End of Year Wrap-Up, incoming! I wasn’t the best at keeping up-to-date on the blog this year. Understatement! I am going to blame COVID-fatigue. I couldn’t plan or enjoy a significant amount of “real” travel. Also, I am looking forward to when SMS and I don’t have to travel for our commuter marriage, which will be ending June 2022. Don’t worry! Only the commuter part is ending! More details in the September photo dump, coming soon!
As one of the online guides said of this walk, it can be called “walking” or “urban hiking.” Either way, it’s an easy, flat walk through several San Diego neighborhoods that is enjoyable, fills some time, and allows for exploration. Some of the bridges are pretty cool, too!
We started at Bread & Cie, where we had placed an online to-go order. It was a little disorganized and even though I knew I should have checked our order, I didn’t. Poor judgement secondary to hunger. So, our iced teas were left behind. We went back to get them, but this added a little distance and I was hungry and out of sorts.
Fortunately after we ate, I felt better. Although I was still a little grumpy, I was willing to give the hike a second chance! We walked through my favorite corner of Banker’s Hill (around Walnut and W. Upas) towards the Spruce St Suspension Bridge.
I think this wins for coolest bridge. It spans a canyon and it moves quite a bit. If someone is running, it can be pretty dramatic! The view towards the water is beautiful and overall, I highly recommend!
We continued towards downtown and made a slight detour to cross (and return) the Quince St. Bridge. It spans another canyon and feels much more sturdy.
Returning back to First St, we crossed the only steel-arch bridge in San Diego. It crosses another canyon and as we got towards the end, SMS noted how the side rails were disconcertingly low. Geez, I was fine until then but after that fact, I wanted to get off the bridge fast!
Next, we crossed into Balboa Park and crossed the Laurel St. Bridge, that used to cross a small lake but now crosses the 163. It wasn’t too crowded but this bridge and the pedestrian avenue through the Park were the most crowded areas of the walk.
After crossing the park and the single-arch cement bridge over Park Ave, we took a quick break and walked through the Rose Garden. We found some favorites! Although does a rose named “Ketchup and Mustard” smell just as sweet? Talk amongst yourselves!!
The Desert Garden is right next to the rose garden and is another one of my favorites.
Then we walked up Park and crossed the Georgia Ave bridge. It used to be made of redwood trellises in 1907, but this concrete bridge has been in place since 1914.
Once we crossed, we saw a hill that seemed to be partially cultivated- maybe by the neighbors? I leave you with pictures of otherworldly beauty.
We crossed Washington Ave and were a little unsure that we’d find the Vermont Street Bridge. Trust the walk! We found it! I would vote it as “Bridge most likely to party” since it was decorated and has a lot of quotes incorporated into the bridge concrete design.
Finally, as we were walking along University back to our car, SMS noticed that, yes! We were crossing another bridge! This is not included in the official description of the Seven Bridges walk, but it is definitely part of the loop. So, we present the bonus bridge! It is another bridge crossing the 163 and has charming green side rails, also somewhat low.
Overall, it was a great day and I recommend this walk. SMS found it when searching for social distanced activities in San Diego, but even in more normal times, I think this would be a lot of fun. You could add more bar-hopping through Hillcrest, more museums or the Zoo in Balboa Park, or more garden walks in Banker’s Hill. Five stars!
If 2020 was a drink, what would it be? Vodka in a water bottle when you were expecting it to be water. Now, this is from a funny person on the internet, but I laughed so hard since this has happened to me, it is a horrible surprise, and it aptly describes 2020.
A quick round-up of a few highlights on the Summer.
On May 30, SMS and I watched the SpaceX launch of two astronauts to the International Space Station. It was a success! Our little stuffed owl put on his cosmonaut helmet but, given the size of his wings, stayed firmly grounded.
I continued a few quarantine hobbies. I received the gift of a sourdough starter from Stacy and Michael and made some pretty decent sourdough loaves. It took me a few tries to get the leaven concept, but then it was pretty awesome. I haven’t made any loaves recently but we had some deliciously fluffy pancakes this morning!
My garden ended up being a little bit of a bust. I need to do some more research on optimal sun and water for specific plants, but it is also true that the soil is only so-so. Especially when inconsistently watered.
