Rockport, MA

ROCKPORT – A scenic, coastal town in Northern Massachusetts with sailboats in the harbor, delicious lobster rolls, and many local arts and crafts. The town is a vibrant summer tourist destination. The streets become packed with families headed to the beach and couples looking for a romantic bed and breakfast escape.

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Hawaiian Adventures Day 13

Tuesday, November 8th 

If I were forced to choose, this would probably be my favorite day, a horseback riding and scuba diving epic adventure.

I neglected to mention we rented another car on Monday. Nothing fancy, just the cheapest available. I also forgot to mention, when I finally booked the horseback riding, I was jumping up and down, talking a mile a  minute about how excited I was, and how happy I was that Kyle was going. He was pretty amused by my antics. I kept randomly bringing it up for the rest of the day, throwing in a little bounce or silly grin.

Kyle had never been on a horse before and while he will never admit to being scared, he was definitely apprehensive about the idea. It didn’t help matters that the guy at the military base early on in the trip told Kyle that horseback riding in Jamaica was the worst experience ever. Regardless, he agreed to ride out of sheer love and affection for my crazy horse loving soul.

We headed out early making it to the ranch by ten, stopping for breakfast on the way. Linda, from reviews on Yelp and from my impression over the phone, seemed a bit curt. We arrived at the gate to the stable, opened it with the given combination and headed down the narrow dirt road along the country club’s golf course. The stable wasn’t an actual stable, but a collection of paddocks with attached shelters. Everything was a bit run down, but kept clean and the horses were friendly and healthy.

I offered to assist in the grooming. I grabbed some tools from the bucket and started showing Kyle the ropes. He actually helped me out and did quite a nice job. Opal, a gorgeous dapple grey Arabian mare was to be my mount and this beautiful Appaloosa cow horse was to be Kyle’s. A very gentle giant with a kind eye and a very slow speed, something he could handle.

A whole bunch of women showed up. A few of them military or married to military men. (Found out Linda is a retired police officer, certainly explained her somewhat hard exterior.) The woman had a wild collection of stories as well as a great sense of humor. Just took a little while to get it out of her. This group of women was amazing. All steadfast, strong women with their wits about them yet still very friendly. I love these types.

The ride started out at a leisurely walk through a field that lead out to the ocean. We continued up the coast to a gallop spot. Another reason why I was so excited, this place actually lets you run! All the other places have a walking only mandate and that is horribly boring. Plus, I knew Kyle wouldn’t have any fun unless they let us go fast. The horse, perfectly trained, ran when they were supposed to and stopped when they were supposed to. Mine flew like lightning through the sand, while Kyle’s gave a few strides of canter before settling into a brisk trot. I let the wind take me, gave Opal some rein and spread my arms like an eagle. Incredible.

Her two gorgeous German Shepherds joined us. They loved it!

The ride touched the base of another horse farm. You can see a horse out in the distance.

These two handsome fellows from the neighboring farm galloped over to say hello.

As the ride came to a close, we headed back inland up a slight incline to a graveyard overlooking the sea. A man was sitting on the edge looking out into the ocean.

We ended up hanging out at the farm for a while. I spotted a few little babies when riding back and insisted on going out to say hello. Linda kindly offered me some peppermints to give them. They appreciated it. When heading back, one of the woman from earlier was heading out to see her horses. We started chatting and as it turns out, she has a 36 year old retired rodeo horse, gorgeous thing, flecked with grey all over.

At that point, Kyle rushed me along as needed to get a move on to make it to scuba in time. Then, this gorgeous stallion comes cantering across the field with one of the military ladies on his back. Turns out he is a celebrity. He played the black stallion in Hidalgo that nearly won the race. Beautiful animal, and who got to ride him around? Me!

They even let Kyle jump on him and ride around on a lead. As soon as we had dismounted I began to pester Kyle about whether he had a good time and if everything went okay with him and his horse. He had an amazing time! More so because I was having the time of my life, but it was something he enjoyed and would be willing to do again with me. That meant so much to me as horses are a big part of my life.

We headed out, driving rather quick as we were running out of time. We went to the hotel quickly to grab some snacks and supplies for the dive and got to the meet location of Oahu Divers just in time.

Scuba was incredible. The guide, Erik, was super fun and excellent at finding all the little bits of nature tucked away in the coral. Neither Kyle or I are licensed and this was the first time for both of us. We suited up on shore. Mine was way too think and way too big. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but once wet I ended up with a lot of extra fabric bunching up. We got in the boat and had a brief lesson on the air gauge, clearing our masks underwater, protocol and signals under the water and so forth.

I was a little nervous. I was already starting to feel constricted. The suit was uncomfortable, we were sitting very tightly packed in the boat with our vests on, our masks on, the sun shining down on us, and we were facing a 40 foot dive. I felt claustrophobic.

