I had never really considered going to San Diego. To be honest, I had no idea where I was going to go after LA, except eventually end up in Seattle three weeks after I landed. However, when Megan tried to sell me the idea it took little more than pointing out how great the Mexican food will be for me to jump on board. And after a two hour ride-share with some other Aussies we found ourselves on a festive Ocean Beach during the Memorial Day (think US version of ANZAC day) holiday.
Ocean Beach is a great little area with a relaxed, surfer town vibe that I can only imagine the Gold Coast would have been like before the skyscrapers moved in. Huge palm trees line the wide streets that are scattered with old vintage cars and beach hut houses. Musicians play their tunes perched along the outskirts of the beach while many others play beach volleyball and try to sneakily drink beer away from the eyes of police on ATV’s. Come sunset, the crowds start to clear with some taking to the pier to soak in the gorgeous sunset over the water before returning to the beach where old oil drums are used as fire pits to keep the atmosphere alive well into the night.
We didn’t make it to the beach fire, instead choosing to indulge on waffle ice-cream sandwiches with cotton candy flavoured ice-cream. Afterwards, we brought some drinks back to the hostel where a beer pong tournament was happening between some people that at the time I had no idea I would spend the next two weeks with. When the beer pong came to a close the hostel staff were sending everyone either out to the bars or to bed. The previous four nights in LA consisted of copious drinking, due in part to the amount of free alcohol on offer which made an early night sound great. The problem, was that it was Megan’s last night and by the time I got back from the bathroom she had already rounded up a crew of American guys (the ones playing beer pong) to head out to the bars with.
Starting at the ‘Blue Parrot’ Nate, Mark, Megan and myself met up with Pat who had arrived at the bar earlier and got to know each other over four very strong pitchers (jugs) of margaritas. Nate fell in love, at least for the night, with Natalie, a sweet southern gal from Mississippi after Pat had already spent half the night talking to her. Natalie’s Southern drawl only got heavier and filled with more y’alls as the night went on, much to my amusement. As the Blue Parrot closed to the sight of a late 40’s, overweight barman dancing on the bar, we moved to another bar where everyone managed to almost instantaneously split up. Mark, Megan and myself were all that remained as Mark introduced us to some pretty potent shots (spirits are poured a lot more liberally in the US than in Australia) including a Kamikaze and some type of root beer ‘bomber’ that materialized after five minutes of trying to get the cheapest thing possible from the bartender.
Whether or not we left before that bar closed or not I can’t quite remember, yet somewhere along the line we managed to lose Megan. Presuming she went home, the two of us continued on to yet another bar as Mark was adamant, and surprisingly convincing in his determination for us to stay out until all the bars were closed. Along the way we stopped in a parking lot to join a circle of talented hippies singing songs before a fight broke out and we thought it best to bail. With the late night munchies setting in I was able to get a taste of the much hyped and promised Mexican food in San Diego. San Diego, being so close to the Mexican border is influenced heavily by Mexican culture and cuisine which shone through in what was the best fish taco’s I’ve ever had. And yes, I’ve considered that everything tastes better when you’re drunk, late night kebabs anyone? However I’ll still hold these taco’s up high, at least until I get to Mexico.
Whilst we were eating the tacos, or at least, while I was eating the tacos – Mark became too distracted by the girls from San Francisco we were talking to for tacos when a sad, drunk and angry Pat showed up out of no-where and was unable to use words. Only facial expressions. He then took off where he apparently met up with Megan at a bonfire on the beach whilst Mark and I opted not to follow him and continue eating tacos and talking to the San Franciscans.
Throughout the events of the night Mark, Pat and Nate had invited both Natalie and myself to come to Vegas the following day. Natalie insisted that she was “definitely coming” no less than 30 times, however was no where to be seen the following day. And so, in a hazy state the following morning when Mark asked me if I was still coming my response was simply “F**k it, why not”. Those words signaled the beginnings of what became known as the West Coast Bender that would take me on an amazing ride through the mid-west, making some great friends and seeing places I would have never seen otherwise.
Yet before the adventure could begin, we had to do a retrace of the nights events to track down Mark’s lost credit card before ultimately giving up and eating the biggest burger I’ve ever eaten at Hodad’s. Hodad’s is home to famous burgers, with a 45 minute line to even order one that have been featured on TV many times that I’ll save describing for my final write up of my US Burger Tour. In the mean time, here is Mark’s double bacon and cheese: