Maui: Sun And Fun Finally

More vacation meanderings – again, this post will go live about the time we return.

Wednesday, 19FEB 2014

The tradewinds dropped the last couple of days, and today, finally, it dawned clear and sunny. After some essential sitting-around-the-condo-drinking-coffee time, we packed ourselves up and went a few miles north to Kapalua Bay to snorkel for the first time this trip.

I own a snorkeling guide and also found a copy of Maui Revealed in the bookshelves, so was able to identify a good first snorkel spot quickly. We’ve been to Kapalua before, and although there’s a parking lot it usually fills early and people park all down the side of the road, even where it’s quite ditch-y. However we hit it lucky and nabbed a spot just as someone else was leaving.

The public access at Kapalua is easy to find – it’s at the end of the parking lot marked “welcome to Kapalua, beach access parking” near the northern end of Lower Honoapi’ilani Road. There’s restrooms with flush toilets and sinks, and two public showers outside and again right by the beach steps. Take the stairs down and through the access tunnel, and you come out at one of the most beautiful little beaches (and bays) anywhere.

According to the guide, there would be good snorkeling on both left hand and right hand as you face the water, along the rocky and coralhead-strewn verges. There’s also a rocky shelf along the middle so you can actually see sea life if you cross from one side to the other, although I went across a little seaward of that line.

There was certainly a lot of fish, and even small schools of certain ones. I even found a wrasse cleaning station, where larger fish wait patiently for their turn to have tiny purple-and-yellow wrasse “clean” them of annoying clinging parasites and algae. I saw a lot of big ulua, a very colorful fish, along with the state fish of Hawaii, the “humu” or “humuhumunukunukuapua’a” and some big angelfish or Moorish idols. I even saw an eel – a dark one with bright white speckles, so I think it was a snowflake eel – sheltering under the eaves of a healthy looking yellow coralhead that had fanlike extensions all around, like a shingled roof with a lot of angles.

After crossing toward the right hand side (as you look out to see, it’s on the side farthest from the public access) I encountered a juvenile sea turtle coming up for air. It was about 2 1/2 feet across, relatively clean of algae, and very healthy looking. I backed off, as it was headed my way, and circled around to give him a better look from a bit farther away. As I came around, he was doing the same – giving me the once-over as he circled warily upwards. I reached towards him, but he veered away, got his breath, and then took a leisurely corkscrew course down to where he would shelter from the crowds of tourists for a while. He had a nice deep overhang on a coralhead covered with bright yellow lumpy coral and couldn’t be seen from above unless you dove down and knew where to look.

I hadn’t seen David in a while, and he usually comes out before I do because he gets cold quicker. So I made my way back along the west side, and then struck out across the middle to approximately where I originally entered the water. There were plenty of people there at Kapalua, enjoying the sun and the beach, and there were certainly plenty of people in the water, yet except for one encounter I never felt crowded.

David was waiting for me as I galumphed out of the water – entry and exit is never my most graceful time – and we gradually rinsed stuff off in the nearby shower and packed up.

On the way back we stopped at Napili Market – near where we stayed on our last trip to Maui – to pick up deli sandwiches and a few odds and ends. They have some really impressive looking seafood pokes (pronounced “pokey,” it’s usually finely chopped raw tuna, octopus, or a combination, with seaweed and teriyaki and sometimes hot pepper) so must remember that for a time when we have a taste for poke again. We got some pretty decent sandwiches, with very generous portions of turkey or ham and a “protein kit” of vegetables, onions, garlic, olive oil, and some other goodies to saute some shrimp with – we’ll make a salad tonight and take it easy, as last night’s dinner was kind of a blowout as far as price is concerned.

I should say that the sushi at Miso Phat Sushi is DELICIOUS and served with plenty of friendly aloha, but the big specialty rolls are VERY BIG and they’re $20 each, while some of the other non-specialty stuff was more reasonable. David did well with his combination, I had 2 rolls, soup, and a bowl of rice. It was all very good but tonight we’ll take it easy and stay in.

Yesterday was a “no plan” day; since it was still cloudy, we decided against going all the way up Haleakala. So we went to Makawao after the obligatory lazing around drinking coffee, and browsed in the galleries, gift shops, and glass blowing studio before stopping into the Makawao Garden Bistro for lunch. We both had the “blackened fish special” sandwich, and it was delicious, very delicate, yet with a beautiful crust and plenty of flavor and a bit of heat.

We wandered up a VERY BUMPY Olinda Road, and came down a different road – I think it was Piiholo Ranch Road, as we passed a zipline place on the way down. Then we turned down Baldwin Avenue for the run down into Paia, pretty much following the route the Haleakala downhill bike rides take. Then we found a handy parking spot (traffic is horrible in Paia, owing to the high volume and the one lone stoplight) and mooched around for a bit. There were even more dangerous galleries and gift shops, including one really eclectic one called Indigo, owned by a photographer who actually prints or etches his work on aluminum and then laminates it. it makes for very shiny, very color-saturated large-format images, very striking. Anyway, after a tasty shave ice, we navigated homeward.

We’ve noticed the main highways are well paved and striped now, and they were doing more road work. Not-main highways are still a little.. unkempt (that is, anything off the “main tourist track” ). Found a good bypass to get around a lot of the congestion at Kahului where Dairy Road meets the Haleakala Highway – not the sugar road on Hansen, but the next big left, which seems to be slated to serve a business park yet to be built. Nice and wide, smooth and slick, no congestion, and it comes out just up from the big church on Dairy where the Kihei cutoff comes in.

