San Diego Visit Part 1

Our long range plan had always had us coming to San Diego for part of the winter. We did not realize we would be coming here to escape the cold of Arizona. Of course as we made our way from Sierra Vista through Yuma and into Southeast California the weather was on a constantly improving trend. We sort of kept track of what was going on from a weather perspective at Apache Flats and were not surprised to see that conditions there were improving with each hundred miles separation we made. When we arrived in San Diego we were bathed in sunshine and warm temperatures. We were so very happy to finally be warm again.

That euphoria was short lived. After being here for only several days the weather turned wintery once again. It never got as cold as we had experienced in Arizona, but we sure got to see a lot more rain and not very pleasant days than we had hoped for.

I have to say that I remember the kind of weather we experienced here from our last tour of duty in the area. I remember one evening as I was coming home it was raining so hard that I missed the turn to Interstate 8 and wound up on Interstate 5 heading away from home instead of towards it. Of course you don’t think of those things while planning your winter retreat. I also remember that my boot camp graduation ceremony was actually rained out due to an absolute down pour that would not stop. That was in June of 1971. So, there is weather in San Diego and you don’t really have to be here a really long time to experience it.

One of the things we wanted to do here was host a get together with as many of our former shipmates as we could muster. We picked a date while we were enroute and sent off e-mails announcing and inviting. The first attempt was canceled ahead of the scheduled day due to a rainy forecast. The forecast was accurate and it rained most of the day. We would have had a real mess on our hands with more than a dozen people trying to stay dry under our awning or in the coach. When we canceled we rescheduled for the following week. We ultimately had to cancel that event as well because yours truly came down with the local version of the seasonal crud. I was actually on the improving slope when we made the decision to cancel, but because Connie was starting to show symptoms similar to mine we felt it prudent to cancel rather than infect our friends. Of course the weather for the second day could not have been any better. We are going to try again for next week. Hopefully we will both be healthy and the weather will cooperate.

As I said, when we got here the weather was great. We took advantage of those good days. First, we took care of some shopping needs that we had been waiting specifically to get here to tackle. I immediately found a running route that would give me five to six miles of a run without having to do laps. That was a real challenge as we are camped at Admiral Baker RV Park and Recreation Area. This park is situated on the western bank of the San Diego River just east of Mission Valley. The only way out of the park is UP. I really mean it. For what I consider a safe run from a traffic perspective means more UP. I am talking about 250 to 300 feet up in less than a mile. It is a wicked way to start a five mile run. However, the high altitude running I did in Arizona on hills paid off and I didn’t kill myself here. I did have to replace my shoes right away as I found that the pounding was killing my knees. The new shoes have made all the difference in the world.

We had intended to reconnect with a number of Navy friends, birding friends and restaurant friends and for Connie, aerobics friends while we were here. We got off to a good start when Leslie called us while we were still in Yuma wanting to get together with us like right then. We had to put her off a few days until we actually arrived. But, we did go out to Imperial Beach to see her digs, the American Kestrel she cares for, her significant other, Rick and their cat. Of course we also got to see the great view they have from their place as well as the character of the neighborhood. Leslie and Rick live across the street from the Imperial Beach Pier. What could be better?

As an amateur photographer with a great eye for art, Leslie has taken literally thousands of photographs of the life around her. She has self published two books which are absolutely stunning as well as providing a photographic tour of her little piece of paradise. It was fun to look through her books and then walk around the neighborhood a little bit and see firsthand what she had so precisely captured with the camera.

We spent a wonderful afternoon with Leslie and Rick which included lunch at a nearby Mexican restaurant where English was not the primary language of all the staff and most of the patrons. It was wonderful. Following a late lunch and a look at more photos, we took a walk out on the pier to see what we could see. There were common loons, western grebes and cormorants among a variety of gulls and a few pelicans.

As we stood on the western end of the pier trying to identify the ships/boats on the horizon we witnessed a super sunset. At one point a yet- to- be- identified ship was dead center on the setting sun. Leslie had her camera, I did not. She took a great photo of the ship with the sun as its backdrop. I have included it here. Remember, this is Leslie’s photo not mine. She owns the copyright.

As we returned to Leslie’s and Rick’s apartment building her main pride and joy flew onto its perch on the front of the building. That would be the Peregrine Falcon that has roosted there for months now and seems to hold court over the local avian community and occasionally thinning said community in favor of his/her personal survival.

Peregrine Falcons are exceptional hunters and very fast fliers. Earlier in the day as we were looking out of Leslie’s windows we witnessed the impact this one bird has had on the neighborhood pigeons and doves. With a mere pass through the area the falcon sent hundreds of birds in as many directions in hope of safe havens to at least forestall becoming dinner. Leslie told us that she and other supportive neighbors keep a close watch not only on the bird’s night time perch, but also on the sidewalk below to ensure that all remnants of the feeding that goes on are cleaned up so that no unwanted attention is attracted to “their” feathered hero. All-in- all our afternoon and early evening with Leslie, Rick and the birds was one to remember.

Our next encounter with old friends would be the visit we had from Glenn and Deborah. Glenn is a Navy Supply Corps Captain and in command locally. We first met them during our tour on USS Simon Lake in La Maddelena, Italy. Glenn was the guy who made sure I got all the exotic parts I needed to keep the submarine force at sea and ready for battle in the Mediterranean and beyond. We were a great team and we developed a pretty close relationship. Since our return from Italy now some 12 years ago we have had several duty stations apart from one another, but somehow have managed to bump into each other from time to time. It was great seeing Glenn and Deborah and catching up. After spending a few hours with us at our motorhome, they invited us to dinner at their house the following week. While at their house we met their two high energy fast moving dogs and had a wonderful time talking and enjoying a great dinner. Over the years they have been married they have sponsored a number of foreign exchange students in their various homes. There is an area in the upper level of their home that is a photo gallery of the wonderful young people they helped to educate. They are a great couple with a wonderful and limitless giving spirit. We hope to see them again before we leave.

