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April 2nd 2016
Published: April 11th 2016
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San Diego & Tijuana

After my four hour nighttime nap in Denver, I jumped on a plane to sunny San Diego to visit one of my oldest friends. We met during my senior year in high school, were on the yearbook staff together (nerds!), and even went to prom together. We’ve kept in touch through his going away to college, my moves to Florida and back and in polar opposite temperatures, his heading to Ukraine for the Peace Corps then later moving away “for good” to the west coast, but we still meet up every time he comes home. I figured it was my turn to visit him. (Plus, I had some use-it-or-lose-it vacation saved up!)

I chugged my soy vanilla latte as we cruised down the freeway to his City Heights apartment. Apparently San Diego is a very expensive place to live, and roommates are a necessity, but we barely ever saw them, even with me sleeping in the living room. Street parking is terrible, but the neighborhood was great – Starbucks, Walgreens, Wells Fargo ATM, the grocery store, and tons of other must-haves are within walking distance. I could have even gotten a tattoo and a haircut at the same establishment right across the street if it so tickled my fancy.

I took a much welcome nap while my friend entertained some elderly folks at the rotary club; they wanted to hear all about the Peace Corps. After that, we went to dinner at Moncai Vegan (yes, vegan is part of their name!), and then grabbed a few beers at Thorn St Brewery, where we played trivia with the locals – sort of – and Belching Beaver Brewery, where I kicked my friend’s butt in Connect Four. Belching Beaver has a peanut butter flavored beer, which was very intriguing, and both places were surprisingly extremely dog-friendly. Unfortunately, Thorn St was the first of several public restrooms which I visited during this part of my trip in which I was forced to use … wait for it… a papery-toilet seat cover as toilet paper. Yes, first of several. I don’t know what the problem was. I don’t know why I don’t learn to look at the toilet paper holder before sitting down. I don’t know why I don’t start carrying a mini Charmin pack in my purse. I do know that I was thankful for the paper seat covers each time I needed them, and maybe that’s enough.

The next day, after we made a tofu scramble for brunch and I’d walked to Starbucks to get my morning dose of caffeine, we drove down to the Mexican border and walked across to Tijuana. It was a beautiful day and we spent most of it outside walking around; at some point during the day my ankle started hurting, but I don’t recall injuring it. And despite the accusatory eyes of the urgent care physician I saw four days later, we did not spend the day chugging cervezas or tequila shots and stumbling around the uneven sidewalks. Much of the rest of the afternoon across the border was spent saying “no thank you” to the shop employees trying to get our money, some of it lunching at a surprisingly good Baja Burrito, a small part of it inside drinking a freshly hand crafted margarita at Cantina Manolo, where Anthony Bourdain has even visited during his famous travels around the world, and thankfully only a little of it in a taxi with an irate and semi-scary driver during rush hour on the way back to the border. That cab had no seatbelts and I used my friend’s arm as an oh-shit bar as our driver was cursing, honking and swerving through traffic. It was still better than trying to drive ourselves, though. I think.

After our adventure in TJ, we picked up dinner for ten from Awash Ethiopian and met up with a bunch of DuVale’s friends for game night. We played The Resistance: Avalon and Catan, neither of which I’d played before, and me being the big nerd that I am, I ended up really getting into Catan. Any nerds back home who play this willing to invite me over for game night?

My last day in San Diego was mostly spent at La Jolla Cove, on the rocks, watching sea lions. No big deal. It was absolutely the highlight of my trip. We were so close, we very well could have touched them. There were even several pups! Although, I felt that some looked a bit skinny and could use some more milk, or fish if they were old enough. They are very interesting creatures, and upon closer inspection, I noticed their little flippers even have small fingernails – very cool. We grabbed a late lunch at Jyoti-Bihanga, a vegetarian restaurant run by the students of a meditation master. The environment was very pastel and lace, practically the opposite of the vegan hipster joint we’d dined at on my first night in town, but the food was just as great. After dinner, we went to happy hour at a rooftop bar where I was happy to meet even more of DuVale’s friends (Insert second toilet seat cover incident here.) We stayed out later than we’d planned and stayed up even later after we got back. After all, it was my last night. We did get another four-ish hours of sleep before the drive back to the airport though. And luckily, he could go back to sleep, and I was able to down another latte before my next excursion.

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