Ormand Family Activity

To read about our October 2021 Texas Lighthouse Tour, go here.

To read about our July 2021 Independence Day celebration, go here.

November 2021: California Lighthouse Tour - Part 1

What we had learned last time was that if lighthouses are going to be open for public visits, they're going to be open on a very restricted basis, such as only on the weekends or certain days of the week. This is particularly true when the lighthouse is part of the US Lighthouse Society passport program (uslhs.org/fun/passport-club). So when we found out that the Trinity Head Lighthouse was going to be open for three hours on the first Saturday of the month, we made plans to be there on the first Saturday of November. We had attempted to visit Trinity Head on our grand Pacific Northwest tour and actually climbed up the Head and followed the instructions to view the lighthouse, but were entirely frustrated. So we have something of a quest going on here.

Friday October 22: Tucson to San Diego

The first objective is to find the graves of Jerri's ancestors that she has located in the tiny California border town of Potrero. After a bit of anxiety and resesarch about the potential for border-crossers and violence, we determined to proceed with the plan. This also gives us the opportunity to stay at the legendary Hotel Del Coronado in San Deigo. But this means we will have to leave early-ish to get there at a reasonable time.

We finish packing and (of course) leave late, around 10:30. Jerri needs to mail some things and I forgot the stamps - have to go home and get them. Then I forget to grab my cellphone - have to go home to get it. We go by CVS for a prescription and find CVS doesn't open until 10. All told, it's 11:30 before actually leaving town. It's a smooth drive from Tucson through Casa Grande to Yuma.

Dateland MartI usually try to stop at Dateland, around 50 miles outside of Yuma. Just because. I get a date shake, Jerri gets vanilla. I take note of some Calgary Stampede posters hung up on the wall in the travel shop, and relish the out-of-place-ness.

Dateland PalmsThe travel shop is surrounded by the data palm orchard that gives the place its name - and the source of the dates in the shakes, the date bread, the packed pitted dates, the bags of raw dates, etc. I wonder if the workers here ever get sick of the smell of dates.

Note to Future Self: There's an AZ Centennial sign on I-8 Westbound just after Fortuna in Yuma.

Passing into California, where we will be spending the next couple of weeks, I take note of a little town/museum just inside the border. In fact, looking at Google, there are many little roadside attractions along this desolate road, within a day's drive of home. Maybe someday.

We feed the horse (refuel the van) at Ocotillo - $5.19/gal, $77 gas charge. I wrote this in November of '21. Looking back from May '22, it seems a bit quaint.

We experience the familiar sights of the rocky mountains that feature Devil's Canyon and the Desert View Tower. At Highway 94 we leave the main road toward Campo and Potrero, and get behind a pokey grandpa for some 10 miles or so. The road is very curvy and twisty through hills posted at 55MPH but lots of 25MPH rated curves. Maybe grandpa was a divine appointment. Campo is a fair sized town.

Potrero CemetaryIn contrast, Potrero is tiny, and between the GPS and the road signs, it isn't hard to find the cemetary across from the nice-looking library.

AncestorsThe Jeter headstones are right in front of the gate, so there isn't much searching to find them.

Jerri with Ancestor GravesPhotographic evidence of Jerri fulfilling her geneological mission to visit her great-grandfather's grave.

The road continues on toward San Diego; more twisty curves. At one point, an ambulance passes us just as we start climwing a steep, straight stretch up a hill right into the dazzline sun. As we continue, on-coming cars are flashing their headlights at us, trying to tell us of something ahead. Traffic is backed up for a mile before an accident scene: firemen are directing traffic into one lane as they deal with a car tipped on its side against the trees, glass everywhere. On the other side, traffic picks up, we enter the increasing density of San Deigo, and the GPS guides us off of and back onto highways in its silly way of finding us the "most direct route", A couple of times I have to make a maneuver trying to figure out which entrance the GPS is telling me to take, resulting in locals honking at me. Finally we arrive at the Bridge over the water of the harbor, boats moored below. The streets in Coronado are busy and crowded; brightly-lit shops, tourists, and every curbide parking spot filled. At last, and not too late in the evening, we arrive at The Del.

