Archive | January 2018

Getting Back Into the Swing…

Saturday night late, I arrived home from my cross country flight from Atlanta.  I kicked off my 2018 travels by spending a week there and had a wonderful time. The flight home was good; I watched three movies (hey, that’s a long flight!) and got up at least a half a dozen times to let my row mates out to go to the bathroom, over and over and over…  Note to travelers: if other people are already getting up, go to the bathroom.  Just go.  Don’t wait until 30 minutes later!

My favorite moment was after we landed, when Ms. Window Seat informed Mr. Middle Seat that we had a smooth non-turbulent flight because the captain diverted us south to avoid the Rockies…  I laughed out loud!  But I held my tongue and refrained from pointing out that there was not a cost effective flight path from Atlanta to the Pacific Northwest that could go far enough south to avoid the Rockies…  Me thinks that Ms. Window Seat failed Geography…

Of course, with the time change, I was awake at 6:45 Sunday after not going to bed until close to 1 am Saturday night.  Can I go back to sleep or take a nap though?  NO!  I am the world’s worst sleeper…  Until my body decides I have had enough and then I can sleep through a 777 taking off, a home invasion of the house next door (with shots fired and police searching my yard with dogs and floodlights), or The Ramones in an outdoor amphitheater concert (all true stories by the way…)

So instead of napping, I went for a 5 mile walk with a girlfriend, walked to the grocery store for some basics (read: wine – and totally other stuff too!) and did enough yard work to get me 20,000 steps for the day, along with a complete and utter exhaustion…

I need to get my next vacation planned!


2017 Whidbey Island Half-Marathon

April 23, 2017

On race day it was a very cold morning, but it wasn’t raining!  I was going to be doing my ninth half-marathon!

We huddled around trying not to freeze until race time, then got on our way.  The race does a wave start, meaning that you cue up according to your anticipated finish time, and they start groups in waves, every couple of minutes, in order to keep the course from getting overrun with too many people.

L to R: Kimi, Me, Katie and Shelley, pre-race

By the way, this is totally off topic, but I love how I look like I am the tallest one in that photo!  I’m not…
The first several miles of the race I was feeling pretty good and making decent time.  Pretty soon after the start, there is a section that is kind of a nature trail through the marshlands, and I realized why the wave start was important.  There is one big hill near the beginning too and then the course gets more mild for a bit.  Once I moved away from the water, the temperature warmed up as well, and I was actually pretty comfortable.  I was thinking, “I can do this!”

About mile 5 (I think it was mile 5), the course starts to do this big, rolling hill thing along the water, starting with a giant downhill stretch that you know you are going to have to come back up…  Yeah…  But I was still moving along at a pretty good clip and feeling pretty good; I reached the turn-around point still feeling pretty good about my progress.

It was that giant hill on the way back that was the problem…  Mile 8… My energy was really flagging and I was starting to feel really crummy again, dizzy and hurting.  By the time I got to the top of the hill I was really lightheaded and queasy, and was seriously considering throwing in the towel.  The problem was that I was in the middle of nowhere, with no water station and no one around.  Who would I even quit to?

So I slowed down a lot and just kept walking, trying not to let the lightheadedness get the better of me, thinking as soon as I got to a water station I would quit.  I was so exhausted!  Slowing down helped though, and by the time I got to the next water station, I was feeling a bit better.  So I decided to keep going…

Pretty soon, it was all downhill from there, because the last couple miles of the course is downhill or relatively flat.  I can’t say I was fast, but I was a little faster than mile 8 and 9!  My head cleared some, and a good bit of the nausea went away.  The last mile was pretty brutal though, because it was right on the water and there was a cold wind blowing sideways!  UGH! 

In the end, it was certainly not my best race or my best time…  And absolutely NOT my favorite course…  But I did realize I can still push my body further than I think I can go and be successful.  And it just made the post-race beer while bundled up in a blanket that much better… 

Feeling sassy after some beer

In the end, my official time was 3:07:16, which was actually WAY better than I was expecting it to be…  Not a personal best at any rate, but not too terrible either!  I really, really, really earned this swag!


