The Top Gun House in Oceanside

If, I am remembering the Top Gun scene correctly, Tom Cruise motorcycles his way up a steep hill and lands on a side street to the home of his love interest, played by Kelly McGinnis.

She supposedly lived in a cute little Victorian cottage dressed in blue and white, with an amazing view of the Pacific Ocean from the patio.

He was already late and she was clearly waiting for him. Then what does he do?  He asks her if he can take a shower…really?   Seems rude to me, but oh well, it is Hollywood.  They soon settled on the porch and enjoyed a nice evening until it was time for him to scurry off, riding on the now famous motorcycle.

So, in 1986, Hollywood came to the quirky little town of Oceanside, some 30 miles north of San Diego. I say quirky, because it has been that way at times until lately where it has turned into a coastal gentrification.  Out with the old, in with the new.

The movie gave us a chance to gawk at the tiny home while watching the movie, with screams of, “Hey, I know that house, I know that street!”

It soon became the ‘Top Gun’ house to residents and visitors alike.

It sat by itself on a corner for many years, even after its claim to fame in that blockbuster movie.

Originally, it was the Graves house on North Pacific Street and it really did have those awesome coastline views.   It was built in 1887 and was Dr, Henry Graves vacation home. It was subsequently sold to others and in 1986 as mentioned; it was rented out to Paramount Pictures for two weeks to film.

With or without the movie notoriety, the home still has architectural value as one of few oceanfront Victorians in San Diego County.   Note the decorative wood work and gabled roof.

So what and where is it today?

The city moved it from that lonely corner, and it now sits a few blocks away to become part of the new ‘look’ of Oceanside.

Gone are the empty corners and bye-bye to the sleepy town feel.   Nowadays, it is all grown up and fancy. Just like the infamous and touristy Huntington Beach.

One of many seating areas along the new resort feel of Oceanside.

The Top Gun house is now a pie shop right smack in the middle of all of the action. On the weekends, lines are 30 deep to get inside.  The menu is sparse, but I hear the pies are actually good, but small.  I was happy to hear that they are made with strawberries from local fields and apples from nearby, Julian.

Inside the pie shop.

 Red brick and bright blue umbrellas welcome you to a seating area to enjoy the pies, views, or just to people watch.

Inside the Pie shop and keeping with the decor of the era.

A nice place to relax.

Up front, there is a replica of the motorcycle that Mr. Cruise rode and now serves as a fun photo opportunity for kids or adults.

At first, I thought that it didn’t fit the décor of the two new resorts with their modern or Cape Cod facades.  However, I am getting used to it and I actually think what they made it into is a good idea. It is better than falling prey to the local termites like it was when it was down the street.

One of two new resorts in Oceanside.
The Top Gun House nestles between these fancy resorts.

The Sea Bird Resort.

Now, it has a fresh new coat of paint and is all dressed up to meet the tourists.

It is funny how a few minutes in a movie made this such an iconic symbol for Oceanside. 

Tom Cruise and Kelly McGinnis walked around this cottage many years ago.

But for Oceanside, it is so much more, it is nostalgia.

In ending, I still can’t get over that infamous scene, and can’t imagine going to someone’s home for dinner, walking in late, then asking if I can take a shower.  I know, I know, I need to get over it.  It was only a movie.

Ignore me,… instead, come on down to Oceanside and head to the pier once there, look east and there it will be…The Top Gun House.

Stories and photos: Debbie Colwell

The Funicular at Strands Beach in Dana Point

A couple friends sent me a video of something that I didn’t know existed in Southern California.    An actual tram that transports you down a long steep slope and then ends at a ramp where you can continue the trek to the beach.

 I had to investigate this myself since I was given a general idea of where it was. As it turns out, I found it quite easily near Dana Point in Orange County.

We zeroed in on it at Strands Beach which is only a few miles north of Dana Point Harbor, however it was closed. It was only open until 5:00pm and from what I understand, as of right now, only the weekends.

The other option to get to the beach was to take the long stairway to the bottom.

Bring on the Stairs!!

