Liralen Li (liralen) wrote,
Liralen Li

San Diego Adventures

Haven't had direct access to the Internet for the last few days, so I thought I'd just catch things up all at once.

We went from Long Beach to San Diego, where we dropped everything off at my parents' house, and went to the beach. Friday was Legoland and an amazing Chinese feast, Saturday was a long beach run with pizza at the end of it, and Sunday we got to see Cathie-Elliot finish the Rock and Roll Marathon in San Diego. We ate at El Indio's after, and said good-bye to my sister. Today we're heading back north toward home.

The boys gave me a lot of time Thursday morning to get my journaling done before we got checked out of the hotel and onto the road. Jet got to see Spongebob for a good hour or so while I was writing, which pleased him a very great deal.

It was good to get the time, but we kind of missed the checkout time by fifteen minutes, not that the hotel seemed to mind.

From Long Beach we headed south, along Pacific Coast Highway and then along I-5. We left at about 11, and were looking for an In-n-Out along the way in order to have some lunch. It wasn't until Carlsbad that we found one, and we only found that via our GPS, doing a search on "Out" rather than "In" as In goes in "Inn", "Inne", "Interstate", etc.

It was pretty funny, but I needed to use the restroom, so I jumped out of the car, went inside, and the boys has gotten past the man who was taking all the orders, but they hadn't paid, yet by the time I got back to the car.

My single cheese with grilled onions was delicious, and the fries were layered all through the bottom of the bag. Everyone had firsts and seconds on the fries and there were still some left! *laughs* Fresh cut fries are always good.

We arrived at my parents around 2, unloaded and went south to the beach we'd discovered the last few times at the south end of Mission Beach. The dunes that they'd piled on the beach were gone this time, it was just a field of flat white sand, and it was the perfect consistency for building with. So the three of us went to town, and just sat in the sun, surf, and layered lots and lots of sand into castles, tall minarets, and dug big puddles to pull the really wet sand for building.

One of John's towers stood taller than Jet. *laughs* And two surfers came by to praise it and take picture of it and asked Jet if he'd built it, and Jet pointed out into the surf where John was and said, "He did it."

*laughs* We played until fourish, went home, showered, and went out to dinner with my parents and sister at Su Casa in La Jolla. It's one of their favorite places, and Kathy and I got the seafood tamale. It was a lovely tamale with whole sweet corn in it, and on top they'd piled real crab, shrimp, and scallops along with a lovely green tomatillo salsa. Sweet and tender it was really tasty.

Kathy had also dropped by the Opera House bakery and cafe on the way over, and brought two assortments of desserts, one chocolate and one fruit-based along with a whole box of French Macaroons in assorted flavors. The little desserts allowed everyone to have one or two of anything they wanted to taste, so I got a mini Opera Cake which was just amazing and a tiny lemon meringue pie that was obviously Meyer's Lemon as it was good and tart and tangy.

Legoland is only open from 10-5 each day before mid-June when the California vacation season really starts. So we got up fairly early the next morning and headed in, on the way I asked Jet, "If we have to, would you want to lie about your age to get into the Mindstorms class?"

Jet replied, "No. I don't want to lie. We'll be back again next year, so if I have to wait a year it'll be okay."

Good kid.

We had a Plan on getting in as Jet really, really wanted to do get his Driver's License from the driving "ride". I put that in quotes because really the kids just get to drive along little roads in little bumper cars that they're told aren't really for bumping. So all the kids just get in the cars and drive. There's no guider, no tracks, just streets with the appropriate traffic markers. The amazing thing is just how many of the kids follow the laws perfectly. They even apologize to each other if they get in each others way or if they bump. It's very cool.

From there we headed to the Mindstorms labs and found that there was just one spot left for the noon class, so we signed Jet up for that, and wandered off to see what else there was in the park that we wanted to see. It's good that we've come in the off-season as none of the lines were very long, and the class wasn't already completely full up by the time we got there. Usually you have to be there in the first half hour the park's open to get a slot in the height of the tourist season.

