Wednesday, April 19, 2017



     When I heard that the Red Bull Air Races were coming to San Diego, I really did not know what to expect. I only knew that the Red Bull beverage was way over-caffeinated for me. I had never heard of the air race. However, since they were held in San Diego from 2007 to 2009, many seemed to know about them. I heard mixed reviews. For people who lived near the bay it was generally negative. There were complaints about noise, crowds, possible plane crashes, and the fact that it was being held on Easter weekend. Others looked forward to the entertainment and, of course, returning to the quiet of their homes in the suburbs when the show ended.

      When the time came, tens of thousands of spectators came from all over to view one of the most amazing aerial events in the world. Some compare it to NASCAR races in the air. I have to agree that it was a spectacular show.

     San Diego is the second stop on the Red Bull World Tour schedule that began in Abu Dhabi in February and goes on to Japan, Hungary, and Portugal from here. It ends in Indianapolis on October 15 when the 2017 Red Bull Race Champion will be decided. The competing 14 masterclass pilots are considered the best in the world, with numerous flying achievements in their backgrounds. Their planes are streamlined to perfection and at the forefront of light aviation technology.

      The races were launched in 2003 and have been held annually, except for 2011-2013. During that time they were they were stopped for safety improvements following a fatal crash in 2010.

     The conversion of quiet San Diego Bay into an air racetrack started many days before the official event began on April 15-16. Large platforms were installed on the bay to mark the track, and to hold the pylons so that the pilots could swoop down and fly between them. The course covered the area between the San Diego Convention Center and the North Island Naval Air Station.

     The official viewing area was at the Embarcadero Marina Park with tickets starting at $20. A perfect place to be if you wanted to know who was racing, what their backgrounds were, and how the competition was scored. However, the visual spectacle of high speed, low altitude, and extreme maneuverability could be observed free from just about anywhere along the bay.

     The planes were based at Brown Field Municipal Airport and approached the track by flying over the Coronado Bridge.

      The free practice sessions began at noon on the Friday before, and continued, almost nonstop, until 7 p.m. They stopped a couple of times to allow for the military ships that needed to pass by. Otherwise, no luck if you were hoping to enjoy some boating on the bay, ride the Coronado Ferry, or even enjoy a conversation. It was the loudest day without much time in between the practice flights. I was beginning to understand the nay sayers.

     The event included a large black helicopter that was used for taking photos and videos for the news media. It was televised all over the world. Some said the helicopter was louder than the planes, and I think they were correct.

     Not surprisingly, San Diego provided near perfect 70 degree days, sunshine, and a mild breeze for the event. It was spectacular to see these small planes, flying at speeds up 230 mph, quickly changing directions, spinning around in the sky, and then swooping low through the pylons, circling again and repeating the maneuvers, all in a record speeds of 1-2 minutes. It was impressive. The downtown skyline in the background made it even more so. The planes were colorful. Some of the wings had stripes and other interesting designs which you could see as they flipped over and flew sideways.

      About 3 p.m. on Sunday we decided to walk down to the
Coronado Ferry Landing to observe the round of eight/final four races. There were thousands of spectators gathered in both directions along the water from the landing as well as many standing on the dock. I heard estimates that there were 40,000 spectators enjoying this event over the weekend. The winner of this event was Yoshihide “Yoshi” Muroya from Japan.

     One of interesting sideshows that took place on both days was the Red Bull helicopter stunt show. I didn't know they could fly upside down and flip around just like the small planes. Also, I used my binoculars to view parachuters drifting down from overhead and landing in a precise spot on the Embarcadero amongst the crowds.

                                                * * *

      It's the day after the Red Bull Air Race in San Diego and there's an incredible crew out there that is busy handling the logistics of moving the entire infrastructure of the race track, the planes, the pilots and their teams, race crews, and tons of materials to the next stop which is Japan. 

