San Diego, California—the perfect place to escape a heat wave

The weather forecast predicted a week of heat-wave temperatures for California and Arizona on April 9, 2018. Since the best places to hang out when it’s scorching hot are a forest at high altitudes or along the coast, we headed for the San Diego Resort-Sunland in La Mesa, California. Although in the 80s, it was better than panting in temperatures that approached 100 degrees.

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Urban wildlife

The goal of our recent San Diego visits is to explore places we have never been before. We checked off Mt. Helix, Cabrillo National Park, and Lake Murray on this trip.

Mt. Helix

The children of Mary Carpenter Yawkey built the 12-acre Mt. Helix private, non-profit park as a tribute to their mother in 1925. Open year-round, the park attracts residents and visitors to explore the trail that circles the crown of the mountain; engage in a fitness work out by using the amphitheater steps, seats, and retaining walls; and to marvel at the 360° views. After tackling the steps five or six times, I surprised myself and managed the seats as well.

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Mt. Helix Amphitheatre
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Smile for the photo op
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Contemplating life
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Cross at the top of Mt. Helix
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One of the 360° views from Mt. Helix
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Not a clear day in San Diego

Cabrillo National Monument

We visited Cabrillo National Monument a few years back, but that was before I had my National Park Passport. So off to Point Loma to add another stamp in my book.

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Gettin’ a bit shaggy there JT

Lucky for us low tide coincided with our arrival. We wandered around the rocky intertidal zone for about an hour, peering into the pools to watch the sea anemones and snails going about their business. Witnessing sea life under the water takes a little patience A quick glance won’t do if the aim is to watch the animals move around. Other creatures clung to the cliffs for a bit of sunbathing while waiting for the onslaught of waves at high tide.

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Tide pools at Cabrillo National Monument
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Gooseneck barnacles
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Sea anemone and snails in a small pool
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Staghorn kelp, perhaps?
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Couples share a moment as the waves roll in
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Oh, how I adore your limpet eyes
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Pink barnacle clinging to a rock
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A ranger leads students and chaperones through the tide pools
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Pelican Air Force on duty

We stopped off at the Old Point Loma Lighthouse, cooled off while watching the movie at the visitor center, and gazed out at the views of San Diego’s skyline and watercraft in the bay.

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Old Point Loma Lighthouse
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Exhibits inside depict life as a lighthouse keeper

The monument recognizes the arrival of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo in September of 1542. Cabrillo was the first European to explore the west coast of the United States. He described the bay as “a closed and very good port,” and named it San Miguel. Another explorer, Sebastian Vizcaino, changed the name to San Diego 60 years later.

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Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo monument statue
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Black Phoebe flycatcher, perhaps?

Military uses of the point include a military reserve beginning in 1852, the installation of gun batteries in 1899, and a harbor defense system during World War I and II between 1918 and 1943. Visitors can see remnants of the batteries and an old radio station where an exhibit of “They Stood the Watch,” depicts the military history of Point Loma.

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Battlement near the lighthouse

From the ocean to the San Diego skyline, the views are spectacular from the monument.

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Ocean views
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San Diego skyline
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Rosecrans National Cemetery

Lake Murray Reservoir

Less than two miles from our base camp, Lake Murray Reservoir is a convenient park to visit, enjoy a lakeside walk and a bit of nature, or grab a picnic table and eat lunch. A 3.2-mile paved service road outlining the lake’s perimeter and ending at the dam is popular with walkers, joggers, and bicyclists. Fishing is also available. Or, rent a paddleboat or a kayak on a first-come-first-served basis from the concessionaire. We chose a 6-mile walk around the lake, turning around just short of the dam.

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Lake Murray Reservoir
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Here fishy, fishy, fish
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Paved trail around Lake Murray
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Rent a paddle boat or kayak
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Osprey nest

It’s a Wrap

That pretty much concludes our 2018 Winter Tour. We left San Diego on April 15, 2018, took a detour through Lake Havasu to take care of some business and arrived home on April 20.  This was our longest tour yet, a total of 81 days, almost 12 weeks.

More stats:

  • 8,200 miles on the truck
  • 5,153 miles on the 5th wheel
  • 23 RV parks
  • 6 5th wheel repairs (entry steps, sewer connection, room slider, front jacks bolt, spare tire carrier, propane door)
  • 3 presidential library and museums
  • 8 national parks, monuments, or trails
  • 1 amusement park
  • and a whole lot of other sites

As much as we love being on the road, we were both glad to make it home safe and sound. Time to dust ourselves off and catch up with family and friends.  Oh yeah, Jon has a long list of RV preventative maintenance projects to complete before our next tour.

