Ice Creams of the West Coast

I landed in Boston yesterday around 9 in the morning after getting about four hours of sleep on the flight. My dad picked me up from the airport and then I drove home from his place. The day is a bit of a blur. I did laundry, picked up groceries, and caught up on Game of Thrones. I had dinner with my friends who were watching Aayla (they made delicious vegetarian ramen) and before bringing Aayla home.

But I digress. The purpose of this post is ICE CREAM. As I have alluded to, I made a goal to eat ice cream everyday after I picked up the rental car. My records consist mostly of receipts and photos and favorited locations in Apple Maps (which is not possible to search). In no way did I record which flavors I selected, and I have a terrible memory about these things. I could play detective and figure some out from comparing the pictures to the websites. But often I couldn’t.

In the last few days of my trip, the most common question I got asked was “Which was your favorite ice cream?” I didn’t have a good answer. Cataloging here, I have jogged my memory a bit, though it’s still hard to choose. As an executive summary, I have picked five ice creams that stood out the most to me. They’re kind of random, since most of the ice creams were good, but they’re five in which I had a uniquely great ice cream experience. For a more in-depth analysis, see my dissertation below.

  • San Francisco’s Hometown Creamery — San Francisco
  • Cowlick’s Ice Cream — Fort Bragg
  • Salt and Straw — Originally Portland, now all over the place
  • Molly Moon’s — Seattle
  • SomiSomi — San Diego

Monday March 18, 2019. Bi-Rite Creamery. Across from the Market on 18th Street, San Francisco. Among the most famous of Sam Francisco’s ice cream shops, it’s a spin-off from the grocery store across the street. I didn’t go into the grocery store, but I hear it’s like Whole Foods but much more expensive. The ice cream location was closed for earthquake-proofing construction and instead there was a food truck outside with pre-scooped ice cream cups. I chose Honey Lavender. It wasn’t very good. I should have gone to Garden Creamery a block away instead. Oh well.

Tuesday March 19, 2019. Humphry Slocombe. Embarcadero Ferry Building, San Francisco. I got one scoop of “Secret Breakfast” in a cup. Their signature and most popular flavor, it’s bourbon ice cream with cornflakes. Yes, it was good.

San Francisco Hometown Creamery. Filter courtesy of Instagram.

Wednesday March 20, 2019. San Francisco’s Hometown Creamery. Inner Sunset District, San Francisco. Because they make all their ice cream in-house, they rotate flavors frequently. I got two scoops of San Francisco Cheesecake and Earl Grey in a waffle cone. Now this was great ice cream. Significantly better than the previous two, I consider this ice creamery to be the start of my spiritual journey across the west coast.

Thursday March 21, 2019. Sweet Scoops Homemade Ice Cream. Sonoma, California. I don’t remember what I got here. I just remember that I needed to use the bathroom and they didn’t have one.

There was a gap of a few days here when I was in Joshua Tree and failed to get ice cream. Worse mistakes have been made.

Tuesday March 26, 2019. Palm Greens Cafe. Palm Springs, California. This place is actually a vegan friendly restaurant, where I got a deliciously greasy Tempeh Reuben. For dessert, I got a vegan and gluten-free brownie with a scoop of ice cream. Typically I am extremely skeptical of vegan and especially gluten-free desserts. I wouldn’t have gotten it had the waitress not highly recommended it as her favorite. She was right. It was so good we got a second.

Wednesday March 27, 2019. Bottega Italiana. La Jolla, San Diego. I have to say, San Diego has a mean gelato game. It being my first gelato of the trip, I went with my personal favorite of stracciatella in a cup. My friends got an affogato.

Thursday March 28, 2019. Hammond’s Gourmet Ice Cream. North Park, San Diego. I went here after going to the zoo. I was wearing my sunglasses and had left my regular glasses in the car, so I couldn’t see very well when I got inside. I remember a woman in front of me trying to order 6 mini cones to go and the store didn’t have any boxes that would hold those cones. I don’t remember what I ordered or whether it was any good.

