BOTCON SAN DIEGO
(griffin's 2013 BotCon adventure)
- TOUR - San Diego Trolley (2 hours to do full circuit - 11 stops)
09.00 - depart stop 1
11.00 - arrive stop 1, then go to stop 2 again
- TOUR - USS Midway aircraft Carrier Museum (1-2 hours)
11.30 - arrive
13.00 - depart, back onto Trolley bus to stop 4
- TOUR - Tijuana, Mexico (4 hours) CANCELLED
14.00 - depart
18.00 - return... taxi back to my hotel (if they can't drop me back)
- eat and early sleep
Above was the intended itinerary for the day... which ended up being completely different, as I didn't get on the Trolley bus until 10.30, and the Tijuana tour was cancelled due to insufficient numbers.
So I get up by 7am, but didn't end up leaving the Hotel until 9.30am, because I had the TV on while doing computer stuff, and I had to wash some clothes in the bathroom sink before I left (or else I wouldn't have had anything to wear over the next few days - the previous days had been so intensive and hot, I only got one day out of each).
Being so late, I should have tracked down a taxi to get to the Trolley
bus starting point, but I seemed to have it in my head to just go to the
bus station and find a bus that goes to Old Town... thinking that it would
be where the Trolley Bus would be. I had all day, and I figured that
if I was running out of time, I would just spend less time at the Midway
I get to the bus station and find a bus stop that had on its map Old Town, and waited for the next bus. It wasn't until 10am when then the next one arrived, and it cost $2.25 for a 5 minute bus ride.
The Old Town bus & train station had about 3 train platforms and
several bus platforms on each side of the train station... so I spend about
10 minutes looking around for the Trolley stop.
I then went to the ticket booth and asked where it stops, as they had brochures there for it, so should know.
The guy tells me that I have to walk two blocks east, then turn left and walk another two blocks.
I was gonna get so lost.
I start walking and hope to find some signage on the way, but don't.
After two blocks I turn left, and hope for the best, as I was wasting time.
Within a few meters, I saw an odd looking bus ahead, that looked like a pumkin on wheels, and hoped that it was it.
Fortunately it was, and it was only a couple minutes before the next
one departed at 10.30am, so I rushed over and got my ticket (from the pre-paid
confirmation printout) and a map, and hopped on.
I sat on the left side, but if you ever go on this tour, be on the right
side, as everything is on the right side.
At least the tourguide I got was really entertaining. His name was Vidal, like the shampoo, but he kept making fun of the fact that, he doesn't have any hair. However, he would keep putting on that hat which looked like hair sticking out the top, mostly to surprise new passengers when he'd take it off in front of them... and entertain the rest of us in the process.
San Diego Trolley (tour bus) stops, in relation to my hotel. (at every
stop, every 30min from 10am until about 5pm)
A (1) Old Town State Park
B (2) (Star of India) Cruise Ship Terminal/USS Midway
C (3) Seaport Village (hop on SEAL - 90min)
D (4) Marriott Marina/Convention Center
E (5) Horton Plaza
F (6) (William Heath Davis House) Gaslamp Quarter
G (7) Hilton Bayfront
H (8) Coronado Ferry Landing
I (9) Coronado/Mc P's Irish Pub and Grill
J (10) Balboa Park (El Prado)/San Diego Zoo
K (11) Little Italy
The map they provided.
Since I was now an hour and a half later than planned, I had to decide
if I do the Midway Museum then Tijuana and miss the rest of the Trolley
tour (it was only in one stop's time, so would lose most of the money from
it), OR, do the whole Trolley tour and miss the Midway Museum (as it would
take two hours to do the complete loop, plus another half an hour to get
to the pick-up point at stop C, as I had to be there half hour before the
I decided that since I had paid for the all-day Trolley ticket, I'll do that, as it also would allow me to do that page of the BotCon report (both pre-Con tours), and I'd just try to fit in a quick visit on the Monday morning before I left San Diego.
I had rung up the tour company on the Friday while in Las Vegas (waiting for the pickup of the pink bus) and they said to call back at 11am on the day of the tour to re-confirm, so I was going to do that in about half an hours time while on this bus.
As we left the first stop we were given a bit of history of San Diego
and the Old Town area.
The Old Town area was the original site of San Diego, set up by the Spanish in 1769, to maintain a stronger hold of the northern lands of Mexico while the Russians were starting to explore south from Alaska. (The Spanish had been in the area since the 1500s, but this was the first significant settlement) A Mission was set up in the valley, and on the hill overlooking it was constructed the Fort Presidio (where the American flag is in the photo below). On the other side of that hill is the Hotel valley, which is where my Hotel is located, and you can see the Fort from that side.
