They say nothing in life is free, but here’s something that really is: a San Diego shuttle service called FRED (Free Rides Everywhere Downtown). The fleet of all-electric, open-air, five-passenger vehicles cruise downtown San Diego from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. weekdays (later on weekends). The goal is to relieve the stress and frustration that comes with hunting for parking spaces in the downtown area — a factor that probably discourages a goodly number of visitors from coming. Now North County folks can take the Coaster to the Santa Fe Station, hail FRED and quickly get to Balboa Park, Seaport Village, the convention center, the Chicano Murals, the Gaslamp District — anywhere bounded by Laurel Street on the north, Interstate 5 on the west and south, and Barrio Logan at 16th, Newton and Sigsbee.
The service promises to pick you up within eight minutes of calling (there’s an app for that). Shuttle drivers are paid $14.66 an hour and receive benefits. The company, which has similar services in numerous other cities, makes its money on ads that are displayed on the inside and outside of the car. What’s not to love? To download the FRED app, visit thefreeride.com/fred.
As I write, it’s hot and humid, but cooler weather is coming, even in the desert where temps are currently in the triple digits. You can mark the change of seasons (as we know it) by attending the Borrego Days Desert Festival Oct. 21 to Oct. 23. Borrego Springs sits inside the boundaries of Anza Borrego Desert State Park, where you’ll find beautifully stark scenery, other-worldly geological forms, unending hiking trails and crystal clear skies, thanks to Borrego’s designation as a Dark Sky community. The festivities are held in Christmas Circle and include a parade, art, entertainment, fun for the kids and lots of food and drink. Visit www.BorregoDays.com or call (619) 233-5008.
Whale-watching used to be confined to Southern California’s winter months when the annual gray whale southern migration takes place, but the waters off our shores currently provide fascinating entertainment year-round. According to Dana Wharf Sportfishing & Whale Watching, the ocean off Dana Point in Orange County has become a performing platform for blue whales, pilot whales, a variety of sharks, dolphins, sea lions, birds and other sea life.
For a look at a recent frolic by a juvenile humpback whale, check out this unusual video by taken by Dana Wharf staff: https://youtu.be/iAKlh8Wvb0o. Sea life expeditions leave daily, as well as other themed tours. Visit www.danawharf.com
California’s state parks are facing budget cuts and they need help. The people at the California State Parks Foundation have made it their mission to help make up for the deficits in state funding that never quite meets the needs of our treasured public lands. The foundation’s Champions Program has taken on the tasks of repairing trails, removing invasive plants, restoring habitat, building fences and bridges, and painting park structures. These volunteers always need help, so if you enjoy the outdoors, the company of like-minded folks and are willing to donate some time and sweat, email program manager Phoebe Oelheim, email@example.com or call (213) 542-2450. The volunteers work all over the state, including Cuyamaca State Park and Palomar Mountain State Park. Volunteers will tackle overgrown, invasive Chinquapin trees on the Wellman’s Divide Trail in Mount San Jacinto State Park during a two-day backpacking trip (Sept. 10 and Sept. 11). Leaders say this trip requires “a high level of physical fitness.” Volunteers must carry their own gear, food and water to the Round Valley campsite. Teens 17 and up are welcome with a legal guardian. Visit http://calparks.org/help/park-champions/.
E’Lousie Ondash is a freelance writer living in North County. Tell her about your travels at firstname.lastname@example.org
E’Louise Ondash is a veteran, award-winning journalist who was an investigative reporter, feature writer and columnist for the Times Advocate and the North County Times. She has written travel features for The Coast News since 2003.