Echidna Media Organization project S.N.A.L. (emo_snal) wrote,
Echidna Media Organization project S.N.A.L.

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But Before We Go North, We Go South!

Wednesday, May 17th - The sky was blue, the weather warm -- in the 80s, which the people back in my other home call a hot day, but here we rightly know this is just delightful weather.
   There was just one problem -- I wanted to make the most of my brief return home --which is to say home home-- but all my friends had this thing called "work" during the day. I couldn't spend three weeks bumming around my parents house, that would surely fall well short of living life to the utmost, and there's no excuse for that. I tried to at least make evening plans with my friend Amber but she said the weekend would be better. I started plotting; I had friends all up and down the West Coast. "Mind if I stop by on Saturday evening?" I said to my friend up by the San Francisco Bay, "Mind if I come by Sunday?" I said to my friend in southern Oregon. "Hey what if I were to visit you on Monday?" I said to my friend in Spokane, Eastern Washington. The messages went out, the responses came back. The plan was coming together! Naturally some people were only available on some days and the plan kept changing, but that's the fun way to travel!
   And of course I needed a noble steed! Fortunately my dad retired just the other month and suuurely he can live without his prius (the gas mileage! the gas mileage!) for a few days. He graciously lent me its use with only a little grumbling.

   But there were still days to kill, since I had to be at my grandfather's 90th birthday party in Southern California that Friday, the 19th. As it happens, this girl I had matched on Tinder when I randomly had set my location to Israel on a whim (okay not 100% random, I was reasoning that Israeli girls are generally gorgeous. Though on this bizarre tangent, after randomly setting tinder to numerous different locations I think I scientifically concluded that Iceland really does have the highest concentration of beautiful women (and with names like Sigurbjörg, Valgerður, Hrafnhilder, and Sigríður (that last one is apparently the #3 most common name in Iceland!)) happened to message me on this very day saying she had just arrived in San Diego (no Icelandic name here, just Rechela). It wouldn't have been a terribly high priority for me to drive an hour to hang out with someone I'd never met before except all my friends were busy during the day, and I had been (vaguely) in touch with her for about a year. Also I wanted to go to the Stone Brewery down San Diego way though as luck would have it that didn't end up fitting in.

Thursday, May 18th - So on this fine Thursday morning I set off south for San Diego. I've reflected that one doesn't write about what one finds mundane, which is why to read about a place one must read travelogues by visiting strangers, rather than the reports of locals. So as I made this roadtrip, listening via audiobook to the epic travelogues of my favorite author, Paul Theroux, it occurred to me that I shouldn't just fast forward through that which is familiar to me as would be my instinct.
   And so let me tell you about this drive. Mission Viejo, my starting point, is a morass of "upper middle class" suburbs, part of some ill advised city planning idea in the eighties of "oh wouldn't it be great to create a city with no center," ... and verily it is not great, it is soul-less to have a city with no center. Just meandering homogenous suburbs one could get quite lost amongst.
   Fortunately that great artery of California transportation, the vehicular Mississippi of the west, The Five, runs through to demarcate the otherwise indistinguishable border with the "city" of "Aliso Viejo." Once on The 5 one can settle in, turn off the GPS navigation, and the currents will take you inexorably to San Diego and, if you miss the exit there, possibly on into Mexico by accident.
   During your first ten minutes the freeway takes you in broad sweeping motions towards the sea -- the seemingly impossibly high concrete overpass of the 74 toll-road comes swooping right out of the sky to join the freeway, and under it the golden beacon of an In-N-Out burger sign is bound to make the driver salivate for at least a moment. But barely has one shaken visions of delicious and highly affordable In-N-Out burgers out of one's head than there is the sea sparkling in the sun ahead.
   From here the freeway parallels the coast through the suburban city of San Clemente (which does have a main street, being incorporated before city planners were completely daft), and then suddenly one crosses a bridge over a gully that leads to the famous surf beach of "Trestles," which I regrettably have never been to (but it's seemingly constantly threatened, "save trestles!" having been a refrain I've heard all my life) and with jarring suddeness there's no more suburbs at all, just open space -- grassy foothills on the left and blufftops looking down at cliffs and the sea to the right. This is Camp Pendleton Marine Base, which is as big as all of Orange County and kind of accidentally an important natural preserve since most of it is reserved for occasionally dropping bombs on. Often on the sides of the road one can glimpse very exciting military training operations in progress, helicoptors landing troops, harriers taking off (back when they were a thing), tanks rumbling around. At the far end of the base there's a military hovercraft base but it has high walls around it to prevent peeking.

   But first at this near end there's another important landmark -- the "giant D cups" of San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant, rising up like, well, yeah. Now recently decomissioned but still concretely dominating the grassy landscape like giant mammery monuments. Ozymandias, look upon my works ye mighty and be titilated.

   The freeway stretches on in more or less a straight line paralleling the sea, with, here's something that seems so mundane to me as someone who's seen it all my life that I'd almost not mention it but I've heard other visitors remark on it -- there's signs all along the highway with pictures of a ragged refugee-looking family crossing the highway, and amusingly sometimes they're going one way and sometimes the other. This is of course in reference to migrants-of-questionable-legality who may have crept across the mexico border and at this point can apparently be found crisscrossing the highway willy nilly. I have never actually seen any doing this.
   On the northbound lanes there's an actual checkpoint where you sometimes have to stop and immigration officers peer into your window and I assume make a snap decision as to whether you're white enough or not. But for really I'm assuming all this business is here because with the Marine base stretching for miles and miles inland any migrants would indeed be funnelled along the highway here.

