Hawaii: Day 5

It’s my last day of big island adventuring!

I kicked off the day with another free hotel breakfast. Switched it up a little bit and went with the bacon instead of sausage. Wild, right? I also reconfirmed my claim that guava juice is delicious.

Since the prior day was spent traversing the south end of the big island, today’s focus was the northern and eastern shores.

First stop on the list was to finish up the national parks & sites, so I hit the Pu’ukohola Heiau National Historic Site. It’s a site where a king eventually ruled all of the Hawaiian islands in the early 1790s. The walls of the site are still standing, which is pretty impressive, considering it’s on the shore to catch the wind and no mortar was used to hold the wall together. There’s also the Mailekini Heiau, a previous temple that was older and converted to a fort once the new one was built, and the Hale o Kapuni Heiau, an even older temple off the coast now underwater (last seen in 1950) built to the shark gods. Black-tipped reef sharks live in the surrounding waters year-round but I didn’t manage to see any.

The plan was to head east and hit the Waipio Valley lookout but I changed my mind at the last minute to head north for the Pololu Valley lookout. The Pololu Valley lookout takes more of an effort to get to since it’s at the end of the road instead of on the way to Hilo on the east coast. You don’t stop by Pololu, you go to Pololu. Also, in my experience, if a place is harder to get to, the payout is typically worth the extra work.

Pololu Valley Lookout was incredible.

You get to the Pololu Trail head and you’re kindly greeted with signs showing you there are at least four ways of dying on this trip: a dangerous shore break, a strong current/undertow, hazardous cliffs, and falling rocks.

Being a member of the boy gender, this only validated my decision to do the trail.

The views were breathtaking. The path was pretty worn going down to the beach, so it wasn’t too bad. I recognized how steep it was going down though, so I dreaded the climb back up. There were lookouts along the way showing different angles of the beach and cliffs, of which I stopped at each to take too many pictures.

As crazy as it sounds, once you get to the bottom, the views were infinitely better. Off to the right of the path, the Pololu Valley opened up in front of you like it was a set for Jurassic Park. It was vibrantly green with a calm stream running through the center into the ocean.

On the left was the black sand beach, the Pacific, and what looked like miles of cliffs dropping off into the ocean. Since I was wearing long pants for the hike, I held off crossing the stream to get to the large stretch of beach, as the current seemed to be pulling hard. It was fun watching people struggle through the knee deep water but I could easily see how someone could have been swept out if they weren’t careful.

One family I walked down the path with stopped at the bottom and the dad picked up a coconut, peeled the husk off, hunted for the perfect rock, and went to work on busting it open for his family. I got a good laugh because besides the $100 shoes, sunglasses, and baby backpack, it was no different than any monkey in any issue of National Geographic doing the same thing. What an experience!

It’s a place I could have stayed for hours.

HI 05 - PVL Panorama

Pololu Valley Panorama

But hours, I didn’t have. I had more lookouts and waterfalls to attend to, so I gathered myself and powered up the trail back to the top. I drove back down the mountain, around the valley, and back up the other side to visit the Waipio Valley lookout.

The Waipio Valley lookout was much easier to get to but much harder to get down to the valley from the top. Similar to the green sands beaches, the only way down was a 4×4 vehicle, of which there was no shortage at the top willing to taxi you to the bottom. It’s known as the steepest road of its length in the country with an 800 foot drop in 0.6 miles with a 25% grade. There are taro farms in the valley that local families still farm and harvest. It would have been nice to try going down if I had more time but it just wasn’t in the cards this time.

Finished with the lookouts for the day, I turned my attention to waterfalls. Akaka Falls State Park was the next stop on the list, as I continued circling the northern half of the island. The drive there hugged the coast, so you’re often looping in and out over the land and valleys. I passed a stretch through the woods with the tallest trees I’ve seen since the redwoods and sequoias in California. They dwarfed the telephone poles in the foreground.

HI 05 - Trees

It’s also crazy hilly this side of the island is, as I lost count of the number of bridges I went over that spanned valleys housing rivers and runoffs into the ocean. If there were ever a decent sized earthquake, there would be pieces of the island that were completely inaccessible by land if they lost the bridges.

Clouds had begun moving in over the ridges, so I was a little concerned about traipsing around cliffs and 400+ foot waterfalls if it was going to be wet. Luckily, when I pulled into the state park, the rain held off. The clouds stuck around though, so I missed out on some pretty amazing shots of the plant life and any chance at seeing rainbows. But you can’t win them all, right?

The path was relatively short (0.4 miles), so I took to walking. Instantly, you’re thrust into a jungle. The landscape and vegetation is so different than anything I’ve ever been in before. It’s how I’d envision a South American rainforest – surrounded by massive plants, trees, and the color green. It was really quiet too, as it sat off the main road and the leaves absorbed every other sound.

First stop on the path was the Kahuna Falls. They’re downstream from the Akaka Falls and “only” drop 300 feet. It was hard to get a good angle on this waterfall, as it was more ocean-facing than the trail had room to maneuver around and see.

