San Diego, Part 2

San Diego, California (Map)

Winter 2015-16


Waking up the next day, we quickly found some delicious Mexican food for breakfast. Seeing as you can take a light rail to Tijuana from San Diego, you'd expect there to be authentic Mexican food around, but I was surprised to find it here in a space that looked like your average bar in a bar district. Make no mistake about it though, I'd recommend La Puerta to anyone headed to San Diego.

Ready to tackle the day, we went on the light rail northeast towards San Diego State University. As we would be going by Qualcomm Stadium & there was a whole transit stop dedicated to the stadium, I wanted to stop here and check out the home of the NFL San Diego Chargers - even if the Chargers weren't playing and the place was deserted.

The Chargers had demanded a new stadium for years & at this point it seemed like it was going to come down to a funding vote. If the city didn't spend a bunch of taxpayer money on a new stadium, the Chargers were threatening to leave town.

I crunched the numbers for coming to watch San Diego football around Christmas for a few years because of this, but I'm not the biggest fan of travelling before winter or spending $1100 on flights to San Diego just to see a football game (I used Aeroplan miles for this trip with Geordie).

If we can skip ahead in time here, the new Chargers stadium was voted down in November of 2016 - look at you citizens of San Diego! - and the Chargers announced their Los Angeles relocation in January of 2017. As I (spoiler alert!) didn't make it to a Chargers game in 2016-17, I'm happy that we went for a walk around Qualcomm today. The first Los Angeles Chargers home game is only a few weeks away.

As we walked around, Qualcomm looked like a great place to see a football game. I only started paying attention to these concrete donut stadiums because they're all going away, but in the process I've realized that I really like them.

(I guess I still have a chance to see Qualcomm by attending the Holiday Bowl or an SDSU Aztecs football game in the next year or two. Qualcomm probably won't stay open much longer than into 2018 or 2019 though.)

Hopping back on the light rail, we soon found ourselves at a station where we would cut across the San Diego State campus. In addition to being gorgeous in a Californian way, it was funny how good some of the street riding spots were. There's a reason kids can get so good at BMXing in California in like 2 years.

We were also looking for somewhere to grab some lunch and maybe a drink, but I think we're used to Canada's 19-year-old drinking age and its effect on university campuses. We couldn't find anything resembling a bar in lots of walking and looking around SDSU.

Along the way we saw where the SDSU Aztecs used to play football before Qualcomm Stadium. You'll notice on the left the old stands of the Aztec Bowl, which was built in 1936 as a WPA project. It was also home to a commencement speech from JFK, which played a part in getting the stadium listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Instead of SDSU letting it fall into ruin so they could demolish it by neglect - or maybe it was built too well - they left the stands and built their new basketball arena on top of the old stadium! Even Geordie found this to be pretty cool.

We were on the university campus for a baseball game, but they play in a modern, small place that wasn't all that exciting. Geordie and I hung around for 4 or 5 innings before deciding to head back to the metro.

The hummingbirds in the campus trees were much more interesting than the baseball.

We returned to the same transit complex where we switched light rails earlier & also got off for the hockey game yesterday. We were now onto the 28 bus, where Geordie had to give me a hard time how above bus riding he was, but we were heading off the beaten path and needed to be here. There was yet another bus after this, all necessary to get out to the Old Point Loma Lighthouse on the peninsula that curves atop San Diego.

We lazed about waiting for this second bus, the 84, at a neighbourhood bus stop, but when the 84 finally came, the driver told us that Point Loma is a National Park Site and there's a front gate that closes at 5pm. So for this hour of transit and valuable afternoon spent in San Diego, I was wrong & should have looked closer at the Saturday schedule.

Even though I was missing out on an iconic & easily accessible lighthouse, it was a fine evening and we went for a pleasant walk on Shelter Island. This area felt San Diegoan with palm trees, bayside islands and pelicans perched on moored boats. Returning to the bus stop, our good fortune would continue as it was located outside a decent looking bar. What the hell we thought, we'll catch the next bus in an hour.

The Harbor Town Pub ended up being my favourite spot on the trip & what I remember when I think about good times in San Diego. It felt much more authentic and like San Diego than anything in the Gaslamp Quarter. The nautical theme didn't feel hacky, the waitress was nice to me, she had good banter with Geordie, the Avalanche/Wild game was on & there was a serviceable selection of beer. The Harbor Town was good enough that I'd seek it out if I was in San Diego again (although I don't know about the long bus ride).

After the Harbor Town, we were off to the Little Italy neighbourhood northwest of downtown on the recommendation of Geordie's uncle. Filippi's Pizza Grotto was half grocery store-half restaurant, with a dark dining area and satisfactory food. The funniest thing is that Geordie had an option of a side for his meal & the sides were things like lasagna, spaghetti, etc. - and this is in addition to already getting eggplant parm as a main. It was an absurd amount of food for one person.

The next morning it was pouring rain. Just like the morning before, Geordie lingered in bed while I wandered out to grab a morning coffee (even in the rain).

