A few words about my bike. I call him GT, but his real name is GT LTS 3. He is a brute. He was born in 1998 and listed for $4295. My wife Debra bought this macho bicycle for me as a birthday gift four years ago at a garage sale. She paid 60 bucks.
Dr. Bill: GT, some folks are going to join our ride down Historic 101 today. Okay with you?
GT: Bring them on… Hello, I’m GT.
Departure: Oceanside, 12:10 p.m.
Today’s surf down the coast begins at the intersection of Canyon and Mission in Oceanside. Debra, our 20-year-old-daughter, GT, and I moved from Encinitas to Oceanside in 2008, and we figure we saved about $20,000 per mile for the 14-mile distance. Plus, we are close to the beach, the pier, and frozen yogurt.
Next door to our home is the Friendly Church of God in Christ, where James E. Hammond serves as the Elder Pastor. A fashion show takes place each Sunday, when elegantly dressed folks attend services. One morning, Debra and I were sitting on the curb, dressed in dirty gardening clothes and eavesdropping on the beautiful live gospel music coming from inside the church. A man in a purple tux approached us. He invited us into the church and introduced us to Elder Hammond — quite a lovely human being. Elder Hammond led us to his office and cordially invited us to attend his church anytime.
Debra asked, “Are you one of those people my auntie called ‘holy rollers’?”
The pastor chuckled. “Yes, I guess you might call us that…”
Before GT and I roll out, we need air in our tires. We hoof it down Dixie Street to the nearest gas station on Mission. I begin to sing.
Dr. Bill: I wish I were in Dixie. Away, away, away down south in Dixie.
GT: That’s a song about a slave being nostalgic for the south. It was Abe Lincoln’s favorite song, yet it’s now considered “politically incorrect.”
Dr. Bill: How do you figure?
GT: Current culture rules. It’s a now-versus-then thing. In the Athens of Socrates, Greek men enjoyed boys. It was acceptable. Today, someone who indulges in those pleasures ends up in prison.
Now we are ready to roll. I sing GT’s favorite song, “Back in the Saddle,” by Aerosmith.
Ridin’ into town alone by the light of the moon,
I’m lookin’ for ol’ Sukie Jones she crazy horse saloon.
Barkeep gimme a drink, that’s when she caught my eye.
She turned to give me a wink, that’d make a grown man cry.
I’m back in the saddle again.
GT: Yes! It is so good to have you back in my saddle. Aerosmith’s song rages over Gene Autry’s “Back in the Saddle.” Aero talks about love, not all this “where a friend is a friend” stuff.
Dr. Bill: Sorry, but your favorite song is about sex, not love, and it reached number 38 on Billboard’s top 100 in 1974. Gene’s version was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1997 and was ranked to be the 98th best song of the 20th Century. Time will prove Gene’s to be the more enduring.
GT (irritated): I like it, just because I like it. Get it, Dr. Bill?
We follow Barnes to Division and traverse the Interstate 5 overpass. There is a deafening roar of traffic below.
Dr. Bill: GT, will my one good ear be damaged by all this noise?
GT (reassuring): This overpass will quickly pass.
It does. Coasting down into the barrio, we are met by brown faces, iron reinforced windows, and barking perros. On the left is a verde community jardín. We pass a food truck, surrounded by señoras y niños. The truck has everything from tomates to dulces that will derriten sus dientes (ruin your teeth) pero provide al instante sugar high to the jóvenes.
Oceanside High School
Imagine having a week like this! On Saturday, October 17, 2010, Tiaina Baul Seau, Jr. was inducted into the Oceanside High School Hall of Fame. He talked about the unconditional love he’d felt at Oceanside High.
Next day, police were called to his house, and he was accused of domestic violence. On Monday, at 12:20 a.m., he was arrested for domestic abuse. Seven hours after being released on $25,000 bail, he air-surfed his 2004 Cadillac Escalade over a 30-foot embankment onto a Carlsbad beach near Solamar Drive. Blood tests showed no alcohol or drugs were involved. Junior had apparently fallen asleep. The district attorney’s office decided not to press charges for physical abuse due to insufficient evidence, though Junior was cited for an illegal left turn.
Junior has since gone from charging quarterbacks to charging for your dinner. He owns Seau’s The Restaurant in Mission Valley, which is filled with football memorabilia.