Whidbey Half-Marathon 2017 Weekend

Last winter, I signed up for my ninth half-marathon, the Whidbey Island Half!  It was April 23, 2017. 
There was just this one little issue that came up: I was fighting one of the worst colds I have had in a while.  I had been completely down for the count the weekend before.  Like the kind of sick where you are awake for less than 2 hours and you already are in dire need of a 3 hour nap…  In fact, my only outing the weekend before the half-marathon had been to venture out for a very slow stroll around the tulip fields for a few hours, which had completely wiped me out and sent me back to bed… 
During the week I was feeling a little better, so I decided to still try to do the race, knowing I could just take it easy.  I didn’t need to run much, or at all, if I still wasn’t feeling up to it.  Katie, Shelley and I all met up at the expo, then headed off for a girls’ weekend excursion in scenic Coupeville, Washington.
We checked into our accommodations, the Wisteria Cottage at The Inn at Penn Cove.  It was a very reasonably priced option for Coupeville, where most of the lodgings are Bed and Breakfasts.  Most of the hotels in Oak Harbor were either booked, or had jacked up their rates for the marathon weekend.  The Inn at Penn Cove is also a historic house and cottage, consisting of the Jacob Jenne house built in 1889, and the doctor’s office turned cottage where we were staying, which is also historic (sadly I don’t know when it was built – trust me, it was old!). 

The Wisteria Cottage at the Inn at Penn Cove

Katie was convinced our cottage was haunted.  So haunted in fact that we had to drag the futon into the main room, because she didn’t want anyone sleeping in that bedroom alone…  The proprietors are warm and welcoming, giving us a rundown of the quirks of the place, and even letting us know that it was no problem at all to have a very late checkout so we could go back to the cottage for showers after the race.  And in case you were wondering, no, we didn’t see any ghosts…  However, the drawers in that bedroom wouldn’t stay closed – was it due to the fact that the floor was sloped, or something supernatural?!  You decide…
After getting our lodgings squared away, we poked around in some of the shops in the historic downtown area, and enjoyed a wine tasting at the Vail Wine Shop, where we chatted and laughed and enjoyed ourselves. 
After that, we enjoyed the lowering sun and the remaining afternoon while we waited for the Front Street Grill to have a table ready for us for dinner.  I love spending time with my girlfriends, and we thoroughly enjoyed the quiet afternoon relaxing.

We had a water view table at the Front Street Grill, and I had the Saffron Mussels and a beer sampler.  So delicious!

Katie and my beer samplers at the Front Street Grill

I had a wonderful day, despite my continuing fatigue…  After dinner we headed back to the cottage to turn in early.  We had some calorie burning to do in the morning!


Hawaiʻi 2017: Flying Home

Day 8, Wednesday, May 17, 2017

My departure day had sadly arrived.  Time to go back to the real world, where you have to go to work and make money…  I relaxed a bit in the morning, then Brent and I got up and headed out to a breakfast at IHOP.  We tried to go to a local restaurant, but couldn’t find it and didn’t have time to keep looking. Sometimes travel is like that!

One last view of the condo grounds

After breakfast, we headed out towards the airport and ran into a huge traffic jam.  The radio revealed that there was a multiple car accident with explosions, fire and multiple fatalities.  The highway was closed…  There was a highway patrol officer further up and he turned most people away to head back the way we came from, but every now and again he let someone through.

So we waited, and I called the airline to inquire about an alternate flight in case I missed mine.  They got me a seat on the next flight out, but kept me as a passenger on the original flight, just in case I could make it.  When we got to the beginning of the line, the highway patrolman asked where we were trying to get to.  The airport was the correct answer and he waved us through.  The accident turned out to be just past the road to the airport, so we were able to get there.  People traveling from the other direction were not so lucky.

Brent dropped me off and we said our goodbyes and til next times, and then I made it through a very long, slow security line…  When I arrived at the gate, they were already starting to board. Once on board, I learned that 60 people had missed the flight, so I ended up with an entire row to myself.  I could stretch out – but the luxury was bittersweet.

I learned later that, sadly, the accident had taken the lives of three people that day.  It made me think about what blessings I have.  I try not to take those blessings for granted.  I had a wonderful trip!


Hawaiʻi 2017: Manta Rays

Day 7, Tuesday, May 16, 2017

My last full day in Hawaii had arrived.  We decided to make it another quiet pool day.  After a delicious breakfast of eggs, bacon and stuffed papaya (amazing!), we sunned ourselves and I tried to get a bit of sun-kissed glow so I wouldn’t go home as pale as when I arrived.

Enjoying our breakfast of papaya filled with banana, coconut milk and cinnamon. YUM!

