Monthly Archives: August 2013

Training SEALs on Coronado Island.


If this is the view from your window, you are not allowed to complain about anything, ever.

For those of you who haven’t heard, we recently stayed on Coronado Island for vacation. A fun fact about Coronado is that it is home to a Naval Base which hosts Navy SEAL training. This is certainly more interesting than the fact that Orville Redenbacher died on the island, which is equally true.

After a little research, I found SEAL is an acronym for “Sea Air and Land” teams which confused me, because the correct acronym should be the SALs.  This is possibly not be the vibe they want to put out, hence the Navy’s liberal interpretation of acronym rules.  Regardless, Navy SEAL training is notoriously brutal, with something like a 90% “wash out” rate.  Sounds pleasant.

During our stay we rented bikes, because we pride ourselves on being an active family, and pedaled around the island.  As an aside, the bike rental company had an incredibly clever name, our hotel is known as “The Del,” and the bike rental was called “peDels.” Brilliant, right?  OK, so they took a little liberty with the spelling of pedal, but its cute.


If only all parks could be so scenic, the world would be a better place.

So, as we bike around the island we come to this beautiful park. What makes this particular place extra scenic were the gorgeous physical specimens jogging around the park, shirtless and sweaty in all their 3% total body fat glory.  My goodness, even my 10-year-old daughter immediately realized these are not the normal humans we are accustomed to seeing in our world.  Even the fittest amongst us do not come close to the degree of physical perfection these guys have attained.  For this, I salute them and thank them for their contribution to my vacation.

Later that evening we were sitting at a restaurant when we noticed some people stringing yellow scene tape, cordoning off a section of beach around some big rocks.  We asked our waitress what was going on, she told us there was an injured seal washed up on the beach.  Turns out she was totally making this up.


Don’t drop the boat, wouldn’t want it to get wet.

In reality, they were setting up for nocturnal SEAL training.  As darkness settled in, rubber boat loads of cadets paddled onto shore.  Once they landed, they did a variety of pointless, but really difficult, exercises like lunges with the boat held over their heads, push ups with their feet up on said boat, the kind of stuff I rebel against, which is why this whole boot camp exercise trend will have to carry on without me.

After they finished, they came to our side of the rocks where some guy on a bull horn yelled instructions at them.  At one point he made them run into the water, (have I mentioned how cold the ocean is), roll around and then run back, it was kind of weird.  He warned them that if they did not complete these tasks perfectly, they would be “recycled back to Instructor Wilkowski” who must be a real tool, because nobody seemed to want that to happen.


Mount Wilkowski

We found out why Instructor Wilkowski was to be avoided.  He was the guy that made them climb over the huge, slippery rocks, in the dark, with their boat held over their head.  Gads!

The whole thing was exhausting to watch, which is why we left and went for ice cream.  We did have the decency not to eat it in front of the SEAL trainees.  Frankly, I was afraid Instructor Wilkowski might  see us and take our cones.


This is what a night landing looks like.



Is that a cheetah? Adventures at the San Diego Zoo.


A hippo lifeguard, seriously? Are they familiar with the video of the hippo attacking that guy on the Amazon?

In my ongoing series about our recent vacation in San Diego, I would be remiss if I did not cover our trip to the San Diego Zoo. Clearly, the reputation as one of the world’s best zoos is well deserved, this is place is phenomenal.

We have a really good zoo in Toledo, Lil Mayhem practically lives there in the summer because they offer camps for kids and I think she has attended them all. In fact, she is designing new zoo habitats at this very moment. The number one attraction for us at San Diego was the panda exhibit, but I approached the Panda Trek with some trepidation, Toledo hosted the pandas from the National Zoo a few years back, they were a really big deal.

The day I went the line was ridiculous, but I patiently waited to see these rare creatures. The line moved surprisingly fast, when I got to the front I realized why. The panda had been asleep in the far back corner of the exhibit for hours, so basically I saw an immobile spot of black and white fur. The experience was not unlike driving past a dead skunk. Needless to say, I was a bit underwhelmed.