     I appreciated my peaceful walk along the bay more than usual and secretly hoped that the races don't return anytime soon.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017


      For anyone that wishes to travel the world on a budget, following Nomadic Matt on his blog, Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter is a must. Matt Kepnes  (aka Nomadic Matt) has been traveling and writing for over 10 years and is always up to something new. Currently, he is hosting meetups in 11 cities across the country, as part of The Nomadic Network Tour, and promoting his latest book, How to Travel the World on $50 a Day.

      Just recently, in San Diego, Ron and I decided to meet up with this talented young man at the Brew Project Bar and Restaurant, where we were joined by at least another 50 interested travelers.

      Nomadic Matt is what I call a hardcore traveler, although he claims to be slowing down some. About 10 years ago, he quit his job in a cubicle, sold everything, and began to travel full time. He quickly realized how much he didn't need all of that stuff he left behind. He has been writing and helping others travel on a shoestring ever since.

     He spoke to the group for about 20 minutes and then answered dozens of questions. He recommended planning a trip one step at a time, which is usually good advice for most things. It's easy to get overwhelmed with the multitude of websites, books and blogs available to everyone these days. The first step might be to look at your budget and figure out a way to set a specific amount of money aside. He also said that he doesn't worry much about planning. because he never follows the plans anyway.
Another step he mentioned, which always works for me, is getting the flights booked—it's kind of like the point of no return.
     Matt develops travel community more than most writers do. For example, he organized a travel book club on his website that anyone can join. An avid reader himself, he found that the club motivates him to read a book a week. A favorite: Walking the Nile by Levison Wood.
   Matt's favorite place is Thailand, where he lived for two years.

Some of his recommended websites: Couch Surfing (stay with locals & meet new people), Warm Showers (hospitality exchange for touring cyclists), and Camp in My Garden (private gardens for camping).

     After the presentation, he encouraged everyone to introduce themselves and learn from each other. Ron and I had a good time walking around visiting and were impressed with the diversity of people attending. We met a man who had couch surfed over 80 times. We visited with a woman who was going to spend six months on an Oceania cruise, traveling around the world in 180 days.

     Others were on their way to Greece, Peru and Italy—some with reservations and some without. One young photographer had lived in Africa for a year and was anxious to return. A recent retiree was about to begin traveling while writing two blogs (Matt offers online courses on travel writing and blogs). Some were even talking about their favorite travel shoes. You name it, and it was probably being discussed somewhere in that room.

     I think I went home with a case of travel overload--I had a nightmarish dream that night that all my stuff would not fit into a suitcase and it caused me to miss a plane to Sweden.


Saturday, March 25, 2017



      As far back as I can remember, I've loved skiing, even to the point that I dropped out of the conventional workforce when I was young to spend a winter skiing and working in Aspen, Colorado—before the rich and famous moved in.

     This leads to why I am writing about this now when I'm clearly over-the-hill and haven't skied for five years. I'm not even sure if the passion is still there, or if I can still get down the mountain in one piece. Then if I were to ski, there is the effort required to pack up the clothing and the old ski equipment, drag it to the airport, and hope that it is all still functioning. I was beginning to think that maybe I'm getting too content (I won't say old) to get up the energy and effort a ski trip requires.

     However, the lingering memory of floating down a mountain, surrounded by the elements, nature, and snow-filled trees prevailed. Other special memories were the times I spent with my son on the mountains where he snowboarded while I skied. He always shared my love of gliding down the mountain.

     Despite some hesitation, I still needed to ski this season and the perfect trip would be to Colorado with my son, Ben. I decided to ask him if he would like to join me for a few days of skiing and he agreed. He chose four days at the end of February, and I made the arrangements. We both arrived early on the Tuesday morning after Presidents' Day at the Denver International Airport, rented a car, and headed up for an afternoon of skiing at Loveland Ski Resort—75 miles west of Denver.
     We got on the mountain that afternoon. The snow was light and fluffy; the temperature was about 20 degrees (I've always been a fair weather skier); there were no lines at the chairlift; and the slopes were wide open. I still experienced that same thrill of skiing down a mountain. It was a joy to see Ben snowboard down ahead of me; eventually taking off for the more difficult runs, just like it use to be. We skied until the lifts closed at 4 p.m. As we drove off, I recall telling Ben that just this one afternoon of skiing made the entire trip worthwhile.

