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Archive for January, 2009

Hawaii days 7 & 8

Friday, January 30th, 2009

We slept in Wednesday morning – Jill got her usual beauty rest, and I was up late the night before as they’d turned on the wireless internet and I was sucking up all the bandwidth, uploading pictures, streaming Daily Show and Colbert Report, blogging and surfing. But 11AM was a good time to get going. We stopped in at Discovery Antiques in Kealakekua to shop, and we also stopped right after mile marker 106 at Big Jake’s Island BBQ. The fellow behind the counter wasn’t in a hurry, but neither were we, we got it boxed for later. We continued down the road and around the southern tip of the island, stopping in Na’alehu at the Punalu’u Bake Shop for their nice public restrooms, which proved to be a crucial catch by Jill, as the restrooms at the Punalu’u Beach Park weren’t that nice. It didn’t really matter, as we were there for the sea turtles sunning themselves on the black sand, and they didn’t disappoint.

sea turtles

After we hung out with them, we ate our pulled pork and brisket sandwiches (we split ’em) and agreed there was a reason they’re acclaimed as the best on the island. From there we hopped back in the car, climbing 4000 feet and ending up in the town of Volcano. We went to check in at the Volcano Inn, made easy because I’d prepaid by check (the only way they roll). We drove to our cottage, rested for a bit, then got on the road. We hung a right in Kea’au, then took 130 to the bitter end (where lava flowed over the road). The park rangers had us park, then we walked over nearly a mile of lava to the viewing area close to where the biggest lava tube was flowing into the sea. We waited about an hour for darkness to fall, then sat back and enjoyed the show. We mostly saw the smoke where the lava boiled when it hit the sea colored by the reflection of the lava, with occasional spurts of lava (which drew oohs and awws from the crowd).

lava smoke

After a while, we headed back with flashlights, picking our way through the lava. We traced our path back, coming back to Volcano around 8:30. I’d frozen sausage and turkey sandwiches the night before and tossed them in the fridge when we got to our room, and I heated them up in the microwave and we enjoyed them in front of our rainforest view with some fruit and chips.

rainforest view

Thursday we were up early, checked out and got on our way to Hilo. We had to stop for gas, I pumped and Jill went in search of breakfast. She got herself a granola bar, and me a breakfast package of longanisa sausage, a scrambled egg and rice wrapped in seaweed. It wasn’t bad, but the seaweed gave the whole thing a fishy flavor, not what I’m looking for in a breakfast and definitely not before I’m going to be airborne. I only ate half. We got to Hilo Airport, parked and checked in at Blue Hawaiian Helicopters. We took a seat in the lounge, watched a safety presentation, then went out to the tarmac. Soon we were in the helicopter, ready for our first ride. It was an easy trip, over to the active volcano, down over the vents, then circling around the lava going into the sea. We were back at the airport in no time, a lot easier than any airplane flight (now someone’s talking about helicopter lessons).

lava

We made a quick stop at Hilo Bay Books before heading up along the coast. We made a turn down a scenic route towards Onomea Bay and went down far enough to see the bay. On the way back, we stopped at Hawaiian Artifacts where Jill found a great deal on peridot earrings and a wood hair stick. Once headed north again, we looked for the legendary What’s Shakin’ smoothie shack, but they were closed (looked like for good). We stopped at Akaka Falls to check out what’s said to be the best waterfall on the island.

Akaka Falls

Since we were hungry, we stopped in the nearby town of Honomu at the Woodshop Gallery and Cafe for lunch. Jill had the Thai Curry Chicken and I had the Mango Chicken and we both had tropical iced teas, both very tasty. We continued heading north, getting off the main road at Honoka’a to go to the Waipi’o Valley Overlook. That done, we returned to the main road. We had dinner reservations at 6PM in Waimea, but it was only 4 when we passed through, so we continued on to the Kohala coast and headed north for a while, catching whales blowing out to sea. We turned around before we got to the northmost point and headed back down to Kawaihae Bay, where we read for a bit next to the bay before changing and heading back to Waimea.

Kawaihae Bay

We had dinner at Merriman’s, mentioned as one of the best restaurants. Jill had a salad and the shrimp, while I had the lamb with a side of spinach. Both were excellent, and the lamb was some of the best I’ve had. Jill had a the pumpkin cake and I had the chèvre tart, both pretty good. After dinner, we headed back to the condo, dashed into the hot tub for a couple minuted, then went back, did laundry and started packing. I’ll be up late tonight, but we’ve got a red-eye out tomorrow.

