Traveling to the Sun

“Keep your face to the sun and you will never see the shadows.” — Helen Keller

The Wandering Dolphin crew has been busy, busy, busy since returning to Minnesota. And though we’ve tried to make sure we take time for the fun things in life, we knew it was about time we got away again. This time, it needed to be someplace sunny.

It has been eight months since we left our park host site in Ramona, California.

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We were missing the sunshine, ocean breeze, and hiking in the foothills. So, Andy and I hopped on a flight to visit our favorite city: San Diego. And it was about time — eight months was long enough to be away!

We got into town late Wednesday night and grabbed our rental car.

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Then we hit the familiar highways and headed up the coast for our first destination: Oceanside. We only had a few days in town, so we knew we had to make the most of it. We had planned out our trip down to the T (and I mean it, we planned out what food we’d be eating and everything).

We cruised up to Oceanside, and after checking into our hotel, we headed down to the harbor for a quick nighttime drive.

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We found the sea lions by noise rather than sight and said a quick hello before heading to our next spot.

Planning so thoroughly made it really easy to budget for the trip, after all, the places we’d be going were familiar to us.

Like our dinner stop, grabbing food at In-N-Out.

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It was late, so we took our food back to the hotel and soon fell asleep. We had decided to stay at the La Quinta, where we have stayed in the past and were always satisfied. And the hotel delivered yet again, with clean rooms, good service, and a delicious continental breakfast.

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The next morning, we took our time getting ready for the day. Even though we were only in town for a few days, we wanted to rest a little bit from our busy lives in Minnesota. After a tasty breakfast, we headed down to the pier for a walk by the water.

The ocean seemed angry, and we knew it was probably the rain predicted to come in.

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We talked about whether or not we should go in the water, but we knew it would be cold and probably not the best idea with the rain.

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So, we left the ocean and headed to Andy’s grandpa’s house to visit him and his aunt Kris. It was so nice to see both of them! After living in Cali for two years and seeing them regularly, we got used to our regular hang-outs with Aunt Kris. It was nice to be back.

We headed down for lunch at the Jolly Roger and had a great time catching up. Then the rain started.

We knew it was going to rain on our first day in, but we didn’t realize how much. California’s drainage system is lacking and the soil does not allow the water to penetrate quickly, so the water on the roads quickly grew to curb height, and we knew it was best to get off the roads. So, we dropped Kris off and headed back to the hotel for a nap and to wait out the weather.

Later that night, we went out to our favorite brewery: Belching Beaver.

We had never been to the actual brewery before, only a tasting room in Pacific Beach. Luckily, the brewery is located right in Oceanside (one of the sites).

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And I got to have my favorite beer: Mexican chocolate peanut butter stout.

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Oh. My. Gosh. Yum.

Definitely my favorite beer.

We headed back for an early night to bed — we had big plans for the next day.

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After another yummy breakfast, we checked out of our hotel room, packed up the car, and headed up to Ramona to hike Iron Mountain. It is one of our favorite hikes, and we knew it needed to be on the list of things to do during our short visit.

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We unloaded my backpack and filled it with water before hitting the trail. I wasn’t sure what to expect, having not hiked in many months. Hiking in Minnesota is completely different — it’s more like just taking a walk in the woods, not actually hiking.

But this was hiking.

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After about a mile, I wondered what the heck I’d gotten myself into. I was hot and sweaty, even though the day was relatively cool and the few clouds in the sky helped block some of the intense sun.

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Soon enough, my hiker’s high kicked in, and I was feeling amazing. The air was fresher, the sky was bluer, my body was doing what it was meant to do. As we reached the top of the mountain, a feeling of elation so strong hit me, I didn’t recognize myself. Until I realized: this was happiness.

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As always, the views from the top were phenomenal. The ocean and San Diego in the distance, and on the other side, the foothills and Ramona.

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Wow.

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“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity.” — John Muir

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We made a vow then and there, on the top of Iron Mountain, to continue exploring, to never give up on our spirit of adventure. We may not always continue traveling via motorhome, but we will never stop exploring.

As we descended from the top, we eagerly talked about our next hiking plans. We were both feeling amazing, and we knew we never wanted that feeling to end.

