We don't "do" RV resorts but Jojoba Hills in Aguanga, California is an exception. In fact, after this (our second visit), we're seriously considering making it our permanent winter home. Not right away but some day. Perhaps in about seven years - when we're 70 and the allure of wandering may begin to fade.
Our previous visit to Johoba was a brief stop during our 2011 California tour - and we’d promised ourselves we would return. This time, we immersed ourselves in the place, intent on finding out what living here for six months at a time might be like.
We stayed seven days before reluctantly dragging ourselves away. A whole week in one place is almost unthinkable for us on these trips! And what did that do to our camping budget? Well, it did add $35.00. No, not nightly. That was our total cost for a boondocking site ($5.00 per night) and gave us a very active, fun-filled week.
A site with electric and water was an option at $23.00 per night. This is an Escapee (SKP) RV Club park, and only available to SKP members.
On this visit, we made friends with several residents and accepted the invitation of a behind-the-scenes tour. It's well worth taking. George Ruelens, our guide was excellent. He pointed out many aspects of the resort we would never have discovered on our own. All guides are volunteers and “Jojobians” (park members). There's never a sales pitch - not even a hint of one.
Twenty-five years ago last November, Jojoba Hills was conceived, planned, and built by a small group of Escapees.They dreamed of a community to call home during the months they weren't traveling and chose this location in the San Jacinto Mountains for its beauty and temperate year-round climate. With little help, they
Within an hour's drive of San Diego, Los Angeles, and Palm Springs, living here is very affordable – even today. And it's all due to the non-profit, co-op status of the resort and the volunteerism behind it. Each member is expected to contribute in some way but is free to choose, what, when and how much.
Some of the original founding members are still here and still contributing. We met Stella, a genuine sweetheart, the visionary behind most of the landscaping in the park's common areas. George also introduced us to another female founding member who recalled being on the original survey crew when they built the park. I asked if that was her field of study. No, but like many of the founders, she learned on the job.
Today the park has more than 400 seasonal and full-time residents on its 283 sites. Each has 55 plus years of experience in some field or other and is happy to volunteer time and knowledge. We made friends with one couple who are fairly new to the park. Sterling's background is construction and told us that, in his opinion, Jojoba Hills was extremely well-designed.
And it just keeps getting better. We heard jokingly from a few members that, if you have an idea for a new enhancement, piece of equipment, an activity or a class you'd like to see added, you just need to mention it to a few other members. Before you know it, you'll be heading the committee to make it happen.
We noted several enhancements to the facilities since our last visit. At least one new pond and three new waterfalls have been added. There's a seating area and two new art studios in the boondock area. Drawing and painting classes are offered in one trailer and a second, still in the process of being modified, will be a pottery studio, complete with pottery wheel and kiln. I've always wanted to try pottery. My sister takes classes back in Ontario so I know they can be pricey. Here, members will pay only for the cost of materials.
There is no excuse for being sedentary at Jojoba. We swam, walked, and played pickle ball almost daily. I play at home, but Randy’s new to pickle ball so it was nice to get a few impromptu lessons from a couple of experienced players. There are so many activities, classes, and weekly excursions to suit any taste, that I think it would be impossible to be bored or unhappy. A few that peeked my interest were the hiking club, geocaching, and a weekly ladies’ outing for a movie and lunch.
Some people, men in particular, worry about maintaining a purposeful lifestyle after retirement. Aside from volunteering, at Jojoba Hills, there are opportunities to tinker in a shop equipped with top-of-the-line mechanics tools and a lift that can handle the largest motorhome. In the same building, a woodworking shop boasts the best saws and power tools on the market. There's no need for any member to own and store hand tools, ladders, wheel barrows, etc. Portable tools of every description are available to borrow at any time.
Volunteers involved with landscaping have the opportunity to drive - contstruction-grade equipment like a front-end loader or digger. A new project to put metal roofs on every shed in the park was underway and we watched a team of interested volunteers measuring and discussing the best way to make a template for the job.
You would think that with visitors like us coming through the park regularly, the residents would grow tired of always smiling, being nice, and looking happy. Without a word of a lie, we couldn't walk anywhere in the park, without every car and golf cart stopping. Would we like a ride? At every social event we attended, we weren't given a chance to sit alone. Someone always waved us over, pulled up an extra chair, invited conversation, and began telling us how wonderful life is in this community.
Aother founder, Austin, sat down across from me and greeted me with the words, "Ah, you're a visitor. Welcome to heaven!" Indeed, this is a utopian setting. One member we befriended (her name, Heart, describes her nature) introduced me to the term, "intentional community". She said, "I've lived in several cooperative housing situations in my life but this is the best I've ever found. It embodies the true meaning an intentional community."
We joined new friends, Sterling and Martha, for a fun evening of music and dancing at one of many nearby wineries.
The downside of this resort? Even as an Escapee, visitors are limited to 7 days in boondocking or 28 days total per year in the park. To stay longer, you must become a member (buy in) to the co-op. What does that entail?
Essentially, you hand over $30,000.00 which is held in trust and returned to you, in full, when you leave the park. So think of that as a non-interest-bearing savings account. This gives you a your own permanent, year-round site at Jojoba. Unlike purchasing property however, your investment is guaranteed and you don't have to find a buyer when you decide to leave.
Each site-holder then pays approximately $260.00 per month in monthly maintenance. This covers all activities and resort operations, water, garbage collection, phone (except long distance) unlimited high-speed internet, cable TV, and a parking spot in the storage area for an extra RV, boat, or vehicle. The only additional costs are electric and propane according to usage.
Sites are very roomy compared to other resorts we’ve seen. Each has a storage shed and, being terraced, all sites come with a view. Most members have added significant landscaping, patio stones, and shade structures.
Jojoba is a non-profit community so every bit of revenue is put back into the facilities. Monthly fees are reviewed annually but over the last four years they have remained stable even though the infrastructure has been continually upgraded. A 12-member board of directors and the bulk of the work done by volunteers keep costs low.
While this may not be ideal for everyone, we've fallen in love Jojoba Hills - with the people, the place, and the concept of intentional community. The idea of calling it our winter home in the future, is a very attractive idea.
Days On The Road at time of writing: 44
Camping Costs To Date: $92.00
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