March 25, 2016


“There are places I remember
All my life, though some have changed…”

Lyrics from the 1965 Beatles song “In My Life”

Carol writes:  While I have taken over the majority of the writing in our travel blog, Al has taken on the project of preserving the very best of our photos in slide shows set to music.  As I was viewing Al's San Diego slide show, I was struck by the appropriateness of the accompanying music he had selected—the Beatles song “In My Life.”  The lyrics seemed to fit so perfectly with all the reminiscing we had been doing in San Diego, the city where we met, fell in love and embarked on married life together.  In this blog, I will let a little of Lennon and McCartney serve as some of the introductions for various parts of my story…

“I'll never lose affection
For people and things that went before”

Starting with a little San Diego history…  In 1542, the Portuguese-born explorer Juan Cabrillo, sailing under the flag of Spain, entered San Diego Bay.  A statue of Cabrillo

looks out over the bay from a position of honor at Cabrillo National Monument, high above the bay at Point Loma.

The view of San Diego Bay and Coronado Island was simply magnificent! 

When Cabrillo first sighted it, San Diego was then, and still is, a most perfect harbor, an ideal location for one of the largest U.S. naval bases, with its harbor entrance naturally protected and sheltered by the broad expanse of Coronado Island. 

As home of the Pacific Fleet, much of the harbor shoreline is occupied by Navy facilities.  For much of Al’s sea duty time, he was stationed in San Diego, and when I met him in 1976, he was serving aboard the USS San Bernardino (LST 1189), which was homeported at 32nd Street.  Across the bay on the Coronado side, it was interesting to see some of the active ships in today’s modern Navy…

two carriers

and the hospital ship Mercy.

Also, from the Coronado side, the distinctive ‘toolbox’ skyline of San Diego was a beauty to behold.

“All these places have their moments…”

Call us kooky, but for nostalgia sake, we took a drive past some old apartment complexes where we used to live in the mid-70s—

the old Carousel Apartments, a unique circular building that was my very first apartment in San Diego and is now a pricey condominium complex with a name not nearly as clever as the Carousel,

and the Franciscan Apartments, likewise condos now, where Al and I met poolside 40 years ago.

The closest beaches in this part of the city were Ocean Beach and Mission Beach, two of our favorite beaches back in the day.  The waves were pounding the Ocean Beach pier.

It was astonishing to me that the old Belmont Park wooden roller coaster at Mission Beach was still in existence, even getting a new coat of paint for the start of the summer season.

One of the most historic sites in San Diego is Balboa Park, the largest urban cultural park in the country, and home to 15 museums. 

The stunning Spanish Renaissance architecture 

dates back 100 years to the Panama-California Exposition.  Other buildings in the park were created for another international exposition in the mid-1930s. 

The 100-year-old wooden lath Botanical Building has become an iconic structure in Balboa Park.

On the day of our visit the seasonal floral display was orchids, and they were exquisite!

We found it easy to spend a whole day in Balboa Park, and even then didn’t have time to see everything.  There was:

the Old Globe Theater, renowned as one of the country’s best regional theaters,

the Spanish Village Art Colony with working art studios,

and the Timken Museum, 

a gem of a small family art museum that offered free admission.  Hey, we recognized some of these artists!

“Some are dead and some are living…”

Mission San Diego de Alcalá is the birthplace of California and the city of San Diego’s link to the past.  This so-called “mother of the missions” was founded in 1769 by Saint Junipero Serra.

Still an active parish, the basilica status of the mission was denoted by the canopy in Papal colors that hung over the pulpit.

Although the grounds of the mission were not as impressive as other missions we have visited, some notable viewpoints were exceptional, especially this dazzling scarlet bougainvillea in full bloom over a brilliantly white courtyard wall...

and the shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Although the question had never occurred to me during the five years I lived in San Diego, it was at the mission where I learned how San Diego acquired its name.  Sixty years after Juan Cabrillo entered San Diego Bay, the Spanish explorer Viscaino entered the bay, went ashore and named the area in honor of Didacus of Alcalá, whose feast day was the following day.  “Diego” is the Spanish form of the Latin name “Didacus.”
The San Diego Zoo in Balboa Park is world famous for its concept of more natural and cageless animal exhibits.  We thought it was well worth a day to visit with the animals…

The animals were most cooperative on this mild summer-like day.

