Category Archives: USA

Eclipse Trip – Baker City, Oregon

Eclipse Trip

The light is not like a sunset, but more, as Barry said, like lighting from a stadium.  It isn’t a warm glow, but cooler, eerie light.  The temperature also grows significantly cooler and both of us reach for jackets.  We look through our solar eclipse viewing glasses to see the moon slowing take an ever larger bite out of the sun.  We are standing across the dirt road, where we have parked in a line of cars, just outside of Baker City, Oregon.  This is within the Path of Totality. (TA-TA-TA!) We are in a very dry, sagebrush covered landscape, with craggy hills and a clear blue sky.  
Shadows are elongated and the moon nearly covers the sun to make a crescent, then a small sliver.  Next a shout comes up from our group of strangers-viewers!  The eclipse!  Barry takes a short video of the hills surrounding us, it is a 360° sunset and the sky has changed to a dark, dark blue.  We are able to take off our glasses to view the sun without them. There is a very bright red section of the ring around the moon and I try to pull my eyes away from the eclipse to look at the stars in the sky, here at 10:20AM.  I study the bright silver ring of the eclipse and the realization that this is real, not a film, makes me smile.  Quickly, Barry and I take a selfie and hope that something turns out from photos.  
So, so quickly, the sun returns.  Just a sliver opens up and the whole world is illuminated again.  Too short, too quick, it can’t be over!  
Later that day, Heather texts us:  “Good eclipse?  Worth the trek?”  I respond:  “Yes – No”.  Now that I have time to reflect upon the experience, I am very glad that we went to see it.  It was really a trek, though. 
I started planning this a couple on months ago when I looked into flights all along the Path of Totality (TA-TA-TA!) and also at hotel rooms.  Many hotels were already full and there were few flights.  Some hotels that still had vacancies were gouging people outrageously  for the eclipse viewing date.  We really weren’t up for a long drive, and had read that lots of traffic jams were expected, so we gave up on the idea.  Then, I saw an article just a couple of weeks ago that listed college dorms that were renting rooms.  
My first choice, Western Oregon University was filled, but I completed in an interest form for Easter Oregon University and heard back from them a few days later.  They had a package available. For three nights we could rent a dorm suite for $500.  I rechecked flights and drive times and we decided to do the 10.5 hour drive to La Grande, Oregon.  We planned to stop at 8.5 hours in Boise, Idaho for the night, check out Boise, then drive up to the dorm.  
We set off as planned, but got off on the wrong highway.  This added two hours to our first day’s drive.  It was about 10PM for us, 9PM Boise time, when we looked for a place for dinner. Boise’s population is 223,000, to compare Sacramento has 495,000 and San Diego has 1.4 million residents. Boise is,  by far, the largest city for miles around in this area of the county, but it isn’t a large city.  I was very curious to see what we would find in Boise.  I had never been there. 
After that long drive, I was cheered by $4.50 glass of Lagunitas IPA, a Northern California,  lovely beer,  at a Mexican place near the hotel. (We were at the Lagunitas Brewery just a couple of weeks ago and the beer there was $8, I think. FUNNY!)  However, when my “salad” arrived it was only shredded lettuce, that was it, shredded lettuce was a salad. This was not the house speciality, I suppose.  
Revived the next morning, we strolled through a unexpectedly large craft and farmer’s market in downtown.  The vibe was sort of hipster meets cowboy.  Truly, everyone we have met here is very friendly and it’s a nice people place to be.  Lots of fun to see local crafts and foods.  The downtown is mostly well maintained and handsome, with some old buildings and some monumental, modern ones around them.  It reminds me of Salt Lake City.
