Tag Archives: CA

Shaun White Finds Inspiration at YMCA Skatepark

Shaun White at the YMCA Skatepark in Encinitas, CA credit: ESPN Magazine

“I’ve been coming here since I was six.  I’d beg my parents to take me and they’d eventually drop me off for a couple of hours. I skated every day at this park. I learned all my tricks here. It’s my inspiration.” Shaun White on YMCA Skatepark in Encinitas, CA as quoted in ESPN Magazine, 2008


See Related Post: Homeboy Shaun White Wins Gold!

by Lydia Breen

ENCINITAS, CA. Shaun White isn’t the only pro to skate at the Ecke YMCA Skatepark,  but he and Tony Hawk are surely the most  famous.  Many of the world’s best skaters have honed their skills here, skating side-by-side with kids as young as five, some even younger.      The entire sport has been enriched by the interaction in Encinitas between skaters of varying abilities.   In 1995 Tony Hawk took a talented nine year-old Shaun White under his wing.  Other local skaters surely helped White advance, including Mike McGill who invented the McTwist. in 1986.  Twenty-four years later at Vancouver, White seconded McGill’s act with a Double McTwist 1260, nailing his reputation for skating the half-pipe heads over, under, around and through the competition.   (For the science of Shaun, see this clip on:  “The Double Cork.” another of new trick White had up his sleeves at the Olympics.  For great videos of snowboarding tricks see this link. )

Shaun at 18 Credit: Shaunwhiteonline.org

How does White manage to get so much air out of the pipe? Mike Wilson, co-manager at the Ecke YMCA Skatepark, ventures a guess: “I think his pumping technique helps him reach those heights. The way he bends down and positions his legs. When he’s pumping, he’s putting a lot more effort into it…He lands tricks like they’re nothing.”

White goes heads above the competition Credit: wiwi.tv

To see how Shaun gets so much air, see: 60 Minutes segment about Shaun White and Tony Hawk doing tricks at the YMCA Skatepark.  (See also cool photos from that shoot)

Mike Wilson was a 15-year-old street course skater, entering competitions around Encinitas, when Shaun White was just coming up in the sport. “At first he couldn’t do an Ollie or a kickflip,” explains Wilson.  “But he got good real fast. His progression was so good – faster than anybody else.”

Mike Wilson, co-manager, Encinitas YMCA Skatepark (foreground) as a young skater, Caleb Van Neil, watches Paul-Luc Ronchetti, a skater to keep your eyes on in up-coming competitions.

Could White’s skateboarding skills have helped him win the Gold in snowboarding at Vancouver?   Wilson thinks it’s likely:  “You learn to be more technical when you have to land on wheels…”

(For Shaun White’s own comments on his altitude see this link. )

Homeboy Shaun White talks to kids at YMCA Skatepark in Encinitas, CA Photo credit: Lydia Breen, Cafe Libre

During the summer White takes a break from snowboarding.  That’s when you might find him at the Encinitas YMCA, where he is able to shed his superstar status, relax and be treated pretty much like everyone else.    “He’s a really nice guy,” says Wilson, who explains that the young skaters think it’s normal to share the park with so many well-known pros.

YMCA skatepark instructor, Sammy Lee, shows how it's done.

“I think Shaun has good memories here. He grew up skating here.  When he comes, it probably makes him feel like he’s a kid again.” – Mike Wilson, co-manager Ecke YMCA Skatepark, Encinitas, CA.

Mike Wilson eyes new crop of talent a day after homeboy Shaun White won the gold at Vancouver Credit: Lydia Breen, Cafe Libre

Wilson’s first job at the Y came in 2002 when he got a summer job at the skatekpark.  By 2008, he was co-manager, along with Heather Randant.  The job fits him like a glove: “I really can’t imagine doing anything else.  What job could possibly be better than this?”

San Diego County is said to be the skateboarding capital of the universe and the Encinitas YMCA Skatepark sits at the center of this world.  Skaters have moved here from afar – Brazil, England, the east coast – just to hone their skills at this park.