Me trying to achieve a sun-kissed glow is basically a pointless game by the way; remarkably I don’t sunburn easily (thanks to my Dad’s olive complexion), but in reality, I only have several shades of pale.  Even if I know I am tan (for me), nobody else will notice…

Yep, still pale…

I also had a chance to sit on the sea wall and chat on the phone with a close friend for awhile.  There is something peaceful about a conversation had while listening to the waves lapping on the rocks.

Me sitting on the seawall


The Muscovy duck resident at the condo. So cute!

I went back to the market and got some gifts for my mom and my employees back home.  And of course, one for me…

In the late afternoon, we headed into town.  We went to the Sheraton Hotel to have a couple of drinks and watch the sunset.  After dark is where the real fun starts though!

The Sheraton is situated on a bay, where the manta rays come in to feed on plankton.  The plankton are attracted to lights.  So both the tourist boats and the Sheraton Hotel light up the ocean with lights to draw in the plankton, and then the manta rays.  The tour boats offer an amazing experience; the opportunity to swim with the manta rays!

The rays are hard to see when the tourist boats are there, because the lights from the boats keep the rays further out from shore.  However, once the boats leave for the evening, the Sheraton’s lights draw in the manta rays and they soar through the water, doing barrel rolls and flipping over to expose their white under-bellies.  They are very large fish, growing up to 18 feet in width!  They are listed as vulnerable, and many nations have put a ban on fishing for them and exporting their parts.  However, there are still problems with manta rays being caught in international waters as they migrate, and as by catch.

The boats after dark – there is a manta ray in the center of the photo, slightly above the rocks

The night we were there, we saw at least a half a dozen rays.  They are beautiful, majestic creatures, and really impossible to catch on film, at night, from shore.  So you will just have to take my word for it; watching their dark shadows glide just below the surface of the water is an experience you won’t soon forget.  I definitely want to take one of the boat excursions next time and be able to swim in the water with these amazing animals!

A Manta Ray in the water – trust me on this…

That night, we went back to the condo and filled up on a later dinner of Portuguese sausage, salad and Cool Ranch Doritos. YUM!  That night I went to bed with very happy thoughts of my day and my evening with the Manta Rays.

Snowshoeing: March 2017

It had been a couple of years since I had snowshoed, but my friend Lelani posted photos on Facebook last year showing a recent snowshoeing adventure, so I asked if she wanted to go.  Of course, being always up for fun, she said, “of course!”  We went twice last winter, in March 2017, and had a blast both times!
Both of our trips were at Mount Baker; the first time we went to the Sno-Park, which has a path heading down to the Nooksack River.  You can also opt for a long snowshoe (or cross country ski) along a relatively easy, groomed track heading quite a distance in both directions.  
The second time a few weeks later, we went to the White Salmon Road near the Mt. Baker Ski Area. The snow had mostly melted in the lower elevations, so this is a good option that’s much higher in elevation and has snow longer than the lower elevations.
Both spots were fun, both times it was snowing lightly for at least part of the trip, and each area has a different view. 
The silence of walking in fresh snow!  All you can hear is your breath, and the soft crunch of your snowshoes.  Stopping to looking around at the view!  Taking photos while you catch your breath!  This is one of my favorite ways to exercise!
On the way home, we stopped both times at the North Fork Brewery and Beer Shrine, a local institution with delicious beer that they brew on site, and fabulous pizza!  The clams are amazing too!  There is often a wait, but you won’t be disappointed!

OMG- delicious clams and beer!

Hawaiʻi 2017: Hawaiʻi Volcanoes NP

Day 6, Monday, May 15, 2017

After we climbed back up the road from Waipio Valley, we had lots more sightseeing to do!  Once again, we went to Tex’s for malasadas.  I got guava filling the second time.  So yummy!

Malasadas in the oil!

Our next stop was at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park; unfortunately by then it was really raining hard.  We went to the museum near the crater (it is open later than the main Visitor Center).  From the patio at the museum you could see the glow from the crater after dark.  The sun was going down when we arrived, but you couldn’t see the sunset because it was so socked in with rain!  My camera battery died at that point but I did get a few photos with my phone of the crater glow with streaks of rain.  And I got the stamps for the park and some postcards at the museum store.

Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park


The crater glow with rain streaks!