Arriving at the first dive location, two dives in total, Erik summoned me to jump first. I had a hard time waddling over with my heavy tank and flippers, but I made it to the edge of the boat and jumped in smoothly. Protocol was to head to the side of the boat, grab the rope and move towards the back of the boat where the second guide was. I managed to get to him just fine, but then I felt like my mask was slipping. I let go of the rope to fix it and next thing I know there was water in it and I’m trying to breathe out my nose and the guide, who looks like a Russian mobster is forcefully telling me not to let go of the rope and that I need to look at him  and listen to him and so forth. Well panic ensues and I felt my breathing go ragged as I struggled to calm down. At that moment I wanted to get out of the water and get that suit off. I nearly did. Had Kyle not been so excited to do this and I knew I’d regret doing it, I would have bailed that instant.

Instead, I took a deep breath, grabbed the rope, and took control of myself. Once I calmed down everything became easy. I eased down the rope, deeper and deeper into the sea off Waikiki. The coral was incredible. It came in sporadic large mounds filled with fish and life.

There were four people who had never dove before, Kyle and I and two girls from Japan. One of the girls flipped out and ended up not going in on the first dive. She made an attempt on the second dive but ended up having to get out. I felt bad for the poor thing. I definitely understood what she was feeling after going through my little episode. The next couple were licensed and on their 7th or 8th dive. Then there was a woman who had done over 300 dives! She was an expert and had her own gear with her and everything. Her one desire on this trip was to see an octopus. Erik made that happen on the second dive.

We were just swimming along and all of a sudden, Erik stops and reaches his arm under a bit of coral and pulls out this bright red octopus. It immediately inks everywhere. The first thought in my mind was the fish school in Finding Nemo and the cute little octopus saying, “you made me ink!” I immediately laughed which was a bad idea as it caused my mask to flood with water. Once the ink cleared and the little guy calmed down, we all got to hold him. He suction cupped onto my arm and did not want to come off.

Post dive, I felt drained. Between getting a little crazy on the first dive, swimming around for two hours, and just the overwhelming sensation of doing something so new, so crazy and so much fun, left my body and mind in need of a rest. I also had quite a bit of fog and stuffiness in my head from the combination of two atmospheres of pressure and getting my head filled with water. Poor Kyle ended up having his sinuses bleed after each dive. He also had difficulty equalizing and came out with some serious ear pain.

I can’t remember if it was this night or the night before, but we went out to Tonkatsu Ginza Bairin one of these nights. It is a Japanese place that specializes in fried pork. I did not know that. I saw Japanese on Yelp, high ratings, and I immediately assumed sushi. Well there was no sushi, but it was delicious.

Walking in we were greeted by an entirely Japanese staff, seated and handed a menu also in Japanese and all the customers were Japanese. The waiter kindly asked us if we’ve been here before, no, and offered us assistance if we had any questions. Considering I couldn’t read a thing and the only parts I did understand were pork and the picture of the fried calamari (plus Kyle was really drunk at this point and no help at all) I asked our server if she could point out the house specialties. We ended up sharing the fried calamari, a fried pork entree and Kyle had some sake.

The pork was incredible! The edges were lightly friend with panko breadcrumbs and the meat was tender and juicy. They served it with a special sauce that was sweet and tangy with a hint of spice, miso soup and a cabbage salad. Very pricey place, but super delicious.

All in all, an amazing day.

Hawaiian Adventures Day 11-12

It has come to my attention that I am a few days shy of taking a whole month to blog about my trip. With that realization, I am doing to try, no will, get through days 11-15 by the end of the weekend. These were some incredible days and I cannot wait to tell you about them.

Sunday, November 6th 

Hanauma Bay, a gorgeous protected bay on the southeastern coast of Oahu formed from a volcanic crater in the earth and rising sea levels, was on my list of things to do before even landing in Honolulu. We had put off going a few times, not enough time, or we had other things to do that day, silly excuses for not making the trip out there. Well today was the day, but rather than having the black Mustang to do it, we had no mode of transportation but ourselves and whatever the government allotted us.

I can’t remember how we started the morning, probably sex, breakfast and booze, but around 1 or 2pm we started to make our way out to the bus station. We walked down to the end of Waikiki to catch a direct route rather than having to transfer. The walk was lovely, sun shining, hot people in bikinis wandering around with leis around their necks and huge waffle cones of Cold Stone.

We paused briefly for me to snap a quick photo of Duke, Hawaii’s famous Olympic swimmer, surfer and rescuer extraordinaire. He has an incredible story and is definitely worth Googling. It is a Hawaiian tradition to put leis on his arms. The line to take photos with him was endless. I attempted to snap a quick shot of him alone, but this lady jumped in out of the mob. Forgive me, random woman, for putting you on the internet.

The bus ride was fun. There was a group of about 5 college kids heading in our direction as well, gossiping about other students and drinking fresh juices, definitely freshman, but really getting into the Hawaiian vibe.

The bay was spectacular. A definite nature preserve (so many have been perverted with overflow of tourists and poor maintenance) with an orientation on the nature of the animals, coral and how to keep it all protected and happy. We made it only and hour and a half before closing, so we rushed down into the crater, rented some snorkel gear and jumped into the warm, gentle currents.