David picks up his rental bike tomorrow, so I’ll drive him in to Lahaina and bring the car back. Will probably do some snorkeling on my own at either Airport Beach (Kahekili) or at Honokeana Cove to see my turtles (we stayed at Napili Shores last time, so I know the way in and the rock-shelf entry point).

Friday morning we have a whale-watching cruise set up, and that night we’re going to Warren and Annabell’s on our “free pass” that we got from Warren way back in 2002.

The Next Day, and The Next, and the Next

David picked up his bike at West Maui Cycles, which meant that I had the use of the car, and some time to fill in, while he took off riding southward towards Ma’alaea. I had a vague plan to go shopping for a new swimsuit or two, as the one I’d brought with me had lost all its stretch (I have other options, such as board shorts and tanks). So hooked around Lahaina, decided against trying to find parking, and headed for the Lahaina Cannery Mall, where I’d heard there was a Water Wear outlet.

Much, MUCH to my surprise, I found 2 suits, very quickly, in my size that I liked. One is a one-piece that I needed for those times when I’m in a wetsuit, and the other is a cute tankini (2 pieces, bought separately) that is pretty flattering (the bottom is like a little miniskirt).

Then just as I got back to the car, got the expected call from David that he’d made it to Ma’alaea and was ready for lunch, so I got down there and we went to the one place that’s right on the harbor (not Buzz’s Wharf, the other one). And got the sad news that the Waterfront had closed, or had never really re-opened at the new location in the Ocean Center complex. SAD!

Not exactly sure of the timeline here, it’s already starting to moosh into vague impressions.

I had snorkel stuff with me so I stopped off at Airport Beach/Kahekili Beach to try it out, but decided to just get in the water instead. It’s not a great place to snorkel when there’s not a lot of clearance over the shelf of rocks right at the surf/wave zone as you enter.

Then I went back to our condo and tried it again and snorkeled right off our beach – again, a shelf of rock just as the water gets about thigh-deep makes for tricky entries and exits. Not much to see, and very little coral, but some fish… and one REALLY BIG turtle that was worth seeing! But the whole time, I was worrying about finding a decent exit channel over the rocks, and picked up some bruises on the way out as it was. At least I did it.

Maui: Beginnings

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By the time this post goes live, we’ll be home, or almost home. On most trips, I start out declaring that I’m going to blog often and keep up to date, and then I fall off after about 2 days and never post Part II or whatever.

Mostly this is because we get busier the later it gets in the trip, and partly it’s because David doesn’t think it’s a good idea to blog about not being home, because burglars or something (as if they read my blog, everyone knows my only readers are me, my sister, and a bunch of spambots).

We got to Maui late, on Saturday February 15. For some reason (probably due to a higher fare) I had booked us on a connection via Los Angeles instead of the usual nonstop flight to Maui or connection via Honolulu. David had said back in November when we decided to book the trip that he didn’t mind if we connected in Los Angeles; in retrospect it would have been better if we’d had a longer layover in LAX, as our 1:40 connection time shrank to 0:40 real fast what with delays.

My work life lately has been NOTHING BUT REBOOKING SAD PEOPLE WHOSE FLIGHTS HAVE BEEN CANCELLED DUE TO BAD WEATHER so I was quite apprehensive that Karma would be her usual bitchy self, but we managed to hustle to our connecting flight (fortunately, both United flights were in the same terminal). Not only that, but David spotted all three of our bags being loaded. All looked rosy as we took off.

There was quite a bit of turbulence on the way to LAX and a whole lot more on the way to Maui – in fact, for most of the second flight the crew kept us seated and seatbelts fastened, while they remained strapped in to their jumpseats. It wasn’t until later that I discovered the recent news of injuries due to turbulence on United flights to Beijing and Billings (two cities that couldn’t be more unlike each other, actually). Anyway, we finally landed just as the sun was setting behind a curtain of grey clouds.

After some disarray at the airport in the getting the rental car and driving away department (I say no more, but at least Enterprise Rental Car came up aces), we drove on in to our condo at the Royal Kahana. We’re in unit 915, which is a very basic 1 bedroom that smells of camphor, feet, and old people… the rest of the property is VERY NICE, but I suspect the people that own this one have more than one condo property, and thus this unit doesn’t get much love or display much personality. It’s fine, although the kitchen is tiny and the utensils are the absolute bare minimum. We’re tucked behind the Kahana Gateway shopping center, on Lower Honoapiilani, and within stumbling distance of the Maui Brewing Company.

After a long flight, and the delay in getting our wheels sorted, we finally got to the condo by about 9pm. We stopped at the Safeway’s in Lahaina, where we were happy to find that our old Dominick’s ID still worked in getting us a discount, even though Dominicks’ closed all their stores in the Chicago area. We bought 4 containers of various kinds of poke and pupus, and really, we could have done it with just 1 big one and 1 small one, but that’s okay, we had the rest the next day for a snack.

On the way in to Lahaina and beyond to Kahana, David suddenly laughed while we were still on the Pali (the cliffs near McGregor Point and the tunnel before the road drops to sea level).

“Ha! I’m anticipating the turns… driven this road so many times I just realized that I know what’s coming up even though it’s really dark.”

This is not a bad thing at all, being so familiar with a vacation spot like Maui. We started chatting idly about how nice it would be to spend more time here – more on that later.

So Saturday night we got settled, stowed our minimal groceries (besides the pupus, some Maui-grown ground coffee, milk, cereal, bread, and snacks) and finally konked out about 1030pm Maui time, 330am Chicago time.