Before we packed up the rig and hit the pavement again, we needed a little vacation. A roundtrip Alaskan cruise from San Francisco seemed the ideal adventure for these two road-weary travelers.

Safe Travels

Kicking back in Borrego Springs, California

Onward we traveled to trade in the Orange County crowds for peace and quiet in Borrego Springs on April 4, 2018, the 68th day of our 2018 Winter Tour. We arrived at Palm Canyon Hotel and RV with time to check out the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park visitor center.

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We watched the introduction movie and picked up a few pamphlets and maps to plan our days.

Anza-Borrego is known for its fabulous display of spring wildflowers when winter rains provide ideal conditions for the show. The winter of 2017-18 did not bring enough rain.

Wait, stop! A lone ocotillo in bloom. We wondered if someone drove by each day and gave it a drink.

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The Hikes

Borrego Palm Canyon Trail

Borrego Palm Canyon Trail is a popular hike that skirts a creek through a canyon. Doves cooed and bees buzzed, and sand-colored lizards dashed about as we walked by, and a few wayward cactus blooms poked out their heads

A white dot appeared on a ridge. Was it a bighorn sheep? I zoomed in to see and wished we were closer.

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The 2004 flood uprooted a bunch of palms in the canyon and scattered them along the trail and in the creek bed.

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After scrambling over creek boulders, we entered an oasis. The canyon must have been a beautiful site before the flood.

 

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JT navigates the creek crossing

We joined a group of people in the shade and enjoyed our snack before making our way back down.

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Resting in the shade
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California Fan Palms

 

The streaky clouds hardly subdued the heat.

 

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Fallen palms

 

The Slot

We woke early to hike The Slot, hoping to beat the heat. Although the sun had already risen over the horizon, the valley floor was still in shadow when we started out.

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It was a good thing we woke early to hike The Slot. The tight squeeze through the canyon would have been challenging if we encountered people coming toward us.

 

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How’d he fit through there?

Although the walls lacked the variated red of other canyons we’ve explored, the formations were still impressive.

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Only a few cliffs showed off iron oxide layers.

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Onward

These man-made formations enhanced the interest of the landscape.

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The rocks point the way, but which ones?

 

Yaqui Well

Yaqui Well is located near the Tamarisk campground. Parking along the road is available, some with shade. Sunscreen and plenty of water are recommended during hot weather. This trail is a desert botanical garden featuring several varieties of cactus.

 

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Hedgehog cactus in bloom
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California barrel cactus
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Ocotillo blooms but no leaves

 

 

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Backlit Teddy-Bear Cholla

 

We didn’t find a well, only a spring. The greenery was a clue water existed, but it was not visible.

 

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Where’s the water?

 

Narrow Earth Trail

We missed the turnoff for the Narrows Earth Trail and had to turn around. Although tire tracks were plentiful at our turn around spot, they disguised the deep sand. The back tires of the truck stuck hard. Our son, Kevin, and his girlfriend, Bailey, dug out sand from in front of the rear tires, then the three of us pushed the tailgate while Jon drove out, spewing sand all over us. We learned our lesson and now carry a shovel in the toolbox.

Bighorn sheep were our reward once we found the trailhead and started walking. We watched as a bighorn scrambled through the brush and climbed the hill. Then another one came and grazed while keeping an eye on us.

 

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“I’m keeping my eye on you.”

 

 

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“I see walking people.”
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“What you lookin’ at?”

They watched as we slowly made our way up the trail and whispered to each other, “Look, look, over there, kids and juveniles.”

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“Look, Ma, there’s people down there.”
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“Come on Joey, watch your step.”

Although it was a pain in the behind to get stuck, our timing was perfect to see the Bighorn sheep up close.

 

The Town and Surrounding Area

Christmas Circle Community Park

If something is happening in Borrego Springs, it is likely occurring at Christmas Circle Community Park. On Thursday, vendors set up shop at the farmers market. We chowed down on a couple of tamales from a woman who kept busy serving her patrons. The pico de gallo was the perfect complement for the chicken tamales.

 

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Christmas Circle Farmers Market
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“Hot tamales, come get your hot tamales.”
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Nice selection of vegetables

 

Borrego Springs is completely surrounded by the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and boasts a population of over 3,500 seasonal and year-round residents. It holds the distinction as California’s first International Dark Sky Community due to its distance of 55 miles from the highly populated California coastline.

With tourism as the primary industry, the town includes a variety of resorts and inns for all price ranges as well as restaurants. Borrego Outfitters offer clothing, footwear, outdoor gear, and gifts. Spas, fitness centers, medical services, a grocery store, and a library are other amenities available.

A chock-full calendar of events from October through May provides plenty of events for the tourists and residents.

