Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Testing the waters

Last night found us at the El Cajon Elks Lodge (map), after a pleasant drive from the casino along Old US-80 interspersed with sections of I-8. We made a stop at the state rest area just a few miles west of the casino, intending to dump our tanks -- they were quite full, and we expected a week of boondocking ahead of us. Unfortunately, it being Sunday, the weekend play crowd heading back to the city all had the same idea, and there was a line for the dump five rigs deep, which we figure to be better than an hour wait, so we moved along.

We could easily have made the full distance to San Diego yesterday, but still needing to empty the tanks, as well as top up the fresh water, we opted instead to make an interim stop in El Cajon, which the Elks guide listed as having a dump station as well as 30-amp power and water hookups in addition to dry parking. The stop also gave us a chance to soak the batteries. We had a nice dinner at the Outback Steak House right across the street.

We are now in San Diego, at, ahem, an undisclosed location, not far from where TrawlerFest will begin Thursday morning. There are several rigs here, and, notwithstanding previous research to the contrary, it is past 10:30 by half an hour, and we are all still here. So far, no knock on the door, but I am dressed and ready to move just in case.

This is the rather anticlimactic culmination of weeks of ruminating about where we were going to park for TrawlerFest, and quite literally dozens of hours of research, emails, and phone calls to try to nail something down. By this morning, I was more or less a wreck with nothing, to date, panning out.

We got an early (for us) start from the Elks, since their rules required us to be finished dumping by 11am, and headed for Silver Strand State Beach, where we've stayed before. My plan was to pay for two nights there, take the scooters out, and spend this afternoon and tomorrow scoping out parking options up in the Shelter Island area. It's also a pleasant spot, and we were looking forward to two relaxing days parked on the beach. Alas, it was not to be.

Apparently, since our last visits there, some things have changed. For starters, we arrived at noon, but were sent away until 1pm -- no early check-ins allowed. Fine, we waited an hour in the day use parking area. Then when we rolled back up to the kiosk, and asked for two nights, we were told we could get one night only, unless we had a reservation. OK, can we get one night and then make a reservation for the next night? Of course not -- reservations can only be made 48 hours or more in advance.

Harumph. So, let's see -- for $25 per night we get a parking space (no utilities whatsoever) in what used to be a day-use lot, where the gates are locked in both directions (really) from 7pm to 8am (make sure you get back from dinner on time!), and I still might have to pack everything up and move the bus to a different spot tomorrow morning before I head out on my errands? No thanks. We decided that if we were just going to have to move every day anyway, we'd bring the bus up here for our scouting, and retreat to either the National City Wal-Mart or the Chula Vista Elks for the night. Wish I had asked about two nights at noon, when I first pulled up -- it would have saved us the hour of waiting around.

We drove back up through Coronado, across the bridge, and then along the waterfront and past the airport on Harbor Boulevard, keeping a sharp eye open for parking opportunities. For instance, we noticed a pay lot across from the cruise terminal advertising cruise parking, which, we reasoned, must include overnight parking for several days. We were amused to see Holland America's MS Ryndam in port -- we cruised on that very ship from this same pier on a Mexican Riviera itinerary several years ago.

We went directly to Shelter Island, and, after looping both ends of the island in the bus, took a waterfront space in the large boat ramp parking area in Shoreline Park, where it would be easy to unload and load the scooters. Signs posted throughout the park and all its parking areas confirmed what I already knew from research: the park closes at 10:30 and there is no parking after that hour, enforced by the Harbor Police (the park belongs to the Port District).

Last night I had carefully programmed all of the potential parking spots that I had worked out through Google Earth into my portable GPS, and we set out on the scooters to check them all out. Most were unusable either due to posted signage or other obvious indicators. We did speak with the security departments, with promising results, at two shopping centers with vacant stores and extra parking, and are waiting on call-backs tomorrow from them with a yea or nay. Those are about a ten or twelve minute ride from here, which would work fine.

We also stopped at the closest RV park -- more like a trailer court -- which is a mere seven miles away. That worked out to 22 minutes, however, in normal traffic; not impossible, but it would mean a good hour out of each day's schedule to walk the dog, and coming back to the bus casually, say, between the afternoon seminars and dinner, would be out of the question.

As we were loading the scooters back up, some of the local color wandered by to ask about the bus, and we inquired about parking. They reported that, while the island's parking lots were off limits, city streets were "fair game" -- subject to the city's 72-hour parking limit. A good look at several rigs parked on-street suggested they were not moving nightly -- some were even using boards for leveling (a tactic which we feel removes a good deal of the credibility from the "just parking" argument, as I have ranted here before).

Now, technically, the San Diego Municipal Code prohibits "any person to use a vehicle while it is parked or standing on any street as either temporary or permanent living quarters, abode, or place of habitation either overnight or day by day." However, it appears that this provision is either never enforced, or enforced only very selectively. For example, this particular provision is absent from the city's own official "parking rules" web page, even though most of the other paragraphs from the code appear there verbatim. Everyone we've talked to has said, essentially, that you can park on the street for up to 72 hours. That there might be enforcement in some neighborhoods on a "complaint basis" was the best we could nail down.

With this firmly in mind, and after having done all we could do for the day in scoping out other options, we opted to give it a try. Call it a litmus test; if we spend an undisturbed night here, we will leave tomorrow and return late Wednesday, parking as close to the TrawlerFest host property as we can get. That should cover us for the whole event, through Saturday evening, within the 72-hour limitation, and we can head elsewhere Saturday night.

The backup plan is to follow up with the two shopping centers, followed by some other streets that are in even less conspicuous neighborhoods, with a final fall-back of the 22-minute ride to the trailer park. But we are both much more upbeat about having some parking options for the show.


  1. re: A good look at several rigs parked on-street suggested they were not moving nightly -- some were even using boards for leveling (a tactic which we feel removes a good deal of the credibility from the "just parking" argument, as I have ranted here before).

    That's because most people don't understand about RV refrigerators liking to be level. I use boards any time I'm parked on a slope for longer than I want to cut off the fridge. In the summer, that's any time.

  2. @Jane: Actually, I understand very well how absorption refrigerators work -- I had a Fleetwood with one before Odyssey, and even repaired it several times.

    The road here is not "sloped." The rigs that are not using blocks or levelers are leaning perhaps a few degrees to the right due merely to the crown of the road. That's not enough to impact refrigerator operation -- my Fleetwood had no levelers and I parked on crowned roads all the time.

    Remember, this is not a campground we're talking about -- it's a public street (in front of a luxury hotel). And while I am the last person to suggest any rig should be the target of anti-RV discrimination, some of these rigs are dilapidated to the point of barely roadworthy; the ones sitting up on blocks look like they've "moved in" to the neighborhood.

    As I have written before, this is exactly the sort of behavior that gets RVs banned from communities. San Diego has been discussing such a ban since 2004. So far, it keeps dying in committee, but behavior like this bolsters the case of the opponents. I'm loathe to even post photos here on the blog, for fear that they will become supporting documentation for the opposition.



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