Post-Vacation Perceptions

Okay, so here it is--Saturday--And I've had just enough coffee that I feel like I should write about something.  (Apparently, coffee is somewhat of a catalyst for blogging to lots of people.)  Bloggers are not writers really... We're more of what you might call a writer wannabes or something like that.  Maybe a blogger is nothing more than someone with random brain activity coupled with the ability to type.  Here is a comic I blatantly stole a few weeks ago that I felt I may someday use it in my blog.  It is the public's perception of a blogger I think (Obviously, you'll need to click on it to see it full size).  Now that I've actually used it I can finally delete it from my desktop where it's been sitting there catching my attention--Waiting for it's golden opportunity.

I've been home from Kauai for a week now.  Okay, almost a week--Close enough.  My thoughts?

I miss the ability to get up and not have to put any additional clothing to feel comfortable.  (That reminds me--Thank you Flynn and Maggie for putting up with my wearing those garish boxer shorts around your house.  It made me feel very much at home in your house.)  Although the weather here and there differs greatly, I did welcome the change when I got home.  That is, when the house is comfortable.  I've already had a fire in the woodstove twice this week.  Here all it takes is a simple clothing change to match the environment.  Over there, you can only take so much of your clothing off at any given time... After that it's breezes, fans, or air conditioning.

I don't miss the mosquitoes.  I never really thought about them being there in Kauai.  I guess that's because the only other time I've been to any of the Hawaiian islands was a visit to Maui several years ago, and because we stayed on the arid side of the island I never saw a biting insect the whole time.  I remember noting that to several people ("I couldn't believe it--There were no bugs there!") at the time.  The mosquitoes there where I stayed in Kauai were very small.  They easily escaped detection while I was being eaten.  The itch started usually after they were safely on another part of my body feasting.  The ones we have here are slightly easier to spot, and fortunately not nearly as abundant.  While I was there I got frustrated more than once because I couldn't even rush from the car to the house without being bitten a time or two on my lower legs.

I miss the photographic opportunities.  I'm sure that was because I was new and taking it all in, but the truth is, the change of scenery made it so easy to come up with pictures every day.  Even if I had nothing the seemingly ordinary (like even the dirt for example) was way different that what we have here.

My job didn't suffer too badly in my absence.  My replacement, who is young and green, was bright enough to pick things up quickly, but wasn't really afforded as much training time as he should have been.  That part was mostly out of my hands.  He was recruited to work other areas of the shop due to personnel shortages before I left so he really didn't get as much training as I would have liked.  Still, the training I did give him, coupled with the help files, tip sheets, and screen prints that I made from scratch, enabled him to muddle his way through okay.  When I got back, the general consensus was that he did okay.  From what I heard, his first day was the hardest.  He got bombarded with stuff from multiple directions and realized that he should have paid more attention during his training (his words).  But again--The fact that even after going over everything he did and making some tweaks, fixes, and adjustments here and there I was caught up by Thursday.  That's a huge difference from when Suzie and I took 2 weeks to go to Utah and California two years ago.  Even though that was before we had the big computer system in place at work and my job was more "analog" (what a geek!), it still took me a full two weeks to get everything fixed and all the problems ironed out.  The person that filled in for me then was plainly not the right one for the job.  Not only did he not want to do it, he was just wrong for it.  He is a wrench guy, not a paperwork guy.

I don't like coming home to an empty house.  I miss my wife.  It's too quiet, too cold, and too weird.  Without my wife to share a hot tub with, even that's not as much fun.  We are, in my humble opinion, a great couple.  Although have our differences, she and I are a very good fit.  I can honestly say that Suzie is my best friend, my confidante, my photography buddy, and my life.  It will be good to have her back.

