Akaka Falls

See the World for Free

The idea here is to TRAVEL THE WORLD regardless of time or budget. It dawned on me one day that even if I had unlimited time and money (which I definitley do not), I still couldn't see everything in the world that I'd like to see--I'm simply not going to live long enough to do it.

But I had a bit of brain wave and soon after the travel envelope was born. This is an actual physical envelope. I typed the name of every country in the world, plus every state in the US on little slips of paper which I then put into the envelope. In the beginning we (myself, my husband, Dave and daugher Catherine) would draw out a slip at random at the beginning of the month and that's where we would go---at least in our minds. We grab some books about the country from the library and put them in our bathroom to look at. We also check out some videos about the country if any. We check it out on googleearth, listen to the music, try the food, maybe even attempt to learn a dance or celebrate a festival.

After the first two years we discovered that even virtual traveling can be tiring, so we travel now whenever I happen to be in the mood.

It's great fun. I especially love it when people I meet have been to the place I'm "visiting" in real life, or get excited and have some virtual adventures of their own. I hope that anyone who comes across this blog will feel welcome to come with us on the trip!

You have a standing reservation to see it all!

Jul 7, 2016

Hawaii 2016

June 2016 Dream Trip to Hawaii

Four years ago, my mother took all of us to Hawaii. It was a wonderful trip, and you can see pictures on the Hawaii link to the left on this page. That trip was a sad one though. Mom was dying of pancreatic cancer and that was the reason she took us all. Naturally, she wasn't moving too quickly (although her stamina was amazing). We've wanted to go ever since, just the three of us,seeing and doing everything and taking Mom along with us in spirit. That's just what we did this year. It was beyond amazing. I ran out of superlatives the first day, and spent the rest of the trip with my eyes and mouth hanging open.

To my mind the trip began on Thursday, June 16.  We went to the temple first thing,and I was filled with an enormous sense of gratitude that I could be priviledged to be in such a place. Moving from the divine to the secular, the next stop was to get mani-pedi's. This served a double purpose---since I was having knee surgery right after the trip and I knew the doctors would be checking my feet every 5 minutes, I wanted to feel as though they looked nice. It was lots of fun. Dave got his done too.

After this, a trip to the library to pick up books to get me through surgery. Then lunch as Hug He's (fabulous chicken avacado salad), then home for a nap. We finished packing. I mowed the lawn, Dave vaccummed the car. The house was already spotless because we had had an appraiser come just two days before.  Now it was evening. We said goodbye to the cats (always rough),

and went to Shopko for a few last minute things. One impulse buy for me was some flipflops. I have two pairs--one cheapo pair that is super uncomfortable, and a nice looking pair, also uncomfortable so I never wear them. I wanted to wear flip flops in Hawaii and show off my pedicure, but would I really wear them? Yes I would!  This turned out to be the best $8 ever spent. These actually were super comfortable, they looked great and I wore them everywhere. Dinner at Panda's then on to the Earl's in Clearfield to give them our house key to take care of the cats. On our way at last, we got to the Comfort Inn at the airport around 10 p.m. This is our favorite place to stop for long trips because they let us park the car there for free for the entire length of the  trip. We hung around waiting for midnight so we could pick up Catherine, who was just coming back from a study abroad, from  the airport.  For once her flight came in a little early. She organized some of her stuff in the trunk of the car--naturally she didn't need all of her study abroad stuff or souvenirs to come to Hawaii. She showered us with gifts and chocolate. Gifts we left in the trunk, chocolate we took with us. Back in the room, we all fell into bed. Catherine, alas, on a very lumpy pull-out couch bed. Our idea was that she'd be so exhausted she wouldn't care. That thinking almost worked.

June 17, 2016 Friday

Up bright and early at 6:00.  Had a nice hotel breakfast buffet and took the hotel shuttle to the airport. We had time to browse a little, and got some hot chocolate, also a cheese tray and some olives for the flight. We felt very spoiled.  Amazingly, our connecting gate at LAX was right next door. Even more amazingly, we were on the exit row and so had leg room!

Alas, the Chinese people in the exit row across the aisle weren't so lucky. To sit in the exit row you have to help in case of an emergency, and you have to be able to speak English.  They didn't. Even though there was at least one translator at one point, they simply couldn't understand why they had to change seats! The seats were reserved!  The father of the group was especially angry and did a lot of shouting, to the point where he very nearly got his whole family thrown off the plane. But, they got settled down at last. It all worked out very much to our advantage. The only food served on the flight were boxed snacks that you had to buy yourself. Being on vacation, we didn't hold back. We ordered everything that looked good and had quite a job balancing it all on the tiny tray (the one downside of the exit row). They said that they'd come back later and get our credit cards, but they never did. Dave and I both thought the other had paid. I think it was Delta's way of saying sorry for the inconvenience. We felt a little badly about it. We would never have bought so much if we hadn't thought we were paying for it.  To get to the Big Island, we had to fly into Oahu and then back out to Big Island. Cutest little airport there--all outdoors.

