Before embarking on our Odyssey we joined a few membership organizations for RVers, one of which is called “Escapees”. The Escapees RV Club supports mostly full-time RVers, providing services such as legislative advocacy, email forwarding, an internet forum, job board, a magazine, and directory of boondocking locations. Escapees also has been involved in starting two sets of RV parks: SKP (“Es-K-P”, get it?) co-op parks (of which there are 11), where you purchase a membership, and “Rainbow” parks (8), where you can purchase a deeded lot. When we went to the Escapees Happy Hour in Quartzsite, we met a couple who, after hearing of our plans to continue into California, said that we should try to stay at Jojoba Hills, which they called the “crown Jewel” of Escapees parks, located near the small town of Aguanga, CA.
Jojoba Hills RV Resort is a nonprofit co-op park, meaning you buy a membership (currently costing about $30k), which entitles you to park at one of the 283 full hookup sites at the resort and use its facilitites. After clearing the wait list (waiting times vary from several months to a few years, depending on turnover) you are offered the site that has become available. If you decide to pass on that site, you go to the end of the wait list and the next person moves up.
Once moved in you pay a monthly assessment (currently $263), which covers property tax, utilities (electric, water, septic, cable TV), an allocation for the capital fund and maintenance of the common areas. You get to keep and use any property that was left behind on your site by the previous member, for example a storage shed or permanent awning. It’s very much like a condo association, except you don’t have title to any property – just parking rights.
Members have first dibs to move to new sites when they become available. I expect there is an active grapevine that shares when the best sites might free up. When you decide it’s time to give up your membership at the resort and move down the road, your initial membership fee is refunded.
Because it was peak season we couldn’t stay at a site in the main part of the resort, so we had to park in the boondock area instead. But even this was a deal, at $5 a night, and for dry camping it wasn’t bad at all.
We signed up for a tour and were shown around by Gary, one of the founding members of Jojoba Hills, and his pride in what they have built here was self-evident. About 25 years ago the founders set up a corporation that bought the land for the resort, which significantly expanded upon what was previously a small RV park. At several stops along the route he pointed out things that were built by volunteer members, including the roads themselves. There are volunteer opportunities for everything that happens at the park, including everything from IT services to landscaping to an extensive calendar of social events. Volunteerism was evident immediately when we drove in, when we saw that members of the resort were busy painting the front gate.
Facilities include a community center with a large dining hall, a lap pool and hot tub, tennis/pickleball courts, weightlifting equipment, an extensive library, arts and crafts gear, metal and woodworking shops, a propane refill station, a computer station, mail room, kitchen, extensive gardens and more.
Certainly there was a strong sense of community (almost too strong, making for a bit of a small-town feeling), and an almost over-the-top friendliness (there seems to be a rule that you MUST give a friendly wave to everyone you see). You are strongly encouraged to wear a name badge, which made me feel a bit like I was at a convention, but there was no question that we were made to feel extremely welcome, and it was clear that just about everybody we met was an evangelist for the resort (“Jojoba’s Witnesses” one member knowingly joked to me).
We found out that there was a monthly dinner (free taco salad, BYOB) happening at the community center the night we arrived, and we were generously invited to come. We had a great time meeting some of the other members, and there was a pretty good dance band, too (although we left soon after the disco ball lit up).
We also learned that the next afternoon there was going to be a happy hour (it appears Escapees have lots of happy hours!) and potluck dinner put on by the Boomers, which is a subgroup of Escapees. (Ostensibly there are no rules or age limits to be a Boomer, but let’s just say that most of them are of a certain age). We had briefly met a few Boomers at Quartzsite back in January, and got reacquainted with them while meeting many new ones. The view from the “ranch house” of the valley below the resort at sunset was stunning; I felt like I was in one of those old Gallo wine commercials (except I was drinking craft beer).
While there are certainly fancier RV resorts out there, I’m not aware of any that are as good of a value. Just for comparison we checked out an RV resort located across the valley from Jojoba Hills; it was admittedly nicer, with a fancy front gate, extensive landscaping and a golf course, but lots started at $100k and went up from there, and I expect the assessments were much higher too. By forgoing the expense of profit that a corporation would require, and by relying on a strong spirit of volunteerism, Jojoba Hills keeps its costs down yet still provides a resort-quality experience.
Among the few downsides is a lack of resort-wide wireless internet (it’s only available for a fee at a few hotspots in the park), and even DSL isn’t possible, forcing you to rely on your own hotspot if you want broadband at your site. And many of the sites are occupied by what are known as “park trailers” with semi-permanent structures attached (distinct from “park models” we are told – important apparently to the county because trailers are mobile, while models are not, meaning this is not a mobile home park). Though well maintained, some of these were looking fairly sun-beaten, lending a somewhat faded feel to some of the sites. But overall the sites were immaculate and tastefully landscaped; it was clear people cared about the place and it had an energetic vibe.
We really liked Jojoba Hills, and we can see how it would be an ideal situation for full-time RVers who want a home base they can return to when they want to get off the road for a while. I wouldn’t personally have much use for the woodshop/metalshop or most of the social activities (although Maureen would love them). But it doesn’t make sense for us at this point; we already have a “stick house” that we’re paying for and have no intention of ever leaving.
During our stay we hopped over to the nearby town of Temecula, about 20 miles west, for groceries and to check out the farmer’s market. Temecula is a Native American word meaning “the sun shines through the mist”, and it is an apt name: the coastal marine layer from nearby San Diego often rises up to the tops of the nearby mountains during mornings, which the sun then burns through during the afternoon. We’re told it’s a Mediterranean climate, similar to Napa Valley (although during our stay it was unseasonably warm and sunny – more like summer in Napa than spring). And that plus the hilly landscape explains why there are many vineyards and wineries in the area. We drove through the area but didn’t sample the wine. Others told us that it’s really pretty good, but distribution appears to be limited, so I don’t think we’ll be able to find any when we get back home to Indiana.
The town of Temecula itself was once a stop on the Butterfield Stagecoach line, and it has a faux-quaint old town with wooden sidewalks, galleries and antique shops to play off this heritage. The surrounding city appears to be thriving, with manicured housing developments and a complete array of the usual retail options available. We really liked how Temecula felt and could see living there some day, if it weren’t so far away.
So that’s it for Jojoba Hills and Temecula, two places we didn’t know existed when we set out for the southwest, and are now on our list of favorites. Serendipity is the essence of Odysseeing!