My youngest grandson William sometimes gets lost in the raucous crowd of his fellow grandchildren. There are seven of them in toto, ranging from a second year college student all the way down to a rising fifth grader. They are a good bunch of kids who are all quite polite, bright and hard working. Mike and I decided some years back to give each of them a special vacation with us. Our journeys across America began with a trip to Boston and over time took us to San Francisco, Washington D.C., New York City, Seattle, Canada and a host of national parks, museums and art galleries. At long last it was William’s turn to choose a destination.
After briefly considering a drive along the Atlantic coast or a Florida excursion featuring Miami, he quite surprisingly settled on going to southern California, specifically to San Diego, and he wanted his sister Abby to accompany us. His determination overcame my own misgivings. In all of my years I had never thought of trekking to that city. I’d heard about it from my mom whose descriptions of the place came from a time when our country was embroiled in a world war. I thought of it mainly as a military town that just happens to be on the border of Mexico as well. I found little reason to desire seeing it and my only connection with it was a brief stop over on the tarmac of its airport which allowed me to view the harbor as we landed. I felt that my glimpse of the city was all that I needed and thought no more about this little jewel that is so often forgotten in the shadow of its California siblings like Los Angeles and San Francisco. When William insisted that this was his ultimate destination I concurred but wondered why it had been his choice.
We decided to take our travel trailer on the trip which necessitated a more extended time together than usual. It also allowed us to see the amazing sights along the way to San Diego. We enjoyed so many incredible places and activities as we slowly made our way west that I generally believed that our ultimate goal would be a letdown. I learned soon enough just how wrong I was.
San Diego is a beautiful city with a temperate climate even in the dog days of summer. Almost as soon as we had entered its boundaries we had left behind the soaring heat that had stalked us for days. Instead we were cooled by a constant breeze from the bay. The waters of the Pacific Ocean were an inviting, glimmering blue that shone in the sunlight like a blue topaz. The streets were clean and filled with smiling people who appeared to be participants in a permanent celebration of life. A huge gay pride festival gave way to Comic-Con while we were there. The skies were filled with colorful kites and laughter. The beaches were family friendly with little of the superficial sights of Malibu and enough warmth in the water for a day long love affair with the waves. I felt as though I had found a little paradise.
There are so many things to do in San Diego but William chose the leisurely route. He wanted to tour the U.S.S. Midway and took hours experiencing its many features. Afterwards his only desire was to enjoy a picnic at one of the city’s many parks and to drive along its scenic highways. Along the way we caught a glimpse of the downtown area and smiled at the fans making their way to a Padres game. We cooled our heels in the evening at our campground on Santee Lake, a lovely spot where we felt quite relaxed and happy.
Our premiere enjoyment came from a day at the beach. We had hope to go to La Jolla but our efforts were thwarted by the huge crowds and lack of parking spaces. Instead we discovered Torrey Pines State Park where we rented boogie boards and prepared for the sun with gallons of sunscreen. Mike built an enclosure with a tarp and we spent the rest of that glorious time dancing in the water, walking along the shoreline and watching the birds and the people who had joined us. Somehow our food tasted magically more delicious than usual and our smiles seemed permanently tattooed to our faces. We only grudgingly left when the sun grew dim. We wondered how the hours had ticked by so quickly. We laughed and excitedly talked over one another as we made our way back to our trailer. I knew that the beach had been a hit with William when he struggled to decide whether he had most enjoyed his romp in the ocean or his time in the land of Harry Potter at Universal City.
We decided to forgo a visit to the famous San Diego Zoo when we learned that over a third of the famous landmark is presently under construction and that the entrance fee would be about fifty dollars each. Commentaries from people who had been there warned us that the crowds were brutal and many of the animals spent most of their time sleeping, sometimes in hidden areas. The complaints were so frequent that William declared that he wanted to spend more of his remaining time outside in the invigorating ocean that so inspired and energized us.
We drove to the island of Coronado and explored its beaches and streets filled with quaint homes. We rode a boat into the harbor and marveled at the ships and the San Diego skyline as helicopters and planes flew overhead. We purchased a kite that featured a many colored parrot whose wings flew high above us in the gentle wind. Somehow we all knew that we would always remember that simple moment with the kite soaring aloft under William’s able guidance. Everything around us was perfection. The sky was a brilliant blue devoid of the pollution that had enveloped us in Los Angeles. The air caressed our skin unlike the harsh heat that had seemed to follow us all the way from Texas. The city and the ocean provided a gorgeous backdrop to the fluttering object that seemed as heaven bound as our own spirits. Nothing might have been more perfect and I found myself feeling especially grateful to William for having the foresight to choose San Diego for our once in a lifetime vacation together.
It was with great reluctance that we left San Diego. We all agreed that if we were ever to move to California we would want to live in that wonderful city. All of my preconceived notions about the place were laid to rest. It might possibly be the best of all the wondrous cities in this picturesque state and I plan to return again one day and maybe even bring William with me when I do.