My second ice cream of the day

Thursday March 28, 2019. Yes, I got ice cream twice this day. SomiSomi. San Diego. This place serves Ah-Boong, a Korean dessert of soft served ice cream inside a soft fish-shaped taiyaki cake cone. I got matcha and black sesame soft serve swirl with red bean paste inside the cone. It was an excellent treat.

Friday March 29, 2019. Bobboi Natural Gelato. La Jolla, San Diego. My friends said this is a not-to-miss Gelateria, so I got one here despite going for dinner immediately after. My classic stracciatella and strawberry in a cup lived up to expectations. The view of the beach certainly didn’t hurt.


Saturday March 30, 2019. Gelato Paradiso. Coronado Island. After walking along the beach for a few hours, I stopped into this Gelateria for lunch. I don’t remember which flavors I chose, but I remember enjoying it in the warm weather. Afterwards I stopped by a Whole Foods for a salad.

Gelato Paradiso

Sunday March 31, 2019. McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams. Studio City, Los Angeles. I got two scoops in a cup. Strawberry and some other flavor I don’t remember. It was good, though below average for this trip. I should note that I have become excellent at Yelping my way to great ice cream, so my average was in fact quite good.

What’s under the strawberry? We’ll never know.

Monday April 1, 2019. Creamistry. Torrance, Los Angeles. The latest ice cream craze sweeping the nation, Creamistry makes each ice cream from scratch using fresh ingredients and liquid nitrogen. You’re able to customize is extensively, from the dairy or non-dairy base to the toppings and mix-ins. They have some signature creations for those that can’t make up their mind. I got their signature premium base with cookies and cream mix-in and fresh strawberries on top. It takes about five minutes for a “Creamologist” to make an ice cream (they had about five machines running at once) and the selections are priced a bit higher than the other already expensive ice cream shops I tend to visit. It was quite good—I’d even say above average. To some extent, it felt a bit gimmicky, but the custom, made on-the-spot ice cream turned out to be surprisingly good.

My creamation

Tuesday, April 2, 2019. Grom. Malibu, California. On my way from Los Angeles to Solvang, I cruised through Malibu just before sunset, enjoying the breathtaking scenery of the pacific coast highway. I stopped by Grom as I entered Malibu for a stretch of the legs and a delicious stracciatella gelato in a cone.

I had to eat quickly so it wouldn’t melt in the beautiful Malibu weather

I missed April 3. I started my day at a yoga class in Solvang and ended up at a cabin in the forest in Big Sur. It was a long day of driving.

Thursday April 4, 2019. Nepenthe. Big Sur. The most recommended place of any kind for my travels along the west coast, Nepenthe is a seventy year old upscale restaurant with a great view overlooking the ocean in Big Sur. As I mentioned in a previous post, I shared a cake and ice cream with the guy sitting next to me at the bar, since it was too big for either of us and his wife was on a diet.

Friday April 5, 2019. Revival Ice Cream. Monterey, California. While renting an e-bike at Big Sur Adventures, the clerk highly recommended I go to Revival for some premium ice cream. I got a “Bee’s Knees” ice cream sandwich. Their signature flavor combines beeswax and bee pollen with handcrafted organic custard and honeycomb candy. To my surprise, the chocolate cookie was gluten-free and I still loved it.

“I am having a love affair with this ice cream sandwich”

Saturday April 6, 2019. The Penny Ice Creamery. Downtown Santa Cruz. A friend recommended that I stop here when passing through Santa Cruz. I had a similar problem as earlier in San Diego when I only had my sunglasses. I ordered a scoop of something bee-themed in a cone with chocolate cookie crumble.

Sunday April 7, 2019. Scoop Microcreamery. Palo Alto. Forsaking a delicious ice cream sandwich from CREAM (my ice cream of choice last time I was in Palo Alto) instead I went to Scoop to try something now. I got a scoop of brown sugar banana in a cone and ate it too quickly to determine how good it was.

