I have wanderlust but the Coronavirus lockdown is preventing me from traveling this year. It would be fun to dig out old photos and look back on my past travels. Let me start with one of my favorite cities: San Diego, California.
My first time in San Diego was a road trip with a few Chinese students I met during my first days in Tucson. We visited SeaWord San Diego, where I enjoyed their famous Shamu show, in which I got splashed by the killer whales.
During the same trip, we also visited USS Midway Museum, an aircraft carrier docked in San Diego harbor. I learned how these little planes take off, and more importantly how they can land safely with the help of arresting gear.
In front of USS Midway Museum, we saw the original foam-and-urethane Unconditional Surrender sculpture. It turns out that this particular statue was torn down 4 months later, and replaced in 2013 by a bronze statue.
A year later, I attended my first academic conference, hosted by University of California, San Diego (UCSD). UCSD campus is located in La Jolla, a small town 16 miles north from San Diego. During the conference, I had plenty of time to explore the campus. Their library has a unique shape:
I had one afternoon of free time, and I used that time to visit Maritime Museum of San Diego, located next door from USS Midway. Instead of one big aircraft carrier, this museum consists of several sailing ships and a submarine. It was my first time crawling into the narrow pathways of a submarine.
The academic conference at UCSD became a recurring event, and the second edition was in 2013. I didn't have a driver's license at that time, but I gained enough confidence in San Diego's public transit system during the previous trip, so that I decided to fly to San Diego two days early, and take the bus to visit some downtown attractions.
Balboa Park is the largest park in downtown San Diego. The center of Balboa Park has fifteen museums. I was fascinated by the model railroad that moves and sounds just like real trains (later I found a similar museum in Tucson). At Fleet Science Center, I learned how a wheel works, and followed my colorful shadow made by three projectors of different colors:
San Diego Zoo is also located in Balboa Park. I visited the zoo on the second day, viewed every animal except the pandas. My favorite is the meerkat.
I had a bit more money than the previous years, so that I rewarded myself with the most expensive meal I've had: a Hornblower dinner cruise. It was a 3-hour cruise in the San Diego bay, where I got to see the San Diego skyline and the mighty Coronado Bridge:
The next UCSD conference trip was in 2015. There were two differences from previous trips:
- I brought my classmate on this trip.
- I became a geocacher, which completely changed the way I travel.
I convinced my classmate to walk out of the airport instead of taking a taxi. He was excited to see the sea as soon as we left the airport. We had lunch together, then took a trolley to a natural attraction I selected: Sunny Jim's Cave.
Why did I choose this place? It has an EarthCache, a type of geocache that educates us about geographical features, such as the seven sea caves carved in the 75-million-year-old sandstone sea cliff. I got a smiley face on Geocaching.com, while my classmate also learned something unique in the area.
On conference days, I get up early to find geocaches. One of the caches I found was Eucalyptus Maze, which turns out to be one of the oldest caches in San Diego county.
My fifth trip to San Diego, and fourth conference at UCSD, was March 2016. This time, I was traveling with two classmates on the same flight. I introduced a few attractions to them, and they wanted to visit the Maritime Museum. Since I have been to that museum in 2012, I didn't go with them.
Instead, I went geocaching in downtown San Diego. I walked more than 8 miles that day, searched for 14 geocaches and found 10. I saw the old fire house, the ships, parks, kites in the sky, and bridge above the bay. I ended my trip in SeaPort Village, and took a bus to UCSD.
The conference that year expanded from two days to four days, including two days of hackathon. I was running a 4-person project. From time to time, I grab one of my strong boys for a run in the Eucalyptus forest, to "clear my mind" from all the coding. I also had the chance to see "the supercomputer" at San Diego Supercomputer Center.
Why I Like San Diego
2016 was my last time visiting San Diego. After that, UCSD no longer hosts the academic conference I've been attending. During my five short visits, San Diego gave me many good memories, so that it becomes one of my favorite cities.
San Diego has the perfect weather: sunny, low humidity, and rarely rains. Moreover, I can see the ocean, and the beautiful sunsets.
San Diego has a walkable downtown. I can walk from the airport to downtown in an hour, and the walk is along the beautiful harbor instead of noisy roadways. In how many other cities can you do that?
Going beyond downtown, the public transit system makes sense. After just two trips, I can remember the major routes. In 2013, I chose a hotel 5 miles away, so that I can walk along the sea cliff every morning. I took the 07:30 bus, and arrived at UCSD on time each day.
Now it's 2020 and I live on the East Coast. I wish I have a chance to visit the sunny San Diego, California again.