The current site of the San Diego city centre is 3 miles to the south of what is called the Old Town, as the original site (Old Town) was considered impractical for being too far away from the coast. After California became part of the United States in 1850 (a result of the American-Mexican war between 1846-1848), many people came to California for the gold rush (just discovered in 1848). In the late 1860s, a businessman Alonzo Horton bought a 4 Km square portion of land on the harbour, south of Old Town for just US$260, and started developing it into his vision of a New Town. It was immediately more popular due to its location, its newness, and because it was pre-planned from the start, including having no alleys or unused gaps or spaces to detract from the look of the city.
Of all the times I went past it, to and from the Hotel, this was the
best of my photos of the Fort, taken on the Thursday...
The city as it is now, past the Airport.
This was a factory that built most of the B24 bombers during WW2, and
is still a weapons manufacturer. On the other side of the road was
the Marine Recruitment centre (my flight to San Diego from Dallas had about
30 guys that actually looked like new recruits and each holding a large
yellow envelope, so this made sense).
Our tourguide mentioned that the famous "Spirit of St Louis" plane was
built here in San Diego, but since it left St Louis to fly to Europe, it
was named after that city instead.
At the harbour, and a yellow Tracks corvette.
The first stop a the Maritime Museum. I didn't think much of it
unitl I got off here later and saw what it actually was.
Then past the Midway Carrier Museum.
Past one of the SEAL busses.
Next to another one later in the day.
Looking out across the bay we were told that it was the base for two
of America's newest aircraft carriers - Ronald Reagan (in the photo) and
the Carl Vinson (apparently it only just left that morning, which would
have been pretty cool to see both parked there at the same time).
The Reagan is the second newest Carrier, being built between 1998-2001,
and is one of the ten Nimitz class Carriers. The Vinson is the third
oldest in the Nimitz class, being constructed between 1975-1980. They have
a 50 year lifespan, and take about 4-5 years to build, so there seems to
be a procedure of having 10-11 Supercarriers active at the one time (one
is built in time for one to be scrapped). The next one to come into
service is the Gerald Ford in 2016, which will be a new class of Carrier,
to replace the Enterprise Carrier which was just decomissioned six months
There are a lot of military bases in San Diego, for the Navy and Marine Corps.
Apparently the bar at the bottom of this photo was the actual filming location of the bar in Top Gun. (henc the sign in the window I guess)
The San Diego Convention Centre, where the SDCC is held.
Our guide pointed out to us, as we passed a taxi rank, that all the taxis here have names written on them... which is unusual.
There was a Westfield near here as well, and I'd seen quite a few of them in America now, which feels odd because it is an Australian Brand/company.
It was at about this time that I rang up the Tijuana tour operator to confirm the tour for that afternoon, only to be told that it had been cancelled, due to insufficiant numbers. I was really annoyed... but the silver lining meant that I was now able to do the Midway Museum, and maybe even the SEAL tour as well if I felt like it. I decided that I would now stay on the bus until it came back around to the Midway Museum.
The Gaslamp quarter... something to do with all the gaslamps I guess.
It is a mostly historic precinct of the city, as much of it is where Horton
first bought land and started developing the New site of San Diego.
Some odd architecture - the pedestrian bridge and the silver bullet
dome building. It took me a while to find out what it was, as google
maps shows a vacant lot there in 2009 in the aerial shot, but in the 2011
street view it is a construction site... and on one of the fences was a
sign saying "New Central Library", and an estimated cost of US$185 Million.
Apparently it wasn't opened until July 2013, which was after I was there.
Google still don't even have it listed on their Maps it is that new.
This bridge though was huge, and we were going to go over it.
The Coronado bridge was built in 1969, and is 240 feet above the water
(had to be tall enough to let the big boats through - but isn't big enough
for the Nimitz class Aircraft Carriers though). It also holds the
unfortunate record of being the third most deadliest bridge in America
in relation to suicides (the Golden Gate Bridge is number one).
On the other side of the bridge from the City, is the ship-yards that build a lot of the American Navy ships.
Out into the distance. I thought at first that the bridge was
crossing over to an island, because I could only see water in the distance
between the two shorelines. But we were actually crossing over to
a very long penisula, with the opening to the ocean being on the City side
(the other side)... so in the photo below, that is the peninsula on the
right, which loops all the way back around to that shoreline on the left.
San Diego city from the top of the bridge.
The old and new Aircraft Carriers facing off across the Bay (Ronald
Reagan on the left, Midway on the right).
Approaching the peninsula, the bridge does a big curve around to the right. Those buildings on the left of the photo are a hotel complex called Hotel del Coronado, and it is the largest fully wooden built hotel in the world. It was built in 1888 with timber that had to be floated in from up north, and cost about US$1 Million to build, which was a lot of money back then.
A house belonging to the person who first bought the land on the Coronado peninsula (sometimes refered to as an Island) back in 1886 to create a resort community, starting off with the hotel above.