Scoop Microcreamery

Monday April 8, 2019. I missed this day. Fuck.

Tuesday April 9, 2019. Curbside Creamery. Temescal, Oakland. I got a scoop of bourbon whiskey vanilla, though you couldn’t tell from the photo below. It was excellent. Above average.

So I forgot to take a picture before eating the entire ice cream

Wednesday April 10, 2019. Captain Davey’s Coffee and Ice Cream. Bodega Bay, California. I got a scoop of chocolate chip and chocolate in a cup. Between Oakland and Fort Bragg there were few ice cream places with four start or more on Yelp. Captain Davey’s in Bodega Bay was one of them. I suspect there’s some ratings inflation in this ice cream dessert, since this was the worst ice cream of my trip. The ice cream itself was decent, but ice had formed throughout the entire scoop. No good.

Thursday April 11, 2019. Cowlick’s Ice Cream. Fort Bragg, California. Thoroughly in the pacific northwest, the weather started to turn cold, windy, and cloudy at this point. By cold, I mean mid-fifties to low-sixties. To counter this declining weather pleasantness, Cowlick’s Ice Cream was among the best ice creams of my trip. I got a scoop of chocolate and chocolate chip with chocolate sprinkles in a homemade waffle cone. It was my lunch.


Friday April 12, 2019. Sizzler. Grant’s Pass, Oregon. No, Sizzler is not an ice cream shop. It is a family restaurant that was packed at 5pm on a Friday. I was the youngest person there by a few decades. The restaurant was like an Arby’s and an UNO salad bar had a baby. You order your food and pay at a registry before you find a seat and there is also a buffet with a salad bar, soups, tacos, and soft serve. I got soft serve vanilla on a brownie. Honestly, it wasn’t bad and I can’t complain.

Saturday April 13, 2019. BJ’s Old Fashioned Ice Cream. Florence, Oregon. On my way from Grant’s Pass to Yachats, I encountered another ice cream dessert. BJ’s is an old school ice cream parlor, sporting 58 flavors and plenty of candies. The ice cream was pretty good and the servings were large. I don’t remember what I got.

Sunday April 14, 2019. Tillamook Creamery. Tillamook, Oregon. On my way to Portland, I stopped by Tillamook Creamery for a tour and lunch. Tillamook is a large dairy processor in the region that makes ice cream, yogurt, and primarily cheese. It’s found in grocery stores and is not generally considered a premium brand—though certainly not a sub-par brand either. Upon my visit, I was struck by the blandness of the cheddars. I was expecting something like Grafton Village Cheese Company in Vermont, which I visited last winter and was supremely impressed with their samplings. Tillamook, however, is a much larger facility, as demonstrated by the massive crowds visiting on that Sunday. After getting a grilled cheese and tomato soup (the cheeses cooking into the meal were significantly better than the samples), I got a scoop of Huckleberry Swirl in a cone. Though I have often found that fruit flavored ice creams are harder to get as smooth, the delightful flavor overcame any consistency issues.

Monday April 15, 2019. Salt and Straw. Portland, Oregon. A Portland classic, Salt and Straw blends unique and unexpected flavors to delicious results. When I was there in the fall, they had a salted caramel turkey ice cream for Thanksgiving, as well as a roasted peach and sage cornbread flavor. This time around, I tried their spring flower flavors of rhubarb crumble with toasted anise and wildflower honey with ricotta walnut lace cookies in a waffle cone. It was amazing, despite feeling disgusting stuffed after four slices of pizza.

Tuesday April 16, 2019. What’s the Scoop? Portland, Oregon. I wanted to go here during my last visit to Portland after reading a Yelp review that said it was better than Salt and Straw. Finally getting here, I ordered a scoop of lavender honey in a cup. It was not better than Salt and Straw but it was extremely flavorful. The ice cream itself was not as smooth as I typically like (it was a bit airy), but the flavor was extremely powerful which balanced it out.

