Tag Archive | vacation

Hawaiʻi 2017!

I got an offer I couldn’t refuse for May, 2017.  A chance to go to Hawaiʻi with friends!  My friend Brent’s father Rich owns a condo and they were going, and I was welcome to tag along!  Even better, our friend Brandon was going to join us! I certainly couldn’t pass that up, so I booked a plane ticket and set about doing a bit of research on what I wanted to do when I was there.  Specifically, I was headed to the big island of Hawaiʻi, and staying in the town of Kailua-Kona (although most people seem to just call it Kona). I had never been to the Big Island, and my last trip to Hawaiʻi was in 1992, to Maui, when I was 16 years old.  It was high time for another visit!

Since I was traveling with friends, I couldn’t plan the whole itinerary – there were going to be joint decisions about what we were going to do.  So I made a commitment that this trip would be more relaxed, more ‘go with the flow’ than my usual fast-paced road trip.  What better place is there than Hawaiʻi to “endure” a bit of forced relaxation?  It didn’t disappoint! Of course, in characteristic style, I did manage to find plenty to keep me occupied during my trip, so I will hope that you enjoy my series of posts.

Day 1, Wednesday, May 10, 2017

My first day was mostly a travel day.  I flew out on an early flight and and met Rich and Brent on my layover, between my first and second flights.  I had booked onto the same flight as they were on, but had no idea where they were seated, and I happened to choose a seat right behind them!  So great snacks! – win for me!

This happy girl is going to Hawaii!

We landed in Kailua-Kona at about 3:30 – we had arrived in paradise!   We were picked up by a family friend and headed out immediately for an early dinner.  At dinner, I had the breaded Ahi Poke (I had no idea it sometimes comes breaded), pickled cucumbers, salted cabbage, corn and other goodies.  We spent a long time at dinner, with Brent and Rich chatting and catching up, and me meeting friends for the first time.  It was dark by the time we got to the condo, so Brent and I spent a little time in the dark exploring the grounds, the sea wall and the lava rocks in the ocean.  We headed to bed about 11:30 pm.

I was ready for the next day’s adventure!

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Yellowstone NP History

Yellowstone National Park was the first National Park – it was established on March 1, 1872 by President Ulysses S. Grant.  Yellowstone is a unique environment, with features that are really rare in other areas of the United States.  Early advocates knew that it should be protected for generations to come.

Yellowstone is 2,219,789 acres, and about 96 percent of the land area of the park is within the state of Wyoming.  Three percent is within Montana and about one percent is in Idaho. The park is 63 miles from north to south, and 54 miles from west to east, as the crow flies.  In 2016, 4,257,177 people visited Yellowstone.  That’s a lot of people!  It is also designated as a Unesco World Heritage site, a designation by the United Nations for sites which have cultural, historical or scientific significance.

The park contains the Yellowstone Caldera, which is the largest volcanic system in America – it has been termed a “super-volcano” due to its size.  The current caldera was created by an eruption 640,000 years ago, and was 1,000 times larger than the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens in Washington State.  Which, if you were around for it, you know Mount St. Helens felt like a pretty big eruption.  That wasn’t the only eruption though, and each of the several that have occurred over millions of years at Yellowstone have created the rock formations, the depressions where the lakes sit and have coated large portions of the Americas with ash.  Thousands of small earthquakes occur each year within the park, most of which are unnoticed by human visitors.

Yellowstone is know for it’s thermals and geysers – hot springs of liquid that often contain brilliant colors due to the bacteria that make their home there, and erupting fountains of water.  The park contains over 10,000 geothermal features – and 1,283 of those are geysers that have erupted.  About 465 are active geysers on average in a given year.  Yellowstone is named for the Yellowstone River; the headwaters of the river are within the park, and the Continental Divide runs diagonally through the southwest section of the park.

