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The Phoenix One Journals      Stories from the dawn of RoadTrip America

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Shakedown Cruise to Super Bowl City

On Thursday, January 22, 1998, the Phoenix One officially rose again. By this I mean that Mark, Marvin and I got on the highway and headed for San Diego. No, it's not coincidental that we were headed to Super Bowl City. We're interested in mobile marketing, and where else in the universe can you find as many examples of rolling advertisements than at the events surrounding the NFL's January mega-game?

As we approached San Diego, we decided to swing by Qualcomm Stadium, which was easy to locate by the blimps hovering overhead. After taking an external look at the NFL Experience, a sort of temporary football-oriented them park, we stopped to chat with the drivers of a motor home that was wearing a large fiberglass football helmet. It was a Sprint-sponsored promotion, and if we'd been in the mood, we could have entered a dance contest which promised Super Bowl tickets to the winners. Instead, we decided to head on over to Mission Bay, where we had responsibly made reservations at a campground right on the water. On the way, we caught sight of the Kissmobile, Hershey's answer to Oscar Mayer's famous rolling hot dog. It's a fiberglass wonder— three huge foil-covered kisses, the first of which is a driver's compartment. It made a couple of tricky turns ahead of us and disappeared before we could ask for a sample.

In the morning, we caught a bus to downtown San Diego. We'd seen notices in the newspaper announcing a "Superfest" of attractions in the Gaslamp district, a newly redeveloped section of the city's old town. Several blocks had been temporarily turned into pedestrian zones, and stages were being constructed at strategic intersections.

The crowd grew steadily all day, with Green Bay Packers fans easily outnumbering Bronco lovers. "I'd want to get out of Wisconsin in January, too," said Mark. We marveled at a few more mobile wonders, including a large truck owned by Foster Farms that sported two three- story inflatable chickens on its roof. The Budweiser Clydesdales were on hand in their luxurious traveling stalls. Nearby, a selection of Bud race cars was on display, and bicycle taxis shaped like Coke bottles wove in and out of the crowd. By dinner time, we'd reached the limit of our capacity to appreciate motorized advertisements. We hopped on the bus and escaped once more to Mission Bay.

We planned to get an early start on Saturday, and go exploring on our way north. Balmy breezes and friendly neighbors slowed us down delightfully. We didn't leave until we'd enjoyed a conversation with a visiting Washingtonian whose daughter arranges flowers for Bill Gates, and a diver who'd recently salvaged Greta Garbo's yacht.

Around noon we headed north on Interstate 5. We took a detour through La Jolla, where the perfect weather meant the waves were no less crowded than the sand. As we continued north, the crowds did not diminish. At last, we succumbed to the lure of the ocean, too. We stopped at South Carlsbad State Beach, which had campsites overlooking the water. "Let's stay here overnight," I said. "You won't hear me arguing," said Mark.

After we parked, we walked down eighty wooden steps to the beach. Greeting us at the bottom was a sea lion lying on the rocks, quite huge and quite dead. We marveled at the creature's size and wondered what would happen in a day or two when decomposition set in.

After we climbed back up the steps, Mark asked a ranger about the sea lion. "It's been there for three days," she said. "We called someone to get it taken away, but they wouldn't do it. We just have to hope it will wash out to sea before it starts to smell."

"That thing must weight twelve hundred pounds," said Mark as we walked backed to the Phoenix, "And it's so far up on the beach and wedged so well into those rocks, it would take a tidal wave to dislodge it."

We fell asleep to the sound of the surf, and in the morning we climbed back down the steps to the sand. The sea lion was gone, borne out to sea on the high tide that was still crashing about the upper rocks.

We drove back to Pasadena, where the Phoenix will be getting some repairs before we venture forth once more. So yes, our dateline is once again Pasadena, but not for long. The road is calling, and one of these days, we'll answer with our wheels.

Pasadena, California
January 25, 1998

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