The path paralleled the Kolekole stream through more jungle and trees. The picture I included above was this massive tree that had branches or roots extending from high in the air down to the ground. Almost like hundreds or thousands of tiny tree trunks planted next to one another. It was wild.

Akaka Falls was further up the path and exploded into view. At 442 feet, it’s twice the height of Niagara Falls. While tall, it pales in comparison to the Waihilau Falls deep in the Waipio Valley at 2,600 feet. Unfortunately, that one would be a bit more difficult to reach. The Akaka Falls were impressive though. The falls had carved out a nice bowl in the stream that opened everything up.

The last notable falls on the trail was a small falls right off the path. The 1934 movie “Four Frightened People” was filmed here by Cecil DeMille starring Claudette Colbert. The sign described the plot as:

4 people who escape a ship when there is an outbreak of bubonic plague. They land on an island in Malaysia and become lost. Locations in Hawaii doubled as the jungle where the four people confront wild animals and fierce natives.

My first thought? I almost guarantee you that my step dad has seen this movie. The crew cut a rectangular pool out of the basalt rock at the base of the falls to use in scenes where Colbert bathes in the jungle.

The last stop on my tour of the big island was Rainbow Falls. It’s practically in the middle of downtown Hilo, which is a pretty cool landmark to have in your town. It’s named for the rainbows typically created by the sunlight. But still more clouds and still no rainbows.

There was a couple plus one at the very top edge of the falls that give you perspective on how high they were. It was also awkward because they were on display for everyone to see. The girl was also making out with the guy on the right while the guy on the left gave her an extremely sensual back massage. Weird.

Following the trail into the woods, there was a gigantic tree covered in people climbing it. It created a huge canopy over the area but didn’t have any leaves going up the trunk or branches, making it a climbing kid’s dream. It made me nervous when I kept seeing people higher and higher. The large tree connected to a smaller one off to the right and a couple of guys were dangling at least 50 feet in the air. One of them would hang from his arms and do pull ups. Open heights like that make me anxious.

With that, I called an end to the day and hopped onto the saddle road to take me back to the west coast and my hotel in Kailua Kona. I had originally wanted to go to the summit of Mauna Kea to see the observatory and the huge telescopes. There are current protests taking place to try and prevent a new telescope, the Thirty Meter Telescope, from being built. But with it being after 4:00pm and still incredibly cloudy on the mountain, I decided to pass on that little adventure.

Once I made it back to down, I strolled down to the port area where the cruise liner offloads its passengers to do some souvenir shopping. And since it was my last night in town, I sprung for a known quantity for dinner.

HI 05 - Poke Round 2

Umeke’s Poke Round #2

Only this time, I added a jar of homemade strawberry lemonade to go with it. So amazingly good! With a collector’s edition (not really) Hawaiian mason jar!

I’m getting good at ending my days on full bellies of delicious food.

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Hawaii: Day 4

Long day #2 on the big island of Hawaii!

There are no fancy breakfast pictures for this morning because I rocked the free breakfast at my hotel. Just a bagel with cream cheese, sausage links, and a cinnamon roll. I added some Hawaiian flair by going with guava juice though.

By the way, I discovered that guava juice is the most delicious of all the juices.

The main goal for the day was Volcano National Park, which was roughly in the opposite corner of the island than where I was staying. So that meant all day in the car. Normally, I wouldn’t mind that but normally, I’d be in my truck and comfortable seats. Instead, I spent the day crammed into my Ford Focus Hatchback. Never has my butt been so sore from sitting and my feet ached from being cramped at the end of a day of driving.

As with any other open-ended road trip I’ve ever taken, every sign along the way that sounded remotely interesting, I pulled off on the side of the road to explore, adventure, and take too many pictures. I’m like Lewis and Clark version of cats chasing laser pointer dots on a wall.

HI 04 - Horned Cow

Case in point…

That roadside farm had cows with monstrous horns, buffalo, a donkey, and a zebra. Sure. Because that’s normal.

Scenic Overlook

Scenic Overlook

A scenic overlook along the way was pretty interesting. Not only could you see the southernmost point in the United States off in the distance with its wind farm but there was a good representation of different lava flows in the area. In the panorama above, there are at least four different flows. The color determines the age – the darker the black, the newer the flow. You can also tell based on the type of vegetation growing in it.

A couple of miles past the overlook, there was a sign pointing down a road to my right. “South Point 12 miles”.

Uh, yes.

I watched the sunrise in the Easternmost point in the US (Eastport / West Quoddy Head, ME). I’ve driven to the Westernmost point in the North American Highway System (Anchor Point, AK). I’ve been to the Southernmost point in the continental US (Key West, FL).

I wasn’t NOT going to the Southernmost point in the country!

If you’re ever on the big island of Hawaii, please make this trip. The 12 miles takes awhile to get through since it’s 35 mph and the road is maybe a lane and a half wide. But it is one of the most gorgeous, relaxing drives you will ever take in your entire life. It’s nothing but rolling hills through farmland with horses and cows surrounded by the bright blue Pacific Ocean on three sides.