Maggie and Flynn were such gracious hosts!  They opened up their home to me as they do to Suzie.  That means a lot of bathroom juggling, bed juggling, time differences (waking, eating, etc), and all sorts of day-to-day things that people have to adjust when someone is staying with them.  I'm sure Flynn had reservations about me in the early days--Especially because I'm not within the Truth of Jehovah like they and Suzie are--But I'm pretty sure he decided that I'm good people.  I liked him a lot.  He was always eager to share things with me--Whether it was Hawaiian history, computer stuff, or anything.  The night before I left they took us out to eat at Dukes for a great, great dinner.  Thank you for everything Flynn and Maggie!!

The island of Kauai astounded me many times while I was there.  The beaches were all first-rate.  It's funny how beaches can vary so much.  I was amazed to see that Kauai has its own "grand canyon" too.  On an island?!  Hooda thunkit?  Everywhere I went I saw bananas growing... I'm sure the locals don't even notice them.  Probably like blackberries here...  I started to get used to the chickens, but they still made me look when I saw them.  I guess because they were everywhere.  Along the highways, roads, fields, even deep in the woods or on beaches.  Chickens.  Is it any wonder that one of the t-shirts I bought has a chicken on it?

I met so many nice people while I was there, and all seemed to be genuinely warm, nice people.  All the time the local folks were trying (in vain) to teach me to speak Hawaiian.  I did gain a more thorough understanding of pronunciations after reading road signs during my stay, and I was actually starting to get them right.  My perception is that all the people on Kauai are nice people.  Whether that's true or not doesn't matter.  I'm going to assume it.

It will be good to go back.


The fantastic week and a half at Flynn & Maggie's (Sue's folks, for you oblivious readers) home in Anahola, Kauai finally came to and end when I arrived back home yesterday afternoon.  It was a very memorable experience!

It's good to be home, but yet--It's an empty one.  I miss my wife already.  Sue won't be home for a week or so yet.  The weather I came home to was good for our area, but falls quite a ways short of the constant 86 degrees and breezy that our rental car always seemed to have displayed on the dash.  The grass needs mowing, but fortunately that seems to be the extent of the things that need my immediate attention.

I feel like bouncing around in this blog, so forgive me.

Starting out my departure in the wee hours (sorta), I got up at 5:30 so I would have enough time to wolf down a couple of cups of coffee before leaving.  Flynn got up right after I did, and Sue right after that.  Both she and I had some trouble sleeping.  We were half way to the airport when it came to my attention that that my cell phone was still at their house on the charger.  Oh no!  Well, Suzie had hers with her so we swapped.  Now I have to get used to calling or texting my phone when I want her.  Funny thing about that.  First of all, let me say that Sue's phone has a specific ringtone attached to her parents' phones:  The television theme song from Hawaii 5-0 (you old people will remember that).  Anyway, I had just walked into the plane and was right there by the pilot's cabin where you turn to go down the aisle when it rang.  I didn't even notice it because I was intent on getting myself on board.  The stewardess standing there all of a sudden turns to the intercom console that was on the wall right there and turns a knob.

"Who turned this on?" she wondered aloud, twisting the knob.  Then she turned to me.  "Oh, it's you!" she said.  As I answered the phone (it was Suzie, making sure I had made it through all the checkpoints and traps of the airport) I overheard that stewardess telling another, "We should get that on our phones!"

I was fortunate to sit in the very back of the plane only because I was one of the first to board.  The plane was almost full by the time my "seatmates" showed up.  I had the window, and a middle-aged "new couple" sat down--He next to me.  (You could tell they were a new couple because they were holding hands and all that sickeningly sweet mushy stuff.)

This time my seat was very comfortable.  I suspect that the seats we had on the flight over that didn't recline also had different seat cushions, because they never felt right.  The seat I had coming back was totally different-feeling.  Anyway, it was a beautiful day for a plane trip.  Bright, sunny, and lots of puffy clouds with ocean visible between them.  I had my iPod on and was playing music, while I gazed outside, putting shapes to the many cloud formations that passed beneath me.

