Saturday, November 27, 2004

Hawaii, final installment 

Got up the morning of October 12th rarin' to go on my last scheduled tour. This one was all the way around Oahu and was to take a little over half a day. I had to laugh, though, when the bus arrived to pick us up, and the driver was none other than "Uncle Bob", the guide we had the previous day for the tour of Pearl Harbor!

We departed Waikiki heading east, past some wonderful beachfront properties costing milllions of dollars. "Uncle Bob" kept us both entertained and informed with tales of the rich and famous. we also passed Hanauma Bay, where I had gone snorkeling, and passed Diamond Head. Our first stop was at what is known as a blowhole, a hollow place in the rock on the coast that fills with pressurized water when the tide comes in and sprays water like the blowhole of a whale. Also in that area was a lovely little cove where the make-out scene in "From Here to Eternity" had been filmed. And a little further east was the famous beach where they shot "Baywatch Hawaii".

We drove past Sea Life Park, where I had gotten to meet the dolphins earlier in the week. Off the coast near the park is a small hunk of rock known as Rabbit Island. Not only does this have a faintly rabbit-type shape, it is (or was) the home of live wild rabbits. Apparently, some well-meaning settler decided Hawaii was a good place to raise rabbits, and everyone knows how quickly they reproduce. Fortunately, he was convinced to release them on this island before they destroyed the countryside.

After traveling a bit further up the coast, we turned inland and stopped in a small town. The most striking thing about this area were the sharp thin mountains blanketed in thick green foliage that seemed to rise out of nowhere. The tops were shrouded in clouds. When we got back on the road, we headed into this mountainous area, where the sheer cliffs are known as the Nuuanu Pali. Legend has it that King Kamehameha the Great drove 1000 enemy warriors over these same cliffs to their deaths. Regardless of whether or not this is true, the views from this area are astounding! We had a fairly long stop here, and I dutifully took many photos.

When we got back on the road, we headed back west toward the Dole plantation. This was to be our lunch break stop, but because I was so very worn out (all the activity of the whole vacation was catching up with me), I misunderstood where the restaurant was at a neighboring plantation and ended up at Dole's concession stand instead. The only thing they had that I could eat was fresh pineapple, so I got a big plate of it. There was a guided tour on a train around the plantation, but I was way too tired for that, so I just walked in their gardens a little. It was interesting....there were different varieties of pineapples in different stages of growth. Dan decided he needed to feed the koi in a nearby pond....those fish were so greedy they practically beached themselves! It was blistering hot out, and before long, I needed to sit in the shade for a bit, so we headed back toward the bus. As I was resting, I noticed a building off to my left and asked what it was. Turns out that was where the restaurant was! I wandered over there, but it was almost time for the bus to leave, so I only had time for a quick glance.

Next, we headed for the coast, known as the North Shore, world famous for its perfect surfing conditions. The best waves arrive in the winter, but October wasn't too bad in comparison. We got out near the Banzai Pipeline to see if anyone was out there. There were some very skilled surfers negotiating waves that looked just huge to me, but they were very far off, so it was hard to get good photos. I had a good time watching them, marveling at their balance and strength. Definitely no place for beginners.

The bus then went from north to east again and curved around south, past the Polynesian Cultural Center. About this time, it began to rain. We stopped at a macadamia nut farm in a nice area with lots of grazing horses. There was sort of a general store inside with samples of their wares. I tried some macadamia nut Kona coffee, which was pretty tasty even though I can't tolerate too much coffee on a regular basis. There were also various flavored macadamia nuts. Luckily, the ingredient lists were readily available so I could determine which ones were safe for me to sample. There were several that tasted pretty good, but the last one was awesome! Cinnamon flavored! Dan and I looked at each other and said at the same time, "We have to get some of these." We bought a large bag, and it was all I could do to avoid opening it on the bus. I also purchased some kukui nut oil.....it is used topically to moisturize the skin, and it decreases the itching somewhat of conditions like eczema.

As the bus hit the road again, the rain came down even harder and was basically a deluge by the time we pulled into the Valley of the Temples. This is the final resting place for many people of various faiths as well as the home of the Byodo-In Temple, an exact replica of a 500-year-old Japanese temple. It was the place on the tour I had wanted to see most, and it was disappointing that the rain was coming down so hard because I really wanted to take some photos. I took a short-sleeved sweater with me to try to shelter the camera somewhat. Dan held it over me while I took a few pix. The temple is nothing short of stunning....lush green mountains in the background shrouded in clouds, perfectly manicured grounds in front. There were elegant black swans swimming in ponds out front. I dodged between torrents of rain the best I could and removed my soggy shoes before entering the temple itself. The interior seemed very welcoming to me, and it was wonderful to be quiet for a bit. Peace seemed to emanate from there. I looked at the chains of colorful orgami cranes and smiled.....my mom used to make those. Before I left the grounds, I went to a nearby side building, made a wish, and rang the giant bell there for good luck. I would love to go to Japan someday and visit the temples there.

The rain was not all dismal, though. On the way back to Honolulu, we passed some of the steep green mountains, and the rain had made all kinds of small waterfalls on them. Quite beautiful.

We got back to the condo about 2pm, and after resting for a few hours, we went to the Tiki Grill and Bar one last time. When we finished, we decided to take a casual walk around an area of Waikiki we'd seen from the shuttles but hadn't visited yet. In the window of one of the surf shops, I saw a long-sleeved t-shirt dyed a really unique shade of blue. It was, in fact, specially made for that area and had a cool turtle print on it. I decided it would make a nice souvenir.

We walked as far as a little area called The King's Shops. In it were various stores, but also a small museum dedicated to the King's Royal Guard. They used to patrol the royal palace and until recently still performed many of their rituals in front of Iolani Palace. I was surprised to find out they still did the changing of the guard nightly at 6pm in front of the entrance to the shops. It was nearly 6pm at the time, so we went to the appointed place and waited. It was actually quite elaborate and impressive, and I wished I had brought my camera. So many little surprises in Waikiki.

We looked around a little more, and then I got tired, so we started to head back. Somehow, though, after it got dark, we'd made a wrong turn someplace coming out of one of the shops. You wouldn't think a person could get lost in a little place like Waikiki, but we did! We actually went the wrong direction for quite some time, and then when we got our bearings, we were really far away from the condo. By the time we got back to the condo, I was hobbling pretty badly. So much for my navigation skills.

The rest of the evening was spent slowly getting everything ready for check-out the next day. We had to check out by noon, but our flight didn't leave until 10:30pm, which really presented a dilemma: what to do with all that time that wouldn't completely wipe me out? I decided a mall would be a safe bet: I could stay cool and dry indoors, find places to sit, etc. What I didn't know was that Ala Moana mall was all one building, all right, but it was an open air mall, so I still got all hot and sweaty anyway. And this place was HUGE! I'd find a store I wanted to look at, we'd consult the directory and find out it was twice as far away as we thought. We had lunch at the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company, which wasn't too bad, and did have air conditioning, so I felt a bit better. I found two books about my great great great uncle, Mark Twain, and his visit to Hawaii, so I bought those. I also found a gorgeous small heart-shaped box carved from koa wood in one of the specialty stores. We did a lot of slow wandering around, resting whenever I got tired, just killing time.

I got hungry again about 6pm, and knowing I probably wasn't going to find anything I could eat on the plane that night, I looked around the mall's food court since I was too tired to go back to the upper floors where the sit down restaurants were. Food courts are a very bad idea for anyone on a gluten free diet. Most of the Asian food contains soy sauce, and most of the American food is either a sandwich or full of suspect chemicals. Finally, I tracked down a place that served rotisserie chicken. I made it clear to the lady behind the counter that I could not eat wheat, and she indicated she understood. The chicken came with a choice of three side dishes, and I asked what would be safe for me to eat. She said the salads would be ok, so I chose two salads and plain white rice. I was tired and grumpy and not paying very close attention, so I was quite surprised when I took a bite of one of the salads and tasted a very salty piece of tofu. I went back to the counter and asked the lady what that salad was cooked in. She replied, "Soy sauce." She had no idea soy sauce contains wheat flour. I was too tired to argue with her. I threw that salad out and everything that had been touching it. My stomach was a bit upset after that, but fortunately nothing further happened. I will never risk eating in a food court again.

After that, we decided to go back to the condo and wait for the shuttle to pick us up for the airport. I was soooo tired and sore. The ride to the airport wasn't too bad....we talked with a couple from New Zealand, who had to change planes in Australia and take a bus to get back to their home town and would lose a whole day in the process. Made my overnight excusion sound like no big deal.