What’s the Scoop?

Wednesday April 17, 2019. I missed this day.

Thursday April 18, 2019. Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Cream. Capitol Hill, Seattle. Again I got a scoop of honey lavender, but I also got a scoop of melted chocolate in a homemade waffle cone. It was among the better ice creams.

Friday April 19, 2019. Nana’s Green Tea. A chain from Japan specializing in matcha delights, Nana’s produced a delicious matcha vanilla swirl soft serve in a waffle cone. Unless you’re McDonald’s, it’s pretty hard to mess up soft serve, so it’s a bit hard for me to judge here. I thought it was very good and the serving was rather large.

Saturday April 20, 2019. Fainting Goat Gelato. Wallingford, Seattle. Fainting Goat was terrific. The gelato was creamy and rich. I got a scoop of Sicilian Pistachio in a cone. I think I got another flavor as well, but I don’t remember which one it was.

Sunday April 21, 2019. Frankie and Jo’s. This place is a vegan ice cream shop and I was very impressed. I got a scoop of their “California Cabin” flavor in a homemade waffle cone. Despite the cone being gluten free, it was very flavorful with a hint of cinnamon and maple syrup. I also tasted the “Tend the Terra” flavor, their first hemp milk-based ice cream.


Monday April 22, 2019. Sweet Alchemy Ice Creamery. University District, Seattle. To end my trip, I got two scoops of chai tea and Aztec chocolate in a cup. It was a great way to end.

Elkhorn Slough at Moss Landing

I passed out around 10 last night, after a long day in Monterey, sleeping like a rock well past my alarm that was set for 7:30 in the morning. It turns out that the afternoon sun did a number on me. Setting off for Moss Landing just before noon, I stopped for a delicious and filling lunch at the Haute Enchilada Café.

When I got to Kayak Connection, I learned that due to a scheduling error, I was getting a solo tour, which they typically can’t do. My guide was Bonnie, a college student who has been giving these tours for the past two and a half years while also working at the Monterey aquarium. She loved all of the wildlife we saw on the three hour tour and was knowledgeable about the animals, plants, and location.

The highlight animals on the tour were the harbor seals, sea lions, and otters. We saw some very tiny seal pups, which I learned are black when they are born and slowly get lighter. Since seals don’t sweat, they release toxins into their skin which they molt annually. Some of these toxins are iron (from sea urchin in their diet), which cause their fur to turn red before molting. That was our way to identify how old the baby seal pups were. One was being very vocal on the shore and none of the adult seals around it could figure out why.

There were also many otter babies on their mothers’ stomachs floating on the water. These otters spend most of their day eating, as they need to consume a ton of calories to keep on weight and maintain body temperature. In addition to these majestic baby animals, we saw starfish, snails, seagulls (which a friend recently told me is a combination of sea + eagle, but I believe he is mistaken), terns, cormorants (whose necks are turning bright blue for mating season), a loon, godwits, and several other birds whose names I have already forgotten.

You might wonder why I haven’t included any pictures to this point. California state law requires that people stay at least 150 feet away from these animals, and I really learned the limits of the iPhone 6 camera digital zoom. The only good fish I got was of a starfish, who I learned was infected with a bad starfish virus.

Get well soon, buddy

After the kayak tour ended, I went to Santa Cruz to get some ice cream at the Penny Ice Creamery. I stayed in Santa Cruz for less than thirty minutes. Maybe it was just the part I was in, but it didn’t feel very welcoming. After finishing my ice cream, I headed north to San José, where I am staying with a friend’s parents for the next two nights. They made teriyaki salmon for dinner—yes I ate ice cream before dinner—and we talked until late into the evening.

I’m not sure what tomorrow has in store for me, but I do know that I will end my day by getting an ice cream sandwich with college friends at Cream nearby Stanford.