Imagine my surprise when, about an hour into the flight, a Southwest Airlines jet went zooming by us in the opposite direction!  It was slightly lower than us, but quite obviously close enough for me to see what kind of plane it was.  I'd say about 1/4 mile away or so.  Let me tell you--When two jets pass each other going 600+ mph in opposite directions, they pass FAST!  Literally, if I would have blinked I would have missed it.  That was very cool.  I could see the white contrail as it was coming out of the engines for the second it was visible.

At one point I saw a tanker far below, steaming (funny how people still say steaming... I guess dieseling sounds too stupid) along on its way toward some distant port city. It was barely visible and barely distinguishable from the clouds from our altitude.

I both love and hate window seats. A window seat affords me with plenty of opportunities for daydreaming and letting my mind go blank, but at the same time makes me feel slightly claustrophobic and uncomfortable.  The guy I was sitting next to on this flight was very fidgety--Constantly scratching, rubbing his face or head, or whatever.  At a couple points he and his girlfriend painstakingly put some sort of medicine on her hands in various places with a dropper.  It was strange-smelling stuff, and my sniffer didn't need that crap.

They didn't have the breakfast sandwich I wanted to buy when I got on the plane, so all I ate the whole day was a free cookie they gave us right after we were airborne, and later a teeny bag of a snack mix.  By the time the snack mix came around it was a little later.  I ordered a coke and let my seatmates watch me lovingly select a miniature bottle of rum from my a bag I magically produced from the seat pouch in front of me (I stored it there before they got on the plane).

Rachyl picked me up at the airport.  I thanked her profusely and we yakked all the way home.

Okay, now to backtrack.

The last day in Kauai?  We spent it getting sun of course!  We visited the cemetery where Flynn's grandmother is buried, stopped at the local Harley-Davidson dealership and laughed at the price of their t-shirts, wandered around the beach cliffs at Poipu, hit Shipwreck Beach and watched surfers wipe out , visited the Spouting Horn and listened to it's wailing moan every time a wave crashed into it's lava formation, visited Salt Pond Park (the salt ponds were dry) and just generally had a really great time.  It was a perfect end to a great, great vacation!

Finding a Favorite Place on Kauai

I started the day today like I have a few other days:  Blogging.  The blog I did this morning was a pretty long one because of all the pictures I put in it.

When that was finally finished it was work time.  I went out and spent a couple hours finishing up on the caulking job that I started the other day.  After finishing that and getting the usual dose of mosquito bites, I showered and we took off on another jaunt.

The next part of the blog could easily be copied from my other blog, the 365 Picture Blog.  We had been by this particular stretch of highway several times since our arrival, and I just had to get a shot of it.  Anyway, I did get a shot finally.  You can read about it there, and see one of my pictures to boot.

Our next (and main) destination was Hanalei (remember the old song, Puff the Magic Dragon?)  We had already been through the town a few times, but never veered off the main drag.  The main drag was just a conglomeration of souvenir shops and overpriced eateries (for example, Tropical Taco... Home of the $10 taco), but this time we turned off the main drag.  There was a pier that Suzie wanted to investigate.  Well, we found it, and we both agreed:  It was our favorite beach place!  What we saw was the perfect pier for jumping from, perfect sand, and good waves (not dangerous).  There was also a laid-back, family feel to the place.  We saw lots of gray-haired surfers, little kids, and everyone in-between.  We fell in love with it.  Maybe it was the time of day, maybe it was just the perfect day to drop in--I dunno.  I just know I loved it and so did Suzie.

Tomorrow is my last (gasp!) full day on Kauai!!

