Thursday, February 24, 2011

Something to Work Towards

Well, despite all common sense and the writing on the wall, I've done it.

I've registered for the 2011 Marine Corps Marathon.

Now, if you didn't follow me over here from my active blog, which, lets face it, would probably be all (2) of you, you probably don't know the back story.

This is actually the 4th (FOURTH!!!) time I've registered for the MCM. The first year, I developed a stress fracture in my left shin.  I was able to heal up in time to switch my Marathon registration to the 10K and run the MCM10K, which is held on the same day as the marathon.  The following year, I developed achilles tendinitis and had to do the same thing as the year before; switch to running the 10K.  Now, both times, I will absolutely cop to not training (or, not training properly; as in, not running for several weeks/months and then panicking and going out to run some distance I wasn't prepared for).

Last year, I was so proud of myself.  I had learned my lesson from previous years.  I was training smart; I'd even joined a local running club for a smart, sensible, progressive training program.  Yes siriee, the third time was the charm!  This would be my year!  I would finish the Marine Corps Marathon!  And on Halloween in a cute costume, no less!

Or, here's another idea: I could BREAK MY HIP and end up on crutches for 2 1/2 months and not allowed to do ANYTHING PHYSICAL for the majority of the year from mid-July through December!  How 'bout THAT???????

Yeah, so, that's what happened; the 2nd option there.  And let me say (again), it SUCKED!  Large time.

So, after talking with hubs (who is some sort of bionic freak who has run and finished the MCM the past 3 years in a row; and he didn't even train for the 2nd one!) I decided to take the plunge and register for this year.  I am going to give it a shot.  My training will be slow.  Like molasses in January slow.  I am not looking for any kind of time goal; it'd just be nice to finish before they take the banner down, ya know?  And, if it doesn't look like 26.2 miles is possible (or safe, more importantly), I will shift, once again, to the 10K.

I don't like that plan too much.  It's never my goal to register for a race and then downgrade.  But life seems to get in the way and if my body isn't ready, I will listen to it.

So, that's my crazy for this week.  Feel free to leave any comments telling my how stupid this idea is. 

In the meantime, I've already started training; I ran 2 times this week so far.  Once outside for 50 minutes at a 1 min run:4 min walk interval and once on a nice new treadmill at the gym for 35 min.

So, yay.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Kauai Kicks Our Butt... [Monday, February 7, 2011]

Or, time to say goodbye.

Monday was our last day in Kauai.  Our flight didn’t depart until 9:45pm, so we had the whole day to spend on Kauai.

I mentioned in an earlier post that our snorkeling cruise was canceled on Friday, so I rescheduled it for Monday.

I regret this, for a lot of reasons.  First of all, and not related to the actual cruise, this meant that, to be at the pier “on time at 7:30am” we had to pack up all our stuff and get everything out of our room before we left for the cruise because check-out was at 10am and, unfortunately, the inn keeper had another couple coming for our room that afternoon and she needed to clean it.  It would have been nice to be able to sleep in a little bit and pack our stuff up a little more leisurely than running around like crazed roosters at 6am!  Also, because we had to check out of our room before the cruise it meant that we didn’t have a bathroom (and, hence, a shower) to return to so we could clean up afterwards.

Unfortunately, things just got more annoying.  When we got to the pier at 7:30 to check in (for the 8am sail) there was nobody at the office.  I wondered if they didn’t cancel the tour on Monday too and fail to inform us, but when I called the number, the lady informed me that she was “about 5 minutes away.”  Hubs and I looked at each other.  This was not a good sign.  When the lady finally showed up to check us in, she told us that some other people signed up to go on the cruise were “running late.”  She checked us in and told us to go wait by some picnic tables and the “boat girl” would be by at about 8:15 to pick us up and take us to the boat.

8:15?????????  Then why did we bust our humps to get here at 7:30????? Grrrrr.

Another family showed up shortly after 8am and the “boat girl” finally strolled up around 8:30.

I understand about the Aloha spirit and island time and all that, I do.  And both hubs and I would have LOVED to sleep in 45-50 minutes longer.  Really. Grrrrrrrrr.

As with the last boat trip, I tried to be optimistic.  It was supposed to be a lovely day weather-wise and hopefully a great day for snorkeling.  It might be nice to just relax on the boat for a little while. Or not.  There was nowhere to relax on the boat.  And, there was nowhere dry on the boat.