     We continued driving another 12 miles west to the Dillon Inn, where we had booked a room for a few nights, with just enough time to head next door to the award-winning Dillon Dam Brewery (100 Little Dam St.) for happy hour.

Day two would have been a perfect ski day at Arapahoe Basin as planned, however, it wasn't meant to be. I woke up nauseous, with stomach and back pain that kept getting worse. I thought it might be altitude sickness, but it turned out to be more serious. Ben brought me to the emergency room in nearby Frisco, where I spent the day.
They ran tests and finally, before sending me home with just had a bad case of flu, they did a CT scan and discovered a small kidney stone. The doctor was confident that it would pass in a couple of days, and I was released about 5 p.m. with the appropriate medicines. I was lucky. The stone passed that evening, and I felt much better. My son said that he enjoyed his day walking around the old scenic mining town of Frisco—anything is better than a hospital. 

     The next day I felt fine, and thought, what a difference a day makes. We went back to Loveland. I skied at my usual casual pace and enjoyed every moment of it. It's hard to describe that sensation of freedom you get from flying down the slopes and connecting with the elements. It was a great day. Snow was in the forecast, so we headed back to Denver for our last night.

     We didn't get in as much skiing as we had hoped, but I still smile when I think about my four days in Colorado with Ben.

     When planning the trip, I searched for senior lift ticket rates at the various ski areas in Colorado. The best deals were:
-Loveland Ski Resort – age 70+ unlimited season pass $89,
age 60-69 $50 full day.
-Arapahoe Basin – age 70+ walk up window rate $30 full day,
age 60-69 $82.
-Sunlight in Glenwood Springs – age 65-79 $45 full day,
age 80+ Free.
-Aspen – 70+ $479 senior season pass.

  The worst deal for seniors: Vail Associate properties: (Vail, Breckenridge, Keystone, Beaver Creek) -65+ a $10 discount off full day ticket. Full days at Vail are $179 if purchased online the night before. They do not give the walk up window rate on their website—which means it's more than $179.

Friday, March 10, 2017

My Vintage Journeys: LIFE'S A TRIP! 2017 TRAVEL & ADVENTURE S...

My Vintage Journeys: LIFE'S A TRIP! 2017 TRAVEL & ADVENTURE S...:       The 4 th Annual San Diego Travel & Adventure Show , held in March 2017, was the place to go for inspiration, insight, ...