Next we drove over to the Thurston Lava Tube, named for an influential family that played a big part in the establishment of the park.  Brandon and I walked down and through it in the rain – the rain flows through the porous lava and drips in from the ceiling.  Brent and Rich had already seen it and opted to stay in the car.  The tube was really cool – it was about 20 feet tall!  It wasn’t very long, but we didn’t go quite all the way to the end, because there was quite a bit of standing water at the end.  It was interesting to compare it to other lava tubes I saw a few months later in Idaho, Washington and Oregon!

The lava tube


Me in the Lava Tube

On my next trip there, I would really like to hike out to where the lava flows into the water.  The hike varies based on where the lava is flowing.  When I was there last May, it would have been about an 8 mile round trip hike.  It would be awesome to do it in the late afternoon, so I can see the sunset over the water, and see the lava flowing after dark.  Of course, the hike back would be in the dark with headlamps – fun!

Interestingly, Hawaiians used to sometimes bury chiefs in lava tubes.  They removed the flesh from the bones and wrapped them and placed them in a lauhala basket; they then placed the baskets and offerings into the lava tubes and closed them off.  I learned that there are a number of lava tubes in the cliffs on Hawaiʻi that have been sealed off that way.

Due to the rain, and the fact that it was getting dark when we got there, we didn’t get to see much of Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park.  A return visit is certainly in order, to see more and do more.  There is a scenic drive along the crater rim that we saw very little of, the Chain of Craters Scenic drive, which goes down to the water (part of this drive has now been closed due to the active lava flow), and over 150 miles of hiking trails!  One of the most fascinating things about the park is that while the lava continues to destroy things; 9 miles of the Chain of Craters road, a visitor’s center, a historic Hawaiian village, etc., it also continues to add new land to the island and the park.  I can’t wait to get back.

That night, we went to the Thai Thai restaurant – I had a Shrimp Wonton soup that was soooo good.  It had broccoli, cauliflower, carrot, cabbage, spinach and green onions.  And shrimp wontons!  Delicious!  I should have taken home leftovers. And now I’m craving that soup!

My Shrimp Wonton Soup – YUM!

We got home late that night. On our drive home, we passed South Point, which has one of only four green sand beaches in the world!  The sand is green because the lava there contains olivine, which gives the sand its green hue when the lava rock breaks down into fine sand.  Of course we just passed the turnoff on our drive home, and wouldn’t have been able to see anything anyway because it was long past dark.  I definitely want to go there on my next trip.

Volcanic glass with olivine

Our day was once again amazing and we saw really cool things.  We also had to pass up a lot of really cool things!  I have so many ideas for my next visit!

Book Review: The Goldfinch

I was drawn to The Goldfinch because I had seen the painting once, in real life, on loan to the de Young Museum in San Francisco; an exhibit of the works of the Dutch Masters.  It was painted by Carel Fabritius, a Delft master painter who was a pupil of Rembrandt and a teacher of Vermeer (Girl with a Pearl Earring).  He died tragically in the Delft gunpowder magazine explosion in 1654 at only 32 years of age. Only about a dozen of his paintings survive.  The Goldfinch is exquisite; photographs really don’t do it justice.  It immediately became one of my all-time favorite paintings.

The Goldfinch – Carel Fabritius – 1654

So when I saw The Goldfinch novel, by Donna Tartt, on the library website, I checked it out without knowing what it was about.

Shortly after I started it, I went for a walk with a couple of friends; books are a topic that often comes up.  After I said what I was reading, one friend told me that her book club had tried reading The Goldfinch and had all quit, frustrated and disappointed.  They couldn’t get into it.

I kept going, and found myself drawn into the story of a young teenage boy, whose mother takes him to see the exhibits at the Met in New York City, and The Goldfinch is among those paintings.  What follows is an intriguing coming of age tale of art theft, drug addiction, grief, finding family, international crime and the Russian mafia.  The novel follows a circuitous route of the life of Theodore Decker as he learns to navigate in the world.  In an often bizarre twist of fate, the painting is his anchor.

The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt

You will likely either love it or hate it; I think this is a book where there is no in between.  I am in the former camp.  The novel held my interest, despite its length, and the ending has one of the best summations on life that I have read.  Enjoy.


Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park History

Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park was established on August 1, 1916 by President Woodrow Wilson.  It was the 11th National Park established in the U.S., and the first in a U.S. territory. It contains and protects two active volcanoes: Kīlauea, one of the world’s most active volcanoes, and Mauna Loa, the world’s largest shield volcano.  A shield volcano is one built almost entirely of fluid lava flows, and is usually lower to the ground than other types of volcanoes with gentle slopes; it is said to look like a warrior’s shield.