After we reached our car again, we decided to head over to the wildlife center I used to volunteer at to visit my kitties. Then, we headed into town to stop by a few places. We said hello to the guys from Andy’s old work. We drove by the park to see if there was a new host (there is). We drove by my work to see if anyone was around (there wasn’t). Then we met up with our friend Lindsay and headed down to Stone Brewery in Escondido for dinner, where we met our other friends Jesse and Justin.

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Afterwards, we headed back to Ramona for an evening at the local bars. We stayed out for a little while visiting people from town before heading back to Jesse’s house.

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It was great to see everyone and get a chance to hang out (and try to convince them all to visit us in Minnesota — hint, hint).

It was interesting, visiting Ramona, seeing the people and the town, seeing what has changed and what hasn’t. As I sat at Jesse’s, I looked across at the friends we had made and thought about the interesting life we had created.

After only a few hours of sleep, we woke up on Saturday for our last full day in Cali. It had come and gone so quickly! Andy and I loaded up our things and headed down to Oceanside to say goodbye to Aunt Kris and grandpa.

Then, we took the long way back to drop off our rental car: down the coast highway. We made a couple of stops at different beaches so I’d get a chance to visit with the ocean for a while.

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And then we headed to Las Olas for a delicious meal of fish tacos — it has been a tradition of ours since our second trip to California so many years ago.

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It was interesting to see all of the Christmas lights up with palm trees around and no snow. Such a drastic change from Minnesota. But we found out how Californians go sledding:

Eventually, it was time for us to drop our car off at the rental place by the airport. We’d opted to drop it off a day early instead of trying to find parking in the city. Our last night in Cali was in a hotel in Little Italy. It was not nearly as nice as our hotel in Oceanside, but the price was right and the location was perfect.

That evening, we took a walk around the harbor to see the lights and the sunset.

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Then, we headed to the Gaslamp Quarter to play old arcade games and go out for dinner.

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Once we both realized that we didn’t want a crazy night out, we relaxed our expectations of the evening and had a fun time wandering the city before catching an Uber back to our hotel.

Sunday morning rolled around, and we’d decided to make the most of our last morning in town — we were flying out that afternoon.

We woke up at 6 a.m. and started getting ready. We stopped by a local bar and grill for breakfast, realized that everyone in the bar was still drunk and awake from the night before, left, and headed to a different spot for a nice breakfast outside.

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One thing I missed: in California, you get your choice of hot sauce.

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After breakfast, we decided to test out a different mode of transportation other than Uber.

Scooters.

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Andy had wanted to try them out the night before, and I put the kibosh on that idea (I have terrible balance). I was terrified. But I knew he wanted to try them, and I figured we should give it a go. If it didn’t work out, it didn’t work out. I could always stop.

After a small adjustment period, I realized I loved scootering!!!

We took them all over. We went around half of the harbor and into Seaport Village, where we walked around for a while.

Then we scootered back to our hotel to pack our stuff up and check out.

I wasn’t sure if I could continue to scooter with all of my stuff, but we’d packed light (only a hiking backpack), so I gave it a shot.

And it worked. I could scooter just fine with my backpack, thankyouverymuch.

Instead of taking an Uber to our lunch destination, we decided to scooter with our backpacks. Two-point-something miles away. We knew the restaurant wasn’t in the nicest part of town (actually it’s a little sketchy), but I think we were both so excited with our new-found love of scooters that we just didn’t care. Looking back on it, it probably wasn’t the brightest idea, but we made it there just fine!

And boy was it worth it.

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We didn’t have long at the Dog Haus before we’d need to call an Uber to take us to the airport. High on excitement from our awesome last day and all the delicious food, we opted to forgo the Uber and scooter to the airport instead! We were hooked.

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We decided to take them all the way to the car rental place and then hop on the free shuttle to the airport — the car rental place had safer roads to follow than the ones to the airport.

We made it there safe and sound, hopped on the shuttle, and headed to the airport to catch our flight back to Minnesota.

It was an amazing short trip to California, and we are already looking forward to our next visit.

And our next adventure!

“The purpose of life, after all, is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.” — Eleanor Roosevelt

 

 

 

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