Sunday morning, we quickly bagged the idea of driving up to the top of Haleakala as we didn’t wake up as early as usual (4am instead of 3am) and so we lazed about, had some breakfast, and walked down the beach south toward Honokowai. It’s been cloudy and somewhat inclined to sprinkle every day and isn’t slated to get sunny until Thursday.

As we walked down the beach, we could see a group of sea kayakers starting to put their plastic shells in the water down by a little pocket-sized short access park. They raised their arms and shouted “WHEEEE YEEEHAAA” or something as they ran the shells in, and then quickly got knocked a bit sideways because they were inexperienced lubbers. So as we came up, I asked the guy with the most tattoos what kayaking company they were with, because I figured that Chinese character tattoos all over his back and arms = experienced local kayak guy or something.

“No, we’re not a company, just a group of friends.”

They set off – about 10 or 12 people all told, and headed off southwest toward Tahiti (more likely setting a bearing on Lanai and then expecting to come back after spending some time out in the sea lanes where the whales hang out).

After that, we dawdled some more and decided to head into Lahaina to see if we could sort out some gear problems: when we were packing, I still could not find the battery charger for my Canon 40D, which I think may be plugged in someplace stupid like church or left in a hotel back in August.

Frustration: we stopped at several electronicsy places that might have it, and called the local camera store, only to be told that the original charger has been discontinued, and the replacement charger was out of stock. However, there was a “universal” charger available for a fairly nose-stingingly high price. We even checked at Radio Shack and at a very weird little discount computer repair place, where a nice man brought out a big box of different battery chargers, none of which was a match for my Canon. I considered buying one via Amazon and may still do, but after checking out the “universal” charger at the camera store, and thinking it over after lunch, decided to go back and get it so that I’d at least be able to take some decent pictures.

Lunch was at the Pioneer Inn, a favorite of ours. We were a few minutes early for lunch so we put our name in and dawdled over at the courtyard under the famous banyan tree, where the weekly art and crafts fair was taking place. Two guys played acoustic guitar and sang, very well, as we browsed. Then it was back to the PI to order.

“I want me some PIG,” I told the waiter, who looked like a weathered former beach bum. “Kalua pulled pork sandwich, coming right up.”

Waitstaff in the islands are like that – pretty unflappable, as they’ve seen it all from the great international traveling public. They’re usually good for joking around, within reason, and indulgent as long as they don’t have a table of arrogant assholes. They often strike me as having interesting lives outside of the workplace; they’re in Maui or Kauai to do something they love, like surfing or sailing, but they wait tables to make ends meet.

So after lunch, on the way home we fiddled with the charger and after some finagling, it was clearly charging my primary battery. After we got back to the condo, we lazed around some and I started fiddling with the backup battery. No matter what I did, it would not engage the little adjustable spring-loaded leads; after some struggle David noticed that the contacts on the second battery were just a little bit more recessed than on the original battery. This is not a big surprise as the second battery was an aftermarket replacement after Canon discontinued this particular model battery. GRRRR. So I may end up purchasing an actual Canon charger later, or perhaps just a better backup battery that can take a charge.

Dinner Sunday was at the Maui Brewing Company, previously noted as within convenient stumbling distance of the condo. We opted to squeeze in at the bar rather than wait an hour for a table, and I soon found myself chatting with an elderly lady seated on my left. There was an empty chair next to her, almost the only empty seat in the whole place, which was rocking with people enjoying the latest MBC brew, a “blood orange IPA.” I think the younger people crowding all around us weren’t willing to take a single seat next to the elderly lady or something: their loss, as she was a pistol.

We exchanged pleasantries and then she sized me up before declaring “I’m ninety-fowerr yearrs old, and I’m from Mizzoura.” I exclaimed “Oh! You and my mom are nearly the same vintage, and she used to live in Mizzoura before the war.” She decided I was o.k. to converse with after that since I knew enough to pronounce Missouri properly, or at least I chuckle at the thought. She was a lot of fun, and I learned that she’d been on Maui since December 1st, and although she didn’t miss winter, she was kind of missing home. We had one of those conversations you have with a complete stranger where the weather is always a completely safe topic, and David and I had conversations with several brews. In the end my favorite wasn’t the “blood orange IPA,” which was interesting but a little too amber-bitter for my taste. I liked the “Pau Hana Pilsner,” a really refreshing, light yet nutty tasting beer that had a nice finish and clean cold edges, kind of like some of the downhill skiers we watched on the bar TV.

We reached the stage of being just “nicely thank you, with a side of squiffy” before we decided we’d better head back to the condo and the end of our second day, Sunday.

I’d tried to contact some activities suppliers yesterday (today’s still only Monday) and so far we’ve got some things to do lined up. The weather is literally dampening some things like snorkeling and boat trips down, but we’re booked for the dinner package for the Slack Key Guitar show next Wednesday (not this Wednesday, we’ve seen the performer before) and for the magic show at Warren and Annabell’s on Friday (Warren is ill, so it’ll be one of several guest magicians). We’re booked for a whale watch on.. Friday morning so we’ll be busy that day, and also David is picking up a road bike rental Thursday. We’ve got some other stuff lined up or planned for, too.

Tomorrow (Tuesday) the vague plan is to drive up to Makawao and the Upcountry, dawdle around the galleries and check out whatever is new or different. We’ll revisit places like the glassblowing studio and that sort of thing, and maybe try someplace different for lunch. We cooked “in” tonight so will probably eat “out” tomorrow.

