5 Random Thoughts On…

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[5RTO] Our San Diego Vacation (without kids)

Look how far away from my kids I am!

Look how far away from my kids I am!

The last time my wife and I flew together was to Spain three years ago. We brought our then one-year-old with us. 12 hours before our flight we learned my wife was pregnant with our second son. Thanks to the family we visited (who didn’t mind dragging us around) it was a fantastic trip. Months later our second son was born, and as a family, our vacation adventures ended.

Outside of our yearly family beach trip to the Outer Banks, NC our vacations are now short 1-2 day/weekend trips. These were fun but brief and always included the kids. As I have previously posted about vacationing with kids is hardly a vacation for the parents and can be downright demoralizing.

I should mention that I’m sure there are folks out there that have had kids and it hasn’t affected their vacationing at all. In fact, I know there are parents like this. I see their photos on Facebook all the time. They post countless pictures of their beautiful children smiling and not ruining their parent’s vacation. I’m envious of these people. I know I’m petty and I’m not proud of this. But you have to understand. Where you see a darling little girl sitting on the beach with sunglasses and a hat patiently smiling as their parents snap next years Christmas card I see my oldest boy dumping a bucket of sand on his little brother who coincidentally is gnawing on a dead jellyfish.

I love my boys. I love their energy and enthusiasm. But that doesn’t mean I want to vacation with them all the time.

Finally, our opportunity arrived. A year ago we were invited to San Diego for a cousin’s wedding. By now our boys were four and two and the time has come for them to spread the wings and fly to their grandparent’s house for seven glorious days.

The vacation is now over, and everyone survived. It’s time to crack open a bottle of red wine and put down 5 Random Thoughts On our childless vacation to San Diego.

1. Our youngest was determined to ruin our vacation


One thing I have learned as a parent is that relaying information to your children should be on a need to know basis. Unfortunately for my boys neither has earned the clearance level to know about any upcoming vacation plans. That mainly includes any plans that do not include either of them.

I had it all worked out. The boys are packed, and the bags are in the driveway so not to tip them off. When my mom arrived, I would let them know that their Oba was here then go and load the bags into her car. They would become super excited to see their Oba thereby not realizing that we just loaded them into the car. They would all drive off together smiling and singing songs. Our vacation would start the instant they were out of sight.

It was a solid plan, one that was right on schedule. When my mom pulled into the driveway, I shouted my boys.


I could hear the excitement from both of them as they began running around the house shouting “OBA’S HERE! OBA’S HERE!” That was my moment to sneak out and load up her car. I slid out the front door. As my mom exited her car, I was waving at her and slowly closing the front door behind me. I basked in my parenting awesomeness for the briefest of moments I wondered why closing the door felt different than before.

I didn’t wonder long. The high-pitched screaming of my two-year-old from the other side of the door told me all I needed to know. I flung the door open; there he was, my two-year-old, jumping up and down, tears streaming down his reddening face, holding his unnaturally flat finger in the air.

Naturally, I did what any parent would do when their youngest is in front of them shrieking in pain that I caused. I yelled at him.


It was yet another chapter in My Father The Dumbass that one of my kids is sure to write.

But because of one teeny tiny tip of a finger, my exit strategy for the boys was thrown out the window. He was inconsolable. He sure as hell didn’t want me (whom he blamed which is total bullshit). He only wanted his mom. My wife held him trying to calm him down as tears streamed down his face and he pointed that accusatory flattened digit at me. For some reason, I kept thinking of The Crucible and a scorned Abigail Williams calling Elizabeth Proctor a witch.

My two-minute exit plan for the boys became an hour and a half nightmare. My two year old finally calmed down enough to be put into my mom’s car, but by this time my four-year-old had time to figure things out and began his meltdown. By the time we had them both in the car, and my mom was pulling away they were both going strong screaming and crying. Operation: Peace Out was a total failure.

If it was just the finger, I wouldn’t even have mentioned it here. But my mom informed me throughout the week that my youngest also stuck a chicken finger up his nose. Then he threw himself out of the crib and busted his lip.

All of these my mom took care of because she’s a rock star. She even didn’t get upset when neither of the boys would sleep in the room she made up for them and they instead both slept with her in the guest bedroom. All week.

(Oh if my wife is reading this our youngest busted his lip when he threw himself out of his crib. I forgot to tell you that while we were on vacation. My bad.)

2. Everything is better wrapped in a tortilla


Flour or corn it doesn’t matter.  Everything in life is better when wrapped in a tortilla. One of my primary goals in traveling to San Diego was to eat as much stuff wrapped in that warm flour/corn blanket as possible. Fish tacos, breakfast burritos, chimichangas, it didn’t matter. I wanted them all.

We have Mexican food in Virginia. We even have breakfast burritos. But they do not compare to what I enjoyed in San Diego.

Take a look at this beauty below…


This is a breakfast burrito I enjoyed from El Cuervo. The first thing I noticed was how big it was. When handed this warm swaddled bundle of joy, I let out a little giggle. I did this in part because my giddiness got the better of me but also because while in line I contemplated ordering two.

At my breakfast burrito place in VA, my regular order is two. Since I had never eaten here, I thought it would be wise just to order one, and if it was good, I could always order a second. When the guy working the counter called my number, and I laid eyes on my burrito for the first time I had the same feeling as seeing each of my boys for the first time. Only they weren’t wrapped in a delicious flaky floury blanket that almost resembled a puff pastry.

My eyes welled up with pride and for a brief moment time stopped, and the world only consisted of me and my burrito.