Since the view from top was only of the ocean, our curiosity killed us on what the actual beach looked like.  So, like daring out-of -shape ninjas, we began our journey down the stairs…and there were a lot of them.   Finally arriving at the end of the stairs, there was still a paved trail to go before you actually touched the sand.  I had to stay up with the dog and couldn’t take pics but I’ll have to come back one day this summer to snap a few.   

One of us did make the trek and reported back that the beach was stunning. Even though it was high tide, there was still plenty of sand for chairs and family activities.

Except for the harbor and neighboring Doheny Beach, Dana Point is known for its location high above the coastline.  On this beach, the view was spectacular because of the towering cliffs that spanned as far you can see.

It was a cool day and the water was still chilly but even with that, it still looked inviting to take a swim. 

So now back to the stairs.

I am here to report that, walking the stairs up, isn’t really that much fun unless you are super fit and love getting your heart rate going.  It is pretty steep, but they managed to make it easier by breaking up the amount of stairs at given sections. Sometimes you will walk up eight stairs, then two, then, five, then a landing area.

The landing area is handy as you can stop and look at the view or fake like you are looking at it, while actually trying to catch your breath.  Whatever your reason, the setting is amazing.

So we made it up the stairs no worse for the wear but agreed that we still wanted to come back and check out this tram.

A few weeks later, we were up in the area and decided to go take a look again. This time, the tram was working!!

Bring on the Funicular!!

The Funicular is what they actually call  this tram and a new word that I learned for the day.

The definition of a Funicular is: “A  type of cable railway system that connects points along a railway track laid on a steep slope.”

That is exactly what it was and we were ready to try it, but first, a little bit about it.

The Funicular was built in 2007 and is open to the public during daylight hours. As of today it was only open on the weekends though.   It holds no more than 8 people and is about a two minute ride each way.

The California Coastal Commission built it with the intent to make it easier to access the ramp leading down to the beach.  Also, for families who had tons of chairs, beach equipment, toys, etc.

It operates on the weekends year-round during daylight hours and all week between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

When I rode it, there were only three others on the ride down and one on the way up. I am sure in summer it is packed.

During the ride you get a nice few of the ocean as you descend. It is a remarkable view made even better as the vehicle moves so slowly.

Leave it up to the affluent Dana Point to have in its city, what is basically an elevator to the beach.  I have seen steeper cliffs in Northern California where they make you hike your butt up and down if you want to get to the beach.

Not here, we have the wonderful Funicular.

I know it is better for my health to walk, but heck after a day at the beach with sun beating down on me, a nice cool ride up the hill sounds just about right.

Story and Photos: Debbie Colwell

Lake Wohlford

As we were headed back to the dock to return our rented boat for the day, we heard a voice yelling, “I got one, I got one!”  It was coming from our boat!

After a couple of hours of no bites or nibbles, that was an unfamiliar series of words.   We had tried a few different coves along the lake and only got a hit as we were slowly trolling back to the rental dock. We were in the middle of the lake using two poles with lures.

Heading back to the boat dock.

Sadly, the fish pulled off the hook before getting hoisted into the boat, or should I say happy for him, although we always catch and release.   Only a few seconds later another hit, but this time the sizable fish was brought in.

The beautiful Rainbow Trout was easily taken off the line and released back into the lake.

So, we ended the day out on the boat with at least catching one on this beautiful sunny day in San Diego County at Lake Wohlford.

I had never been to Lake Wohlford so three of us had a hankering for lake fishing, and off we went.

Lake Wohlford is a medium sized reservoir set in the hills of Escondido.  Unfortunately, being a reservoir means no swimming or dogs allowed.

Winding through the roads to get there is a great Sunday drive in and of itself.   As you reach the last bend, you get your first view of what I first thought was a very small lake. Later while in a rented boat, I saw that it was much larger than it appeared.

At 190 acres it is considerably more sizable than its neighbor, Dixon Lake which is around 69 Acres.

Homes and a quaint little café are nearby, and it is hard to imagine that the huge Valley View Casino is only a few miles away.