SMS and I were apart for part of June, together in July, and then up in Menlo Park for his birthday. We celebrated his birthday there and then I drove back down to SD alone, which was unplanned. He had been put in charge of a short timeline, high stakes project at work so he stayed back in case he had to go in. So, for August, I was back in SD alone and it was a tough month to be apart with heat, wildfires, real estate misadventures, and work stressors. Even though we are still incredibly fortunate and we can still find silver linings, August was definitely the month that 2020 became very 2020 for us.
I went to NMCP for the last week in August, which was a great trip professionally but still stressful since the surgeries were high-stakes and required a lot of concentration. Everything went really well and it was super rewarding. I also had an awesome visit from Mom and Dad, who came down from DC to visit Thursday evening through Saturday. The highlights were our amazing dinners at Luce and York 411, with excellent food and great conversation. I wish I saw them more!
I went back up to the Bay Area and SMS and I had a fun trip to San Francisco. We actually had an impromptu stay overnight after deciding to treat ourselves to a hotel room for the a/c. We used points and definitely like they were points well-spent!
SMS’ work had their big reveal on 9/9 and it went really well. He made the decision to give up his apartment in Menlo Park and move down to San Diego. Working remote will still be “a thing” for several months and it just seemed time to be together. This was/is very exciting news!
What does a blog that mostly focuses on trip reports and travel do when travel is off-the-table for awhile? Go dark, in this case! But I want to continue writing so while COVID-19 is limiting travel, I’ll start writing my deepest, darkest, TMI secrets. I kid. There is absolutely no way that’s happening. I have been reading blogs that are on pretty impressive writing streaks so, no time like the present!
After spending the first part of May in a hotel room in LA, I came back by bus on 13 May. The Mercy pulled in on Friday, 15 May and, overall, it’s great to be back. It’s an honor to serve and be part of a ship whose mission brings so much hope. It’s also nice to be back home since the surge/backup capabilities of the Mercy weren’t needed- which is a good thing! I’m glad LA didn’t have an overwhelming situation similar to NYC.
You know who else is happy to be home? The birds. That may be an overstatement. They loved my in-laws house. They seem to tolerate me. But at least they were good houseguests (by report) and they certainly don’t seem to have missed any meals. #quarentine15, but maybe in grams.
Things looked pretty good when I got home. The houseplants and garden looked good, and I have one baby zucchini, one stunted tomato, and lots of blossoms. Fingers crossed! I also fixed the internet, aka, waited for the Spectrum Repairman to fix the internet. Two-part solution: replace the corroded external connector and, when the connection was still dead, replace the modem. Success! The internet is now “blazing fast!”
I have started many quarantine hobbies. SMS and I are working on a puzzle. I cannot think of a more mentally draining endeavor. I sit down enthusiastically and within 5 minutes, I feel like an eye-strained, pattern-blind monster with no energy. It’s great!
I also made sourdough bread, which turned out pretty well. Starter thanks go to my sister- and brother-in-law. I followed the Tartine recipe, which is insane. I took it one step at a time. It made for a delicious loaf of bread. My tips for next time (oh, yes, there will be a next time) are to use my standmixer at the first combined dough step and, biggest thing, use baking flour, not all-purpose. I mean, the recipe even said this but I had what I had on-hand.
Finally, I bought knitting kits and started the first one. Now, I’m the proud maker/owner of a cowl, perfect for the start of Summer!
I have read a lot over the last three months. I watched Call My Agent/Deux Pour Cent, which is an amazing French show about a Parisian talent agency. I’m trying to figure out a show that SMS and I would both like, but that’s sometimes tough. The Great is out. SMS knew that from the period piece costumes alone. I’ve heard great things about Ozark but we watched the first episode and he thinks it’s a show I’d quit because of violence/nightmares, a là Breaking Bad. That could happen. The search continues.
This past weekend, we extended our quarantine bubble and had a Medlock Ames wine tasting with my in-laws (4 other people, 6 total). The takeaway lessons were low since it was easy to talk over a Zoom tasting but everyone thought the wines were great. We also talked about the book Cork Dork and the utility of the Coravin system.
Finally, I got some super-cool Facemasks as a frontline worker from Mark’s cousin’s company Goldsheep! They are great and I’m really appreciative to Keri and her team!