Trying to Catch the Sun

We got up early again yesterday--This time at 5:30 to give us time to drive over to the Kilauea Lighthouse.  While it's not all that far away, we still wanted to be there in time to catch transitional sun rays as (or if) they touched the lighthouse itself.  Sue thought that if we got there early enough we could avoid paying the $5 entrance fee.  I said there must be a gate somewhere at a place like that, but in my mind I couldn't come up with where it would be.  Neither of us remembered seeing one.  Well, we got there fine, but as I guessed, there was a gate.  It was at the upper parking lot where we had parked for the distance shots of the lighthouse when we were there on Monday.  Anyway, we parked in the dim light and got out... And were treated to a magical experience:  The air was filled with swooping birds, some of which were only barely missing the tops of our heads!  There were two sounds filling the air:  The cries of the abundance of the different birds that were all around in the trees and nests, and the whooshing, whistling sounds that the swooping birds were making as they dove and rose around us at the viewpoint.  The whole thing was an amazing experience for sure--Hard to put into words.  When we looked up there were lots and lots of soaring birds, barely visible as they caught the air currents and hovered, wings held still.  The sunrise was a bust, but the experience was anything but!

On the way back home we stopped and filled a couple bags with coral from a local beach.  Maggie is using coral as ground cover around the house, and because Kauai is surrounded by coral there is no shortage of it.  When we got home I spent a couple hours playing catch-up with the giant blog post I made.

When we hit the road close to lunchtime, we started stopping at tourist traps.  We were on the hunt for cool stuff.  You know--Tourist stuff... The stuff that you can point to or wear at home that says, "I was in Kauai... Sorry you were stuck in Washington."  One thing that is really big in the tourist trade here is anything related to chickens or roosters.  T-shirts, mugs, signs--You name it.  Anything you can think of will probably be available with a rooster on it... Be it comedic, artistic, or just a picture.  After all... Chickens are everywhere here.

We made a stop at a local spot that had a Marriott next to it.  There were lots of places for surfboard rentals for all the visitors that decide they don't like being healthy and pain-free.  For those that long to inhale gulps of salt water and wear themselves out, there were lots of vendors standing by to cater to their wishes.

We wandered around the Marriott hotel while we were there, in search of photo opportunities.   Let me tell you--This Marriott hotel was the epitome of overindulgence and opulence.  It was horribly overdone with gaudy art museum-like flair.  Marble, statues, and everything else you can think of.  We did get some interesting pictures of the fowl that wandered the grounds freely, as well as the multitude of fancy flora that were no doubt carefully arranged by some sort of landscape engineer.  Funny thing though--No matter how fancy your grounds and architecture, here in Kauai there is one thing that will always be there:  Da chickens.  This is a common site at the beach at the Marriott.  To put it in perspective, the grass between the cobblestone sidewalk and the beach sand is fine, fine grass.  Seriously, it's golf green quality.  But that doesn't matter to da chickens...

We stopped at a favorite spot near the airport that we were at a few days ago and enjoyed a beer and some munchies as we watched the waves crashing.  I would like to think that it's a fairly unknown spot because each time we've been there it's relatively empty.

Let me back up for a second.  A few days ago I was surfing the web for whatever reason, and happened across some sort of link to a festival of some sort that had a free hula show.  I didn't get the details written down or anything, but I did show it to Suzie and she thought it might be interesting too.  Okay, fast-forward to yesterday again.  While we were sitting at the beach with our munchies we were discussing the hula thing.  "Too bad we can't remember where it was taking place at." Neither of us could come up with the details and we were sorry we didn't write it down because it was due to start at 5pm (10 minutes from then).  We did the, "Oh well" and decided to head home.  On the way back home from there, we had just gotten up to speed when we came to a Hotel sign.  "That might be it!" Suzie pointed.  I yanked the wheel and we turned in.  I inquired at the desk of the hotel office and the guy said, "Yeah, it just started."  He motioned out towards the beachfront courtyard.  Cool! We parked and grabbed our cameras.

While the hula portion of the show was okay, it wasn't real locals performing the shows, and weren't really authentic (Sue pointed out things that they did or didn't do to make it apparent).  The music and singing, however, were very good.  I really enjoyed that part of it.  Either way, it was a fun thing to stop and do, and we had excellent seats on the ground at the edge of the swimming pool.  Here are a few shots of the event:

Another full day in the life of a tourist!

