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Reflection: 3 Days in San Diego

July 12, 2019

Author: Bianca Yang
Email: ipacifics@gmail.com

A couple of days before graduation (June 14, 2019), I took a trip with two Caltech friends down to San Diego. We rented a car from Hertz for a few days (thank you AAA for waiving young driver fees!) and headed out at 9am from Caltech on Sunday. But apparently 9am was a really early departure time…both my friends were asleep for pretty much the entire ride down. I took the 210 then the 5 down until about Fashion Island. Once we got to that point, I took HWY 1 until I couldn’t, then got back on the 5. Note: the nicest part of the 5 is the section from San Clemente to San Onofre. The road quality and views are the best along this strip. We hit a bit of traffic around Oceanside. I made the mistake of becoming upset at the traffic and taking surface streets to the next exit. We gained zero time from my frustration. The total driving time was something like 3 hours.

We ate lunch with my parents at the Argyle Steakhouse, a beautiful restaurant that’s next to the Aviara Golf Club and Batiquitos Lagoon. After lunch, we took a short walk along the Batiquitos Lagoon trail (too hot, forgot sunscreen), then headed to Encinitas for Handel’s Ice Cream. My sister has been raving about Handels’ for forever, so now that I had the time and means to get to one, I was for sure going. I was no disappointed. Their ice cream is amazing. They have a huge board full of flavors, so you can go ham trying everything from Snappy Turtle to Graham Central Station (would recommend this flavor. It’s what I got) to Buckeye. Don’t be fooled by the sizing, though. A “single” scoop is actually three massive scoops. The cones are fresh, but the ice crea melts fast, so you’ll probably have a less messy time if you order a cup.

After Handel’s, we walked on over to Moonlight Beach, where we enjoyed the sun, water, and wind for a couple hours. Moonlight Beach is a very lively beach. I would definitely recommend you check it out if you end up with time on your hands in North County San Diego. A popular restaurant near the beach is Leucadia Pizzeria. They’ve got pretty solid pies and pastas. The whole of Encinitas downtown is pretty swell, too, so if you have time, definitely go check out the Self-Realization Fellowship and Hansen’s (surf shop with ski / snowboard simulator in the back).

After Moonlight, we headed home for a couple of hours of billiards and then dinner at Teri Cafe. Teri Cafe is a simply wonderful Japanese cafe out in Oceanside. They serve massive, delicious portions of teriyaki, ramen, sushi, etc at unbeatable prices. Definitely try them out if you are in the area.

That evening, we bought tickets for the USS Midway and planned to meet up with some friends from Caltech who were also planning to be at the ship the next morning. We planned to get up early in the morning and arrive at the Midway by 10am, its opening time. That plan failed…partly because people got up later than expected and partly because I had a last minute report to submit..(you can see the report here. Anyway, we ended up leaving past ten. Traffic was light, but we had a bit of issue finding parking near the Midway (I think I was just blind to the entrance to the Midway parking lot) so we looped to some other parking lot. Really, I think the pro strat on parking in downtown SD is to just use free parking from Balboa Park and take a scooter or Uber to wherever you want to go.

We found the other Caltech kids, who had been on the ship since 10am…(like responsible people, they hinted) and spent the next five or six hours on the ship. There is a ton to look at on this ship, especially if you care about aviation and boats and the navy and all that jazz. We didn’t even have time to look at the lower decks or listen to all the snippets about each of the aircraft. There are lots of volunteers on the ship, who will talk your ear off about the ship and their time in the military, so do take advantage of all that you can on this boat. There are also scheduled presentations on things like the catapult system that you can pop a squat for (make sure to bring sun protection and food / water). By the time we did the island tour, though, we were all starving. One person threatened to collapse if we didn’t find food, like, now…

We took a couple of Lyft scooters (best deal at $.15/min) over to Tacos El Cabron, a taco shop in the Gaslamp District. This taco shop was pretty expensive, probably over $4 per taco (small taco), but it did the trick. We zoomed back to our cars on scooters after the meal and then went over to Balboa Park. We walked from the Organ Pavilion parking lot to the fountain outside the Fleet Science Center then did a loop around the Spanish Village Art Center before the other two Caltech kids headed off. They were just here for a day trip. We did a loop around the desert garden (found a homeless guy setting up camp among he cacti), the rose garden, took a couple of silly pictures in the Pepper Grove playground, and then headed off to Mission Bay for a loop and a half around Fiesta Island. I find it funny how I used to hate going to Balboa Park with my parents but now think Balboa Park is such a gem and central attraction of the city. I suppose this is one of those pieces of “perspective” you pick up as you get older. Fiesta Island is not all that exciting of an island… but you can certainly find a good time on Tecolote Shores or at SeaWorld! To wrap up the evening, we went to chow down some Torpastas. Torpastas are pasta sandwiches. I highly recommend the pesto sandwich~.

That was it for day two.

Day three, we got up nice and early for an 10am facial~. One of our group members was upset about the idea of doing a facial so declined…(not surprising, honestly). After the facial, we rushed to my sister’s school for the post-graduation festivities. After that, we zoomed over to Carillo Ranch to buy a beautiful postcard and then went to VG’s donuts for the best donuts I have had in my life. Their dought is so tender, so fluffy, and the glaze is just the right amount of sweetness. I highly recommend their plain glazed donuts. The other donuts are pretty good, but the plain glazed are absolutely the top of the line at this shop. Do be careful about the time you visit them, though. They seem to take a midday break in baking, so you will either need to go before 11am or after school lets out. We got there at 2pm, so I had to settle for the only donut that was left…the powdered sugar circle. They only take cards for transactions above $10 (that is a lot of donuts). Once we complete the donut run, we raced off for Five Guys…somewhere along the way. Turns out I forgot to get a second postcard, so we made an emergency stop in Dana Point for a postcard and Five Guys. After that, we rushed back onto the 5 to try to get to the Hertz in Pasadena before closing at 6. We had to take a couple of toll roads to make it back in time. Even with the benefit of the toll roads (something like a $7 charge), we barely made it to the Hertz in time. Google’s awful ETA system kept pushing back the ETA as we were driving. The guy who arrived at the Hertz just after us had the doors locked on him by a disgruntled employee….:0. The employee deliberately locked the doors behind him to prevent the rushed customer from getting into the store and placing a claim on his right to be serviced.

Well, that was the end of that. The weather in Pasadena that day was surprisingly hot…we burned for tens of minutes on the side of Colorado Blvd while we waited for our Uber to take us back to campus.

There is much more to San Diego than what we were able to explore. LegoLand for the young ones, SeaWorld for everybody, Old Town San Diego for the history buffs, all the museums in Balboa Park (there’s something for everybody), the Old Globe for theater and Shakespeare buffs, Torrey Pines for outdoors fans, La Jolla Cove for sea kayaking buffs, the beaches for surfers, so on.

San Diego is a pretty car-dependent city, but you can certainly take the Coaster or Amtrak and local buses to get around…I just think you’ll find your transportation times getting jacked way up if you try to rely on public transport. Of course, downtown, you have the benefit of the scooters. Uber and Lyft are reliable and broadly used, so you don’t need a car, but I think you’ll find your experience much improved if you have a vehicle.

Until next time.