Tag Archives: San Diego

Life is Just, Driving in the Snow

In 1982, I returned to Groton, Connecticut, home of the United States Submarine Force. This time I was reporting to my first submarine. In the interim, I had been to Virginia Beach, Virginia, then on to San Diego, California for sonar school. San Diego — Balboa Park, San Diego Zoo, The Del, and magic lessons (this one is a story for another time), many of my classmates insisted I go to Black’s Beach, but I never made it. The next time I would go to San Diego, I would pass the test to join MENSA, but joined the United States Chess Federation instead. I enjoyed San Diego, but in my mind, Groton was where I belonged. I could feel the presence of my submarine forefathers everywhere I went. I would learn many things in Groton.

One of the earliest things I learned in Groton was how to drive in snow. This time in Groton, I had my own wheels, a 1978 Ford F-150 pickup truck. In the early 1980’s trucks were still work vehicles, and you could get a truck for half the price of a car. So, there I was, a Florida boy with my pickup and Florida plates. driving in snow in Groton, Connecticut.

I would see a green light at the intersection a block ahead of me, and I would start slowing down, the light would be red by the time I got to the intersection. On Sundays, little old ladies on their way to church would pass me. Of course, it did not take long before a Groton police officer pulled me over. He never asked for my driver’s license, insurance, or registration.

“Are you in the navy?” asked the officer.

“Yes sir.”

“Are you actually from Florida?”

“Yes sir.”

“Have you ever driven in snow before?”

“No sir.”

He reached into his shirt pocket and pulled out a business card, which he handed to me.

“That shopping center over there closes at 9 PM tonight. I want you to go to the far end of the parking where there are no light posts. I want you to drive in the snow and lose control of your truck, then regain control of it again. I want you to keep doing this until you are comfortable driving in snow. If anyone stops you, I want you to hand them my card, and tell them I told you to do it, that you are learning to drive in snow.”

He did not chastise me, write me a ticket, or even give me a warning. In a calm and soft voice, he gave me the guidance I needed, steered me in the right direction, and allowed me to venture out to face my fear on my own. I was all over that parking lot. Long after I felt comfortable driving in snow I was still sliding all around that parking lot, and having one hell of a good time doing it.

I do not have the card any more, but I am a good driver in snow, and I am not the only one who says that. I sometimes wonder how many car accidents that police officer prevented. No matter how much snow is coming down, or how much snow is on the road, I am calm, confident, and steady behind the wheel.

We all do that in life. When we first venture out we are timid, then we go a little crazy. But, if we are lucky, we have someone who puts that hand on our shoulder, and in a calm voice, gives us the guidance we need. Then they stand back, and let us find our own way. The stepping back part is just as important as the non-judgmental advice and the hand on the shoulder. It lets us know that someone has confidence in us, confidence that we may not feel at the time. But, that confidence rubs off on us, and as we find our way we become calm, confident, and steady. After all, life is just driving in the snow.

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A Beautiful Lady

Hotel del Coronado, Coronado Beach, California...

Hotel del Coronado, Coronado Beach, California photochrom print rephotographed on slide film for preservation purposes (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today, we change pace. I want to introduce you to a beautiful lady with class and style, a one of a kind. She has been imitated, but never copied. I remember her from my days when I lived in San Diego. Many of the guys in my school wanted to go to Tijuana, but I found the Del more alluring. She has known presidents, princes, the elite of Hollywood, and your’s truly.

The front of the Hotel del Coronado in Coronad...

The front of the Hotel del Coronado in Coronado, California. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

She opened in 1888 as the Hotel del Coronado, but she is known as the Del. The Hotel del Coronado turns 125 years old this year. The largest and oldest all-wooden building in California, at one time it was on the USA Today’s list of the ten best resorts in the world. In 1880, E.S. Babcock (a railroad executive), Hampton L. Story (a bank president), and Jacob Gruendike (a founder of a piano company) bought all of Coronado and North islands for $110,000. The architect was James W. Reid of New Brunswick, Canada.

