The Trip – Day 9

Sunday, September 6, 2015

We had new breakfast companions this morning. A couple from somewhere in California had spent the night after bringing their daughter to San Diego to start college. Another couple were from San Diego and we learned little about them because they sat at a separate table and we didn’t talk to them till we had finished and were heading out. Zane was at our table, but his wife (whose name I still don’t recall) had spent the night with their daughter after Zane was the DD yesterday for their wine tour.

After breakfast, we got some advice from host Ben to help us lay out our plan for the day. We returned to our room, loaded our backpack, and headed out. Zane was on the front porch playing his guitar when we walked out the front door. I told him that he could probably make a little extra money if he’d set up in Balboa Park like the other musicians we’ve seen there. Most of them put cans or jars out for tips. He thought that was a pretty good idea, except that he normally performs in a jazz combo. He was smiling and happily strumming his guitar as we left.

We walked to Little Italy, which is only a few blocks from the Keating House.

Stick ball players in Little Italy

Stick ball players in Little Italy

We had no specific plans there, except that we wanted to see it while we were in the area. You can definitely see the Italian influence. Guys were playing stickball in the street, disrupting traffic. Signs abound touting the accomplishments of Italian-Americans such as Leon Panetta and Martin Scorcese. We stopped for coffee at a small shop and asked a woman outside sitting at a table where we might find a train stop. Turned out that her husband, who was on his way back from some place down the street, is an Indiana native from Lafayette. We talked to her for a few minutes until the husband showed up. When he arrived and found out we are originally from South Bend, he mentioned the names of a couple of girls he dated while they were attending Purdue. The names weren’t familiar to us.

To find the train station, his wife suggested we walk west to the railroad tracks and turn left. We did so, and found a major station just a few blocks away.

We stopped a young man wearing a transit uniform for assistance. His name was (and probably still is) Fritz Jacob. Fritz gave us full instructions on the purchase of day passes for the train. He even helped us operate the card dispensing machine. We bought 3 day passes, and Fritz scanned them at the ticket reader to make sure they’d work when we were ready to use the train. We thanked him for his help and considered getting on the train but decided to visit the USS Midway aircraft carrier instead. We were only about two blocks away from it and we thought we’d be better off if we could beat the rush to get on the big ship. I think we made the right decision.

We stopped at an information booth at the pier and were able to purchase admission tickets there. We even got senior discounts. The lady who sold us the tickets said we could bypass the ticket line at the ship and make fun of the people standing in line as we walked past them. She laughed pretty hard at that, and I could tell she had a bit of a mean streak. She made me laugh, though, and I could see how being mean could have its benefits.

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Me taking a random photo on the Midway. Yes, that’s a toilet

We boarded the ship in short order and wandered around on the hangar deck, which is where the planes were kept when they weren’t preparing to take off. A number of docents were working on the ship, answering questions and giving presentations on various aspects and functions of the ship and its personnel. The Midway was commissioned in 1945 at the end of WWII and was named for the famous Battle of Midway, which took place between the US and Japanese naval forces in 1942.

Wheel on USS Midway

Wheel on USS Midway

I was particularly interested in visiting the Midway because I had recently finished reading a book about the battle.

During our tour of the ship, we talked to men who had actually served on aircraft carriers in various capacities and some who had taken off and landed aircraft on them. I spoke to each of them and asked as many questions as I could in the time that we had with them. I mentioned that I had read the book about the battle to one of the docents, and he suggested we check out the exhibit on the Battle of Midway on the hangar deck.

Our visit to the flight deck was very impressive. At one juncture, we stood in line for about 40 minutes waiting to see the bridge and its various facets. That part of the ship interested us in particular, since our son, Pat, had served on a Coast Guard ice breaker and his job was driving the ship. We remembered what his station (at the wheel) looked like. Although the Midway is larger that Pat’s ship (USCGC Mackinaw), many aspects of the bigger ship looked familiar to us.

The bridge

The bridge

Midway was larger and was equipped not only for controlling the ship but also for controlling the airplanes that it harbored. The docent who conducted our group through this portion was an officer, and, like the others, is in his late sixties or early seventies. He was very astute and talked very fast, but he was extremely interesting and added a touch of humor to his presentation. We learned a great deal in the twenty minutes we spent with him.

To end our visit, we stopped at the Battle of Midway exhibit on the hangar deck. A video presentation was scheduled for 2:00, so we decided to stick around for it. Just before 2, we were herded, along with about 40 other people, into a small auditorium. After we were seated, the lights were dimmed and the video started. It didn’t take long for me to get emotionally involved in the film, even though I knew that some of the dramatizations were overdone. I saw a number of people in attendance who appeared to be Japanese or Japanese-American, and I wondered what they thought of the overt nationalism of the film. By the time the American pilots were being shot out of the sky, a couple of tears had streamed down my cheek and onto my shirt. I couldn’t help my reaction. I guess that’s what happens when you start to understand that, because of human nature, things like hatred, distrust, nationalism, ethnocentrism, and war will never disappear.

We left the Midway and walked back to the train station. The line of people waiting to get on the big ship was very long when we left, and we were happy that we had decided to visit it early in the day. We waited for the “Green Route” train, hopped on, and rode to Old Town. We decided to check it out because we had heard about it from several people while visiting San Diego. Our host at the B & B, Ben, compared it to Tijuana. We found out why.

The train ride to the Old Town stop was only about 12 minutes. We got off and found an entrance to Old Town, which contains Old Town State Historic Park and the city’s Presidio Park. By the

Typical scene in Old Town

Typical scene in Old Town

time we entered the place, we were famished. The time was nearly 2 p.m. We stopped at the first restaurant we spotted inside the park a place called Barra Barra. We were fairly pleased with the food, except that it was no better in quality than that of many Mexican style restaurants back in Indiana. If we ever return to Old Town, we’ll definitely try another place. There are many restaurants, with many varieties of food.

We spent several hours in Old Town before deciding we had seen enough. As the afternoon wore on, more and more people poured into the area and most of them seemed to be young children who had been out with their parents since early morning after a night will too little sleep. Little shops were overflowing with people scrambling to find something worthwhile to take home as souvenirs. The afternoon was getting hotter, and Ben’s comparison of Old Town to Tijuana was starting to make sense.

We made our way back to the train stop, caught the Green Route south to the station, got off, and walked back to the Keating House where we spent the remainder of the evening.

We talked about our plans for tomorrow, and how we would go about making our move from the Keating House to the Horton Grand Hotel.

One Response

  1. luv4beer99@yahoo.com
    luv4beer99@yahoo.com September 8, 2015 at 2:23 pm | |

    Keep up the excellent updates and writing, Bruce! I’ve been enjoying the heck out of your daily activities and your humor sprinkled on top.

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