The Idaho Botanical Gardens are supposed to be interesting, so we made a stop.  It is advertised as a  local feature.  It was “Bug Day” and they had lots of fun activities and exhibits for kids.  Happy kids run around the gardens with small butterfly nets, capture insects and line up to show them to an entomologist. Craft tables are everywhere as kids wield scissors and glue sticks in the celebration of insects.  There are native gardens, which to my untrained eye look lots like the desert that we’ve been driving through for hours and hours.  It’s not a major destination, such as the gardens in British Columbia (Butchart), Portland, Denver, or even Phoenix,  but a pleasant diversion. 
Barry and I listen to NPR as an optometrist/ umbraphile (one who loves eclipses) is interviewed.  He says that seeing an eclipse is like falling in love, and that everyone should have the chance to, at least once in their lives, fall in love and to see a total solar eclipse.  Since, I am still gloriously in love with my sweetie, 42 years now,  the bar is pretty damned high for this eclipse.
On the road North, I see a sign:  “45 PARALLEL, HALF WAY BETWEEN EQUATOR AND NORTH POLE”.  The teacher part of me smiles – very, very cool.  
We stopped in Baker City.  This is the town where we will view the eclipse, it is within the Path of Totality (TA-TA-TA!).  It’s a cute little town, we stopped in all the shops that we could find, had lunch and sampled at a vodka distillery.  We thought that this was a good indicator that, perhaps, La Grande was even nicer.  We thought that a university town might me more artsy or something? 
A couple of hours later, we checked into our dorm suite.  Nice and clean, the suite had 3 bedrooms that each had a single bed on stilts, a living room, a kitchenette, bathroom and storage room.  They supplied sheets, toilet paper and two paper cups. Well, not the Four Seasons.  Barry moved the mattresses into the living room, so that we could be together.  We reminisced about the times when Barry visited me in my dorm at UCSB, moving mattresses and ..ah good times.  We hung up the towels that we brought from home, unpacked our cooler….  So, what’s there to do in La Grande, Oregon?  Well, NOTHING!   
The University did have the dining commons opened for visitors, but we weren’t invited to use any other facilities such as the fitness center or tennis courts.  I had read about hiking in the area, but we nixed the idea of desert hiking.  
Went to see a movie, read, walked on campus.
Tick off the box next to “View Solar Eclipse” on our bucket lists, and we just couldn’t face another day in the dorms, though it was paid for and the dining commons might have meatloaf tonight.  We decided to cut our trip short a day and book a hotel in Reno.  We will take our chances on what some said would be apocalyptic traffic.  
What we hoped would be a straight 8.5 hour shot to Reno turned into hours more.  There was traffic, but not eclipse traffic so much as a bridge out that wasn’t on google maps, and we were rerouted all over, then repaving in Nevada.  Ahwg!  
We stayed in Mount Whitney Hotel, a fun non-smoking, quirky place.  It has a climbing wall built onto the outside of its multilevel building!  The interiors are fun and unusual.  (If you have to go to Reno, I would recommend this place.  But, I wouldn’t recommend going to Reno to begin with.)  No one was climbing on the wall when we were there, but it looks really, really cool and frightening too.    
Interestingly, we were across the street from Harrah’s, which looks pretty dumpy.  Barry wants to see the Harrah’s car museum and we go into Harrah’s to find it.  The museum is actually a couple of blocks away, but I have time to take in the cigarette smoke and loud gambling machines and lots of incredibly sad looking people.  
Barry loves the car museum, and I am NOT bored out of my mind, so a win/win.  He wishes he had Jon with him so that they could have car talk.  
Today, finally home, I’m really glad that we went.  It really was a quite a trek, but it could have been worse.  I read that Trump is going to speak in Reno this morning. If we had stayed in the dorms and not come a day early to Reno, ugh, we would have been in the same city with him.  
 Thank you, Universe for the eclipse, it was stunning!

