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Party at Palomar!
By Carol LeBeau
8/20/2012 2:04:36 PM


–FULL BIO
 

What if you threw a party and 15,000 people showed up?!  That’s exactly what happened Saturday, July 28, when Palomar Health welcomed the community to celebrate the opening of the magnificent, new Palomar Medical Center.

It was a sight to behold as thousands of guests lined up to take a tour of the facility while thousands more enjoyed the grand opening bash on the grounds surrounding the hospital!

Perched atop the main stage with my friend and former colleague, Hal Clement, I watched as throngs of people descended on the property…eager to see the stunning new facility.   As the North County Times put it, folks were eager to see for themselves what nearly a decade of work and almost $1 billion can build.

But the celebration spilled out of the building onto the outdoor venue with Zumba dancers on the driveway, free health screenings and health-care exhibitors in the parking areas, free food everywhere and fun stuff for the little ones in the Rockin’ Kids’ Zone.  LED screens placed throughout the venue helped everyone keep up with the happenings on the main stage.

With the help of roving reporter, Liz Purcell on the “field,”  Hal and I interviewed architects and doctors, contractors and nurses, community leaders and elected officials, donors, CAO’s, CFO’s – and of course, Michael Covert, president and CEO for Palomar Health about their contributions to and feelings about the “hospital of the future.”  And we just scratched the surface.  Literally thousands can claim a piece of the all-new Palomar Medical Center.  It took each one to make the dream come true.

A dignified dedication ceremony added the perfect touch to the day.  It began, in style, with a fly-by by a Mercy Air helicopter and perfect landing atop the hospital’s new helipad.

With a local Girl and Boy Scout color guard at attention, three flags were raised representing the United States, California and Palomar Health.  Local and state officials shared a few thoughts with the crowd followed by the ribbon-cutting ceremony led by Palomar Health Board President Ted Kleiter…smiling ear to ear!

As the sun settled in the west, the party rocked on with free food from some 15 fabulous local restaurants at “The Taste of North County.”  (My first taste of duck tacos compliments of Hacienda de Vega. Awesome!)  Thousands of partiers waving pink and blue glow sticks took us from dusk to dark and the final tour of the new Palomar Medical Center.

The views and amenities of the new medical center are breathtaking, as evidenced by the “oohs” and “ahhhs” coming from each tour group.  But as Palomar’s Medical Chief of Staff, Dr. Richard Engel pointed out, the facility is incomplete until it’s staffed. “It’s the people,” he said, “who will fill it with meaning.”

The new state-of-the-art building opened for business on Sunday, August 19 and that is truly something for the community to celebrate!

 

Contact Carol by emailing her at Carol@palomarhealth.org.

My Tour of the New Palomar Medical Center!
By Carol LeBeau
7/20/2012 11:16:17 AM


–FULL BIO
 

With its majestic almost surreal presence – North County’s new Palomar Medical Center has been on the rise since early 2008.  At last, the technical architectural wonder is ready for business and you can be among the first to see it!

The Community Celebration is Saturday, July 28, from 4 – 9 p.m. and you don’t want to miss out…because if you think the 11-story edifice glistening in the sun atop a hill in Escondido is awesome on the outside – wait till you step inside!

Behind the dramatic walls of glass is an amazement of technology and design.  It’s breathtaking! I’m not exaggerating.  My recent tour of the facility literally took my breath away.  The lobby alone is so luxurious, I felt like I was entering a five-star resort and spa.

Bright and bathed in natural light, the enormous foyer is an extraordinary blend of colors designed to create calm – a design element found throughout the entire hospital building. Mouth agape, I couldn’t believe my eyes. It’s drop-dead gorgeous.

The absolutely stunning ER and Trauma Department just off the lobby are thoughtfully designed to help patients and their families navigate the emergency care process.  I counted 50 treatment rooms, not curtained-off spaces, but large, private rooms equipped with state-of-the-art imaging and other specialized equipment that can save minutes when it really counts. Trust me, it’s where you want to be in an emergency.

