25 And Counting …

Post by Jim

We’ve been very, very lazy about keeping this blog up to date with our travels. We haven’t posted since October of 2018 even though we’ve visited a number of campgrounds and celebrated and anniversary. Hopefully, we will catch up soon. As a first installment of catch up, here’s a post about the anniversary we celebrated last September.

My wife and I celebrated our 25th anniversary on September 4, 2018. It’s been a great 25 years and it’ll be fun seeing what the next 25 brings us. How she’s been able to stand me for so long still escapes me so I guess I’m just extremely lucky.

Our anniversary was about a week-long celebration consisting of eating, hiking and a trip to a famous, haunted hotel.

On anniversary day, we had a nice breakfast at a local restaurant, a hike around the L.A. County Arboretum and finished off with a fine dinner at The Derby in Arcadia, California. If you like steak, The Derby is one of the finest steakhouses you’ll ever visit.

Later in the week, we headed to the historic Hotel Del Coronado for a few days. What a wonderful hotel and a great base to explore the San Diego area. My wife and I have  wanted to stay at this hotel, so our anniversary was a great excuse to do just that. During the day we explored the area around San Diego and at night we strolled along the shoreline near the hotel.

Historic Hotel Del Coronado
Dragon tree filmed in “Some Like It Hot”

The Hotel Del Coronado is a seaside resort that was constructed in 1888 by Elisha Babcock (a retired railroad executive) and H.L. Story (of the Story and Clark Piano Company of Chicago). They wanted it to attract the very best of society from all over the world, and it has. U.S. Presidents, international dignitaries, celebrities and royalty have visited the Hotel and it was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1977. One of Marylin Monroe’s most famous movies, “Some Like It Hot”, was filmed at the Hotel Del Coronado and the dragon tree from the movie is still growing there.

Beach sand sculpture

The hotel beach is impeccably maintained. There is no trash on the beach despite the large numbers of people using it. Each morning a large tractor pulls a huge log all over the beach to smooth it out so it looks untouched. The hotel even brings in a guy who does sand sculptures for hotel guests to enjoy and he creates sculptures for paid events on the beach, like birthdays and such.

The morning of our first full day at “The Del”, as locals call it, we watched Polo being played on the beach behind the hotel. If you had the money, you could take Polo lessons before the matches. We’ve never seen a live Polo match, so it was something new for us. My wife, who does volunteer work for an equine rescue organization, seemed to really enjoy it. I thought it was as exciting as watching that ribbon twirling thing women did at the Olympics years ago.

Our adventures away from the hotel began with the USS Midway Museum. The USS Midway was the USA’s longest-serving aircraft carrier and was in service from 1945 to 1992. When it was built, it was the largest ship in the world. After walking through the ship I can attest that this thing is massive. It opened as a museum in 2004 and is the most popular naval warship museum in the United States. We were there for many hours and did not see all of it before closing time. We’ll be back. If you are ever in the San Diego area, I strongly advise visiting the Midway Museum, it’s an important part of our history that is very, very interesting.

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We also stopped by a couple of lesser known things that most folks who visit the area probably don’t know about. One was an old suspension footbridge in a residential neighborhood and the other was a topiary created by a lady in her front yard.

Spruce Street Suspension Bridge

The Spruce Street Suspension Bridge was built in 1912 to provide pedestrian passage across a deep canyon, to get between new trolley lines in a residential area. It’s supported by cables embedded in huge concrete slabs beneath the soil. If you are afraid of heights, you may not want to walk over it. The bridge suspends over a canyon, and wind gusts or people just walking can make it swing. It sure moved when we walked across it. Now it’s mostly a secret, quiet, romantic spot, enjoyed by locals and the occasional visitor, like us.

Many years ago, a lady named Edna Harper started a topiary garden in her front yard for people to enjoy. We visited the garden and it was amazing. It took years to train and trim the plants into all kinds of shapes. There is a funny plaque on one of the trees that reads “Edna Scissorhands.” I guess it’s only funny if you’ve seen the movie Edward Scissorhands. This was a fun, quick stop that’s worth a look and it’s close to the Spruce Street Suspension Bridge.

Just up the road from San Diego is the beach community of La Jolla, which we decided to visit. While there we were entertained by Sea Lions sunning themselves on the beach and we visited a sea cave.

Sea Lions are big and noisy. They are also wild animals, have real big teeth and don’t want to be bothered. Of course we saw people, of questionable intelligence, try to get ridiculously near them for selfies. A loud snort and quick head-move was usually enough to make people move away fast. I’m betting that a good number of folks get bitten every year. Sea Lions are fun to watch.

