Day 16: August 11, 2014
Reaching Up

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When I left the motel, I drove to and through La Jolla but there were no parking spots to be had anywhere near the cove so I just headed up the coast. It was a fine day for coast heading up.

It was also a fine day for pier walking out on and that's just what I did at Oceanside. And it was also a fine day weather wise for surfing but I don't think the surf itself was so fine. I did not see one person actually make it up on a board as I walked all the way to Ruby's, at the end of the pier, and back. I also watched the fishers along the pier's rails as I walked and I watched a few through a window at Ruby's all the while I worked on my root beer float and I saw no fish caught. But the not quite surfing surfers and the not quite successful fishers all seemed to be enjoying themselves and so was I.

A root beer float is my go-to treat at soda fountains. Those are generally made with real (i.e., hard) ice cream and I really like them. The soft serve kind not so much. I might not have ordered one here if they hadn't already been on my mind. We ate at Red Robin yesterday where, pretty much at the instant we were handed menus, the two Fletchers reminded each other that they offer "bottomless" (i.e., infinitely replenished) root beer floats. They both ordered one and I was tempted but really wanted some liquid I could gulp down and went with iced tea. Besides, I had visions of these two young guys inhaling floats until the restaurant ran out of ice cream or root beer. Neither made it beyond two and Fletcher the Younger stopped a couple of swallows short of that. I could have easily done more than that at Ruby's.

In 2011, when I learned that I was fairly close to the Palomar Observatory, I headed right toward it. It turned out to be closed and I wrote, "Yeah, I do wish the observatory was open but the drive was great all by itself." If I said that about a winter drive in a rental sedan, I'd probably like it in the summer in a Miata, too, so today I set out to verify that. Yep, driving the little bugger through those curves, most of which you REALLY don't want to overshoot, was great fun.

The visitors center includes a small but very cool museum with lots of interesting photos along the walls. The middle picture is of a model of the special trail car that carried the 200 inch mirror blank from Corning, New York, to San Diego in 1936. I've heard that my little home town, Ansonia, Ohio, was on the route. A sign outside said something about access to the big telescope at 9:30, 1:00, and 2:30. It was well past 3:00 so I assumed I would once again miss seeing it but when I mentioned that to the gift shop attendant she explained that those were the times when assistance was provided to handicapped persons. The visitor gallery was open until 4:00.

So I immediately hurried off on the pathway to the big dome which looks absolutely huge up close. So does the 'scope itself. The bottom which holds that big mirror grabs my attention but the other end, the one facing the sky, is also impressive. In fact, the entire structure is impressive and that was certainly even more true in 1948 when, twenty years after the project was begun, the giant telescope was dedicated.

Heading down the twisty road I'd climbed up on was possibly even more fun. The Palomar Artesian Springs looked entirely dry to me but there are online indications that I just didn't look hard enough or try enough spigots. Further down, I stopped at a big pull out with a great view and struck up a conversation with a motorcyclist taking a break there. Mike lives nearby and travels the road often. He loaned me his binoculars for a better look at the scenery below then asked if I'd seen the "back side". Locals call the slope of the mountain we stood on the "front side". The road we were on is South Grade Road. Another one, East Grade Road, traverses the "back side". I was familiar with where the two diverged and, by the time I finished my conversation with Mike, I had decided to backtrack a little and check out the "back side".

There is a pullout not far from the start of the east road that provides a view of some of the south road before getting serious about its own descent. Oh no! Don't throw me in that briar patch.

Besides a number of simple pullouts, East Grade Road has a couple of paved overlooks with interpretive signs. The overlook in the first picture even has its own overlook. That's Lake Henshaw in the last two pictures. Mount Palomars's "back side" certainly offers some great views and entertaining road. Thanks for the tip, Mike.

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