Tuesday, February 27, 2007


I made a day out of tooting around here by bike, doing a few caches and getting a feel for the layout of the park. Rain was in the forcast, and I thought I'd get back and do the museums and IMAX as a rainy day event, but failed to do so. F
or whatever reason, I was just not in a zoo mood, so never comtemplated that, even though I had it on my to do list before getting into town...
The park does have lots of museums and such, but not as much open space as Golden Gate park has. Of course, the botanical gardens were closed for maintenance, but there were some intersting cacti and succelent gardens I cruised through. A real highlight was outside of the antique auto museum. The Horseless Carriage Club of America was holding a private event, and more than two dozens cars from the era made there way into the parking lot. These were the real deal; everything from Overlands, Pierce Arrows, Buicks and a Cadilac, to a Mercedes and a number of makes I had never heard of. Most of the occupants were dressed for the occasion and I took a seat on a nearby bench and watched the arrivals :). I'm just glad the EPA was not meeting nearby...


Drop down out of the gaslamp, and through the newer mecca of downtown, and you find yourself front and center with the bay. At the northeast corner is the airport, which is was too small and way way too close! It only has one runway, with no room to expand, so flights are stacked up over top of downtown, and as soon as a landing is complete, a jet is roaring westward on the runway on takeoff. I read an article while here about an existing proposal for an off shore floating airport. Does not sound like it will ever get off the ground, but they do need to do something.
The bayfront starts off with marina space and then a floating maritime museum. The sailing ship "Star of India " is the centerpiece, with a number of other smaller vessles in the fleet along with a submarine. Just south of here is the cruise ship port, and just further south is the aircraft carrier USS Midway. All of this with Coronado and the Navy's "north Island" base as a backdrop. A very nice place for a stroll along the embarcadaro. I had lunch at the Kansas City BBQ, which was used in the movie Topgun. This place should actually be located in the keys, or on Baja Peninsula. First thing I thought of was Sloppy Joe's in Key West... So, how many bras and panties can actually be affixed to the blades of a ceiling fan anyhow? I guess that no one is keeping score :). I just hope that it was a Hunter... I did keep an eye out for flying objects ;' The pilots from mirimar frequent the place, and there is a collection of signed squadron caps, personalized lic. plates and other memorabila. As I said, it was like walking into a joint in the keys or Cabo. Graffiti and signed bills on the ceiling and all. Good food too, but sheesh, they failed the test! Is there actually a law on the books in California against sweet tea?! :( You can bet that I had a whole lot of fun with my waitress on this one.


On the way into SD proper from Shelter Island, we (Ziggy and I) got a primer on Tuesday's celebration when we happened upon one of the organizations set up in a park. The local TV weatherman had gathered them together as a backdrop for his sunday morning show. The group gathered puts on a cajun/zydeco festival in town for mothers day. The Bayou Boys provided music and some local chefs had thrown together some cajun food. We invited ourselves in and enjoyed the moment :).
The Gaslamp district is the older area of downtown, and has an array of clubs, restautants and entertainment. It is NOT oldtown, which is the location of the first San Diego proper, which is located north and is actually a state park. 16 blocks of the gaslamp are cordoned off for Fat Tuesday celebration, which is billed as the largest such festival west of the rockies. On a whim, I reserved a bed in the gaslamp hostel, which would allow me to "party til the cows come home" if I'd like, w/o concern... This experience was ok, no problems or anything, but probably not too high on my list of things to do a second time :). I had to park the van outside of the area and take buses in and out.
The festival itself was a great time ;') Pretty tame if compared to New Orleans, but that was not neccessarily a bad thing. The crowd would have to be measured in the tens of thousands, and there was a highly visable police presence, but they were cordial and enjoying the festivities, just very stringent on where the line was drawn. No heavy handedness, just right there to keep things in check. I had dipped into my bead inventory before hand, just in case...that was not a problem, as the festival area has a lot of multi level buildings with balconies, and there lots of things flying well ahead of the parade :). The parade was lots of fun, and I grew heavy with my new beads collection :). I fell in love a number of times, all for not... Afterwards, the stages (six of them) really started drawing the crowds. I enjoyed Shane Dwight blues band and the Royal Crown Revue (swing) in addition to a number of zydeco bands. I was working hard at lessening my bead collection, when the clock struck twelve and they re-opened the streets. What a stampede to the clubs! It was too bad, as there are a number of really interesting places; irish pubs, blues clubs, old time Rock and Roll venues, etc, all that I had wanted to visit. Things really had become a zoo, and I was in no mood to muscle into the sway of those mobs, so I stayed on the streets for a while. But, folks were starting to really feel the effects of all the alky-hol, and things soon started regressing, so I found myself calling it an evening at a relatively early 1 am :(. All in all, a pretty good time. Maybe next year it will be the real thang...Oh, no pics. Sorry about that.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Beach Bummin...Oceanside to the border