As we moved to the surgery and procedures department, I began running out of superlatives to describe what I was seeing…like 12 gi-normouos, shiny “hi-tech” surgical suites and six Cath Lab and radiology suites so futuristic, I felt like I’d been beamed aboard the star ship “Enterprise!” 

But the future is what it’s all about, according to our tour guide, Gerald Bracht.  He’s Palomar Medical Center’s chief administrative officer and may be the best part of our tour.  Gerald’s excitement about the “hospital of the future” is contagious.  “Our goal,” Gerald gushed, “was to build a facility that can adapt to future technologies and innovations even though we don’t know exactly what they’ll be!” 

To that end, a structural steel truss system allows equipment to hang from the ceiling leaving floors free of obstruction. It will also help in future installations of new technology.

Our tour continued, with Gerald enthusiastically pointing out the cool design element that literally funnels natural light into the work areas deep within the building. With large windows in each OR open to atriums with native vegetation – even the surgeons have a room with a view! 

Speaking of rooms with views – our trip to the 11-story patient tower was the tour “coup de gras.” 

Allow me to set the stage:

Imagine spending the night in an over-sized suite-style room with floor to ceiling windows overlooking tranquil gardens or rolling, green hills.

Comfortable, quiet and private – the rooms are decorated in soothing earth tones with a spacious, well-appointed bathroom, wall-mounted flat screen TV and plush pull-out sofa and chair. 

It’s not a luxury hotel but Palomar Medical Center’s stunning, new hospital rooms were designed to make patients happier, healthier and heal faster so they can go home sooner. (Seriously, I thought about checking in and getting my appendix removed just for the chance to spend the night!)

I could go on about nursing stations placed outside each patient’s room…the ingenious hospital-wide “tube” system that moves specimens and other items almost instantly from floor to floor… peaceful family consult rooms, a “green” roof, action-sensored lighting, video phones, state-of-the-art wireless communication throughout the building…it’s truly mind-boggling.  

Beautiful artwork, charming patios and lobbies – even the hospital flooring is a soothing combination of soft earth tones.

At one point, gazing over the sixth floor balcony, I had to remind myself I was not aboard an elegant cruise ship but inside the most magnificent hospital in the nation.

Doors open August 19 but you can get a peek at your amazing new hospital at the July 28th Community Celebration from 4 – 9 p.m.  Join us and be part of history in the making.

See you there! I’ll be the one with my mouth hanging open!

For more information on the Community Celebration, go to www.PalomarHealth.org/opening.

Contact Carol by emailing her at Carol@palomarhealth.org.

Who knew? Sacramento is home to North America's largest railroad museum!
By Carol LeBeau
2/13/2012 9:26:46 AM


–FULL BIO
 

On a recent trip to Sacramento, I connected with an old college pal. I was in the State capital for a speaking engagement, after which Julie and I enjoyed a couple of “girl’s” days – shopping, lunching and re-living some of the escapades that defined our time at the University of Northern Iowa and cemented our friendship for a lifetime. 

These days Julie lives in the Denver area, but she lived much of the 90’s in the Sacramento area and was eager to show me around her old “stomping grounds.”   The State capital building, Vietnam War Memorial and Sacramento River front were all on our itinerary, but Julie is a big history buff, so she wasn’t going to let me out of town without also stopping at Old Sacramento State Historic Park.   

Following a brief walking tour of quaint, Old Sacramento, Julie gushed, “Now I want to show you the California State Railroad Museum!” I looked at her, dumfounded. A railroad museum? You’ve got to be kidding?! On my Top 10 list of “un-fun” things to do, I would probably rank a trip to a railroad museum right up there with a monster truck competition! Not really my cup of tea. But Julie was insistent. 

Good thing. Had I not listened to my friend, I would have missed something special!  I had no idea the historic site is widely regarded as North America’s finest and most popular railroad museum - attracting more 50,000 tourists annually!  An eye-popping 20 restored locomotives and railroad cars are on display…many of which we climbed aboard ourselves.  