 

Galleta Meadows Estate

Visitors to Borrego Springs have fun with the sky art throughout the area. Dennis Avery turned his private estate into an art museum when he commissioned Ricardo Breceda to create a series of sculptures inspired by the history and nature of the Anza-Borrego Desert.

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Permission is granted!

Dirt roads weave in and around the sculptures, which began arriving in April 2008, allowing visitors to get up close for photo opportunities.

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“Settle down now, Colt. I’m bigger than you are.”

The detail of the metal structures speaks to the craftsmanship that went into their creation.

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Detail of the horse

From prehistoric creatures to this miner and his mule, Breceda depicts life in the desert throughout the years.

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“Just one more pan full and we’ll go, Betsy.”

Not only does he depict a mule burdened with the miner’s supplies, he sets it in motion as if the jenny is spooked and pulling away from something that has frightened it.

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“What am I? A beast of burden?”

Breceda pays tribute to modern times with the jeep navigating boulders in the backcountry. In Anza-Borrego State Park and surrounding area offroaders have a dilemma figuring out which of the many primitive roads they want to explore.

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Whoa, Nelly!

Visitors crowd around the serpent that crosses the road, taking one photo, two photos, and more. We waited several minutes in order to take our selfies.  The tail of the serpent continues on the east side of the road.

 

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Serpent’s head on the west side of the road and tail on the east side

 

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Serpent detail

And here are a scorpion and a grasshopper poised for battle.

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“I’ll give you 5 to 1 the scorpion clobbers the grasshopper.”

I can’t wait to get back to Borrego Springs and Anza-Borrego State Park to explore all the places we weren’t able to visit. In the meantime, I’m praying for lots of rain during the 2018-19 winter. Come on, rain, bring on the wildflowers.

 

Safe Travels

 

More to do in Anaheim, California

Now that our Disney adventure had ended, Jon commenced repairing our cracked fifth wheel steps that failed to open and close properly. The rickety step stool we used as a temporary fix for the past couple of days had to go. Fortunately, Camping World was only a few miles away and they had the replacement steps in stock, one of the benefits of being in the big city.

While Jon uninstalled the old steps, trucked to the store, and installed the new ones, I scoped out a few places to visit around Anaheim. Since we had already ticked off Lyndon Johnson’s and both Bush’s presidential libraries, top on our list was the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum located in Yorba Linda.

 

 

Nixon Library and Museum

We arrived early on Sunday, April 1, 2018, walked around the building and grounds and peaked in the windows until the doors opened.

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Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum was dedicated on July 19, 1990
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Lobby Area of Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum

The turbulent 60s, the Vietnam War, opening peaceful relations with China, and working with the Soviet Union to prevent a nuclear war are among the issues Richard M. Nixon dealt with during his tenure as president beginning in 1969 and ending with his resignation on August 8, 1974.

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One of the 60s exhibits

After reducing US troops from 536,000 in 1968 to 24,200 in 1972, Nixon ends the Vietnam War by signing the Paris Peace Accords on January 7, 1973. In February 1973, the POWs return home.

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Exhibit of newspaper clippings reporting on the signing of the Paris Peace Accords

On May 27, 1972, President Nixon and Leonid Brezhnev sign the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty and Interim Strategic Arms Limitations Treaty (SALT).

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Exhibit showing President Nixon and Leonid Brezhnev signing ABM and SALT agreements

Other exhibits at the museum include one of Nixon’s legal pads with notes displayed and Nixon in popular culture, which includes a Nixon Halloween mask with a Pinocchio nose. The 1910 quote by Theodore Roosevelt appears to sum up Nixon’s presidency.

Visitors can pretend to be the president for a minute while they sit for their photo opportunity behind the desk in the replica of the oval office. Or, gaze out the mock window at the replica of Nixon’s study at the Western White House La Casa Pacifica. What a view.

The museum tour continues outside in a courtyard where there are a reflection pool and rose garden.

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Nixon was born in the house at the end of the reflection pool
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Rose garden

On-site is the house where Nixon was born on January 9, 1913. His parents, Frank and Hannah Nixon, built the humble farmhouse in 1912 from a kit. Tours are included in the admission price.

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Nixon’s Birthplace

Tours are also given of the actual helicopter—a 1960 six-ton Sikorsky VH 3A “Sea King” model—used by Nixon during his presidency. As part of a major renovation to the library and museum, the helicopter also received a facelift at the Chino Airport and was returned on October 6, 2016, in time for the reopening of the museum on October 14, 2016.

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JT waiting for a tour of the helicopter

When I looked at the dates of birth and death engraved on Richard and Patricia Nixon’s headstones, I thought it interesting that she was born before him and died before him, so I had to dig further. It turns out that Richard was born 299 days after Patricia and he died 304 days after she did. He lived only 5 days more than she did. I wonder how often something like that happens.