I noticed yesterday that Mick Fleetwood has started some kind of restaurant/music store of some kind in Lahaina, and there’s often live music, so that might be fun to try some night.

Still haven’t been in the water, probably take a dip tomorrow after we return from the Upcountry. The beach here is fairly narrow, with somewhat coarse brownish-pink sand, and constant waves. There’s no coral or snorkeling to speak of here, though it looks like there might be offshore reefs (or maybe it’s just banks of underwater seaweed).

It’s so nice to take a break from my allergies and from winter in general – I keep reading the news and Facebook and thinking “Thundersnow?? DO NOT WANT.” My poor co-workers are literally going to be snowed under for at least the next few days, yet again, with travelers who are stuck, or whose flights are cancelled, or whose connection is messed up because of delays. We’ve just about reached “island time” rhythms here, where except for those days we have some activity booked, we really don’t give much thought to day or date, let alone time. We haven’t had the TV on once, in fact, although I’ve seen bits and pieces of the Olympics via random TVs in the condo lobby or the MBC last night.

Speaking of the Olympics, my young cousin Jason Brown has done well in his first Olympics and most of his side of the family is home, or making their way home. One of our other cousins by marriage declared that on their return, the first thing he and his wife did was brush their teeth and take showers with hot water, soap, and shampoo – simultaneously! Oh, I hope they hold off on having a family party until after we get back, but it depends on Jason’s post-Olympic life, which I suspect is going to be pretty hectic.

It’s just so…. weird and interesting to see a family member in the news, and it’s hard to resist bragging “Oh, we have a family member who is an Olympic athlete” to random people. EVERYONE knows who Jason is – EVERYONE knows he’s the guy with the ponytail that has its own Twitter account.

Makes me wonder… who would win in a fight with sharp steel blades, Jason Brown’s ponytail, or Duncan McLeod’s ponytail? I’ve seen both in real life, and still own (somewhere) a pewter Celtic knot hair tie.

Anyway, on that bombshell (which makes no sense but who cares), that’s it for the beginning of our trip to Maui. Hoping there’s not actual rain tomorrow, too.

A Walk At Alki, New Arrivals, A Pink Door, And More

We ended today with a boat trip out to Blake Island’s Tillicum Village for the afternoon salmon bake and cultural show, and by then I was taking photos with the big Canon, not my iPhone. But we did a lot of Touron stuff in the morning and yesterday too, including:

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Bought a glass thingy from The Glasshouse Studio. They’re shipping it so we don’t have to worry about lugging it.

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Lunch at the Pink Door after exploring the Public Market, which always tickles me. It’s fun introducing new people to it – once you find it again. Here’s Shel and Linda relaxing after a fun morning.

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Cranes and ethereal dusk lighting the Seattle core – we were once more navigating the very confusing construction zone around the south end of Lake Union. This is yesterday evening after dinner.

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CRAAAAAAB and other good stuff at Anthony’s Home Port, with David, Shel, Linda, and my friend Jean. We laughed and talked all through happy hour.

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Lunch at the Alki Cafe, watching people in quad-pedal bikes go by.

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Alki Beach. Farther back there was a girls’ beach volleyball tournament.

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An arty house. My Twitter chum Stan thought it looked Japanese, but under all the landscaping and container plants and custom roof tiles it looks like it was originally a Swiss-style chalet. There are still a few funky little beach houses, but there are a lot more tall, yet skinny condos.

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Yoga seems to be everywhere in Seartle now, we passed several studios in the Pioneer Square area the first day, and here’s somebody on their own personal sandbar on Sunday morning.

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Looking back towards Seattle along Alki Beach.

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Another Alki art house; seems this person works mostly with blue glass, shell, and bits of found treasure.

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We pulled up next to this eye-catching sculpture when we drove over to Alki to walk, get some good views, and kill some time before picking up Shel and Linda at Sea-Tac.

It’s been a great few days. Tomorrow, nothing planned in the morning, but we’re meeting my friend Christine for lunch in Bainbridge (walking on the ferry). The hotel has a shuttle that can drop us close to the ferry terminal, so we don’t have to deal with the car. We drove to the Argosy slip tonight for the Tillicum day cruise because I wasn’t sure about walking distance (especially on the return in the evening). Early night, because something about the walking and the sea air is just so relaxing. And even more of that tomorrow.

Getting the Blogging Bug (and the Traveling Bug) Again, But No Shicken Dobbies, Please

I recently rediscovered an old favorite – Robert Llewellyn’s blog is full of funny and interesting observations of life in the Cotswolds, where he keeps chickens and answers questions about whether there will ever be another episode of Red Dwarf, and browsing some of the entries makes me want to blog more (and better), and other entries make me want to travel more (and sooner). Most of the LlewBlog is about… life as you live it, especially if you’re interested in quiet country life in the Cotswolds, but occasionally have these other lives where you vacuum spaceships with groinal attachments, build things to compete in challenges, or drive people from one place to another while talking about things in general. So the blog covers a lot of topics, but much of it is grounded in Llewellyn’s love for his village

On our visits to the Cotswolds, we spend as much time as we can rambling along footpaths and stopping for lunch at village pubs. The first time we were there, we were met by a perfectly turned out older couple who looked like they stepped out of the pages of some posh magazine. Even their beagle was beautifully dressed for a Day Out. The way they exclaimed “Oh, but you’re Americans!?” made me think we weren’t supposed to be on a public footpath wearing hiking boots taking pictures of duckponds and . Um, well, we’re weird like that.

