As I start this post, I am sitting in bed a little before noon, with just an hour to go in my workday. We leave San Diego in a few hours, which will be a bittersweet finish to what has been quite a trip! The last couple of days I have been able to see some of the tourist sights of San Diego, for which I am grateful. I’ll try to recount them here and finish with one last post tomorrow if I need to.
My post on Tuesday was a little hard to finish up due to the presence of severe weather in the Blacksburg CWA. My main job during severe operations is to try to verify the warnings by calling county 911 centers, local volunteer fire departments, etc. The day before, I had been unable to help with verification due to the internet situation, but this time I big-brained it by using Elizabeth’s hotspot. The only issue was this required me to have Elizabeth’s phone, and with it being our second-to-last full day in San Diego you can understand that she wanted to stay busy. After a brief mix-up at the hotel, I sat out of the patio facing the Bay and called random person after random person living in the Blue Ridge. Elizabeth managed to herd people out of the complex to lunch not long before my shift ended at 3:00. Winston was working outside with me, so by process of elimination we brought up the rear of the convoy out of the Loews. Our Uber driver brought us the rendezvous point out on San Diego Harbor at the USS Midway, a 20th-century carrier that was used as the flagship during Desert Storm. We got there right as everyone else walked up (literally: our Uber driver dropped us off right out front as they walked by). We only had a pretty short time available on the Midway before it closed down at 5:00, so time was a little bit of the essence, but it was relatively typical of the sort of Naval-installation-turned-museum. Lots of cool airplanes and helicopters sat out for me to look at, including the one that rescued the astronauts on Apollo 13.
They had a ton of Yellow Hats on board, and you know they are always super eager to talk about what they used to do during their glory days. It’s about the closest you can come to truly understanding what people went through in the service. They talked about landing the planes on the carrier deck, which is not something I would want to do after having walked it. Not a ton of room!
I tried to get up onto the bridge to see what it looked like up there, but by this point the Yellow Hats were beginning to shut things down – they like happy hour as much as anyone else. However, Elizabeth and I must have been the very last people to sneak into the admiral’s quarters, which was also incredibly cool – we not only saw the admiral’s sweet digs, but the command room with maps hanging on the wall from the Persian Gulf War, and multiple communication rooms with literally nothing but radios upon radios upon radios. The corridor was like a secret gem of the Midway.
Predictably, Pam, Victor, and Debbie were the last ones off the boat, chatting with volunteers the whole way.
While everyone talked through what to do next, I got in a quick chat with my mom. After discussion, Pam, Winston, Elizabeth and myself decided to drive to Torrey Pines and hike at the state park. Along the way, as I was navigating Winston, I reached a startling conclusion – Torrey Pines is named after the torrey pine, an incredibly rare species of tree literally only found in that preserve and one other nearby spot. There are less than 5,000 torrey pines in the world! When we got there, the first thing I did was hug a pine, then take a picture of it.
We had driven up the top of the big bluffs that dominate the cost from La Jolla to Del Mar. Our trail in question was the aptly named Torrey Pines Beach Trail, a winding downhill course that eventually dropped to the ocean. “Dropped” is the operative word here; it’s like 400 vertical feet.
We took a little detour to something called “Red Butte” and got a nice view atop a red butte, although the detour did require quite a bit of backtracking.
Despite being right on the coast, the local wildlife (and geology) were very reminiscent of something you’d see in Texas or New Mexico.
The last part of the hike went through a little canyon that I kept thinking “this can’t get any steeper”, and then it did indeed keep getting steeper. At one point, we even had to take a bridge over a wash. I’m not kidding when I say it was like being in Palo Duro but instead of being red, it was yellow, and instead of ending at a river, it ended at the Pacific.
After a few harrowing steps down to the staircase, we’d made it down to the beach. The tide was just low enough for us to enjoy the near-sunset sky along some of the most incredible beachside cliffs I’d ever seen (some of the only beachside cliffs I’d ever seen).
And my favorite twitter series, “couple of hikers”, finally returned.
The sun was starting to go down, and we were getting hungry since most of us only had a pseudo-lunch, so the four of us did not spend much time down on the seashore – just enough to establish that yes, I can skip a stone, and no, I am not good at skipping a stone.Without taking the Red Butte diversion on the way back up, the return trip was indubitably faster. The sunset was a bit too smoky, but otherwise all you could want in a sunset.
This was what I had wanted with my remaining time in San Diego. The wedding had been a lovely affair to attend, but I didn’t feel like we’d experienced enough of the area yet.
The sun was down, but the night held one more adventure. Winston’s friend had informed him that the very best food in San Diego is found in the Old Town area closer to the airport. Always game for good food, we drove there on the way back. First glance told us that it would be difficult to eat somewhere in the main area of Old Town, since every restaurant was packed to the brim with humanity. However, an astute read of the line outside the Coyote Cafe by Pam told us that we could get a table for seven in little time; an astute lie about the whole group being there and the timely arrival of the Colemans secured our table.
I am being 100% honest when I say that I did not intend to drink any alcohol that night, even at a place the boasted margaritas as good as the Coyote Cafe undoubtedly did. You’ll imagine my consternation, then, as I read the menu over Elizabeth’s shoulder and discovered that they. Have. Margarita. Flights.
You can read my commentary of all of them in my ever-getting-happier thread in the tweet above. The best: the classic one in the upper left, and the cucumber margarita bottom center. Both of those easily crested the top 5 margaritas of my life, and the classic may have been the best ever. On top of that, they were flights of margaritas! There was no way Elizabeth and I could not order that.
It’d be easy to say that after the pure joy of margarita flights, dinner was anticlimactic. The wild thing is that that’s not true. The carnitas I ordered were excellent – the guacamole that came with it also flirted with “best I’ve ever had” territory. I didn’t honestly believe that Mexican was better closer to the border – there had to be a threshold to how good it really got, right? That was a bad take, and I am a bad person for having believed it, and I’d like to apologize to the Coyote Cafe for presuming such.
Now, finally, it was time to wind things down. It wasn’t terribly late, but Pam was quite tired – so much so that the drive back became an adventure. We did make it safely, which is obviously most important, and we had something awesome to look forward to the next day: my only weekday off in San Diego.
I’m currently sitting at Phoenix airport with crappy internet and can’t even get pictures to load into this post, so I’ll have to finish my blog about San Diego in the morning. Stay tuned for ocean kayaking, the La Jolla beach, and a lot of sea lions in the finale! Final thought: I miss my dog.