If you’re lucky enough to be enjoying a Spring Break trip this week, I wish you safe travels and many happy adventures.
I haven’t had an official Spring Break since graduating from college, but I gave myself a Winter Weather Break in late February/early March. (It’s either escape for 10 days or try to make my body actually hibernate, which can’t be healthy or, I assume, physically possible.)
As always, traveling — this time to the San Diego area — taught me more than just the best place to find tacos at 10 p.m. (Lucha Libre, in the Mission Hills neighborhood, has a fun Mexican wrestling theme and funky menu items like the “Undefeated Seafood Taco” and “Tap Me Out” tacos with fillings that include French fries and avocado.)
I also learned:
”TSA Pre” has its privileges: At the airports, I breezed through the TSA security lines because my ticket said I was “TSA Pre” (pre-cleared). Why? I have no idea, but I didn’t question it as I waltzed through security with my shoes on, like a Saudi prince — if a Saudi prince ever flew commercial. Meanwhile, my husband, Rex, was enjoying the full TSA treatment, taking off his shoes, belt and anything else deemed a security threat. Thank you, airport gods, for bestowing on me the coveted “TSA Pre” status.
Sometimes, boring is wonderful: Our flight to San Diego was uneventful. Boring, even. Safe. Smooth. Not much turbulence and no one yelling at flight attendants or other passengers. Still, even a boring flight is a marvel of the modern age. You can leave your house in Kenosha at 3 a.m. and be in San Diego at noon. Until we start hopping on rockets for Spring Break trips to Mars, air travel remains a miracle and has opened up the world. (We flew on Southwest and were on one of the airline’s Boeing 737 Max jets, so I feel blessed to have made it to California and back safely.)
All’s quiet on the Western front: When we returned home, several people in Kenosha told me they’d never travel to San Diego because it’s so close to the border with Mexico. They envision hordes of people trying to cross into the United States like that scene of zombies swarming over a wall in “World War Z.” We didn’t travel to the border, which is a scant 16 miles from San Diego, but I did talk with a San Diego sheriff’s deputy, who said the border “crisis” has been overblown and that the area remains as peaceful as always.
Nickels, dimes and quarters add up to real money: Before starting this trip, Rex took his change jar to his credit union. After running it through a coin machine, he walked out with $197 in spending money. That’s a lot of Lucha Libre tacos!
”Informed winging it”: It’s the best way to travel. I was armed with a “Fodor’s Guide to Southern California” and a “National Geographic’s Guide to the National Parks” from the library. With no set itinerary, we used those guides to plan our trip as we went along, discovering new places every day.
Dr. Seuss National Park should happen: That’s my proposal for renaming Joshua Tree National Park. The beloved children’s author was a resident of Santa Barbara, and the park’s joshua trees (which are actually yucca plants) look like something from one of Dr. Seuss’ books. They also look like something the Lorax would be hugging, so it makes perfect sense.
”Bombs have the right of way ...”: We learned this valuable life lesson while touring the massive USS Midway Aircraft Carrier, now a museum docked in San Diego Harbor. The phrase was used in the ship’s mess hall, to warn diners to get out of the way when bombs came rolling through, but I’d probably get out of the way of a bomb in any setting.
Newspapers are saving the world! I’ve long believed in the power of a free press, but newspapers — the actual print product — are used by Navy helicopters to mark targets in the water during rescue missions. Specifically, they use the Sunday comics sections, which are heavy enough not to blow away and colorful enough to be seen from 25 feet away. And you thought Beetle Bailey was just a comic strip!
Keep your ears open: You hear the funniest snippets of conversation when traveling, like a heated discussion a family was having over the German word for “mother-in-law” vs. “stepmother” or the man I passed on a trail leading to Cabrillo National Monument who was remarking on “the main problem with the Omaha library system ...” I really wanted to hear the rest of that sentence.
Not just bombs have the right of way: The most dangerous road hazard we encountered was not a California driver — though traffic could be horrendous at times — but jogging strollers, which seem to be as big as some cars and which swerve into traffic without warning.
Your moment of bliss: Being in California and seeing our own Betsy Ade singing on NBC’s “The Voice” was a wonderful reminder that, no matter how far you travel, there really is no place like home. Go get ‘em, Betsy!