Thursday, March 8, 2012

San Diego - Day One

Somehow when I booked the flight for this trip, I thought that a 6:45 a.m. departure was a good idea. Sure, it was probably a lot cheaper but it would give me a good chunk of the day in San Diego. But 3:45 a.m. comes fast. But I was up and out by 4:30, at Park Shuttle and Fly by 5:10 and checking my luggage by 5:30.

Even with the United/Continental system merger this weekend, it wasn’t terribly chaotic at the airport when it could have been. I flew on Continental equipment out of the former Continental terminal, but at this rate a flight is a flight for me, and I was glad to just make my connection in Houston, and get here on time. I had worried that my traveling companion and fellow panda fan Bev would end up waiting for me here, but her United flights out of DC were disastrous and I beat her here by 4 hours.

So I landed in San Diego at 2, picked up the rental car (first time renting ever, can you believe it?) and was at the hotel by 3:30. I was slightly hesitant to navigate California’s freeways on my own, but it was all of one very quick exit from the airport to the hotel, it was insanely easy. Here at the hotel, I took a quick shower, donned shorts and sandals, and decided to head to Coronado, the retirement destination of my dreams. As I’d discover again and again over the weekend, what looked to be miles away on the map ended up being about 8 minutes by car. I’d hop in, pick the destination from the many favorites I had pre-programmed into my GPS, and off I’d go.

Coronado looks just as I remember it, just what I picture when I think of California, with wide, open streets lined with palm trees, blue skies and clean fresh ocean air. I was smiling as I coasted over the grandiose Coronado bridge and kept smiling as I slipped past the Hotel del Coronado. I took a side street to turn around and found myself on a cul de sac that left me right at the edge of the beach. So I parked the Ford, grabbed my camera and walked the beach for an hour before going to pick Bev up at the airport. That beach is just divine. It is a wide stretch of sand with The Del holding it down on one side and a gorgeous expanse of blueness on the other. I was in heaven, clearly, stuffing shells and sand dollars into my pockets as I made my way back to the car.

It took all of 10 minutes to zip back up the I-5 to the airport. As we were both up over 18 hours at this point, I programmed In N Out burger joint in the GPS and we had a quick yummy burger and fries on the way back to the hotel. There’d be time to eat better later.

We’re staying at America’s Best Value Inn. Let’s not kid ourselves, this is not the Del, where I spent 2 nights in 2001. But it is cheap and centrally located. And besides the odd mold smell in my bathroom sink and a dead tv in Bev’s room, it’s fine for a long weekend. But not much longer. The entertainment is that we are on the landing flight path for the airport, and we can count the rivets and the pilot’s dental fillings as the planes float by about every 90 seconds most of the day. But they stop in time to sleep. Which is good.

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