Got the luggage and rental car no problems. Easy directions to the hotel, but not easy traffic! It was very slow and once we approached town it was even slower. In the town itself it was harder still as the streets were all very narrow.

But we found the hotel (The Royal Kona) at last--although not quite where we were supposed to pull up to check in. There was a huge line of people. I ran in and got things squared away then we slowly drove to the upper parking lot and found the last space. The hotel was huge and beautiful,

 but there was no easy way to get luggage from that parking lot to our room. In at last, Catherine flung herself on one of the beds like the dead.  After freshening up a little, we went out to explore and find dinner. We found out the line in front of the hotel was for the luau. None of us had the energy to really explore all the souvenir shops. We ate at Bongo Bob's--huge portions served on island time. Catherine was asleep at the table. We let her go back to the room while we finished up. We looked through one of the famous ABC stores, then decided to explore the hotel and take a swim. The Royal Kona sits right on the beach, but the beach was reserved. No matter. There was a beautiful pool right on the edge of the lava cliffs going to the ocean. On the right was a view of the sunset and palm trees, on the left was an excellent view of the luau.

 It was wonderful to float in the pool under a full moon with the tiki torches and hawaiian music.  Also at the pool, was a cute kid named Vincent. He's 11. He lives on the island, but his home was being fumigated so his family came to spend a few days at the hotel.  We stayed in the pool until we saw the fire-eaters. Then wrapped up and went back to our room to sleep.

June 18, 2016

Up at 6 a.m. Catherine, after 11 hours of sleep, woke up reasonably bright-eyed on this her 23 1/2 birthday. There were some presents waiting for her including a beautiful skirt from Thailand that could also work as a swimsuit cover-up. After presents and some fruit and snacks in the room, we all put on our suits, packed up the luggage and lugged it all back to the car, checked out and left to find the Dolphin Discovery Adventure. There was a little waiting around, but at last the two captains and about 7 other passengers were ready to go.

The boat was surrounded by a big rubber buffer that you could sit on so long as you kept one foot anchored under a safety strap, or a narrow ledge under that. The bouncier ride was on the rubber. The boat made a stately exit from the marina and then....ZOOOM!!! It was fast and bumpy as it hit the waves and wonderful with the Kona coast on our left and the wind blowing through our hair. The guides took us to several spots on the way to the first snorkeling spot, including parrot cliffs.

We didn't see any parrots, but we did see a mountain goat. They also showed us caves and lava tubes and told us stories.

One section of cliff looked like a face and the Hawaiians considered it to be their god, Pele. It must have been terrifying when the lava was pouring out of Pele's eyes.
 Unfortunately, we made a big mistake in packing. Reasoning that we didn't want to be burdened down with a lot of stuff, and that our phone cameras were about as good as our regular camera anyway, we did not pack our camera, relying on our phones instead. Mistake. I forgot that in bright sunlight, we can't see what the phone is looking at. Also, sometimes the phone camera is slow. Result--mediocre or non existent pictures. Good thing our memories are bright.
  We stopped at the memorial dedicated to Captain Cook's landing site for our first snorkel.

We were all given fins and snorkel masks and told to jump off the boat. This turned out to be my favorite spot on our entire trip. I didn't know snorkeling like this existed. It was like being dropped in the most amazing fish tank you can imagine. There were beautiful coral formations and whole schools of big blue parrot fish, yellow striped fish  and every other kind of fish you can imagine.

There were sea urchins by the hundreds; my eyes were as big and unblinking as any of the fish. They let us snorkel for about an hour--just right, I think a lot of us were getting cold.  On the way to the next stop two dolphins joined our boat and played in the wake.

The guides stopped at another cliff side and told us the story of how when important Hawaiians died, it was important to bury their bones in a secret place. To do this, teenage boys were lowered over the cliffside with the bones. The boys would find a cave in the cliffs (there are hundreds because the lave cliffs are pockmarked like swiss cheese) and hide the bones. Once they signaled that the bones were safe, those up top would cut the rope and send the boys to their deaths. This was a great honor and the boys would compete to see who would get to bury the bones.

The next stop was famous for sea turtles. We only had about 40 minutes there. It wasn't quite as good as the first spot--being merely breathtaking. I didn't see any turtles until I was back on the boat and someone pointed one out.  After this it was time to get back to the marina about 45 minutes away. Boy oh boy, I thought we had gone fast before. We zipped and slapped our way back hanging on for dear life. I don't know why we didn't get sea sick. After all of this it was only 12:30 and there were many other adventures to be had.