Hotel Del RoomThere's a lot of activity here on a Friday night, and it's a long wait for a valet. After checking in, we follow the bell-hop and the bag cart to a separate building. I should have known we wouldn't be staying in the historic building, but this isn't bad at all. I reserve dinner at the "Sheerwater" immediately upon entering our room.

Hotel Del at NightIt's a nice view of the historic building from the balcony of our room. After looking past the construction just to the right. Also unsurprising (and similar to Las Vegas hotels), there's a price differential for rooms with better views.

Going to DinnerThe walk back to the main hotel complex is pleasant and leisurely. We dine on the patio under propane heaters. There are lots of people (and children, and dogs) in the dining area and the walkways and the grassy area just outside the patio. Jerri tells the waiter she thought he was the owner; he laughts and says he started in the '80s when he was 14, and he has brothers and sisters also working at the Del (sounds like all his family). It is a very expensive meal, and no, I'm not surprised..

Saturday October 23: San Diego to Long Beach

The fancy shower is a bit silly - the on/off/temp valve is on the far side from the shower head, and it takes a while for effect of the valve to appear in the water stream; meanwhile, the valve to switch between overhead and handheld is on the other side. Jerri starts her preparations for the day while I go to ENO Marketplace for "Grab & go" - not very grab&go with a long line already at 7:30. Not much of a selection, either. I choose a turkey sausage muffin and a prosciutto croissant. There are other fancy breakfast sandwiches, and only fancy coffee mixtures and alcohol to drink.

View from Hotel RoomIn the morning light, the state of construction is more visible through the balcony door. When those rooms are finished, the occupants of the adjacent wings can watch each other through their sliding glass doors. Cozy.

Hotel from RoomBut the view of the historic part of the hotel is quite good from up here. I suppose if we had been able (and could have afforded) to stay in the historic part, we wouldn't have been able to see it from this aspect.

The plan for this morning is to take the tour of the hotel, which won't end until after checkout time. I call the front desk hoping to secure a late checkout. No, they can't do that, but they can hold the bags for us. After our in-room breakfast, Jerri packs and I call for a bell hop. It's going to take a little while, so I wait in the room while she goes to look in the shops in the main hotel area. Soon the bell hop arrives, loads the cart, and gives me a bag check. I leave the bags with him and go find Jerri and check out. By now it's about time for our tour, and so we walk down the main drive into the hotel to the Ice House museum. The girl at the counter is flustered because the internet is not working. The museum has pictures and artifacts of the hotel's long history, including photos of all the celebrities that have stayed there. I notice our own pictures aren't up there; I guess we don't quite rate.

Soon our tour guide collects us all and leads us outside. She's an older lady who has lived in Coronado for many years. The introductory story about the hotel is as follows: Babcock and Story were Chicago-area businessmen who had come out west for their health. Upon their stay in San Diego, they see the prospect for real estate profit and buy Coronado Island for $110,000. Plans are made for a community with wide boulevards. They have a pipeline laid from the mainland to obtain fresh water from the San Diego River. Then they set up a ferry from the mainland and a short-line railroad from the dock. In those days, the "big draw" to attract investors and residents is to build a fancy hotel. To raise funds for the hotel, plots are auctioned, and then they obtain the services of well-known architects, and commence construtction. The hotel is built in eleven months; this significant feat was accomplished by building a power plant to provide electricity for power tools (a new resource at the time) and a local climate good that enables year-round work.

The OxfordThe first point on our tour is to walk all the way down the drive to the end of the hotel property, where the Oxford stands. This was actually the first hotel on the property, and when the main building was completed, it became a dorm for the hotel workers. In the course of time the building was sold and physically moved off the property, but then eventually it was given back and moved back to property. At that point it was restored and was used for hotel administration offices.

BoathouseFrom this point on the drive we can see the Boathouse. This was originally part of the hotel's attraction, for guests to rent boats to putter around the bay. Now, it's a fancy restaurant. If we were going to be here longer (that is, if we could afford it), we would certainly visit.

Laundry ExteriorMoving up the drive, we come to the Laundry. This building, probably more than any other on the property, retains its original appearance, although some restoration work has been necessary such as removing the paint later generations put over the Victorian-era brickwork. Note the distinctive "sawtooth" roof-line - those are big windows.

