Bryce, Keil, Doug & Greg's San Diego Trip
September 2001

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Since Bryce's plan is to leave for the mission field in May next year I thought it would be great if we could spend some time together.  He'd never been on a commercial airline before and fares are low so a flying expedition seemed like a good idea.  In addition I knew that Bryce's best friend Keil Krieg had never been on a plane either, so along with Keil's Dad, Doug, we all decided to head off for fun in San Diego....

On Friday September 21st Doug drove us to Park and Travel (shuttle place) near Sky Harbor where we got to park in the Honeywell Corporate spaces right up front (since Doug's a hot-shot Buyer at Honeywell, or something like that).  The shuttle driver apparently wasn't too impressed with our status since he didn't show up for several minutes.... maybe he knew Doug from a previous trip.

We didn't know what to expect in terms of airport security since the World Trade Center (WTC) tragedy had occurred only 2 weeks prior.  It turned out the lines were pretty long at the x-ray checkpoint, but we got through within about 10 minutes.  We had a bit of a wait so Bryce and Keil headed off with a wheelchair  they'd found  - one pushing while the other drooled and acted like an invalid.  I thought they'd miss the flight but they got back in time  .   Our next door neighbor Patti McCraw works at Southwest and had set aside some boarding passes for us so that we were able to board with the first group - really nice of her.  Our 9:35am flight was only about half full and Bryce and Keil were able to get window seats up close to the front on the right side, with Doug and I sitting next to them on the aisle.  They said they liked the thrust taking off and they seemed to get a kick out of identifying landmarks on the ground.  Bryce was able to see our house.

We landed in San Diego and boy was the weather nice.  As we walked across the pedestrian overpass to the shuttles we all commented on how cool it was - about 65 degrees I think.  Quite a change since Mesa was supposed to be about 105 that day.  We caught the Avis shuttle and soon were on our way in a green Chevy Lumina 4 door with a cigarette burn in the seat and a 'smudge' on the right front corner.  The lot attendant was unconcerned with both and the boys thought we were weird for pointing out such small damages....  It wasn't until we got about 2 miles down the road that I noticed the tank wasn't full... oh well, I'd figure out what to do later....

We drove along next to the boats hoping to glimpse a Destroyer or something - we did see a couple of flat tops across the bay on Catalina Island.  We drove past the Star of India sailing ship on display , but opted to continue our boat search.  We drove down to the shipyards and saw a huge boat being built and some other smaller ones.  Then we drove over the bridge to Catalina Island and talked about the suicide prevention signs at the top of the bridge - and the boys told me I was driving too slow and blocking traffic.  Doug wanted to see the famous hotel on Catalina that I can't remember the name of.... pretty famous though, and Doug was glad to see it was still there.  We also ogled a few houses and the boys ogled a few girls.  We walked out on the beach right next to the airstrip .  The waves were crashing right onto the sand and the boys spotted a sea lion body surfing - and I found an old frisbee in the sand, which I of course brought home, much to the boy's amazement.

We headed over to Balboa Park to see where the Zoo entrance (for the next day's trip) was and to check out some museums which the boys said they'd like to see.  We spotted the museums and then remembered we were hungry so we set off to find food, finally deciding to eat at a Chinese fast food place (Bryce's choice) in a mall where the guys working there had really long fingernails.  The food was good and we headed back to Balboa Park.  Keil wanted to hit the Natural History Museum, which we did.  Unfortunately they only had one floor open due to upgrading stuff so we covered that place pretty quick.  We then headed next door to the Rueben H. Fleet Science Center . There we watched a great Imax movie on Cave exploration, after we queried the usher and found the best seats in the theatre.  They had a lot of great exhibits, one was a falling stick deal where you'd test your grasping reflex to see how quickly you could grab a yardstick once it started to fall.  Keil and Bryce tied time-wise, leaving Doug and I in the dust.  We also sat at a table with a couple of the Staff and tried to figure out mind games like getting the chicken, grain, and fox from one side of the river to the other... also some popsicle stick brain drainers on moving two sticks to make 3 squares and stuff like that.  Keil & Bryce figured those out pretty quick.  Bryce and I figured out how to get untangled from a rope wrapped around our wrists that was threaded through the other guy's rope.  Complicated to explain - you'll just have to go there and try it out.  We had a good time.

