California Dreaming 2023

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IMG_3980Disneyland in the rain, rescheduled baseball games, a Pacific hurricane, friends and family, and a wedding I did not attend. That was my California trip.

In my quest to attend a home game at the current stadium of every Major League team, I had long planned to visit southern California during a week when the Padres, Angels, and Dodgers were at home. I chose this past weekend because of the teams' schedules and because I could travel with my son Nick, who was attending a wedding in Anaheim.

I planned to see the San Diego Padres on Thursday, the LA Dodgers on Saturday, and the LA Angels on Sunday. The weather had other plans.

Day 1

IMG_3990Waking up at 3:30 AM is challenging but necessary to catch a 7 AM flight. After landing at John Wayne Airport in Orange County and picking up my luggage and rental car, I drove south to Laguna Hills to visit my cousin Barbara and her husband, Jack. The three of us ate lunch at El Adobe - a delicious Mexican restaurant in San Juan Capistrano that was a favourite of former President Richard Nixon. It was the same place I met Barbara when my son Tim and I visited in 2017.

After lunch, I drove down to San Diego, where I checked into a hotel in a building built as a bank almost 100 years ago. One can still see the vaults in the basement.

I met Scott at a downtown bar, and we attended a Padres - Diamondbacks game at Petco Park. It was my first visit to Petco and my first time seeing Scott in person in years. He hired me at Microsoft 10 years ago, then took a new role and moved to the West Coast a year later. I had almost no contact until he hired me again to his team last year.

Day 2

IMG_4013I drove up to Carlsbad Friday morning and met my friend Tim for lunch at (another) Mexican restaurant. We spent a leisurely time catching up and talking about his new role as CTO of an AI startup.

Nick's plan was scheduled to land at 8 PM Friday, so I drove to our hotel in Anaheim, expecting to relax for a few hours before picking him up at the airport. The weather altered my plans.

IMG_4029Hurricane Hilary hit the west coast of Mexico and began to move up the coast. Predictions called for a hurricane or severe tropical storm to strike the Los Angeles area on Saturday and Sunday. Locals expected the worst storm in a century. In anticipation of the tempest, the Angels moved their Sunday game to Saturday afternoon, which disrupted my schedule. I had promised Nick I would take him to the baseball game on Sunday. Now, there was no Sunday game, and the wedding conflicted with Saturday's game, so he could not attend. I decided to go to Angels Stadium Friday evening instead. I had to leave at the top of the seventh inning to drive to the airport. I witnessed a second-inning grand slam by Shohei Ohtani, but I missed the Angels turning a triple play in the bottom of the ninth. The Tampa Bay Rays won in 10 innings.

Day 3

iIMG_4065Saturday, Nick and I ate breakfast together before going our separate ways. He was invited to the afternoon wedding of his high school friend, while I had promised to help my friend's daughter. Madeleine recently moved to Los Angeles, and I offered to take her to lunch. She asked me to help change the battery in her car's key fob while I was here. It turned out to be more complicated than that. After driving to buy a new battery, we discovered the problem was a dead car battery, not the key fob. Neither her car nor my rental car had jumper cables, so we had to leave again to buy a pair. I was able to jump-start the vehicle, and we went to dinner at a nearby restaurant. When we returned, the car would not start again. So, I jumped it again and asked her to run it for 20 minutes before turning it off, then try again in the morning. This worked, and the car is now in good shape.

Sadly, the delay cost me so much time that I did not arrive at Dodgers Stadium until the bottom of the sixth inning. The Dodgers defeated the Marlin - the only home team victory I witnessed this week - and I left my seat less than an hour after arriving. Traffic flow at this stadium is so bad that it took me twice as long to exit the parking lot as I spent watching the game. With the needle approaching "E," I worried I would run out of gas in the middle of the exit lane.

Day 4

IMG_4071The bad weather and the canceled game disrupted our schedule, so Nick and I wondered what to do all day Sunday. The other wedding guests departed in the morning, so Nick and I visited Disneyland. It was Nick's first time at the park and my first visit since I was four. The constant rain diminished the experience, but the poor weather also discouraged others from attending, which minimized crowds and wait times on rides. We spent over five hours at the park. Some highlights were Rise of the Resistance, Smugglers Run, Indiana Jones, and Pirates of the Caribbean.

In the evening, we met my friend Hattan at a local brewery to sample different beers before heading to the hotel and falling asleep almost instantly.

Day 5

IMG_4103I arranged to meet my co-worker Andy for breakfast on Monday. Andy and I have worked together for over a year but never met in person, so it was a treat.

The dire weather predictions turned out to be incorrect. Monday was a beautiful day with sunshine and a few fluffy clouds - precisely what one pictures when envisioning the southern California climate. Nick and I wandered through a quaint neighborhood in Orange, CA. From the many cafes, we chose a Thai restaurant located off an alleyway near the center of town. After lunch, we walked around Chapman University - a small but pretty campus a few blocks away. Nick is a regular listener to a podcast hosted by one of the Chapman assistant basketball coaches. We walked around the gym, but no one seemed to be working that day.

Our flight home was thankfully uneventful. The best part was that the flight attendant allowed Nick to move up from his discounted seat to an empty row in Economy Plus to sit next to me.

Final Thoughts

I returned to work Tuesday morning. I have renewed energy from a few days off but still have jet lag and sleep debt. The trip was a great success. I visited some friends and family I had not seen for a long time; I made a rare visit to Disneyland; I made significant progress on my baseball stadium bucket list (only two stadiums remain); and I spent quality time with my son.

I was fortunate that the weather cooperated, that friends were available to meet, and that I could adjust my schedule to changing situations. I packed a lot into five days.