Hanauma immediately became my favorite spot on the island. The beach had a bit more people than I would have liked (if I had my way it would be empty), but the waters were crystal clear, warm and the most beautiful shade of turquoise. Fish were everywhere. And not shy at all. Kyle and I were both splashing around, trying to fix our masks and flippers, the fish were mere inches away as if to say, “hey, welcome, let’s swim.” And we did just that.

Kyle lead the way out to the deeper areas of the bay where the currents got a bit stronger, the fish a bit bigger and the water way deeper. You could still see the bottom, but it was at least 10-12 feet deep if not more. The goggles tend to play tricks on you. This is where we spotted the first sea turtle of the evening. And then the second, who swam right beside me. I couldn’t help myself; I reached out to gently stroke his shell as he casually swam by.

At this point we’d be out for a while. Saw all kinds of crazy fish, beautiful corals, incredible life all around us. The snorkel gear had to be returned at a certain time. We decided rather than risk the late fee, we’d head back to check the time. Versus backtracking the way we came, we chose the fastest distance between two points and cut a clear line to shore. The coral started getting closer and closer to the surface, leaving little more than a foot for us to swim. I sped up (when I swim too slow I tend to sink a little). At some point I lost Kyle.

Just keep swimming, just keep swimming.

It was a little frightful being that close to the sharp coral, fearing a bold eel might come out and take nip at your belly. Eventually I hit sand and was able to stand. The water was about shin deep. Kyle made it back to shore a little ways down from me.

We ended up having quite a bit more time. With the northern corals left unexplored, we headed in that direction. The coral was tighter and the people, thicker, but we did see a beautiful parrot fish and two more sea turtles. So much for being endangered. I’m glad to see they are at least thriving here. Such amazing creatures.

“Wasting away again in Margaritaville!” It is impossible to visit a place and not hit a single tacky tourist trap. We chose ours wisely and went to the Jimmy Buffet restaurant on Waikiki. So worth it. The whole place was open air, really chill music, incredible island drinks and just a fun, fresh vibe.

The food was also really good!! We had checked out Yelp reviews before going. They only had a 3.2 or something. Almost changed our minds. Good thing we didn’t! Yes, the place is tacky. It is meant to be tacky! People gave it a low rating because it was touristy and lame. What those people forget to realize is that that is the whole point. But the food was spectacular. We split some fire, spicy shrimp appetizer which was to die for, flavor packed and delicious. I had fish tacos, again and so good, while Kyle enjoyed some mahi mahi.

It was such a fun, easy going meal. The service was incredible too!

Monday, November 7th 

We took it easy Monday. There were a few things we wanted to do before my flight out that Thursday night and they all required bookings. I had called a few horseback riding places over the weekend trying to find something for Monday, but none of them returned my calls. Kyle kept trying to get us set up for a dive, but found most things to be booked (this is why I usually crazy plan ahead).

As everything up to that point worked itself out beautifully, so did horseback riding and diving. We managed to get a morning beach ride (most places on the island only do jungle rides) at Kahuku Kai Horses for Tuesday. I found this place on Yelp. It didn’t come up in any of my Google searches, but was highest rated. Kyle was then able to book the dive for us Tuesday afternoon. Perfect. It would leave us Wednesday to snuggle, do laundry and pack.

This all occurred before lunch time. Very hungry after our valiant efforts to get reservations and having not had a single bite of sushi despite being in Hawaii, we looked up some places with high ratings and headed in their direction down Waikiki. The first ended up being an outdoor truck of sorts. Kyle got nervous about the refrigeration, so we picked the second best, Doraku Sushi, a beautiful sit-down in some two-story outdoor mall right on the beach.

The sushi was delicious. At this point I was trying to get back to eating an entirely whole foods, plant-based diet with no animal products. I’d call it vegan, but real vegan’s get pissed when they see someone wearing leather calling themselves a vegan. I’ve decided just to steer clear of the term. Kyle got some super intense volcano roll and I stuck to my veggie rolls and seaweed salad. Delicious and super fresh.

Strolling out of the mall, half in a food coma, I spotted horses. A beautiful painting of brightly colored horses in Island Art Galleries. The artist was Zhou Ling, painting ‘Riding the Rainbow.’ Her work was gorgeous. Bright colors and unique textures that brought the art to life. Gorgeous, but expensive. The painting was quite large and asking price was $25,000. Little above my pay grade. Then I took notice of Barry Power’s work entitled ‘Galaxy Beach.’ It was a beautifully colored galaxy of fairy dust on a black granite looking backdrop. Gorgeous and more in my price range, $1,200. Most galleries have a lot of junk. Paintings that really aren’t worth their salt. These two artists were incredible.

I don’t really remember what happened for the rest of the day. Not do to alcohol consumption, though I’m sure that didn’t help, but I think we just wandered around Waikiki, grabbed dinner somewhere and drank some more.

Hawaiian Adventures Day 9-10

Friday, November 4th 

REALLY early morning. We had to make it to the airport by 7am for our open-door helicopter lava and waterfall tour. The alarm blared in my ear at 5am; the sun was not even prepared for the day. I crawled out of bed. Letting Kyle sleep, I showered and packed as silently as possible. By 6am we were ready and out the door heading back to Hilo Airport.

