Our San Diego AirBnB reservation was for 3 1/2 months which gave us plenty of opportunities to explore. This isn’t vacation for us – it’s life – and our budget doesn’t allow for an “every day is a vacation day” attitude. We’ve also visited San Diego several times and gone to places like the San Diego Zoo, Sea World, and Balboa Park, so this time our activities were more like what locals would do (taking Covid into account, of course).
Jeff loves metal detecting so he took full advantage of the good weather while I went for walks (which I really enjoy doing), which kept me from being stuck in the rental without a car. He spent a lot of time on Mission Beach and around its parks, so I took many walks on the “boardwalk” between South Mission Beach and Pacific Beach to get my ocean fix. I call it a “boardwalk” because I think of them as wooden vs. concrete like this one. But it was wide and sufficiently long (around 3 miles one-way) with Crystal Pier on the Pacific Beach end. I always made a point of walking onto the pier to watch the surfers and feel it shake as the waves went by.
The boardwalk was always great for people watching as I walked, with plenty of stereotypical Southern California sights: rollerskaters, cyclists with surfboard holders on their bikes, shirtless joggers, buskers dressed straight out of the 1960’s, the 80-year-old guy (who I saw every time) roller-skating in super-slow motion. You get the idea. They went by too quickly to take pictures (well, except for the super-slow mo roller skater, but I didn’t want to be rude and take a picture), but they were all memorable.
When Jeff would metal detect in Liberty Station Park in Point Loma, I would drop him off and drive to Cabrillo National Monument to walk along the paths. I even saw a submarine headed out one day which was just like being in Groton – but much warmer. We also explored Cabrillo’s tide pools a couple of times. They are one of the best-protected rocky intertidal areas in California.
I grew up in Brawley which is in the Imperial Valley. The population is small, but the agricultural community is huge, with over 500,000 heads of cattle and lambs along with hundreds of thousands of acres of crops. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Brawley’s big annual event is Cattle Call which includes a parade and a rodeo. I’m a sucker for a local parade, and Jeff had never seen a rodeo, so we drove down to watch and buy some carne asada from Ramey’s. The parade was your classic small-town event, and the rodeo was extremely well-attended. Overall the experience was “interesting.” Let’s leave it at that.
It’s not a small-town parade without the Shriners:
This is the best damn jerky we’ve ever had (they were passing out free packages). Two thumbs up:
A little Google search told me these were row crop tractors. They are all big, but the 420 was particularly large with a wheelbase of 148″. It has a maximum horsepower of 462, weighs 40,159 pounds, and you can buy a 2019 with 670 hours on it for $312,700. You know, if you’re interested in one.
Seeing the low-riders are always a highlight of any parade in Southern California:
Every rodeo must start with the obligatory parachutist with a U.S. flag while the crowd sings all of the verses and the chorus of “Proud to be an American” at the top of their lungs:
Okay. Back to San Diego. A big highlight of our stay was being able to spend tons of time with my best friend, Lyn and her husband, Ken who live only 15 minutes from our rental. Whether it was knitting while yakking about anything and everything, watching movies and football games, eating dinners and playing games, or enjoying cider flights at Newtopia, we always had an excellent time and it was something I was so grateful to be able to do. Plans have been made to meet again in the Bahamas, maybe as soon as next year!
Another major perk was being only a maximum two-hour drive from several relatives in L.A. and Orange County, and we went up there monthly for visits and family gatherings. Given that I’ve been on the East Coast since 1989, it was a treat to be so close and we took full advantage.
We did do a few “touristy” things. We took a day trip to the cute mountain town of Julian (only an hour away) which is well-known for its apple pies. Based on Lyn and Ken’s suggestion, we went on a tour of the Eagle Mining Company which was very cool. It was incredible to imagine how physically hard that job was with miners carving out tunnels by hand, not to mention the mining itself. Of course we also had to buy an apple pie from the Julian Pie Company.
We also couldn’t stay away from boats, touring the Star of India in downtown San Diego. Arguably the world’s oldest active sailing ship (even the volunteer admitted that was questionable), the Star launched five days before the Gettysburg Address and circumnavigated 21 times. She’s 212 feet long, has never been fitted with an engine, and still goes out onto the ocean once or twice a year for a daysail with volunteer crew.
Last but not least, we made it our mission to find the best tacos in San Diego. While we never had any bad tacos, the best ones hands-down were from Tacos el Gordo in Chula Vista.
The most amazing fish tacos were from Kiko’s Place food truck in Mission Valley. $10 for four OG fish tacos and they threw in two free cups of seafood consomme while we waited for the tacos. I stopped counting how many times we went there after three.
We thoroughly enjoyed trying birria for the first time from Birrieria La Loterria, a food truck only 2 miles from our rental.
And last but definitely not least, Lyn and Ken also introduced us to chilaquiles at Rana’s in Spring Valley, and we are now officially addicted.
So after all that, are we ready to move to San Diego? Candidly, no. Hands down the weather is fantastic, but while the beaches are nice, the water is damn cold with an average of around 68 degrees in the summer. You can sail year round, but there aren’t that many places to sail to. We met several sailors who were envious when we told them we’re based on Groton, all of them wishing they had the huge variety of anchorages and destinations that New England enjoys. We also don’t like having to get on the freeway to go almost anywhere.
Even if we could afford to move to San Diego when we swallow the anchor (which we most certainly can NOT unless we want to rent a small apartment for the rest of our lives), it’s just not for us. Now, that doesn’t mean we’ll never go there again. It’s a great place to visit – even if Lyn and Ken didn’t live there! But after 3 1/2 months, it didn’t make the “Could we live here someday?” list. The search continues.