A California diary… Bob and Tigg on tour in 2005
10 days in southern California… day six
All around San Diego


From the Backpack ~ Strange and Unexpected

Normally when I post something from the archives, it involves bringing back an essay or article or such that had appeared on the In My Backpack web site and was removed during one of the updates or computer issues over the years.


This entry is a bit different though… in addition to appearing on the site, it was part of the Travel Trilogy project… or, more specifically, Strange and Unexpected: Backpack on the Road – Volume Two: California.

And that means a couple of versions exist… somewhat specific, almost definitive versions if you will… the work that was on the site, and the chapter that was edited and potentially revised from that piece and used for the book.

This material was originally posted on February 12, 2006. It was later published in April 2013. Some minor proofreading edits and adjustments may have been made while bringing the material back to the site in this posting.

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Day six, Thursday, April 21, 2005

Welcome to a day trip to San Diego. In retrospect, it might be said it was designed to reflect the old quote from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory… “So much time and so little to do. Wait a minute. Strike that. Reverse it.” And, in retrospect, as is so often the case the management of time is essential to how much we’d see.

I’ve got lists about San Diego and the areas around it… La Jolla… Balboa Park… Old Town… the Gaslamp Quarter… USS Midway… Coronado… Point Loma… lighthouses, museums and aircraft carriers… and more!

So the reality is that we have a lot of options, and very little time… very, very little time. And yet, some things are just falling into place or simply not drawing a ton of interest.

The boys and Tigg aren’t overwhelmed by the thoughts of touring an aircraft carrier. See it? Yes. Take pictures of it? Sure. Pay to head on board and walk around it? Not so much.

And, some of the other locations aren’t getting incredible responses either.

To top it all off, unfortunately, Tour Guide Bob isn’t ready with a true game plan for the whole day. As we begin though, I do want to give credit to the San Diego Union-Tribune. Fabulous, fabulous web site that offered a guide section that was truly outstanding. It gave us some great basic suggestions, even if we didn’t use them all. Definitely a resource to check out if you are heading to the San Diego area. (And… for this trip -- no past experience and no GPS -- in hindsight, I wonder what might have developed on this trip if we had a Garmin with us.)

As to the rest… well… take the highlights you can from our day…

We started off by heading down to La Jolla. I’d been doing some different investigating about the Pacific Coast Highway, and for the most part had decided not to drive much north of Los Angeles because of our resort’s location and some of the plans we had made. So during our visit, we had a limited experience when it came to driving the coast (something I will definitely change on another visit). But one thing I wouldn’t give up on for this trip was finding some seals. They tend to take shelter… I guess more accurately, they tend to take up residence… in coves and inlets. While trying to find them, I was directed to a stretch of the ocean in La Jolla.

And we found them.

La Jolla has a lot to offer a visitor, but to be honest… we didn’t do a tremendous amount of exploring. We parked, checked the way to get to the shore, and headed down to a path that I have heard referred to as the coast walk. (Although I don’t know if that is the official name or not. The best thing I can tell you is to head in toward a section labeled Prospect St/Prospect Pl. We came off of Route 5, connected with La Jolla Parkway and used that as the beginning of our trip in.) The path led us around the coast line and through some tremendous park areas. As we approached the seals there were some fantastic examples of local wildlife all around. They are located in a place I saw called Seal Beach on the internet, but it is not the same Seal Beach that is closer to Long Beach and Los Angeles. (Yes, I did get confused thinking of them as exactly the same from research before we left pretty much right up until sorting out my paperwork after getting back home.)

The seals were incredible… and they really didn’t do anything. There was a wraparound wall that created a sheltered beach… which of course the seals had taken over. We probably spent at least forty-five minutes just staring at the seals, the water, and taking pictures.

From there it was off to Balboa Park. Some friends of mine had compared it to the Smithsonian… a collection of museums that had a diverse set of interests represented. While the collections weren’t as impressive as those in Washington, the parks and gardens around the building were beautiful. A word of warning though… the museums aren’t free. (I recommend visiting the area, and there is a web site for Balboa Park that should be a huge help in planning places to go, operating hours, and other assorted details.)

After driving around a bit blind to start out, we settled into a parking lot that seemed to be near several museums (and we did walk to all of them quite easily from our parking spot). We were just outside the San Diego Hall of Champions Sports Museum. And while we didn’t visit the exhibits in this museum, we were hungry and saw a note that said the Time Out Café was located inside. It was very quiet, the café was pretty nice, and the food was good.

We ate and then walked outside, deciding to check out the San Diego Aerospace Museum. And this is where things get a bit funny for the day. (Funny strange… not funny ha-ha.)