There is well over 50 miles of coastline in SD county, between Ocean City and Imperial Beach, and I think I have discovered the bulk of it. Lots of beachside communities, everything from Mission/Pacific beaches, which cater to the college crowd, to upscale La Jolla. It has been fun to mix things up, taking in the spring break environment of the Mission/Pacific on a weekend, kayaking on Mission Bay, geocaching the entire stretch, vistas along La Jolla... a real tough lifestyle, you know?
La Jolla, as I have noted, is pretty ritzy. It is fun to watch the variety of reactions towards the toybox. The middle age uppity sneer at it like they want it out of their town, while the retired set view it with awe. These are definitely upscale folks living in beachside retirement communities, yet they think the concept of my lifestyle is the greatest. I've had a half dozen conversations with these folks, and recognized that look of "if only I had the courage...". In all fairness, I generated a lot of attention, both positive and negative, by parking along the coastal bluff parks, setting up the grille and doing "cheeseburger in paradise" lunches, while the whole world strolls by on the walkway. I could easily go into business selling burgers from these locations :). In addition to La Jolla cove, which is a marine sanctuary and jump off point for scuba divers and long distance ocean swimmers, there are the "seven sisters" sea caves located a few hundred yards away. I wasted a few bucks in exploring one of these, Sunny Jim, via a passage that was dug over a hundred years ago. Whew! Birds live in here, and it is noxiously evident :{
I praticed "Surf Kayaking" from the north beach. My kayak is not designed for riding up and over waves, and even though it was fun, it was very wet and exilerating. Nothing like 4 foot crests breaking down on you while you fight to keep the boat right side up. It was good experience in handling the kayak, for future endeavors. I do think that if I find myself back on coastside next winter, I might invest in a good used Dagger, or ocean kayak, and a wetsuit for the season.
Greta Garbo's Phone (GC1A9F) was a really cool cache, set in the La Valencia Hotel (http://www.lavalencia.com/index.asp), which was built in the 20's, and frequented by Garbo and other stars of the 30's. I certainly did not blend in, wearing shorts and a tee, as I made my way through this upscale resort hotel : ). To log the cache required finding Garbo and friends ( a picture gallery), a stairway down, and then a phone set in a hidden nook; looking up Greta in the phone book to discover the missing numbers to finish out a phone number to call for instructions to successfully log the find :). Cool idea.

While up on this part of the coast, I camped at San Elijo State Beach at Cardiff by the sea. I met a guy from British Columbia, Scott, who was traveling in a VW bus hightop, heading al the way to south america. He had undertaken a similar trek as I, quiting his job and setting out on adventure. He is shooting a travel video of the adventure. I gathered a lot of ideas and tips from conversations with him... This is definitely a pristine stretch of coast here, and seems to be a surfers paradise. I have found the surfers to be much more engaging as I have made my way southward. I in no way idolize this group, but for sure, surfers rule!
Just to the south, in between Cardiff and La Jolla is Torrey Pines. The species is endemic to this spot, and it made for a nice afternoon, hiking the bluff trails and exploring the beaches. Miramer airbase is east of here, and the flight pattern is right overtop. I was seeing maybe a dozen fighter jets an hour, and all of the various support aircraft as well. In addition, I have seen a few aircraft carriers and support fleet, and I wonder if all of this activity is related to "the surge" or possibly our ratcheting things up with Iran? Not sure, but much more activity here then I had expected. I also have seen scores of personnel, including those who have probably recently returned, some minus various limbs or showing obvious scars from conflict : (. What strikes me most, is these are just kids! Not yet old enough to legally drink alcohol, but they can certainly go off and sacrifice their bodies and souls for us. Go figure!! I made a sidetrip up to San Clemente, and passed by the north gate of Camp Pendleton. Strung on a overhead electrical wire were several pairs of combat issue boots. I wondered to myself if this weren't a rite of passage on the way out of service, or upon return from deployment. They certainly looked well worn! On the return to SD from SC, I was at a vista point, and may have had my second sighting of Orca :). The fray was too far away to make out the species, but a pod of something was breaching and turning up the ocean. The breaches were not getting much air or hangtime, which is what I have noted with Gray or humpbacks. That, and the general surface activity is what makes me believe it was orca. While at this vista, a couple of military half tracks zoomed by below, in the Camp Pendleton training range. A few miles south at a rest stop, I was hearing the reports of heavy artillery being launched nearby. Luckily, they were not exploding :).

