Friday June 1st it was concert #15: Almost Queen at the Herndon Festival with the family. I don’t watch many tribute acts if the originals are around, but Freddie ain’t coming back, and they did a pretty good job. Dinner from the Redbone food truck was good too. Saturday I returned to the Herndon Festival by myself for concert #16: River Whyless and Air Traffic Controller, with a depressingly large rain break between. Meanwhile Jill took Nina to the first Reston Pride festival. That night was concert #17: The Scottsboro Boys at Signature Theatre. A hard show to watch, even harder knowing that’s what some folks mean by returning to the “good ol’ days”.
Monday morning we went to the vet and put Illa down. The doggy dementia and indoor destruction had been going on for close to two years, but blindness and deafness were setting in, and finally the hips started to go. Jill and I were with him to the end. Later I posted lots of pictures and videos to Facebook, including Snowmageddon (one of his favorite days), baby Nina snuggling up to him, and her stalking him at 2 1/2 (he was always patient with her).
Thursday Nina said she wasn’t feeling well and her eyes hurt, so we were off to the doctor, only to find strep (Jill was already at work, so I took most of the day off). I managed to tune in during the final period that night to see the Capitals finally win it all (and then hearing yelling from nearby houses). Friday Nina’s school had a “Farmer’s Market”, or more realistically a cookout/yard sale, but she enjoyed it (and the face painting).
It is very important to remember that Old Ox Brewery is 3 minutes away from her gym, as I did on Saturday the 9th during her tumbling class. I even remembered to bring a growler, so double the win. Later we headed out to Manassas, had dinner at Noodles & Company (now with zoodles!) before heading over to concert #18: Dave Matthews Band at Jiffy Lube Live. Great show after a lengthy rain delay we endured in the parking lot, and then I went 2/2 at getting blocked in at the venue during a storm (the other was Buffet in 2000). Plus Nina got her wish: to stay up past midnight. Sunday was Nina’s final Daisy Scouts meeting, then concert #19: Roger Daltrey singing “Tommy” at Wolf Trap. Still in fine voice. Nina’s yearly minimum supply of classic rock.
Nina’s final day of school was Friday the 15th, then Saturday I was wondering if I should go over to Old Ox Brewery during tumbling class, and then I saw they were having beer and ice cream flights… so good (the Black Ox Porter with BuzzBuzzBuzz! ice cream was especially delectable). That night was concert #20: Sing a long Sound of Music at Wolf Trap (is it a concert if just the audience is performing?) I do know Nina enjoyed the movie, although we endured a lot of questions on the drive home because we left 2/3rds through. Plus she got an enormous soft serve ice cream there for dessert. Father’s Day was Sunday and after Jill took Nina to a birthday party in the morning, we picked my mom and her husband from lunch with a friend (in town for the day). We took them to Old Town Alexandria, took the water taxi to National Harbor, and had dinner at Vola’s Dockside Grill and ice cream at Ben & Jerry’s before dropping them back at Lynn House.
Wednesday the 20th was the start of our vacation. After a 5.5 hour flight to Los Angeles, our friend Teresa picked us up and took us to Manhattan Beach, making a 6 hour layover between 5 hour flights tolerable (and a surprise visit by the Goodyear Blimp was a bonus). Plus Wahoo’s Fish Tacos was tastier than any other airport food we got that day. Another 5.5 hour flight later, we were in Hawaii on Oahu, but at 3:30AM our time couldn’t do anything but sleep (which is why I’d booked us into the Airport Honolulu Hotel with a shuttle). Unfortunately Nina was first to acclimate, sleeping on the second leg and up for the day at 5AM local time (we toured the hotel lobby).
We had a nice breakfast at Willoughby’s in the hotel, then I went back to the airport to get another shuttle over to Economy Rent a Car (and possibly the most pressure I’ve ever had to use their add on insurance). Meanwhile Jill took photos to “kill… time while Daddy gets the rental car. I forgot how amazing the plumeria smells, and how generous the plant is with her flowers; they fall off still fully formed and gorgeous!”. Once I had the family, we were off to Aulani – the only Disney resort not at Disneyland or Disney World. By no coincidence at all, it’s also the only place in the world you can hangout and play games with Moana (the official name of the activity is “Kakamora Chaos with Moana”).
