Hanging up the keys






In my last blog post, I wrote “We had no idea where we would end up or what we would see along the way.  Our only commitment was to take at least a year.  What happened after the year we would figure out later.”

Well, it is later. And…we have figured out what happens.

As the end of the year closed in, an amazing opportunity presented itself.  An incredible company in Southern California  – and its talented founder Lane Rankin – reached out and we started discussing how I might join the team.

I knew of this company from my former life at PowerSchool and always thought they had a great story.  Great culture, great product, great leadership, and great location! These guys were truly changing education. I also knew Lane, and he is just the best. Solid gold.

The more I thought about joining them, the more excited I became!

What is the company?  Illuminate Education.

Not only have they won a ba-jillion industry awards, they’ve won some major recognition broadly from companies like Glassdoor (best employer) and Forbes (#3 best small company in the USA). Pretty impressive!

I start Monday 4/10.

Which meant we had to hurry up and find a new place to live!  I was used to just living wherever we parked our house!  Now we needed to get back to sticks and bricks!

Of course, we wanted something close to the office, preferably walkable to a variety of restaurants and shopping. Why spend hours in a car going everywhere?  Especially in SoCal.

Particularly in SoCal.

Traffic clogs the San Diego (405) Freeway, looking north from Palms Boulevard on June 15, 2012. (Michael Owen Baker/Staff Photographer)

Using the time tested rule of SoCal real estate selection, we narrowed the search area.  What is that rule?  It is the “how far to Disneyland and how far to the beach” rule, of course!  Duh!

The beach/Disneyland metric

One thing the RV has taught us is that space is overrated. New York City taught us that walkability and walking to restaurants, shops, entertainment is a must-have. We have thoroughly enjoyed the RV resorts, so why not combine all 3 lessons learned?

Turns out, we can.

We grabbed an apartment at the brand-new Westview II complex. Onsite pool?  Check. Onsite athletic center? Check.  Right along bike trail? Check. Package service? Check. Restaurants that deliver? Check. Walk to shops, comedy club, restaurants, movies?  Check. Google Fiber? Check.

Westview apartment

We are literally the first people to move into the building.  Which means we’re being treated a lot more lavishly than the people who will move in next month.  And that’s fine with me 🙂

Our new apartment

Since we sold everything last year in preparation for just such a move, we have very little to actually “move.” We do however have a lot to buy.

We mail ordered a mattress from a made-in-the-USA company in LA that ships them in a box. (Lull) It is now on the floor. (If you decide you want one, let me know; they gave me $50 coupons to share with friends).

We are using camp chairs and a cardboard Macy’s box as a table.  We went to target and loaded two shopping carts to the brim with home stuff.  It feels just like college!

Well, just like college except this time we aren’t broke.

Our mid-life college crash pad

The apartment is just over 1,150 square feet.  It feels HUGE. I honestly can’t imagine what we are gonna do with all this space!

So what about the MoHo?

We found a great place nearby to store it.  We will keep it provisioned so we can use it on the weekends.  There are plenty of places in SoCal we can explore.  Vegas.  Palm Springs.  San Diego. Temecula. etc.

We got the beast all washed and waxed and ready to settle in for a nap.

Washed and waxed

Getting an RV ready to store takes some work.  First step was making sure the house batteries are topped off with distilled water and charged up. I do this monthly so they were in good shape.

Topping off the house batteries

Next up was prepping the water system.  I dumped the fresh tank and drained the water system. I filled the fresh tank up with about 40 gallons of water, and added 3 tablespoons of bleach.  I then refilled the water system, letting the water run until I could smell some bleach at each faucet.  This is enough bleach to prevent anything from growing but not so much that it will tear up my plumbing.

Prepping the water system

Black tank was drained and flushed.  Refilled with about 5 gallons of water and a bronopol packet.

We cleaned out the refrigerator and propped the doors open.

The last step was to disconnect the main power systems to prevent any battery drain.  When the master electric switch is set to off, its a very real sign the the RV is in shutdown mode.

Main electrical disconnect switch

We are fortunate to have found a covered spot at an RV-specific storage facility. They have dump station, RV wash bay, high-pressure air, filtered freshwater fillup, and 24×7 access.  They even have a repair center partner who will come pickup the MoHo, drive it to the shop for repairs, and return it when it is done.  Nice!

Parking spot

The last year has been an incredible adventure.  I am excited to start a new  year and new adventure with Illuminate!

Wrapping up a Journey – 1 Year update






We moved into our MoHo on March 28th, 2016.  One year ago.

We parked at CalExpo RV campground for 5 days and then we moved to Beals Point State Park alongside Folsom Lake.  90% of our possessions were sold or donated. 5% were in a small storage unit. 5% were in the RV.

We had massively downsized and were ready for a massively upsized adventure!

April 10, 2016

Those last days were full of endless trips, especially to Home Depot.  At one point, I swore I would go crazy if I had to go to Home Depot one more time.  And then I went again.

Leaving Folsom took another 2 weeks, mostly final work getting the house ready to sell. Those of you who have sold a home know what I mean.  I had lived there for 11 years, the longest I have lived any single place since I was a kid.  It went on the market just a few days before we rolled out of town for parts unknown.

April 9, 2016

We had no idea where we would end up or what we would see along the way.  Our only commitment was to take at least a year.  What happened after the year we would figure out later.

The trip took us through 26 states and two countries.  Well, Canada, so one-and-a-half countries. We have stayed in 60 campgrounds.  The longest by far was 2 months at Chula Vista RV Resort.

Q4 was the first time we really slowed our pace. Before this we were in full-on sightseeing mode and we covered a lot of ground (over 11,000 miles in the Moho and another 15,000 in the Jeep). Most people who have starting full-time RV living report the same thing – they slow their pace after a while.

Having data on a full year of costs is very helpful for planning.  Here are the totals for some of the biggest categories. Two things really stick out when comparing Q4 to Q3 – the drop in diesel costs and the drop in entertainment costs.  Moving more slowly means less miles (700 in Q4 vs. about 3,500 in Q3) and it also means less days have a “tourist” destination in their agenda.

Category Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Full Year
Nightly campground fees $42.88 $52.59 $47.93 $52.46 $48.62
Average daily cost of diesel $9.46 $8.40 $13.25 $2.62 $8.68
Daily “entertainment” $22.24 $34.79 $15.10 $10.27 $21.48
Supplies $6.74 $3.96 $5.08 $2.08 $4.52
Food $52.88 $64.58 $47.32 $49.67 $53.81
Vehicle (includes 6mo service in Q1 and 1year service in Q3) $36.38 $2.45 15.04 $6.15 $15.19

Speaking of money, the idea of making any via Google Ads and Amazon Marketplace links requires a LOT more traffic than I expected. According to WordPress Analytics, I have had:

Total Page Hits: 4311 / Total Unique Visitors : 2109

I started enabling Google Ads about midway through the trip.  Since then I have made – wait for it – $7.81 in advertising fees. Total.  To add insult to injury, Google won’t pay until the fees reach $10.  Basically, $10 a year is what I’d expect to make.  Considering that I have written 168 blog posts, each of which takes an average of 3 hours to write, that’s 504 hours of labor.  Which is low, and doesn’t count the total effort.  But let’s go with that.  My hourly earning rate is $0.02/hour.  That’s right. About 2 cents an hour.

I guess each blog really is my 2 cents worth.   hahahahaha

Our Fleetwood also seems to be settling in – no significant issues to report. The window leak which was fixed at the REV Factory Service Center in Alvarado TX remains fixed. I sometimes think one-year-old RVs are the best value.  Still new but all the big bugs are worked out.

It has seen days over 100 degrees and days at 15 degrees.  It has weathered severe winds, floods, dust storms, downpours, and even hail.  It tackled savagely bumpy roads, bad pavement, dips, construction zones, dirt roads, and potholes. And it kept right on rolling!

It has been a good home for us over the past year.  Never once have I felt constrained on space or comfort.

Our Favorite places on the trip:

  • Burlington and Vermont overall.  Beautiful scenery, great hiking, friendly people, local food, local beer and wine, and wonderful New England buildings.  RV campgrounds in several places including the one we used in Colchester.
  • Philadelphia.  So much history, incredibly museums, amazing architecture, good food scene, and proximity to so much.  RV campground in an old loading dock makes the entire city quickly accessible.
  • Portland ME.  Reminded me of a smaller-scale NYC.  Potato donuts are a must-try.  More microbreweries per capita than any other city.  Amazing views of the bay.  Killer food scene.  Overall good vibe.
  • Washington DC.  Same comments as Philly just amplified. RV campground at the end of the Green Line metro makes exploring the city painless.
  • Savannah GA.  Beautiful southern town with picturesque town squares, gorgeous buildings, good food, and nice beaches. Let down a bit by campground proximity (i.e. there aren’t any centrally located campgrounds)
  • Hill country Texas – delightful area of rolling hills, oak trees, wineries, white limestone buildings, and hill country cooking.  Kerrville and Fredericksburg.
  • Santa Fe NM.  Incredible architecture in one of America’s oldest cities.  Good food (not just New Mexican), art, and culture.
  • Pensacola – Navarre.  Best beaches we’ve ever seen (pure white fluffy sand), warm turquoise water, laid-back pace, one of our favorite campgrounds (Santa Rosa), pink sunsets, and frequent practice sessions of the Blue Angels.

Best Unexpected Gems:

  • Montpelier VT – home of the only state capitol without a McDonald’s and likely the only state capitol where anyone can just walk inside unimpeded.
  • Greensville SC – between the amazing downtown area and the equally amazing park next to downtown, this town really surprised us.
  • Navarre Beach – all of the Destin to Pensacola beaches are nice, but this beach is huge, pristine, and uncrowded.
  • Mansions of Newport – amazing Gilded Age mansions along the cliff in Newport RI.
  • Low Rider exhibit in Santa Fe – New museum opened in Santa Fe with much history of the area.  The special low rider exhibit really opened my eyes on this form of auto modification and gave me a new appreciation for the art.
  • Kennedy Space Center – Ok, this one we expected to be awesome, and it did not disappoint.
  • The Grand Ole Opry and Opryland hotel. I’m not a regular viewer of Opry but I have to admit this was really neat.
  • Carlsbad caverns – Way more impressive than I expected.  This might be the single top attraction of the entire trip.
  • The WWII Pacific museum in Fredericksburg TX.

Best food on the Trip

  • Pig and Swig – best BBQ of the entire trip.  Who knew Charleston would turn out such an impressive feat of BBQ?  Runner up, Terry Black’s BBQ in Austin.
  • The Real Pierre Maspero’s – New Orleans (shrimp and grits)
  • The Royal House Oyster Bar – Also New Orleans. Try the 3 bowl special (jambalaya, gumbo, and etoufee)
  • Billie Gene’s Hill Country Kitchen – Kerrville Texas.  Chicken fried chicken and okra? Yes please.
  • Grocery store lobster – Wells Beach Maine. Fresh off the lobster boats and only $6.99/lb.  We ate a LOT.
  • The Shed – REAL New Mexican cuisine in a 400 year old adobe building in Santa Fe.  Green Chile stew will haunt my dreams.

Biggest flops – there weren’t many

  • The homogenization of America.  It is remarkable how much every town increasingly looks like every other town with the same strip malls, same stores, and even same developments.
  • Massachusetts – sorry big MA, you aren’t the vacation paradise we hoped for. Sure Boston is full of neat things to see, but otherwise traffic is awful, drivers are rude, the geography isn’t very interesting, the weather is fickle, and everything looks worn out.
  • Driving from Bellingham MA to Philadelphia.  I don’t know how the long-haul truckers do it, but I have new respect for them. This stretch of mostly I-95 would be a handful in a car, but in a 57-foot RV+toad, it is terrifying.
  • West Texas and South eastern NM.  Desolate, dry, post-industrial wasteland.  Good only for making people feel better about where they live. Unless they live in West Texas.

Biggest Learnings

  • Managing temperatures with pets inside can be challenging. RVs are more like cars than houses and they get cooler in cold temps and hotter in the sun than a house. Many days we had to carefully switch from heat to air conditioning and back again.  This proved to be a lot more management than we expected.
  • Propane lasts a long time, unless it is really cold.  We used 3 gallons of propane a day when temps fell into the teens. Also, managing moisture inside the MoHo becomes a challenge as the temperatures fall.
  • Driving is mostly easy with a few moments of pure terror. And driving in the Northeast is as bad as everyone says.
  • Data remained a big challenge for us.  Campground wifi rarely works and when it does it is never fast. We were able to supplement with mobile internet from our cellular providers at very high cost.
  • The satellite dish was pretty useless as we got west of Louisiana.  By the time we were on the east coast, it rarely worked due to trees.
  • We didn’t miss a dishwasher, but we were sure happy to have a washer and a dryer on board!  As a full-timer, washer/dryer is one option I can wholeheartedly recommend.
  • Planning full-time RV travel, especially at a faster pace, requires a lot more planning than many people think. It is not the carefree “I’ll decide where to go when I get up tomorrow morning” kind of life.  Campground reservations, especially around holidays, are important. I suggest using a tool like rvtripwizard to help with planning.