The museum is massive. In addition to the beautifully restored trains, we viewed thousands of smaller artifacts and a variety of interesting exhibits in the 100,000- square-foot main exhibition facility. 

It was a step back in time as we walked through railroading’s Golden Age…when the idea of building a transcontinental railroad…linking California with the US was yet a dream. The realization of that dream resulted in California’s meteoric growth and contributed to the mobility and modernization of America’s free society. 

Julie and I “traveled” back to the 1800’s where we learned about railroad work, railroad life and the human enterprise that changed America. We experienced   travel by train…peering into cozy sleeping berths, elegant sitting areas and an original, beautifully appointed dining car with tables set with the era’s most exquisite silver, crystal and china. 

Our final stop was the museum theater where a nicely produced 20-minute documentary tied everything together for us.  The award-winning “Evidence of a Dream” tells the story of the critically important role of the Transcontinental Railroad in developing our great country.  

“That was great,” I gushed as we left the museum.  “You were right,” I admitted to Julie. My old friend gave me her familiar, “I told you so” look as we climbed into the car.    

If you’re planning a trip to Sacramento in the near future, I highly recommend you check it out. The California State Railroad Museum, that is.  When it comes to monster trucks, I’m sticking to my guns!

For more information, call 800.777.0369 or go to www.californiastaterailroadmuseum.org

Contact Carol by emailing her at Carol@palomarhealth.org.

The "Green Flash" Lives!
By Carol LeBeau
1/5/2012 1:57:52 PM


–FULL BIO
 
I’m ashamed to admit it, but I was a “green flash” denier for years.  Oh, I’d heard tales of the optical phenomenon…the brilliant flash of green that occurs as the sun sets over the ocean since moving to San Diego in 1981. 

Many confirmed reports and trusted friends have testified to the existence of the green flash. Even Wikipedia believes…calling the atmospheric event “a green spot visible for no more than a second or two just above the sun as it sets.” It’s just that I’d never seen the green for myself.   

It’s not for lack of trying. From Ocean Beach, La Jolla Shores and Coronado, I’ve stared…afraid to blink…waiting for the sun to sink in the west so I could get a peek at the rumored flash of green.  I’ve even watched from the patio of the Pacific Beach restaurant named for the famous phenomenon… hopes dashed once again when the green flash was a no-show.  Over the years, my faith in the flash faded and I finally stopped trying. 

Well, guess what happened when I least expected it? Like a gift from God, the green flash revealed itself and today, I’m a believer! It happened a couple of weeks ago when my friend, Vicki and I decided to take her sweet terrier mix for a walk. Vicki suggested a stroll along Sunset Cliffs. It was late afternoon – cool and clear, a classic San Diego winter day.   

Vicki, Buddy and I hiked nearly two hours along the coastal cliffs south of Ocean Beach. Named for it’s exquisite sunset vistas, Sunset Cliffs encompasses nearly 70 acres of bluffs and walking paths high above the Pacific Ocean. As luck would have it, we completed our walk just as the sun was disappearing in the west.  

The sky was clear, horizon unobstructed – conditions perfect for an appearance by the elusive green flash.  As we gazed at the sinking sun, Vicki (a believer from several personal sightings!) said quietly, “Keep watching.” And just as the sun slipped below the horizon, I saw it – an unmistakable ray of green shot up from the sunset point then disappeared.  For a moment I didn’t move. Didn’t breathe.    

When I could finally inhale again, I turned to Vicki and did something akin to a “happy dance.” Then (and equally troubling to onlookers) came a pathetic fist pump and high-five with Vicki.  As we headed back to the car, she pretended not to know me, but I didn’t care.  We’d just seen something extraordinary.  

Overwhelmed by a deep sense of amazement I thanked God for magical moments and the beauty of a sunset. We live in paradise, folks. And the green flash is real! 

See you at Sunset Cliffs! 

Contact Carol by emailing her at Carol@palomarhealth.org.