Now I can say, at one specific point in time, I was the most Southern person in the country. This South Carolina native is super proud of that.

I was going to make my way back to the main road. But not if the road to the Southernmost point forks! And especially not if that fork takes you to a beach with green sands!

So I backtrack and take the left fork. A ways down the road, everything seemed to dead end into a makeshift camp/market. Parking was on the left, a group of pickup trucks on the right, and a run down shelter in the middle selling drinks, ice cream, and any food item you’d find in a bait shop minus the moon pies.

It made me leery, for sure. So when a guy from the pickups in board shorts, sandals, and nothing else but a beer belly walked my way, I was cautious. Turns out, the green sand beach was a 3 mile trek from this area. The guys and their pickup trucks were essentially cab drivers to get you there. Since you’ve seen my rental car and the drive required a 4×4, I just held my breath, hoping his price wasn’t too rich for my blood. Round trip? $15.

Done! Green sands, here I come!

An Indian couple I bumped into at the Southernmost point went too. So we hopped into the bed of his truck. It was exquisitely lined with AstroTurf and a sun-faded couch cushion was your seat. I overheard our guy tell one of the other drivers how he was about to “make some real money” because he had three people at once. Thirty VERY bumpy minutes later, we made it.

 

You don’t get stories like that taking vacations to all inclusive resorts and playing it safe.

Green Sands Panorama

Green Sands Panorama

After the thirty minute ride back to the car, it was time to get the show on the road. I had volcanoes to see! I made my way back to the main highway and pointed the car northeast to finish looping around the island.

Oh wait, look! Black sand beach sign! I can’t go to the green sand beach and NOT go to the black sand beach as well.

Around 2:00pm, I finally made it to Volcano National Park. I swung by the visitor’s center to get my passport stamped and check with the rangers on what was worth seeing and what I didn’t have time for. There were a couple of short hikes (0.75 – 1 mile) around the visitor’s center that were doable and one long hike (4 miles) that went through the crater floor from a 1959 eruption. That’s a long hike at the end of a long day. But how many times would I be able to say I’ve had the opportunity to hike across the crater of a volcano?

Of course I’m going to do it!

First up was the Sulphur Banks trail. It started from the visitor’s center and went 0.7 miles past sulfur fumes still emitting from the ground. It was wild how quick you would go from walking in jungle conditions to wide open spaces (minus the Dixie Chicks). Also, it was eerie to be walking through the woods and see sulfur gas engulfing a group of trees. It looked like special effects.

HI 04 - NVP Caution     HI 04 - NVP Sulphur Banks Trail HI 04 - NVP Sulfer Woods     HI 04 - Sulphur Banks

The Sulphur Banks trail ended at the Steaming Bluff overlooking the Kilauea caldera and the very-much-active Halema’uma’u crater.

HI 04 - NVP Kilauea Caldera     HI 04 - Halema'uma'u Crater

From the caldera rim, I took the ‘Iliahi trail 0.7 miles back through the jungle to the visitor’s center to pick the car up.

HI 04 - VNP Fern     HI 04 - VNP Path

I refilled my water, packed up, and headed over to the Kilauea Iki trail head. This trail walks through the rainforest circling the Kilauea Iki Crater rim, drops down 400 feet through steps and switchbacks to kick you out onto the crater floor, over the cooled lava for 2.5 miles, then back up the same 400 feet on the opposite side. I really enjoyed the hike. The pictures will never do the size of the ridges and chunks of lava justice, as everything was massive.

HI 04 - VNP Kilauea Iki Panorama

My iPhone is getting a panorama workout!

The end of the trail came out at the beginning of the Thurston Lava Tube. This was a relatively short walk (0.3 miles) through an old lava tube. When lava is flowing, the outer layers obviously cool quicker, as they’re exposed to air and the elements. Once they cool enough to harden, this essentially creates a river or pipe of flowing lava on the inside. After the lava has finished flowing, the hollowed out tubes are left standing.

HI 04 - VNP Thurston Lava Tube Entry     HI 04 - VNP Thurston Lava Tube

At this point, I’m practically dying from hunger. On my way to the Jaggar Museum, I made a pit stop at the Volcano House to grab a bite to eat at Uncle George’s Lounge. I went with the Kuahiwi Ranch Burger.

1/3 lb. of Big Island grass fed beef topped with cheddar cheese and Johnson Farms lettuce & tomato on a Punalu’u bake shop sweet roll. Served with sliced onion, pickle spear and French fries chips since the fryer was down.

HI 04 - VNP Kuahiwi Ranch BurgerOh. And just because I could… The Banana Coconut Cream Pie.

Ripe local bananas are layered in graham cracker crust with a house-made pastry cream. Topped with fresh coconut whipped cream and chocolate toffee brittle.

HI 04 - VNP Banana Coconut Cream Pie

Both were amazing.

