Back in the early 90’s, we were in CA several times during various business trips so we knew how beautiful the California coastline is. So despite the fact that it was an hour long drive to La Jolla, CA (pronounced La HOY ah) from Rancho California RV Resort (see our review) in Aguanga, we simply had to go. So glad that we did!
Our first stop was Torrey Pines Gliderport where we watched daredevils, some with experience, some not, jump off an oceanside cliff hoping to catch a gust of wind (if they don’t they’re in big trouble) on hang gliders and paragliders. Here they offer flight instructions, tandem flights, and certification courses. From the deck of the Cliffhanger Cafe, we watched the valiant few taking off and landing while fighting the gusty winds. Sure looked like fun! Thought Rob might want to give it a try but the $175 price tag quickly quelled that urge.
After hanging out there for awhile, we left to head to Duke’s La Jolla for a late lunch. After months of BBQ, brisket, burgers and beef, we were sure that our seafood cravings would be satisfied here. Duke’s is a Hawaiian based restaurant named in honor of native Hawaiian Duke Kahanamoku, an Olympic swimming and water polo medalist and the father of modern surfing. Perfect picturesque spot on a cliff overlooking the ocean with a menu offering all sorts of seafood deliciousness! Unfortunately due to the cooler temps they had lowered a clear vinyl sheet on the deck so it was hard to really appreciate the beauty of the spot.
We don’t normally indulge in appetizers at lunch but when the waitress recommended one of our favorites, calamari, we couldn’t resist. Different than what we are used to, the mac nut panko crusted calamari was not in rings but shaped something like mozzarella sticks and served with guava mustard remoulade. Delish!
For our entrees everything sounded so good, it was tough making a decision. But eventually we did – I had the Roasted Duke’s Fish ($17). The fish changes based on the daily selection which was a Sea Bass with a basil lemon glaze and served with coconut bamboo rice topped with roasted carrots and a pomegranate vinaigrette. Probably one of the better fish dishes I have ever had.
Rob had the Sauteed Macnut & Herb Crusted Fish which was a parmesan & panko dusted fish (on this particular day it was Opah, aka Moonfish, a Hawaiian based fish), served with tomato lemon caper butter, and bok choy asian slaw. Fabulous lunch! We were tempted to have dessert when we saw a huge piece (big enough to serve four people) of what looked to be an ice cream pie go by. Later we learned that this was Kimo’s Original Hula Pie which was a chocolate cookie crust, macadamia nut ice cream, hot fudge, toasted mac nuts, topped with whipped cream. We would have had to skip the meal and just have dessert!
Sorely in need of a walk following that delicious lunch we meandered over to La Jolla Cove and Seal Rock. Funny that we both remembered that we (along with two coworkers) had been to this exact location during our California business trip in the early 90’s. Seals and sea lions were lazily basking in the sun. Fun watching the pups chase around after Mom looking for a meal. What is so fascinating about seals and sea lions? I don’t know but we spent quite a bit of time there. Finally it was getting late and our 2 hour meter time limit was about to expire so it was time to fight the traffic and head back to the coach.
We were told by our friends that another neat place to visit was Julian, CA, a historic gold mining town in the beautiful Cuyamaca mountains east of Aguanga. Here you can tour the Eagle Mining Co. and visit the Pioneer Museum to see vintage clothing, photographs, household and mining equipment, a Victorian era piano and a renowned lace collection. We didn’t have time to visit either of those places but we did visit the Julian Pie Company which has two locations, one on Main Street in Julian and the other in Santa Ysabel. Because the one on Main St. was so crowded, on our way back to the resort we stopped at the other location. There we bought a fresh Dutch Apple Pie ($15.95) and a Chicken Pot Pie ($16.95), both of which were promptly consumed and absolutely delicious. The Dutch Apple Pie was probably one of the best we’ve ever had and equal to the pies from Schartner’s Farm back in RI. A frozen Apple Mountain Berry Crumb Pie ($15.95) which has raspberries, strawberries and boysenberries tossed with apples is still in our freezer to be defrosted and baked on a special occasion.
While still in town, we had lunch at the very cute Julian Grille where we had an excellent lunch. Built in the 1920’s as a private residence, the cottage was transformed into a restaurant in 1989. I had a Reuben ($15) served with a choice of a small salad, cup of soup, fries, or potato salad. Since the soup of the day was a crab and corn chowder, I had that – it was delicious. Rob had their Chinese Orange Chicken ($12) served with jasmine rice which he enjoyed immensely.
As we walked back to the car, we stopped in at the Miner’s Diner, an old time 50’s diner with a very interesting history. Built of 100,000 bricks in 1886,the first brick building in the back country, it was first known as the Levi-Marks Store. Since then it has been a Rexall Drug Store, several cafes and a bakery. Although we didn’t eat here, it was fun just looking at all the memorabilia lining the walls. Next time we’ll be sure to have lunch or something from the soda fountain here.
If you don’t mind a white knuckler, another drive that shouldn’t be missed is on CA-74 (Pines to Palms Highway) which snakes it’s way through the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains, eventually ending up in the Palm Desert area. Talk about a twisty, turny road! BTW if your destination is Rancho California RV Resort or any other campground in the area, your GPS may instruct you to take CA-74. If you are in your RV and over 30′, don’t do it! See driving details in our review.
What a gorgeous drive! A little scary as there are no guard rails along the majority of the roadway which is typical of CA mountain roads. At the Coachella Valley Vista Point, we enjoyed a spectacular view. The snow capped San Jacinto and San Gorgonio mountains, views north and east of Palm Desert, Indian Wells, and La Quinta, and the north tip of the Salton Sea which was about forty miles away to the southeast. After hanging out at the vista for a bit rather than continuing on to Palm Desert, it was time to head back.
Since it was well past lunch, we were hungry, time for a stop at the Paradise Valley Cafe in Mountain Center, CA, located at the intersection of Hwy 74 and 371. Interesting history – it was established in 1939 by a lady famously known as “Pistol Annie”, named because she carried 2 six shooters on each hip. We both had American burgers ($10.95), 1/2 pound Angus chuck with American cheese and bacon, served on their famous potato bun. Decent burger.
That wraps up the highlights of our sightseeing expeditions during our month long stay in Southern California!
After leaving Rancho California RV Resort we made a quick and free overnight stay at the campground (review coming) behind the General Patton Memorial Museum, before our next destination in the Parker/Lake Havasu, AZ area. Details coming!