The Technics area had a really right rollercoaster with just four-person cars, very tight turns, and steep slopes. I liked the look of it and asked Jet if he wanted to go on it, and he did, so the three of us got into line, and didn't have to wait that long to get on. It really threw us around, and Jet screamed and screamed and screamed some more, even on the flat parts because he just liked screaming. That was very loud, but also really fun because I had no qualms about screaming at all with him around. *laughs*

And it really did throw us around pretty good.

New Orleans Lego Graveyard
We also had a lot of fun looking through Miniland with a lot of time and attention to all the thousands of details that were built into the place. For all that we'd seen most of it before, between Las Vegas, New York City, Washington D.C., and the like we managed, this time, to see the New Orleans area with its own little one-street Mardi Gras and most of the Jackson Square things we knew and loved including the Café Du Monde by the river and the church along one side that also is the home of Pirate's Alley.

I guess a pirate needs more forgiving than most.

We then went back for the Mindstorms lab, and were amused to find that they were using the old model rather than the new, but we figured it has first been set up when the little robots were created. So it wasn't as challenging as we kind of hoped it would be, but Jet had a great time anyway programming his little robot to shoot balls, stop at edges, and push balls around. He enjoyed that a lot.

And it's always fun seeing my son program a robot to do what he wants it to do.

Then we had plenty of time to just wander, looking at the art exhibit always amuses me, and I love Starry Night rendered in Lego. We went on the Technic's rollercoaster again and added the dragon roller coaster as well, though it wasn't nearly as violent as the Technic one, Jet declared the Technics coaster his favorite. We stopped by Pirates' Cove, and the boys went on the ride where everyone can shoot water at you, and Jet and John enjoyed getting wet while I enjoyed staying dry on the sidelines and watching the giant water bucket fill and pour over all the screaming kids.

Eventually we headed back to the Build and Test as that was something Jet really wanted to do, and he built cars and tested them against all the other kids' cars for a good half hour. We had to leave at four to make it home and to a restaurant on time, so we asked Jet to end it fifteen minutes before we had to go and then went trolling through the immense Lego store.

There was a lot of neat stuff, but we ended up with just some post cards and a Labyrinth game with a minotaur that Jet got to build and play with everyone. He was uncertain of getting it as he thought he might like something else more, but after playing the game a few times, he likes it well enough and knows he can change the rules to make for a more interesting game if he wants.

We might even be able to use it as a Mechaton game field, with a single peg for each movement distance, and the walls as "cover" for the Mecha.

Dinner that night was at Chin's on Convoy, it's a relatively new restaurant, but one of a chain. The chef there moved from one of the other restaurants and is Mom and Dad's favorite. Mom had a list of eight dishes for the six of us, and there ended up being so much food that we covered the table completely and had to end up stacking a few things.

The camphor and tea smoked duck was absolutely amazing, as ever, with the little steamed buns and hoisin. The skin was crisp the meat was very juicy and tender, as they'd made the ducks every Thursday, so Mom and Dad knew they'd be fresh and juicy that day. There were slow cooked spare ribs, a spinach with garlic and fresh bamboo shoots, a stir-fried shrimp with broccoli, a crispy tofu with small dabs of shrimp on top, bean sprouts with chicken and jelly fish heads, fish slabs with a hot chili sauce, and then a dessert soup based on coconut cream, tapioca, and taro root chunks. The dessert soup was really surprisingly good as well.

I'll admit that I really liked the jellyfish heads. *laughs and laughs* They were crunchy and a little spicy and the crunch of the bean sprouts was very good with them as well. It was a little funny having Mom and Dad complain that there was too much chicken in the dish, as I rarely hear about them complaining about too much meat in a dish. Still, it was very tasty.

It was a really amazing feast.

Saturday morning we met up with Walt and Cathie at La Jolla Shores, one of our favorite beaches that's also within walking distance of the tiny town of La Jolla Shores. All it has is a grocery store and a bunch of little eateries and surf board and swim suit shops. So it's pretty straightforward IF you can find parking at the beach parking lot.

We circled probably five times before we finally got a spot, but we kept it for most of the morning and the early part of the afternoon. On a Saturday that was pretty lucky as that beach is often very busy.

