Sunday, June 23, 2013

Top Gun Friday

Oh yes, it was very good to sleep in on a bed in my own room for the first time on the trip. Nick and Natalie were very welcoming the night before, and provided breakfast that Friday morning. Unfortunately, they both had to work and write a paper that day, so I'd be doing my exploring of San Diego on my own. Poor Natalie had been up all night working on her paper, and was truly worn out by the time I'd awakened. I vaguely remember being up late the night before uploading and ogling the photos from Thursday's Vegas to San Diego jaunt. The trip had been really great so far, but there was so much left to look forward to. 35 more days on the road to be exact.

This is a good time to hit upon a very important fact: almost every single day of this trip, the first time I got in the car to go somewhere each morning/afternoon, I'd load up the Top Gun anthem acoustic version on YouTube on my phone, and that would be my musical intro to the day. It's a more peaceful version of the anthem, and it builds anticipation as it builds toward the first F-14 plane launch in the video. Perfect song to start off the day in San Diego of course, and I wasn't too far from Miramar! The 2nd part of that tradition was always to play the full-guitar version of the anthem on the disc itself. I'm pretty sure I sang a little Afternoon Delight in honor of Anchorman at some point that Friday too.

The only problem with the Top Gun anthem via YouTube approach was that sometimes I'd need the map on the phone to know where I was going, but it was tied up playing the song. I don't remember that being an issue this day, but I was just super happy to be starting my first full day in California in San Diego, the reigning champion of my favorite places in Cali so far (still is).

First stop of the day, since Miramar was impossible to photograph, was this coffee shop called Cuppa Cuppa. It was a continuation of the "find best latte in whatever city" tradition that had started with Late For The Train in Flagstaff. Here are some pictures of the freeways and numerous hills of San Diego as I headed south on I-15 to get coffee:

 You'll notice it was overcast that day, but it was maybe 65 degrees and dry. Basically near perfect weather except for the lack of brightness, and a good reason why coastal California is so climatically pleasant.

 Notice the lack of access or service roads that we so love in Texas. That threw my dad for a major loop back in the late 90s when we were trying to get into a mall to see Return of the Jedi at the movie theatre.

Fact: San Diego has a ton of freeways. It's like a mini-LA in that regard, but since it's even hillier and has more windy valleys and rifts, the roads tend to be more curvy and sinuous. It's very much a drivers' city, and most people wouldn't know that there are micro-climates formed by the myriad hills that are the area's main feature. It tends to get warmer as one heads east from the coast, which is heading toward the actual desert. The landscape isn't lush like places in Florida because the humidity is surprisingly low, but that's what makes the air infinitely bearable there in SoCal.

Cuppa Cuppa is off of I-15 and Mission Gorge Road, and it's tiny. When I was telling Andy Ricchuiti about it just now, I compared its size to my car, which is a sedan. When I found it again on Google Maps, it turns out I wasn't really exaggerating, and I did what I had done 10 months ago in real life: I passed it by! As in, I drove by that shopping center once, and I saw this little hut in the parking lot, and since I was expecting a full sized coffee shop, I thought "No, that can't be it...". As I pulled a U-turn down the road to come back toward the highway, I pulled into the parking lot, got right up close to the hut, and realized, yes, this is the droid I'm looking for! The latte turned out to be pretty good, and the barrista was nice enough. With drink in hand, and the rest of the Top Gun soundtrack playing on repeat, I started driving to that magical and stupendously expensive locale known as La Jolla (Spanish for The Jewel), on the coast.
Plenty of other people clearly wanted to sit in traffic to be in La Jolla too. My parents and I had stayed in this neighborhood back in '97, '99 and '02, and had really enjoyed being there. We had a favorite place to eat right along the waterfront, and I got to revisit it this time. The restaurant is called Brockton Villa, and it serves a mean Atlantic salmon BLT. Parking was a pain after navigating the narrow streets, but the meal made up for any inconvenience, as did the seals and the view along the beach.

Seals...they made quite the racket noise-wise, and quite the smell smell-wise:

 But I mean, c'mon, they're seals, cool!

The seals provided a constant soundtrack of "Or! Or! Or! Or!" as I ate my BLT at the restaurant; since there was a noticeable breeze coming off the water, it actually got a little chilly sitting there on the balcony in shorts and a t-shirt. SO not Texas weather. Here's some views of the rest of the bay and the neighborhood:

 Duckies on the boardwalk, seals below:

 Scripp Park:

Yes Erin Callahan, I did pick up a San Diego magnet near this picture.

Shots of people in the water, the rocky shelf along the water, and glamour shots of Duckies plus crashing waves:

Next, I wound my way further south to Point Loma Lighthouse at Cabrillo National Monument. It overlooks downtown San Diego and the naval base on one side and the Pacific Ocean on the other.