Laundry InteriorThe big windows admit natural light for the benefit of the 19th Century laundry workers. There are still overhead tracks for laundry operations, very similar to what you see at a dry cleaner shop. The building is now used for offices for the construction people (there's a lot of construction on-site right now, not only in the new building across from our room last night), and in honor of the heritage, the conference rooms are named "Fluff and Fold", "Knits and Delicates", and so forth.

Ice HouseWe started the tour in the Ice House, presumably where ice was made for use in the 1880s hotel. Behind the Ice House, or more accurately the part of the building away from the drive, is the power plant, which was built before the hotel and provided power for the new-fangled power tools and went on to provide power to the hotel and the planned community sprouting up around it. There used to be two chimneys, but technological progress reduced the need to a single stack. The guide points out the beautiful Victorian brickwork, recently uncovered by removing the paint that unappreciative later generations put on it,

Original ChandelierThe guide points out the last surviving original chandelier of the main dining room. Designed by Frank Baum, a celebrity guest at the hotel, these chandeliers served for many years but were upgraded for figures that put out a bit more illumination.

Tunnel to Main BldgMore Victorian brickwork: a utility tunnel that runs to the hotel's lower level. It's off-limits now, but in the day, "Flirtation Lane" was frequented by courting couples seeking less society. The power plant has preserved some period switch panels for show.

The tour group pauses outside to appreciate one of the last great Victorian wooden beach resort hotels. We cross the street and look at some of the evergreen trees that were imported and are decorated with lights every Christmas for the past hundred years, and also some other exotic plants. Then the group goes up to the main door (the original railings are still here and maintained, but being from a less structured age they are too low to meet code and have to be supplemented discreetly) and into the lobby.

Hotel Del Coronado

Chandelier in LobbyJerri and I came to stay at the Del at the right time, with several restoration projects in the historic building wrapping up. The lobby was done a few weeks ago. On the way in, the guide points out some stained glass windows, one or two of which are original and used to hang over fireplaces but have been moved to exterior walls to actually work as stained glass windows. The guide tells us that at the Christmas season, the chandelier gets taken down to make room for a big decorated tree. I'm thinking it would be interesting to visit in the Christmas season; maybe the rates would be lower then.

Lobby StaircaseAlso a newly-laid parquet floor. The main staircase to the upper level isn't very grand, but the elevator next to it certainly has a vintage appearance.

CourtyardThrough the lobby and out the door, the tour group comes into the large, beautiful interior garden or courtyard. Some of these palm trees are original, 100 years old. Shortly after completion, the hotel owners introduced tropical animals such as monkeys and parrots for the amusement of the guests, but they caused so many problems that they regretted this decision. Note the balconies facing into garden. There may be no poor views from the rooms in the historic building.

The guide takes us to the door just to the left ot the lobby door and into the main dining hall - the "Crown Room". Here are the successors to Baum's original design for the chaneliers. The shape of the room evokes a "train barn". It's all dark wood, and joined - no nails. The structure to the left is a more recent addition, not in earlier photos, and we speculate that the elevated platform was for musicians. We are told a bit of Victorian social protocol: unaccompanied women were not permitted in formal settings like this, and had a separate dining room for their use. Notable guests include Edward Prince of Wales, numerous presidents, and Charles Lindbergh, The Lindbergh event was especially magnificent, with an introduction by Will Rogers and a model airplane circulating on an elevated track around the ceiling. It seems Lindbergh's famous airplane, the Spirit of St. Louis, was bankrolled by interests in St. Louis but built here in San Diego!

Main Dining Room

Inside the Big TurretLeaving the dining room and passing through the doors on the other side of the lobby door, our group enters the main utility room. I discover that the big turret that so characterizes the hotel is actually a ballroom, not tower rooms as I had thought. Originally, the room used to go all the way up, but in the '60s they installed a suspended ceiling. What on earth were they thinking? The guide tells us that there are plans to remove the ceiling and restore the grandeur of seeing all the way up in the "dome". We are told that below the ballroom, originally there were billard rooms, turkish baths, etc. Now there are the shops and dining places we saw lasat night. The original bar is still in use but in a different location; I think we saw this last night, too.