Annika Vriklan is a dedicated skater at YMCA in Encinitas Credit: Lydia Breen, Cafe Libre

Mike Wilson is a gifted, generous teacher who is glad to share what he has learned from years of street course skating:  “I feel like I get the sport. I’m happy to spread that knowledge with the kids here.”

Caleb Van Neil gets pointers from a pro Photo credit: Lydia Breen

Caleb Van Neil gets pointers from former pro Neal Mims Photo credit: Lydia Breen

Lesson accomplished Photo credit: Lydia Breen


An Artist Pays Tribute to 1,000 Slain Soldiers (Marilyn Mitchell)

Artist Marilyn Mitchell in her Encinitas, CA. studio


As the death toll for U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan nears the 1,000 mark, an Encinitas artist explains how she honored another 1,000  soldiers felled three years ago during  the  war in Iraq. 

Over the next few months up to  4,000  Marines at Southern California’s Camp Pendleton will be deployed to Afghanistan. Some will leave before Christmas.

In the nearby town of Oceanside, a strange calm prevails.   A uniformed soldier walks somberly into a law office.   Another, the sole customer  in an old-style barber shop, gets his already-short hair trimmed.  Across the street,  another young serviceman picks up his dry cleaning.  Signs in motorcycle shops offer deep military discounts. Old Glory flaps listlessly over a the entrance of a pool hall.

What lies ahead for the Marines?  Will friends or foes be waiting for them  behind the sun-baked walls of Afghanistan villages?

(DAVID FURST/AFP/***** Images)

U.S soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division on the outskirts of an Afghan mountain village. Photo credit: David Furst, AFPage

As more soldiers head off to this eight year-long conflict,  a gruesome statistic looms on the horizon: the 1,000th  U.S. soldier  will soon die fighting in Afghanistan.   When that death comes, how will we will honor those who have already lost their lives?  Three years ago, an Encinitas artist asked herself this question under similar circumstances.  Her response was to draw their portraits.    Little did she know that her tribute  would consume her for the next seven months.


On New Year’s Day, 2007, artist Marilyn Mitchell was leafing through the New York Times when she stumbled across a photo montage that hit her like a brick:   three and a half full pages of photographs of 1,000  service men and women who died  in Iraq. The photographs represented the third set of 1,000 photos that the Times had published since the Iraq war began – the highest U.S. military death toll  since the Viet Nam War.

The visual impact of so many lost lives overwhelmed  her.  “Many of them were so young -the age of my 22-year-old son, some even younger,” she said.   “I just  had to draw them. I wanted to honor them and remind people that these were once-vibrant human beings.”

She set out drawing the miniature portraits with care.  Working in India ink required a delicate but sure touch; one blotch and a portrait would be ruined.  Scouring the photos, she searched for something unique in each  soldier’s character.

Detail from



“Many of the photos were lent to the New York Times by family members. My piece was a gift to the soldiers as well as their families,” Mitchell said. “ I wanted to try to breathe life into each portrait.” 
The effort left her emotionally drained.  “I must admit that towards the end I was ready to finish. It was a painful process, staring at those faces every day.   I was more successful with some portraits than others.  But I cared deeply about each one.”  Mitchell says she likes to see the artists’ hand, their personality, in their work.

The finished pages were  hand-stitched together with thread. Perhaps the stitches were a tribute to her mother who could work magic with a needle.  Perhaps it was a nod to her training as a nurse:  the sutures on the page may have been a symbolic effort to try to stitch the fallen soldiers back to life. 

To finish the piece, she  surrounded the pages with a halo of bridal netting, pearls and silver wire.   “It was another way to pay tribute,” she said.  “My inspiration came from the Romans who put a gold crown of laurels around a person’s head to honor them.” 
Her piece, entitled “Prayer for 1,000 Dead Soldiers”, was shown at a juried exhibit at the Oceanside Museum of Art.  Later it was shown at the J.C. Gallery in downtown Oceanside, in an exhibit entitled, “God and Country”.

