A month of firsts

Taj has been an avid fan of the Denver Broncos ever since he started playing football. I’m not much of a sports fan myself, but love seeing Taj enjoying football . So, for Christmas, we thought he would enjoy going to see his beloved Orange Crush play in his (and our) first NFL game. They were slated to play the Chargers on Dec 14th, and San Diego is not too far of a drive from our home.

Buying tickets was a lesson in NFL economics. NFL tickets are not cheap. Apparently the majority of people who go to NFL games are season-ticket holders. Those who are able to purchase individual games are usually buying them from season holders at a ridiculous mark-up. Unable to buy any face-value tickets, I purchased from Ticketmaster’s NFL exchange at what appeared to be 5-7 times face value. (I realize I could have taken my chances with scalpers outside the stadium, but this was my son’s first game … I didn’t want to risk getting scammed and him missing out.) I would NEVER have paid such a price for me alone. But for him, it was worth it.

We at least saved some money by staying at the Navy Lodge at Coronado. One of the great things about being military is access to installations worldwide, usually with services that are cheaper than the conventional civilian equivalent. We checked in to the hotel and headed to Qualcomm Stadium the next day for the game.

Parking at the stadium presented more sticker shock. $25 to park one car.

The stadium itself was in pretty bad shape. One would think with charging $25 a car, plus the thousands (millions?) people collectively pay for tickets, San Diego would have a better stadium. One would be wrong. I saw a high-school football stadium in Ft. Worth that looked better than Qualcomm stadium. It was no matter. Taj was happy to see his Broncos. He saw Wes Welker (again,) and his eyes lit up when John Elway (in a suit and tie) moseyed onto the field.

Our first NFL game, San Diego
Our first NFL game, San Diego

Before we arrived, I was worried about being a lonely family of Bronco fans amidst a sea of Charger fanatics. As soon as we found our seats, my worries vanished. There were more Broncos fans than Chargers … AT THE CHARGERS’ home stadium! Several people came dressed in full Broncos regalia. It made for quite a fun scene.

I think this pimp stole my Muna! I tried to be mad, but I couldn’t. That was the flyest Broncos suit I’d ever seen!

It was a fun experience (as long as I didn’t dwell on the $5 bottles of water and $12 snacks.)

After the game, we high-tailed it back home. But, we liked the scenery at San Diego so much we decided to return for the Christmas holiday.

We returned to the Navy lodge a week before Christmas. This time, we booked an hour riding ATVs in Ocotillo Wells. Neither Taj, nor I, had done this before. Muna opted to watch from afar. She missed out. It was a blast! I was worried Taj would fall off after taking a jump or hill a few times. But he did just fine.

Four-wheelin' in Ocotillo Wells
Four-wheelin’ in Ocotillo Wells

The next day, we ditched the four wheels in favor of four-legged animals. We went horseback riding near the Mexican border. It was another first for the Lee family. (Muna participated this time.) I was amazed at how well-behaved the horses were, and was surprised at how easy it was to guide them using the reins. (I assume they gave us the gentle ones.)

The Lee Family on horseback
The Lee family in the saddle

Next up: Sea World.

I’ve been to California countless number of times.  I used to visit during my days as a Marine in the early 1990’s, often staying at my Aunt’s place in Anaheim. I never really had a desire to go to Sea World. But, when I saw that they offered FREE admission to military families, I no longer had any excuses. I’m glad I didn’t pay to get in … While Shamu and the dolphin show was nice to see, it was simply underwhelming. Not worth what I understand them to be charging for full-price admission. The rides were fun (all two of them we wanted to ride.) But after you get over the “learning about the ocean and its critters” schtick, it got boring, really quick. Still it was a nice first visit for Taj.

Sea World 2014
San Diego, 2014


Shamu at Sea World 2014
Waiting to see Shamu at Sea World








Our last was a trip to the USS Midway museum. This is an aircraft carrier that now serves as a monument to Naval Aviation. Visitors can crawl all around the vessel, from the flight deck to the berthing areas. There were lots of aircraft to learn about while getting a feel for how Sailors live on board. Taj has mentioned that he wants to be a fighter pilot when he gets older. While I assumed he might look to the Air Force for inspiration, this visit was a reminder that there are multiple options if he really wants to fly for the military. There were Marine Corps and Navy aircraft on the flight deck, and he got his first glimpse of non-Air Force aircraft. Again … they offered FREE admission for military folks. WIN!

I underestimated the Midway museum. I was expecting to spend about an hour there before Taj would become bored, but we spent easily 2-3 hours there, and STILL didn’t feel like we saw everything. I was reminded of the sacrifices our Sailors have made while serving at sea. (Simultaneously, I renewed my appreciation for the quality-of-life I experience in my beloved Air Force!)

We spent the Christmas holiday just chilling at Coronado. We had dinner at a nice restaurant and then enjoyed the beach. It was a nice way to end a month filled with firsts for the Lee family.

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