The ride was peaceful. Both of us too tired to talk and silently getting ever more excited for the helicopter ride. This is the gold nugget of the Big Island and the main reason we decided to come here. Once at the airport, I tied my hair back as tightly as possible and put about 30 bobby pins in it to keep all the flyaways at bay. We went through the safety procedures, me bouncing on my toes, super excited for my first helicopter ride. Kyle had much more self control.

Get to the choppa!

Briskly we walked out to the helipad, took our designated seats, nylon straps whipped around us, tightened, headset on and off we went. Our pilot earned his training flying helicopters for the Marines. This put me at ease. Those guys are intense. The wind was intense. I could feel the bobby pins slipping and a few bits of hair fall down. It felt like needles against my cheeks.

The ride was incredible. We sailed over the city and across lush green acreage.

Gorgeous view of Kilauea and the edge of Hilo.
A macadamia nut farm set up in a grid with tall trees to protect from wind.
View of the steam vents. I let my feet dangle out of the chopper. I could feel the heat.
First glimpse of lava. The storm the previous day caused some cave-ins.
Difficult to make out, but this is a bunch of slow moving rivers of lava.
Close up of one of the lava streams.
From barren to beautiful.
That little orange spec among all the green is a small house. A crazy man lives there. He is surrounded by lava and has to walk about 2 miles to get to the nearest road and vehicle. If you’re curious, he runs it like a b&b.

After seeing the lava, we flipped around and went to the other side of the island to view some beautiful waterfalls. I’ll have to update this soon with those pictures.

Once I recovered from my hair nightmare, I was literally bouncing for the remainder of the day, pumped full of adrenaline from the helicopter ride and feeling the heat of the lava on my toes. The flight back to Oahu flew by. With no hotel for the evening and the only plan for the night to head to Chinatown for the first Friday art and food festival, we headed to the little military area of the airport. They get a little room with couches, free food and wifi. We hung out there for a few minutes utilizing the internet to check out hotels around Chinatown. Everything was pretty expensive. After sneaking a few sweet rolls and coffee we decided to stick with the Hale Koa for another night. Yes, we would have to pay cab fair back and forth, but the extra cost for the downtown hotel wasn’t worth it. Especially after spending $400 for a helicopter tour.

Back at the Hale Koa, we showered, changed and relaxed for a bit and got drunk before catching a cab over to Chinatown for the tail end of the fair. Galleries had their doors open, free food and drink, people were milling around, shops stayed open late. Not exactly a street fair, but all of Chinatown was awake and vibrant. We wandered around for a bit, found some very cool unique pieces before making our way to slam poetry night. Very very talented people.

The first act was a dynamic duo with a very raunchy tale. They played off of each other and built up a tale of lewd conduct and debauchery. The next few were solo artists either searching for a deeper meaning to their daddy issues or ranting and raving about the government and big bad corporations. Shame they don’t really understand any aspect of economics or politics. The last act of the evening was incredible. Writing this post weeks later has caused my memory to fade, but his rhymes were a retelling of his childhood and it felt like a brisk walk through lower Manhattan, rain pounding the earth, dodging huge puddles and trying to grasp that last bit of warmth before the chill leaves your drenched body. Incredible.

We were still a bit tipsy and demanded some food. Being Chinatown, we popped into the nearest Chinese restaurant and had a few of the staples, sesame chicken and dumplings. Yum. Afterwards we made our way to the adjacent avenue that was lined with bars and ridiculously crowded. We headed for one that wasn’t too packed grabbed a cocktail and a seat and hung out for a bit. I don’t know if it was the crowd or the alcohol, but Kyle was getting tense. He had the look in his eyes where if someone tried to mess with him or bumped into him a little too hard, he’d start a fight. Rather than risk that nonsense, I feigned sleepiness and we headed back to the hotel to finish the beautiful day.

Saturday, November 5th 

The morning was slow going, but once up and dressed we took the city bus to the Aloha Tower and Marketplace to grab lunch at a restaurant suggested by our shuttle driver from the previous evening.

They were closed! In the middle of the afternoon and not opening till the following Monday. Right across the way was Gordon Biersch Brewery. The whole craft beer, micro brewery settling is exactly Kyle’s cup of tea. We eased into a booth and ordered up a local brew and some food. Fish tacos for me. Delicious!

Then, somehow, Kyle got into the topic of this rough period of about 3 weeks we had during the first half of the deployment. I came very close to breaking up with him. A while after everything was settled, I came clean about the fact that in my mind I gave him a window of time to improve on the issues we were having (basically just give a damn about me and tell me he loved me because I was not getting any of that) and if he didn’t, I was going to leave him. Well luckily he did, but he began to relive this. Even when it was happening he didn’t listen to a word I said and therefore never understood what the problem was. He also completely forgot the 3 week fight within another 2 weeks. Over lunch when he asked me for details and I gave them, he told me I did not remember correctly because that was not what happened.

Now, I remember the whole thing crystal clear and this is the man who forgot it even happened 14 days later. I was starting to get heated at blatantly being called a liar. The meal ended with tension and he said it would be best if we took an hour to cool off and to meet back under the Aloha Tower in 60 minutes.