52nd National Girl Scout Convention
By Carol LeBeau
12/5/2011 3:49:13 PM


–FULL BIO
 

As I boarded a plane bound for Houston, Texas recently, I could not have imagined that a four-day visit to the Lone Star state would have so profound an impact on my life. No, it wasn’t the barbecue (though it was awful good!) 

It’s the “high” I’m still enjoying from the four turbo-charged days I spent at the 52ndNational Girl Scout Convention. I was privileged to be part of the 24-member San Diego Girl Scout Council delegation that met with women, girls (and a few brave men!) from 112 other councils from the United States and beyond! 

But this was no ordinary Girl Scout convention. Sure, we recited the Girl Scout Promise, sang “Make New Friends,” and learned how Thin Mint cookies are made in the exhibit hall. But this year was special for another reason. Girl Scouts is about to celebrate a major milestone…100 years of serving girls!  So thousands of Girl Scouts, national delegates and guests (like me!) gathered to renew their “promise” to Girl Scouts and kick off the yearlong 100thanniversary celebration.   

More than 10,000 of us descended upon Houston’s George R. Brown Convention Center. Never have I experienced so much energy, enthusiasm and estrogen in one place! It was like a Girl Scout campout - on steroids! Non-stop events, activities and ceremonies.  Laughter and fun flowed freely.  Even the business meetings were positive and upbeat. 

The convention highlight? This year’s 10 Young Women of Distinction - incredible young women who have done amazing things to earn Girl Scouting’s top honor, the Gold Award.  As each spoke, with poise and purpose, we found ourselves overwhelmed with emotion, then energized and motivated to continue the mission of Girl Scouts. These girls, and others like them, ARE making a difference - ARE making our world a better place.  

More inspiration came in the form of media and entertainment icons Katie Couric, Sara Bareilles, Marlee Matlin and Robin Roberts…successful, powerful women who credit the values and leadership skills learned through their Girl Scout experience for their success! “Today Show” host, Roberts quipped, “Girl Scouts gave me the courage to dream big!” Each echoed the need in our world for more women with the “courage, confidence and character” found through Girl Scouting. 

From the patriotic opening ceremony - to the “Together Counts” morning walk through downtown Houston’s Discovery Park - to the 100thAnniversary party and fabulous fireworks finale above the city skyline - it was a convention to remember. 

But this party is just getting started!  Get ready for a yearlong, celebration of Girl Scouts worldwide and here in San Diego. Juliette Low founded Girl Scouts 100 years ago - an amazing feat for a woman in 1912.  Low’s vision to empower girls and women grew into a worldwide movement that continues to produce powerful women of courage, confidence and character.  Because of pioneering women like Juliette Low, the sky’s the limit for today’s girls.  As TV show host, Katie Couric exclaimed in her opening night presentation, ‘It’s good to be a girl!” 

It’s true.  Girl Scouts gave me the confidence to “dream big.” That’s why I’m excited and honored to be chairing Girl Scouts’ 100thanniversary celebration in San Diego.  To all you former Girl Scouts out there - remember this: “Once a Girl Scout, always a Girl Scout!” So plan to party with us in 2012. Go to sdgirlscouts.org to learn how you can get involved.  It’s Girl Scouts’ “Year of the Girl…” and that’s reason to celebrate! 

Stay tuned…
 

Contact Carol by emailing her at Carol@palomarhealth.org.

Fall Foliage
By Carol LeBeau
11/3/2011 3:30:48 PM


–FULL BIO
 

I love living in San Diego. Perfect weather. Beautiful beaches. The world-famous Zoo.

But every year when fall rolls around, I get a case of the blues. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the bright, sunny days and comfortably warm evenings. I just miss the change of seasons. I don’t mean to complain, but autumn in the southland is, well, barely discernable. Oh, a handful of liquid amber trees are kind enough to change color and drop their leaves. But for this Midwestern transplant, it’s just not enough. I don’t mean to be dramatic, but I long for the cacophony of color that adorns the tree-lined streets where I grew up.