The park today consists of 323,431 acres (505.36 sq mi) of land, with more than 50 percent designated as the Hawaiʻi Volcanoes Wilderness area.  In 2004, an additional 115,788 acres of land were purchased through a partnership with the Nature Conservancy and added to the park, making it 56% larger than its original boundaries.

Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park

Historically, Kīlauea and the Halemaʻumaʻu caldera with it are considered by the Hawaiian people to be the sacred home of the volcano goddess Pele, and Hawaiians visited the crater to offer gifts to the goddess.  In 1790, a party of Hawaiian warriors (along with women and children) were in the area, and were killed in a violent and fast-moving eruption. Many of the Hawaiians killed and others left footprints in the lava that can still be seen today.

The first western visitors to the site arrived in 1823, and the volcanoes became a tourist attraction in the 1840s.  Several hotels and restaurants were built along the rim of the volcanoes to accommodate the tourists traveling there.  Now, Volcano House is the only hotel within the borders of the national park.

The park has an easily accessible lava tube that was named for the Thurston family, a family that was influential in the designation of the park as a National Park.  It is open and can be walked through, with only a short, paved walk to reach it.

There are also amazing hiking and camping opportunities – how often do you get to hike and camp on lava!  The park ranges in elevation from sea level to the summit of the active volcano Mauna Loa at 13,677 feet.  From ocean views all the way up to stunning and violent lava flows!  The climates in the park range from tropical rain forest, to a desert landscape.  I was consistently surprised by the range of climate and bio-diversity that I saw on my trip to Hawaiʻi.

There are also a couple of scenic drives, giving visitors amazing views of the volcanic craters and the ocean.  The Chain of Craters Road takes you past several craters from historic eruptions to the coast. However, some of the road has now been covered by more recent lava flows.  The landscape here is always changing.

Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park was designated as an International Biosphere Reserve in 1980 and a World Heritage Site in 1987, designations that recognize its beauty and importance in nature.

It was a brief visit, and I didn’t get to see as much as I would have liked, but I will share my visit in my next post!

Hawaiʻi 2017: Waipio Valley

Day 6, Monday, May 15, 2017

Monday morning we got ready to go for some more sightseeing!  And out we went!  We stopped at Havi, a small town that is known for being an artist community, to have lunch with Rich’s friend at a local BBQ food truck.  It was so yummy!  I had BBQ ribs with sticky rice and macaroni salad, but there were lots of options for both the main course and the sides.  On my next visit, I would like to poke around in the local shops and explore Havi a bit more than we did.

After lunch, we drove up over the volcano again, so some of the scenery was familiar from our previous trip a few days before.  But this time, our second stop was in Waipio Valley.  Waipio has a really crazy one lane 4WD road down to the bottom.  You are on private property; they say you are supposed to be a local to go down there, but there are hikes down there and it is beautiful!  The road was very rough – it was nice to have the old, rickety Rodeo; it isn’t a road that is suitable at all for cars – although you can walk down to the bottom (and then back up!).


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Down at the bottom there are a couple of river crossings, and then we got to an amazing waterfall, a beach and the river’s tributary at the beach.  It’s even black sand there.

We wandered around on the beach for awhile.  Feeling the sand between my toes!  Wading out into the river tributary was so peaceful.  One day I really want to do the hikes in that area, and explore the jungle trail.  A friend of mine has done one (a 12 miler one) and had excellent things to say about the experience.



I saw a bird I had never seen before standing near the river fishing – it turned out it was a Juvenile Black Crowned Night Heron.  Rich took some great photos of Yellow-billed Cardinals that were eating from a coconut someone had split open for them.  The females aren’t as brilliant as the males, with brown backs and heads instead of the black back and bright red head of the male. We also saw several mongooses (what is the plural of mongoose anyway?) running in front of the truck too as we were driving on the road down into the valley, but I wasn’t able to get photos of them, despite my best efforts.  Those little guys are fast!



Next time, I want to spend a lot more time here!  The weather wasn’t that great when we were there, as it was periodically raining lightly and windy, so returning on a sunny day would be awesome!  Hiking, having a picnic on the beach, just hanging out listening to the crash of the waves.  Waipio Valley is one of my favorite places on Earth!