Wyoming Adventure Day 1

Ready to launch
We woke up around 4:30am, finished cramming the last few bags in to the van, loaded up the cooler with dry ice, and fumbled around with the canoe and its parts until we were ready to hit the road. Only an hour late. 7am isn’t a bad start though, and we started the license plate game with a New Hampshire plate shortly after we left. The drive was gorgeous at that time in the morning, and we made it as far as Pendleton before needing to refuel and use the bathroom. We stopped at a Sinclair station, the green dinosaur logo, an old memory. We were able to climb the Blue Mountains with no problems, and I was relieved once we cleared the summit.

And we're off!

The view of the Elkhorns and the Wallowas was stunning, but the van was getting warm (it was already 92F), and we were behind schedule, so we had to scrap our plans for lunch in Boise and stopped in Baker City. We tried a few places and eventually ended up at a place called the Brick Yard, which was kind of like a sports bar and a Hard Rock Cafe. The food was decent, but the service slow, and given our missteps with other restaurants, the stop ended up being 90 minutes.

Wyoming Adventure
Ella at the brick yard

After lunch, we ventured further east, hitting the last bump of mountains before reaching the Snake River and Idaho. We would follow the Snake all the way to it’s source over the next couple days, so it was fun to share that with the girls. I even told them that if they peed in the Snake River near Jackson, it would eventually end up flowing by our home on the Columbia River on its way to the Pacific Ocean. The pee part made them snicker, but they also paid attention to it.

The speed limit in Idaho is 80MPH, which was a surprise because I was now suddenly even more annoying to other drivers. I increased my speed to between 65 and 70MPH, and we made it to Boise by 3pm. We stopped at Camping World to pick up a tablecloth for Kathy, and then explored Sierra Trading Post, where we each walked away with some great finds. The girls, some slip-on shoes (that they wore the rest of the trip), Michelle some skorts, and I got some cheap fly fishing gear, including some stupidly cheap leader and tippet.

The last stretch of the drive was somewhat windy, but the girls watched Dumb & Dumber (Michelle and I enjoying just the audio), dancing back and forth over the Snake River, and we rolled in to Burley around 8pm after a long day of driving. We grabbed dinner at Chadwick’s Grill and Asylum for a mediocre dinner that was surprisingly good after the long drive. We stayed at the Best Western, which was one of the most pleasant hotel experiences we’ve had. The pool and facilities were great, and we splashed and played for the last hour of open pool time with a lot of other happy travelers. The water felt exquisite after the long drive, and cooled us off. We watched a little bit of The Terminal before collapsing. 12 hours of travel down.
Troopers at Chadwicks

Maui 2014, days 5 & 6

Monday morning, the girls and I watched Bravest Warriors while Michelle was out for a long run. Hell, vacation is like one long Saturday, so why not watch some cartoons? We snacked on dry cereal, coffee, and milk & honey (the obviousness isn’t lost on us) and eventually finished off the leftover Chinese food (fried rice is the breakfast of champions). When Michelle returned, we went down to the shore to watch the eight or more turtles awkwardly trying to get themselves off the reef. The baby turtles are absolutely adorable.

So, we got a little later of a start, but we headed over to Keiki beach in the late morning sun. After setting up camp, the girls and Michelle tried snorkeling for a bit and I slipped away to try the Mala Ramp/Wharf again. This time I entered from the actual boat launch since it was empty. The launch is very easy compared to the reef, and I found a bunch of golf balls among the junk on the bottom. The visibility was poor initially, but once I rounded the corner, the visibility improved. All along, the reef and life among the rocks and poles was already pretty good. But when I started towards the derelict pier, the visibility improved and the reef teemed with life. The reef itself, growing on the collapsed hulking masses of decking, was spectacular. The variety of reef rivals anywhere I’ve seen on the island, and the odd structures created by the collapsed piers makes for a truly interesting experience.

