Flying vs. driving to San Diego has been a subject of debate in my family since Zoe left for San Diego State in 1997. We drove her down in the late summer to begin college and then drove down again in the spring to collect her. She flew up for holidays and we flew down for visits. After college when she stayed down in San Diego, we only flew since we no longer had to haul goods back and forth.
Then came the attacks on Sept. 11 and flying has not been the same since. Now we have to arrive at the airport hours early in each direction. The planes are small and crowded (well, I guess they always were), and the Southwest terminal in San Diego is a madhouse. So when we bought our new Volvo recently, we said to each other: Let's drive down to San Diego! And last month we did just that.
I remembered Interstate 5 being a long monotonous ride. Others advised us, "Just fly. You'll be there in a few hours." But this time we enjoyed the drive and it didn't seem long. I thought the scenery would be tedious but it wasn't. The Altamont pass: Look at the windmills; look at the trucks; look at the horrible morning commute going in the other direction. After that it was the farmlands: green fields; many, many cattle.
And many rest stops. We hit almost every one since my husband had to stretch his left leg every hour or so to avoid "movie-goers knee." He is subject to this condition due to his "patellofemoral syndrome," also known as his "bum knee." It is a result of playing too much tennis in his case, and it causes pain in the knee after sitting in one position for any length of time. So we made frequent stops to walk around for 10 or 15 minutes, and I'm wondering if this is why we never became restless and anxious to reach our destination. We also found out all the I-5 rest stops are designed the same and most have a wide array of vending machines. And I discovered the vending machines worked flawlessly when my husband bought a cup of coffee but when I tried, they ate my quarters. Actually they returned four of the six - not bad percentages, but not a cup of coffee either.
I admit there was one stretch of I-5 that was a bit bleak and we said, "This is the I-5 everyone complains about." But before we knew it, we were in the Tehachapis, the lovely mountain range with interesting curves to navigate for about 40 miles. Then, of course, came the San Fernando Valley and Los Angeles and traffic, traffic, traffic. As we emerged on the south side we had a while of breezing along in the carpool lane and then ocean views before we hit the rush hour traffic outside San Diego. Nonetheless we arrived in San Diego in time for the 4-5 p.m. wine and cookie hour at the beachfront Pacific Terrace hotel.
We've tried other hotels at Pacific Beach in the last 10 years but keep returning to the Pacific Terrace. We even tried the Crystal Pier Hotel where you sleep right over the water in charming little white cottages with blue trim. That was fun but we were surprised to find that the pier - and the cottage - shook each time the tide went in or out, a rather destabilizing experience.
On our first stay in San Diego, we stayed at the Beach Cottages. I checked out its Web site last week and was delighted to find it has a camcorder aimed at the beach and boardwalk 24/7. It's soothing to see at home the same surf we enjoyed from our balcony at Pacific Terrace. Zoe has promised she soon will go to the beach and stand in front of the Beaches Cottages, call me, and wave at the camera. That way, I can see her without either driving or flying. What a treat!
-Dolores Fox Ciardelli can be e-mailed at editor@DanvilleWeekly.com.