Tuesday, July 10, 2012

This Week: San Diego, CA

The boat to Coronado

“I turn my back for a second and there are already girls in bikinis in the hot tub,” I say as I walked across the rooftop deck at the Doubletree Hotel in San Diego.
My husband and his friend Blake were only two hours removed from running the San Diego Rock and Roll ½ Marathon and already relaxing their tired legs in the hotel’s hot tub. As I walked across the deck two young women in bikinis lowered themselves into the bubbly water. I could tell I had unnerved them and followed up my comment with “Hi, did you run the marathon too?” They had.
After we all introduced ourselves we found out the girls were from Denver. Capitol Hill neighborhood to be exact. Small world.
I was there to say goodbye because the guy’s plans for the rest of the afternoon were completely different from mine. After their soak, the guys were heading back to their rooms for a badly needed post-race nap. They had started their day 4 a.m. so they would have enough time to stretch and walk the six blocks to the starting line before the race began at 6 a.m. Then they spent the next two hours running from downtown San Diego up to SeaWorld. They didn’t return to the hotel until 10 a.m. Now it was my turn to cover some ground, but I wouldn’t be running. I was going on a walking tour of Coronado, a small island across San Diego Bay.
From downtown, Coronado looked like an island. Especially as seen from the 17th floor of our hotel room window. The land mass that comprises Coronado was actually a peninsula separated from the mainland by San Diego Bay. Coronado joined the mainland by a thin strip of land down near the Mexican border. So as far as San Diegans were concerned, Coronado was an island. Also like an island, there were two ways to get there. One was a giant toll bridge on the south side of downtown, but the hassle-free way to get there was by ferry boat.
Two ferries transported passengers to Coronado; one near the Convention Center and a second one on the Broadway Pier, not far from our hotel. I headed that direction, about six or seven blocks. Walking south along the boardwalk I first passed the Star of India, just one of several ships that make up the Maritime Museum of San Diego. The Star is the world’s oldest active sailing ship with a volunteer crew still taking her out each November. It would have been nice to spend some time aboard, but not this trip. As I continued down the boardwalk on my left were kitschy table vendors with hats, t-shirts, scarves and children’s toys. Not much of interest to me, until I approached the last table. Covering it completely was row after row of brightly painted ceramic skulls, called Day of the Dead skulls, both creepy and beautiful at the same time. Like a hummingbird drawn to flowers I was immediately attracted. I slowed down as I passed the table. Organized by size, the table held the largest skulls in the back and the smallest of the small up front. The short young woman behind the table was too busy texting on her phone to notice my interest in her items. I must have one. Didn’t know what I would do with it, but I had to have one. However, my cash was limited and I still had ferry tickets to buy. The skulls could wait.
I kept walking until I reached the Broadway Pier where I purchased my round trip tickets, only $8.50. The time was 11:20 a.m. so I had 40 minutes before the ferry arrived and more importantly, I had a 10 dollar bill left over. I returned up the boardwalk toward the table of skulls. I planned on buying a small one and guessed they were about $5 each. Knowing that street venders expected some haggling, I did some more planning. If the skulls were $5 each, I would offer two skulls for $8. That sounded reasonable. When I approached the young woman, she stopped texting and stood up. Although the calendar said June, clouds hid the sun so the woman wore in a thick black hoodie and fingerless gloves. A bit much for the 65 degree weather, but those who lived at sea level seemed to me to be more thin skinned.
“How much are the small ones?” I asked.
“Three dollars each,” she replied. Well, that blew my haggling right outta the water.
“I’ll take two.” I traded my 10 dollar bill for two skulls and four ones. She kindly wrapped them in newspaper and put them in a small bag so I could get them home safely.
I still had a half hour before boarding so I walked back to the ferry dock, sat on a cement bench and opened my novel to pass the time. I was halfway through the third installment of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series and desperately wanted to know how it ended. Despite all the commotion of the people around me, tourists, walkers and joggers, biker riders, baby strollers and dogs, I was able to engross myself in the story. That was until I heard the strum of a guitar nearby. On my left an old black man played a guitar. He sang a Bob Marley classic, Three Little Birds, one of my favorite songs. I stopped reading to listen. He may have been old, but his voice was fluid and smooth. Lying curled up next to him on the cement bench was a dirty white dog, his head resting on his front paws. On the ground the man’s open guitar case sat patiently waiting for tips. I went back to my book.
Several minutes later the horn of the ferry boat caused me to look up from my book. I watched the boat slowly motor toward the dock, a few deck hands hanging on the sides getting ready to jump off. The man with the guitar began singing John Denver’s “Rocky Mountain High.” I laughed out loud because he was singing about my home state. His voice actually sounded a lot like John Denver’s, tenor pitch and soft. I also noticed that a queue had formed at the ferry boat entrance so I had better get up to make sure I would get a good seat. I grabbed a couple of the one dollar bills from my bag as I stood up. I walked over to the man and put the bills in his guitar case. His dog lifted his nose and then dropped it back down without opening his eyes. I got in line as the first returning passengers began exiting the dock. Some had bicycles and wore full cycle outfits. I imagined biking Coronado was great way for the locals to spend a Sunday morning.
Once all the return passengers were off, we were allowed on and I managed to grab a seaside seat near the front of the boat. The clouds above lightened up a bit and the sun attempted to appear between them, but the air was still cool. Once away from the dock, all of downtown spread out before me; tall buildings, tall ships and a tall bridge that carried cars from the mainland over the bay to Coronado. The city looked a dull grey blue. Then the boat turned to dock and Coronado before me was all green and tan; green water, green grass, tan buildings and tan beach sand. The boat ride only lasted 10 minutes.

***To find out what I did on Coronado, follow the link to my latest post for Drinking Made Easy featuring the Coronado Brewing Company.***
Maritime Museum of San Diego

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