Honolulu Airport is surprisingly busy at 8pm on a Wednesday night. Long lines for check-in, security, and the required agricultural check. I should not have tried to lug such a heavy carry-on bag with me...it completely sapped what little energy I'd had left. By the time I got through security, I was barely walking and really should have arranged for a wheelchair transport. But I saw we had Gate 7, with gates 6-11 splitting off to the left, so I thought I had a short walk to the gate. What I didn't know was that the gates STARTED with 11 and went backwards to 6! Also, the distance between gates was huge! Fortunately, we'd gotten there quite early, so I had time to rest several times. Still, I honestly thought I would not make it, and when I finally collapsed into a chair at the gate, I swore I would never travel through another airport without wheelchair assistance.

Our seats on the plane this time were in the middle (there were three rows of seats). There was an in-flight movie, but I couldn't see it because the seats in front of me blocked my view. There was also some music stations that you could listen to with headphones, but the controller next to my seat didn't work. Later, when Dan was asleep, I listened to tunes through the controller by his seat.

The meal situation on this flight was even worse than the one going to Hawaii, and the flight attendants were just as rude. When I asked if there was anything available that didn't contain wheat, the woman just handed me a sandwich! I of course gave it to Dan. Fortunately, they gave us Fritos later on, so I could eat those, and I'd brought the cinnamon-covered macadamia nuts. Weird meal, but it was the best I could do.

I started to read my book after that, but they turned the lights down low on the plane because they were expecting everyone to go to sleep. The little lamp over my seat didn't help very much, so I decided to try to sleep like everyone else. Impossible. The seats are far too uncomfortable for that, and it was freezing in there. I drifted off several times for a minute or two but couldn't accomplish more than that. Like on the flight out, I was in considerable pain after a few hours despite frequent stretch/restroom breaks (which really annoy the flight attendants, by the way). Again, I was in tears before we landed. And about an hour before we arrived in my hometown, the flight attendants came around and gave everyone pastry! I just glared at the woman who handed me one. Would it be so difficult for them to provide a piece of fresh fruit, like an apple??

All the same, I didn't let my lousy experience with the flights spoil the whole vacation. I will always have memories of some amazing adventures, like the sea turtle who swam up to me when I was snorkeling, the breathtaking scenery of the Big Island via helicopter, the incredible Kohala sunsets, tootling around the island in the Kermit-mobile, the playful spinner dolphins in the bay on Oahu, people watching on Waikiki beach, and swimming with a bottlenose dolphin. I have hundreds of photos to remind me as well. My only challenge will be to equal this vacation.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Rave of the Day for November 25: 

I've seen many variations on this, but I still find it cute and funny. Thanks to Ducky for this Thanksgiving treat....

A Thanksgiving Cookbook
by Mrs. Geraghty's Kindergarten Class
note: Mrs. Geraghty will not be reponsible for medical bills resulting from use of her cookbook
Ivette - Banana Pie:
You buy some bananas and crust. Then you mash them up and put them in the pie. Then you eat it.
Russell - Turkey
You cut the turkey up and put it in the oven for ten minutes and 300 degrees. You put gravy on it and eat it.
Geremy - Turkey 
You buy the turkey and take the paper off. Then you put it in the refrigerator and take it back out and cut it with a knife and make sure all the wires are out and take out the neck and heart. Then you put it in a big pan and cook it for half an hour at 80 degrees. Then you invite people over and eat.
Andrew - Pizza
Buy some dough, some cheese and pepperoni. Then you cook it for 10 hours at 5 degrees. Then you eat it.
Shelby - Applesauce
Go to the store and buy some apples, and then you squish them up. Then you put them in a jar that says, "Applesauce". Then you eat it.
Meghan H. - Turkey
You cut it into 16 pieces and then you leave it in the oven for 15 minutes and 4 degrees. you take it out and let it cool and then after 5 minutes, then you eat it.
Danny - Turkey
You put some salt on it to make it taste good. Then you put it in the oven. Then you cook it for an hour at 5 degrees. Then you eat it.
Brandon - Turkey
First you buy it at Fred Meyer. Then you cut it up and cook it for 15 hours at 200 degrees. Then you take it out and eat it.
Megan K - Chicken
You put it in the oven for 25 minutes and 25 degrees and put gravy on it and eat it.
Christa - Cookies
Buy some dough and smash it and cut them out. Then put them in the oven for 2 hours at 100 degrees. Then take them out and dry them off. Then it's time to eat them.
Irene - Turkey
Put it on a plate and put it in the oven with gravy. You cook it for 1 minute and for 100 degrees. Then it's all cooked. Your mom or dad cuts it and then eat.
Moriah - Turkey
First you cut the bones out. Then you put it in the oven for 10 hours at 600 degrees. Then you put it on the table and eat it.
Vincent - Turkey
You cut and put sauce on it. Then you cook it for 18 minutes at 19 degrees. Then you eat it with stuffing.
Jordyn - Turkey
First you have to cut it up and put it on a plate in the oven for 9 minutes and 18 degrees. Then you dig it out of the oven and eat it.
Grace - Turkey
First you add some salt. Then you put it in a bowl. Then you put brown sugar on it. Then you mix it all together with a spoon and then you add some milk and mix it again. And then you put it in a pan. Then you put it in the oven for 15 minutes and 16 degrees. Then you take it out of the oven and then you eat it.
Alan - Turkey
First you shoot it and then you cut it. And then you put it in the oven and cook it for 10 minutes and 20 degrees. You put it on plates and then you eat it.
Jordan Salvatore- Turkey
First you put it in the oven for 15 minutes at 100 degrees. Then you cut it up and then you eat it.
Jordan Simons - Chocolate Pudding
Buy some chocolate pudding mix. Then you add the milk. Then you add the pudding mix. Then you stir it. Then you put it in the refrigerator and wait for it to get hard. Then you eat it.
Whitney - Turkey
Cut it and put it in the oven for 50 minutes at 60 degrees and then you eat it.
Jason - Chicken Pie
Put the chicken in the pot and put the salad and cheese and mustard and then you mix it all together. Then put chicken sauce and stir it all around again. Then you cook it for 5 minutes at 9 degrees. Then you eat it.
Christopher - Pumpkin Pie
First you buy a pumpkin and smash it. Then it is all done. And you cook it in the oven for 12 minutes and 4 degrees. Then you eat it.
Christine - Turkey
First you buy the turkey. Then you cook it for 5 hours and 5 degrees. Then you cut it up and you eat it.
Ashley - Chicken
Put it in the oven. Then cut it up. Then I eat it.
Jennie - Corn
My mom buys it. Then you throw it. Then you cook it. Then you eat it.
Jordan - Cranberry Pie
Put cranberry juice in it. Then you put berries in it. Then you put dough in it. Then you bake it. Then you eat it.
Adam - Pumpkin Pie
First you put pumpkin seeds in it. Put it in a pan and bake it at 5 degrees for 6 minutes. Then take it out and eat it.
Jarryd - Deer Jerky
Put it in the oven overnight at 20 degrees. Then you go hunting and bring it with you. Then you eat it.
Christina - Turkey
Get the turkey. Put it in the oven. Cook it for 43 minutes at 35 degrees. Put it on a plate, cut it up, then eat it.
Joplyn - Apple Pie
Take some apples, mash them up. Take some bread and make a pie with it. Get some dough and squish it. Shape the dough into a pie shape. Put the apples in it. Then bake it at 9 degrees for 15 minutes.
Isabelle - Spaghetti
Put those red things in it. Then put the spaghetti in it. Then cook it in the oven for 2 minutes at 8 degrees.
Bailey - Chicken
Put pepper and spices on it. Cook for one hour at 60 degrees. Then eat it.
Nicholas - White and Brown Pudding
First you read the wrapper. Get a piece of water. Stir. Then you eat it.
Sean - Turkey
Put it in the oven for 5 minutes at 55 degrees. Take it out and eat it.
Lauren - Turkey
First you find a turkey and kill it. Cut it open. Put it in a pan. Pour milk in the pan. Put a little chicken with it. Put salsa on it. Take out of pan. Put it on the board. Cut into little pieces. Put on a rack. Put in the oven for 7 minutes at 10 degrees. Take out of the oven and put eensy weensy bit of sugar on it. Put a little more salsa on it. Then you eat it.
Olivia - Corn
Get hot water and put on stove. Wait for 8 minutes. Put corn in. Then put it on a plate. Then eat.
Siera - Pumpkin Pie
Get some pumpkin and dough for the crust. Get pumpkin pie cinnamon. Cook it for 20 minutes at 10 degrees.
Kayla - Turkey
Buy it. Take it home. Then you cook it. Put it in the oven for 1 hour. Take it out of the oven. Put it on a plate. Then you eat it.
Tommy - Pumpkin
Cook the pumpkin. Then get ready to eat the pumpkin
Wai - Pumpkin Pie
Get a pumpkin. Cook it. Eat it.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Bonus Rave of the Day for November 21: 

Dug up this little gem for those of you who will be doing some entertaining in your homes this week. Thanks to Ducky's Daily Grin.....

