Most things we do these days are focused on finding balance. We balance expensive stops with cheaper stops; we balance visits to busy cities with visits to quiet parks; we balance periods of extensive travel with weeks of sitting still. Maintaining some sort of social life on the road is just one more thing we work to balance. It is not uncommon for us to go two or three weeks without talking to anyone, but then spend a week socializing nonstop. For the most part, this facet of our life has fallen into place, but just like everything else, we’ve had to adjust our practices, our expectations, and our plans to make it work.
Standing back and taking stock of our social situation reveals some obvious and interesting circumstances unique to this life, and our time in San Diego really brought all of this to the forefront as we spent time with both old friends and new ones.
As much as we enjoy meeting new people, there is comfort in hanging out with people you’ve known for a long time, and it’s always interesting to me how, with old friends, no matter how much time has gone by, you quickly settle in with none of the concerns attendant to meeting new people. (In other words – you can talk about politics and current events over dinner without worrying someone’s gonna flip a table over.)
And so it was in San Diego when we got to see our old friend, Renzo.
Kevin and I met on our very first day of law school, and we both met Renzo within our first week of classes, so he has been a friend since the very beginning (that would be the beginning of “Chapter 2,” if you’ve been keeping track…). We went through school together, graduated, worked, he was a guest at our very small wedding, and then, in 2011, Renzo’s law firm offered him the opportunity to move to San Diego and, because he’s smarter than everyone else, he jumped at the opportunity. We’ve only gotten to see him a handful of times since, so you can imagine how happy we were to finally be able to spend some time with this dear friend who’s known us as long as we’ve known each other.
He was only too happy to show us around his beautiful hometown and give us advice on where to go and what to do. Pretty much everything he pointed us to was awesome. Of particular note if you’re San Diego bound:
Wonderland Ocean Pub… home to this stunning sunset view:
Poke Bowls… A San Diego favorite involving fresh fish, seaweed, and veggies served over rice or greens with various sauces…. The best we had were at Poke Chop.
Ambrogio 15 – Renzo grew up in Italy so when he told us the pizza at this small restaurant was the best around, we didn’t argue. When the owners came over to say hi and everyone spoke Italian except for us, we knew it was the real deal….
Of course, Renzo also convinced us to try a “California Burrito” – which involves hash browns. In the burrito. I didn’t take a picture because, let’s be honest, no one wants to see the inside of a burrito, but folks, this is what happens when a state legalizes weed. The namesake burrito ends up full of hash browns. And it’s not just the burritos that get corrupted by this gateway drug…. It’s everywhere! Don’t believe me? Check out the name of this ice cream shop. “The Baked Bear.”
That’s right… You legalize weed and the next thing you know, the bears are baked and they’re scarfing down ice cream sandwiches!
Just keep that in mind next time you go to the polls and they want to know what you think about legalized marijuana. Think of the bears!!!!!
(And yes, it was as good as it looked.)
Anyway, we met up with Renzo as often as he was able to steal away from his very demanding career, touring the neighborhoods, going out for dinner, wandering the beaches, and he even took Kevin out surfing! (Kevin’s verdict: “Super fun!! Also… everything hurts.”)
As luck would have it, Renzo wasn’t the only old friend from law school we got to see in San Diego. None of us had laid eyes on our friend, Amy, since graduation back in 2004, but she happens to follow this blog and when she saw that we were going to be in San Diego at the same time she and her husband, Owen, were visiting, she reached out to see if we wanted to meet up. What are the chances, right? Anyway, that led to a fun afternoon of catching up over beers and dinner with them and their friends, John and Laurie.
In the meantime, another east coast/law school friend, Min, happened to be in town for a work conference. We only got to spend a couple hours with him before he had to fly back to D.C., but we made the most of it, visiting Cabrillo Point, Sunset Cliffs, and Wonderland Bar, before he headed for the airport.
Going even further back in the time machine, we also spent lots of time with Kevin’s college roommate, Jeremy, along with his wife, Jennifer, and their smart-as-a-whip daughter.
We’ve seen them a handful of times over the years, but it was nice to finally be able to spend real quality time together.