Hawaii days 4-6

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009

Our first full day on the Big Island was Sunday. I made an omelette and Jill had toast, then we read for a bit before heading over to the Sheraton Keauhou Bay Resort. Jill had booked us massages, and we got there a little early as she wanted to catch the shuttle afterwards to pick up the steak and sausages we’d forgotten the day before (we’d called them when we got back and realized our mistake) plus a few other goodies (mainly wine). We enjoyed the steam shower we had before the main event, then she went to get a hot stone massage, and I went outside to relax to the sounds of waves crashing against the rocks and 80 minutes of bliss.

Sheraton Keauhou Bay Resort

Jill was off on the bus, and I walked down to Keahou Bay, then back to the condo where I worked on a blog entry and sorted my pictures. Once Jill got back I made lunch – salami on toast for me, turkey on toast for her. We relaxed in the afternoon and read, then I made a salad and grilled steaks in the evening. Unfortunately due to the light restrictions it looked like I was cooking pork chops, but I managed to guess about right.

Monday I made eggs and Jill had toast again, then we were picked up by Enterprise (waiting for their business hours saved us nearly 2/3 the cost of renting a car). We ran a couple errands, spent some time at Starbucks (the only free wireless I could find), then came back to the condo where Jill made sandwiches and we changed. We headed back into town for our 2PM pickup by Mauna Kea Summit Adventures. We had to stop in Waikoloa to pick up more people, then started driving. The whole ride was moderately to severely bumpy, but after a couple hours we arrived at the Mauna Kea visitor’s center. They issued us parkas, then we headed out and got our dinners, made by Jackie Rey’s Ohana Grill. I really enjoyed my Kho chu Jang beef ribs with rice, and Jill liked her Teriyaki Chicken.

After dinner, we saw the rare Silversword plants, then got on the bus and headed up to the summit. We stopped a little before to put on the parkas, and that’s when I found out that 13,000 feet above sea level without a lot of time to acclimate really hits you hard. When we got to the summit, Jill stayed in the van. I got out, but soon just sat on the ground to take pictures.

Mauna Kea observatories

The sunset was spectacular, and we stayed until it was completely down. Then we headed down to near the visitor’s center, where they had a private spot for stargazing and 2 11″ telescopes. The last time I was on the Big Island (8 years ago) I saw a lot of stars when I was sitting watching the lava after dark, but this put anything I’ve ever seen in the wild to shame. It was like being in a planetarium, but real – and incredible. We were both tired afterwards, and slept most of the way back.

Mauna Kea sunset

Tuesday we had talked about taking the early two stop boat snorkeling adventure with Dolphin Discoveries, but decided to do the afternoon one stop instead. We were glad of that when it was only in the 60s at 8AM, and we had some cereal then headed up to Mamalahoa Highway, where we stopped at the Kona Le’a Plantation, home of the Holualoa Kona Coffee Company. We took a short self guided tour, then the nice ladies inside showed us the roaster, answered our questions and happily rang up our purchases. One more stop at the store and we were back with just enough time to change, then walk down to the bay for our pickup (the nearby location played a big part in our choice).

coffee tree

We had stopped to see a sea cave when Jill thought she saw a whale blow. We headed out towards the ocean, and sure enough we saw flukes of two humpback whales, and our captain dropped a microphone over the side and listened to whale song. We didn’t have a lot of a time, so we headed to our destination, Kealakekua Bay, which was just fine, as we saw another humpback whale in the bay. Once we got to the actual snorkeling, we saw a lot of fish and I saw a ray of the wall of coral, but it wasn’t the highlight of the trip. After we got out of the water, we saw two humpback whales in the bay (including one barely 20 feet from us), as well as a school of spinner dolphins. No pictures though as I didn’t bring my camera – probably a good idea as we got plenty wet on the way back. This afternoon at the condo, they had a giant bucket of mai tais and appetizers, as well as hula dancers. It was fun and entertaining, and the littlest dancer looked very similar to Jill’s oldest niece. Soon I’ll grill some sausages for dinner then we’ll rest up for our big trip around the island starting tomorrow.

Hula dancer

Hawaii day 2 & 3

Monday, January 26th, 2009

We started our only full day on Maui Friday appropriately by heading to Ka’anapali Beach after having breakfast at the ok hotel breakfast buffet (not as pricey as the Hilton, but not as good, and Jill described the coffee as undrinkable). We frolicked in the surf and read on the beach until we were roasting, then headed back inside. After we cooled off, we went to Whaler’s Village next door to do some shopping. We both emerged with new shades and other goodies, but the food court didn’t have anything very appealing, so we returned to the Tiki Bar for some Kona Brewing Co. beer on tap and a hot dog for me and a hamburger for Jill.

The promise of free wireless internet hadn’t been fulfilled – each time I tried, in airports or hotels, it was only pay service. So I finally broke down and bought a day pass in the afternoon, uploaded pictures, blogged and surfed while Jill read. In the evening we took a walk over to the Royal Lahaina for their luau. It was more entertaining than the last one I was at, especially since we had good company at our table with a family from Oregon. The drinks flowed freely, the food was decent, and the dancers were good. Only shame was we never got a good sunset either day on Maui.

luau

Saturday morning we were both up early. Jill had been mulling over a pair of earrings at Whaler’s Village and decided to get them, so we checked out, drove over and she got them while I waited. Then we took the short drive down to Lahaina, the only real town in West Maui. We got a parking spot at the south end of town, then started walking north on Front Street. We popped in and out of shops, but my only purchase was as the Old Lahaina Book Emporium. They had a bunch of arts and crafts vendors set up in the shade of the big banyan tree, but we didn’t find anything we needed.

Lahaina

We were running short of time, and needed to eat lunch before we left town. Jill was torn between a place we’d seen offering fish tacos and a Vietnamese place near where we parked, and we decided not to backtrack. But on the way to the Vietnamese place, we found Pacific’O, which had both fish tacos and a great ocean view. The fish tacos and pork quesadillas we had were fabulous, easily my favorite meal of the trip so far.

Pacific'O

The trip back to the airport was easy, and the flight over to the Big Island less bumpy than the way over. Jill even saw a whale just before we landed (I knew we should have switched seats). We had Angel’s Taxi pick us up once again, then took us to Holua Resort at Mauna Loa Village. We checked in, then walked over to our condo where we’ll be spending the next week. It’s very nice and spacious, but I was disappointed that their wireless network is down, so I can’t connect from the room (I’m sending this from a Starbucks).

condo

We passed the Keauhou Shopping Center on the way in, so knew it wasn’t too far. We emptied out our backpacks and started the (all uphill) walk, now with a sprinkling rain falling. We saw a trolley bus pass us, and we happened to be near its stop in the shopping center when it was on the return trip and Jill got a schedule. We had an hour before its last trip so we went over to the Royal Thai Cafe, ordered some takeout, then headed back to the KTA Superstore to get groceries, then got the takeout with minutes to spare before the bus returned. We got back, put away the groceries (where we found we’d forgotten the steak and sausages) and heated the takeout. We had split an order of spring rolls, Jill got the Chicken Panang while I got the Fried Duck (literally a quarter of a duck sliced in several places and fried) with Royal Thai sauce – a sweet and spicy dipping sauce that was perfect with the duck. We had also gotten some Mehana Volcano Red Ale to accompany the meal – a nice pairing. After that we were bushed, and apparently I was asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.

Complete Maui pictures now here.

Hawaii day 0 & 1

Saturday, January 24th, 2009

I was up by 4:30 after very little sleep, and we were out the door by 6, drove over to my mom’s house and dropped off the car. She drove us to National Airport, and we checked in. Our flight wasn’t until 10, but we got there extra early because American wouldn’t assign us seats when I tried to check in online. Since we got there with more than two hours to spare and we got seats in the very last row, I think it was a good idea to be there early.

Besides that and the long lines of people headed home after the Inauguration day before, our travel wasn’t very eventful. We had an hour layover in Dallas where I had a smoothie and a granola bar and Jill had a chicken and pesto sandwich. In LA we had two hours to kill, so we celebrated some good news for Jill at On The Border with some frozen margaritas, quesadillas and burritos. I finally succumbed to sleep on the final long leg to the Big Island, apparently missing some nasty turbulence.

The Big Island is called that because it’s too confusing that the state is Hawaii and the island is also called Hawaii, but everyone just calls it the Big Island. We had not rented a car due to the cost being about what a taxi ride, so we just hopped in a taxi as soon as we got our bags. We were soon at our destination, Hilton Waikoloa Village. We were pretty beat, plus it was after 3AM our time by the time we got to our room in the Palace Tower, so we went straight to bed.

Sleeping on the plane helped, as we were both awake early the next morning. We were pleased to see that the balcony actually had a ocean view.

Jill on balcony at Palace Tower

We went next door and enjoyed an expansive (and expensive) breakfast buffet – I enjoyed the little yogurt shots with fruit and honey on the bottom. We wandered around the giant place, taking a boat over to where the dolphins are (they don’t call it the Disneyworld resort of Hawaii for nothing). We managed to arrive just as the trainers did for the morning, and got to see an unexpected sight: dolphin teeth brushing.

a

We had a lot of time, so we found a spot near a pool and read and talked for a while, then got our luggage and a boat to the front. The taxi driver from the night before (Angel’s Taxi) had offered us a price break on the way back, so he was there right on time, and we were soon at the airport. You can see the first set of pics I took here.

We will be staying at a condo starting on Saturday, but we wanted to see some of another island and chose Maui. We had a small 8 passenger prop plane ride over on Pacific Wings that was pretty good, although there was a lot of turbulence as we passed the Maui coast.

Maui coast

It was a short flight, and soon we had landed, gotten our bags and rented a car. The trip over to Ka’anapali was as speedy as advertised (not very, usually behind a long line of cars). We checked in to the Ka’anapali Beach Hotel without a problem and were soon relaxing.

Ka'anapali Beach Hotel

That night we had reservations at the Son’z Maui at Swan Court. We decided to walk over there so neither of us would have to drive, and it turned out to be a charming walkway behind the beach and the resorts.

The restaurant was in the Hyatt Regency and was very nice. The food was decent – I really like the combination of raw jalapeño and raw tuna in my appetizer, but the mixed seafood grill was ordinary. Jill enjoyed her shrimp appetizer and liked her steak, but the baked potato that came with it left something to be desired. However, most concerns about the food were forgiven with the view, quite possibly the nicest I’ve ever encountered. The restaurant is on a lower level with a waterfall and a man made pond lapping nearly at your feet.

Son'z Maui at Swan Court

After dinner, we walked back along the walkway, checked out one of the hammocks near it for a couple of minutes (the stars look great, but will only get better). We weren’t ready to call it a night, so we stopped in at the Tiki Bar at the hotel for a nightcap and chatting with some other guests.

Great news about Jill

Friday, January 23rd, 2009

It’s official, we got the news when we were in LA – Jill’s now a CRNA.

Inauguration Day

Tuesday, January 20th, 2009

We got up a little later than planned, and got on the road a little after 7. We took the toll road then got off at Tyson’s, then took back roads to West Falls Church Metro. Our first choice was parking at Ballston Mall, but West Falls was on the way and it wasn’t too bad. Parking was full, but we parked about a 10 minute walk away. When we got to the station, there was a long line to get in, but a bus pulled up as we were getting to the end of the line. It was a free ride with no stops, so we had no problem hopping aboard. It was a quick ride in as 66 was closed to other traffic, but as we found out the driver didn’t know what he was doing, and missed his exit and had to drop us at the exit for E St. We started walking, were soon at the Lincoln Memorial, then started walking straight up the Mall.

Kerry, Jill, Lauren & Kai

When we got to the front of the Washington Monument, it was apparent that the rest of the Mall to the Capitol was packed, so we decided to stop there, slightly to the right of the memorial, with a good view of the Jumbotrons. We had our group of 6, so we got some space once we set down the blanket. It was a little after 9 by that point, so we didn’t have too much time to kill. The Jumbotrons were replaying Sunday’s concert, and once again Garth Brooks got everyone moving. Betsy and I went on a drink run (a 50/50 mix of hot chocolate and cocoa was very popular) and got back with a little bit of time as guests were escorted on stage. Unfortunately we lost Kai, as she left for a bathroom break and couldn’t find us again.

 21 Gun Salute

The ceremony went off without a hitch – the introduction of Bush and Cheney got some boos and rousing chants of “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye”. The swearing in and speech were very moving, and at times all we could hear was Obama speaking and the 50 flags at the base of the Washington Monument flapping in the breeze. Afterwards we waited and finally found Kai, then walked back to the Lincoln Memorial and across the Memorial Bridge and hopped on the Metro. We got back home by 2:30, much earlier than I thought.

Washington Monument flags

We got warm and watched the parade while we snacked on mini-pizzas and spanakopita and relaxed, then headed over to Hooked in the evening. There had been talk about balls, but the demand kept the supply a bit too expensive for us (maybe for his second term). The girls had expressed interest in crab cakes and sushi, so we figured we would take them to the best place we knew, which happened to be close. It was a nice closer to a great day. Jill and I both started with a bisque, lobster for me and she-crab for her. Then I had the fried calamari, tuna with a jalapeno sauce, wakame salad and two pieces of salmon sushi, all very good. Jill had the sea bass marinated in Miso sauce, the Crispy Spicy Shrimp (I finished that, very good) and grilled asparagus. Paired with some sake, it was perfect.

BTW, all photos from Sunday and today courtesy of Betsy (except for the phone pic of efo).

There’s also a nice play by play of Sunday here.

Pre-Inauguration festivities

Monday, January 19th, 2009

It’s the end of lazy weekends. Friday Jill took her board exam (we won’t know the result for several weeks), then we went out with friends to Ted’s Montana Grill. It was nice catching up, and I enjoyed a tasty bison burger (Jill had the pot roast).

Saturday we had some cleaning to do, and got done just in time for our friends Bill (Mayor of Shantytowne) and Kerry to arrive from St. Louis. We chatted for a while (and shared some Paul Simon worship) before we went to bed.

Early Sunday morning three of Jill’s cousins (and a wife) arrived from Massachusetts. They slept for a bit as we got up and made breakfast, then headed downtown about 9:30. We parked in Rosslyn, and took the Metro over to Smithsonian. We walked over to the Lincoln Memorial, and had picked a nice spot about as close as possible (for the non VIPs) by 11. Killing a couple hours was not hard with a big group, we got food (Obamadogs!) and kept warm.

Bill, Kerry, Jill and Meg

The show started promptly at 2:30, and it was certainly the best show I’ve seen on the Mall. Best quote was from a woman standing near us when Denzel came out: Oh my god, Denzel and Obama? Now I can die”. Bruce Springsteen was moving and U2 was rocking, but I would never have guessed the guy who got the crowd going was Garth Brooks covering “American Pie” and “Shout”. It was a lot of fun, and it wasn’t too bad getting out, did take us a while to get to L’Enfant and out of the city.

Lauren & Kai

We left Kerry going the other way, and headed back to Rosslyn to get the cars, then over to the Birchmere. We had time to get food (we split a spinach salad, Jill had a burger and I had the Reuben) before Red Molly came out. It was the first time I’d seen them outside Falcon Ridge, and they were really good.

My sister got there during their set, but we got back in before their great closer, May I Suggest. Eddie From Ohio had an excellent show, pulling out rarities (“Hail Mary Shy Of Redemption” and “Long Walk Home”) and new songs by Mike (“Heel Of The Bread”) and Robbie (“Monroe OH” and “Carolina”). On the encore, Red Molly joined them, and the highlight of the show was their cover of Stephen Foster’s “Hard Times Come Again No More”. I stayed up watching the football games when we got back, then crashed like everyone else.

efo

Today we all slept in, then Jill made French Toast for breakfast. We took Illa to the kennel and ran some errands in the afternoon, then Lauren and Kai cooked us Thai noodles for dinner. Now hopefully I make it to bed soon as we’ve got an early wakeup time tomorrow.

Inauguration help

Friday, January 16th, 2009

A friend has a handy site with maps and guides up for the Inauguration. Check it out if you’re going.

The late weekend update

Monday, January 12th, 2009

I was too tired to blog last night, so here’s the review.

Friday was the usual – Jill studying, I watched The Invasion. Ok take on a classic, weird how the other two movies I recently watched starred Nicole Kidman or Daniel Craig. Saturday I didn’t do much until my work’s employee recognition bash. We showed up early ’cause Jill was on a schedule, enjoyed drinks and dinner with the coworkers, then split. Then I watched the football playoffs while she studied, then very late bedtime for both of us.

Sunday I went out and ran errands, mostly because I wanted to go to Micro Center and pick up a bunch of stuff (DVDs, cases, cables, etc.). I got back and watched the rest of the playoffs, pretty good games but I don’t have a favorite yet. I think the winner of the Pittsburgh/Baltimore game will win the Super Bowl, though. I ended starting dinner so late we didn’t eat until after 11 – possibly the latest dinner we’ve ever had. Hopefully the energy I’ve saved up by doing not much of anything recently will get me through the next few weeks…

New toy

Wednesday, January 7th, 2009

I’d done research, read some reviews and found a good price, so I ordered a Samsung NC10. Now I’ll be able to blog, check email and upload pictures while on the road. The most shocking thing is how small it is. If it’s got the biggest keyboard of any netbook, I don’t think I’ll be able to use a smaller one. But it’s nice and responsive – I think I’ll keep it (I’m writing this on it).

netbook