Well, for the first time in years, I got my fill of the season’s fall foliage on a fabulous tour through New England. Tom and I joined 20 other San Diego area “leaf-peekers” on a fun-filled bus ride that included autumn’s brilliant hues, American history, famous cities and charming New England villages.

Our tour with Holiday Vacations began in Boston. After a quick overview of “Beantown’s” historic and cultural sites (including a bittersweet trip down memory lane at the John F. Kennedy Library), we meandered north through the Mt. Washington Valley in New Hampshire, one of America’s most scenic areas. Our first look at New England’s lush foliage, mountain brooks and covered bridges was a thrill.

As we traveled north, the landscape exploded in color! Rich reds. Neon oranges. Yellows on fire! Magnificent maples! Shimmering oaks. A rainbow of color at every turn!

Following a few fabulous photo ops in the rugged mountain valleys of Crawford and Franconia Notch, we discovered the sparkling beauty of New Hampshire’s largest Lake. Aboard an authentic paddlewheel, we cruised Lake Winnipesaukee and got a glimpse of hundreds of tiny islands. A closer look revealed scores of magnificent summer “cottages” – vacation getaways for many of New England’s rich and famous.

My first glimpse of New England included a visit to the extraordinary “Castle in the Clouds” – a must-see New Hampshire attraction. This masterpiece of a mansion has a history-rich history of the American “can-do” spirit.

From there we filled up on homemade apple pie at the famous Apple Barn, followed by another “sweet” encounter as we learned how maple sap travels all the way from Vermont’s famous apple orchards to become the sweet, gooey syrup atop my whole wheat pancakes! Yum!
My favorite day began with a tour of Stockbridge, Vermont, the home of artist Norman Rockwell, and a visit to the museum containing many of his original illustrations and paintings. I could have spent all day just taking in the hundreds of Saturday Evening Post covers made famous by this beloved American artist!

That afternoon, my fellow travelers and I received a warm welcome at the Hancock Shaker Village. There we got a taste of the simple lifestyle of this fascinating religious sect, followed by an authentic Shaker supper and entertainment. (Yes, the Shakers really do “shake.” It’s in their style of sacred dancing!)

From the simple life … to the big city… our trip culminated in a visit to the Big Apple. A whirlwind tour of Ellis Island, the Statue of Liberty and Times Square was exhilarating. But our trip ended in a musical “high” as we took in Broadway’s spectacular (and laugh-out-loud funny!) rendition of “Sister Act.”

Writer Pat Conroy once observed, “In New York City, there’s ‘too much of too much!’” I agree. I got my fall foliage fix and so much more! Now, it’s good to be home.

But something’s changed? Have you noticed? The days are shorter. The sun’s rays come at a different angle. The evening air is crisp and the sycamore tree down the street is missing most of its leaves! Could it be?

Maybe it’s fall, after all. Maybe I just need to look a little more closely.

Contact Carol by emailing her at Carol@palomarhealth.org.

One for the “Gipper”
By Carol LeBeau
10/9/2011 1:34:42 PM


–FULL BIO
 

My First Visit to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum

Mindlessly sorting through a pile of mail one day, a postcard awash in red, white and blue caught my eye.  On the front was the smiling face of our country’s newest president, Ronald Reagan.  On the back was a brief message penned by my Dad.

“Dear Carol,” it read, “The country is in good hands. Love, Dad.”  It was January 1981 and the 40th president of the United States had just been sworn in to office.

Twenty-something and just becoming politically aware, it was difficult for me to understand my Dad’s zeal.  So elated about Mr. Reagan’s victory, he actually made the trip from Davenport, Iowa to Washington, D.C. and stood for hours in the bitter January cold for a chance to witness in person the inauguration of his hero, Ronald Reagan.

It’s been 31 years since Dad sent that postcard. I now appreciate the contribution Mr. Reagan made to this country and the world.  Maybe that’s why five million visitors since 1991 have made the trek to California’s Simi Valley to remember the “Gipper” at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum.  I finally made the trek a few weeks ago.