Short stay in LA

Due to limited availability for a must-do cabin in the woods with no cell service or internet, my time in LA was just two nights. As such, I spent most of that time catching up with friends and meeting new people. I woke up early in San Diego and hit the road before 8am to begin my journey north on the Pacific Coast Highway, historic 101. I drove through many beach towns, with a destination of Manhattan Beach to meet Skyler for brunch.

Stunning Manhattan Beach

Being a Sunday late morning during spring break, the beach was packed and it was hard to find parking. The shortest wait for brunch was 45 minutes, so we walked along the beach while waiting. As our parking meters were nearing expiration and with no hope of finding other spots, we took off to Hawthorne to see the giant SpaceX rocket booster and get a drink at the local brewery.


From there, I drove to North Hollywood, about an hour in the worst traffic I had ever experienced. I met up with Luke and we went to Griffith observatory to see an LA sunset. There was actually no parking, so Luke dropped me off and he drove around for 20 minutes. For dinner we went to Little Pine, Moby’s vegan restaurant. Moby has done a great job promoting his restaurant on Instagram, so it was oddly the highest thing on my LA to-do list besides seeing friends. The food was delicious.

If you don’t already follow Moby on Instagram, you probably should
We were both very tired here

The next morning, Luke and I woke up early after not much sleep, in part due to hitting up a great tiki bar (Tonga Hut) and then watching Walk Hard. After a quick breakfast, I drove about an hour, again in terrible traffic but slightly better thanks to Waze redirects, to Marina Del Rey to go sailing with Yoni. I’ve only been sailing once or twice before, and this experience definitely took the cake. The weather was terrific, the views were beautiful, and the company was great. During my two days in LA, I also got ice cream twice, so I am keeping up with my at-least-one-ice-cream-per-day target.

Tomorrow I take off north towards Santa Barbara, ending my day in Solvang. I plan to visit Venice Beach and perhaps kayak in Santa Barbara or hike around Malibu. We’ll see what the day brings. Although I wasn’t able to see many of the sights of LA or the museums highly recommended by friends, I was able to see my friends and catch up with them, which is more important to me. While I’m in the nice weather, I am going to enjoy it as much as I can, so that means hiking or beach-going for now. And with my quick breeze through LA, I still have plenty left to do for my next visit.

This wasn’t our boat but it was my boat in spirit

p.s. In case I didn’t already stress it enough, the parking situation in LA is terrible. The city is huge and cars are everywhere and parking was still impossible to come by! Even quieter residential streets were packed with parked cars. Similarly, I’ve experienced some of the worst traffic of my life here. And I thought traffic and parking in Boston was bad….on a positive note, if that’s my biggest complaint about LA, then I’m doing pretty well here 🙂

Dinner in Mexico

Being so close to the border, it’s easy to cross into Mexico for a short time. As a result, Ankit and I decided to go to Tijuana for dinner. Right before the border is an outlet mall with ample parking. I’m told that just after Thanksgiving people visit from Mexico, buy out all the deals, and then sell everything for a huge profit in Mexico. It’s pretty amusing and quintessentially American that the first thing you see when entering the US is a big shopping complex.

Our destination for dinner

Crossing the border was a breeze. No one even looked at my passport. I guess they’re not too worried about people crossing illegally into Mexico. Once there, we called an Uber and went to Telefónica Gastro Park, a cute outdoor beer garden with tons of food trucks. Locals were enjoying their Saturday night out at dinner, some families and friends at tables and couples at the bar.

I don’t speak any Spanish but it turned out not to be a big problem. Though the servers’ English was limited, I could just point to things that I wanted. There was a vegetarian food truck, so I knew I’d be safe with anything on the menu. I got a delicious burrito with fake pork, guac, beans, lettuce, and cheese. I also got a beer, though I had no idea what I ordered until it showed up. Modelo Especial is pretty good.