I swam slowly out towards the terminus of the wharf, which is marked by a pole with a diamond sign (as indicated by the dude in the dive shop) and saw lots of fish – much bigger than in the places I’ve been on the trip so far, and in much bigger schools as well. There were some schools of Trevally (which look delicious) that easily surpassed 500 fish. As is somewhat common, turtles were also active, though not as easily spooked as in other places. Some of the younger turtles (adorable), were not nearly cautious enough of a dork in a white shirt who kept rinsing goggles and snorting air out of his leaking snorkel. I eventually arrived at the pole inidcating the start of the (former) wharf. The depths was too great for me to really do much since my cold was causing problems with equalization. Still, I tried a few dives, marvelled at the schools of goat fish, tickled a few urchins, and slowly worked my way back. I admit, I was bummed. Defeated even at not having seen a reef shark. The guy at the dive shop said he sees them almost 100% of the time. So as I worked my way back, I dove down to check out every overhang that looked like a good place to relax. Nothing. Though I did see some bastard divers go by with their “not having to surface for air” superiority. As I approached the bit of the still standing wharf, the visibility decreased quickly. The water was turbid and it made the snorkeling awkward and unpleasant. But as I crossed the reef back towards the launch, I came across a white tipped reef shark mellowing in a sandy patch between reefs. The excitement and trepidation coursed through my veins and I had to dive in for a closer look. The shark was a little over four feet long and just splendid in it’s movements. It didn’t care too much for my awkward advancement and tried to move away, but I kept following. After a good ten to fifteen feet of chase, it bolted and I was left alone, exhilarated, and wanting to see another.

But, I need to be fair and return to my family, so I returned to the boat launch, head above the skuzzy water, and walked back to see the family. They were all sunning on the beach, warming after a long snorkel. I tried to whisper what I’d seen but my excitement prevented the message from quietly getting to only Michelle and the girls heard. I explained what I’d seen, and how I tried to follow the shark but it had bolted and didn’t want me following. This seemed to appease the girls and we played “find the golf ball” while Michelle soaked in the rays and her book. Later, we headed out to snorkel together, though not intentionally, when I signaled to the girls that I’d found a turtle. I also found a brittle star fish that I showed the girls, but it was too much like a spider for them to enjoy. Michelle and Ella were able to enjoy the turtle from a respectful distance while I worked with MG on her whole breathing, standing, talking while snorkeling thing. She’s doing pretty amazing for a five year old, but the mask fit is admittedly poor and she was struggling with draining it and staying afloat. I think we might have figured out the draining thing, but we’ll have to try again to see if that works. After some snacks, we headed back to the condo and swam for a while.

Later, we headed out to dinner at MaLo down the street. Amazingly, we got in without a reservation and were seated outside. We started with Mahi Mahi ceviche, which was amazing, and played some classic dinner games. Ella and Michelle had a more emotionally (and productive) game where “I am Happy” was the answer to the hangman game, while MG and I struggled with the few words she knows how to spell and the whole “order” of things. But she beat me at tic-tac-toe. Dinner itself was only so-so. Michelle’s pasta dish was decent, though she kept giving away the good bits of seafood to the girls, who had ordered noodles with red sauce. I got the stir fry instead of the whole fish, which I regret. It was above average for Lahaina, the service and view were great, but we finished the day with some excellent shave ice and ice cream before utterly crashing for the first solid night of sleep (for the kids) thus far.

Day 6

I woke up this morning to roosters crowing. Hard to ignore. The girls trickled out and we watched cartoons, had coffee and milk/honey, and lazed about until Michelle got up. She egged me on to go for a run, so I did. I ran upland a bit, running for a while on the old railroad tracks, then winding up through some business park loops. I was lost, but I managed to get a good view of Lahaina from up top before returning to sea level and breakfast.

The high surf warning officially ended this morning at 6am, but the wind was a little high still so we headed south to Kehei and Kamaole Beach III where we’d had such fun two years ago with the Eivas. There was still wind and surf which obliterated the visibility, but the girls had an absolute blast playing in the water. The waves were predictable, reasonable, and fun. Ella took to boogie boarding like a champ, and was in the water on her own for a good two or more hours. Maddie had limited luck with the boards, but was content to be out with her sister for long periods of time. Michelle and I lounged up-beach, tried snorkeling in the sand, and enjoyed our kids. I broke out one of the coconuts that the girls had harvested a few days back and opened it up with my knife – a laborious and blister-causing task, but the coconut and its water were delicious. Michelle, MG and I savored the liquid, then enjoyed large slivers of coconut. You could tell the other people on the beach were hella jealous. The knife alone wasn’t adequate to open the coconut, but we’d brought along a combo beer/wine bottle opener and I used the corkscrew to open up the nut to drain the liquid. So, future note to self stranded on a desert island – take a pocket knife with a corkscrew – or at least an awl.