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Richard and Patricia Nixon gravesites

It’s a shame that people within Nixon’s administration weren’t more confident in his ability to win the election. After all, he won reelection with more than 60% of the vote. Was the win the result of the clandestine illegal activities orchestrated by members of the administration, or was his victory due to Nixon’s leadership in ending the war and working with China and the Soviet Union to reduce the threat of annihilation? What would United States history look like today if there had been no Watergate?

We highly recommend visiting the Richard Nixon Library, Museum, and Birthplace when visiting Anaheim.

Oak Canyon Nature Center

Finding a slice of nature to explore in an otherwise concrete jungle is not always easy, but we managed. As airplanes flew overhead, ducks nearly mowed us down as they traced their flight along the creek. The 58-acre Oak Canyon Nature Center consists of three adjoining canyons and four miles of hiking trails that wind through an oak woodland and coastal sage scrub. The John J. Collier Interpretive Center was closed during our visit but contains a small museum and live animal and exhibits. Restrooms and shaded picnic tables are also available.

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John J. Collier Interpretive Center

We started our easy 1.5-mile loop hike with an elevation gain of approximately 200 feet along the Roadrunner Ridge portion of the trail that skirts along a cliff and was mostly sunny. We ended up shedding our outerwear as we looked down on the shady Stream Trail and anticipated the cooler temps once we made the hairpin turn.

There were quite a few century plants in bloom. They must have been planted around the same time.

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Century plant stalk

An abundance of purple orange and yellow wildflowers entertained us along the trail.

Lizards skittered across the trail in front of our steps and squirrels rustled through the undergrowth sounding more like a bear ready to jump out at us.

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Get outta my way!
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JT poses next to the Big Tree
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A bridge crosses the creek
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Old farm equipment on display

Ancient mining equipment on display gives visitors a feel for life as a miner. No mining activities occurred in the canyon, however.

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Oak Canyon Mine Exhibit
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Antique Scale
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Rail Car Wheel

Anaheim, with a population of approximately 350,000 people, has managed to set aside a place where residents and visitors can experience and explore nature. Oak Canyon provides a stream fed diverse environment for the continued growth of the cactus, oaks, and sycamores, and for the ducks, acorn woodpeckers, and other creatures that have made the canyon their home. We enjoyed the little respite from the city noise while at the park.

Where shall we head to next? We had enough of overpopulated Orange County, on to Borrego Springs, California, and the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park for a week.

Safe Travels

From Tucson, Arizona, to Anaheim, California

On Wednesday, March 21, 2018, we left New Mexico behind and began our trek back to California to meet up with family at Disneyland. First, the fifth wheel and truck needed a good bath after 52 days on the road, so we stopped in at Rincon West RV Resort in Tucson for four nights. Mid to late March seems to be a great time to travel in southern Arizona. The weather was great and the resort had plenty of sites available, unlike what we found in February the previous year.

Tucson, Arizona

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Tucson always feels like home. We need to spend more time there.
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Can’t beat the Tucson sunsets.

After our cleaning day, we rewarded ourselves with a trip to an RV show at the convention center and an early dinner downtown. At the RV show, we took a good look at motorhomes to compare to our rig. We didn’t see anything that would make us switch at this time. The thought of having to deal with maintenance on a motorhome plus a vehicle towed behind put the kibosh on a new rig. On the other hand, the walk around town and an early dinner was a hit.

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The chili pepper design is appropriate for a bus stop in Tucson.
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The Rialto Theater, named after Ponte de Rialto in Venice. I grew up in Rialto, California, where the town’s logo includes an image of the bridge.

Obon Sushi Bar Ramen served up a Salmon Poke and Tonkotsu Ramen that matched our taste and left us wanting more even though we were full. In between lunch and dinner is our favorite time to grab a meal at a restaurant because they usually are not too busy. With only a few customers, our server checked on us frequently to make sure our food tasted good and we had everything we needed. We topped off our meal with a scoop of the most flavorful green tea ice cream I ever tasted.

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Obon Sushi Bar Ramen

The next day’s forecast called for 80-degree weather and high winds in the afternoon, so we got up early for a hike on the Douglas Spring Trail that leads into the Saguaro Wilderness Area. Parking is limited so it’s a good idea to arrive early.

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As we walked up to the trailhead, we heard a coyote howl behind us. Then another coyote responded. I love it when nature comes out and lets us experience their lives. Several hikes ranging from .2 to 12.4 miles are accessible from the trailhead.

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Carillo Trail

We opted for the 1.5-mile Carrillo Trail cut-off and then returned thinking the strong winds would begin roaring through the canyons by early afternoon. We found a well maintained, easy to moderate trail with no signs of litter, which was remarkable given the number of hikers we met along the way.