The beach at Coronado is rated as one of the best in America. (I wonder if that's the Carl Vinson out there in the distance)
Back across the bridge to the "mainland"... and heading towards Balboa park (which was also instigated by Horton, as the New Town was growing he wanted a parkland set aside for the people). Balboa park was the site of two Worlds Fairs - one in 1915 led to the creation of the San Diego zoo, as the collection of animals was the main attraction to that particular event, while the Fair in 1935 had international themed cottages built, which still remain there today.
To get over to Balboa park, we first cross the Cabrillo Bridge, which was built for that that first World Fair in 1915.
A lot of the Spanish architecture was created for those two Fairs, to highlight the local founding heritage of the area.
The international cottages.
An Air-Space Museum.
This would have been interesting to see if I had the time... A museum of Torture.
Next we went through "Little Italy" which didn't seem to have anything in particular stand out, aside from some stores with Italian names, a couple Italian flags, and minimal Italian architecture. If there was anything more significant, the bus must have gone around the good stuff.
Just before we got back to the starting point of the tour, we drove
through some of Old Town.
As we arrived at the final stop at 12.30pm, our driver/guide told us
that if we wanted to continue (for those who had only recently got on),
we had to get onto the bus that was parked in front of where we stopped.
Our driver kept talking up the tours, including their SEAL tour, as well as their other tour operators... except one guy that is so boring, he'll put you to sleep. (he was probably just kidding though)
I put a 20 in his tip bucket, for making it a well-worth 2 hours of
the day, and hopped onto the other bus, grabbing a seat on the right side
this time before they all filled out. (I was going to make sure I get at
least a couple photos that I missed the first time around, which I ended
up using at the start of this page)
The old guy driving this bus started talking about safety, and about his life story, and then a bit about San Diego's history... Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
Vidal was not joking... this guy was talking so slow and so monotone, I was just glad I didn't get stuck with him for the whole tour, as it would have spoilt the whole thing.
Within 10 minutes we were at Stop B and I quickly got off... no tip for you!
As soon as I got off the bus, I saw that the various boats here were actually part of a Museum, and better still, it said you could even explore most of the boats and Subs... Excellent!
GO HERE FOR - Maritime Museum
GO HERE FOR - Midway Museum
The taxi back from the Midway Museum got caught in some traffic, as a couple cars had crashed on the main road to the Hotel. Since that took a bit of extra time, and the Driver had no idea where any of the Walmarts were in San Diego, I just told him to take me straight back to the Hotel.
It took about 30 minutes to get back, and as soon as I offloaded my stuff into my room, I headed over to the Fashion Valley Mall to see if there was any food outlets. I figured that a place that big had to have some lunch options, no matter how many of the stores were just for clothes.
I walked past the bus/train station and into the open-air shopping centre, and found an ATM. It gave a maximum of $800 for each usage fee, as opposed to just $200 for the Hotel ATM's usage fee. So I got out $800, and would probably come back again closer to the convention if I felt I needed more for the Dealer Room.
Looking at the map for the Mall, I didn't find any grocery stores, but
did find a food court, so headed over to it at the other end of the complex.
There were about 8 different outlets, so I bought something tasty or unusal from four of them, and took a mental note of the pizza place for next time.
A fish taco (top left), two different corn dogs (bottom left), cake fingers (bottom left), teriyaki beef and noodles (middle), pretzel dog, sweet almond pretzel, regular salted pretzel (right)... and a fortune cookie (I don't think I've ever had one before).
A bit of a surprise was finding a Lego store here... filled with just
about everything Lego, including parts and full sets.
Heading back to the Hotel I found that this vehicle had arrived while
I was getting dinner...
Back in the room at about 6pm, I just watched TV and ate... until a
knock on my door at 8pm.
It was fellow Australian, Paul, who had also arrived the day before, but we now finally caught up with each other.
We ended up talking for 3 or 4 hours, and soon after he left, I had
the news on for a bit before going to bed.
The weather channel was telling us that there was a heat-wave coming through California, Nevada and Arizona this weekend, with some places expected to equal or beat record temperatures... including Las Vegas.
It was already hot when I was there three days ago, at about 100 F (about 38C ), but if I had been there a week later, I would have been dealing with 117 F heat (about 47C )!!!
I was already getting nose-bleeds from the dry heat at 38... I wouldn't have been able to step outside if it had been 47.
Fortunately for us at the convention, San Diego has the harbour to keep it cool, so we never ended up getting too hot all week there.
It was about 1pm when I finally went to sleep. Tomorrow was the start of BotCon events with the Custom Class, and I had to make sure my alarm woke me up in time for it... as they won't let you in if you are late.
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To contact me --> griffin @ otca.com.au