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Installment 2 of Eric D. Goodman’s series on Booking it Along the California Coast

Shade Hunter

A friend and fellow writer moved from Baltimore to Coronado about ten years ago. In the first couple years after his move, he used to send an email every few days with a weather report, just to rub it in. “In the 70s and sunny,” was the beginning of each email. It was the kind of weather report you could cut and paste eternally.

A few days in San Diego, and I’ve come to understand the truth to these reports. The weather is perfect in San Diego. A cool ocean breeze, sunny skies, and perfect 70 degree weather with drops to the 50s in the evening. The only danger to a guy like me is that the sun can be deceiving. After a sunscreened day poking around Cabrillo and Point Loma, I have a sunburn—my usual initiation to a California visit. The air is cool, the breeze comforting, and you don’t realize how hard the sun is coming down on your fair skin. From here on out, I’m a shade hunter. Even on the beach.

Expectations have a lot to do with how we take in a thing. Be it a book, a movie, or a location, high expectations often lead to disappointment and low expectations lead to ecstasy.

Cabrillo Monument at Point Loma may be the high point of San Diego, geographically speaking, but I expected it to be a hum-drum hour or so. The monument and visitors’ center themselves turn out to be what I expected—well worth a visit, but nothing to blow you away. But I didn’t see the rest of this coming. There’s a lighthouse. And a radio museum where an old military radio base was located during World War II. And lots of trails. A whale lookout point, with the bones of whales on display. Lots of great views from on high. And, perhaps the most pleasing, the rocky, cliffy beach and the tide pools.

The edge, where land meets water, seems to contain as many different landscapes as there are species in the tide pools. Pebble beaches. Sea rocks. Cliff edges into the waves. Caves in the cliff rocks. Sandy beaches. Even an area where the water- and wind-treated dirt has formed insect-like art reminiscent of the organic architecture of Anton Gaudi. (Or more likely Gaudi was inspired by such natural occurrences as this.) What I expect to be an hour excursion ends up taking the better part of the entire first day. A day well spent.

From Coronado to Oz
Still time to squeeze in a jaunt to Coronado. On the map, it’s physically located right next to Loma Point. But I was looking at the geography, not the road map. Turns out I have to drive nearly an hour in traffic to get to the winding Coronado Bridge. I curl over the massive bridge and search for food.

A packed day of sightseeing requires a hearty meal. I found one at the simply named “Mexican Take-Out” on Coronado. A taco, burrito, beans, rice, and a Mexican soda later, and I’m roaming the streets of Coronado by foot. I take in Hotel del Coronado, stroll along the “private” beach (privately owned, but accessible by anyone), and even take a slow tour of the impressive interior of the famous hotel. Pictures of Marilyn Monroe are displayed in a little museum area below, as well as letters from and photos of famous actors and politicians who patronized the establishment.

One such patron was L. Frank Baum, who lived on the island. After the hotel, I’m off to see the wizard … the wonderful Wizard of Oz House. It was in this simple, yellow home, surrounded by lush grass, waving trees, and a white picket fence, that Baum wrote several of his Oz books. It is now privately owned, but one can see through the window of the glassed-in porch a beautiful display of Oz paraphernalia.

Another famous house of the area is the Marston House, which is open for tours and has an immaculate yard and gardens. Yes, the Marston House is more lavish than the Oz House. But L. Frank Baum wrote several Oz books in his simple Coronado home, so it kind of evens them out on the tourist playing field.

By the day’s end, I’m ready for some food, beer, and conversation. My friends Anna and Boris, treat me to fresh sea trout and a local IPA from the Stone Brewery. It’s all good. Funny thing is, my friends have been in San Diego nearly a year and in my first day I’ve seen things they—as of yet—have not. Such is the privilege of a visitor.


Read the first Installment here

Read the third Installment here