After getting directions off Mapquest (note: lol, 2009), I headed down I-15 toward San Diego. I got off an exit early, but was still able to find my way to the zoo. At least southern California doesn't fail at signage. I parked at the zoo's lot, which was, to my amazement, free. I called my brother for the second time that day, and for the second time, it went straight to voice mail.
So I wandered around for a while. Just south of the zoo is a little Spanish-style artists village. Kiosks with the park map were few and far between, so I snapped a picture of one (sans key, which turned out to be fun later) and headed down toward the far end of the park. After taking a left at the little butterfly garden, as the map had directed, I went as far left as I could - and wound up on some dusty service road. I asked a gardener for directions and ended up walking uphill on a car-only road. Out of breath, I found my way back to the main drag. I walked past several random museums, before figuring out I needed to cross Park Boulevard to get to my destination - the Parks and Rec building, which was used as the Neptune County Sheriff's Office in the TV series 'Veronica Mars'. I found the building, had my geeky little moment, and walked around looking at the pretty gardens and fountains. Back by the front steps, I ended up waiting around for someone who I could ask to take my picture. A guy got out of his truck and snapped one for me.
Picture captured, I headed back toward the zoo at a more leisurely pace. On the way, I called Mom, who told me Ross was working a half day (which explained the phone thing). I walked by the rose garden, the California garden (lots of cacti), and crossed the bridge to the Plaza de Balboa. Some of the buildings in Balboa Park are gorgeous, and old. The Casa del Prado has a sign on it saying it's from 1650. I wandered through the Temken Museum (a free art museum with European masters and Russian icons), and stuck my head in the San Diego County art museum (too expensive for not having anything I had to see). I walked through the greenhouse and on down the street toward a beautiful church with a tiled dome and a bell tower that had been marking each half hour. Walking back the other way, I finally found the park visitor's center, and bought a map of San Diego. Back out in the Plaza del Balboa, I got a hotdog and bag of chips from a cart, and sat and ate while listening to bagpipers in the square beyond.
Once I was done with lunch, I got a Hawaiian shaved ice and headed back toward the artists village. I'd reached it when my phone started to ring; Ross had just gotten home, and was going to head out to meet me after a quick shower. So I ate my ice, and waited, and waited. About an hour on, I called him - he was driving around the park, lost. I used my new map to give him directions, and met him about ten minutes later in front of the zoo.
Being military, he got into the zoo for free, and my ticket was 10% off. We hopped on the bus first (sitting on the top level), and rode around the park. Which was nice, but then we'd seen most everything. We wandered back to the koalas (not so exciting after seeing them in Australia, I'd imagine). We checked out the tigers (hiding), the hippos, crocodiles, pandas, gorillas, etc. It was fun, but I really don't see what makes it much different from any other zoo. We got on to aerial tram (which was honestly more fun than some of the rides at Disney), and then headed out of the park.
Ross drove my car around the Gaslamp Quarter and gave me a bit of a tour. We drove out to the waterfront, where they were having a Pops concert. We ate at Joe's Crab Shack, which Ross said is a chain, but it was really good. I'd always been disappointed with west coast crab before, but this was amazing. We got a steamer pot full of shrimp, Alaskan Snow crab, and Dungeness crab, a serving of coconut shrimp, and a serving of hushpuppies. We both got lemonades, and Ross got a Landshark beer.
We had a nice view of the Coronado Bridge, our server was pretty good (big, burly dude who sounded like he was from Boston), and the occasional order of the signature drink kept us entertained. It was a Shark Attack, made with blue Curacao and served with a shark-shaped shot glass full of something red, which looked like blood as the shark "jumped" into the water. The server would scream, "Shark Attack!" making everyone stop and look around. If I didn't have to drive, I would've totally gotten one.
After dinner, Ross and I walked out to the pier, then headed back toward the car, drove to the zoo, and said our goodbyes. I headed for the 163 N, back to Lake Elsinore. Once again, the hardest part of the trip was finding my uncle's house once I reached their neighborhood.