In 1974 singer/songwriter Tom Waits released his song “San Diego Serenade” on his second studio album, The Heart of Saturday Night. Now a cult classic, the album has been described as “touchingly sentimental” and is rooted in Waits’ early career as a nightclub performer. Craggy and gravelly with a swell of emotions, “San Diego Serenade” reflects the spectacular California coastline of Cabrillo National Monument on San Diego Bay.
In September 1542, Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo, a Portuguese explorer in service to Spain, and his band of conquistadors were the first Europeans to land on the western coast of what was to become the United States. Navigating the waters of San Diego Bay, they were met by the Kumeyaay people who had inhabited the area for more than 11,000 years and whose descendants now live on thirteen reservations in San Diego County.
Cabrillo National Monument was first protected by Woodrow Wilson in 1913, and was expanded to its current 160 acres under Presidents Eisenhower and Ford. With its beautiful coastal views of San Diego Bay stretching across the Pacific from San Diego to Mexico, the Old Point Loma Lighthouse (in operation 1854-1891), magnificent coastal rock formations and caves, the only federally protected tide pools in Southern California, and a history of military service during the first and second World Wars, this national monument is more than an homage to Cabrillo and his expedition. And did I forget to mention that during the annual migration season, it is reportedly the best place in all of California to spot Pacific gray whales?
As one of more than 400 national parks in the United States that are rich in natural beauty and history, Cabrillo National Monument was also the perfect place to pick up my America the Beautiful Senior Pass available through the National Parks Service. At the cost of only $10, I now have a lifetime pass to more than 2,000 federal recreation areas under the auspices of the National Park system. The pass grants free admittance to any and all of the sites for the pass holder and all of the passengers in their personal vehicle (when the site charges per vehicle) or up to four adults (when the site charges per person). This is the deal of the century. But the price of the pass will increase to $80 on August 28th, 2017, so if you are currently at least 62 years of age, it’s time to celebrate by purchasing your Senior Parks Pass immediately. The best way to get it is to simply visit one of the national parks before August 28th, show the ranger your ID, and pay the $10 in lieu of the admittance fee. It’s that easy. Now that’s a thing of beauty.
While we were visiting San Diego, my sister, Mary Catherine, became a septuagenarian. Happy 70th, Mare!