Since I don’t want to spend the entire post complaining, I’ll try to hit the highlights.  We did get to snorkel.  It wasn’t as much as was promised (one location instead of 3), but at least we got to get in the water.  I saw porpoises (porposi?) and lots of sea turtles.  I saw more whales.  I could have done without the constant dampness and the 2 hours of just trolling the waters off the coast of the harbor.  But, at least I got to see some dolphins. Check.
I know i said "dolphins" above; it's just 'cause I'm having a devil of a time spelling porpous poirpose
porpoius??? let's just go with that...
porpoises, porpoisi??
more than one...
After we left the boat, we were a bit disappointed.  We had planned to return to Salt Pond Beach Park because we knew they had showers there where at least we could rinse off.  Since we still had our snorkeling gear in the trunk and there is a nice reef at Salt Pond beach, we decided to go snorkeling one last time.

We plopped our stuff down on the beach, just brining a minimum of the snorkeling gear, flip-flops, a bamboo mat and one beach towel; we left everything else in the car.  Hubs took the car keys and put them in a ziplock baggie and tied them to the inside of his shorts pocket.

The snorkeling was, not so great.  It was really murky and hard to see anything, probably because it had gotten a lot cloudier by the afternoon.  I decided to give up and go sit on the beach when hubs comes up to me and says “the day just got worse. The keys are gone.”

What? Does not compute.  It didn’t register for a moment and then he spells it out for me: “The rental car keys fell out of my pocket.”

Oh fuuuuuddddgggeee.  Except, I didn’t say fudge.

What do I do??? I will call AAA. I’ll call the rental car company.  I’m not calling anybody, ‘cause my phone is LOCKED IN THE CAR!!!!!

I’ll go ask the lifeguards for some help.  We can’t possibly be the first tourists to lose keys in the ocean.  Right????

So, I stroll over to the lifeguard station while hubs continues to search for the keys, in and out of the water.

First of all, I want to give a HUGE shout-out to the lifeguard at the Salt Pond Beach on Monday, February 7.  He was awesome and helpful.  He offered his cell phone and went out in the water to look for the keys too saying “I need to get in the water anyway.” J  He was kinda the human version of the turtle from “Finding Nemo”, which was awesome. 

While hubs was on the phone with the rental car people, I walked along the beach searching.  There is a rocky outcropping right off the right side of the beach and so I walked over to look and see if maybe, possibly the keys washed up in any of the rocks.  I could see hubs across the beach, talking on the phone, looking forlorn, and I could see the lifeguard snorkeling around the reef area looking too.  It had been about 30-35 minutes since I heard those words “the keys are gone.”  I walked over to the rocks for the 3rd time.  There was an older lady sitting in one of the tide pools on the rocks.

Out of the corner of my eye, wedged under a rock, I spotted a shimmer of pink and plastic.  I squealed.  I ran over (on the sharp volcanic rock) and reached down and…

TA-DA!!!!!!  Behold the ziplock baggie with the keys!!!!!!!

Actor dramatization of keys in baggie

The woman sitting in the tide pool asked if I lost a contact.  No honey, something much more important.  I informed her that we lost the car keys and that I had just found them.  Then I said (and, sadly, I am not making this up) “I don’t know who you are, but I’m going to hug you.”

(hangs head in embarrassment.)

I saw the lifeguard, told him I found the keys and thanked him and he said “That’s good.  Tell your husband he owes you a lobster dinner!”  then he went right back to snorkeling.  I guess he really did need to get in the water. J

I RAN across the ENTIRE beach (which, despite what Bo Derek might say, was really hard) to my husband and showed him my glorious find: the ziplock baggie containing the car keys!

At that point, I couldn’t wait to get out of there.

I did have one more pleasant surprise before we left.  Throughout my week in Hawaii, I was looking for animals I’d been told I’d see.  Whales? Check.  Dolphins? Check. Sea Turtles? Check.  But I hadn’t yet seen a Hawaiian Monk Seal.  Oh well, I thought.  And then, as I was rinsing out my hair under the outdoor shower, I looked up and what do I see?  A Hawaiian Monk Seal, sunbathing on the other side of the beach (on the other side of the rocks from where we were.)  Seal? Check.  It put a smile on my face.  (not as big a smile as finding the car keys did, but nonetheless…)

and we could even unlock it!!! YAY!!!!!

Aloha, Kauai.

Oahu! (gesundheit) [Sunday, February 6, 2011]

Since yesterday was a beautiful “rainy” day on Kauai, we decided not to push our luck with another “rainy” day on Kauai and headed over to Oahu for the day.  We figured, we came all this way (did somebody say something about 3 plane rides lasting over 13 hours??) so we might as well try to see Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona Memorial.