The sun shined again on Junior on November 27, 2011, when he was inducted into the Chargers’ hall of fame. Before 71,000 fans he declared: “All I can say is I’m honored. My family is honored and we’re happy to be here.”
The Junior Seau Foundation has raised four million big ones to finance programs aimed at inspiring young people. He has done so many good things for the Asian Pacific and Oceanside communities.
Highway 101: 12:17 p.m.
We glide down one of the many Oceanside streets that are named after states. From Michigan, we hang a left onto 101. This is the starting line of our surf down Historic 101. I share my excitement with GT.
Dr. Bill: Gosh, here we are on 101. We are starting our journey.
GT: Cut the chatter. Feel the force.
Dr. Bill: I think I feel it.
GT: Don’t think, feel. There is a presence of a strong force nearby that is being reflected on both sides of the 101.
Dr. Bill: Yes, I feel it. The force is racing through my arms, like an arms race.
GT: Shush. I’m catching a mind-wave that says the force appeared here in 1942.
Dr. Bill (free associating): Arms of me. Army. Marines. That’s it! Camp Pendleton!
GT: You got it, brother. Notice the wave of warm invitations extended to our military personnel, to freely spend their money in nearby establishments.
An enormous red, white, and blue sign reads “Freedom.” Another states “We proudly honor our military.” The Camp Pendleton Marine presence is shouted about, with flags waving, used car lots offering “approved military loans,” military dry-cleaning and pawnshops trying to lure those short-haired military folks to “Come on down. Trade your Gold for Silver.”
Dr. Bill: Which is being honored most, the military or the dollar?
GT: Each in its own way.
GT: Well, I feel an even more powerful force pervading the atmosphere of coastal towns from Malibu to San Diego.
Dr. Bill: Fear of the great white shark!
GT: Pshaw. The vibrations come from Hawaii, Baja, and Southern California. Look at the stores.
Dr. Bill: Ah-ha. I get it. Southern California Beach subculture?
GT: Right! Hawaii gave us surfing culture and an acceptance of bare skin. Baja taught us to ply ourselves into a relaxed state with margaritas, marijuana, a mañana attitude, and maybe a morning Corona. SoCal has contributed woodies, fast food, board shorts, and bikinis. The eats gobbled by the beach tribe reflect these cultures: sushi and teriyaki via Hawaii, burritos and tacos direct from Baja, and good old American hamburgers, with fries and a Coke or a milkshake. You can identify the tribe by their casual dress, $60-plus board shorts, $100 bikinis, flip flops, and tank tops. Name-brand sunglasses are a must, as is a tattoo or two.
We surf past the 101 Cafe. Opened in 1928, it’s a comfortable place that serves crispy hash browns, chili, and overall tasty breakfasts. GT wants to stop and critique an antique bicycle for two that’s out front.
GT: Antique! That piece of junkyard pipe isn’t even a replica of a bicycle for two.
I notice the Beach Break Café has enlarged into the Beach Break Plaza. Nice place, but too pricey, too crowded, and too trendy for me.
We approach our first bike shop, “Allen’s Bike Shop.” Inside is a nice gentleman.
Dr. Bill (to nice gentleman): GT complains of a squeaky wheel and chain. Can you help me?
Nice Gentleman: Sure, I’ll oil your squeaky wheel. Your chain, too.
GT: Ohh. That feels so good.
At Vista Way, in front of Pacific Coast Cycle, stands a real antique bicycle. To avoid a jealous rage, I leave GT outside while I converse with the Maybe Owner.
Dr. Bill: How about letting me ride that relic to La Jolla a few times? It’ll be a good advertisement for you.
Maybe Owner: No deal. It’s solely for display. Anyhow, you wouldn’t want to.
Dr. Bill: I would, I would.
Maybe Owner: Forget it. No is no.
Dr. Bill: Can I rent it for eight hours for one million dollars?
Maybe Owner: Sure. Show me the dough.
Dr. Bill: So, we’re just quibbling about price. How about ten dollars?
Maybe Owner: Get out of here.
I come out of the bike shop to face an accusation.
GT: I thought we were monogamous.
Onward. We pass Angelo’s, which serves the biggest, cheapest breakfast around: 3 eggs, 2 pancakes, 2 strips of bacon, and 2 sausages for $5.29. I did once encounter a cockroach on the floor, but the price beats Vigilucci’s in Encinitas!
