Whidbey Island in July

The family packed up and headed north to spend the 4th of July weekend with the Dunlaps. It had taken nearly 3 months to figure out a time to meet over the summer, but we managed to pick the perfect weekend. We stayed on Whidbey Island atop a bluff looking south over Puget Sound. It was fantastic, and we had a blast doing some proper relaxing with friends. We ate well, drank well, relaxed well, and roasted marshmallows well. I hesitate to say we slept well, but I hear you can do that when you’re dead.

I think one of the highlights for me was the excellent tide-pooling we did on Sunday morning on what was looking like a cloudy and rainy day. The tide was out quite far and with Stephanie as a guide, we got to see a lot of cool stuff lurking in basins and under rocks. She showed the girls (and me) that if you poke a geoduck, it will squirt water at you. The girls loved it (as did I).

We made a trip over to Langley, which is a quaint and fancy town on the east side of the island. We picked up lunch from the grocery in town and ate it while sampling beers at Olde World Ales & Lagers, then picked up ice cream. Finally, we headed home and swam for a bit with the girls. Ella discovered the joy of goggles and spent half her time underwater. MG isn’t yet appropriately respectful of the water and did her best to thrash out of everyone’s arms.

Meals were great, and not just because the view was so stellar. The first night we had smoked bratwurst from one of Scott’s coworkers and grilled corn. The second night we had Thai beef salad. The third night we had pork loin. Desert should have been the view, but we also did s’mores, which we discovered can be altered by switching out milk chocolate for peanut butter cups. I recommend trying sometime. All of it.

Eventually, the trip ended with a ferry ride back to the mainland and an all to brief stop at Lake Rosiger to catch up with other college friends and a tired car trip back to Portland. Three cheers for summer.

Maui 2010

In Napili BayBack in the wet, dark spring of 2010, Madeline’s first birthday still fresh in our minds, Alaska Airline had a promotion where we could fly to Maui direct from Portland for $147 a ticket. It was too good to pass up, and Maddie was so small, she wouldn’t need a seat. So we planned for another November escape, though this time with just the immediate clan. Both for expediency’s sake, and for the chance to test out this whole “family travelling” thing. November however arrived, and Madeline is much more of a 2 year old than a 1 year old, and we were starting to question our decision to fly her as a lap infant.

The good news is that the flight, while it seemed longer than 5 1/2 hours, ended without any disasters. And then we were in Maui. We picked up our miniature rental car, picked up some groceries, then traversed the island to north of Lahaina on the west coast where we picked up a screaming deal on a condo. The condo was at Paki Maui, which was an excellent place for the girls. Playground and park next door, pool, and easy access to a gentle wading pool with a sand beach. It was also close enough to food and entertainment. The first night, after a wind-down on the playground, we visited Maui Brewing for dinner. The Island Hopper Red was a terrific way to start the decompression.

I’ll spare all the specific details of each day, but we found a pretty good formula that worked for us. Get up at 4-5am (DST and time-zone change are rough), Watch some sesame street, drink some cocoa and coffee, breakfast and pack a lunch. Lather up in sunscreen, put on suits, and head to the beach. Vary the beach, but enjoy it, eat lunch by 11am, play some more, then venture back to the condo to clean up a bit, relax, then start looking for food.

The beach that was most popular with the girls was Baby Beach just north of Lahaina’s waterfront. It’s protected by a reef, and even when the tide is up, the waves are miniscule. The sand is pretty good, there’s some shade, and the girls could play without a single worry. We even met a family from Beaverton with whom the girls played. It was fine, and I saw a squid, but probably wasn’t either Michelle or my favorite.

My favorite was Napili Beach, which was about 7 minutes north of our condo. The beach is much steeper, and the waves were pretty consistent and of enough size for adults to enjoy. That kind of wave isn’t much for for squirts though unless you’ve got your hands on them the whole time. Still, you could literally lay in the sand and let the water wash you 20-30 feet up the beach then back in to the ocean. Plus, the winter beach had a great drop that meant you could run and dive in to the water.

Michelle’s favorite was probably Po Olenalena Beach because it was the ultimate compromise beach. Great sand, gentle surf, no crowd, and even some snorkeling with turtles. It was about an hour drive from our condo, so we only made the trip once, but it really was delightful. We squatted at the south end near the rocks for about 5 hours and thoroughly enjoyed the place until the girls ran out of energy.

We visited Lahaina a couple times for dinner and to explore. I think everyone agrees that the giant banyan tree on the waterfront is the coolest thing in Lahaina. The food was mediocre and overpriced (Maui factor already included), but the Banyan was just an incredible thing. Giant swooping branches, tendrils reaching to lend a hand, and massive spans of tree that are unlike anything we have here. Michelle pointed out a branch that had the same girth, color, angle and texture of what we imagine a Brachiosauruses neck to be like. The girls loved frollicking under the massive canopy, and it took every ounce of rule following in my body to not only keep the girls from climbing, but to not climb the tree myself. (I added Swiss Family Robinson to the Netflix queue immediately after we got home).

At times, it felt like we weren’t seizing the trip by the horns and dashing out to see things like Hana, Haleakala, the Io Valley and so forth. But the girls couldn’t care less, and frankly, for this trip, neither could we. This was a perfect trip with the family and we hope to return again.

