Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Honeymoon, Part VIII

A very sad day.

We had to take care of some things around the rental house first thing in the morning, so we were up before 7:00am to take out the garbage, turn off lights, and lock up the key. Then we packed up the car, headed down the mountain, and stopped for breakfast at Buns in the Sun -- the workers knew who we were by this point and Julia and I still sort of chuckle about that. What can I say? They made good food.

We ate our food in the car on the way to the airport and stopped along the way to refill the gas tank. Once we dropped off the car we took the shuttle to the airport and sat around in the open air. It was much too hot and humid to be enjoyable, but we said our good-byes and then it was time for me to board my plane. (I was headed back to San Jose and Julia was on a later flight to Seattle, so we were splitting up here.)

It was a wonderful week and neither of us wanted it to end.

Our flights back were fine. I managed to move to a seat with more room, which was excellent, and the trip back didn't seem very long at all. I returned before 10:00pm (lost three hours due to the time difference) and Julia called me when she got in just before 11:00pm. So we were both safely home and ready to get back to the hubbub of everyday life even if our heads were still in the clouds.

Love you, baby!

The Honeymoon, Part VII

Sunday. Big day. August 2nd. It was our last day in Hawaii. The last day of our honeymoon. And it was my 40th birthday. We'd planned the trip so we'd leave on Monday specifically so we could spend my birthday together and to avoid spending it on a plane.

Anyway, we woke up and rolled into our favorite breakfast spot, then drove down the coast to snorkeling at the same bay we were at the day before. I think we arrived even earlier than we had the day before, so parking was even better. We strapped on our swim fins, put on our masks, and dove in.

Since we were in the same place, we pretty much saw all the same things as the day before. Regardless, we still loved it and we were able to do a bit more exploring. The most exciting thing we saw was a big, black eel! Julia spotted it swimming along and pointed it out to me. It was veyr cool to see it smoothly cut it's way through the water and both of us kept expecting it to worm its way into the coral once it found a good spot, but it just kept swimming and swimming until it was out of sight behind an outcropping of coral and we lost it. That was great.

Back on shore after a couple hours of swimming we found an open picnic table, snacked on some of the food we brought, and watched the dolphins swim around in the bay -- much farther out than we were swimming.

You know how easy it is to watch a campfire burn, or watch the waves come into shore, well, it's the same way with watching dolphins swim. It's just very peaceful and calming, but at the same time very interesting, maybe even exciting on some level. Anyway, we sat, chatted, enjoyed our food, and watched the dolphins. Not a bad birthday at all.

The area off to the side of the picnic table had a couple of nice tide pools formed from the uneven terrain of the lava rocks, so we did a little exploring (me in my new aqua-socks!) to look for fish, crabs, and whatever else we could find. It was fun, but I misjudged the depth of the water one time when I was stepping down from a rock -- and I even thought, "I think this is a bad idea" -- but I did it anyway . . . and promptly fell over sideways right onto a nice pyramidal-shaped rock that broke my fall when my lower back hit it. Julia said she looked over and all of a sudden I was sideways. It hurt. I didn't smack my head and somehow managed to avoid landing on anything sharp, so I got up, rubbed my back a little, and hoped I hadn't hurt something that wouldn't show up until later that day or the next. And as it happened, I was fine. I figured out later that I'd actually hit the rock the section of my back just to the right of my spine and low enough that it was mostly just padding from my butt. It smarted a bit, but it was fine.

Back on the picnic table we watched as (I assume) a father and son walked out on the rocks near where we just were. The father was quite a bit older and was holding a weighted net for fishing. They both fanagled the net for a good twenty minutes, getting it so the older man was holding it just so, then he watched the fish swimming in the water and when the time was right he threw the net. Julia and I were both curious about what he'd get and if that was even legal, but as it turned out the net came up empty and the pair walked off probably to try their luck somewhere else.

We also saw a younger Hawaiian boy traipse over to Two Steps with his swimming gear and a spear for spearfishing. We'd heard that wasn't legal, but maybe the native Hawaiians have rights that others don't. I dunno. Anyway, he dove in and we never saw if he came back with anything. Even so, that was interesting to see.

We backed everything into the car again and headed north again, but stopped at a couple of places along the way. First was a "Green Market," which was really just a small farmer's market. It was interesting to see what people had for sale, but we didn't get anything. Oh, we did try some white pineapple, and if you get the chance you should do the same. It was very sweet and tasty, but the best part about it was its lack of acid! Such a nice treat. A bit further along the road we stopped at Bong Brothers Coffee Co. It was a nice little store with all sorts of organic foods and coffees. And oddly enough their shirts are very popular with the stoner crowd, how odd. (The name came from the owners, brothers whose last names were Bong. Really.)