We had thought about going to a San Diego Padres baseball game but the boys decided they were pretty tired and would rather walk around in Horton Plaza Mall, so we headed over there.  I've never seen so many kids with tattoos and ear rings in my life.  We stopped at a shop where Keil enjoyed having his feet massaged by a vibrating footstool and he and Bryce jockeyed for ownership of a recliner that massaged just about everything else.  That shop was pretty fun.  Then we got something to eat.  I think Bryce had some more chinese food at the Panda's place, Keil got the same thing and walked out without paying, which got the gal working there pretty excited...  She was his friend again after he came back in and paid.  Doug had a steak sandwich and I had a cup of Fries from Super Fries.  We were all pretty beat by then, but stopped at Sam Goody's record store on the way to the car, where we saw even weirder looking people.  This place put Wal Mart to shame.  We drove to our hotel up North on Lusk and Mira Mesa Boulevard East off 805 - the Wyndham.  Bryce got a kick out of the rooms since he thought they were pretty nice.  They were a lot better than the rooms he's been to - like the Magic Carpet Motel across from Disneyland where we've stayed as a family before.  Even though we were tired, within an hour the boys were off walking and looking for girls.  I hung out in Doug's room (410) for a while and then called it a night about 9pm, went to my room (330) and read some in the new National Geographic I'd brought.. and fell asleep.  Bryce came in about 9:30 announcing there was nothing worth looking at and he hit the sack as well.  Nice pillows.

My eyes popped open at 4:45 on Saturday morning so I decided to head out and do some exploring before the rest of the crew got going.  I knew the morning's agenda was casual and up to the boys, so I figured they wouldn't be ready to go till at least 9.  After showering and dressing I wrote Bryce a note, then woke him up at 5:20 just in case he wanted to go with me.  He was still pretty tired so I headed downstairs and took a picture of the hotel in the morning fog that didn't turn out too well - the sun still wouldn't be up for another hour, so I was looking forward to exploring the Scripps pier and Birch Museum area without much traffic.  Pretty thick fog, with visibility at only about a block or so.  I drove to Scripps, where I took a picture of the pier .  I talked to some guy at the pier entrance who said it was a scientific pier and not open to the public - bummer. So I took a couple more pictures and then sat on a bench looking over the beach.  Watched some surf fisherman chasing gulls who kept stealing stuff from his 5 gallon bucket when he'd turn his back.  Pretty comical.  I walked the beach Northward at low tide to a rocky area.  Not really much to see here tidal pool-wise.  By the time I headed back about 8:00 there were a lot of beach walkers and joggers.  The fog was still pretty thick when I stopped up the hill to take a picture of the Birch Aquarium facility from a bluff just above it .  I'd like to visit that place one day.  It was great to drive with very little traffic in such a beautiful place.

I got back to the room at 8:45 and Bryce was still sawing logs so I laid on the bed and read some more National Geographic until Bryce got up a few minutes later.  A while later Doug and Keil took the car to get some hair gel stuff for Keil, then we checked out at about 11:15.  We were all ready for breakfast and the boys directed us to a McDonald's a mile away that they'd found while walking around the night before.  Those guys really covered some ground in a short time.

We headed straight to the San Diego Zoo where Keil and Doug found us an excellent parking spot.  We quickly got to a ticket booth and asked what the long line to get in was all about, since we knew the zoo had already been open a couple of hours... it was the anti-terrorist check-your-bag line.  Amazing.... we hadn't heard a thing about terrorists attacking animals...  As it turned out we got in quickly since we didn't have any bags.

