Wildflower: A Camping Primer

If you're going to the Wildflower Triathlon you've got to come ready. One of my F.I.S.T. Bike Fit instructors was raised on ski slopes, and while growing up he and his buddies had a mnemonic device to make sure they hadn't forgotten anything crucial. Skis-boots-poles-money-pass-dope. A similar device for Wildflower would be much, much longer. It's not just bike-shoes-shoes-helmet-pump-goggles-wetsuit-etc, but everything you need to sustain you for 3 or 4 days in addition to race paraphernalia. Long list. (And probably excluding the dope.) But do not fear, I'm your huckleberry. I'm right in my wheelhouse here.

First let's talk about the mode de camp. How do you want to do this, that is: How primal? How Gucci?

Roughing It

You can do this in a tent. Go to Coscto, Dicks, Sports Authority, get yourself a tent. They're cheap, everybody needs one eventually anyway. Two rules of thumb here: Whatever "man" size the tent says it is (2-man, 4-man), for the purposes of Wildflower, double it. Two of you need a 4-man tent.

Second, you're going to need more padding to sleep on than you think. Bring a lot of padding. If it's an inflatable mattress you have in mind, figure out well beforehand your strategy for inflating it. And test it. Probably something that produces a lot of CFM (air flow), like a hair dryer. There are pretty cheap tools out there for the purpose. I've seen them for $15 from Walmart. Google "inflatable mattress pump."

Next, figure out how you're going to power stuff that you need powered. For example, if you need 110v for that inflatable mattress pump, you're going to need a 12v to 110v inverter. $30. Sears. Walmart. You plug one end into your car charger, the other end is a wall plug receptacle.

Finally, regardless of how much food you bring, bring a lot of cash, small denominations, to buy food from the vendors. You're going to get tired of cooking, and the vendors make great food at Wildflower. Just bring cash, because I don't remember any ATMs out there.

Styling It

The next step up, from a tent, is a tent trailer, which you can rent, and you can pull these behind a passenger car. But let's cut to the chase. I'm going to tell you how to do this right. Yes, you could rent a motor home in Los Angeles or the Bay Area and drive it to Lake San Antonio. But if you don't want any hassle whatsoever, you rent a travel trailer from a local company. I have used a company called Luv-2-Camp when I've trailered my horses to nearby Montana De Oro State Park. All this company's rental units are reserved for upcoming Wildflower weekend, but never fear(!), there are others, I've called already and they have units to rent, and I'll give you contact info on these companies below.

This is the cleanest option. You pay a company like this to drop a travel trailer at your camp spot, level it, get it all ready to go, you just show up and it's like your summer cabin. After you leave they pick it up, dump the waste, it's all done. You just drive in, show up, live there, leave, it's finished. Rates for this kind of thing is about $175 for the delivery and retrieval of the unit plus anywhere from $125 a night to $250 a night based on how hoity toity you want your trailer to be.

These units are clean and nice, and I've linked below directly to the page (for one of these companies) that shows the coaches they rent. It's positively cheap if a group of you pitch in, and some of these coaches sleep a lot of folks.

If you want the lights to stay working, and the power to remain functional, you'll need either "shore power" or you need a generator – either a built-in generator if the coach comes with it, or a portable generator – to keep the coach batteries recharged.

There is some "shore power" at Lake San Antonio but not at every camp spot. A "full hookup" means shore power, water, and septic. Partial hookup probably means shore power and water, no septic. Mostly what you want is power, if you can get it. Power is most important, water second (because the coach will come with a water tank), septic third. Because the coach will have both gray and black water tanks you're probably fine during the course of your stay if your camp spot lacks septic (your coach tanks are large enough to take care of you during your stay at Wildflower).

Below is a map of the camping areas. Note the color coding (look for red or blue dots). If you're going to have a coach dropped, tell the rental company where you want the coach to be. Wildflower camping is first-come, first-served, so you can't reserve the space in advance. Your coach rental company will just drive around until he finds a likely spot, drop the coach, level it, call or email you back and tell you where you can find your coach and its keys. Just tell the company to first do a recon of the campground you want, choosing A, B or C, etc., whichever area offers hookups.