Thirty Minutes to a Cleaner House

You have company arriving in 30 minutes. Your house is a mess. WHAT WILL YOU DO?
Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to the first session of Housekeeping Tips for Regular People. If you're a Martha Stewart type of housekeeper, this column is NOT for you.
However, for the rest of you, this is your chance to learn 15 Secret Shortcuts to Good Housekeeping that your mother never told you.
If a room clearly can't be whipped into shape in 30 days--much less 30 minutes--employ the Locked Door Method of cleaning. Tell anyone who tries to go in the room that the door is intentionally locked.
CAUTION: It is not advisable to use this tip for the bathroom.
Time: 2 seconds
No home should be without an ample supply. Not only is it handy for plumbing repairs, but it's a great way to hem drapes, tablecloths, clothes, just about anything. No muss, no fuss.
Time: 2-3 minutes
If you think ovens are just for baking, think again. Ovens represent at least 9 cubic feet of hidden storage space, which means they're a great place to shove dirty dishes, dirty clothes, or just about anything you want to get out of sight when company's coming.
Time: 2 minutes
Like Secret Tip 3, except bigger. CAUTION: Avoid hiding flammable objects here.
Time: 2.5 minutes
Like Secret Tip 4, except even bigger.
Time: 3 minutes
No bed should be without one. Devotees of Martha Stewart believe dust ruffles exist to keep dust out from under a bed or to help coordinate the colorful look of a bedroom. The rest of us know a dust ruffle's highest and best use is to hide whatever you've managed to shove under the bed. (Refer to Secret Tips 3, 4, 5.)
Time: 4 minutes
The 30-Minutes-To-A-Clean-House method says: Never dust under what you can dust around.
Time: 3 minutes
Don't use them. Use plastic or paper and you won't have to.
Time: 1 minute
This secret tip is brought to you by an inventive teenager. When this teen's mother went on a housekeeping strike for a month, the teen discovered you can extend the life of your underwear by two ...if you turn it wrong side out and, yes, rerun it.
CAUTION: This tip is recommended only for teens and those who don't care if they get in a car wreck.
Time: 3 seconds
If an article of clothing doesn't require a full press and your hair does, a curling iron is the answer. In between curling your hair, use the hot wand to iron minor wrinkles out of your clothes. Yes, it really does work, or so I'm told, by other disciples of the 30-Minutes-To-A-Clean-House philosophy.
Time: 5 minutes (including curling your hair)
Stick to the middle of the room, which is the only place people look. Don't bother vacuuming under furniture. It takes way too long and no one looks there anyway.
Time: 5 minutes, entire house; 2 minutes, living room only
The key here is low, low, and lower. It's not only romantic, but bad lighting can hide a multitude of dirt.
Time: 10 seconds
Secret Tip 13: Bed Making
Get an old-fashioned waterbed. No one can tell if those things are made up or not, saving you, oh, hundreds of seconds over the course of a lifetime.
Time: 0
Secret Tip 14: Showers, Toilets, and Sinks
Forget one and two. Concentrate on three.
Time: 1 minute
Secret Tip 15
If you already knew at least 10 of these tips, don't even think about inviting a Martha Stewart type to your home.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Hawaii, Part 8: Fourth day on Oahu 

Arose at the crack of dawn on October 11th for a half-day excursion of Pearl Harbor and Honolulu. Turns out the secret to visiting Pearl Harbor in a timely fashion is to get there EARLY....otherwise, the wait to get in can take hours. We arrived at the park that morning at 7:15, 45 minutes before the first Pearl Harbor tour and 15 minutes prior to the park admitting visitors for the day. When we made it inside, we got tickets for the third tour of the day.

That day, a veteran and survivor of the Pearl Harbor attack was at the park. I shook his hand and told him it was an honor to meet him. While we were waiting for the tour to start, we had a look around the gift shop. We purchased (the money supports veterans) a flag that had been flown on the memorial on July 4th of this year.

The tour began with a flim detailing the events of December 7, 1941. This brought tears to my eyes as most acts of war do. I learned some things I didn't know before and realized that things would have been much worse if all had gone according to plan.

Next, we took a shuttle boat to the memorial of the USS Arizona. It's a sobering experience, beautiful in an eerie way. No one says a word as they walk around. You can see portions of the ship sticking up out of the water and small stains on the water's surface of oil still leaking. There are markers in the harbor of where the various vessels were located that day. And inside the memorial, names of those who perished carved into a wall. The list doesn't seem quite so huge until you see each and every name right before you. There were velvet ropes hanging from silver stands in front of this wall. From the stands, matching flower leis were hung. One other interesting thing: a list has been started of survivors who chose to be interred with their ship-mates at the end of their lives.

When we returned to the visitor center, I was glad we had gotten there early because it was now jam-packed with people. I was hoping to visit the museum before our bus was due to leave, but the line was just too long. I was happy to sit back down on the bus anyway.

Our next stop was the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. This is in Honolulu inside Punchbowl Crater (an extinct volcano). Over 30,000 veterans are buried there. The area is appropriately serene and beautiful, with sprawling trees shading the rectangular gravestones. There is a carved statue of a woman with her head bowed at the top of a long staircase overlooking the cemetery. A very dignified resting place.

Afterward, we drove around downtown Honolulu with our guide, "Uncle Bob" (calling someone aunt or uncle is a sign of respect in Hawaii), pointing out all the interesting or signifcant sites including the state capitol and Chinatown. Our last stop was at the statue of Kamehameha the Great, the king who united Hawaii. The statue stands in front of the State Judiciary Building and across the street from Iolani Palace, the only royal palace in the United States. Such a diverse mix of old and new Hawaii in such a small space.

We were done with the tour by noon, so after we had some lunch, Dan and I decided we needed some quality beach time. We put on our swimsuits, and I brought the camera and a woven beach mat I'd bought at one of the corner shops. While I paddled around in the surf, Dan caught some rays. After awhile, we decided we needed a snack because it was very hot out (about 92 degrees). We went across the street to an ice cream place called Coldstone, where everything is made fresh. I determined what would be safe for me to eat and gave it a try. I had basically what amounted to a gourmet hot fudge sundae....amazingly delicious!

After the snack, we took a walk in Kapiolani Park at the south end of Waikiki. There were some less crowded beaches near here, so we decided to hang around. The waves were harsher here because there was no retaining wall, but I discovered that once I'd gone out a certain distance, I could just float and let the tide bring me back toward shore. Had I been healthy, I could have stayed out there all afternoon, but when I got too tired to swim anymore, I grabbed the camera and walked out on a nearby pier to watch the sailboats and surfers. There were all kinds of small black crabs on top of the pier, and they would scatter as I approached. After getting my fill of people and watercraft watching, Dan and I made our way back to the condo to rest.

Hawaii, Part 7: Third day on Oahu 

The morning of October 10th was full of promise: I'd booked a visit to Sea Life Park on the east side of the island and an up close and personal tour of the dolphin training facility. There was a family at the shuttle pick-up spot with me who spoke French; I didn't understand enough to figure out where they were from (maybe not France). When we got on the shuttle, I took the last available seat next to a nice Japanese couple. Because they'd heard the people I got on with speaking French, they thought I was with that family and started speaking to me in French. I took French in college, so I knew a little of what they were saying. But then they heard me speak in English to the shuttle driver, so they tried to talk to me in English.

It was about at 45 minute drive to the park, so I had time for some conversation. The couple next to me were from Tokyo; the man knew English better than the woman, so he translated what I was saying to his wife and vice versa. I found out their trip had been delayed by a typhoon and that they'd had to change a lot of their plans around. We figured out that our home cities were probably an equal distance away from Hawaii. We talked about what we liked to do at home (the lady enjoyed snowboarding), and the efficiency of public transportation in Tokyo. Again I found myself wishing I had more than a rudimentary understanding of Japanese.

Because I'd booked the dolphin encounter tour, I was allowed to enter the park half an hour before it opened to the public. This was great; it was still cool outside, and with only the others from the shuttle in the park, I had uncrowded access to any place I wanted to go. I got lots of photos of the animals in the park: sea lions, green sea turtles, sting rays, even Chilean penguins. And when the park did officially open, I had a front row seat at the first dolphin show.

