2024, Personal, Travel

Riley Goes to San Diego and Los Angeles Day 3

We discovered there was a café like two blocks away that had featured on The Best Thing I Ever Ate so we headed over there for breakfast. We did not order that dish, given that it was absolutely a dessert and not a breakfast, but we did make good choices nonetheless. Jenn got biscuits and gravy that were almost as good as her own. And I had a cornbread waffle that was better than any waffle I have ever made, and which made me want to try to make them. I just googled the recipe and the first thing I found was a blog by someone who didn’t actually get to go to Café 222 but decided they would make it anyway. She then decided it was unacceptable to have a waffle without a “topping” and so added an apple cinnamon compote. The internet recipe space is a really, really weird place. Like, why even pretend you’re recreating if you never even tried it? People are just insane when it comes to internet recipes.

After breakfast, we split up, with the men heading to the USS Midway and the women taking in the Gaslamp.

The USS Midway is parked in downtown San Diego and serves as a museum. According to a totally sane US naval veteran, the “environmentalists” didn’t want it to be parked there so it took years for it to be moved from the based it was decomissoned at to San Diego. (I think he meant “NIMBYs” but he likely didn’t know the term.) It’s just down the street from the Maritime Museum but we made the choice to visit the ship because, well, it’s huge.

I’m not sure I have words to describe how big the USS Midway is. But the crazy thing is that it is not the biggest ship or even the biggest aircraft carrier in the world. (The latter is the USS Enterprise, at least by length. It turns out that carriers aren’t remotely near the largest ships by weight.) The Midway was apparently the largest ship in the world until 1955 but it blows my mind that there are bigger ships because, well, this is a really, really big ship. The Midway is 300 metres (1000 feet) long and 41 metres wide (73 metres on the flight deck). I don’t know how many storeys tall it is, but it’s big. It is the largest thing I’ve been in or on that was not a building or a natural formation. And it might be larger than some of the largest buildings I’ve been in.

Philkon Phil Konstantin, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The hangar deck itself is so big it’s hard to comprehend. It feels like an aircraft hangar only with a way lower ceiling. It goes on forever and is significantly bigger than a football field. When you’re in it, it is very hard to conceive that you are on a ship, unless you are near a window.

The below decks are so dense and so full of hatches and sections that look alike that it’s easy to imagine getting lost. Even with the tour markings, we still managed to (sort of) get lost, with at least one of us (me) thinking we’d been around the whole boat on that deck when we’d only seen about half of it. I have been on a naval few ships in my life and nothing, absolutely nothing compares to the size of this thing.

I can also tell you that I remain incredibly happy to have never served in the military but particularly in the navy. Despite the physical size of the ship, the quarters are small, with the beds particularly standing out as small and uncomfortable. (And these were the new beds! The beds when this thing was built were much worse, just hammocks, basically.) But the other thing is the clearance: I only hit my head like 6 times but I still hit my head. (I would have done an over/under of, like, 21.5, so the ceilings were higher than I thought.) I had to keep eternal vigilance and more than once I used my forehead or my, um, shoulder, to illustrate how low something was.

One thing we both remarked on was how much better than officers’ quarters were, most notably the Admiral’s and Captain’s, which had their own kitchens and anterooms. They are palatial in comparison ot the enlisted quarters. This is a country that fought a war (centuries ago) against received hierarchy but I guess the military must be like this otherwise it will just be anarchy. (Imagine if the admiral only had a nice bedroom and not an entire suite! How could he possibly do his job?)

The flight deck was full of planes and helicopters. As a form plane fan, this was pretty cool. One of the things that really surprised me, though, was the size of the helicopters – they were all smaller than I thought they would be. Notably, whatever issues I had with the ceiling heights in the ship were nothing compared to the helicopters and planes we could enter. In at least one plane, I’m not sure I could have kept my back straight if I was on my knees, the roof was that low. All I could think about was my back and how much backpain I’d have for the rest of my life if I’d served in the naval air force.

But it was certainly an experience and I strongly recommend it if you have any interest in ships, planes, helicopters, military history or just really large things.

We went back to our hotel, checked out and headed out of town. Somewhere along the border of Carlsbad and Oceanside, we stopped to go to Target. After Target we had perfectly fine fast food at a California chain called The Habit, which I have never heard of before. After that, we took our requisite trip to Trader Joe’s, where we discovered extremely cheap liquor in addition to the usual goodies. If we had known, we would have bought something here however we decided to wait.

We then headed back to LA and, well, it took a while. We were staying in Silver Lake which is, according to the internet, in “East-Central” LA, but that is only because the city of Los Angeles has some really weird boundaries, and it includes a large section of the San Fernando Valley which is, as you may know, not exactly next to downtown LA. Silver Lake is NNW of downtown, despite being located in “East-Central” LA and so is on the other side of downtown from San Diego. And that means, regardless of how you define the official limits of the city, you have to drive across a lot of Greater LA in order to get there from San Diego. Greater LA is physically the largest urban area in the US in addition to being the second largest by population. There are 88 cities in Greater LA, though some of those aren’t really “cities” in any conventional sense. The point is there are a lot of people spread out over a lot of land and much of that land and people lie in the way of anyone hoping to drive from San Diego to anywhere in the region, especially anywhere north or west of downtown LA. It is only 120 miles or so between the LA and San Diego downtowns but it feels a lot farther.

The traffic in LA is something. I sort of knew that, but sitting in traffic is believing. As we got closer to our destination, our GPS kept adding time to our arrival time even though it supposedly included traffic in its initial calculation. As we got to our last few freeways, we got to the point where the GPS was estimating over a minute per kilometre in terms of travel time, and we were still on the interstate! (That includes pockets of no traffic!) This is city with an absolute ton of highways in it but they’re nowhere near enough to handle the traffic. To people who think that more highways are the solution to congestion, I give you Greater Los Angeles.

Eventually, we got to our Airbnb, a house much of the way up a hill so steep it felt like it should be in San Francisco. We decided to Uber down to Sunset Boulevard so we didn’t have to drive but also because we weren’t sure how hilly it would be, especially on the way back.

We headed to a Mexican restaurant that turned out to be extremely popular. (It may have been in an episode of Bosch.) It was a 30-40 minute wait so we decided to walk down the street to see what else we could find. Eventually, we found a popular but clearly far more traditional (and far less trendy) Mexican place, mostly full of Mexican-Americans instead of the type of crowd at the first place. Jenn had excellent chile rillenos and I had a burrito that was fine but was too traditional for my liking. (I like my burritos Tex-Mex, apparently.) Some of our drinks were served by a robot for, um, reasons.

After dinner, Jenn and I went for cocktails at a place down the street. After that, we went to a Walgreens for a minute and then took a cab back to where were were staying.

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