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Have You Been to San Diego?

Let's drive all the way there!

sunny 26 °C
View San Diego, California, USA on wsm78's travel map.

I love planning vacations and spending time with Chris, my partner, seeing new things and experiencing new places. When I found out he'd never been to San Diego (much less California), I knew we'd have to make a trip there, and what better way to go than by taking a road-trip! As we live in Oklahoma City, it would only amount to spending one night on the road, and I thought it would also be a great way to show Chris the desert southwest.

We left Oklahoma City shortly after sunrise and headed west on Interstate 40. Our first rest stop of the day was at Gray County Rest Area just west of the town of McLean, Texas, and near the McClellan Creek National Grassland.


The scenery is like much of the rest of this area of the country: mostly flat or undulating grassland with few trees. It can be pretty, in its own way, though I have an uncle from heavily wooded east Texas who vehemently disagrees.

After resting for a period, we drove through Amarillo, Texas, and the remainder of the Texas panhandle, stopping for lunch in Tucumcari, New Mexico. Lunch was no fancy affair: simply a Denny's in a truck stop. No need to be fancy on a road-trip! We can be fancy when we get where we're going, right?

We continued driving west across New Mexico, a dry land marked by mountains and mesas.


And if the photos look a tad blurry, well, they are. I guess we can't all be professional travel photographers.

We arrived in Gallup, New Mexico, where we checked into our hotel for the night, the SpringHill Suites by Marriott Gallup.


The view from our room included mostly parking lots, but the room itself was very nice and clean and proved to be restful. We ate dinner at a nearby restaurant, a Sizzler (not fancy), and then went shopping at a nearby Walmart (also not fancy). We needed to do a little shopping because one of us didn't pack enough shorts for the trip (not me). With dinner and shopping out of the way, we retired to the hotel and reflected upon our first day on the road (meaning we watched TV until we fell asleep).

The next morning, we awoke and had a wonderful breakfast in the hotel lobby. We then packed up the car again and continued heading west on Interstate 40, crossing into Arizona. After passing the Petrified Forest National Park, we exited the interstate for roads less traveled and continued through Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest. I did not realize that Arizona had mountains and forests as beautiful as those found further north; it was an eye-opening experience. We stopped for a rest at the Mogollon Rim Visitor Center and enjoyed the cool breeze and wonderful views.


Leaving the mountains behind meant a drop in elevation and a rise in the outside temperature. We skirted Tonto National Forest and emerged from the mountains to see Phoenix ahead of us. The landscape had changed dramatically and now included Saguaro cactus.


It should be noted that somewhere along this trip through the desert, my wonderful DSLR acquired some dirt on its sensor, resulting in an expensive "wet cleaning" after our trip. That's why you may see some small dust marks on these photos. If you don't know it already, be extra careful about changing your lenses in the desert; there's a lot of fine dirt in the air. Lesson learned.

We joined Interstate 10 in Phoenix and continued west through that sprawling metropolis, stopping for lunch at a Denny's (surprise!) in Buckeye, a far western suburb. (I promise Denny's is not my favorite restaurant, and really, I think I only eat at them on the road because you know what to expect and you know what you'll get.) After a quick lunch, we headed south and got onto Interstate 8, which would take us all the way to San Diego in California. Much of this stretch of travel was through hot desert and dry, mountainous regions. We stopped for a short rest at the Mohawk Rest Area in Arizona, where the temperature was well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37 degrees Celsius). The mountains made for interesting scenery, though.


Crossing into California shortly afterward, we were ready to be at our destination (and out of the car!). After hours of mountainous terrain and endless desert, Interstate 8 finally delivered us to San Diego. We easily found our way to our hotel, the Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina, and were pleasantly surprised with an excellent upgraded suite.


The view from our private lanai was fantastic and included the entire northern bay of San Diego. After enjoying the cool sea breezes and marveling at our good fortune, we unpacked and made our way to the main resort building to enjoy a light dinner.


We dined in the Sheraton Club on the top floor of the resort and enjoyed views of the setting sun over the marina, quite frankly a wonderful end to the day. We then walked back to our suite in the smaller hotel building and admired the twinkling lights of downtown San Diego.


More adventures await!

Posted by wsm78 12:07 Archived in USA

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Road trips are my favorite way to see the USA. Over the last decade, I've logged a lot of miles on those back roads. It's hard to be the rugged scenery of the rural west.

by countycollector

Nice trip across the Southwest, just surprised you didn't stop at that joint in Amarillo with the huge steaks! :)

I've seen the Sheraton Harbor when in San Diego, just never stayed there. Now a new spot to check out on future visits.


We actually have stopped at that restaurant in Amarillo, the Big Texan Steak Ranch & Brewery! We just didn't do it on this particular trip. The food there is actually good, but we've never tried to eat the 72 ounce steak.

by wsm78

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