Catching Up On Kauai - Part Deux

I didn't like the post I made yesterday.

I started playing catch-up and it just kept going and going.  I had to finally stop because the post was getting tedious.  The reason I didn't like the post is because it was just facts and pictures--No anecdotes.  I like to put little stories, thoughts, and experiences in my blogs when I'm sharing stories.  The reason I wasn't able to do that is because too much time had passed since the events I covered took place and I wasn't able (or didn't want to stretch it out even further) to recall all the stuff that took place on each of the trips.  When you play "catch-up" you do a lot of, "What day was it that we did that so-and-so?"  That's why I kicked myself for not keeping up.  There's not much of my vacation left, but I'll try to be better.

Okay, let's resume this time-tunnel thing and take up where I left off:  Wednesday.

Wednesday we had a full day planned out.  It was a day-long event that took us all the way to the top of the island (going clockwise as you look at it).  Here's a screen grab of the distance we covered during the whole day (which was 150 miles if you must know).  Click it so you can see it full size:

We had just gotten out of one of the heavily-populated town/shopping area of Lihue when I saw a road that caught my eye.  I turned around and we drove up the road.  As soon as I turned around Suzie acknowledged that there was actually a waterfall on that road too, called Kipu Falls, so it was a good place to turn.  The main reason I wanted to turn up that road though was the scenery.  The trees and the farmland screamed at me to take their picture:

While we were stopped, a couple of ladies stopped for the same reason and we talked for a bit.  Apparently, the area we were standing in was some sort of preserve.  I just know I loved it.  A little ways up the road took us to the falls.  We walked a little ways to get to it, through the tallest grass I've ever seen.  We watched for a few minutes, taking pictures of people having fun with a rope swing.  We couldn't stay long though, because the bugs were hungry.

Our next stop was a ways up... In a little coast town called Eleele.  After throwing a Subway sandwich into our cooler, we proceeded to a little road that Suzie knew of.  Past a refinery (not a glamorous part of town), we stopped at a beautiful overlook just above the water.  The whole coast was old lava formations, and the waves were crashing pretty high when they hit them.  There were also lots of blow holes and arches.  The blow holes made some pretty strong hisses and moans when the right waves hit.

Right next to this beach was a strange sort of thing.  Apparently the edge of the beach was at one time a junkyard.  There are lots of old, rusted car parts down at the water.  To give it a "warm, fuzzy feel, they named it "Melted Metal" Beach.  You can tell it's old car parts by the nature of them.  I saw old straight-8 engine blocks and flatheads, neither of which have been made in 50 years or better.  Right behind that was an old, decrepit Japanese cemetery too.

Hitting the road again, we stopped in the city of Waimea and visited a beautiful place called Waimea Plantation Cottages.  We got some killer shots!  Here are a couple:

Next stop: Waimea Canyon!  I never would have dreamed that the island of Kauai would have something like our Grand Canyon on the mainland.  After all, it's only an island!  Truth is, it really is a huge and beautiful canyon, and like the Grand Canyon, pictures don't do it justice:

Not far up the road we got to see the most awesome sight of the island.  Off the ocean side is a huge, huge canyon that is breathtaking, called the Kalalau Valley.  The thing is so huge that when a helicopter flies into it down below you can hardly see it.  Like the Waimea Canyon, pictures can not capture the immensity of it.  At one point, a raincloud drifted towards us from the far side and I was blessed with a small rainbow!

The final stop of our day was the most relaxing.  We drove a long, dusty, washboard road to Polihale State Park to watch the sunset.  While we didn't experience a very colorful sunset, it was most definitely a memorable one.  What a pretty beach!  It's no wonder they made it a state park.

What an exciting day... And a busy one!

Catching Up on Kauai

Being a tourist is hard work.

