Sunday, March 22, 2009

Thar she blows!

Tim and I headed to downtown San Diego yesterday afternoon to see if we could glimpse Diego, the 30-foot-long yearling gray whale that has been hanging out in the harbor for the last few weeks.
We thought we'd been staring at the water for hours without seeing Diego, but within five minutes of arriving we spotted a plume of spray as the whale broke the surface and curved into a dive. Diego did this repeatedly over the next hour.

If we could see Diego out of the water, he (or she) would look something like this.

I took the pics above with my little Sony digital camera on high zoom. Click any pic to view it larger.
Our location was along Harbor Drive at the Maritime Museum of San Diego, a cluster of historic vessels docked along the water's edge. The spot is marked by the red dot above. Diego was appearing a couple of hundred yards off shore in the area marked by the yellow ellipse.
At least half a dozen boats carrying onlookers circled the area, with some coming precariously close to the whale at times.
Diego has become quite an attraction. The crowd at our spot peaked at around 30 people. There were gasps and shouts - especially from the kids - every time a plume of mist shot into the air. Tim, on the left above, was particularly good at spotting the activity.

The whale was dubbed Diego after The San Diego Union-Tribune polled readers for a name.

Here is some cool aerial video of Diego swimming in the harbor.

No one knows how Diego got separated from his (or her) pod, why he (or she) won't leave the harbor or how long he (or she) will stay.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

My paper gets a new owner

This was the scene late this morning inside The San Diego Union-Tribune newsroom (as documented in this screen shot taken from the paper's Web site) when managers announced that the paper is being purchased by Platinum Equity. You can read my article about the new owner here.

The announcement ended anxiety that had been building since last summer when the U.T. was put up for sale. We'll have to wait a few weeks for the deal to close before learning what kind of changes the sale will bring to the newsroom.

Who's that bald guy taking notes in the middle of the pic?

Wine country rewind

I'm still playing catchup on postings from my trip to the Bay Area in February.

Following mud baths in Calistoga, we hit as many wineries as possible through Napa Valley on our drive back to SF.
We were able to taste some really great wines at half a dozen stops that included August Briggs, Domaine Chandon and Clos Pegase.Here we are arriving at Clos Pegas, which looks like some sort of Egyptian-inspired suburban outlet mall.
The tasting room at Chandon offered a stunning panoramic view at dusk.

Myers Valley hike

After spending Saturday night in the Desert View Tower with the San Diego Trail Tramps, we headed 1,000 feet down to Myers Valley where we hiked around some cool rock formations like this one.
Tim checked out the remains of a stone hut that we found about half way along our route. One of the guys in the group said the hut was used in the 1920s by workers who built the old highway that runs through the area.
The desert lupines were in full bloom.

Early on in the hike we walked through this giant culvert running under Interstate 8.
We stopped for lunch under one of the palm clusters that are fed by a natural spring.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Desert View Tower

I spent Saturday night with the Trail Tramps hiking group inside this stone tower overlooking the desert about 80 miles east of San Diego off Interstate 8 (point B on the map below.) The tower was built in the 1920s as a roadside attraction. Fellow Trail Tramper Ben bought the place several years ago and continues to operate it as a quirky tourist attraction filled with kitchy knick knacks, hiking guides, dusty stuffed animal heads and pet snakes.
Tom, right, and Jim, the Trail Tramps' fearless leader, worked on the huge pot-luck spread that we grazed on all night.
The circular ground floor of the tower features a spectacular panoramic view of the desert 3,000 feet below. About 12 of us spent the night on cots and pads, and in sleeping bags. The temperature dropped to the upper 40s inside, and a fierce 40-mph wind howled all night outside.
One of the tower's permanent residents. The structure also is home to five dogs and at least one cat.
We were joined for a few hours by members of ECPI (El Centro Paranormal Investigators), a non-profit ghost hunter group based in the main city in the desert east of the tower. They set up a ton of audio and video equipment in the upper levels of the tower but didn't seem to detect anything beyond "hot spots" that appeared around the same time we lit a fire in the first floor fireplace.

The ECPI'ers seemed harmless, albeit a bit naive and delusional - sort of like these evangelicals.
A sleepy and cold Tim takes in the morning view.
This motorcyclist arrived outside the tower just in time to watch the sun break over the rocky hills.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Getting dirty

The climax of my recent trip to the Bay Area two weekends ago was a stop in Calistoga, a small town at the north end of Napa Valley which is famous for its natural hot springs.
We headed to Dr. Wilkinson's Hot Springs Resort, a no-frills spa that offered a 1 1/2 hour, three-step treatment for a reasonable $90. Sal, the bath attendant, prepared the mud for us.
It was a first for me and Tim. The mud was a mix of local ancient volcanic ash, peat from Canada and natural spring water. Your body kind of floats in the stuff, which is heated to around 105 degrees. Once we were settled in, Sal smeared a mud masque on our faces, dropped cucumber slices on our eyes and laid a cool towel over our foreheads.

The only downside was showering the stuff off. I had mud in places I never imagined possible.
Next was a 20 minute dip in a mineral water hot bath. Mine was great, until my foot accidentally dislodged the plug at the bottom of the tub and drained most of the water. Sal was not happy.

The third step was a 20 minute nap under piles of sheets and blankets.
Afterward, we had lunch at a sandwich shop across the street. From left to right are Richard, Tim, Joey, David, Rod and Greg.

David is an old friend from NOLA who used to do communications for the Greater New Orleans Chamber of Commerce in the 1990s. He and his partner Joey moved to the Bay Area in the late 90s.

Richard is a buddy from San Diego who recently relocated to the Bay Area for work.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

de Young

We return to postings about last weekend's trip to San Francisco with these shots from the de Young, the city's fine arts museum which was rebuilt after the earlier structure was seriously damaged by the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989.
The most prominent element of the museum, which re-opened in 2005, is a 144-foot tower capped by a glass-enclosed panoramic viewing area. The building was designed by Swiss architecture firm Herzog & de Meuron, creators of the Bird's Nest - Beijing's National Stadium.
The copper skin of the museum eventually will oxidize to a green to match the surrounding part and lush landscape.
Even this diaper is too small for this pin.
Every turn inside and outside the museum brought another surprising view, like this one that greeted Greg and Tim in the central courtyard.

The tower offers a birds-eye view of the eco-friendly roof of the California Academy of Sciences.