I was fine with this. He was making me angry and I had some shopping to do. I wanted to get a few things for my friends back home, little tokens of my island adventure. Unfortunately, all the cute stuff is super expensive and most of the affordable stuff has that really big Hawaiian print all over it, not exactly the style my New Yorker friends would actually wear. I did manage to find a few things, though I didn’t buy as I needed to ponder.

I met him back at the tower, my mind much more at ease and we headed up to the observatory deck.

View looking out towards Waikiki. These were Kyle and I's favorite apartment buildings.

Part of downtown Honolulu

Versus taking the bus or a cab, we decided to walk back to the hotel. It was a bit of a trek, but through parts of Honolulu we had really wanted to see. It gave us a great chance to stroll, chat and and just relax. Our moods were much better and the little argument was done.

We headed down Ala Moana Blvd to the park, up the paths and as close to the water as we could get. The grass was green and lush, people were milling about, playing ball, soaking up the sun and just enjoying their Saturday afternoon.

We made our way out to Magic Island. Kyle immediately cracked a joke referencing baby boot camp, something we heard on the news that morning about mothers taking their little babies out to the island for boot camp. He wants kids… Crazy bastard. The island was beautiful. Definitely worth the walk.

View of Waikiki from Magic Island

Waikiki and Diamond Head from Magic Island

We made our way back to the hotel just as it began to rain. The evening ended with drinks, as always.

Hawaiian Adventures Day 7-8

Wednesday, November 2nd 

This was our last day in the hotel Hale Koa. We had no reservations for that evening or the next. The sense of freedom provided by this kind of last-minute planning is fun and exhilarating; however, I am accustomed to going to places you need to book months in advance. The plan was to catch a flight to the big island (Hawaii) and stay for two nights in the military camp on the volcano. I had to quell my fears of not getting a flight and being unable to find a hotel and what to do with all the luggage… I hushed my mind into silence and told Kyle, “my faith is in you.” I just relaxed and let him deal with it. Definitely more his style to play things loose and free.

We woke up early to check out this cute cafe Kyle found by the University, The Tea Farm Cafe. Great place with a huge selection of teas, desserts and quick lunches. The conversation revolved around small business integrity, expansions and perversions of any type of heart and soul by expanding and selling out to corporate enterprises. Kyle is a business man. He sees a small privately owned cafe such as this as an opportunity to buy, incorporate, maintain that small, local feel without anything actually being small or local, then sell for a profit. While I am all for capitalism and free markets, if I were to purchase or open a cafe such as this I would incorporate a strong local farmer, locally grown and locally sourced presence. I fully believe in the integrity of small business and would treat it as my baby, protecting it from the negative energy of big, out of control companies, and only expanding to the point where I can still control everything.

I would love to open a small cafe or juice bar. Something manageable in an area with enough local flare to do a fair business. The restaurant world is tough to manage a profit without selling out to someone, plus it has become incredibly difficult to attain the amount of money required for such a venture. Maybe one day.

After a brunch of caesar salad, chicken pesto sandwich, green tea tart, and an almond tart, we said farewell to the mustang and headed back to the hotel to pack. We were extraordinarily late for check-out, but managed to sneak by without any fees or nonsense from the staff and headed straight to the pool to down the remaining alcohol from the mini fridge. There was almost an entire bottle of tequila and a bunch of spiced rum left over.

This quickly disappeared.

We grabbed some appetizers at the bar to hold us over for the evening (drunk munchies) before heading upstairs to catch the shuttle for the airport. For about $360, a price I thought a little steep, we were able to get round-trip tickets to the big island for that evening. Kyle was still working on some tequila and orange concoction up until the security checkpoint at the airport. He was very chatty with the guards.

The flight to the big island passed quickly. We were drunk, giggling and just having a good time. Kyle kept trying to sneak me to a more secluded seat so we could fool around, but it was such a small plane there was no way to manage… basically I chickened out.

Touchdown on the big island around 8pm. At this point Kyle had sobered up and we rented a car and took the 40 minute drive to the military camp in the pitch black.

For a military camp in the middle of a national park, this place was nice. We had a hot tub. With jets. Apparently this was once an internment camp. They’ve certainly spruced it up since then. It didn’t take us long to settle in, cuddle up and watch a few minutes of television before passing out in each others arms.

Thursday, November 3rd

With nothing reserved for the day and no idea what to do, we rose early to try to figure things out and potentially catch an 8:20am tour bus around the Hawaiian Volcanos National Park. Our first stop was the activities booth at the military camp. After making friends with the woman in charge, we headed out with a handful of brochures of the best places to go and a map marked up with all the good stops to see craters and black sand beaches. We grabbed a quick breakfast at the camp and started making phone calls to helicopter tours trying to snag a seat for that morning or afternoon. We ended up getting a 2pm take off with Blue Hawaii Helicopter Tours.

The morning was spent cruising around the national part in our red Ford Focus rental, stopping at all the little Xs on the map. Our first stop along Crater Drive was a short hike through the jungle and into underground caverns carved out of the earth by the volcanic action of the island. Across the street was another path edging along the top of a cliff looking down into a massive crater with a path running directly through it dodging steam vents.

