the beach on the ear­ly side, as the lot fills up fast and you have to wait in a line of cars until the cur­rent occu­pants call it a day.

Tip #4: Bring a surfboard or boogie board

One rea­son we love San Onofre State Beach is because it has the best and longest wave in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia. It’s the per­fect place to learn to surf or just ride the ocean for what seems like for­ev­er. We specif­i­cal­ly like a sec­tion of the beach called Old Man’s. Cost­co has rea­son­ably priced foam boards which are per­fect for begin­ners and you’ll find this beach sprin­kled with them.

Getting ready to shoot out the tube

Get­ting ready to shoot out the tube

The waves were per­fect the first day, small and long. All the boys went in and loved splash­ing around.

Grommit in training

Grom­mit in training

Getting creative with the boards

Inno­v­a­tive ways to use the boards

Nothing's perfect - there's always someone unhappy about something

Noth­ing’s per­fect — some­one’s always unhappy

Tip #5 Bring a wetsuit and booties

If you’re going to surf or boo­gie board, then you should prob­a­bly bring a wet­suit and a pair of booties to pro­tect your feet from the small rocks in the shal­low parts of the beach.

Ouch

Ouch

We for­got ours. The boys brought their spring suits, which are wet­suits with short sleeves and pants legs, but we all for­got booties. It kin­da sucked. The boys han­dled it ok but mom­my has sen­si­tive feet (or she’s become a wussy) and did­n’t love hav­ing to nav­i­gate through those slip­pery, pointy lit­tle rocks. You can rent a wet­suit for $15 a day through a surf shop like Rip Curl and even a surf­board which is what Lori did.

Gidget getting ready to charge it!

Gid­get get­ting ready to charge it!

We spent the day head­quar­tered at the beach.

Home Away from Home

Home Away from Home

Went into the water when we felt like it.

Camping San Onofre

Charg­ing it!

Even mom­my got into it!

See ya!

See ya!

Riding the tide!

Rid­ing the tide!

But it was Kaleb who real­ly impressed.

Waiting for it...paddle hard!

Wait­ing for it…paddle hard!

This is the boy who 2 years ago would­n’t even get in the water.

surfing Old Man's at San Onofre

My guy.….

And now he rush­es it!

surfing old man's at san onofre state beach

Carv­ing the waves

We had an epic day at the beach.….

Moms, boys and surfboards....living the dream!

Moms, boys and surfboards.…living the dream!

…but all good things must end. We weren’t sad though because we still had our camp­site to look for­ward to!

sticky wetsuits

Those wet­suits sure do stick!

I have said before that camp­ing peo­ple are noto­ri­ous­ly nice. The boys made friends with a man who was camp­ing with his fam­i­ly at the site next-door. At first I was­n’t so sure this was a good idea so I stayed around to watch. Then, I made sure they all knew they could­n’t go into any­one’s RV alone and after a while I real­ized that despite all the media por­tray­al to the oth­er­wise, there are still nice peo­ple in this world with no hid­den agen­da (I still kept an eye out though;)

Playing frisbee with their new friend

Play­ing fris­bee with their new friend

Almost!

Tip #6 Bring Bikes

It’s not just for boys. Kids love to explore and there isn’t a safer place to do it than around a camp­ground. It real­ly is like a lit­tle vil­lage where every­one looks out for each other.

cruising

cruis­ing

Plus the mom­mies final­ly got a break when they could relax…

appropriately named :)

appro­pri­ate­ly named 🙂

…and make some din­ner. This night’s menu was organ­ic hot­dogs, veg­gie burg­ers, sal­ad and s’mores!

a camping essential!

a camp­ing essential!

After all that fun, I was super hap­py to climb into my warm bed.

perks of an RV #246

perks of an RV #246

The next morn­ing, we were up bright and ear­ly, ready to head back to our favorite beach!

happy campers

hap­py campers

The boys put on their beach uniforms.

punk rock surfers

punk rock surfers

And we head­ed out for anoth­er day of adven­ture. Today the tide was super low and after bat­tling the rocks enough times (and gath­er­ing some toe injuries along the way), the boys decid­ed to explore the tide pools cre­at­ed by the reced­ing water.

exploring the finer things

explor­ing the fin­er things

who's that handsome guy?

who’s that hand­some guy?

After anoth­er long and fun day at the beach, we went back to our camp­site and loaded up on more s’mores, wine and choco­late (oh yeah, there was a din­ner in there too but this time we just got Mex­i­can because there was a dri­ve-through restau­rant next door to the surf shop where we had to return our wet­suits and surf­board — the mom­mies had earned a break!) The night flew by.….

moonlight camping

moon­light camping

Sad­ly, the next morn­ing we had to load up our gear to head back home.

packing it all back in

pack­ing it all back in

As we were get­ting ready to leave, the boys rode back to us, bike tires blaz­ing, to tell us they had dis­cov­ered a blind cat in a sew­er and could they have some food to feed it?

camping really does bring out the best in a city boy

camp­ing real­ly does bring out the best in a city boy

Suc­cess! The “blind” cat suc­cumbed to their entreaties to eat and he gob­bled up the remain­der of my lox and salmon jerky. I think this cat had a good day.

lucky cat

lucky cat

We were deter­mined, despite how tired we were, to squeeze out every pos­si­ble moment from the beach which had also become our friend’s favorite. Even though our camp­ing pass­es expired on this third day, they were still good for beach park­ing thus sav­ing us $15. We dis­cov­ered the waves were a bit big­ger on our final day.

big = real waves

big­ger = real waves

The boys went in but soon gave up.

what a drag....

what a drag.…

So they did oth­er things to get their ener­gy out before rid­ing in the car for two hours.

I think the surfers were taking bets....

I think the surfers were tak­ing bets.…

Tip #7: Bring a camera

It was time to go home and although the over­all beau­ty we all expe­ri­enced dur­ing the three days of camp­ing lies more in our hearts than in these words or pic­tures — it will be through these pic­tures that we will be able to relive our experiences.

a moment of true brotherhood...

a moment of true brotherhood…

playing pokemon with cards instead of screens

play­ing poke­mon with cards instead of screens

waking up with friends

wak­ing up with friends

overcoming fears

over­com­ing fears

We not only survived, we thrived!

We not only sur­vived, we thrived!