Battle of the Oregon seaside RV resorts: Winchester Bay vs Sea and Sand

Bit of a late entry here, but in light of our battle of the contractors post, I thought we would go to an “all ‘versus,’ all the time” format here at Shell On Wheels.  So submitted for your consideration is this combined review of Winchester Bay RV Resort “versus” Sea and Sand RV Park, both of which we enjoyed during our trip up the Oregon coast.  It’s not a particularly fair comparison as these two seaside RV resorts are not serving exactly the same market, but let’s not quibble over such details in pursuit of a manufactured competition post.

Rather than take a chance on the “first come, first serve” weekend availability at one of the great (and popular) coastal Oregon State Parks, we followed the advice of our short term neighbor and one of the camp hosts at Cape Blanco State Park and instead made reservations at Winchester Bay RV Resort.  He and his wife described Winchester as their “gold standard” for how a private RV park should be run. Winchester  Bay RV Resort: The resort is located at the Salmon Harbor Marina in, you guessed it, Winchester Bay. As you drive in there are a couple of other RV park options within the marina area, including a county park and spots associated with the marina itself, but Winchester Bay Resort is by far the highest end of those options, as well as the priciest at $42 per night for our bay front view (a few dollars cheaper for an interior site.)  The area is in a hugely popular ATV recreation area, which we found to be a negative aspect since we had to dodge the large numbers of sand bikes and buggies while out for a walk.

The resort is very well managed, with beautiful manicured spots in a terraced pattern allowing great views of the harbor.  All sites are full hook up including cable, wi-fi, a fire ring and picnic table. The tiny town of Winchester Bay includes several restaurants and a couple of shops all within easy walking distance of the RV resort.  The bath and shower rooms were some of the cleanest I have ever seen in an RV park.  We were also fortunate enough to be there on movie night when management provides a free viewing of a recent blockbuster, popcorn included.  The wi-fi was extremely shaky, generally unusable except during odd early morning or late night hours.  Some might call that “RV Park Standard” but I think we need to start holding places accountable for their bad wi-fi when the advertise supposedly free internet access as a benefit. All in all, we liked the place, but it is not our style of RV park since we much prefer a greater view of nature or at least some sort of interesting quirkiness.DSC_0154 Sea and Sand RV Park:  Just under a hundred miles up the coast, this RV park is truly ocean front, with a portion of the sites situated along three terraced levels directly overlooking the Pacific.  We weren’t able to secure one of those spots given our short notice reservations, so we had to actually walk nearly 30 feet to see the ocean as we ambled down the short path to the beautiful seven mile beach. Management was quite nice and helpful getting us situated, and like Winchester Bay the sites are full hook up with cable and wi-fi. The difference is that Sea and Sand’s wi-fi actually worked just fine even during peak hours.  They manage it through Tengonet, which has not always been the most successful or accessible for us, but in this case it worked as advertised.

The rate was also comparable to Winchester: we paid $43 for our one night stay, reflecting the spring season, hilltop area, and Good Sam rate.  It would have been a couple more bucks for the actual ocean view sites, a bit less for the further back forest sites, and we slid under the peak summer season rate window by a couple of weeks.  Bottom line is that we would not only come again, but really look forward to doing so for a longer stay if we can get back here to the Oregon coast some time in the future.

By category:

  • Price: Roughly equal
  • View: Sea & Sand all the way
  • Amenities: A tough call, but Winchester Bay’s common room with the free movie night takes it
  • WiFi: Sea & Sand, no contest
  • Nearby things to do: Winchester Bay due to the restaurants within walking distance, though only by a nose since the the beach at Sea & Sand was excellent

Our first stowaway

Two days ago, while one of the Cape Disappointment State Park employees was driving us to our volunteer duties at the North Head Lighthouse, we had an interesting conversation about various animal intrusions that campers had experienced in the area.  Primed by this discussion, Rosemarie woke me with some degree of frantic concern early yesterday morning to investigate rather loud and aggressive scratching noises coming from what sounded like the storage area directly under our bathroom.  Even as we walked around the bus, even flushing the toilet, whatever was under their continued to sporadically claw or gnaw at something quite solid.  The more we listened the larger the thing grew in our imaginations, or the worse the location seemed; we even began to suspect that something was trapped in our sewage holding tank and trying to claw its way out!