 There was a cemetery nearby looking out over distant clouds and ocean, very peaceful.

There were islands off in the distance too, and of course the exterior of the lighthouse:

Those are the Coronado Islands, and they are in Mexico:

 A view northeast of the neighborhoods I'd just driven through:

The naval area:

Looking southeast toward National City and Chula Vista:

A real Humpback whale:
Love the clouds over the ocean:

Humpback  whale migration pattern!

Proof that San Diego has a dry climate:

The first ships to sail into San Diego Bay:

The lighthouse is obviously elevated above the bay, which makes it more exposed to the wind coming off the ocean; that made it a little chilly, felt like 55 degrees and breezy. Not bad though when I thought about how hot the rest of the south probably was on this day.

Superman Jesus?

The Portuguese navy got here about 500 years ago, like they did in many other parts of the world in the early days of European oceanic exploration.

The lighthouse from down the hill:

Tanker ship in the bay:

People sailing probably without a care in the world:

I don't know if this is the overlook where Ron Burgundy "agreed to disagree" with Veronica Corningstone on the meaning of the name San Diego, but it is a cool way to see across the bay to downtown, and you can see the hills farther inland behind the towers.

Because I like my car a lot, I'm obliged to post two photos here, the first one of it in the foreground with the flat slice of snow-white clouds and steel gray ocean in the background:

And a close up, I like how the silver of the car blends with the background colors:

I had taken quite a bit of time at Point Loma, enjoying the views in both directions, but it was time to visit another wonderful place, and I'd been there as a kid. It's in the Balboa Park area just north of downtown, and it's the San Diego Zoo!

I paid the $42 admission price, got a latte at the Zoo coffee shop, and proceeded to walk as quickly as possible from exhibit to exhibit so that I could see as much of the zoo as possible before it got dark. Starting at the monkey habitat:

If I repeat a comment from my Instagrams of the zoo, just remember, I think it's funny and worth repeating. With that in mind, Dunston checks in!

And here he is, chomping on vegetation:

Bird brains:

Probably the strongest primate on earth, the silverback gorilla:

This might be a manatee, but it looks too "armored" to be one of those slow moving mammals. Maybe it's a miniature sea monster:

If I don't comment on an animal feature in a picture, that's code for "I don't remember what it is but I like how cool it looks":

Slightly creepy long-necked turtle:

This Tapir is clearly a spy:

And I caught him throwing his trunk up!

No zoo montage would be complete without pictures of a 400 pound tiger:

A hybrid zebra type animal, nice color combination:

A hungry hungry Hippo:



Duckie heaven:

Pretty in pink:

Which one is Chris Rock/Marty?!

My favorite animal pic, the antelope is like "What you lookin' at?" Very imperious.

 They also have surprisingly long reach when they want to reach something in a tree:

Somehow this polar bear did not have a Coke bottle in his paw:

The real polar bear was just as huge, but very not conscious:

 Watchful elk:

Some Ibex and other high country animals from Central Asia:

Of course the Koala bear was asleep:

 It's like a hybrid kangaroo-mouse, or kangamouse:

Mufasa! Aka James Earl Jones:

Can you spot the Jag (no not the car)?

Giant marmot?

 This little emperor had indeed lost his groove...
 Thankfully none of these llamas spit on me, despite what Justin Hughes said about baristas from Crooked Tree getting spat on while harvesting coffee beans in Ecuador or whatever:

Wow, this guy is massive, huge, you might even say elephantine...

There used to be a longhorn in this habitat, awww:

 Yet another animal mean-mugging me:

Now, when I see these Dromedary camels, I can't help but think of the commercial where the camel in the office is all excited about Hump Day haha:

 Look he even kinda looks like he's laughing here:

At least 10,000 pounds of Rhinoceros in this photo:
 Eddie Murphy:
 The clearest shot of Melman in the giraffe habitat. It had gotten darker outside so the camera's shutter speeds were getting pretty slow and blurry:

A non-TCU horny toad, I haven't seen them in nature since I was a kid:

Lonely turtle:

You'll notice that I've chosen not to include any pictures of snakes from the zoo. Oh I took plenty of snake pictures, but I decided that since snakes are evil, they won't be getting any representation in this blog.

It had gotten too dark by about 8:30 to take more pictures of animals, so I made my way back to the entrance to witness some hat juggling and gymnastical exploits:

And that was it for the zoo. I hadn't gotten to go to the USS Midway at the harbor, but that would have to wait until tomorrow (Sunday, August 26th). I headed back up to Nick's house, stopping for In-N-Out on the way. Great California type dinner and drive back up there. On that note, goodnight from Day 5!