David Dodd 2:33 a.m., May 19
There it is like a stamp of approval: the landscaped Carmel Mountain logo on the southeast corner of Carmel Mountain Road and Rancho Carmel Drive. The design represents two mountains (maybe Twin Peaks?) and also the letter M. The center of the M is currently filled with white stones (maybe snow?), but at other times it has been red among other colors. The carefully manicured flowers surrounding the design also changes with the seasons. They are now yellow.
As a native San Diegan, I have lived in several neighborhoods throughout the years, such as Point Loma, Ocean Beach, and Pacific Beach. I must have seen hundreds of bumper stickers during those years proclaiming that “There is no life east of I-5”; but, despite those warnings, I find myself exactly in that supposedly non-existent location. Not only that, but I’m willing to admit that I’m enjoying this area east of I-5.
The two main shopping centers in Carmel Mountain run parallel to each other and are approximately a mile long. Shop after shop. One of them doesn’t even require crossing a major intersection. It’s a great aerobic workout walking from one end to the other, with the added benefit of weaving in and out of the stores. I always take a debit card or a few dollars with me expecting always to find something I can’t live without.
I have certain requirements when considering a move to a new community – a good coffee shop (preferably Starbucks), a book store, a bagel shop, convenient grocery shopping, a movie house, and a pharmacy. It doesn’t hurt if there are a few good restaurants sprinkled around. Carmel Mountain provides all of these and more – Borders (with Seattle’s Best coffee shop inside), Barnes & Noble, Bruegger’s Bagels, Starbucks, a newly remodeled Ralph’s, and restaurants that serve up a variety of international food, such as Greek, Mexican, French, and the standard American fast food. Carmel Mountain also has as an attractive, well-stocked library just behind the Ralph’s shopping center.
I always thought I would like living in a small college town, but the online offerings of higher education made that dream lower on my list of requirements. The real draw to this area came when I secured employment and then found a rental barely more than two blocks away. When gas peaked at more than $4.50 last summer, I gleefully counted up the gallons of gas I saved by walking to work. Perfect!
Unlike Ocean Beach that boasts a church on almost every corner, I travel a bit further here in Carmel Mountain; however, there are plenty of options. As a fairly new Catholic, I searched for a large, vibrant parish and found one in St. Michael’s Catholic Church. St. Michael’s is actually in Poway, but the closest in miles to my home. Deeply faithful people, a superb choir, a variety of concerts, an exciting Fall Festival, and a future performing arts center that is expected to break ground in March.
I resist traveling too far beyond this area, but I’ve found it easy to zip west on I-56, north or south on I-15, and east into Poway. Ramona is an approximate 20-minute drive if I’m in the mood for rodeos, country fairs, and a refreshing stop on the way to Julian.
A friend recently referred to Carmel Mountain as being a part of the coastal weather pattern. I disagree. The summers are significantly hotter and the winters are frosty. The coastal fog and cloud cover rarely intrude here, although lately we’ve had a taste of both. Still, it doesn’t seem to be the norm.
People who live and work in and around Carmel Mountain are much like people everywhere in San Diego, although there may be a few less surfers here. Everyone seems to be in a hurry. I grieved a few weeks ago for a young man who lost his life while speeding south on Sabre Springs Parkway. He lost control of his brand new motorcycle. It happened just on the other side of the wall in front of my condo. Yet, for all the accidents that have happened at that very location, vehicles still fly up and down this thoroughfare at unbelievable speeds. What are they thinking, I wonder? The young man with the speeding motorcycle didn’t think it would ever happen to him either.
I was out walking my West Highland White Terrier yesterday and I saw the young woman who appears to be (1) an exercise addict, (2) an anorexic, (3) or bulimic. She may be all three for all I know. I’ve seen her several times running in the area. She is one of those apparently very ill people who is so emaciated that I could touch my thumb and forefinger around her thigh – and I’ve got small hands. She passed me going the opposite direction on Evening Creek Dr. Then, she came back and was trying to run in the other direction. I say trying, because as she veered onto the jogging path she would run a few steps and then practically collapsed against the fence. She feigned a calf cramp by stretching her right leg – always the right leg. Unfortunately, she didn’t appear to have any muscle to stretch. Another odd behavior she exhibited is that she kept turning around to look behind her. I wondered if my all black attire was perceived to be the grim reaper to her and she was determined to outrun me. I had my cell phone ready while I waited for her to fall to the ground. She didn’t. I wonder if she made it home.
People…my favorite things to observe. In Carmel Mountain, they are as fascinating as anywhere else – happy/sad, polite/rude, hopeful/disillusioned, wealthy/poor, intelligent/and not so much. Carmel Mountain is its own unique slice of San Diego, and I can confirm that it is filled with life…even though it is east of I-5.