The zoo was incredible and we all really enjoyed it.  The tropical area that the aviary was in was one of the favorites . We got to see rhinos, monitor lizards, crocodile thingy's in a big fish tank, gorilla's against the glass, a tiger, weird looking pigmy chimps, an albino Burmese Python, and Keil found a two headed King Snake.  Bryce wondered where the Jurassic exhibit was.... and it sure seemed like it could have been there... quite a place.  After about 3 hours the boys headed off on their own hunting for animals of the opposite gender.  Doug and I rested our peds at the Sydney snack stand area and watched the folks that were watchin' the animals. I bought a souvenir drink cup that will complement the rest of our kitchen's plastic fast food cup selection for years to come. We also gawked at some Koala's and then headed to the rendezvous spot with the boys.  They reported woefully small pickings during their quest but said they'd seen some great animals, including the hippo exhibit which was pretty incredible.  For the last hour and a half we went with Bryce and Keil  to see the Elephants, Giraffes, Meerkats (several times, it seemed) and the Hippos as the grand finale.  We drove out of the zoo just ahead of the rush 15 minutes before they closed at 5pm. We were tired but felt like it had definitely been worth it - right down to Keil's shin-splints..

The boys wanted to cruise downtown, where we got a kick out of gawking at the folks on the sidewalk that were gawking at us.  The boys spied a Rubio's and we lucked out on getting a parking space so we stopped there for dinner.  Doug claims I've eaten at a Rubio's before but I don't believe him.  He talked me into getting a fish taco. I don't want to hurt Doug's feelings so won't say if I liked it or not, but Bryce got a Beef burrito and I kept eyeing it the whole meal while eating the fish taco.  I then noticed that Doug didn't get a fish taco.  Hmmm.  Keil spent a looonnngg time in the bathroom and then we were off  (I think he had a fish taco, too).  We drove around some more but the passengers started getting nervous after I almost (they said) hit a car stopping to park and almost ran a red light.  We also drove through 'old town' San Diego - it might be fun to walk through there on another trip.  We drove past the Star of India again to find they had a Garrison flag flying at half mast in memorium for the WTC tragedy .  Doug told us garrison flags are huge and typically only flown over garrisons.  He thought that maybe this one wasn't even big enough to be one.  It was a pretty big flag and we all thought it was pretty cool.

We stopped and gassed up the car.  I put gas in right up to the full mark, which was more than was in there when we started.  We then drove around the corner to the rental car drop off place (after I got lost a couple of times).  The rental car place tried to charge me 10 bucks for gas saying it wasn't full but we got that straightened out and caught the shuttle to the airport for our 8:45pm flight.  The airport was pretty dead so I think that out of boredom they decided to search my suitcase at the x-ray place.  We got to our gate at 7:00pm to discover only 2 passengers there - and they were there for the earlier 7:40 flight.  The attendant told us we could go on the 7:40 flight, which we did... along with 6 other originally scheduled for the later flight. That brought the total passenger count on the 7:40 flight to16.

We all sat by windows for the nighttime take off on the 737-300.  Bryce said he saw the flat-top ships and the Catalina Island bridge as well as clouds off the coast.  Once we got away from the city lights I sat with Bryce and talked with him about the trip while I ate the peanuts he'd bought at the San Diego airport.  Keil headed up and sat with his dad and we all cruised at 35,000 feet to end a great trip.  Landing in Phoenix was great as well, with Bryce and Keil at adjacent windows and Doug at one a couple of rows forward, I gawked out Bryce's window as we tried to identify the things we saw.... I-17 heading North to Flagstaff, I-10 heading back to California, the junction of the 101 and Superstition freeway's , the Mill avenue bridge.  We swung in a big arch from the West over South Mountain, then turning left over South Tempe to eventually line up heading west to land on the South runway at Sky Harbor.    As we piled off the plane I asked one of the passengers if she would take a picture of the four of us .  Our scruffy faces were evidence that we flew within the first few days of razor blades being banned from carry on baggage as a result of the WTC tragedy.  We quickly caught a park and travel shuttle (apparently a driver that didn't know Doug) and before we knew it Doug and Keil were dropping us off in our driveway.  In reflecting on the trip I remember being sad to feel the plane wheels touch down at Sky Harbor, as it signaled the end of an enjoyable trip... one that this Dad will always remember.
 
 

greg@porter-az.com