I have my friend and former 10News colleague, Adrienne Alpert to thank for making it happen.  These days, she’s one of the top broadcast journalists in Los Angeles and knows the L.A. area like the back of her hand.  The consummate tour guide, Adrienne recently arranged a wonderful weekend of sightseeing culminating in a scenic trip with our husbands to the Library and Museum honoring Ronald Reagan.

I realize it’s election season.  So don’t worry. I have no intention of offending anyone’s political sensibilities here.  But whether you lean left or right – if you have an open mind and appreciation for U.S. history, I guarantee you’ll enjoy this marvelous museum and trip down memory lane.

Perched on a mountaintop with sweeping views of the surrounding mountains, valleys and Pacific Ocean, the Reagan Library is certainly one of California’s most beautiful and unique destinations.

The grounds are spacious and magnificently manicured.  Strategically placed gardens and benches provide a setting so serene, the Library grounds seemed more like a retreat center than a popular tourist attraction.

The building is magnificent…beautifully conveying the “shining city on a hill often referred to by President Reagan.  It also serves as his final resting place.

There’s so much to see…100,000 square feet filled with 24 different galleries, a full-sized replica of the Oval Office and the actual Air Force One aircraft which served as the “Flying White House” for Mr. Reagan and six other presidents.

Displays utilizing pictures, artifacts and the former president’s inspiring quotes helped us follow the life of a young Ronald Reagan – as he rose from local hero in Illinois… to the glamorous world of Hollywood stardom… all the way to governor of California and ultimately the presidency of the United States.

The interactive stuff is very cool.  At Adrienne’s prodding, I experienced what it’s like to give an inaugural address complete with TelePromter!  And I loved the display of Nancy Reagan’s wardrobe…her classy suits, elegant gowns and to-die-for (even today!) red inaugural dress – peplum style with mandarin collar and perfect pillbox hat. Exquisite!

We lunched under the wing of Air Force One on salads and sandwiches from a little self-serve pub.  The food was delicious and the spectacular view of the valley from inside the 90,000 square-foot exhibit hangar gave new meaning to “table with a view.”

Re-energized, we climbed aboard Air Force One for a group photo followed by a fascinating tour of the aircraft that carried Ronald Reagan to 26 countries and 46 states during his presidency. 

As the day wound down, we slowly made our way back to the car by way of the replica or the White House Rose Garden, a huge, haunting piece of the Berlin Wall, a decommissioned F-14 Tomcat and President Reagan’s Memorial site. 

Inspired by the former president’s life story and powerful quotes, I found myself longing for the “good old days.”  “If we lose freedom here,” Mr. Reagan warned, “there’s no place to escape to. This is the last stand on earth.”

I realize it’s easy to romanticize the past. The 80’s, like today, were rife with problems domestically and around the world.  Perhaps the difference was in the rhetoric.

“Freedom,” declared the president, “is one of the deepest and noblest aspirations of the human spirit.”

Even those who disagree with Reagan’s actions or policies can’t deny his message of faith, hope and, most especially, freedom.

www.reaganlibrary.org

“You can tell a lot about a fellow’s character by his way of eating jelly beans.”
- President Ronald Reagan

 

Contact Carol by emailing her at Carol@palomarhealth.org.

Surprise in Lake Havasu
By Carol LeBeau
10/2/2011 3:25:48 PM


–FULL BIO
 

You know what’s great about retirement? You finally have time. Time to sleep. Time to read. Time for friends. And my very favorite – time to do something new and different. In fact, since leaving my day-to-day duties as a news anchor and reporter at San Diego’s 10 News, life has gone from being tightly scheduled to wildly unpredictable!

Since my “new” job with Palomar Health allows for a little more flexibility, I’m slowly learning the art of spontaneity. So, a few months ago, when a wonderful woman named Carlene called and invited me to be a guest speaker for her women’s group in Lake Havasu City, I said “sure, why not?” Then I looked at a map.

