Hey y’all! What an INSANE two weeks it’s been! I’ve been meaning to write out this blog for just over a week, but holy smokes does life have me hanging by the tips of my fingers! So! To give you an update on the latest and greatest in my life, I actually took a vacation for the first time in two years about two weeks ago! I had it in the planning stages for quite some time and it actually came to be. Honestly, I’m surprised that I pulled it off. Instead of going to my usual haunts, being Phoenix and/or Las Vegas, I decided to spice things up and hit up the greater San Diego area and spend some time at the beach. Aside from about 30 minutes in December of 1997 in the Miami area, and about another 45 minutes in the Torrance, California area sometime around 2012ish, I hadn’t spent any time at any beach since my high school band trip to the island of Oahu, Hawaii in 1996. I was long overdue! I tried to go to San Diego sometime around suicide time in 2011, but I chickened out for some stupid reason. I really can’t remember why, honestly, but it’s been on my mind to go since then. Of course, the heart wants what the heart wants, so I’d always make my way to my two favorite cities and I’d put the beach on the backburner. Well, during the MLB playoffs last year when they released the schedule for what is now this year, I decided to pull the trigger and finally make that San Diego trip a reality. I had already skipped seeing my favorite MLB team, the Arizona Diamondbacks, that season and I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to go to a game this season, and I also wanted to go to one of the other NL West team’s stadiums (well, not Dodger Stadium because 1: I HATE the Dodgers. And 2: They don’t take kindly to other team’s fans and I don’t want to risk my life or end up being disabled because of those moron fans of theirs). My choices were really down to two. AT&T Park in San Francisco, or Petco Park in San Diego. Both of those stadiums look beautiful on TV, and the fact that I also wanted to spend time at a beach or two really made my choice clear. San Diego it would be. I got my time off scheduled and started to set the wheels in motion to plan out a rough idea of things then.
While committing to going on this trip of mine, I also wanted to make it a point to try and see more of the area than just San Diego, and thankfully hotel prices dictated that I found a pretty well priced motel in Oceanside to stay at. I thought about how cool that would be because my dad was stationed at Camp Pendleton there in Oceanside when he was in the Navy and was actually there while my mom stayed behind back home in El Paso when I was born. I know bits and pieces of the story of the day of my birth because my pop and his buddies bought a keg and took it to one of the beaches to honor John Lennon, who was murdered the night before I showed up, and to of course celebrate me being born. I can just imagine how wild that party on the beach must have been. LOL!
Well, after setting everything in motion, booking the room, and later on in February buying my seat for the baseball game I was going to attend, the time finally came for me to head on out. Man, I was so excited! This is a strange thing for me to be excited about new things too, mind you, because as I’ve grown older I’m finding myself not wanting to really do new things. I know that sounds stupid, but I like having a set routine. Not only set routine, but if I do go out somewhere, I like to escape to the places I already know and love. I like to go camping where I like to go camping. Why go to another spot when I’ve already found a perfect area? Same thing with going out of town. Why deal with anywhere east of about central Texas? It’s too damn humid and I HATE humidity, so that pretty much cancels out a lot of places. AND add to that that I already love Phoenix and Las Vegas, so why change that up? Anyway, I digress, after a few stops along the way in the city, I made my way out to my first stop for the night, which was a small, middle of nowhere place called Eloy, AZ. No offense to those who live or work in the area, but there’s really nothing out there. The reason I stopped there, however, was because Eloy is where I-8 starts out from I-10 and I-8 takes you right into San Diego. The drive getting out to Eloy from here was more fun than I thought it would be. An INSANE storm system was passing through pretty much the entire southern portion of New Mexico and I ran right into it. It was awesome to put my RainX application skills to the test because I had no problem seeing through the storm! What sucked, however, was that the conditions of the roads in New Mexico caused me to damage my driver’s side front tire. That would come back to haunt me later. I stopped in Eloy and checked into my motel for the night and inspected my tire and deduced that I had probably gotten an impact break in the interior of the tire because it felt out of balance. I thought as long as it didn’t get too bad, I’d be ok, so I got into my room for the night and wound down. The next morning was going to bring me to Oceanside and the beach, so I only slept 6 hours before I was awake and ready to go again. I couldn’t wait to get going, so I fueled up my truck and made my way down I-8. I must say, if you’ve never made that drive from Eloy into California from I-8, it is quite an interesting drive! It might be the desert rat in me, but I loved the scenery around me! There were a lot of farms and dairies that I wouldn’t think would be able to survive in the middle of the desert, but there they were! It was so cool to see life happening in small batches at a time. Once I made it to Yuma, things got really cool! Yuma is a border city, much like El Paso is, where three states and two countries meet. Hearing Google Maps tell me “Welcome to California!” once I passed the border made things seem a bit more real knowing that I would be in Oceanside in a matter of hours. Something I didn’t expect to see, however, were the awesome dunes just across the border into California. Such a strange and bizarre gathering of sands. I was fixated on them, actually! Wondering why they formed in that specific area. Then after passing those, I realized that the freeway was riding along the border of Mexico. It was so cool to see a different part of Mexico than what I get to see here, which is Ciudad Juarez on my everyday drives. The other thing that had me surprised was the weather in the area. I stopped at a rest stop to stretch my legs a bit and grab a drink and was kinda amazed to find that it was about 100 degrees outside and very humid. I wasn’t expecting that at all! I kept going and found the road every changing from that point on. I kept climbing and dropping thousands of feet in elevation going from at one point sea level, all the way up to 5,000 feet and back down again to 2-3,000 feet, all while going through mountains, sides of mountains, and Indian reservations, forest-like areas, and back into desert rocky landscapes. It was very beautiful and awesome.