Wheeee, we sea-gull-swoop down into Buena Vista Lagoon, the state ecological reserve that separates Oceanside from Carlsbad. On our left is a nature center built, owned, operated, and staffed by volunteers from the local Audubon Society. If you ever want to see a bunch of indigenous stuffed birds, mammals, and rodents (they’re dead, of course), this is the place to go. I used to find these critters somewhat interesting, but Debra found them disgusting. “Were these poor stuffed animals killed just for our entertainment?” Not even the docents had an answer. But we both loved the walkways around the lagoon.
GT: I don’t like it when you think about her.
Dr. Bill: Then don’t listen in on my thoughts.
GT: Why not? You listen to mine.
Carlsbad: 12:30 p.m.
Puffing up the second hill of our adventure, we move from the military/beach style of Oceanside into the touristy, resortlike retirement community of Carlsbad. Carlsbad is one of the country’s highest-income cities (average family income over 100,000 clams), with a highly educated populace, an award-winning school district, and the world’s first skateboard park, built in 1976 on the grounds of the Carlsbad Raceway. GT will give us a glimpse of the town’s history.
GT: Known history of Carlsbad begins with a settlement of Native Americans, Luiseño tribe, who had a village, Palamai. Does this sound similar to Palomar Airport Road? Yep. The former location of the village was alongside Agua Hedionda Lagoon, which in Spanish means “Smelly Water Lagoon.” The lagoon is in South Carlsbad, close to the I-5 and Cannon Road exit.
Dr. Bill: The Luiseño tribe is still around. I read in the North County Times (June 13, 2011) that the San Luis Rey band of Luiseño Indians hosted the 15th annual Intertribal Pow Wow at San Luis Rey Mission. Robert John Knapp, the Pow Wow’s spiritual advisor, stated: “Today we honor the people here and speak to the Earth from this happy place. We must love our Mother Earth, and we must express that love and actively practice it. Talk to her, sing to her, tell her how much you love her.”
GT: I love you, Momma Earth.
Dr. Bill: I love you, Momma Earth.
We cross the bridge over the railway tracks. On our right is the well-manicured Army and Naval Academy, which has an enrollment of about 300 students on a beautiful, 16-acre, oceanfront campus. The walls proclaim “Leadership, Excellence, Honor, Responsibility, Loyalty and Compassion.” Those words were an important part of the academy’s reputation, but a boil burst on the academy in 2003. A few students were involved in a hazing incident with an unwilling cadet. The cadet was forced to drink alcohol, beaten up, and sodomized with a broomstick. The suit charged the academy with not properly protecting the students. The suit was reported as settled in August 2009. The cadets that I have encountered have seemed like other high school students, though I’m sure a broomstick will never be just a broomstick to them.
We are now at Magee Park, site of the historical Magee House. Note the patriotic garden composed of red and white roses and blue lavender, created to commemorate the 1976 Centennial celebration. This is the home of the Carlsbad Historical Society and Carlsbad’s only historical museum.
I do 20 push-ups and 40 sit-ups. In my youthful 40s, I managed 100 push-ups. Now, I lie exhausted on the grass, indulge in a few minutes of self-hypnosis, rise without using my hands, get a drink of water from the fountain, and wearily proceed.
There is wonderful food in this little city. El Norte Mexican Restaurant is charming, with above-average fare (aside from the too-thick egg coating on the chiles rellenos). The $2 Taco and Tecate Tuesday is a deal, and I’ve always enjoyed my ride on their Cadillac Margarita. The Pechanga platter makes for a tasty happy-hour treat.
On our left is the very good, moderately priced KoKo Beach Club. The French Onion Soup and Oysters Rockefeller bread are a compelling combination. All the happy-hour eats are delicious, and the moderately priced entrées are also quite good. Early Bird and Late Bird Specials are served from 4:00 p.m.–midnight, Sunday–Thursday (but on Friday and Saturday only from 4:00–6:00 p.m.). The “Special” offers a complete dinner with their signature 8-oz. prime rib or a half-slab of pork ribs for $12.99.
The Alchemist: He Turned Water into Gold
The modern age of Carlsbad begins on the other side of Carlsbad Boulevard, with Captain John A. Frazier, the guy depicted in that bigger-than-life statue GT and I have dubbed the Carlsbad Alchemist.
GT: The history of Carlsbad has always been tied up with water.
Dr. Bill: Yipes. Here comes one of GT’s monologues.
