Saturday, April 16, 2016

San Diego, California

April 6 - 15, 2016:

We leave our Ogilby Road campsite taking route 8 west across the Algodones sand dunes with gusty winds blowing sand across the road.  The sand dunes appear to be constantly trying to swallow up the highway and may be wining the battle.  In a 59 mile stretch we went from the dunes to irrigated farm country and then up into a mountainous area covered with huge boulders.  We had decided to take the less traveled, shorter, southern route 94.  This route is off limits to RV’s over 40 feet and long trailer rigs as the road is narrow and winding with many tight curves.  It was a scenic route, but not sure it was worth the effort ?  I originally was thinking of parking at the border and walking across for a tour of the Tecate Brewery in Mexico.  Unfortunately, the Germans recently bought Tecate Brewing and the tours are now closed for renovation.  I drove past a very interesting railroad museum and the Motor Transport Museum in Campo, CA which I had a hard time passing by, perhaps another time ?  Just after the border patrol check station, we take Otay Lakes road to Bonita, California where the Sweetwater Summit campground is located.

Riding into a wind farm

We have mixed emotions about this county run campground as there are several trashy rigs and tents here that appear to be inhabited by permanent residents.  We saw a guy at the dump station draining his tank without a discharge hose, just letting it flow out of the RV into the drain.  Of course we elected to go for the cheap sites here to save a few bucks, the higher rent area of the campground looks beautiful.  We can’t complain as $30 a day for water and electric hookups is very hard to find in San Diego and the WiFi even works.  We would stay here again.

San Diego is an expensive area to live and it appears that they have a serious homeless problem.  If you ride around the fringes of the downtown area in the morning or at night you will see lots of people sleeping on the streets, almost tent cities in places.

We do have a view here

There is much to see and do in San Diego and we kept pretty busy as you will see.

Balboa Park
As it is raining during the morning of our first day, we go to the Balboa Park area to visit the Natural History Museum, it was excellent as expected. We returned on another more sunny day to visit the California Building which houses the “History of Man Museum”, the Botanical garden and other sights.  I also took a tour of the tower at the California building which involves going up many steps and a spiral staircase. It doesn’t take you all the way to the top, but close and you do get a good 360 degree view.
Balboa Park was initially built for the 1914-1915 Panama-California Exposition and years later was reconstructed and expanded for the 1935-1936 California-Pacific Exposition.  There are only about four of the original 1915-15 buildings, but much has been reconstructed to duplicate the originals.  There are about a dozen museums here including the famous San Diego Zoo.  We only plan to go to a few of the museums and are passing up on the Zoo as it is so expensive and we are not Zoo fans.

Beautiful pond with the Botanical building in rear

The Museum of Art, the building is also art

The dome of the California Building is art !

Museum of Man in the California Building

Museum of Natural History Dinosaur exhibit

Museum of Man exhibit

View from the top of the California Building

San Diego Transit System
Our highway ride across the city to Balboa Park was not much fun so we decided to try the San Diego’s transit system.   We found that San Diego has an impressive new light rail transit system.  We drove to the free park and ride lot at E Street station and then took the blue line trolley to the last stop at America Plaza.  It cost us $5.00 round trip and it was a short walk to the USS Midway Museum.  It took us through the central downtown area to get some of the local flavor.  We walked past the Santa Fe train depot which is fully restored with beautiful roof cupola tiles.  We went inside to check it out and happy to say it remains a key element of San Diego’s transit system and Amtrak.

Trolley cars in front of the Santa Fe Depot

The Santa Fe Depot's cupola

Interior tiled walls

USS Midway and Embarcadero
I am, as a rule, not a military fan unless it goes back to the days of George Washington.  I do however have a fascination for the vehicles of war and the stories of courage and valor.  The USS Midway is probably one of the most impressive military museums in the world.  They have actual sailors and fliers who were stationed on the ship and flew the aircraft answering questions and explaining things.  We listened to a retired pilot with a couple hundred combat take off’s and landings from the carrier explain how it worked.