Finally, after climbing one last time to 5,000 feet, I made the decent down to El Cajon. Now, this is where my love for NASCAR kicked in. For those who don’t know, 7-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson was raised in El Cajon. I had always wondered what kind of a city it was and I was going to see it. In a surprise to me, it was kind of a mountain town. Totally different than what I had imagined. Very cool though to know and to think about the whole time I passed through the city that Jimmie had grown up there. I went from El Cajon, into Santee, Escondido, San Marcos, then right into Vista. Vista is another place that is special to my heart. Vista is where I lived for at least a few months after I was born. Dad hasn’t talked about it much, only because I haven’t really asked him, but I felt like I had to take in all that I was seeing knowing that it was my home at one point in my life, even if it was only for a very brief moment. I kept wondering if dad would recognize any of it since he hasn’t been there in about 30 years. What were the streets like? What buildings used to be where new ones stand now? I was fascinated by it all. Before I knew it, however, Google was barking at me to make sure I’d take the next exit to Harbor Drive because I was 5 minutes from my destination. I was excited! I was able to see an entrance gate to Camp Pendleton and wondered how many times dad went through there, then turned right onto N Coast Highway. I was there, and it was there that I could finally get my first glimpse of the beach. It was so awesome to see waves coming in, and to feel the energy of the people there on the beach. I quickly checked into my motel, dragged all my stuff up to the room and changed into my beach clothing. It was only a 10 minute walk to the beach from where I was staying and I was expecting madness because the front desk clerk told me that the beach was going to be crazy because of a very large women’s surfing competition starting that day. How cool was that, right?! Totally what I would have expected! Hahaha! As long as I found a spot to lay my bag of stuff, that’s all I needed.
After the 10 minute walk where I must have been looking around everywhere like some sort of thief, I made my way onto Oceanside Strand Beach. Man, it was so cool to hear the people, hear the ocean, and know that I was going to be a part of that. Turns out, as well, that the surfing competition was happening on the other side of the Oceanside Pier, so the side closer to me was all open to the public. I wasted no time, set my things down, took some pictures and video, and then walked right into the waves crashing onto the beach. I don’t think such a feeling of accomplishment has been felt by me like that in a long time. Well, actually, I can tell you when. Searchlight Needles recording our live album gave me that sense of accomplishment. LOL! But it felt like it was longer than a year and a few months ago! Anyway, it was awesome to know that I was finally in the ocean water again, getting beat up by the waves.
Let me tell you this. I had a moment with God while there in the water. I felt his presence, actually, is a better way to put it. These waves that didn’t seem so tough or anything, were throwing me around back towards the beach, but 10 feet at a time away from my spot. I know, the atheists in the crowd are going to bust my balls over this, but each time I had to reset myself to be straight ahead of my bag after getting thrown by the waves, I thought about how awesome our Lord really is. How powerful is He to create the ocean tides, the movement of the water, the creatures in the sea, everything! How awesome is He to create that? I just had to smile and thank Him for allowing me to experience that moment.