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The trail starts out as a botanical garden of sorts with several specimens of the cactus such as this blooming ocotillo and saguaro.

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Blooming Ocotillo and Saguaro Against the Sky.
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Teddy-Bear Cholla
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View from Carrillo Trail
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Barrel Cactus
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The damaged saguaro lives on.

The trailhead is at the end of a road near the entrance to the Tanque Verde Ranch. Our curiosity about the ranch led us down the road to see what there was to see. Turns out Tanque Verde is a dude ranch/spa type place that goes for an all-inclusive $409 per night. At this price three meals per day and access to all of the activities are included. Only want to stay the night and eat breakfast in the morning? The price is $149.

Since finding a site in Tucson was easy peasy, we risked fast-forwarding the rest of our way to Anaheim without reservations. After a quick stop in Yuma at Carefree RV Resort, a night at Banning KOA, and a night in the Inland Empire on the street in front of Jon’s brother’s house, we arrived in Anaheim on Wednesday, March 28, 2018.

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Yuma also puts on a good sunset show.

Anaheim, California, and Disneyland

Anaheim RV Park was the perfect place to stay while exploring Disneyland. Not only are the sites spacious with concrete patios, the hibiscus, dwarf citrus, and cell towers disguised as palm trees were a pleasant change of pace from the desert scenery of City of Rocks, Tucson, and Yuma. Best of all a shuttle bus ran between Disneyland and the RV Park every 20 minutes for a small fee.

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Anaheim RV Park has wide sites and plenty of greenery.

When grandchildren have special moments in their lives, Papa and Nana must do what they can to be there. So it was when our granddaughter Maya’s middle school band and honor guard was invited to parade down Disney’s Main Street.

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My lovely family from the left: Jon, Laura, Jackson, and Chris. Maya was with her school group. We’ll get a glimpse of her later.

Jon thinks The Happiest Place on Earth is the most Frustrating Place on Earth because of the long lines and overcrowded conditions, so spending two days there wasn’t his idea of a good time.

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The Tiki Room is always fun.

During this trip, however, our daughter Laura served as our personal Disney guide, scheduling the rides to avoid the long lines and planning where to go for our meals.

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Disney is hard at work on the Star Wars: Galaxy Edge opening in 2019.

With the Disneyland App in hand, she had all the information she needed to make our visit as painless as possible.

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The Swiss Family Treehouse is now Tarzan’s home.
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Tarzan Treehouse
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Submarine ride and Matterhorn
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Tom Sawyer’s Island is still the best place for kids to get their wiggles out.
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This was the first time I saw this ship moving in the water.
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We paid extra for a spot on the concrete to see the Fantasmic Show. It was worth it.
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The Silvey’s waiting for the Peter Pan ride.

And here comes the band and color guard.

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Wells Middle School on Parade Route
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Maya in the middle.
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Wells Middle School parents and fans cheer the kids on.
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Jon’s favorite attraction at Disneyland is Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, no line and a quiet cool place to rest. The fire truck looks like a fun ride, too.
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Stop in at the Emporium for gifts.
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Jon attended the flag retreat, which honors current and veteran military personnel.

We all had a great two days at Disneyland. Even though Jon said he had a good time, I’m sure he’ll say no the next time the opportunity arises.

Four more days in Anaheim. Hmm, what will we do?

Safe Travels

The Hill Country and Spicewood, Texas

On Thursday, February 28, 2018, we set the GPS to route our drive to Hill Country Lakes RV Resort in Briarcliff, Texas. I was sad to leave behind the waddling Muscovy ducks, but more so the grackle blackbirds. I got used to the bird’s whistles and how they sounded like they were playing scales on an otamatone, and of course, their grackles, which brought to mind a toy machine gun. I never knew a bird could have so many different sounds.

As we started to pull out of our site, the lady from the office came up to Jon and handed him $85.00. Apparently, she had charged us the summer rate rather than the winter rate. They could have easily kept our extra payment without us knowing the difference. I’m so glad they were honest and refunded our money.

With all the construction on the major highways, we didn’t relish our drive through Houston. We lucked out, though, breezing along without too much traffic to navigate.

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Partial Houston Skyline

East of Houston, we saw this new Amazon fulfillment center nearing completion, which will house more than 400 employees.

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Gigantic Amazon Fulfillment Building

We stopped in La Grange, Texas, for lunch at the Back Porch BBQ & Grill. I’m a sucker for a pulled pork sandwich with coleslaw and an Arnold Palmer was the perfect drink to wash it down.