      The 4th Annual San Diego Travel & Adventure Show, held in March 2017, was the place to go for inspiration, insight, and expert information. With over 140 exhibits, four travel stages, and a global beats music stage, deciding where to spend your time will be the challenge. I usually grab a coffee and sit at one of the travel theaters to enjoy and learn from the most popular travel gurus around. They share their travel expertise in an entertaining way. I always leave with new ideas and inspiration to keep on traveling. 
      One of the most popular speakers is Phil Keoghan, Host/Co-Executive Producer of the Amazing Race and author of No Opportunity Wasted—a book that aims to inspire people to break through their boundaries, challenge themselves and live a fuller life.
        He always has something new and exciting going on, and this year it was his new documentary Le Ride. In order to produce the film, Phil and his friend Ben Cornell, actually road the 1928 Tour de France route on 1928 bicycles with no gears. The two men biked an average of 150 miles per day. The film is a tribute to the first English-speaking cycling team of four, an underfunded and untested team from New Zealand and Australia that finished in 28th place. The 3,338 mile tour was the toughest in history with only 25% of the participants finishing the race. The film is slated to be screened at the Palm Springs American Documentary Film Festival, March 31-April 5, 2017. It is currently showing in New Zealand and will be in the US later this year. Phil's best quote: “Focus on what's right, not wrong.”
       Emmy Award-winning investigative reporter, producer and CBS news travel editor, Peter Greenberg, flies 400,000 miles a year. He is not shy about speaking up when the airlines, hotels, and others treat the public unfairly. As usual he had a lot to say about what's going on in the industry. Most importantly, he emphasized that it is a good time to be traveling, and it should be a global buyers' market through the end of the year. The value of the US dollar has improved, making it more expensive for those overseas to travel.
      Because 2016 was a boom year for travel, more start-up airlines offered cheap flights from cities like San Diego that are not major hubs. He mentioned Edelweiss Airlines, WOW Airlines, and Norwegian Shuttle. The big consideration here is that you check the costs for extras like checked luggage and carry on bags.
      One of my favorite travel bloggers is Johnny Jet, whom I have been following for at least a dozen years. He always has great tips on his website for finding cheap flights. He shared a story about his first job out of college, when he was a college recruiter and needed to travel a lot for work. He began learning all the tricks to finding the cheapest airfares, which he then shared with his fellow recruiters. Eventually, this evolved into a blog that allowed him to travel and write full time.
      Another great reason for attending the travel show is to meet travel planners and locals from countries that you might be traveling to. That's why we headed over to meet Robert Hill, owner of Downunderguru, who was an exhibitor. He also gave an informative presentation: “What's on Down Under: Travel Worthy Events in Australia and New Zealand in 2017-18.” Fortunately, we found out that the 2017 Rugby League World Cup takes place in New Zealand at the same time we will be there. This will make travel bookings more difficult. I started early making my hotel bookings, but this bit of information will make me even more diligent.
       Oh, yes, there were camel rides available to everyone this year at the travel show. I'm still bit a irritated that I didn't take advantage of the ride because the lines were long.

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Thursday, February 16, 2017



      Every Saturday morning, 8 am-1 pm, San Diegans have an opportunity to walk out on a pier and shop for the freshest local fish in town. The picturesque Tuna Harbor Dockside Market, located between Seaport Village and the US Midway, opened in 2014 to provide the consumer an opportunity to buy fresh at a lower cost than the grocery store. To make it even more interesting, the person who just recently caught the fish is manning the booth and can tell you exactly where, when, and how it was caught. They'll even tell you how to cook it, if you ask. After you make your purchase, you just walk over to the cutting booth and have it butchered just to your liking for a minimal fee. You leave with a plastic bag full of your fish and add some free ice to it on your way out.

     When a friend recently told us about his visit and how easy and cheap it was to get his fish cleaned and filleted at the cutting booth, I decided to do the same. Even a novice like me could pick out a fish, have it cleaned, and actually walk out like I knew what I was doing. Besides an early morning walk on a pier, with coffee from a nearby Starbucks, would be enjoyable regardless. As a bonus, parking at the nearby meters is free until 10 am.

     The first thing to do after arriving at the pier is to check the sign in front to see a list of this week's catch. This information is also available on their website. The options vary with the season, weather, and ocean conditions. Typically there are about twenty listed, today it included lobster, spider crab, rockfish, mahi mahi, ono (sold out), sea urchins, tuna, skipjack, and more. I understand that they sell out of popular items, which is why many people come early to shop especially the commercial buyers.

     I arrived about 8:30 am and meandered around at first looking at the available fish and enjoying views from the pier. I still had no idea which fish to choose so I just walked around and listened to everyone ask questions. Then I finally decided to make a decision. I think that I prefer the softer and flakier fish,  I asked for a recommendation and decided to buy the 2 ½ pound California sheephead ($6/lb.). The man at the booth said I could have it filleted (bones removed) which sounded good to me. However, there was a nearby customer who insisted that I cook it whole and eat part of the head. I decided I wasn't ready for that. After all, I am just a beginner who only knows how to cook salmon.

     I often order fish in restaurants, but that's pretty much limited to trout, sea bass, shrimp, and crispy cod tacos. I've always been curious about the taste of the colorful and fascinating fish you see at the markets all over the world—the ones I'm always taking photos of. I was excited to finally purchase a whole fish and give it a try. I would serve it to my family the next day (along with sausage, just in case).