Here’s a slideshow:

Kona, part 2

Family in the surfOne of the subsequent days, we went to Hapuna Beach, which is a state park and has easy car access, showers, and even some vendors. The day wasn’t clear, but 78F is still 78F, and the water was still delightful. There was wind, which created some copy surf, but we still enjoyed the expansive beach. Later that night, we decided to take in a Luau; the preliminary activities were fun enough, but the actual show was kind of a turd. Michelle and my parents had all been to a Luau before and thought the food and show was lacking by comparison. I thought the food was just fine, but the “Freedom cost a buck ‘o five” God/Country Music/USA song was both so bad and out of place that my meal was in peril. I guess they know their audience though, because everyone else thought the jingoistic number fit right in with the “tour of Micronesia” theme. We then left shortly after Ella got scared by a Tongan warrior dancer who nearly collided with her and he weaved through the audience making menacing gestures. I can see how she might have been a little scared, but I thought it was amusing.

We continued our tour of beaches with Kahalu’u Beach Park, where we rented a boogie board with a viewing glass so Ella could see fish. Despite swimming lessons from a young age and constant bath-taking, she’s surprisingly timid around water. Still, she enjoyed the view, and Michelle and I were delighted to be in the warm ocean with our little girl. We almost collided with a turtle too, but my spastic response scared both the turtle and Ella, who was done being in the water. We moved north up the highway to the next beach which was very sandy and the surf was high. We did some body surfing, saw some dolphins, and played in the sand.

On a couple of the evenings, we wandered in to town to check out the shops and restaurants, occasionally taking in a meal. Downtown Kailua is quaint, friendly, and somewhat rundown. I’m not sure if this was purely a reflection of some local economic change, the larger economics of the world, of if vacationers had just simply reached the critical mass for T-shirts and “local art.”

I think my favorite beach (except Makalawena) was Mauna Kea Beach. It’s adjacent to a resort/golf club, but that doesn’t ruin the excellent view of the northern knob of the island, the delicious water, and trees overhanging the sand. We set up our blankets underneath a sort of locust tree and were shaded the entire time, which is good, because I think they take your infant away if you get it sunburned. We played in the surf, both girls thoroughly enjoying the warm water and gentle waves. The snorkeling was actually quite good around the rock/reef on the south end of the beach. Plenty of sea life, reef, and no one got hit by an errant golf ball.

My favorite snorkeling was actually at “Place of Refuge,” a rocky bay that is teeming with life, and where the sea floor dives to about 80 feet just off the shore. There’s a cool set of steps in the rocks (accidental, mind you) at the north end of the bay where you can drop in to the water. You’re immediately greeted by schools of yellow tangs, and if you follow the shore along the north end of the bay, there’s just too much to see. The coral is fascinating and hides so many little creatures which you don’t notice until you get close. Swim out towards the middle of the bay and you watch the coral drop quickly in to the beautiful blue abyss. I hurt my ears several times trying to really get down deep because the scale of the place misleads you about how big the place is. Plus, I wanted to try and reach the dive mustering spot with the word “ALOHA” spelled out in cinderblocks. My dad and I visited twice, the second time everyone else joined us. We also visited the National Park facility there at the place of refuge.

But like all good things, the end came, and we boarded our respective flights home. Grandma and Grandpa took off on the Blue and White plane, and we boarded ours. The trip home still went really well, though it’s possible that the effort of keeping two children happy on a 6 hour flight erases at least some of the relaxation we’d escaped for. Madeline was awake for most of the flight home, and really didn’t care to be seated much. When we finally arrived in Seattle, everyone was hungry, and all the restaurants were closing or closed. After a sleepy flight back to Portland, we were home, and only had to stomach two days of work before the Thanksgiving holiday.

Kona, part 1

Andy and Ella throwing rocks in the warm ocean
This is sorely overdue, but I wanted to mention a few things about our trip to Kona-Kailua in November. It’s a trip we’d been planning for nearly 9 months with the sincere desire to get out of town. We were very curious how this whole traveling with kids would work, and we wanted to start making an effort to vacation with family.

The flight to Kona was spectacular. There was a short leg up to Seattle which was uneventful, then the 6 hour flight to Kona went splendidly. Ella was entertained most of the time through a combination of coloring, toys, window screen movements, bathroom trips, and cartoons on the iPhone. Madeline for her part slept most of the trip, which really helped.

We met my parents at the airport in Kona, picked up a Grand Crapavan from the rental company, and headed to our rented condo just south of the main strip in Kailua. The condo was fantastic (you never really know until you arrive), and we grabbed some fast food while setting up base camp. (There were mongooses wandering around the parking lot, something I’d not seen on my previous trip a decade ago.) After that we split up, shopped for groceries, swam in the pool, and hung out on the lanai looking for where to go the coming days.

The second day we drove the van north with a picnic lunch to Makalawena Beach, in Kekaha Kai State Park. It was a bumpy, slow ride from the highway down to the trailhead, and likely not some place that the rental should have gone. From there, a 30 minute trek past one gorgeous beach, some wild goats, and a barren lava field to a white sand beach that was heaven. As it turns out, you can get there by 4×4 if you have one, as there were several trucks on the beach. From the moment we arrived, it was quickly clear that everyone was happy here. Both girls loved the gentle waves, and Ella loved playing in the sand in the “warm ocean.” We’d been promising her that she’d enjoy the warm ocean since a disaster during a storm in May where she was knocked off balance by a quick rush of water past her feet and fell in the cold Pacific near Manzanita, OR.

Now I’m trying to remember the order in which we visited beaches, but by in large, the order of the day was something like this: Get up, have coffee and breakfast, watch Curios George, make sandwiches, spend 30 minutes trying to get sunscreen on everyone, then load up the van and go to a beach. We didn’t stray from this formula much, largely because it was so perfect. We didn’t attempt to see the volcano or Hilo simply because a long day of car travel with the girls wouldn’t be any fun. And it’s really hard to improve on a working formula.

We ended up visiting several more beaches, but I’ll pick up again in another post. It’s time to wake the girls up, take them to Grandma’s and go to work in the dark.

Here are some pictures of the trip to Kona though.