City Camping

Mission Bay RV Park, San Diego, California; High 68F Low 57F, light rain.

warm cloudy day in Balboa parkI can hear rain on the roof now, after a day of warm air and clouds over the ocean. The predictions have changed over the last few days, with only one thing in common.  Tuesday was to be our best sunny day, and it was.  The last two days have been cloudy, but still warm, at least to us.  I noticed that many of the comments for these days in San Diego are affirmations of what a great place it is to visit.  Hard to imagine that in so many years of living in California I visited San Diego so rarely, and remember almost nothing about it at all.  I must have been a young teenager the last time I was here.

art in the parkWe have enjoyed ourselves, but haven’t done so much that we are exhausted and overwhelmed.  I could see how that could happen here.  It is a big city with a great deal of art and entertainment, and a lot of outdoor space to do outdoor things.  If we had our bikes and kayaks with us, we would no doubt be exhausted by now, but we decided on this trip to leave them behind.  No matter the destination, it is hard to dig the kayaks out of the snow and load up the bikes.  It is a bit like grocery shopping when you aren’t hungry, sometimes hard to imagine what you want to eat.  In the same way, it is hard to get excited about biking and kayaking when the temperatures are single digits.  If we come back here, you can bet we will be sure to bring both bikes and kayaks.

Spanish Baroque aka 1700 architecture for the California Panama Exposition in 1915The last two days are still a bit of a blur.  Some things stand out, especially the neighborhoods.  We did some of the normal sightseeing things expected of San Diego visitors, but we also wandered down unknown streets discovering lovely surprises along the way.  One of the best was the area called Mission Hills, a neighborhood west of the more talked about Hillcrest area, and just up the hill from the famous Old Town San Diego.  A web site that I later found when searching for information called it “the neighborhood you dreamed of before the world changed”.  There were broad sidewalks, and beautiful old bungalows from the 20’s, small and tidy and lovingly refurbished, and not a for sale sign in sight. 

relaxing in the art village at Balboa ParkWe spent the afternoon yesterday exploring Balboa Park, home of the San Diego Zoo, but also home to 14 world class museums, countless manicured gardens, fountains, and pathways meandering through the wooded hills just minutes from the central part of the city. We had Abby along, and decided against trying to see the museums, but one could easily spend a long day just exploring this beautiful park. 

dinner at Casa De Reyes in Old Town San DiegoLater in the afternoon we drove through Hillcrest and Mission Hills to arrive in Old Town San Diego at just the right time for an amazing Mexican dinner at Fiesta de Reyes, with gas lit fires scattered around the patio to keep us cozy in the cool evening.

the Coronado BridgeThe morning rain was light today, and the skies lightened enough mid day to make our trek to Coronado quite lovely. We drove across the Coronado Bridge and I searched for the small home where I lived as a four year old.  I can remember what it felt like, and remember the policemen bringing me back when I “ran away” to the beach just two blocks away.  I think I found the street.  It will be fun to go home and search for the old letters that just might have the address of that little house on them.

the Dog Beach on CoronadoWe drove south to Imperial Beach, within view of Tijuana, and on this gray day, I could find very little about it that was appealing.  We drove back north to find another well known Dog Beach, where Abby could play ball and I could just sit and listen to the ocean.  The Dog Beach is adjacent to the Naval Base and is actually on military property.  It was a bit confusing trying to figure out exactly where to go, and the signs were not very clear at all.  The military gate guard was helpful though, and pointed us in the right direction. 

a beach hauled in at the Hotel Del CoronadoLater we parked closer to the Hotel Del Coronado, an amazing landmark on the southwest perimeter of the island.  The hotel has the distinction of being the largest wooden building still standing in the US.  Since it was a cool afternoon, we left Abby for a bit while exploring the lobby and grounds of this famous site.  The woodwork was impressive, and everything was lustrous and beautiful, but the interior of the main part of the hotel was really dark!  All that gorgeous dark wood from the late nineteenth century can be a bit oppressive.  Much has been written about this wonderful old hotel, and the gift shop was amazing  with a special emphasis on Marilyn Monroe, who stayed here during the filming of  “Some Like It Hot”.  The hotel was well featured in the movie.

