No Direction Home

This humble blog was started to document our travels around the country during the summer of 2006, We have opted to continue updating it due to the requests from family & friends. Enjoy!

Friday, May 29, 2015

San Diego Zoo

April 23, 2015

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San Diego Zoo

On my final day in California, I decided to check out what may be the largest, best and most famous zoo in the world, the San Diego Zoo located in historic Balboa Park. Located on 100 beautiful acres of the park complete with elevation changes, miles of trails and large open-air habitats for the huge collection of animals found there.

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The zoo features more than 3700 animals with over 670 species represented, one of, if not the largest animal collections in the world. The zoo offers a guided tour bus that traverses 75% of the park. There is also an overhead gondola lift called the Skyfari, providing an aerial view of the zoo. The Skyfari was built in 1969 by the Von Roll tramway company of Bern, Switzerland. The San Diego Zoo.

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Exhibits are often designed around a particular habitat. The same exhibit features many different animals that can be found side-by-side in the wild, along with native plant life. Exhibits range from an African rain forest (featuring gorillas) to the Arctic taiga and tundra in the summertime (featuring polar bears). Some of the largest free-flight aviaries in existence are here. Many exhibits are "natural" with invisible wires and darkened blinds (to view birds), and pools and open-air moats (for large mammals).

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The temperate, sunny maritime climate is well suited to many plants and animals. Besides an extensive collection of birds, reptiles, and mammals, it also maintains its grounds as an arboretum, with a rare plant collection. As part of its gardening effort, it raises some rare animal foods. For example, the zoo raises 40 varieties of bamboo for the pandas on long-term loan from China, and it maintains 18 varieties of eucalyptus trees to feed its koalas.

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The zoo is one of four zoos in the U.S. which have giant pandas on display, and is the most successful in terms of panda reproduction. The first two giant panda cubs in U.S. history to have been born in the U.S. and survive into adulthood. Since then, four more giant panda cubs, have been born to the resident giant panda parents Bai Yun and Gao Gao. All these American-born cubs except Xiao Liwu have been sent back to China to participate in the breeding program there.

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The zoo is amazing really and it is almost impossible to give it adequate attention in a single visit. To me the highlights included the koala bear exhibit, the baby hippo, the elephant odyssey exhibit and huge multi-story aviaries that are there. It was a fantastic start to the day.

In the late afternoon and early evening, I drove over to Point Loma and visited the Cabrillo National Monument. It is located on the Southern tip of the Point Loma peninsula and is the spot where in 1542, the first European, Juan Rodriquez Cabriillo set foot on what would become the West coast of the United States.

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The park offers a view of San Diego's harbor and skyline, as well as Coronado and Naval Air Station North Island. On clear days, a wide expanse of the Pacific Ocean, Tijuana, and Mexico's Coronado Islands are also visible. A visitor center screens a film about Cabrillo's voyage and has exhibits about the expedition.

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It is a beautiful site and features a huge statue of Cabrillo that overlooks the entrance to San Diego Bay as well as the old Point Loma Lighthouse, which while no longer in use, has been preserved in its original state for visitors to explore. The lighthouse is a beautiful focal point for what is truly a wonderful place to visit.

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The sweeping ocean vistas and incredible views are worth the visit by themselves and the park is certainly worth the short drive from downtown. You can also get a nice appreciation of the military history of the area from the park, from the vantage point you can see a wide range of military vessels of the US Navy in the harbor.

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Thursday, May 28, 2015

The depths of the wild below…

April 22, 2015

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The depths of the wild below…

My first day post Coachella, I drove back down the California coast towards San Diego. I had tickets to see the band The Cat Empire at the famous club in Solana Beach, the Belly Up that evening and I made my way down to check out the beauty of the Southern California coast before catching the show that night.

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I began by driving to the beautiful coastal community of La Jolla, just north of San Diego. . La Jolla is truly a beautiful little city, or neighborhood of San Diego as it is. The coastal community is home to the beautiful Scripps Institute of Oceanography and the University of California San Diego. There is a wonderful upscale shopping area with restaurants and bars and of course the amazing beach and coastline.

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The coastline includes the incredible La Jolla Cove and cave, which is open as a park-like area along the clifty coast. I went over to check it out and see the many seals and sealions which call the area home. There are so many of them and they are so used to human interaction that they are everywhere along the coast, even right on the swimming beach where they frolic in the waves along with the many humans taking to the sea there.

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Their lack of fear of humans allows you to get very close for photos and it was mesmerizing to just sit and watch their activity. People for the most part do not seem to bother them too much, mostly just taking photos and watching the amazing animals as they go about their business.

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It is such a beautiful place and so cool to see the wildlife up close and personal. After hanging at the beach for some time I walked over to the nearby La Jolla Brewery to try some delicious West coast craft brew and have a bite of lunch before heading north towards Solana Beach, which is yet another beautiful upscale coastal suburb of San Diego.

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I arrived in time to check out an amazing sunset on the beach there as I watched surfers try their luck in the chilly waves along the beach. It was a great way to spend an evening prior to the show at the Belly Up, the famous nightclub only a couple of blocks from the beach.

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The Belly Up has hosted just about every major (and minor) musical act of the past 30 years. It is a small, intimate space with a laid-back beach vibe that the bands can appreciate. I was happy that the band The Cat Empire was scheduled to play while I was there, as I had never had the chance to see them and I really enjoy their music.

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The Australian Ska/ Jazz band has been around since 1999 and while they have never quite caught on big in the USA, they are huge in their native Australia and their high energy music and live shows have something of a cult following here. I thought their show was terrific, they even played my favorite song “Fishies”. If you have not heard them, they are for sure worth checking out. 

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