Editor's note: This is the second installment of Eric's two-part series on exploring San Diego.
I may have a big problem on my hands in 11 years. My oldest daughter, 5-year-old Laurel, likes to go fast, but she can't necessarily steer. I learned this at Legoland California in Carlsbad, and it has frightening implications for her teenage years.
One of our first rides of the day was on Coastersaurus, a small dino-themed roller coaster that served to whet Laurel's thrill appetite. She wanted to ride The Dragon as many times as she could, and we took three consecutive trips on the quick coaster that features tight, banking turns. From there it was onto the Aquazone Wave Racers, a spinning ride that goes, you guessed it, fast. Those were followed by the Lego Technic Coaster, another hand-raising, hair-blowing experience.
Upon discovering what we know today as San Diego, explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo deemed it "a very good enclosed port." The same spirit of discovery gripped my 3-year-old son on his first visit to the area some 460 years later.
Sometimes you need a place to go where you can hide out for the weekend and do as little as possible.
April and I were in need of that with the impending arrival of our fourth child. So, with the kids safely deposited in the care of my mother-in-law, we headed for Summerland one Friday night. In little more than an hour, we found ourselves in the perfect place - the Inn on Summer Hill.
Huddled in the pre-dawn chill just outside the Coliseum in south Los Angeles, everyone is a little anxious. Echoing booms pierce the sky overhead and there is a collective twitch in the crowd.
"Because it is there." That was mountaineer George Mallory's answer when asked why he wanted to climb Mt. Everest.
The same reason can be applied to Mt. Whitney, half the height of Everest, yet still the tallest mountain in the continental United States. But an even better answer is, "Because you can."
Drive around Prescott, Arizona, and you'll see a small city similar to any other in America. They've got a mall, a Wal-Mart and a new Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse.
Food superlatives are admittedly a subjective topic. Everybody has an opinion about where to find the best fill-in-the-blank. Whether it's sushi, steak, pizza or donuts, we all make our cases about who does what best.
Sometimes the food speaks for itself, and when it's been saying the same thing for more than 60 years, we ought to listen. Such is the case with The Apple Pan, a legendary Los Angeles lunch counter with devoted followers who, like me, will argue the eatery serves the best burgers anywhere.
Next time you're staring at that tropical screensaver on your monitor, and counting the days until your next visit to the islands, don't get depressed.
Yes, that next vacation may be far off in the future, but a little taste of aloha is closer than you think. It's just over the hill in Malibu at Duke's Restaurant and Barefoot Bar.
The eatery is inspired by legendary Hawaiian surfer Duke Kahanamoku, who was appointed Hawaii's "Official Ambassador of Aloha" in 1960 after the islands achieved statehood. Duke's is part of the family of T S Restaurants, the same company that operates two other Duke's in Honolulu and Lihue, along with Kimo's, a landmark in Maui's Lahaina.
The trip looked like a disaster in the making. We left late on Friday afternoon. We were headed for a campground we'd never visited. The drive took longer than expected. It was the maiden voyage with our new tent trailer. My wife's sense of foreboding grew with the elevation as we drove toward Huntington Lake outside Fresno on a windy mountain road. It was midnight when we finally pulled into the Rancheria Campground and started searching for a site.
It's summer and if you haven't already taken a vacation, you are planning one. There are so many great places to go - Maui, Cabo, Lake Tahoe or Vegas. - As for me, I've already taken a vacation this year - to Wisconsin. My friend has a 92-acre spread in this little town called Mayville, which is located somewhere between Milwaukee and Madison. She doesn't raise cattle but rents out part of her land to local farmers who grow hay and a variety of other crops I can't identify. The rest of her property is surrounded by trees, wildflowers, various creatures and a huge natural pond, the result of iron ore mining back in the turn of the century.
