New Year’s Weekend

How We Celebrated the New Year.

After several painfully boring New Year’s Eves spent in Wickenburg and one relatively interesting one spent in Prescott, we decided we wanted a more memorable New Year’s Eve.

So we left town.

We stuffed the trunk of my Honda S2000 with overnight bags, dress clothes, and two bottles of champagne, wedged ourselves into the passenger seats, buckled up, put the top down, and sped off to the west on Friday morning.

We went to La Jolla, CA, which is just north of San Diego. We booked a room at the Sea Lodge at La Jolla Shores. Our room featured a huge sliding glass door and private balcony that faced the ocean. All day long, we could watch the waves and the people and birds on the beach. We could listen to the rhythm of the ocean waves. We could watch the weather move in and the kayakers move out and the surfers just float around, waiting for the perfect wave.

On New Year’s Eve, we had reservations for the early seating at Nine Ten, the restaurant in La Jolla’s Grand Colonial Hotel. We chose dinner with a wine pairing. (For those of you who don’t know what that means, each course is served with a different wine that has been selected by someone knowledgeable about wines and foods.) Four courses, four wines. The food was exquisite. I had chestnut soup, sea bass, venison, and a chocolate desert. Everything was both beautifully prepared and delicious. It was the kind of meal you’d couldn’t get within 40 miles of Wickenburg. And I enjoyed every bite of it.

After dinner, we changed into regular clothes and went for a walk on the beach. It was a nice night and there were very few people out and about. Then we had some champagne on our balcony and listened to the waves to welcome in the new year.

On Saturday, New Year’s Day, we drove into San Diego. We spent some time walking around the popular Gaslight Quarter, which reeked of beer from the previous night’s celebrations. Most shops and restaurants were closed; we got there too early. We walked a total of about 20 blocks and saw three Starbucks coffee shops. In all three instances, the Starbucks had been placed near an existing coffee shop. I realized that Starbucks is trying to put all the other coffee shops out of business. This was a revelation to me. We went into one of those little coffee shops for some latte. It was quaint and had lots of character — much nicer than the cookie-cutter design of a Starbucks. And the person who took my order actually made my coffee — imagine that! I wondered how long the place would survive with Starbucks right across the street. So I decided then and there that I would no longer buy coffee (or anything else) in a Starbucks. I’d like to see some little coffee shop put a Starbucks shop out of business and I’ll do my part to help make it happen.

We drove over the big bridge to Coronado Island. We walked around the east side of the island for a while, admiring the view of San Diego, then headed west to the Coronado Hotel. I got an excellent parking spot on the street near the hotel entrance, saving the $5 per hour parking fee I’d have to pay to park on the hotel’s parking lot. We walked around the hotel for a while and I bought a gift for Lorna who, with John, was housesitting for us. The Coronado Hotel is a wonderful historic landmark that is magnificently maintained. We had lunch outdoors in the sunshine: sea bass prepared two different ways. Then a long walk around the town in search of just the right desert. We found a coffee/pastry shop (with a Starbucks right next door — the nerve!) but didn’t find just the right bit of chocolate to satisfy my after-lunch craving. We left town heading south on the long causeway that ends just three miles north of the Mexican border, then headed back north.

Our last stop for the day was Cabrillo National Monument, where the original Point Loma lighthouse stands on a hill overlooking the San Diego Bay. Magnificent views all around. I took lots of pictures and used the movie feature of my camera to create a panoramic movie of the bay and city beyond.

By this time, it was late afternoon and the warm sunshine we’d been enjoying all day was fading behind thin clouds on the horizon. We headed back to La Jolla Shores for a rest before dinner. We had dinner in La Jolla, at a place called Roppongi. The restaurant featured “Asian fusion” food. We ordered five different tapas dishes, all excellent, and a sake sampler. More food you can’t get at home.

On Sunday, we checked out early and headed back down to San Diego’s Balboa Park. Many people know the park as the home of the San Diego Zoo, but the park also features many museums. We visited the Air and Space Museum there, which was surprisingly good. There were many airplanes and spacecraft on display, including the Apollo 9 Space Capsule and an actual GPS satellite. Exhibits were arranged historically, with early aviation exhibits near the entrance of the building and space exhibits near the exit. The building is round, so you walk in a circle to see all of the exhibits. A courtyard in the middle of the building has a glass ceiling and, since the building is in the flight path for San Diego Airport, jets fly right over the roof just a few thousand feet up. It reminded Mike of growing up in Flushing, NY, in the flight path for La Guardia.

Lunch was at Ole Madrid, a restaurant in the Gaslight Quarter that was supposed to offer Sunday Brunch. They called it brunch, but it wasn’t the buffet style meal we expected. Instead, we ordered tapas from a menu. Everything was good.

We left the city soon after that and headed east on I-8. We made one stop: in the town of Alpine where there’s an Indian Casino and large outlet mall. The mall was beautifully designed and landscaped with lots of statues, fountains, and vegetation. It was a pleasure to walk through it. After picking up a few things we can’t get in Wickenburg, we hit the road again. The day was cloudy and we drove with the top up to keep warm. (We’d had the top down all weekend long.) After coming through the mountains on I-8, we turned off, following the road toward Mexicali. The drive along the border was mildly interesting — certainly more interesting than the drive along I-8. We joined up with I-8 just west of the sand dunes and followed that to Yuma. Then 95 to Quartzsite, I-10 to SR 60, and SR 60 to Wickenburg. We got in just after 8 PM.

It had been a nice trip away, made possible, in part, by our friends John and Lorna, who stayed at our house and watched the menagerie (Alex the Bird, Jack the Dog, Jake and Cherokee (horses), and the chickens).

Now it’s back to reality in Wickenburg.

What do you think?