Round America spends the day in San Diego, California. Of the 626 towns that we had now seen on this trip, Savannah and San Diego are way at the top of the list for most beautiful city.
If you’ve been to San Diego California, you know. If you haven’t been, you have undoubtedly heard how beautiful it is. Well, it’s even more beautiful than that! The sky and water are always azure blue. Most of the buildings seem to be crisp white. And the trees and plants and flowers combine a beautiful green with the other colors of the rainbow. An important part of the beauty is due to the lush vegetation here; it must be the perfect climate and soil for making every tree and plant look healthy and beautiful.
Of the 626 towns that we had now seen on this trip, Savannah and San Diego are way at the top of the list for most beautiful city. The two are as different as can be. You might have to give San Diego the edge because of the weather here. 68 degrees most of the day with brilliant blue sky and bright sunshine.
Barbara asked Linh at the Marriott Courtyard this morning what it’s like to live in a place that is so beautiful with such an incredible climate. She loves it, but she said people here take the climate and beauty for granted; they expect it to be sunny and beautiful every day. Linh noted that there is a big trade-off to living in a place like this. The cost-of-living here is sky high, and most people who live here know they will never own a home, as they just can’t afford one.
As we got dressed this morning, we saw on Fox News that ships were returning to the San Diego Naval Base from the Iraq War. Three guesses where we went. We tried to get on the base to wave and shake hands and hug soldiers, but a female in fatigues with a machine gun would not let us in. I tried to take a picture of the lovely entrance area, but she told me I couldn’t. Once again, I was wishing Rose had been there to help. I drove away, but after hooking a U and driving past the base again, I snapped a photo. We also stopped and spoke with some of the ABC TV folks who were there to cover the event. I was close to Fort Bliss when the POW’s returned there, and I regretted not heading there for a few photos, so we didn’t want to let this opportunity pass today.
What we saw of the Naval Base was very impressive. We were very close to the border of Mexico at Tijuana, but we didn’t want to spend any of our San Diego time in Mexico.
Flags and yellow ribbons are everywhere in San Diego. We always saw this in military towns. I didn’t realize San Diego had so much military, but it’s everywhere — naval bases, naval air stations, combat training centers, and on and on.
There is no way to see San Diego in one day, but that’s all we had, so we made the best of it. To others, we would recommend several days, and begin with a trolley tour that covers the main sights in the city, and then explore on your own after that.
We started in Balboa Park, and we took a trolley ride around the park. Rick Diaz was our driver/tour guide. Balboa Park is filled with fabulous museums, beautiful buildings, and gorgeous trees and flowers. I asked Rick if San Diego has anything like the world’s largest ball of twine, and he laughed. Then he showed us the Spreckels Organ — the world’s largest outdoor organ and/or musical instrument. It has 4,530 pipes. Mighty impressive. Then Rick told us a story about his gall bladder surgery. The gall stone removed was about the size of a golf ball; he has it in a jar at his home. He was quite the celebrity when he went to the lab to get it; all the medical folks wanted to come out and see the guy who produced such a monster. All of us on the bus decided it MUST BE the world’s largest gall stone, so that gives San Diego two world’s largests. I told Rick that in a number of towns across America, he could open a museum in his home and make money charging admission to see his stone.
That got me to thinking that perhaps there is a better use for the collection of over 100 hotel shampoo bottles that I was amassing from the journey. Instead of auctioning them on eBay, maybe Bozzie Jane and I should open a museum to display them…or donate them to a place like Sponge-O-Rama or Harry and the Natives.
Anyway, we had a lot of laughs with Rick. We learned that he is an actor and singer. You can hear his music at www.tahoecitymusic.com. Rick Diaz. He was also in a movie that was about to be released.
