Review: Malibu RV Park is AWESOME

Leslie says: I just returned to Seattle after a magical weekend in Southern California, where I visited our daughter. She was a great sport when I suggested spending a night out on the coast in a van. The experience was life-affirming.

Malibu California RV
The view from our campsite at Malibu RV Park was stunning.

Stunning Beauty

There’s a good reason the wealthy have gobbled up the available land and built homes on the waterfront in this part of the world. It’s absolutely gorgeous. Long stretches of golden sand punctuated by dramatic rock formations. Sure, the weekend traffic can be a drag on the PCH (Pacific Coast Highway), but the scenery’s a calming distraction. Smack in the middle of all this beauty sits Malibu RV Park, high on a hill, with views that cannot truly be described in words. Well, except maybe awwwwwesome.


Retro Cool

This rambling park has been around for 50 years, owned by the same family, and the attention to detail shows great care. When I called to make a reservation, a live person answered, and was so friendly and helpful. Same treatment when we checked in at the adorable office/corner store. The place is laid out on a series of terraces, with tent camping available up top. Spaces are tight, but, fortunately for us, we parked next to Gordon, a friendly guy from Red Deer, Alberta. His rig, the Hymer Aktiv, was new to me, and after a tour, I was really impressed. It’s going on the wish list.


Ocean Viewing

I paid $50 for a site with a sweeping vista of the Pacific. (The price goes up after Memorial Day.) It was so worth it. We sat on the bluff and watched the sky turn pink at sunset. We spotted a pod of dolphins and pelicans drifted by in the sky. The WiFi didn’t really work, but that gave us the opportunity to catch up, and dig deep into important discussions, without those darned devices in hand. In the morning, an ultralight aircraft flew by as we ate breakfast. So entertaining.

Malibu Seafood
This trail leads to the incredible Malibu Seafood, a casual fish shack and pristine market.

Highly Recommended

My only regret about the Malibu RV Park is that we weren’t able to stay longer. We absolutely loved exploring the nearby trails, including one that led to the outstanding Old School Malibu Seafood. (Don’t miss the butter-poached mussels, and the fish-and-chips.) The bathrooms were spotless, and warm, there’s a laundry on site. The office is open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., and offers $1 cup of coffee. Talk about a throwback! I’m definitely going to stay here again… when Our Grand Tour kicks off its cross-country adventure later this summer. Reservations are essential.



San Diego’s Beaches are Great Any Time of Year

With spring here,  it’s nice to think back on a trip we did last winter to San Diego.

Even in December, San Diego County’s beaches were pleasant and inviting. We spent three days exploring, and John’s story just appeared in The Seattle Times.

Read about it here:

Ocean Beach in the heart of San Diego.
Sunset Cliffs, a great area to get a view.
The recreation path at Mission Beach.
The downtown passenger ferry to Coronado.
The historic Hotel Del Coronado.


Black’s Beach below Torrey Pines.
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Walking the nearly deserted Black’s Beach.
The beach at La Jolla.
A surfer at San Onofre.


Our Grand Tour Started in the 1980s

Colorado, 1983.

She says: It’s both thrilling and a little painful to look back on the decades Johnny and I have been together, adventuring. Painful because — damn — it goes way too fast. Cliche as hell, but true.

Celebrating Some Really Big Numbers

Next month, we’ll celebrate our 32nd wedding anniversary, and we were coupled five years before that. So, basically we’ve been together a looooooonnnnng time. Sometimes, the journey has been bumpy, but never boring.

Confessions of a Couch Potato

My life would be completely different had I not hooked up with Mr. Nelson, and I’m forever grateful he pushed me out of my super chill habits (OK, I’m lazy) onto steep hiking trails, biking paths, ski slopes around the world — even when I crashed on double diamond runs I had no business attempting. When we were young and broke, we camped for fun, often “pitching out” in random spots around Colorado. In our 20s, we quit our jobs at the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel and spent four months traveling on the cheap in Europe (photo below is from Paris, circa 1984). There have been tons of trips since and still have a long list of places we long to visit. Iceland, we’re coming for you, soon, we hope!!

Paris, 1984.

Dream About to Get Realized

I still cannot quite believe that we’re on the same page — mostly — about our plan to hit the road, two Boomers on a grand tour, living the Van Life. In search for who knows what? TBD, y’all. There are still a lot of details that need to fall into the place, but I feel so fortunate to have my best friend/life partner on board for this upcoming wild ride. Got suggestions on where we should roll? Leave ’em in the comments, pretty please.

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Hidden Valley, Joshua Tree, 2017.


Cool Winter Destination: Warming Up in Desert Hot Springs

She says: Johnny is a pretty good sport about letting me indulge in my hedonistic habits. I didn’t have to try too hard to talk him into making a stop in Desert Hot Springs after a chilly night camping in Joshua Tree National Park.

OGT hot springs main pool
The grounds are really pretty at Sam’s. Photo by Leslie Kelly

Hot bed for hot springs

There are more than 30 spas in this teeny town north of Palm Springs, including one started by famous gangster, Al Capone. After talking with an extremely helpful person at the Palm Springs Visitors Center, I zeroed in on what I think is the very best hot spring spa… in an RV park! Sam’s Family Spa Hot Water Resort is the only place in the area that doesn’t add chlorine to its pools, which are heated by three underground wells. (It’s grandfathered in before the health department required the addition of the chemical.) The pools at Sam’s are drained daily, so they’re crystal clear and don’t have that funky smell you can sometimes run into at hot springs.

The vibe is totally Old School, with bare-bones dressing rooms and you’ll need to BYOT (bring your own towels). But that’s OK because it’s pretty cheap. Admission on weekdays is just $14, or deeply discounted if you’re staying in the motel or at the RV park.

OGT hot springs cold plunge
Be brave and take hit the cold plunge! Photo by Leslie Kelly

Timing Was Just Right

On a weekday morning in December, we practically had the whole place to ourselves and the soak did the trick of warming us right up. I love the time-honored tradition of hopping back and forth between the hot pools and the cold plunge. I also really enjoyed the friendly energy of Sam’s. There was a group of about 10 friends sitting in a nearby pool catching up on news and trading gossip. So very Euro!

I’ve been to a whole lot of hot springs over the years and Sam’s is right up there with Nakusp in British Columbia, and Glenwood Springs in Colorado. I’d definitely recommend a visit if you’re in the area for a trip to Joshua Tree National Park, or to unwind after an action-packed weekend at Coachella in April.

OTG sams family spa
Photo via Sam’s Family Spa on Facebook