Dragon TreeThe tour ends under this "dragon tree" with stories of the shenanigans of the cast and filming crew for the production of Some Like It Hot starring Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, and Marilyn Munroe. She also explained how the original developers, Mr.  Babcock and Mr. Story borrowed money from local entrepreneur and industrialist J.D. Spreckels in tough times, and Spreckels gradually assumed control of the property (Story went off to new profitable ventures in Washington and Oregon, but Babcock died penniless in San Diego). Originally (and not so different today), the hotel was targeted at rich people, but Spreckels wanted middle class folk to enjoy the San Diego climate and so encouraged and subsidized the development of Tent City, a facility with rented rooms under canvas and including amenities such as baths and kitchens, etc. This institution continued up until World War II.

After the tour, Jerri and I go check out the reason for why this hotel came to be and has succeeded so magnificently for so long. Here's the sea-facing side of the Hotel Del Coronado. I'll bet those rooms are pricey!

Hotel Del Coronado Sea Face

And turning around, the Pacific Ocean and the hotel's private beach.

Hotel Del Private Beach

Hotel LobbyWe go back to the lobby for a last look through the hotel shops and to enquire about our bags and the valet. After receiving somewhat confusing instructions, we head back out the door, across the courtyard, and through the external door on the other side where I submit the bag claim ticket and the valet ticket at the service booth. Shortly afterwards, the cart with our bags shows up. After a somewhat longer delay, the car is driven up. We pay the valet his tip, load the car, and we're off for the next adventure.

All told (and before I get the credit card statement and learn just how pricey it was), this was a wonderful experience to finally stay at the Hotel Del and appreciate its story. More here: hoteldel.com/history

As many times as I've been to Point Loma, I don't know quite why I get it wrong every time. It's not too hard to find the road, and there are "Cabrillo National Monument" signs all the way up to the end, but somehow I always get to the gatehouse of the naval installation at the end of the road and have to backtrack to find the Cabrillo turnoff. Past the national cemetary up to the line of cars entering the monument parking area. The objective is to get the Old and New Point Loma Lighthouse stamps which are available at the park gift shop. Sure enough, there's a table outside the gift shop with the lighthouse and National Park stamps tended by some park rangers. We chat with them and discover they don't know about Padre Island (a national park we were at just a month before) or the USLHS passport program (even though they have the stamps provided by the USLHS - go figure). After this accomplishment, we can follow the path out and down to the Juan Cabrillo statue and the Point Loma overlook of San Diego Harbor.

San Diego Harbor

David and San DiegoHere I am providing scale for the vista of San Diego we are enjoying.

Hotel from Point LomaMy cheapo Raytheon Anniversary Gift binoculars with the built-in digital camera can make out the hotel on Coronado Island that we were at last night and just an hour before.

Old Point Loma LightFrom the parking lot we can look up the hill and see the Old Point Loma lighthouse. We've been there bunches of times, so we're not going to visit today.

New Point Loma LightHowever, to justify getting the stamp for the New Point Loma Lighthouse, we take the road to the tidal pools just outside the Monument parking lot down to the shore. It's a bit of a hike with no pathway from the crowded parking area to the gate of the Coast Guard station, but there it is at the end.

Returning back to town from Point Loma, it's been a long time since our right-sized in-room breakfast, so both of us are on the lookout for a lunch place. And Jerri's checking her cellphone navigator. Not really seeing anything until we come across Adalberto's on Rosencranz. It's not a bad little Mexican cafe, where you place your order at the window counter and go fetch it out when they call your name. Then on toward Seaport Village, where Jerri hopes to find her wind-chime shop. There must be a festival on the Embarcadero, because there are pavilions set up here and there, masses of people, and lots of cars. I have to circulate the Seaport Village lot a few times before I get lucky.

Seaport VillageTurns out the wind-chime shop appears to be gone. We can still look around the shops since we're here. Jerri picks out a sunlight-activated-color tee-shirt, and we get some Ben and Jerri's icd-cream. There are also a lot of young people dressed up in what looks like prom clothes.

Arizona BoatWhat is so interesting about this cabin cruiser moored in the San Diego marina?