Torrey Pines/La Jolla features a glider port. This has to be the most parasails and other gliders that I have ever seen airborne at the same time. I saw many situations in the air that left me shaking my head. One guy swung in towards a lone palm on top of a 300' cliff, passing within 10' or so of the tree. If he had hit it, it was certainly a longs ways down! At the end of the beach here, sits a most unique beach house. It is a concrete round house, sitting upon a concrete pedestal, sort of like a water tower. There is a very artsy concrete wall as a privacy barrier to the beach. What made it unique was the elevator that ran up the cliffside a couple of hundred feet to the main house! I had failed to bring along the camera, and just to ice that fact, a Osprey sat upon the lower elevator shed, feasting on a fresh fish dinner! sheesh.
Mission Bay is definitely as neat as I had recalled. The bay is partitioned into several recreation areas, sailing, skiing and PWC are seperated into seperate areas so they can coexist. I kayaked many miles of the bay, and never encountered any problems. The caching here is cool too. Has to be the most underwater caches grouped into one area I have ever seen. If it were summer, I certainly would have been game, but 58 degrees sans wetsuit is not a lot of fun... A couple of unique landside caches here included "don't fear the reaper" (gckq8c), which is a minature coffin buried just below the surface :), and "light my fire" (gc10abj), which was nothing more than a piece of driftwood used as a log, sitting in amongst the iceplant!
I spent a couple of days and nights on Shelter island, which is located at the channel of SD bay. I had spent a night out here at Humphrey's in 1995 during the Americas Cup (Shelter island was home base for the boats) and had always wanted to return. Shelter Island ( not an actual island) is essentially just a mile long sand spit that acts a marina setting and location of four resort hotels. I wandered the grounds of Humphrey's (http://www.halfmooninn.com/index.html), and it was just as awesome as I had remembered. Lush tropical trees and vegetation, bungalo styled rooms with upscale ammenities. They have an small ampitheatre and hosts summer concerts similiar to Konocti. Rates were reasonable enough($139 single with AAA, midweek), and I contemplated getting a room here for the night, but it never did happen. I do highly recommend you look at this property if you are planning a trip this way. The bayside of the island is all park. A multi width boat ramp and a fishing pier round it out. One stretch has fire rings on the beach, and I ended up at many a bonfire over the course of the weekend :). Just hanging out watching all of the activity on the bay, with SD proper as a backdrop was nice enough, but directly across the channel lay the Navy's North Island base. Lots of activity from here too. The stars and stripes, and two other America cup boats sail the bay for hire. I looked into this, but between the rates and the fact they sail based on timid clientel, I passed. If I could have gotten in with a charter group taking it out on the Pacific, I'd love to experience the thrill of this type of sailing. All of the sailing opportunities available here, and I never got out onto the bay? Go figure.
Point Loma is on the northern side of the mouth to the bay. It is mostly Navy installations, but two light houses, Cabrillo National Monument and bluff trails and tide pools also make up the area. Lots of scuba divers and fishing offshore, but no signs of any whales, even though the higher bluffs are great watching areas. Great vistas all along the way.
Coronado Island, the silver strand highway and finally Imperial beach lay to the south of the bay entrance. So much of the strand is fenced off for military purposes, and then the majority of the rest is fenced and a state park. Here we go again with California's great camping opp's. $30 a night for a parking space in a parking lot, not even offering a hot shower! I don't think so.... Bill had told me about the Del Coronado Inn. It looked great on the approach, but parking was an impossibilty (they charge their guests $20 a day parking!), so I did not get to explore it :(.
At Imperial beach, I took a walk out the pier and entered into the middle of an HBO film set :'). Stood by and watched a few takes, but did not recognize any of the actors. At the south end of town is Tijuana preserve and a helicopter training facility. I watched the helicopters for a while, amazed at one manuever they were practicing. They would drop like a stone from several hundred feet and within 50' of the tarmac throw the nose straight up while going full throttle! I decided I would absolutely NOT want to be a passenger on this manuever :). There was always a few craft hovering off the dunes for extended periods of times, and I wondered if this might be part of a seal team...
Well, this is enough for this post. Still have to post the pics and then off on errands in prep for the next leg of the trip. Eastwards. I still have to post for SD bayfront, Fat Tuesday, Balboa Park, on and on...