West Coast Tour 2016 – Solana Beach, Part One

Timeline: October 8-14


San Clemente to Solana Beach

We departed Café Calypso and made the drive down to Solana Beach, an easy enough on a Saturday morning without much traffic, pulling up in front of the condo complex.  Marty met us outside, directing us into the parking garage where we off-loaded our gear and got our first glimpse at their new digs, a larger and more accommodating set up than the two bedrooms one bath apartment in Encinitas they had rented our last two visits to this area.

Sunset at the Condo

Sunset at the Condo

After a quick tour of the space, we (Kim, Marty, brother Taylor, Joanna, and Jerry) jumped in their Highlander and made way for San Diego.  Our original intent was to pick Jessica and Kris up at the airport, but we were a little late and their flight was early so we agreed they would just take Lyft to our meeting spot, Ballast Point Brewing.  Much like with Stone Brewing, this is an obligatory stop for us when in the San Diego area, their Sculpin IPA much beloved along with an excellent roster of other brews.

Those First Couple are the Best

Those First Couple of Beers are the Best

We ordered some snacks and a round or two to get us going, conversation flying fast and easy as it does when this group gets together.  One of the fun things about this location, on the edge of Little Italy and without shouting distance of the airport is how low the incoming flights are, as if you could stand on the roof with a long pole and scrape the bottom of the plane.

Coming in Low

We finished up and ready for some lunch, drove a short distance to a favorite fish joint, Bluewater Seafood Market and Grill.  This is a popular spot but one we’d not been to; you stand in line to order and our line snaked out the door, not as inconvenient as it might sound as it gave us time to strategize on how to maximize our dining choices.  Knowing we’d be eating later, Joanna and I ordered small, splitting a bowl of chowder and a swordfish taco.


The Line

When it comes to fish tacos, I’m a purist, born of my first contact with them in the early 1980’s when we would venture to San Felipe in Baja Mexico.  Then a sleepy little fishing village, the fish you ate was likely caught that day and didn’t need much to accompany it.  There a taco was small, 3-4 bites at the most, a fresh corn tortilla, lightly battered fish fried crisp, shredded cabbage and a judicious application of a light crema that enhanced the flavor of the fish without disguising it.  Our Bluewater taco took us back to San Felipe and made us think about how it has probably changed in the ensuing years.  We’ll have to get back down there and check it out.


Blue Water Seafood Market and Grill

After lunch we all crowded into the Highlander for the drive back to Solana Beach, where we dropped folks off and made a run to the market to buy supplies for the party we’d have later with friends of Jessica and Kris from their high school and college days.  It felt good to be a parent again, hosting a get-together for our kids, but one where we didn’t have to worry about them drinking as they’d all out consume us.

A Happy Jen

A Happy Jen

Soon enough folks started arriving and the fun started, so good to see these friends of your kids, having watched a few them grow from middle school into young adult hood, living vicariously through their triumphs and defeats.  We lit up the tiki bowl we’d purchased for Kim and Marty after our visit to Longitude in Oakland, consumed brats and large quantities of beer, wine, and other medicinal spirits.  It was a very good time.

The Bowl in Action

The Tiki Bowl in Action

Sunday dawned bright and clear and after a leisurely morning, Jessica, Kris, Joanna, Marty and I drove back into San Diego to meet up with Kris’ friend of many years, Joe, who is a helicopter pilot for the U.S. Navy.  He took us to the North Island Naval Air Station (Halsey Field) to show us around and give us some background on his job and life as a naval air officer.  We drove slowly around the northern perimeter of the station, gawking at an immense air craft carrier (either the USS Carl Vinson or the USS Theodore Roosevelt) berthed within shouting distance of us.  Marty and I were taking pictures from the car windows and as we passed a security post a guard yelled at us that picture taking was not allowed.