So, we spent the day in BROOKLYN

imageAugust 3,  2016

Just didn’t know much about Brooklyn, so we thought on this trip, we’d learn a little more about it.  We actually started  in small coffee shop in Greenwich Village. It was just a few doors down from a place that Taylor Swift is renting for $40,000 a month. I guess she was in town but we did not see her.    It’s a beautiful area, but still hard to understand how these charming, but somewhat modest homes the cost millions and millions of dollars. Just the cost of living in the big city, I guess?  We learned that the area around Washington Square Park is quite ritzy, that on the Upper East Side Katz Deli’s sign says Katz Deli and That’s All because that’s how what the owner told the sign maker to put on his sign (get it?). The area in Williamsburg has a large Hasidic Jewish population. Our guide is Jewish and has relatives who have 10+ kids from arranged marriages.  Other parts of Williamsburg are becoming quite hipster. There is an area of NYC that I’d never heard of, DUMBO, that’s district under metro bridge overpass.  The  bridges in NYC are BMW:   Brooklyn, Metro,  Washinton.

Next time  I’m in NYC I want to see High Line Park and the Whitney museum


We drove toward Brooklyn with a small tour group and learned more about the movement of immigrants into New York, specifically into Brooklyn.  These immigrants changed the USA, each group brought their customs, religions,  their foods. They struggled with prejudices against them, tried to make a living in a new country. I have to admire them for the struggle that it had to have been.  I know that being of 100% European descent, DNA verified, all of my people came over the pond.

It makes me think of all the immigrants in the USA arriving during my lifetime, the frustration that I have had sometimes faced when trying to address immigrant children’s educational needs, or just becoming accustomed to the foreign languages in my own city. It is sometimes unsettling to deal with the changes immigrants are making today.  However, my “better self” feels that our county, which I do love so dearly, has always welcomed the world in and must continue to do so.

Sooo, we enjoyed the gifts they brought to our country’s potluck :  Cubano sandwiches, French chocolates, Polish pierogi, Jewish kinish, Italian cannoli- what a grand day! Thankfully lots of walking!

Lynchburg ‘un Other Southern Stuff

January 17-18, 2016

Lynchburg,Tennessee is even more rural than I’d thought it would be.  We drove down miles of residential country roads to arrive there.  With a population of 300 and something, it’s smaller than I thought too, even with the entire Jack Daniel’s Distillery as the major employer in the area.  We arrived for the last tour of the day and enjoyed hearing about the history of the company and the methodology of production.  There is a tasting tour, but as the tour guide said, they give you just enough to piss you off.  It’s not enough to enjoy it.  SOOO, we had to purchase a bottle.  Interestingly, Lynchburg is in a dry county, there is no alcohol for sale there in restaurants or stores.  HOWEVER, if you purchase a bottle (and this was on a Sunday too!) in the Jack Daniel’s gift shop, it is a commemorative bottle and exempt from the restriction.  Tricky, huh?  I wonder how much a politician was paid off for that little bit of extra consideration.

We rented a very cute guest house just down the street from the distillery and the town square.  As I mentioned, we arrived on a Sunday, took the tour and then went out looking for some dinner.  None of the little restaurants in town were opened, except for a Subway and a Chinese place and it was too cold to walk around anyway.  Using google maps, I found a place that had pretty good reviews, showed that it was opened and was only 22 minutes away.  Though it was ghastly dark and cold outside, we were adventurous (and hungry) enough to find this gem.  However, once we got onto the one lane road, winding around a small mountain, with a river below us and no place to turn around, I was losing enthusiasm.  I didn’t have time to get into full panic mode because we arrived at the place to find that it was closed for the season (thanks google maps).  We went back to our cottage to snack on crackers, fruit and nuts that we still had from Nashville.

We were able to try local cuisine the next day.  For breakfast we went to the Iron Skillet.  There were a table full of caricatures of “good ole boys” at one table.  They were friendly, but seemed to smirk at us walking in as much as we grinned at surprize at them.  The menu included biscuits, gravy, and country ham along with standard fare.  I just had some eggs, but Barry tried the salty county ham.  All in all,  It was cheap and tasty and entertaining.  IMG_3634


We shopped a little in the little, little town, then said adieu to our traveling partners, the Flemings.  Barry and I spent some kicking back and reading Gardens and Guns and Southern Living magazines in the cottage, then we walked down to Miss Mary Bobo’s Boarding House Restaurant.    





