What I Learned: July 2, 2015

  • I finally picked up Gone Home last weekend. It’s an exploration game from 2013 set in Oregon in 1995. You’re a college-aged girl coming home to a new house your family moved in to while you were backpacking your way through Europe. Only when you get there, there’s a bad thunderstorm, no one looks like they’re home, and there’s a note on the door from your younger sister apologizing for not being there and to not look for clues as to where she is but she’ll see you again one day. So naturally, it’s time to look for clues where she is! The “thunderstorm at night” setting is super eerie and it was spooky trying to play at night since you were expecting something to catch you off guard. But the game was an excellent coming-of-age story that combined complicated family dynamics. So good. It’s games like this people who discredit video games need to play to realize the kind of impact they can have.
  • Lunch Roulette this week was Zada Jane’s in Plaza Midwood. Their lunch menu looked a little sparse and unimpressive. Until I realized you can order breakfast food at lunch which was a game-changer. I went with the Vegless Avenger – an omelet with applewood bacon, country ham, turkey sausage, chipotle chicken, chorizo, and cheddar cheese. I rocked some sweet potato browns (think hash browns but instead of shreds of potatoes, you get chunks of sweet potatoes) that were delicious.
  • A week or two ago, someone at work decided it’d be a good idea to have a bake-off at work with coworkers competing against one another with judges determining the winner. I wanted to make an apple pie but one guy started trash talking my cookies from previous potlucks. Poking my competitive side is never a good thing if you don’t know what you’re getting into. So we wound up with a cookie, cake, cheesecake, and pie competition. I made melted snowmen cookies to show the office what it looks like when I put effort into something other than drop cookies. But what started as a friendly competition turned into vicious trash talking and hurt feelings. My cookies destroyed the other batch. The pie winner got bent out of shape because the pie loser had a better “taste” score and rubbed it in. The runner up lost a tiebreaker because the tiebreaker judge liked chocolate better than cheesecake. All the drama. It may be awhile before our department is allowed to cook each other food again.
  • This week, we’ll end with an inspirational song – Rachel Platton’s Fight Song. I stumbled onto this song when scanning radio stations in Hawaii, which has since made its way to Good Morning America to blow up. “I may only have one match but I can make an explosion” is a super strong line.

I’m heading down to the momma’s compound for the weekend to blow up stuff, eat burgers and hotdogs, and lounge by the lake with the dog and nephew.

Have a safe & happy 4th of July! Go ‘Merica!

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2nd Quarter Report – 2015

So I’m updating my 2015 Resolutions a day late. But we had a bake-off yesterday at work and my cookies needed my full attention, as a coworker called me out. The judges scored mine so much higher than his, I felt a little bad.

But if you trash talk my cookies, you’re a dead man walking.

On to the goals!