Hello from Restriction of Movement (ROM) status! Since SARS-CoV-2 decided to show up on Day 16 of the mission (boo!), our leaders not only moved quickly to take care of the patients/close contacts, they also decided to minimize the hazards of close quarters shipboard living by sending most of us to hotels. Today is Day 10 since I moved off the ship the morning of 4/16.
So, the above picture shows my last lunch on the USNS Mercy and it was delicious! I’m dining al fresco because one of the initial social distancing measures was putting a mess tent/dining area on the help pad. It was a gorgeous afternoon. They must have known we were about to leave for the deliciousness of hotel food and they decided to up their game.
On 4/16, I woke early for my last Mercy donut 5K. I was a little slow but I knew that this would be my last chance for awhile. Gorgeous morning.
Here I am on the bus with our silly t-shirt masks. The rules kept changing, which is fine. We’ve never been through anything like this before. We now have to wear N-95 masks outside of our rooms.
The first hotel I stayed at was the Doubletree Downtown. It was nice. The room was a reasonable size and there was a small area that I could roll out my exercise mat. Each lunch and dinner came with a DoubleTree cookie which is delicious but they are very rude and put the calorie count on the back of the bag. Why is a cookie that small 330 calories?
The food was fine, but not great PLUS my friend and I had a craving for delicious food. The above picture is of my friend Sable (urologist) and I having a socially distanced lunch of Onigiri. Yum!
And I had visitors! Mark’s cousin Amy, her husband Johnny and their son came over. They were so nice and brought presents! They are the best and repping their GoldSheep masks, a company owned by another one of Mark’s cousins. We had to follow ROM rules so I couldn’t invite them in but it was a nice moment of social contact!
On 18 April, my family had a Zoom promotion ceremony for my brother’s promotion to Major! Huge news and an amazing achievement. I had the honor of administering the oath. It was awesome and we had a great family conversation afterwards.
The next day, I had an awesome Zoom meeting with my college friends. It seemed a little touch-and-go based on schedules but it worked out! We had a great hour-long hangout and it was really special! What’s also special is my face- thanks for picking the best picture, Karen.
On the 23rd, a significant number of people were switched to the Westin Bonaventure. Not sure why, but it is nicer and the food is a lot better. Above, you see my current level of critical decision-making regarding which bed do I sleep in. Sigh. I’ll get back into the OR someday.
In the interim, I have been on Instagram a lot. Popeye the Foodie Dog is an old favorite and fjamie013 is pretty funny with his fulfillment of photoshop requests.
I have also started to take online Blender tutorials. My goal is to learn how to use the software package to make medical models off of CT scan DICOM images. For now, I set monkey heads on fire and make doughnuts (in progress).
Finally, here’s my cute cloth mask from a general surgeon’s Mom. He got a lot and offered a mask to all the surgeons in our chat group. I also have my own care package on the way with Goldsheep– I can’t wait!
Hello, from the USNS Mercy! Here are two very different pictures of me but I’m smiling in both, I swear! The left is me eating cake on 4/1, a day before my 40th birthday and the day of the Chief’s establishment/birthday. My birthday was much more wine-free than I would have liked but it will be made up for at some point. On the right is from today when I decannulated a trach, aka pulled it out. It was not really a big deal but PPE is a big deal these days so I was protected!
Things have been slow, but this is a good thing! That is, we’re here to be emergency back-up and LA has it under control. I am a little bored and wish I were doing more but since elective surgeries are a no-go until at least 1 June throughout DoD, I wouldn’t be doing a lot more back at home. So, instead, I eat. Above are a few meals that I’ve had. A little lacking on the fresh veggies but tasty. Bonus: no dishes to clean!
So, how do I keep from looking like James Garretson in Tiger King? Exercise! I’ve run a 5K almost every day and I’ve also done a good number of yoga sessions with the urologist. She’s the only other female surgeon so we call it the Ladies of DSS meeting, usually at 10 am.
I also avoid the ship’s store, which sells unhealthy snacks as shown below:
They are also not good breath friendly, which is tough when we are supposed to wear masks. We are following the CDC guidelines, meaning cloth masks which we are pretty sure do next to nothing. But we are an organization of rule-followers so there’s that-
I have also run the ramps:
I have also run outside, where I sometimes see my friends, mask-free!
