To California and Back
Last week, I wrote this in my journal: Flip the calendar. It’s March, the month when spring parts winter’s curtains. On March 1, my partner Mick and I got on a plane and took off to San Diego and surrounding area to visit friends, not just parting the curtain but going right through it to a sunny oceanside. We weren’t expecting a winter storm to visit Minnesota while we were gone, but one hit the day before we were scheduled to fly home. From California, it sounded like the storm was wreaking havoc. When we arrived in our own driveway at midnight last night, we found that only a few inches had accumulated in Roseville. This morning, as I drove to the kennel where we board our dog when we’re out of town, I couldn’t quite decide whether I was happy to be home. I usually like winter, but it was hard to leave that California coast behind yesterday.
We were grateful to step out of winter for a moment, hang out at our friends’ house in Encinitas, then spend a couple of nights at a place on the beach in San Diego. We squeezed in a drive to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and, when we went through the town of Julian on the way, we were quite surprised to see tiny piles of snow. Julian is up high enough in the mountains that people there have winter coats, hats, scarves. As we drove through in our lighter weight jackets, we were amused to see little kids delighting in those tiny snow piles. Since the Twin Cities was having highs in the 40s that same weekend, we think that little piece of California was colder than here at home.
But the desert was the desert – dry, warm, vast. We were a little bit too early for the spring desert bloom, but the barrel cactus was getting ready with big buds just waiting to show off. On the way to the desert, we drove through rain, mist, fog, and were a little worried that we weren’t going to be able to hike. But things mostly cleared up, although the folks in the visitor’s center warned us about taking longer hikes just in case the weather they thought was moving in proved to be serious. We listened to them and stuck to short hikes, took our time.
Anza-Borrego Desert State Park: Barrel cactus getting ready to bloom, clouds and rain moving across the desert.
After a morning and early afternoon of driving and hiking, we stopped for lunch in Borrego Springs, then found the oddest thing in the desert to stop at on our way back to Encinitas: a whole bunch of iron sculptures scattered all over the desert on both sides of the road. Horses, elephants, big birds, dinosaurs, and more. We could drive right off the road, follow other car tracks right up to some of the sculptures. What we did not find was an artists’ information plaque. Not sure if there was one and we missed it; I later learned these sculptures are the work of metal sculptor Ricardo Breceda. The elephants were among my favorites.
Elephant sculptures in the desert outside Borrego Springs, CA
The beaches, though – that was what got a lot of our attention. It was pupping season for the harbor seals in La Jolla. We stood in the cove there, just watching the mothers and babies interact. We went birdwatching with one of our friends, focusing on shore birds. And we simply sat, watched sunsets and surfers and pelicans and waves. And dogs. On our last day, we went to Dog Beach, laughed at a boxer who bit at the waves, a German shepherd who endlessly chased tennis balls into the water, a Boston terrier who ran faster than any other dog out there, and a chihuahua upon whom someone placed little yellow fairy wings. (I imagined that dog saying to itself, What’s that on my back? I can’t reach it to bite it. It doesn’t come off when I shake.)
Before we left, Mick and I stood outside a Coldwell-Banker Real Estate office looking at the listings on their windows. We often take a peek at listings in places we visit, compare how the market stacks up with the one here at home. We saw a 635-square-foot condo a mile from the beach listed for over $300,000. A modest ocean-view stand alone home for over $1,000,000. The Coldwell-Banker agent came outside to talk to us; we learned he was a fellow Midwesterner from Chicago area. After 10 years in San Diego, he loved it. But the housing prices are very much higher than the housing in the Midwest. We told him we could not afford our own house if it were sitting on the San Diego coastline instead of Roseville, Minnesota, unless we came up with another way to make a living.
I thought about that as our plane descended into the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport last night. In spite of an ongoing love affair Mick and I both have with California, we came back to Minnesota. Our house here is paid for. Our kids are here. We have roots, history, stability. We can choose to be happy where we are.
And so we have. We are back to winter, back to warm jackets and sweaters and snowblowers and windshield scrapers for a few more weeks. When our snow melts and those first green shoots appear in our yard, it will be just that much sweeter.
all photos by kcmickelson 2018