A few times during our trip we'd seen signs for a food called "malasadas" but we'd never seen the actual food or picked them up. We heard they were some kind of "donut-like" thing, so when we saw a streetside stand, we turned around, parked, and picked up a bag. Yep, they're donuts, alright. Tasty little chunks of fried batter coated in sugar and cinnamon.

We'd snacked on a few different things, but they didn't really add up to make a proper lunch, so we stopped at Pizza Hut. I know, lame, but it sounded really good to us and it was. And it was nice and cool inside -- so much so that after a couple of minutes Julia asked me to get her poncho-scarf-thing from the car to keep her warm.

After lunch we dropped off the snorkeling gear at Snorkel Bob's, which was a sad event because it meant no more snorkeling. Then we went home, showered off, napped, and packed for the trip home. We were a bit bored after packing so we drove down the hill to check out the Border's bookstore for a few minutes and followed that up with a trip to a grocery store for something to drink and some cake. And of course, we followed that up with a little reading and sleep.

Yep, pretty good birthday.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Honeymoon, Part VI

We only had Saturday and Sunday left in Hawaii (plus a couple of hours on Monday waiting for the plane), so when we woke up Saturday morning we knew there was only one thing we wanted to do first: breakfast at Buns in the Sun. Like I said, find something good, stick with it.

We were up pretty early and we wanted to go snorkeling again, so after breakfast we drove south to a beach on Pu'uhonua O Honaunau Bay, which is also called Place of Refuge becuase there's a small "fort" there that anyone could claim sanctuary at if they'd broken the law but managed to make it there. We didn't get to the fort, but we saw it across the bay when we arrived. Parking was pretty easy and the "beach" was mostly a field of black, volcanic rock that was mostly flat.

This area is also called "Two Steps" by the natives because there are two big chunks of rock that form steps down into the choppy water. It's a little nervewracking the first time you climb in from there because of the waves, but it's much better than trying to make your way into the water from the jagged rocks everywhere else along the waterfront.

The bay was big and apart from when the waves hit the rocks it was very calm and great for swimming. Which we did for a couple of hours. This was a good place for it, too. Besides the calm waters, the area nearest the shore was easy to navigate and offered some great sections of coral, but as you went farther out the water got deeper very slowly. It was fun to glide through the ocean and look down at a couple different layers of fish, the big boulders of coral and a few sandy sections that made it really easy to spot fish as they swam between you and the white sand below. In a particularly large sandy area someone had set concrete blocks on the bottom spelling out the word "ALOHA" and the coral had already started to grow on it. It sounds like a cheesy thing, but it was cool and surprising to see as we were swimming along.

After we finished snorkeling we headed north on the road and found some lunch at a roadside restaurant called Teshima's. It's been around forever and the food was very good. One thing I noticed right away was a bright Family Circus cartoon framed on the wall. When I asked if it was an original the waitress told me it was and that it was a gift from a regular who knows Bill Keane, so he'd commissioned it for the founder's 100th birthday which was earlier in the year. That was pretty cool to see.

Back on the road we stopped at a little shop with lots of curios and a bakery (called Coffees & Epicurea) where we picked up a handful of postcards which we didn't actually mail until we got home. There was a nice sitting area in back and when we went to check it out we saw a number of geckos running around. That was fun because they're apparently territorial, so you don't see many of them in the same place very often. We spent a couple of minutes finding others and admiring their bright colors. They're very pretty with bright greens and blues and reds.

Then it was nap time, so we headed home so we could read and nap. When we were recovered from our hard day we decided to go see the movie Funny People, which we both enjoyed. Then it was time for ice cream, which meant heading down to the main drag, finding a parking spot and walking along the waterfront. That was a lot of fun because the ocean was really choppy with some pretty sizable swells that had just enough force to send intermittant showers of water over the retaining walls and onto the sidewalk and street. It wasn't dangerous, just surprising and exciting (especially when we first drove by and we were splashed by a well-timed wave).

With ice cream in our bellies and a short walk under our belts we drove home, did some more reading, and then fell asleep.

I hope that sounded like a nice, slow, relaxing day to you, because it definitely was.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Honeymoon, Part V

From hereon out our days started to get very similar. We'd found a few things we really enjoyed and sort of kept doing them day after day. You'll have to forgive us if the next couple of days get repetitive, but we were having a ball!

