Wow! What a beautiful drive and a beautiful site! Rancho Oso is located about 30 min off of highway 101 in the foothills of Santa Barbara next to the Los Padres National Forest.
We had heard that we should avoid arriving after dark because the entrance road is narrow, windy, and steep with a lot of hairpin turns. Once you exit the highway, you climb through the mountains for a bit, make a hairpin turn and begin descending into a valley before making another turn to alternately climb and descend through a narrow, windy road into the campsite.
In true newbie fashion … yes, it’s becoming a habit… we arrived to the site after dark. We now think that maybe it was better we did drive at night as we couldn’t see the steep cliffs off to the side of the road and there was no traffic coming out of the camp. Some spots on the road are not wide enough for two vehicles to pass each other so you have to pull over when you can to let other rigs inch past you.
We were greeted at the entrance by Ranger Rich who ended up being a super friendly and interesting guy. He made recommendations about where to pull over to detach our tow while looking for a site. We had also heard that phone and internet connections were pretty bad here so he suggested some of the better sites to park to take advantage of the cell booster located in the lodge.
The full hookup sites consisted of six tiered rows, ten sites per row. The highest row would no doubt have magnificent views, but the sites were a little shorter and not ideal for a 40 foot coach. We settled on site #9 in the lowest row which was long enough for our rig, as close to the clubhouse as you could get, and protected from wind on one side with a vacant cabin.
This campground was very different from Wilderness Lakes. The suburban setting of Wilderness Lakes was close to everything we needed at that time, while Rancho Oso felt like a true remote getaway. It was much quieter and offered more privacy. The views were absolutely breathtaking! The landscape on one side is desert rock, while the other side is green and lush. There were so many trails to explore and the steep hills made for some challenging walks. We loved the large old trees around the campground. They were beautiful in their winter bareness and must be even more amazing in spring and summer.
The history of Rancho Oso dates back 3000+ years to when it was inhabited by the Chumash Native American tribe. Some of the structures on site were built in the late 1800s and early 1900s. We particularly enjoyed the Stone Lodge family clubhouse which hosted celebrities such as silent film stars Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton back in the day. We often ended our daily walks here with some ping pong action. For more history on Rancho Oso, click here: www.ranchooso.net/rohistory.php.
We continue to be amazed by the friendly and interesting people we meet on this journey. Everyone has a different background, but we all share the common desire for the freedom and adventure that RV living permits. At one of the spaghetti dinners, we met a nice couple from Oregon, Pam and Lou. Pam and Jon enjoyed chatting about their long IT careers. Pam has since left the IT world to follow her passion of writing screen plays and even had a play produced. It’s fun to meet other people who are following their passions. So many people have offered us helpful information on our journey thus far, so it was nice when Jon could give back and help Pam with a cell booster setup for her rig. Pam and Lou dropped off a really nice thank you card for us the day they left to go back home.
We got lucky again with our great neighbors, Garrett, Marian and Bella from Sedona, AZ. Jon first met them at the clubhouse while watching his Broncos play in the AFC Championship game. We enjoyed good conversation with Garrett and Marian, and their sweet dog Bella always greeted us with tail wags while diligently guarding our rig. If you are ever in Sedona, look them up to attend one of their retreats and/or workshops at www.westernspiritranch.com .
The staff at Rancho Oso did a great job organizing activities to bring people together with spaghetti dinner nights, weekend breakfasts, a classic rock jam session with Ranger Rich and friends, and a Super Bowl party (GO BRONCOS – Super Bowl 50 Champs!). It is truly refreshing to see people relaxed and just enjoying life!
Another perk of Rancho Oso is its close proximity to neighboring towns. We took day trips to Santa Barbara, Ventura, Rincon Beach and Solvang. We really liked Santa Barbara with all of the beauty of the So Cal beaches, but with a more laid back feel and without the hustle and bustle of other ocean cities. We enjoyed the downtown area, pier and gorgeous sunsets.
Travel to Ventura is enjoyable with a scenic drive on Highway 101 along the Pacific Ocean. We then detoured onto the Pacific Coast Highway to check out Rincon Beach which we had heard from other RVers is a great place for oceanfront camping. It was so nice that we considered leaving Rancho Oso a few days early to camp here, but ultimately decided that we would do it when we return to California and head back up the coast later this spring.
Solvang, which is known as the Danish capital of America, has a lovely downtown with buildings based on Danish architecture complete with windmills! It was fun to walk around and take in the sights. On our way out of Solvang, we got in a car accident when the driver didn’t see us and nearly broadsided us. Luckily Jon was able to accelerate and swerve to avoid a major accident. It could have been a lot worse and we are both grateful that neither one of us was hurt. The damage to our car still ended up taking over two weeks to repair and we didn’t pick up our car until the afternoon we left town. Our rental was a fun little Dodge Charger SXT which made our drives a little more interesting.
While at Rancho Oso, we continued knocking out a few more projects. In our quest to turn the RV into a beach house on wheels, we installed bead board in one of the slides and are working on plans to add a bench for additional seating and much needed indoor storage. As with any home, we are finding that our RV requires regular maintenance and repairs and is full of unending projects. We are trying to balance the necessary projects with the fun ones.
Our next stop will be a three day stint in Palm Springs as we make our way back to the Phoenix area. We will be staying at the Monte Vista RV Resort in Mesa through March 19. During our time in Arizona we will meet with our accountant to finish taxes, take care of doctor appointments, off load unnecessary items from our RV to storage, pull our desk/dinette from storage to install back in the RV, and tie up any other loose ends. We hope to have an open house before we head back out for our extended journey and will keep you posted once we decide on a date. We’ll have more information about our future travel plans in upcoming posts!