July 6, 1998

It is still miserable in the morning, some 97F with high humidity, and it's 8:30am. Monsoon season in the desert. Wretched. I hit the road, eager to end this leg of the journey. The sun is fierce, even this early. Normally I have the wind to cool me, but it isn't working. The air is too humid. It is barren and desolate and hot. Did I mention it was hot?

Out of the desert and into more mountains, mountains that look like they got tired of being underground and thrust upward in quick bursts of aggression, knifelike and jagged, sharpedged cuts through the surface. I go from hot to cold in half an hour. I come out of the mountains and back into the heat near the California border. Heat turns into real desert, the kind one pictures when they hear "Abu Dhabi" and "Libya". They grow sand here, and they are damned good at it. When the beaches fail to yield sand in some future tourist season, these people will be rich. I am too mesmerized by the hundred foot tall sand dunes to pay attention to the road ahead and I am rewarded with a torrent of cross wind that pushes me into the next lane while sand blasts my skin and my paint in a moment of unbridled pain. I pay more attention and duck behind my canvas bag when I see blowing sand.

Out of the desert and into more mountains. Mountains that look like gravel piles of the gods. No continuity between layers, just giant rocks piled in huge stacks, stone after stone. The climb is only to 4500 ft, but it does cool, and the climb claims its victims, overheated vehicles stopping at the state provided radiator refilling barrels labeled "Do Not Drink!" Over the top I go (as I have many times in my narratives), and I can feel the air change. A quick stop in Pine Valley for gas (really expensive gas and really expensive houses) and I press on. I hit El Cajon and I can smell the ocean. A few more miles and I can see it briefly. It is really pleasant here, a bit cool for riding, but almost perfect for a jaunty stroll. San Diego.

And so I end this half of my journey with an evening stroll along the ocean walk at La Jolla, where 2BR houses are a steal at a million, and a 4BR, 4BA with garage and ocean view will set you back $7 million. For once I see nature claiming what man had staked out. The beach at La Jolla is now home to a couple dozen sea lions, and their presence has made the water unsafe to swim in. They showed up a few years ago and haven't left since. It is a comfortable arrangement, with the people coming within a few feet of them, but without harrassing them. I stay on the walk, content to feel the cold spray of the Pacific.

San Diego is not what I expected. I suppose I had preconcieved notions of California, and maybe in Los Angeles and Hollywood those notions are closer to the truth, but not here. This is a very laid back town, a town of 1.1 million that feels like a lot of small towns strung together to make a city. The weather is the same every morning, cool and a bit foggy, but comfortable by 10am and nice around 4pm. There is no aggression on the streets, no drivers honking their horns and cursing. The gutters are clean, and the people friendly and they smile real smiles, just like in the South. Everyone I meet tells me to move here, it's almost paradise. They all came from somewhere else, and when I stop to talk to them, other people join in and tell me where they're from and tell me to move here too. Downtown is clean, the traffic polite. Strange, and kind of hard to get used to, but pleasant and refreshing all the same :-)

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