At the bottom of Prayer for 1,000 Dead Soldiers,  Mitchell, an anti-war activist,  added a poem she wrote about the photos of soldiers she had studied so carefully for seven long months.  Was it the nurse, mother or the artist in Mitchell which caused her to write:

“I imagine being their mother…Each one is beautiful to me.  I am sorry that I am not better.  That I can not draw them back to life.”

The following is an excerpt from Marilyn Mitchell’s Web site  on her “Prayer for 1,000 Dead Soldiers”

“An essential part of my process is to take a date that is personally important to me and find a publication from that date to make an artwork. This piece was created to mark the birthday of my dearest friend in San Diego, Barb Goldsand. By coincidence the New York Times published the photos of the last 1000 soldiers killed in Iraq on that day, January 1, 2007. I decided to draw each one in order to honor them and to give my attention and my prayers to each soldier that had died.”

I draw these soldiers,
so many men gone.
I imagine being their love,
now alone,
remembering their
remembering their gaze.
I imagine being their mother,
losing her very heart
and going on with a fathomless
I imagine being their father
whose loss is unspeakable.
Each one is beautiful to me.
I am sorry I am not better.
That I cannot draw them
back to life.


-Marilyn Mitchell 





10 Cheap Thrills In Paradise: Encinitas, CA

Tidepools at Swami's Beach

Tidepools at Swami's Beach

 A  San Diego Beach Town Offers Low-Cost  Fun
by Lydia Breen

Looking for a  relaxed getaway?  Entinitas, California is an iconic Southern California beach town with lots of low-cost outings for nearly everyone – sports enthusiasts, nature buffs, art lovers, music fans, gardeners, readers and food enthusiasts.  Take a look at this list:

Ducky Waddles Emporium

Ducky Waddles Emporium

 1. Go Low-brow     

Ducky Waddles is a hidden treasure for aficionados of pop surrealism, low-brow and outsider art. The largest after-market selection of Shepard Fairey’s works are here.  Also on offer is a wide assortment of books on a art technique, criticism, and artists’ biographies. There’s also a good selection of early and first edition fiction, including Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Jack Kerouac and others.  Store owner and sububculture-lover Jerry Waddle  calls his place as a  “a book store, art gallery and center for cultural studies.”  Patrons are encouraged to hang out, browse the shelves, access the free WiFi and chat..  Bring your own caffeine or other non-alcoholic drinks.   Check their website for poetry readings, music and other special events.     

Down the street, Lou’s Records has a wide assortment of used and new CD’s, DVD’s and LP’s. Get a tattoo next door at 454 Tatoo and Body Piercing. Popular eateries along the Leucadia strip include the long-time hang-out, Pannikin’s and Mozy’s Cafe, specializing in healthy Carribbean, Mexican and vegan eats (although service can be slow).  The somewhat more upscale Turkish restaurant, The Bird House Grill, is also nearby.
Ducky Waddles Emporium: 414 N. Coast Highway 101, Encinitas: (760) 632-0488;www.duckywaddles.com / Lou’s Records: 434 North Coast Highway 101, Encinitas;(760) 753-1782. http://www.lousrecords.com/ 454 Tatoo and Body Piercing: 454 N. Coast Highway 101,(760) 942-2333/Pannikin Coffee & Tea: 510 Highway 101(760) 436-5824; http://pannikincoffeeandtea.com/ Mozy Cafe: 698 N. Coast Highway, Encinitas: (760) 944-9168: www.yelp.com/biz/mozy-cafe-encinitas/ the Bird House Grill 250 N. Coast Highway 101, Encinitas (760) 944-2882. www.yelp.com/biz/bird-house-grill-encinitas
Susan Hauptman

Self-Portrait with Dog, 2001 charcoal, pastel, and hair on paper © Susan Hauptman, courtesy of Forum Gallery, New York.

