Camper Quest Part 3: Our First RV Rental

Well, our first RV rental experience has come and gone. And guess what … we didn’t hate it. In fact, we enjoyed it. A lot. As I mentioned last time, we’re exploring buying an RV so we used the website to rent one. We flew to Southern California’s Orange County; chosen because it’s the home of our son, daughter-in-law and the world’s cutest grandson.

The RV we rented last week was a 2007 Tioga, a 23-ft-long class “C” motor home. We decided on this particular RV based on several factors: size, location, condition, amenities, price and availability. We wanted something large enough to be comfortable but not so large that it would be a white-knuckle nightmare on the LA freeways.

Last Saturday evening we hired an Uber driver to pick us up at the airport and take us to a hotel in Pasadena. Sunday morning we dialed up another Uber for the short ride to Terri, the owner of the RV in Alhambra. All finances including insurance were handled in advance through Outdoorsy, so everything was ready when we arrived.

Fab and Terri show us how to operate the awning, which we didn’t use. Note “Life Is Awesome” painted above the door.

Terri gave us a warm welcome and a thorough orientation to her motor home, which she affectionately nicknamed “LIA”, short for “Life Is Awesome.” About 30 minutes later I was behind the wheel, cautiously edging LIA down the driveway toward the street. At the bottom of the driveway I heard a mild scraping sound. A quick glance in Terri’s direction assured me that everything was okay, although at that point my knuckles were a whiter shade of pale.

With Mary as navigator, we found our way onto I-5 S toward Anaheim to spend the afternoon with Tom, Apple and Tatum. After that we continued south to Dana Point.

Our original plan was to drive north to a reserved campsite in Yosemite National Park. However, about 10 days before our departure, the weather forecast for Yosemite didn’t look good. Highs in the 30’s and snow — not great for hiking. So, about a week before departure, I canceled our Yosemite campsite reservation and instead booked four nights at Doheny State Beach, a pretty state park located — as the name implies — right on the coast in Orange County.

Our rental RV parked at our campsite at Doheny State Beach

Doheny Beach

The beach was just a short walk from our minimalist campsite. We had no hookups for water or electricity but that was okay. We had plenty of fresh water on board as well as electricity provided by a generator and auxiliary battery, plus restrooms just a short walk from our site. LIA had a TV but we never turned it on.

As much as we enjoyed her, one of our take-aways is that LIA is larger than the RV we hope to eventually buy. The freeway traffic was nerve-wracking at first. It took me a few miles to get comfortable with cars and trucks zipping past just inches away from my mirrors. Or at least it seemed that way.

Because I didn’t relish the thought of taking LIA out for a spin each day, we kept her parked at the campsite and walked to our daily destinations instead.

Legend has it that the cliff swallows return to Capistrano every year on March 19. We were there on March 20. No swallows to be seen.

There were no swallows but there were plenty of school groups at the Mission at San Juan Capistrano.

The original bells of the Mission of Capistrano

Inside the sanctuary of the modern-day Mission Basilica of Capistrano

Our first day hike was a nine-mile round trip to the Mission at San Juan Capistrano on Monday, followed the next day by a five-mile walk to Dana Point Harbor. There we made a spur-of-the moment decision to go on a whale and dolphin watching cruise. Our timing for hitting Captain Dave’s Dolphin and Whale Watching Safari could not have been better because there were only eight passengers on board the 11 a.m. cruise that day AND we got to see five grey whales and literally hundreds of dolphins. A great experience!

Dana Point Marina

There are three California Grey Whales in this photo. After coming up for air, the one in the center is fluking (diving).

Mary watches a Common Dolphin surf our wake.

For our third hike of the week, we walked to the Dana Point Headlands Conservation Area. The area is managed by the non-profit Center for Natural Lands Management (CNLM) who’s main objective is to protect the Pacific Pocket Mouse, a federally endangered species. A beautiful three-mile public trail system links the conservation parks and public open space areas of the Headlands. The system includes pedestrian trails, coastal and beach access, scenic overlooks and the Nature Interpretive Center. Our docent at the center told us that after years of severe drought, this is the first time in five years that beautiful blossoms and greenery have returned to the coast.

It was a steep hike for us to the top of the cliffs of the Dana Point Headlands Conservation Area. If you have a car you can drive to the top. Dana Point Harbor can be seen in the background. Beyond that is Doheny Beach, where we camped.

Doheny Beach sunset

After each day of hiking and sightseeing, we returned to the coziness of the RV for meal prep, reading, playing board games and just relaxing in general. On Thursday we drove the RV to Orange County Airport where I dropped Mary off to pick up a rental car. We returned the RV to Terri and spent the rest of the week with the cutest grandson ever.

Grandson Tatum

Our week in Southern California didn’t answer key questions about how to carry sea kayaks on an RV but it did confirm our opinion of RV’ing in general. Do we like it enough to continue? Based on our first experience, our answer is a definite “Yes!”


  • Yes!! I’m glad you had such a great first experience. You would get used to driving the rig – but I’m happy with my class B. And yes, Tatum is cute. Of course! And in a few years, will be ready to share road trips with you. And when you actually figure out what camper will suit is enough time to figure out the kayak logistics.

    Happy Trails – Beth

    • admin

      Thanks, Beth! Yes I probably would get used to driving a bigger RV. But it seems like we would always be somewhat limited in where we could take it and store it.

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