Located in the high desert of Mohave County, Lake Havasu City is a six-hour drive from San Diego through a rather bleak and desolate corner of Arizona. Road trips of any distance typically include Tom. There’s nothing my husband loves more than “road behind him!” But Tom had work commitments, so I was on my own for this trip.

The first three hours were familiar. I’ve often driven over the local mountains through Imperial County into Arizona. But this time, I took a hard left at Yuma and headed north on US 95. For the next two hours, I saw nothing but a border checkpoint and one bleak-looking mini-mart.

There was virtually no traffic as I crossed Interstate 10 and continued my climb into the high desert. The view was nothing short of breath taking. The early evening sun created a magnificent display as it bounced off the walls of multi-colored rock formations.

The sun was just settling behind the lake as the city slowly came into view. The popular resort community of 52 thousand was winding down for the night … gearing up for another day of beach-going, boating, fishing, off-roading, golf and hiking. I spent a peaceful night at Carlene’s.

I knew Shugrue’s restaurant was the site of the “Women’s Connection” event at which I was to speak. I had no idea getting there would require driving across the London Bridge! I’m sure the food at Shurgrue’s was fine, but all I can remember is the view from the banquet room window of the historic landmark.

I’d all but forgotten the story that made news more than 40 years ago. The bridge was bought in 1968 for $2.5 million dollars from the City of London. The entire span was completely disassembled, and the marked stones were then shipped to Lake Havasu City and reassembled for another $7 million. The London Bridge then opened in 1971 and is now the second most visited tourist attraction in Arizona – second only to the Grand Canyon.

What a treat – a pleasant and beautiful road trip topped off by a close encounter with a piece of British history! Who knew Carlene’s invitation would lead to such a wonderfully, random adventure for this old, retired gal?

I can’t wait for the phone to ring. I wonder where I’m going next?!

Contact Carol by emailing her at Carol@palomarhealth.org.

Newport Beach
By Carol LeBeau
8/12/2011 4:32:23 PM


–FULL BIO
 

If you love the beach, but have already explored all that San Diego’s local coastline has to offer, there’s a lot more to see just up the road!

As a Master’s rough water swimmer, I’ve had the joy of competing off Coronado and Oceanside, Catalina and Alcatraz, Oahu and Maui. But I think my very favorite ocean swim is in the waters off Orange County.

Don’t get me wrong. My beach allegiance is strong. There is simply no beach more beautiful this side of eternity than Coronado. And the sights and sounds (waves crashing against the cliffs and barking sea lions!) that accompany a swim from La Jolla Cove to the Shores never cease to delight this open ocean aficionado.

But there’s something about the annual “Newport Pier 2 Pier Swim” that keeps a bunch of us veteran (I did not say old!) Master’s ocean swimmers coming back year after year. For one thing, the start time of 10 a.m. is very civilized. Organized entirely by the Newport Beach lifeguards, it’s also a relaxed, perfectly run event. We gather at Lifeguard Tower M, just north of the Balboa Pier, to register, check out the water temperature and chat about whether the current is pulling north or south.

But it’s also the challenge. Newport Beach is known for its gnarly surf. But conditions great for surfing can seem death-defying for us lowly swimmers. Over the years, I’ve prayed my way through seven-foot crashing walls of water just to get to the turn buoy. Add the chilly overcast and late-morning wind-chop and you can find yourself in a scene reminiscent of “Victory at Sea!” And, when the temp drops below 60, the “Big Chill” doesn’t begin to describe what happens to your body. When the conditions are tough, it’s a two-mile, wild ride!

But this year? THIS year, the combination of clear, sunny skies, zero surf and perfect water temp (a balmy 70 degrees) made the two-mile trek from pier to pier, well, a day at the beach! One by one, members of the San Diego Master’s contingent ran up the beach to the finish – all smiles!

After a casual awards ceremony at Lifeguard Headquarters, it was time for our post-swim award to ourselves – lunch at The Crab Cooker. Known for its delicious one-plate specials, the iconic Newport Beach eatery makes our trip to the OC complete.