And, I think it’s a good thing that we did.  Seeing as how Oahu and Kauai aren’t that far apart and pretty much whatever weather is on Oahu probably came from Kauai, I think it’s safe to say that today was not a beautiful rainy day on Kauai; it was probably just a rainy day.

We took an early Hawaiian Airlines flight over to Oahu, which is seriously the shortest flight I’ve ever taken in my life; like 25 minutes, gate-to-gate, and grabbed our rental car and were parking in the parking lot at Pearl Harbor by 7:30am.  I think it’s also a good thing that we got their early, because I’d heard that often the Parks Service hands out all the tickets to go see the Arizona Memorial early in the day.  It’s free, but you have to have a ticket to get on the ferry to go out to the Memorial and the free tickets are timed.  We strolled up and got tickets to the 8:15 film followed by a ferry ride (courtesy of the US Navy) out to the memorial.

USS Arizona Memorial

Now, since I live in DC, I will admit to being a bit jaded by landmarks and memorials.  I’m still impressed by all the memorials and statues that we have here on and around the mall, but I don’t really get goosebumps when I see them.

The Memorial for the USS Arizona was a little different.  It’s very pretty; with the white marble structure hovering in the middle of the water of Pearl Harbor.  But the first thing that struck me as I got off the ferry and walked onto the memorial was the smell.  It smelled very strongly of petroleum.  And I could see oil on the surface of the water.  I was amazed that, after all these years, there is still so much oil coming from the Arizona.  There were two white buoys on either side of the memorial, which marked the ends of the Arizona.  And, of course, you could see the rusting hull just below the surface and the top of the gun towers just above the surface.
Oil still bubbles up from the sunken Arizona today...

(And, as I just tried to google the name of something, I found this fact on the NPS website: There were 1.4 million gallons of fuel on the USS Arizona when she sank. Over 60 years later, approximately nine quarts still surfaces from the ship each day. (

As I was standing on the memorial and after seeing the short film chronicling the events of December 7, 1941, I couldn’t help but think of the similarities to September 11, 2001.  I wondered if Americans would eventually forget about the devastation this country suffered on that beautiful September day the same way they seem to have pushed the attacks on Pearl Harbor to the back of their minds; remembering it only once each year, if that.  I hope not.

After our tour of the USS Arizona Memorial was over, we headed over to the USS Missouri Battleship.  Again, living so close to Norfolk, where we can see the big battleships, aircraft carriers, cruisers and whatnot, as well as hubs growing up near Groton, Conn where he could see and tour some of the fleet’s submarines, probably jaded us a little.  Don’t get me wrong, the “Mighty Mo” is indeed mighty.
Mighty Mo's mighty big guns
Plaque marking the spot where the Japanese surrendered ending WWII

I’m just not sure it was worth the mighty $20, pp entry fee.
On the bridge of the USS Missouri looking at the USS Arizona Memorial

After we left the Pearl Harbor area, we decided to drive thru Honolulu and see the famous Waikiki beach area.  (I should mention that the fact that the Super Bowl was on tv probably mitigated the crowds that we saw, but it was still crazy crowded.)  And, if I’m being honest, I wasn’t all that impressed.  To me, it looked like Tyson’s Corner, with a beach.  So, we skedaddled.

We searched for and found the well-known statute of King Kamehameha.  We were the only non-Japanese tourists there.  (again, maybe because of the super bowl??)  I searched and searched for the mystical “Hawaii 5-0” headquarters, but I didn’t see anything. L

King Kamehameaha

"So, where are the Headquarters for the 5-0 Task Force?????"
Next, we drove up to the Punchbowl crater and saw the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.  It was very pretty and incredibly peaceful.  The landscaping is very nice and it overlooks the city of Honolulu and the ocean from the top of the Punchbowl crater.  Instead of the marble headstones, the graves are marked with a simple plaque in the ground.  I recommend going up to see it if you ever get the chance.

National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific
With the rest of the day ahead of us, we opted to just drive around the island.  We headed up the H2, one of the “interstates” (don’t know how they manage that on an island, but whatev…) through the center of Oahu.  We stopped off at the “Dole Plantation”, and, while it’s not a producing plantation anymore (meaning, they don’t grow pineapples for export) they sure had lots of pineapple-related stuff.  I wanted a t-shirt that just said “DOLE” on the front with the pineapple logo, but, after getting waylaid and spending $$$ on a pretty pearl necklace (long story; I’ll tell it later), we decided to just cut our losses and get out of there.  Moral of the story: don’t stop at a tourist trap when you are tired and hungry and have been driving most of the day…

Once we hit the north shore of Oahu, we found a place to sit and have some lunch.  It was really raining by then, so the famed “North Shore of Oahu” looked a little ‘blah.’  I’m sure it’s lovely; we just didn’t see it on a great day.  After lunch, we drove back towards Honolulu along the east side of the island.