 

Walking back to the truck, however, Jon noticed something weird with the sewer connection. On further inspection, he realized the cap was missing and the piece of double elbow pipe was barely hanging on, yanked from its connection. Darn, Jon rolled over that old alligator (tire tread) after all. Thank goodness, the damage did not extend to or beyond the valve.

 

We settled in at Hill Country Lakes RV in Spicewood, Texas, with the sewer repair the first task on our agenda.

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Hill Country Lakes RV Resort Office
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RV Spots at Hill Country Lakes RV are Tucked in Among the Trees

RV Sewer Repair

The park hosts directed us to Hill Country RV, Inc. in Marble Falls for the parts needed to fix the sewer. We drove there early the next day and ordered a reducer to go from 3” to 1-1/2” pipe. They promised it would arrive around 2:00 p.m. the next day. Jon picked up a 3” double elbow from a plumbing supply warehouse. At Home Depot, he bought ABS cement, lengths of 3” and 1-1/2” PVC pipe, and a hacksaw. Jon fixed what he could without the missing piece, then waited until the next day to complete the repair. After letting it sit overnight, the repair passed the tests with no leaks. Hooray, we had our sewer back.

 

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Repaired Sewer Connection

 

Population Growth

Driving north out of Austin on our way to Spicewood, we had noticed a mass of growth from houses to townhouses, condos, and apartments and shopping centers where all the national restaurant and retail chains had set up shop. Our drive to Lakeway to visit with our friends was more of the same.

World Population Review lists Austin as the 11th largest city in the United States and the 3rd largest state capital. Austin’s metropolitan area’s population is forecasted to reach 3.2 million by 2030. No wonder it felt like the city was taking the country out of The Hill Country. The hills, once graced with greenery are now taken over with housing and shopping centers with more construction on the way. I guess that’s the price of progress and growth, but in some respects, it makes me sad. Where will people go to get their nature fix?

Pace Bend County Park

A drive through Pace Bend County Park brought us back to nature. The park has 20 improved and 400 primitive campsites. All of the 20 water and electric sites were reserved for the weekend, but it looked like they might have been open during the week.

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Campsite or Picnic Area Near the Lake

Launch a boat and fish, take a hike, or sit under a tree and read a book. This little slice of nature is going to become more precious as the growth continues.

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A Couple of Anglers Trying Their Luck

Reimers Ranch County Park

Reimers Ranch County Park was another place to get back to nature. We packed a lunch and drove out to the park. The four-mile hike along the river and through the bluff in the warm humid weather made me thankful that property like this has been set aside for future generations to experience the outdoors.

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Which Way Do We Go?
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Rain Drops Appear to Float Above the Ground
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River Wasn’t Deep Enough to Put in a Kayak
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Large Trees Along the Trail
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Signs of Spring
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Comfort Station

Family Business Beer Company

We had seen Family Business Beer Company on our way to Reimers Ranch and decided to check it out on our way back. This was a nice place to enjoy a cold flight of beers and bag of chips after our hike.

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Family Business Owner’s Residence

The grounds are set up for bean bag toss games to keep patrons busy, and a children’s playground to conquer the little one’s boredom while parents taste the beer. Plenty of seating is provided, or bring your own.

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Picnic Tables and Bean Bag Toss Games For Guests
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Playground for the Kiddos

For a bite to eat a food trailer serves a variety of treats.

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Inside, larger groups will find the long bistro tables accommodating.

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Inside Family Business Beer Company
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Wide Porches with Plenty of Seating

Of our flight, only one suited our taste, the Haulin Oats. Jon and I prefer amber and wheat beer over IPAs, which are more popular here.

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From Left to Right: Fox, King Biscuit, Haulin Oats, and Grackle

Mansfield Dam

Along the Texas Colorado River stands Mansfield Dam. Completed in 1941, the dam rises 278 feet high, is 7,089 feet long, and 213 feet thick at the base. Named for U.S. Representative J.J. Mansfield, Lake Travis can store up to 369 billion US gallons of water.

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This Used to be the Road Across the Mansfield Hydroelectric Dam

The hydroelectric power plant generates up to 108 megawatts of electricity.

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A Four Lane Highway Replaced the Dam Road
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View of Dam Near Boat Launch

A Couple More Restaurants

We had the occasion to visit a couple of restaurants during our visit. While in Marble Falls, we stopped in at Blue Bonnet Café for their “pie happy hour.” The meringue on the lemon pie was the fluffiest we’d ever seen and not overly sweet.

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Sevens Out BBQ, the restaurant next to our RV park, invited the guests to a BBQ giveaway to celebrate their grand opening. We managed to get a sample tray with brisket, sausage and ribs, potato salad, coleslaw, and what I think was bread pudding. Everything was delicious, even the bread pudding, which usually is not my favorite.

