San Diego SEAL Tour

By Land and By Sea

Sometimes it is fun to play tourist even if it is only 30 minutes from where you live.  I had heard about the Seal Tour in San Diego Harbor many times and always wanted to try it.

So Staycationer JoJo  put on her reading glasses and searched her trusty Groupon for a few tickets.   Done…booked…ready to go!

On a typical gray cloudy day in Southern California we headed down to Sea Port Village to give it a try. Luckily the sun popped out right before boarding so we knew the ride would be a little less nippy

The SEAL  is an amphibious vehicle  that can drive on the street as well as the water. SEAL is an acronym for “SEa And Land.”  It holds about 40 people comfortably and looks like a huge safari truck with a boat front.

Once you board the vehicle,  it takes you through the streets on your way to a boat ramp on  Shelter Island.  As mentioned, the street ride was a little breezy as the vehicle was wide open and we were going at least 45 miles an hour.  So take a jacket or a sweatshirt unless it is summer.

Riding along the harbor on the SEAL

The Captain drives the vehicle while the first mate acts as a guide/narrator for the trip. Equipped with a microphone, the guide gives you informative tidbits about the city, the embarcadero, various attractions, the bay, etc.   As you pass by the embarcadero you will see the sailing ship “The Star of India”, the “Midway” air craft carrier, other naval ships, a submarine, and of course the beautiful harbor.  You will pass by the Coast Guards Naval Station and the San Diego Airport on your way to the water portion of the tour.


First Mate/Guide/Narrator Jack

Our guide was extremely entertaining and interacted with us during the 90-minute ride.  He was extremely entertaining and interacted with us during the 90-minute ride. He was a skilled narrator, mixing humor in with historical facts and information about what we saw along the way. Some of the passengers were from as far away as England and Canada

Once we reached Shelter Island we headed to the boat ramp and waited our turn to enter the water.

It was an easy transition from the street to the water and other than slowing down, you wouldn’t notice the difference. Actually being on the water was way smoother until  the speed boats caused a wake that rocked the boat a little.

Slowly we moved around the bay and soon the clouds parted to display the beautiful San Diego Harbor in all its glory.


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Off the Beaten Path: Old Town Temecula


Off the Beaten Path-Old Town Temecula

On a rainy day in early March we decided to take a drive to Temecula on the recommendation from a friend about a Rod Run taking place in Old Town. As it turned out we missed it by a day but we decided to investigate Old Town anyway.

The Town of Temecula became all the talk when the housing market was robust in California. The homes in that area were so inexpensive that people were snatching them up and commuting to their work in San Diego, Riverside, or Orange County. Along with a boom in housing, the area also grew. New shopping malls came in, new developments, etc. It seemed to become this bustling city with too many cars, too many people, too many stores!
However, if you peel away those layers, you will find an interesting and historic area to explore and visit.

Temecula is well known for its Temecula Valley Wine Country, Temecula Valley Balloon & Wine Festival, and Temecula Valley International Film Festival, and many more events and festivals in Old Town. The Pechanga Indian Casino is also located inside of the city as well as championship golf courses, resorts, and new shopping centers.

In Old Town there are car shows, western celebrations, entertainment, and a variety of many other festivals.
On this cold Sunday, the rain didn’t keep the crowds away as the street was filled with cars and the sidewalk full of shoppers.

The main street of Old Town has an abundance of restaurants that accommodate almost every food type and style. From sushi to Mexican cuisine you are not at a loss to find a great place to eat. Don’t ignore the side streets either as you might find a hidden gem of a store or eatery that is just off the beaten path.
There are also wine tasting rooms, antique shops, boutiques, art galleries, and even a museum that features all of Temecula’s treasures.
The western theme can be seen in the architecture of some of the buildings and in several spots the sidewalks are wooden planks adding to the feel of the old west.