I spent two hours at the beach before the need for nourishment took precedence over enjoying the beach. I hadn’t eaten since my customary meal at Whataburger back home the afternoon before, and it was already 6pm my time, so I made my way back to my room to shower back up and change into street clothes. The city was bustling with traffic and people were just making their way to the beach. It was so cool to see humanity in action. After getting myself ready, I made my way back to the pier area to hit up a restaurant I had already investigated to go visit. I was not disappointed. The bar was a double sided bar with one side in the restaurant and the other out towards the open air and a view of the ocean. Of course I sat facing the ocean and enjoyed a meal and some beers and took in a beautiful sunset. I walked the entire length of the pier afterwards after sunset and found that at least a handful of people were into the night swimming action. That was kinda crazy to me, but more power to them!
The next morning, I was up bright and early to hit up the beach again where I found that there were at least a few people like me who were early birds. Some were surfing, while a handful of us were just swimming around in the water. It was a very cool mix. I spent about two hours there before I made my way back to the motel to shower up again and get ready for my drive down to San Diego for that afternoon’s baseball game.
That hour’s drive from Oceanside to San Diego made me realize things. People in California are COMPLETELY INSANE drivers. The motorcyclists out there do not give a DAMN about rules. They ride the white lines in between traffic, and nobody obeys the speed limit. At all. People either go about 10-15 below it, or 10-30 miles over it. I was questioning the logic behind Stone Cold Steve Austin and some other drivers I’ve heard who have claimed that El Paso drivers are the worst. Hell no. We may have an overabundance of jerk slow drivers in the left lane, but aside from that we are pretty consistent at driving either at 4 miles over, or way the hell over the speed limit. OH! And another thing. What the hell, California drivers?! Would it kill y’all to use your turn signals?!?! 9 out of 10 of them don’t. Dangerous, dangerous drivers over there! Lastly, please, people. For the love of God. PLEASE do not call turn signals “blinkers.” Hearing or reading that term is like nails to a chalkboard to me. Hahaha!
Anyway! I made it to San Diego and found the I-5 freeway leading into the city to be one of the most beautiful drives in a major city I’ve done. It was filled with twists and turns and elevation changes that showed and hid different elements of the surrounding area and it was pretty cool to experience. The only thing that was concerning, however, was the area around Petco Park. I don’t want to come across as judgmental, harsh, rude, etc, but the city doesn’t show it’s best side around that area. It was littered with filth, smelled of old urine everywhere, and aside from a few buildings, it looked run down everywhere. There was a large homeless people congregation around as well, and God bless them, but it’s not a pretty picture to paint for a first time visitor to experience on their trip. I never felt unsafe, though, or maybe it was my firm belief in God and His will, but it sure was a bummer seeing all of that.
So, the game and the stadium itself was a big time treat! Dare I say, that Petco Park was a prettier stadium than Chase Field. EEEK! Can I say that?! I think I just did! Chase Field just feels ordinary, if that makes any sense. Maybe it’s because with the Arizona heat, it’s hard to have a game with the roof and the panels open, but it just feels like you’re in a giant box of a stadium most of the times I’ve gone there. Still awesome, though, as it’s the home stadium for me, but seeing the bit of Petco Park that I saw, I felt like it was something kinda beautiful. The lawn behind the outfield was pretty awesome, as was the statue for Mr. Padre AKA Tony Gwynn (R.I.P.), and the stadium itself felt pretty unique. I thought I wouldn’t like looking into a portion of the cityscape from my seat, but I was wrong. I thought it was pretty awesome to see that too. The game was awesome, we won by the way, and I made my drive back to Oceanside that night happy that I experienced what I did.
The next morning started dark and early at 5am as that’s the time I thought I should wake up to have enough time to get dressed in my dress attire, pack a bag for the beach, and drive back to San Diego for Mass then a visit to Mission Beach. Google wasn’t wrong. I left the motel about 6:10 and made it to St. Anne’s Catholic Church with the perfect amount of time to go to confession, do penance, read the readings for the day, and fully participate in that morning’s Low Mass at 7:30. It was the 3rd FSSP apostolate I’ve attended after my home parish Immaculate Conception, and Mater Misericordiae Mission in downtown Phoenix. St. Anne’s was just as beautiful as Mater Misericordiae in Phoenix. The altar and sanctuary were beautiful, and the ceiling was beautifully done as well. After Mass, I made the 15 minute drive to Mission Beach hoping to experience the same nice experience as Oceanside, but I found Mission Beach to be too crowded and the beach itself to have a different texture of sand that I just didn’t care for as much. I don’t want to hate on it too much or anything, but I was just kind of unimpressed with it all. I tried to make the best of it and walked around the shops and restaurants that were built as tourist traps and even went into the one big restaurant to try and have a beer and some food. After getting my first round, I seemed to have been ignored, which I found to be kinda odd. You’d think a solo traveler wouldn’t cause too much trouble and wouldn’t be such a bother to either get another beer, or possibly order food right? Wrong. I was pretty much ignored. That sucked. On the bright side, having a clear shot towards the beach from the space I was sitting at at the bar was pretty nice.