The rain wasn't working to motivate Geord very much, so I took this opportunity to scurry through the rain over to the nearby cat cafe. Going inside, the funniest thing I found was that there's always people here, so the cats aren't very needy. They sort of just do their own thing & couldn't care less about you, haha.

Eventually this sweet little guy came over though.

I know people make fun of these places, but I find there's added value in my life because my roommate has a cat. It's a nice thing to have a little fur companion around and if you live somewhere where you can't have a pet, it's great to be able to go over to a dog or cat cafe.

In planning to visit San Diego, I didn't find that many "must do" things besides enjoying the weather & food. About the only other thing that was consistently touted as a must-see was the USS Midway.

Geordie thought it would be neat, and I didn't take much convincing to include it in our plans.

The USS Midway served America's Navy as an aircraft carrier in the Vietnam War and Operation Desert Storm. After her Desert Storm service, the carrier went to safe harbours in Yokosuka, Pearl Harbor and San Diego; and then up to the Navy's Inactive Ship Maintenance Facility at Bremerton, Washington.

The Midway would leave this facility for San Diego on September 30th, 2003, to become a permanent museum at a constructed pier right downtown.

The inside of the ship was immaculately clean and meticulously curated, reminding me of the Battleship Missouri at Pearl Harbor. The USS Midway seemed much more extensive than the Missouri, as we listened to our audio tours and had so many directions and choices of where to go.

After exploring the lower level interiors, we were also allowed to go up into the tower on a separate tour.

I was your captain now.

After all that walking around the ship and then down the shore, we now needed some refreshments. We found a place with expensive seafood, but the sunset views and the pints were a-ok.

And since we didn't put much of a hurt on the nightlife after all of that Italian food last night, this is the night where we went out the most. Leaving the seaside restaurant, we cut through what we thought was an alleyway, but ended up stuck behind some hotel where we had to go through the Marriott or whatever lobby just to get to a normal street. From there, there was a stopped train and a group of people from some type of nerdy convention, where Geordie & I laughed as this 30 or 40-something-year-old lady joined us in hopping between the train cars and then exclaimed that that was the most excitement she's had in months.

Following that, we found ourselves back on the main Gaslamp Quarter strip where the place we ended up was decent, except for a TV that showed pop music videos. As we sat there, I threw it out there that Ke$ha and Pitbull would be the worst thing that could come on...and what would come on? Ke$ha and Pitbull.

♬ "I'm yelling Timberrrrr, It's Mr. 305!" ♬

Returning to the hotel, Geordie went to bed quickly but I inexplicably cracked that E-40 40oz.

Even through all of that, I was still the first to get up and get out the next morning, since my sleepy life in Corner Brook would provide more than enough rest later.

After walking around the outside of San Diego's Petco Park baseball stadium, we were headed back this afternoon for a stadium tour. I'd never went on one of these tours before, but overall it was fine. I had one qualm with how the tour guide tried to sell us on the Padres insisting on saving their now-iconic Western Metal Supply Co building, but I thought it was historic preservationists who fought to get 10 warehouse district buildings protected when they heard rumblings of a new baseball stadium.

The only other thing was something I feared going in this. That it seemed like it removed the magic of arriving at an jam-packed stadium for the first time. If I ever visit Petco for a game, I don't know if I'll feel the same energy I do when I first visit other stadiums. We shall see.

The stadium tour included that aforementioned Western Metal Supply Co and its roof, Petco Park concourses, the announcers/reporters' area and the visitors' dressing room.

Where I thought it was acceptable, Geordie expressed his dissatisfaction with it. He isn't as easily impressed.

Another thing I liked is that we cut through hallways that you wouldn't walk through on a normal visit to Petco. This felt like exploring an abandoned stadium or visiting an older stadium where everything isn't so precisely engineered and planned.

Afterwards we would try for a second time to get out to the Old Point Loma Lighthouse.

It was again over to the palm tree-lined streets and light rail station between our hotel and the harbour, then up to the transit switching station and a sit down wait for our bus. This bus would take us to that same area where we waited outside the Harbor Town Pub.

And that's where we'd learn that the second bus doesn't run on Sundays.

I cursed my inexperience with busses and not thinking of this. There were thoughts of taking a taxi, but we hadn't seen one in hours out here. I instead got myself a consolation Jack In The Box iced coffee and we headed back.

Neither of us had early flights but we didn't stay out very long on that last night. Waking up early, I went for my morning walk to appreciate San Diego one last time.

We had one last-ditch effort at getting out to Old Point Loma using Geordie's app that lets you borrow cars. The only problem was that every borrowable car down here was electric. We picked one that said it was at 47% charged on the app and hoped that would get us to Point Loma, but we'd never find out as it actually only had 13% charge when we got down to the car. I wondered where there was a charging station, but neither of us knew how long it took to charge a battery, how to charge an electric car or what percentage you would need for an hour's worth of driving.

Instead we went to the airport, this whirlwind visit meaning that Qualcomm, Petco & Old Point Loma would all have to wait for another time.


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1 - USS Midway (CVB 41) -
2 - Inside the Icon: Western Metal Supply Co., Dan Letchworth, San Diego Magazine

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