I call this one “Panda, in Repose”

The San Diego pandas were amazing. The exhibit allowed you to get really close, they had three different sections so the line moved along, there were a lot of bears and they were very active.  But the cherry on top was the baby panda, he was adorable. Now this is what a panda experience should be.

They also have a huge koala exhibit called Koalafornia. It was right across from the giraffe exhibit which we exited quickly as one of the male giraffes was feeling particularly randy and I felt at any minute it could turn into a scene I would prefer my kid not see.  So, thank God for the koalas!


Fun fact, koalas are members of the suborder, Vombatiformes, sounds violent, perhaps the reason they keep them sedated.

The koalas are really cute, part of their charm is their sleepy, sloth-like attitude.  This seems less adorable when you learn their lethargy is caused by malnutrition.  Yep, as it turns out, the eucalyptus they are always eating has zero nutritional value.  Makes you wonder why they don’t feed them supplements, maybe an active koala would present a danger to the public so unfathomable, they don’t dare. Reminds me of a line from Burn Notice, “I like my psychotic killers a little sleepy, thank you.”

Finally, our favorite story comes not from the animals, but the people on display that day.  When we arrived at the park they were doing a demonstration featuring a real live Cheetah. They gave all kinds of interesting facts about the Cheetah and described how the Cheetah hunted and why the Cheetah is endangered.  After the demonstration the women asked if there were any questions.  This kid raises his hand and honestly asked the following “Is that a Cheetah?”  This, of course, became our catch phrase for the day, because even my 10-year-old immediately recognized the comedy gold in that one.


Is this really such a frequent occurence that it necessitates a permanent sign?



Going to the park, California syle.


This is not something you are likely to see in the Toledo-Lucas County Metropark System.

Now, we have a great metro-park system where we live, and I am no stranger to them.  They all have nice woods with paths for walking and biking. You will also find the occasional bench with a vaguely scenic view, and a few boardwalks which meander next to a creek.  But nothing in my park going experience could prepare me for Balboa Park in San Diego.  I can only  presume this is what Shangri-La is like.

The day we were there was the last day of the LGBT festival, so I am not sure if the other park-goers are always so flamboyantly festooned in costume and fancy dress, but I choose to believe that they are. Given that we indirectly attended both the LGBT festival and Comic Con in the same week, I am inclined to believe that in San Diego cosplay is an everyday thing. This may not be true, but it makes my vacation more memorable and therefore, I elect to perpetuate this legend.


Having never been to Shangri-La, I can’t be sure, but expect it looks similar to this.

Balboa Park is more that just a park, there are museums, botanical gardens,  fountains and trails. There is a huge Botanical Building, full of plants and fish ponds and all manner of flora. There are gardens galore; cactus, Australian, Japanese and a seriously impressive rose garden that makes you re-think why you are trying to grow them in Ohio.

My favorite place was the Prado restaurant, I think it may have been my favorite meal of the whole week. This could be because we had just come from the airport and it had been almost 8 hours since I had eaten and I was ready to chew off my own arm, but in truth the food was really good and the setting was beautiful. In Ohio, if something is served, “California style,” it is code for “with avocado”, well I can confirm that it is true, almost everything in California is served with avocadoes, but they just call it food.


Mr. Mayhem and Lil’ Mayhem at the Prado restaurant in Balboa Park, food and fountains, both California Style.



Who takes their dog to Seaworld?


“Sorry folks the park’s closed, the moose out front should have told ya”..
(only funny if you’ve seen Vacation.)

This is not a question I ever thought needed to be asked, but I pose it now, who takes their dog to SeaWorld? While in San Diego, we did what most families would, we went to SeaWorld. As a member of the animal welfare community (I am on the Board of a low-cost spay neuter clinic), I suffer a bit of a moral dilemma when it comes to attractions like the circus and SeaWorld, but in the end, let’s face it, those whales are super cool.

But back to my original query, why would a person take their dog to SeaWorld? I saw it with my own eyes. This was not a service dog, it was a small, white fluffy creature, if I had to guess, I would go with Bichon Frisee. It had no orange vest or other visible credentials which would lead you to believe it was on the job. Frankly, it looked just as confused to be there as I was seeing it.

