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.


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