I went outside armed with a broom, jerking open the storage compartment under suspicion and immediately flailing about inside with the broom while making helpful Hiyaaaa! sounds.  I saw nothing, even after carefully moving most of the items out of this particular storage.  I backed up to think through my next move, when suddenly a small Douglas squirrel dropped down onto the rear tire just behind the storage compartment I was investigating.  He looked at me with some indignation before fleeing.

Upon further investigation I realized that my simplification and renovation of the strange plumbing arrangement installed by the previous owner had opened up a squirrel sized hole in the wheel well, were the old shower drain used to come down.  This rodent had found it a nice and cozy place to nest and had been busy expanding his new home by gnawing and scratching away at the flexible supporting mat under the fiberglass shower pan.  There was no use sleeping after this adventure, so with much grumbling I made coffee and filled in the hole as best I could with expanding Great Stuff foam.  Let the word go out far and wide to the entire rodent nation: we shall take no riders, not stowaways, no free loading hitch hikers.  When we are ready for a pet we will buy one.

On parenting: we are not your audience and your threats are obviously empty

By day two of the unending high volume blather coming from the mom in the adjacent site as she alternated between detailed narration and haranguing critique of her three small children, we were desperately hoping that she would carry out at least one of her many threats aimed at the tykes. After hearing for at least the twelfth time that if little boy 1, equally little boy 2, or even smaller girl did not do, or stop doing, some trivial thing then they would most certainly pack up and go home, we privately though whole-heartedly endorsed the appropriateness of following through on said threat. Indeed, we would have stood up and applauded her firm but fair, clear-eyed approach had they done so.

Alas, it was all words, as was the score of other threats leveled at the children that resulted in no action.  Surely she must realize that her children are not complete idiots, being capable of at least stimulus response reactions on the level of, say, puppies.  It may be improbable that a five year old will logic his way through the “we’re all going home” threat by examining the campsite, the multiple tents, the five coolers, the outdoor toys strewn in every direction and conclude that no, no we aren’t going home even if I light the entire campground on fire.  But, after having been told that unless you do or stop doing X, you will go home, and then seeing that despite continuing to do or not do X, we are still, shockingly, here at this very same campsite, then even a toddler will recognize the emptiness of your nonsensical attempts at coercion.

Which brings me to my question:  Is this a case of a parent desperately in need of an audience, wanting everyone within distant earshot to know, with absolute certainty, that she is mothering?  Or is it a case of audible narcissism; a sort of intense love with her own voice and words such that her ever-present dialogue, despite no one else participating, can never be cut off? Perhaps a frothy mix of the two?  Either way, she is about one set of quadruplets away from her own self aggrandizing reality TV series.

Five Months Fulltiming: May 2015 Report

The Distance: 1,231 miles, one of our less aggressive months, but the eight day stay at Coach Maintenance for the Jake Brake install and the extended stay in Portland slowed our roll a bit.  Total distance for the year: 7,787 miles.  At the beginning of the journey I had guessed that our full circuit of the country would be about 15,000 miles, but given our plans for the next few months I think we will end up well over that by the time we finish 2015.

The Places: After finally getting on the road following our extended stay with sister Dori and Josh in the Bay Area, we have visited eleven places, starting out with one night of stealth camping in a tractor supply company parking lot in Gilroy, a four night stay at the Navy owned Monterey Pines campground, and eight days with Ted at Coach Maintenance for the engine brake and other work. We stopped at two California and one Oregon State Park: MacKerricher near Glass Beach, Jedediah Smith in the Redwoods, and Cape Blanco in Oregon.  We stayed in four private RV resort/campgrounds: one night stopover at Mad River Rapids in Arcata, a couple of days in Winchester Bay, a way too short one night stop at Sea and Sand, and the end of the month at Jantzen Beach in Portland.  And of course, we spent two nights in Jenny and Rich’s driveway in Hillsboro, OR while we enjoyed their hospitality and tours of the local wine tasting rooms.