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I took a picture of my husband as he drank his first cool cider ever, sitting in the outdoor garden of one of the big pubs in Bourton-on-the-Water. The look on his face was pure, happy contentment. I couldn’t understand why my compatriots stay in their tour buses, and miss the simple pleasures of a ramble on a warm day, with a cool drink and a good meal at the end of it.

On our second visit, we did more of the same, but it was around the time that the green activists left all the horseshit on Clarkson’s driveway, which made me laugh like stink (well, it would), and made me feel a little less of a foreigner in the Cotswolds. It just seems like a lovely place to call home, if you don’t have Clarkson as your next-door neighbor (he may be a solid chap, but he’s probably always tearing away in the early morning hours in a supercar).

I originally went looking for @bobbyllew’s blog because I ran across references to Seinfeld’s “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” show (AKA CinCgK, or “sink guck”). And after watching it, inevitably, I wondered whether Llewellyn’s “Car Pool” series was still being made or not, and found this recent post which concludes that Seinfeld’s show may well be derivative of his original idea for driving people around and talking with them on camera. But Llewellyn isn’t bothered, because he’s getting a lot of pageviews and downloads, and it’s made him think about making some new episodes to benefit from all the extra traffic he’s getting. He sees it as a “win-win,” which I think is very wise. I hope he does make some new ones, because I used to enjoy watching them where ever he happened to have them (some were on iTunes, some were uploaded to his site).

I’ve added The LlewBlog to my feed readers (lately I’ve been leaning ever more strongly in the direction of Feedly) and it’s on my blogroll.

The latest post is about his chickens, which had their first day out in the garden – which of course reminded me of Mom’s story of one of the aunts, who had an unfortunate encounter with the family chickens (it was either Sis or Florence – probably Sis, who was pretty insufferably prissy according to Mom). This was back… before the Depression, probably not long after the turn of the century. My aunt apparently ran in from the back yard, blubbing and wailing, and holding her mouth open because she’d eaten something nasty and couldn’t get rid of it. She was too prissy to spit it out, the way Mom told it. When she was asked what was the matter, she bawled out, “I shot it was a shockit drop, it was a shicken dobbie.”

Mom used to say it and make faces when she tasted something nasty, so it became a family joke that all the older cousins still get – she was the youngest in her family, and I’m the youngest in this generation, but I’m not sure this joke will make the leap to my nieces or great-nieces and nephews or not. Although, people ARE starting to keep chickens again, it’s kind of trendy. So maybe we’ll still pull it out at family gatherings – we’ve got one coming up in August where I’ll get to see some of the fam-damily in Idaho again. I’ll have to check the details with my sisters, since they heard the story long before I did.

So hey! a real blog post for a change. Just wait until I post the picture of the birdies in the nest on the front porch. Then I’ll be well and truly blogging again.

Scribefire Next Borked, Scribefire Classic Still Works Sort Of

While on a 26+ train journey I needed to be able to blog offline – the newest version of Scribefire will not complete, says it can’t get information on either of my most active blogs. Yet the old version, when reinstalled, remembers how to connect to all my blogs, even the inactive ones.

Oh, well! Backward into the future-past!

Expect some posts about the journey, and the rest of our vacation since arriving in Whitefish and exploring Glacier National Park.

ScribeFire is a full-featured blog editor that integrates with your browser and lets you easily post to your blog. You can drag and drop formatted text from pages you are browsing, take notes, upload images, and post to multiple blogs

Via ScribeFire Classic :: Add-ons for Firefox

Going-to-the-Sun Road Information and Transit System – Glacier National Park

It’s an amazing drive – but congested and slow during reconstruction of a section damaged by a mudslide last month. The transit system is excellent and efficient; we should also have considered taking a Red Bus tour but they were booked up. Book a few days in advance (or more) during peak season.

One of the most amazing highlights of Glacier National Park is a drive on the Going-to-the-Sun Road. This engineering marvel spans 50 miles through the park’s wild interior, winding around mountainsides and treating visitors to some of the best sights in northwest Montana.

via Going-to-the-Sun Road Information and Transit System – Glacier National Park

Grouse Mountain Lodge

They open the doors for you when you arrive, and the warm welcome sets a nice tone.

We had a double queen wheelchair accessible room; probably could change it now that the weekend is almost over, but won’t bother. The amenities, besides the golf course on-site, include a small conference center, a small but nicely arranged indoor pool, two jacuzzi tubs on the deck, and dining in a big lodge room with a 3-story river cobble fireplace. There’s screened deck seating and a deck bar when the weather is fine (and it has been). The food is very good although the service is a bit slow (which was partly due to a large tour group in-house the first morning).

My sister Timmy and her hubby Frank would like this place, it’s a nice drive from their home in Kellogg, especially after turning off of I-90. Attention, Frank: fly fishing galore on the way, and also on the way up to West Glacier. And there’s a spa and gift shop here, too. The van picks up in town until 2am (at least on the weekends) so dinner and entertainment are no problem.

We will definitely stay here on a future trip, maybe break it up with a stay on the east side of the park as its a haul to get over there for some of the activities.

The scenery is amazing – not visible from down in town, but a dramatic reveal as you drive up from the entrance (once past the ugly sprawl in the area of Columbia Falls, between Whitefish and West Glacier).

We’ll return the car to Whitefish airport Wednesday, which was cheaper than dropping it in West Glacier, and the hotel van will follow us and bring us back. Then they’ll take us to the train station in Whitefish the last morning. It’s worked out pretty well, staying here, and I give it at least 4 stars.