  2. Go Hi-brow    

Two miles inland (still in Encinitas) the Lux Art Institute offers an unusual opportunity to consider the creative process over time of a world-class artist. Visitors are guided on a liaison-led tour where they observe an artist-in-residence at work. Examples of their finished pieces are on display in a gallery next to the studio. Invited artists live on the grounds for two weeks to several months, during which time visitors are encouraged to return to observe how the artist’s work has evolved. (The price of admissions allows one person to make two separate visits.) The Institute’s serene setting LEED-certified building were designed to reflect “an open relationship between the artist and the site.” A path featuring sculpture and sustainable landscaping takes visitors through part of the Institute’s four-acre site that overlooks the San Elijo Lagoon. Contemporary artist Iva Gueorguieva will be in-studio Jan. 16 – Feb. 6, 2010. After your visit, return downtown to unwind at the E Street Café, where owner/artist Dominic Alcorn has an exhibits his own and other artist’s on his walls.  E Street offers a large selection of specialty coffees, teas and juices. Ask Dominic to suggest a drink.  Try a “Monkey Love” made of espresso shots, dark chocolate , banana, whipped cream, chocolate syrup and nutmeg ($4).Their soups are yummy (try their Thai Red Pepper Soup.). So, too, are their sandwiches, vegan treats and deserts. Lux Art Institute.    

You’ll find a wide range of patrons,  from little kids to business people, also lots of bohemians, artists  and students.  Alcorn’s love of people and the arts is evident in the events he works hard to organize there.   Tuesdays it’s open mic night, which often includes poetry as well as music. (6-9:30). Thanksgiving weekend, concerts are scheduled for Friday and Saturday evenings (7:30-9 p.m.). Thanksgiving Day hours: 7a.m. – 1 p.m.  Check out their calendar of events.     

Luxe Art Institute: 1550 South El Camino Real Encinitas, CA 92024. Hours:  Thursday & Friday 1-5 p.m.; Saturday, 11 – 5.  Under 21: free;  others: $10: (760) 436- 6611. Evenings of music, art and refreshments are free and open to the public every third Wednesday of the month. http://www.luxartinstitute.org/E Street Café: 128 W. E Street, Encinitas:  (760) 230-2038.  Hours:  7 a.m.-8 p.m Sun – Wednesday.  Friday and Staurday 7 a.m. – 10 p.m. www.estreetcafe.com
Leucadia-Encinitas Farmers Markets: Sundays 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

Leucadia-Enciniatas Farmer's Market

  3. Slow and Loco     

If it’s in season in Southern California, you can probably find it at the Leucadia-Encinitas Farmer’s Market. Geared for locovores, there are plenty of families and young people who come (many on their bikes)  to shop for food then stay on for brunch, live music and to chat with the farmers about gardening techniques, recipes, sustainable agriculture, etc,  All produce comes from certified California farmers; most within San Diego County.     

Locally-grown flowers

Locally-grown flowers

   Seven of the growers have certified organic farms.  Fresh fish, tuna jerky, goat cheese, local honey, even vegan dog biscuits (natch) are on offer.  Indian, Mexican, Jamaican and other food stalls offer tasty treats. Annel and Drew’s Kitchen is a favorite, offering scrumptiously presented food.  Try their Loco Veggie Salad ($6/$8), grilled organic artichokes or lamb sliders ($6/$9/$12)     

 Leucadia-Encinitas Farmer’s Market, every Sun 10 a.m.-2 p.m., except Easter. Paul Ecke Elementary School, Union & N. Vulcan Sts (858) 272-7054. Annel and Drew’s Kitchen (they also do catering): (858) 246-6962, cell: (858) 210-5094.

photo credit: San Diego County

   4. Explore a Treasured Ecosystem     

The San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve in Encinitas  is one of the few intact coastal wetlands left in Southern California.   Fresh water and salt water meet in this peaceful shallow water estuary near San Elijo State Beach.  Up and down the coast of California our coastal wetlands have been reduced by pollution, erosion, land development and lack of rain, providing all the more reason to value the Reserve and the many species of flora and fauna it protects.     