We had power and water hookups for 16 days and something close to dry camping for 15, though we are fudging the definitions a bit since Jenny and Rich, as well as Ted, let us run an extension cord to our refrigerator, so maybe it would be fairer to say we dry camped for only five of those days.

The Budget:  Despite our pledge to be, come hell or high water, on budget this month, we broke it a bit, going 8% over.  Take away a few bottles of wine from our California and Oregon purchases and we would have been on point, but we have weaknesses. This means we have badly broken the budget for two months, gotten pretty close but a bit over for two, and actually kept on budget for only one month of the trip.  Man, we need to get ourselves together, but June is presenting the perfect opportunity with our upcoming two weeks of volunteer work at Cape Disappointment State Park in Washington: free full hook up campground, two weeks of not driving anywhere, and relative isolation to keep us from spending money at restaurants and stores.

The Drama:  Oh yes, we had some, but thankfully far less than the ludicrous set of fiascos from April.  In the first week we had near catastrophic problems with the battery charging problem that occurred at the same time as a major downhill run into Carmel Valley, culminating in our intersection blocking breakdown there.  Even after the Jake Brake install, the trips through the mountain on the way to and out of Glass Beach entailed some exciting cliff side hairpin turns and grades.

The Improvements:  Eight days at Coach Maintenance cured of us the battery charging problem, improved our braking ability, straightened out a storage door, and left us with a bit of peace regarding our oil pressure situation.  At the end of the month we made progress on our bathroom remodel, though we experienced a set back for the exterior appearance of the Big Kahuna.

And then there were none: unfortunate end to renovation work in Portland

Last post I mentioned the competing contractor controversy for work on the Big Kahuna while in Portland.  After letting one contractor go I continued working with the other, Bert, for the bathroom renovation, with the intention of having him do a partial exterior paint job as well. Unfortunately the bathroom work stretched and stretched and stretched, and as it finally neared completion on day 10 it turned out that the paint facility was no longer available to support work on the exterior in the time frame required.   Frustrated I called it quits and ended work on the bathroom at about 90-95% done so that Rose and I could have one full day in Portland to clean up and reorganize before we hit the road again.

All in all this was not a great experience, but here is the current status, things left to do, and the lessons hopefully learned:

  • Toilet moved left about six inches to accommodate a larger shower.  This required some imaginative plumbing work.
  • All internal walls replaced with brilliant white textured FRP, which also required some imaginative work due to the major curve in the ceiling
  • Prefabricated two piece full sized shower installed, which required, you guessed it, imaginative solutions to frame, seal, and modify two of the shower walls to fit the curved wall as well as plumbing work for the drain position since it came down right on a support frame.
  • Shower fixtures replaced with Delta valve, handle, and shower head.
  • Walls, framing, and trim mostly restored.

Left to do:

  • Finish cleaning all the Liquid Nails and other glue off the FRP walls.  They looked like a monochromatic Jackson Pollack painting, it was everywhere, and requires a lot of elbow grease to remove.
  • Complete FRP trimming out.  It was mostly done but a few corners are in progress.
  • Restore wood trim on the outside wall. Several pieces were apparently tossed out with the garbage.
  • Put in new floor covering.  We pulled up the old vinyl to get to the toilet and shower mods.
  • Replace traditional shower head with as yet to be ordered, detachable RV shower head.
  • Order and install decorative Delta shower valve sleeve, somehow lost during the install process.
  • Install custom vanity backsplash.  Rose picked out some tile, and hopefully we can work that project while we are volunteering at Cape Disappointment State Park in Washington.

Lessons hopefully learned:

  • Craigslist is fantastic for buying and selling things, but I am finding it pretty shaky for hiring labor.  I will need to sign up for some more professional sites.
  • Avoid pay by the hour work on future renovation in favor of set fee for set services.
  • Have more realistic expectations about project timelines. There was no way I was going to get this bathroom work and the paint job done in the five days I planned for.  Even ten was not sufficient.

In any case, no pictures of the bathroom until I finish some of that work listed above, but they are coming.  And if anyone has recommendations on where to get affordable and basic exterior bus paint work done in Washington, Idaho, Montana, Utah, or Colorado let us know.