We arrived with enough time to drop off our bags, look around and get Nina a snack before the big event, then Jill and I and had drinks and a snack at the Wailana pool bar (Maui onion rings were good). It was adults only, but that didn’t stop Goofy from coming by and splashing in the water. Soon it was time to pick up Nina and she’d loved it. Unfortunately our room was still not ready, so we used a lounge pass and they changed for the pool, and I lugged the luggage up to our room when they finally notified me right at 3 that it was ready. I crashed for a bit after that, then they came back and we changed for dinner at ‘Ama ‘Ama – pricey but excellent views. Jill took an early bedtime while Nina and I went to the beach and then the fire pit for stories and songs. The next morning I got up first and grabbed breakfast supplies from the store, and Nina and I had cereal on the balcony. Some more pool time, then we checked out and left our bags up front and waited to meet Moana (they’d only taken group pictures at the activity).
We drove back towards Honolulu and chose the traffic backup off the highway (Honolulu Rail Transit was under construction). We stopped at El Mariachi for lunch (Yelp rated it best Mexican on Oahu, and I have to say it was the finest carnitas I’ve ever had), then drove to the Bishop Museum. We thought Nina would be excited to see the Holo Moana: Generations of Voyaging exhibit, but her favorite ones were Expedition Dinosaur and the Science Adventure Center.
Next we stopped at a yarn store for Jill, then our final destination of the day, Hilton Waikiki Beach (the cheapest of the 2 Hiltons because it’s 2 blocks from the beach). Nina was excited about the pool on the 10th floor and had to try it out right away. The view from the 27th floor was nice, but our balcony was too windy for anything. We changed and caught the Waikiki Trolley’s Pink Line for $2 each over to the other Hilton, where we made it to the beach with time to spare for the Friday night fireworks. We then sped over to Ramen Nakamura to wait in line for a seat at the table so we could all enjoy some delicious ramen (soon the line was much longer). Finally we stopped at International Market Place on the way back at Magnolia Ice Cream & Treats (I had Ube & Queso ice cream, different but good).
Saturday we had cereal in the room, then walked over to Moku Surf Shop, where there was some uncertainty over the Groupon I was using, but soon we were walking with Derek the block down to Waikiki Beach, and Nina was soon surfing. The initial plan was that we’d split an hour lesson, but Nina was really listening well and he kept her out as I tried (and I did better than 17 years prior, got up twice).
Back at the surf shop, Derek showed us the GoPro footage and we were astonished to see Nina get a piggyback ride – a must buy. We walked over to Duke’s Waikiki for brunch, where the made to order pasta was a win for Nina – everyone got seconds. After another afternoon dip in the pool, we went back to the beach for a free hula show. It wasn’t as mesmerizing as promised, and Jill and Nina went swimming in the ocean while I went to the Hilton’s business center to backup data (I think about a third of vacation time is now just managing pictures and videos). That evening we had dinner in the hotel at M.A.C. 24-7, upscale diner food that was pretty good.
Sunday the 24th was our last day on Oahu. After breakfast and one more swim, we checked out. We stopped for Jill to buy another bikini at The Buxom Beauty. Lastly we drove to SALT at Our Kaka’ako so I could check out 2 nearby record shops while the ladies went to Starbucks (Hungry Ear was the superior one), then over to return the rental car and get in the longest security line of the trip at the Honolulu airport (thankfully it moved quickly). We had a late lunch there – Chowmein Express for Jill, Lahaina Chicken Company (local chain) for Nina and me.
The flight to the Big Island was short, and soon we had our car at Hertz and driving north. I knew the resort didn’t have a market, so we stopped at the nearby Foodland Farms (like a mini Whole Foods) before arriving at Mauna Lani Resort. Nina wanted the pool, of course, and we didn’t summon much energy other than making sandwiches for supper.
Monday we had breakfast in the room, then drove over to the Hilton. It was only when we got there that we remembered staying there for a night on our last visit. We checked in to Dolphin Quest and Nina spent 45 minutes learning about dolphins with the other kids while Jill and I strolled over to the nearby Lagoon Grill for tropical drinks and a snack. When it was time, we got closer to watch Nina and her new friends meet the dolphin (and get a kiss). She didn’t want it to end, and played with 2 of the girls in her group for an hour after it ended.
