at Lilac Oaks Campground

A long weekend of family fun and vintage VWs.


Last weekend I went camping at Lilac Oaks Campground in Valley Center with my VW club and family. I visited Lilac with my father’s bus club as a kid, so I have some very fond memories from there. After a 15-year hiatus, I was excited to go back with the club and family.

I liked the place because there was always a ton for kids to do. They have a swimming pool, two “lakes” to fish in, and even a rec center with pool tables, ping-pong, and air hockey. Other than the speed bumps that tried to rip the pan off my ’64, it was a very nice campground.

VW Camp Out
                                                                                                                          The family hanging out around camp.

This time around my cousin brought her children, so I was eager to show them a spot I had loved when I was their age. Fair warning to owners of lowered vehicles, the roads were a little ripped up and the spots were dirt. We live in the southern California desert, so I expected as much, especially with the drought these past few years.

What I did not expect was for my dad to almost roll his bus just trying to get into our spot.

The ground around our camp was level with the access road for 50 feet or so, at which point it begins to drop down below the level of the road. Well, that’s where my dad chose to pull off the road. That six inch drop was almost enough to cause his loaded down ’59 panel to roll over.

1964 VW Beetle with Vintage Coleman Tent
The '64 parked next to my Coleman tent.

Needless to say, we all took a break after he finally pulled into the spot. No joke - it was scary. Rolling over would not have been good, especially given that the bus only has lap belts.

We started setting up camp once everyone unwound from the bus situation. We pitched our tents, set up the camp kitchen, did some minor bug-proofing, etc. - all the stuff you have to do before the fun starts. 

Most of the club could not take Friday off, so once we finished setting everything up, the family and I just hung out until everyone got in.

Fast forward a couple of hours, dinner is done and everyone had arrived ready to eat. Of course we’re a Volkswagen club, so we had bratwursts. We drive German cars, so why not eat German food, right? We spent the rest of the night relaxing around the camp fire, sharing stories, and enjoying the great weather.

Come morning we all woke up, had breakfast, and decided to explore the camp ground like I had when I was a kid. 

           If you look closely, the sign reads "NO SWIMMIG"

I remembered an old pond - or lake as they advertise it - in the back of the property that I wanted to take my nephew to in the hope we could catch some fish like I did when I was his age. We eventually found the pond, but there wasn’t much left of it after all these years. White lines of sediment on the rock and dirt above the water revealed that the water level had dropped at least 6 feet since I had last seen it

I was a little bummed that my “secret” fishing spot had dried up. Luckily, they had another pond at the front of the property, so we still got to fish. We did not get a single bite, for anyone wondering.  

We checked pretty much every box you can when camping. We went swimming, tossed horse shoes, fished, made s’mores, hiked around, and just relaxed. When Sunday morning rolled around, all we had left to do was eat some breakfast and pack up.

Coleman Camping Gear
Our fancy set up for cooking breakfast.

This is where it gets funny. Once everyone was packed up, we had to go to the office to check out. Well, the ’64 sits about an inch and a half off the ground, so I had a little trouble getting out of the camp site. It ended up taking me 5 minutes just to figure out how to get out of my spot.  

Eventually, I had one of the guys from the club hop in the car and roll it forward while we picked up the front end. He ended up dumping the clutch and sending it, but we got out of there with nothing more than a few scratches on the pan.

All in all it was a great weekend of air-cooled VWs and family. We couldn’t have asked for better weather, and I’m looking forward to our next camp out.


About the Author:

Jonny Winkley is new to Jbugs, but has been a part of the local VW scene for more than 20 years. Spending most of his childhood riding around in his family's bus, he's an old fashioned car guy and absolute fanatic when it comes to Volkswagens. He has owned numerous air-cooled VWs and founded the car club Mission Avenue Cruisers in 2009.

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