Oceanside Reunion

Oceanside Reunion
Oceanside, CA

Oceanside, CA

Oceanside, California was the destination for my annual reunion with my dear old friends from Appleton High. Polly came to visit me in Portland first, and we drove down there through the Redwood National Park, and spent a nice, warm week in the sun.

We turned off I-5 at Grants Pass and drove through many groves of redwoods to Eureka, Ca where we spent the night and discovered a great little Cambodian restaurant.

South of Eureka we turned back east on CA 20, a beautiful highway that winds through the coast range along several big lakes. This one is Lake Mendocino. Clear Lake is another that feels like Alpine scenery, and has several towns along the shore with names like Nice and Lucerne.

After getting back on I-5 we stopped in Los Banos, CA. This small town about 10 miles east of the freeway is one of my favorite destinations because of its legendary Wool Growers restaurant. It was great to have Polly along to share the massive quantities of excellent food. The Wool Growers belongs to a French Basque family and their traditional meal is served family style. Most of the tables seat a couple dozen people so you often get to break bread with interesting strangers! They bring a bottle of wine as soon as they seat you, followed by soup, salad, bread, a bean dish, lamb stew, probably something else I’m forgetting, oh right, potatoes, and your choice of entree. Since Polly and I are big fans of grilled lamb that’s an easy choice.

The LA traffic wasn’t as bad as we had feared, but as soon as we got south of the city everything slowed to a crawl and it took us a few hours to go the last 80 miles or so to Oceanside, which is just south of Camp Pendleton, about 40 miles from San Diego.

Phoebe and Hugh booked us a 3 bedroom condo right next to the Oceanside Pier, with a beautiful ocean view. After settling in we took a walk on the pier and checked out our neighborhood.

Oceanside is a great surfing spot, and we enjoyed watching all the surfers from the pier. This woman caught a couple of great waves and was really fun to watch. Of course, not everyone was quite so successful.

There are lots of things to do in this area and we had big plans but our main goal was relaxing by the ocean and enjoying the company of dear friends.

For our first excursion, the next day we drove to nearby Encinitas, CA to see the San Diego Botanic Gardens. We expected warm weather this week, but were not prepared for 104 degrees–one source called it the highest temperature ever recorded in Oceanside. So our strolls through the gardens were altered slightly in the interest of searching for shade. Still we found plenty of gorgeous plants. This one was one of my favorites but none of us knew the name of it–do you??

After a fun dinner at the diner on the pier and another beautiful sunset we set to work on a 750-piece jigsaw puzzle of the skyline of New York City that Phoebe found in the activity room. When we finally finished it a few days later (short of a few missing pieces) we found that it lived up to its label–it really did glow in the dark!

One day we visited Oceanside’s Mission San Luis Rey. One of the largest of the famous California Missions, it has a lovely old church, and a peaceful garden used for retreats. They have hours and days set aside when guests can get away from the hustle and bustle and enjoy complete silence. Afterwards we had lunch at the harbor–lots of great fish restaurants. After lunch I took a walk along the beach and discovered this community center named for San Diego football great, Junior Seau. Seau’s suicide has been attributed to traumatic brain injury from repeated concussions. He was born in San Diego and died in Oceanside.

Among the numerous brochures for nearby attractions we found one for the Museum of Making Music in Carlsbad, which turned out to be one of the highlights of the whole trip. The museum is a project of the National Association of Music Merchants, the trade association for stores that sell musical instruments, sheet music etc. The museum is divided into time periods starting with the 1890s, and each room shows the kinds of music popular at the time, as well as innovations from that period. Each room has an instrument that you can play–I spent a lot of time with the electric guitars! This museum is hidden away in an office park not far from Legoland, but it is definitely worth the trip!

From the museum we drove through historic downtown Carlsbad and visited their music store and a wonderful coffee and chocolate shop. All these little towns along the historic Highway 101 route have great little downtown areas.

Everyone else had to leave Friday to catch flights out of San Diego airport, but Polly and I stayed until Saturday. For our last excursion we drove about 50 miles up into the mountains east of Oceanside to visit Mt. Palomar observatory, home of the famous Hale Telescope with its 200-ft. mirror. Worth all the uphill walking and stair climbing to see this impressive machinery.

Our destination for Saturday was LA, where we’d found an AirBnB near the airport so I could drop Polly there Sunday morning for her flight home to Mexico. The traffic was a bit better than the previous Saturday, and we had plenty of time, so we spent a few hours in San Juan Capistrano, visiting the Mission and the historic downtown.

Visiting these missions is bittersweet–the treatment of the native people was brutal, but they certainly left behind some beautiful architecture and fascinating history. Apparently 4th graders are frequent visitors here, as that is the time that California students are introduced to the “mission period” and other eras of their state’s history. The original stone church was destroyed in an earthquake, and the newer one became known as Father Serra’s chapel. The intricate gold altarpiece came from Spain.

This mission is well known to most Americans from the song, When the Swallows Come Back to Capistrano. We didn’t see any swallows, but here are some of their nests.

After a leisurely stroll around the mission grounds and the historic train depot we found an outdoor Mediterranean cafe that serves traditional Greek egg and lemon soup (avgolemono).

After dropping Polly at LAX I left the LA traffic behind and headed for the town of Solvang, CA. Solvang was started by a couple of Danish Americans who wanted to preserve their culture in America. It’s full of windmills, Danish bakeries and gift shops, and a Hans Christian Andersen museum. The fountain represents Andersen’s Little Mermaid.

I did part of the Volkswalk route around Solvang and then got on Highway 1 along the coast and spent the night in Morro Bay, CA.

Next day I drove up to San Francisco through the Big Sur coast and the Monterey Peninsula. There are lots of gorgeous viewpoints along the way, one of which is an Elephant Seal rookery. This time of year the young males are returning.

After visiting with my sons and granddaughters I headed home to Oregon. This trip is never complete without a stop in Weed, CA for their great views of Mt. Shasta.


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