I will admit that, after seeing Honolulu and Waikiki, I was under impressed with Oahu.  I couldn’t get out of there fast enough.  But the north and east part of the island really won me over.  I had this idea that Oahu was nothing but built up beaches and metropolitan hustle and bustle.  But there are parts (large parts, from what I saw) of Oahu that are stunningly gorgeous.  Beautiful beaches backed by gorgeous lush green mountains; nice small towns; lush foliage.  I would definitely go back to Oahu to explore the north and east parts of the island.  And, this was in the rain!  I can’t imagine how pretty it must be when the sun is shining!

Weather Forecast: Rain [Saturday February 5, 2011]

So, it’s a beautiful day on Kauai.

According to the weather reports, today was supposed to be rainy.  I would call it partly cloudy.  The sun is shining, its warm, and I didn’t see any raindrops until later in the afternoon.  Maybe the weather is really tricky to forecast on the islands???? (although, to be fair, every single place I’ve ever lived has had some sort of something that makes that place “particularly tricky to forecast”.  Be it a lake, mountains, a river, the convergence of the jet stream, whatever.  I think that’s just a line they tell weathermen in weather reporting school to trot out when they just have no flippin idea…)

Either way, we had lovely weather today.  So we took advantage and explored the East and North shores of Kauai.  We grabbed our snorkeling gear and headed to Anini Beach, which had been recommended by the lady that runs the inn we’re staying at.

Normally, during the winter months, the surf on the north shore is too rough to allow for snorkeling (or sometimes even swimming or surfing), but Anini Beach is protected by a large reef which causes the waves to break far off the beach and creates almost a lagoon where you can walk very far out in waist-deep water and snorkel. 

The "welcoming committee" at Anini Beach

Hubs is out snorkeling at Anini Beach

When we arrived, after being greeted by the local roosters, we plunked down underneath 2 trees right on the beach.  Hubs went straight in the water, while I opted to sit in the sun for a few minutes to warm up a bit before heading in. 

Because we have a history of getting fantastically sunburned while on vacation, I took some precautions and got both of us some SPF 50+ rashguard shirts to wear.  I also felt like it gave me a “surfer-girl” vibe. J

Now, I will admit that I am a big baby when it comes to water temperature.  Most of the time when I go to the beach, I am in the water of the Caribbean in the summer.  (I really don’t mean for that to sound snotty or like I’m gwyneth platrow; I just don’t really go to the beach that much but when I do, it’s usually in the Caribbean…)  Hubs used to go to the beaches in Maine in the summer, where the water temp might get up to 60 in late August.  (60 degrees, as in, one degree above 59…  I can’t even move in water that cold!  I took 2 steps in and then froze until my legs went numb and I couldn’t feel the pain anymore…) so his take on “cold water” is a little different than mine, although he has been spoiled by the warm bathtub water like temps of the Caribbean.

So, when he got out of the water and mentioned it was “a little chilly” and said that “the shirt actually makes it a little colder…” I seriously weighed the pain of sunburn with the idea of shivering in the water.  But, I figured we came all this way (did I mention it was a 13+ hour trip?) and since all my friends back in DC were currently (literally) freezing, I sucked it up and went in the water.

And once I just dove in, it really wasn’t that bad. And I (finally) got to snorkel and see turtles and clown fish and all sorts of creatures.  And, I still felt like a bad-ass surfer girl in my rashguard, which was now wet which I felt like gave me some street cred.  (or would that be beach cred?) J

We spent about another hour at Anini Beach and then continued our trip up the north shore.  We wanted to go all the way to “the end of the road”, and we did, passing through little towns here and there.  We made it to “the end of the road” (literally, there is not a road that goes all around the island of Kauai, because they cannot put a road along the Na Pali coast; it’s too rugged) where the road really does just end in a parking lot of a beach.  So, we parked and spent some time hanging out at Tunnels Beach, so called because there are several large tunnels in the rocks and mountains behind the beach. 

While we enjoyed nice calm conditions at Anini, the conditions at Tunnels beach were the exact opposite.  As we walked up to the beach, the lifeguards had posted all sorts of signs (that looked semi-permanent) saying “No Swimming”, “Strong Currents”, “No Snorkeling”, “Shorebreak” and other ominous warnings.  The waves were huge.  And strong.  It was exactly what I pictured from seeing surfing movies on the north shore of Oahu.  But, the sun was still shining and there were still only a few clouds in the sky, so we plunked our little bamboo mats down and enjoyed a shave ice right there on the beach.