Were I you, I would recommend Lynch campground first, because it's close to everything (food, the expo area, transition area). So, have your travel rental delivery guy cruise Lynch, try to find a full hookup spot in Lynch. That's Lynch A, B or C.

Lynch is down near the water's level (well, where the water usually is). Redondo Vista is the camping area up on the plateau. The value in Redondo Vista is it's easier to get in and out of the area from this spot, and you aren't in the middle of everything. The downside to Redondo Vista is that you're farther away from everything, so, it's a pretty good hike to the food vendors, transition area, start/finish and expo area. Just depends what you value. Redondo Vista also has hookups. If I was staying at Redondo Vista I'd try to be in A or B, because there's a shortcut trail down through Lynch to race center. It's the closest spot on the plateau both to the park entrance and to all the festivities.

The image below is, I think, of a runner moving through the Redondo Vista area. It can be tough to get out of Dodge if you choose the wrong moment to leave. That's when staying at Redondo Vista A or B comes in handy.

Harris Creek is the temporary (last and this year, who knows next year?) swim start area. There is one area out there with partial hookup. I wouldn't stay here unless you're a loner.

You can bring your own portable generator or rent one from the coach rental company; if the latter it's generally about $35 a day. If you bring your own, fine, just realize you won't be able to run coach A/C or microwave unless your generator puts out at least 4 kilowatts. (I never find it necessary to run the coach A/C out there, even on hot days.)

If any of this is Greek to you, not to worry. I'll be there! As will a lot of you camping neighbors hip to how these coaches work and they can help you.

Trailer rental companies

Speaking of help, TriCalifornia has a partner in this, RVPlusYou. It's kind of a VRBO of coaches, aligning private coach owners with prospective renters. In some cases coach owners will drop and retrieve their coaches, in other cases RVPlusYou performs this service. RVPlusYou will have a booth at the Wildflower race expo and a tech person at Wildflower the whole time for customers who may have questions or run into issues. In a final nod to RVPlusYou, any park entry fees for drop off and pick up of coaches (usually $15) will be waived for RVPlusYou coach drop-offs, pick-ups.

Another company local to the area is Get Away RV Rentals. (Click that link for a look at the coaches.) As opposed to RVPlusYou, I was able to speak to someone on the phone at Get Away RV Rentals. I found that a plus.

Were it me, I'd try to strike a deal with whomever it is you choose. You're going to need the trailer from, probably, Thursday thru Sunday. I'd see if I could get a drop off on Wednesday, no extra charge, just so that you can make sure you get a preferred spot. This is one more reason to rent coaches already up in the area: Regardless of when you show up the coach is in the preferred camp spot. If you bring your own coach and you get a late start, you might get your feelings hurt when you hunt around for a spot and all the shore power is taken.

Renting an RV

A lot of people do this. It's kind of fun. Pack the wife and kids in and off you go. First time I rented an RV it had 4 miles on the odometer when I drove it off the rental lot. It certainly did not come back new. This was my first RV experience. I had guys flipping me off on the freeway, since I was taking up two lanes. Once I got into the wilderness I was hitting road signs and tree limbs with that thing. Condiments were spilling all over the kitchen as I was negotiating mountain roads.

I had to drop it off at the RV place at 11am Monday. I rolled into my factory at 8am, walked in, gathered everyone, and announced: "Wetsuit factory has the inside; bike factory has the outside. You have until 10:40. Make it like new again."

Bumpers, side windows, everything came off the coach. The inside was detailed. At exactly 11am I rolled in, coach was inspected, no problem. I recommend the experience. But it's handy if you also have your own factory.

Since then I've owned every kind of conveyance that takes a facsimile of your home along with you. My preference is the truck camper for a lot of reasons I won't go into, but when I roll into Wildflower that's what I'll be bringing. If I didn't own the rig I'd opt for a trailer dropped off by one of the local companies above.


I've brought my dog to Wildflower. Probably not the best idea. Especially if you're tenting it, but, in general, while you could manage it's a complication. Besides chasing the wild deer and other wild animals (nothing dangerous, so city slickers need not be concerned), dogs are not compatible with bicycles.