U.S. Space Walk of Fame Museum

One more interesting museum to visit – U.S. Space Walk of Fame Museum in Titusville, FL. The museum is part of the Space Coast area in Florida. american-space-museum-logo-300x174

The U.S. Space Walk of Fame Foundation was created in 1988 when a local physician wrote to the Titusville City Council suggesting a project to preserve space history and to honor men and women associated with America’s space program. With a downtown redevelopment program in progress to enhance the riverfront, the suggestion was welcomed by the council and the Titusville Community Redevelopment Agency. The idea resulted in the formation of the U.S. Space Walk of Fame Foundation, a non-profit organization.

There will definitely be busy visit to Florida at some point. I just hope I can convince my kid that Disney world is overrated.

 

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Car Camping in Tahoe. Sept 2016

Went to Lake Tahoe for some car camping. Two nights required Friday off. It was good because the drive to was just insane – 6 hours. We arrived late, way late. And Sam was just besides himself. It was a difficult sleep for all of us, but especially Rita. I don’t think we should do it again. Next year I will buy a 3 person tent with more gear for Sam so he can sleep properly. I hope he will sleep by that time.

Saturday, September 10

In the morning we eventually rolled out of our tent and went around. The campground was clean and neat. The bathroom was a bit far though and also the water source. There were, however, a lot of edible pine nuts on the ground. A small nut with one wing. It would rotate on the way down allowing the seed to be flown further with a possible wind. Unlike the nuts I was founding around the Bay Area with ~1mm shell thickness, these local Sierra nuts were just like sunflower seeds. And they were everywhere. So after some setup we went to the local West Shore Market for some food. Rita gotten a burrito and I had some pastry and coffee.

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Out team-mates woke up a bit late. The other team-mates weren’t coming either. So, after some food, I picked a trail to hike and went on to it.

The trail was Rubicon Trail in the Emerald Bay SP. I was hoping to drive to the park, leave the car, and hike as far as possible along the Emerald Bay and come back. The map showed the trail to be on the flatter side. The trail also lead passed some sort of Vikingsholm Castle. I actually never been there so it should be interesting.

Apparently a lot of people had the same idea because all the possible parking spots around Emerald Bay on Ca89 were taken. Well, we also started a bit late. My plan was to bypass all of this madness and park somewhere in the Eagle Point Campground and walk from there.

The campground looked very nice. It seemed to have been recently remodeled. It was also closed. There were a couple of parking spots right next to the closed gate. At least we gotten lucky there. The hike started on asphalt. I thought I would just go to the end of the campground and start the trail. However, the campground ended, but trail didn’t start. In reality the Rubicon Trail starting from a small obscure amphitheater used for some presentations. I’ve missed it on the first pass, but then I found it. The trail itself was very nice  – relatively flat and shaded. We were able to get to the water quite quickly. Then we looked around the visitor’s center and just stayed on the beautiful beach.

There were some kids playing in the water. Sam was a bit shy first. But then he stated doing almost the same things as those kids. I wanted to leave sooner, but Rita wanted to stay. In the retrospect it was better because we skipped the main heat time. The way back wasn’t that hard – just slowly climbing the trail.

dsc_1455We arrived to the campground to the full active cooking by our friends. Just the fire wasn’t there. There was enough food to feed several groups like ours. A lot of booze too. Kids managed to occupy themselves relatively well. They also didn’t try to get bare hands into the fire. I was surprised Sam didn’t do it.

It was interesting to see the difference in age. Even Ayan, who is a bit more than a year older than Sam, focused on other people and communicated. Sam, on the other hand, was rather absentmindedly picking things to play with, without much direction. Give him another year or so.

Sunday, September 11

The day was supposed to be rather slow. We would slowly do something and then start the long drive back. As a result we slowly packed our things and wet to Kings Beach on the North shore. It was recommended by Girish. dsc_1463Sam was a bit reluctant to get into water.But eventually he even started running after birds, which didn’t end well with Sam falling into water. I also took a dip, finally, to wash away my sweat and dust. That was nice if a bit “refreshing”.

The drive home was uneventful and fast.

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The Shit Museum

One more entry from the wonderful place of weird places to visit. Apparently there is a shit museum in Northern Italy. Interesting subject with hopefully interesting museum. I’m not sure, however, if I put high emphasis to visit this place when I finally get to Italy.


  • The Shit Museum offers a sustainable view on the science and art of dung, by  . August 30, 2016
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Scuba Diving in the Desert

Yes, it is possible to scuba dive in the middle of a desert. A high desert that is.

Apparently there is an old Titan missile silo in East Washington, near Royal City, that was flooded by rain water. One group leads scuba dives there.

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Intersting Museums

US Air Force Museum Opens Expanded Space Gallery in New Hangar. There is an article about it here. A very cool place to visit in Dayton, Ohio.
air-force-museum-space-gallery01

 

 

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Trinity Alps. May 2015

Prologue

As usual I was trying to find a good trip to do on the Memorial Day weekend. One prominent runner-up was to go to Rogue river again. I was also wearily eying the couple of routes in Hells Canyon. After all May is the best time to go there. But that place scares me a little. Luckily, Viyasan posted a nice trip in Trinity Alps and I jumped to it.