Miss Mary Bobo opened this historic home to guests, beginning in 1908.  It is known for its traditional Southern cuisine, hosted family style with a hostess at each table.  They only seat you if you’ve made reservations by phone and on a cold Monday afternoon, the place was filled!  I thought it was charming.  The food was all I had hoped.  Barry and I agreed to sample, not eat.  Still taking just taking small portions from the plates that were passed and then just nibbling at those, we were full by the end of the meal.  

Miss Mary Bobo's Guest House
Miss Mary Bobo’s Guest House

The menu of the day consisted of:  sweet tea, country fried chicken, meatloaf, mashed potatoes, hot stuff relish (peppers and tomatoes), spiked applesauce (with Jack Daniel’s),  fresh green beans with ham, macaroni and cheese (listed as a vegetable in a few other restaurants that went to in Tennessee, teehee!), yeast rolls, wonderful fried okra …. and for dessert….heavenly fudge pie, oh my!  Yikes, it was all delicious and served in such lovely surroundings, and a local lady told us the history of the house, the family, its lodgers and its connection to Jack Daniel. I didn’t want to, but I had to buy their cookbook!

 Part of the fun of this trip was the Southern food, so forboden to our usual mostly healthy diet, but you have to sin sometimes…fairly often, right?

Folk School, Home in my Heart

JCCFSJanuary 15, 16, 17, 2016

John C. Campbell Folk School has been on my bucket list for a few years. In the mystical mountains of North Carolina, it was established in 1925 to teach young adults the skills they needed to live well in Appalachia:  cooking, welding, basket making, soap making, quilting, music, etc.  The earliest founders stated that finding joy and harmony in community was part of their goal. Today it is a haven for grown ups who want to live in an artists’ commune, even if only for a few days.  It is home in my heart.  

We arrived late on Friday afternoon, got settled in or comfortable yet modest room, then got to work. Barry and our buddy Dan signed up for woodturning, friend Nancy for weaving and I took a jewelry class. That first class ran from after dinner to about 9pm. All of us got a good start on our respective projects.

John C Campbell Folk School
John C Campbell Folk School

The next day we got more of a feel of community vibe.  Yesterday, at check in we were told there are no room keys, though you can lock the door from the inside at night, “it’s all about community”. Saturday began with Morning Sing in the Community Room over a cup of hot coffee and the gradual peeling off of layers of down and fleece. We layered clothing for our frosty walk from our room in Davidson Hall to Keith Hall Community Room. Singing folk, and originally hymns, in the morning has always been the tradition here. They ring a dinner bell, and the hundred plus of we students and our instructors convene inthe dining hall to take our places behind large tables for the blessing.  

last breakfast together

A country breakfast of biscuits, gravy, sausage, eggs and more fueled us up for the morning’s classes. (We were some of the very few “yankees” and couldn’t help chucking about all the delicious, but pretty heavy meals.) The weekend classes are more intense than the weeklong classes, I am told. Therefore we missed the evening folk dance because three of our little party were still in their studios until around ten o’clock PM.

I took a class on clay silver jewelry, something that I knew NOTHING about. (This is how you keep the little grey cells healthy, n’est pas?) My excellent instructor, Pam East,

Denise Hogan and instructor, Pam East

managed our class of nine students. Every damned part of the process was a huge surprise to me. The silver clay IS silver with a bonding agent that looks and feels just like modeling clay, but much more expensive. But, I am getting ahead in the process. We beginners started with copyright free patterns and designs on transparencies to save the time of drawing our own. The more experienced artists had prepared some work of their own. These are transferred to photo polymer metal plates PPP, via a UV lamp. (No, don’t think the early Appalachian farmers did this particular craft.) These are then developed in a solution and cleaned to use as “stamps” for making designs on the silver clay.

silver clayI was able to make a pendant and three pairs of earrings with just some of the plates that I made. These clay “things” go into a dehydrator to dry. At this point they are very fragile and if dropped would shatter. Then they go into a kiln for only ten minutes. This is the magical part, they come out still white like clay, but if you bounce them on a countertop they ping like the silver they are. After a wire brushing and a ride in an electric tumbler with stainless steel buckshot, they are gloriously shiny. Oh my god, I made this??!