Blue Heron (photo: Dennis Ancinec, San Elijo Lagoon Conservancy)

   Forty percent of the birds in North America pass by this lagoon on their way to Mexico, Canada and places in between.  Fall and Spring are migratory months, a peak time to visit this birders’ paradise. There are lots shore and water birds to spot, including herons, egrets, avocets and stilts. With luck on your side, you might see an endangered clapper rail, which is on many birders “get” list.Take the 

Coyote Photo Credit: Dennis Ancinec

Coyote (photo credit: Dennis Ancinec, San Elijo Conservancy

half-mile loop around the visitor’s center. Alternatively, there’s another trail around the lagoon that starts at the Rios Avenue trail head. The Conservancy offers free, docent-led tours every Saturday at 10 a.m. at the Nature Center. Another two-hour tour at the Rios Ave. trail head takes place the second Saturday of the month at 9 a.m. There are lots of up-country trails east of the I-5 Freeway, where you can spot mule deer, bobcat and other critters in coastal sage scrub and chaparral habitats. The Reserve’s 915 acres are yours for discovering – admission is free.  Hike early;  it is  the best time to spot animals.    

For advice on the trail that best suits your needs, call the Nature Center. After your walk, visit the Center to learn about the cultural history of the area that was once populated by Native Americans living in coastal villages. Picnic tables with a lovely view of the lagoon and ocean are available on the Center’s upper deck. Watch a lonesome fish jump as you peacefully much your sandwich. The San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Center partners with the non-profit San Elijo Conservancy, another useful source of information. More information rules, regulations and maps can be found on the two organizations websites. The Reserve is open during daylight hours.If you are taking one of the longer trails, don’t forget to carry in drinking water!The Nature Center at the Reserve is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., daily but Christmas. Address: 2710 Manchester Ave. Encinitas.Tele: 760-634-3944. 

Self Realization Fellowship, Encinitas Photo Credit: Jeff Dowler

 5. Seek Truth and Beauty     

 The Self-Realization Fellowship Retreat and Hermitage is an iconic Encinitas landmark that helped popularize mediation and anchor the community as a home for the counter-culture lifestyle.   Sunday afternoons you can tour the Hermitage, the home where Paramahansa Yoganda wrote his classic spiritual guide, The Autobiography of a Yogi. The room in the Hermitage where he received many distinguished guests in the 1930’s is now preserved as a shrine. Exit through the upper gardens that hug the cliffs, offering  a stunning ocean view.  Then make your way through the luxuriant meditattion gardens. Before your visit, have lunch  across the street at Swami’s Café, a local haunt not affiliated with the ashram.     

   The Hermitage is open Sundays 2-5 p.m., except in inclement weather; admission  is free.  The Meditation Gardens are also free; open Tues.-Sat., 9 a.m.-5 p.m., and Sun. 11 a.m.- 5 p.m. Swami’s Café: 7 a.m.-4 p.m., Monday – Sunday.   

Meditation gardens Credit: Lydia Breen

photo credit: Surfrider Foundation

 6. Score a great ride   

 If you can afford to splurge just once over the holidays, this may be the time and place. Winter is the best time to surf. Local surfer say  they’d have to kill you if they divulged their favorite spots. But you can’t go wrong if you surf at Swami’s or San Elijo State Park.  Surf shops and schools along Northern San Diego County’s coast offer friendly, helpful advice.  The Leucadia Surf Shop is one of many.  If you don’t have gear, you can rent a wetsuit ($10/24 hr.) and board ($5/hr; $20/24 hr.)  Private or group surfing lessons can be arranged through  Kahuna Bob’s Surf School. Another favorite is the Eli Howard Surf School at the San Elijo State Campgrounds. Rent boards and suits ( $15/item/day) or take a two-hour group lesson ($60/person including equipment). For lessons in the winter call a couple of days ahead; most classes this time of year are in the morning, the best times to surf. Bull Taco’s offers a low-cost must eat experience at the San Elijo State Campground for surfers, bikers, campers or other sun worshippers. Don’t pass up on one of their amazing daily specials. Call ahead if you’re in too much of a hurry to chill on the deck while they prepare your food. Park outside the campground along Hwy. 101.  