There is a touristy trinket store in La Jolla called “The Cave Store” that has an old, long, steep, wet stairway leading down to the Sunny Jim sea cave in one store corner. It’s the only sea cave in California that is accessible by land. The tunnel leading to the sea cave was the idea of a German engineer, Gustav Schulz, who retired in La Jolla. He thought people would pay to go down a tunnel to see a sea cave so he had a tunnel dug. Work on the tunnel began in 1902 and it took two men two years to dig it with a pick and shovel . At first, access to the cave was on a rope but a few years later, he had stairs installed. There are 145 of them leading down to a platform that provides folks with a one-of-a-kind ocean view through the cave entrance. Sometimes there are Sea Lions in the cave and sometimes there aren’t. This time there weren’t but it was still fun to go down there and look out the cave entrance into the harbor. We did see snorkelers, swimmers and kayakers.

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Long before California became an US territory, both Spain and Mexico often set aside large tracts of land for citizen use. In 1835, Mexican authorities set aside a 1,400-acre tract of land in San Diego to be used for public recreation. Part of the land set aside included the site of Balboa Park, making it one of the oldest places in the United States dedicated to public recreational usage. Our last stop was Balboa Park, a place you can spend many days exploring. There are open space areas, gardens, walking paths, several museums, several theaters, and the famous San Diego Zoo.

Our time in Balboa Park was limited (late afternoon) so we mostly visited gardens, walked around and looked at the great building architecture. In 1915–16 the park hosted the Panama-California Exposition and in 1935–36 hosted the California Pacific International Exposition. Buildings from both events are historical architectural landmarks. Balboa Park and its historic Exposition buildings were declared a National Historic Landmark and National Historic Landmark District in 1977. They are also listed on the National Register of Historic Places. 

We wrapped up our stay at the Hotel Del Coronado by wandering up and down each hallway on every floor. It was fairly late in the evening so we hardly saw anyone. It was creepy, like something out of Stephen Kings “The Shinning.”

Hotel Del Coronado main elevator

This following is true, it really is. The old elevator in the main hotel lobby is manned by a person who operates the elevator for you. Earlier that day, the person operating the elevator was a normal looking, regular dressed (dark jean pants and hotel polo shirt), pleasant woman who smiled a lot and was very helpful. Later that evening with no other guests in sight, was a different story. The person operating the elevator was a very old and bent over little man. He wore a sky blue bell hop type coat and a little sky blue bell hop type brimless hat. His black pants were too large and the pockets were filled with “stuff” of some kind. No way was he was a bell hop, he was way too fragile to lift luggage. He struggled a bit opening and closing the elevator door and fumbled about when pushing the elevator buttons. He wouldn’t look at us and constantly mumbled to himself. This elevator ride was creepy, creepy, creepy! It was the longest, creepiest elevator ride I have ever experienced. But Hotel Del Coronado is haunted you know.

Hotel Del Coronado room 3327

On Thanksgiving Day, 1892, a 24-year-old housekeeper from L.A. named Kate Morgan checked into room 3327, just a few doors down from our room. It’s not clear if she was waiting for her husband or a mysterious card shark lover. Neither supposedly showed up at the hotel. Her body was found on a staircase leading to the beach, also near our room, with a gunshot wound to the head on November 29, 1892. Her death was ruled suicide at the time, but evidence from the coroner stated that the bullet in Kate’s head did not match the bullets of her own gun that was found in her hand. Her ghost is now said to roam the hotel and, in particular, room 3327.

A lot of strange things have been reported in room 3327. People report the feeling of being watched, the sink turning on and off,  the TV switching on and off, pipes rattling, strange sounds. Some say they have heard ghostly voices and whispers at all hours of the night. Others say they have seen Kate’s face appear across a black TV screen. Recently, a man in room 3327 requested another room when he discovered his belongings scattered about the room after he took a shower.

This is true, we had an odd experience in our room one night. It was about 2 or 3 in the morning and we were asleep. All of a sudden the room was filled with a high-pitched screeching noise that woke us up. My wife hit the alarm clock button even though it was apparent the noise wasn’t from the alarm clock. We couldn’t tell where the screeching was coming from, it seemed to emanate from everywhere. After about 3 or 4 minutes it just stopped. There was no commotion in the hallway, no one there at all … that we could see … so it wasn’t an alarm.

Room 3327 is the most requested room in the Hotel. I suggested we stay in it next time and my wife told me she would stay in another room but to let her know how it went for me.

Our 25th anniversary week was a good one. My wife is the greatest and I thank my lucky stars I found someone who can put up with me. I can guarantee that I’d be dead if I hadn’t found her and if she hadn’t put me back on the right track. I was hurtling at breakneck speed towards a brick wall, honestly I was. I happily look forward to the next 25 years and what they will bring, even if I don’t get to stay in room 3327.





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