My tour of the dolphin training area was an hour and a half after the park opened. There were about 15 of us in the tour including the couple I'd traveled with. We all brought swimsuits and towels, but for some reason, I'd forgotten to put on my aqua-shoes and had worn tennis shoes. I put them in the locker, thinking it probably wouldn't matter if I walked barefoot. That proved to be very wrong.

The first place we went was to the large performance area where there were four bottlenose dolphins who were veteran performers. After we put on life jackets, we went out to the water's edge, where one of the instructors gave us some information on dolphin anatomy with one of the dolphins (their participation is voluntary). Then in small groups of up to four, we waded slowly out in the water and swam to the deep area wearing goggles. While gazing down into the water below us, the dolphins swam underneath us so we could get a good look at them. Three out of the four felt like participating, so we were allowed with the trainer's supervision to swim close enough to a dolphin to actually touch him. The one I met looked me right in the eye; he looked sooo intelligent, and I could swear he was smiling at me! He was about 30 years old, and had lived at the park for several years. I did make one mistake; I'm not a very strong swimmer, and my leg accidentally got in the way of his tail. Boy, can they kick! It hurt like the dickens, but that was my fault, not his. This dolphin seemed to really enjoy having his tummy rubbed, and of course was fond of the fish we fed him.

Part two of the tour was at the behind-the-scenes training area. This was quite some distance from the performance area on blacktop that was scalding hot and growing hotter by the minute. I did my best to walk in the shady areas, but I burned the bottoms of my feet before we got there. Once there, we were taught some basic hand signals they use to train the dolphins, such as asking them to "sing" (vocalize), and to lean on one side waving a flipper like they're saying goodbye. Then we got to try this with a young dolphin in training, and when he indicated he was feeling friendly that day, we got to walk up to the edge of the tank and give him a tummy rub too. We also got to meet a "whalphin", part bottlenose dolphin and part false killer whale. She was a dark charcoal color with the rounded snout of a whale, but about the size of a dolphin. She was also quite friendly and seemed to enjoy the attention.

So in spite of the blistered feet, the dolphin encounter is something I'll never forget. They really are beautiful creatures, and probably smarter than we'll ever know. Being eye to eye with one, even briefly, was the experience of a lifetime.

The shuttle left the park about 1pm to go back to Waikiki. I got back to the condo about an hour later; I had only until 4pm to be cleaned up and ready to go to a luau. I think I took an hour long nap so I wouldn't be completely devoid of energy that night (only partly devoid of energy, ha ha). I decided some "Aloha wear" would be appropriate for this occasion, so I put on my new purple shirt with the hibiscus flowers on it. This excursion required a shuttle too, but we arrived at the pick-up location in plenty of time. The vehicle that came to pick us up was a full-size bus, and there were enough of us to fill every seat.

Our guide to and from the luau was a local named Paul. He told a lot of entertaining stories and played us some songs on the ukelele, so we were in the mood to party by the time we arrived. The luau was located on a private beach, and there was probably enough seating for at least 500 people. There were several other buses besides ours, and I guessed there were about 400 in attendance. We chose one of the tables nearest the stage; we had one to ourselves because nobody wanted to sit on the sand (the ones further back had benches). So I had a great view of the stage in order to get good photos.

I was feeling festive, so I ordered a virgin pina colada, which was delicious. We got reasonably comfy as the sun went down (as comfy as one can be sitting on the ground), and then some people on stage sounded horns made from conch shells to signal the beginning of the feast. I'd read up on luaus a bit, so I had a good idea of what I could and couldn't eat. I had lomi lomi salmon (marinated with onions and tomatoes like a salsa), kalua pork (roasted pork), white rice, poi and coconut pudding. The poi was a little weird, but everything else was awesome, and I threw caution to the wind and actually went back for a small serving of seconds.

As we ate, the entertainment began. They started with a lady singing songs in Hawaiian to the accompaniment of a band. Later, the dancers began, demonstrating different styles of dance from various parts of the Pacific. Some looked fairly traditional while some were very obviously modern, at least in attire (like outfits that glowed in the dark). Some dances were slow and beautiful and others had the performers moving so fast they were just a blur. Some were done by men only, others by women only, and some had them dancing together in pairs.

The comic relief of the evening was when the audience members were invited onstage to learn to hula. I think the men were funnier than the women, mainly because they didn't care if they looked awkward. There were kids up there too, and all seemed to have a good time. At one point, they selected one of the men from the audience to go onstage with one of the Tahitian (I think) lady dancers. Even though this woman probably does this every evening, the guy they picked was so goofy that she could not stop laughing.

The only disappointment was the fire dance, where the performer juggles lit torches. This man must have been having an off night because he dropped the batons more than once. I was sure he was going to set himself or an audience member afire. Guess it was a reminder that these things are even harder than they look.

Overall, though, the dancing was great and plenty entertaining for both men and women. The show was surprisingly lengthy, too....I think at least three hours? By the time it concluded, I'd taken well over 100 pictures, and I had to be helped to stand because I was so sore from sitting on the sand. It was well worth the discomfort, anyway.

On the way home, Paul taught us a song on the ukelele....we sang along to "Just Hang Loose". I was sleepy, but satisfied. I think we got home about 10pm, and I'm sure I fell asleep shortly after.

Rave of the Day for November 21: 

This joke has made the rounds before, but in the spirit of Thanksgiving, it deserves a repeat. Thanks to Joan for e-mailing it to me....

A young man named John received a parrot as a gift. The parrot had a bad attitude and an even worse vocabulary. Every word out of the bird's mouth was rude, obnoxious and laced with profanity. John tried and tried to change
the bird's attitude by consistently saying only polite words, playing soft music and anything else he could think of to "clean up" the bird's vocabulary.

Finally, John was fed up and he yelled at the parrot. The parrot yelled back. John shook the parrot and the parrot got angrier and even ruder. John, in desperation, threw up his hand, grabbed the bird and put him in the freezer. For a few minutes the parrot squawked and kicked and screamed. Then suddenly there was total quiet. Not a peep was heard for over a minute. Fearing that he'd hurt the parrot, John quickly opened the door to the freezer. The parrot calmly stepped out onto John's outstretched arms and said "I believe I may have offended you with my rude language and actions. I'm sincerely remorseful for my inappropriate transgressions and I fully intend to do everything I can to correct my rude and unforgivable behavior."

John was stunned at the change in the bird's attitude. As he was about to ask the parrot what had made such a dramatic change in his behavior, the bird continued, "May I ask what the turkey did?"

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Hawaii, Part 6: Second day on Oahu 

Began our day early because I had booked a dolphin watching tour. The bus came to pick us up at 7:30 to take us to Yokohama Bay, an area mostly frequented by locals on the northwest side of Oahu. The tour guide didn't speak much English, and I don't know any Japanese, but it worked out just fine. Most of the others on the tour were Japanese (Hawaii is a popular vacation spot, especially for people from Tokyo), so most of the guide's conversation was for their benefit. I rather enjoyed listening to the guide even though I didn't know what she was saying, hearing people laugh at her jokes, and wondering why I'd never properly learned a second language.

It took about 45 minutes to reach our destination, and we got a good look at the Oahu countryside along the way. The main part of our tour consisted of a 3 hour yacht ride around the bay, where dolphins, particularly spinner dolphins, live in large pods. There were a few other boats and some fishermen around the bay, but other than that, it was fairly quiet. After we got going, everyone found a spot where they could look out on the water. I propped myself securely near the back of the boat, attempting to hold myself (and my camera) steady because of my poor balance. Dan stayed near the interior with the underwater camera. Knowing how extremely difficult it is to capture a good photo of a moving dolphin while on a moving boat, I figured two cameras were better than one.

Almost on cue, three spinner dolphins appeared, swimming along with the boat! Spinner dolphins are smaller and darker (charcoal grey) than the bottlenose variety, and VERY fast. When they leap out of the water, they spin like a corkscrew, hence their name. Everyone speaks the same language when they're admiring something....Asians, Europeans and Americans all say "oooh" and "aaah" exactly the same way. We were all thrilled to see the dolphins....some were so excited they actually applauded. It didn't take very long at all for other dolphins to appear....you'd see one and point it out, follow it for awhile and when you saw it again, you'd suddenly realize it was surrounded by others, sometimes a few dozen of them. I'd seen bottlenose dolphins in the wild in Florida, but never more than a few at once; these pods had as many as 30 dolphins. We even saw babies swimming side by side with adults. Quite thrilling.

We had lunch on board the boat; I mainly ate white rice and fresh fruit, which I was glad to be finding in abundance in Hawaii. I listened to some of the conversation around me; a few people were speaking German, a few in English with an Aussie accent, and of course lots of Japanese. I had time for a few more photos before we headed back to dock. While I was reluctant to leave the dolphins, I was relieved to get back on solid ground as the rocking motion of the yacht had gotten very tiring.