We were up earlier than usual because it was Friday and that meant we had a snorkeling trip planned; on a boat and everything! But first thing's first! We stopped at Buns in the Sun for a quick breakfast, which was excellent! Then we drove south on main highway until we found our exit. That was a bit nerve-wracking because we kept feeling like we were going to far and had somehow missed the turnoff, but we eventually found the exit, drove into a little cul-de-sac, decided that wasn't the right place, so we drove a bit farther and ended up in boat launch area that looked more likely. We parked the car, found the Sea Paradise charter office (and noticed the cul-de-sac we were in just on the other side of a small pocked of beach, so we would have been fine there). We checked in, didn't need to get any snorkeling gear from them because we'd brought our own, and then proceded to wait for a good 45 minutes because the captain of our boat apparently had car problems that morning. That was a little bothersome, but not too much because we had a good time watchign a group of kayakers get organized and into the water. We also watched another group of people leave for their outing.

Finally, our captain showed up and we walked down the pier, threw our shoes in a big storage bin (you know you're going to have a good day when you don't need shoes!), took a seat on the boat, and we were off. The boat was pretty large and the captain quickly pointed out that it could hold 42 people, but we'd apparently picked the right day to go because we only had 13 people. Awesome! So, it was nice and comfortable, with plenty of room to move about and spread out. It was a catamaran, so the front had two big netted sections to lay on. That was cool and Julia and I spent a few minutes up there watching the water go by underneath us -- and getting splashed a bit.

The trip to Kealakekua Bay took about an hour and when we arrived we saw a handful of people snorkeling near the beach and another boat or two that had disgorged their charges a bit farther out into the bay. Our captain found a spot away from everyone else and told us to hop in . . . reminding us it was illegal to pursue and sea turtles or dolphins we might see. He also told us that a pod of spinner dolphins (so named because when they leap out of the water they usually also spin around (not flip, but spin)) used this area to rest, so we might see some. This bay is also where the Captain Cook monument is located. It was built to honor Cook because he meant a lot to the Hawaiians (even though they eventually killed him), and the land the monument sits on still belongs to the British. Funky.

Anyway, we all hopped in with our little tubular floaty things and started swimming about. As opposed to the previous time we went snorkeling, we were in prime coral reef territory and the water was clear, so we could see perfectly. Here's the thing, we didn't see anything out of the ordinary or spectacular, but we loved it! It was beautiful and fun and interesting and refreshing and too damn cool. Julia and I both loved it. We swam together the whole time and made noises at each other through our snorkels and pointed to get the other person to see something or look in a different direction (and the sounds we made usually made us laugh because it wasn't really identifiable as words even though we were talking -- with the snorkels in our mouths). We saw many different types of bright yellow butterfly fish, blue damselfish that scintillated in the sunlight like a rainbow, moorish idols, banded angel fish, little bitty yellow tangs, aptly-named needlefish (usually in threes or fours for some reason), surprisingly large spotted pufferfish with black skin and white polka dots, spikey urchins of various sizes, a single giant green starfish with many, many arms, and a number of other things I don't know the names of.

It was great.

A big tourist boat pulled up near us, so the captain called us in and said we were going to move a bit so we could have a little privacy. Plus, he said, someone had mentioned there were some spinner dolphins spotted just down the coast from us, so we'd see if we could get closer. Just as he completed the thought someone pointed off the bow of the boat and said, "There they are." And sure enough we could see dorsal fins moving through the water roughly in our direction. The pod was split into a few different groups and the moved randomly and calmly most of the time, but every now and again one of the dolphins would jump out of the water and spin in the air as it continued its forward movement which brought is splashing back into the water a second later. We couldn't enter the water while they were so close, so we all watched them and pointed out where the groups were to each other. A couple of times a group was withing a few yards of the boat and we could clearly see the dolphins. There were even a couple of mothers with their babies. And if you like dolphins you can only imagine how cute a baby one is! They really were precious little things.

After a while they moved off and we found a new place to snorkel (all of us hoping the dolphins would come back and swim with us because it's fine if the dolphins come to us, but not if we go to the dolphins). The new place was in the same general area, so we saw pretty much the same things. We were a bit farther out to sea however, so if we swam even a little ways out we could watch the floor of the ocean quickly slant down and away from us and out of sight. That was pretty amazing. Like a giant pit or mouth opening up beneath us. Incredible.

A while later the captain called us back and said it was time to return, so we toweled off, got comfortable, and sat back for the ride home. On the way, the first mate (at least that's what I'll call him since he wasn't the captain and he was the only other person on the boat) told us the story of Captain Cook and why he was respected by the Hawaiians and why they ended up killing him. (Short story: Pick which bay you sail into and the time of year you do it carefully because you'll get very different receptions depending on which god is currently "in power.")