One last stop before calling it a day and heading back to the hotel was the Jaggar Museum. At the museum, there are displays of old and modern seismic and other volcano equipment. It also gives a run down of Hawaii, the extinct, dormant, and active volcanoes on the islands, and samples of the different kinds of lava.

Fun fact: Mauna Kea claims to be the highest (not tallest) mountain in the world at 33,480 feet from its base (underwater) to peak. 13,796 feet are above sea level.

The main attraction is the overlook into the Halema’uma’u crater. The Kilauea volcano is one of the world’s most active volcanoes, so you can see the lava spewing from here. It’s best to view it at night, given the contrast between the dark night and bright lava. But I still had 2 and a half hours of driving left, so I took what I could get.

So after a long, long 13 hour day, I retraced my steps around the Southern tip of the big island and headed back for Kailua Kona to a much-welcomed hotel bed.

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Hawaii: Day 3

Aloha Oahu!

Not “hello” this time. Goodbye. How one word can have both meanings of two distinctly opposite words, I’ll never understand. To make matters more confusing, it can also mean “love and affection”, “presence of life”, and who knows what else. It’s like Hawaiians needed one word to just dump every wordless definition in to. Whatever.

Aloha the island of Hawaii!

Hello this time.

Woke up early, checked out of the hotel, returned the rental car, then meandered my way to the airport. The inter-island terminal wasn’t very big, so my options for breakfast were limited to Burger King and Starbucks. So bacon, egg, and cheese croissanwich, it was. I’ve had better meals.

The flight was a quick and easy one from Oahu to Hawaii. It was about 45 minutes from wheels up to wheels down. Since cruising altitude was only 19,000 feet and I was sitting on the left side of the plane, I got a good view of all of the islands in between: Molokai, Lanai, Maui, and Kahoolawe. I flew into Kona on the Western side of the state since that’s where most of the hotels and my plans were. The cool thing about the airport is that it’s entirely open air.

HI 03 - Kona Airport

My terminal at the Kona Airport

My rental car in Hawaii was a Ford Focus hatchback. I feel like this is karma catching up to me for mocking the Nissan Altima. For all of the flash this vacation and the pictures are providing, my choice of rental car certainly isn’t holding up its end of the deal.

Since it was only 8:00am by the time I picked up the car, I jumped straight into the sights and sounds. This island has the majority of the national parks, so I set out to start collecting stamps in my national parks passport. I headed south to visit Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park. I’m not usually a big “visit this recreated place” national park kinda guy, as I feel recreated buildings, structures, etc make it feel cheaper than if it were preserved or left as-is. But this place was pretty neat.

The area served two main purposes: part of the land was home to one of the local royal chiefs (ali’l) and separated by a wall was a place of refuge (pu’uhonua). Just about any “crime” was punishable by death, including looking at the chief or casting your shadow onto his property. Also, whoever caught you committing the crime was in charge of killing you. The only catch was that if you could get away and make it to the pu’uhonua, you were safe and given a second chance. The pu’uhonua was surrounded by the chief’s land, so most were inaccessible by foot, since being on their land was a crime. You had to swim to get to them. If you drowned on your way, that was just nature’s way of handling the law for you.

The half mile walking tour was a good way to start my stay on the big island. It was self-guided, laid back, and gorgeous. I also ran into a couple from Western Canada and we chatted about my 50th state visited and their love of Nascar (they recognized my accent and loved that I live in North Carolina). They were on the big island for 8 nights then going to Kauai for 8 nights. I listened to a ranger speak on the history of the site – of the thirty-something, it’s the only pu’uhonua site remaining in the world – then swung by the gift shop on the way out to get my passport book stamped.

From there, I retraced my steps north up the coast to Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park. It’s where land managers (konohiki) divided up plots of land (ahupua’a) from the Hualalai mountain (mauka) to the sea (makai) for families and communities. The park itself preserves two coastal sections. But it was just a large field of lava rock located on the coast, surrounded by industrial parks and the major coastal highway, with a lot of trails through the park.

HI 03 - KH Trails

Kaloko-Honokohau trail map

I took the Ala Mauka Makai trail for 0.7 miles from the visitor center to the ocean. Then the Ala Kahakai trail 1.2 miles on the shore, passed the Aimakapa fishpond, to the Kaloko fishpond. From here, I cut back towards the highway on the Ala Nui Kaloka trail for 0.6 miles. Then picked up the Mamalahoa trail for 0.8 miles back to the visitor center. With the exception of the 1.2 miles on the beach, it was 2.1 miles through lava rock with temperatures in the high 80s. So just a little toasty!

The stretch on the beach was amazing though. The water was stunning. The breeze was blowing. Sea turtles were everywhere! You’re supposed to stay away from them but it’s easy to accidentally sneak up on them hiding in the rocks. I was about 15 feet away from the guy in the 7th picture below before I saw him.

The original plan was to try and hit Pu’ukohola Heiau National Historic Site to the north too. But by this time, I had been up since 4am local time, flown to another island, spent the day in the sun at two parks, and walked over 4 miles. So I tapped out for the day and checked in to my hotel.