Around the lake, there are an abundance of places to park and little strips of open area to fish or picnic. However, there are no concessions but, plenty of bathrooms.

We chose to rent a boat which we found very reasonable at $30 for the whole day! The no frills aluminum vessel got us where we needed as we explored around.

The Boat Dock from the middle of the lake

At one of our chosen fishing spots, dozens of Hawks soared over the treetops while Mallards and various other water birds splashed around on the water.

Look Closely for the lone Hawk.

On a whim, I checked on how this place ranked for bird watchers.  I was surprised to read those 182 different species of birds have been spotted there.   

Still green from previous rainfalls, there were oak trees, reeds, plus various other plant life gracing the shoreline as well as huge rocks and boulders.

Far in the distance we saw a dam but didn’t get close enough to investigate.

We were told that they stocked the lake with trout recently, but evidently, they weren’t hungry on this day. We thought they might be congregated in the shallows by the reeds, however, there was nothing, no bite or nibbles.

As mentioned, it wasn’t until we got in the middle of the lake that they struck.  So, this is where they were hanging out!   Too bad, it was right when we were leaving, although we stayed a few minutes just in case.  However, I believe we drifted too far from the original spot as we were excitingly waiting for the Rainbow Trout’s appearance on the surface.

One dedicated angler in our group wanted to stay to see if we could get more, while two of us were complaining about being hungry.  Hunger won out; it was time to leave.

We will go back again as the lake is open seven days a week mid-December through Labor Day but weekends only Labor Day through December.

The lake has Bass, Bluegill, Catfish, Crappie, and Trout and you can fish until dusk. In our case the boat had to be back by 6:30pm…plenty of time.  A fishing license is required, and day use is $8.00 plus, you can always fish from shore.

Fishing isn’t the only activity as there are plenty of hiking trails along the lake.

So, if you are in the mood to fish, hike, picnic, or just enjoy nature, this quaint little lake is the place for you.

Story and photos: Debbie Colwell

The Muddy Dash

The Muddy Dash crew that staycationer JoJo set up were all smiles at the beginning of the race/dash.   I was thinking to myself that they are happy and all smiles now, let’s see how they look at the end.  After all, it was an extremely warm February day, and they were setting out to run/walk in the Bates Nut Farm Muddy Dash. 

I was surprised and impressed that they came down their last hill of the day brimming with energy, plus the smiles were still there!

Muddy yes, but full of life and ready to finish the last few obstacles.

Reedy to go, full of energy
Still smiling but a little muddy

The Muddy Dash is an event that takes place at various venues across the country. It features obstacles such as rock-climbing walls, rope swings, other walls, and of course…mud. It finishes with an overgrown bubble shower where the kid comes out in everyone.

One of he obstacles
Three different techniques of exiting this obstacle

The three-mile course was situated next to Bates Nut Farm in Valley Center near Escondido. Every age imaginable participated while the course challenged you to jump, roll, climb, and navigate in or around the star of the show, once again…mud.

Judy’s Style
JoJo’s style

With temperatures in the high eighties, they started the race having to waddle through knee high muddy water for about twenty feet.  So was the beginning of a day of unusual obstacles and countryside racing.  Well, racing isn’t exactly what our group did, they were there strictly for the fun and fun they had. After all, who lays on their back doing mud angels, while others are running the course?

Mud at the beginning
Mud at the end. Note Judy grabbing a pile of mud to pelt some unsuspecting victim

The team of three ladies, Robin, JoJo, and Judy embraced the course with gusto, even after starting with a long hill. I heard of only one incident of cheating as on the twenty-pound bag carry, a certain pink shirt wearing, blond-haired lady, picked up an empty bag. The other two just shook their heads, I mean what could they say, the bag was just sitting there.

We caught up with them at the end where only Judy attempted the rock-climbing wall. She expertly climbed over and joined the others as they headed to the rope swing. Handling the rope, technique was everything, as was evidenced by a certain someone’s near face plant into the mud. Let’s just say she had a pink shirt on.  Robin on the other hand, flew across like she grew up in the jungle with Tarzan.

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