Michael Strickland's blog on all things travel: news, deals, destinations, dreams and more.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Where I'd rather be: San Diego, "America's Finest City"

This is becoming a disturbing pattern. For the past several weekends, I've awoken to a wet and gloomy day. That provides plenty of inspiration to write about "Where I'd rather be," but I'd much prefer to be here on a warm and sunny day, than be somewhere else in my mind.

Nevertheless, I have to play the cards I was dealt, so once again we get to travel virtually together to some far-off spot. Actually, for some of you, this may be a virtual trip no further than your own backyard; because today, I'm going back to my hometown of San Diego, known as "America's Finest City."

I browsed the web for photos to post here, and came across the following aerial shot. It'll serve as an orientation shot for our travels, so take a look:

This shot effectively captures the heart of what I love most about San Diego: the beaches and water, and the countless hours of fun that they both offer. In this photo, you can see the long Mission and Pacific Beaches on the ocean side, the many little bays that make up Mission Bay Park just to the east (right), and the sloping hill of La Jolla toward the north (top of the photo).

On the beach side, a concrete "boardwalk" parallels the beach for about four miles. This path provides endless recreation for bicyclists, joggers, skaters and pedestrians. The personality of the boardwalk changes as you follow its entire stretch, so it's easy to find a part of the beach that suits what you're looking for: rowdiness, peace & quiet, athletics, and so on. And at regular intervals, you'll find restaurants, bars, taco shops, stores and more. At the far southern end of the strip (where the beach widens at the bottom of the aerial photo), an array of public beach volleyball courts planted in the sand offers a fun way to spend an afternoon.

On the other side of the narrow strip of beach cottages, you'll find Mission Bay Park. To me, this is the crown jewel of San Diego (not La Jolla, whose name literally means "the jewel"). This man-made aquatic park, covering more than 4,000 acres, contains many little hidden bays, each with its own personality and use. There's Sail Bay (pictured below), for use by sailboats; Ski Beach, where motorized watercraft can play (and where they hold the annual Thunderboat Regatta); Fiesta Island, an undeveloped area where the Over-the-Line Tournament is held; Tecolote Shores, a family-friendly area with picnic tables and grass lawns; and much, much more. One of my favorite activities is to spend the day riding the approximately 20-mile perimeter of Mission Bay, nearly all of which is bounded by a bike path (also visible in the picture below).

Just to the north of Pacific Beach and Mission Bay, the coastline changes from sandy beaches to rocky cliffs. While the topography is less appealing to sunbathers, it's perfect for scuba diving (since the same rocky shore continues below the surface, creating an excellent reef structure). The bluffs also offer picturesque scenery, which is probably why many of San Diego's millionaires live in expensive estates overlooking the ocean. La Jolla Cove (pictured below) is the most well-known spot, as it offers a small beach and easy, sheltered access to the ocean.

I may yet return to my beautiful hometown, but for now, writing about it made for a fun virtual escape back to a playground of sand and sun.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

America's Finest City heh?
This sounds like the Dallas Cowboys proclamation that they are "America's team." Without getting into some psychological underpinnings of these statements like insecurity, allow me to post a few critical comments. I grew up in San Diego during the late '50's and middle '60's. The mantra then was we would not become Los Angles-fied! At the risk of being a romantic, San Diego then was a very livable city. When I left San Diego in 1967, the population of the county was 1.5 million people. Today, the population is about double that figure with the corresponding problems like: smog; freeway congestion; increased crime rates; and a growing lack of a sense of community. This lack of caring about others is correlated with increases in population.
Now, when we have an attachment to a city or a team--hell, I'm still a Charger fan--it is difficult to objectively look at that emotion. Furthermore, when change takes place in an incremental manner it is more tolerable. What is my point? Having lived on the California central coast for a number of years, San Diego has lost a great deal of it's luster.

April 26, 2009 7:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unfortunately the "finest city" comes with a price tag that I would rather not pay any longer. Even with the price decline of housing, they are still over-priced in SD, and it would take at least another year of similar reductions to begin to be affordable.

When you add in the taxes and increasingly burdensome government in California, "finest" becomes less desirable to the point that even when offered a bonus to return to San Diego, I have chosen to stay where the weather might not be so good, but where I can surely afford to turn on my air conditioner!

April 27, 2009 1:09 PM  
Blogger Paul Jamason said...

while i can understand some of the points of the previous two commenters, no place is perfect, and for me san diego is still far and away the best place i've ever lived. contrary to the first commenter, there is a strong sense of community in the urban neighborhoods.

April 29, 2009 2:06 PM  
Blogger Michael Strickland said...

To Anonymous #1, I wonder how you know what San Diego is like if you haven't lived there since 1967? You may go there as a visitor, but that doesn't give you an accurate picture of what it's like to live there. And c'mon... I challenge you to name one city in America that hasn't experienced "problems like: smog; freeway congestion; increased crime rates; and a growing lack of a sense of community" since 1967 (a 40-year span). That all may be true of San Diego, but it has natural beauty and great weather that hasn't changed -- and that other cities don't have.

Of course my posting is subjective, just as the "America's Finest City" is a Chamber of Commerce marketing slogan. But the title was Where "I'd" Rather Be, not where "you" should be.

April 30, 2009 12:31 PM  

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