The sand was so fine it was kind of hard to build with but we all tried it anyway. The surf was pretty high, and the water warmer than usual, so that was really nice. Jet wanted to get out into it, so I dropped my hat and sunglasses on the towels and went in after him. He loved the waves. Jet really loved how they tossed him around and has said that he especially liked it when he got hit by one wave and then by another before he knew what was happening.

It scared the heck out of me, though, especially since I not only couldn't get out deep enough to be with him the whole time without dealing with waves crashing hard over me; but I knew that if he did lose it I didn't have enough control of things to be able to fish him out as well. I finally told him that he could go out that far if he wanted, but that I just couldn't help him if something happened.

So I let him choose and he chose to come in enough for me to be comfortable and still catch the secondary waves until John came out to help.

Then the two boys could go as deep as Jet wanted with the big waves further out and Jet really enjoyed that as well. He was more cautious after me, though, and while I was kind of relieved, I was also a little saddened. I don't like passing my fears onto my son; but talking with him later he wasn't at all afraid of any of it, he was just helping me deal with being out there.

So that was all to the good.

We walked into La Jolla Shores for lunch at the Cheese Shop, as they have great, huge sandwiches and chips and pop. They also had dark chocolate Hob Nobs, but for $6 a roll and not knowing if I had any chance of keeping them cool enough to stay separate cookies, I decided against getting them. Plus, knowing that we'll have some waiting at home helped as well. *laughs*

But we did get Thomas Kemper root beers, as we miss those from the Northwest, and some California chips. John asked Jet if potato chips are made from potatoes, then what are California chips made of? Jet answered Californians of course, but they have to be stored and changed into stale potatoes and then they can be made into chips. *giggles* Thus is a sense of humor formed…

The afternoon was more beach until clouds blew in, and then we headed up to the Mt. Soledad Cross. It's a cross on a viewpoint that has a nearly 360 Degree view of San Diego county. It was all socked in, though, so we couldn't see quite as far as we're used to being able to at that point.

Walt and Cathie followed us back to my parents' house, and we all wandered into the backyard with Mom and Dad. The view was pretty spectacular even with the mist and fog. We could see all the way to San Diego but with the fog it was impossible to see all the way to Tijauana the way they can when it's clear out. It was nice for my parents to see Walt and Cathie again as the last time was during my wedding, I think. They went off again soon after, and John, Jet, and I had time to shower before Kathy arrived.

The six of us headed to Fat Tony's, a little pizza place that had a pretty interesting menu. Kathy wanted to try the White Pie very badly, but couldn't do it on her own, so I agreed to experiment along with her. Mom, John, and Dad got a regular pie with artichokes, grilled chicken, and roasted red peppers. Jet asked for a plain cheese slice, so we were all happy. The regular pizza had a lovely roasted tomato sauce that was smoky and rich with flavors. The white pie had on it a blend of ricotta, Parmesan, and mozzarella along with a very generous helping of roasted garlic. The texture was a lot like that of a cheesecake, firm but rich and dense. It was delicious, but a single slice would fill most mortals. So I had breakfast for the next two mornings, and Kathy took home the rest for her freezer.

John and I drove ourselves that night, and Mom and Dad took Kathy and Jet back to their house right after dinner. That was so John and I could hit Fry's before going home. My mini keyboard is starting to wear out, and they don't sell this board anymore on line, so I was halfway hoping I could just get another one in the store. So we went right to the keyboard area and there were no more, though there were ones like it, they didn't have the model that I love. Ah well. This one is still working pretty well, but I kind of had hoped to get a backup for when this one wears out.

There was some hope as the keyboards that were there weren't too bad, either, so when this one does wear out, I guess I'll be able to get something as good if not better for less than $20. Not a terrible thing, all in all, but no need to buy something now when my board is going well.

We also picked up a dozen other things, from DVD sleeves to a headset with microphone with a mute. Just wandering through the store was pretty tempting at times, especially since they were taking down their camera display, and selling everything that had been in it at open-box prices. I saw a beautiful little Canon camera for half the usual price, and there were half a dozen video cameras as well.