We got back to the condo by 2pm, and since I'd dozed off on the tour bus on the way back, I had a bit of energy to spare, so I decided to try a shopping excursion. Dan did something else, I can't remember what. I wanted to visit the Hilo Hattie's warehouse in Honolulu, and they offered a free shuttle service there and back, so I consulted the map I'd downloaded at home from their website for the nearest stop. It was about two blocks away, and the wait wasn't very long, which was a good thing because it was HOT out, about 92 degrees....unusually warm for October. Once I got on the shuttle, which was like a San Fransisco open air trolley, the breeze felt good and offset the high humidity a bit. The warehouse was larger than the store in Kona and was mostly dedicated to clothing, referred to in Hawaii as "aloha wear". They had matching patterns for couples and some even for whole families. Unfortunately, the ladies' styles did not seem to fit me, so I found something I liked in a men's medium. It was a purple shirt with white hibiscus flowers on it. I also bought plumeria perfume as I'd been around so many of the sweet-smelling blossoms on the Big Island that I was addicted to the scent.

After I returned, I rested for awhile and then headed for the beach near sunset with my camera. Saturday night on Waikiki Beach is quite the extravaganza. Along the pier, restaurant tables had been set up; I think one of the local bars was doing business there. I went down to the end of the pier for awhile to watch the dozens of wannabe surfers. To the south of the pier, a huge stage and a movie screen were set up in one area; there was live music going on, and then they actually showed current run movies. I would have stayed to watch, but the sledgehammer of fatigue showed up and convinced me I should go back to the condo and veg.

Rave of the Day for November 14: 

Wanna tell the world that you're embarrassed how the U.S. election turned out? Here's your chance:

Sorry Everybody

Even if you're satisfied with the election results, take a peek. Some of these are funny, some are touching. I particularly like the messages of encouragement from foreign nations. Just click on the galleries link, start viewing the pages of pix, and let the healing begin. And don't forget to submit your own photo/message if you're of a mind to do so.

Hawaii, Part 5: Arrival and first full day in Oahu 

Everything went smoothly getting checked out of the Wailkoloa condo the morning of October 7th. We loaded everything up into the Kermit-mobile and headed to the airport. On the way there, I saw wild goats near the roadside. Such a fascinating island. I'll never forget it.

We bid a fond farewell to our rented Jeep and proceeded without incident until we went to check our bags in. Apparently there's a 50-pound weight limit per bag, and the suitcase Dan and I were sharing exceeded this by 2 pounds! I thought we were making things easier by consolidating our stuff (fewer items to cart around), but I didn't know about the weight rule. We were charged $25 extra for our bag. I think they should post this in the airports...what a rude surprise.

Even with this delay and a backed-up security line, we still had plenty of time before our flight took off. We picked out some seats at the gate and got comfy. Kona's airport is mostly outdoors, so there was a nice breeze blowing through the seating area. There were also lots of hungry sparrows begging for food, as I found out when I was snacking on some Fritos. First one would hop over, then a few more, and then before I knew it, I felt like I was in a Hitchcock movie! You should have seen them swarm when I dropped a Frito!

The interisland airline we were flying on doesn't reserve specific seats, so it was first come, first served. We inadvertantly ended up at the end of the line because I walk so slowly, but I think we got the last two seats together. The plane was small, but not as tiny as the one I took to Bismarck in February; this one still had an overhead bin large enough (barely) for our carry-on bag. And the flight was short; less than 40 minutes if I remember right. It was nice to not be in too much extra pain exiting a plane for once.

As part of the package we had booked, our arrival in Honolulu included a lei greeting. The flowers smelled wonderful; I wished I could have kept it forever. We also had van transportation to our Waikiki condo so we didn't have to worry about that. I had called the front office earlier to request an early check-in if possible, which they were able to arrange. We were in a high-rise, but our condo was only on the ninth floor, which wasn't too bad. And it was reasonably close to the elevators, which I appreciated.

High-rises may not be terribly attractive on the outside, but they sure do provide nice views! Our condo faced north toward Honolulu; from the lanai, I could see lush green hills covered in private homes. I could also see the pool down on the fifth floor and tennis courts across from us. The condo was smaller and not as fancy as the one on the Big Island, but it had all the basics and served us very well. And the bed was amazingly comfortable.

After some unpacking, we asked the front desk where we might go to eat. She recommended the Tiki Grill and Bar two blocks away across from Waikiki Beach. We were interested in seeing the beach anyway, so we wandered over. We got there at just the right time, between the lunch and supper crowds, so we got to sit on the third-story patio overlooking the beach. What a great place to people-watch! They were also accommodating to my dietary needs; I had a delicious grilled opah with a bay shrimp salsa. We ate there two more times during our stay on Oahu.

There was a small convenience store on the fifth floor of our condo, and I was able to find a few items I needed there, but obviously not stuff like fresh veggies, chicken or eggs, so we needed to go to a regular grocery store. We asked the front desk clerk if there was a full-service grocery within walking distance; she pointed out one on a map and gave us directions. We set out easily enough, but the further we walked, the slower I got, and before long I realized my version of walking distance and the clerk's were very different from one another! It was at least six blocks. When we finally wandered in, I realized there was no way I'd be able to get back if had to carry anything, so I modified my shopping list to what Dan thought he could carry. There were fewer health food items available in this store than in the one on the Big Island, and some of the labels were confusing because half of them were in Asian languages, but I found enough to get me (mostly) through my stay on Oahu.

After we unloaded the groceries and caught our breath for awhile (especially Dan, since he did all the hauling), we decided to wander slowly over to the beach to take pix of the sunset. Waikiki Beach is pretty crowded a half hour before sunset: lots of kids playing on the rock retaining wall (the wall reduces the harshness of incoming waves), young adults learning to surf, older adults walking on the shoreline, and in the distance, catamarans providing sunset sails and cruise ships coming in to dock. It's really not that different from all the photos I've seen: the beach curves to the north with a variety of hotels on the horizon (including this striking pink one, the Royal Hawaiian), coconut palms arch gracefully above the scene, tiki torches provide more atmosphere than light, lifeguard towers hold occupants that look straight out of "Baywatch", and couples of all ages and nationalities hold hands.

Once the sun has set, free entertainment is provided on a stage by the city of Honolulu; this usually involves live music and sometimes native dancing. Also, the buskers (street performers) come to life as the sidewalks fill with window shoppers: the most popular seem to be "robot" mimes covered head to toe in either silver or gold. The temerature stays warm in the evenings, so most people go straight from the beach to the many shops across the street for a very pleasant walk. Naturally, most of these are surf shops, but there are also some specialty stores (like one place that only sells items that change color in the sun), souvenirs galore, and if you're willing to walk far enough, the International Market Place. The International Market Place is an open-air gallery of wares sold by foreign vendors. There's plenty of competition, so the prices are good, especially if you're willing to haggle. The night I went there, I bought two sarongs for $12; the clerk was sweet enough to show me how to wear them.

That first evening, we only did a little window shopping as it had already been a big day. I think we were both getting blisters on our feet anyway. We headed back to the condo somewhat early, and after I made some scrambled eggs, I sat down to edit the pix on my digital camera. Predictably, I fell asleep on the couch before I finished.

The next morning, as part of our travel package, we had a breakfast orientation at a neighboring hotel. The convenient thing about staying in Waikiki is that shuttle service is provided for most activities; all we had to do was go to the hotel across the street at the appointed time and wait to be picked up. Basically, the breakfast was a sales pitch for various tour companies that were affiliated with the travel service, but I didn't mind as I'd been wondering how I was going to get to all the things I wanted to see anyway. I was able to eat part of the breakfast, mainly the eggs and the fresh fruit, and I gambled a bit with the bacon and hash browns, but they didn't seem to bother me. I gave Dan my muffin of course. The seating arrangements were kind of fun; I think they intentionally grouped people from different areas together. At our table was a couple from Sydney, a couple from Prince Edward Island, a couple from somewhere in the Middle East, and a couple from Cleveland. After we ate, there was a bit of entertainment, and then a presentation on the various tours and other activities available. I decided against the Polynesian Cultural Center as that was an all-day committment, but instead opted for a luau, a tour of Pearl Harbor and Honolulu, and a tour all around Oahu; the prices were actually very reasonable. We set these up for the last few days of our stay.