The first night we saw them we went to Tijuana for dinner. That might sound complicated, but given that the Mexican border is only thirty miles from San Diego, it was actually quite simple. We parked at a lot on the U.S. side and crossed the border on foot.
Just a few blocks from the border is Caesar’s Restaurant – home of the Caesar Salad.
Seriously… The Caesar Salad was invented in Mexico by an Italian chef who owned a restaurant in Tijuana and came up with it on the fly when they ran out of other supplies one night…. #themoreyouknow
We then jumped in a cab and went over to Mision 19, a high end restaurant known for its tasting menus, decadent dishes, and, thanks to the favorable currency exchange, bargain basement prices.
We took a cab back to the border, had a lovely conversation with an agent from Border Patrol, and were tucked in by midnight. Easy peasy.
In addition to our field trip to Mexico, we spent several other evenings with Jeremy and Jennifer and thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to catch up.
Rounding out our month of east coast reunions was a visit from Jeremy and Kevin’s Penn State buddy, Lawrence. He and his wife and daughter, who live in L.A., all joined us for dinner at Jeremy’s house one night and the guys got to catch up on the last 20+ years….
Phew… So there you have it. The “old friends” portion of our San Diego social life. It goes without saying that one huge perk of this little adventure of ours is that we finally get to see and spend quality time with some wonderful people whom we have missed very much.
Of all the (many) things I worried about when we put this plan into motion, without question, the biggest was how we were going to make friends on the road. We had a very stable social circle in D.C. and didn’t really have to worry about meeting new people. The idea of suddenly being out in this huge country, on our own and away from our support system, was unnerving, to say the least.
But our social life has actually only improved on the road. The reality is, in the several years before leaving D.C., we hardly ever met anyone new, whereas now, we are constantly making new friends. In thinking about it, I realized that the last time my social circle expanded at a comparable rate was when I started college, and I think going to college is an apt comparison to transitioning to life on the road.
What I’ve come to realize is that when we were in D.C., we were surrounded by people who were working stable jobs, with busy lives, and fixed social circles – just like us. There wasn’t a whole lot of impetus for anyone to go out and try to ‘make new friends.’ Everyone we knew had their hands full just managing what was on their plate.
Out on the road though, most people we interact with, especially those who take part in social media, are in the exact same situation we’re in. We are all traveling far from home, far from the people we know, and we all crave connection and social interaction – just like those first days at college.
It’s easy to make new friends when everyone you interact with is looking to make new friends.
Adding to the recipe for success, the people you meet all have a lot in common with you – but just enough differences to keep conversations interesting. There’s an almost endless supply of non-controversial yet interesting topics to talk about with folks who are doing this.
Of course, the flip side of all this is that as easy as it is to meet great people, it’s hard to actually hang out with them. These connections often have a quick expiration date as folks pull up their jacks and head off in opposite directions. And that sucks.
We’ve hit it off with several people only to realize it will be months, if not years, before we see them again. BUT…. we have found that our fellow RVers are willing to make an effort to socialize. As of today, we have plans to meet up with friends in Colorado and Oregon this summer, California in the fall, and Arizona in the winter.
Finally, we have found that the rather small community of younger full time RVers on Instagram is incredibly connected and, more importantly, welcoming to newcomers. All of which (finally) brings me back to San Diego….
The whole reason we went to San Diego in the first place was because Jen and Deas, whom we met in January of 2017, suggested we all meet up in San Diego in April of 2018.
Then… they ditched us.
Ok, fine… they had to go to a wedding which caused them to change all their travel plans, but that will not stop me from endlessly guilting Jen about convincing us to drive to California and then dropping us like a bad habit.
As it happened, in trying to convince me to stop telling her she was “the worst friend ever,” Jen promised that we would get along great with their friends, Dave and Shannon, who were also planning on being in San Diego when we were there.
And what do you know?? She was right! (I’m not gonna stop giving her shit though.)
As soon as we got to town, Dave and Shannon popped up on Instagram (@2wanderaway) along with new friends Maggie and Wylie (@insmag05). Less than 48 hours after we arrived in SD, we all went out to one of San Diego’s many breweries.
And that was just the beginning.
