Friday, February 7, 2014

San Diego Parte Uno

It was midday by the time I hit the road, within moments the skyline of Las Vegas disappeared in my mirrors and I was once again surrounded by nothingness. I was headed to San Diego, a relative short drive of only about four hours and before I knew it I had left the desert behind and was joining the aggressive traffic of the population centers of Southern California. This added stimuli made the back half of the drive quick and easy and before I knew it I was in the sprawl of San Diego. I was staying with my friend Takishia, who was gracefully allowing me to stay at her place. I met up with her for dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant just a few blocks away form her residence. 

I was in the the community of Mira Mesa, with census data that I looked up tell’s me is made up of about 40% people of Asian descent, which accounts for the wide array of Asian dining options. I ordered some phở, a noodle soup consisting of broth, linguine like rice noodles, herbs and meat. The bowl arrived at my table in no time and I dove in enjoying its simple flavors, I have been a fan of phở since my first introduction to it, and left feeling full and at ease. Takishia and I headed over to her place where we spent the night catching up and relaxing, a nice change of pace from the constant go-go-go of life on the road. 

Takishia had to work, as most people do, so I spent the next day exploring San Diego by driving around and taking in the sights. I decided to pull over at Torrey Pines State Reserve which hugs the coastline north of San Diego and go for a hike. It’s almost as if hiking had become an addiction, but sitting in the car fighting with traffic was growing old and a stroll along the ocean bluffs seemed like a nice way to spend my day. 

I parked in the first parking lot, which in hindsight was a mistake, as I spent the next twenty minutes climbing from the beach to the top of the bluffs. The hike was in no way difficult, not compared to my prior excursions, but what I assumed would be a leisurely stroll quickly turned into a midday work out. The sun was shining down bright, but the cool air blowing in from the ocean kept the heat at bay, creating a perfect hiking climate. 

I reached the trailhead at the top of the bluffs and the path evened out. The short brush allowed me to see the ocean, it’s majestic blue standing out against a foreground of dull greens and browns. Two hawks flew overhead, gliding in the updrafts and looking for their next meal. Small wildflowers bloomed along the edges of the trail creating a nice distraction from the omnipresent blandness of the undernourished vegetation. The trail was well traveled and from time to time I had to step aside to let a jogger by, but other than those rare occasions I was left to myself once again in the wilderness. 

I stopped to take some pictures of a bird in the brush when I heard a growl. “Really!” I thought, thinking some carnivorous animal had spotted me. “There are small children right up ahead, wouldn't they have been an easier target,” I said into the brush, apparently choice gallows humor for my last words. But then I realized the sound wasn’t coming from the brush but rather from off in the distance in the sky, and I looked up to see four military fighter jets streak out of the clouds. I knew from prior visits to San Diego, that military aircraft were a regular part of life above the city in motion, but I had yet to see any and there technological beauty stopped me as I stared at them fly off into the distance. Throughout the rest of my hike I was treated to additional military aircraft sightings, including Ospreys and Enormous attack helicopters. The air show above me was a fun distraction to the mundane landscape that stretched before me. 

Eventually the trail brought me out to the edge of the bluffs, the ocean caressing the shore below, the violent waves looking gentle and peaceful when viewed from such a high perch. I sat on a bench and let the cool ocean air whip around me as a fishing boat brought in its net. Another set of fighter jets flew overhead sharing the sky with a scoop of pelicans. 

The trail followed along the edge of the bluffs for awhile, giving amazing views of the royal blue ocean stretched out to the horizon. The sandstone cliffs eroded into amazing sculptures standing guard over the endless flatness of the beach below. A few surfers waded in and out of the waves, periodically finding one big enough to ride. The trail looped back up in the the hills and on this side of the park the vegetation was taller, blocking the ocean from view. The back side of the park seemed to have no people, and I walked through dense brush alone. Periodically the brush would part and an amazing sea of green stretched out below me, eventually blending into the deep blue hues of the ocean off in the distance. 

Walking downhill is always much more pleasant than up and I enjoyed the view of the people meandering along the beach shores as I walked back to my car. I had skipped eating breakfast, an intelligent move before a 2 hours hike, and my stomach was begging for something to digest. I ran into a park ranger and asked him where I should grab food. He suggested a taco stand just a little ways down the road. 

The view from the taco shop was beautiful, the coastal tidal pools sitting calmly in the midday sun, the sea birds flying around finding food and squawking their incessant squawks. It was nice to once again feel full and I sat in my own gluttony looking out at the beauty before me for a couple minutes before getting back in the car. Just down the road was an auto repair shop, perched on the top of a cliff, with an amazing view of the ocean and coastline, only in Southern California could this land be used for an auto repair shop and not be considered a million dollar view. 

The day was getting late and Takishia would be out of work soon so I headed back to her place to wash up and get ready for the evenings activities. She had told me we would be meeting up with some of her friends and head down to Old Town. Old Town is the oldest settled area in San Diego, and also boasts the distinction of being the site of the earliest European settlement in all of present-day California. Presently Old Town has turned into a touristy section of town, containing over 32 restaurants and over a hundred specialty shops and galleries. The area maintains a rustic charm. We settled in a bar where a group of women were busy cooking tortillas in the window. Old Town is where the San Diego’s Cinco De Mayo celebrations are held and the Mexican flare of the community is evident. We ordered tacos and margaritas in what somehow felt appropriately tacky fashion. 

I scarfed down my tacos, having successfully eaten only Mexican food for the entire day. I watched as the women expertly made each tortilla, and relished in the idea that such inexpensive food could be so lovingly made. The bar began to empty as the night ticked on, it was only a Tuesday after all. We headed home, i stared out the window at the traffic whizzing, happy that for once I was the passenger not the driver.

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