We keep a running casualty report. It usually involves the toilets/head:
The galley has machines with bossy signs, some inscrutable and some obvious:
We also stuffed plastic eggs for Easter. The eggs were provided by the USO- thank you!
View from the brow- we are very close to land!
My new favorite painting:
Over the years, I have had sporadic breaks when I wasn’t traveling/I was busy/I was lazy/etc. There has never been a month break where so much has happened. I don’t have any deep thoughts about the COVID-19 pandemic but I implore anyone reading to please listen to the experts. By this I mean, CDC, WHO, and the national treasure Dr. Anthony Fauci. My career is based on science, facts, and a healthy respect for the number of unknowns that exist in our understanding of exactly how our miraculous bodies work. Acknowledging these unknowns is a sign of humility and strength, not a reason to thereby dismiss everything someone is saying. Total certainty is impossible and while it’s comforting when someone offers it, it is likely a shallow and fallible.
So, how has COVID-19 affected me? Well, I’m embarking on the USNS Mercy to our mission in LA. While things could always change (and we were told something different up until yesterday afternoon), it seems this will likely be the destination since it was announced by the President. SMS is here in San Diego and we’ve had a great week together. Our families are healthy.
Since I do like to document my travels on this blog, I’m going to briefly sum up the last month prior to 12 March or so. This is not to trivialize the current situation. As for updates from the Mercy, I will certainly be writing privately. Not as certain what will be on the blog but I will try!
SMS and I are social media stars. Ha, ha, not really. But we are in Lucid Motor’s promo video from the reveal event. So, I grabbed a screen capture for posterity!
On 19 Feb, Michelle and I had a ladies of ENT workout and slumber party. In the evening, we went for a run in the beautiful Del Mar Heights area. Then, we drank some wine. Not a lot, but I had planned to stay over so we could workout early (5:15 am) in the morning. We took an ok aerobics/toning class, followed by an awesome spin class. Hooray for work colleagues/friends!
That next weekend, SMS and I went on a hike on 2/23 to Muir Woods. We went in the “back way” so we could park on the road along a trailhead up Mt. Tam, near the highlighted Mountain home parking. We went on a 5 mile hike and it was awesome! There were beautiful redwoods in the gully and, as we went higher, we cleared the treelike and saw beautiful vistas.
Afterwards, we went to Sausalito and had some oysters and soup to re-energize us. We went to the Fish Peddler and it was really good. It was also a little less expensive than the restaurants in the heart of “downtown” (it’s really a small place overall).
The next weekend was the Lucid battery team’s 4th annual ski trip. We skied at Northstar and were finally able to use our Epic passes, which really do save money. We won’t get to use them this Winter but since we skied two days, we saved about $50 overall. Maybe next year we’ll try again.
We stayed at a really cute AirBnB. I would want to stay there again in the Summer, but can I tell you one annoying thing about AirBnB? The cleaning fee, taxes, and admin fees aren’t included in the room rate that pops up during the initial search. It really can add quite a large percentage to the actual amount paid. However, in fairness, AirBnB has had an amazing (for the renter) cancellation policy for COVID-19. So, I’m not anti-AirBnB, I’m anti-hidden costs and fees. Also, hosts that add a sizable cleaning fee should just rethink their room rate. Unless maybe there are tax reasons for doing so?
It snowed our last night there, which led to some adventures with tire chains on the way home but it was very pretty to look at from the inside of a warm house.
Then, things started changing. This is my colleague when we went to PAPR training. This was Tuesday, before I knew anything about the Mercy, which I first heard about on Wednesday. Such a compressed timeline!
And, in case you want to know about another problem of mine, here’s a screen capture of my camera roll. When I get home, please stage an intervention.
After four weekends in a row away from Menlo Park, SMS finally got a break and I travelled North. I took Valentine’s Day off not because it’s a holiday we go all out for (honestly, it feels like Christmas just happened and who wants back-to-back gift buying pressure?), but because Lucid was having a special reveal party for reservation holders. That’s us!
The event was called, “Love is in the AIR.” The attire was evening smart and it was an incredible party. I would have loved to be there from the start, but I arrived 45 minutes into the party due to insane (but typical) traffic from the airport. The showroom was open for the first time and the interior was exquisitely luxurious. There was a craft cocktail bar, which was for the party only. Lucid will not promote a drinking driving culture in everyday operations. There were special cocktails named after the different interiors. I ordered a drink with whiskey, fig, and a sprig of burnt rosemary that they flamed then and there. Impressive!
