Friday, January 21, 2011

California Dreamin’ (The Trip, Part 1)

California 2010 - Rob's Camera 200
Four days have passed and I wish I was still there.  I’m surprised at how much I enjoyed it, considering I’m such a New Yorker/East Coaster.

It’s been a while since I’ve really traveled.  I’m not sure I put our camping trips in that category.  Traveling, to me, involves a bit of effort.  Driving from Mahopac to Richmond, or even Maine, can qualify.  But anything that involves flying?  Yep.  Now you have a party. (Last flight?  Naples for the Greenwich game in November, 2007)

So let’s break it down, shall we?  To do so, let’s go back to the beginning.

Pre-trip: Ah, the usual.  Packing.  Preparing.  Over-packing.  Over-preparing.  That’s how I roll, I guess.  Right up until the minute I left my house to get on the train to go to Carrie, I was still changing my mind.  The sweatshirt I brought with me, for instance, was grabbed literally as I was walking to the car.  Of course, this means the possibility of bringing too much (which I did).  Still, moving through Metro North and New York’s subway system wasn’t too bad, as I had a large suitcase (granted, with flowers all over it – had to make do with a borrowed one) and a backpack.

In Brooklyn that Monday night, Carrie and I grabbed a dinner of Chinese food, watched just a little of the BCS National Championship, and went to sleep – prepared for an early start.

Day 1, Tuesday: The alarm went off around 4:30 AM.  Both of us shot up, showered and were ready to hit the road.  Carrie had ordered a taxi, with a promise that they would charge us $25 to go to JFK.  He was to show up at 5:45 AM but he was waiting when I strolled out at 5:30 to go get breakfast.  So we were off, and he overcharged us ($30).  Guess we won’t use them again.

At JFK, all went well.  Security was very crowded (shocking!), but otherwise Jet Blue’s Terminal 5 (T5 to those in the know) was very nice.  As for the flight…nothing spectacular (that’s a compliment).  Jet Blue knows what they’re doing.  It’s a bummer that in this day and age they charge for everything (except bags and a snack), but that’s life.

I watched “Caddyshack” (trying to not laugh out loud) and listened to music on XM Radio.  Finally, just after 11:00 AM Pacific time, I began to see the Pacific Ocean in the distance (first time for me!).  We touched down around 11:30.  Off the plane, and onto the bags, and…wait… a voicemail.  My credit union left a message saying there was a problem with a deposit that I sent.  Fortunately (you have no idea how fortunate it was) it was resolved quickly, and we were soon off cruising in our little Kia that we rented for the day.

I highlighted some of the early portion of the trip here.  We had a great lunch and drove around, crossing the San Diego-Coronado Bridge (stunning), riding along the Silver Strand, and heading to the Mexican border before coming back north.

We pushed ourselves for the first day, making sure that we didn’t fall asleep at, say, 7:00 that night (which would have been 10 back in the east).  This was a conscious decision, with me continuing to drive up “The Five” (freeways use “the” in front of numbers out there).  Perhaps our favorite moment of the evening was looking at the enormous, rather opulent Mormon temple that could be seen glowing near the highway.  We stopped to have a look, and would have gone inside had there not been an event going on.  (Of course, no disrespect is intended…we were fascinated)

We had a decent dinner across the street from our amazing hotel (Yard House…opening soon in Yonkers), and I think we crashed around 10:00.  The whole time, I worried about our little Kia, as I refused to pay $30 a night to have the car parked at the hotel.  So I found a street spot a few blocks away, and the homeless folks simply ignored it.

Day 2, Wednesday: Carrie had a few hours before she needed to get to her first event at the conference she was attending, so we began with a HUGE breakfast at Hash House a Go Go, where we had…I kid you not…a bacon waffle
California 2010 - Carrie's Camera 097
A bit decadent, no?  Time allowed us to explore a little more, but we had a lunch to get to in the Gaslamp District at Sammy’s Wood Fired Pizza.  Carrie and Deb (the lunch organizer) were nice enough to ask me to join her peers for the meal while they talked shop.  Nice people, all.  After that, I was on my own for a bit.  To be honest, my feet (always an issue when I travel) were OK with just sitting for a bit.  Carrie and I met up after and I joined her for a reception, after which we snuck off to do some exploring.  We checked out Petco Park, home of the Padres, and stopped off at Fred’s Mexican Café for a drink. 

Day 3, Thursday: For the first time, I was really on my own.  It was during this time that I broke my rule of traveling:
Always try to eat at places that can’t be found in our home area.
Subway.  Fail (though I’ve never had breakfast there before, and it was OK).  There were places that I’d like to try but just didn’t want to do it without Carrie.  It just didn’t seem right.

So I strolled back to Petco Park with my cheap Subway breakfast (“Cheap” being the motto of this trip).  Petco opens their outfield area for what they call “Park at the Park” – featuring a youth baseball field, open space, the Tony Gwynn statue, and, yes, access to the baseball stadiums’ bleacher seats.
California 2010 - Rob's Camera 033
In fact, I was able to walk right down to the outfield fence.  Very cool.  More parks should be this fan-friendly.

Thursday also afforded us the chance to go visit the Old Town area via the very accessible and affordable trolley system, and return to the Mexican border where we walked through the outlets.  Amazing how close we were without crossing (neither one of us had passports with us).

Day 4, Friday: I wrote some notes about everything up to this point in a previous post.  This was the day that I expected to be alone the longest.  I thought that perhaps I would go scope out the touristy Seaport Village area and investigate the USS Midway (which I simply couldn’t fork over the $18 to go on…and didn’t want to do so without Carrie).  San Diego, as you can imagine, is very proud of its military and, primarily, Navy history.  To the many sailors that I saw (and a few soldiers as well), thank you so much for your service.  That same gratitude is extended to the veterans that I saw as well.

By this point, my feet had almost had enough, but I pressed on.  After my stroll along the water, I decided to look for Balboa Stadium – the first home of the Chargers when they came to San Diego.  It took some effort, but I found it out behind San Diego High School (which, it should be noted, made me just a tad nervous to be walking around).

Let’s step back in time (picture via  The Chargers played here from 1961-1966
Now, let’s step ahead to 2011:
California 2010 - Rob's Camera 115
That’s it.  Same place.  Now a high school field and very inaccessible.  A gate was open, and I was able to step in quickly, but there didn’t seem to be any way to go walk around the track or, heaven forbid, step on the turf.

I went back towards the trolley, where I had some Jack in the Box (probably haven’t eaten at one since they were in New York in the 70’s) and met up with Carrie for an afternoon and evening of shopping, walking (oh my aching feet) and dinner.  Let me just say that I will gladly hang out with Carrie’s friend Phyllis anytime.  She loves music and has a fun, quirky, honest way about her.  The three of us had a nice dinner.  Just talking and laughing.  Very cool.

Sadly, that all but ended our San Diego portion of the trip, as Saturday would begin with us boarding a train towards Los Angeles.

We’ll go from there…

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