The trip in total took a good five or so hours including the time it took us to drive there and back, maybe even a bit more, so it was early afternoon when we returned. A few hours of swimming is tiring so we decided we were pretty much done for the day. We'd seen a sign for a theatre near the house, so we found that, wrote down a couple movies and movie times, then went home for a nice warm shower -- and to put aloe on Julia's back since it was burned pretty bad after a couple of days in the sun; today especially for some reason.

Once we were showered and aloe'd it was time for a nap! Like I said, swimming makes you tired.

When we woke up we decided to check out the new Target. Yes, Target. Mostly because I wanted to get a Hawaii shirt and I didn't care if it was from a little vendor or not. Plus, I thought some "aqua socks" or flip-flops would be really nice since the sand and rocks could be a bit rough on my delicate little feetsies. Good plan! Target was nice and cool -- and familiar, which is astonishingly comforting for some reason. Anyway, we walked in, felt at home and while I found my shoes and a shirt, Julia started looking through her clothes. Since this was a new Target (literally a week old), they had everything in stock and she found about a dozen items to try on. Anyway, at the end of our little trip, she'd picked out five (or so) outfits and I had my shirt, shoes, and some new sunglasses. It was fun. (Julia even had to send some of her old clothes home with me because they wouldn't fit in her bags once she put the new stuff in!)

We'd decided to see Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and we had a little time before that started, so we had sushi at a new restaurant (Genki Sushi, a branch of which is in Seattle somewhere apparently), and it was excellent. We really enjoyed it. Then we went to see the movie, which we also both really liked. Afterward we headed back up the mountain to read for a while and then sack out.

More soon!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Honeymoon, Part IV

Due to some uncomfortable sunburns we didn't sleep well, so we sort of slept in and lazed a bit. Julia felt a little sick, too, so we took it easy, read a tourist book about the island, ate a bit of cereal, and I finished reading my book (Five Hundred Years After by Steven Brust).

Once we were up and moving in earnest we had a late breakfast at and excellent little bakery/cafe called Buns in the Sun. It was perfect and I think we ate there every remaining morning. Near the bakery was a drug store, so we picked up some aloe skin gel to treat our burns. It felt cold, but goooood.

During the trips we'd made south of the city we'd seen an ethnobotanical garden and decided to check it out. We looked at their gift shop, walked around the garden on the paths (and marveled at the number of geckos there were), and saw a number of interesting native plants, but the bugs kept attacking Julia, so we cleared out quick.

Down the road a bit farther was a turnoff to the painted church we'd read about. It was built in 1899 by Father John Velghe and was his attempt to tell his Hawaiian parishoners the stories of the bible since most of them couldn't read. It was interesting, but what Julia and I liked more than the church were its grounds. They were covered in flowers -- most of which were huge and lovely. We took a number of pictures, some of which you can see in the Flickr badge to the right.

On the way back from the church we stopped for lunch at a place called the Coffee Shack. It looks like a real dive from the outside, but inside it's very nice and comfy, with a nice bakery and a great porch that looks out over the island as it descends down to the ocean. It was warm out, but the porch was cool and there was a wonderful breeze. The food was better than it had a right to be and we were amazed to learn the big tree behind us was an avocado tree. It had to be 80 feet high with avocados that must have hit with quite an impact when they fell. Really amazing.

Still continuing back to the homestead we decided to take a different route and see the home village of the friend of Julia's that recommended the place we were stayng to us. It's a little village called Holualoa and her parents were and are quite active in the art scene there -- so much so that the village is now known for its art galleries and is a well-known destination in the area. Our first stop was the Donkey Mill Art Center (co-founded by Julia's friend's parents) where we looked around, talked to a really nice worker about the center, and took some more pictures of some of the interesting pieces on the grounds. Up the road a bit we stopped at Julia's friend's parents art gallery Sudio 7, which had some great pieces. I can see why it's a well-known place.

A couple of miles down the road we were back to our place where we read (I started a new book, Perdido Street Station by China Mieville) and then napped until 7:00pm. Yikes.

We'd enjoyed dinner so much a couple of nights previously at La Cala that we went back, then sat on the bleachers at the volleyball court next door and watched a couple of games. Then it was time for some ice cream, the drive home, and sleep.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Honeymoon, Part III

Day three, Wednesday, we had breakfast down in Kailua at a place called Huggo's On the Rocks (you can see this place on the Travel Channel show called, "Bridget's Sexiest Beaches" in the episode about Hawaii. Sue me, after we returned I found the show and Netflix and enjoyed seeing she went to some of the places we'd gone.) Breakfast was a croissant sandwich for Julia and (my favorite) bagel and lox with capers. Over breakfast we decided to rent some snorkeling gear and then find a good beach to actually do some snorkeling since I'd never been and it'd been a long time for Julia.

