Hilltop structures and far views

Monday 29th November
I suppose yesterday (Monday) was about photo opportunities, feasts for the eyes
and reminders of previous delights. Cal Boy and Cal Girl ("Call me Cowgirl,
Granny," but that's a sock story) were back in school; Cal Son was back at work;
Cal Mom was preparing for this weekend's craft fair so the Captain and Boatwif
took to the roads. Down the coastal freeway we bowled (as that's the easier one
to follow) searching for Mount Soledad. We'd been there once before – and have
tried to follow its fortunes, the Federal lawsuit (ongoing) and the landslip
(road rebuilt). On top of Mount Soledad stands an enormous white cross, part of
a memorial to US Forces veterans. From the top the view is – breathtaking. Our
previous trip up there had been during "June Gloom", quite early in the day, so
visibility was limited. The Memorial records the names and service honours of
about three thousand servicemen and women.  It is unique in that it is the only
memorial to include photo images. 70% of those recorded are still alive. Just a
few are not American, one being Winston Churchill, his plaque right next to a
RAF Flight Lieutenant who had flown missions over the River Kwai. As for the
lawsuit: well, it's about a religious symbol being on federal land. Yesterday at
about 11am skies were blue, the view extended far and wide – even to the
offshore Mexican islands.   
We drove on, further south to another hilltop view, Point Loma, a spit of rocky
land that overlooks San Diego's vast natural harbour, the naval area, the US
Navy Air Arm runway, Hotel Coronado and the city skyline. In 1542 Cabrillo,
(it's uncertain whether he was Spanish or Portuguese), entered the San Diego
harbour with a flotilla of ships from Mexico. An exhibition, a film and a great
white monument commemorate the conquest. Elsewhere information boards detail the
mountain ranges, the commercial and military shipping and aircraft that might be
seen. On the highest point stands the old lighthouse, fitted out as in the
nineteenth century and open to visitors. Overlooking the Ocean side are
viewpoints for the annual whale-watching season when Gray Whales are on their
migratory route from the Arctic to Baja California. Far below are the
"tidepools", a magnet for those keen to explore coastal marine life. There is
always much to see, whether it is naval aircraft on exercise, or coastguard
cutters, or pleasure boats, or submarines, or cruise liners – or even birds
(condors?) and squirrels, one sniffing yesterday around our picnic. And always
there is that deep evocative steady noise of the foghorn, warning craft of the
treacherous shores.

In the outhouse behind the lighthouse was a small group of school pupils
earnestly seeking answers for their worksheets. Fourth grade they were, (Year
5), on a field trip. In fourth grade, apparently, the history and geography of
California are studied. Two separate people told us that this is the best time,
winter, not summer. One spoke passionately about the light and shadows in the
desert, only about a two hour plus drive eastwards. 

A time check – too long to drive a diagonal route across town to Balboa Park but
time to do that promised mission back to the bookstore. The "Dutch Lady" of the
Captain's Satnav directed us thrillingly across the city to feed onto a
magnificently complex freeway interchange. Traffic at 2pm was already heavy
("Shift change", says Cal Son) but we made our way up the inland freeway to
Escondido, the Captain there able to recover via a Starbucks latte. Still no
luck with the plan to photograph the book written by the friend's cousin: it was
indeed in stock, its single copy reserved in the backroom for a customer. Sorry,
Belfast, I did try …! 

Time for bed; suitcases are packed; tomorrow we leave. An 0845 flight out of San
Diego, check in time one hour before, car return before that, early morning
traffic… the alarm, I am told, is set for 0430. We should be back on UK soil
at 0845 on Thursday morning at Manchester. 

If the journey is particularly eventful I'll file a report. Meanwhile, from
starry California – goodnight.

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