a walk around the Hotel Del CoronadoWe opted for an ice cream cone from the hotel sweet shop and were a bit aghast that two single cones cost us $12.65.  Sheesh.  Then as we explored the sun deck overlooking the beach, we saw the burgers went for merely 15.95 each, and even came with a pack of potato chips.  At least they were Kettle Chips.  It was lovely when the sun came out, and for a short time the beach lit up a bit.  I still would much rather be camped in my MoHo than staying at this beautiful old hotel. 

exploring the GasLamp District of San DiegoWe drove back into downtown San Diego to explore the much touted Gaslamp District, only to discover that much of what makes this area fun to visit are the restaurants and the night life.  The restaurants lining the street were busy with folks eating outdoors, and the sidewalks were lined with folks from the nearby convention center, identified by their matching dangling name badges.  We walked a few blocks but since we weren’t ready for more restaurant eating, there wasn’t that much to keep us there.

exploring the GasLamp District of San DiegoInstead we drove a few more blocks to search for another well known area called “Little Italy”.  Once again, the restaurants and eateries seemed to be the major form of entertainment.  In spite of the descriptions of “boutiques and shopping”, there wasn’t much to entice us to park and walk again. It might have been because it was a cool winter day, but there didn’t seem to be much going on in this area either. 

hunting for Little Italy in San DiegoIt is surprising how close all of this is to our little spot in Mission Bay, with the Pacific Highway leading right from downtown, past Old Town and Sea World, past the turn to Fiesta Island and once again home at the RV park.  Almost anything of interest in the main part of the city is within fifteen minutes or so of the park. 

hunting for Little Italy in San DiegoI can see how San Diego would be a nice place to live if you liked cities and all that they have to offer.  It is a nice place to visit, for sure. But I do notice that I am feeling the pressure of people and the lack of open space.  I am ready for the next stage of our little getaway to begin, starting tomorrow morning when we hook up the Tracker and head east for the desert.

Abby at the Dog Beach on CoronadoThe rain has stopped for now, and I am finished with my latest book.  How long has it been since you read a book that was amazing for its language? I found myself wanting to reread and highlight passages just for their eloquence, and for the feeling they gave me.  When so many books lately are quick reads that are simple entertainment, it was wonderful to slip into the magic of prose that lifted me from everyday life. Remember Margaret Atwood?  I read “The Handmaid’s Tale” a very long time ago, but just found another old novel of hers, “Cat’s Eye”.  It was a haunting story of a difficult time in a girl’s youth, but the writing itself is what made the book sing.

Tonight, rain on the roof.  Tomorrow, rain in the desert.  But still, it isn’t snowing and it isn’t freezing, and rain or shine, the desert hot springs pools are waiting.


Whatever it takes…

to get South outta the cold and snow…

Mission Bay RV Resort, San Diego, CA Clear, High 79F Low 61F

heading south_002DSC_0002It doesn’t matter a bit that we have to drive several hundred miles, almost the full length of the state of California.  Doesn’t matter a bit that for much of that drive we are traveling through the hazy warmed up fog/smog that blankets the Central Valley for much of the winter.  Doesn’t matter a bit that we must drive over the Grapevine with bumper to bumper semi’s jockeying for position.  Doesn’t matter one whit that we decided to drive straight through LA on I-5 to get south to San Diego.  Whatever it takes, it is worth it to get south to the sunshine and blue skies that were waiting.

heading south_008DSC_0008We left Lodi after a leisurely breakfast, knowing we had only 250 miles or so to reach our destination at the Orange Grove RV Park just east of Bakersfield.  We were really happy to see that much of the surface of I-5 has been redone since our last trip south and even with the smog, oops, I mean haze, it was wonderful to soak up the sunshine pouring in through the windshield. Before 2:30 in the afternoon we pulled into the park and settled into space 177 at the far end of the row near the back.  We were also delighted to discover that there was a free RV washing area.  With a huge bag of oranges that would cost as least five bucks and a free RV/car wash that would cost another ten bucks in quarters, our “real” cost of spending the night at this non Passport America park came to about 18.00. 

imported 01-22-2013 001With the orchard fruit picker provided at the camp office, I managed to fill a giant cloth grocery bag in just a few minutes.  Yum.  The smaller oranges on the outside perimeters of the trees were sweeter, and for the last couple of days I have made some delicious fresh orange juice for breakfast. With the MoHo and Tracker all shiny and a simple spaghetti supper we were ready to settle in for a great night.