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Poppy Fields


The Hills are Alive

After the much needed rain in California for a good part of winter, the flowers are now starting to bloom.   I am told that in some areas the hills are full of blossoms unlike anything that has been seen before.

The drenched earth is now providing an awesome display of color for our viewing pleasure.

I will be making my way to the desert on a jeep tour in about two weeks and I am hoping that the cactus flowers will still be in bloom.

However, for now, I was provided the directions to a few poppy fields in the Temecula and Lake Elsinore area and thought I would check it out for myself.

I was given advice to go super early in the morning to avoid the crowds and as a photographer we know the golden hours for taking photos is normally two hours after sunrise and two hours before sunset.   I had an inner argument with myself on whether to get up early or continue my much needed sleep… sleep won.

So off to Temecula we drove at a much later start time and to an off-ramp that we were instructed to exit.

The first area wasn’t too far from the Clinton Keith off-ramp in Temecula and was like a big bright yellow beacon that we could see from the distance.

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Off the Beaten Path–North Oceanside Harbor


Off the Beaten Path, North Oceanside Harbor

Oceanside Harbor isn’t exactly off the beaten path since it is quick exit from the busy Interstate 5.  As you leave the freeway and head towards the harbor you will reach a dead-end and have to go either right or left.   Going right, won’t get you very far as you will soon be greeted by an armed sentry asking you for your I.D. and what your business is on Camp Pendleton.  Officially called Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, this gate and parts of the base are just a chain-link-fence away from the harbor.   That is, a chained link fence with barbed wire!

So it is best to take a left into Oceanside Harbor where you will be greeted by a colorful lighthouse instead of a M16 rifle.  After you make that left turn you will be descending down a small hill and given one last choice to either veer left or right.

Heading left you will enter what they call Oceanside Harbor Village. This area hasn’t changed much through the years and still has that Cape Cod feel with its charming buildings and design.   Surrounded by the lighthouse, the village is an area filled with restaurants, novelty shops, rental places for boats, kayaks, or SUP’s and much more.   Here is also where you can charter boats, go on a whale watching trip, or a half-day fishing excursion.  This is the heart of the Oceanside Harbor.

A quaint coffee shop features music in the summer and a nearby ice-cream store serves up all of your favorite flavors.

Only a short walk away from the harbor is a large beach with plenty of sand and a popular surfing area.   This is where most of the action in Oceanside Harbor happens, where the tourists and locals go to eat, shop, and play!

Now, Off the Beaten Path:
If you chose to turn right at the bottom of the hill, you will be venturing a little off the beaten path to the quieter north side of the harbor.


The quieter side

This is a place you go to walk your dogs, fish, have a quiet picnic, chill out and watch the boats, or come for the sunset.

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Off the Beaten Path—Valley Center, North San Diego Country

Off the Beaten Path—Valley Center, North San Diego Country

When you think of Valley Center in the North County of San Diego, you think of casinos!!   After all, this is where Harrah’s, Pauma, Valley View, and Pala all call home.  The hotels and casinos stand out like sore thumbs against the picturesque countryside in this serene valley.

After staying at one of the casinos for the weekend, we decided that on our way home we would take a few minutes and explore some of the “off the beaten path” roads in the area.

Valley Center is 27 square miles of rural land, agriculture, and a few homes here and there. It is also home to Bates Nut Farm, Palomar Observatory, Lakes Wohlford and Henshaw, and a 18-hole golf course.

homes-on-hill

It sits about forty miles north of San Diego and can be accessed a few different ways but most notably 76 Freeway off of Interstate 15.

The hills, fields, and countryside always remind me of a valley I knew in Hawaii, minus the waterfalls, palm trees, the rich green countryside, but other than that…

However, after much rain in the winter, the hills and meadows were filled with the most vibrant green that challenged anything I have seen in Hawaii, if I squinted I could almost see the Wailua Valley on Kauai, well almost.

village-from-far-up

Cruising on the 76 Freeway we saw a road that headed into the hills so we decided to explore this first.

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