I wouldn’t mind coming back to Spicewood someday for the peace and quiet away from the city growth and the great BBQ.

Next up we head to Waco, Texas.

 

 

Kicking it in San Diego, California – Part 2

Top on our list for choosing San Diego was, of course, our favorite resident. Our son Kevin moved there shortly after graduating from high school and has adopted it as his hometown.

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Kevin Catches Me Taking a Candid Photo While Jon Shows Bailey Something on His New Phone.

We understand his choice given all the beaches, hiking trails, and nightlife that is available. And don’t forget the San Diego Zoo, Sea World, and Balboa Park. Who wouldn’t want to live in this subtropical zone with high temperatures that range between 66 and 77 degrees and lows that dip between 49 and 67?

Sunset Beach

After a day of hanging out at the trailer, we met up with Kevin and his girlfriend Bailey Bishop for a walk along the cliffs at Sunset Beach. The popular spot draws people out of their homes and apartments to enjoy the last hour or two of the day before the sun sinks into the Pacific Ocean. With clear skies and temperatures in the high 70s, we joined the fun.

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Swimmers Check Out Conditions
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Catching Dinner

When I stepped out of the car, moist ocean air reminded me of another reason I come to San Diego. The whiff of the ocean breeze and the moisture that settles on my skin provokes a sense of calm I rarely experience anywhere else.

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Boulders Piled Up On Beach Prevent Cliff Erosion

I hadn’t realized I missed the beach so much. We would have stayed at Campland on the Bay Resort as usual if they had not raised their rates to $96.00 a night. La Mesa RV will have to do for future stays as long as I remember to visit the beach more often.

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Beautiful Day at the Beach
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Nice of This Pair to Pose for a Photo

Ocean Beach Brewery

Ocean Beach Brewery’s rooftop restaurant was another great place to watch the sunset from our bistro chairs and table we were fortunate to snag. The place was hopping when we arrived with barely any standing room near the bar.

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Ocean Beach Brewery Rooftop. How Many Cell Phones do You Count?

Jon said the El Diablo double burger with a red onion spicy aioli on a brioche bun was the best he had ever eaten. I enjoyed the Mona Lisa, a marinated grilled chicken breast, roasted red pepper, fontina cheese, with a spread of spring mix basil pesto on a ciabatta roll. Crispy French fries and a glass of Hidden Gem Dunkelweizen on tap accompanied our dinner selections.

The Gulls

Kevin surprised us with tickets to the Gulls, an American Hockey League team affiliated with the National Hockey League’s Anaheim Ducks. None of us knew anything about hockey, but with tickets around $20, it seemed like an inexpensive way to spend a few hours.

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The San Diego Gulls on Ice

We watched with excitement as The Gulls managed a goal on the Tucson Roadrunners, then the Roadrunners scored, and back and forth, the players skated from one side of the rink to the other. With mere minutes left on the clock, the Gulls took advantage when the Roadrunners replaced their goalie with another player leaving their net vulnerable to attack. The Gulls pulled ahead and won the game when they easily shot the puck over the undefended Roadrunners goal line, not once, but twice. After this game, I might adopt hockey as a sport to follow in the future.

The Big Game

The Super Bowl is the one and only football game I watch each year, often hosting a party for friends and family. Our fifth wheel with it’s 32” television hardly has space for a party. Fortunately, Bailey’s parents invited us to join them for the big game.

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Jon Watches the Game with Ray and Cherrie Bishop
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Oops! Bailey Catches Me in the Act.

We were treated to a spread that included chips and queso, guacamole, and salsa; pulled pork sliders with a tangy slightly hot barbecue sauce and coleslaw to cool it down; and a variety of hot wings. These cute little football deviled eggs were delicious.

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Cutest Little Deviled Eggs

Even after all that food, none of us could resist the Knock-You-Naked Brownies. They were gone before I had time to take a picture.

The Super Bowl for me isn’t at all about the game. It’s about the food, great company, halftime, and the commercials. The food and company was a hit, the halftime show entertaining, and a few commercials made me smile while I shook my head at others.

Although I’m not into football, I did find the game entertaining this year and managed to cheer along with everyone else when the Philadelphia Eagles won. Who could not wish a close game win for the underdogs? Maybe the gamblers who bet on the Patriots were peeved, but we were ecstatic.

Our San Diego stop had come to a close and it was time to say good-bye. The next day we hit the road headed east for who knows how long.

Safe Travels

Kicking Off 2018 Winter Tour in San Diego, Part 1

San Diego is a favorite destination for us so selecting the location for the kick-off of our 2018 Winter Tour on January 30, 2018, wasn’t difficult. During our stopover in San Diego, we searched for places we had never stumbled upon before.

