Category Archives: Manmade

You can see the sunset from the Sunset Seat (uh, der)

Out & About

When Douglas Manchester bought the San Diego Union-Tribune in 2011, he turned it into a political and family newspaper, but only his politics and his family. I had subscribed to the paper for 17 years, but one day when the paper arrived, the whole first section, including the front page, was about his family, their high society doings, a relative’s wedding…….on and on. I canceled my subscription that day. While newspapers everywhere are hurting, I noticed this morning that subscriptions have fallen to 250,000 in a city of 1.4 million.

Even though Manchester sold the paper in 2015, I have not returned. He forever soured me on the Union-Tribune. Sometimes I miss it because I rarely am ahead of current events, which means I don’t know about what is going to happen in the near future. It has to happen and make Facebook so I can find out about it, or I have to accidentally stumble upon it. Such was the case with the Sunset Seat in Del Mar, which had a ribbon-cutting ceremony on April 28, 2015:

Sunset Seat in Del Mar, California

Sunset Seat in Del Mar, California

Sunset Seat in Del Mar, California

The Sunset Seat was carved out of a dead Torrey Pine. Bark beetles are playing havoc with the Torrey Pines in Del Mar and in the Torrey Pine Reserve. Torrey Pines grow in only two areas of the world, here along the coast and over on one of the Channel Islands. From where the Sunset Seat is, there are beautiful views of the canyons, Torrey Pines Beach, and trains.

View from Sunset Seat in Del Mar, California

The Torrey Pine that became Sunset Seat was in the process of being cut down when a Del Mar resident asked the tree choppers to take a break while she made phones calls to try to save the tree. The result of her phone calls is the Sunset Seat, where one can sit and just enjoy the views. The bird watching over the Sunset Seat is a red-tailed hawk, the official bird of Torrey Pines Reserve.

In March 2016, the City of Del Mar a cluster of bark beetle traps to try to abate the damage being caused by the bark beetles. The funnel traps release a specific pheromone to lure the bark beetles. When I was there it was obvious that the traps were doing their job.

Bark beetle traps at the Sunset Seat in Del Mar, California

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Goat Canyon Trestle

Out & About—I’m thinking heat exhaustion

Out & About

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Yesterday I took a 2½-hour helicopter tour of East San Diego County. My specific purpose was to visit Carrizo Gorge to see this baby:

Goat Canyon Trestle

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

That’s the Goat Canyon Trestle, built in 1932 by the San Diego & Arizona Railway. It is 630 feet long and 180 feet high, and is the largest wooden railroad trestle in the world. It was built to take the place of a smaller trestle and tunnel that had collapsed in an earthquake. You can see the tunnel entrance just above the center of the Goat Canyon Trestle.

The San Diego & Arizona Railway is known as “The Impossible Railroad” because of the environment through which it was built—rocky mountains, deep canyons, no water, and temperatures regularly reaching 120°F.

Workers lived where they worked, and regularly reported glowing orbs floating around the construction area at night. There also were many reports of Bigfoot-like creatures roaming the Anza-Borrego Desert, eventually becoming known as the Borrego Springs Sandmen.

In 1977, an engineer thought he saw a bright light ahead of his train, meaning that another train was heading towards his train, so he pulled the brake, derailing his train. Of course, there was no other train.

Wrecked railroad cars

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Floating orbs? Sandmen? Trains heading the wrong direction? 120°F? No water? I’m thinking heat exhaustion….

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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Reminds me, something about a big wall

Out & About

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

My expedition to the boondocks of East San Diego County was via Old Highway 80, which started as a wagon trail in the 1860s; morphed into a narrow, concrete 2-lane “highway” in 1917; expanded into a wider, concrete 2-lane highway in 1930-32; and then began its decline in the ’60s when Interstate 8 was built. Many of the cities along Highway 80 were tourist traps in their heyday. Now the main traffic bypasses them on Interstate 8, and the only people using Highway 80 are locals, and weird people like me out searching for history.

Out in Jacumba Hot Springs, 80 miles east of downtown San Diego, I found the Chinese Castle. Looked like this:

Chinese Castle in Jacumba Hot Springs CA

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

The Chinese Castle is located at the top of a street named Snob Hill. It is a private residence and was not accessible. My research indicates that it was built in the 1920s by Frank Battles, a “wealthy eccentric.” Some sources say that construction began in 1914 and was completed in the 1930s. The foundation of the castle sits on solid granite, creating natural granite floors inside, and has an indoor pool hacked out of the granite.