The only drawback; the wheelchair accessible room looks a bit unfinished compared to the other rooms I’ve glimpsed. The shelves need a bit of trim and the shower needs a curtain of some kind (it’s a nice roomy roll-in). The bedding is really nice, the towels are wonderfully fluffy, and there’s wifi.

Nice property, nice people; Grouse Mountain Lodge is a great value and a good home base for touring the Glacier Park area… And I might need a massage later, so that’s covered, too.

Grouse Mountain Lodge is ideally located in beautiful Whitefish, Montana, minutes from Whitefish Mountain Resort, as well as Glacier National Park.With 143 beautifully appointed guest rooms, extensive meeting & event space, an on-site activity planning company, sumptuous dining, and a substantial list of services & amenities, Grouse Mountain Lodge truly is the premier choice in Montana resorts.

via Grouse Mountain Lodge

So Far

So far, we’ve

  • Flown from Chicago to Seattle
  • had breakfast, lunch, and dinner with boats
  • explored the Seattle Underground with tourons and alleged rats
  • hiked on a beautiful forested trail by a remote beach
  • had delicious beers with friends
  • had circus with bread, which is a little different than having bread and circuses.
  • avoided Seafair, but not the Seafair Pirates
  • driven to Idaho
  • hung out with family
  • walked on a rails to trails route
  • been licked by dogs
  • eaten huckleberry ice cream (me only)
  • eaten Vienna Sausages (again me only)
  • seen 2 deer
  • seen innumerable ground squirrels and chipmunks
  • driven over Moon Pass
  • eaten coconut shrimp
  • booed a villain at the mellerdrammer
  • ridden bikes through old railroad tunnels and over trestles
  • watched satellites and shooting stars
  • laughed a lot
  • seen BATS!
  • Had a slow leak BOO!
  • Gotten it fixed at least temporarily YAY!

We’ve had a wonderful trip so far.

We flew into Seattle last Friday and stayed downtown at the Silver Cloud Lake Union – of course the nav system misguided us but we eventually got there (it sits on a narrow lot between two streets, but the entrance is on Fairview, NOT Eastlake). The room was very nice, with a fridge and wet bar, and they had a good hot breakfast each morning in a really beautiful third-floor breakfast room with comfy couches and tables, overlooking the boatyards at the south end of Lake Union. The SLU Trolley (which used to be known as the S.L.U.T. until somebody pointed it out to Sound Transit) ends just a block down, in front of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center (and the Residence Inn Hotel).

We hardly took the car out of the garage that weekend – the hotel van does Pickoop Andropoffs at the Seattle Center, Pike Place Market, and Pioneer Square, so we took advantage of it 2 days running. David had never been on the Seattle Underground Tour, but I had done it many years ago and wanted to see it again (somewhere at home I still have the book).

On Sunday, we went for an urban hike in Discovery Park and put in about 5 miles or so (maybe a little farther according to David’s GPS). It took a while to find parking, it was such a nice day; everybody in Seattle not at Seafair was at the park.

After that and a little break, we went downtown to meet up with Kevin and Lynn at the Central Saloon (one of my old hangouts) for some tasty beverages, before they had to take off for the Sounders game. We walked back up to Pike Place, which was closing down for the day… but I found my way back to the Pink Door! It was awesome, the look on David’s face, when I pushed the “anonymous” looking door open on Post Alley and went inside. He was like “where the HELL are you going??”

They had a circus performer doing tricks from a big ring suspended from the ceiling. The food was incredible; I had a pasta dish with prosciutto, garlic, excellent olive oil, more garlic, and mint. David had Cioppino Pink Door and pronounced it excellent.

After that we wandered back to the pickup point. JUST MISSED a van, but waited in front of the Chocolate Box shop and the cupcake-and-ice-cream place; David bought me a tin of Chocolate Tea, and we wondered about the QR code and the Post-It Note art up in the windows of the building across the street (I was really into the architecture, we really need to plan ahead next time and take a tour). The QR resolved to some kind of SEO firm.

We left Seattle in our rented Ford Escape and headed to Idaho to see my sisters (Timmy lives there, my sister Tudy was up for the week from Salt Lake) and my niece Raeanne and her kids Collin and Paige. Timmy and her hubby Frank have this great house they built up the gulch from the Interstate, but it’s remote feeling enough that you get wildlife (like the bear that visited them a few weeks back). Frank built a Bear Alarm in case it comes back; he’s got concertina wire strung along the lower level deck that leads to a Diet Coke can full of gravel outside their bedroom window on the level above. Because of the slope of their lot, both levels have decks – the living room/kitchen/bedroom level is where the “front” door is behind the house.

We hung out there in the evening the first night watching for satellites and the ISS and talking about everything… including the amazing pictures sent back from the Curiousity rover right after it landed on Mars the night before:

Mars Curiousity from StephLaberis Twitterfeed

YipYips! BRRRRRRR-INNNNNNGGGG! Mars Calling!

Yeah, the Internets were fun the other night, hard to explain to my sister and brother-in-law, as they’re not that into that geeky stuff.

We spent the last four days visiting, going to Melodramas, soaking in the rooftop hot tub at the Silver Mountain Resort, walking on bike paths with family, riding on bike paths with just the two of us, and generally having a ball. I highly recommend the Trail of the Hiawatha mountain bike path! But also recommend that you either bring your own bikes, or rent from a bike shop in town rather than from the bike shop up at Lookout Pass Ski Resort, which is the concessionaire for the trail access. The bikes we rented were in need of a little TLC – my front wheel was out of true and had to be swapped out by a friendly trail marshall about 2 miles down the trail from the East Portal tunnel.

