above: the Louis Bank of Commerce building, constructed in 1888.
After Phoenix, we stopped for a few days in Yuma before heading into California. Yuma was just a stop over since it was too far (for us) to drive from Phoenix to San Diego in one day. I can see why Yuma is such a gathering place for snowbirds since the temperatures were wonderful, but the area is pretty industrial and not very attractive. If you want to stay in Yuma for the winter season, definitely choose a nice resort that has a lot of amenities (or out in the desert away from the city). We enjoyed the hot tub and pool at our resort but other than Los Algodones, Mexico, there isn’t too much else to see as tourists in Yuma, from what we’ve heard.
After Yuma, we finally bid a sad farewell to Arizona (our home for almost two months) and headed off to California. San Diego is our first of many stops in CA as we plan to head up the coast. We stayed 30 minutes north of the city at the Santee Lakes Recreational Preserve, a nice county park. I think poor Opie’s brain was close to implosion after a week of seeing so many ducks and not being able to chase them more than the length of his leash!
Unfortunately (for us, but fortunately for the city of San Diego), it rained constantly for about three days while we were there but we were still able to see some fun stuff during the sunny days. San Diego is known for its dog friendly beaches, so we had to experience at least one of them. We took a day and went to Fiesta Island by Mission Bay. The entire island is off leash for pets, but they also have a fenced-in dog park encompassing acres of land and a huge beach area. Needless to say, Opie was very very pleased with that. The water was calm and easy to swim, and when he got tired of chasing the ball into the water, we’d move to the grassy areas to play. Even Max enjoyed wading into the water although it did take him at least a dozen attempts of licking the water to realize that the salt water would not improve in taste. Max, he’s our sweetest dog, just not the sharpest. We were surprised that even during the week, there were a fair number of dogs/owners roaming around on the island. With tired, wet, sandy dogs in the car, we declared Fiesta Island to be a successful outing.
On the recommendation of some friends, we went to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park which is different from the San Diego Zoo. The Safari Park is well outside the city and sits on 1,800 acres of land, giving it a much nicer feel than an urban zoo with animals in small enclosures. It houses a lot of endangered species and also works on conservation and education. The climate in the area is pretty arid so many African and desert animals are on display here. They have a large African tram tour that takes you through the open savannah where you can see gazelles, giraffe, rhinos, stags, etc. The park has one of five remaining white rhinoceros left in the world (they are considered extinct in the wild).
We also saw some magnificent tigers, a herd of elephants with a 1.5 year old baby, sleepy lions, and some pretty ugly condors. It is a huge park full of various animals and exhibits. One of the coolest parts are the volunteers here. Most are located near animal enclosures and enthusiastically engage in conversation regarding the animals and their habits. We had a wonderful 20-minute discussion with the woman by the elephants and she told us some fabulous stories which made the whole experience captivating.
We did make it into San Diego proper too. We did a self-tour of the historic Gas Lamp Quarter and ambled through admiring the architecture. We were amazed at the variety and number of restaurants in this area. If we stayed in San Diego longer, we would have to try them out but since we had a limited time, we decided to head to Hodad’s (multiple friends recommended it) for their burgers and shakes. The burgers were good (huge portions) but their chocolate malt completely made our day! Lots of malt with a scoop of chocolate ice cream on top. I think that would have been a meal enough without the burgers!
Last on our list to visit was the USS Midway Museum, the longest serving aircraft carrier from 1945 to 1992. When I first saw the Midway from the ground, it took my breath away due to the size. Once we started walking around inside the carrier, I realized that even though it’s huge, with so many on board it would get awfully crowded awfully fast. As part of the admission price, you get an audio tour which helps explain the various rooms and equipment, plus you get a first-hand account from sailors and engineers who were part of the ship. The aircraft carrier is so immense with so much information that we were only able to adequately cover half of the ship in the 3 hours we were there. It is a fascinating museum full of information, I wish we had had a full day to see all of it.
We even made new friends in San Diego: a couple who are interested in the same RV as the one we have wanted to visit, get a glimpse of the inside, and chat about being on the road. They want to use an RV more for book tours and seminars (she’s an author) but they seemed really excited at the possibility of driving around the country instead of hotel hopping. I hope they do end up getting an RV, maybe we’ll see them on the road in the future. Making new friends is tough for us, so we always look forward to the opportunities to meet new people and hopefully run into them again.
There are so many more things to see and do here, we’ll have to add it to our list to visit again in the future!