Battles lived in China for many years and brought back a “heroic size Buddha” as well as carved chests, embroided silk screens, oriental rugs, and teak bird statues. The statues were said to have previously resided in a Chinese potentate’s palace. The Buddha and bird statues can be seen in the 1937 movie “The Good Earth,” based on Pearl Buck’s Pulitzer Prize-winning 1931 novel.

The Castle was owned from 1963 to 1976 by Harry Lee, a British novelist, and his wife, Velma, “an eccentric school teacher with a history of nude photos, multiple marriages, and a penchant for wearing safety whistles in her later years.” They used the home as a vacation home and artist retreat, writing for Harry and painting for Velma.

The Castle is located in what some call the “American Sahara.” It can get excessively hot out there, so the kitchen is separated from the rest of the house, allowing one to cook without adding additional heat to the living area. Interesting.

Jacumba Hot Springs, California

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray PhotosThere seem to be many ghost stories and legends attached to the Chinese Castle—illegal gambling, murder. One of the most interesting, somewhat relevant to today’s anti-immigrant administration directing the United States government, is that there is a secret tunnel running from a trap door in the kitchen floor to the Mexico border which is just a few hundred feet away, a tunnel used to bring in illicit merchandise and Chinese laborers.

Hmmm. Tunnels. Reminds me, something about a big wall……

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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Out & About—How come Santa didn’t bring me a drone?

Out & About

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Brick is not widely used in Southern California but the Del Mar depot, built in 1910 by the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad, is a beautiful brick depot located on Coast Boulevard between 15th and 17th streets.

Former Del Mar railroad depot in use from 1910 to 1995.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

That depot had been in continuous use from 1910 to 1995. For many of those years it was the only passenger stop between Oceanside and San Diego, a distance of 39 miles. At the time of its closing, it was one of Amtrak’s busiest stations, mainly due to the Del Mar Fairgrounds being nearby. The Fairgrounds host hundreds of events throughout the year, including the San Diego County Fair, the 5th largest fair in the United States.

In the late 1980s, the city of Solana Beach, located two miles north of Del Mar, set about to build a regional transit center. The San Diego Association of Governments voted to close the Del Mar depot due to limited parking, the lack of handicapped access, and the poor logistics of providing for trains, buses, cars, and people. The Del Mar City Council rejected expanding the depot but hoped to keep it in operation as an Amtrak-only station; Amtrak nixed that idea and moved its Del Mar operations to Solana Beach.

Across from the Del Mar depot is one of Southern California’s prime surfing spots, so this area area is highly congested as surfers arrive by foot, bicycle, motorcycle, car, bus, and taxi. No longer do they arrive by train.

The depot now is private property so there is no access to it. I did find a walkway going above it where I got seven pictures to create the panorama show above. The picture below is looking down the tracks where you can see the depot on the right. That’s as close as you’re going to get to a trackside picture without a drone. Hmmmmmmmm. Drone. How come Santa didn’t bring me a drone?

Tracks at the former Del Mar railroad depot, in upper right.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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The Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California

Out & About

Many decades ago my mom took us kids down to the courthouse to get the latest polio vaccine. I remember it well because it didn’t involve a needle. In fact, the vaccine came via a sugar cube, and as an 8-year-old child, the lack of needles and someone giving me a sugar cube was pretty cool.

What we had received was an oral polio vaccine developed by Albert Sabin in the late 1950s. It underwent human trials in 1957, was selected by the U.S. National Institute of Health as the polio vaccine of preference, and licensed in 1962.

The first widely available polio vaccine, an “inactivated poliovirus vaccine,” was developed in 1952 by Jonas Salk while at the University of Pittsburgh. After two doses, 90% of the people develop protective antibodies to all three types of poliovirus. After three doses, that increases to 99%. Sadly, it is given by injection, which involves needles…….

In 1960, Salk founded the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California, a suburban neighborhood of the City of San Diego, about 20 miles north of downtown San Diego.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

The Salk Institute is an international center for medical and scientific research. Architects and those who know architecture rave about the Salk Institute campus. Personally, I find the architecture dull, boring, and uninteresting, verging on flat-out ugly. But what do I know?

Here are some pictures of the Salk Institute campus:

img_3091 salk institute stamp img_3087 salk institute stamp img_3078 salk institute stamp img_3097 salk institute stamp img_3095 salk institute stampPictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

The Salk Institute consistently ranks among the top institutions in the United States in terms of research output and quality in the life sciences. In 2004, the Times Higher Education Supplement ranked Salk as the world’s top biomedicine research institute, and in 2009 it was ranked number one globally by ScienceWatch in the neuroscience and behavior areas.

The institute employs 850 researchers in 60 research groups and focuses its research in molecular biology and genetics, neurosciences, and plant biology.