Here we found out that maps--or at least my memory of what the map said is a little different from reality. The ultimate goal was Volcano National Park on the other side of the island, but we were hoping to see a few other things on the way, but the macadamia nut factory, which I thought was on the way, was not on the way at all.  We decided to drive back to the Royal Kona area and have lunch at Bubba Gumps. Sure enough. That solved the problem. With lunch we were able to see that although the nut farm was about an hour away, we had plenty of time. Lunch was right at oceanside--we saw a manta, some fish and a frustrated sea turtle who was trying to get out to sea, but kept getting washed back by the tide.

I did the driving to the factory through a very non-Hawaiian looking landscape. Everything was black volcano rock with yellow scrub growing out of it.

The nut factory was funny. Very small. It reminded me of the cheese factory in Logan. There were some places to view the nut packaging, but it was the weekend so nothing was running. The gift shop however, was impressive and there were samples of everything.

 was happy to try Spam nuts without actually having to buy any. We bought everything else though. Nuts for souvenirs, chocolate covered nuts, nut cookies, nut oils and nut brittle. It was a lot of fun.
I thought this was cool---lots of people use macademia nut shells as ground cover. It looks great.

A macademia nut tree

I wouldn't search it out again, but I'm glad we went once.

After this I was expecting to go to the Volcano House, but Dave surprised me by saying that he thought we had time to go to Akaka State Park first. This was a side trip none of us were sure we would have time for, but I was very excited to try. The thing I wanted to see was the famous 400 foot Akaka waterfall. The guidebook was funny. It said that not only was there the famous waterfall, but "conveniently packaged" nearby was a secondary fall almost as tall.  Well done, God. Thanks for packaging that for us!  I was thinking we'd have plenty of time as sunset was still some hours away, but I forgot that state parks have their own closing time. We got there at 5:40 and the park closed at 6:00. Yikes!  No problem though. Dave just had to repark so the gate could close, and we were free to take a look There were quite a few other tourists too.
Even the view from the parking lot was beautiful.

There was a stunningly beautiful trail about 1.2 mile in total through a rain forest with overlooks to both falls and many smaller wonders on the way. I loved the peace and beauty of that trail.

These are mint leaves

"Swirly Ferns" I loved these and they were all over the island.

Now, it really was time to get to the hotel. We were all sunburned and tired, especially Dave, who was coming down with a cold. We were staying at the famous Volcano House, which overlooks an active volcano. It was actually rather chilly up there, also dark and parking wasn't easy. Once we got in, we just went directly to dinner. There were two restaurants. One, which advertised that you could see the volcano, was super expensive. The other, "Uncle Bob's" was only expensive, but it turned out to have the same view. This restaurant was also on island time. Dave looked so exhausted that I suggested he go to the room while Catherine and I paid the bill and got the luggage. The room had two nice surprises---we could see the volcano from our window

and it came with a spa sound machine for sleep. I want one of these for Christmas. I love thunder storms, so we had a thunderstorm for several hours before I changed to plain "rain" and went to sleep.

June 19, 2016 Sunday Father's Day

We gave Dave some Father's Day presents and found a nearby place that served pancakes. It must have been run by Germans, there was a mix of German and Hawaiian decor, but the real give-a-way was the food, everything was loaded with cheese and bacon. I had a marvelous omelette.
After breakfast we went back to Volcano park, there is a drive that goes all the way around the crater with small hikes and lookouts all the way around. One of the most famous is the Thurston Lava Tube. We went there first in order to beat the tourists.

This was my favorite of all the sights at Volcano Park. The short walk to the tube was through a beautiful rainforest type area, and the entrance looked like something straight from Indiana Jones.

Inside the tube

 The next stop was another short hike--about a mile, again through beautiful greenery with overlooks onto huge lava fields. We could see people walking around down there, but that was a much longer hike.

Dave was super tired, and Catherine was still jet-lagged so we went back to the hotel for an early nap. I got up first, put on a sweater,  and went to the visitors center across the street. It was small but quite nice with a movie. Next door was an art museum that had some lovely pieces for sale.

Hawaiian rain is different than Utah rain. It's more of a mist, but by the time I was done with the museum, it was misting and blowing so strongly that I bought a rain poncho.  Dave and Catherine were up now and feeling much better. We went back to the restaurants at the hotel--this time we did eat at the fancy one since for lunch it was the same price as the other.
Fun thing--until the 1980's there was a steam room at the hotel powered by the volcanos. Unfortunately there was an earthquake that shifted the pipes in such a way that they couldn't be re-connected.

The next stop were the steam vents. And that's literally what they were. Two blocked off vents with steam coming from them. Nearby was a short hike to the Sulpher Banks, famous for its colorful rocks from the mineral deposits. Interesting, but nothing compared to Yellowstone.