Arizona Boat CloseupYep. Some Zonies park their boats in San Diego. No surprise it's owned by Snobsdale Zonies.

And now it's time to leave San Diego and start on our northward journey. As we get on I-5 and leave the dense city, I reflect that we've been to Mission Beach and Seaworld, and Point Loma (bunches of times) and Balboa Park and Old-Town San Diego and Coronado Island (many times) and Seaport Village (bunches of times) - but we've never actually poked around downtown. Maybe someday.

On the way, I realize we have to adjust our reservation time at Parker's Lighthouse restaurant, because traffic on I-5 is backed up and pokey, so Jerri gets out the cellphone and uses some mobile data. Later, her GPS directs us onto highway 73 to avoid traffic, even though it's a toll road, and it turns out to be more direct anyways. We follow the GPS directions and arrive at the Long Beach waterfront on Saturday Night. I try out the parking lot next to Parker's - nope. And the one next to it - nope. Eventually, I have to go eastward along the marina and find a pay spot way out. The machine won't let me reserve more than two hours. Oh, well. Then it's walk (not fast, but reasonably briskly) back toward Shoreline Village. Jerri stops to use a nasty public restroom, and while she's in there, I can look across the marina at a large structure lit up by colored lights with what appears to be fake waterfalls cascading down its walls. How intriguing.

Parker LH at NightArriving at the restaurant just past our timeslot, we are seated right away. There's a crowd of people outside who are hopefully waiting. It's a nice Southern California fall evening, and there are plastic windbreaker panels and propane heaters on the patio, so we opt to dine on the patio.

Queen Mary at NightWith a great view of the harbor. Across the water, the Queen Mary is all lit up. While we wait for our order to be brought out, we watch a party boat meander around the harbor between us and the old passenger ship - flashing lights and booming bass audible even at this distance.

Fake Lighthouse at NightAlso visible from our patio table is the tall fake lighthouse at Long Beach Harbor, all light up at night.

Parker LighthouseThis was a delightful way to end a busy day. After we leave the restaurant, we can walk out on the marina breakwater a little ways for a better look at things, and then back to our car. Twenty minutes past the parking time, but no ticket; I'm pleasantly surprised that the parking enforcers are busy elsewhere on a Saturday night.

The GPS then guides us to our hotel at Ocean and Atlantic, not far from the waterfront. It's an older Travelodge, and there's not enough parking. There's One Spot Left, in an enclosed slot next to a car whose owner chose not to be very considerate. Could be that's why it is still unoccupied. After letting Jerri out to guide and folding the mirror on the passenger side (thankfully it can do that), I manage to ease the car (with lots of backing up to retry) inches from the block wall. Fortunately there is a luggage cart. The elevator is rather aggressive about closing the door on you.

Sunday October 24: Long Beach to Buellton

Other Long Beach HotelsIn the morning, I decide that the Travelodge room was really not that bad. It was clean if somewhat run down, the hall didn't smell like urine, and it was quiet. It is just interesting to me to descend from the Hotel Del Coronado to the Travelodge Convention Center. Here's the view from our balcony to probably nicer and almost certainly significantly more expensive hotels in the vicinity.

We prepare for the day, pack up, check out, and load the van while it is still stuck in stall. Nobody seems to be leaving, but it seems the parking lot is shared between the hotel and the Breakfst Bar - a breakfast restaurant with a bar (mimosas, etc.). After putting our name on the list we stand on the sidewalk with a lot of other people waiting. To be served without further delay we agree to sit at the bar, where we have a decent (non-alcoholic) breakfast while watching the cooks and waitstaff and tolerating the high noise level.

Tight FitHere's our car. Inches from the wall. The dummy is still there, his wheels on the line between the stalls. Getting out was easier than getting in, fortunately. Jerri unfolds the mirror, gets in, and it's a quick drive to the Long Beach Aquarium parking structure. It's a busy Sunday morning at the harbor, including Buddhists wandering around trying to sell beaded bracelets to passers-by.

Famous BoatIt's easy to get the tickets for the next harbor cruise, and we're in plenty of time. After our cruise group boards and the boat departs the dock, I catch a glimpse of a boat with a famous name.

Queen MaryThe Queen Mary in daylight. It was fun to visit her on the previous occasions, but that's probably enough. Not visible in this photo is the huge geodesic dome that used to house the Hughes Aircraft H-4 Hercules Flying Boat, aka the Spruce Goose, but the airplane has since been moved to a site in Oregon and the dome is now the Carnival Cruise terminal.

The Port of Long Beach is (normally, previously) the busiest seaport on the west coat. Yet nearly all the cargo transfer berths are idle.

Port of Long Beach

Ships Waiting at Long BeachAnd looking out to sea, a vast array of container ships are waiting to be unloaded. Not to get political, but this is a moving impression of a terrible, needless, self-inflicted stupidity.

Ships Unloading at Long BeachNot completely idle, thank goodness. Here are two big ships being unloaded.

Unloaded Ship DepartingAnd a now-empty freighter is departing the port.

Sea Lions on BuoyWhile we were boarding, the captain and the mate were standing outside the bridge watching the passengers, and I was nearby, so I asked if the tour came close to the Long Beach Light. They wondered why we want to see "ugliest lighthouse in America", but they were willing to adjust the course to accommodate (they also suggest that to see LA lighthouse, we can get the cruise out of San Pedro, and the whale watcher tour might be better; it has to go out of the harbor). On the way, we pass a buoy that some sea lions were using for a snoozle spot. Later on, the mate asks me to look at the buoy over there on the usual tour course to see if there are sea lions on it (I've got my camera binoculars). I look and tell him that there are not. Good thing for us all that I asked for a course modification!

Long Beach LighthouseHere it is: The Long Beach Lighthouse on the end of the breakwater. Yep, it's ugly. Wouldn't care to see it except the USLHS has a stamp for it.

Heavily Loaded Ship WaitingJust beyond the breakwater is another huge heavily-loaded container ship waiting... waiting...

Lots of Ships WaitingThat whole sea is covered with ships. This is obscene...

More Unloaded Ships DepartingBut then we get behind a string of emptied cargo ships. Something is happening in Long Beach, but it's not happening fast enough to keep up with demand, and unless they shift it into overdrive, they'll just keep falling more and more behind.

THUMB IslandHere is something new. The captain (and narrator) tells us this is an artificial island that the oil companies have built to carry out drilling operations. Underneath the water just off the coast of one of America's great cities is an enormous oilfield - and the state goverment is trying to shut down the petroleum industry. Anways, these are called THUMS islands (Texaco, Humble (now Exxon), Union, Mobil, and Shell).

Tanks on THUMB IslandA closer look reveals some oil storage tanks amidst the palm trees.

THUMB Island with DerrickHere's one with a derrick.

THUMB Island with Enclosed DerrickAnd another on which the derrick is enclosed by a decorative shell. Probably government regulations afflicted this one.

Grissom IslandAnd yep, afterwards I find out that the spectacle at the marina last night was indeed another THUMS island with even more extravagant decorations. Looks a lot more interesting at night.


Cruise Ship in Long BeachOur boat passes a big cruise ship. Can't tell if it's coming or going, but there are no passengers standing outside looking down on us.

Downtown Long BeachThe captain points out the tall building with the green roof as the Villa Riviera that survived the 1933 Long Beach earthquake.

Fake Lighthouse at Long BeachAs the boat returns to its dock, the fake lighthouse stands to the left side. There is a crowd of people around it. I wonder if there is access to it, but I don't see anybody upstairs. Long Beach is another of those many places that call for a return visit.

Parker's LighthouseAnd on the right side is Parker's Lighthouse in the daylight.

Kristina BoatAs we get off the boat, I turn around and capture a photo of the Kristina (which is also the name of my sister-in-law).

The next stop is Point Fermin Lighthouse and the first (of two) Los Angeles Harbor Light stamp. We return to our car and find the way down I-710 across Terminal Island and two huge bridges to the city of San Pedro. This turns into Gaffey Street which we continue on toward the Point. The road is very congested. First, we have to stop at a CVS to get water for Jerri's breathing machine. Then further down we stop at a Taco Bell to get some lunch. It takes three right turns around the block to get back to the Taco Bell. Then further down we have to pull in at a Sinclair to get gasoline. At last we're driving toward the end of Gaffey and the Point. Getting there, I discover the parking lot at the park is as full as it was the last time we were here, and I'm not about to park outside the biker bar again, so it's back up Gaffey and a U-turn to park pointed downhill along the big park there. Taking our lunch, we walk down to the park and sit in the grass under a shady tree to eat.

