Monday, May 16, 2016

Travels With Brad & Carolyn

In January, we went on a three-week holiday to San Diego, Hawaii, and Australia.  I will be posting some articles that I wrote about our trip on this blog.

We are flying First Class aboard a Delta MD-90 bound for San Diego.  I sit in my seat by the window, sipping from my glass of wine.  On this nearly cloudless day, the view at 33,000 feet is panoramic as I watch America’s Great Plains give way to the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.  Our flight slides down around Denver then starts a long descent near Las Vegas.
            This is where the friendly skies get interesting.  Before I would see an occasional plane off in the distance, a silver flick on the far off horizon.  Now, as we enter one of the busiest airspaces on the west coast, all that changes.  I see other airplanes everywhere.  Some are dropping down into a landing in Las Vegas or one of Nevada’s other gambling destinations.  Some are on their way east, heading back into the snow and cold of the Midwest.
            At one point, I notice that I can see three other airplanes from my window.  Then, WHOOSH, a bright blue Southwest Air jet flies past just below us.  I am amazed as the plane jets past us, flying in the opposite direction.  Its speed as it races by is startling. But soon I notice other airliners flying past us in various directions.  This air corridor into San Diego is a busy one on this Thursday morning.
            After crossing the southern California desert region, we start to descend into the coastal mountains that frame San Diego. As we descend, the mountains rise up and seem larger than they probably are.  Our plane keeps getting closer and closer to the coastal range and one could imagine a probable landing site at that altitude.  But after flying over Balboa Park, we descend towards the coast where the San Diego Airport is located.  Down between the hillside neighborhoods of the city we fly and descend to the shoreline of the bay where the landing strip awaits.
            A short cab ride takes us back up into Mission Hills, a place we flew above an hour earlier.  Our lodgings are in a guesthouse on Ingalls Street, the building is a converted carriage house from an earlier time.  We are staying in North Mission Hills – a gentrified neighborhood in progress – an old part of the city of San Diego.  That night we dine at the Harley Gray Kitchen & Bar on West Washington Street, a few blocks from where we live.  We eat coconut shrimp, mussels in the shell, lobster tails, sea bass and fish tacos.  All of the seafood is delicious and fresh; we are not in the Midwest anymore.  Later, we are driven back to our guesthouse lodgings in a Mercedes Electric car.  We are definitely not in the Kickapoo Valley anymore.
            We are visiting our niece, Caron, her husband David and their nearly four-month-old baby girl, Chloe.  They live a few blocks from where we are staying and the next morning we walk over to their place.  We stop at the Meshuggah Shack for lattes on the way.  The place has great coffees and there is nearly always a line of people waiting to get their morning Joe.
            While in San Diego, the high temperatures are in the 60’s and 70’s depending on how much sun shines.  It is cool at night and one needs a jacket or sweater if you are out and about.  There is light rain on a few of our days there, which is typical for the winter season.
            On another day, we go down to the bay and walk the baby in her pram along the walkway above the seawall.  We stop at an old lighthouse site that has been converted into a restaurant and have drinks and calamari on the deck as we watch all the boats go by.  San Diego is a busy harbor at most times and currently houses three US Navy aircraft carriers that are in port for repair and maintenance.  On just one of those carriers in port, there are 9,000 sailors working on board.  Having that many of the great naval carriers in port at once is not common and security is high as seen by the boats and helicopters constantly on patrol. 
            The tides of the Pacific Ocean are very high as we drive up to the La Jolla area and visit several beaches.  Near record surf with waves fifteen feet high has all of the surfers out.  At the Scripps Reserve Wind & Sea Beach area, Para-gliders fly overhead as we walk down to Black Beach.  The popular beach is packed with surfers of all sizes and shapes, using surfboards, paddleboards and other devices to frolic in the roiling waters.   David, who used to live in the Mission Bay area and was an avid body surfer, gives a little narrative of his old neighborhood as we drive south along the coast.
               One of our favorite spots while staying in Mission Hills was the Farmers Botteca.  It is a restaurant that serves organic foods and follows the farm-to-table format that is a growing national trend.  The food is excellent each time we stop at the Farmers Botteca; the place would remind you of the Driftless Café in our own neck of the woods.  The restaurant also has a bar that features several local craft beers on tap.
            The craft beer phenomenon is huge in San Diego; there are 150 craft breweries in San Diego County currently.  On one of our excursions David takes us to the Stone Brewery Company, the largest craft brewer in San Diego.  The Stone Brewery operation is located in several former naval barracks along the bay and the day that we visited the brewery, the huge bar, several restaurants and the beer garden were packed with people.  We had brought along three growlers for filling as the brewery always has eight brews ready for takeaway.  (I can attest that several of the Stone Brewery lagers and pilsners are very worthy creations.)  At the bar, the brewery offers not only their own brews, but also an amazing array of craft beers from all over the West Coast.  I think I lost count when I reached 120 taps of craft beers on hand!
            While we were in San Diego, the city sports scene was alive with NFL relocation news.  The San Diego Chargers, the current NFL team, may move to Los Angeles in the near future.  Or the Oakland Raiders may move to San Diego soon, possibly for next season.  Or the Chargers may stay in San Diego if the city and county will pony up lots of money for a new stadium.  All of the NFL speculation was really a circus at that time in the city.  This is all very amusing for a Packer fan used to the stability of their franchise in Green Bay.
            Speaking of the Packers, we all dressed up in our best Packer green & gold gear for the playoff game that Green Bay played with Arizona.  Despite the heartbreaking loss in that game, the photo that Caron posted on Face Book of Chloe, Carolyn and me in our Packer colors was “trending” and by the next day more than 125 people had “liked” it.
            After five days of fun in San Diego, we had to say goodbye to Caron, David and sweet Chloe as we were bound for Maui. Caron gave us an early morning ride down to the airport, where we said our goodbyes and squeezed off our farewell hugs.  Our Alaska Air flight left early from the airport and the Boeing 737-800 rose up over the city and away from the coast to start the six-hour flight towards the Hawaiian Islands.
            But that will be the next segment in this story of the trials and tribulations of our travel.  Until then, aloha!

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