Of course, fate just had to mess with us a little bit to keep us from taking too much for granted.  After supper I popped in the 3rd disc for the first season of Homeland and was greeted by a strange message on the fancy dvd player/home theater system installed in the MoHo.  It has worked fine now for five years, but tonight it decided to jam with the dvd in the drive.  We went online to check for a solution, and discovered in the process that the unit is permanently wired into the rig with no sign of a place to unplug it. Mo turned off the breaker and we spent close to a couple of hours taking the whole thing apart while it was still hanging from the cubby hole in the MoHo.  We finally gave up and broke the dang thing completely apart to get out the Netflix dvd.  That wasn’t much fun at all, and we still have no clue how we are going to replace the unit, or what to replace it with. Thank goodness the TV still works.

LA from the 5.  I lived here when City Hall was the only tall buildingAfter a good night’s sleep, we both decided to not talk about the ruined player and went on to have a great day driving south once more.  Bakersfield was a smoggy oops hazy, as ever but as we drove up over the Grapevine the haze receded and even going into LA the smog wasn’t bad at all.  Even the traffic was bearable going right through downtown. (Mo is listening to me as I proof this, and she just said “That is because you weren’t driving!) There were a few sections of the 5 between the San Fernando Valley and downtown where the lanes were so narrow it seemed impossible for two big rigs to pass, but we managed with only a couple of rather scary moments as big rigs took up 1/4 of our lane and someone was right next to us on honking because we had to drift to avoid the truck.  Whew!  It looked as though the engineers had made six lanes out of five to make room for more traffic without widening anything to fit .

rest area at Oceanside is built to look like old California missionsOnce we passed Disneyland and Buena Park the traffic thinned out, the lanes widened, and the pavement was again smooth as silk as we rolled on south.  A rest stop near Oceanside was interesting, with huge buildings that looked just like beautiful California missions, but were only big bathrooms made to look like missions. 

doggie bas and disposal are everywhere in this dog friendly worldWe used the iPad maps (I refuse to download the iOS 6 so I still have google maps on my iPad) to go directly to the RV park without a hitch.  We knew that using our Passport America card for a discount meant that we would only be able to stay through Friday morning for the half price cost of $25 per day.  We also knew that we couldn’t make a reservation using the card, but Nina’s assertation that this was the low season here proved true and the park was only about half full.  In no time at all, we were settled in.

Fiesta Island Dog Park with downtown San Diego in the distanceAlthough the park itself is basically a big asphalt parking lot, the sites are big, there are shade trees all around, and there is great security.  The best part of this park, however, is the location.  Right on a peninsula that juts out into Mission Bay, there are miles of beautiful parks and trails all round the bay for walking, and the incredible dog park at Fiesta Island just a few minutes away by car.

It’s a Dog’s Life here in this part of San Diego, and today was all about Abby.  We took her around the Bay Walk here by the park, and then drove over the Fiesta Island to find the dog park.  The island is mostly brown and scrubby, with a somewhat muddy beach, but the dog park is huge, really huge, and is all green and grassy, and the beach that is within the dog park was much cleaner. 

wolf dogs on the Dog Beach at Ocean BeachAfter some time on Fiesta Island, we drove around the Bay and crossed one of the more than 300 bridges in San Diego to discover the Dog Beach at the funky old hippie town of Ocean Beach.  Even though dogs are restricted to the evening hours on the main beach, the Dog Beach is open and leash free all the time.  What an amazing place, with soft white sand and lots of space and waves.  I spread out a big towel and sat in the sunshine while Mo and Abby played ball for a long time before I took a turn.  I had as much fun watching all the other dogs as I did playing with Abby. 

sunset at Mission BayLater in the afternoon we explored Ocean Beach in the car, but didn’t see much that made us want to get out and wander.  Driving north to Mission Beach had much the same result, but finally farther north at Pacific Beach we found a parking spot and got out and walked the Beach Walk. 

sunset at Mission BaySo far, San Diego has been a winner, at least this part has been.  We are reading about the various neighborhoods throughout the city and are planning a day at Balboa Park tomorrow.  Rumor says it is a great dog friendly place, and should be fun even without a visit to the famous San Diego Zoo.  The goal is to stay loose, enjoy our sunny stay here in this new to us city, and not try to fit in so much that we end up feeling rushed and overloaded instead of relaxed.