2008.12.31 Beach and Balboa Park

 

Another lazy start to our day in San Diego. Everyone in our room slept until after 9:00. It was a wonderful thing. Again, we all talked about what we wanted to do today, and it looks like we are not going to visit the Wild Animal Park. Instead, we decided to go visit the beach, so we could get our feet in the ocean, and then go visit Balboa Park. KK, PK, Scott & Erin went their own way on a shopping adventure. We very slowly got things up and going, and we departed the hotel at 12:15.

There are beaches all up & down the coast, but we opted to drive up to Encinitas and visit the Moonlight State Beach. We found the beach with no problem and I was excited to see that I finally didn’t have to pay to park.

This beach was awesome (and I say that as though I have been to a beach I haven’t liked before). It wasn’t very crowded today, and the temperature was in the low 70s. Truly, my favorite part about the beach is the sound of the surf coming in. For some reason, I never think about that unless I am at a beach and then it hits me. All of us rolled our pants legs up, and wandered around in the water. Mallory & Marissa were using their great imaginations running into the ocean, then running back out, and also playing on the nearby rocks. Miles spent most of his time creating a wall made out of sand, then decorating it with 15 feet of seaweed. Stephanie and I spent time walking in the water, and sitting on the rocks, soaking up the sun and enjoying the view.

 

The kids at Moonlight State Beach in Encinitas, CA. Stephanie wrote “The Traveling Kings” in the sand.

 

The “moonlight” in the name of this beach comes from the fact that local residents used to come to the area for midnight picnics in the early 1900s. The beach was pretty neat in that it offered both swimming and surfing. We saw at least a dozen surfers with surfboards while we were there. The beach also had several volleyball courts, and they were constantly in use the entire time we were there.

After spending about an hour and a half there, we decided to pack up and head to Balboa Park. Balboa Park is the nation’s largest urban cultural park. It is the home to 15 museums, plus the San Diego Zoo. We had scoped out a Science Museum that we thought looked very interesting for everyone in our group. However, the first item on our agenda at Balboa Park was the Carousel. The Park is home to a 98-year-old carousel, which is one of only a few built by the Herschell-Spillman Company of New York, that is still operational. It is a huge carousel, and all of the animals on it were hand made all those years ago. Another neat part of this ride was that it included a “ring machine” that would let people on the carousel try to catch a brass ring, which earns them a free ride on the carousel. Miles was able to grab one of the rings, but it was not a brass ring. Miles, Mallory and Marissa really enjoyed riding the carousel, and they each rode it twice.

 

Mallory and Marissa on the Carousel at Balboa Park.

 

By this time, it was about 4:00 and we were starting to get hungry. We got some snack foods at a snack bar right there at the park. After we placed our order, and were waiting on our food, we were approached by a man who asked us if Oklahoma State was in Stillwater. We said that it was, and I asked him if he had been there. He said he didn’t think he had, but his father was born in Indian Territory, before Oklahoma statehood, in March 1907. You just never know who you’re going to run into.

 

This Moreton Bay Fig tree is at Balboa Park. It is native to East Australia and is 80 years old and 60 feet tall. Stephanie and the kids are standing in front of it, for reference.

 

After our snack, we went to check out the Science Museum, but it turned out that the admission price was much more than we wanted to spend for the few hours they would remain open. We decided just to walk around Balboa Park and take a look at the buildings. While walking down the main road, we came upon a street performer, who was doing some entertaining on the sidewalk. He had a good crowd, and Mallory desperately wanted to stop and watch, so we did. Shortly after arriving, he asked Mallory to come up and help him with a trick. He blindfolded her, and was able to get her to spin a rubber ball on her finger, just like you would see a Harlem Globetrotter do to a basketball. She soaked up the applause, and sat down with a big grin. Later, he brought out something he called the “Chinese Devil Sticks”, which I would describe as him using two sticks about the size of drumsticks to knock a longer stick back and forth with. He was very entertaining with it, and included a lot of humor in his presentation. At one point, he said he needed some help from the audience, and asked me to yell out “Do it under both legs!” when he gave the cue. The first time he cued me, I somehow messed up my line, but he was very grascious and didn’t embarrass me too bad. The second time he cued me, I nailed my line, and I also got a big applause from the audience. At the conclusion of his act, we tipped him, and continued our tour of Balboa Park.

 

Mallory and the Street Performer at Balboa Park.

 

Also, within about a 5 minute period while we were walking around Balboa Park, Stephanie accidentally photobombed an Asian couple’s picture, Miles & Marissa were nearly wiped out by a speeding bicyclist, and we had a stranger take a picture of us but we found out later he never snapped the picture.

 

This silver, holiday object was in Balboa Park. It defied explanation, but I would best describe it as a giant Festivus Pole. I just had to get my picture taken next to it!

 

After our full day, we decided to head downtown for dinner. We parked in a parking garage (I finally had a chance to pay for parking today) and decided to set out on foot to find a place to eat in the Gaslamp District. We had originally been looking for a pizza place we ate at last year, but it was closed. After some searching, we found a Fred’s Mexican Café, which was also a place we ate at last year. We liked it before, so we tried it again. Another big factor in our decision was that Miles was begging for us to pick a place that would have the college football bowl games on. Lucky for Miles, they sat us at a table right next to an 8 foot big screen.

Dinner was uneventful, but while we were finishing up, a couple walked over to our table and complimented us on Mallory & Marissa, and said they looked great in their orange attire. They were some OSU fans who had come to the game from Pocatello, Idaho.

After dinner, we walked over to a Long’s Drugstore, and picked up a few “Happy New Year” party hats, as well as some champagne & sparkling cider. For some reason, Marissa was wound up and was being a chatterbox. I was giving her a shoulder ride on the walk back to the parking garage. While we were standing at a street corner waiting for a Walk sign, we saw one of bicycles with seats for passengers in the back, going down the street. (These are very popular in the Gaslamp District.) Marissa said, “It looks like somebody got a new bike!” All four of us were laughing very hard at that comment.

No day is complete in San Diego without getting lost, and we managed to miss one of our turns on the way back to La Mesa from downtown. We were going to take I-5 North to I-8 and then take I-8 East. At one point, we started recognizing landmarks that we knew were north of I-8, so we turned around and headed back South, where we eventually caught our I-8 interchange. We’re still not sure how we missed that.

Back at the hotel, we caught up with the rest of the group and heard about their day. They drove to an outlet mall that was right on the US/Mexico border. They found lots of bargains, highlighted by Erin’s pink Coach shoes.

After shopping, they visited Coronado Island, and then watched the sunset at Point Loma. They went their separate ways for dinner, but joined up afterwards, to head back to the hotel.

 

Scott and Erin at Coronado Island, with the Hotel Del Coronado in the background.

 

Since everyone was pretty worn out from the day, we decided to celebrate New Year’s on Oklahoma time. So, at 10:00 local time, we had our own countdown in the hotel room and wished everyone a Happy New Year. We celebrated by drinking our champagne out of plastic Travelodge cups. Miles, Mallory, PK, Scott & Erin played a rousing game of Phase 10 (a card game) up until the New Years Eve celebration, and it ended quickly after we welcomed the New Year.

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