Hotel del Coronado in Coronado, California.

Hotel del Coronado in Coronado, California. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Babcock already knew what he wanted the hotel to be:
“It would be built around a court … a garden of tropical trees, shrubs and flowers, … From the south end, the foyer should open to Glorietta Bay with verandas for rest and promenade. On the ocean corner, there should be a pavilion tower, and northward along the ocean, a colonnade, terraced in grass to the beach. The dining wing should project at an angle from the southeast corner of the court and be almost detached, to give full value to the view of the ocean, bay, and city.”

The old building of the Hotel del Coronado. Ca...

The old building of the Hotel del Coronado. Camera used is a Nikon Coolpix 5000. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Del certainly does that, and it provides a great view across the bay from the mainland. In 1890, the Spreckel family bought out the partners (which had grown to include two more). The Spreckel family owned the hotel until 1948. During World War Two pilots who were in training stayed at the Del with their families. The hotel passed through several hands over the years and is currently owned by the Blackstone Group LP, Strategic Hotels & Resorts Inc., and KSL Resorts. The hotel has over one thousand rooms and is valued at over $500 million.

Hotel del Coronado in San Diego, California as...

Hotel del Coronado in San Diego, California as seen from Cabrillo National Monument (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Construction started in March 1887. Lumber and labor was a problem at the time, Chinese immigrants were brought down from San Francisco and Oakland. All the lumber from the Dolbeer & Carson Lumber Company was sold on an exclusive contract to build the hotel. The builders also constructed their own brick works, and metal and iron shops on the grounds.

English: , Coronado Beach, .

English: , Coronado Beach, . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Many of the biggest stars in Hollywood from Charlie Chaplin to Brad Pitt have stayed at the Del. Presidents B. Harrison, McKinley, Taft, Wilson, F. Roosevelt, and every president from Eisenhower to Obama have all stayed at the Del. Frank Baum (the Wonderful Wizard of Oz) did much of his writing there, and supposedly Stephen King’s short story 1408 (which was made into a movie) was written about a haunted room at the hotel. The hotel has also inspired many other short stories, books, and movies.

Lobby area in the Hotel del Coronado. Camera u...

Lobby area in the Hotel del Coronado. Camera used is a Nikon Coolpix 5000. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Rooms 3502 and 3312 are supposedly haunted by two young women, both of them were pregnant when they committed suicide at the hotel. The most haunted room is supposed to be room 3327. Other haunted rooms include 3519, 3343, 3284, 3305, 3315 and 3300. Also the lobby, the gift shop, and the hallway on the third floor are supposedly haunted as well. Other ghosts include a Victorian woman who glides across the dance floor, a small boy and girl, other men and women in period clothing, a man dressed in 1940’s style, and some former employees.
Ghosts aside, the Del is just a great hotel with great atmosphere. Feel like being pampered, or pampering a loved one? The Del is the place to go. Rates are about the same as a hotel in New York City, and less than Disney’s imitation of the Del, the Grand Floridian.

Disney - Grand Floridian From Monorail - HDR L...

Disney – Grand Floridian From Monorail – HDR LucisArt (Photo credit: Express Monorail)

I like the Del, just to get away for a day or two. Walk through her doors and the world just melts away. There is no place like that grand old dame of Southern California. I think everyone should stay there at least once. Oh, and don’t worry about ending up in one of the “haunted” rooms. Ghosts enthusiasts book those rooms solid, well in advance.

English: Evening shot of the Hotel Del Coronado

English: Evening shot of the Hotel Del Coronado (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Main building of the Hotel del Coronado. Camer...

Main building of the Hotel del Coronado. Camera used is a Nikon Coolpix 5000. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dracaena draco, the Dragon Tree, at the Hotel ...

Dracaena draco, the Dragon Tree, at the Hotel del Coronado. Camera used is a Nikon Coolpix 5000. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The entrance sign for the Hotel del Coronado i...

The entrance sign for the Hotel del Coronado in Coronado, California. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


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