We met Allen, Bill, and Walter at the Balboa Park Visitor’s Center. We had a nice chat, and when Bill commented on the beads I was wearing, he asked if we had been to Mardi Gras. No, I explained that the beads were a gift from the Floating Neutrinos. Then I told them the whole story of meeting Poppa and Aurelia Neutrino (Day 18). I explained that I don’t normally wear beads, but I am a little superstitious, and I figured anyone who floats on a raft from New York to Spain and lives to tell about it has some good luck going on, so I will continue to wear the beads. Bill then took off his Hawaiian Lei and gave it to me. How nice! It matched my outfit really well. My beads are green, purple, and white, and now I had a lovely purple, green, and yellow lei to wear with the beads. I did notice the stares from men became a little more shocked-looking once I added the lei. It may be a little too much color for most men. Some guys just can’t wear purple.
Coronado, California was our next stop. We drove over the San Diego — Coronado Bay Bridge, and we saw the Hotel Del Coronado, a massive place that is really something. It’s a Victorian-style hotel built in 1887, and it is one of America’s largest wooden buildings.
We met Steve, a Coronado lifeguard. Great guy. He gave us several recommendations on places to go and things to see. I asked him whether any Baywatch-looking babes worked on the beach in Coronado, and I believe the answer was no. He said we missed the rescue of a sick little sea lion that morning; the folks from Sea World came to get it so they can nurse it back to health.
We met a man named Bill after he saw the signs on our car. I gave him some information about Big Bend as he and his wife are planning a visit there, and he told us to get ready because we will love Sedona, Arizona.
Barbara had the honor of picking a lunch spot. We had pizza at Island Pasta. It was nice sitting out on the sidewalk, and Sharon our waitress was a lot of fun to talk with, but we prefer Domino’s.
We saw the San Diego Convention Center, the stadium where the San Diego Padres play, and Gaslamp Quarter — a downtown area filled with neat restaurants and shops. We also stopped to see KC Barbeque, where scenes from “Top Gun” were filmed. And we saw Seaport Village — another shopping area catering to tourists.
Old Town San Diego is the area where California and San Diego were first settled. There are wonderful old, authentic buildings there, but virtually all of them have been turned into gift shops. Not as bad as Tombstone, but not what we expected.
Mission Beach is the home of Belmont Park. Nice beach and a cute little Coney Island-like area with a big wooden roller coaster. On the boardwalk there, we met Malene, Tanya, Sonja, and Astra. They’re from Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland, and they were here for a year attending a language school. They asked me to take their photo with their camera, and I was happy to do so. I did tell Sonja of Germany that when she goes home, she needs to tell everyone in Germany that the Americans are great people, and their country needs to support us. She wasn’t buying it. But she was certainly happy to be taking advantage of the opportunity to learn from teachers in the US….
Next up was a drive through La Jolla — the ritzy area of San Diego. Lovely restaurants and shops.
From La Jolla, we headed to Point Loma — the very tip of San Diego out in the Pacific Ocean. We saw the Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery, Point Loma, and several Top Secret military installations. We were able to get some San Diego skyline photos from Point Loma. What a gorgeous city! We had planned to shoot sunset photos from Point Loma, but there were signs that indicated the area was closed and we weren’t supposed to be there. There were other cars in there with us, but I could just see that female sailor in fatigues with the machine gun picking me out of the crowd Vincent Passarelli-like as the one to nail for trespassing. So, we headed for Ocean Beach.
Ocean Beach has the longest pier on the West Coast, so we took some photos from the shore and then snapped pics all the way out to the end of the pier and then back on shore. It was an excellent place to shoot the sunset, and it is the first time in 25 days that we have had an unobstructed view of the sun as it disappeared on the horizon. I did learn that the automatic focus on the camera malfunctions if the very center of the camera is pointed directly at the sun, so I lost some good photos.
We were too tired to go out to dinner, so we decided to hit In-N-Out Burger again! Outstanding!
We should all appreciate what we have. It’s hard to believe that people who live in such an amazingly beautiful place with a great climate would take it for granted, but many apparently do. This lesson was also conveyed to us today when we knew that just a few feet away brave men and women were returning from a war fought for the purpose of protecting our country and our liberties. We should all appreciate what we have as Americans. And then there’s my traveling partner — back on duty. As is all too often the case, I know I appreciated her more when she was gone, but I was mighty happy to have her back.