After we got back, I had an appointment to go snorkeling that I'd booked from home. Dan doesn't swim, so he went shopping. I went to a nearby nature preserve, Hanauma Bay, with a guide and one couple from Arizona. Access to this area is very limited, but if you book a tour, you bypass the lines and are guaranteed entry. Our gear was included as well as snacks and drinks. Hanauma Bay is what remains of an extinct volanic crater, a somewhat peaceful cove full of primarily docile marine life. I was excited for this opportunity but also nervous that I might not be able to keep up physically.

Once I got the gear on, I attempted to swim around a bit and soon discovered that the current was much stronger than I was. Fortunately, the guide was willing to take me by the hand and steer me in the right direction. Snorkeling is a lot harder than it looks! If it hadn't been for the guide's help, I never would have been able to swim out far enough for the best views. What I saw was beyond description....elaborate coral formations, sea urchins, butterfly fish with fins trailing a foot behind them, yellow tangs, huge iridescent fish, entire schools swimming just inches below me. I was trying to take photos with the underwater camera when I hadn't quite gotten the hang of things yet. I ran out of film right before we came across a young sea turtle! Probably just as well....I swam better and exhausted myself less when I wasn't distracted with the camera.

I was determined to keep up with everyone else, so I ignored my rubbery arms and legs and cramped muscles and stayed out for an incredible two hours! The pain was completely worthwhile as I got to glimpse a beautiful underwater world I will likely never see again. The fish were so much larger in the wild than I had ever seen in an aquarium, and some I believe were unique to that area. The best part was as we were heading back toward shore, a huge ancient green sea turtle swam right up next to me! It was so close I had to move out of the way to avoid touching it. The turtle just looked placidly at me, right in the eye, while it munched on some algae. Incredible.

I was massively wiped out when we came to shore, but I hid it best I could. One thing I couldn't hide, though, was when I took off the flippers and promptly fell over because my legs wouldn't hold me! I just laughed and very carefully waded back toward our mats on the grassy area past the beach. Luckily, the couple from Arizona was a bit winded too, so we sat for a little while and had a snack. Turns out the birds at Hanauma Bay are even more bold than the ones in Kona; a dove came up and tried to fly away with my bag of Fritos! Then a pigeon came over to see what he could steal, but I had grabbed my Fritos bag and wasn't in a mood to share. I half expected them to come over and peck at me because I was laughing at them.

We had a pleasant drive back to Waikiki, talking about the upcoming election, admiring the fantastic estates east of Honolulu. The couple from Arizona had been to Hawaii before and gave me some recommendations for good restaurants. I thanked the guide profusely for being so helpful and making sure we had a great time.

While Kona has only about 50 percent humidity, Honolulu is much more humid. Found out that day that when it doesn't rain, it mists....that's the best I can describe it. A light cooling mist hovers in the air for a brief time and then moves on. The great thing about this is that it produces the most amazing rainbows. That afternoon, from the lanai of our condo, Dan and I saw a rainbow form over Honolulu, a huge arc of vivid color. We took several photos of it while it lasted.

That night, I was far too exhausted to cook, so we went back to the Tiki Grill and Bar for a sunset supper. Afterward, Dan and I window shopped and people watched until we had blisters on our blisters. We called it a night about 9pm, and I drifted blissfully off to sleep....

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Pix of paradise.... 

I've started putting my Hawaii photos on web pages. I'm making several pages so they won't take forever for someone with dialup (like me) to load. Here's the link to the first one:

Big Island, Part 1

Future pages will link to the one above, so you can visit there in a few days to see what else I've got done.

More blog descriptions of the trip are forthcoming. I should get something on here this weekend.

I'm off to get Part 2 of photos started....

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Rave of the Day for November 6: 

For those of you who were severely bummed by the outcome of the U.S. Presidential election (nearly half of us were), here are some encouraging words from Michael Moore....


Dear Friends,

Ok, it sucks. Really sucks. But before you go and cash it all in, let's, in the words of Monty Python, 'always look on the bright side of life!' There IS some good news from Tuesday's election.

Here are 17 reasons not to slit your wrists:

1. It is against the law for George W. Bush to run for president again.

2. Bush's victory was the NARROWEST win for a sitting president since Woodrow Wilson in 1916.

3. The only age group in which the majority voted for Kerry was young adults (Kerry: 54%, Bush: 44%), proving once again that your parents are always wrong and you should never listen to them.

4. In spite of Bush's win, the majority of Americans still think the country is headed in the wrong direction (56%), think the war wasn't worth fighting (51%), and don't approve of the job George W. Bush is doing (52%). (Note to foreigners: Don't try to figure this one out.  It's an American thing, like Pop Tarts.)

5. The Republicans will not have a filibuster-proof 60-seat majority in the Senate. If the Democrats do their job, Bush won't be able to pack the Supreme Court with right-wing ideologues. Did I say "if the Democrats do
their job?" Um, maybe better to scratch this one.

6. Michigan voted for Kerry! So did the entire Northeast, the birthplace of our democracy. So did 6 of the 8 Great Lakes States. And the whole West Coast! Plus Hawaii. Ok, that's a start. We've got most of the fresh water,
all of Broadway, and Mt. St. Helens. We can dehydrate them or bury them in lava. And no more show tunes!

7. Once again we are reminded that the buckeye is a nut, and not just any old nut -- a poisonous nut. A great nation was felled by a poisonous nut. May Ohio State pay dearly this Saturday when it faces Michigan.

8. 88% of Bush's support came from white voters. In 50 years, America will no longer have a white majority. Hey, 50 years isn't such a long time! If you're ten years old and reading this, your golden years will be truly
golden and you will be well cared for in your old age.

9. Gays, thanks to the ballot measures passed on Tuesday, cannot get married in 11 new states. Thank God. Just think of all those wedding gifts we won't have to buy now.

10. Five more African Americans were elected as members of Congress, including the return of Cynthia McKinney of Georgia. It's always good to have more blacks in there fighting for us and doing the job our candidates can't.

11. The CEO of Coors was defeated for Senate in Colorado. Drink up!

12. Admit it: We like the Bush twins and we don't want them to go away.

13. At the state legislative level, Democrats picked up a net of at least 3 chambers in Tuesday's elections. Of the 98 partisan-controlled state legislative chambers (house/assembly and senate), Democrats went into the
2004 elections in control of 44 chambers, Republicans controlled 53 chambers, and 1 chamber was tied. After Tuesday, Democrats now control 47 chambers, Republicans control 49 chambers, 1 chamber is tied and 1 chamber (Montana House) is still undecided.

14. Bush is now a lame duck president. He will have no greater moment than the one he's having this week. It's all downhill for him from here on out -- and, more significantly, he's just not going to want to do all the hard work that will be expected of him. It'll be like everyone's last month in 12th grade -- you've already made it, so it's party time! Perhaps he'll treat the next four years like a permanent Friday, spending even more time at the
ranch or in Kennebunkport. And why shouldn't he? He's already proved his point, avenged his father and kicked our ass.

15. Should Bush decide to show up to work and take this country down a very dark road, it is also just as likely that either of the following two scenarios will happen: a) Now that he doesn't ever need to pander to the
Christian conservatives again to get elected, someone may whisper in his ear that he should spend these last four years building "a legacy" so that history will render a kinder verdict on him and thus he will not push for too aggressive a right-wing agenda; or b) He will become so cocky and arrogant -- and thus, reckless -- that he will commit a blunder of such major proportions that even his own party will have to remove him from

16. There are nearly 300 million Americans -- 200 million of them of voting age. We only lost by three and a half million! That's not a landslide -- it means we're almost there. Imagine losing by 20 million. If you had 58 yards to go before you reached the goal line and then you barreled down 55 of those yards, would you stop on the three yard line, pick up the ball and go home crying -- especially when you get to start the next down on the three yard line? Of course not! Buck up! Have hope! More sports analogies are coming!!!

17. Finally and most importantly, over 55 million Americans voted for the candidate dubbed "The #1 Liberal in the Senate." That's more than the total number of voters who voted for either Reagan, Bush I, Clinton or Gore.
Again, more people voted for Kerry than Reagan. If the media are looking for a trend it should be this -- that so many Americans were, for the first time since Kennedy, willing to vote for an out-and-out liberal. The country has always been filled with evangelicals -- that is not news. What IS news is that so many people have shifted toward a Massachusetts liberal. In fact, that's BIG news. Which means, don't expect the mainstream media, the ones who brought you the Iraq War, to ever report the real truth about November 2, 2004. In fact, it's better that they don't. We'll need the element of surprise in 2008.

Feeling better? I hope so. As my friend Mort wrote me yesterday, "My Romanian grandfather used to say to me, 'Remember, Morton, this is such a wonderful country  -- it doesn't even need a president!'"