There were a lot of delicious hors d’oeuvres that were passed. I tried most of them, but didn’t act disgracefully. I always remember a party I went to where the poor server carrying the shrimp got mobbed by people who acted like they hadn’t eaten in days. Who knows, maybe they hadn’t. But it looked like a shark thrash zone with chum in the water. So, yes, I had some food as it showed up in front of me but afterwards, SMS and I realized we hadn’t really had dinner so we split a kabab plate at Oren’s Hummus.
The car reveal was preceded by a 20 minute-ish talk by the CEO/CTO highlighting some specific advances/innovations/exclusives of the car. Then, the garage door opened in a haze of fog-machine produced atmosphere and the car rolled in. It is a beautiful car and everyone was very impressed.
We spent the rest of the party trying the VR car viewer followed by talking to several Lucid employees. It was a great time and I’m so glad we went.
The next day, SMS had to work and I hung out in Palo Alto. I went to Rumble Boxing, Blue Bottle (twice!), the mall, and the grocery store. I also did some laundry and cooked dinner for Valentine’s Day. Forget “Engagement Chicken,” I made SMS some biscuits and gravy! It turned out pretty well although I think the sausage we used the first time was better. Then we had molten lava cakes for dessert, which were very tasty. I know the menu is not pleasingly cohesive but, hey, it worked for us!
On Saturday, we had a Blue Bottle breakfast and shopped for veggies at the small farmer’s market. Then we headed up to Lafayette to hang out with Jyotsna and Akshay. It was a fun afternoon of eating, drinking, and socializing. We went to their friends’ house in Orinda for a bit. It was nice to talk to them. We had met once before and got along well. We headed home for dinner. I made a Zuppa Tuscana that was pretty tasty and a dupe for the Olive Garden soup for those in the know.
Sunday was our more active day. We ate breakfast at home and then went for a hike on Windy Hill. It was a gorgeous day. I feel so lucky to be able to go on such great hikes! I also made a veggie lasagna that was pretty good. Thanks Smitten Kitchen!
Monday was another work day for SMS/holiday for me. I went to Rumble and Blue Bottle. I was going to go to the museum but Jyotsna invited me to a farm tour!
We went to the Nest Box farm and it was a delight! We fed cows, chickens, goats, and sheep. We collected eggs. There was a small picnic that we supplemented with more food and (surprise!) wine. We looked at the barn, garden areas, and pet rescue rabbit area. It was a beautiful day to be outside and a really cool experience. I want to go back with SMS and stay overnight, which will allow us to do more on the farm like milk a cow!
SMS came home a little after 6. We had some dinner and after that, it was time to go to the airport since I needed to head back so I could be on time for my Tuesday clinic. It was such a great weekend!
Excuse the blatant SEO attempt but I would love to get more blog followers in 2020. Why this year and not, say, several years ago when blogs were actually in their heyday? Eh, who knows?
So, since SMS was already in San Diego and we had the weekend to ourselves, we decided to take a road trip to LA. We meant to leave around lunch, but tragedy struck…
Edward-bird, the most skittish and food-avoidant of the four paraquitos, bolted for the door as I was leaving for work Friday morning. I saw him out of the corner of my eye when he had already made it outside. Although we waited around all day and tried to lure him back, he was nowhere to be found after a brief 10 a.m. sighting by SMS. I am sad, although his real parents (aka, my Mom and Dad) seem to be handling it well. Maybe because they told me to let them fly out the door months ago. But I will not! At least not all of them. So, now there are three…
After dusk, we locked up the apartment and headed up to LA. We stopped for a charge at One Paseo and had dinner at North Italia. It was delicious and an easy stop, one we hadn’t planned or researched but still ended up with a great dinner. We arrived in LA, parked in the public parking lot (saving $30/night, yeah!), and walked to the hotel. We stayed at the Kimpton Everly, where I had booked a last-minute reservation under the military rate. I was expecting a room over the dumpster but instead, we got a room on the top floor, #16! The view was spectacular, day and night!
After a coffee, we headed out to SQRL, a very cool cafe in Virgil Village, LA. We ordered coffee, the Big Tot, the ricotta toast rainbow-jam style, and the sexy Saturday biscuit, which, if you ate too many of them, would make your figure decidedly unsexy! It was delicious and a great, if crowded, place to eat.