As you ride, you go through several spooky (and cold!) tunnels and over several high trestles. David and I almost got run down by a deer in one long tunnel, which kept getting spooked by bikes and reversing direction. I heard it coming with this “galumphy galumphy” noise in the dark ahead of me; suddenly my dim headlight illuminated something that was all hooves, knee joints, and terrified eyes and ears before it executed a mid-air pirouette and went back up the trail to daylight. The tunnels were inky dark (did I mention cold) and headlamps would be handy, as the lights they rent to you are okay but not really that bright.

Gosh, it was FUN, though. Even with my creaky, rattling bike it was fun. It’s a steady 2% downgrade for 15 miles, so you have to pedal to have any kind of speed, but it’s easy pedaling. A series of old buses run shuttle schedules from the bottom of the trail back up to the WEST portal of the first long tunnel – you have to ride back up through the tunnel to the parking lot at the EAST portal, but the grade was level at that point and no problem. I had a nice skunk tail when I was done, but I also won the trivia contest that Sheri the bus driver did, so I got FREE ice cream (but also bought 2 nice T-shirts to commemorate our ride).

We would definitely do that again – it was busy even on a Thursday, so get there early in the day and to avoid delays, check your equipment with a test ride if you rent.

We’re leaving for the “third half” of our vacation in Glacier National Park. We’re about to pack up and go – after a short delay caused by 2 (TWO) nails in our rear left tire. Slow leak, we called Avis, they sent a guy from local operator Nicholson’s to get us on the spare, and David got it fixed for free at Les Schwab. So we’re good to go – time to button up and see what happens next.

We’ll be in Glacier at Grouse Mountain Lodge for a bit less than a week, then on Amtrak to go home to Glenview, IL. Should be interesting, as delays are expected due to summer heat and the usual “slow freight” backups. Better pictures to follow, too. Here’s what I took on the iPhone in the meantime.

Boatyard across from the Silver Cloud Lake Union Hotel – from the third-floor patio off the breakfast room

More boats, also seaplanes, from the deck of Chandler’s Crabhouse

Walked in Discovery Park along the North Beach and Hidden Valley trails

QR code in downtown Seattle across from the Chocolate Box

My sister Tudy hangs out in the hammock on our sister Timmy’s deck – great view down the gulch toward the Silver Valley in Idaho

Sunset watching – this cloud looked like a phoenix chasing other birds. “I’ll save you!” said the little bird chasing it.

Used to be the railway station, it got moved when the freeway came in; the rail line was converted as rails to trails years ago.

We had a blast at the Mellerdrammer. Especially as the plot of the play revolved around some other “Baker Girls.”


Piano in the Rose Mary Pit – in memory of long-time accompanist Rose Mary, who was also a friend of my sister Timmy’s

A lady named Kathleen got pulled onstage for a little number. She was handed a parasol and twirled like a pro.

We rented bikes from Lookout Pass Ski Area and rode 15 miles on the Trail of the Hiawatha

The Trail of the Hiawatha follows the former route of the Chicago, Milwaukee, and St Paul railroad, also known as the Milwaukee Road. The passenger line was called the Hiawatha and was famous for views like this – in the nighttime!

Near the end of our ride – all told about 2 1/2 hours of PURE FUN. David looks back up the trail from the last high trestle and considers riding back UP. We had shuttle bus tickets…

Aloha, Leah

Leah gets lei’d at Maui Kahului Airport in September, 2007

Leah Sharron Gibbs, nee Green, age 70, beloved wife for 50 years and best friend of Sheldon. Loving mother of David (Virginia), Daniel, Mitchell (Gloria) Gibbs. Cherished grandmother of Melissa, Joshua, Jennifer and Naomi. Dear sister of the late Seymour Green. Devoted daughter of the late Abrasha and Udasha. Fond sister-in-law of Norma and Bill Brown. Loving aunt of many nieces and nephews. Long time teacher at Serena Hills School in Chicago Heights, IL. Member of B’nai Yehuda Beth Sholom. Services Thursday, 11 A M. at B’nai Yehuda Beth Sholom, 1424 183rd Street, Homewood. Interment Shalom. In lieu of flowers contributions in her name to the Cancer Support Center, 2028 Elm Road, Homewood, IL 60430 would be appreciated.

A rare flower bloomed for a time, but lives forever in the garden of memory.

She lived in amazing times, from Saturday, November 8th, 1941 to Memorial Day, Monday, May 28th, 2012. She was a month old when “a day that will live in infamy” dawned. Ironically enough, that day took place in Hawaii too, but this picture shows Leah being greeted at Maui airport with 2 flower lei and a hug by my husband David. She and my father-in-law Sheldon joined us there to help me celebrate my 50th birthday in 2007.

She loved, loved, loved so many things. Purple, books, flowers, good food, good friends, and travel; most of all, she loved her family deeply and wanted the best for each of us. She welcomed me, even though we come from different backgrounds, without hesitation and with open arms. I was proud to call her a friend as well as my my mother-in-law; after my own mom died in 2006, Leah became my second mom. She also had a deep connection with my sister-in-law Gloria, who was able to spend a lot of time with Leah in the last few months, attending meetings in Leah’s home with her “Goddesses” support group.

The Cancer Support Center meant a great deal to Leah, and we will be donating in her name for as long as it takes. Please consider making a donation on their website, or check out their amazing yearly fundraiser/silent auction/talent show.