What a fun place to go for dinner

While this gastro park had a rather American feel to it, what with the brewery and food trucks, it was pretty different from what we saw of Tijuana on the ride there. Though we were just a few miles across the border, it felt like a different world. Most cars had some cosmetic damage, roads were dirtier, almost every storefront had steel rollup gates. Beyond the Spanish speakers and use of pesos, it was clear that I was no longer in the US.

On the way back we drove by “Hostel California”, an underrated song by the Caracara’s

Returning to the US proved almost as easy as entering Mexico, much to my surprise. The line at passport control was maybe 5 to 10 minutes, but with Global Entry, Ankit and I could just cut to the front. The border agent asked me where I was going (San Diego) and whether I wanted to declare anything (no), and he let me through in about 10 seconds. Then we were back in the land of freedom, immediately greeted by Panda Express and Carl’s Junior at the shopping center.

Proof I was in Mexico

Bose Soundlink Micro Unboxing

My cousin was shocked when she heard that I wasn’t bringing a bluetooth speaker on my trip. I didn’t think it was that big a deal. Apparently it is. So I went out and got a Bose Soundlink Micro. A friend of mine recently started working at Bose and he asked me to do an unboxing and first impression. As a mechanical design engineer who develops consumer products, I often get more excited about the packaging than using the product. So here goes.

This is what it looks like in the box

The box is fairly standard. There is a paper sleeve around a cardboard box with a plastic clip on top for retail racks. Not shown in the image above is a sealed clear plastic film, which I quickly removed with a knife. I insert the knife from the top down the paper sleeve so as to not cut anything except the plastic film.

It is very easy to find the product

After removing the paper sleeve, there is a black matte cardboard case that houses the speaker. It is split into a top portion and bottom portion that fit together nicely with some overlap. The cardboard itself is impressively thick and sturdy. A vacuum formed plastic piece is glued to the top portion that helps hold the speaker in place. Protecting the speaker is a thin foam film in a clamshell shape.

OK now I’m stuck

Once I took the speaker out, I know that there were goodies underneath for me. However, it was unclear how to get to them. You see the square in the middle of the vacuum formed plastic housing on the bottom half of the case? That’s not actually plastic—it’s a hole to a paper envelope underneath. It took me a bit to figure out and I couldn’t get a good drip on the plastic to remove it. Ultimately, I just had to flip the whole box upside down.

I figured it out

My goodies turned out to be that envelope full of papers that I didn’t look at and a very short USB cable. The product had a good weight to it, but it wasn’t too heavy. The weight suggested it was the real deal. The product enclosure is a tacky, rubbery black material, as is becoming more common in these kinds of consumer products. I’m not sure whether Bose led the charge on this material change, but I recall seeing it in earlier Soundlinks. It feels nice and approachable, telling you that it can take some damage or be thrown into a bag to go to the beach. There’s even a nifty strap on the back so you can attach it to things.

Pretty small

When I went to turn it on, I was disappointed to find that it wasn’t charged. As most products like this come with about a half charge, I was very surprised that I would need to wait before I could use it. Thankfully, it charged to 40% fairly quickly so I got to test out the sound.

Bose products have always produced incredible sound and I was not disappointed here. For a speaker so small, it was able to go to pretty low frequencies. Similarly, some of the softer sounds that often get lost on cheap speakers came through wonderfully. I say this just from listening to the first 30 seconds of Hotel California.


Strap seems useful

They Never Forget and They Never Forgive

The last time I was in San Diego I got seagulled in the forehead while walking along the beach. An unexpected aerial attack, at first I didn’t realize what had happened as white ooze slowly covered my sunglasses lenses. A group sitting on the patio of a restaurant immediately realized what happened and offered me their cloth napkins. I was too stunned to know what was going on, but I expect everyone was laughing because it was hilarious.

Fast forward more than six years and I am back on the beach in San Diego at La Jolla Cove. The seaguls are swooping low and fast, some just a yard above my head. Ever caution I keep my eyes up so that I can better evade bombardment.