Human habitation has existed in the park for approximately 11,000 years; evidence has shown that Native Americans began to hunt and fish in the area then.  Clovis points have been discovered in the area, and obsidian found in the park was used to make cutting tools and weapons.  Arrowheads from Yellowstone obsidian has been found as far away as the Mississippi Valley, indicating there was a rich trade among the Native Americans in this area with other tribes.

About 60 species of mammals make their home in the park, including bison, elk, moose, deer, mountain goats, pronghorn, bighorn sheep, gray wolf, coyote, lynx, and grizzly bears.  About 3,000 bison are in the park; their numbers fluctuate depending on how harsh the winter is.  Wolves thrive there now, after being hunted almost to extinction in the early 1900s and eliminated from the park.  However, since the next largest predator, the coyote, cannot bring down large mammals, there was a big increase in the number of lame bison and elk, as well as an overall increase in their numbers, which throws the ecosystem out of balance.  A healthy ecosystem needs the apex predator.  Wolves were reintroduced in the 1990s, and are estimated to number at slightly more than 100 animals within the park.

Me – Sign posing – As usual!

I visited Yellowstone as a child, but it had been a long, long time and I was so excited to go back!  Next up will be Yellowstone posts!

San Diego 2016: Old Town San Diego

After we left the Mission San Diego de Alcala we headed downtown to Old Town San Diego, located adjacent to Presidio Hill, underneath the bluff. For the first several decades, residents preferred to live within the Presidio walls or just outside, for protection from other Europeans or hostile Native Americans. By 1820, the threats had decreased, and San Diego residents were choosing to live at the base of the bluff in what is now Old Town San Diego.

The problem with the site of Old Town San Diego was that its location was several miles from navigable water, so supplies had to be brought overland from Point Loma several miles away. In the 1860s, residents began abandoning Old Town in favor of New Town (where the current downtown is now) because of its proximity to shipping ports.

We were hungry when we arrived after touring the mission, so we found a Latin American restaurant called Berta’s which offered cuisine from several Latin American countries. Renée had a wonderful Mango Avocado salad, a Chilean empanada and a glass of sangria, and I had Chilean Pastel de Choclo with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc. The sun was shining and it was warm – we enjoyed just sitting outside and having our meal.

Me sitting at Berta's among the Hibiscus flowers

Me sitting at Berta’s among the Hibiscus flowers

 

Renée's Mango Avocado salad at Berta's - YUM!

Renée’s Mango Avocado salad at Berta’s – YUM!

 

The gorgeous Hibiscus at Berta's

The gorgeous Hibiscus at Berta’s

After lunch, we walked across the street to the San Diego State Historic Park – a collection of historic buildings built between 1820 and 1872, when New Town took over in dominance. The park contains five original adobes, a schoolhouse, blacksmith shop and a stable, among dozens of other buildings. Some are reconstructions. We enjoyed wandering around in a rock shop that was originally the Assayer’s Office, and toured some of the different displays in one of the adobe homes and other buildings.  We even sat on a wooden donkey!  The real donkeys didn’t want to come over and talk to us…  The entire park is free to visitors, and there are living history demonstrations too.

The Assayer's Office - there was a wonderful rock shop inside

The Assayer’s Office – there was a wonderful rock shop inside

 

One of the original adobe homes at Old Town

One of the original adobe homes at Old Town

 

This little bird was singing his heart out at Old Town

This little bird was singing his heart out at Old Town

Nearby, there are other historic sites that are not part of the San Diego State Historic Park too. I could have spent a couple of days just wandering around Old Town San Diego, checking it all out. I wish I had more time! It is nice that Renée has a similar appreciation for historic sites, so I didn’t feel like I needed to rush. I would have loved to have seen the Whaley House Museum that is nearby. I will certainly have to return…

The Old Town General Store

The Old Town General Store

 

One of the shops at Old Town San Diego - an interesting combination of items.

One of the shops at Old Town San Diego – an interesting combination of items.

 

The Colorado House at Old Town San Diego

The Colorado House at Old Town San Diego

 

Renée posing with the jail - they didn't let you go inside though...