GT: In 1882, Captain Frazier drilled a well for his farm about a block from the beach. Frazier was convinced that his well water cured a chronic stomach ailment that he’d suffered from for years. A chemical analysis found that the water was almost identical to the therapeutic spring waters of a famous Carlsbad Spa in Bohemia (today, the Czech Republic). Thus, the water was dubbed Carlsbad Mineral Water. Frazier began bottling it. In the 1880s, he peddled his water to passengers at the whistle-stop, soon called Frazier’s Station. In 1887, Frazier erected an elegant Victorian hotel and spa. Guests came to this spa from all over the world, including two U.S. presidents. Alas, the fancy spa burned down in 1897. In 1907, Frazier’s Station became the newly built Old Santa Fe Depot. This landmark is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is currently the visitors’ information center for the city.
In 1930, the old hotel site was resurrected as Carlsbad Mineral Springs Hotel, but the Great Depression hit and the financial well ran dry. Finally, in 1996, after having the water turned off for 60 years, Ludvik Grigoras, a native of Carlsbad, Czechoslovakia, paid the water bill.
Frazier’s farm slowly morphed into the city of Carlsbad. There is a modern spa. You can soak in warm, non-chlorinated, naturally carbonated, alkaline mineral water in a themed private room (the Egyptian, Cleopatra, or Exotic Oriental).
Dr. Bill (thinking): I can’t wait for Debra and I to come here on some special occasion. She can be my Cleopatra and I will be her Marc Antony.
GT: I heard that, Dr. Bill. Anyway, you can purchase a jug of this acclaimed alkaline (pH 8.7) water for 50 cents per gallon. Probably, it’s the best deal you will find in this rich little city. Many people believe that the water’s curative value is derived from minerals acquired in its estimated 9500-year journey from the aquifer (near Palomar Mountain) 60 miles east to the wells of Carlsbad, one block from the Pacific. And get this: the California State Senate proclaimed Carlsbad Water to be “The Most Healthful Water” and a California Historic Site. The water was described by the North County Times as “Eden in a glass.”
Dr. Bill: Remember that time we bought a gallon of the water? It was tasty, but I still can’t hear out of my deaf ear.
GT: You’re still bald and have bunions, too.
GT and I breathe in the aromas around us. We are almost knocked to the asphalt by Knockout Pizza and Knockout Burgers. Yummy! They knock out a B/B+ pizza, compared to the offerings from the wood-burning oven at Mario Batali’s Pizzeria Mozzo on Melrose in L.A. However, with this pizza you get two slices and a drink for $6. On Mondays, you can get grilled onion sliders for $1 each at the burger joint.
The atmosphere at the Mediterranean Cafe is authentic and intimate, due to Mazen Afghani and his son, Alex. They have a way of making every guest feel like visiting royalty. The kebabs, hummus, lamb, tabbouleh — along with the rest of the fare — are all delicious. Pancetta-wrapped dates stuffed with gorgonzola cheese are “da bomb.” Most nights, a classical guitarist is present, to soothe your savage beast. Mazen imports moderately priced artworks and jewelry from around the world and displays them in a room adjoining the restaurant.
GT (teasing): You are so in love with this place only because your son and his bride were married at Moonlight Beach and had their wedding reception here.
Dr. Bill: Leave me alone. I know quality food, drink, and people when I encounter them.
And now we are surfing next to the Carlsbad Seawall, a concrete walkway that stretches about a mile from the south end of Carlsbad Village to Carlsbad State Beach. Above is Carlsbad Boulevard, with an upper boardwalk that runs parallel to the seawall and the ocean.
Here you will find big, bad, ugly, and beautiful dogs, men, women, and babies. All sizes, colors, and cultures of Homo sapiens americana run, walk, strut, stroll, and soak in the glory of sun and sea. A dog pulls a skateboarder, following another dog that draws a rollerblade jockey. It is a parade, and we are all part of the show.
The Tower of Power: 12:50 a.m.
Ah, we can see the smokestack of the Carlsbad electric power station. It towers over all but the seagulls and pelicans, is visible for miles in either direction, and allows a somewhat senile individual, such as myself, to know where I am. This is an important landmark because it is the halfway point to Encinitas. GT makes me set little goals like that.
We approach the tower.
Dr. Bill: Puff, puff, puff.
GT (advising): Go down a gear.
Dr. Bill (defensively): Puff — I’m doing just fine, thank you. I know my body. If I want advice, I’ll ask for it.
GT: Sorry. Just trying to help.