My silver jewerly!

The final step is apply patina, another processing and buffing and burnishing and we are done.

As I was working I got to chat to the folks with at my table: a practicing pediatrician, a retired orthodontist, a retired CPA who went back to school after retirement to become an RN and volunteers nearly full time to help the poor and her daughter, a chemical engineer. This wasn’t the group of people whom I originally expected to meet here, but I guess ….they really were!  Folks who live to learn and hunger for diverse life experiences.  All of this takes place on a 300 acre rural mountain farm. The rustic old buildings, meadows, rivers, hills and forests and quirky art installations just wrap around you like grandma’s quilt. So blessed to celebrate life in this joyful place.

The final morning we all had a “happy clappy”, as my new pediatrician friend calls it. Work displayed, dulcimer performances presented, certificates distributed, applauds and goodbyes delivered. I am planning our next trip back!

ER Not on Itinerary!

ER Nashville It was a pleasant day until we had to call 911. Well, except that Mr. Fleming’s battery died, perhaps that was a harbinger of what was to come.

We drove out to Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage. Learning more about our seventh president’s life and during his  prosperous 1,200 acre cotton plantation.  The Hermitage was built by Andrew Jackson and his family kept it until  1895 when a foundation bought it.  Thus, the current museum is full of original decor. It was interesting to see the chairs that he sat in, the bed that he died in, the lands that supported him, even many rooms of original wallpaper.

On the recommendation of some ladies we met at the concert the night before and good reviews on trip advisor, we visited Opryland Resort.  It is a behemoth of a complex with hotel facilities and conference Center, restaurants, a river cruise all contained under one roof. It was an impressive structure though other than hugeness, not especially  unique or interesting. Ya know if you’ve been to Disneyland, you’ve seen this stuff times 1,000 over. We decided not to take the little river cruise since we are all veterans of The  Jungle Cruise. Teehee

When we got back to our VRBO condo Nancy and I went for coffee, Dan left to have a new battery installed in his car, and Barry  (alone in the condo) had  what we were afraid was a heart attack. The poor guy had a intense pressure in his upper stomach and found it very hard to breathe.  He called me and I entered that totally suspended animation and sort of focused panic zone that I entered a few months ago when he had heart valve surgery.

I plunged toward the condo, calling 911, yelled to the concierge and handy man that my husband could be having a heart attack upstairs and we needed help. They could not have been more responsive, and kind in helping the rescuers get up to the 22nd floor! Giant paramedics took us to Centennial Hospital with EKG hooked up at all times. Quickly blood tests showed that his heart appeared to be in good shape, but they wanted to keep him for 24 observation. More blood tests, X-rays, heart monitoring ensued.

After a few hours we were moved into a temporary ward. The hospital was greatly impacted and shortly after our arrival emergency patients were diverted to other hospitals.   So there we stayed for a hell of a long night with only thin drapes between beds, we learned intimate details about the health of our neighbors.  (That’s a long story!) I got a straight backed chair for the night. The staff of nurses truly were angels of mercy though they drew blood and took blood pressure from Barry in what seemed to be every few minutes.

Thank Goddess, no evidence of any threat to his health, he was released.

imageMeanwhile the Fleming’s were able to take the Nash trash tour that we were SOOO  looking forward to. It is on our bucket list now to return just for this tour (look it up on YouTube!)  The Fleming’s said their sides hurt from laughing at the irreverent, filthy, joking on this tour. You know we must go!

Nashville, Surprised I Love It

I really pondered whether we should come to Nashville. I mean country music, heavy food, cowboy boots aren’t so much my “thang”. Whoa, couldn’t be more wrong, this place is great!