Believe it or not, surfers have a serious side. The Surfrider Foundation works to protect the ocean water, beaches and surrounding wetlands. The non-profit organization recently won a lawsuit against a major oil company in which the court recognized for the first time, that  “breaking waves are natural resource deserving protection.” For locally-sponsored Surfrider Foundation events, great info. and resources – including a report on water quality at local beaches – see link to their website, below.  

Wednesday nights (6-9 p.m.) you’ll find plenty of surfers groovin’ to ukulele music at Today’s Pizza and Salad. (Copious amounts of beer may help you acquire a musical taste for ukuleles). A traditional hula dancer performs at 4:30 p.m. Thursdays it’s bluegrass; most Tuesdays they break out the accordions. Call ahead for details.  

Sam Breen

Leucadia Surf Shop: 1144 Coast Highway 101 Encinitas, La. (760) 632-1010, www.yelp.com/biz/leucadia-surf-shop-encinitas. Eli Howard Suf School at San Elijo State Park  in Cardiff and Moonlight Beach, Encinitas. (760) 809-3069, www.elihoward.com/contact-us/index.cfm. Bull Taco’s at San Elijo State Park in Cardiff. Hours:  Mon-Sat: 8 -6; Sundays,  8-5 p.m. check out their website or call the Encinitas chapter at (858) 792-9940. For the Encinitas Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation about local events,  call: (858) 792-9940 or check their website at www.surfridersd.org.  The California Surf Museum: 321 Pier View Way, Oceanside, CA 92054; (760) 721-6876. Hours: open daily 10 am -4pm; Thursdays until 8pm. $3 adults; $1 students/seniors/military. Free on Thursdays. 101 Cafe: 631 S. Coast Highway, Oceanside; (760) 722-5220‎. http://www.101cafe.net/ Surfcam – by beach. Weather Underground (Encinitas forecast)    For schedule of local Surfrider Foundation events: check their site or call the  Encinitas chapter. For more on Bull Taco: see my previous post     

The Rock Horror Picture Show plays Fridays at midnight, La Paloma Theatre7. Act Horrid

 7.  Act Horrid     

Appropriate dress is appreciated but not required at the Friday midnight showings of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” at the historic La Paloma Theatre in downtown Encinitas.  The second Friday of the month at midnight is Monster Lingerie Night, with prizes.  This historic theatre was opened in 1928 at a gala attended by silent film star Mary Pickford (a.k.a.”America’s Sweetheart”).  Rumor has it that Pickford rode her  bike to the gala from the ranch she owned with her husband, Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. of “Zorro” fame.  La Paloma currently hosts community events, music concerts as well as art house and mainstream films.  If you have forgotten your Goth clothes, downtown Encinitas has plenty of hip, used clothing stores.  Some of the best bargains can be found at the Community Resource Center’s Thrif Store, across the street from     

La Paloma Theatre in downtown Encinitas

the theatre.  Women’s tops go for $3-5; pants and sweaters range from $5-$8.  Their designer rack is more expensive, but well with a look.  They’ve also got bathing suits, towels, picnic gear, etc.  Once every three months everything in the store is half off; the next sale is in December.  Proceeds from the store support the Center’s domestic violence shelter.  You won’t find better bargains or consistently kind people at any other shop in Encinitas.  Ask Karen, the store manager, for help putting your Garth garb together; her brother owns La Paloma.     

The Encinitas Public Library - the patio looks out to the ocean

 Back to Mary Pickford..La Paloma Theatre recently held a retrospective showing of her films.  To compliment the event, the Encinitas Branch of the San Diego County Public Library has put some of her personal items and letter on display in the front lobby.  (There’s also a letter to Mary from Clark Gable.)  The library ‘s community meeting room hosts many exhibits; currently it’s featuring an exhibit of digital art.  The library is truly a beautiful gift to the community.  Located on a hill, two blocks from La Paloma, downtown.  You can hang out there for hours on the patio overlooking the ocean. Inside, there’s lots of magazines and Wi-Fi.  Non-members can sign up to use the library’s computer for one hour.  Grab an expresso outside at a cart operated by Global Grind Coffee.     