Mission Trails Regional Park

Mission Trails Regional Park was our first pick. I’m glad past city leaders realized the benefit of setting aside a swath natural habitat for future generations to enjoy.  Although the town encroaches near the edges of the park, urbanites and visitors alike can spend a few hours in the wilderness and learn about the history of San Diego in the early 1800s.

We started at the Visitor Center located off Mission Gorge Road. After grabbing a map and discussing trails with the volunteer, we escaped the busload of school kids that had arrived shortly before we did.

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Mission Trails Regional Park Visitor Center
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Hello Up There

We drove directly to the Old Mission Dam, which is registered as both a National Historic Site and a California State Historic Landmark. Kumeyaay Indian laborers, under the supervision of engineers trained in Mexico, constructed the 250-foot dam to provide a year-round water supply for Spanish settlements.

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Old Mission Dam

Construction consisted of cementing rocks and boulders together using mortar made of lime and crushed seashells. The dam created a reservoir that spanned the length of three football fields. A flume lined with hand-made tiles delivered water from the reservoir to the Mission San Diego De Alcala crops about three miles away and another 2.5 miles to the Mission. Today the reservoir is now a pond and the flume is no longer present.

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Old Mission Dam

We followed the Oak Canyon trail along the San Diego River, through sagebrush, chaparral, oak trees, and grassland. Critters rustled through the underbrush as we approached and birds flew from grass to tree tops.

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Bridge Across the River
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Are You Coming?

Every once in a while, I forgot we were so close to an urban setting. Then a plane would fly overhead, the roar of the highway traffic would seep into my ears, or a semi would rattle its exhaust brakes as it slowed.

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Stop Awhile and Rest in My Shade
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Edible or Toxic?
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Just a Puddle

At one point I heard rushing water. I picked up my pace at the prospect of seeing a waterfall or rapids in the desert environment. I knew it was just around the corner only to find more grass-covered hills. Around the next hill, still no water, nothing around the next hill either. Then I finally looked up.

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High Tension Wires

What I heard was not the rush of water flowing but the rush of electricity through the high tension lines. Silly me.

There are 24 trails to explore in Mission Trails Regional Park with plenty of choices whether hikers prefer easy, moderate, or difficult levels. I envision future trips to San Diego so we can experience more of what the park has to offer.

Trolley Ride to Historic Downtown

The Trolley has existed since 1981, yet we had never jumped aboard.  I suspect the reason is due to the ease of getting around town in a vehicle. Since our RV site was adjacent to the 70th Street stop, we hopped on for a ride to the Gaslamp Quarter in downtown.

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The Trolley

A day pass was $5.00 plus $2.00 for a reusable Compass Card. We saved the Compass Card to use during our next trip to San Diego.

Craving tapas, we stopped in at Cafe Sevilla for a flight of sangria, bacon wrapped dates and empanadas. It turned out to be a great choice.

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Cafe Sevilla’s Place Settings

The rich bacon wrapped dates melted in our mouths and the trio of empanadas contained generous helpings of meat wrapped inside. Next time I think we will stick to the traditional red sangria, although the apple and citrus glasses did have a crisp taste.

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Yummy Bacon Wrapped Dates
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A Flight of Sangria

Cafe Sevilla also offers Spanish music and dance lessons, making it a great place to have a birthday or anniversary party with family and friends.

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Stage
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Not Your Ordinary Bar Stool

Harbor Drive led the way toward the Midway Aircraft Museum where ships are often docked in port along the Embarcadero. First we came across The Headquarters.

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The Headquarters

Once the San Diego Police Headquarters, the courtyard is now home to restaurants, shops, and art galleries. The hallway to the restrooms contains a height chart to use as a background for taking selfies and a jail room with mug shots of prisoners.

Along the embarcadero is a memorial to the USS San Diego (CL-53).

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USS San Diego (CL-53) Memorial

The memorial was sponsored by the USS San Diego (CL-53) Memorial Association, Inc. to honor the “valiant and remarkable service of the cruiser USS San Diego and the men who served aboard it during World War II.”

Take a look at this stealth-like ship. They offered tours of the USS Independence (LCS-2) but did not allow bags, a no go for us since we both had backpacks. Instead, we gawked at the ship from the pier. The trimaran build allows flexibility for the military crew to employ different types of operations.

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USS Independence (LCS-2)

As we walked back to catch the trolley we admired a unique characteristic of San Diego’s skyline. One America Plaza, the tallest building in San Diego, sports a Phillips screwdriver roofline,

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One America Plaza

while the Hyatt’s roofline resembles a standard screwdriver.

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The Hyatt

Other buildings also have unique designs that makeup San Diego’s skyline.

Next week we finish up with Part 2 of our visit to San Diego.

Safe Travels