Friday, January 13, 2012

San Diego, Coronado & Pt. Loma

Sat, Dec. 31st - Mon, Jan. 9th, 2012

View from Coronado Bridge as we arrive on the island.

This is the courtyard gardens at Hotel del Coronado on Coronado Island. In the center of the picture is a Dragon Tree from the Canary Islands planted in 1900. It was used as a backdrop in the Marilyn Monroe movie "Some Like it Hot", which was filmed here at the hotel in 1958.

This is a view from the back side of the hotel toward the beach. On the left you can see the corner of one of the pools. Just to the right of the palm trees is an outdoor ice skating rink. Ice skating in 80 degrees with a view of the ocean. Doesn't that sound like fun?

Walking down the stairs from the patio, we find several Dr. Seuss sculptures. They are part of a traveling exhibit that started here at the hotel in 2009. Dr. Seuss lived at the Hotel for a time. I think this one is from my favorite, "Green Eggs and Ham", or it could be one of those darn Sneetches. My very observant, three-year-old, granddaughter wonders why they don't have nipples.

Walking down the beach, this is a view of the hotel from the back. The basement is filled with shops.

It is one of the few grand, old hotels to have survived from the 1800s.

John's on the phone again. I think he loves that new Smart Phone, more than he loves me. At the end of this beach, we ran into the North Island Naval Air Station and a big fence.

So we drove out to Point Loma to see Cabrillo National Monument honoring the first man to sail into San Diego Bay in 1542, only 50 years after Columbus discovered America. He only stayed two or three days and wasn't really impressed. It was just desert and shrubs back then. I wonder what he would think, if he could see it now.

From up here on Point Loma the view of Coronado Hotel with the bay behind it, the skyline of San Diego and the mountains beyond is great.

This is the North Island Naval Air Station on Coronado Island just left of the Hotel Coronado. The San Diego Naval Base is the second largest in the country after Norfolk, Virginia. They were home to carrier aviation in 1940. The Navy is the largest single employer in the region. Over 95,000 military and 142, 500 civilian jobs to support the fleet. It accounts for more than 20% of the total employment.

On the drive out to the point, the road goes thru a huge National Cemetery with headstones going down the hillsides to the water on both sides for at least a couple miles. It's very beautiful.

As we got close to the point, there were hiking trails down to the beach. These are some agave plants. The blue agave plant is used to make tequila, which is used to make those wonderful margaritas. I can't wait to have one (or two?) next week when we go down to Algodones, Mexico for lunch, while we are in Yuma. I also hope to get new glasses in Mexico.

This is a close-up of those same agaves with a hummingbird buzzing around. They have beautiful red buds that open up into long, kind of hairy-like yellow blossoms. The agave is not actually a cactus, but is a member of the lily family.

This is another variety of agave. I took this when we were at Old Downtown. It's kind of like a small mexican village with some of the original homes and buildings from the original downtown. There are shops, outdoor restaurants, museums and a historic walking tour. We stopped here one of the days that we took the trolley into the city. We also stopped off at Little Italy for supper when we were riding the trolley and had a delicious pizza with sausage, tomato, garlic, basil and lots of cheese. It was probably the best pizza we've ever had.

This is another variety of agave. I took this picture in the desert garden at Balboa Park. When I went on the internet to look up agaves, they had 60,000 pictures!

This was another pretty view. We have seen these flowers all along the coast coming down. I'm not sure what they are, but it appears that they plant them to hold the sand from eroding.

This is the original Point Loma Lighthouse 400 feet high on the point. It could be seen from 39 miles away. It served 36 years, but they discovered that it was too high and often hidden by fog.

So in 1891 they built Pelican Lighthouse down at beach level and the old one became a National Monument.

This old fishing boat must have a good catch, as the birds were just swarming around and following him in.

A submarine heading out to sea. Lots of people were watching. They said they don't see one very often. The black line in the water further back is Zuniga Jetty built by the Army Corp of Engineers in 1904. A horn at the end sounds a one second blast every ten seconds and five quick-flashing lights mark the mile long jetty.

We stopped by one of the beaches most afternoons to watch the sunset, but a couple days there were surf warnings on the news with up to 15 foot waves. When we stopped this day the local news station was interviewing one of their head rescue guys. He was telling about how they had rescued a surfer who had lost his board.

