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Old 05-17-2023, 01:32 PM   #1
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SMB'ing in CA

So, got a lead on a job that's potentially able to relocate me to CA. Location is flexible. Probably targeting SLO or Ventura, not sure we can swing Santa Cruz or Santa Barbara. San Clemente is an option but would prefer to be further north. The wife and I have thought about living near the Pacific in some form or another for many years, so I'm tempted to finally give it a whirl.

I'm curious - those that live in CA and have a van, do gas prices impact how/when you travel? Any state inspections or fees to be aware of that can be big hurdles for a camper van, especially one with aftermarket 4x4 conversion? Do you actually register your vans there, or do you have it elsewhere? I know the cummins swap wouldn't fly, so I'd either have to get creative there or sell it. Yeah, I know the crowds are bad, but could it really any worse than CO?
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Old 05-17-2023, 03:41 PM   #2
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So, got a lead on a job that's potentially able to relocate me to CA. Location is flexible. Probably targeting SLO or Ventura, not sure we can swing Santa Cruz or Santa Barbara. San Clemente is an option but would prefer to be further north. The wife and I have thought about living near the Pacific in some form or another for many years, so I'm tempted to finally give it a whirl.

I'm curious - those that live in CA and have a van, do gas prices impact how/when you travel? Any state inspections or fees to be aware of that can be big hurdles for a camper van, especially one with aftermarket 4x4 conversion? Do you actually register your vans there, or do you have it elsewhere? I know the cummins swap wouldn't fly, so I'd either have to get creative there or sell it. Yeah, I know the crowds are bad, but could it really any worse than CO?
I lived in Santa Barbara County starting in 1969 (ending in 2013) and I can say that the traffic in LA and the Bay area is going to be very trying and in my opinion, a long daily commute would not do much for your quality of life. There is more traffic in general on the coast but once you get above Ventura it does comparatively settle down.

Work-wise I don't know that there is much above Atascadaro till you get to Salinas/Monterey. I have visited Monterey, Carmel, and Santa Cruz and there is a whole lot less traffic than say, San Jose. I commuted weekly to San Jose from SB for about 4 years but that was by air and rental car right from the San Jose airport. I generally never even got onto the freeway.

I guess it depends on how much you want to be "in the city", I would rather be closer to the ocean and in a more sleepy area if you can find a job there. SLO would be a good place to look. As you probably know it is a college town and so there is a younger/tech influence in the town. SB has more but it is more expensive and usually requires more driving unless you have a very good-paying job and can afford to be in the south coast.

A big factor is do you surf?
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Old 05-17-2023, 04:37 PM   #3
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I am a CA native, current resident, surfer and van person. Gas prices do not affect my van'ing.....crowds do. Assuming your job/move is economically viable, the biggest issue you will face is actually being able to use your van for what it is intended for along the CA coast in the areas you speak of.

There are very very very limited options as to where a big nasty 4x4 van can roam along the CA coast. If you are going to settle into CA coastal life in one of the cities you mentioned you would be better served just owning an old uHaul box truck and turning it into a mobile surf shack. 99% of the $300k Sprinters that live in Southern CA just get used driving 10 miles from home on the freeway to be parked at a state beach concrete parking lot.

That being said, what you will have access to is baja and that is what these vans (Econolines) are made for. So if that is in your wheelhouse (both with time away from work/ travel desire / economics) then your Cummins van would be radical.

Nothing out of the ordinary other than ridiculous fees to register your van here. If you do an out of state thing they will eventually get you if you remain stationary for a period of time (ie...if youre "living" in Santa Barbara and you have Montana plates....some over zealous CHP will see you more than once and game over).

There are some crafty ways that you could get the Cummins registered. There are a few smog exempt counties where your vehicle would just need to pass a visual inspection. I think that could be an option contingent on how its currently papered/registered.

I grew up on the CA coast surfing 2x a day and built my entire life around the wind, swell and tide...in my early 30's I just could not do it anymore and moved to the Sierras. Still get my 150 days a year of surf but now I drive my van down into "the pit" to get waves rather than live in "the pit". Best decision I have ever made although my heart still hurts when I see a good swell filling in .

And in respect to the crowds compared to Colorado....you ain't seen NOTHING yet .
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Old 05-17-2023, 11:37 PM   #4
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I live in the Sonoma County wine country about 90 minutes north of San Francisco. From Healdsburg north we do not have to get smog inspections, except when buying or selling a vehicle.