If you have looked over some of my travel articles on this web site, you may have noticed that I have been quite fortunate in my ability to travel… and these articles really only reflect a limited amount of the traveling I have been able to do in my life so far. (And yes, I do realize how lucky I have been.) That said, it also means that I have the ability to compare some things that, perhaps, realistically shouldn’t be compared… because they just weren’t meant to be viewed against each other. You might remember earlier I compared the San Diego Zoo to the National Zoo in Washington and Roger Williams Park Zoo in Providence. In all honesty… the comparison seems to work. But San Diego against Providence? Yeah… not so much. You get the idea.

I’ve been to the Kennedy Space Center (Florida) twice in my life. I’ve been to the National Air and Space Museum (Washington, D.C.) multiple times. The San Diego Aerospace Museum was good. There were some really interesting facts and exhibits inside. And yet… I couldn’t shake the feeling that it wasn’t quite on the level of the Smithsonian.

Wrong of me? Yup. But it was my impression. An excellent place to visit overall. I just didn’t get everything out of it that I expected.

Next up was the San Diego Automotive Museum. With motorcycles taking up a large portion of the show space, we had a good time walking around here. Tigg even found a drive thru display for Jack in the Box. And guess what? Remember that debate from day four, when Tigg claimed Jack in the Box served tacos? Umm… turns out she was right. In the middle of the Jack in the Box menu on display there it was… tacos.

We took our time leaving the park area… in part enjoying the scenery… and in part getting a bit misdirected by the roads. Here’s a brief exchange:

Bob (mumbling out loud trying to figure out how he got on the path back to the parking lot we had been in): “Ok… that’s where I was…”

Tigg (moments later, but oblivious to Bob’s comments): “Isn’t that where we were?”

We drove down to the water and parked next to the U.S.S. Midway. Only planning to stay for a few minutes, we got out of the car and I… I… I dropped the video camera.

Snapped the view-piece-thingy.


From this stop we drove to the San Diego – Coronado Bay Bridge. This is a beautiful bridge… with a fabulous view. But get your directions straight. Using a map I had of San Diego, I stayed too close to the shoreline for too long, and we had to double-back along city streets I wasn’t completely prepared for as I tried to find a way to get back on route 5 and head over the bridge to Coronado.

We pulled over to a section my notes say was Bridge Beach. I can’t find it in any of the official information about Coronado now, but it was located just after the Hotel del Coronado. The setting was gorgeous… and as we walked the beach and stared off to the west, I was sure I could get us to Point Loma.

I still have no real clue how I did it… this could be read as yet another amazing accomplishment for Tour Guide Bob, or yet another stroke of uncanny luck working out for the best… but we arrived at the Cabrillo National Monument and Point Loma Lighthouse. The bad part was the timing, since we arrived just as the area was shutting down for the day. Still more breathtaking views… San Diego is one of the most beautiful and friendly cities I have ever been to, and I will get back there to see more of it someday… and a nice ending to our day of sightseeing.

I have said that this day was a bit strange overall though. And I’ve tried to explain that in bits and pieces as we have gone through things. We saw a lot… we had some fun… but overall it was a low key day with some great moments that just didn’t match up to our full expectations. And here, as we get ready to start heading back to our room, I am going to get into an example showing why some of the day was so good, while other moments were a bit less spectacular.

I had been trying to stay on the coast as much as I could for this trip. What I kept finding though was that the Pacific Coast Highway spends more time inland than on the water once you get south of Los Angeles. Despite knowing that now, during the trip I kept looking at our maps trying to work out alternate routes and roads along the water whenever possible. And I kept running into twists and turns and dead ends every time I did.

Getting back from Point Loma, I was at a red light that had about four different islands merging and separating traffic onto a main road going under an overpass. As I tried to judge the lanes, the green light, and look for signs indicating the road I wanted to get on, a man stepped off the sidewalk and… well… if he ever reads this, I’m sorry for scaring him.

After getting completely lost on a few streets that didn’t appear on a single map but were the only options to follow in the direction I was heading (I swear we passed the vicinity of Sea World fifteen times)… I finally gave up on getting us to a place to watch the sun set over the Pacific Ocean, used a sign that brought us to the highway and got back on route 5.

We spend $40.80 on gas… the first time in my life I have ever put over $40 in a gas tank. (Not only will it not be the last time I accomplish such a feat, but within a few months of getting home the rising prices of gas allow me to do it filling the tank on a much smaller car.)

We get off the highway when I see some buildings that appear to give us an assortment of dinner choices. We head in to a restaurant called Chevy’s… which we enjoyed on occasion when there was one in Warwick, Rhode Island, but that location has now closed.

Tomorrow… Disneyland.

If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at Bob@inmybackpack.com