Dr. Bill: Sorry I was a jerk.
The conversation stalls as I stubbornly huff and puff over the little incline in high gear. Unfortunately, I am too exhausted to gloat. We peddle on toward a second hill. A tribe of identically outfitted cyclists in click-on shoes sails past. Then, more elegantly trim individuals on sleek, thin-skinned tires also pass.
Dr. Bill: You know, Debra says I don’t have a mean bone, but I’m not fond of those skinny-tire riders who have youth, sleekness, and conditioning.
GT: You’re an old fart. You envy them.
Dr. Bill: Yep, I do.
Right before the next major climb, GT notes discord in the air waves, and they’re not of our origin. We see fighting ahead — a war, remote-controlled planes in air-to-air combat. Dives, spins, loops, free-falls, each trying to outdo the other’s razor-sharp control. A red plane executes a pelican swoop and taps a blue plane from above. The blue plane spins, like a WWII Japanese Zero shot down in the movies, and crashes halfway down the cliff.
We ride on into Leucadia. Now I begin obsessing over the Best Apple Fritter on Earth, aka BAFE.
Dr. Bill: I need nourishment. Let’s stop for a BAFE. My blood sugar level is low. It’s affecting my performance.
GT: At 220, you’re too bulky to be competitive.
Dr. Bill: Okay, I’ll buy a BAFE and only eat half.
GT: Don’t lie to yourself, cowboy. You just admitted your envy of the sleek.
Dr. Bill: I’ll leave the other half for the homeless. It’s a benevolent act.
GT: What you really want is an Asian pear from Just Peachy.
Dr. Bill: I do not. What I really want is the Best Apple Fritter on Earth.
GT: Well, how about a nonfat vanilla frozen yogurt with a squeeze of pomegranate? You can top it with shreds of coconut, slices of mango, and those yummy bursts of fruit juice inside tapioca kernels.
Dr. Bill: Wow! You convinced me.
Encinitas: 1:09 p.m.
GT: And now…I think I should share the little I know about Encinitas.
Dr. Bill: Go for it, big guy. My one ear is open.
GT: Let’s begin with the where of it. Encinitas is defined by Batiquitos Lagoon to the north and the San Elijo Lagoon to the south.
Dr. Bill: Who came here first?
GT: Native Americans, of course, were the first people to leave their mark on the area. Early tribes were the San Dieguitos, the La Jollans, and the Diegueños. The Diegueños became converts to Catholicism and helped build nearby missions. In 1669, the governor of Baja California, Gaspar de Portolá, was traveling by horseback down El Camino Boulevard on a mission to build schools and spread religion. After observing the many small oak trees on the surrounding hills, he named the area Encinitas, the Spanish word for small oaks. In 1821, possession of the area switched from Spain to Mexico.
President Polk tried to buy California and the land north of the Rio Grande River. Mexico wanted no part of this. So President Polk decided that, to purchase the land, Mexico would need a bit of poking. He started a war, invaded and attacked Mexico City. The fighting there lasted one week, and Santa Ana was deposed as president. Hearing its bones crunch, Mexico succumbed to the arm-twisting. A peace treaty was signed on February 2, 1848. The United States was given the desired land for $15 million.
The Leucadia Personality
Dr. Bill: Would you say that Encinitas has multiple personalities, or perhaps a dissociative disorder?
GT: The Historic 101 has at least three radically different personalities: Leucadia, Old Encinitas, and Cardiff. Each has fought to maintain separate identities. We are now at the northern border of Encinitas, which is Leucadia.
Dr. Bill: How did this place get named Leucadia?
GT: Leucadia was named after a Greek island, by a group of Greek mentalists. Leucadia means “Isle of Paradise” or “Place of Shelter” in Greek. The tracts of Leucadia and the street names were named after Greek gods and mythical figures. The city is a little poorer, more artsy-craftsy, more non-conforming, rowdy, and free-spirited than Carlsbad. Leucadia is famous for the droopy Eucalyptus trees which line 101, and for the shops that sell local art.
On Sunday mornings, Encinitas/Leucadia hosts one of the best farmers’ markets in the area. Debra and I go for the handmade sausage and worm castings — not in the same bun.
GT and I stop to inspect the colorful mural on the back wall of a Mobil gas station. It portrays the Southern California beach in summertime, the centerpiece the Self-Realization Fellowship down the road.