     By the time I arrived at the popular cutting booth with my fish in the brown bag, there was a half-hour wait just get to the front of the line to leave the fish for cutting. After getting to the front, it was another 45 minute wait. I'm not very patient about standing in lines; however, this was more interesting than most.

Everyone had a bag with at least one tail sticking out and some were quite large. Perhaps they were planning to feed their whole neighborhood or maybe a restaurant full of people. Everyone seemed proud to talk about their purchase, favorite seafood, and, most importantly, how best to cook it. Everyone seemed to have advice, except me, of course. One guy said that it was best to smoke your fish, and to always use a thermometer because you do not want to overcook fish. The Chinese lady, with the sea urchin, was going to eat it raw. Some of the fish were still moving—you could pay extra for live fish if you wanted. The man from the east coast said that the seafood tasted much better there.
  Eventually, I was able to watch them cut my sheephead, which was interesting. (I think they were glad I wasn't giving them advice on how to do it like the guy next to me.) There were a couple large and active sea lions right below the cutting booth which provided some entertainment for those of us waiting.

      Fresh fish sandwiches were available for $12 at the Loaf & Fish booth. They looked great, but I wasn't ready for lunch yet.

     My fish was ready and I took advantage of the ice for the plastic fish bag on the way out. I walked along the waterfront to my car and decided that my visit to the fish market was a success—I had a good time. I still didn't know for sure how I would cook it. I finally decided on a Baked Lemon Sheephead recipe that I found online.

                                                                               * * *

     The final result: I liked the texture and I think it was cooked properly; however, it was too plain and just not tasty. At the end of the meal there was a piece of fish leftover, and the sausage plate was empty. The only compliment I got from the table was from my granddaughter, who said she liked the fish. Mila is already a diplomat at 2 ½. She's also lucky because the next time she stays overnight on a Friday, we're going to the fish market on Saturday morning.

Thursday, February 2, 2017



     One of the benefits of having out-of-town visitors is that it usually leads to an excursion to a place that you normally don't go. That was the case recently when our great niece came to town, and said that she would like to go to Ocean Beach. OB, as the locals call it, is a district with a “hippie” vibe that is located seven miles west of downtown. It is also home to a popular California landmark—the Ocean Beach Municipal Pier. It's the longest pier (1,971 feet) in Southern California and the second longest along the California Pacific coastline. The longest is the Santa Cruz Wharf (2,745 feet).

     A leisurely stroll along the pier was definitely on the agenda for this pleasant and sunny January afternoon. Ron dropped us off at the foot of the pier while he drove around to find parking, which is often a challenge here. Nicole, Anna, and I headed out to enjoy the spectacular views of Pacific Beach to the north and Sunset Cliffs to the south. Surf was up and there were many surfers riding the waves below. With a January ocean temperature of 59 degrees, they were geared up in wetsuits.

     The small Ocean Beach Pier Cafe is located about midway out. It hangs over the water and makes a unique stopover for a beverage or snack. At the foot of the pier are some lovely tide pools where you can find shore crabs or sea anemones at low tide.

The pier offers free fishing to everyone—no license required. Popular catches include herring (no limit), mackerel, bass, sharks, halibut, and yellowtail. There is a bait shop and restroom on the pier as well as benches to savor the view. The pier is open 24 hours a day.

     When the concrete pier was built in 1966 it's original purpose was fishing. Local fishermen needed a way to prevent their fishing lines and lures from getting tangled in the vast kelp and rock beds that lie near the surface of the water near the shore. With the construction of the Ocean Beach Pier in 1966, anglers are able to fish in 25-30 feet of water, avoiding most of the shoreline kelp and enabling them to catch species of fish that live in deeper waters.
By the time we finished our stroll Ron had found parking. Next on our tour is a drive north to La Jolla to observe the sea lions and seals on the shoreline, another popular tourist attraction.
     We were pleased that Nicole enjoyed the OB ocean pier so much so that she asked if there was another one to visit the following day. Fortunately, the Imperial Beach Pier is nearby and a pleasant seven-mile drive along the Silver Strand. The Strand is on a sandy isthmus that connects Coronado to Imperial Beach.