After paying the outrageous parking fee to leave, we drove to Queens’ MarketPlace (nearby outdoor mall) and Nina’s favorite shopping destination on the island. We ended up going to the food court and getting takeout for dinner, Jill and I got burritos from Big Island Burritos (my Bugogi was delicious) and Nina got pizza from Paradise Pizza & Grill. From Jill: “Nina tried snorkeling for the first time but preferred snorkeling in the pool rather than in the ocean. I had great luck seeing some beautiful fish in the ocean. After dinner we enjoyed some traditional music and dance and then rambled along the shore. It was lovely.”
Tuesday the 26th we were up quickly as we headed to the other side of the island, marveling at the difference in climate between them. We had a quick stop at Hilo Bay Books before arriving at our appointment at Blue Hawaiian Helicopters (a return visit for Jill and I). Due to the danger of getting close to the volcano, they’ve doubled their fleet on that side of the island, and it was quite a wait as we were in the sixth (and last) helicopter at that time. But it was worth it. From Jill: “Fissure 8: destruction and creation. Heartbreak and wonder. Incredible. There is a river of lava traveling down from this fissure toward the ocean. Huge clouds of sulfur are coming up, and we could smell a little of it as we we hovering around it. It was an incredible sight. We saw Fissure 8 spewing orange red magma and saw a river of lava heading toward the ocean at a rate of about 20 miles an hour! We saw acres and acres of devastation; homes and businesses destroyed, acres of vegetation destroyed by sulfur gas blowing over it (which is why in one of the pictures [we took] one side of the lava river is still lush and green while the other is brown). As the lava hits the ocean, huge clouds of hydrochloric acid gas wafts into the air and destroys marine life all around it. The currents clearly delineate where the brown/yellow HCl affected water is from the rest of the water area. It is the painful, beautiful way these islands are created, and it’s breathtaking.”
On the way back, we detoured west of Hilo to see some nearby waterfalls, then unfortunately had to wait nearly an hour to get our videos (but worth the money). We went to McDonald’s (in the Wal-Mart for Nina’s lunch, then went over to Big Island Top Dogs for Jill and I. We drove down to the Mauna Loa plant and checked out the gift shop and garden before heading back west, stopping for a salad for Jill as I had one left over from the night before.
From Jill: “[We] took advantage of Nina’s desire to play with other kids at the hotel’s day camp so we headed into Kailua Kona for some shopping and lunch at Kona Brewing Co” Wednesday. I also got to enjoy time at another business center to back up data (the Wi-Fi in the various hotels performed great, but I needed a PC to handle the SD cards and USB drives I bought with videos on). For dinner it was back to Queens’ MarketPlace to eat at Sansei Seafood Restaurant & Sushi Bar. Nina got ramen and I got to try poke (verdict: I prefer sushi), then the Marble Slab Creamery next door for ice cream.
Thursday the 28th was a spa day, Nina volunteering for a half day at the resort camp. Jill and I went to the spa and I got a massage, while she had “a morning of amazing treatments then we spent the afternoon by the pool”. Nina’s new friend Amber was never far while we were near the pool, but then it was time to go stargazing at a nearby hotel – or so we thought. From Jill: “[it] was canceled due to a cloudy, hazy sky from the “vog” (volcano gas/ash disrupting the atmosphere)”. We were still planning on going north to try a burger place, but we could smell the smoke (either from the vog or a wildfire) and turned around. We ended up at Tropics Ale House for pizzas, nachos, and beers.
Friday we went to HÄpuna Beach for a couple hours [Jill] “and all got pretty roasted despite reapplying sunscreen”. Afterwards we drove up to Anuenue Ice Cream & Shave Ice to get a pile of shaved ice almost as big as our heads. Nina being the most tanned and least burned wanted more pool time before we left again, this time over to the Mauna Kea Beach Resort Luau. We all enjoyed the buffet (made sure they had roast turkey for Nina), then watched the sunset as the luau started. From Jill: “Nina got up on stage to learn some hula, then we left early to see stargazing at a local hotel. Nina was especially keen and was excited to see Saturn, Jupiter, and a ‘rainbow star'”.
Saturday the 30th was our final day in Hawaii. Since we were taking a redeye flight back, we left with “a day left” on the week stay at the resort. It made for a relaxing day as we only left to get lunch at Kohala Burger, and Nina got some more pool time with Amber. After we checked out, we stopped at Queens’ MarketPlace one more time for dinner (I wanted to try Ippy’s Hawaiian BBQ, very good), then on to the airport where our flight was on time and soon we were all asleep.