Elizabeth "Betty" Davison, 86, stands with her sons Doug, left, and Russell on the tee box of hole no. 7 March 3 at Encinitas Ranch Golf Course in Encinitas, Calif.

*Editor’s note: Done in the style of a daily journal, this is a recap of Houston Herald newsroom assistant Doug Davison’s recent trip to visit his mother and brother in the San Diego area.

Day 1 (Thurs., Feb. 28): I left home way before dawn in order to catch a morning flight out of Lambert – St. Louis International Airport to San Antonio. There wasn’t much traffic to speak of on U.S. Highway 63 or Interstates 44, 270, and 70, so I arrived without incident in plenty of time. After parking in Lot D, I got onto the shuttle bus to the terminal and met a nice family group from Centralia who were also on their way to Texas to attend a wedding. There were so many of them (including everything from toddlers to grandmas), I had to move my golf clubs to make room. After Transportation Security Administration personnel determined I had no classified information in the laptop I had with me, I made my way to Gate E24 and watched people do what they do for a while. It was about 9:45 a.m., but many were sipping colorful cocktails, downing beers, and munching wings and sandwiches at a busy bar adjacent to the gate. Among the folks seated in the waiting area, most had a Starbucks cup in hand, and almost all had their faces tilted downward in the direction of the screen of a computer, tablet or laptop (although one man wearing an American flag tie and a leather coat was reading a Popular Science magazine, and a mother was helping her two young daughters do their nails).

Once all passengers had boarded the Southwest Airlines Boeing 737, we headed for San Antonio (a.k.a. “Military City”). The flight was relatively quiet and uneventful, and I enjoyed staring out from my window seat at the scenery some seven miles below. After a fairly lengthy layover, another Southwest 737 took me and close to 200 other people to San Diego. I again was by a window, and the view of the desert southwest was awesome – everything from snow-capped mountains to sand dunes.

Having left St. Louis with temperatures in the high 30s, it was 72 when we landed in southern California at about 5 p.m. pacific time. The driver of the shuttle bus that took me to my mom’s house in Carlsbad (in north San Diego County) was a guy about my age named Brian. We hit it off like friends and talked for literally the entire hour trip, covering all kinds of topics including the Ozarks, baseball, and why people in California habitually vote against their own best interests.

All in all, it was a very, very eventful day, and also very tiring. But I made it.

Day 2 (Friday, March 1): Because they’re so relaxing, I like days on vacation when there’s nothing scheduled to do, and this day was exactly that. After I caught up from the previous day’s tiresome travel regimen by sleeping close to 11 hours, I knew I was in southern California when the thermometer on the patio of my 86-year-old mom’s house showed 81 degrees at 10 a.m.

I drove my mom (whose name is Elizabeth and goes by “Betty”) the 10 or so miles to the hair salon where she has enjoyed an appointment every Friday morning for as long as I can remember. While she was there, I went to nearby Carlsbad State Beach to take in a little Pacific Coast scenery. With the weather unusually warm for March 1, it wasn’t surprising to see quite a number of people partaking in outdoor activities including surfing, cycling, and beach volleyball. I walked out onto a rock jetty that guards the entrance to Batiquitos Lagoon and watched waves crash and sea birds fly – including my favorites: pelicans. I took a bunch of pictures and smelled the salty air, and I missed home already.

Later in the day, mom and I went to Albertson’s (a big grocery store), but we mainly just hung out. Hot air balloons offering ritzy dinner flights often take off from a small field not far from my mom’s house, and at about 5 p.m., eight became visible over the suburban rooftops of the surrounding area. Mom said that was the most she had ever seen at one time. At dinner time, we went to meet my brother Russell at an old favorite restaurant of mine: Ruby’s Diner. It’s a fun place, with 1960s décor, and a couple of model trains that have been circling a track suspended from the ceiling for decades. But the best things about Ruby’s are the burgers and the chocolate shakes.