That first night, Shannon texted me and said they were bringing along their friend Kurt. Immediately, I thought: “I know an RVer named Kurt…” Sure enough, he was the same Kurt whose account I’d been following for months (@kuhlodyssey). And a week later, when Shannon told us their friends John and Becky (@adventure_next) were coming into town, I quickly realized that we “knew” them as well).
Over the following weeks, we all went from being “Instagram friends” to real life friends….
The ease with which we found a comfortable space in this group – they’ve all been friends for years – was just awesome. We were instantly made to feel welcome and spent an enormous amount of time with them, as well as the friends we met through them, while we were in San Diego… there were bar crawls, game nights, and a rotating schedule of dinners at our homes.
One of our favorite days started off at Mission Brewery and then moved to the Padres game….
We then walked through the Gaslamp district to Kansas City Barbecue… famous because, as you all know, it’s where several iconic scenes from Top Gun were filmed….
And yes, they pimp the hell out of their connection to this movie…
And yes, Kevin really is willing to put up with anything to make me happy. #awwww
Another standout day was when Shannon invited me to go along with her for a photography walk at the San Diego Zoo. If you’re unfamiliar, Meetup is a website that operates in various cities all across the country. It is made up of groups you can join based on your interests. Shannon had found a San Diego photography group and thought it would be fun to join them for a photo tour of the famous zoo.
The photography practice was awesome…
But the real entertainment came after the meetup ended and Shannon and I were left to our own devices. You see, I have no sense of direction. Like… none. At all. And not only do I not have a sense of direction, but I can’t really read maps and I can’t remember anything. Ever. Here’s a visual example of me trying to follow someone’s directions:
“Alright, I just gotta climb to the top of the hill….”
“And then I take a right.”
“or was it left?”
“Or was I supposed to turn before the hill???”
If not for Kevin and Google Maps, I would never leave my house. As it is, if Google tells me to drive into a lake, I will actually drive into a lake. I don’t ask questions. I just go where Google tells me to go.
And I thought I was alone in this miserable situation, until I met Shannon. A friend who is actually as helpless as I am.
We were something special, let me tell you.
It all started when we got there. I ended up separated from the group, so Shannon was texting me directions to help me catch up with them.
The only problem was she was dictating her directions into her phone… but not proofreading them. And as you all are probably aware, Siri has been drunk since 2009.
This is what I got as I was walking through the zoo:
I like how Siri just comes up with complete nonsense and then acts like it’s totally legit. Like, “Oh yeah, ‘CrouserCrowds.’ Make sure you capitalize each word but don’t put a space between them because otherwise it won’t make sense. Duh!”
Luckily, there are tons of volunteers at the San Diego Zoo who wear red shirts and try to help helpless people like me. My first red shirted savior zeroed in on me as soon as he saw me staring at my phone mouthing the words: “What the ever loving fuck, Shannon????”
Fortunately, he was able to decipher enough of the word salad on my phone to get me to the group.
Once the meetup was over though, Shannon and I were on our own and hopelessly lost. We pretty much spent the next two hours trying to find the tigers. I actually considered calling Kevin a couple times thinking maybe he could get us to the tigers, but I decided to give the poor guy a break.
So, on and on we wandered, going from one red shirt to the next asking for directions. I don’t know why they didn’t just assign someone to us…
Eventually, after talking to 168 different zoo volunteers, we found our way to the tigers, and then, after meeting the remaining 143 volunteers, we made it back to our car.
Anyway, back to the whole new friends thing…. By the time our exit from San Diego rolled around, our circle of new friends had expanded considerably. On our last night in this super fun city, we invited Shannon, Dave, and several of the friends we met through them (Chester and Sally are full time RVers while Paige and Eric are part timers who live in Oregon), to our place for one last dinner.
What we have learned through all of this is that, as large as the RVing community seems, it is actually very small, and most people, at least, the people we’ve encountered, have been incredibly nice. Between our ability to track down old friends we haven’t seen in years, and the ease with which we’ve found new friends on the road, the social aspect of life on the road has become one of our favorite features.
Next up… a day in L.A.
Where we stayed: Mission Bay RV Resort, San Diego, California