Wildfires and Coyotes and Winds (& Wines), Oh My!

Chase, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Philly anymore

Embarking on week three as San Diego residents, there are some notable differences living here versus the East Coast that didn’t figure into the “Pros and Cons” list when making the decision to move out west. Some are definitely “Pros” and some are obviously “Cons,” but the equation still clearly adds up to another day in Paradise. So here are a few of my SoCal discoveries thus far. Classify away.

The Wine Scene

Wine Party Bus

Actually, it was a xmas gift obtained through Living Social, though now I only see it on Groupon. We took a four-hour wine-tasting tour – billed as a limousine tour for two through Temecula. There are over 30 vineyards in San Diego County alone, some of which we sampled before we moved out here, but this was a tour up north through Riverside. Sounded romantic and intimate in the ad, but wound up being a limo of another color. We ended up meeting some fun folks on our WINE PARTY BUS! Neon lights, music controlled by Pandora (the Lion requested Vivaldi’s Four Seasons to start…no one friended us on facebook after the tour), stripper poles, and a LOT of sparkling wine on the way to the wineries. Our tour guide even looked like Chris Pine in Bottle Shock, but he hadn’t heard of the film…

Wine Party Bus
Wine Party Bus
Our Wine Party Bus Gang at Monte De Oro Winery. Missing from this photo was the elderly couple making their way back to the party bus for more sparkling wine

It wasn’t exactly what we expected, but we tasted some surprisingly good Super Tuscans up in Temecula (and we had a party in a bus).

Good Wine Everywhere

I’m still not over the fact that everywhere I go – Jimbo’s, Albertson’s, Trader Joe’s, Wal-Mart – I can find some interesting wine to purchase. I’m out looking for zip ties and printer paper, and find I can get a bottle of red for under $2 at Wal-Mart! Picking up my favorite fiber cereal and frozen edamame at Trader Joe’s, I can sample Trader Joe’s Pinot from the Russian River Valley:


Even Primo’s, the local organic produce, meat, and seafood market has a back room wine cellar!

Local Tennis Club

While out for a run with Chase early one morning exploring the neighborhood, I followed signs into the local park.  Turns out, the local parks and recreation center has public tennis courts that are kept in spit spot condition by a non-profit tennis club. After two days of running by and some hardcore recruiting, we became the newest members of the club. Four courts with lights for night-time play, a mile from our house, and we can always get a court! We’ve even got our very own friendly french tennis pro running the program for adults and kids – great way to meet people. $325/year for a family membership, no per-use fee. Now if only I can increase the length of each day to 25 hours!

Coyotes, Santa Ana Winds and Fires

I slept hard the first few nights here, but the lion stayed up listening to the coyote songs in the canyon nearby our house. Somehow that didn’t wake our slumbering pup. Also in that first week, they spotted one on a late night walk, on our block, in a neighbor’s driveway. The coyote quickly went the other direction, but that’s all it took to convince me not to leave Chase in the yard at night without human adult supervision. The one thing that did wake up Chase at 2am (and knocked down one of the lights on the precious tennis courts) was the Santa Ana Wind – loud 2 am howling that is also partly responsible for the rapidly spreading wild fires in North San Diego County. Between the heat wave, the winds, and the drought this year, we’ve entered wildfire season EARLY, but luckily have yet to be part of an evacuation. There are evacuation centers at local schools, and some places like the Rancho Bernardo Inn are offering deals to people displaced by the fires.

Smoke from the fires blowing with the winds headed west
Smoke from the fires blowing with the wind headed west

Local Hikes

In between heat waves, a hiking buddy took us up to Sunrise Highway for part one of our San Diego hiking tour. At Laguna Meadow, this east coast transplant (me) was caught with her running shorts on, no hat or gloves in a 33-degree 40-mph windy rainy hike (with the dog on a leash) in what is probably a very beautiful place up around 4,500 feet elevation.  Lesson learned: here in San Diego, the trunk of the car becomes gear storage! Chase has proven over and over again he’s a stong hiker, so two days later, hiking pals took us to El Capitan. It’s not Yosemite, but it’s NO JOKE in terms of a climb. Ten miles round-trip with no water source, so not a summer hike. Beautiful views. Nice clean bathroom at the trailhead. On our way up the trailhead at 6:30 am, we saw a trail runner kicking butt running up that thing; he was training for a 200-miler in the Italian Alps this summer – amazing athlete. I can only hope after living here a year I can make it up the hills in the canyon behind my house without feeling like I need a nap. We didn’t go the whole way up, and Chase probably went twice the distance we did with all his running ahead and then back to us, but this seven-miler put the pup in a good coma for the rest of the day. Awesome hike that kicked our ass.  Good training for ANYTHING!

3.5 miles up El Cap
3.5 miles up El Cap

 A Different Flavor of Fast Food

In-N-Out is the one I’ve seen most often driving around here, and it’s enough of a status-brand to sell their own t-shirts and visors (Great West Coast Souvenirs). I’ve only sampled the fries and shakes, but it’s the burgers that keep it busy at all hours. More prevalent than McDonald’s out here is Rubio’s awesome fish tacos and a thousand million other taco shops. I’ve never been a fast-food lover (I don’t eat burgers) but in this town, I just might turn into a fish taco. Rubio’s has their own gear as well…

This place is always hopping - 2pm, 11pm
In & Out. They called ticket #58 when we ordered. Our ticket was 76.

Top Gun is Alive and well in Downtown San Diego

While neither of us is a Padres fan, we both enjoy baseball and were psyched to check out Petco Field. They were having a beer fest at the ballpark that night, and most noticeable was that there were more people in the beer garden than in their seats watching the game. The ballpark, even without beer fest, offered a wide variety of brews, in cans or on draft, including the refreshing Shock Top, lovely on a heat wave night. My favorite part of the game came at the top of the 9th. Padres were down 2-0, and here’s what happened:

Padres Lose that Lovin’ Feelin’ from Liz Edelstein Tripodi on Vimeo.

 Humphrey’s Outdoor Concerts On the Bay

San Diego’s answer to the Mann Music Center. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Mann in summer, especially their new cozy outdoor stage with an awesome view of Philadelphia. I just didn’t expect such an amazingly intimate music venue here.

Humphrey's Stage in the sailboat harbor - watch the sunset while having your beer or eating your sushi while you wait for the concert to start
Humphrey’s Stage in the sailboat harbor. Watch the sunset while having your beer or eating your sushi while you wait for the concert to start
It’s a winner of a date night!

At Humphrey’s, we saw Lindsey Stirling  – the ballet-meets-hiphop-Dancing house-meets-classical Violinist

Some things Never Get Old

Driving out to the beach (15 minutes) in Del Mar where – until June 15th – Chase can run around off leash playing with all of his new best buds while we watch the sunset is one of the sweetest gifts about living here. I’m pretty sure it will never get old.

Chase getting good and wet for the ride home
Chase getting good and wet for the ride home

The Equation

So yep, we’ve got wildfires.  There are earthquakes north of here. On hot days, I run Chase on the sidewalks instead of the trails because of rattlesnakes. On the other hand, San Diego holds the lowest murder rate for the 10 biggest cities in the US, there’s never a bad day to go outdoors, the avocados are delicious and plentiful, there seems to be a low population of mean people, and it’s worth repeating, THE FISH TACOS!!!


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