We have seen so many incredible places, eaten many incredible meals, and seen so many friends (old and new) along the way. Overall, this has been an amazing year and we feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to do what most people only dream of!

So now that we are at the one-year mark, what comes next?  Amazingly, the next step presented itself almost like magic!  You can read about that in the next post.




Borrego springs



We pulled into the Pechanga RV Resort.  It is an Indian casino and supposedly THE place to stay in Temecula.  We noticed a lot of construction detours as we entered the property, but this basket on the cheek in desk should have made us ask more questions than we did.

Free ear plugs

Now, normally RV campgrounds avoid giving ANYTHING away for free.  So seeing a basket of free….earplugs….

The sites are nice and big – wide, long, with easy interior roads and rounded corners.  Some trees, but nothing to interfere with our dish.  As soon as we setup in our spot, which was along the entry road, we realized this might not be the idyllic stay we imagined.

Large, loud, construction equipment drove past constantly.  A street sweeping machine drove up and down the entry road, passing us every 38 seconds.  Down. Back. Down. Back. Down. Back. Still I assumed they would wrap up around 4:00pm 5:00pm. At 8:00pm not only had the noise continued, it intensified!  Around 10:00pm noises like someone hammering a steel pipe mounted in concrete started. Around 2:00am, we finally started dozing off, only to be woken at 5:10am by loud and very profane voices practically out side our window.

Turns out that Pechanga has a massive construction project, and they are running 24 hours a day. Every time a shift changes, the noise level amps up even more.  It was a lot like trying to sleep while parked in the middle of a construction zone.  Actually, it was exactly like trying to sleep while parked in the middle of a construction zone.

I was waiting at the office at 7:55am.

Fortunately they had an interior site for us or we would have had to leave.

Like everyone else, we had heard of the desert “superbloom” happening and like everyone else, we wanted to see it for ourselves.  Word on the street was that Borrego Springs was one of the best places to see the superbloom.  Word on the street was also that trying to do it on the weekends was a bad idea because so many people were driving out there.

We were able to go on a Tuesday.  The visitor center parking and overflow were completely full, but we lucked into a spot. I can’t imagine trying to visit on the weekend.

Inside the visitor center, a very nice volunteer gave us a map of various areas to explore.  Since we had a 4×4, we had many more options.

“Do you have a real 4×4 like a Jeep, or just all-wheel drive?” she asked.

“We have a Wrangler,” I said.

“Oh good,” she said.  “We get a lot of people in all-wheel drive vehicles who sustain a lot of damage on some of the roads but you will be fine in a Jeep.”

A few hours later I would see what she meant as we encountered people in places they should never have been with the cars or soft-roaders they were driving.

The scenery on the valley floor was impressive.  Desert Palms dotted the landscape surrounded by flowers and scrub plants.

Desert Palms

Anyway, the flowers are spectacular. They say it is the best bloom in over 20 years.  I didn’t come 20 years ago so I can’t personally vouch for that statement, but it is hard to disagree.

Hillsides normally looking like little more than barren rockpiles are covered in various types of flowers and flowering cactus.

Yellow Hillside

Some of the cactus flowers are yellow and others are a light purple color.

Yellow cactus flower
Purple cactus flower

On the main road out to the desert preserve, a sculpture garden has been created by a local artist.  We couldn’t resist parking next to this fellow Jeeper.

Couple of Jeeps

The roads out to the desert area begin easily enough.  Paved roads turn to dirt roads.  After a mile or so the dirt begins to soften into sand but still nothing any car couldn’t handle.  Not long after though, rocks embedded in the road make their appearance and begin to grow in size. More adventurous car owners dodge the rocks and continue on. Eventually, the road takes on a form suited to high-clearance vehicles.

4×4 only

At this point, traffic has thinned significantly.

Road getting rougher

Eventually, the trail reaches the base of a very steep and rocky hill.  We drove up it in 4low in our stock Wrangler Sport with no issues. However, I’ve done off road driving before.  I could see someone with less experience being fairly intimidated.  In fact, as we came back down we passed a guy walking up the hill.  He told us he had a Wrangler Rubicon and was afraid to try this road.  Bet he felt stupid seeing us in our Sport.