Who gets the tip if your waiter is a computer? For diners at uWink in Woodland Hills, it's a compelling question. The restaurant has replaced apron-wearing servers with file servers. Every uWink table is equipped with a touch screen computer that serves as both digital menu and ordering system. Also loaded with games, puzzles and quizzes, the tabletop terminals serve as an entertainment center, creating an interactive dining experience.
If your kids ever ask if they can crawl through an ant hole, get behind the wheel of a Toyota Land Cruiser or see eye to eye with a scorpion, don't panic. These are perfectly safe and completely normal activities. They're quite convenient, too. Visiting Kidspace Children's Museum in Pasadena will satisfy all three requests and wow your young ones with other exciting, hands-on activities. Located on a gently-sloping three-acre site across from the Rose Bowl, Kidspace's two exhibition pavilions and outdoor gardens and play areas are made for exploring.
Relaxation is a subjective feeling and there's no set formula for achieving it. Sometimes it comes after three days in a faraway place. Other times it finds you within minutes while still close to home. With three young children, relaxation is hard to come by, especially the variety that takes days to find. So with my wife's sanity in mind, we make it a point to seek out the more local kind. We've found that dinner at Eric Ericsson's in Ventura does the trick.
Ladies, please ignore this article. It is for men only. Guys, Valentine's Day is nearly upon us and most of you haven't made any plans yet. Some of you are lazy and some of you consider yourselves conscientious objectors to this so-called holiday. I've fallen into one or both categories in past years, and we all know they lead to trouble. So quit making excuses and get busy making arrangements.
Generally, it is the travel writer's job to tell you to where to go. There are times, however, when duty compels him to do otherwise, and he steers you away from certain destinations. This is one of those times. Looming just beyond Christmas is one of the greatest potential travel debacles of modern times. Not the Wal-Mart return line on December 26; the Rose Parade.
Every few years my side of the family gets a yen to celebrate a white Christmas. Nana, Papa, Mom, Dad, April and I traditionally head for the north shore of Lake Tahoe and rent a house for a week. Three years ago we decided we'd had enough of sunshine and 80-degree temps on Christmas morn and it was time to find a winter wonderland. But we had a small problem. My grandmother's cardiologist said she had to stay below 5,000 feet of elevation. Since Nana was lugging around an oxygen tank at the time, everyone felt it was best to heed her doctor's advice.
It's the most wonderful time of the year! College football is in full swing, ushering in the celebrations of the season: tailgate parties, office pools, and if you're a USC fan, post-game pilgrimages to the Original Tommy's at Beverly and Rampart. They are as much a part of the Trojan tradition as Traveler, the Fight Song, and Tommy Trojan himself. I don't know why that it is. Perhaps it has to do with the restaurant and school mascot sharing the same name. Whatever the reason, 'SC newbies learn about Tommy's their first week on campus. I knew how to get there before I found my classes.
I had lunch with the governor a while back. Yes, that governor. I'm not sure why he wanted to have lunch with me. I'm not a big campaign contributor, or even president of the Kindergarten Cop Fan Club. He didn't actually invite me to dine with him. Come to think of it, we weren't even in the same restaurant. If you really want to know the truth, I didn't even see him. But his wife walked right by me, his motorcade of hulking black SUVs sped past the restaurant, and several people around us said he had been nearby.
As far back as I can remember I've been excited about airplanes and flying. My dad and I had a Saturday morning ritual when I was a kid. Pancakes at Dupar's, followed by an hour or two hanging on the fence at Van Nuys Airport watching planes of every size and shape come and go. While my school-age classmates were into the NFL, I knew all about the RAF and could identify a P-51 Mustang with my ears.
The Santa Ynez Valley is a top destination for wine enthusiasts and people who think they're wine enthusiasts after watching "Sideways." That's all well and good if high-priced fruit juice is your thing. But I like caps on my bottles, not corks. So you won't find me meandering the back roads outside Buellton, periodically stopping to smell, sip, swirl and spit. Instead, I'll be at Firestone Walker Brewing Company's Tap Room restaurant deciding which beer to sample.