Posted on May 8th, 2010

By Shelton A. Gunaratne ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚© 2010

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Fullerton (pop. 126,000) was the base for my extensive travels on the West Coast during my Fullerton year (1983 through January 1984). It was my most extensive travel year bar for 1966-67, the year of my World Press Institute Fellowship. I took advantage of my exchange year at Fullerton College to visit and enjoy almost all nooks and corners of California that I adjudged worthy of a visit.

Fullerton is 25 miles (40ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ km) southeast of downtown Los Angeles, and 11 miles (18ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ km) north-northwest of Santa Ana, the Orange County seat.

San Diego, just 100 miles southeast of Fullerton, was a must in my travel plans. In fact, I visited San Diego four times during the Fullerton year alone: first, during the weekend of 9-10 July; second, during the weekend of 27-29 Aug.; third, on our roundtrip to Baja [Lower] California, 10-13 Nov.; and fourth, on a visit to Cal State on 20 Jan. 1984. (My wife Yoke-Sim and son Junius were participants in the first three. Mother was not.)

San Diego (pop. 1.3 million) is CaliforniaƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s second most populous city, after Los Angeles. Located 20 miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border, the 372 ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬…”square-mile cityƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-lies on deep canyons and hills separating its mesas, creating small pockets of natural parkland scattered throughout the city and giving it a hilly geographyƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ (Wikipedia).

San Diego has gone through a population explosion since 1950, when it had only 333,900 people. In 1983, the year of our visits, its population numbered 875,600ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬‚an increase of 162 percent over three decades. Since then, its population has gone up another 46 percent. The influx of a large number of military personnel and the attraction of year-through mild sunny weather for retirees contributed to this explosion in no small measure.

We already knew the main attractions of San Diego we wanted to see: tourist attractions such as Balboa Park, Belmont amusement park, San Diego Zoo, San Diego Wild Animal Park, and SeaWorld San Diego; historic sites such as Mission San Diego de Alcala and Old Town San Diego State Historic Park.

Trip 1

On Trip 1, we visited the San Diego Zoo (estbd. 1915) in Balboa Park, where we spent about four hours of a Sunday afternoon. First, we joined the guided tour of the zoo, which houses more than 4,000 animals of more than 800 species, on the upper deck of a double-decker. Then, we went to see the worldƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s largest reptile collection before accompanying Junius to the childrenƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s zoo to have his own fun.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Yoke-Sim took a picture of me with Kiri and Kalu, two boars from Sri Lanka. The 107-acre zoo contains sections to identify the origins of the animalsƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬‚African Rocks, Asian Passage, Discovery Outpost, Elephant Odyssey, Lost Forest, Outback, Panda Canyon, Polar Rim and Urban Jungle. The San Diego Zoo has been a pioneer in building “cageless” exhibits. Onya-Birri, the worldƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s only albino koala in a zoo, was born in this facility, which is also renowned for its New Guinea singing dogs.

Established in 1868, the 1,200-acre Balboa Park is a National Historic Landmark. Besides open areas and natural vegetation, it contains a variety of cultural attractions including museums, theaters, gardens, shops and restaurants. Many of these attractions are located along El Prado, the long promenade running through the center of the park, just south of the zoo.

On the first day (9 July) of Trip 1, we stopped at Mission San Juan Capistrano (estbd. 1776), a place famous for its white pigeons; and Camp Pendleton, the largest Marine Corps base in the United States. Heading south, we enjoyed the beachfront at Oceanside and Carlsbad. We ate lunch at the Quail Botanic Gardens at Encinitas (pop. 62,000) while feasting our eyes on the Australian and New Zealand zone. At Del Mar Heights, I drove west on Carmel Valley Road (the popularity of the name Carmel to convey a sense of scenic beauty struck me) for a short exploration of Torrey Pines State Reserve. There, I walked down a steep cliff to ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-discoverƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ that Torrey Pines State Beach was actually a nudist colony.