We started at the County Music Hall of fame, and I ENJOYED it! Firstly, it is a stunning, new building and the exhibits are state of the art and quite flashy. The history of country music is presented in a very interesting way, it’s link from Europe and movement to USA hill country.  The very folksy, frumpy costumes from long ago performers are displayed not too far from a  gorgeous Taylor Swift outfit. There were exhibits where I learned about the strong links between country, folk and rock. Did YOU know that Bob Dylan recorded here, and with Johnny Cash? Music playing everywhere!  This isn’t to be missed.

Honky Tonk Row
Honky Tonk Row

The District is an area of honky tonks, BBQ joints and boot shops. I thought it would be  junky, but it was clean and damned fun. Here it is, midday, midweek,  during winter, and live music is beating out from doorway after doorway. It’s good music to my ears, twang-free and professional! We slipped into one and I could easily see the great appeal in drinking beer, eating BBQ, listening to music as a primary vacation activity.

That evening we went to hear Emily West. She was in one of those competitive singing tv shows. After seeing her on YouTube, we thought we’d see her show. Really, really enjoyed her, beautiful music and a raunchy, flirtatious sense of humor.

Living like a Vanderbilt, Biltmore Estate

Longtime friends at Biltmore Estate, Asheville NC
Longtime friends at Biltmore Estate, Asheville NC

Our great buddies, the Flemings,  joined us today in visiting the Biltmore Estate, the largest private home in the United States. Located in Asheville, North Carolina on 8,000 acres,  a  is a Château styled mansion built by George W. Vanderbilt II between 1889 and 1895.

Good to be rich
Good to be rich

The main house is 178,926 square feet of floor space (135,280 square feet of living space)!

This American palace is a monument to the tycoon family’s riches, but also to the taste and artistic sensibilities of George Vanderbilt. This jewel is set into one of the most beautiful areas in the world, the mountains of North Carolina.  Still owned by one of Vanderbilt’s descendants, it is an American palace of the Gilded Age that rivals anything I’ve seen in Europe. (And certainly grander and more tasteful than my home state’s Hearst’s Castle). Photography isn’t allowed at the Biltmore estate, so if you haven’t seen it, please google it to see the home I would build, if I had unlimited funds. 😀

Bilmore Estate


Eating Asheville

Artists’ Galleries inside old Woolworth’s building, they even kept a lunch counter.

Eating Asheville is a very appropriately named food tour in a city that has a wealth of innovative and  arrived restaurants. Barry and I had a wonderful afternoon walking downtown Asheville with a food guide in a group of about 17 other foodies enjoying a sampling of Asheville restaurants, hearing from local chefs and learning some of the local history. In all, we made eight stops,the highlights for us were:

  1. Battery Park Book Exchange and Champagne Bar – Well, yes, the name says it all. This is a really large, almost elegant place in an historic building that is a bookstore with tons of comfy seating amid thousands of books and they serve wine, small plates, desserts. Just the best.
  2. Rhubarb – southern food with innovative approaches, really fun place.
  3. Cucina24 – modern take on italian food – very unique mix of local and classic Italian.

What a fun, though fattening,  way to enjoy a city! “Where Werid is Normal”

Asheville via Atlanta


Crab fritter, Atlanta
Crab fritter, Atlanta

Arriving to Atlanta we forgot what a behemoth airport it is! After navigating out of the airport to rental car counter (where we were talked into more car and features than we probably need), we finally got to hotel 8 minutes after 11pm. The restaurant closed at 11pm, so we were back in the car to try and find something to eat. The parking lot was filled on a Thursday night at 11:30pm at Malone’s Steak and Seafood. The food must be good, right? Oh yeah, the Cajun chicken gumbo with andouille sausage with a jailhouse breakout stout was just amazing. A bite of a crab fritter and I know I am back in the South enjoying guilty pleasures.

We hit the road toward Asheville, North Carolina. Passing Waffle Houses, stands selling boiled peanuts, BBQ places with name such as “Fat Buddies BBQ” and “Piggies”, we drove up to higher elevations where the dense forests have been bared by autumn to just the bones of trunks and branches. The silver sky and misty mountains along the Blue Ridge Parkway make me imagine years past in this beautiful place. Native Indian, Scottish, Irish names identify roads, ridges and streams. Tell me the stories of the people who made this place their home.