But it needs us. Rest up, I'll write you again tomorrow.


Michael Moore

Hawaii, Part 4: Our last full day on the Big Island 

Woke up at literally the crack of dawn on October 6th. We were going to Volcanoes National Park on the opposite side of the island and a considerable drive away. We put on our sturdiest comfy shoes and loaded the Kermit-mobile with snacks, bottled water and maps. I had freshly charged batteries in the camera and was ready for a long day of photo taking.

We decided to take the circular route starting north, then curving around east and finally south again to the park. There is a road that cuts across the island called the Saddle Road, and had I been healthy, we would have taken the short cut. Problem with the Saddle Road is that it is not well-maintained and there are no services of any kind, which is not a good idea for anyone that needs a restroom reasonably nearby at all times. So we took the long but scenic way.

Travelling across the north part of the island was interesting on the dry western half, which closely resembled many parts of the midwest or western states. There were lots of ranches and areas that resembled prairie. You'd almost forget you were in Hawaii until you saw trees or ferns that were clearly tropical.

When we got to the wet side of the island, it was like we had crossed into a South American rain forest...dense, lush green foliage, steep cliffs and humidity. Decided to take a short detour to see Akaka Falls, probably the most famous of the Big Island's waterfalls. On the way there, we were blessed with the first clear view of Mauna Kea since we had arrived....we could even see the telescopes on the summit.

Turns out there are actually two waterfalls to see....a circular path leads you past both of them. It was good to get out and stretch my legs, and the scenery was quite rewarding. There were gorgeous plants I had never seen before, and some I had only seen in movies, like bamboo. I am guessing that rain forests elsewhere would be similar.

Akaka Falls was well worth the detour. The weather had been a bit dry for the area recently, so the volume of water wasn't that great, but it is still an impressive drop (420 feet), and it is sort of mesmerizing watching the mist glimmer in the sun. The other waterfall, Kahuna Falls, was further from the road and a bit harder to see, but still very pretty.

I got fairly tired and a bit dizzy hiking back to the Jeep, but didn't mind too much since I knew I would have to sit for quite awhile longer once we got back on the road again. We made a brief stop in Hilo so Dan could get some Starbuck's and arrived at the entrance to the park about 11am.

The information center was being renovated and had set up temporary quarters in a trailer, which was a bummer because it was packed with people. I took just a quick peek in there and then moved on to the art gallery down the road, which was much more rewarding. It was full of work by local artists....carved koa, Hawaiian quilting, paintings, and my favorite, photos of the volcano. There were signed prints available for sale by G. Brad Lewis, world famous for his shots of Kilauea over the years. I just couldn't leave without taking some home. I bought four matted prints, intending to group them together and frame them at home. Two were shots of lava flowing into the sea, one was a moonrise, and one showed a burst of lava that formed a heart shape titled "Pele's Heartbeat".

Now I was ready to do some sightseeing. Due to my respiratory problems we bypassed the first stop with its heavy sulphur fumes and went to the steam vents. It was amazing to see so much steam rising so far from the volcano's center. It was quite lovely in a way, enveloping the landscape wth a constantly moving fog. It made one wonder at the strength of the force behind such a display.

Next we pulled into the area for the observatory, which had an awesome view of Kilauea's crater. It was much larger than I expected. Even though there was no active eruption going on there, you could easily see plumes of steam rising from various parts of the crater floor. You could also get a visual account of the volcano's history by observing the types of mineral, the various layers of rock, and the places where the crater had collapsed over the years. It was a bit eerie, knowing something so powerful was in the ground beneath your feet.

As we drove further south along the road through the park, we noticed signs pointing out lava flows from various eruptions, listing the year they occurred. The flows that occurred 20 years ago or less were still pitch black and devoid of any vegetation. But the ones from about 1979 and older had the beginnings of plant life growing right out of the lava. I was amazed that the vegetation could come back so fast.

A rather amusing sight was the crossing signs with geese pictured on them. The Hawaiian state bird is a goose called the nene, and flocks of them live in the park. In recent years, tourist have made the mistake of feeding the birds so that they have become tame. As a result, the geese started approaching the road looking for handouts, and many have been run over by cars. There were many stern signs on the road warning that it was now illegal to feed the geese.

I had Dan pull over when we got to an observation area for the opposite side of Kilauea's crater. There were signs warning of sulphur fumes, but I found them to not be too bothersome as long as the wind didn't switch directions, which happened once or twice but only briefly. This end of the crater had some very striking yellow and red colorings to the rock (sulphur and iron, respectively) and a much better view of the areas that had collapsed. I was fascinated.

Around the time I returned to the Kermit-mobile, it began to rain. I hoped it would let up, but as we approached one of the highlights of the park, Desolation Trail, it started pouring. Knowing that I would never get another chance to see this area, I put on my coat, hiding my camera in its case underneath, and headed for the trail. Dan wasn't too enthused about getting soaked, so he stayed in the Jeep and waited for me. Much to my surprise, the new shoes I had purchased for the trip (I had bought them for their sturdy tread) were fully waterproof, and my feet didn't even get wet as I trudged the better part of a mile.

The beginning of the trail was very green and beautiful, and then suddenly there were all these tree trunks that had been felled by lava in the 1950's. Amidst this volcanic black carpet punctuated by dead wood, there were stunning pink flowers, small new trees and prairie-like grasses growing out of the starkness. It was the most surreal thing I have ever viewed; I would have believed some artist had staged it had I not known otherwise.

Once past the lava field, I crossed back into lush green forest with red ginger blossoms and other lovely flowers. Over the noise of the rain pelting my jacket, I thought I could faintly hear something stirring in the woods. I stopped and waited, and very far away, I saw a few nene disappearing behind some trees. And not far from them was a vivid flash of blue that I later found out was a variety of pheasant. I would have loved to have tried to take a picture of these birds, but the rain was still coming down too hard.

I continued on, knowing the longer I was out, the more tired I would get, so I proceeded to the end of the trail: an overlook into another crater. It was quite an awesome sight, and the rain died down just barely enough for me to attempt a few photos. There was already someone there with a tripod and a fancy 35mm with a telephoto lens. His wife was helping him by holding a towel over the camera to keep it dry. We chatted a bit, and I found out that they were at the park on a day trip excursion away from a cruise they were taking.

There was a side road from the main path that I could have taken had I been healthy, but I knew just going back the way I came was going to be my limit physically, so I skipped the side trail. On the way back through the lava field, the rain had slowed down to a light drizzle, so I was lucky enough to have a chance to take some photos. When I got back to the Jeep, I was amazed to discover that I had been gone for an hour.

Next we went down Chain of Craters Road. There were various extinct volcanoes this way, some with craters that looked a bit like moonscapes, and some were so old that they were totally overgrown with vegetation. Here and there were more lava flows from Kilauea. The elevation gradually dropped as we neared the ocean. One of the scenic overlooks was truly stunning: black lava alternating with greenery and then suddenly, the jagged coastline in the far distance. The closer we got to the water, the more the road twisted and turned, until we came to the coastline and a ranger station right in the road and a road block. We made a u-turn there and found a place to park along the side of the road.

I got out and headed for a lava wall that had been built along a cliff. I looked over, and what I saw took my breath away: jagged lava many feet high against which the brilliant blue Pacific surged. Some of the lava had been broken down by the fierce waves in one spot into absolutely pitch black sand, completely untouched by human hands. At the top of the lava cliffs, a lone strip of palm trees swayed in the breeze. They had been surrounded by volcanic activity and had even had their trunks and some leaves burned, but the trees were still alive somehow, a strange little oasis defiant of Pele.

Back at the ranger station, there were signs indicating that one could continue down the road on foot approximately one mile to see where an eruption in the 1980's had literally overrun the road and closed it permanently. Dan and I decided this would be worth a look, so we grabbed some bottled water and started walking. Not far from the ranger station, there were a few telescopes set out. Through one, you could see a small tree on fire due to a small eruption. You couldn't see any lava because it was too bright outside and there was too much smoke, but one of the rangers said it would probably be visible that night.

As we went further down the road, we got a better look at the partially burned strip of palm trees. At their bases were roapy strands of pahoehoe, a type of lava that dries smooth in fascinating patterns. The other type of lava, a'a, dries in thin razor sharp points and could be seen in other parts of the park. The flow that literally caused the end of the road was impressive...pahoehoe a few feet high. Some people were scrambling over it to get to some sightseeing trails, but I was too worn out to do that and returned to the Jeep.