Dragon Tree at San PedroWhile we're sitting there enjoying the open space, I note -- a dragon tree in the tree hedge along the edge of the park. I'll bet that's a descendent of the original imported dragon tree we saw at the Hotel Del.

San FerminIt turns out Point Fermin Lighthouse is available only for pre-arranged tours, no walk-ups, and the tower is closed anyways "for COVID reasons", so we can't go up inside anyways. Jerri talks with the ladies at the table outside the gift shop and gets her stamp, and then I can walk outside the lighthouse compound to get her photo from a different angle than before..

At this moment, we have a decision to make. The original plan was to go to Point Vicente. Looking back, Jerri misunderstands me and thinks I am talking about the lighthouse - it's closed. I'm misunderstanding her to say the Interpretive Center, which has the stamps that are our objective, is closed. Well, if the entire reason for going there is already Overcome By Events, let's just do the other cruise.

San Pedro HalloweenI leave Jerri at the park to walk up the hill and fetch the car down for her. At the corner of the big park is a banner advertising the local aquatic version of their Halloween celebration.

We go back up Gaffey and over to Harbor Boulevard. Now we've been here before. The Los Angeles Maritime Museum is the site for the Los Angeles Harbor Light original lens... but of course, the museum is closed "for the duration of the health crisis", Just a bit farther down is the San Pedro Fish Market. This used to be part of the Ports o' Call attraction, but sadly, the Ports o' Call part has been demolished. There are signs of impending construction all around, and it's a bit hard to find a parking spot and step over the hose guards and around the traffic barricades. The fish market is absolutely pack-ola-ed with people anxious to tie on some fresh seafood. In the midst of this is the booth for the Los Angeles Harbor cruise. Between the noise and the apparent unfamiliarity of the young girl with the English language, it's hard to make out but apparently the normal harbor cruise which takes 45 minutes and runs several times a day comes within view of the lighthouse just as well as the two-hour twice-a-day whale-watching cruise. And the next normal cruise departs in just minutes. So that's what we do, buy the tickets and follow the barely comprehensible instructions to the boarding gate down an "alley" between the fish restaurants. Soon the last tour members have boarded and the boat casts off and backs into the harbor channel.

Pilot Boats at LA HarborWe saw pilot boats operating at Port Aransas in Texas. Here are two tied up at the port dock without a lot to do, considering all those ships out there waiting endlessly.

Big Ship Unloading at San PedroHowever, here is a big ship at a loading berth.

Crane in OperationThe crane operators are busy lifting the containers off the ship and staging them for pick-up by trucks and presumably trains.

More Ships UnloadingTwo more big container ships being unloaded. I can't help but notice there are a lot, a lot of idle loading berths, and not much traffic of large vessels coming in loaded or departing empty.

Federal Corrections InstitutionThe cruise goes in and out of all the waterways in the harbor. On the far side of a piece of Terminal Island eastward of the San Pedro harbor is this prison, listed as "Federal Corrections Institute". Seems to me that a shipping port is a strange place to locate a prison.

Millenium FalconAnother famous ship crosses our course. Good thing Captain Solo is aware of us.

LA Harbor LightAnd here it is: Los Angeles Harbor Light, or "Angel's Gate Light". Much better looking than its companion just east of here. This is as close as we can get to it.

Coast Guard CutterHeading back into the Port of Los Angeles, the boat passes a Coast Guard installation. Here's a pretty white cutter.

Coast Guard Buoy TenderAnd here, with black hull paint, is a working ship, a buoy tender.

Sea Lions under WharfThere's an abandoned wharf across the water from the Fish Market. A bunch of sea lions have made it their hangout spot. I think it's pretty amazing that these animals can swim up and leap out of the water and land in these narrow cavities in the concrete.

San Pedro LogoA bit further in, on the wall of the retention basin for fuel tanks, a San Pedro Centennial logo. Pretty sure that's Point Fermin depicted.