Almost right next door to Huggo's was a small building that housed a smoothie shop and Snorkel Bob's Snorkel Shop. And how can you resist a name like that? So, we ducked in, looked around and waited for the clerk to help us. She grabbed some swim fins, body boards to make the swimming easier, masks with snorkels attached, and a small bottle of de-fogger for the masks. Then she asked us if we wanted to book a luau or a full-fledged snorkeling trip. Julia and I looked at each other, asked the prices and then bought both. So, we walked into this place planning to spend maybe $40 and instead spent about ten times that amount. That's salesmanship! Okay, actually, it was because we'd planned to do those things anyway and had no clue that Snorkel Bob's could supply all that fun. And the prices were actually pretty good from what we'd heard and seen around town. So, now we had a luau to attend later in the day and the snorkeling trip on Friday to look forward to.

The clerk also happened to mention that my facial hair will likely make the mask leak, so we hopped back in the convertible Mustang and made a trip back to the house so I could shave. I came out looking all soft and boyish. Julia claims to not have a preference -- although she doesn't like how spikey the hair gets sometimes.

Anyway, based on the clerk's recommendation we made a quick drive north of the city to Honokohau Beach. It was a very short walk from parking to the beach and we were surprised to see we basically had the beach to ourselves. The only other people in the area were two moms and their four little kids. We walked along the beach, which curved out toward the water a bit, set our things down on the beautiful salt-and-pepper sand, and then walked into the water to de-fog our maskes and put them on. Julia was standing about three feet to my left when she put her mask on, looked under water and came up screaming in surprise and pointing. I quickly finished putting my mask on and looked in the water and not a foot from me was a three-foot-diameter sea turtle that we must have interrupted either resting or hunting. He looked at us then turned and started swimming along the beach. I followed for a bit, just to get a good look at him, but I didn't want to bother him too much so I turned back to swim with Julia.

The rest of our snorkeling that day wasn't all that exciting. We saw some fish, including a puffer, some stripey fish, and some small white fish jump out of the water near us -- possibly because the turtle was hunting them. Julia also saw three squid quickly swimming from us, but I missed them. Knowing what I know now, we probalby weren't out far enough to see anything good, but it was a good first attempt and we had a great time. We were there for two or three hours and I didn't know it at the time, but I badly burned my back, so I was feeling a bit charred for the next couple of days.

Swimming always makes me tired in a really pleasant way and we hadn't had lunch yet, so I was dragging a little. We found lunch at the Kona Market, which is a large building with a collection of stands selling various touristy things and a comfortable little food court. The stalls didn't excite us, but the food was good -- especially the ice cream Julia had and the smoothie I had.

After lunch it was time to nap! But first I talked to the owner of the house and mentioned the hot water wasn't hot and she said she must not have turned on the heater, so she did and then we had hot water for the rest of our stay. Woohoo! So, anyway, we read and napped and then got dressed for the luau.

The luau was held at a hotel down on the main drag, so parking was easy, and we walked right in. They had an option whereby you could pay and extra $5 per person to get "preferred seating" which we did, so we had seats right up front, about eight feet from the stage. Considering the overall cost of the tickets and extra $5 was the right choice for such good seats and the chance to get our food first.

The "show" included calling everyone over to watch them pull the roast pig out of the ground where it had cooked in a pit heated by rocks, called an imu (eemu). Then we sat down again and while the staff pulled the pig apart and made it look presentable, the host told us about the history of the luau (literally "celebration") and about some of the foods we were going to eat. Things like lomi lomi, poi (not as bad as you've heard, but strictly speaking not good either), and the pua'a kālua (literally "pig cooked in an underground oven"), plus a few other things like salad, breads, and deserts. When enough time passed, they started calling tables to walk over to the buffet and get their food -- starting with our table!

After the food, which was enjoyable and quite filling, the sun had pretty much set behind the stage and the show started. Thoughout dinner the three-person band had been playing and now they continued, but the host went on stage to introduce the show which would feature a group of dancers who'd be performing various traditional dances from Hawaii and other Polynesian islands. They were all pretty impressive, but what Julia and I thought was most amazing (and really made the show) was that the dancers all seemed really into it. They were having a good time and it didn't feel like they were "just performing another show" which I would have totally understood since they do this show three times a week. Anyway, it was great. There was hula, and fiery swords, and a section where they brought up a bunch of guys from the audience to show them how to dance, and even a portion where they called all the newleweds up for the wedding dance. Julia and I were one of six or eight couples (I forget which) who were there for their honeymoon. Fun.