The only way through the park on Chain of Craters Road is to go back the way you came in. Once you get back to the main road, Crater Rim Drive, it makes a loop around Kilauea. We finished up the loop we hadn't yet covered and made one more stop at the Thurston lava tube. A lava tube is made when newer lava flows through older lava and leaves a hole in the middle. This tube was large enough to walk through. The inside was so smooth that it looked manmade and polished. The finishing touch on a long but fascinating journey.

By this time it was 5pm, and we knew we'd be out very late if we didn't start heading back. It was beginning to rain again anyway. So we left the park continuing south; the highway would wind around the southern edge and back west and finally north again to where we began.

I had been utterly fascinated by the black sand at the end of Chain of Craters Road and asked Dan to make a short stop at Punaluu, where there was an accessible beach. We found it easily enough right as the rain stopped, and we took a look around. I was hypnotized by the white waves rising and falling against the pure blackness. I gathered some of the sand and put it in a sandwich bag to take home. Upon closer inspection, I realized that the sand was recently formed as the grains were huge and quite heavy.

Back on the road, shortly after we rounded the southernmost part of the island (and the southernmost point of the U.S.), the sun began to set in Kau. The rain clouds had mostly dispersed, leaving just few to make the sunset interesting. The moon began to rise simultaneously, and because of the volcanic ash in the air, it became a golden glowing sphere over the sun reflected in the expanse of the Pacific off the coast. Soon, the whole sky turned gold....I have never witnessed such a spectacle in all my life. Because we were on a highway, it was risky to just pull over where we were to view the sunset, and we weren't near any towns, so Dan found a small private dirt road and pulled off so he could safely take some pix. Over the next several minutes, the gold shifted to orange and then finally to deep red before the sun took its final bow.

Somehow in my planning of this road trip, I had failed to realize the great distance between towns on our way back, and after the sun went down, I suddenly remembered that gas stations were few and tended to close early. The Jeep got much fewer miles per gallon than our little car at home did, so it came as a bit of a shock that we didn't have enough gas to get us all the way back to Waikoloa. I kept a lookout for the nearest place to fill up, but all the ones we saw were already closed. Just when things were getting a bit panicky, I remembered the place we'd gotten batteries on Sunday and had Dan check there. We just barely made it there, and fortunately, it was still open. Whew!

About this time, exhaustion from the long day overtook me, and I couldn't wait until we got back to the condo to find something substantial to eat. So we went to the Outback Steakhouse in Kona. By this time it was 8pm, and the wait was enormous, but I simply couldn't go any further, so we agreed to wait for a table. I ordered their smallest steak and found it absolutely delicious. We pulled up to the condo about 10pm I think.

I don't remember a great deal about the rest of the evening; I'm sure I collapsed soon after getting everything ready for check-out the next morning and the flight to Honolulu.....

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Rave of the Day for November 3: 

Since I bought the latest Bowling for Soup CD today containing the song "1985", it reminded me of this little gem courtesy of Ducky....

You're a Child of the 80's If...

You know what a "burnout" is.
You know what "Sike" means.
You know the profound meaning of "Wax on, Wax off."
You know that another name for a keyboard is a "Synthesizer."
You wanted to be a Goonie.
You know who Max Headroom is.
You ever wore flourescent, neon if you will, clothing.
You could breakdance, or wish you could.
You wanted to be The Hulk for Halloween.
Partying "like it's 1999" seemed SO far away.
You wanted to be on StarSearch.
You can remember what Michael Jackson looked like before his nose fell off.
You wore a banana clip at some point during your youth, or knew someone who did.
You knew what Willis was "talkin' 'bout."
You HAD to have your MTV.
You hold a special place in your heart for "Back to the Future."
You thought Molly Ringwald was REALLY cool.
You actually thought "Dirty Dancing" was a REALLY good movie.
You heard of Garbage Pail Kids.
You knew "The Artist" when he was humbly called "Prince."
You remember when ATARI was a state of the art video game system.
You own any cassettes.
You were led to believe that in the year 2000 we'd all be living on the moon.
You remember and/or own any of the Care Bear Glass collection from Pizza Hut.
Or any other stupid collection they came out with.
Poltergeist freaked you out.
You carried your lunch to school in a Gremlins or an ET lunchbox.
You have ever pondered why Smurfette was the ONLY female smurf.
You know what a Doozer is.
You wore biker shorts underneath a short skirt and felt stylish, or knew someone who did.
You ever had a Swatch Watch.
You can name 1/2 the members of Duran Duran.
You remember when "Saturday Night Live" was funny.
You had WonderWoman or Superman underoos.
You know what a "Whammee" is.
You had a crush on Jon Bon Jovi, or knew someone who did.
You know the words to the theme song of "The Facts of Life."

Hawaii, Part 3: Day 3 on the Big Island 

October 5th began with a full-on eye infection. Both eyes were red and itchy, and the left one was practically swollen shut. I put a cold compress on the eyes, which helped a bit. The nasty headache I'd had for the past three days was beginning to dissipate, so I was happy about that.

The weather outside was gorgeous, perfect for a tour of Anaehoomalu Bay in a glassbottom boat. Dan doesn't swim, so I figured this would be the best way for him to see some of the ocean life while staying dry. Our tour started about 10am.

I was surprised how much coral there was in the bay. It was actually pretty interesting, especially the stuff that looked like brains. There were all kinds of fish, particularly yellow tangs and butterfly fish, and those iridescent ones whose name I never learned. We also saw several young turtles, about one-third the size of the ones at Pu'uhonua o Honaunau. When they were underwater, various fish would feed on the algae growing on their backs. It was a very nice glimpse into the undersea world of the Kona coast.

We didn't have anything planned for that afternoon but didn't want to go too far out of our way, so we went back to Kailua-Kona for lunch and another look around. On the way there, we noticed signs warning of athletes on the road training for the Ironman Triathlon. We saw several people, men and women, either on bikes or running. When we got to the city and drove along the coast, we could also see the swimmers.

We picked a nice restaurant for lunch called Jameson's-By-the-Sea. We were seated on the patio right at the water's edge with an awesome view of the coastline and a nearby beach. They were quite accommodating to my dietary needs; I had a very tasty grilled ahi with plain white rice and veggies (they were careful not to use soy sauce in the preparation). I could have stayed there all afternoon, watching and listening to the waves.

I wanted to get a glimpse of St. Peter's Church, otherwise known as the "Little Blue Church", so we drove a bit further south down the coast. We found it, an adorable tiny building right by the water, but didn't go inside as there was a wedding going on. I took a few photos from a respectable distance and moved on.

We turned back toward the shopping district and found a place to park. Naturally, Dan wanted to browse the shops and I wanted to take pictures, so we agreed on a time to meet and went our separate ways. I visited a few nearby churches. One of them, Mokuaikaua, was the oldest in Hawaii. The outside walls were made of coral and lava, and the pews inside were carved koa...quite beautiful. I also took a peek at Hulihee Palace, which had once served as a summer home for royalty (now a museum), and went out to one of the piers for a bit to watch the tri-athletes swimming and the cruise ships in the distance. I still had some time left before I was due to meet back with Dan, so I looked in a few of the shops on the boardwalk. There was an awesome, huge art gallery that I particularly enjoyed....I'd probably have bought something if I'd had enough money. I don't even want to think about how much it would have cost to ship something back to the mainland.

Once back to the Kermit-mobile, we decided we were done sightseeing in Kona and headed back north toward Waikoloa to visit a few areas of interest on the way. We stopped at a very nice boat harbor to look around. There was an area off in the distance that had once been famous for being a nude beach, but from what we could tell through the zoom lens of the camera, everyone there that day was clothed.

There was a beach further north that I wanted to see, and we turned where the guide book said to turn, but the road running toward the ocean was a mess, full of massive potholes and heavily damaged. I'm thinking that when the guidebook was written (in 1995), it was probably accessible, but that the road was not maintained during the interval. Dan humored me, though, and pulled over we saw some other vehicles parked because the road was pretty much impassible past that point to anything other than a 4WD vehicle, and we didn't want risk damaging the rental Jeep. I thought we could walk from there to the beach, but after we got past some twists and turns in the road, it became obvious that it would be no casual hike to make it there. The walk was interesting at least....we got a good look at some plant life just beginning to sprout from the black lava fields, and we had an excellent view of a storm coming in on the mountain. As we neared the Kermit-mobile, a red Mustang, obviously a rental, bounced past us from the area we thought was impassible. It was going way too fast for safety, and Dan and I predicted mechanical problems ahead. And sure enough, as we drove carefully back to the highway, there was the Mustang pulled over and the driver examining something leaking underneath.

That detour wore me out, so except for a brief stop at a well-marked scenic overlook, we went straight back to the condo to rest. I did visit the pool briefly that evening and zonked on the couch soon after.

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