  • 15 Books:
    • 2Q projection – 7.5
    • 2Q actual – 7
    • I made up a little ground but I’m still half a book behind schedule. Although technically, since I’m halfway through First Strike as I type this, that makes me right on schedule. My first 2Q book was The Flood, the second book in the Halo series. This one followed the first Halo game, step by step, which is the opposite of what made the first book good. Color me not impressed. On the flight out to Hawaii, I beta-read my mom’s second book in her Callie series on Edisto. I’ll be curious to see what people think this fall when it comes out, as it uses social media in a fun way. Impressed with Gone Girl, I gave Gillian Flynn’s first book, Sharp Objects, a shot. The story was pretty good but weird. Also, it was obvious that was her first novel, which is disappointing. And lastly, I finished up her second book Dark Places too. It was better than the first but not as good as the third. Her female characters are weird, creepy people.
  • 90 Days:
    • 2Q projection – 45
    • 2Q actual – 90
    • Taking my trip to Hawaii put a huge dent in my progress with P90X. I missed a couple of days prior to leaving by staying busy packing and dropping the pup off at my mom’s place. Then I was there for two weeks. And crashing back to reality the week after getting back was a tough pill to swallow. So there was roughly a three and a half break in my third phase. But I’ve officially completed the program! Cross this bad boy off my list!
  • 12 Parks:
    • 2Q projection – 6
    • 2Q actual – 4
    • I’m still behind schedule on this one. I went to a couple of national and state parks in Hawaii but my resolution specified South Carolina parks, so I’m only adding two this quarter. On May 31st, Harper and I hit the road for Rose Hill Plantation State Historic Site in Union, SC. It’s the house of William Gist, the governor who oversaw South Carolina’s secession to begin the Civil War. I had to bypass the tour of the house since I had Harper but we walked around the property and followed the trail down to the Tyger River through the Sumter National Forest. Then we bounced up to Croft State Park in Spartanburg, SC. Harper got her first, up-close taste of horses, as this is a very horse-friendly park where you can trail-ride your gigantic pets. We opted for the 1.5 mile nature trail down to the Fairforest Creek. Harper played in the water, I picked ticks off of my legs, and we called it a day.
  • 2 Trips:
    • 2Q projection – 1
    • 2Q actual – 2
    • Hawaii! On April 20th, I was finally able to cross my 50th state off of my list! That’s easily my life accomplishment I’m most proud of for the time being. The North Shore was amazing. I was the Southernmost person in the US on the Big Island. Kauai was full of outdoor adventures! Is it someplace I’ll go back? Maybe, maybe not. But it’s absolutely worth doing if you ever have the chance. I promise to finish my blog for Days 6 – 10 soon! To make my Hawaii trip crazier, once I touched down in Charlotte, I packed a bag and headed to St. Augustine, Florida for the first time with my brother and sister in law for a college buddy’s wedding. We did two national parks and made a tourist-y weekend out of it. So yet another resolution wrapped up this quarter.
  • 200 Pages:
    • 2Q projection – 100
    • 2Q actual – 0
    • Still no book work. I was super close to picking it up a couple of weeks ago… but then I didn’t. I did come up with a pretty cool idea for chapter names though. So at least I’ve made the tiniest step forward to having something written.
  • 2 Tattoos:
    • 2Q projection – 1
    • 2Q actual – 0
    • Still no news here either. I don’t even begin to know where to start in finding somewhere I’m comfortable with doing this. I need to just man up!
  • 1 Rental:
    • 2Q projection – 0.5
    • 2Q actual – 0
    • Still nothing here either. With it being summer, houses in Columbia are definitely on the market in an area I’m interested in. This one is as simple as carving out some time to research what I want to look at and schedule a realtor for a weekend. Columbia is the most appealing to me for picking up a rental house at the moment.
  • 4 Season Tickets:
    • 2Q projection – 2
    • 2Q actual – 4
    • Even though I completed this one in the first quarter, I’m officially finished paying for my Clemson season tickets this quarter. By this time next quarter, I’ll have been to three games! That’s a little crazy to think about. This quarter also saw the purchase of 14 tickets to the Louisville game in Louisville on 09/17. It’s going to be a big family trip full of football and bourbon! I can’t wait!
  • 100 Photo Pages:
    • 2Q projection – 50
    • 2Q actual – 0
    • Ha. Good one, Matt. You’re such an accomplished resolution-maker.
  • 4 Concerts:
    • 2Q projection – 2
    • 2Q actual – 2
    • Unfortunately, there were no 2Q concerts. I really wanted to see Yellowcard in Asheville, NC on April 25th since they’re one of the few bands I was really in to that I haven’t seen live. But I was traipsing around the Hawaiian Islands instead of day-tripping it to the NC mountains. I’ve got my Fall Out Boy show coming up on 07/19 though! And I’m still debating on maybe running up to Greensboro, NC on 07/28 for a Hit The Lights show. There’s also a Walk The Moon show in Charlotte this October. And with a fall album set to drop, Marianas Trench will hopefully make their way down south sometime before the end of the year. So I have plenty of opportunities coming up.

We’ve hit the halfway point! The good news is that I have three of my resolutions wrapped up and two more are right on pace. The bad news is that I still have four resolutions I haven’t made any headway on!

How are you doing with your goals?

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What I Learned: June 26, 2015

Since it’s been awhile, let’s cover some ground for quality time lost amongst blog readers.