Overall, my impression of San Diego isn’t a good one anymore. The experience around the baseball stadium and the bad service I got at the restaurant at Mission Beach left me wanting to get back to Oceanside as soon as I could. The shops were better there, the people were friendlier, and the place was a lot nicer.
After an hour and thirteen minute drive back to Oceanside, I made my way back to the Oceanside Strand Beach and spent another 2 hours there and really took in the experience knowing that it would be my last chance to be at the beach for my trip. It was crowded, as it was a Sunday, but even then, I was able to find a spot to put my stuff and got back in the water. The surf wasn’t as strong that day, but it was still awesome to be able to get slightly thrown around and enjoy the time I had there.
After freshening up again, I walked back near the pier to go back to the restaurant/bar I was at on Friday night. Before making it there, however, I wanted to really solidify a new thing that I’ve started which is getting a magnet from the places and/or cities I’ve visited. So far, I’ve gotten one from the Utah Olympic Park, Grand Canyon, a few from Las Vegas, and now Petco Park, Mission Beach, and two from Oceanside. I was pretty stoked to have scored a second Oceanside magnet just for buying one. That was pretty cool of the gift shop I went into to give me. The afternoon into night was as awesome as I thought it would be and I called it a night pretty early that night.
The next morning brought my trip to Las Vegas. I was pretty excited to make that drive too, because it was going to be my first time to drive north into Las Vegas. I’ve driven south into town and also west into town, but this was going to be a treat to see parts of California I hadn’t seen before. The drive didn’t disappoint. Right off the bat, I got to see the naval hospital in Oceanside that looked really new, so immediately I thought my old man would have liked to see it, then after hugging the coast for a while and really enjoying that scenery, I made my way into San Clemente and near Dana Point. As a former hardcore Jim Rome Clone (hey, I’m still a Clone, just not as hardcore about it because I can’t stream it at work), it was awesome to pass Dana Point which is right next to San Clemente too! 30 pieces of Silver!!!! Right after San Clemente/Dana Point, I got into San Juan Capistrano which I had heard of thanks to the Rome show, saw signs for Laguna Beach, Laguna Hills, and Mission Viejo, all of which I had heard of for one reason or another too! Actually driving through them was pretty awesome! The freeway took me into Irvine, and just at the outskirts of Orange, Tustin, and Anaheim, so that was awesome too! After a crazy climb through mountains, the highway lead me down to Corona… another jungle town that I had heard of, then I got into Chino, Ontario, Rancho Cucamonga (where most of the film Next Friday takes place! LOL!), Fontana (Hi Natalie!!! I wish I would have had the time to stop and meet up!), then a crazy climb into Cajon Junction (another gorgeous part of the drive), then into Victorville and Barstow. The whole reason I mention these names in detail is because I think it was so awesome to drive through these cities I was only familiar with the names of. Now I got memories to match up with those names. Nothing particularly special about any of them more than any other city, but it was just awesome to drive through them and see them. After brushing up against Death Valley and being able to see just how hot it was outside, at about 115 degrees midday as I was driving through, I made my way out of California and into Nevada. It’s kinda cool seeing the large hotels in Primm from a distance and knowing that those are right on the Nevada border, by the way.
After making it into Vegas, things had gotten pretty crazy with my tire that I mentioned about 4,000 words ago. By this point, what started out as a small vibration had turned into a full blown fight with my steering wheel to keep the truck driving straight. I knew something was wrong, but I didn’t make the time to get it looked at. There was a place in Oceanside that I was going to go to to get the spare tire put on when I made it back from San Diego on Sunday, but they were closed on Sundays, which I found odd for California not being a blue law state, so I was going to do it probably on my way out of Vegas.