 

Not the Rubicon trail, but still pretty sporty

Once we ventured beyond the steep hill, we mostly had the place to ourselves.  This gave us a good opportunity to see the Ocotillo which was blooming with bright red and pink flowers.

Ocotillo blooming behind the Jeep
Ocotillo up close

Temperatures were quite pleasant for the desert with highs around 80 degrees.  Beautiful.  We got our our boonie hats and did a little hiking.  Winds had picked up so we had to strap those hats on!

Boonie hat time

Heather drove back.  She did a great job!  There were several water fordings and she navigated the trail downhill that the Rubicon owner was afraid to try!

On the way back we saw the first of what would become a series of crazy auto mishaps.  This guy’s truck was engulfed in flames on the side of the road.  He and what appeared to be 2 firefighters were just standing helplessly watching it burn.

That will buff right out

Only in SoCal would we see this.  Cinderella’s Coach apparently broke down on the side of the road and was being towed.  No, not really.  It is a horse-drawn coach for winery tours.  Still, it looked like it should be heading to Disneyland.

Cinderella’s Coach being towed

A little further up the road we hit a bad traffic patch.  As we moved forward, we saw that somebody had actually attempted to mount the concrete barrier on the side of the road. The attempt had not gone especially well.

Needed a bigger lift kit on that pickup

Borrego Springs was a very interesting trip and we were pleased to have been in the area during a once in every 2 decades flower superbloom!
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San Diego 2

We continue to enjoy our view.  Our RV campground is right next to San Diego Bay.  Well, technically there is a small strip of park between us and the Bay, but close enough!  Out our left window, we see Tijuana.  Straight ahead we see the Silver Strand.  To the Right is Coronado.  Far right is downtown San Diego.

Not too shabby.

The only downside of this place is that those parking spots ahead of us seem to attract a surprising number of Californians enjoying their newly-legalized marijuana rights.  Only nobody told them it is still illegal to smoke in a public place.  At least twice a day we have to shut all the windows to avoid being choked by fumes.

They pull in, blaze up for 15 minutes, and then…..they drive off!!!!  I hope I don’t encounter them on the road!

Daytime view

Sunsets are even more spectacular.  The sun settles down for the night in its Westernly bed, putting on a show for us.  Well, not actually every night.  At least half of the nights a dense marine layer/fogbank settles in and we don’t get to see that sunset. But the nights we DO see make up for it.

Sunsets at Chula Vista

One big change we made was jumping on the T-Mobile bandwagon.  Anyone who reads this blog knows the constant challenge we have to get bandwidth. Campground WiFi rarely works and when it does, it is typically very slow. Only 3 campgrounds on the entire trip  – out of 57 – could claim to sustain WiFi speeds over 5mb/sec.

Our wireless options were barely sufficient, giving us a combined 50GB of bandwidth per month. We had enough for general use like app updates, photo backups, web surfing, e-mail, and the occasional Youtube, but not enough to stream movies. At a total cost of $315 per month!!

Enter T-Mobile.

T-Mobile has a new plan that gives us 2 lines with unlimited data for $100.  Including all the taxes and fees.  They even threw in a 3rd line completely free.  Each line has unlimited data but may get speed reduced after using 28 GB (they upped it to 30GB two weeks after we joined).  Each line also has 10gb to use as a mobile hotspot at full speed.  After 10gb the mobile hotspot WILL get slowed.

So that’s 90 gb of high-speed data plus 30GB of mobile high speed hotspot and unlimited after that.  For $100. That’s a game changer!

TMobile’s newest customers

This is huge for us!  Suddenly, we can actually stream media.  We rediscovered the joys of on-demand video from Amazon Prime and Netflix.  Amazon Prime offers a choice of quality levels, with its “good” level being 0.6gb/hour. That means we can watch 50 hours of video per line before we even have the chance of getting speed reduced!  We bought the Lightning-to-HDMI adapter and plugged it into our TV.  Presto!! Instant Streaming!

Of course the speed isn’t so great at our campground on either Verizon or T-Mobile so I wouldn’t say its a perfect test.  


However, Amazon Prime lets movies be downloaded and watched later!  Boom!  Download the entire series overnight, and binge watch over the next week!  PS. Schitt’s Creek is pretty funny!