Which brings me to my new love: Shave Ice.
If you’ve never had a shave ice, oh, you are so missing out.  It’s like a snowcone, but so much better because it’s not as granular since they literally shave the ice off of a big block.  Then, you can add all different flavors of syrup on top of the ice.  My favorite was pineapple, but passion fruit, guava and something called “tiger’s blood” are also very tasty! Ohhh, I cannot wait to have shave ice again!!!!!

Soooo good!  Shave ice with tiger's blood and pineapple and a small coconut creme ice cream.

After a few hours chillaxin at Tunnels Beach, we headed back down the north shore.  Somebody we met on the rental car bus recommended that we check out the Kilauea Lighthouse on the north shore, but by the time we got there, it had already closed for the day.  We got to see it off in the distance.  But, we also got another fantastic vista out over the ocean where we got to see more whales!

As we headed along the north shore, I kept seeing signs for someone named “Andy Irons.”  LOTS of signs; “Thanks Andy Irons.” “Kauai loves Andy Irons.” “RIP AI”, lots and lots of signs.  And I had no idea who Andy Irons was, but he sure was important to and loved by Kauai.  A quick google search informed me that he was a professional surfer, who was born in Kauai, who died last November.  It’s pretty sad and it was apparent from all the signs I saw everywhere that he was a beloved native son of Kauai.

Later that afternoon, as we made our way back south and west, we stopped off in the town of Kapa’a, which hubs and I kept asking “is it Kapa’a or Kapa’a’a???” J  I must say, after attempting to pronounce the names of the various towns and villages that we traveled through or tell hubs the name of a particular road that we were looking for, I have real empathy with Nicholas Cage’s character from “Honeymoon in Vegas.”
And, for the record, it’s Kapa’a.  just one extra “a.”
Welcome to Kapa'a...a

Best Laid Plans [Friday, February 4, 2011]

I'll try to keep today's post short.  Well, shorter than yesterdays...

We had plans to go on a snorkel cruise this morning, but at the last minute, the company called and said that not enough people had signed up to go so they were cancelling the tour.  Lame!!  I rescheduled the cruise for Monday morning, since they said the weather was supposed to be bad all weekend, but I'm a little annoyed because Monday is our last day here and I don't want to have to worry about running around early in the morning and then being able to come back to our room to shower afterwards.  Oh well.  Since our original plans to go on a snorkel cruise this morning were foiled, I called and found another "Snorkel" cruise that is a sunset "snorkel" cruise for this afternoon.

So, we took the rest of the morning and drove up to Wimaea Canyon.  Originally, we hoped to hike some of the trails around and into the canyon.  But, since we had to be in Port Allen by 1:45 for our afternoon "snorkel" cruise and everyone has been warning us that it might rain, we didn't really have time to do anything but drive up to the canyon and the state park area and look out. 

cloudy morning in Waimea Canyon

It was still impressive.  Even though it was later in the morning so the canyon was pretty well socked in by clouds.  I could still see and make out the impressive colors; the red of the dirt and the green of the foliage.  Supposedly, Mark Twain called the Wimaea Canyon "the grand canyon of the Pacific", but some accounts say that Mark Twain never made it all the way to Kauai, so who knows.  Either way, it's still very pretty and impressive.

Missynation at lookout over Waimaea Canyon

So, why does Missy keep putting "snorkel" in quotes when talking about the afternoon cruise?  Well, because that's what I booked.  I asked if they had an afternoon snorkel cruise and if there was any room available. I was told yes, there was a "sunset snorkel tour" (their words, hence the quotes) and there was availability.  We were told to bring our  towels, wear our swimsuits and wear "comfortable" shoes because it was a barefoot cruise and they would take our shoes. (so, comfort matters because... don't know...)  We even asked specifically if they provided the snorkel gear or if we needed to bring our own.  We were told they had snorkels, masks and fins, but we could certainly bring our own if we preferred. 

So, imagine our shock when we go to check in and my husband asks where he can change into his swimsuit and he's told, "well, you can change here, but there's no snorkeling on this tour, so you really don't need to." Uhhhh, what?????? We ask what's up with that, since we booked snorkeling, were told there would be snorkeling and even asked about equipment. "Well, I don't even want to guess what kind of misunderstanding occurred when you booked it, but we only do snorkeling in the mornings. This is a sunset dinner cruise with an open bar."

So, two people who hardly ever drink ended up on a booze cruise.

