“This land is your land…”

October 30-November 8

Friday morning I woke up at 5:30, showered and dressed for work in my usual routine. One thing was different, though. Today was the only day on our schedule I’d be biking to work without Jamie. She’d work the following day (Halloween) while I took my turn hanging with Charley. Other than that, we’ve been fortunate enough to share the same work schedule, affording us plenty of opportunity to get out and see some cool stuff.

Saturday, while Jamie worked, Char and I headed to the Douglas Family Nature Preserve, an area in the La Mesa neighborhood sitting atop cliffs overlooking the Pacific. All the off-leash pups were having their fun, but out of fear of Charley sliding off a cliffside, I kept her close to me.

The following day, Jamie, Charley and I drove down south to my cousin Megan’s house in Torrance, a suburb of LA. My cousin Sarah was to be heading back to the east coast at the end of the week, so we took the opportunity to get together, enjoy some lunch at the house, and go for a short coastline hike in Rancho Palos Verdes with the dogs. It was so good to see Meg and Sarah, and we’ll be headed back with Charley for Thanksgiving at Megan’s, since none of us will be making the trip back to New York this year.

Monday. Work. Tuesday. Work. At this point, I think I’m getting situated with working at a new hospital. Sure, there will be good days and bad days, as with anything. But our coworkers have been kind, compassionate, and supportive, which makes all the difference. We pushed through our two shifts and had Wednesday off. We spent it taking Charley to the Douglas Nature Preserve, where we met up with our friends Maggie and Brandon and their pups, Gurley and Donald. The three seem to be good buds now, and it’s nice to see that Charley can still socialize with other pups, though sometimes she goes weeks without real pup-to-pup interaction. Unfortunately, a thick blanket of fog pressed up against the cliffside for the entirety of our time there. No ocean views were in store for us this time.

We returned to the Preserve again later in the afternoon, and this time we were treated to magnificent coastline and ocean vistas for sunset.

Thursday was another work day for us both, while Charley got to relax at home and hang out with her hooman friend and dog walker, Lily. Jamie and I are both in the “float pool” at work, and we were fortunate enough to be floating to the same floor for work that day. We’d never really worked together on the same unit before this assignment, but I think I speak for us both when I say it’s nice to have a familiar face in our constantly changing environments. At least for me, I always feel just a bit more comfortable when I get to see her at work. The day was busy, but good, and we left that evening and biked home with thoughts of San Diego on our mind.

Friday morning we packed up the car for a weekend getaway via a 3+ hour drive south to San Diego. Stopping in Montecito on the way out of greater Santa Barbara, we enjoyed breakfast and a coffee at Bree’osh Bakery & Cafe. Navigating through LA traffic along the way, we got to San Diego in time for a late lunch at OB Brewery in Ocean Beach.

We’d been in the area a couple years ago, when visiting while on assignment in Arizona, so the area brought back memories. After a burger and beer, we stopped over at the OB Dog Beach. We like to say that San Diego is Charley’s favorite city she’s been to, and Dog Beach is her favorite place in her favorite city. Thus, Dog Beach is her favorite place in the world. I pulled out some yummy cheese and unhooked her from her leash (a big step!). We need not worry, this girl is so food motivated there was no way she was scurrying off. We ran and splashed and she rolled in some nasty beach debris and sand, and a great time was had by all! It was like she remembered her fond memories of Dog Beach from a couple years back.

We showered and left Charley back at the room afterward. Equipped with an expansive list of places to try (thanks Maggie and Brandon!), we made our way down to Little Italy in downtown San Diego for dinner and drinks. Stopping off at Carruth Wine Garden, Jamie and I got wine flights and shared a charcuterie board. The boards always surprise me- it doesn’t look like a lot of food, but when we’re done with it we are pretty well full.

Despite this, we had reservations at a pizza spot down the road, so we made our way to dinner, a 10 minute stroll through the Little Italy district. Jamie and I marveled at the seemingly never-ending line of eateries on either side of the road (the roads had been made into pedestrian-only walkways). A light sprinkle of rain nabbed our attention from time to time, as we sat outside on the street under strung-up lights. Dinner was good, not great, and I realized I’m not a fan of Campari, or eggplant on pizza.

Ending the night, Jamie and I decided to indulge in an ice cream cone from Salt & Straw. Always a good decision.

The following morning, we headed up to University Heights, situated atop a mesa south of Interstate 8. Grabbing breakfast and coffee, we figured we’d take Charley for a walk around the neighborhood. Unfortunately for us, we got caught in a rain shower (a rarity in San Diego), so the walk was cut short. We’d spend the rest of the day dodging the weather, as rain clouds materialized and, just as quickly, disappeared. Before we left, we got phone notifications declaring Biden the next president. Only a handful of minutes after that there was honking in the street and hollering from balconies above. We enjoyed being a part of the moment, and then moved along.

Torrey Pines Nature Reserve sits on a length of coastal buffs north of La Jolla. It’s home to the Torrey Pine- a once-flourishing tree on the Southern California coast, but that now can only be found in this reserve and on Santa Rosa Island, off the coast of Santa Barbara. Walking trails meander through the Reserve, but leave the area still looking relatively undisturbed. Dogs aren’t allowed at the Reserve, so Charley took a nap back at the room. We checked out the beach for a short trek, as the waves were creeping up and we were sandwiched along a 30 ft-wide strip between the ocean and a bluff. The rain continued to spit at us all day, as storm winds gusted from time to time. The shear volume of the wind and crashing waves felt deafening at times.

But the sun that inevitably followed these isolated storm pockets was all the more marvelous. Turning the ocean an aqua color, the sun danced with the clouds and created some neat shadows on the water. With a rainy forecast, we felt like we’d stolen a nice day as the clouds split up above us.

We grabbed lunch salads from TenderGreens after picking up Charley, and headed to Coronado Island to eat. The gusty chill followed us throughout the day, as we kept de-layering and re-layering. Enjoying a view of the city from Coronado, we ate and relaxed for a moment before driving to the west-facing Coronado Beach and Dog Park, less than 10 minutes away on the island’s other side.

The foamy waves crashed against Coronado from the west, and the wind whipped from the north, picking up whisps of sand as it went. But we stayed until sunset and watched the clouds wrestle the sun into submission at the horizon. The sun didn’t dazzle, but the clouds lit up pink and soft before bringing nighttime to the island.

My college buddy Jake and his partner Ashlyn live in Pacific Beach in SD, so Jamie Charley and I headed over there for the evening for dinner and some laughs. It’s always great catching up with old friends, and it seemed like we hadn’t missed a beat. Charley was fast friends with their two puppies Maverick and Macie, so we were able to relax and enjoy ourselves instead of constantly policing Charley (she can be a brat with some pups).

After many stories and a few beers, we headed back to our room for the night and planned to grab breakfast before returning to Santa Barbara the following morning.

Jamie scoped out a place in Hillcrest, Communal Coffee, that had some avocado toast and granola/fruit/yogurt items that I was craving. At a certain point, breakfast sandwiches no longer cut it. We ate, enjoyed our last moments in San Diego, and hit the road, taking I-5 northbound and homeward.

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