Berthed Carrier

Berthed Carrier

We parked in front of the building housing HSM-41, Joe’s unit, and after a brief tour, walked out to the flight line where we got our first glimpse of the Sikorsky MH-60R helicopters that Joe and his fellow officers use to train new pilots and aircrew for the Navy’s west coast squadrons in San Diego, Hawaii, and Japan.  It is when you are at ground level like this that you realize the immense scope, reach, and expense of the American military system.

The Flight Line

The Flight Line

Each one of these choppers costs the military nearly $43 million and there were close to twenty out on the tarmac.  And these are just the training ships so one might imagine what the overall cost of this helicopter program is for the entire navy.  Then add in that likely or not the marines, air force and army have equivalent programs.  Start to think about all of the types of weapons and systems used by the armed forces, the personnel to service them and support the troops, and don’t forget the troops themselves and it isn’t hard to see how we can get to a total Department of Defense Budget In 2015 of $598 billion, about 54% of the fiscal year 2015 U.S. discretionary budget.

in the Cockpit

In the Cockpit

That being said, sitting inside one those helicopters and checking out the mind boggling sophistication of the systems, including weapons, navigation, and flight, one can see that a benefit of the spending on our military is the technological advances its research brings to our personal lives.

Technology at Work

Technology at Work

We finished up on our base tour and returning to Solana Beach decided to make a quick detour to the REI in Encinitas to check out sunglasses for Joanna (her bicycling pair have been part of our stolen inventory) and when finished made a stop at The Confessional by Lost Abbey in Cardiff by the Sea for a beer or two.


The Confessional and East Coast Pizza

Of the many styles of beers I drink, and faithful readers of this blog will know that this is a lot of different types, Belgians are in my top five.  This brewery is part of the Pizza Port (Port Brewing) family and is a descendent of the first Belgian-style beer ever brewed at Pizza Port in 1997, a Dubbel Overhead Abbey Ale.  In 2005 they took over the former Stone Brewing facility in San Marcos when Stone moved to their new location in Escondido and soon thereafter the folks at Port began brewing aggressive San Diego / West Coast styles under the Port Brewing label, and a Belgian-inspired series carrying the “Lost Abbey” name came into being.


Inside the Confessional

This is a small outlet of the larger brewery, tucked into a strip mall on San Elijo Ave. bordered by several retail and food outlets including East Coast Pizza, where we would grab a couple of slices to go with our beers.  There is not better combination than excellent beer and pizza and that is what we enjoyed that afternoon, just enough food to allow us to drink a bit without it affecting our physical or mental abilities.

It also left us with enough of an appetite to venture out to dinner later, just up the road towards Encinitas on PCH to Las Olas, a Mexican restaurant Kim and Marty frequent and one we’ve been wanting to try.  The sand filled unpaved parking lot was crowded as we pulled in but fortunately we didn’t have to wait long to get a table.  Marty had a coupon good for a $5 dollar Cadillac Margarita, which he talked the waiter into applying to everyone at the table, a good start to what would be a good, but not great meal.


Las Olas

The food itself was passable, I had a Chili Relleno and Taco combination, but the first drink was no better than a regular margarita which is what we order in the next round.  And our service was slow and inconsistent, having to wait to order drink refills when they brought our food.  With a plethora of choices in Southern California for this type of food, exploring other options in this area might be our next order of business.

We were off to a good start in Solana Beach, enjoying the new spacious digs, spending quality time with Jessica and Kris, and looking forward to another day or so checking out the sights with Kim and Marty.  We’d drop the kids off at the airport the next day and see where the rest of the week would take us.

Happy Guy

A Happy Guy


Ballast Point Brewing: https://www.ballastpoint.com/

Bluewater: http://bluewaterseafoodsandiego.com/

North Island Naval Air Station: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naval_Air_Station_North_Island

HSM-41: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HSM-41

MH-60R: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sikorsky_SH-60_Seahawk#MH-60R

The Lost Abbey: http://lostabbey.com/

East Coast Pizza: https://www.yelp.com/biz/east-coast-pizza-cardiff

Las Olas: http://www.lasolasmex.com/


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