28 June 2012

"Heading Out West With My Headphones On"

Sorry for the lack in posting.  I just returned to the wonderful (and hot) Hawkeye State last night around midnight.  [Thanks for the late-night airport pick-up caboose!] Six days  in southern California, enjoying as much of San Diego as I could squeeze in.  Here's a run-down of the highlights of the trip:
The weather there was a consistent high of 70-72 every day and very sunny.  The sun seems more intense there (closer to the equator maybe?) so it was still plenty warm, at least until the sun went down, then it cooled off quickly.  I was glad I had decided that the one thing I would buy for myself out there was a pair of sunglasses since as soon as I exited the airport my eyes tightened up into a squint and as I walked down the sidewalk, I realized I was the only person in the city who was not wearing sunglasses, kids, adults, babies, homeless people all included.  So after checking into my hotel, I headed out to find a place to catch part of the Euro game.  Walking would be the main theme of this entire vacation.  I've walked more in six days than probably that past few months combined.  My ankles and a bottoms of my feet are still recovering.  Anyways, I find a place called Nunu's that is advertising multiple HD TV's so I duck in and it is so dark inside, and so bright outside, that I am momentarily completely in the dark.  So I just have to stand there for a minute inside the door, waiting for my eyes to adjust.  It's like 1 in the afternoon and only a few people in a bar that looks like something out of the 70's.  Vinyl booths, lighting from another age and a bartender that wasn't thrilled about changing one of the TV's from baseball to 'that other football.'  Undaunted, I enjoyed myself and watched until Germany had it in the bag and then I headed out to find some sunglasses.  I found a pair of Kenneth Cole's on the "bargain" rack (compared to the $320 Nike's and $180 Columbia's that I was looking at) that I was very happy with and I slipped them on, stepped out onto the street and instantly felt that I now fit in.
My first food destination was Mama's Testa Taqueria.  I had found it on the FoodNetwork website, Bobby Flay had challenged chef Cesar Gonzalez to a fish taco throwdown (and lost.)  There wasn't any question in what I was going to order.  The fish tacos were fantastic.  And the salsa bar was like something out of a dream.  So many fun variations to try out.  I sampled La Escalera (tomatillo + morita), El Valiente (tomatillo + tomato), La Carreta (tomato + jalapeno), La Luna (chile de Arbol + sesame seed).  La Luna was my top pick, smoky, hot with nice twist of sesame flavor.  High marks to this place and I was happy to have a full belly for another long walk back towards my hotel, this time making my way through Balboa Park.  (Saw a peregrine falcon along the way.) The massive park sits just south of the zoo and has some wonderful architecture on its museums, public lawn bowling fields, horseshoe pits, archery range, a dog park, and manicured gardens.  It was great to wander around and watch all the people out enjoying some recreation.  After a little resting back at the hotel, I did a little exploring around the Little Italy area, enjoyed a nice lamb shawarma at the Kebab House and then called it an early night, the two hour difference and the 7+ miles of walking took it out of me.
Saturday I navigated the trolley and the bus to make my way up to Pacific Beach, a gorgeous stretch of beach next to a fun surfer neighborhood.  Lots of surf shops, beach gear, burrito houses, bars, organic food places, head shops, longboard and bike shops, etc.  There was a surf contest going on at the beach and it looked like a scene straight out of Blue Crush.  I took a long walk to get to Rocky's Crown Pub, a recommendation from a facebook friend and it was worth it.  The place was a small bar that turned out some delicious burgers and I watched the Spain vs France match.  I shared a table with a couple in their 50's who had a house in PB, but lived out "in the desert" running a farm that raised all sorts of produce.  We had a great time talking about farming, food, and education.  Finishing up, I walked back to the beach and found a nice spot of sand to stake a claim to for a couple hours.  Only 70 degrees but the sun made it completely comfortable.  [Saw several brown pelicans here] When I had to pack up (this kid can only take so much sun without frying) I stopped at Old Town on the way home.  Not really impressed, it seemed like a southwestern version of Silver Dollar City.  That evening, the first of the rest of the Des Moines group got into town so we met up for dinner and I had a good dish of Tree Hugger Mac & Cheese.  Lots of veggies.  Logged another 7 miles.
Sunday started with mass at St. Joseph's Cathedral, a beautiful structure, amazing stained glass and a good homily to celebrate the nativity of John.  Made my way down to the waterfront and spent the morning checking out the ships at the Maritime Museum, including the USS Midway, an aircraft carrier in service from 1945-1992.  It was so incredibly huge to see up close.  I couldn't wrap my mind around the physics that keep it afloat, upright and get it moving forward.  There was also the Star of India, oldest sailing ship that still goes on the ocean, a Soviet B-39 submarine and the USS Dolphin, the still-active deepest diving submarine.  I enjoyed a fresh seafood lunch and an incredible view at the Fish Market, including Black Gill Rockfish, cherry tomatoes with basil, cole slaw and an oyster shot.  Walked along the seafront, found a place to watch Italy beat England on penalty kicks, met up with rest of the Des Moines contingent, got registered walked back and checked into the W hotel and caught a little rest before repeating the walking along the seafront, this time with co-workers.  The W was SO nice.  It was a level of luxury I am not used to, but greatly enjoyed.  Walking total = 8+ miles.
The conference started on Monday and it consumed most of my days from there on out and I'll summarize my highlights from that in another post.  I did enjoy some great sushi at Ra, and we took a ferry over to Coronado on Tuesday night to check out the beach, hotel and have a delicious meal of fresh pasta.
It was a nice mix of business and pleasure, and there was ideal weather for it the entire time.  Lots to catch up on now that I'm back, but it is also nice to be home.   Pictures are uploaded in this set.
[and the post title is from this great new John Mayer song "Queen of California"]


  1. This was a great trip.. where's next years? I want to go too. :) Very beautiful and sounds like you saw a lot of the city. I enjoyed the pics. Nice job.

  2. San Antonio.
    caboose, wanna come a see the alamo again??

  3. That is very funny, if you do I am not coming because he might lay down and bawl his head off again--sorry Caboose, you almost got your parents arrested that day.

  4. P.S. You should have snatched one of those bikes then you wouldn't have to walk so much. :)