Crater Drive twisted and turned through lush jungle and barren charcoal landscapes. We stopped at most of the craters along the way. None compared to the magnitude of the first crater (pictured above).

Crater Drive continues through the national park until it reaches the beach where it comes to an abrupt halt. The drive was incredible, twisting roads and gorgeous scenery with the smell of the sea and the volcanic gases in the air. Parts of the land looked ravaged by recent lava flows whereas others were lush and green.

As we made it closer to the ocean, the terrain leveled off and the most amusing sign of a man running into a wave welcomed us and warned us of potential for getting swallowed up by a tsunami.

The presence of the sea was overwhelming. White water licked the coast line in a display of power only mother nature could conjure. Many moments passed, enjoying the spray of the sea, the fresh salty air, and being careful not to get too close to the edge.

The drive back was just as pleasant. We were both quiet, admiring the surroundings and silently contemplating the incoming mass of gray clouds.

We drove back to the entrance of the park and began the 45 minute journey to the airport. The clouds grey darker and soon a light drizzle began to speckle the windshield. About 10 seconds later the heavens opened up and pelted the car with big, heavy raindrops, soaking the surroundings and blurring our vision. We slowly made our way to the airport, stopping briefly for a quick-lunch. I let Kyle drive from there. The rain was blinding.

Upon arrival, the rain abated to a sprinkle and then not at all. We began to get prepped for the flight, safety instructions, gear, where we were going to go… Then they received a call from the pilot canceling the ride due to the incremental weather.

Disappointment.

This was something Kyle was really looking forward to, and I as well, being I’ve never been in a helicopter before. He was frustrated and dismayed. We tried to re-book for the following morning. Their only available was a 10am flight, but we can a 10:30 flight booked with Hawaiian Air back to Oahu. We booked it and hustled over to Hawaiian Air to try to make our flight later. It would cost an extra $200 between a higher fare and fees this on top of the $400 for the helicopter was simply too much. As we were walking back to cancel the flight, disheartened as we accepted it was not meant to be, we passed Paradise Helicopter Tours, another place we had called that  morning. Kyle asked about the afternoon, all booked or canceled. We began to walk away when I asked about the following morning. There was a 7:10am flight with two spots open. And it was open air. Snagged it. Weather was still a nuisance, but this was a second chance.

We spent the rest of the afternoon getting some essentials at Wal-Mart (my least favorite store) and grabbing dinner. The sun was still up when we made it back to the camp. There was a gorgeous full rainbow painted across the sky. Both ends were visible. It was gorgeous. We took a break for a while, wrestled a bit, and then headed out to see the Caldera glow of Kilauea.

The night came to a close with a steaming bath in the hot tub.

Hawaiian Adventures Day 6

Tuesday, November 1st 

Today was busy. But not in a bad way. The chill island vibe was ever-present, just a long list of activities took us from sunrise to sunset.

We rose early, hopped in the mustang with some snacks and headed off to the eastern shores of Oahu to Kahana Bay Beach Park for a two-hour kayak and snorkeling excursion. The drive was incredible. Cruising along the same highways as the previous day but with a slight drizzle in the air. As long as we drove fast enough, the water never touched us.

Upon arrival, the parking lot was dotted with Moa chicks, native wild chickens, adorable little birds with various markings, some white some speckled brown. They hustled out-of-the-way as we pulled up.

Our host, a lovely young man who was very informative throughout the entire trip (he even  brought water bottles and snacks, you can’t beat that), helped set us up with life jackets and snorkel gear. Two other couples arrived, one from the UK and the other somewhere in the states. We walked down to the cove and spotted three tandem kayaks. Kyle and I desired singles as we are both a bit independent and headstrong. I started laughing. There was going to be trouble; nothing harmful, just some playful competition.

We shoved off and headed into a strong wind and current pushing against us. The first part of the trip was a kayak across the bay to Coconut Island. This is where “Gilligan’s Island” was filmed and it also played host to a bunch of celebrities, politicians and wealthy people before becoming part of the university’s biology program. The kayak across seemed to take forever! It was fun, but a tough paddle. Kyle and I managed to get there without too much difficulty. We were the first couple to make it, of course, but not without some splashing and poking fun at my inability to maintain any sense of rhythm.

The island was beautiful, lush and green surrounded by clear waters, white sand and colorful reefs. Kyle and I were both first timers at snorkeling. He jumped right in no problem. I stared at the water for a moment contemplating the best way to get in without my flippers causing a commotion. I opted for a gentle tumble off the side and immediately started breathing.

Peculiar. The sensation was uncomfortable at first, strange pressure against the face and breathing in and out of your mouth with a hyper awareness of your surroundings, but AWESOME. Getting this close to the fish and coral was incredible. The abundance was astounding. There were fish everywhere, of all different colors and sizes. We saw a bunch of brightly colored angel fish, a porcupine fish, as well as some larger silvery fish. There were an incredible amount of sea cucumber. At the time I was unaware of what they were and could not help but see the resemblance between tapeworms. I steered clear.