After about two or three hours the luau wrapped up and we went home to discover just how bad our sunburns were. Bad. So sleep was a little rough, but we pulled through.

More in the next post!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Honeymoon, Part II

Because of our shopping trip the night before we had cereal for breakfast and decided to spend the day checking out some of the attractions outside the immediate area, mostly because we were afraid we might not feel like spending much time in the car if we waited a couple of days. I still think that was a good decision.

So, we drove south. Along our route we saw a sign for South Point, the southernmost point in the United States. How could we resist!? So, we took a right and drove another ten miles through wind-blasted countryside with trees misshapen by the wind, horses huddled together against the wind and dust, and some giant windmills until we reached the rocky South Point. The area rests atop 30-40 foot cliffs and the first thing we noticed were the fisherman trying their luck at catching tuna. (At least that's what he said. Who really knows?) The second thing we noticed was a woman in her swimsuit working herself up to diving into the water. The height was definitely hair raising, but she walked up to the edge, pumped her arms a bit, took a few steps back, pumped her arms again, let out a little yell, pumped her arms, then finally jumped off. The few of us standing around were pretty impressed, but I have to admit that I was more impressed by the fact that she then climbed back up a rusty old ladder that had been jury-rigged to the side of the cliff. After that excitement we wandered around, looked at the brilliant blue-green ocean, and then jumped back in the car to continue on our way to Volcanoes National Park. (Follow these links to a Website with a number of nice pictures of the South Point area, including the black sand beach which I talk about a couple paragraphs from now.)

During the trip we had the chance to see some of the flora and fauna of the islands. I'm sure I'll post some pictures of the flowers, but we saw a number of animals, too. I've already mentioned the geckos, but we also saw mongooses which are very cute (apparently quite a blight since they're not native and have no predators, but are quite good predators themselves), wild turkeys, chickens and roosters, and even some endangered Hawaiian geese called nene (pronounced naynay) that like to hang out next to roads, so they unfortunately get hit a lot.

The other interesting thing we saw (during the whole trip) was the evidence of older and newer lava flows. I'm not talking about still-hot lava, but of fields of bare black rock sometimes peppered with plants, sometimes with absolutely nothing, and sometimes almost completely obscured by new growth. It was really fascinating to think the entire chain of islands is like that. We stopped at one place along the way that overlooked one of the big lava fields that stretched from way up and behind us all the way down to the water a couple of miles below. It was pretty amazing.

Continuing along the way we stopped at a black sand beach which had, uh, black sand. The sand was all lava rock that had been reduced to sand by the action of the waves. I was at a red sand beach in Turkey and we learned a couple days after seeing the black sand beach that there's a green sand beach near South Point, but we didn't make the trip. The black sand beach is well-known as a popular place for sea turtles to come and lay their eggs. I can't imagine how cool that would be to see. There were many signs up saying not to interfere with any turtles that might be on the beach or in the water, which was good to see.

We seemed to be in the car forever -- partially because we kept stopping places, but also because the road was twisty and turny much more than straight. Anyway, after all those stops, we made one more in a little village named Pahala where we had a nice lunch at the only diner in town, checked out "The I Love Jesus Store" (that's its name), and an ice cream sandwich from a little store, then we were back on the road. Oh, and somewhere along the way we drove past Jimmy Stewart's ranch, but we didn't learn that until much later.

Finally! we arrived at Volcanoes National Park and we checked out some maps of the area, the plants and animals of the area, history, and such at the "discovery center" where I also picked up a cool magnetic bookmark with a great image of an exploding lava bubble on it. There was a nice little art gallery nearby with some really great pieces of art and various crafts inside. It was clear that not enough people made their way over to the gallery, but it was definitely worth a look. After all of that we made our way over to a building that overlooks the volcano (called the Volcano Cafe, I believe) and looked out into the cauldron. It was a large expanse of black, craggy rocks that surrounded a smaller, but still quite large depression that was black and rocky and craggy and steaming. Yep, Mauna Loa is an active volcano. Or as they comfortingly put it "erupting" and has been "in eruption" for decades. Awesome! Let's stick around here!

So we did. There's a road that leads around the entire mouth and we followed that a little way (not even a mile) so we could tour a lava tube. A lava tube is a geological structure that used to carry lava, but slowly emptied and did so in a way that the walls are rounded, while the floor is relatively flat. The lava tube we made a circut through ranged from six to 18 feet in height and was at the bottom of a small section of rain forest that had grown on top of it, so there was water slowly leaking in. Again, it was definitely worth the walk and very interesting.