After getting settled, I went to get recommendations for dinner. My hotel’s in a district of town where a cruise liner docks, so its full of shops, restaurants, and other tourist activities. So I wanted something a little more local and authentic than flashy. Without hesitation, the lady told me Umeke’s and handed me a menu. It was very poke (raw fish served over slaw with rice) heavy, which I was skeptical of but everyone has been telling me to try it.

I’m Hawaii, why the hell not? Right?

A quick glance on TripAdvisor also had it as the 2nd best restaurant (of 242) in Kailua-Kona. So I walked over and clearly had the “deer in headlights” look because the lady instantly started asking questions about what I liked or had tried before. She gave me samples to take for a test run. The first, a cream avocado poke, wasn’t my style. The second, an oil-based poke, was getting closer. The third, a soy-based teriyaki poke, sold me. Add in a side of macaroni salad and two scoops of rice, and I headed back to my room a happy camper. It was amazing! The poke had a weird texture but the taste was great. Whatever they sprinkle on the rice was delicious.

So good!

So good!

Another full belly, another day down!

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Hawaii: Day 2

I know it’s only my second day in Hawaii but it’s going to take a lot to overthrow this day for the best one on my trip.

I stuck with the hotel restaurant again for breakfast. Still wanting to venture into the Hawaiian realm of food, I decided on the “Honey Gurl Toast” option because it mentioned Polynesian bread. That bread? Yup, just your run of the mill french toast. Nothing special to write home about here.

HI 02 - Breakfast

And a side of hash browns, obviously

The first stop on the day was my highest priority – the World War II Valor in the Pacific Monument. I was worried after hearing horror stories about the tour tickets running out for the day and people missing out, so I made made sure to be there early. While waiting in line, the family of four was in front of me was told by the ranger that the earliest tour available was the 10:00am tour. I was disappointed but was determined to wait it out. But when I got to the window, he snuck me the last 8:45am ticket! The perks to traveling alone.

The tour starts with a 20 minute video reliving the details leading up to the bombing, the morning of December 7th, 1941, and some of the events that followed the fallout. The whole presentation was extremely moving. Very 9/11-esque in the emotions.  It’s interesting seeing the mistakes and assumptions made that day, knowing they would never happen today given how meticulous our military is.

After the film, two Navy sailors take you to the USS Arizona Memorial. It’s eerie knowing you’re walking above a sunken ship that still contains many of its sailors and seeing oil still leak into the ocean. It’s a very humbling memorial. I highly recommend it if you’re ever in the area.

With this being my last day in Oahu before island hopping, I wanted to get some hiking in. Diamond Head State Monument is what everyone kept suggesting, so it was on the list, as well as the Koko Crater Railway Trail from TripAdvisor (#9 on the list of things to do in Honolulu!). Since Koko was further out on the Southeastern tip of Oahu, I figured I’d try that first and work my way back to town.

The trail is an old World War II-era tram line going up the mountain that was used to transport troops and gear. The hike from parking lot to summit is 1.5 miles one way. The actual trail though is roughly 1,050 steps/railway ties and climbs 1,200 feet. So every step averages more than a foot up.

It kicked my ass.

It’s the hardest hike I’ve ever done. But the views from the top were among the best I’ve ever seen in any part of the country. It was absolutely worth the work put in to get there.

HI 02 - South Panorama

Southern Panorama View

HI 02 - North Panorama

Northern Panorama View

Once I lumbered my way back down, it was Diamond Head’s turn. Known as Hawaii’s “most iconic natural landmark,” there’s a 1.6 mile round trip hike that goes up the inside of the crater, through the interior of the outside wall, up to the top to overlook the city, then circles back over the ridge to meet up with the trail on the inside of the wall. Since the monument boasts over 1 million annual visitors, the trail is paved from the parking lot to the summit and back.

Making it much, much easier than Koko.

Fun side note: I didn’t pay a fee since the company that manages the parking lot went bankrupt over the weekend. So all fees were waived into the park on Monday and Tuesday. By Wednesday, the state had found another company and the fees were back in place.

The view was still gorgeous. Just less sweet, without all of the work.

HI 02 - DH Panorama

Diamond Head Monument Panorama

After a quick shower, my hotel’s front desk made the suggestion for Nico’s at Pier 38 for dinner. It was close by and they run a fish market, so everything they fix is caught daily and locally. I went with the Furikake pan seared Ahi:

Fresh tuna Ahi steak coated with Japanese dried seaweed and sesame seeds then cooked to order, from rare to well done. Served with our famous ginger garlic cilantro dip

Delicious as it looks

Delicious as it looks

With another full belly, day 2’s a wrap!

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Hawaii: Day 1

Aloha!

Normally, I hate that guy. The guy who travels, visits new places, tries to be a local by adapting to – but failing miserably at appropriately conveying – the customs and nuances of a destination. But I feel like you’re brainwashed to do it once touching ground in Hawaii. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been told Aloha. One of the housekeeping ladies at the hotel I’m staying at even told me “Aloha! Hello!” which doesn’t even make sense.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Greetings from The Aloha State, my 50th state visited!