I made it to the hotel with good time, and after putting all the stuff I brought with me to the room, I set a place to meet up with some dear friends of mine who live out there. I met up with them at my favorite bar in town and we had a great time catching up. I gotta say I’m blessed to have such great friends in my life. They made my day!!! After my homegirl and I took a look at my dying tire, we noticed that the thing was cording, so I knew that it wasn’t going to last the drive back home. There was a mom n’ pop tire joint right next door, but for some reason God was telling me to just hold back on it. I made my way onto the strip after my visit with my friends was over and enjoyed my walk up and down the strip. I couldn’t believe it, but after it was all said and done, I walked for about 7 hours with only one break to grab a bite to eat at Gordon Ramsay Burger and another quick snack at Hooters on the south end of the strip. Let me tell you, Gordon Ramsey Burger was delicious, but I found it odd that you had to order your fries separately. I didn’t because I assumed that the fries came with the burger, but oh well. I should have skipped the fries anyway! Hahaha! Fast forward to 2am. I made my way back to my hotel and enjoyed some music time while I watched life on the strip happen outside my window. It was so cool to just watch life happen. Granted, I couldn’t move anyway considering that my feet were dead by that point, but it was something I was planning on doing anyway. My one night in Vegas ended with me happy that I made the extra trip out of the way to get there. I got to spend time with friends whom I love dearly, got to walk the strip, eat at a new place for me, and ended it peacefully in my room.
The next morning was going to bring a quick trip to Bass Pro Shops because it’s probably my favorite store to visit in any location there is one. I love to check out the uniqueness of each location, and I like to browse the camping gear imagining ways I could use them for my own camping adventures. Same thing with the boats. Man, if I could get a 26 foot pontoon boat, I’d be set!
So, all the while, I’m concerned with my tire again because even running cold the stupid thing was just a mess. I knew I had to stop and change out the thing for a spare, but it was just a matter of the location I was going to get it done at. Well, at this point, God stepped in and told me where this was going to go down. I was in Boulder City, Nevada. I thought, even though I hadn’t heard any news by then, that the Boulder City Bypass was going to be opened as it was supposed to be opened by the end of July. It was August 1st, so it should have been done by then. Wrong! I was forced to go back up onto US-93 and I was initially bummed out that I wouldn’t get to experience the bypass for the first time, but that disappointment turned into a quick “YES! THANK YOU JESUS!” moment for me as there was a relatively new firestone location off of Us-93 that I had not noticed on my very frequent drive through the town. I thought about it for a quick second then made the U-turn to the store. It’s a great thing that I did because after explaining that I just needed my spare tire mounted in place of my dead tire, it turns out that at some point within the past 3 or so years since I had to replace my tire wench, it along with my spare tire were stolen. Can you believe that?! I had no spare tire! Now, at this point, I’m sure anybody would be pissed off at the situation I was made aware of. Oddly, I wasn’t. The Christian in me immediately thought that somebody in need for one reason or another stole my spare and wench. They needed it more than I did at the time. God didn’t let me go into harm’s way though, because I stopped where I did. Two hours and a lot of laughs with the guys at the shop later, I was on my way. It was 4:23pm pacific time. I was feeling relatively ok, so I thought there may have been a chance that I could make it straight home without having to stop and sleep at a rest stop along the way. I don’t know why I thought this, to be honest, because every time I’m driving back and once I get into New Mexico, I start to get extremely sleepy. My brain, at that point, knows that I’m close to home so there’s no reason to be fully alert. Google Maps told me I’d be home at 4am if I drove straight, so I was a little concerned that I wouldn’t make it because that would beat the previous record for the latest arrival from Vegas on a non-family trip by an hour. Confidence was high! I experienced beautiful driving having no tire issues anymore and before I knew it, I was driving through Phoenix by 9pm that night. I was in full on driving mode by that point. I wasn’t hungry, I was awake, and my goal was to get home. I thought about stopping in Casa Grande for fuel and a quick necessity break which I got around 10pm and decided to push through. I was awake, I got another round of Dr Pepper loaded up, and I went on my way. Tucson came quickly and the boring part of the drive happened then. Thankfully I did this at night because aside from the little scenery through Texas Canyon, then Willcox, there is really nothing out to see after the 30th time driving through it. I thought if anything, if I went downhill quickly, I could stop in Texas Canyon or Willcox, but that didn’t happen at all. I had Google Maps running to share my drive and it adjusted by saying I’d make it home by 3:45am. Sure enough, that’s the time I pulled into the parking lot at my apartment complex safe and sound. I made the insane journey from Boulder City, Nevada to El Paso, Texas in about 10.5 hours with only one pit stop. I felt pretty badass. I crashed out very soon after that and dealt with the drive hangover the rest of the day.
So, there it is. A trip report of my first real vacation in over two years. It was a blast. I cannot wait to get back to Oceanside again. Or maybe visit San Juan Capistrano and Dana Point instead and see what those towns have to offer. Point is, I can’t wait to do it again. And now I’m back to my normal routine living out life in just-the-right-speed-for-me El Paso. Livin’ my crazy life!
Until next time, my friends!