We'd seen enough, so we drove out of the park to find a nearby rainforest that was marked on the map. We found the correct road, turned down it and followed it. Let's just say the rainforest didn't really make itself obvious to us. Certainly there was an area with a lot of plants, but not much in the way of water or anything else to give it away as a rainforest. Regardless, we saw some interesting plants and eventually turned around and made our way back to Volcano Town (yes, seriously) to get some gas. Then we drove back to the Kailua/Kona area where we drove down the main drive of Kailua, Alii Drive, and stopped for dinner at La Cala, a very good Mexican place on the second floor of a building right on the water. After dinner we walked around town and on the beach where we saw a sea turtle in a tide pool. He was being tossed around a little bit by the waves, but he was very intent on ferreting out some food he'd found so it didn't seem to bother him. He came up for air a couple of times, but we mostly saw his butt sticking out of the shallow water, so we took some picture of that and called it a night. We were tired from the day of driving, so we went home and slept.

And once again, I guess I'll have to post another day of the honeymoon tomorrow. This was a particularly full day, so maybe I'll be able to get a couple of days done tomorrow.

Check back!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Honeymoon, Part I

The wedding was on Sunday, the 26th, and we were up early Monday morning to say good-bye to my mom and sisters, then hop in the car with Julia's dad so he could take us to the airport. He was also nice enough to then turn right around and pick up my mom and sisters and take them to the airport about an hour later.

Anyway, we boarded the plane, had a very nice flight that felt surprisingly short (it's about five hours) and landed in Hawaii on Oahu, I believe. After a short wait, we boarded another plane to Hawaii proper and were in the open-air airport within the hour. We were pretty surprised by the openness of the airport, but it really didn't have any walls (except for the three or four stores).

Julia'd signed us up to receive leis, so we were greeted by a nice woman who gave us the official Hawaii welcome and then placed leis around our necks. Cool.

We'd rented a car and when we were picking it up decided to upgrade from a normal ol' sedan to a convertible Mustang. It was an extra $100, but over the course of the week it definitely proved worthwhile. The island has some truly magnificent scenery and enjoying it with the sun down was fantastic. Actually, I think about ten minutes after with put the top down Julia said, "Oh, yeah, this was a good idea!" Once we had the car we tried to make our way to the house we'd rented. Unfortunately, despite all the preparations we'd made for the wedding, we hadn't even thought about the honeymoon, so we didn't have the address, maps, nothing. After a couple of quick phone calls to people who could access email we at least had the address. Unfortunately that didn't help much. We drove. And drove. And drove. And when we called the woman we were renting from she wasn't much help. Eventually we started paying attention to addresses and it was clear we were way past where we should be; like 20 miles or so. We were pretty tired and annoyed, but we eventually found the place.

What we'd rented was a guest house on a small coffee farm in the Kailua/Kona region (100% Kona coffee!). The house looks like this. As you can see, it's quite nice and very comfortable. The only drawbacks (which we learned over time) were that they hadn't turned on the hot water, so the first couple of showers were a bit chilly. And some geckos had found their way into the cottage. They were kind of cute, but we learned they sort of, um, pooped when they were walking on the walls and ceiling. Now, that's really not too bad since geckos are about the size of your longest finger and their poop looks like bid poop. But, y'know, that's not the most awesome thing to find on the floor, bed, or bookcase. Oh, and we couldn't use the pool. Initially that bothered us, but over the course of the week we found plenty of things to do, so we didn't even miss it.

Once we were settled in the house and had unpacked a bit we decided to head into town to get some dinner. The trip down the mountainside to Kailua took about 15 minutes and we made that trip many, many times over the course of our week. The town was very touristy, but on this first night all we cared about with dinner, which we had at a pub and brewery (where we saw our first gecko!). After dinner we stopped at a nearby grocery store to pick up some supplies for the house. We decided since we had a pretty standard kitchen we ought to take advantage of it by picking up some things to eat -- at least for breakfast. We didn't end up eating everything we bought, but it was definitely nice to have something to drink and snack on during our time there.

After our excursion we returned to the cottage, read our books, and crashed. We thought we were two hours ahead and we didn't figure out until about three days into the trip that we were actually three hours ahead. It wasn't unusual for us to crash at 9:00 or 10:00 in the evening and that made a lot more sense once we figured out that actually meant 12:00 or 1:00 at night.

