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AndyO Blog

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Kauai - Last Day (Tuesday)

Today is our last day in Kauai. Tomorrow, we board a plane and island hop from Kauai to Oahu to Hawaii, where we'll stay for another week. My parents are flying home on Wednesday.

Even after a full week and seeing so much, there are still more places I want to visit and things I want to do. This is my second visit to Kauai, and I can see why it calls people back.

As usual, I wasn't able to keep up on my daily blog. I guess I was too busy doing things and relaxing. But I'll be filling in these days in the next week or so. Until then, I'll leave you with an amazing view of the Napali Coast, on the west side of Kauai, which we visited on Friday.


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posted by AndyO @ 12:35 AM   0 comments links to this post

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Kauai - Day 4 (Thursday) - Thanksgiving

I woke up to the drumming of rain outside. The TV said that there were flash floods all over the island. There was so much rain that the famous Kauai red mud was now bleeding into the ocean from the Waimea River. Here's a picture:

The red mud flows into the ocean

Brenda and I decided to go out for a bit without the kids. She really wanted to go to Wal-Mart. On the way, we stopped at Lydgate State Park, one of our favorite snorkeling spots from our previous visit to Kauai. We'd heard from Snorkel Bob's that the storm that had blasted the island a week or two before had filled Lydgate with debris and dead animals. When we arrived, we saw a deserted beach and signs posted not to swim.

 Lydgate park is closed

The lifeguard who was on duty said it would be a month before the beach reopened. He said they had to let the ocean clean out the lagoon. It certainly looked like a mess.

No swimming at Lydgate park

Next, we drove to Wal-Mart. I've got to say that I'm not a big fan of Wal-Mart, but they do have a lot of stuff. We were mostly there to buy food, but I had to buy a Hawaiian shirt for the dinner we were going to for Thanksgiving. We also bought Lego car kits for the boys.

When we came outside, the rain had stopped and the air was muggy. Of course I started sweating right away.

Wal-mart on Kauai 

Thanksgiving Dinner at Gaylord's

For Thanksgiving Dinner, my parents took us out to Gaylord's at Kilohana, a large plantation on the Kaumualii Highway, in Lihue. We sat in a covered area outside.

 Thanksgiving dinner at Gaylord's

We brought the Lego cars for the kids to put together, but that only kept them occupied for 40 minutes.

Drew assembles a Lego car

Before long, the boys were running around on the grass. I gave Cameron the camera and he started documenting all the birds they were chasing.

Photo of Drew by Cameron

Photo of chicken by Cameron

We all ate a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, except Brenda and Drew. I started with a wonderful Kabocha Pumpkin Bisque and salad with arugula with Kunana chevre. Brenda had a "fabulous" fish dinner (I think it was halibut), and Drew had chocolate cake. (You read the correctly: chocolate cake.)

Drew eating his "dinner"

Brenda's Thanksgiving dinner: fish

After dinner, which took nearly two hours to eat due to slow service, we walked around the grounds of the plantation. (I noticed that it wasn't just Gaylord's that had slow service on Kauai; I just think the pace is slower on the island, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. It just becomes a more difficult thing when you have two kids and one of them is four.)

The view from Gaylord's

The view from Gaylord's

Cameron and Drew especially loved this truck in the parking lot:

Monster truck

Waimea Falls

After dinner we drove to Waimea Falls, the location that was used at the beginning of the 70s show Fantasy Island. Along the way, we saw a wild boar dart from the side of the road into the brush. My Dad, who was wearing his boar's tooth necklace, was pretty excited.

The falls themselves were spectacular, especially given the amount of rain that had come down that day. But we didn't stay too long since it started raining again. 

Waimea Falls runneth over

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posted by AndyO @ 7:56 PM   0 comments links to this post

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Kauai - Day 3 (Wednesday): Coconuts

Today, Drew woke up and wanted to be wrapped like a mummy. Brenda, who's the most resourceful person I know, made Drew's wish come true. All it took was a little toilet paper.

Drew as "Mummy Boy"

Cameron's wish, on the other hand, was to get his favorite breakfast in Hawaii -- biscuits and gravy. Brenda bought all the ingredients at Safeway on Monday, and she threw together a delicious big breakfast. My Mom and Dad were equally impressed with Brenda's culinary skills.

Brenda's Biscuits and Gravy

After we were fed, all of us headed out in the 6-seat minivan to tour the north part of Kauai. On our drive up highway 56 we ran into road maintenance, which meant one-lane roads and lots of waiting. But none of us seemed to care too much. After a few wrong turns, we made it to Anini Beach.