  • Lunch Roulette this week was BT’s Burger Joint. The food was good. The price was not. Last week was Green’s Lunch where I destroyed two chili dogs. I could probably eat a good chili dog at least once a day for the rest of my life and never get sick of them. I’ve also hit McKoy’s, Tryon House, Luciano’s, Nan & Byron’s, Dish, Bedder Bedder & Moore, Burrito Factory, BBQ King, Caribou Coffee, Hawthorne’s Pizza, Pinky’s, Mattie’s Diner, Burger Company, Locker Room, Bad Daddy’s, Pollo Royal, Spoons BBQ, and Chima Brazilian Steakhouse. Phew. I’m fat.
  • I went to see the Avengers: Age of Ultron with my mom and step dad for Mother’s Day. Was it the best movie ever and better than the first? No. Was it a fun, entertaining summer blockbuster with comic book heroes and fights? Yup! Then a couple of weeks ago, I went to see Jurassic World with a coworker and his wife. Was it the best movie ever and better than the first? No. Was it a fun, entertaining summer blockbuster with dinosaurs and fights? Yup!
  • A couple of years ago, I let my domain, TigerArchives.com, expire since I wasn’t doing anything with it. Out of curiosity a couple of weeks ago, I went to see if it were available. According to the site, they’ll sell it for $2,995. I definitely don’t care enough about it to buy it for that. So do I email them and try to negotiate it down but showing my hand that someone is interested in it, giving them leverage? Or do I hold out until 12/06/2015 (via whois) to see if they let it expire?
  • At this point, I think there are fewer people not running for the Republican presidential nomination for 2016 than declared candidates. Officially, we’ve got Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, George Pataki, Lindsey Graham, Rick Perry, Jeb Bush, Donald Trump, and Bobby Jindal as of Wednesday. Chris Christie, John Kasich, and Scott Walker are expected to announce. It’s embarrassing and obvious that the party doesn’t know what it’s doing or have a clear direction. I know nothing about most of them. My heart says go with Rand Paul. My head says someone like Chris Christie wins the nod.
  • Let’s end on a fun song you may not know but one I think you should – Shut Up and Dance by Walk The Moon

Last weekend before ‘Merica’in! Hello July!

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Cowardly Faces, Beautiful Places

I was born and raised in South Carolina.

From Beaufort to Summerville to Irmo to Mt. Pleasant to Clemson to Chapin, I spent the first 29 years of my life growing up there. I have aspirations to move back. My end goal has always been to wind up in South Carolina. It’s what I know. It’s my family’s home. It’s my home.

Today, my state let me down.

Outside of Texas, there are few states that can claim more state pride that South Carolina residents hold for their home. We’re a stubborn lot but South Carolinians live and breathe to defend their state. Some stances are noble and worthy. Others are not. But we’re not afraid to take a side, pour our heart into it, let you know how we feel, and do it with a smile on our face and sweet tea in our hand.

The Civil War was started on our soil because a group of people felt strongly enough to defend their stance on state rights. Good or bad, you cannot question South Carolina’s passion and pride.

Last week, an ignorant, racist, evil human being walked into a place of worship in our state and took nine lives out of pure spite and hatred. The murderer was white. The victims were black. Race shouldn’t matter in a situation this cruel. A life taken is a tragedy, no matter what color. Yet the murderer chose to make it his spark. The national media and outside parties with no vested interest in the state then fanned the fire.

Yet there were no riots. There were no violent demonstrations. There was no further division of race by #BlackLivesMatter movements. The voice heard across the state was simple: #PrayForCharleston. Thousands joined hands on the Cooper River Bridge Sunday to promote love, not hate.

No matter your race, religion, background, you were welcome into any church, any gathering, any prayer group to peacefully offer your condolences and show the rest of the world watching that Charleston and South Carolina didn’t do things your way. We band together and take care of our own in times of need whether you want to be a part of it or not.

Yet in less than a week, Mitt Romney, Jon Stewart, John Oliver, and countless other high exposure figures had changed the discussion from the remembrance and honor of the nine murdered people to the racially sensitive issue of the Confederate flag that has nothing to do with our tragedy. As the media took ran with the story, local figures began hopping on the bandwagon – Steve Spurrier. Ray Tanner. Lindsey Graham. Joe Riley. By Monday afternoon, Nikki Hailey – the governor of our state – held a press conference to suggest the removal of the Confederate flag from the grounds of the state house.

Should the flag be removed? There’s no easy answer. Personally, I’m against it as the current location was agreed upon in 2000 after removing it from atop the state house and it’s a symbol to me of the stubborn will of the South Carolina people. South Carolina holds a unique place in our country’s history and the flag is one part of that. I also understand that it’s a symbol of hate to many people after it’s been misused and bastardized by racist groups in recent history. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, as long as the discussion remains civil.

However, if the leaders of South Carolina wanted the flag down, they should have fought the fight on its own merit instead of facing an agenda of national perception. If this is truly a matter Graham, Scott, Riley, etc were passionate about, why is it just coming to light now? Have a backbone and stand on your own two feet to fight your own fights. But instead, they sheepishly backed into a corner after outside figures hijacked the story of nine of our own being brutally murdered to opportunistically push an unrelated, race-driven political agenda while emotions were high.