When we arrived at the pier, it was cool and windy, but we still headed out for a walk. The Imperial Beach Pier is the southernmost pier on the California coast and offers views of Tijuana, Mexico, and the Cuyamaca Mountains to the south. It's also one of the best places to view the Los Coronados Islands that lie eight miles northwest off the shore of Baja.California. Battered by the wind and waves, they are largely infertile and uninhabited except for a small military detachment and a few lighthouse keepers. Looking the other direction, toward the east, you can see the skyline of San Diego.

     The old wooden pier, jetting 1,500 feet into the Pacific Ocean. is a great place to observe the local fishing scene. Unfortunately, there are often advisories about contaminated water in this area due to runoff from the Tijuana River.

     The Scripps Institute of Oceanography operates a weather reporting station half way along the Imperial Beach Pier for sky condition, temperature, humidity, pressure, wind, and water data.

     We decided to cap off the end of the day with a happy hour at the Sea1Coastal Tavern(800 Seacoast Drive), a short walk away. With a spectacular view of the pier at sunset, it was a perfect way to end our time together.

Friday, January 20, 2017



     I'm fortunate to have traveled to Europe dozens of times. However, there is one special trip that brings back fond memories like no other. It was my first journey to Europe with friends Nancy and Linda in 1967—50 years ago. We were 22. Nancy and I had just graduated from the University of Minnesota, and Linda had been working as a secretary. In 1967, the median marriage age for women was 21. Since we didn't have the “good fortune” to be getting married like most of our friends, we decided to travel to Europe for ten weeks. 

     I worked the entire summer as a waitress at Lake MacDonald Lodge in Glacier National Park, Montana, so that I could afford the fall trip. I saved enough to travel through Europe on $5.00 a day, which included lodging, meals, and other essentials. I was sure that I would have enough money, because the popular book Europe on 5 Dollars a Day by Arthur Frommer said I would. This was our “bible,” and we believed everything he said. I kept notes on what I spent, and the daily average for the trip was $5.50, excluding airfare and a first class three-month Eurailpass. Typically we would spend $4 to 4.50 in US dollars for lodging a night and then split it three ways. Two dollars for a dinner with dessert in Bergen, Norway, was considered a splurge.

     Even with the help of Frommer, I made these mistakes: huge suitcase (it did have wheels); way too many clothes; loads of toilet paper (we thought Europeans used sandpaper). I managed to discard some of the clothes and the toilet paper along the way, but the bag was still too big and heavy. Consequently, I'm sympathetic when people bring too much stuff on their first trip, but I sure hope they learn from the mistake.

     Here are just a few things I remember (with the help of my notes):