We were not happy.  We demonstrated this unhappiness by rebelling and NOT putting our shoes in the cart thingy by the dock, but shoving them in our backpacks with our still dry swimsuits.  Take THAT!!!!

Once we got underway, we loosened up a little.  (not by drinking; I've always thought booze and boats don't mix.  A theory that was proven by the end of the afternoon.)  We tried to make the best of it.  We saw some whales.  I even saw one breach; it was a very 'pacific life' moment for me.  We got to see the Na Pali coast from the water.  It was just as impressive, although in a different way, as it was to see it from the air.  We got to see more whales.  And some turtles. 

Na Pali from the boat
Na Pali from the boat, part deux
Hubs & Missynation on boat w/ Na Pali in the background

This beach was used as a set for the movie "Six Days, Seven Nights"

When we turned around to head back, I suspect that the captain wanted to get back in time for a hot date, because he was hauling @$$!!!  So much so, that many folks who enjoyed the "open bar" came to join us at the back of the boat and release the contents of their stomachs.  We, in turn, moved up to the front of the boat and enjoyed the cool (ok, cold) sea spray.  The sunset was very pretty, and then it got COLD as we headed back into the harbor.

Disappointing?  Yes, we wanted to go snorkeling and didn't get to.  Basically, we were lied to by the lady who booked us.  We did try to make the best of it and it was nice to see whales and the Na Pali coast from the water.  I don't think I would do the non-snorkeling dinner/booze cruise again though.  It's just not my cup of tea.

Big Island Highlights [Thursday, February 3, 2011]

Since hubby & I endured a 13+ hour plane ride (actually, multiple plane rides) to get to here, we decided that we wanted to try to see at least one of the other islands that make up the state of Hawaii.  Since seeing the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is on my bucket list, and we can't really see any active (or inactive, I don't think) volcanoes back home, a day trip to the Big Island of Hawaii seemed perfect!

I booked a full day tour that took us around the southeast side of the Big Island and included a tour of the Volcanoes National Park, a black sand beach, and some of the lava fields, as well as a brief tour around Hilo.  One added bonus of the tour was that it included airfare from Kauai to the Big Island, so that was one less hassle that we had to deal with.  Although, making it a day trip from one island to another meant for a long day, it was definitely worth it.

When we arrived at the Hilo airport, we met our guide, an awesome guy named Jay.  He asked what we wanted to do and offered (jokingly) to take up up to Mauna Kea to go skiing.  Did you know there is actually snow in Hawaii??!!!  Yep!  On top of Mauna Kea, which sits at 13,796 feet above sea level, although when measured from its oceanic base, it measures 33,000 feet, which makes it the tallest mountain in the world... according to wikipedia...  anyway, it was very cool to see snow in Hawaii.  (I seem to recall before we left on vacation hearing something in the news about how 46 of the country's 50 states had snow and thought, 'well, not where I'm going...' :-})

Mauna Kea off in the distance

Once we picked up all the other folks on the tour, we did a quick tour of Hilo and then headed off to the national park.  The first place we stopped was a lookout over the Kilauea Iki, which is part of the volcano that erupted in Hawaii in 1959.  This part has since stopped erupting and the crater has cooled and hardened enough so that you can actually walk across the crater along the Kilauea Iki trail!!  Sadly, we didn't have time on this tour to actually hike the trail, but I definitely plan to return and hike that trail someday!  How cool would it be to say you hiked across a volcano crater?!?!?  My mom has actually done it, and I am supremely jealous!

Kilauea Iki; you can see the trail across the crater

another view of Kilauea Iki

The next stop was a short trail that took us through some lava tubes.  There were actually 2 lava tubes; one was lit and packed with tourists and then there was another, much longer lava tube that was not lit, so you needed a flashlight to walk through it.  It was also a much more rugged walk, with puddles and low ceilings, but still a very cool experience.  If you ever go to Volcanoes National Park, be sure to wear shoes you don't mind getting a little wet and bring a flashlight so you can experience this.  It's much different (and i thought better) than the lit lava tube everybody and their brother and their dog walks through.

the lit, more populated, lava tubes

inside the unlit lava tube

I think hubs kept taking pictures just so he could see from the flash!

I tried to get some pictures, but my poor camera had no idea what to focus on or anything.  My husband's camera, on the other hand, was able to take a few shots.  So, super-spendy DSLR: 0, rinky point-n-shoot bought the previous day from walmart: 1.

Then we went up to the Jaggar museum where you can look out over the landscape and see the currently erupting volcano crater.  While you can't see any towers of lava spewing high into the air (at least, we couldn't on the day we were there...) you can definitely see the smoke and ash plume rising from the volcano. 