We kept asking, but we didn’t find anything really quirky in San Diego. That means there’s an opportunity there. If Rick decides to open a museum with his gall stone, then Boz and I would consider donating our shampoo collection to help get it started.
I received a number of emails telling me how ugly my shoes are. After 25 days on the road, perhaps I have lost all perspective, but they don’t look THAT ugly to me. I’m definitely into comfort at this point.
Here are all the photos from Day 25 of the Round America 50-State Trip:
Round America travels from Tucson, Arizona to Dateland, Eloy, Felicity, and Imperial on the way to San Diego, California. It was a long drive, but there were some “incredible” sights to see.
The day was spent making the LONG drive from Tucson to San Diego, but cactus, a surprise find in Eloy, Dateland’s famous Date Milkshake, Yuma, and the Center of the World in Felicity still made for an interesting “travel day.” But the big news of the day is that Barbara Jane Gray Windsor, better known as Boz, Bozzie, or Bozzie Jane, has returned from granddaughter Madison duties in Atlanta. Mighty nice to have her back. This is a two-person deal for sure!
I drove close to 500 miles today — from Tucson, Arizona to San Diego, California.
Blue sky, sunshine, and 75 degrees as I hit the road.
I met John and Zach Davenport, policeman Reuben, and Ian at PostNet when I stopped to ship a huge box of stuff back to Atlanta. I also met Elizabeth Linville and an assistant at the Check Advance check cashing service next door, and Ian the honest eBayer who was complaining that someone had unfairly given him negative feedback. I hit Donut Wheel for breakfast-for-the-road, and the donuts were excellent.
I decided to swing by Old Tucson on the way out of town, but when I got to the Saguaro National Park, the only access was a dirt road, and I decided against any car abuse after just having the little white car serviced and cleaned. I did see some nice desert and cactus in the Park.
At my first gas stop, I met biker Tom Curry from Dyersburg, Tennessee. He informed me that Bristol, Tennessee is closer to Canada than to Memphis, Tennessee. I gave $2 to Jim Bob, a man on the side of the road with a sign asking for help.
The only route from Tucson to California is interstate. So, I was rolling down the interstate through Eloy, Arizona when I spotted pastel green and pink ski lift-like gondola cars mounted on poles. Then I saw what appeared to be a “sculpture” of a pink race car of some type with giant tires. The little white car knows what to do in such cases…so off at the next exit and U-turning back we go. I began to see other strange-looking “sculptures.” I wasn’t sure you would call these sculptures, but I didn’t know what else to call them. I snapped a couple of photos and then decided to investigate further.
I got off the interstate access road and drove around until I found an entrance gate of sorts. I had a better vantage point of the place from there. There was no sign or name, so I am calling it “Eloy World” until I learn more. It appeared to be sandy desert land, perhaps several hundred acres, with sculptures scattered about as well as trucks, farm equipment, and fire engines painted with similar pastel colors and positioned in a way that I feel someone saw them as art.
I ran into a man driving a truck who only spoke Spanish. I then saw a utility company pickup, and I met Jim and his lovely daughter, Whitley (who loves Colton). It was Take Your Daughter to Work Day. Jim advised me that this had been built to be a theme park by an eccentric man, but no one came. He figured no one would care if I took some photos.
I drove in a ways and began taking photos. An older man in a big, floppy straw hat (the type usually worn by a woman) waved me down and came over in a giant dump truck. His name was Dick. I asked if it was okay if I took a few photos, and he said yes. I asked if he was the owner, and he said “unfortunately.” He declined to let me take his photo, but I did snap a shot of the truck as he drove off. I wish he would have spoken with me as I would love to know the story behind this whole deal. I decided I would have to investigate further for the book.