We played in the surf as a family, built a giant “sand bath” with walls and towers, and dug a trench for water to fill the tub. And we might have had our fill of rays for the day. As we drove home, it became clear that we’d pinked up a little more than expected. Not burned, but close. Careful.

We finished the day with more Mahi Mahi and shrimp tacos that were devine. A recommendation for everyone out there – fall in love with someone who likes food as much as you do, but cooks even better than you do. We savored the grilled shrimp and Mahi Mahi as the sun set, watched a little bit of Babe and (ugh) the Voice, then everyone crashed hard. In fact, I need to go crash with them now.

Maui 2014 – days 3 & 4

By Saturday, we were starting to feel fully on vacation. However, the wind and clouds weren’t cooperating and the surf was pretty big. We had a nice, lazy morning while trying to see if the weather was going to shape up. It didn’t, so we headed in Lahaina town to check things out. We made the girls some soaps (that stain the bejezuz out of the tub), shopped for some new bikinis, and grabbed some lunch. Michelle has been training for a 1/2 marathon and is looking great, so she wanted to enjoy that with a bikini that fit better. Ella also got one (I thought I had a few more years), but she looks adorable. We had lunch at Cheeseburger in Paradise, which was actually pretty good – the burgers were better than at Maui Brewing – and the girls scarfed down their lunches. I, as I’ve done many times before, left my credit card in the little bill folder, but didn’t discover it until the next day.

After lunch, we suited up, picked up some flippers from Snorkel Bob’s and the dive shop next door (Hawaiian Rafting Adventures). We asked both places for suggestions of where to go with the girls when the swell was up. Both suggested agains Honeloa bay for now, one recommended Kapaalu, the other suggested further south. The guy at the dive shop also suggested Mala Ramp (more for the adults) because it has lots of life and maybe even some reef sharks. This piqued my interest because I’ve yet to see a shark, after well over a hundred trips in to the water and almost as many turtles (really, they’re just kind of a nuisance anymore). We decided the safest place (which both recommended) was to head back to Keiki beach got get the girls acquianted with their gear.

It was windy at Keiki, but that didn’t keep the crowds away. In fact, there was a raging family bbq just down the beach (it smelled wonderful) and the kids were having a blast in the water. The girls got on their fins and were loving the mobility. All four of us went out for a bit – the girls initially very clingy – but getting more comfortable as time passed. I was able to show the girls a snowflake eel who was foolishly sitting out in the open. I tapped it’s tail so they could see it swim, which it did, and Maddie stood up and scolded me for hurting the eel. I had to defend myself, and tried to make sure she knew I wasn’t hurting them.

MG is still struggling with the mask and with breathing, but she goes for short stints enjoying herself. Her major complaint is that she can’t breath through her nose, which is strange since she has a cold and can’t anyway. But some things just take getting comfortable with. I excused myself to go check out the collapsed wharf and Mala Ramp like the guy at the dive shop recommended. It’s just a couple minutes walk down the beach from Keiki. I entered from the south side of the wharf on the beach, which was admittedly somewhat treacherous with the waves, poor visibility, and spiny urchins everywhere. But the wharf is amazing. The fallen piers and deck sections have been reclaimed by reef, and the fish life and variety are amazing. I saw a few turtles, but no shark. But I was getting beat up by the surf, which occasionally would close my snorkel up on me, so I headed back in.

By the time I got back, the wind had convinced everyone it was time to go, so we returned to the condo to swim and soak up some more rays. I, undeterred by the waves, took another trip across the reef to swim with the turtles (unintentionally) and scour the reef. I found a dead pile of of coral that made a nice perch on which to catch my breath (surf was rough) and stood up to notice I was immediately off-shore from a wedding which was mid-ceremony. Whoops. I got back in the water and continued to explore. I found several turtles who were holding under reef ledges, including one that had a large gauge fishing hook caught in it’s left eye (well, not the eyeball) that could not have been very comfortable. A little ways further, I found a giant Moray eel whose head was easily as large as a 2×8. He was a menacing enough looking fellow that I gave him some distance.

The girls were done at the pool and done exploring, so we put in a pizza and watched a movie, which, as it turns out, is all that Michelle and Maddie had energy for. They both crashed, and Ella and I watched some bravest warriors for a bit before going to bed. MG had another fitful night of sleep, kicking mom, Ella, and the wall throughout much of the night.