Considering that we pay DirecTV $150/month and often can’t use it due to trees or wind, T-Mobile is a breath of fresh air!  Even if T-Mobile doesn’t work consistently, it is really not any worse than the dish.  I’m eager to see what our experience is as we move around.

In any case, we’re getting closer to being able to enjoy data like we used to when we weren’t living MoHo.

A friend tipped us off to a speakeasy in Little Italy.  Only this is not your typical speakeasy.  It is a full-throated no-small-things Tiki Bar!!

The entrance is through the freezer in Craft and Commerce, a gastropub with the best hamburger in the USA.  Sorry. Wait a minute. Let me say that again:

THE BEST HAMBURGER IN THE USA.

I’m not making that up.  I have never had a better burger. Anywhere.  And it is $13 with a huge side of fries. The fries are also delicious, but that burger is fricken amazing!

In addition to the burger, Craft and Commerce has reinvented restroom entertainment. Via the overhead speakers, the staff read one-star Yelp reviews in mocking tones and they are an absolute riot!

“What kind of place serves chicken wings but no ranch dressing’?  THIS place.  One star!”

Anyway, when it is our turn to enter the Tiki Room, the hostess takes us into the freezer.  Inside are crates of fruits and food for the restaurant, plus a few skulls in glass jars!  In the very back of the freezer is a second door, which leads to False Idol!

The door to False Idol

Inside is the most lavishly decorated Tiki bar I have ever seen.  Disney would be proud to call this their own.  It is like getting drinks in a cargo-cult bar in Polynesia!

False Idol specializes in high-end rum-based drinks that graced the menu of other beach bars in San Diego, Hawaii, and elsewhere. Each drink is super fresh and comes with a pedigree saying which bar used it as their signature.  Many of these bars have long since closed, so False Idol is now the only place the drink can be tasted.

You know its good when an entire page of the menu is dedicated to “potent” drinks.  Two of these and you’re done for the evening!

Heather at Tiki time

False Idol also features a thunderstorm every 30-45 minutes.  The lights flicker, the thunder rolls, and lightning crashes overhead.  Patrons seated in the benches along the perimeter are treated to a 4D shaking that has the unprepared jumping right out of their seats!

An entire wall is a waterfall.  Complete with skulls on bamboo pikes.  Because….well…Because!

Somehow this is cozy

I can’t think of many evenings more fun than Craft and Commerce for dinner – try the Man Hands or the Hoochie Mama cocktails – and then a few drinks at False Idol!  I don’t know how secret False Idol is, but I know a few San Diegan locals and THEY had not heard of it.  Or had heard of it but didn’t know where it was.

Pro Tip: if you want to get into the Tiki bar, make a reservation a few weeks early OR go at 6pm when they open. Otherwise, you won’t get in.  Consistent with its semi-secret nature, you cannot find it from OpenTable.  You have to go to the False Idol website and get referred to OpenTable.

San Diego is full of interesting places.  Balboa Park is certainly one.  Old Town San Diego is another. San Diego is one of the oldest towns in the US, and the original old town is still here and still mostly preserved.  Although I feel like the original town probably had a few less T-Shirt shops.

The Cosmopolitan Hotel

Old buildings are set around several squares.  The typical blacksmith shop, old bank, old dentist, etc. buildings are all here. It is a fun, but very touristy, way to spend an afternoon.

Old Town buildings

There are a number of Mexican restaurants in Old Town.  Most of them have similar menus and most of them get the same reviews on Yelp. A perennial favorite, Casa de Bandini has moved elsewhere but several others are here and ready to serve up a margarita and some street tacos.

Get yer street tacos here

Old town is just off the I-5 freeway, but it feels much further away.  Walking around the old squares with their trees and lush growth really makes a person think they are back in the 1800s in Old Mexico. Especially if one visits on a weekday.  Sure it is touristy, but somehow it manages to still hold onto a great deal of historic charm.

We headed back up to Balboa Park to check out more of the buildings.

We had heard of the Alcazar garden and set out to see it.  Frankly, it was not that impressive. I think it was partly due to the time of year, so not much was planted.  Still, the architecture around the garden was more impressive than the garden itself.

Outside the Alcazar Garden

Possibly the most picturesque is the building housing the California Museum of Man. It was build in 1915 as the showpiece to the worlds fair and has been well-preserved ever since.  Even though it is more than 100 years old, it still looks fantastic.  The museum itself is not exactly first rate, seeming a bit confused about its focus.  But the building is cool.