   South of the marine base suburban looking towns begin appearing again first in the coves and valleys and closer to the city itself one can see track housing draped all over the hills again. Also the traffic gets noticably more viscuous. And then suddenly one comes upon the cluster of highrises that is downtown San Diego, just past the Sea World signs and first seen across the international airport in the foreground (I think there's few major cities whose major airport is as snuggled up to downtown as in San Diego).
   Rechela had communicated to me to meet her downtown. Which I later found out was merely because she thought that would be more convenient, whereas in actual fact I had to circle around for 20 minutes before finding a parking space in expensive metered parking, and later find out her actual hotel is in a less busy part of the city where I could have easily parked, oh well.
   Having met a few girls from tinder in my time, I've come to expect them to look somehwere between 50%-60% as attractive as they do in their pictures, if not 30%, so I almost didn't recognize her when I was first across the street from her because she was actually fairly attractive -- a tumble of curly hair down to her waist, denim skirt, those giant bug eyed sunglasses that I actually hate. Though I'll note from the beginning I wasn't looking at this as a "date" so much as meeting up with a penpal. We strolled around the Gaslamp District a bit, which I hadn't really done much before this. It's got that old timey look of, well, an era when cities were lit with gas-lamps. Lots of restaurants and bars opening on to the street and boutique stores, but not hideously pretentious expensive ones like in Los Angeles. This is what I like about San Diego, it's altogether pretty chill. It doesn't assume you have to be rich to have a good time. I went in a hat shop but none of the hats were as nice as the akubra on my head.
   Presently Rechela and I went into a Mexican place for lunch -- I've been thoroughly Mexican-deprived in Australia so I was extremely eager for this. For some reason the waiter, an elderly hispanic man with a gentlemanly mustache, seemed to be thoroughly ignoring us for the first half-hour, and I was relishing the opportunity to give him a poor tip (we don't tip in Australia so you have no satisfaction against poor service!), though in the end my icy heart warmed, especially when, after she just said "um, the chicken?" and I was about to direct her to the actual menu options, he put his hand on my shoulder and winked knowingly, and brought her a chicken burrito after all.

   After this we visited my old friend the clipper ship Star of India and while a docent explained basic sailing ship stuff to us I smiled and nodded and didn't bother letting on that yes yes I know all this. If this was to be a truly thorough travelogue I could fill in many paragraphs about the ships but I've written and will write plenty about sailing ships so we will indeed kind of fast forward here.
   Next we proceeded to Old Town, which I've always been rather fond of. It's about the size of a block, located just outside of the downtown area, and is a recreation of how the city would have looked in the mid 19th century or so -- adobe buildings of an extremely Spanish/Mexican style, staff in period attire, lots of good mexican restaurants with the smell of fresh tortillas being made wafting deliciously out their windows. I remember having cactus candy here when I was young.
   Much to my great alarm, barely had we entered when a staffmember in a dapper hat said to me "now where's that accent from?"
   "Guess?" I said, curious what he would say. And here's the truly alarming part. Without hesitation, and with great confidence, he declares:
   Later I polled two more staffmembers in the same manner and got more or less the same answer.
   I saw a sign pointing to the "Blacksmith" and down that way a bunch of people seemed to be paying rapt attention to whatever was afoot, so "hey let's go over there maybe there's a blacksmithing demonstration" I said to Rechela. Arriving there though we found that while the forge was lit and the guy in the leather apron may have recently been working on something, for the whole several minutes we were in attendance he was holding forth to a young man about the blacksmithing facebook groups he should join and follow if he wants to get into it. Blacksmithing in the modern age! We crept off after he showed no sign of imminently hitting heated metal with any hammers of any kind.
   We went into a "native american jewelry" shop because I wanted to show Rechela some native american art. Making conversation with the (Danish ... possibly named something like Sigríður??) woman in there I commented that it looked like the barrel outside was melting, as its hoops had come loose and the whole thing had shifted in a way that made it look like it was indeed melting.
   "Haha yeah and I think bees are moving into it" she responded. Oh really, I had to go out and have a look, and she followed me out. I didn't see anything, but
   "they were going in and out every few minutes earlier," she said, "maybe they're just scouting." Which was a remarkably accurate prognosis, exhibiting a degree of bee knowledge beyond most random people, and she said it in a casual way that was neither showing off her bee knowledge (as some people are wont to do) and yet presupposed I too would know what she was talking about.
   "Well yes, it's swarming season and this would be a perfect place for them," I said, eyeing the barrel, and she nodded as if she thought so too. And that was that. I just thought it was very odd that we just randomly entered into this conversation about bees as if we had already established we were both beekeepers or something. I never did find out if she had any background in beekeeping.

   And then it was time to go. I dropped off Rechela at her much-easier-to-get-to hotel and retraced my steps back north. Arriving just in time to change and join my parents on a journey up about thiry minutes further north to the top end of Orange County, where my younger brother's fiancee (to be married in two weeks at the end of my trip) had just graduated optometry school. There was a festive dinner at a japanese restaurant with many of her relatives, and other than that it was a thing that happened not really central to my travelogue, so I'll end it here and continue next time with the beginning of the journey north!

Tags: america, automobile travel, california, epic roadtrip 2017, mission viejo, roadtrips, san diego, so cal, tinder, travel

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