Renée posing with the jail – they didn’t let you go inside though…

 

Renée had to be back at the hotel before 2:30 that afternoon for a meeting for her conference, so we left Old Town San Diego and headed back to the resort. I took the opportunity to get in some pool time. Angela and Allysa had to head out to the airport to fly home, while I was staying one more day. I enjoyed some time just laying by the pool with my book and my travel journal. And then I spent some time walking along the beach and collecting some shells.

That evening Renée and I went out to dinner at the Pacific Beach Fish Shop with a coworker of hers (my former coworker) who had also flown in for the conference. We had lobster lumpia, fish tacos, and beer. I swear I would be there all the time if I lived there…  It was all so delicious!

Our meal at the Pacific Beach Fish Shop - to die for!

Our meal at the Pacific Beach Fish Shop – to die for!

San Diego 2016 – A Little SUP-ping!

The second day of my San Diego trip began a little later than it might have otherwise, due to our late night of debauchery the previous night. We were all upright in reasonable order, but nobody was feeling particularly bright-eyed or bushy-tailed… We headed over to the hotel restaurant for breakfast, and had a “meh” meal with another round of horrible service. We decided at that point that we weren’t going to do any more hotel meals!

After breakfast, Allysa and Renée settled down for a nap, and Angela and I went over to the pool and hot tub. We relaxed and chatted, and spent some time just snoozing in the sunshine.

In the early afternoon, we lazily wandered down to the beach and found a restaurant for lunch called Sand Bar. They had amazing tacos! Their fish tacos are apparently award winning, but I thought the carne-asado taco was even better! Watch out for the spicy guacamole though, it really packs a kick!  I should have taken photos, but I totally forgot…  Fortunately Renée took one!  She’s my food porn soul sister…

A Carne-Asado taco at Sand Bar

A Carne-Asado taco at Sand Bar

After lunch, we went back to the hotel and Renée and I tried our mad skillz at Stand Up Paddleboarding. It was the first time either of us had ever been, and we got the briefest of lessons before we were set loose in the marina to SUP away. We both started out kneeling; it was much easier to keep your balance that way, but it is very hard on the knees. We both stood up and practiced paddling around – it was harder than I thought it would be to keep my balance!

Me, just starting out.

Me, just starting out.

There were a few tense moments as the wind was blowing me further out into the bay, and I was trying to keep my balance while paddling frantically to get back closer to shore… At one point I did consider just jumping off the board and swimming back in (I’m a strong swimmer), just in case no one was going to effect a rescue! I did manage to paddle back into calmer waters on my own though.

Me! Stand Up Paddleboarding!

Me! Stand Up Paddleboarding!

I had a great time– I was able to look down and see fish, sea slugs and little rays in the water beneath me! And that was just in the very protected waters of the marina.  I loved it! I will definitely do it again, but I don’t think I’m anywhere near ready for ocean SUP-ping. The water will have to be pretty calm… Think small lake on a calm day…

Renée and me, SUPping! Do we look like experts!?

Renée and me, SUP-ping! Do we look like experts!?

Angela and Allysa decided to walk to the grocery store for dinner items and set off for the 2 mile walk. Then Renée and I went and picked them up with the car when walking home with all those groceries seemed impossible.

We had a dinner of cheese, crackers, fruit and wine, and then headed out to take a cruise on the historic steamboat that is operated by the resort. The Bahia Hotel has two historic steamboats – ours was the Bahia Belle and a ride on the boat is free for hotel guests. There is a cash bar, a DJ with a dance floor, and an upper open-air level where guests can see the view, or the city lights after dark. It is a beautiful boat, but we were all still tired from the night before, so we were all duds…

The two Bahia steamboats, by day...

The two Bahia steamboats, by day… We were on the small, blue one.

 

One of the steamboats, at night...