The first picture was before noon and the pier was closed. We came back later in the afternoon and the pier was open and crowded with people. We heard a surfer interviewed that evening on the news. He said he was all excited when he heard the surf was up. He grabbed his board and headed to the beach. But when he got there he changed his mind. He said it looked like possible death to him.

But it didn't stop lots of others. There were lots of them out there already and we watched as this guy jumped off the end of the rock, right into the surf that was beating up against it. There are always lots of people out to watch the sunset, but there were even bigger crowds out watching the surf.

There he goes!

This was an awesome sunset over Point Loma taken from the beach between the Hotel Coronado and the North Island Naval Air Station.

Red sky at night, sailor's delight!

Next Stop, Yuma. Then Quartzite RV Show and on to Phoenix where our kids join us for a week.

I've blogged about Yuma the last two years, so there probably won't be anything new, and I'll be too busy playing while the kids are here. So there probably won't be any new blogs for a couple weeks or so.

Over and out,

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

San Diego Harbor

Sat, Dec. 31st - Mon, Jan. 9th

The San Diego Harbor is 34 miles long including five cities. Point Loma on the far left and then San Diego, followed by National City, Chula Vista and Imperial Beach on the right bordering Mexico. The two little islands just off the San Diego beach are Shelter Island and Harbor Island(man-made). The large island in the bay is Coronado, connected by the Coronado Bay Bridge, and way over to the right off the map is the Silver Strand, a road built to connect it to Imperial Beach. Population of San Diego is 1.3 million, metro area 3 m.

We were on the Spirit of San Diego waiting to pull out on a cruise of the bay. I hope they don't go to all this trouble every time one of the workers needs a potty break.

Here's another cruise ship like the one we are on, going by the USS Midway air craft carrier. The Midway was commissioned right at the end of WWII and finished it's career as the Flagship of Persian Gulf air operations in Operation Desert Storm.

It is now a museum with a self-guided audio tour narrated by Midway sailors. Midway pilots shot down the first and last MiGs of the Vietnam War and led the evacuation of Saigon with the rescue of 3,073 refugees in two days.

This is Seaport Village with shopping and restaurants right along the waterfront and downtown San Diego behind it.

One happy sailor. Calm seas in the bay. No dramamine needed. Coronado Bay Bridge ahead is a little over two miles long out to the Isle of Coronado.

This is a view of Shelter Island. It and Harbor Island next to it are man-made parks each about a mile long. From here we watched sailboaters and ships.

This is a car carrier from Tokyo departing the bay. We are watching from Shelter Island.

This is the USS Reagan which has called San Diego it's home port since 2004. It is heading out to Washington for a longterm maintaince overhaul. It was being led out by a smaller ship and had several smaller guard boats along the sides. A small fishing boat started out from the beach near us, and one of them immediately gave chase to warn them off. San Diego is home port to three of the newest aircraft carriers, USS Reagan, USS Nimitz and USS Carl Vinson.

A couple shots of the Coronado Bay Bridge as we finished our cruise on the bay at sunset.

The Midway cost $90 million to build in 1945 and was overhauled from 1966-70 for $260,000 million. It weighs 69,000 ton and has 212,000 HP. It has two 20-ton anchors with 2,000 feet of chain (each link weighs 100 lbs). To quote one sailor, "Taking care of two 20-ton anchors at the end of 20 ton of chain took a lot of grunt work".

This is the flight deck on the USS Midway where the planes take off and land. It is huge (over 4 acres), at least as wide as the length of a football field. If they could stand it on it's end, it would be taller than the skyscrapers behind it. There were many planes and helicopters on this deck and the hanger deck below, plus lots of flight simulators to try. We did lots of climbing up and down ladder-like stairs. There are 18 decks on the ship. We got to go up to the bridge where the captain runs the show. We also went thru several dining halls, heads, living quarters, galley, supply rooms, laundry, etc.

This is looking down from the flight deck to the park with a statue of a sailor getting a welcome home embrace. They could carry 75 airplanes and had 200 pilots on board.

What's the big deal? This sounds just like our daily showers in the RV, when we're not hooked up to water. They had a crew of 4,500. That's a lot of showers! They used ten tons of food daily for 225 cooks to prepare 13,500 meals. Now that's a lot of dishes!

The Brig! John thought this would be a good place to leave me. But there was no lock on the door, so I got out. You wouldn't believe how many cells they have on board. There must have been a lot of misbehavin' goin' on!

This was on one of the desks in one of the pre-flight, mission planning rooms. I guess they were planning to put on a show with lots of fireworks. I bet the ending was a little different than Saddam had planned.