My week started not-so-bright and very-much-early at 3:30am Monday in Charlotte, NC as I made all of my last minute checks for everything I packed (spoiler alert: I forgot a pair of shorts to sleep in, so board shorts it is!), grabbed a quick bowl of oatmeal, and made a mad dash for the airport for a 6:00am flight. Luckily, the world isn’t awake enough at that time for the airport to be a busy place yet. Everything was a breeze.

My first leg was from Charlotte, NC to Dallas/Fort Worth, TX. I always try to book window seats when I fly to a) give me something to watch and b) give me something to lean against to sleep so I’m not that awkward guy trying to sleep with my head straight up, mouth gaping open on the aisle. Unfortunately, neither of the two guys in my row were social. It wound up being a rather uneventful two and a half hour flight.

The scheduled layover in Dallas was only an hour, so I made my way to the departure gate hoping I could find something good to eat in between gates. The best I could do was Popeye’s Chicken which was incredibly disappointing. No BBQ? Not even a Chick Fil A as a fall back? Do better, Texas!

The flight to Hawaii kept getting delayed. First it was 15 minutes, which stretched into 30. The reason was that the crew needed to finish cleaning the airline. Maybe it was a mess but the pessimist in me reads that as code for “Hey, something’s wrong with the plane that we need to fix so you don’t crash and die in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.” Fortunately, there was no crashing and dying in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

HI 01 - West Coast

Goodbye Mainland USA!

My neighbor on this flight was infinitely better. His name was Gil and he was a Hawaiian native returning home from a week visiting nieces in Tulsa, OK and Dallas, TX. All you need to know about Gil is that he was a talker. He works for Hawaiian Airlines. He lives on Oahu, which was great for getting tips on what to see and do. He had never been to the World War II National Monument at Pearl Harbor, which he said was embarrassing. Overall, Gil is just a happy-go-lucky kinda Hawaiian dude.

No land in sight makes for an uneasy feeling

No land in sight makes for an uneasy feeling

The flight was long and tiresome at eight and a half hours but outside of that, it went as expected. The pilot kept telling us the weather was nice in Honolulu at 85 and partially cloudy but that it was breezy with gusts up to 35 mph. So naturally, the landing was absolutely terrifying. Coming in for landing, the views were absolutely gorgeous but the plane was getting bounced around pretty good. As soon as all wheels were down, all I heard was Gil – “Well that sure makes you appreciate being on the ground now.”

My first glimpse of Oahu

My first glimpse of Oahu

Gil and I shook hands and parted ways at the gate. I let the family know I was alive, ready to do some Hawaii’ing, and headed out. I picked up my rental car – a Nissan Altima. Watch out, ladies! I got lost trying to find my hotel. Turns out, when you have major roads that run under the elevated major highway, a GPS doesn’t quite know what to do. I finally made it into my hotel room around 3:30pm local time.

My original intent was to get to Hawaii early enough in the day to do something so I wasn’t wasting an entire day traveling. But after the flight being delayed an hour and the typical tourist minutiae, I was running out of time. Hiking was out since I was exhausted from traveling all day and starving from eating nothing but Skittles on the airplane. The zoo was out since it closed at 4:30pm. So the beach it was…

The good thing about Oahu is that it’s tiny. Honolulu is on the South side of the island. The North Shore is…. well… on the North side of the island. The North Shore is where the internationally known surfing competitions are held in the winter, so I was curious to go see how big the waves were. A quick maps route on the iPhone put me an hour away, so I decided to go for it.

iPhone maps didn’t tell me about Honolulu rush hour traffic at 4:30pm.

About 90 minutes later, my butt was parked in the sand on Sunset Beach of the North Shore of Oahu watching the sun, the waves, and the people.

Sunset Beach on the North Shore

Panoramic view of the beach. Breathtaking.

I’ve never been a big beach person – once or twice a year for an afternoon is enough to get me by – but I absolutely understand why anyone who lives in Hawaii would spend all of their free time outside at the beach. It was exactly what you would expect a Hawaiian beach experience to be like.

Side note – I’ve never seen so many fit, in shape, nearly naked people in my life. You people are gorgeous!

After the sunset, I packed up and headed back to Honolulu. Still needing dinner, I opted for the on-site restaurant and picked something that sounded the most Hawaiian. It was pork, mixed vegetables, pineapple (of course), and rice. A tad pricey but good none the less.

HI 01 - Dinner

Let’s throw pineapples in this!

With a full belly, I called it quits on Day 1 in Hawaii.

Posted in Hawaii, Travel | 2 Comments

1st Quarter Report – 2015

What’s up, everybody?

It’s your favorite “only 3 entries in the first 3 months of 2015″ blogger! But the good news is that I’m here with a 2015 Resolutions update! Let’s check in to see how things are going.