Plane on display inside carrier

This would be your bed on ship

A pilot's war map from the Vietnam era

Control panel in the engine room

Fighter jet on the flight deck

In Viet Nam, I was in a Helicopter company that flew
a similar helicopter, I used to hear them all day

The USS Midway

Statue in park adjacent to the USS Midway

Bob Hope exhibit from the Viet Nam era, there was audio of
one of his USO shows, brings back memories

Retired pilot explaining how to take off and land from the Carrier

The Star of India, the Worlds oldest active ship

Old Town
Old Town is the actual birthplace of California which initially was a Spanish settlement started in 1769.  Eventually the town was relocated as San Diego to be nearer the bayfront for shipping and commerce.  The original Old Town was abandoned, fell into decay until it was resurrected and restored and as the Old Town State Historical Park in 1968.  The present town adjacent to the State Park is now a popular tourist attraction with many shops, hotels and restaurants.  The State Park has done a good job of restoring and rebuilding the historical village.

Dancers at Old Town

Mission and Pacific Beach
We drive to the Beach area where we walked the paved boardwalk, checking out the sights, the surf and the surfers.  It has a real shore town feel to it with lots of small beach rental units, beach bars, restaurants and sort of a dirty, gritty feel to it, like the Jersey shore.  The hardest part was dodging all the runners, bike riders and skate boarders on the boardwalk.


The boardwalk along the beach

Lots of restaurants and bars

Lots of surfers

A rice ride

Gaslamp Quarter
The Gaslamp Quarter of San Diego is an architectural gem and also the premier dining, shopping and entertainment district of town.  It’s one of those places that you could go back to over and over.  I see lots of live music venues in this area and I managed to check out a couple of them.

The gate to the Gaslamp Quarter

The Balboa

The Yuma Hotel

Architectural views

Simon says coffee shop

Barrio Logan and Chicano Park
I find my way to the Barrio Logan area that I had seen from the Trolley to check out the impressive murals along Harbor Drive.  This eventually turns into a major find, purely by accident.  First, I come upon a great coffee shop for a Mexican Mocha, then down the street find an impressive small park.  This area once had a tuna cannery which employed many of the  locals and the park is a monument in their memory.  It is nice to see a neighborhood that takes pride in and remembers its past.
I then found the “mother lode” of mural parks a short distance away.  Chicano Park is not even listed as an attraction in the Moon San Diego tour guide, but to me is a “must see” attraction.  This park came about during the 1960’s during the period of heightened civil rights activism.  The local residents, predominately hispanic, became tired of the city taking away their neighborhood with highway and bridge construction and zoning changes without any public hearings.  The locals rebelled and took over the park when the city attempted to construct a building there.  This ultimately was resolved, the park was saved and a huge mural project was started. This has culminated into the largest collection of outdoor murals, (72), in the country and the park is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  The general theme of the murals is Spanish, Mexican, Indian, (Californio) heritage, independence and civil rights.  I will admit a few of the murals could be considered somewhat revolutionary.  Again, it’s nice to see a neighborhood with this kind of passion for protecting it’s culture.

Murals do tell a story

Tuna Cannery history remembered

Great sculpture in the park

Chicano Park murals cover all the highway pilars

United Farm Workers mural

Chicano history mural

This is one of my favorites

They go on and on throughout the park

Coronado Island
Coronado Island is a narrow strip of land in San Diego Bay. We stopped at the Silver Strand State Park for a beach walk, very scenic and peaceful with no crowds.  We then continued on to the town of Coronado with it’s world famous historic “Hotel del Coronado”.  We toured the grounds of the Hotel which are world class luxurious and then walked out onto the beach.  The Hotel opened in 1888 and is undoubtably one of the grandest Hotels in America.  We leave Coronado over the spectacular Coronado Bay Bridge with far reaching views in all directions of downtown San Diego.

View at Silver Strand State Park

Interesting flow lines in the sand

Sand Dollar art

The Hotel del Coronado

View from the beach

Sand castle on the beach

San Diego has endless classy dining possibilities, but I have little interest in expensive fine dining. I have more simple tastes such as Chicken Pot Pie.
I saw great reviews of a place called the “Chicken Pie Shop” and had to go. We didn’t exactly have high expectation and I wasn’t sure what Twinkles would find for her vegetarian pallet.  Happy to say, this restaurant far exceeded all our expectations !  The place is nothing to look at but the food was simply great !  The chicken pie was chock full of real meat with a nice homemade crust.  It came with mashed potatoes, gravy, cole slaw, corn and peas, rolls and a slice of fruit pie.  Twinkles had a beautiful fresh ripe fruit salad which she said was one of the best she ever had and for only $6.  Our total bill was $16 and it definitely is going on this years best restaurant list.

