Having driven through Joshua Tree and rather than turning right on I-10 we continued straight through beautiful Box Canyon which would take us southwest to the Salton Sea.
|the sea, the sea the first time we'd seen water in a long while|
|Coming into Mecca|
|Not a very happening place anymore|
|these guts show on Google Earth|
|And as always, trains, trains, trains|
|we saw several piles of these bales of hay which must be used in the crops|
From El Centro to our turn off to climb Laguna Mountain we'd be on I-8 so I drove. El Centro is at sea level. The turn off to Laguna Mountain is at about 4000 ft/1220 m and though it was a ways it was slow going at many points as the engine strained and I went at a snail's pace to keep it from overheating. The climb up the mountain would be another 1500 ft/460 m and much of it on a road that hung on the side of the mountain with no guardrails-something Don most assuredly does NOT like driving, but we made it up just fine and found a spot that was perfect. Despite being at the top of the mountain it would be hot for the days we were there and the afternoon sun would beat down on us-great for the battery charging... not so comfortable.
|Looking out over San Diego|
|The Anza-Borrego Desert is on the eastern side of the Cleveland National Forest and the Pacific Crest Trail runs between them|
|Just beyond the campground entrance is a scenic overlook for Noble Canyon-4000 ft/1220 m below. I first saw it the day we arrived and then...|
However, our reason for being here was to revisit San Diego. Don had lived there as a VERY young child, although he did not remember where, when his dad was still in the navy and I had visited in 1973. Don had reconnected, on Facebook of course, with a high school cohort, Colin Cann, who offered to give us the Chamber of Commerce tour-and wow! what a tour! Colin had come out to San Diego for college and stayed so he knows the area very well. Phoenix was due for grooming so we drove down to town and met Colin. Her appointment was not until noon so we drove to several places, dropped her off, had lunch and then continued the tour.
San Diego. It has grown a lot in the past several decades and, being on the coast, experiences what is known as June Gloom...i.e. there is a heavy veil of fog sitting over everything in the morning that usually blows/burns off by midday. But, what we noticed coming in from the east and above was also a distressing layer of smog. With the mountains to the east there isn't really anywhere for it to go and as the area gets more crowded (and more cars!) the skies get dirtier. Neither Don nor I had seen that layer of beige-ish smog regularly since the late 70s when it was cleaned up in NYC. Once there though, it seemed to disappear and only a cool breeze and a bit of haze remained. San Diego is known for having the best climate anywhere in the US and it was spectacularly beautiful!
First stop was Point Loma after driving through Ocean Beach and past Sunset Cliffs. We visited the old Lighthouse and looked down on the new Coast Guard New Point Loma Lighthouse perched on the cliff as well as the Cabrillo National Monument at the tip of the point overlooking San Diego Bay with Coronado and the Naval Base to the east. From there we dropped Phoenix off and drove along the harbor- saw the Star of India and USS Midway- then did a pass through Balboa Park, passed Mission Bay, Mission Beach and Belmont Park and then to Pacific Beach ("PB") for lunch. This is a seriously cool place with Crystal Pier which stretches way out into the water, like many of the piers along the south eastern seaboard, as well as along the California coast but on this one there are small rental cottages (don't faint at the prices!) along the first third. After a delicious lunch on the deck outside Kono's Surf Club we got back to driving and went up Mount Soledad where the fog had come back in and La Jolla and Scripps Beach were shrouded in mist. As we descended Mount Soledad we passed Theodore Geisel's (Dr Seuss) house which was a treat. Colin had to get back home to pick up his son and drive another 4 hours and we could not thank him enough for taking the time to have shown us his town.
|Pt Loma with the Cabrillo National Monument and Coronado in the background|
|Old Pt Loma Lighthouse|
|The New Pt Loma Lighthouse|
|Palms outside the Hyatt at the harbor|
|Museum of Man at Balboa Park|
|Theye have a sign that shows how many days it's been since they raised their prices|
|Crystal Pier PB|
|the view at lunch|
|Crystal Pier from the Boardwalk|
|Each of the cottages on the pier had a flower box with drought resistant succulents|
|Don and Colin headed out the pier|
|The fog rolled in when we got to Mount Soledad|
|Dr Seuss's house|
Laundry day had rolled around again, of course, and this was a place where travel was involved. One of the campground hosts had told me that there was a laundry "just down in Alpine" which is 20 minutes away but when I went down I could not find it at all. (Turns out it was at the first exit but did not show up on Google Maps.) I Googled coin laundries, since "laundromat" kept giving me dry cleaners and finally found one another 30 minutes down the highway in El Cajon. As I drove in to the small plaza I saw a bunch of stores with Arabic writing and was delighted when I saw one was San Diego Foods. The laundry loaded into the machines I skipped next door and was in heaven. The store is owned by Iraqi Christians and was FILLED with every food and iems I remembered from my days in the Middle East-even Nescafe instant coffee and Nido, powdered milk. I passed on those but loaded up with fresh bread khobz, shawarma, tabbouleh-made the right way with mostly parsley and hardly any bulghur, baba ghanouj, and kibbeh. It was wonderful and made this laundry trip a real treat-even if it was 45 minutes away. Don had gone for a walk while I was gone so we walked the same route later near sunset as the earth became quiet and the sounds of children's voices from an extended family camping near the meadow brought joy to the air.
Our last day there we went back to San Diego, this time to Balboa Park followed by a quick drive out to Coronado. We had Phoenix so could not go into museums but El Prado restaurant welcomed her when we sat on their patio and even brought her a nice bowl of fresh water. Lunch-a flatbread pizza was unbelievably good and the perfect amount which meant I could indulge in a very rich, dark chocolate cake for dessert. We strolled around the park for another 2 hours and then went out to Coronado. When I went in 1973 we drove out the wonderful bridge and then visited the Hotel Del Coronado known as the Hotel Del. In those days the hotel dominated the landscape and the beach. It is still beautiful but has many additions and is showing its ritzy side. Sometimes memories are better... After finding a gas station, so we could run on something other than fumes, we headed back home to ready for our journey up the coast.
|I love everything about figs!|
|At the park there is an International Village with small houses for a number of countries. It was Sunday so they were closed.|
|Hibiscus-their beauty last only a day...|
|This little girl's parents and I were blown away with how good she was at hula-hooping|
Heading out to Coronado Island
Last Stop: Joshua Tree National Park
Next Stop: Laguna Niguel and San Juan Capistrano