Day 4

Surf was looking better this morning, so we headed to Napili. We were wrong – the surf was still in full effect. We played for a bit, lifting the girls through the big surf, but the water was too strong to do much playing in. Definiltely to much to snorkel. We wandered over to the lava rocks to the south and explored the pools and watched an older couple fishing with long, composite rods with a fixed line at the end. It was kind of cool, but they were only catching tiny little fish. We gave up since the water was no fun and headed north one bay to Kapaalu, which took some searching. We ended up at the parking lot for Andrew’s boardwalk (too far) then backtracked to Bay lane, which had public access and parking. However, it turned out to be roughly a 1/2 mile from the parking to the bay, which Ella and I hiked twice to get the gear.

On the plus side, when we returned, we got in the water and immediately saw turtles. MG came face to face with one, but she was very uncomfortable with the water, the reef, and breathing through her mouth, so we turned around. It seemed like Michelle and Ella had found similar discomfort, so we bailed on that snorkel excursion. MG took a nap on the blanket and I went out to scope the bay. There was decent snorkelling, especially on the north side along the lava rocks, but the surf ruined visibility and made for some seasickness with the constant lifting. Madeline immediately crashed on a towel on the beach. I did get Ella to come out with me for a trip and she was able to see quite a few different types of reef. She quickly spotted the brilliant purple splat-pattern reef, and I brought up an urchin from the bottom for her to look at. She also saw spiny urchins and the urchins with the big, hot-dog like spines. Eventually, we returned to shore where she, Maddie, Michelle and I played a little in the very edge of the water. It had a mini-Napili like beach so the girls enjoyed the mini-crashing waves and how it carried them up and down the beach.

There’s a nice cliff-jumping spot right near the Cliffhouse, which appears to be part of the Montage resort. The spot is a small cove with a ladder in the cliff. The place was hopping, with about 20 younger adults jumping in the water. Note to self…

We retired to the condo for a swim and a shower, then headed to China Boat for dinner. Madeline lost her energy and practically fell asleep at dinner, which was a bummer because the food was so enjoyable. Ella discovered the joy of brilliant pink sweet & sour shrimp, and we all shared a hearty dinner before returning to crash. We picked up some tylenol for MG, and she went to bed with a fever and slept poorly all night. That girl.

Maui 2014, days 1 & 2

Madeline and I got up at 3:30am on Thursday to get to the airport for our flight to Maui. We flew separately from Michelle and Ella because Michelle had worked some serious mileage card mojo between our personal card and her work card to get us all there and back for $40. So, traveling in pairs was a small, fun even, price to pay. Madeline is a far better traveller than she used to be. I enjoyed flying with her and she enjoyed the window seat from PDX to San Jose, CA. We played games, watched a movie, and shared a fruit and cheese platter. Once we arrived, we picked up the rental car, picked up groceries at Costco (and ice) and had to kill time until Michelle and Ella arrived, 4 hours after later.

Maddie and I killed some time at Keopuolani park, where she made a few friends and played hard for a good solid hour. Finally, she came to me, sweaty and red-faced asking if we could get in the ocean. We drove over to Hoaloha park and dipped our feet for a bit and tried to stay out of the way of all the after-school canoe club kids and their outrigger canoes. Eventually though, both of us thirsty, we found some bottled water and settled on a parking lot near Ah Fook (tee hee!) where we could see Michelle and Ella’s plane land. Sure enough, we saw their approach, picked them up, and made our way to Lahaina. Everyone was looking forward to getting in the ocean, but by the time we got to our condo (Lahaina Roads) and unloaded our stuff and groceries, the sun was setting and it was too late to get in the ocean. So we hit up Maui Brewing for a vacation kickoff dinner.

We were able to get right in, but the girls were fading fast. We had some great beers (the Black Rock Lager is swell, and the Big Swell IPA is dandy), but the food was meh. If there is such pride about the Kula pork and Hawaiian beef, why cook it all to a bone dry finish?

Anyway, we completed our marathon day (a big deal for MG, who kept it together for over 19 hours) and pretty much crashed afterwards.

day 2

We started the day with some bacon and eggs then went to Kiki beach for an absolutely lovely morning. The girls started to explore with goggles, but got jealous of me with my fins. So we played for a couple hours then returned to the condo to enjoy the poolside. The girls are maniacs in the water, whether ocean or pool, and Michelle and I alternated between joining them in the pool, soaking up the rays, or risking urchin spines and reef scrapes off the seawall to do some snorkelling. We finished the absolutely terrific day with fish tacos that we made with some fresh Mahi Mahi.