That’s disappointing.

That’s not my South Carolina.

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What I Learned: June 19, 2015

It’s E3 week! I took my annual “I’m a single boy in my 30s” day off to catch the first and third party conferences on Monday and here’s what I learned.

  • Bethesda
    • Best Announcement: Fallout 4
    • Best Surprise: Fallout Shelter
    • Other Announcements: Doom, Battlecry, The Elder Scrolls Legends, Dishonored 2
    • Comments: Bethesda makes amazing games but they’re just not my cup of tea. I recognize how significant their game announcements were but the level of excitement just wasn’t there for me since chances are good I won’t play any of these games.
    • NanusNation Grade: B
  • Microsoft
    • Best Announcement: Halo 5, Rare Replay
    • Best Surprise: Backwards compatibility
    • Other Announcements: Recore, Elite controller, Fallout 4, EA Access, Forza 6, Dark Souls III, The Division, Rainbow Six Siege, Gigantic, ID@Xbox games (Tacoma, Ashen, Beyond Eyes, Cuphead), Xbox Game Preview, Rise of the Tome Raider, Sea of Thieves, Fable Legends, Oculus/Hololens, Minecraft, Gears of War Ultimate Edition, Gears 4
    • Comments: Admittedly, I’m an Xbox One fanboy. With that said, Microsoft killed it this year: they have the best Fall exclusive games lineup, Halo 5 is more Halo, backwards compatibility was announced out of nowhere, Rare Replay is an amazing collection of old Rare Studios games, and Gears of War will always sell well. Their lineup just resonates better with me than any of the other companies.
    • NanusNation Grade: A
  • Electronic Arts
    • Best Announcement: Mass Effect Andromeda
    • Best Surprise: Unravel
    • Other Announcements: Need for Speed, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Plants vs Zombies, NHL 16, PGA Tour, NBA Live 16, mobile games, FIFA 16, Mirror’s Edge Catalyst, Madden 16, Star Wars: Battlefront
    • Comments: EA can’t seem to get out of their own way in these conferences. They always seem to fall flat, focus on the wrong things, and come across like a quarterly meeting for investors. I’m not a Star Wars fan and you can only highlight sports franchise games so much. Mass Effect Andromeda may be the one game I’m the most excited for in 2016 though.
    • NanusNation Grade: D
  • Ubisoft
    • Best Announcement: The Division
    • Best Surprise: South Park: The Fractured But Whole
    • Other Announcements: For Honor, The Crew, Trials Fusion, Anno 2205, Just Dance, Rainbow Six, Trackmania Turbo, Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, Ghost Recon Wildlands
    • Comments: Ubisoft easily had the second best conference. I’m super excited for The Division in early 2016. The new South Park game was a complete surprise but if it’s half as good as the previous game, it will be amazing (side note: it took me longer than I’d like to admit to realize the subtitle is “fractured butthole”). Ghost Recon Wildlands looks gorgeous.
    • NanusNation Grade: A-
  • Sony
    • Best Announcement: Destiny: The Taken King
    • Best Surprise: Horizon: Zero Dawn
    • Other Announcements: The Last Guardian, Street Fighter V, No Man’s Sky, Dreams, Firewatch, Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, World of Final Fantasy, Final Fantasy 7 (remake), Devolver bundle, Shenmue 3, Batman: Arkham Knight, Project Morpheus, PS Vue, Call of Duty: Black Ops 3, Disney Infinity, Star Wars: Battlefront, Uncharted 4
    • Comments: Sony’s conference was full of fan-service: every game Sony fanboys wanted, they mentioned. Unfortunately, they didn’t announce dates for almost any of them, so it makes me wonder if they’re mainly pipe dreams that disappear down the road. But also, these just aren’t games that appeal to me, which is why I think Microsoft had the better showing. They showcase Destiny though (I have close to 600 hours in that game on my Xbox) and Horizon: Zero Dawn looked stunning.
    • NanusNation Grade: B

I’m sure that was way more video game information than you wanted but this is the one time of year I really get to geek out! I have a solid schedule in front of me for the remaining months of 2015. And 2016 is shaping up to be a special year for video games.

I’m going to attempt to make a better blog effort, so hopefully, these entries make their return! Not to mention I need to finish up my Hawaii entries! I still have 5 days of gorgeous pictures going unseen.

Have a great weekend! Hug a dad!

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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.

Posted in Hawaii, Travel | 3 Comments

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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