Steam and smoke rising from Kilauea

Pele's wrath

While I was standing there over a period of about 5-10 minutes, I saw a slow but steady stream of ash and steam rising from the crater and then a huge belch of steam come from the crater.  It was a very real reminder that earth is still a work-in-progress.

Finally, we headed out of the park, and on the way, stopped off to see some of the steam vents.  The landscape was like something out of a science fiction movie.  Everywhere I turned, I just saw steam coming out of the ground.  We were warned to stay on the trail, since the vents are everywhere and they didn't want us to fall in, and I didn't really feel like testing that theory out.  Apparently, the side of the road we were on had just steam coming out of the vents, but on the other side of the road, there was sulfur steaming out of the vents.  I'm not sure why it was different on our side of the road, but that's what they said (and, again, I didn't really feel like testing the theory out.)

steam vents in the ground

you can see the steam amongst the vegetation

another view of Kilauea; if you look closely, you can see lots of steam vents in the background

Later in the afternoon, we drove down to one of  the black sand beaches.  Now, this might sound stupid, but I didn't really know what to expect.  See, I've been let down before.  When I was in England, I was super excited to go see the "white cliffs of Dover" and, let me tell you, it was a bit of a haul to get down to Dover and... the "white" cliffs??  Yeah, they're more grey.  It was a bit of a disappointment.  And whenever people tell me about the beautiful "white sand beaches" of wherever, I'm not super impressed.  It usually ends up being a beach, which is still usually beautiful, but the sand is nothing to write home about.  But  this... this was definitely something to write home about!  And, I don't know why I was so surprised, since I had to walk 20 minutes through a black lava field to get to the beach, but it was just so stunning to see!  It really was a black sand ... well, beach, technically, since it did lead to water, but there were rocky lava cliffs and the sea was a bit rough, so I don't recommend swimming there, but it was so gorgeous nonetheless.


Another thing that amazed me was, along the path to get to the beach, I saw countless coconut trees growing in the hardened lava.  It made for a rather surreal scene.

given that these trees can apparently grow under very harsh conditions, perhaps even I could keep one alive?

the path to get to the black sand beach

Finally, as the sun was getting ready to set, we drove along this road that had been crossed/overtaken at several points by the lava flow.  So, one moment, we were on an actual asphalt road, and then next, we were bumping over a hardened lava flow that had crossed the road.  We got out of our van and walked about a half-mile down the road (as far as we could) and waited for the sun to go down to see if we could sight any lava flows.  The landscape was like the moon or something.  Hardened black lava for as far as the eye could see, punctuated every now and then by some crazy person's house. 
you can see the steam coming off the lava

Who in their right mind would build a house there, seeing what has happened and most likely will happen?  I guess the housing is cheap but I would imagine the homeowners insurance is quite steep!

At first, during twilight, we couldn't really see anything.  I kept thinking I saw lava (kind of like how I kept thinking I saw whales, when it would just be a whitecap...) but as the sun went down and it got darker and darker, more and more orange glows appeared off in the distance. 

Now, I want to take just a minute and manage any expectations (maybe mine).  We did not see rivers of lava flowing just a few feet or yards from our feet.  Maybe that happened later in the evening after we left, or the night before or the night after.  If that did happen, we likely would not have been able to see it at such a close vantage point.  As I mentioned above, my time on the Big Island reminded me that earth is mother nature's work-in-progress and when lava flows, it does not stick to one path or stay on the trail.  It's also hot.  Like hella hot.  You cannot get close to flowing lava.  It's a bad, bad idea.  To explain this point, as I was standing there, looking out at my phantom lava sightings, I glanced across the landscape of hardened lava (that was at few weeks old) and I could literally see the heatwaves rising off the surface.  LITERALLY.  If  you've ever seen an asphalt road in the middle of August, you know what I'm talking about.  And that was coming off of  lava that was several weeks old.  It is not out of the realm of possibility that, if I stood on that for very long, it would melt the soles off of my shoes.

So, no flowing rivers of lava.  What I did see, as the evening progressed, was spots of lava up in the hills and along the ridge line.  I know the pictures not great, but if you look closely, you will see a couple of orange spots off in the distance.  That was my lava sighting. 

see those 2 orange eyes in the middle? LAVA!!!!
and a little more to the left of the 2 eyes (or, some dudes out in the distance holding orange lights to dupe all the haoles!)

This was a really long post; sorry about that.  This was a very cool trip and I wanted to share as much about it as I could.

