In preparation for this trip, I did not get any guest-room offers from new friends. I'm even more certain that the hospitality in Austin was a miracle of good will. In making my San Diego plans, by contrast, I made a series of mistakes.
Welcome California's Strongest Man Competitors
I chose a San Diego hotel using a method only slightly better than a dart board at ten paces. Having struck out on Travelzoo.com, I went to Expedia, searched for hotel-plus-flight deals, and listed the hotels according to star ratings. I wanted at least a three-star hotel in a close-in location.
Greetings! Your room
is 81 degrees F!
In the past, I've been able to locate bargains this way. I chose The Handlery Hotel and Resort in Mission Valley, the only three-star hotel that fell in the lower third of the price range. I now think that Handlery should be downgraded to 2.5 stars.
I tacked on a vehicle rental, since it seemed that San Diego's public transit was limited. In retrospect, I would have rearranged my priorities. I would have chosen a hotel downtown or in a beach town, to be close to the action, spent more on the hotel, and nixxed the rental car entirely. The people that I met were more than willing to drive, and when by myself, I could have walked to bars, restaurants and shopping.
Don't mind the mildew smell, or the van out front...
The Handlery is solidly family-oriented (read: boring). The area surrounding it has a few attractions, such as Balboa Park, but is mostly composed of meandering roads with maddeningly similar names, hotels, residential structures, and lop-sided strip malls. There is no free wifi anywhere. Residents will tell you that Starbucks and Borders books have it, but you know that it's a paid service. The hotel wants US$59.95/week for wireless service, and it does not work half the time. The resident "engineer" cannot fix anything, and could not be bothered to try. After several phone calls and tests, Wayport informed me that they cannot restore wireless to my room, even with a booster antenna. I wasted a lot of time driving around trying to find free wifi, and not even getting paid wifi to work. All this was in an effort to look up restaurants and clubs, and to make plans with people locally.
Leaky Handle at the Handlery
If the Handlery was mistake number two, and wireless-hunting mistake number three, then mistake number one was my choice of travel dates. I chose June 30 through July 6, 2006. The most obvious problem was that these dates span the Independence holiday, which is a dead zone for real estate hunting and socializing with new friends. I could not even get dry cleaning service on July 3rd. Additionally, my choice of dates put the weekend on the beginning of the trip, instead of the end. The reverse would have been better, since I could have spent the weekdays meeting people for coffee and checking out houses and condos, then saved the weekend for lengthier, more elaborate outings.
The trip did have its joys, including the sunset at Ocean Beach, and lunch at the historical Del Coronado Hotel. I watched the sunset my first night in town. Each day thereafter, San Diegans told me that Ocean Beach was the the party beach, hippy beach, the pothead beach, etc. Must have been a slow Friday night when I was there. Besides ouselves, there was one student meditating and a couple of groups milling about wearing Dockers.