The San Diego Zoo is exceptional among zoos of the world for its successful giant panda breeding program.  This panda bear was oblivious to the crowd as it chowed down on its favorite food—bamboo.

It was surprising to see how truly buoyant hippos are in the water!

“Some have gone and some remain…”

Just a few miles from our campground, the Living Coast Discovery Center, with its own small zoo and aquarium, was a marshy natural treasure on San Diego Bay . 

Once the site of a WW I gunpowder processing plant, the land is now a peaceful wildlife refuge center.  Standing in a field of San Diego sunflowers, we had a stunning view of the San Diego skyline in the distance, bisected by the stately curving Coronado Bay Bridge.

“Some forever not for better…”

Lately, there has been a lot of buzz politically about immigration issues and border security, so we decided to take a trip to the border for some first-hand experience.  We visited Border Field State Park,

which was located on a beach along the international border with Mexico in the most southwestern corner of the United States.

Due to recent flooding, we could not drive in but instead had to hike in about a mile and a half.

Partway into our walk we came upon a border agent who was out patrolling on an ATV.  As we all looked into the hillsides of Tijuana in the distance, I asked if it was a good idea to visit Tijuana.  He responded by saying that “the beheadings have tapered off quite a bit.”  I’m pretty sure I got the message… 

As soon as we reached the beach, it didn’t take long for a small group of Mexican teens to run down to the fence and begin shouting at us to come over, most likely wanting us to give them money; however, signs specifically warned us not to do that.  This was certainly a far different international experience from our early San Diego days when we made trips freely down to Tijuana and farther down the Mexican coast to Ensenada for meals, shopping, and enjoyment of the cultural experience.  I even took my parents to a bullfight in Ensenada during one of their visits to me back in the early 1970s.

What did we think about what we saw?  Well, at  Border Field State Park we eventually reached a very tall fence, but there was nothing ‘beautiful’ about it.  I was touched to discover that indeed there was a big door—a sliding door in the fence—

which opens on weekends for four hours day so that residents on the U.S. side can visit with their Mexican family members in a green area between the two rows of fencing.  This visiting area is named Friendship Circle and Bi-National Garden

Isn’t that putting a bizarre rosy picture on the immigration issue?

…”friends I still can recall”

And finally, several of our San Diego days were spent reconnecting with old friends from our past.  I visited my med tech co-worker Norma at her home and enjoyed a wonderful lunch of some of my favorite Filipino food that she had cooked for us.  As always, every time I have visited Norma over the years, we reconnect on that wonderful level of friendship that has endured for over 40 years.  I also visited with Bernadette, another friend from my single days who still lives on Coronado Island.

We had dinner in Coronado at the house of one of Al’s former shipmates.  Steve and Madelyn cooked a great meal for us and were wonderful hosts.

They had their own epic journey on the road during 15-months of traveling with their four children in a trailer back in the 1980s.  Their family trip was the spark of inspiration that encouraged us to go on the road twice for a year of travel, once 26 years ago with our young family and recently just the two of us in Europe.  And now, look at us; we are a year into full-time life on the road!

We were very fortunate to be included on a Rotary Club tour of the USS Pasadena, 

an active fast-attack nuclear submarine. We were honored to be included among the guests of Al's Academy classmate, Jim, that we had connected with up in the Los Angeles area.  Al and I were struck by the feeling that submariners are a special breed of toughness and self-sacrifice as they perform their duties in such restrictive conditions beneath the sea for months on end.  Since cell phones and cameras were strictly prohibited, I have used a file photo above.

And last but not least, we were treated to dinner in Coronado at the house of Jim and Sue, then a few days later a golf outing for Al with some of Jim's friends.

Al and Jim were classmates from the Naval Academy Class of 1969.  Jim and his new pup Elsa reminded me that San Diego is also known as the birthplace of naval aviation.

For many years, Sue has been an actor in regional theater, and she graciously helped get us tickets at the Welk Theater to see her in the role of "Yente" in “Fiddler on the Roof.”  What an enjoyable performance!  Bravo!

As we left San Diego, I felt that the city most deservedly had earned its title as "Americas’s Finest City.”  After three weeks of meeting up with ole friends and visiting some of the places that were so meaningful to us in our early days, that Beatles song was still playing in my head—the part that says,

“In my life I’ve loved them all.”


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