Pleasantly chaotic with friendly service, The Crab Cooker is one of the best family seafood restaurants around. I recommend the grilled halibut plate with rice and slaw, but you’ll also want to try the clam chowder. It’s amazing.

Just a block or so from the beach, board shorts and sandy flip-flops are welcome and they’ll mail out as many of their signature postcards as you can address … free of charge! A couple of pieces of salt-water taffy (free!) for the road, and we’re headed home to San Diego … another vacation “day” just off the beaten path.

With or without the swim competition, why not consider a day trip to the beach – Newport Beach. It’s an easy trip. There’s so much to see and do. But be sure to pack your swimsuit. I can assure you … the water’s fine!

Contact Carol by emailing her at Carol@palomarhealth.org.

Royal Slumber Party
By Carol LeBeau
5/6/2011 3:56:00 PM


–FULL BIO
 

Did you know I was invited to the royal wedding? It’s true. The official-looking invite arrived in a timely fashion, about a month prior to the much-anticipated nuptials between Prince William and Kate Middleton. But alas, I was not being summoned to Westminster Abbey. (The local postmark should have been my first clue!) It was not a royal wedding to which I was invited. It was a royal “slumber party… in Alpine!

While I may not have been in the company of Elton John and the Queen Mum as Kate and William took their vows, my dear friend Maggie – lover of all things royal – threw a wedding viewing party and sleepover at her home fit for a queen!

The bedtime bash commenced at 10 p.m. Thursday… the six of us already bleary-eyed (For us 50-somethings, it was already past out bedtime!). Each woman was issued her very own plastic tiara and sparkly scepter… perfect accessories to complement our cozy robes and pj’s. Snacks included chocolate cupcakes with cream cheese frosting (in honor of William and Kate’s wedding cake) and a little “bubbly” with which to toast the happy couple.

The wall-to-wall network coverage was about to begin when Maggie cheerfully announced, “It’s time for a game!” Oh no! As she handed out pens and paper, I realized, with horror, we were about to take a 15-question royal wedding trivia quiz. I should have paid closer attention to the massive media coverage in recent weeks!

By the time I got to question #5, (What are Kate’s parents’ names?) I hadn’t filled in a single answer. I decided to go with “Mom and Dad.” (Carole and Michael would have been correct!) Who knew Kate’s hometown was Buckleberry and her dad was in the party supply business? A lot of people, apparently… including my pajama-clad pals. Carol M. was the runaway game winner. I came in a strong last place, but still took home a royal parting gift… a coffee mug festooned with Kate and Wills’ mugs.

Determined to learn all I could, I did my best to focus on the non-stop TV coverage leading up to the 3 a.m. wedding. (Did I mention I don’t do all-nighters? Even as a kid, I actually slept at sleepovers!) At 1:45 a.m., I knew I was in trouble. So fatigued, I could no longer distinguish between ABC’s Barbara Walters and Diane Sawyer. I threw in the towel and headed to the guest room for a catnap.

An hour later, I joined my fellow wedding-watchers in front of the TV. Eyes wide, we watched with delight as 60 cameras installed in the Abbey, captured both the magnificence and intimacy of the ceremony. No TV commentary required. William delightfully debonair, his bride elegantly radiant, the ceremony was perfect down to the last detail. And six forever “girlfriends” shared an experience we will never forget.

Following a breakfast of tea and scones, we went our separate ways. Sleep-deprived and sugar-buzzed from too many cupcakes, the post-wedding hangover lingered throughout the day. But it was worth it. Say what you may about the monarchy, when the Windsors plan a party, it’s worth staying up for!

Maggie, thanks for the best wedding bash outside London. It was a royal treat! And to my fellow wedding partiers – Liz, Carol, Christine and Teresa – let’s make sure we mark our calendars for the next wedding at Westminster. I hear there’s already buzz about Harry and Pippa?!

God save the Queen!

Contact Carol by emailing her at Carol@palomarhealth.org.