It feels like summertime and the living is easy. In my head I hear Sam Cooke kicking it out. Sam Cooke and I are close. We went to L.A.’s Belmont High School together…at different times…we never met.
Summertime, and the livin’ is easy
Fish are jumping and the cotton is high
Oh, your daddy’s rich and your mamma’s good-lookin’
So hush, little baby, don’t you cry
Dr. Bill (singing): Southern Cal, and the living is easy. The beaches are jumping and the pelicans fly.
GT: George Gershwin composed “Summertime” as an aria for his 1935 opera Porgy and Bess. Twenty-six-hundred versions have been recorded. Billie Holiday (#12 on U.S. pop charts) was the first, in 1936. Then came Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Sam Cooke, and Janis Joplin, etc.
The Leucadia Bar is a local gathering place for those who like to hang out, play pool, and get slightly rowdy. A friend of mine got drunk here on Christmas Day, called the wrong woman fat, and three Marines took offense. The next morning he awoke badly beaten, with no shoes and dressed only in his pants. My friend is more discreet now about using this “f” word.
We near the Best Apple Fritter on Earth — the Leucadia Donut Shop. Oh…I’m having second thoughts.
Dr. Bill: It’s sucking me in. What shall I do?
GT: Hold your nose as we surf by.
Dr. Bill: Thanks. It worked! I fought the BAFE and won.
Now, I put my nose to the wind and catch the rich scent of roasting coffee and sweet pastries. Another temptation. The Pannikin has the best combination of coffee, pastry, and atmosphere in the area. This is the old Encinitas train station. People are sipping their drinks and eating their treats in a gardenlike outside sitting area filled with patio tables and chairs. Try a cinnamon roll warmed with extra butter. They melt in your mouth. The espresso is as good as it gets. If you follow your nose down a few steps to the basement, you’ll see why: gunnysacks, filled with coffee beans, and, more profoundly, the aromatic aura of the coffee-bean roasting that happens down here. Inhale it into your lungs. Send it into your bloodstream, to every cell.
As is our custom, GT and I pull in through the back of the Pannikin to steal a branch from the orange, candy-red, or regal-purple bougainvillea. Then, depending on how obvious we are being, as we pass the white roses in front, I bend over to smell them just before stripping off a bloom or three. I attach the bouquet to GT’s handlebars.
Dr. Bill: The white roses add a nice contrast to your bouquet.
GT (gushing): You brought me flowers! You’re my sweetie.
We proceed as almost one.
Then my stomach grumbles, and I have a hissy fit at having passed all the goodies.
Dr. Bill (pouting): Why live, if you have to live without the BAFE or a cinnamon roll?
GT: The BAFE and cinnamon roll would be a done deal, and all you’d have left is a heavy gut. This way, you can look forward to…
Dr. Bill: Gotcha. There’s a plain vanilla yogurt with coconut and mango on top waiting for me.
I pedal faster. Just ahead on our right is the famous Captain Keno’s, home of some of the cheapest mixed drinks on 101. The Bloody Marys are good, but the Margaritas are made with a cheap bottled lime mix that tastes like battery acid. Happy hour starts with breakfast at 6:00 a.m. and lasts until 12:00 p.m. This is the place to drink straight shots. I personally like the alcoholic, lower-class nature of Keno’s. It has an odd kind of charm, even the bathrooms. The restaurant is totally 1950s. I was at a graduation party at Captain Keno’s once, and the star of the show was this singer/guitarist, who was drunk on his ass, sucking intermittently on a bottle of Jack Daniels and trying to sing.
You can purchase an endless soup bowl and fill it as many times as you want with clam chowder or vegetable soup for $3.39. The clam chowder is pretty good, though I suspect its origin is a five-gallon can. They advertise spaghetti for $2.99 and meatloaf for $3.99. I haven’t tried either of these, but since seeing Captain Keno’s owner eating his own food in the bar, I am comfortable having any dish on the menu. I usually get ice water with a couple of slices of lemon and add sweetening to make lemonade. The menu and production is pedestrian, but their New York steak at $11.99 and the baby-back ribs at $9.99 are the real deal. I rate the steak to be as good as most of the upscale joints up and down the street charging two or three times that. The salad is chilled iceberg, palatable with the chunky blue-cheese dressing (ask for extra). The rest of the menu is ample, basic, and leaves me with an okay feeling.