Clayton is a little town where we stopped for a break. It was very charming and we strolled through home decor and antique shops and a wonderful primitive art gallery.

At last in Asheville, we yelped to find Wedge Brewing Company, a popular brewery in the exciting river art district. What a fun, funky and friendly place.Wedge Brewing Asheville, NC The guy  next to me at the patio bar told me , with such the cute southern accent, that Asheville has changed lots since Barry and I visited there about eight years ago.  The Asheville cliche is a guy with a Subaru wagon, a dog and who works at home. He said if you come to Asheville you need to bring your own job, a trust fund or you will be serving beer. The up and coming vibe that Barry and I sensed a few years ago isn’t really here, Asheville is now an established tourist destination with more trendy restaurants and art than we saw before. My beer buddy told me that lots of boomers (Hey. That’d be me!) see how lovely a place Asheville  is, how nice a home they can get, and they purchase homes here,  pushing out the locals.  It does seem less southern funky and is more sophisticated, but more crowded. Ah, word has gotten out, Asheville is an awesomely gorgeous place and I hope the artsy types who made it so cool can afford to stay here.

Meet you at the Lagoon Pool, I’ll be drinking a lava flow.

See the video

When we were planning this trip, we thought long and hard about what type of family vacation that we wanted in Hawaii:   resort or laid back authentic old Hawaii experience.  We decided to spend most of our time in Hilo, opting for the authentic Hawaiian experience.  In one review that I read about Hilo, the reviewer said that it’s a great place to buy tires, but not a vacation destination.  I wouldn’t say that, exactly.  The charm of the place is that it seems to be more “real”?  Yes, there were tire shops and a Walmart (which we never saw).  However,  when we were at the beach and lagoon across the street from the house that we rented, our pale haole (or howlie) white faces were the minority and the local KTA grocery store was fascinating mix of items that we were familiar with and many Hawaiian/Asian things that we hadn’t tried cooking with.  The restaurants were a little funky and the shops were fun, not at all the high end resort shops that you would see many tourist towns.

That being said, there’s a hell of a lot to enjoy while staying in a resort (Which I actually believe is my natural habitat, along with a cruise ship – just feels so right, you know?).  SO, we shook it up a little and made the two hour drive across the island to sample the Kona Coast for a couple of days.  We swam in the huge, huge pools, went down the twisting slides, snorkeled in their Disneyish lagoon, drank over-sweet and over-priced hokey cocktails and took in a touristy luau.  It was divine.  It turns out there were nearly as many Japanese tourists here as USA mainlanders.  (They aren’t haoles, are they?  Do they have another name in Hawaiian?) The grounds were just goooooooorgeous and the hotel was beautiful.  I have to say it was a great break from doing dishes at the rental house.  The breakfast buffet was nice, but not as good as Ken’s in Hilo. (which I will enjoy writing about in my next entry).

The grand-darlings were in the water nearly every minute we were there.  Seeing them enjoy it so much was worth the price of admission.  It did look like our newly engaged son and future daughter-in-law, along with our daughter and son-in-law (aka Mommy and Daddy) were having lots of fun too.  Happy, happy, happy….thankful, thankful, thankful…

Hawaii Island, or “The Big Island”, is called the big island because you could fit all the other islands onto it and still have room left over. The drive from the tropical rain forests of the Eastern Hilo side, over the “saddle road” or Daniel Inouye Hwy. was about two hours long before we arrived at the sunny Kailua-Kona, western side of the island.  Along that route we went across moonlike volcanic landscapes, through large cattle ranches and quirky looking little towns.  This highway was improved fairly recently and was an interesting drive.  Previous to the improvements, rental car companies refused to allow their cars to be driven on this road, customers had to sign to that in the rental agreement.  After our stay in Kona, we drove along the north of the island on the Hawaii Belt Road and enjoyed amazing ocean views with lush rain forests.  I was so surprised at the contrasts on this island.

A new friend