The campus was designed by Louis Kahn. According to Wikipedia sources, “Kahn created a style that was monumental and monolithic; his heavy buildings for the most part do not hide their weight, their materials, or the way they are assembled. Louis Kahn’s works are considered as monumental beyond modernism. Famous for his meticulously built works, his provocative proposals that remained unbuilt, and his teaching, Kahn was one of the most influential architects of the twentieth century.” Suffice to say that he and his style are not among my favorites.

The original buildings of the Salk Institute were designated as a historical landmark in 1991. The entire 27-acre site was deemed eligible by the California Historical Resources Commission in 2006 for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Salk’s personal papers are stored at the Theodore Geisel Library at the University of California, San Diego. You might recognize the name of Theodore Geisel as that of Dr. Seuss. Geisel’s personal papers also are stored at the Library.

The Geisel Library is what I consider beautiful architecture:

Geisel Library at the University of California San DiegoPictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

(More on the Geisel Library can be found here: The Geisel Library at the University of California San Diego.)

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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Testing for horsepower

Out & About

The first time I went to Houston was 1973 when I was 18. I was mesmerized by the freeways, especially the “spaghetti bowl” interchanges in and around downtown. When I moved to Houston in 1977, I often would drive out of my way just to drive the spaghetti bowls. Of course, that was back when gas was 59¢ a gallon….

Here in San Diego we don’t have a lot of great spaghetti bowl interchanges but one of my favorite is the interchange in Mission Valley where Interstate 8 passes under Interstate 805. It’s a huge interchange. Looks like this:

Interstate 805/Interstate 8 interchange in San Diego's Mission Valley

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

It’s possible to see Tokyo to the west and New York City to the east from the top of the 805…..

Going north is a long, steady climb, while going south is a steeper, shorter climb. Both sides make for a great test drive in a new car if you’re searching for horsepower….. Just sayin’.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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Fletcher Cove Park & Overlook Park in Solana Beach

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San Diego County has over 70 miles of coastline.

The first time I made it to San Diego, in 1973, two friends and I were on a timeline, created by yours truly, for visiting the national parks, national forests, national monuments, and cities with a population of more than 100,000 west of the Mississippi River, all in a little over three months.Male lion at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park

So we skipped the beaches, preferring the San Diego Zoo as our San Diego attraction.

My second visit to San Diego County was in May 1992. I drove the Pacific Coast Highway from San Diego to Monterey. At the first vista point, I thought to myself, “I could live here some day.”Blacks Beach

Eleven months later I was back in San Diego, to stay.

During my first year living in San Diego, I made it a point to visit all the named beaches in the County.

When Staycations became fashionable with the Great Recession, I decided to revisit San Diego County beaches. One that I visited recently is Fletcher Cove.

Fletcher Cove Park

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

As you’ll notice, Fletcher Cove Park was not there until 2007. I suspect there was a little beach, as there still is, but this illustrates why it is always worthwhile to go again to somewhere you’ve already been.

Fletcher Cove Park

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Fletcher Cove Park

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

The park also is known as Pillbox because of its history as a gunnery installation during World War II.

According to sources, “the beach gets wider at low tide but pretty much disappears at high tide.”

Fletcher Cove ParkFletcher Cove ParkFletcher Cove Park

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

It’s easy to get to the beach from the park because you simply walk down a sloping ramp, much better than some beaches where you have to play like you’re a goat and traverse the sandstone cliffs that are 200 feet high.

There are public showers and restroom facilities as well as picnic tables and a basketball court located on top of the bluffs next to the Marine Safety Department Headquarters. There also is a nice community center in Overlook Park which is right next door to Fletcher Cove Park. Only an ugly chain link fence separates the two but that is of little consequence since the picnic tables and walkways are full of mosaic beauty; you’ll never notice the fence.

Overlook ParkFletcher Cove Community CenterFletcher Cove Community Center

Fletcher Cove Park Fletcher Cove Park Fletcher Cove Park

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

A train station for the Coaster is three blocks away, Pacific Coast Highway and downtown Solana Beach are a block away.

Lifeguards are on duty year round, from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. during the winter months, and from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. during the summer months.

Fletcher Cove ParkFletcher Cove Park Fletcher Cove ParkFletcher Cove ParkFletcher Cove ParkFletcher Cove ParkFletcher Cove ParkFletcher Cove ParkFletcher Cove Park

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray PhotosThe parking lot serving both Fletcher Cove Park and Overlook Park is at 111 S. Sierra Avenue in Solana Beach.

Map location of Fletcher Cove Park and Overlook Park in Solana Beach, California

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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