That’s where this analogy ends. Unlike my newborn sons whom I promised to care for and protect for the rest of their lives, my breakfast burrito was promptly doused in various hot sauces and devoured like something from National Geographic.

My five-year-old nephew will never look at me the same way after watching me inhale my burrito. I’m sure it was a mixture of fear and wonder. Wonder…as in “I wonder what else this fat bastard would eat if I wrapped it in a tortilla?”

El Cuero

My nephew and me after our breakfast. Notice the distance he kept from me. It’s as if at any moment, I might mistake him for a breakfast burrito.

3. No traffic lights = nicer people?

Driving around the D.C. Metropolitan area can be a challenge. There are traffic lights everywhere yet they are observed less frequently than you would expect. Green still means “go.” While yellow means more like “hurry the fuck up” or “OH SHIT OH SHIT OH SHIT!” instead of “slow down” red means both “stop” and “screw you assholes I do what I want!”

There aren’t as many traffic lights in San Diego. They instead rely on many 4-way stops. People need to be courteous and polite. This nonsense would never work in DC. Could you imagine if all the stop lights were removed and replaced with 4-way stops?

It would be catastrophic.

In San Diego, it works. And I think that has a lot to do with the people living there. They don’t have that rush rush rush feeling I’m used to (and guilty of). During our vacation, there were a handful of times my wife turned to me and said “You need to settle down. Why are we in a hurry?” I would stare back at her like she suddenly started speaking a foreign language, blink a couple of times and after a few seconds of thought, I realized I had no idea.

I understand being in a hurry. When we were on our way somewhere, I wanted to get there as soon as possible. Then while there, I wanted to make sure we left that place in time to hurry to the next place.

And I had no idea why. I think I have been programmed to be in a rush because everyone around me was in a hurry. We’re all rushing only to sit in traffic or stand in another line.

That wasn’t the case in San Diego. Everyone knew they would get where they needed to be. No one was concerned about parking. No one honked their horn at the person in front of them because they came to a complete stop or didn’t slam on the gas when the light turned green.

It was refreshing. And I think a lot of it has to do with these 4-way stops. If you live in an area that is mainly 4-way stops you’re residing in a society that requires people to interact with each other while driving. There isn’t a machine telling you when you are/are not allowed to go. You’re following the simple rule that I’m still teaching my four-year-old – the rule of taking turns.

4. Craft beer capital?

ballast point

Before this trip, if you would have asked me where the craft beer capital of the world I would have said (in no particular order) San Francisco, Boulder, or perhaps Portland Oregon. San Diego would not have made my top three.

I can’t say for certain that San Diego is the official craft beer capital, but it has made an impression on me, and if one day the beer gods crown San Diego the craft beer capital I will gladly tip a glass of Ballast Point Fathom in its honor.

ballast point2

Ballast Point brewery in downtown San Diego. $5 Taster trio.

Since I didn’t have any kids, I was able to spend an extended amount of time enjoying many many local San Diego beers. One of the first places we stopped in was Karl Strauss on the recommendation of my buddy Adam. Not only was I able to try a sampler of some fantastic beers…


But they paired well with their Farmhouse burger (an all natural grass-fed beef, peppered pork 
belly, fried egg, gruyere, lettuce, tomato, onions, chipotle ale mayo)

Pork belly goes great with an Asian glow.

Pork belly goes great with an Asian glow.

But the winner of the “Best Beer of the Trip” goes to the simply named West Coast IPA from Green Flash Brewing Co. I only had it once while eating lunch at a restaurant in La Jolla but it was delicious.


I’ve seen this bottle countless times in Virginia and passed on trying it due to its generic name and label (shame on me). As is stated on the bottle this extravagantly hopped IPA was smooth and not overly bitter. By far one of the best IPA’s I’ve ever enjoyed.

5. The 3 R’s (Reconnecting, Rejoicing, and Remembering)

I came to San Diego for a wedding. But I left with something I named the three R’s.


Not surprisingly San Diego has attracted some friends who I haven’t seen in a long time. They came for various reasons but fell in love with the city and the area. They lived and loved. They had children. They got married. They changed careers. They surfed, and they created things. They lived a life before Facebook status updates and Instagram images. It was an undocumented life to those who didn’t see or speak with them regularly. They are different people but still the same friends I made over a decade ago. We laughed and reminisced about who we were and talked about where we are hoped to go.

They are my friends. And I hope to see them again soon.

james julio


We were there, after all, for a wedding. It was the celebration of love 17 years strong. Punctuated with a legal document that they didn’t need but as one of the grooms stated: “it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be able to have it.”

It was about family, friendships and of course, a strictly enforced Do Not Playlist from the grooms to the DJ. There were tears and laughter with plenty of fantastic food and a few stressed out bartenders trying to keep up with a mass of thirsty party-goers.

It was a wedding that was anything but plain and simple.


When married with kids, it’s easy sometimes, to forget about each other. We become symbiotic when making sure our little ones are fed, dressed and taught how to navigate the world…or at least the DVR. Routine becomes our life.

Moments like this, when our children are safely being cared for; I find myself reaching out for my wife’s hand as we walk. Or sliding it across the table to place it on top of hers for no other reason than to make her smile. She wraps her arm around mine as we speed toward downtown San Diego in the back of a taxi. As the warm wind whips through the cab, she pulls herself around my arm and rests her head on my shoulder.

We laugh about life while people watching on a cozy southern California night.

And no one mentions poop for days.

mary and me





One comment on “[5RTO] Our San Diego Vacation (without kids)

  1. Pingback: Ruby | 5 Random Thoughts On...

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