There will be absolutely nothing negative in this post. Coronado, for lack of a better verb, rocked.
I realized at some point that I have swum in the Pacific Ocean almost every day for a month. I have a suntan, and not from “laying out.” I feel great. More than great.
Our stay in Coronado was something I had looked forward to for a long time – the Coronado Beach Cottages are situated on Naval Air Station North Island’s beachfront, right next to the Navy Lodge, which, if you disregard the fence and security measures which separate the base from the rest of Coronado, is itself technically next to the iconic Hotel Del Coronado (the “Hotel Del”), where people spend thousands of dollars a night to loll about in a beachy haze. It is a gorgeous stretch of sand and water, and reservations for the Beach Cottages fill up almost immediately, and for good reason. It far exceeded my already high expectations.
Quick aerial view for those not familiar with San Diego. Coronado, though island-like and in the middle of San Diego Bay, is not technically an island as it’s connected by a very thin strip of land from a point near the border with Mexico. Once upon a time late 1800s it was more or less just a ritzy resort area centered on the Hotel Del, and later (WWI time frame) Naval Air Station North Island, then known as Naval Air Station San Diego. But after the bridge was built, the development followed quickly, resulting in a charming beach community that manages to maintain its own character amidst San Diego’s sprawl.
My instinct to book a cottage at the end of October turned out to have been correct, though fortuitously so. We managed to hit a heat wave that brought over 100-degree temperatures to San Diego’s beaches. That may sound like a common thing for Southern California, and indeed it is if you happen to be inland, but on the actual beach with water temps in the high-60s at most, air temperatures over 100 are not only quite rare, but also entirely palatable due to the cool water at your doorstep and the cool evenings enabled by the near-zero humidity. Even more palatable when you’re staying in an air-conditioned cottage right on the sand.
It’s difficult to describe the feeling of SPACE we felt when we first walked in. It was about 1000 ft2 maximum, but Tacco and I had our own bedroom with a door we could close, there was a full sized bathroom and shower, a dishwasher (are you kidding me?) and a washer/dryer that we could use anytime we wanted, without feeding it quarters. We had a living room and full kitchen. Our back porch with the outside shower sported an unobstructed view of the sand and the ocean, as well as Point Loma on our West side and the Hotel Del, the last of California’s coastline, and the coastal mountains of Mexico in the distance on our South and East side.
We wasted no time commencing beach ops. Having spent the last few weeks on Southern California beaches, we knew exactly what to do. The beach itself turned out to be very similar to Carpinteria in its shallow sandiness (i.e. kid friendliness). And the surf was, for our purposes, pretty much perfect. Steep, easy to catch waves that broke far enough out to make them rideable, and just big enough to be sporty but not big enough to be especially dangerous. I discovered, to my great pleasure, that Keeper’s San Elijo frustration had been quickly forgotten, and we spent hours catching waves together, with Woodsprite frolicking happily in the shallower water.
Operating without a wallet and identification on a military base required some extra planning, but we managed it without too much difficulty, and I was able to replace my military ID almost immediately.
My parents flew down and joined us on day 2, which was another coup. They flew into Long Beach so that they could take advantage of space available flying on JetBlue, rented a car, and then met us at the USS Midway museum in downtown San Diego, where we spent a few hours exploring and introducing the kids to life on an aircraft carrier.
I say “introducing the kids” but actually… shamefully, or proudly, I haven’t decided which yet, I realized that despite 23 years serving as a naval aviator, my first step onto the Midway was my first step onto an aircraft carrier. Part of my decision to fly P-3s rather than carrier-based aircraft was what I perceived at the time to be a quality of life choice – I wanted no part of “The Boat” as we later put it. “The Boat” was our blanket term in the P-3 community for basically anything grey and floating.
Though my Naval career far exceeded what I could’ve imagined on just about every axis when I first joined, I have fired up the what-if machine at times and tried to picture what my life would’ve looked like had I flown the pointy-nosed jets off of the carriers. Touring the Midway made me wish there was a way to have checked that box without giving up everything else I was able to do. Which there wasn’t of course, but the tour made for a fun and somewhat nostalgic afternoon.
The rest of our stay in Coronado was basically like a “greatest hits” of the beach days over the last month. Keeper and I did a swim and body surf session that spanned the sunset. We had likely our best family dining out experience yet at Stone Brewery’s Liberty Station restaurant (Liberty Station is the old Marine Corps Recruit Depot, which has been re-purposed from a Boot Camp site to a ridiculously charming food-shop-residential area). We celebrated Tacco’s birthday. And we relaxed. Lots of relaxing.
One consequence of our morphing plans brought on by our house’s failure to sell was the prospect of another month in the West. Originally San Diego was to be the point at which we turned the corner and headed back to the East, with the plan being to reach the Florida Keys, then park Davista for the remainder of the Winter at a military base somewhere in Florida. Our leisurely stay in Coronado gave us plenty of time to game out several other options. We landed on a plan that would allow us to spend Thanksgiving in Grass Valley (Sierra Nevada foothills) with my brother-in-law’s parents and the extended family on my side. Basically our intention now is to head back to Southern California and take advantage of a heavily discounted 3-day pass for military folks at Disneyland, as well as to spend a bit more time visiting with friends there. I’ll also fly another work trip out of Long Beach, which is a relatively easy commute. We’ll then venture out into the desert and see Joshua Tree, Las Vegas, possibly Zion National Park (weather permitting), and maybe Death Valley prior to coming back across the mountains in California. Though I would very much like to drive up Route 395 along the dramatic east side of the Sierras, many of the higher passes are already closed, and even the lower ones, of which we would have to cross several, are at 8000’ plus and getting early season snow. As comfortable as I’m getting with Davista, snowy roads aren’t something I’m ready to subject myself or my family to.
I think I mentioned at some point feeling a mixed sense of relief about flying back to our house in Maryland for the Winter. I no longer have that – I would very much like to keep doing what we’re doing and not break it up. We’ve been looking for ways to manage staying on the road, but it has become obvious that we really don’t have a viable choice, and will need to leave Davista on the West Coast and at least base out of our Annapolis house for a few months. Seal Beach Naval Weapons Station looks like an excellent Winter home for Davista though. It’s right near Long Beach airport, so I could potentially bid a layover or two and check on her.
The kids are still looking forward to heading back to Maryland, but they seem to be getting more comfortable with our lifestyle as well. Firebolt in particular seems to be getting over her “this just doesn’t feel right” sentiment – I have an inkling that she’ll be the first of the three to want to return to the traveling life after a couple months.
The bottom line is that we’re in a good space, no, a great space. Even with all the uncertainty. Basically Coronado was a fitting book end to the beach phase of our journey. Any frustrations I was still tangling with melted away. If we could stay, I would, but of course that’s not what this is all about!