  • 15 Books:
    • 1Q projection – 3.75
    • 1Q actual – 3
    • I’m a tad off pace but there’s no need to panic yet, especially with long flight times coming up in the next month. I started the year off with Revival by Stephen King. Not the best but not the worst. This book made me realize how good his writing is and how it hurts his stories. The endings are almost always disappointing because of how well he paints a picture. You never want it to end, it’s that effortless. Next was Rise: A Soldier, A Dream, and A Promise Kept by Daniel Rodriguez. The writing was mediocre but it was written by a Clemson football player who received the Purple Heart and Bronze Star, so that hooked me. Last was The Fall Of Reach by Eric Nylund. It was the first Halo book (canon for the video game series) and actually really good. Instead of just being a video game book, it was a legit sci-fi book that added to the lore of the story in game.
  • 90 Days:
    • 1Q projection – 22.5
    • 1Q actual – 61
    • I had been killing my P90X schedule until the Bridge Run this past weekend. I did really well in the run (1:02) considering I had only done P90X to train. But come Monday, my legs were knotted limbs of pain. So I decided to call a timeout for the week, give my body some rest, and get back at it again next week. Only 25 more workouts and 4 more rest days until I can cross this one off my list! Side note: I saw a P90X 3 ad this weekend that boasted about 30 minute workouts. That would be heaven compared to the hour workouts right now.
  • 12 Parks:
    • 1Q projection – 3
    • 1Q actual – 2
    • I had good intentions to have this one up to 3 by this entry but my weekend didn’t go as planned.  Givhans Ferry State Park stays on the “to do” list for now. On January 18th, I went to Barnwell State Park with Harper and hiked the 1.5 mile Dogwood Interpretive Trail around one of the park’s lakes. From there, we bounced over to Aiken State Park. I really liked this one. The Edisto River runs through the park and there’s a canoe/kayak trail to take. But we just hiked the 3 mile Jungle Loop trail. The only downside was that Harper picked up a handful of ticks along the way. Can’t imagine what this place would be like in the summer.
  • 2 Trips:
    • 1Q projection – 0.5
    • 1Q actual – 0
    • No trips to report yet. But come April 20th, this guy hops a plane for Hawaii! I’m out of work for a much needed two week vacation, crossing my 50th state off of my list, and working on my resolutions – all in the same breath. I’m pretty excited for this one!
  • 200 Pages:
    • 1Q projection – 50
    • 1Q actual – 0
    • No book work. If it wouldn’t take up room in my carry-ons, I’d try to bring some stuff with me to Hawaii to work on. But I have a feeling I may be busy writing about Hawaii once I touch down. I’ll try to make this a summer project/priority.
  • 2 Tattoos:
    • 1Q projection – 0.5
    • 1Q actual – 0
    • No news here either. I did make progress though, as a friend of mine was in town a few weeks ago and she got inked up in Plaza Midwood. So I’ve at least spent some time in a tattoo parlor this quarter. This goal makes me anxious. I 100% know what I want and I’m 90% sure where I want it. But the artist variable gives me cold feet. I can have the perfect drawing and placement only for the artist to botch it. The whole point of resolutions are to push yourself though past your comfort zone though, right?
  • 1 Rental:
    • 1Q projection – 0.25
    • 1Q actual – 0
    • Or here. I’ve got the money for a down payment. I’ve got the desire to make my money make more money. I just haven’t sat down to really focus on what comes with the responsibility of owning a house, much less being a landlord. First question: Charlotte, Clemson, or Columbia?
  • 4 Season Tickets:
    • 1Q projection – 1
    • 1Q actual – 4
    • My first resolution completed! I upped my donation this year to improve my potential season tickets and then pulled the trigger on four tickets earlier in March. I don’t have my tickets in hand or even the specific seats yet but they are officially bought and paid for. Football season is months away but there’s always a reason to be excited about Clemson football!
  • 100 Photo Pages:
    • 1Q projection – 25
    • 1Q actual – 0
    • Same story here as with the other book. No progress at all. After Hawaii, I want to get started on this though, so I can have a healthy chunk taken out of it by the time the 2nd Quarter comes to a close.
  • 4 Concerts:
    • 1Q projection – 1
    • 1Q actual – 2
    • I’ve already got this one halfway finished with more to come. Motion City Soundtrack played The Fillmore here in Charlotte on February 2nd with Copeland and Better Off. MCS was touring on the 10th anniversary of their Commit This To Memory album. They were at the top of my list of “Bands I should have seen by now but hadn’t”, so it was great to cross them off. The show was amazing. Justin Pierre, their lead singer, is crazy sincere and appreciative of his fans. He is the best at interacting with the fans on Twitter. Then on February 6th, I went to see Ingrid Michaelson with Greg Holden. The place was PACKED. Also, I was the only guy there who was alone, not with a girlfriend who drug me to the show, and/or gay. It’s not a show I would normally go to but Ingrid Michaelson was really good. I have a new appreciation for her and her music. I’m really glad I went.

How are your goals going? Anything that you feel particularly proud of or disappointed in after three months of the new year?

Posted in Resolutions, State and National Parks, Travel | 2 Comments

What I Learned: February 17

Hi! It’s been awhile!