I'd read about a high-surf warning around Kauai the night before, and the waves were crashing all around Anini Beach. Snorkeling on a day like this would be impossible due to the high surf and the murky brown water (my Dad also told us sharks like to attack in water like this).

High surf at Anini Beach

Before we left, Cameron gave us all a tap-dancing demonstration on one of the picnic benches.

Cameron gives tap dancing lessons at Anini Beach 


After the murky water and crashing waves, we drove a few more miles to Princeville. My parents have another timeshare in Princeville, and we'd never seen it before. This place is referred to as "The Cliffs," because the condos sit on top of a cliff with an amazing view of the ocean. On this day, the surf below was even bigger than at Anini Beach. Here's a panorama shot I took:

Princeville Panorama

After that, we checked out the Princeville pool, which my Mom said had been remodeled since they'd last stayed there. There's something really inviting about pools with lava rock and waterfalls. It was a little too inviting for Drew, who decided to jump into the water sprayers.

The pool at "The Cliffs" in Princeville


We left Princeville and headed to our final destination north, Hanalei. We were all pretty hungry after seeing all that high surf, so we stopped in Ching Young Village and ate at the Polynesia Cafe. This spot ended up being ideal, as they had a lot of different types of food (chicken teriyaki, chili, toasted cheese sandwiches, and fish 'n' chips), and Cameron and Drew could run around in the Village if they got bored (they never did, thanks to all the birds flying around the tables).

Polynesia Cafe

After lunch, we drove to Hanalei Bay so we could watch all the surfers from the pier. There were definitely two levels of surfers here: those near the shore, and those out in the Big Waves, assisted by jet skis. Cameron looked at all the kids trying to surf and longed to get out there himself.

Surfers in Hanalei Bay 

We left Hanalei and drove straight back to Kapa'a, which took about half the time as driving up (no construction). We stopped at a Farmers' Market and Brenda found the boys coconuts! The farmer cut a hole in the chilled coconuts so the boys could drink the coconut juice (not to be confused with coconut milk). It was pretty refreshing in afternoon heat, but no one could finish theirs.

Coconuts at last

The farmer cut out the coconut meat for us, and my Dad also bought the biggest avocado any of us had ever seen (I forgot to take a picture).

All in all, a pretty good day on Kauai.

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posted by AndyO @ 9:06 PM   0 comments links to this post

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Kauai - Day 2 (Tuesday) - Snorkeling and Puka Dog

In the late morning, everyone except my Mom (who wasn't feeling well) piled in the Dodge minivan and drove to Poipu, which is on the south side of Kauai.

Poipu has one of the best beaches for snorkeling, especially for kids, because the water is shallow and  the fish are plentiful. A few years before, I'd had a transcendent experience snorkeling on this beach where I'd finally gotten the hang of floating around with fish and the ocean.

Once we arrived at the beach and got our base camp set up, Brenda, Cam, and my Dad went snorkeling while I sat on the beach with Drew. (It turned out that Drew didn't want to go in the water -- no matter what.) So, that meant we'd be taking turns with him.

Poipu Beach

On this particular day, there was a huge monk seal lying on the beach, and the beach patrol had roped off the area so no one would bother him. I'd seen seals basking on a dock or rocks before, but never on the beach like this. 


After a while, my Dad came out of the water and offered to watch Drew while I went snorkeling. I grabbed my gear and walked down to the water. As usual, the water felt cold when I sat down in it -- which is due to the air being so warm -- but after a few minutes I was used to it.

Like my experience before, I floated over the rocks and saw schools of brightly-colored fish. This time, Cameron was snorkeling right next to me, occasionally giving me the thumbs-up under water when we saw an especially interesting fish.

After about 30 minutes, I was ready to stop snorkeling. The salt kept building up in my snorkel leaving an awful taste, and the shallow depth made it somewhat difficult to maneuver effectively. I knew I was ready for more advanced snorkeling.

Plus, I knew it was time to go to Puka Dog.

My Puka Dog journey is finally complete

A few years ago I was watching a Travel Chanel show about hot dogs. On their list of the best hot dog places in the U.S. was Puka Dog (pronounced "pooka") in Kauai. The difference with these dogs was that they were stuffed into a small loaf of Hawaiian bread. Then they filled them with exotic Hawaiian relishes. At the time I was watching this show, I'd just returned from Kauai and I was disappointed I'd missed this place.

Puka Dog

But that was about to change.

Since we'd arrived on Kauai, I'd worked up the entire family (except Brenda, who doesn't eat hot dogs) for a visit to Puka Dog. We parked at the shopping center where Puka Dog is located and started standing in line with everyone else.