Surfing Madonna Chick
Usually, I wait to catch the top of the wave that will greenlight us past Encinitas Boulevard into Old Encinitas. The signal below turns green, and GT and I go for it. If we can get going on the downslope, momentum will carry us up the next hill, past D Street and into the 7-Eleven for a Big Gulp and a dog.
Today, however, GT and I decide to check out the Surfing Madonna chick, before they blow her up or injure her in the process of moving her. She is/was a ten-by-ten-foot mosaic made from thousands of pieces of Italian tile. She’s the Virgin of Guadalupe…surfing.
She resides at the Highway 5 underpass and Encinitas Boulevard. Apparently, she moved into her present home in full daylight, assisted by construction workers who were mistaken for city workers. Thousands of cars must have passed by that day.
GT (swooning): Wow! There she is. She sure is beautiful. I look into her eyes and feel inner peace and love, more religious that I have ever felt in my life. She looks alive, beaming energy, and is a true sacred surfer. Words down her right side urge us to “Save the Ocean.” Does that offend anyone? If I were to label her, I’d call her non-ego community art.
Dr. Bill: The Encinitas City Council is an embarrassment. They voted unanimously to provide $2000 to investigate how to remove one of the best artworks in a public setting on our coast. Now they’ve found that she can’t be moved from her home without destruction. The downtown guys want to kidnap her. Why not preserve our Madonna? She was a gift to the community.
GT: Those who get a worm up their nose over the religious connotations of this artwork should blow their nose and breathe in a fresh spirit. This outside art piece will become a classic, if allowed to remain.
Dr. Bill: What can we do to keep her? You could make a spirited appeal to the city council.
GT: Oh, city fathers and mothers, act with compassion and allow this lady of many thousand glass tiles to live in the home in which she was raised. Please don’t destroy our Virgin of Guadalupe. This is the people’s art. She was created for us. We are the people. Please don’t send our beautiful Surfing Virgin to a foster home. I beg you to allow our Virgin to surf these shores and claim her birthplace as home.
Breaking Headline: North County Times, Friday, June 10, 2011, “Mark Patterson Claims Rogue Art Piece”
Mark Patterson, a longtime Leucadia resident, publicly claimed to be the artist of this treasure. Mark said he felt driven to do a surfing Virgin of Guadalupe and went to Italy to study mosaics. The Virgin’s face was completed in Italy. Mark quit his software job in order to work full time on the piece. It took him nine months to finish. Mark’s message was to present the idea of protecting the ocean with a potent image.
GT (to Mark, as if he were present): Your Virgin has had a role on the world stage, Mark.
Dr. Bill (ditto): I can’t wait for the next chapter. Thank you, Mark.
Next Chapter: North County Times, June 22, 2011, “Mosaic Artist to Remove Piece”
Mark Patterson’s art show earned him a $500 fine and a $2000 bill for city expenses for a report on removing his artwork. Mark was also responsible for removing his art piece. He did. It took nine months to construct her and two hours to remove our Virgin. All that is left are screw holes, glue, and a few scratches. Can you believe our city considers this superior to our beautiful Virgin? My, how the city of Encinitas encourages creative works. Glad we moved to Oceanside.
Old Encinitas’ Personality
Dr. Bill: I know that you’re eager to give us a history lesson.
GT: You and history are my two passions. Jabez Pitcher, considered the father of Encinitas, bought 160 acres near the railroad track around the present location of the Encinitas Civic center in 1881. He never regretted that purchase.
Old Encinitas began in 1881, when the Southern California Railroad built a water tower by the tracks to supply their steam engines with water from Cottonwood Creek. With no laundromats, and without running water or electricity, the women would wash clothes communally at Cottonwood Creek, drape the wet clothing on bushes, and picnic at Moonlight Beach while it dried. Moonlight Beach may have derived its name from the round white rocks that glowed like small moons in the moonlight. Another theory is that during Prohibition, the moonlighters used this spot to import illegal booze by boat at night. The schoolhouse, built in 1883 to accommodate eight students, is now the home of the Encinitas Historical Society.
Encinitas thrived while 101 was the main road south to San Diego. Then, in the 1960s came Interstate 5, and visitors were diverted from Old Encinitas. The charming little community was on the verge of drowning. In 1988, business owners formed a merchant association and designed a plan to breathe new life into Old Encinitas. They applied to California Main Street for a grant to revitalize the downtown area. Their lifesaving efforts paid off. In 2004, Encinitas earned the Great American Main Street Award for resuscitating the downtown area through authentic historic preservation. The city retained its historical identity.
