California Adventure (Days 5-7)

If you read yesterday's post, you know we went to California to visit Kevin for 2 whole weeks.  We were fortunate that Kevin did not have to take time off from work, but the tradeoff was that he would have to check into work 3 times during the trip.  This provided a great opportunity to break up the trip into sections.

Our first leg of the trip was Los Angeles, and while we enjoyed portions of the city, I was also happy to leave the city.  The traffic alone gave me a lot of heart ache.

After stopping for a night in Lompoc / Vandenberg AFB, we were able to get a nice tour of the base including a unique opportunity to see where Kevin worked.  Only once before, in his career, have we been able to visit daddy at his actual workplace.  Usually, we meet him nearby or at the BX (base exchange). This time, his coworkers wanted to meet us (!!) and offered to give us a grand tour.  That was quite a cool experience for both Avery and I. It was also nice to hear how they said great things about the work he is doing while he is away from the family. Its not every day you get to meet a 3-star General who speaks highly of your Tech Sergeant husband.

So after checking into base, we headed all the way down to San Diego.  It took almost the rest of the day to drive.

Day 5 - Sea World (Christmas Day)

There aren't many places open on Christmas, but seeing as how we were Sea World pros (with previous season passes when we lived in San Antonio), we knew we could count on Shamu to keep us company on Christmas Day.

The park was still fairly busy, but we arrived early and made a plan to catch all of the good shows and do all of the experiences and exhibits in between. 

Of course we had to see Shamu's One World show.  I preferred the one in San Antonio, possibly because it was covered and as you can see, we had a storm circling us in the distance.  Luckily, it just worked its way around the park and cleared up quickly.

Avery had to do her best impression of the Flamingos.  This goes out to my friend Emily whose house is Flamingo-rific. We saw the birds and instantly thought of Emily!

Avery ended up running around the park riding the roller coaster quite a few times and we basically closed down the park at a late 6pm (read: sarcasm).

That's when the unthinkable happened:  we found out our old neighbors from our last house were also vacationing in San Diego.  Their daughter and Avery had been friends for 5 years and we absolutely adore all of them.  Since they had been staying in the area for a few days, they found a great restaurant that was open Christmas evening so we met up with them there.  

Who knew you could travel 1200 miles away and end up with friends who lived across the street from you for five years on Christmas?  That was such a treat.  

Day 6 - San Diego Sightseeing

The next day, we woke up and ran around San Diego.  

We first went to the USS Midway Museum, a decommissioned Navy ship that is in the San Diego harbor.  Our family has toured several of these ships before thanks to each of our family's connection to the Navy:  my dad served and Kevin's uncle was an Admiral.  This ship, was by far the largest one we had toured.  

This ship was BIG and took several hours to tour.  It was also a very long running boat, being commissioned just after WWII and decommissioned in 1994. 

It's a little bit hard to tell what this picture is, but it is a huge statue from the iconic Navy Shipman kissing the woman photo from the WWII era.  I just love the statue, but we didn't have a chance to get up close to it.

We ended up leaving early-ish because we heard a rumor that the street in front of the Midway was going to be shut down for an annual balloon parade.  In an effort to not be stuck in downtown San Diego for another 5 hours, we got in our car and headed out for a late lunch.

So, I have to take a moment to talk about this restaurant.  Lucha Libre was recommended to us by Carter - you know the one from Community Cafe (in yesterday's post)?  Well this place is EPIC.  We're talking burritos that are monstrous with the most scrumptious sauce you've ever had.  

We had to stand in line at 3 in the afternoon for 20 minutes.  It's just that good.  

My burrito was filled to the brim with steak, shrimp, french fries (WHA?), avocado and super secret sauce.  This was the same burrito featured on Man v. Food.  Mmmm!

Kevin had a similar one, without the french fries and avocado and I think he really missed the french fries.  Dude - if you are ever in a place that is legendary, and they put french fries in a burrito, you order THAT burrito!  Don't you know foodie code?  You order the craziest thing on the menu that everyone else is ordering.

After our stopover for burritos that ruined Chipotle for us forever, we chased the sun to Coronado Island, just before the sunset.

We ended up going on the Navy portion of the island and up to the North Island, away from most visitors which meant we had the beach almost completely to ourselves, minus the few who were roasting marshmallows at fire pits.

The sun going down on Coronado Island has to be my favorite sunset during the trip.  I also may have been rubbing it in to a few of my friends back home suffering with -10 degrees that day.  Sorry guys!  I wasn't trying to be mean, I was just comparing the orange and blue sunsets from Denver to the ones here.  They do rival each other!

Day 7 - San Diego Safari Park

Of course we couldn't go to San Diego without going to the Safari Park.  I think I first heard about this place from my parents, when I was a kid.  They had went here on their honeymoon in 1976 when they toured California and this was one of their favorite stops.  I never fully believed them that it was an actual safari, with animals you could see up close. 

I'm a planner, so of course I went online, found out that we should get to the park EARLY and be on the first tram out of the station.  We arrived at the park 30 minutes after it open and we speed walked all the way to the other side of the park.  We were the last family to hop on to the first tram.  Kevin then kindly told me, "see dear?  We didn't need to rush."  My eyes rolled at that point.

While I love the idea of the tram (sit back, relax, and just take photos), I really didn't enjoy our guide who appeared to be looking at a script and had no tonal change to her voice.  Kevin wanted to get off the tram after only 5 minutes, and it was a 30 minute ride.

All of the animals were active during our trek, which made the rush through the park so worth it.  We saw lots of babies including a mama lion and her FOUR cubs.  That's three too many cubs for me!  The one above is the only one I'll take.

What a fun way to start a morning!  After the 30 minute tram ride, when wandered back through the park the way we came in and saw all of the other exhibits.  We were disappointed that the Lemurs (just like King Julian from Madagascar) were all sleeping and not in a playful mood.  

And then we just hung out with the bats.

We left the park around lunchtime and we were glad we were on our way out.  At the gate was a very long line of people on their way in.  If you haven't noticed, I could do without large crowds.  I don't get severe anxiety or anything, I'm just not into being pushed around or the rudeness and impatience that tends to increase in larger crowds.

We stopped in Oceanside, CA for fish and chips and my goodness, this place had the LARGEST pieces of fresh fish I think I've ever seen.

These pieces were 8+ inches long each. Reviews suggested it would be more food that we could handle and I agree.  It was a LOT.

For the evening, we rented a cottage on the San Onofrio Beach adjacent to Camp Pendleton.  Our cute cottage overlooked the beach and again, we chased the sunset while Avery dipped her feet into the ocean, this time with a boogie board in hand.

With that sunset, we ended our Southern California adventure.

Tomorrow, stay tuned as we headed back up the coast to Central California and explored areas closer to Vandenberg.  Ebelskevers were involved.

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