Also, engine swaps are legal in CA provided the one you’re swapping in is the same year or newer than the one you’re swapping out. (I’m not positive this applies when swapping a gas engine to diesel, but I don’t recall seeing that being prohibited.)
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Old 05-18-2023, 06:56 AM   #5
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Probably targeting SLO or....

Reach out to Mikracer (Jin). He lives in SLO.
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Old 05-18-2023, 02:53 PM   #6
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Hey there, I'm in SLO. Lots of people with vans Herr, but primarily sprinters. I would try to keep your van registered in CO since it won't be smog legal in CA. I think you can also get a PO box in South Dakota and register your van there pretty easily.

As far as gas prices, once you get over the sticker shock, you just deal with it because what else can you do? It doesn't prohibit me from driving my van but I also don't have a commute.

Feel free to reach out if you have any SLO specific questions.
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Old 05-23-2023, 07:08 PM   #7
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Iím in the Bay.
Gas prices donít affect me as itís not my daily driver.

Coast:
Keep in mind that you canít just stay overnight at the coast. From SF down to SLO all overnight is prohibited (beside some rare campgrounds).

Other areas:
From here you can go to an offroad/ 4x4 park or head over the weekend towards the Sierras. Or go north towards Mendocino NF. Thatís more or less it for 3h one way drive.

If I could choose Iíd go anywhere between SLO and Ventura: coastal area and easier access to deserts, Utah, Baja,Ö
And the water is warmer than up here :-)
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Old 05-24-2023, 09:39 AM   #8
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Thanks for the replies folks. I'm fortunate in that my work allows me to live in a smaller city like SLO with a regional airport then fly into the big areas to work for a couple days, fly home, then crunch the #s.

Yeah, a solid axle 4x4 van on 35s is probably overkill for most of the stuff on the coast. But with Baja and the Mojave and the Sierras not too far away, I figure there's still plenty of places it may come in handy. Hopefully.

Yes to the surfing, I caught the bug trying it out a few times and realized living in CO at best we have river surfing. MTB is also on the forefront of my mind, which is also where the van will be handy.

Anyway, time to actually make it happen.
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Old 05-24-2023, 11:17 AM   #9
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Thanks for the replies folks. I'm fortunate in that my work allows me to live in a smaller city like SLO with a regional airport then fly into the big areas to work for a couple days, fly home, then crunch the #s.
In the summer we would make weekend trips up to San Simion to windsurf at Arroyo Laguna. It has been a decade or more but we never had much trouble getting a campsite at San Simeon state park. I have many good, memories of staying up on the hill at Washburn Campgrounds. Never had to stay in the pit (near Hiway 1) and this was going back to the mid-1980s. During the week there are going to be even fewer people.

https://www.google.com/search?q=San+...hrome&ie=UTF-8

I don't think I have ever been there but another buddy from SB used to take his kids to MontaŮa de Oro State Park

Both are very close to SLO off Hiway 1 (drive to Morro Bay)


MontaŮa de Oro
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Old 06-01-2023, 04:25 PM   #10
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I was born and raised in Ventura. Lived in OC and San Diego in my 20's, moved back to Ventura 17 years ago. We moved back north to escape the crowds, although it is getting busier here now. Not nearly as crowded as OC but not as sleepy of a town as it was years ago. Price of housing has increased significantly in the last 5 years too. It's still a pretty good place to call home though.

If you surf, this area is great, especially in the fall and winter. A ton of point breaks. Water temp is not too bad either.

We're close enough to the Sierras, Big Bear. and all the areas in between. Mammoth is around 5-5:30 hour drive and Big Bear is 2:30-3 hours. Both great options for the van as well as MTBing.

We do have some local mtb trails within 20-40 minute drive from the actual city of Ventura. Not going to be as good as CO but not too bad.

Gas prices are not great, but the shock will wear off quick enough.

I bought my van in CO and had to smog and register it here in CA. I paid a private vehicle inspection company to do the inspection rather than taking it to the DMV. I figured they wouldn't be as critical as a DMV agent. It have to smog it every other year. Not too big of a deal, just expensive. Not sure how the smog shops will like any engine or exhaust mods.

Southern California is crowded but the weather can't be beat.
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