  • Best Meal: dinner at the Grand Hotel in Oslo, generously hosted by a couple from Canada, whom we met on the train.
  • Biggest Disappointment: splurging (over budget) on American beefsteak at a restaurant in Belgium, only to find out that it was raw hamburger.
  • Funniest: Manneken Pis statue in Brussels. There is something quite humorous about the little boy statue doing his thing in a fountain.
  • Most Embarrassing: skinny dipping on the Isle of Capri (no swimsuits in those large suitcases) and oops, someone was watching us.
  • Most Fun: dancing and partying through the night with French race car drivers and soldiers in Brussels. They even sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” to us in French.
  • Proud Memory: conversing in German with an elderly man in a restaurant in the mountains of Austria and being told that my German was very good. Thank you, Mr. Erlichman, my high school German teacher.
  • Favorite City: Paris, which I might never have left if I had studied French instead of German.
  • Favorite Country: Switzerland, with its snow-capped mountains and quaint villages.
    Unforgettable Memory: visiting my grandmother's sister Marie in Trondheim, Norway. My grandmother never saw her sister again after she moved to America as a young girl. My notes indicate that Marie had my grandmother Anna's smile and sense of humor—she said that she was gambling on football (soccer) to save money for a trip to America. She spoke Norwegian, but a daughter-in-law served as the interpreter. She gave me a white and gold bracelet as a keepsake—I still have it.
  • Biggest Regret: not following up on a job referral to spend the winter skiing and working at Club Vagabond in Leysin, Switzerland. Some opportunities never come around again.
  • Most Humbling: crossing the border and spending a day walking around East Berlin, which I described at the time as dark, dreary, and depressing—the rain didn't help.
  • Forgotten Event: As we were walking back to our hotel one night in Heidelberg, Germany, my notes indicate that I saved Linda from an attacker by hitting him over the head with my purse. Apparently I did a good job, because there is no further mention of it.
  • Least Pleasant Memory: The long-distance overnight train trips (seven total)—recommended by Frommer as a good way to save money.
  • Sweetest Encounter: the two little girls that we met on the street in Nice, France, who brought us home to meet their mother because we were Americans.

     The extended trip to Europe ended in Luxembourg where it all started. We were flying on Icelandic Airlines which was famous for cheap airfares—not speed or punctuality. Sometimes referred to as the "Hippie Airline," it became sort of a rite of passage for young “hippies” from America traveling to Europe.

     We were ready to get home and end our travels for awhile. I stopped in New York and Washington D.C. on the way back to visit my brother.

    The three of us moved on and never spent much time together after that trip and have since lost contact. However, that shared memory of ten weeks on the road leaves a piece of friendship that will last forever.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017



     Sometimes you happen to come upon an event that turns out to be special, and you wonder why you haven't done it before. Our trip to downtown San Diego the day after Christmas turned out to be one of those times.
     Friends from Minnesota were in town for the San Diego Holiday Bowl and suggested we meet them for dinner after the “Battle of the Bands” performance that is held on the day before the game.
Ron and I decided to head downtown to find out what this marching band event at Horton Park Plaza was all about. We arrived an hour early and planned to walk around for awhile, but we were quickly pulled into the events of the evening when over one hundred marching band members and spirit squads from the University of Minnesota, started gathering outside the plaza early for an impromptu performance.
     We were standing right next to them and couldn't help but feel the exuberance and appreciate the talent of these young people. There was also a bit of nostalgia for both Ron and me because the University of Minnesota is our alma mater. I also have fond memories of playing in the percussion section of my high school marching band.
The instrumental sections of the band alternated taking their gold plumed hats off, lining them up on the sidewalk, and then started weaving with a bounce and a sway throughout the band area before returning pick up their respective hats. It appeared unplanned, but it was clearly well thought out. Then, the trumpets gathered on the three upper floors of Horton Plaza shopping center and started playing back and forth with those below. It was great. Next, the baton twirlers started an exhibition – and the flag twirlers. Then, it was the cheerleaders. Next, 24 tuba players marched and danced around, and we were entertained by a conductor up on the second floor above who was directing them. They were having fun and so were we. It continued for about thirty minutes.
      Soon, thereafter, the University of Minnesota and Washington State bands and their respective spirit squads entered the plaza center for the official “Battle of the Bands.” A contest to decide the best band of the evening based on audience response.
     The two high energy and spirited bands alternated their performances in hopes of winning the audience over. Approximately, 1,000 spectators were sitting for an hour on concrete steps surrounding the plaza center cheering for their favorite band. It was a comfortable evening temperature of about 50 degrees. There seemed to be more people from Washington State in the audience, so they may have gotten the edge on audience response. However, the University of Minnesota, my alma mater, is ranked the #6 band in the Big Ten conference. It was by far the superior group. There was no official announcement of a winner so I guess it doesn't really matter. It was great entertainment and I look forward to attending the event next year.
     The following day we watched the Holiday Bowl game on TV. The University of Minnesota Gophers beat the Washington State Cougars 17-12.