Friday, April 27, 2007

On the Beach at San Onofre

We're set up on Camp Pendleton's San Onofre Beach Club, a nice RV park and recreation area right on the ocean. Ah, Southern California - sunshine, traffic, beaches, traffic, upscale shopping, and of course, traffic. Everything here looks like Disneyland; trimmed lawns, flowers, palm trees - even the Wal-Mart is upscale. I was disappointed; however, that it didn't have valet parking. Our site is large, separated on both sides by bushes, and is less than 100 yards from the ocean. The view from the windshield is pretty awesome, and the sound of the surf pounding the sand is a great way to begin a night's sleep - or the afternoon nap. It's been cooler than we thought it would be; the days have been sunny but only in the mid to high 60s, and the nights are cool and in the 50s. Camp Pendleton, a Marine base, is huge; over 125,000 acres of prime real estate right along the coast, between San Clemente and Oceanside. We're on the northern edge, which has a small commissary, exchange, and gas station ($3.31/gal today). A drive of 27 miles through the base gets you to the southern end of the base with the major services; once again the size is stunning - from the "big" commissary to the BX is 11 miles. We're treated to the sounds of freedom daily as artillery booms in the distance, helicopters fly overhead, and amphibious assault ships maneuver in the distance. The only drawback to the park is the traffic and noise; lots of beach parties and loud music as the young Marines enjoy the weekend. The beach is one of the most popular surfing areas around, and there's a constant stream of wetsuit-clad surfers going back and forth on their way to the prime surfing spots. We've enjoyed watching dolphins swim just off the beach, and Brandt's Cormorant and Brown Pelican are numerous. The other drawback of the area is the misery of trying to get anywhere on the constantly crowded highways. We're right off of I-5 ("the five" as it's referred to by locals), and it's as bad as the Washington Beltway, always crowded, no matter what time of day. Last week we visited the nearest harbor, Dana Point, a beautiful area of shops and restaurants. There, we took a "whale watching" cruise for two hours out into the ocean. We had a great time; right after leaving the harbor we spotted a Gray Whale and calf heading north for the summer and followed them for about an hour. The weather was perfect and the sea calm; it was a great trip and as a bonus we managed to stumble into "two for one" day, so the experience only cost us $25.00. If you're in the area, I'd recommend the Dana Wharf whale watching tour; cheap entertainment for this area. We've been busy getting ready for our daughter Kim's wedding, so we haven't had as much time to explore the area as we'd like, but we were able to spend some time with our good friends Mike and Sherry Rager, who we got to know when we were stationed at Castle AFB in Merced back in the early 90's. Mike's in charge of the air traffic control operation here on the base and Sherry keeps busy as a Financial Advisor; they're great folks and we enjoyed visiting their home in Temecula (a beautiful town). I'll close with a sign just past the entry gate where Marines coming back from Iraq pass; it says "Lance Corporal Ryan Baker, My Husband, Her Daddy, Our Hero!" Welcome back, Corporal Baker.......! We'll be busy each day now getting ready for next week's big event - come back and visit & we'll tell you the news!

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