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JAUNTS: In and Around Ventura County | VENTURA COUNTY

Roadside Attraction

Sea 'n' surf along Rincon Parkway draw a regular contingent of RV campers.

May 01, 1997|JANE HULSE | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Trains rumble by and traffic from the Pacific Coast Highway is a few yards away, but for the mile-long chain of RVs nestled on the Rincon Parkway above Ventura, camping doesn't get much better than this.

The ocean is so close they sometimes feel the spray as the waves splash the boulders below them. The pounding surf muffles the unpleasant noises of civilization and lulls them to sleep.

This quirky little stretch--literally a wide spot in the road--is a county-operated overnight camping area with no services except for a few chemical toilets. And forget making a reservation; it's first come, first served.

But you'll have to come early if you want to claim a piece of asphalt here for the weekend. The 112 spots, at $13 a night during the busy season, often fill up by mid-day Friday, and on holiday weekends the rush for spaces begins Wednesday.

It's so popular and profitable that the county is considering adding another 76 RV camping spots with ocean frontage just down the coast, between Solimar Beach and Emma Wood State Beach.

Obviously, the ocean is what draws a wild mix of people and vehicles here year-round. Glitzy $150,000 rigs with satellite dishes are parked end to end with tired, rusty camper shells and converted buses. Not everyone owns their rig; some rent by the day or week.

The occupants run the gamut too: "snow birds" passing through on a never-ending search for perfect weather, families escaping the urban congestion of Los Angeles, and even Ventura County residents who want a quick getaway.

"It's cheap recreation," said Jack O'Grady, who, with his wife Suzie, frequents the Rincon and other nearby campsites along the coast. "You don't have to go to Reno."

Married 40 years, they have camped along here nearly that long, moving up from a pickup camper to their current rig, a comfortable 27-foot motor home. But it's the ocean they love, especially the dolphins that often cruise by.

"I've seen them put on a show--it's like they're performing for an audience," he said. Jack fishes; Suzie body surfs. Midweek recently they were awaiting the arrival of their grandchildren for an afternoon of boogie-boarding.

Getting to the beach is a little tricky for those not so agile. You have to make your way carefully over boulders, or walk to county-operated camping areas at Faria and Hobson beaches at either end of the Rincon Parkway where there are steps down to the water.

The parkway, technically a parking meter zone for RVs only (no tents), doesn't offer much more than an asphalt strip marked off in 40-foot segments for one motor home and no more than one car. There aren't even any vending machines.

"You have to have a love for the ocean," said Marlene Reaves of West Hills, who has been coming here for at least 20 years with her husband Bill. "I could sit and look at it forever."

That's not hard to do if you're looking at it from the Reaves' cushy 36-foot Bounder motor home. The oak-paneled interior boasts a bathroom with bathtub, two built-in TVs, microwave oven and sleeping space for six.

But gazing at the ocean, even spotting an occasional whale, gets old. The Reaves, both retired, climb on their bikes and pedal along the bike lane adjoining the Pacific Coast Highway. They have lots of company.

On weekends especially, streams of bicyclists from points north and south use this scenic route. Others walk it, heading out for a burger or breakfast at the no-frills campground snack bars at Hobson or Faria beaches.

The entertainment is in the people themselves, the RVers and parade of passersby along PCH. They're a sociable bunch, some with their own signature, like the man from Laguna Beach who marks his spot with tiki torches.

"A guy walking from Seattle to Texas stopped and we gave him breakfast; he had a lot of interesting stories to tell," recalled Peggy Page of Westminster. "We've seen hobos riding the train."

At night the Rincon strip is dotted with lights from campfires built against the rocks. Although rangers say the fires are illegal and they will ticket violators, campers do it anyway. The rules state that fires must be contained in commercially built stoves.

Cozy as it sounds, the county doesn't want anyone calling it home. There's a five-day limit on stays during busy months from April 1 to Oct. 31; 10 days the rest of the year.

"When people stay too long they're not camping to recreate," said Pam Gallo, operations supervisor for Ventura County Parks. "They start accumulating things."

BE THERE

Rincon Parkway, a county-operated RV camping area, is located above Ventura on the Pacific Coast Highway, between county campgrounds at Hobson and Faria beaches. No reservations required. Overnight spaces run $13 with stays limited to five days ($10 from Nov. 1 through March 31 with a 10-day limit). Payment is by envelope. Check-out time is whenever camper checked in; it's all on the honor system. For information, (805) 654-3951.

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