Day two and most of the days to follow were much more action packed, but I'm going to head home now, so I'll have to type that up tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

New Pictures

I was hoping to start typing up a post about the honeymoon tonight, but I ended up having a good, long conversation with Julia instead.

I did, however, manage to put a few new photos from the wedding into Flickr, which you can access over to the right.


Sunday, August 09, 2009

So, I'm Married!

It's true! Julia and I celebrated out wedding on Sunday, July 26th on the Skansonia at the top of Lake Union. The ceremony started about 12:40 and was over by 1:00 -- just in time for us to get ready for guests who started arriving about 1:30.

Before I get too far, I should say the week before the wedding was very busy with last-minute appointments, cleaning, errands, and picking up friends and family from the airport. Wednesday afternoon my good friend Kerry and his fiance Amy arrived from Madison and Thursday just after noon I picked up my mom and my two sisters. Despite some nervousness on my sisters' parts about the flight and the ability of their children to survive without them for four days they generally seemed in good spirits.

Julia was an invited artist at the Renton Annual Art Show again this year, so we took my sisters to the opening night event on Thursday evening, but the rest of the weekend was a bit more freeform. We'd set aside Friday and Saturday to show them around town since they hadn't been before.

Friday we had breakfast with Mom, Jean and Julia, as well as Kerry and Amy at Lola, one of my and Julia's favorite breakfast places, then took them up in the Space Needle and I learned that my little sister Julie really doesn't like heights, but she was very brace and even walked 3/4ths of the way around the outside with some coaxing -- until our older sister Jean pointed out that the plexiglass only extended part of the way up and stuck her hand over the top. That was it for Julie.

I'll say this for the Space Needle: It may be a touristy and typical thing to do, but damn does it offer some spectacular views of the city. I think I enjoyed it more this second time than I had the first time.

After the Space Needle we all went to Pike Place Market, had some lunch at the Athenian and then spent a couple of hours shopping for fresh fruit and veggies for the rehersal dinner and the post-wedding reception gift opening. We also did a fair amount of shopping just for fun. That evening we had the wedding rehersal at Julia's parents' house, which went off without any problems.

Saturday we had plans to go to the aquarium, but that morphed into a plan to take a ferry out to one of the islands in the sound, but the ferry we wanted was sold out and the only other option would have taken far too long, so we decided to bag that and instead slowly wended our way through traffic over to Bellevue where we window shopped at Bellevue Square Mall which was actually quite fun.

The plan for that evening was to relax together and enjoy a night off before the wedding, so that's exactly what we did with a tasty pizza and some fans blowing to keep us cool.

Sunday was the day of the wedding. Kerry showed up to spend some time with me, taking pictures while I put on my tux and primped (as much as I'm capable of primping), then we hopped in the car and headed to the Skansonia. We left very early because we feared traffic was going to be as bad as the day before, but we made it there about a half hour early.

Once we were let on board at 11:30 we ran around, set up the music, guestbook, favors for the guests (a CD Julia and I made for the occasion and she created the covers for), Julia went upstairs to get changed into her dress (which I still hadn't seen and really didn't know much about), and we generally made things ready for the ceremony. At 12:40 everyone was seated, the music started, and Julia walked down the steps. She was lovely and I can't imagine a more perfect dress for her. (Check out the Flickr badge on the right for a couple of images from the wedding, including some good shots of her and the dress.)

The ceremony itself was short and sweet and afterward we had a quick bite to eat before the guests arrived -- which happened pretty quickly. The reception was short, only 1:30 until 4:30, but in that time we had a very nice luncheon served, toasts from friends and family (gaming friends will be happy to hear that Seth brought props and quoted both from comics and roleplaying games about love and marriage and what I may have learned from them), our first dance which was to "God Only Knows" by the Beach Boys, Julia's dance with her father to the song "My Girl", the cake cutting, and then a lot of socializing with friends, family, and new family! It was great and I think everyone had a good time.

I'm expecting a bunch more photos sometime this week and I'll post them once Julia and I have a chance to go through them. I'm excited to see them!

After the reception, Kerry, Amy, Julia, and I stopped for gas (see the photos) then went to Kubora Gardens in Seattle for a photo session. We wandered all over the gardens and found good spots for shots. I just spoke with Kerry earlier today and he said he has about 900 shots, about 500 of which he thinks are pretty good. Woot!

Once we were done with the photos at the park we went to Julia's parents' for a light dinner and gift opening. We were both pretty exhausted, so we were happy when we finally got to go home and relax, do some last-minute packing for Hawaii, and finally go to bed!

Monday morning we were up early and headed off to the airport for our honeymoon! More on that in the next post.