It was still rainy and cold, and we wanted to catch the 5 o'clock tour that left from the hotel. I liked sitting in the rocker by the huge fireplace with the eye-popping decor.
 Our tourguide looked like an old-time prospector, but he knew his stuff.

He took us back to the visitor's center which had a 3-D map outside, he gave us some great information about lava flows and the age of the island. Then we all walked to the sulpher banks, with him showing us birds and plants all the way.

(He didn't really have to show us the chicken. You can't miss them. They are everywhere on both islands that we visited)

At the sulpher banks I got to take a step off of the sidewalk (something no sane person would do without a guide) and feel the warmth of the ground. Later, all of us got to take a short walk off of the boardwalk for a close look at a steam vent.

The smell wasn't at all bad. Especially considering that half the park was closed off due to volcanic activity.

Back at the hotel, we again ate at the restaurant. Too bad these hotel restaurants didn't have a very large menu and were so expensive. These were the places we ate at the most during the whole trip (a total of four times!). This time we were rewarded with a spectacular view of the crater, it was steaming and when the clouds lifted, shafts of light and rainbows lit the crater. After dinner Catherine went back to the room to try and make sense of her belongings, Dave and I went to the Jagger Museum which had a closer view of another crater. This museum was more of a hands on science-type of a thing. The crater was closer, but only comparitivley. I still couldn't really see into it. I think the only way to do that is with a helicopter ride, but I'm glad we didn't try to book that tour on such a rainy day.

June 20, 2016 Monday
Up early thanks to our body clocks being off. But the early start was a good thing. We got packed up and went back to the Thurston Lava Tube because I liked it so much. This time we had it all to ourselves, and it was easy to pretend we were the first one's that had ever been there despite the paved road, guard-rails and lights inside the tube.

After the tube, we left the park and scrounged up a sort of a breakfast at a gas station that looked ok on the outside, but inside was a half-empty dispirited collection of random items. Our goal was to find the southern-most point of the United States. Luckily, despite the weather forecast (which prophesied rain for our entire trip) it was a beautiful day.  Close to the southern most point are the famous green sand beaches. We thought we'd take a look and turned onto a bad road that ended in a dilapidated parking lot made up of lava chunks. There was a down and out looking family camping there with kids. They told us the beach was a either a three mile walk or we could take the "shuttle service."  The "shuttle" was a beaut up old truck with a guy that looked like, and may well have been, the local drug dealer. He offered to take us for $15 a piece and seemed put out when we said no, pointing out that the price also included the trip back. Oh goody. Still no. We crunched our way out and went to the southern most tip. I was surprised that such a place was completely non-touristy. It wasn't a very pretty place,--other than the ocean, which is always fabulous.

 But there were families camping and fishing. It looked as though they had been there for awhile. One of them looked at us and said, "tourists" with disdain. The walk to south point was a climb over uneven, sharp volcanic rock. The ocean was very blue, and it was windy. South point sits on top of cliffs so there was no wading. 

These furry barnacle things were all over the area. 

About a twenty minute drive away however, was the southern most bakery. There's where the touristy stuff is, complete with music for us tourists. There was a great gift shop and I bought a family game for us.

Back at the airport,

 I foolishly thought I had time for a snack. I went to the cafe meaning to get some fruit, but fell victim to the pork nachos. As soon as I walked up, nachos in hand they called for boarding. Dang it! It was awkward, but they let me on-board. Dave and Catherine rolled their eyes but also ate the nachos.
Now in Oahu, we picked up rental car number 2 and headed for the house we had rented. This was on the other side of the island, not too far from where we stayed with my family.  On the way, Dave and Catherine got hungry, so we stopped at a Wendy's and watched Full House on their TV.  We knew it was small and it was certainly cheap, but we didn't expect it to be quite that small. Catherine got yet another pull out bed.  The kitchen was outdoors (which we did know in advance). But the luggage fit in the closet and it was big enough. Worst was the parking. However, this house was as close to the beach as a person could get. We put on suits and went to shark's cove.  This beach is very rocky. I tried some snorkeling. Not nearly as good as the other day, but good enough. I got into a little bit of trouble. The rocks in some places made it too shallow to swim and too dangerous to walk. I slipped once and got a scrape on my face--could have been much worse. When we all finished, we walked across the street to Foodland with the idea of getting some breakfast food for the next few days. I don't know if that saved us any money at all. Hawaii is crazy expensive. Meanwhile we stopped at the famous fish taco stand.

 We had a nice walk home and then the rain (it had been "misting" a little" really came down. It was a nice relaxing evening, we showered and played "Shut the box" and again were all tired out and ready for an early bedtime.

June 21, 2016 TUESDAY

Dave's 52 birthday.