One of the steamboats, at night…

We finished off our evening playing Deer in the Headlights – a card game that was billed as being sort of like UNO. Sound like fun? We thought it would be, but it turns out that it is fun only if you have the memory of a genius elephant… We had to consult the cheat sheet every. single. time. to figure out what cards to discard, who to give them to, etc. It was not a game suited to anybody who has had any alcohol, or is tired, or has the memory of a mere mortal, or is easily distracted… It was maddening! Pretty soon we decided that just drinking the wine without playing the game was better!

But it was still a nice end to a relaxing day.

San Diego Sunshine

Just after Christmas, a friend of mine from my previous employer was talking about heading down to a conference in San Diego in April. We started discussing the idea of us flying down a bit early, and doing some touristing for a few days before her conference started. We also ended up inviting two other friends from that same former job. These three friends all happen to be turning 50 this year, and one turned 50 on the first day of the trip, so it seemed like a great opportunity to celebrate!

San Diego in April isn’t super-warm – mostly calling for temps in the mid to high 60s. Not really ideal pool or beach weather, so I planned some activities to keep us busy. I was trying to keep in mind that these ladies aren’t all as interested in history and nerdly pursuits as I am. It’s so hard to plan for so many personalities!

We had a great time all the same, and posts will begin shortly!

Oh that view! Cabrillo National Monument

Oh that view! Cabrillo National Monument

Virginia 2015: A Trip is Born…

A trip to Virginia had been brewing for awhile. The historic sites!  The Presidential homes!  The Civil War connection.  It was my turn to choose a vacation in 2013 (yes, 2013, you read that correctly), and I wanted to go to Virginia. Jon and I trade off on choosing our big vacation each year; at least that is the intent.  So… In 2013, I had dates in March scheduled, and we were researching Virginia airfares, but something was nagging at me.

That something was a little 6 pound kitty named Martini, who had lymphoma. I couldn’t bring myself to fly cross country and leave her at home, knowing that she could decline or die without me by her side.  So, I kept procrastinating.  The same night, Jon and I came up with the idea to do a road trip to California instead – that way we could be home in a day if we needed to. As it turned out, we said our final goodbyes to our sweet girl before we left for that California trip…

Virginia was again on the docket for 2014 – until Jon’s cousin announced his wedding in Los Angeles. We wanted to make the best use of the flight to California, so we decided to forego Virginia again and do a scenic loop of the Southwest before the wedding. A fabulous choice that I don’t regret, but not Virginia.

I was determined to do Virginia in 2015 – I had been dreaming for three years about all the Presidential mansions and historic homes, about Appomattox Courthouse and other Civil War Battlefields.  I started a new job in January – which could have put a wrench in our plans, but fortunately a generous vacation package and some front loaded time meant that I could still do the trip.  Finally we were able to make it happen! After we got back from Colorado in August, I set to work planning the trip. We had almost two weeks; our longest vacation to date (by one day)!

I mapped and researched and connected the dots between our various wish list sites, finding the most convenient stopping points, and booking flights, a car, hotel rooms, and a boat tour! I wanted a more leisurely pace than we’d had in Colorado, with two night stays at several of our destination towns. Slowly it began to come together.

We would fly into Baltimore (that was the least expensive) and visit Harpers Ferry, Antietam, Arlington House, Mount Vernon, Shenandoah National Park, Appomattox Courthouse, Monticello, Ash Lawn Highland, Montpelier, the Fredericksburg Battlefield, the Hugh Mercer Apothecary, Mary Ball Washington House, George Washington Birthplace, Stratford Hall, Menokin, Jamestown, Yorktown, and finish off at the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge. Still ambitious, but workable.

Our route would look something like this - darn you Google Maps for only allowing 10 places!

Our route would look something like this – darn you Google Maps for only allowing 10 places!

Jon decided at the last minute that he wanted to see Gettysburg, so we traded that for Antietam. And oh, by the way, could we possibly fit in some time on the Blue Ridge Parkway?

The next series of vacation posts will be our Virginia Road Trip – October 4 – 16, 2015.  I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!