Day 3 (Saturday, March 2): Despite her age, my mom still likes to play golf when the opportunity arises. She and I went to Russell’s house in the nearby city of Vista at about 8 a.m. and he drove us to one of my all-time favorite courses: Mt. Woodson Golf Club, several miles “inland” from San Diego near the small town of Ramona. The course’s designers undoubtedly had an unusual vision, because its holes are built amongst huge boulders and feature a whole lot of undulation, elevated tee boxes and superb views. Due to an offshore air flow that locals refer to as “a Santa Ana,” the temperature was abnormally high for early March – even for inland San Diego County – and reached the high 80s for a while. Golf is a funny game, and anyone who has played a fair amount of it knows that it’s sometimes easy to forget how it works. I hadn’t played for about two years, and at times I couldn’t even make decent contact with the ball, while at other times I hit strangely good shots As he usually does, my brother played pretty well, and my mom did, too. She even sank a 15-foot putt for a par on a short par-3.

About half way through the back nine, Russell said, “looks like the Santa Ana’s over. The air’s coming from the ocean.” Sure enough, it was easy to feel how the wind had changed direction, and by the time we were through playing, the temperature had already dropped substantially. Thankfully, mom and I just hung out when we got home. I was one tired Missourian.

Day 4 (Sunday, March 3): There’s a golf course only a few miles from my mom’s house called Encinitas Ranch. Along with a nice guy named Mark who had been added to our group to make a foursome, we teed it up there shortly after noon, and the weather was much cooler than the previous day. I don’t know where it came from, but I had one of the most consistent rounds I can remember, and would have posted a low number had I been able to putt to save my life.

Day 5 (Monday, March 4): Another welcome day of rest. Mom and I went to a store again, but didn’t do much. Ahh.

Day 6 (Tuesday, March 5): Before his death in 1992, famous musician and conductor Lawrence Welk had a major presence in San Diego County, and there’s a resort and golf complex bearing his name north of the city of Escondido. My mom and I have over the years enjoyed several rounds on the Fountains Course, a rather lengthy and challenging “executive” layout (mostly par-threes, with a handful of par-fours). This time, only mom and I played since Russell was at work, but we bailed out after nine holes because the temperature was unusually low again and my octogenarian mother was cold. But before we stopped, mom had played some serious golf and shot 48 on the par 31 nine. We were paired with a couple from the San Jose area who were staying at the Welk Resort, and the male half – named Jack – was a great character to have spent a hour and half with. I swore I was playing golf with Wilford Brimley, because Jack pretty much sounded and acted like the famous actor, and definitely looked like him (mustache and all).

Day 7 (Wednesday, March 6): Packing day. My flight from San Diego to Denver was to depart at 6:30 a.m., so I had to be ready for the arrival of the shuttle bus at 4:30 a.m.

In the afternoon, my mom and I went to a Walmart that recently opened near her home, figuring we would get some binoculars so she could get closer looks at the balloons, birds, and even rabbits she sees from her favorite family room chair. But oddly, a guy working in the store told us they didn’t stock binoc’s this time of year, because they were a “seasonal” item. I thought that was weird on several levels.

At dinner, we went to nearby San Marcos and met Russell at a truly authentic Mexican food restaurant called Acapulco. I almost finished my huge chimichanga, and enjoyed every bite I took.

Day 8 (Thursday, March 7): In a fun coincidence, I again enjoyed meeting the guy who drove me to the airport in the wee hours of the morning. His name was Donnie, and he was originally from Hawaii. Like Brian had a week earlier, Donnie liked hearing about where I was from, and was fascinated by the fact I had lived in Seattle for 28 years. Two take-offs, two flights, and two landings later (both in 737s next to a rear window), I was on the ground in St. Louis. According to an announcement over the airport’s public address system, the machine sending baggage from the airplane to the pick-up area sustained a broken belt, so hundreds of us stood around for about an extra 20 minutes waiting for our bags to show up. That was a little difficult, because even though I had spoken to her every day I was gone, I missed my wife big time and I wanted to get home.

Finally, I got back to my truck, and headed down the freeway in the direction of Texas County. I was almost numb from another long day of travel, but the drive seemed short and simple. I pulled into the driveway at about 6 p.m.

Whew.

See dozens more photos from Doug Davison’s trip to Southern California by clicking this link:

http://houston.mycapture.com/mycapture/enlarge.asp?image=46383665&event=1624376&CategoryID=57447

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