We had reached the northern bounds of the University of California San Diego in La Jolla, where we stopped at the Scripps Aquarium/Museum. Junius was highly pleased with this diversion. Next, we visited the Sunny Jim Cave at La Jolla Caves before driving to the summit of the 823-foot (251 m) Soledad Mountain to view the surroundings [Picture 1]. Finally, we camped overnight at Campland on the Bay in Mission Bay Park.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ 

The next morning, we visited Sunset Cliffs, south of Pescadero Beach; and Cabrillo National Monument in Point Loma [Picture 2] at the southern tip of the peninsula that engulfs Coronado. However, the fog obscured our view. Next, we stopped at Shelter Island on the eastern shore of the peninsula to take pictures of the Friendship Bell. Driving along the length of Harbor Island, and passing through downtown, we reached San Diego Zoo, the major attraction of interest on this trip. Before we returned to Fullerton, we ate dinner at San Diego Pier, Inc., a restaurant built on the water of San Diego Bay.

Trip 2

On Trip 2, we visited the San Diego Wild Animal Park, Sea World San Diego, and Old Town San Diego State Historic Park.

The 1,800-acre San Diego Wild Animal Park (estbd. 1972) is located 32ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ miles (51ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ km) north from the zoo, at 15500 San Pasqual Valley Road, east of Escondido. Currently, it houses more than 3,000 animals of more than 400 species. Arriving at the park on a Saturday, we began with the five-mile, 50-minute Wgasa [ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-Who gives a shit anywayƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚] Bush Line monorail tour [now discontinued] of the parkƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s collection of wild and endangered animals. It was a pleasing experience for all of us to see the wild animals in their large and open compounds. After the tour, we stopped over to see the very popular Bird Show, which amused Junius no end; and the less impressive Cat and Canine Show. In between, we briefly attended a concert at Mahala Amphitheater. We also hiked on the Kilimanjaro Trail to get a better view of some animals. ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-This park was more interesting than the zoo,ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ I wrote in my diary. We left the park at 5 p.m.

Wikipedia adds: The park’s most famous and popular exhibits are the open-range enclosures. Visitors view various habitats representing the Asian Plains, East Africa (the largest of the enclosures; it alone is larger than the San Diego Zoo), North Africa, Asian Waterhole, Southern Africa, and the Mountain Habitat. A number of smaller enclosures visible only from the tram are home to Grevy’s zebras, Somali wild asses, kiangs (one of the world’s only captive populations of this endangered wild equine), Arabian oryx, gorals, Japanese serows, black rhinoceroses, bonobos, and Przewalski’s wild horses.

An update: In March 2007, in place of the discontinued monorail, the park introduced the Journey into Africa, a wheeled tram tour that brings visitors eye-to-eye with wildlife.

On this trip, we reached Escondido (pop. 144,900) from Fullerton via SR 91 east and I-15 south. Our first stop was Lake Elsinore (pop. 50,300) and the second Temecula (pop. 102,600). The third was Lawrence Welk Theater-Museum, just eight miles north of Escondido, where we saw a 30-minute documentary, ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-AmericaƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s Musical FamilyƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬‚The Lawrence Welk Story.ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚

The next day (a Sunday), we visited the 189-acre Sea World San Diego (estbd. 1964), an animal theme park, Oceanarium and marine mammal park. On arrival at Sea World on Mission Bay, we attended the 10 a.m. Dolphin Show. Then, we joined a behind-the-scenes guided tour, which took almost 90 minutes. Thereafter, we visited the Penguin Encounter, which features more than 300 penguins representing eight different species; ate lunch at the Nautilus Pavilion; and attended a succession of shows: Up With People Show, Shamu Killer Whale [Orca] Show, SparklettƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s Water Fantasy Show, Seal and Otter Show, and Japanese Village Pearl Diving. (These 1983 show names have gone through changes. Check the Sea World Web site.) We also visited the White Whale Experience, the Tide Pools, World of the Sea and Marine aquariums.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  We took Junius to play at Captain KidsƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ World. We also saw marine mammals at Whale and dolphin pool, Sea otter exhibit and Walrus Pool. ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-All in all, Sea World was better than Marineland,ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ I wrote in my diary. We left the place about 5 p m.

Our next destination was the Old Town San Diego State Historic Park, the 29-acre Old Town neighborhood of San Diego founded in 1825. There, we hiked up to the Presidio Park to see ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-El Charro,ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ Fort Stockton (decommissioned in 1848), Serra Cross and Serra Museum (2764 Presidio Drive). Thereafter, we walked down the golf course to the historical park to look at the Old TownƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s landmarks: Original adobe constructions like Casa de Estudillo (2744 Juan St.), Casa de Carillo, Casa de Pedrorena, Casa de Bandini, etc.; Bazaar del Mundo (4170 Taylor St.), Seeley Stables, Old Town Plaza, etc.

On Trip 4, I visited Mission San Diego de Alcala (estbd. 1769), the ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-Mother of Alta California MissionsƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ (10818 San Diego Mission Road). Spanish friar JunƒÆ’†’ƒ”š‚­pero Serra established it as the first Franciscan mission in the Alta [Upper] California region of New Spain (viz., the official tag for colonial territories of Spain from 1535-1821).ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  The mission and its vicinity was dedicated to Saint Didacus of Alcala, also called San Diego. The mission also marks San DiegoƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s first Christian burial, as well its first public execution. Father LuƒÆ’†’ƒ”š‚­s Jayme, “California’s First Christian Martyr,” lies entombed beneath the chancel floor. Angry Kumeyaay Indians from the surrounding rancherias killed Jayme on 4 Nov. 1775 when they invaded the mission.

Odds and Ends

On Trip 2, we were the guests of John and Merle Grubb (3245 Ivy St.), who lived about a mile east of Balboa Park. We became friends with the Grubbs during our 1981Tiki Tour of New Zealand. They quit the tour on Christmas Day 1981 when Merle hurt herself stepping off the bus at Waitomo Caves. After we reached their San Diego home about 7 p.m. on 27 Aug., we joined them for a sumptuous home-cooked dinner. Yoke-Sim joined Merle to cook dinner the next day while John and I perused the album of photos of the NZ tour and indulged in nostalgia.

After saying goodbye to the Grubbs on 29 Aug., we drove six miles southwest to visit Coronado (pop. 29,300), a tombola joined to the mainland by a narrow 10-mile isthmus called the ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-Strand.ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ We entered the tombola from the south on SR75 and stopped at Silver Strand State Beach, Hotel del Coronado (established in 1888) and Star Park. We returned to the mainland via the 2.1-mile (3.4 km)-long Coronado Bridge in the north. On our way back to Fullerton, we visited the library of the University of California San Diego.

On Trip 3, our primary focus was Baja California, which will be the subject of the next travelogue.

On Trip 4 (20 Jan. 1984), I was on a business trip to meet journalism faculty colleagues at CSUSD. I visited the mission because it was just west of the campus. In the afternoon, I joined a tour of Villa Montezuma (built 1887) at 1928 K St., and toured the Gaslamp Quarter of the city. Finally, I visited the Grubbs again for a farewell tea party because I was returning to Australia the next week at the end of my Fullerton year. Back in the Fullerton condo, mother was eagerly awaiting me.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Next: A Peek into Mexico through Baja California (Part A)

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  (The writer is a professor of mass communications emeritus, Minnesota State University Moorhead.)


Figure 1: Main Attractions in San Diego–Wild Animal Park in Escondido, 32 miles northwest of A=Mission San Diego de Alcala; B=San Diego Zoo; C=Balboa Park; D=Hotel del Coronado; E=Old Town San Diego State Historic Park; F=Sea World;ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  and G=Belmont (Amusement) Park.


Picture 1: Yoke-Sim and son Junius on the summit of the 823-foot Soledad Mountain in La Jolla trying to get a good view of San Diego to the south (9 July 1983). The Mount Soledad cross has been the subject of a continuing controversy over the involvement of religion in government.


ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Picture 2: The author and his son Junius at the Cabrillo National Monument at the southern tip of Point Loma Peninsula (10 July 1983). It commemorates the landing of Juan RodrƒÆ’†’ƒ”š‚­guez Cabrillo at San Diego Bay on 28 Sept. 1542.

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