Nice to only be tempted once or twice a year. *laughs*

We did the same thing again in the morning, but with Trader Joe's. On Sunday, we went out, figured out the best route to get dropped off to the San Diego Rock and Roll Marathon's finish line, and then went to Trader Joe's and bought a lot of stuff. I'm almost through my jar of almond butter, and I wanted more. We had finished all our mayonnaise as well, so bought two jars of that, and I wanted to try a whey protein supplement after reading the weight lifting book, so I got a canister of that as well. There was the one pound bittersweet bar with almonds, and the masala sauce for chicken. I might actually grill the chicken and then put it in the sauce the way Heston does, maybe even marinate it with yogurt and garlic and the dry masala spices from Penzey's just to make it even more so. It's just an idea. *laughs*

It was fun just to find things that we thought we might like and were at reasonable prices, one of the things we kind of miss where we are, though the new Sunflower Grocery stores are starting to fill in that gap. They're a local store that's owned by the guy that started Wild Oats. Wild Oats was bought by Whole Foods a while ago, so he's past his non-competitive clause, and can open stores again, so he's going for the low price market.

Plus, there's now a little bulk food store right on Main Street in Longmont, that has a lot of the good stuff in bins. We like that a lot as well, and it's good to support someone local when we can.

After Trader Joe's Dad drove us into the craziness that was the San Diego Rock and Roll Marathon. It was both a marathon and a half-marathon all going on at once. There were over 25,000 participants!! Twenty bands were scattered across the course, playing all day for the participants, and at every aid station there were volunteers with water and cheering. They started at 6 am, and every minute and a half, they would let loose another wave of runners. Everyone had a band with a chip that would register every checkpoint and at some of the checkpoints they'd send text messages out to registered support folk, though the system got so backed up it was sometimes hours before the message actually got out.

We got there in time to go all the way around the "secure zone" where runners could get drinks, food, and one last check by first aid personnel. They could also get their picture taken with their medal for completing the race, and not be bothered by all the spectators until they exited that zone. It was a useful partition for crowd control.

And when we went all the way around it and found Walt further down the path and out by a little beach off Mission Bay, we had another twenty minutes before Cathie appeared. We got her picture without making her slow down, cheered and clapped and waved, and then headed back to the exit of the secure area. We beat her to the end pretty easily, as she was limping pretty badly by that time.

Cathie had been training at least since February with weekly walks and runs with the Team in Training organization, that had a lot of folks in them. I was impressed to see that nearly 80% of the folks in the race at the point we saw it were women. They were also raising money to fight Leukemia and Lymphoma, and Cathie had raised the most money in her New Mexican chapter, which is pretty cool. But when we went to the checkin for all those that had finished, I saw ladies with shirts declaring half a dozen different Californian teams, a Connecticut team, a New York team, and an Oregon team, all within the space of a few minutes. They were from all over, and seem to be an organization devoted to empowering women to do these marathons. It was very impressive to see.

I don't think that with my knee that I'll be doing that any time soon, but it's fun to see how many did do it.

From there we headed to the bus shuttles that took us to the light rail train that took us out to Qualcomm Stadium. The crowd was all very pleasant and polite, and the San Diego police were everywhere, just watching on the most part. Crowd control worked really really well, and all the transportation lines flowed pretty quickly. We were never standing anywhere for too long.

Cathie decided she wanted to go to El Indio's for her after run food, and my sister, Kathy, said that she could meet us there. They haven't seen each other for nearly 23 years, either. *laughs* So it was nice to all get together, order some San Diegan Mexican food, and just enjoy it together. Kathy, Jet, and I got the horchata for our drinks. It's a rice-based drink with lots of cinnamon and sugar, and we all enjoyed it a great deal with our meals. I'd ordered the pork tamale with their chili verde sauce, which was good and spicy. The masa was firm and sweet and the shredded pork very flavorful and lovely with the tangy tomatillos. I guess I do like good tamal. I also got the cinnamon tortilla chips for after the meal. They're just deep fried flour tortilla chips covered in cinnamon sugar, a little like a very crisp churro. Everyone had a few, as they are quite tasty.

We let Cathie and Walter go to their hotel to take a last dip in the pool and hot tub before flying home; and we went back to my parents' house. Mom and Dad had a pretty smiple dinner of won ton soup and pickles. Jet got some soft tofu with soy sauce and pork soong (dried, flaked meat) and he was a very happy boy.