I haven’t been able to say much here on the blog or on Facebook or Twitter about what was going on with Leah, but she passed away today surrounded by friends and family. She was in home hospice care until last Monday, and then it was decided that she needed to go into the hospice unit in a hospital farther to the south from her home. For the last week we’d been making the long drive back and forth between here and a place I thought of as the “Borderlands Hotel.”

We’re grateful for the care she received, and thankful that she no longer needs it. She’s at peace now.

While all of us in the family were at her home tonight, decompressing from the enormity of losing a wife, mother, sister, and grandmother, I browsed in the pile of books on a side table by her favorite sofa. One passage, just 2 short pages, was marked by not just one, but FOUR bookmarks AND a dog-ear. I should have borrowed that book, but there will be time to retrieve it with all the to-and-fro we have to do this week. It had interesting insights on life, living with cancer, and doing it with humor and grace.

Potential images for my banner from Hawaii trip, and Father Manny’s Purple Poncho

Ho, well, I never post anymore, blah de blah. We had a wonderful time in Hawaii, pictures are all still on my laptop and need to be culled and copied to my desktop machine. However, I found a few on the card that was in my camera this morning when I took a picture of Father Manny in his purple Lenten poncho (okay, church purists, it’s a chausuble).

Here’s one of his photo-op pictures, which will shortly be uploaded to the St Nicholas Facebook page and used on the website for the rest of Lent.

I enjoy “Faddah” Manny’s sermons so much; he’s open, friendly and approachable, pretty much as he is in this picture. Today’s sermon started out as a commentary on that famous reading from John that includes “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoso believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

OOH! Here’s the St Paul’s Cathedral Choir singing John Stainer’s “God So Loved The World,” a piece we sang at St Nick’s last year during Holy Week. I love singing this piece – and we’re only about 8-10 voices WITH the extra people who ring in for the big services. St Paul’s is a traditional Anglican choir with boy altos and sopranos. I particularly love the twitchy boy in the final closeup – he’s next to the kid that the camera zooms in on.

We sound a bit more like this choir:

Anyway, after that musical interlude, more photography and churchy stuff, and finally, a soaring bit of Hawaii.

The background was chosen because there was too much backlight when he was at the altar, coming from the windows behind him. He had someplace to be so I quickly directed him over by the font, which is “dressed” for Lent. Note the empty font pool behind him, and the arrangement of leafless branches; the symbolism is stark, but the potential for life and renewal is there in the coming of Spring and the water of Life. The folks responsible for decorating the church for the liturgical seasons have really been creative this year; they’ve been given free rein and the result has been interesting, engaging, and tasteful while also being innovative and working with a minuscule budget. I can’t wait to see what they do on Holy Saturday for the Great Vigil; the sanctuary will be full of light and spring flowers, I know that.

Today was nice as we had another new person attending with her young son, and last week’s new person was there with her daughter too. The kid’s program is really unfolding in a neat way -today was another of the “Children’s Gospel” Sundays, where the kids go to the Noah’s Ark area (a comfortable lounge with couches off the main gathering space) and conduct their own service and read the Gospel, then talk about it. They get invited forward before the first reading, and are then sent off to do their thing (supervised and guided, of course, but it’s their activity). They return to their families just before the Eucharist (communion) and we seem to have it working well. Other Sundays, they either are with their families, or they actually help conduct the main service; the committee that designed the program figures it’s easier for families to schedule things for specific Sundays due to the sports and extracurricular activities they’re signed up for other weeks.

In other churchy news that’s also funny, we’ve somehow put our hands (paws?) on an Easter Bunny costume, which belongs to St Bede’s Bensenville. They’re merging with us at St Nicholas in May, so there’s been some sharing back and forth (I need to try to take some photos next week to send over there of us as a “get to know you” thing). They are bringing some treasures with them – among them some stunningly beautiful Stations of the Cross, which have already been installed along our back wall and will be used (I think at the Good Friday service). But they also offered the bunneh suit, and Faddah Manny was game for running out the back at the end of the Easter Sunday service, de-ponchoing (he’ll be wearing the cream/gold festive chausuble that day) and hopping (heh) into the bunny suit. Well, that’s clearly not workable, so we’ll find someone else to be the bunneh. In fact, we need a Bunneh Stig.

We somehow need to meld this:

with THIS.

In related news, it appears that The Stig may simply have been hatched from an egg, so Bunny Stig is actually entirely possible.

And on that bombshell I’ll move on to the soaring pictures from Hawaii.

We went for a drive down along the North Shore one day on Oahu, and more or less blundered into yet another area that was historically significant in World War II, but had seen its glory days pass by, Dillingham Airfield. I have picture on the laptop of the signs for it, but quickly switched to a new card when I noticed some interesting activity on the tarmac.

Got it together quickly enough to get this and other similar pictures:

They flew around a bit, and then the glider was released and the little yellow plane came back down to line up for the next go-around. The glider landed:

Glider N387BA landing, its single wheel just inches from the asphalt

Managed to get it just before the single wheel kissed asphalt (OOH!).

Glider N387BA getting tow cable set for another go around Dillingham Field

It came to a stop and the pilot hopped out to hook up the cable for another go-around. Lovely day for soaring. I know very little about gliders other than the obvious, but this looked like a lot of fun. There were a couple of outfits there that seemed to be selling glider rides but it looks like this was flown by Honolulu Soaring. I can’t get the tail number to match up with them – glider N387BA is registered in Alabama, but there are mentions of it being at Dillingham. The tow plane is a pretty distinctive little yellow guy with a great big GRRRR!! toothy grin.

I’ve made banner images for a couple of the other pictures and will be adding more, you’ll see them appear if you refresh a time or two.