Sunday Drives, San Pedro, Queen Mary

Sunday Drive
The best description of a Sunday drive that I have heard is: it is a drive in a car that is taken for pleasure or leisure and typically there is no destination or rush.

Most of that narrative applies to our annual ditch day drive except that we DO have a destination and it isn’t on a Sunday.
So for the sake of argument, it will still be added to our “Sunday Drives” section because it still meets all of the other points. Plus, even though we do have a destination, once we get there it, we just go where the car takes us.

As it turned out, this day of hooky was on the same week day as last year and the weather was just as perfect.

Our previous Wednesday excursion began at Manhattan Beach in Los Angeles County as we made our way back down the coast to finally finish 17 miles away in San Pedro. This year we decided to make San Pedro our starting point and head south from there.

San Pedro ended up being a good portion of the day as we got lost so often we actually traveled over one large bridge four times and another three times. There was no such thing as a simple U-turn. If you missed your off-ramp, it was back over the bridge again. We didn’t mind though as San Pedro was a very intriguing place.

Why would someone get so lost you are probably wondering? Keep in mind that San Pedro is one of the largest shipping ports in the world. Ships, containers, trucks are everywhere, thousands of them!

There is no reference point and there are numbered berths everywhere. There are huge cranes as far as you can see that are working vigorously to load or off-load ships. Each set of cranes has a different color which could have been helpful as a point of reference but we didn’t take notice until later.


We were mesmerized as we watched an enormous ship getting loaded with shipping containers that were stacked many stories high. Fascinated by the crane operation, I was surprised on how quickly they hoist the shipping crates onto the ship. The mechanical arm continually moves back and forth picking up the metal boxes as if they were feathers.



A close up of the enormous ship with containers stacked high

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Birding, California.

Birds are Cool
I heard a noise outside my window the other day that sounded like a puppy crying, so I ran to check on my dog to see if he was okay.  I found him sprawled out on the couch sound asleep and happy as can be.  Puzzled, I then went outside to investigate and soon heard the same noise except this time it was even louder. Since I live by a lot of coyotes I thought maybe a new pup was in distress.  As I stood there listening, I realized the noise was not coming from ground level, it was coming from above.  There, high in the tree was a bird with his mouth wide open making that painful sound.    It wasn’t like the melancholy wail of a Mourning Dove, it actually sounded like a puppy weeping.


The crying bird, wailing away.

I pulled out my camera and proceeded to take shots of this interesting bird and it made me think, “birds are cool!”

I remembered when I went to the Living Discovery Center with all of its rescued animals and I found that the birds intrigued me the most.   At this center, they had many different types of birds including the majestic eagle, scary looking vultures, owls, falcons, and dozens more.



Blind in one eye

You will see Eagles, Owls, and Falcons at the center.
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Sunday Drive-Lake Hodges, Del Dios Highway, and Rancho Santa Fe

Sunday Drive-Lake Hodges and Del Dios Highway

I was surprised when we visited Lake Hodges on a very warm spring day that there were only about 5 boats out on the water.   We were told the fishing was bad so I can understand the lack of fishing vessels but it is a nice sized lake that seemed perfect for taking the boat out for a spin just for fun.

We had fished along the shore before and although we didn’t catch anything, we saw about five huge fish being caught some 100 feet down the shore from us, so we knew the fishing can at times be good.  They told me that the water was murky and at a high level so that accounted for some of the  lack of activity. Normally you can catch crappie, bluegill, carp, catfish, and largemouth bass.

The rainy California winter may not have helped the fishing but it certainly splashed the landscape with green hills and colorful flowers.  On almost every drive we have taken in the last few months it has been like that.   Amazing what a good pounding of rain will create later.

Lake Hodges is a lake and reservoir located about 30 miles north of San Diego and just south of Escondido off of Interstate 15.  It has a maximum depth of 115 feet and has about 27 miles of shoreline.


Far above the lake from Del Dios Highway

The lake is open seasonally from February through October on Weds, Saturdays, and Sundays.   Gates are open a half an hour before sunrise and lock at sunset.  There is a concession store and a place to rent rowboats, motor boats, and kayaks as well as ramps to launch your private boats.

If you feel like just hanging around for the day, there is grassy area with picnic tables and designated barbecues that are all close to the store.    There seemed to be plenty of parking places in the large lot but I don’t know how crowded it gets in summer.


A grassy picnic area

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Sunday Drive–Ortega Highway

Ortega Highway

On a whim, we decided to drive up the Ortega Highway from a starting point at Lake Elsinore on a warm spring day.   I had been on this road before and I knew that the first part would take you high above the lake while twisting through hairpin turns on your way back down to San Juan Capistrano in Orange County.  It is not relaxing for the driver during the highest portion; you really have to keep your eyes on the road especially since it has been dubbed one of the most dangerous roads in California. However, there were plenty of vista points that allowed you to pull over to enjoy the scene below.

On one of the viewpoints it was exactly as I remembered with its breath-taking 180 degree views of the lake and the snow capped mountains far in the distance.    I decided that I was just going to enjoy the day and keep the images in my head instead of the camera.  So I hope my words do this beautiful drive justice.

SR 74 travels 29 miles along the San Juan Creek  and through the Cleveland National Forest.   Each weekday about 7,000 cars travel back and forth between Lake Elsinore and Orange County and a good portion of those are commuters.

This area was picturesque because of the rain drenched meadows and hills that were unusually green this time of year.   The vibrant colors made it even more spectacular and even though it may be more brown and dryer in summer months,  I still think it will be impressive.   Once you pass through the winding road and S-turns of the higher altitude, it is smooth sailing.    Now you can relax and enjoy the country side.

The road was built in 1929 and you could tell in certain parts by the old cement walls and bridges.  They looked weathered; however, to me that just added to the history and charm.   The highway is an especially popular road for motorcyclists because of the scenery and the road itself is a fun challenge.

So it is of no surprise as you come into the little village of El Cariso that the local restaurant had dozens of motorcycles parked out front.   El Cariso with its small population of a little over 200 also features a general  store and a candy shop a little bit away.   Since we were just driving through, we didn’t get out of the car to explore the village but we figured by the amount of visitors that this was a popular place to stop and have lunch.  With further research I found out that the Hell’s Kitchen restaurant is indeed a popular place for the biker crowd and also features a bar plus an outdoor patio that overlooks the road.

Across the street sits Patty’s Place Country Store which has some of the best beef jerky that you will find and a fact that I wish I had known at the time instead of learning about later.  The candy shop also serves as a general store with half its contents being candy and the other half being toiletries, camping gear, etc.

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