It's funny though--How even when you're going gangbusters on a vacation--It's still a vacation.  Part of the key is not waking to an alarm clock.  Anyway, the last several days have been pretty full of activity and wonder.  I've totally let things get away from me.  I haven't documented Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday.  What happened?  I know what it is--The later we get home the less we can do on the computer.  Then we might get up and jet out on another sightseeing/photography excursion and therefore don't have time to blog the previous day.

It got away from me.

Saturday we were both up early and drove quickly down to our closest beach to see sunrise pictures.  Alas, we missed it.  We took a few pictures, but nothing of note.  After getting ourselves all ready we took off for a full day of sightseeing.  Our first stop: The Kilauea Lighthouse.  It is the first "true" lighthouse I have ever seen.  Not only was it parked atop a beautiful cliff setting, there were lots of swooping birds in the area catching the updrafts of wind.  There were also a lot of Red-footed Boobies (funny--They have blue beaks though) snoozing in the trees on the cliff.

We stopped at a beautiful, small beach called Kalihiwai Beach to eat our lunch.  We went by a pretty patchwork of Taro fields on the way to Hanalei.

We finished our Saturday with a really great gathering here at the house.  There were about 50 people here, and there was a ton of food to eat.  As with most Hawaiian gatherings, there were people playing music and singing too.  Lots of really nice people.

Sunday.  Another day of sightseeing of course, with our first stop being Opaekaa Falls.  In addition to the falls themselves, there was a nice river view on the opposite side of the road behind us.

Just down a the road a ways we stopped at a tourist trap.  The stop wasn't much to speak of, but I got a couple a good pictures:

We continued our great sightseeing with a stop at another lighthouse--This time it was the Nawiliwili Lighthouse.  That lighthouse was pretty hard to find.  We drove all over through a developed Marriot-type resort grounds, knowing that there was a path/trail/road that led to the lighthouse.  We finally found it:

The last stop of the day was another one of those "end of the road" stops.  This particular road stopped at Wailua Falls.  Pretty impressive, the water drops quite a ways.  Right there at the parking area was this colorful looking feller weaving hats out of some sort of palm tree fronds... Possibly coconut.  I swear I saw the same guy on Maui a few years ago...

Monday both started and stopped with the same thing: Watching the transition of the sun from a beach.  I got us up about 15 minutes before sunrise and we jetted down to the closest beach just in time to catch the sun coming up:

The middle of the day was devoted to doing a couple of project here at Sue's parents' house.  We ripped out a sliding glass door.  Its location used to be an outside wall, but since the house had been expanded right out past it, it was now an inside doorway and needed to be removed.  We also took out an old water heater.  As with the door, expansion had phased it out.  Although it was still in its old place, it was no longer part of the water system and needed to be removed.

After relaxing through the afternoon we found ourselves on another local beach:  Donkey Beach.  We were there in the waning hours of sunlight.  Although it looks cold, it was not--Suzie said it was just too breezy:

The following day (Tuesday) found us fully into tourist/picture-taking mode.  We hit Secret Beach first.  In addition to a really nice sandy beach, it's also a place of many, many tide pools created by molten lava that had flowed and cooled in the past:

From there?  The Queens Bath.  I didn't get any pictures of it--Mainly because I was swimming in it instead of taking pictures of it.  It's a small pool that was formed by cooling lava and separated from the ocean, but yet still close enough for waves to occasionally slosh into it.  It's plenty big enough to swim in, and many do.  We both went in and paddled around for a while.  I was taking underwater pictures with a single-use underwater camera.  Not many fish to see but I shot a few pics anyway.

We continued on to the end of the road... The same road we had been to the end of a few days earlier.  This time we went to see a geological formation they call The Blue Room.  It's essentially a small cavern-type opening in the ground that had water in it.  Because it was so dark, it was hard to get pictures.  When you walk up to it, what you saw was the opening with vines draped over it (the left picture).  When you go inside, it's a lot bigger than it looks.  This long exposure shot of Suzie shows a little of how big it actually is.

That's enough for now. I'll continue playing catch-up at a later time.  I'm tired.