After the huge breakfast, we went to Runyon Canyon for a hike. We were not swarmed by the paparazzi nor did we see a celebrity but we did see beautiful views of LA and the large houses/estates in the surrounding area.
After Runyon Canyon, we attempted to go to the Getty but the traffic back-up was insane. So, we made a quick change of plans and went to the Huntington Library. We grabbed a quick lunch at the cafe before wandering around the gardens, which were spectacular. My favorite was definitely the cactus garden, although the entire place was beautifully done.
We also walked through the Japanese garden, which was quite nice and had an interesting bonsai collection. I don’t usually pay too much attention to bonsai exhibits but this was pretty cool. I liked the bonsai that looked like little forest groves in miniature.
We went back to the hotel and went to Cleo for dinner. A blogger/podcaster I follow recommended it. It was fine, but I wouldn’t go back. SMS put it best when he said it felt a little Gaslamp-like (downtown SD)- sort of tourist-trappy and overpriced.
While we were walking back to the hotel, we saw a ton of muscle cars and low-riders cruising and parking on Hollywood Blvd. It was quite a scene with loud music from most of the cars and lots of spectators. I feel lucky we walked by!
After a good night’s sleep and a room-service breakfast (such a treat!), we headed out to the Getty.
The Getty is such an architectural delight in addition to great museum. We stood on several balconies and admired the views. We also went to the visiting Manet exhibit focussing on his later work, which was excellent. We also visited some of the permanent collection.
The left photo is of Manet’s “Still Life with Oysters and Champagne,” which matched our festive mood with oysters the night before and the New Year coming up! I think icon paintings are super cool and “The Coronation of the Virgin” by Gentile da Fabriano was my favorite of the bunch.
In the Manet exhibit, the side description had the most spirited quote from Manet regarding a gift of mandarin oranges: “Since M. Étienne Barroil is a gentleman he sent me a taste of his sunshine. When I go out, I fill my pockets with them and given them to the local children…They’d probably prefer money, but I prefer to give them something I enjoy. The pleasures of this world! They’re made of things that mean little to some but a lot to others.”
Christmas festivities throughout December…
I blogged about it “December 7” thanks to back-dating, but SMS and I went to December Lights and recreated our meeting 7 years ago! We went during the day because we went to his sister and husband’s Christmas party that evening.
The next week, I travelled back to Virginia to do three cochlear implants. It was supposed to be four but my last patient had uncontrolled hypertension with a headache. So, elective surgery was deemed too risky. In addition to resident lectures and operating, I had a very full social calendar! On the Wednesday, I got my haircut by MonaLisa. If you are ever in Norfolk, she has my highest recommendation! She also cuts the most stylish couple in Norfolk’s hair so if my hair looks like a rat’s nest, it’s my fault, not MonaLisa! That evening, I went to Codex for a solo dinner. The next night, I went to Codex with my two friends from the Norfolk bookclub I started and is still going strong. On Friday, I went to SantaLand Diaries at the Well theater with my friend and several of her neighborhood women friends. It was a great group, the play was awesome, and we went out to St. Germaine’s for drinks afterwards.
On Saturday, I got up at 4:15 (ugh!) to catch a flight back to the West Coast for SMS’ company party, a huge bash with 700+ guests in a transformed space at the company’s headquarters. It was a really well done, festive affair!
The next week, back in San Diego, I went to a very cute and mercifully short school holiday concert that Rip and Linda’s neighbor’s children participated in. It definitely put us in the Christmas spirit!
Christmas cards started trickling in and I was delighted to receive a card from my friend’s nom de plume persona, who is a successful writer of motorcycle club romance novels. Did you know that romance novels have lots of sub-genres? Since I don’t really read them (except some of my friend’s books), it was news to me.
SMS and I went to the Crack Shack when he arrived for the Christmas holiday week. It was very delicious. I got the matzo ball pozole and can definitely recommend. Not so sure about the bathrobe sweater look on anyone under 6 feet tall but, hey, I’m trying to stay up with the trends! Tag did not specify height requirement!
We spent Christmas Eve and Christmas in Newport Beach. We had family quality time with SMS’ Mom and Dad, and his two grandfathers at two different family dinners.