We were on the Midway six hours and probably walked four miles. It was just about dusk when we left. The Ooterdam, of Norwegian cruise lines, was just leaving port.

View of the Midway from the boardwalk. The lit up "41" stands for it being the 41st aircraft carrier built.

As we walked down the boardwalk to Seaport Village, we met "Occupy San Diego" on parade. Lots of signs and chanting and drum beating. They were on their way downtown with several motorcycle cops, and at least four cops on bikes, trying to keep things under control.

And the sun sets over the Midway. More about San Diego tomorrow.

Happy Sailing,


Monday, January 9, 2012

San Diego, California - Balboa Park

Sat, Dec. 31st - Mon, Jan. 9, 2012

We are staying at Santee Lakes Campground about 30 minutes northeast of San Diego. It is a chain of seven small man-made lakes. They were the first experiment in the country to reclaim water for irrigation and recreational use. They have cabins along the beach on one lake and three floating cabins. There are 300 campsites, islands with bridges out to them, fishing piers, playgrounds, two pools and a hot tub, paddle boats and kayaks to rent and five miles of sidewalks winding around the lakes for biking, blading, skateboarding, and walking. There are also lots of birds, including cormorants, herons, egrets, coots and ducks.

On Sunday we drove into San Diego to explore. We went to Balboa Park where we road the park trolley around to see the whole park. It is 1200 acres and was originally called City Park. In 1915 when there were only 30,000 people here, they held the Panama-California Exposition at the park in honor of the opening of the Panama Canal to promote their city. It is the nation's largest urban cultural park, bigger than Central Park in New York, and is ranked as one of the "Best Parks in the World".

All the big Spanish style buildings were built for the expo in a very cheap, just-for-looks way. The people liked them so much, they wanted to keep them permanently. In 1935 they held another expo to boost the local economy, the California Pacific International Expo. A contest was held to rename the park. Balboa was selected because he was the first European to cross thru the Isthmus of Panama to the Pacific Ocean. This is the Spreckels Organ and Pavilion (with 73 ranks, for the musicians) donated in 1914 for the Expo. There has been a Sunday afternoon concert here every Sunday since then, with a couple exceptions during the war.

This is the Botanical Building with the roof made of wood lath allowing rain and sun in between the laths. There is a tree in here from South America that has to be pollinated by a certain insect and it is believed to be the only one of its kind in the world. The Laguna de Las Flores usually has lilies and lotuses floating on it.

Turning around, this is a view toward the Prado walkway, visitor's center and some of the museums. There are twelve major museums, arts, science, natural history, etc. Most of the buildings have been completely rebuilt over the years. The laguna was used during WWI to teach rowing and swimming to sailors. During WWII there was a Naval Hospital in the park and they used it for physical therapy of the wounded soldiers.

We came back to the park on Tuesday and Wednesday. We did a walking tour of the grounds with a park ranger and another tour with a retired architect. Walking down the Prado, look up at the roof line. You will see naked women looking down at you. There were originally supposed to be men and women, but there were some objections to the men hanging overhead, so they were left off. However the male faces had already been cast, so they were used on the female bodies.

Taking a break in the Alcazar Garden, designed as a formal Spanish garden.

John looking up at the Bell Tower from the garden.

There are lots of these pear trees, in a state of confusion. The one on the right has lost all of it's leaves and has not started back up yet for the spring. The other one still has not dropped all of last year's leaves, but has already blossomed out for the spring. Kind of strange!

This Moreton Bay Fig tree is native to Australia and was planted over 100 years ago. The roots are huge and very much of them is above ground. They have to fence them off, so people don't walk on them and kill the tree. There are lots of these and other varieties of figs in the park.

There are over 70 varieties each of palm trees and eucalyptus trees and many gardens and walking trails, including rose gardens and desert and cactus gardens.

We went thru the model train museum, with about ten different rooms of train set-ups, including one made entirely of Legos. The McDonalds here had a van, a pickup, a street vender and a semi truck that said "Over one million served". I don't remember ever seeing any of those vehicles and now they claim to have served over one billion.

I got a kick out of these two old codgers (volunteer engineers keeping the trains running). They were totally wrapped up in their smart phones and discussing all the cool stuff they could do with them. Who says old folks aren't with it?