For dessert we had ripe yellow mangos and giant purple grapes along with the box of French-style macaroons from the Opera House. The caramel ones were redolent with the deep burnt sugar tones and cream that they should have been. The raspberry/pistachio ones were good and raspberryish. The cinnamon/pecan caramel ones had a very distinct cinnamon richness to them. The folks that ate the chocolate ones approved of the chocolate in them, as Jet had been convinced that he hated macaroons, but realized with these that maybe he just didn't like the coconut ones. *laughs* There were a few less identifiable ones, as I thought one was, for sure, fig with vanilla cookies, but they said dulche de leche and coconut. *laughs*

French macaroons are different than coconut macaroons in their texture, taste, and ingredients. It's usually more of a nut flour, like pistachios, almonds, or hazelnuts rather than coconut, but they're also set in an egg white meringue so they have that crisp exterior, soft interior, and chew to them. French-style ones usually have layers of cream between the cookies, and they're intensely flavored. They're small, but full of texture and flavor, so they're one of my favorite things. And it was fun finding that Mom and Dad liked them as well.

We played some of Jet's minotaur game, talked for a while as Jet watched another episode of Sponge Bob, and then I put Jet to bed at his usual bed time as we're going to have to work out way gently back toward Mountain Time. We all got to talk for a while longer and then we said good-bye to Kathy as we weren't going to see her in the morning.

The cleaners came, today, at 8, and we were all up. I hadn't started my breakfast when they arrived. *laughs* I was out on the brick wall in the backyard watching the view and stealing internet access for my immediate email and to see how close I was to my limits on my celphone. *laughs* That was pretty funny.

I toasted my garlic white pie pizza for breakfast and it was very good. I still couldn't quite eat the whole slice, but it was very tasty, and when I ate the fresh mango afterward, it was a much better flavor combination. I'm not sure why but garlic on mango was odd, but mango on garlic was much better.

We packed while Jet watched the last Sponge Bob episode they're recorded for him, and when he was done, we finished loading the car, hugged Mom and Dad good-bye, and then started off.

So far we've gone through California, Nevada, Arizona, and into Utah. We've passed by a lot of casinos in Nevada, and everything is brown, huge, and rocky and mountainous desert. Not all that interesting. Yes, I do include Las Vegas, though the architecture was amazing in some ways, and there was this ride built on the edge of this tower that's just crazy. It's also good and hot, and we're probably heading back home to 90+ degree heat (~35 C), so I'm very happy that the Days Inn in St. George, UT has a pool and will probably have Air Conditioning as well as wireless. *laughs*

Virgin River Canyon
The Virgin River Gorge in Arizona is just gorgeous, huge cuts in the rock that are just amazing. You think you're about to run right into a mountain, but they've cut right through it.

On the far side are the red Utah mountains, heading toward Bryce Canyon, but not quite there, the steep cuts of rock are just gorgeous and there's so much red it just amazes me. We went just far enough to get to St. George, and since it was soooo hot, we just unloaded the car into the hotel room and ran for the pool. The swim was just amazingly good, especially since it was in the shade of the hotel building.

Then we were famished and Mountain Time it was 8 pm already, though only 7 pm on our West Coast sensibilities. So we managed to find a nice little restaurant called The Gun Barrel Steak and Game as I was really in the mood for a good, red steak. And they advertised cooking all their steaks on a mesquite burning grill. So we went there, and it was as good as advertised.

Jet actually ordered the kid steak, which he's never done before, with sweet potato fries. I had the small cut ribeye and John had the ribs and they were all really good. My ribeye was dead rare for half of it, and beautifully medium rare for the other, my sweet potato was cooked through and slathered with a maple butter to die for, and the salad was solid. Jet's little bitty kid-steak was perfectly tender even though he'd ordered it "medium", which was very impressive. And John's ribs were very tender and had a lovely tangy BBQ sauce. They also had a homemade steak sauce that was quite good.

So it was good to dine at a local restaurant and not a chain, and have it be so good was wonderful as well. Turned out they had another branch in Jackson Hole, so we did good.

Back to the room and it was so late, Jet just got ready for bed. John helped me upload everything, and I finally managed to get this up with the pictures. Whew. There...
Tags: travel

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