Diving into the deeper depths to peek into the crevices under the coral, I spotted a gorgeous sea turtle. I caught a few photographs with an underwater disposable (I’ll post the photos when I get them developed). Kyle and I swam along the edges of the coral before heading over to the shallower regions. He, scared of having his pecker bitten off by an eel, followed me bravely over bits of deeper coral as we neared the shore. Without realizing I turned and started to head over some very shallow coral. I did not hit anything, but Kyle did not dare follow me. The masks play tricks on you. The coral appears much much closer than it actually is. Kyle did not dare follow me and it was awfully amusing watching him attempt to find a way back that was deep enough for his comfort levels.

We headed back up to the boats and over to another location. This was much deeper and less secluded. It was a round area in the middle of the bay that sunk down like an underwater crater. The walls were coral and the bottom was a bit too far down to visit, but it was mainly sand with scattered coral. Here the currents were stronger, water cooler, and fish larger. There were still many tiny brightly colored fish hidden along the coral.

Back into our bright yellow kayak, we started to head back to the cove. With the wind and the current at our backs the trip is easy-going; we downed a water bottle and a granola bar along the way. After a quick shower and freshen we hopped back in the mustang and continued north along the east coast. Our destination: Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck.

This place was recommended to me by the man I met on the plane ride over. It is famous for its shrimp scampi. The truck is this old beat up thing covered with signatures and doodles from patrons.

madehealthier.com

The scampi was amazing! Kyle had the spicy shrimp, way too hot for me to handle, and we split a tasty pina colada. It was peel your own. We both… well not so much Kyle, but I made a mess of my hands tearing at the shrimp and reeked of garlic for the rest of the evening, but it was totally worth it. Delicious. There were a bunch of shrimp trucks along the North Shore, but this definitely had the largest crowd and seemed to be a hit with the locals.

Feeling full and a bit sleepy, we took a slow drive along the surfer beaches, did not catch a glimpse of the pipeline, but we did not hang around long to seek it out. We continued our way to Waimea Canyon State Park. This was recommended to us by the guy at the Naval base. It is a gorgeous stroll through luscious botanical gardens full of tropical flowers and plants, some native some brought in from various islands and countries.

Common Moorhen

We made are way slowly through the twists of paths and foliage full of shrimp and content to stroll in the warm afternoon sun and occasionally sneaking off into dark shadows to steal a kiss. Due to massive amounts of rain the previous night, bits and pieces were closed to foot traffic and the waterfall was closed to swimming. This was a big disappointment as we were both really excited about having a romantic swim in the falls.

Despite being closed for swimming, the falls were a stunning sight. With at least double the normal flow, the water was pounding down and the spray could be felt from the shores. We sat at the rocky banks for quite a few moments, silent and in awe, or maybe just tired and full, but it was an impressive view.

We made our way back to the car and drove in the direction of Waikiki as the sun began to set. We took a slight detour to drive along a road we spotted from kayaking in the bay. The road was attached to the side of one of the mountains and appeared narrow and windy. It was Highway 3. The detour in getting there took quite some time, especially with my inability to give proper directions, but we made it and cruised along the H3, top down, and darkness all around us except for the far off view of shining lights from the various towns. For me, this drive was relaxing. For Kyle, it was the perfect adrenaline rush to end the day.

Once at the hotel, we freshened up and headed down to grab dinner at one of the hotel restaurants. This was the moment of our first Mai Thai’s. They were deliciously strong and sweet and everything amazing. Once a nice little buzz developed, the hotel room awaited us for a romp in the sheets before passing out.

Hawaiian Adventures Days 3-5

Saturday, October 29th

Morning came just a little too bright and a little too early. There was a slight awkwardness after the previous night quickly ushered away by a swift kiss and an “I love you.”

The farmer’s market at Kapiolanni Community College begins very early and closes shop by eleven. We quickly showered and dressed and made our way to the front desk to figure out the bus schedules. After waiting and waiting for the bus and it getting ever closer to eleven, we decided to cab it to the college.

Spectacular. Dozens of vendors with tropical fruits I had never even heard of, local honeys, butters, meats, fresh coconuts, it was an incredible array of flavors and smells of sausage, pineapple, foreign spices and flavors. My lunch consisted of the following:

kaffir miso pad thai, fresh coconut water, dragon fruit, and papaya
kelp noodles, carrots, cashews, bell peppers, red cabbage, red onion, cilantro, sesame oil

I ended up saving the dragon fruit and papaya for a snack later. The miso pad thai was amazing! Fresh and crispy and super satisfying. I could have spent hours there. The fruits were incredible. I would have loved to try more, but I could barely carry everything I had. Kyle enjoyed some seasoned french fries with sea salt and thyme as well as a spicy sausage.

After dodging some random rain spurt, we headed across the street to Diamond Head. This is the best place for views of Waikiki Beach. It was once used for military and some old bunkers still exist here. The trail was fun! It twisted along the side of the mountain winding its way along the narrow face stopping at various lookout points. It also included an immense amount of stairs and frequent warnings for falling rocks. Overall the climb was fairly short and invigorating. The fresh air felt wonderful and the views were spectacular. Once at the top, we paused for some time taking in the beautiful beaches and gorgeous city of Honolulu.

