So, we have not had a ‘normal’ go-to-the-grandparents house Thanksgiving ever since having kids. In keeping with that non traditional family tradition, we decided this year (though we are finally stateside for the first time in about 5 years) to head to the coast with the RV and check out the Navy-run campground of Fiddlers Cove across the bay from San Diego. It’s run as part of the conglomerate of Navy bases affiliated, in my mind, with North Island NAS. You just be a military ID holder to use Fiddlers Cove. We reserved ahead for the Thanksgiving weekend, and found the place full after our long drive west.
From Tucson we left late afternoon and made it a couple hours up the road to another military famcamp – this time run by the Air Force at the Gila Bend auxiliary base. It was quite nicely accommodating with a full hookup for $10 and free washer dryers. Though it’s in the middle of nowhere, that price and the generous 180 day stay limit may make it a tempting retirement stay for those who love to watch the jets. We were treated to a series of F-35 touch and go’s in the morning.
Beyond Gila Bend is a vast boring drive – Yuma has a few interesting offerings and the sand dunes just past were crowded with people and buggies motoring around in the sand. We popped into the Navy base at El Centro for a playground break and fuel-up; both conveniently co-located. Otherwise, it’s big and dry and just covered in rocks until the mountains that border San Diego.
Fiddlers Cove is simply a full hookup place to park. The spaces are pretty nicely spread, but there is no vegetation or privacy. The real appeal is the location, and paying an extra buck or two for a waterfront sight is worth it. There is a retaining wall about four feet high that you need to hop down to get to the water – no swimming, only wading, allowed. We were in site 53 along the water and enjoyed having a campfire in our cement ring while listening to the hum of the city and naval yard across the bay.
This is not a purely urban nor nature experience, but quite a blend. One morning, a harbor seal followed the kids up and down the shoreline along the retaining wall. In the evening, with the tide out, a big mud flat formed and we had fun sliding our toes around to stir up bioluminescent worms!
During the days, the spot is ideal for exploring the peninsula as the bikeways runs along the entire length, right past Fiddlers Cove. Our first afternoon found us biking only a couple miles up the path to the west side of the Coronado Naval Amphibious base. There is a nice stretch of (military only) beach we enjoyed with only the occasional jogger. The beach was also chock full of sand dollars at low tide, so the kids collected a bunch. The weather was surprisingly warm! The kids got in the water, in undies as we hadn’t packed for swimming; I even had to make some cutoffs from a cheap pair of yoga pants, as it was to warm for long pants.
On Thanksgiving we spent nearly the entire day biking. We rode the path up into the glitzy town of Coronado, and admired the fancy houses. We found the ferry at the dock when we pedaled by, and decided to cross the bay for some biking in San Diego. The ferry took us to the convention center and we road along the embarcadero pathway toward the USS Midway Museum. It was closed, but super cool to see up close from the empty parking lot.
We lunched in the park on some sandwiches and caught the ferry back. From Coronado, we continued along the bikeway onto the North Island NAS and its massive segment of beach on the west side. There were a clutch of families enjoying a Thanksgiving afternoon on the beach with us. Again, it was warm, nearly hot, so the kids swam and my feet felt good in the cool water – we had all been simply biking in flip flops all day!
On the way back to Fiddlers Cove we went through downtown Coronado and rejoined the bike path to complete our big loop. Later, we calculated it at just under 20 miles: no complaints from kids, either.
For our Thanksgiving feast I reheated all the traditional dishes I premade at home. We set the table and had a lovely meal by the RV, listening to all the other campers have their meals, too.
After such a big bike day, we took it easy the next and pedaled south only a couple miles to the Silver Strand State beach for a long morning until we were hungry enough to return home to the RV.
In the evening we returned to the amphibious base beach for a few more sand dollars (the kids had drummed up some business selling them to the retirees at the RV park), and a beautiful sunset. It was a cold bike ride back, as a big cloud of sea mist had rolled in.
We loved staying at Fiddlers Cove. It isn’t the prettiest campground, but the view across the bay is unique and fun. It’s really the location you are paying $43 a night for; nearby beaches and biking. The waterfront offered messy mudflat fun for the kids, and we found plenty to do via bike, The campground also has a rec center that also offers stand-up-paddle board rentals, sailboat lessons, and other diversions. There is a small NEX at the amphibious base and a large commissary up on North Island NAS. We thought we may venture into San Diego to visit some attractions, but found plenty of FREE fun in biking (well, the ferry wasn’t free).
The drive home was tedious and boring; just enough to make us not want to venture back too often.