We launched our California Desert Vacation with a long weekend in Escondido, California. We arrived with a list of area attractions including museums, wine, a zoo, and a few breweries. As we checked them off the list, we found a few surprises.
Long Weekend in Escondido, California
Our home base for the weekend was Joe and Karla’s gorgeous home nestled in the hills near Escondido, California. It was a total California experience with a view of Catalina Island, hummingbirds, and a “casita.”
I mentioned to Joe and Karla that I was moving into their casita. They thought I was joking. This is definitely a concept we need to take home with us. If you are not familiar, it is a small guest house, perfect for your mother. (This is a very overt message to my kids.)
We woke the first morning to find a blank of fog covering the valley. It was exciting for us. Joe and Karla didn’t look overly excited to see it.
USS Midway Museum
On the top of Chuck’s must-do list for the long weekend was the USS Midway Museum in San Diego. It was the first address added to the rental car’s GPS. Thankfully the Fish Market restaurant shared the museum’s parking lot. I highly recommend both although I’ll admit I was more enthusiastic about the food than a history lesson.
I was pleasantly surprised. The docents kept me engaged. In our small entourage, I was the least interested in visiting the longest-serving aircraft carrier of the 20th century. It was HOT on the flight deck. Seeking shade, I darted between what seemed like hundreds of planes but it was less than 30. The docent’s stories in the control room and crew’s quarters were entertaining. The views of the harbor from the “Pri-Fly” were awesome. (Protip: Pri-fly is for the “primary flight control” or Island. It’s where the Air Boss and Mini-Boss sit and control everything.)
A National Salute to Bob Hope and the Military
After exiting the Fish Market and the USS Midway Museum locked into our sights we literally stumbled on a sign with “National Salute to the Bob Hope and the Military”. “What is this?” Someone said and then just as quickly added, “I forgot about Bob Hope.”
Unconditional Surrender Statue
Right next door to the tasteful tribute to Bob Hope is a giant statue of a sailor kissing a nurse. It was shocking and gaudy but delightfully fun to photograph.
My sunglasses were still at home in Michigan, sadly. Our first task after lunch and stumbling upon the National Salute to Bob Hope and the Military was buying a new pair from a street vendor. I handed over $10 feeling fairly resourceful. I had a headache before we made it back to the car. You get what you pay for. I also paid $10 for a picture of Chuck with Chewbacca. Well worth every penny.
Belching Beaver Brewery
Right behind the USS Midway on Chuck’s list was the Belching Beaver Brewery. I personally think he was more excited about Belching Beaver’s Deftones Phantom Bride. (Pro Tip: The Deftones is a Metal Band and the Phantom Bride is a song.)
Both the food and beer were tasty and more important besides T-shirts there were bar mats. I didn’t get a picture of their bar mat. Sorry, but we all got a good laugh when Greg bought a Belching Beaver bar mat and retold the Whangamomona Hotel bar mat story. Now Dianne and Greg have two bar mats and still, zero bars.
Temecula Valley Wine Tour
A hop, skip, and a jump from Joe and Karla’s home is the Temecula Valley which has over 40 wineries sprinkled across it. Just like you can’t skip the USS Midway when you are in San Diego, you can’t skip visiting a few wineries while in California. We picked three: Hart Winery, Doffo Vineyard & Winery, and finally Akash Winery.
Hart Winery was our first stop. Why? Well, it was the first winery we found. I’ll admit we didn’t do a lot of homework ahead of time. They were open, welcoming, and their outside seating area was warm and inviting. We ordered a flight like pros and we bought a bottle of wine to go.
Our wine tour was off to an excellent start. As we exited we asked about the trees along the drive? They didn’t look familiar. “Olive trees,” the very tall person behind the counter explained. As we walked to the car, Chuck plucked an olive off the tree and popped it in his mouth. The next time you see him ask him how well that went. (Protip: Olives are not edible off the branch and are intensely bitter.)
Doffo Vineyard & Winery
Our next stop at Doffo Vineyard & Winery was planned. Chuck was very curious. He found on their website:
“The MotoDoffo Vintage Motorcycle Collection has grown to include nearly 200 motorcycles and scooters from around the world and attracts moto enthusiasts and wine lovers alike to the MotoDoffo Barrel Room housed on the winery grounds.”
Like the previous winery, their outside seating was welcoming but I was surprised they served only red wines. I’ll admit I’m a sauvignon blanc girl so I had to step outside my comfort zone. Turns out I may also be a red wine person too. Chuck was fascinated with the notes of leather and tobacco that flowed from his samples. (Protip: Don’t ask Chuck to describe wines or you will hear a lot about leather and spice)
Akash Winery was our last stop and it nearly didn’t happen which would have been tragic because it was our favorite winery on this tour. Our original destination was Long Shadow Ranch Winery, but their parking lot was chaos. A Halloween event was exploding with baby strollers and pumpkins galore. We quickly left but didn’t have a plan. Thankfully wineries are plentiful in the Temecula Valley. Not far away we found Akash Winery. It was perfect for us.
Perfect? How so? You may be wondering. They served beer and both red and white wine – something for everyone. Their large open-air patio was festive with a few folks dressed up in Halloween costumes. Plus the view is idyllic. I know this sounds silly but I really liked their system for serving flights. When you arrive you purchase a card and the bartender stamps it. No fussing with a tab.
San Diego Zoo
On the top of my must-do list was the San Diego Zoo. As a general rule, I’m not a fan of zoos. However, the hype around the San Diego Zoo had me intrigued. So we secured tickets (Thanks Joey!) and visited during our last day in San Diego.
Joey, Karla and Joe’s son, is a Research Associate at the San Diego Zoo in the Plant Conservation program. When I asked about his work, I was told he collects and catalogs rare seeds.
I was curious so dug around on the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance site and found their 2019 Annual Report. It said.
“One in five plant species is imperiled worldwide, and our backyard is no exception. Making conservation collections of the unique and highly threatened plants of our region increases our understanding of rare species and reduces plant extinction.”
Wow, Joey has a really cool job. A bit more than just collecting and cataloging rare seeds.
As we walked around the zoo, I kept finding myself peeking behind the barriers and through the hedges looking for Joey collecting seeds. If you find yourself in San Diego, believe the hype about the zoo and carve out a few hours for a visit.
We didn’t leave nearly enough time for Balboa Park. You could spend several days exploring it and still not see it all. It has MANY museums, gardens, Spanish architecture, food, and shopping. Plus an abundance of people-watching opportunities. We had about an hour to basically run in and stand gaping at the beauty before we had to leave. We did not plan that well.
Our long weekend in Escondido, California was topped off with a late lunch at Tom Ham’s Lighthouse. Turns out it is one of the most iconic waterfront restaurants on Harbor Island. We enjoyed a cocktail and an amazing view of the harbor while we waited for friends to arrive at the airport.
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