Our next encounter would come on Valentine’s Day. I had made reservations at that great Italian restaurant that anyone who has known me in the flesh for longer than five minutes has heard about, Antica Trattoria, in La Mesa, California. When Connie and I lived here the last time we were literally within walking distance of this place. In fact when we first moved here, the restaurant was something else. We ate there one night and noticed a sign saying they were closing. We enquired and learned that “two Italian boys” had bought the restaurant and were going to reopen as a fine Italian Restaurant. I will cut to the chase; I often refer to this place as the best Italian restaurant not in Italy. Having lived in Italy for two years, I have some credibility. I have sent scores of people to visit Antica and no one has come away disappointed.

So, since it was to be Valentine’s Day we knew our opportunity to chat with Franco and/or his wife would be limited, but we really wanted to eat there and we knew we could come back on a less busy night to catch up. Well, as we walked through the door the first thing I noticed was that Franco’s father-in-law was waiting tables. That was a good sign. Everyone was still happy and business was so good he had to draft the family to keep the customers happy. The second thing I noticed was that Marta, Franco’s wife was the hostess. At first Marta did not recognize me, but that was no crime since we have been gone five years, my hair is somewhat longer and greyer and I have a bit of a beard. She looked better than ever as far as I was concerned. Of course, the place was packed and the entire staff was hustling trying to stay on top of things. Our dinner was as wonderful as we remembered all our dinners there as being. Because of the holiday crush the service was not as personal as usual, but given the press of people it was much more than adequate.

I was only able to stick my hand through the serving window to shake that of Franco’s and exchange a very quick ciao as he was up to his eyeballs in food orders. One thing that has always amazed me about that restaurant is the tiny little kitchen that puts out such a large variety of wonderfully prepared food. Franco is not a little man and on this night he had three other chefs in there doing quite a dance around the stove and ovens. It was as always amazing to watch as they put one meal after another through the serving window with Marine Corps like precision. Of course we will get back there before we leave here.

Our next adventure was the monthly meeting of the San Diego Audubon Society. We had left here with several close friends in this wonderful organization. Connie had been on the board of directors and therefore knew anyone who was anyone in the organization. My participation was limited to being part of the greeting committee for the monthly meetings as well as chair of chairs. That means that it was my job to get the folding chairs out of the storage lockers and get them all set up prior to people arriving for the meetings. At the end of the meeting everyone pitched in to help re-stow the chairs. I was able to supervise to make sure all were properly hung so that all would fit in the space available. What a tough job. Of course I also had participated in most of the weekend activities that were sponsored by the organization while we lived here.

So it was with great anticipation that we returned to the old meeting site to see how things have progressed since our departure. Most things were unchanged, except there was no greeting committee and therefore no name tags so we knew who we were talking to. Of course we recognized and were recognized by the group we had spent so much time with all those years ago. We were early enough that we were able to spend some quality time catching up with many of the leadership before the meeting started. After the meeting we tried making some tentative plans to meet for dinner while we are in town. To date no fruit has been produced from those tentative plans as everyone seems to be passing this cold/flu bug around from one to another. We have nearly three weeks left here. I am certain we will work something out.

We took a day trip to the Los Angeles Fairplex, also known as the LA County Fairgrounds to attend the Family Motor Coach Association Convention. Since we were day tripping we could not get into the seminars. We could only visit the exhibits and the RV show. That was fine with us we had done the entire convention in Perry, Georgia, last spring. We really wanted to go to the exhibits to buy stuff. We fared pretty well with the exception of our number one goal which was to find someone who does tripod installations of Satellite Internet dishes. At one point we were talking to a guy from San Diego who does the rooftop mounts on your RV and he was starting to write down the name of a competitor who does the tripods. I reiterated we were talking internet and not television and he put down his pen. It seems that this is a niche market because there is so much training with the customer required in order to satisfy the FCC rules. It seems crazy to me, but what do I know. We have talked to a number of tripod users and they all have told us the same thing. Once you know how to aim it, there are no problems. If you are not taught to properly aim the dish you will suffer. Since the roof mount costs nearly ten times as much as the tripod mount and there is no flexibility with a roof mount to avoid a tree, it just does not make sense to get a roof mount. So, we were disappointed to make no headway in our quest for permanent high speed connectivity. We continue to search.

We also wanted to walk through a few coaches at the RV show to see what is new in 2008. We were surprised to find that the brand we have been leaning towards for the past several months does not offer a floor plan that is suitable to our desires. That is a bummer. Of course we are not looking to buy a new coach until the 2010 models are on the market, so there is time for our company of choice to come around to our way of thinking. In fact the only manufacturer we visited (meaning the pared down list of those we can afford and trust) that offers what we want is our current coach’s manufacturer, Damon. In the Tuscany model Damon offers pretty much exactly what we are looking for from a floor plan view. We will have to do more research to find out if we can get some of the more practical upgrades such as thermo pane windows. Again, we have time. We are looking now only to hone our list of musts and figure out how many peanut butter and jelly sandwiches we will have to endure in order to save for the down payment.

We have been here for just over three weeks meaning that we have just fewer than three weeks remaining before we are off again.

Since I only put one photo in this post, I went back to the more direct view. However, the early feedback for the Google Web Photo method was sufficiently encouraging that I will continue to work on that method as my method of choice. I am trying to figure out how to make the link a lot more user friendly. I am certain there is a way. Stay tuned,


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