I quickly puff up the small hill to D Street. I’ve had my $3.50 dose of ecstasy from Berry Happy, nonfat vanilla frozen yogurt with a topper of shredded coconut, mango, and those tapioca thingies filled with passion-fruit bits. It was everything I’d fantasized. I do a silent meditation, thanking the earth, sun, air, and ocean for their contributions. I thank Thich Nhat Hahn, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, for making me aware of how our food came to be.
The sugar goes straight to my head. With renewed energy, I surge in and out of two lanes, avoiding pedestrians and pedophiles. There is no bike lane in Old Encinitas and cars park diagonally. To exit, cars back into traffic. This is the most dangerous part of our ride.
Swami’s is an interesting, not-too-expensive café that everyone should try. The outside breakfast and lunch dining has a young, hip feel to it. A shot of wheat grass is a buck. The air reeks of fascinating psychoanalytic tales being told, sophisticated discussion on whether Obama is more warlike than Bush II, and what the newest adornments on the Cardiff Kook are. The Açai Fruit Plate with Yogurt will knock your socks off. The other night I awoke from a dream of eating their Açai Fruit plate. I had no socks.
GT: The Virgin of Guadalupe left me feeling that I should pursue a more spiritual course. How about taking a few minutes to tour the Self-Realization Fellowship? We can pay due respect to the Swami.
The Self-Realization Fellowship
We cruise by and appreciate the beauty of brilliant red bougainvillea against the white pillars and golden domes of the Self-Realization Fellowship. It’s hustle and bustle on city streets, but riding under the arched entrance, serenity engulfs us. Nestled in this landscape is a tranquil pond.
GT: Dip your thumb into that pond and leave it there for a few seconds.
I place my thumb in the water. A two-foot koi with beautiful markings of gold, orange, and black approaches and heads for my finger. I start to withdraw, but a force tells me to relax and ohmmm.
Dr. Bill (delighted): He’s sucking on my thumb. It tickles.
GT: That fish might be Paramahansa Yogananda. I think he believed in reincarnation.
There is no sign that says Quiet, but silence and muffled voices prevail. People quietly wander in awe. The solemnity and austerity of the setting leaves us on a spiritual high. The view from the highest point stuns GT and I into silence. The setting is based on a philosophy that we can share beauty, honor, and love in a generous way, and more beauty, honor, and love will result.
There is another spiritual experience going on below us. The waves are choppy, and there’s a bit of wind. About 15 surfers are getting their highs from riding Swami’s waves. I find it a miracle that humans can approximate what Jesus did sans board. Swami Yogananda, I’d guess that you’re pleased to see the two worlds in harmony.
GT: A few more words are warranted about the teacher behind this temple. This guy is big-time in the spiritual world. Mukunda Lal Ghosh was born in 1893, in Gorakhpur, India, into a rich Bengali family. While a baby in his mother’s arms, a renowned master of Kriya yoga blessed Mukunda and forecast his future, saying, “Little mother, thy son will be a yogi. As a spiritual engine, he will carry many souls to God’s kingdom.” People were aware that there was something special and different about this child.
At 17, Mukunda proved to be a real-life Siddhartha. On the first meeting with a revered Swami, who was to become his teacher for ten years, he was told that he had been chosen to disseminate the ancient science of Kriya yoga to the world. In this philosophy, meditation is seen as the way to gain oneness with God.
In 1925, he arrived in California and established the international center for Self-Fulfillment Fellowship. He moved among the elite. His talks filled Carnegie Hall and the Los Angeles Philharmonic Auditorium with folks interested in spiritual travels. The Los Angeles Times stated: “The Philharmonic Auditorium presents the extraordinary spectacle of thousands…being turned away an hour before the advertised opening of a lecture with the 3000-seat hall filled to its utmost capacity.”
Dr. Bill: His teachings make sense to my barely spiritual soul. It impresses me that a rotund brown man with an orange robe was a spiritual teacher in a city with a majority of middle-class Caucasians.
GT: The distinguished Swami appeals to a rainbow of colors, cultures, and religion. Yogananda believed that all religions are equal and essentially have the same message: love and service to God. His message is as beautiful as this temple and the grounds that surround us.
So, I will chew on all this for a while and maintain my spiritual high. For now, our journey ends at the halfway point to La Jolla.
GT: Thank you for joining us. See you on the next adventure.