The tower, called the California Tower, just opened after 80 years of being closed to the public.  Climb the steps for a spectacular view!

California Tower

We walked back to this vantage point to check out the Old Globe, a replica of the original replica of the original Old Globe theater in London. Having been to the theatre in London, I can tell you the inside of the San Diego version is MUCH nicer.

The play being presented was “Picasso at the Lapin Agile” a play written by Steve Martin (yes, THAT Steve Martin) and it explores the impact of science and art on the 20th century as viewed through the chance encounter of Picasso and Einstein at the Lapin Agile bar in Paris in the early 1900s before either of them had achieved their fame.

Only a few tickets were left, but we grabbed two of them and planned to return that night.

Picasso at the Lapin Agile playbook

When we returned, we felt the excitement building!  We hadn’t seen a play like this since our time in New York and we both realized we missed the theatre!

Guests arriving for the play

The cast was strong.  Justin Long (the Mac guy) played Einstein.  Donald Faison (Dr. Turk from Scrubs) played the Lapin Agile owner. Hal linden (Hill Street Blues) played an old guy.  It was a very entertaining production and nobody missed a line in 90 minutes of pure dialog!

The next day, we headed to Chipotle to enjoy our free chips and guac, courtesy of “T-Mobile Tuesday.”  Every Tuesday, T-Mobile gives away free stuff. This Tuesday was chips and guac.

Thanks T-Mobile!

Not every day is a winner.  At least not for this guy.  I’m not sure what happened, but when your MoHo has to be dragged out of the campground, your day is not going that well.

Rut-roh

We decided to head north to Laguna Beach.  Stunning views of the beach along a mountainous shoreline!  Some of the beaches in Laguna are good for swimming while others are rocky.

 

Laguna Beach

Of course, no stop in Laguna Beach would be complete without a drink on the rooftop deck above K’ya.  It is a wonderful place to take in the sunset and the view!

K’ya rooftop

We returned from Laguna beach full of sun and sand. Our time in San Diego is starting to shorten, so we headed to downtown to walk around.

The first think I will say is that San Diego eclipses San Francisco as the city with the most homeless people I have ever seen. However, unlike San Francisco, San Diego’s homeless seem to be much less aggressive.

We walked around Horton Plaza, and at the upper end in the plaza across from the famous U.S. Grant Hotel, we saw this interesting fountain.  But something was odd…

 

The Plaza at Horton Plaza

Oh, right.  The homeless guy using the water feature as a washing machine.  Yep. That’s right.  He is doing his laundry in the fountain. I guess it is as good a place as any.

Outdoor laundry

On our last day in San Diego we decided to visit the Mission. Mission Basillica San Diego de Alcala was the first Spanish mission in Alta California.  Founded in 1769 by Father Junipero Serra, the Mission marked the start of 21 missions up the Camino Real (King’s Road). Many of these became famous missions including Santa Barbara, San Juan Capistrano, San Luis Obispo, San Jose, San Francisco, and Carmel.

San Diego de Alcala mission

The whitewashed adobe structure was rescued from near ruin in the 1930s by a forward-thinking group of volunteers who sought to preserve these historic buildings.  Although much damage had occurred, the volunteers were able to reconstruct the mission using authentic materials and methods.

I thought the bell tower was especially nice, gleaming in the sun behind a field of native flowers.

Bell tower

The interior of the mission is not as impressive as other missions, like Carmel (Fr. Serra’s favorite).  It does have a nice fountain, but also has been made over with many asphalt parking spaces.

Interior of the mission

The main chapel in the mission has been painstakingly restored and is an active Catholic Church which offers regular services. The walls are made of adobe 3 to 5 feet thick.  Unlike the massive and ornate stone temples in Europe and larger US cities, this chapel is simple and reflects a very Spanish theme.

The main chapel

The chapel garden are equally modest. Not particularly large and not particularly scenic.  More appropriate for a working church, which the Mission de Alcala is to this day.  An hour here is enough time to see the grounds.  Make note, this is a bit of a drive from downtown San Diego and traffic is usually very thick.

We returned home to see the poppies starting to bloom along the oceanside trail.  We will definitely miss Chula Vista and the daily walks along the beach and marina, but are eager to head to our next destination.  Temecula!