Waiting at Puka Dog

It took a while, but we finally were sitting down and eating our Puka Dogs. Cameron had ordered his with just ketchup and mustard. I'd ordered mine with mango relish, I think. And when I sunk my teeth into that dog, I have to say I was disappointed. It was just too sweet for me. The relish was more like syrup than, say, a real hot dog relish. I like a more savory hot dog, I guess, and thought that the next time I'd order a dog like Cameron's -- with just ketchup and mustard.

The author finally eats a Puka Dog

My Dad enjoyed his Puka Dog, but he'd ordered it extra spicy -- and it wasn't spicy enough for him. So, he was a little disappointed too.

Normski wants more spice in his Puka Dog

But how could I not be disappointed? I'd built up my expectations for literally years. There was no way Puka Dog could live up to these type of expectations.

I'll return on my next trip and try one of these dogs without all the syrupy relish.

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posted by AndyO @ 9:22 PM   0 comments links to this post

Kauai - Day 2 (Tuesday): Sunrise

I woke up at 6:30 a.m., and I found Brenda working on her computer in the kitchen. The boys were snoring on the hide-a-way bed. My parents were asleep in their bedroom. She mentioned that sunrise was going to be amazing. I looked out the bedroom window and saw a dramatic band of orange and red on the horizon. I put on my clothes, gathered my camera gear, and went down to the beach.

A sunrise on a Hawaiian island is a primal, magical experience. Here's what it looked like:





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posted by AndyO @ 12:17 PM   0 comments links to this post

Monday, November 23, 2009

Kauai - Day 1 (Monday): No coconuts

Today was our first full day on Kauai, and we started off a little slow. Part of it was that we'd gotten in at 12:00 a.m. Seattle time the night before, and part of it was that I'd slept on the hide-a-way couch with Cameron (he didn't want to sleep alone -- and his brother was sleeping in my bed).

Once we got up and dressed, I took my parents to breakfast at Egbert's while Brenda took the boys to the swimming pool. Breakfast was good, and even though our server forgot a lot of stuff, she made up for it with her humor and island charm. When she did bring me my salsa for my Portuguese sausage omelet, she said she said she didn't need to charge me for the small size. "But make sure you stir in some Tabasco, because it makes it a lot better."

The ants go marching in the condo

After breakfast, we returned to our room. We're staying at the Kauai Coast Resort at the Beachboy in Kapa'a, which is on the east side of the island. We have an oceanfront view room. Here's the view from the third floor balcony:


We also found out the condo had a few problems with pests, including some ants that liked to march across the countertop. I figure if you're living in the tropics for two weeks, a few pests are a small price to pay.

Snorkel Bob's and shopping

Later in the day, Brenda and I took the boys to Snorkel Bob's to get our snorkel gear. I realized that I still had jet lag, because 2:00 p.m. felt really late. The guy at Snorkel Bob's got us set up, and then it was on to Safeway in search of a coconut for the boys.

Snorkel Bob's

As we looked around in the store, I finally asked someone who worked there where we could find a coconut.

"We don't sell them in the store," he answered.


"What do you mean?" he said.

"Is there a reason you don't sell them in the store?" I asked.

"You can get them on some of the roadside stands," he said, still not answering my question.

I thought I'd violated some kind of island code by asking about this, so I gave up.

Safeway in Kauai

Testing out the snorkel gear

Later in the day, we went to the resort pool to swim and try out the snorkel gear. Cameron had actually learned to swim in this very pool four years ago, He didn't waste any time putting on his mask and fins and cruising around the pool like a human torpedo.

Before we left, Drew had told us he didn't want to swim -- so we didn't put on his swimming suit. But as soon as he saw the pool, he wanted to go in. So then I had to walk all the way back to the room with him to get his swimming suit.

This only took 20 minutes.

When we got back, my Mom had made friends with a couple who sported tattoos and chain smoked. I jumped in the water with Cameron and Drew and we had a great time.

Later, my Mom introduced me to Kimo, one of the staff at the Kauai Coast Resort who helped them carry all those Costco groceries up the three flights of stairs the day before. Kimo and I talked about music.

But I was dying to ask him why we couldn't buy a darn coconut at Safeway. He said it had to do with coconuts being so plentiful on the island that there was no reason to stock them in the stores.

So, no coconuts on this trip.

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posted by AndyO @ 11:42 PM   2 comments links to this post

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Seattle to Kauai - Nightmare at 35,000 feet

They're serving dinner on the plane right now, but about an hour ago the aisle next to me looked like an emergency room.

It all started with some commotion in the seats behind Brenda and the kids. I thought that the young man sitting there just felt sick. But then came the call over the intercom, "Is there a doctor on board?"

