Whales and Tales from the West Coast

Welcome 2022!  It was a simple, quiet Christmas 2021 – the cast of Chicken Run went out in the Jeep to find a tree, after 4-wheeling through Monument Valley (yeah, right). And Merlin gave us a scare when he refused to eat and curled up under the bed. After spending time at the vet, he came home with a pink paw and wore his fur boots around the house. He had some bowel, pancreas, and liver inflammation, but we think it is under control now with a change in diet and some pills.

Ok then, we are starting our new year with the kind of trip we haven’t tried since this whole pandemic started: a trip on an airplane!  Seemed like it would be a safe bet when we booked it a year ago, but it is something to take with caution these days.  So off we go for more than a week to visit Linda and Norm in San Diego – all masked up and ready to see some whales. 

We left chilly Atlanta to arrive in warm, mostly sunny southern California.  From my window seat I tried to follow our recent trip across the southern states … pretty much scouting the landscape across Mississppi, Arkansas, Texas and New Mexico.  Kinda cool to see some of these spots from the air. Easy trip and we were soon at their house overlooking a canyon just inland from Mission Bay. How wonderful.

Whale watching was on the list for the next day, so Linda, Jackie and I hustled down to Mission Bay with minutes to spare to board, only to learn the boat was now docked about a quarter mile further down — so that meant a fast dash to board as the engines revved up and we set out. Some California sea lions lounged in the harbor near the inlet as we hit the Pacific Ocean on a very calm day, optimistic that we would see some of the migrating whales headed south to warmer Mexican waters.

We were told to watch for the spouting plumes of water that would indicate a whale had surfaced. These were going to be gray whales that do not have a big dorsal fin, so you have a little less to spot on the water. Soon we had a few just ahead and we were treated to about 5 or 6 gray whales, interspersed with lots of common dolphin. Some nice tail flukes popped up just as they made their deep dives. Wow, lots of action, but not quite as flamboyant as the humpback we saw in Alaska. These guys don’t usually breach out of the water. But when you do see them, they are covered in crusty barnacles.

If you want to watch a video recap of our whale watching, check out the link: Whales off San Diego

All that whale watching made us hungry and thirsty, so we stopped along the bay at Linda and Norm’s favorite stop on their bike rides for some tacos and beer. Soon a great band started playing and we were totally enjoying the vibe. Great day.

Next day we were off to visit a winery in the hills that was … a bit eclectic, but with some delicious Italian wines. You can’t sip a flight of wine without something good to eat, so we ordered up a cheese and meat plate and then some pizza and deep fried Calzones. We had the company of an assortment of chickens, ducks, peacocks, rabbits and two goats that wandered off and enjoyed the warm sunny afternoon. Back at the house we went for a soak, bubble and “swim” in the swim spa as the sun set on a perfect day.

On Saturday, Norm joined us as we drove down to Liberty Station, a former Navy recruit training camp that was now home to shops and restaurants – particularly Stone Brewing’s World Bistro. We sat out on the patio, had a delicious flight of beer and some yummy nibbles. Maybe another beer, too. We were joined by Linda’s friend Petra and soon realized that the flight path for the airport had shifted around so that the flights descended just above us. That meant we had to adjourn to the harbor and watch them land. Another amazing sunset, with a double rainbow thrown in.

On Sunday we drove to the beach to see what the Tonga tsunami warning had been about and watched the surfers. We also wanted to head up to Miramar to check out Cutwater Distillery. Good decision, as we chose from the brunch menu – and I ordered their brunch flight of Bloody Mary, White Russian and Café Horchata. And a delicious flatbread to round out the meal. Around the corner was Ballast Point Brewery, so of course that meant a visit and a flight. So many beers, so little time!

Monday was to have been a second whale watch, but the trip was sold out, so we stopped at the Belmont rollercoaster, walked the beach and did a bit of people watching. Such a nice day meant we drove along the coast to La Jolla to wander the Children’s Pool and search for the sea lions. Linda and I were looking over the beach and I said “I thought there would be sea lions here .. but nothing is in the water.” Umm, well, did you notice those rocks on the beach were wiggling about? “Those aren’t rocks, Doug,” Linda helpfully pointed out. And indeed they were the sleeping sea lions. Duh. There was a wonderful retirement community along the shore with gorgeous plantings and an incredible view.

Tuesday we were back on the water searching for whales. We saw maybe 7 or more, with some dolphin among them. Chilly out on the water and mostly overcast, but a great day. There was even one of the gray whales who hung out inside the harbor. Just had to follow that boating adventure with a short drive to the Embarcadero along San Diego Harbor to eat and drink at an awesome spot over the water: Ketch Brewing and Miguel’s Cocina. Then a walk down the waterfront to see the Star of India, Midway Aircraft Carrier and the Maritime Museum of ships and submarines.

That means Wednesday was the San Diego Trolley Tour, starting at Old Town and looping along the waterfront, up and over the Coronado Bridge (wave to Norm) and out to the Hotel del Coronado. We had lunch at an Irish Pub – mmm, Reubens and Guinness with orange wit. Back on the trolley and we went through the Gaslamp Quarter, Balboa Park and Little Italy before getting off back at Old Town.

One more good soak in the swim spa at night before we packed up and headed back home the next day. Lots of good memories — and at least a decent drink or two on the plane. Good thing we had our warm jackets in our carryon, since it was 37 degrees when we landed back home. Brrrr.

We collected Merlin from the vet – looking good and acting very hungry – drove up to Chattanooga to get Kodi (thanks to Bethany and Alex) and settled in back home. Now, what is the next trip? A big family cruise in April aboard the Harmony of the Seas. Can’t wait.

Thanks for reading along. More adventures to come!

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