Since I've got a picture of my toes in the water in St. John, USVI, I figured I'd take a pic of my toes in the black sand in HI.
(dear lord, are my legs pale... can i blame it on the contrast of the black sand????)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Dear Real Housewives of Atlanta,

I don't think I can watch you anymore.

Sure, I was never a huge fan; I certainly didn't seek you out or make you 'appointment television.'

But I would stop and stare if I stumbled upon you while flipping through the channels on a Sunday afternoon.  You provided entertainment while I would fold laundry or engage in some other innocuous task.

I just think it's best for me if we part ways.

While I've only seen a handful of your episodes, they seem to have an impact on me; and not in a good, 'inspire-me-to-become-a-humanitarian' way.  Rather, I've noticed that after I watch an episode, or even a part of one of your episodes, I have really ... aggressive... dreams.  There's no other word for it.

Usually, in my Real Housewives of Atlanta influenced slumber, I'm involved in an argument with someone over something stupid.  Sometimes, I'm directly involved in this argument and sometimes I'm just an observer.

I always hear the phrase "Bitch, please!" somewhere in my dreams nightmares. This is not restful.

I don't enjoy having visions of some wig-headed harpy attack me for, i don't know, drinking riesling over chardonnay.

So, for that reason, I think it's time we parted ways.  Please don't try to tease me with your Shogun-length  Reunion episodes.  Or any "lost" footage.  I'd prefer it to stay lost.  It's just better this way.  My husband can no longer take the wild snapping of my fingers at 2:30 am anymore.  It's over.

All the best,

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Bird's Eye View [Wednesday, February 2, 2011]

Or, this seemed like a good idea from the terrestrial confines of my computer.

Our first day in Kauai, we took a helicopter tour of the island.  After much research and many Trip Advisor reviews, I booked an "Extreme Island" tour with Mauna Loa helicopters ( which means that we both got a window seat and the doors were off the helicopter.
What was I thinking????  First of all, I have to give mad props to the folks at Mauna Loa Helicopters; they were awesome and it was worth every penny.  Highly, highly recommended.

Now, I'm not afraid of heights, but I'm not exactly super comfortable with them either.  So, as I was sitting in the helicopter and I look to my right and see... no door, just the skid of the chopper, my stomach starts to simultaneously sink and do somersaults all at the same time.

Then we lifted off.

Now, I know, logically, that I was pretty safe.  I was strapped in with a heavy duty seat belt, but that didn't really make it feel any better... 
Still freaking out...

For the first 20 minutes or so, I was terrified.  I would look out the non-existent window, and feel like I was about to hyperventilate.  I took lots of pictures, mostly by just holding the camera perpendicular to my head and hitting the button, not really framing or aiming the shot.  One hand was tightly holding onto my camera, the other hand had a death-grip on the handle right behind the pilots head.  They played music (hawaiian, of course) in between narration of the sights we were seeing and so I tried to focus on the music.
one of those pictures I took without looking...

After about 20 to 25 minutes, I calmed down a bit and was able to start to enjoy the ride.  My husband was looking at me wondering why I was freaking out (and I honestly didn't want to miss this opportunity) so I forced myself to focus on the music, breathing deeply, and enjoying the beautiful scenery below me.  (waaaay below me.)

Kauai Waterfalls

Waimea Canyon

Once we came up over the Na Pali coastline, most of the nerves had dissapated.  The Na Pali (which translates into "the cliffs") coast of Kauai is so stunningly, breathtakingly beautiful.  And, while we were flying over the water, we saw several whales.  Added bouns.

Na Pali Coast

It was really windy (an observation you can put in the 'obvious' column) and, stupidly, I was freaking out about my pony tail coming undone.  (no, i don't know what is wrong with me...)

By the end of the tour, I had calmed down and was able to actually look at what I was taking picures of.  Although, I was still a little relieved when the skids finally set down on the tarmac.

Back on solid ground

The one hour tour took us over the main town of Lihue, Poi'pu and the Spouting Horn, Waimaea Canyon, Port Allen and Hanapepe, the Na Pali coast, and the north shore of Kauai.  We also got to fly into a lot of the valleys along the Na Pali coast and into the "heart of the island", which was the center of a volcano that collaped in on itself.  Very cool and very beautiful.

Here are some more random pictures from the helicopter ride.  I'll try to pare it down, but there are lots of cool shots that I can share:
Even when I look at this picture, it still makes my stomach lurch a little

Na Pali Coast

Na Pali Coast

Na Pali Coast

The heart of the island

Waimea Canyon

Na Pali

Flying over Kauai

Over Kauai