In all the limited flying I've done in my life, I'd never heard a call for a doctor. (And of course I imagined if this ever happened, that doctor would surely look like Leslie Nielson from Airplane!) But this obviously wasn't a laughing matter.

In seconds the doctor was sitting next to the young man who was sick. Flight attendants stood in the aisle, giving him what he needed. People turned around in the front of the plane and gawked. Voices were never raised, but there was a palpable tension in the air.

One of the flight attendants plugged a headset into a connection in the overhead compartment and relayed information back and forth from a hospital somewhere. I could hear words like "blood sugar" floating in the air. And soon it was clear the young man was suffering from a diabetic seizure. He had low blood sugar, which could be life-threatening.

Of course, the first thing that came to my (and probably everyone else's) mind  was that the plane might need to turn around and go back to Seattle. But the doctor, flight attendants, and several "nurses" who were also on the flight were working feverishly.

After 30 or 40 minutes I saw the young man talking calmly to the doctor, and it seemed that the danger had passed. Soon, the doctor got up and walked back to his seat to applause.

Everyone breathed a sigh of relief.

In this world of superstar celebrities and people who are famous for being famous, we often lose sight of the true heroes. Like the doctor who came forward. Like the flight attendants who kept their cool through the whole situation. Like the nurses who assisted. Like my wife Brenda who offered food and other supplies.

What could have been a true nightmare turned out OK. Later, when I was waiting for the lavatory at the back of the plane, I asked one of the flight attendants how often they see problems on the plane.

"Oh, it happens on overnight flights a lot." By overnight, I believe she meant a flight where the crew stays overnight somewhere. "And when there's a full moon."

(I should point out that there was no full moon on this particular night.)

The flight attendant said she'd never seen diabetic shock before, but that she'd been trained to deal with it. I didn't ask how close we'd come to turning around. Some things are better left unsaid.

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posted by AndyO @ 8:45 PM   0 comments links to this post

Sea-Tac Airport - Hawaiian Vacation begins

We arrived at Seattle-Tacoma airport two hours early for our flight to Kauai. On this particular Sunday before Thanksgiving, the crowds were thin. It was still good to have plenty of time with so much luggage and two kids.

We took the subway to the N concourse, the same place I'd started my three-week vacation to Europe 10 years ago. Both boys were so excited, they were asking questions about everything. And Brenda's plan of having the boys pull their own luggage was working. They were also both wearing red sweat suits (which we thought would help with tracking them--and, no, I don't think Brenda has seen The Royal Tenenbaums).

When we got to the gate, passengers were disembarking from the sleek Boeing 737-800. Drew walked up to the window and stared out at the airplane. A little later, we ended up meeting the co-pilot for our flight, who was sitting next to us in the waiting area. He invited Cameron and Drew into the cockpit during boarding.

Drew and the Boeing 737-800

Sure enough, when we got on board, the pilot and co-pilot welcomed the boys into the cockpit. They even let Cameron sit in the co-pilot's seat!

Our pilot, Drew, and Cameron

One interesting thing the co-pilot told me was that the winglets (those tails on the end of wings) on the 737-800 help with fuel efficiency. Evidently, just having those 8-foot winglets reduces vortex drag (those little tornados you sometimes see coming off the wings of airplanes).

I asked if he could tell the difference when flying an aircraft with winglets and one without. He said the ones with winglets take longer to slow down and "want to stay up in the air."

The pilots offered to let Cameron or Drew talk on the microphone, but they were too shy. Then they offered to answer any questions. Finally, they gave them airplane cards. (Thanks to the Alaska Airlines crew who made this visit to the cockpit possible. It meant a lot to the boys.)

After that, we took our seats and waited to take off. Brenda, Drew, and Cameron sat on one side of the plane, and I sat across the aisle.

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posted by AndyO @ 6:14 PM   0 comments links to this post

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Tri-Cities - 7/31 - 8/2

Over the weekend, we traveled to my parents' house in the Tri-Cities. We drove over on Friday night, leaving behind 100 degree temperatures in Seattle, and arrived to 90 degrees in Richland at 8:30 p.m. As soon as the kids got out of the car, they were in the pool. After I unloaded the car, I was in there, too.

The next day we needed the pool more than ever, as the temperature shot up to 110 degrees! I invited a friend from high school, Jennifer, and her two kids to swim, too. Jennifer and I hadn't seen each other since the last high-school reunion, many moons ago, so it was fun to catch up.

Her two kids, Sarah and Jack, put on an acrobatic display of diving as we baked in the shade.



