Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Slow Down and Smell the Roses

What will we do when we are ready to slow down a bit?

by Sharon and Bill Whitaker – Site 306, SKP# 91484

When my husband, Bill, and I retired in 2000 we had no idea that by 2003 we would  set out on the great adventure called fulltime Rving.  Even though we had been stationed in several different cities during his 22 years in the Navy, we longed to see the many parts of the country that had eluded us, so we bought a 21 ft Itasca on a Toyota chassis and set off. The beauty we saw and the terrific people we met soon convinced us that this is what we wanted to do with the rest of our lives. 

We rented our home and set off.  By 2006 we had sold the home and had traded motor homes twice, ending up with our current 39 ft. Fleetwood Discovery.  We had covered about half the US and several Canadian Provinces and felt we would never be ready to totally settle down and stay in one place year around again.

However, after 4 years on the road, we looked ahead to the day when we would want (or need) to slow down a bit and spend the winters in one place.  As Thousand Trails members we could spend most of the winter in one park – except that we had to leave the park for a week every three weeks and that was often inconvenient, especially when it interfered with one of Bill's ski trips.

Looking ahead we realized there were several options for the time when we no longer wanted to deal with this.  Whatever option we chose would have to meet certain criteria.  It would have to:
    • Be located in a warm climate
    • Be close enough to San Diego so Bill could go skiing with his ski buddies
    • Have larger than normal sites – we didn't want to share our neighbors TV
    • Have lots of activities to keep us busy
    • Allow us to do some landscaping
    • Have reasonable original cost and ongoing fees
    • Allow the residents a great deal of say in how the park was run
    • The most important of all – be made up of friendly people
We could rent a space in a nice park for the winter which would not lock us into the same place every year. However, in places we checked out, the sites were small, rents could go up at the whim of management, we could do no landscaping and residents had no say whatsoever in how the park was run.  Paying rent, to us, has always seemed like throwing money away.  We decided this was not our best option.

Purchasing land and installing RV hook ups was another option, but locations where it's allowed really didn't appeal to us.  There would be no maintenance fees, however we would have to pay property taxes and insurance.  As we traveled we would worry about things going wrong. We could personalize the property to our needs, however should we change our minds, we would have to sell the property ourselves, possibly loosing money.  This idea also went to the bottom of our list of options.

We could purchase a space in one of the parks such as Outdoor Resorts which would be expensive, both in the initial cost and monthly maintenance fees.  Though we could do some landscaping, the sites were small and again, should we change our minds, we would be responsible for selling the lot and improvements.  We would also be property owners, possibly endangering our South Dakota residency status.  On the positive side however, there were lots of activities and the residents seemed to be friendly. This remained an option.

Or we could buy into an SKP Co-Op.  Some wonderful Escapee friends took us to Jojoba Hills SKP Resort in Aguanga, California (17 miles east of I-15 from Temecula) .  The first thing we noticed was the size of the sites, they were huge ( 50' X 70') and each had an 8' X 12' storage shed!  We were immediately impressed with the facilities - there were tennis courts, pool and spas, a craft room, a sewing room, wood shop, metal shop, a great library, pool room  and that was just the start.   There were activities galore. Whatever your interest, you could just about count on there being a group devoted to that interest.  Being a gated community, we wouldn't worry so much about things going wrong while we travelled.  The maintenance fees appeared to be reasonable and the park was run by the membership through an elected Board of Directors.

The final item was the way ownership works.  Once we bought in, if we change our minds we could release our share of the co-op membership back to the resort and get our full membership investment back.  At the end of our residence, our only outlay would be our monthly maintenance fees and utilities. Then we met some of the friendly residents and that finalized our decision, Jojoba Hills it would be.

We put our name on the waiting list and two and a half years later got the all important phone call that a site was available.  We have never been welcomed as warmly as we were at Jojoba Hills.  Our neighbors all offered help and advice when we wanted to landscape our site and told us about the best businesses in the area.  We were welcomed into the existing activities with open arms and asked to serve on advisory committees or volunteer for one of the many groups that help maintain the resort. There was even a group that played our favorite RV game, Jokers and Pegs, weekly!

We found there was something here for everyone from playing pickleball to quilting and card playing.  There were pot lucks, ice cream socials, special interest groups that got together to share ideas and there were great holiday celebrations. 

I was thrilled to find that there was both a photography group and a writers group that meet frequently.  Bill immediately began to work with the landscape committee helping maintain the resorts plants and trees and he learned to play pickleball.  It didn't take long to realize that we would have to work awfully hard at being bored here!

Jojoba Hills was, and is, a community, much like small towns in the 50s were.  Neighbors look after each other and we don't worry about locking the car at night.  Should I forget and leave my detergent in the laundry room, I know it will be there when I go back.  There is a pride of ownership we hadn't seen in years.  For example, you never see a piece of paper on the ground, people always pick up after their dogs, and you often see walkers stopping to pull some weeds.

If you are ever in the Southern California area, stop by for a tour or stay a while.  We would love to be able to share this wonderful place with more Escapees.

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