  • Quick rundown of the restaurants I’ve conquered with the Lunch Roulette crowd:
    • Cluck N Cup – Had the chicken pot pie with coleslaw. It was decent but it’s also hard to design an entire restaurant around a chicken pot pie
    • Comet Grill – Went with the buffalo burger, which isn’t made of buffalo, just covered in blue cheese and buffalo sauce. Really good, cheap burger though!
    • Zack’s Burger – Typical 1970’s diner-style burger. Good but not great
    • McKoy’s Smokehouse – I can’t go to a smokehouse that touts their BBQ and not get a plate. Not the worst but it’s no Midwood…
    • Common Market – Quirky, hipster grocery store/deli in South End. I tried the chicken salad deluxe sandwich but it didn’t hold a candle to my grandmother’s chicken salad. Our entire department went for my boss’ last day at work
    • Midwood Smokehouse – Speaking of delicious BBQ. I’ve mentioned this one enough in plenty of prior entries. My favorite BBQ in Charlotte
    • Diamond – The Lunch Roulette wheel of destiny was reset and this happened to be our first trip of the new lunch season. A cheap, delicious little diner that’s been around since 1945. Went straight bacon cheeseburger because I’m super exciting…
    • Phat Burrito – Another staple I’ve mentioned plenty of times. I usually go with the gigantic chicken burrito and chips here
    • Tupelo Honey Cafe – I think I’m one of the few people that thinks this place is completely overrated. It tries to be high-class Southern food but it’s been bland every time I’ve been. I had the Southern Fried Chicken BLT. It looked amazing but was pretty forgettable. And it was 1100 (!!!) calories. Ridiculous!
    • Mac’s Speed Shop – Another Nanu’s Nation Charlotte staple. Probably my second favorite BBQ place here
  • Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you should be aware of how big Breaking Bad forced itself into pop culture a couple of years ago. Easily the best show I’ve ever seen. I’ll go to my grave thinking the Ozymandias episode is the best 60 minutes of TV ever made. This past weekend, the prequel/sequel Better Call Saul debuted. I was nervous because it will never live up to the shadow created by Breaking Bad. But also because it’s a different timeline (pre-BB events), following a different character (Saul, Walter White’s attorney), with a different vibe (BB was a dark drama, BCS is a comedic drama). But I’ve been really impressed after the first three episodes. Vince Gilligan, the show’s creator, has really found his niche.
  • As an adult-version of the cheap Valentine’s Day cards passed out in elementary school, my company had Thank You cards out all last week for employees to fill out and have delivered to each other on Friday. It was mainly to appease the girls (I don’t know any guys that filled them out), which just stirred up drama. It turned into the guys receiving multiple cards from girls who expected either cards or recognition back. Have you ever considered how awkward it is to tell someone thank you for sending you a Thank You card to subdue pouting? #ThisIsWhyImSingle
  • The first week of February I got to add some pretty cool bullets to my live music resume. On the 2nd, I went to see Motion City Soundtrack. I’ve listened to them for more than a decade but managed to miss them through the years. They were at the top of my “favorite bands I haven’t seen yet” (Yellowcard, you’re next). It was a 10 year anniversary tour of their Commit This To Memory album. Really fun show! Then on the 6th, I caught Ingrid Michaelson. I was completely out of my comfort zone because I wasn’t a) with a large group of girls, b) a boyfriend clearly drug there by a girlfriend, or c) gay. I’d bet legit money I was the only straight guy there by myself. But she was really, really good. And I got to learn some new music!
  • At the time of this posting, my dad officially has three more days in Alaska before moving back to Clemson! I feel for him because I know he absolutely loved living in Alaska and he’s going to miss it incredibly. But it’s also going to be really good to see him more than a couple of times a year since he’ll only be two hours down the road. He’s also excited to be able to spend time with my nephew, his only grandchild. There’s a reason I’m buying Clemson season tickets this year.

Overtime! So enjoy these bonus bullet points!

  • My favorite band on the planet, Fall Out Boy, released their newest album – American Beauty / American Psycho in January. And I hate it. Okay, so maybe hate is too strong of a word. But it’s easily my least favorite full-length album of theirs. By a mile. In my opinion, the best thing going on the album (Uma Thurman) is cheapened because they sampled The Munsters‘ theme song. Of all things to sample, a 1960s TV show is your go to song? And to top it off, their summer tour is with a white Jewish rapper (Hoodie Allen) and a big name rapper (Wiz Khalifa). I’m still going to the Charlotte date but none of that is appealing enough to get me to check out the Raleigh date too like I did last year. It’s just a bummer knowing that your favorite band and you may finally be heading your separate ways.
  • The Superbowl ads this year were abysmal. But the Dodge one just gets me. Not only is it full of old people being badasses and passing on valuable bits of advice (“Keep your eyes open. And sometimes your mouth shut.”), it’s showcasing one of the sexiest cars on the road. I will absolutely own a Dodge Challenger one day.

Snow day for me today! Enjoy your Tuesday :-)

Posted in What I Learned | 2 Comments