San Diego: Pacific Beach, La Jolla, Point Loma

The last day of our California Coast Babymoon road trip began in San Diego and ended 200 miles and 4,000 feet in elevation on the summit of the notorious Grapevine, covering 95% of the mileage after sunset. It would have been a shame to miss the sun setting over the Pacific one last time, after all.

For those of you who are curious about our San Diego exploits, or the lay of the land (all three of you), above is an overview of the sites we hit in relation to each other over our three-day visit. San Diego is characterized by a unique and varied landscape, and — unlike L.A. — it’s actually fairly easy to get around 400 square mile metropolis.

We started our day in Pacific Beach at a great little espresso bar called Pacific Bean Company, right by the pier. Apparently, they’re famous for their Mochas. A quick look at the menu (above) and it’s not difficult to see why.

After breakfast, we packed up the car and goodbye to the Beach Cottages motel, which served us well over two nights.

Our first stop, tranquil Mission Bay, tucked behind Mission Beach. The original plan was to do some kayaking, but thought twice after reassessing Lori’s growing belly… well, actually Lori still had a bit of a cold and wasn’t feeling 100%, and we wanted to get a jump on the day, but it’s more fun to blame it on the belly. Instead, we settled for walking around one of the inlets before moving on.

Our next stop was Ocean Beach — the biker beach as I remember it. A decade on, there wasn’t a single motorcycle to be seen, but rather a number of sun lovers taking advantage of a gorgeous February day.

The beach had also been transformed in another way since my last visit with the addition of 10-12 foot high artificial dunes, presumably to counteract the effects of erosion. There are numerous beach front properties along this stretch of coast that I imagine aren’t too pleased about losing their view…though I’d imagine it’s better than losing their house. Oh the challenges of SoCal life.

One thing I did like about this beach over Mission and Pacific beaches was that it seemed to attract a range of people, rather than just the bronzed beachbody dudes and dudettes. A lot of people out, enjoying life and not obsessing over their appearance…for the most part. Though it was a bit weird to see everyone sunning themselves like iguanas on the ridge of a long, giant sand pile.

Next, we headed south to Point Loma to the Cabrillo National Monument. Yes, there is actually a tiny National Park in the city of San Diego!

The monument contains a number of historically significant landmarks against a stunning backdrop of Pacific Ocean to the west and city skyline to the east. The location is perhaps best known for the site of the landing of Spaniard Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo on September 28, 1542, marking the first time a European had ever set foot on the West Coast of the land that would become the United States.

The park is also home to a couple of historic lighthouses, the Old Lighthouse (c.1855) above, and the “new” lighthouse (c.1891) closer to the water where fog would not as easily obscure the light, the latter being still in use today.

San Diego is also a major military hub, so it is common to see aircraft and large naval vessels on the move around the city.

A view of the “new” lighthouse, still in operation, with a nice view of Mexico’s Islas Coronado in the distance. Here, we’re about 15 miles — as the crow flies — from Mexico, and 20 miles from those islands.

There are also some nice tide pools and stunning coastal views just down the hill from the Monument.

Gotta love a MoHo Visitor Center overlooking the sea.

For lunch, we stumbled upon this pleasant surprise. Delicious taqueria! Inexpensive and highly recommended.

Shortly after 3pm, we headed north a few exits on the interstate to La Jolla.

Yes, La Jolla’s sickeningly expensive to live in, and about as snooty as it gets in California — but what a view!

And…they’ve got their own sea lion colony! Got to admire any creature that can pull off being so lazy, smelly, and loud and still achieve near-universal adoration.

Lori’s nickname in college was Squirrel, hence the pouty face. As far as I’m concerned, squirrel-birds can fend for themselves…with the obvious exception of prego wifey. That would be inhumane.

Look at me! I’m the Lion of the Sea!


We’ll see what the sharks and killer whales have to say about that…

Another awesome sunset on the California coast. We’ll definitely miss it.

After sunset (and rush hour), we hit the road and headed north. Well, actually we waited about an hour in La Jolla for things to get moving. All 5-6 lanes of the Santa Ana Freeway were solid moving through L.A. at 10pm. We wanted to at least make it through the L.A. area before stopping for the night in the hope of doing a relatively painless 480 mile straight-shot up to Redding the next day.

We ended up staying at the “Studio 6” in Gorman after climbing 4,000 feet in a dozen miles or so to the top of the Tejon Pass. We thought we were staying at an Econo Lodge, but apparently they had switched over a few nights back. Not the first time this has happened to us. They were literally taking down the Holiday Inn Express sign and installing a local brand sign as we drove up in Chetumal, Mexico.

Now, if you aren’t familiar with Studio 6 they are actually Motel 6’s extended stay brand. Pretty swank.

And if the mini-fridge and the faux-wood floors don’t convince you to stay, wait ’til you get a load of the view.

Which got us thinking…who exactly does an extended stay in Gorman, California, anyway? I get it, the “Grapevine” is a notoriously challenging pass for some cars and especially in bad weather, and it’s a good rest point for truckers. But, with a hotel, gas station, two fast food restaurants and a population of 12 (literally), it’s not exactly beckoning for visitors to extend their stay…

But for us, and for one night, it was perfect. And the price was right…even if we were banking on an Econo Lodge…

The next day we hit the road, yet again, bound for Redding to visit family. On Sunday, the last day of our trip, we pulled another seven hour day all the way back to Portland (with a wonderful Valentine’s Day lunch pit stop in Roseburg with family). Unsurprisingly, a steady rain greeted us at the Oregon border and followed us for the remainder of our trip. Even so, by the time we made it back to the apartment, we were glad to be back and looking forward to not being in a car for awhile.

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