San Diego, California

First Visit

I first visited San Diego in 1993. I got laid off from work because of funding shortfalls – one of the constant dangers of working for a non-profit serving world-wide political refugees headed to Canada. A couple of days later, I’m sitting having a beer with my buddy Potsy at our firehall the guys returning home from World War Two built roughly 50 years before. I looked at him after staring at the January winter cold and snow blowing outside the window of the small day room.

“You know, Pots”, I said, “I could sit here eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or I could go sit on a beach and eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Either way, it looks like PBJs are on the menu”.

He laughed.

A week later I was got off the train at the Santa Fe Train Station in downtown San Diego, CA.

Santa Fe Station - San Diego
Santa Fe Station - San Diego
Navy-Army YMCA San Diego
Navy-Army YMCA San Diego

Lodging

 After spending a night in a cheap hotel on Pacific Highway, I found long-term lodgings in the Navy-Army YMCA on Broadway near the train station. Money was tight. I was getting about $160.00 a week and the room was $85.00. Counting pennies was a regular activity. 

Having Lunch

 Within a couple of days of my arrival, I grabbed some sandwich-making supplies and made my way to Ocean Beach where I sat on my butt on the sand by the ocean and had myself a PBJ.

I ended up staying for several months and I’ve been looking forward to my return trip after nearly 30 years to really explore and relive the area. Even with the pandemic causing all sorts of problems and keeping many things under wraps.

First Visit

I first visited San Diego in 1993. I got laid off from work because of funding shortfalls – one of the constant dangers of working for a non-profit serving world-wide political refugees headed to Canada. A couple of days later, I’m sitting having a beer with my buddy Potsy at our firehall the guys returning home from World War Two built roughly 50 years before. I looked at him after staring at the January winter cold and snow blowing outside the window of the small day room.

“You know, Pots”, I said, “I could sit here eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or I could go sit on a beach and eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Either way, it looks like PBJs are on the menu”.

He laughed.

A week later I was got off the train at the Santa Fe Train Station in downtown San Diego, CA.

Santa Fe Station - San Diego
Santa Fe Station - San Diego

Lodging

Navy-Army YMCA San Diego
Navy-Army YMCA San Diego

 After spending a night in a cheap hotel on Pacific Highway, I found long-term lodgings in the Navy-Army YMCA on Broadway near the train station. Money was tight. I was getting about $160.00 a week and the room was $85.00. Counting pennies was a regular activity. 

Having Lunch

 Within a couple of days of my arrival, I grabbed some sandwich-making supplies and made my way to Ocean Beach where I sat on my butt on the sand by the ocean and had myself a PBJ.

I ended up staying for several months and I’ve been looking forward to my return trip after nearly 30 years to really explore and relive the area. Even with the pandemic causing all sorts of problems and keeping many things under wraps.

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Could Have Been at a Hostel

Sounds like a Sheena Easton song doesn’t it, or maybe Tiffany?

I was told there was a hostel on the floor below me in the YMCA building, but at that time, I didn’t know what they were and didn’t appreciate what that meant. I mean, I had to go out to eat for every meal and that’s expensive; especially on a budget like mine at the time. Heck, I could’ve been counting nickels instead of pennies!

A lot has changed in San Diego since my time there. Places of poignant memories have disappeared to the wrecking balls as new replaced the old – and some of the new is amazing.

I also learned San Diegans like waiting in lines and scooters.

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Could Have Been at a Hostel

Sounds like a Sheena Easton song doesn’t it, or maybe Tiffany?

I was told there was a hostel on the floor below me in the YMCA building, but at that time, I didn’t know what they were and didn’t appreciate what that meant. I mean, I had to go out to eat for every meal and that’s expensive; especially on a budget like mine at the time. Heck, I could’ve been counting nickels instead of pennies!

A lot has changed in San Diego since my time there. Places of poignant memories have disappeared to the wrecking balls as new replaced the old – and some of the new is amazing.

I also learned San Diegans like waiting in lines and scooters.

My First Night Back in Town

My sister Carol, who drove me from Las Vegas to San Diego, was only spending one evening in town before heading back. It was a long drive through some very heavy traffic and it was getting late, but there were a couple of things close to the hostel that I wanted her to see before she went back the following day. One was the Kansas City Barbecue and the other was the waterfront area around Seaport Village. 

Kansas City Barbecue

I first visited KCB in 1993 as I searched for a cheap beer in town. A 12 oz. glass of Bud Light was going for about $1.00 – which meant 24 ounces went for two dollars. A great deal even then.

The first thing you learn about the place is scenes from the movie “Top Gun” were filmed there. Two in particular, the one where Goose played “Great Balls of Fire” on the piano and Meg Ryan told him to take her to bed or lose her forever. The other was when Tom Cruise and Kelly McGinnis reconnect at the end of the movie and “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” gets played over an old Wurlitzer jukebox. The old jukebox used in the movie was destroyed in a real fire in 2008 (a retro-jukebox is now being used).The barbecue is pretty good and they serve everything “picnic-style”. Meaning plastic utensils and foam plates and bowls.

Seaport Village

The Seaport Village is a collection of Spanish-style commercial village structures serving as stores and restaurants along the shoreline on San Diego’s downtown waterfront. It was a place I used to wander around back in the day. 

Most everything was closed when we got there, but the walk around was still nice and we visited some of the docks to look at the yachts and sailboats. We also made it over to the new amphitheater they’ve constructed in front of the convention center area before it was time to head back to the hostel and call it a night (after a quick beer or two on Fourth Street in the Gaslamp Quarter).

Historic Carousel Seaport Village

The Hostels I Stayed At This Trip

My base this time in San Diego were three hostels. I stayed at each one for a week. Two were in the Gaslamp Quarter and the other was up near Balboa Park.

Gaslamp Quarter

Balboa Park

Time to Explore!

(But first a word about the pandemic. It kept somethings shut and others just partially open. This affected my plans and required adjustments in my activities. In other words, I guess I’ll have to go back 🙂

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From these locations, I was able to check out

Coronado  Island

        Old         Town

Cabrillo Nat’l Monument

Coronado Ferry