The cruise comes up to but doesn't go under the Vincent Thomas Bridge over the channel. I think this separates the inner harbor where there's more water traffic from the outer harbor. The sleek boat in the foreground is the Catalina Ferry that departs from San Pedro; we've only taken the one that leaves from Long Beach.

Vincent Thomas Bridge

Berth 93Pretty retro-looking '60s chrome and steel building. I think it's "Berth 93". With a police car with the door open pulled up outside. Interesting...

Cruise Ship at San PedroThis stretch of the port is where the big cruise lines dock for boarding. It's a daggone floating resort hotel, with every room having a balcony on the water.

Passengers Waiting to DepartAnd it must be getting ready to leave, with all these passengers aboard looking down on us as we pass.

Phalanx Point on IowaThe Phalanx ship defense point on the USS Iowa.

Battleship IowaPassing by, I can get a full view of the battleship. Obviously you can buy tickets to look around. So much to do, so little time...

Harbor TugJust before our boat puts into her dock, a tug passes by heading seaward. I'm thinking this doesn't really look like a harbor tug; more like a barge tug, of a sort like we saw pushing barges of wood chips through the Bonneville locks on the Columbia River when we were in Oregon two years back.

Well, that was fun. Even if we were sharing the cruise with a lot of other folk, including an extended Hispanic family with a "just married" couple, talking loudly all the time, endlessly taking cellphone selfies, and not restraining their children from running everywhere. Back in the car, we manage to get to 25th Street which turns into Palos Verdes Drive winding up into the tall headland that separates Long Beach and San Pedro from the Los Angeles beaches.

Point Vicente LighthouseAfter some time we arrive at Point Vicente. Now we discover the consequences of our previous mutual misunderstanding - if we hadn't gone on the cruise, we would have gotten here before 5:00 when the interpretive center closed and gotten the stamps. In retrospect, now that Jerri has sent a letter to the interpretive center and gotten her stamps in reply, I'm glad we had the experience of the harbor cruise. We have to be satisfied with taking pictures of the Point Vicente Lighthouse through the chain link fence, since it was definitely closed today.

Jerri at Point VicenteThe official photo of Jerri with the Point Vicente Lighthouse.

The long drive to Buellton commences. The GPS guides us across L.A. to I-405, and it's smooth sailing for a while, but as we continue northward the density increases until it's stop-and-go bumper-to-bumper. For mile after mile, crawling along. On Sunday evening. I don't see how these people can live like this. Eventually, painfully, we approach the 101 fork and have to force ourselves into the rightmost lanes. It lightens up a little bit on highway 101. It's too dark to appreciate Calabasas and Thousand Oaks and Camarillo. It's also hard to see any dinner places and there are no roadside adverts (maybe California has outlawed roadside adverts), so in desperation I just take an exit on the edge of Ventura. There's a Habit hamburger place on the corner, but that isn't very appealing; however, after driving past it and around in downtown Ventura and finding nothing except the time of night getting on, we return to the Habit and get our burgers. Back on the road it isn't too bad or too long before we arrive at Buellton and find the hotel on the main strip without too much trouble. While Jerri is checking in, it starts to rain, and I have to unload the van in the rain, and of course there's no luggage trolley here. The room at this Quality Inn is better than the Travelodge last night but not much bigger.

I think it is important to explain our routes over the next few days to avoid confusion during the stroke-by-stroke narrative: The travel plans are ultimately structured around getting to Trinidad Head by the first Saturday of November; hwoever, some intermediate targets are Point San Luis (only Wednesday and Saturday), the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum (closed Wednesday), Piedras Blancas (Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday), and Point Sur (Saturday, Sunday, and Wednesday). This, combined with the expectation of a full day at Solvang and Anacapa Island, requires some careful planning and results in a awful lot of up and down driving time in Central California. The route we settled on is:

  • L.A. to Buellton (Solvang)
  • Buellton to Santa Barbara
  • Santa Barbara to San Luis
  • San Luis to Piedras Blancas
  • Piedras Blancas to Anacapa
  • Anacapa to Carmel-by-the-Sea

Today was the first time through Santa Barbara. We will see it three more times.

Central California Routes

For Part 2, go here.