Another find was the Hans and Harry Bakery in Bonita, one of the best !

Getting ready to dig in

Almost wished I ordered this salad

House of Blues
The reason for going to the House of Blues was to see a local blues master, Robin Henke, play.  He plays there on a regular basis and was beyond great, playing mostly Delta country blues on an assortment of vintage 1920-1930 guitars.  He also told interesting stories about the songs and gave a short history lesson on the various blues players and their styles.  He is a native of San Diego who has been playing playing and teaching for decades and I don’t believe I’ve ever seen anyone play this style of music any better.

He's a great one !

Patrick’s Gaslamp Pub
A  few blocks away is another noted music club, Patrick’s Gaslamp Pub.  It’s an old Irish Pub that originally opened in 1933 when it was the red light district of San Diego.  It is situated in the Keating Building built in 1890 and was one of the earliest places to hear live music in the city.  They have now stuck to that tradition for 75 years now.  I went to see the "Fuzzy Rankins Band" who were chosen by the local blues society to represent the city in the International blues challenge in Memphis.  They were good but play more of a danceable style of blues, but not my style.  I didn’t feel comfortable in there and I didn’t see much Irish about it, so I left after one beer.   

I was just wandering around and heard the music at " The Field Irish Pub", it sounded good and the place appeared really authentic.  It was 100% Irish, lots of Guinness and Jameson.  There were two guys playing traditional Irish music very nicely, the beer was good, the atmosphere was nice, it felt good.

Traditional Irish music rocks !

Cabrillo Point
We rode along the San Diego waterfront on Harbor Drive north past the Navy yards, the convention center, center city, the embarcadero area, huge marinas and the airport.  It was hard to stay focused on the road.  This is one of the greatest natural ports in the world and it is filled with sea vessels of all kinds.  Our destination, Cabrillo Point, is where it all started in 1542 when Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo and his flotilla sailed in, claiming it for Spain and describing it as “a closed and very good harbor”.  What would Cabrillo think if he could see it now ?  

Cabrillo Point is located on a peninsula that rises 422 feet above the sea with strategic views of San Diego.  As a result a lighthouse was constructed here in 1854 as a navigational aid and military installations were installed for protection of the harbor during the WWI and WWII.  A military presence continues today on the end of the peninsula.  The views of the city and harbor from the Cabrillo Point are quite spectacular !

The restored old lighthouse

The view from the Point

The Cabrillo Monument

Model of Cabrillo's ship

Navy ship going out to sea

Bird Rock and La Jolla
We rode to the Pacific Beach area and then north along the coast stopping in “Bird Rock” to admire the beautiful beach homes and a stunning vista point on Neptune Place.  A short distance away we found Windansea Beach, parked and took a walk along the rocky shoreline and down onto the sandy beach.  We then continued to La Jolla where we parked on Coast Boulevard adjacent to La Jolla Cove.  There were hundreds of Seals and Sea Lions sunning on the rocks at La Jolla Cove and an equal of number of tourists taking photos and selfies.  We then walked around Point La Jolla along Eilen Browning Scripps Park with incredible views all the way.  Afterwards, lunch in La Jolla at the Living Room.

View from coast in Bird Rock

Another Bird Rock view

I'm calling them seaweed floats, they are real and very artistic looking

Seal yawning at Point La Jolla

View at the Point

Great views in every direction

Another coast view

Hundreds of Seals and Sea Lions

We thoroughly enjoyed San Diego except for the highways and drivers.  The natives here may be nice people but put them behind the wheel and they become evil. If you put your turn signal on to switch lanes as they are coming up on your right, they will speed up to cut up off, deliberately.  At first I thought it was accidental, but it happened over and over.   I believe it’s time for me to go where it’s a bit more relaxed ?

Next stop is Adelanto, California;
Twinkles and Slick 

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for writing this great post on San Diego. Lots of good info. We hope to spend some time there in the near future. How do you find all the great live music when you travel to a new location? We look forward to following you blog another year.