Even Cameron, who wasn't even jumping off the board until about a month ago, got into the act:


After lunch, Jennifer and I also got in the pool to cool off. At one point I started giving scores to the dives. When I gave Sarah a 9.4, she asked, "What do I have to do to get a 10?"

Jennifer answered, "Lose the attitude!"

Rocko the barking dog

My parents' dog, Rocko, a Gordon Setter, always gets upset when anyone steps one toe on the diving board. My Mom says he does it because he's nervous and doesn't want anyone to get hurt. But after a while, it gets really old. My Mom ordered me to throw Rocko in the pool to get him to shut up.

I was only too happy to comply.

But then something really interesting happened after Rocko got out. I don't know if any of us would have caught it, but Sarah (The Dog Whisperer) noticed that Rocko wanted to get back in the pool. She gave him a few words of encouragement, and he jumped back in. Perhaps Rocko was just trying to tell us he wanted in the pool?

Rocko and the Dog Whisperer

Anniversary dinner

After Jennifer and the kids left, my parents watched Cameron and Drew so Brenda and I could go out for our anniversary. When I asked Brenda where she wanted to go, she said "Target." Without our kids, we've found that shopping becomes almost peaceful. Pretty sad. While Brenda walked around the store, I stayed in the movie area, trying to decide on all the cheap Blu-rays they had.

After our peaceful shopping, we drove to Richland to Anthony's Home Port on the Columbia River. The wait time was 45 minutes, but we went into the bar and decided to stay there (again, something you really can't do with kids).

I ordered the steak and Brenda ordered a salad. The food was excellent. But it's interesting how after a long wait time, I get antsy near the end of dinner. We talked about going for a walk on the river, but it was still pretty warm outside -- and we'd done enough sweating for the day.

We decided to go home and try to get the kids to bed at a reasonable time (Drew had fallen asleep around midnight the night before).


posted by AndyO @ 11:03 PM   0 comments links to this post

Friday, July 24, 2009

Sun Mountain - Day 2 (Friday)

This was day 2 at Sun Mountain lodge in Winthrop, WA, 7/24/09. Read Day 1 here.

The boys and I got up early (early for us is before 9:00) and went to breakfast at the Sun Mountain Lodge. Cam and I ordered the Eggs Benedict (the hollandaise was a little too sour for us -- too much lemon?) and Drew got the pancakes.


After breakfast, we went to the game room, where we played ping pong, pool, and foosball. Cameron really got into learning how to play pool, but Drew kept interfering. So we left.


Smoke Jumper base


After playing in the game room, we drove to Winthrop -- about 10 miles from the Sun Mountain Lodge -- and then on to the North Cascades Smoke Jumper base. This is the actual base where smoke jumping was invented. In short, Smoke jumpers parachute out of airplanes and then create a fireline against a current blaze. As you can imagine, it's dangerous, difficult work.

Smoke Jumper base

On this particular day, there was a lot of activity around the base. Thunderstorms from the night before had started fires all over the Cascade Mountains, and smoke jumpers from Oregon and elsewhere were coming to help out. Helicopters were landing to pick up water to drop on fires, and other airplanes were landing.

Smoke Jumper plane 

One of the great things about going to the smoke jumper base is you get a tour from a smoke jumper. The smoke jumper paraloft, where they store their equipment and parachutes, always reminds me of the shellhouse at the University of Washington. Smoke jumpers and oarsmen also have similar personalities and physiques.

Smoke Jumper paraloft

Chasing wildlife

When we got back to Sun Mountain Lodge, we found a bunch of Blue Grouse on the grounds. The boys kept trying to get close to them, which made it difficult for me to get good pictures. Here's what the females look like:

Blue grouse

Later, when we came back from lunch we found a lone deer standing on the grounds. A bunch of people got pictures with the deer (as if she was a celebrity), but I told the kids to stay away from her.

Then, the deer did something totally unexpected: She lay down. This made me realize how comfortable they are at Sun Mountain -- even if tourist do like to take pictures of them.


BBQ and swimming

Due to more thunderstorms and rain, the barbeque that's usually held at the lake was moved to the lodge. This was the same place we'd eaten the night before.

We ate with the chair of the board, his wife, and their two grandchildren -- as we were going to watch the kids after the BBQ so Bud and Bonnie could hold a wine tasting in their room.

The kids went to the pool and swam until close to 10:00 p.m.! I went in with them, but the pool was surprisingly cold due to the cool weather we'd been having. I spent most of the time in the hot tub.


 Chapel (L) and Cameron (R)

After that, the kids watched a movie and when the grandchildren left our room, Cam and Drew fell asleep in minutes.

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posted by AndyO @ 10:26 AM   1 comments links to this post