The internet made the investigation easy. To Yahoo I went, entered “Eloy, Arizona amusement park,” and up came information. “Eloy World” was actually known as Family Fun World. The man I met was Richard (Dick) Songers. It seems he was a solid, hard-working construction man from Michigan with a dream. He wanted to turn the land he bought in 1995 for $165,000 into a scrap-metal-bedecked amusement park and drive-thru, wild-animal zoo with a water ride, a race car track, and a concert stage. He ran out of money, and in October 2001, he auctioned off whatever anyone would buy. Some of the items up for auction included a couple of oil rigs from the heart of Texas, old fire trucks that no longer worked, a set of kiddy carnival rides and – last but not least – three painted trailers portraying an old, western town. A few of these items sold, though Dick apparently did not find buyers for much of what he had.
Sometimes we get an idea in our heads, and we either don’t listen to others when they tell us it’s a bad idea, or folks aren’t open enough to tell us. BTDT. The thought crossed my mind that the oddly dressed woman I saw in downtown Tucson could be Dick’s wife.
I enjoyed “Eloy World,” because it is one of those strange, unexpected sights that just appear out of nowhere. Most of the day was spent with highway straight ahead and flat desert to either side of the car as I drove much faster than I have for the last 24 days.
Dateland, Arizona was my next stop — 122 miles from Eloy World. I had heard about their Date Shakes, so I had to have one. I also had a piece of Date Pie. Sheryl was my waitress. I enjoyed the shake. I’ve had much better pie.
Another hour down the road, and I spotted a Radio Shack just off the highway in Yuma, Arizona. Raul fixed me up with the fourth tape recorder of the trip. Radio Shack stood behind the one that jammed, so I got this one quickly and easily for free. It might have been an ordeal at many other stores.
I detoured off the highway to visit the Yuma Proving Ground. This is where the US Army tests all types of equipment.
I reached the gates of the Yuma Territorial Prison State Park just after 5, just after the old prison closed for the day. I saw signs for “historic downtown Yuma,” and I decided to check it out. It appeared that they roll up the sidewalks at 5 pm in Yuma.
California became our ninth state just a few miles down the road. It had taken 6,979 miles to drive from Atlanta to the border of California.
Just inside the state, I saw a sign for Felicity, California, and I exited on “Center of the World Drive.” Believe it or not, a man convinced several countries and this county to name Felicity, California the Center of the World. He built an impressive pink granite pyramid to mark the precise spot.
The whole place clearly ranks as the strangest sight we’d seen. It was truly spooky. The first thing I saw was a set of metal stairs extending up in the sky to absolutely nothing. It seems these are old stairs previously used at the Eiffel Tower. Then I saw a little shed that was signed “Felicity Train Depot,” but there were no train tracks to be found. I also saw a sand pit that was signed “Desert Bowling,” as well as a giant gravel checkerboard. The next sight was a sundial featuring Michaelangelo’s arm. Around the pyramid building were two big long (maybe 150-feet each) granite walls with various names cut into the granite as you would see at any big national monument. But the wall I saw had the names of the graduates from the Princeton graduating class of 1949. There wasn’t a person in sight, and I kept looking behind myself to see if someone was going to throw a blanket over my head and carry me off to the cult leader. I jogged back to the car and drove quickly away. Strange, strange place! You know what they say about California — Land of the Fruit and NUTS.
The last 150 miles across the Southern tip of California would have been interesting to see, but the sun set just past the center of the world. I did manage to get a photo of the incredible dunes near the town of Imperial, California. Due to the loss of the sun, I amended the route to stay on the interstate rather than drive along the border with Mexico.
Bozzie Jane called to say her flight had landed as I pulled into the San Diego, California airport. How great it is to have her back. We hit the In-N-Out Burger for a late dinner of cheeseburgers and fries. In-N-Out is a California chain, but not a franchise. Everything was fresh and fantastic. They do not even have freezers. The entire operation is exceptional. We were extremely impressed with the food, the cleanliness, and the quality of the crew running the place.
As I reflected on the day, I realized we should listen when others tell us our ideas are crazy. It’s no fun to think or say “unfortunately” when someone asks if you are the owner, and it’s even less fun to have to sell off your trailers with paintings of an old western town on the side just to pay a few bills to try to stay afloat. As to the Center of the World, I’m just speechless.
Here are all the photos from Day 24 of the Round America 50-State Trip: