The Central Coast Part Two

Time at Vandenberg Air Force Base


For the better part of three months, we made our home at the FamCamp on Vandenberg Air Force Base on the central coast of California.  Our son is stationed there and sponsored us to stay at the campground, located very conveniently right across the street from his office.  We were thrilled!  We hadn’t spent this much time with him since he was in high school!  And the fact that the base has miles of private coastline—well, this was a primo spot!


Vandenberg AFB was originally established as an Army training center in 1941.  In 1957, Camp Cooke was transferred to the Air Force and has become the home of the 30th Space Wing, which supports the West Coast launch activities for the military and civilian companies.  Vandenberg’s remote location is ideal for launching satellites and testing  intercontinental ballistic missiles.  The base is the 3rd largest in the US, containing over 99,000 acres and over 42 miles of coastline, accessible only to those with a base pass.

Looking east to the Santa Ynez River valley near Lompoc, the flower seed capital of the world.

We arrived at Vandenberg in early October, parking the RV at our son’s house for the first night.  Early the next morning we accompanied him to the visitor’s center to obtain our visitor’s pass.  We then drove back to his house, picked up the camper and proceeded to the Lompoc gate where the camper was inspected.  I’ve read some very harsh reviews of the inspection process, but we weren’t offended or put off by it at all.  It’s a necessary part of entering a military base.  The airmen that performed the inspection were professional, polite, thorough, and friendly.  We then proceeded to the FamCamp, a very basic, full hookup RV park.  I really can’t rank it as one of the best RV camping spots we’ve been in, but considering its close proximity to our son and the beach, well, we couldn’t have chosen a better or more affordable place to stay.


About that beach,….

A short 10 minute drive took us down to Wall Beach, our go-to spot for admiring the surf and sunsets.

Further north on base is Minuteman Beach where we found dozens of sand dollars.

South base is the location of the Honda Point disaster, the largest peacetime loss of US Navy ships.

And after some hiking and exploring on our own, we found a secret beach.

And those launches,…..

One of the many launch sites on base

We arrived in October, just in time for a launch our son was working.  The launch window was from midnight to 6 am and we invited our campground neighbors to go with us up to the Reagan viewing area for a launch party.  Well, we waited and waited.  The launch was pushed back, then the countdown resumed,…we made it until 2 am and had to call it a night.  Finally, with 15 minutes left in the launch window, the rocket launched, while we were snug in our bed!

Then in January, SpaceX launched a rocket with the intention of landing it on a platform in the Pacific.  They had success in Florida and were hoping to have the same results on the West coast.  We spent a week scouting out the very best location to watch the launch.  And it was all for naught when a nasty marine layer settled over the coast the morning of the launch.  We couldn’t SEE a thing, but boy, could we hear AND feel it!

A thick marine layer poured in on launch day. We heard and felt the launch, but didn’t see a thing.
Big crowd gathered for the SpaceX launch

AND the hiking,….

The undulating hills on base

In addition to miles and miles of coastline, Vandenberg has miles and miles of hiking trails, some through the “civilized” part of the base (near the fitness center) and a lot through the wild “backcountry.”  After Christmas, our son took us hiking to Point Sal on the northernmost point of the base.  What a view!

And the best part, time with our son.


Another beautiful sunset





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