However this time it was a pelican that had its sights on me. Swooping from my six, when the bird was about three yards in front of me and two yards above me when it dropped its cargo. My vision locked on target, I saw what was happening and quickly jumped to my right, narrowly avoiding splatter by about a yard.

Birds aren’t real and they know I’m onto them.

They’re always watching

Taking some time to recharge

I’ve been on the west coast now for just over two weeks, almost all of which I would classify as intense adventuring. First skiing Tahoe, then walking San Francisco until my feet could no longer take it, then drinking my way through Napa with my dad, then hiking Joshua Tree for three days with my mom and David, and now wandering San Diego.

In my regular life, I can work long hours and fill my free time going out with friends, but I always have time for breaks. A typical day will usually include about thirty minutes of doing nothing with my cat. I often have a daily routine that is predictable, with few scheduling surprises. Now, without a routine I often find myself in a different city at the end of a day, constantly unpacking and packing my bags. More, I always have some big fears in the back of my mind: when and where will I get my next meal? If I get sick, where will I go and how will it impact my plans? It can be exhausting.

Aayla excels at doing nothing all day

Originally, my plan for this trip was to know what it is like to not have anything to do, and being on the west coast away from home would be the ideal place to experience just that. Now that I am here, I am at risk of having too much to do, because I want to see everything where ever I am before I leave. Of course I will not see all of San Diego in three days, for example, but I want to make the best use of my time. I also want to keep up with this blog. While not directly time consuming, I can sometimes not be in the mood to write, and it can take an hour or two of staring at Wikipedia before I am.

What I am learning is that I require more time to recharge and relax than I originally thought. This morning I went to a yoga class for the first time in a few weeks. This evening I spent much of my time inside by myself. I know I can’t go non-stop forever, and even though I might be missing some San Diego Friday nightlife, I also know that I cannot sustain myself on this trip without taking some quiet time for myself.

These seal pups on La Jolla Cove beach know how to relax

A few years ago, I read the book Quiet by Susan Cain. It could reasonably be referred to as the introvert’s bible, as it describes the hidden power of introverts in a world that generally favors the extroverted. As a general rule of thumb, I don’t tend to like labels like introvert and extrovert, as it risks pigeonholing people in a fairly rigid category. Rather, I prefer to describe people as having traits that fall within the model of introvert or extrovert or what have you. Having said that, I tend to have some traits of introversion and others of extroversion with more of the former. Cain describes such a person as an ambivert, and I feel that such a description reflects me fairly well.

Some have told me that ambiverts have the best of both worlds, but I’ve found there is more nuance to it. I cannot pick and choose. If I spend too many days at home reading, I get stir crazy. If I spend too much time out, I get mentally fatigued and need to retreat home. For me, I have come to realize that I need to context shift quite a bit. In my day-to-day life at home, it has become second-nature to me. In this new world of traveling the west coast with no routine and no particular schedule, I need to pay more attention to maintaining the right balance. Sometimes I’ll need to do less to feel as if I’ve done more. I’d say that’s a good insight to gain.

Wandering San Diego

After the zoo, I decided to spend some time exploring Balboa Park, hoping to find a quiet shady place to read for a bit before dinner. On the map was the Japanese Friendship Garden, so I found a parking spot nearby.

As an aside, parking is extraordinarily easy in San Diego. There are parking lots everywhere and red paint on curbs tells you clearly where you cannot park. Almost all parking is free.

My first California experience at a Japanese garden, you may recall, was a few weeks ago when I was in San Francisco at Golden Gate Park. I was surprised to find that they charged a $9 admission to enter the garden. This San Diego garden, I now thought, must be free, especially if it’s called a “Friendship Garden”. If you have to pay for it, so the line-of-thought goes, then it’s not friendship.

Unfortunately, the garden charged a $12 entry fee, so I decided to find another park. Continuing my stroll around Balboa Park, I found a few other gardens and places to sit.

Honestly, the Japanese Friendship Garden probably looks better from the outside

After a while, I began to crave ice cream, as I often do, so I searched for ice cream places with more than 4 stars on Yelp. I found Hammond’s Gourmet Ice Cream and drove over to North Park, where, once again, parking was a breeze. This was to be my second of four ice creams in the course of about 48 hours.

Today, I went to Torrey Pines State Reserve with my friend and walked to the peak and then down to the beach bluffs. Along the way, we spotted a rattlesnake in the bushes who was doing its best to ignore us. OK, I’m pretty tired right now and am going to stop for the night. Enjoy some pictures of Torrey Pines.

Paragliding in the distance from our vantage point at Torrey Pines
Ankit and I, having made it down to the beach after a warmer-than-expected walk to the top

I went to a Zoo!

It’s been about 18 years since I’ve been to the San Diego Zoo, when as a ten-year-old I ran ahead of my parents to see the pandas and subsequently got lost. While I managed to find my way back to them with relative ease (As I approached park staff after getting lost: “where are the pandas?” “Are you lost? Do you need help finding your parents?” “No. Where are the pandas?”), I didn’t understand quite how big and complex that zoo can be. Were it not for their map app with GPS location, I would have gotten lost several times in search of the pandas.

Known as one of the best zoos in the world, the San Diego Zoo lived up to its reputation. For everyone who recommended things to do in San Diego, the zoo was always at the top of the list. I spent four hours there and there was still plenty left to see. The food was even half decent! ($18 for a salad with feta, cranberries, and walnuts plus a side of carrots and celery).

I promised myself that I wouldn’t take any pictures because it’s hard to get good pictures of animals in a zoo. I took a bunch of pictures anyway. Enjoy.

Oh hai, Komodo Dragon
Mr or Mrs Snek
This bird in the aviary wanted to be a person and followed me around for a bit
Twenty-seven-year-old Bai Yun is returning to China next month after being in the US since she was five—what happened to the DREAM Act for pandas?
I used to watch Meerkat Manor in college
This panda is living my best life
Apologies for the fence in the foreground, but I need to point out that cheetahs have companion dogs!!! I don’t think this is the case in the wild, though
I watched the flamingos more than any other animal at the zoo. They had a synchronized dance that they would all do together: neck up, head left, head right, wings up, wings down, repeat. It was mesmerizing.
These giraffes were eerily still—they know what they did!

Cottonwood Spring

The last day in Joshua Tree National Park was spent in the Cottonwood area. Wanting a bit more of climbing boulders, we started our day by returning to Arch Rock. My body was sore from the previous two days of hiking, but I was ready to do some scrambling up and down these giant stones before embarking on the day’s hike.

My mother and I standing on some rocks
David stands under the arch

The Cottonwood Spring area is located in the Colorado desert rather then the Mojave desert, where we spent the previous two days. Because of a different elevation, we found different plans. In this case, it was tons and tons of colorful flowers. David, uncharacteristically, was the slowest of the three of us because he stopped so many times to take pictures of blooming flowers.

I already mentioned the turtle, snake, hare, and lizards in a previous posts, so I will focus on the plants here. On our one hike of the day, Lost Palms Oasis Trail (“strenuous”, 7.5 miles), we encountered several different landscapes. The first was colorful and full of plants.

Purple, white, and yellow flowers on the trail
Vibrant purple flowers
A cholla cactus surrounded by flowers

The flowers began to recede as we entered into a more cavernous and sandy landscape, before it opened up to the Lost Palms Oasis—a canyon with the highest density of palms in Joshua Tree. Getting down the canyon was rather steep and treacherous, but getting back up was pretty easy. At the bottom I found several pools of water. It was pretty easy to wander about even without any trails down there.

Suddenly, palms!
A nice rock for lunching

On the way back, we took a short detour to Mastodon Peak (“moderate”), adding about 1.4 miles to the hike. The Cottonwood Spring area was different enough from the other two areas that it was certainly worth the visit for the day. It, surprisingly, was the most crowded trail, though there still weren’t too many people.

More flowers with desert and mountains in the background