Making our way down the incline, we shared a well deserved Pina Colada before making our way back to the hotel for a quick clean up and change. We ended up taking a cabbie back who dropped us off a ways away from our hotel. After a quick visit into the International Market we took to the beach and strolled back along the coast. This was my first time at the waters edge and it was stunning. The sea glistened from sun and the sand was soft and warm. It was a very relaxing and romantic stroll back to the room.

It was time for Fight Night.

Fight Night, for my boyfriend, means hours at Buffalo Wild Wings with lots of beer and spicy wings. Tonight was Hawaii native B.J. Penn versus Nick Diaz. Being in Hawaii for this fight turned out quite a local crowd. There were a bunch of fights leading up to this. All of which left my adrenaline pumping and me oooing and ahhing with the crowd. I really get into Fight Night.

It was at this point where I lost my veganism. There was literally nothing but chicken on the menu and my boyfriend managed to convince me that Fight Night does not count and it basically all went downhill from here in regards to my eating habits.

However, back to the fight. Penn ended up losing to Diaz after a very intense and very bloody fight. Both contenders looked awful by the end of it. Penn even went so far as to announce his potential retirement which stunned the crowd. He is an incredible fighter and it would be a sham to lose him from the UFC. His reasoning: he did not want to come home to his kids looking the way he did. From a woman’s perspective, I can completely understand. Most of the people in the bar found that to be a little weak.

We headed back to the hotel full of chicken wings, blood pumping with adrenaline from the fight, talking amicably about the day and plans for tomorrow.

Sunday, October 30th

Sunday consisted of one thing and one thing only, the hotel’s Champagne brunch. Basically an all you can drink buffet of champagne and some local foods as well as the usual breakfast and lunch buffet.

As it was not cheap, Kyle and I basically drank our weight in champagne and piled our plates high with delicious fruits and tasty treats. We met two great couples seated next to us both residing in Hawaii, the men military and the women school teachers. We chatted for a while as we consumed more and more champagne. They invited us out for drinks after but by the time we were finished with the champagne we stumbled up to the room and passed out for the rest of the day.

Literally the entire day.

I did not wake until evening. Kyle was soon to follow. We munched on some leftover wings and dragon fruit before going right back to sleep.

It was very nice to just curl up next to each other and simply sleep.

Monday, October 31st 

The day began with a walk in the sunshine down to the Enterprise to rent a sexy black Mustang convertible. We were initially going to go with the economy sedan until the sexy beast was offered to us as a steal of a price. Snagging the gorgeous car, we headed out to Hickam Field, a Navy base near Pearl Harbor. They have some office where the military can buy discounted tickets to local attractions. We booked a kayak and snorkel tour for the following day as well as an all day pass to the Polynesian Cultural Center for that day.

After picking up a bunch of snacks for the drive, we exited the base and headed up highway 63 to highway 83. Two gorgeous routes cutting up through the island and driving up the eastern coast. This was an incredible drive made glorious by the Mustang convertible. On one side was the bright blue and turquoise waters of the Pacific contrasted by tall, lush green mountains on the other side. The views were spectacular.

We made it to the Polynesian Culture Center around 3pm and wandered around the grounds exploring the various island exhibits, tasting Tahitian coconut bread and watching pretty girls hula and burly men beat drums. We popped into one performance close to the end. A performer brought three men from the crowd to the stage to learn how to drum. One was from Colorado, one Puerto Rico and the other China. They made a hilarious combination. Some of the actions were a bit awkward and the men did a wonderful job of making them fun and exciting. The man from China could barely understand the performer’s commands. Lost in translation provided for some hilarious entertainment.

The luau began at five with a presentation of the royalty followed by hula dancing done by men, women and children, each having their own role to play. The food was tasty and unique.

Not the prettiest of presentations, but it was tasty

It consisted of the famous Kalua pig, a staple in the luau ever since pig became predominant on the islands, even to the point of being overpopulated. Taro is also very common on the islands. The purple is taro bread and taro salad. The sweet potato is a fair yellow rather than our deep orange. There is also raw salmon with onions, rice, long rice, local fish and chicken. Not exactly a vegan meal…

After the luau we strolled around the area, looking through the gift shops, Kyle trying to get me to look at the pearls and the black coral. Black coral is the jewel of Hawaii. Our all day pass included the evening show, “Ha- Breath of Life.”

Polynesian Culture Center (www.polynesia.com)

The show was spectacular. It is a story of birth, life, death, love, family, triumph and tragedy. It was beautifully done with a gorgeous and talented cast of dancers, singers, and fire tossers. You could feel their joy and their pain. A must see.

Today is Halloween. We rushed back to the hotel after the show to change into costume and head out to some bars on Waikiki. Kyle surprised me with a belly dancing costume from Kabul. As authentic as they come. The embroidery is beautiful and it jingled as I walked. We followed the crowds of people, popping into a few bars to enjoy a drink and check out the costumes. It was mainly lots of women wandering around in lingerie. Definitely a fun night filled with fruity cocktails and pouring rain.