La Paloma Theatre: 471 S. Coast Highway 101, Encinitas; (760) 436-5744; http://www.lapalomatheatre.com. General admission: $9; $7 matinees.  All tickets are cash only/ Community Resource Center’s Thrift Store: 111 C. Street, Encinitas. Hours:  open every day except holidays from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. /Encinitas Branch of the San Diego County Public Library: 540 Cornish Drive, Encinitas (760) 753-7376.  Hours:  Mon-Thurs 9:30-8 p.m.; Fri and Sat 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sun 1-5 p.m. (closed holidays). http://www.sdcounty.ca.gov/library/locations_EN.html     

Ecke YMCA Pool

7.  Get Physical     

For $10 ($4.50 for under-20’s) you can spend the day at the the superb Magdalena Ecke Family YMCA. You’ll feel instantly at home here.  No hype, no hustle.  Swim in the (comfortably heated) Olympic-sized pool, sauna, Jacuzzi and weight rooms.  Take any number of yoga, dance or other classes. Check their daily schedules on-line. Exit through  the back lobby; there’s free coffee and Wi-Fi, good company and a huge T.V. for après-sports.     

Kids take a break at Ecke YMCA Skatepark

While you’re there, pul-ease go see the  Y’s skatepark.  Some of the best skaters in the country hang there – along with lots of daredevil little tykes.  You’ll feel like you should be paying to watch.  (The skatepark is located  in the back of the Y’s site, near the baseball fields) .  You’ll need your i.d. when you check in at the courtesy counter.Magdelana Ecke Family YMCA: 200 Saxony Road, Eincinitas, 92024; (760) 942-9622. or (760) 635-3055.  Skatepark:  (760) 635 – 3055 xt. 1038.     


photo credit: Davey Boyd

8. Build Your Dream Home     

Moonlight Beach is a hyper-relaxed hang-out for families and young people.      You can boogey-board down sand hills (rent them for $3/hr.; $12/day) watch the sunset and then stoke up a fire pit for a BBQ with S’mores chasers.   Sunday evenings, join in on a drum circle..     

Sunset at Moonlight Beach


9. Rally!     

South Carlsbad State Beach has lots of opportunities for volleyball enthusiasts.  Bring a net and ball or ask to join others.  Lots of activity at night – bonfires, etc.  For all-day breakfast or lunch walk up the hill to Roberto’s Very Mexican Food Restaurant. Their California Hash Brown Burritos ($4.25) are popular.      

Roberto's Very Mexican Food

 Try a Lite (a misnomer) Burrito ($3.10) or one of the Combo Special, like the Enchilada and Chile Relleno Plate ($5). Address:  1900 Coast Highway 101, Leucadia. (760) 634-2909.     


Hula Hoop Dancing at Swami Beach parking area

10.  Whatever goes around…     

Take a hula hoop dancing lessons at Swami’s Beach on Saturdays, at 1:30 p.m. ($10)   Jam after.     

Watch or join the surfers on the beach.  Walk down to San Elijo Campground and eat at Bull Taco’s (see my previous post). Make designs in the sand. Swami’s: Located directly south of the Self-Realization Center.   http://www.beachcalifornia.com/swami.htmlqqqu     

Divine Design at Swami's


Seek Truth and Beauty

The Self-Realization Fellowship in Encinitas, CA

Self Realization Fellowship Retreat and Hermitage -Photo: Jeff Dowler

– by Lydia Breen

The Self-Realization Fellowship Retreat and Hermitage helped popularize mediation and anchor Encinitas as a home for the New Age lifestyle.

