International travelers are more than happy to tell you all about the people, places, and cultures of the world. There is nothing that can compare to the experience of exploring ancient cities in far away countries. To be emersed in the customs of a foreign land is an escape from one’s self and education in life. In the U.S. we are so fascinated by the cultures of other countries that we often take for granted the diversity within our borders. The great American road trip solves this dilemma, for those who have the time and the patience. It was that desire to explore the states, and to experience the travel in more depth than can be achieved from an airplane, which has kept me on my road trips. If you’ve managed to stick with me through the last 2,172 miles, you might have guessed that San Diego, CA is where I left off.
San Diego Bay Area
Many words describe San Diego, CA but friendly is the first that comes to my mind. Whenever I’m there, I like to start my mornings with a walk around the Gaslamp Quarter. I’m not one for crowds, but this popular area is reasonably mild before noon. What stands out to me the most is how every person I pass on the sidewalk goes out of their way to smile and say hello to me. At six-foot-three, bald with a beard, and often an expression of intense concentration I never resent the people who cross to the other side of the street when they see me coming. I usually appreciate it. However, the friendly nature of San Diegoans always brings me out of my shell.
I continue my walk around the areas surrounding the Gaslamp Quarter and make my way toward the bay. The sun is bright, but the temperature is a comfortable 71 degrees, a welcomed change from the arid heat of the last few days. The architecture of the buildings I pass blend modern with old-world styles. Vines climb columns and walls, and palm trees line the streets. Even the graffiti looks classy.
I like to stop at The Lion’s Share for lunch. It’s in the Marina area, within walking distance of the bay. The menu is, for lack of a better word, adventurous. Heavy on wild game and unique libations, The Lion’s Share is an escape from the mundane. Lunch is typically my only daily meal on these trips, so I tend to order excessively. Fois Gras (with blueberry compote, pecans, and caramelized onions) is my go-to starter, or antelope sliders (with red onions, marmalade, smoked gouda, and mustard aioli) if I’m feeling shameless. The rabbit hand pie (with carrot puree and a duck fat crust) is excellent as is the elk loin (served with celery root puree, green bean agrodolce, and wild boar bacon). If you’re either into or curious about wild game, this is the place to experiment.
After lunch, I walk to a circular collection of shops called Seaport Village where I can hang out at the bay’s edge and watch the boats pass for an hour or so. It’s a way for me to digest and plan the next leg of my road trip. My GPS tells me it’s a thirty-minute drive, but with traffic on the 5, I’m confident it’ll be more like an hour and a half.
Encinitas is a beach community 26 miles North of San Diego. It’s a small town with one main strip, along Coastal Highway 101, with surf shops and restaurants. One of those restaurants, Pandora’s Pizza, is a personal favorite. On my last few visits, they had an upstairs sitting area with leather armchairs, a couch, a large coffee table, and a flat screen tv on the wall. The framed photographs on the dark blue painted walls enhanced the cozy atmosphere. I’ve always been lucky enough to have this room to myself, allowing me to get some work done while I dined on Caprese and an Eggplant-Brie-Prosciutto pizza.
The second-floor dining area at Pandora’s Pizza in Encinitas, CA. They serve a wide range of comfort foods and beers.
The beach in Encinitas is small but adequate for surfers and seashell-hunters alike. Moonlight Beach was my first West Coast beach, and it still holds a special place in my heart. It’s clean and not too crowded. Spanish-style houses sit on a hill overlooking the ocean. Having started my first cross-country road trip several days before arriving in Encinitas, in land-locked Northern IN, and traveling through all manner of empty nothingness and hot desert, this beach was my mecca. My pilgrimage to the West Coast, I felt, was complete. The road trip, however, was far from over.
This article is Part 3 in an ongoing series.