While John went to the Sports Museum, I went to the Auto Museum. 100,000 visitors a year enjoy the signature exhibit here, Louie Mattar's Fabulous Car. I think I remember seeing him interviewed on TV many years ago. He bought a Cadillac in 1947 for about $2,400, and spent the next seven years and $75,000 adding to it. It refills it's radiator and changes oil on the run. The axles are drilled to inflate tires while turning. It has an auto catwalk for refueling on the go and a dolley, extra wheel and hydraulic jack for changing tires on the go. It has a shower mounted on the right running board and a water fountain on the rear tail light. This shows the back seat when you lift off the cushion. There is an electric stove, refrigerator, ironing board, sink and toilet with an agitator to convert it into a washing machine. Features in the dash board included a reel-to-reel tape recorder, P A system, nation-wide phone, bar, Turkish water pipe (hookah), a TV mounted in the roof and clear panels in the hood to see while making repairs on the go. The car weighs 8500 ponds and the trailer hauls 230 gal. of gas, 15 gal. of oil and 30 gal. of water. It holds the world's endurance non-stop record for a 1952 round trip of 6,320 miles from California to New York and back with three men driving in five-hour shifts. They refueled at airports from moving trucks at Kansas City, MO., Camden, NJ. and Omaha, NE. In 1954 they made a second trip from Anchorage, AK. to Mexico City 7,482 miles. They had police escorts thru towns and international borders, doing immigration inspection while still rolling. I'm sure it's all on the internet somewhere. He invented a number of technologies used during WWII, including a special mine sweeper used by the Navy.

Here's a cutie. How would you like to try and fit your family and groceries in this one?

This little Volksrod reminded me of the Beverly Hillbillies with the wood sides, roadster style windshield, Model T steering wheel, suitcases and a case of Blatz beer in the back seat and, best of all, the "Ahooga" horn!

But this was definitely my favorite! The guy restored it after he had put 350,000 miles on it. There are cupboards in the open doors, a table that makes into a bed, closet in the back end, luggage rack on top and part of the roof opens, so you can stand up. Notice the little curtained-off room with the toilet.

There were also lots of motorcycles and they had a library with many thousands of books and magazines about cars and motorcycles. In the library there were several of these little cardboard cars. I don't know if they were just made to display the Ruby's Cafe menus or they just happened to use them that way. There is a Ruby's Cafe at the end of the pier at San Clemente near L.A. and I think that might be the original one. They are like an old fashioned diner from the 50s, but we have never eaten in one.

We went back to the park on Sunday, as that is the only day the international cottages are open. They are a bunch of little cottages with a different country represented in each one. Most of them are serving samples of foods from their country for a small donation. In the Irish cottage there was a group of people jamming and playing lively Irish jigs. When I got to the Ukraine one, John was in a conversation with the guy in charge about their history, language, customs, etc. What a surpise! At Norway the volunteer guy pointed out three little statues of men that looked like little cave men with long, pointy noses. He said, that was their idea of what politicians should look like, and that they thought their noses should grow like Pinocchio's whenever they lied, so it would be obvious who not to vote for. I guess it's a world-wide problem.

An elderly gentleman in Hungary's cottage spotted me reading this and came over to explain it further for me. Count Haraszthy from Hungary founded Buena Vista Vineyards in 1857, which is considered the birthplace of California wine. He is known today as the Father of California Viticulture. The vineyard is still in business today, although not owned by the original family. John, of course, then drew him into a conversation about European history, wars, changing borders, languages, culture, economy, the future of the Euro and so on. I'm not sure who was having more fun, but it was very interesting to get his outlook on it all.

England had displays about the Royal Family, Winston Churchill, Shakespeare, etc. They also claimed the most famous musical group and act in show business history, my all-time favorite, The Beatles. In case you've ever wondered how the game of Cricket is played, this little note should clear everything up for you.

This is about Poland being the second country ever to have their own constitution, just a few years after us, and how long it actually took them to become a free, self-governing country. Kind of interesting.

The San Diego Zoo and Safari Park are also connected to the park, but we didn't go. We did the zoo about 35 years ago and it was awesome then. I'm sure it's even better now.

Another day we went to the mall to see the movie "War Horse". While walking around the mall, we discovered a Walmart with an escalator and a track right next to it to bring your shopping cart along with you up and down. I had never seen a Walmart in a mall, or a two story one, or one that has an escalator and a place to bring your cart along with you. Maybe this is all very common place, but I'm not much of a shopper. It doesn't take much to impress a small town girl like me.

Just two old "Birds" hanging out in "Paradise".

More about San Diego in a couple days.