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Bull Taco: Sunday Brunch With an Ocean View

the deck at Bull Taco's

View frm the deck at Bull Taco's at San Elijo State Park near Encinitas, California

by Lydia Breen

Greg Lukasiewicz and Laurel Manganelli, owners of the Bull Taco Cafe ENCINITAS:  He  used to wear designer suits and Ferragamo shoes.  Now he wears sandals and shorts.

Greg Lukasiewicz and his wife, Laurel Manganelli  owned a 12,000 square-foot fine dining restaurant in Pasadena, CA. with a nightclub, a wine bar and two private dining rooms.  Fed up with life in the fast lane, they traded their  million dollar restaurant for an outdoor café with a million dollar view.

They’re having the time of their life, working side-by-side with family and friends in Northern San Diego County, developing local seafood-based  fare  to a rabidly loyal and growing customer base. He has even found time for his newest  passion: spear fishing.

The couple took charge of the concession  at San Elijo State Beach Campground, off Coastal Highway 101 in Cardiff, CA., a business that was held for years by Laurel’s family.  Today, Laurel runs the store where campers come to buy charcoal, s’mores fixings and beach hats.  Daughters Halie, 11, and Devon, 13, sell shaved ice, a job Laurel had at the same store when she was their age.

Greg runs the café, where patrons sit at picnic tables and look out over the cliff at surfers and sun bathers.

“Life is beyond perfect,” says Greg. “It’s more than I ever could have imagined.  I can cook at the grill and look out at the ocean — I can see all the way down the coast to La Jolla.   It’s far beyond anything I expected.”old globe surfing 009

Life flows at a relatively relaxed pace.  It’s a welcome change from the grueling schedule the couple kept seven days a week for  fourteen years. “I think I was the first to say I couldn’t go on anymore, “ says Laurel.  “ I felt like our kids were growing up without us. It was as if we were working for our investors. As a couple, we always said family comes first.”

The choice was more difficult for Greg who has owned four restaurants.   “I was a little hesitant at first  to leave Los Angeles because my family lives in Pasadena.  I had a following there, and the investors wanted me to keep developing more restaurants.  But  I wasn’t home enough.  Now I’m learning to scale down.  I don’t take for granted the magic life has to offer. ”

The couple bought a modest house in Oceanside next to Laurel’s mother.  Greg  took a year off.  He helped  Laurel set up the campground store and he spent lots of time with his kids.  Eventually, he wandered into the café kitchen at the campground, where the most exotic  item on the menu was nachos and cheese.

He  began to experiment  with the kind of food he himself loved to eat: gourmet tacos, which are an after-hours favorite for the culinary cognoscenti of Los Angeles.  Slowly and quietly he let his business concept grow.

Last summer Bull Taco was born.  The name is an homage to Restaurant Bulli in Spain, founded by world-class chef  Ferran Adrià, dubbed the “Salvador Dali of chefs” by Gourmet Magazine.

Bull Taco specializes in local fresh seafood and organic produce.   Grilled fish, oyster and duck tacos with salsa, onions, cilantro and lime are priced at $1.75 – $2.50.  Lobster, crab, abalone and tacos cost $5-$10.

Early mornings on the deck you can grab a breakfast burrito, juice and espresso.   For the less adventurous, nachos and cheese, bean burritos and smoothies are a safe bet any time of day.

The butterflied catfish plate with ponzu sauce  is a mouth-watering tip of the hat to chefs Wolfgang Puck and Shiro.  It serves two at $15.  Hamburgers are available off-menu, but only when organic heirloom tomatoes are in season–because, according to Greg, “the only way to eat a hamburger is with a slice of heirloom tomato.”


Bull Taco Café – San Elijo State Campground 2050 S. Coast Highway 101 (at Chesterfield Drive), Cardiff by the Sea.

Open Monday-Friday 8 a.m.-7 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 6 a.m.-7 p.m.  Cash only.  Non-campers must park outside on the street.  Dogs on a leash are welcome. Bikers and others can call ahead for a pick-up.   Tele: (760) 436-6601.