California Trip

Arriving home late Sunday night one week ago, after my four days cycling in Vermont, I had a crammed schedule for three days at work, then I was on my way for another trip. This time, it was out to the coast, the other coast, the one where the sun sets over the Pacific, where palm trees are everywhere, and when running, hills play a major role. Having lived so long on the east coast, I get confused when I return to San Diego. It seems that east and west are reversed, and I must consciously think about which way it is towards the ocean. I took this trip to visit my daughter, who lives in the University Heights neighborhood, and to work on our family’s house in Poway, which we are maintaining and repairing to get it rented. I also planned to attend the fortieth reunion of my high school graduation. Forty years seems to me a ridiculously long time ago.

I had not run for three days due to my need to recover from the cycling, but it was also a forced break due to the work schedule, and travel. So, on arrival in San Diego, I was eager to get out there and run again. I landed in San Diego late Wednesday night, with my daughter Audrey and her boyfriend Evan there to greet me. I wanted to get in a ten miler as a start, so I looked at the map with Audrey and planned my route. On previous trips I ran around Balboa Park and back to her apartment, a five mile route. So, to add another five miles I added a loop from Balboa Park down to Harbor Drive, out to Harbor Island and then back. The next morning, after a quick breakfast of raisin bran, I headed out for my run. As practice for Steamtown, this is a great route. After about a mile of gentle rolling hills, it goes in and out of a canyon in Balboa Park, for a sharp descent and a steep climb. It levels for a bit around the park, then turns down to Harbor Drive dropping several hundred feet over a mile or so which really stresses the quads. Along Harbor Drive is a multi-use paved path which passes by a coast guard facility and the airport, and is completely flat. Once I hit five miles (plus a little extra, to be sure) on the trusty Garmin, I turned around and did the return trip. I took basically the same route, except went down El Prado in Balboa Park, past the museums, the Spreckles Organ Pavilion, and the Old Globe Theater to the other side of the park and made my way back. The climb back up from Harbor Drive to the park is a real beast, seemingly unending and very steep. Once at the park, though, it is a relatively easy run back to the start. I got in my ten miles, and it felt alright, though the quads had suffered, especially on the downhill segments. My average pace was about 8:54. The rest of the day was pure vacation. We spent two hours at Ocean Beach. Audrey and Evan played Frisbee and went swimming, while I was content to sit on a folding chair, taking in rays, and reading a book. Later, Audrey and I went shopping at Horton Plaza in San Diego. When I was in high school, Horton Plaza was where the navy and army recruits got into fights and went to massage parlors. Now, it is an upscale shopping area, with elegant stores and restaurants. In fact, the whole downtown area of San Diego has been upgraded, and we saw many tourists and locals making for a busy scene. That night, Audrey and I ate out at a sushi restaurant within walking distance of her apartment.

The following day, we planned to go out to Poway to work on the house. I ran the shorter route that morning, the five mile loop around Balboa Park, which still includes the canyon for a steep descent and climb, ever thinking of the Steamtown profile. Again, my pace was around 8:55, still feeling sore quads from the day before. We drove up to Poway, and spent about five hours on the house, repairing a split rail fence around the property which had gotten dilapidated and was falling over in many places. The house looks better than it has looked in a long time, with help from Ray the landscape guy, and Audrey and Evan’s impressive efforts. After the fence work, taking down some overgrown bushes, and installing a new light in a bedroom, we took ten minutes to jump in the pool before we had to head back to get Evan to work. The pool is being cared for by a pool service, so it was clean and felt great. That night, Audrey and I put together a pasta dinner with “home made” sausages from her local Sprouts supermarket. Sprouts is a very health-oriented grocery store, with mostly organic and locally grown foods.


Evan and Frank and the Improved Fence

Frank cools off in the pool.

The following day, Saturday, I was feeling good, and wanted to run another ten miler. I did essentially the same route as on Thursday, except on reaching Harbor Drive I turned left instead of right. This brought me past the sailboats docked in the harbor, the Maritime Museum of SD with it’s historic sailing ships, and the USS Midway, an aircraft carrier launched the 20th of March, 1945. After service in Viet Nam and Operation Desert Storm, with many missions in-between, she is permanently docked in San Diego as a museum. The last stretch along Harbor Drive reached Seaport Village, a collection of cutesy shops and theme restaurants, built for the nearby convention center and hotels. With the large number of tourists walking the cobbled paths, and the enviable weather of San Diego, it is no surprise that innumerable homeless denizens call this area “home”. On a historical note, this village is built on landfill over Punta de los Muertos, burial site of sailors from Spanish expeditions of the mid 1700’s, many of whom died of scurvy. Again turning around at the five mile mark, I headed back to the climb up Laurel Street, past Solar Turbine Corp. and the leading edge of the airport runway, under “the 5” as Interstate 5 is known in California, and up the incline to Balboa Park. Then it was over “Suicide Bridge”, the bridge over the Cabrillo Freeway. Apparently, suicides there were popular until the Coronado Bridge was opened in 1969. Contrary to this theme, I was feeling strong and upbeat, and managed to keep a good pace right up to the finish, around 8:35 average for the ten miles.

After the run, I got my hair cut at Axle Hair Labor by Jackie. I mention this because this place epitomizes west coast vibe. Jackie was very nice and did a great job with what hair I have. We then headed out to Ramona, to the Milagro Farm Vineyards and Winery where my daughter is the marketing manager. It is a beautiful winery on a rocky hillside, surrounded by mountains. It’s owner, Kit, and his winemaker, Jim, create wines equal in my mind to some of the better Napa wineries. I realize I may be biased, but trying to be objective, I was very impressed. I got a tour of the vineyards, learned how to measure sugar content of the grapes and when to pick, and tasted their wines in their nicely appointed tasting room.


Hummingbird at Milagro Farms

Audrey and Sangiovese Grapes at Milagro Farms

That evening, I had tickets to attend my fortieth high school reunion, as I mentioned. Having only attended Poway H.S. for two years, being in Scottsdale, AZ, for my first two years, I did not grow up with these folks, and I did not feel I knew them very well, or that they would even remember me. With that thought process, I decided to skip the reunion and instead spend the last night of my trip going out to dinner with Audrey and Evan. We went to a tiny restaurant called The Farm House Cafe, on Adams Street. We talked, ate delicious provincial French fare, had good wine and beer, and it was to me much more valuable than the reunion possibly could have been.

The next day, back on the plane, I flew back to Philadelphia, thinking wistfully of the last two weeks spent cycling in Vermont, running in San Diego, and generally enjoying myself.


Leave a comment


  1. walterplods2012

     /  August 29, 2012

    nice writeup big fella. Good pace on your runs especially your last one at an 8:35 pace for 10 miles (with hills) that’s not too shaby. While it sounds like you made the correct choice and spent that last evening with Audrey and Evan at what sounds like a lovely restaurant, I can only wonder meanwhile back at your 40th reunion site if there was a sad, lonely (and yes certainly lovely) woman draped over the punch bowl murmering “Frank, Frank…why didn’t you show? Oh woe is me…”

    • Tony, you had me laughing out loud with this one. While I may not have spent much time at good old Poway High, I know your scenario is pure fantasy. These are Southern Californians. They’ve been fried wrinkly in the sun, and jaded by the “lifestyle”. Or, maybe that’s my version of sour grapes. Frank

      Sent from outer space.


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