SanDiego 007We had a nice stay in Twentynine Palms and seeing Joshua Tree National Park, but once again it was time to put the wheels in motion. After packing up the bus we drove separately out of the RV park to hook the car up. While hooking up I noticed the left tailpipe missing, so I walked all the way back through the campground to see if it had just fallen off – no such luck of course. Without any luck getting a 3″ exhaust pipe and tip in Twentynine Palms or Joshua Tree (read: small towns), we headed on our original route and planned for a stop at a muffler shop in Yucca Valley.

I scoped out the shop, roadway, and surrounding parking lots via Google Maps to figure out where we could park the bus. We found the shop, drove around the “block” twice to find the best place to pull in, and used the parking lot at a group of shops next door. See, the bus is enough of a challenge to get in someplace, plus towing the car adds another 25′. Adding to that is that we can’t back up when the car is being towed – the front wheels will pivot the wrong way and that can cause steering damage. Which means that we either have to find a parking lot we can pull through or we have to disconnect, move, reconnect, and go through Honda’s towing procedure.

I walked down to the shop leaving Megan and the kids basking in the air conditioning inside the bus with a fridge full of food, so if I somehow needed to hike through the desert to get parts for the bus they would survive for a few more days. The guys in the shop were nice and had the pipe, clamps, and exhaust tip I was looking for. After they cut the length I needed I expected their next question to be “How much money you got?” but it ended up being quite reasonable. At the bus I took out my big bin of tools and got to work in the searing sun. It went well, despite me getting very dirty, and we were finally on our way again. We had to negotiate the tiny dirt alleyway and a few telephone poles to get out of the parking lot, but we made it!

Our diversion only delayed us a couple of hours, I’d guess, and we made it to Sweetwater Regional Park outside of San Diego. It was a mostly uneventful drive despite California’s roads. We had called ahead to reserve a spot at the park so check-in didn’t take too long, and Megan worked on our plans for the next few days after we got the bus settled. The kids got to run around in the grass for a while, which was a big thing after being in the mountains and desert for a couple of weeks.

We were all excited to begin our exploration of the area, which was the furthest point from home on the trip. The next day we ventured out to the coast to meet cousin Heather at Cabrillo National Monument. None of us knew the significance of the monument, but whatever it was Heather was going to be there! We quickly found her and walked down to the observation area which overlooked Zuñiga Shoal and North San Diego Bay. There was a big statue of Cabrillo there, and the kids got more interested in seeing if there was a Junior Ranger program. There was (!!) so we all got to work. Yay-yay had the more difficult workbook to complete and his took the longest, but he also learned the most about Cabrillo, his ships, and his exploration.

Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo was the first European to step foot on what is now the western United States in 1542. We learned a lot in the museum and visitor center about the navigation aids used, challenges the crew encountered, and how Cabrillo died – all of which was very fascinating. The kids had a blast with the swords, shields, helmets and chain mail in the visitor center. Yay-yay was really surprised at how heavy the chain mail was and thought about what it would be like to wear all of the armor all day long.

Completed workbooks in hand, the kids introduced themselves to the Park Ranger and explained they were ready to be Junior Rangers. The Park Ranger was fantastic and quizzed the kids on what they learned, adding in quite a bit of humor along the way which they enjoyed.

After becoming Junior Rangers we drove down to the tide pools on the ocean side of the point. We grabbed the last parking spot and walked the path to the pools. We had missed low tide by a few hours, but everyone was thrilled to see and touch the Pacific Ocean – this was the kids first time! Megan was in heaven, as she always is on a beach or near water. We stayed until the park closed at 4:30 and the Park Rangers were asking everyone to leave.

Megan certainly did not get her fill of ocean yet, so we drove down to Heather’s favorite beach in San Diego – Ocean Beach. The kids played in the ocean, dug in the sand, and made friends on the beach. As the sun set it got pretty chilly – yes, we had gotten used to the warm hot weather in the desert.

Ocean Beach was awesome, and we ended up going back the next day for a little more walking around, watching the waves and surfers, and looking in shop windows. Cake even found a pretty dress in a consignment shop.

Next stop, Legoland! With Heather back to work on Monday the rest of us drove an hour north to visit Legoland in Carlsbad for the day. We had hoped that visiting during the work week would leave the park less crowded, and indeed it was. Our first stop was to see some of the huge cityscapes that were built from Legos and then we all waited in line for our first ride. The line for the Sky Cruiser moves slowly (it is a slow ride), which would be a recipe for disaster for kids. I was impressed, however, that the line wound around a gated play area full of Legos! What a great way to entertain the kids while the grown-ups stand in line. There was lunch, more rides, roller coasters (everyone loved The Dragon so we went a second time!). We split up for a little while so Yay-yay could go to Driving School while the little kids went to another roller coaster, the Coastersaurus, and then to Duplo Playtown for some much needed playground time. On the way Cake and Dooder managed to find Emmet, exchange hugs, and ham it up for a few photos. Eventually we all met up again and visited the Lego Movie Experience where we saw a replica of the basement and all of the sets from the major scenes – way cool!

We fit in as many of the rides as we could before five, when the park officially closed, and got some ice cream. We walked back through the park to look at the Star Wars Lego exhibit and wandered some more until the park employees came through to clear the park. We all enjoyed seeing the Lego models of places we had been, such as New Orleans and Las Vegas, and places that we were going to go to, like Mann’s Chinese Theater. We had a great time at Legoland and we were all exhausted by the time we walked back out through the gate. Yay-yay felt that the park was more geared towards littler kids, like his brother and sister, but he still enjoyed it. Megan and I felt that it was less overwhelming and much less over-stimulating than Disneyworld, which is a good thing.

SanDiego 077Top on Megan’s animal list, after seeing the armadillo in Louisiana, was a rattlesnake. Alas, she wasn’t there to see the rattlesnake at the park’s entrance road sunning itself on the pavement, so I took a picture for her (from the safety of our car – did I mention I don’t really like snakes?). When we all drove by again later in the day the snake was gone, likely moved to a safer location by the park staff shortly after my sighting.

San Diego was a great visit, and wonderful to be near the ocean again. It always amazes me just how much sand the kids can get into and how much of the beach ends up in the car. Months later Yay-yay still mentions Cabrillo Monument and the time we spent with Heather in her home city.