Of course, I irrationally obsessed on the dog all day, it was at the Shark exhibit, which could not have been pleasant.  I was uncomfortable around all those sharks, but the dog was even lower on the food chain than me.  I saw it at the Penguin Encounter, it was still not impressed, probably because it was dark, people were almost stepping on it, and it couldn’t see the penguins over the wall. All in all, I suspect this dog did not have the great time that I was most likely promised by its owners that morning.

We had a few other observations about SeaWorld.  First, it is apparently a must see destination for Swedish people.  I don’t know why, but there were a lot of Swedes there.  Attractive, fit, healthy people, I couldn’t understand a word they were saying, but they seemed nice.  I wonder if it is the fish theme that draws them.

Second, the sea-lion show was fantastic, it made me forget I was sitting in the unrelenting southern California sun for an hour.  Third, the Blue Horizon show was strange, almost like watching a live version of a David Lynch film, it did not make me forget about the sun.


I know how you feel buddy, sometimes trying to get out of the pool makes my dorsal fin flop too.

Lastly, the whales were amazing.  There was a young whale that swam along with two adults in the show and while I won’t kid myself into thinking they were having a great time entertaining us, they were truly awe-inspiring to see.  A few years ago, one of the trainers was killed by a whale, it was a big deal here because she was originally from Sylvania.  It was tragic, I heard someone on the radio questioning the propriety of training these animals, he said one thing that stuck with me, “they are not called Tickle Whales.”  Point taken.



Welcome to the Hotel Coronado!

The Del

Such a lovely place…

We recently returned from our summer vacation in lovely and scenic southern California. It truly was a great trip. Now I know you are wondering, where could folks who live in a fabulous and exotic locale like northern Ohio go that could possible compete with the excitement that is their daily lives.  Well I’m here to tell ya,  SoCal is the place.

We stayed at the Hotel del Coronado on Coronado island just across the bay from San Diego. It is an iconic hotel best known for being the backdrop in the Marilyn Monroe film, “Some Like it Hot”  With its sprawling grounds, painted white wooden exterior and red roof, it is quite a sight.

“The Del” as it is called, relies a little too heavily for my taste on its connection to the movie and the fact that author L. Frank Baum, used to stay there. The gift shops have complete Marilyn Monroe and Wizard of Oz sections full of useless trinkets and do-dads, and Some Like it Hot plays non-stop for those who have not seen it.  A word of caution, the movie is in black and white which freaks out the kids a bit.  That aside, it is still a seriously awesome place.

Since it is an older structure, it has it’s quirks. For instance, it smells faintly of litter box, which we determined was just the old wood because we saw no cats, and frankly, it made us feel better about our house which often smells similarly. Now I know it is the smell of historic distinction, and is not gross at all.

Another quirk, they have this really old elevator which is odd for a number of reasons. It is tiny, encased in a decorative cage and only goes up three floors. It is also really slow, I was able to climb three flights of stairs with a child and full regalia of luggage in less time than the elevator took to get to the second floor.  Further, it is manned by an operator who wears a hat that makes him look not unlike one of the flying monkeys in the Wizard of Oz.  The elevator operator is featured in Some Like it Hot, and, judging by the age of the man we saw, could easily be the same guy.

The Hotel is supposedly haunted, although we found no evidence of this. Lil’ Mayhem was on the lookout for ghosts and unless you accept the fact that the TV in our room fizzed out at odd times, she was unable to confirm any paranormal activity. This came as both a great disappointment and relief to her.

Our room with a view.

Our room with a view.

A few other things I learned from my time at the Del.  The ocean is cold, I mean, seriously cold.  Beach yoga is windy and dangerous, the sand is not a stable base, therefore face plants and pulled muscles are a real possibility.  The $25 a day resort fee is in addition to the $31 a day parking fee, and renting a sand bucket will set you back 7 bucks, 10 if you want the shovel too.   And finally, it is possible to accidentally spend almost $100 on a glass of wine, a bottle of Belgian Ale and butterscotch pudding.  All valuable life lessons.