Thursday, May 21

Driving to the trailhead after work in the early evening. About after an hour of driving I found that I forgot my camera. Had to ask Rama to pick it up. It took about 2 hours to get to Berkeley from Sunnyvale due to heavy traffic. But then it was all smooth sailing. The road after ReddingCA299 – was very winding. The driving was a bit perilous, especially at night. It was also late and I was tired and sleepy, and my companions were already off. Lame, they didn’t even talk to me. I was also afraid that it would be difficult to find the Douglas City Campground. But luckily the signage was very well done. We arrived there around 1AM. Jenny’s car was already there. I was way too tired from all the driving to set up a tent so I just put my tarp and slept on the ground hoping there won’t be any rain.

Friday, May 22

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Morning in Douglas City Campground

Lovely morning at the campsite. Nice weather – not too cold, not too hot, cloudy. All members of the group made it to the site, which was good. We packed and headed to the town of Weaverville for the permits and some breakfast.

When I was looking for a campground I was also considering a nice place to get breakfast. Generally a good local bakery and coffee. I did find this Mamma Llama place. On the web site it looked like it had everything needed.

The first order of business was to get permits and inquire about the current conditions in the local Forest Service office. Unlike NPS, the Forest Service people don’t really care what you do in their forests. As long as you don’t do something outrageously stupid, like destroying their valuable timber. I’ve never seen rangers actually giving tickets. There were a couple of places where my permits were checked and that was it. Also there is usually no limit on the number of people. Desolation Wilderness being one notable exception. Even in this case I believe the permit was actually to allow making fires.

One thing to note is that this Weaverville office was staffed by very friendly federal employees. The lady at the front desk was patiently explaining everyone what the rules were, what the current conditions were, what best places to visit, etc. Well, perhaps they didn’t have to fight these hordes of tourists clamoring for few permits (like in GC or a similar place).

My coffee choice was redirected to an even smaller place called Red House Coffee. Our large group made the workers there busy for a while. But they certainly knew how to make good stuff – none of that acidic liquid.

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Trailhead Yoga

The drive to the Swift Creek trailhead was long and winding. The road was in reasonable shape. The weather was a bit strange – it was actually raining periodically. Good. For some reason I’ve had this fear that this trip would be hot and dry. Well, as long as it doesn’t rain like in Canada, it would be fine. After some trailhead yoga we were off.

We were actually making good progress in these conditions with occasional drizzle. The elevation gain wasn’t too bad. The forest was green with many flowers. There were actually not that many people despite the trailhead parking lot being full (that is there were two more cars). I believe we saw perhaps just one backpacking group. As a result, we had this lovely Granite Lake campground all to ourselves. There was plenty of time to set up good campfire, meditate, and enjoy the outdoors properly.

Saturday, May 23

A beautiful morning. Not a sign of that little drizzle from the day before.TrAlps_2015_105 Right after breakfast and pack we had a nice climb in front of us to some unnamed pass. The trail up the pass was simple to follow. Not much snow-covered it due to the drought year we are still having here. In fact I was a bit surprised to see this area – Trinity Alps – to be so clear of snow this early in the season. It seemed more like a middle of Summer than late May. On the way to the trailhead we passed a shoulder of the giant Shasta Lake and it was very sad and low.

But we made it to the crest of the pass. It had great views further West to the guts of the Alps. It also had numerous ground squirrels. TrAlps_2015_123 These little buggers were very well adapted at stealing food from unsuspecting travelers. Or maybe they were just looking for salts from my sweat.

The trip down was uneventful. The trail was very well, how to say it, switchbacked. It didn’t just dive down but went back and forth for good knee-safe descent. I believe the original plan was to do some four lake loop around these mountains covering a couple of high passes today on a day hike. But due to a bit more wet snow and lack of self-arrest training in our group it was scrapped. Good thing I didn’t know what the original plan was otherwise I would be pushing for its completion no matter what. But instead I was happy with what was in store. So we decided to go up Deer Lake and camp there.

There weren’t many people on this trail. However all the flat spots around Deer Lake were taken. And people were just coming and coming via a different trail from Long Canyon trailhead. There was actually a constant stream of people going over the pass and continuing to Diamond lake. We could see them on the side of the mountain navigating the scary looking trail in the snow bank.

TrAlps_2015_175 The Deer Lake was gorgeous. If it wasn’t so crowded it would be even better. We managed to come early enough to secure a secluded flat two-level spot on the South side. It was early enough in the day to even go for a swim. The water was very refreshing as expected. The problem with swimming in these cold alpine lakes is not getting into the water – the problem is warming up afterwards. But with enough sunshine it is very doable.

The site we had was great. The only problem was the toilet. You can’t really go on the lake side because it is all open and people could see. On the other side of the rocks there was a full view of the valley and thus people there could see. I hope I did a good job doing it properly. But I doubt if everyone around this lake did the same.

In the evening the group went up hanging food to preserve it against bears. Well, I would be more worried about the squirrels we saw earlier rather than bears. Anyway, I tried my sharp skills at throwing rope around tree limbs using rocks. Local granite rocks had very sharp edges cutting well into my rope. Once I threw it, the rocks made one extra loop and ended up the tree. That was the end of it. One idea was to throw the other tail of the rope to release it, but this tail got stuck there as well. Thus my 30 feet of rope still remains on the pine tree next to Deer Lake in Trinity Alps.

Sunday, May 24

Another lovely day. Some of our neighbors were up early. The rowdy group on the other side was still out sleeping. I’m not sure when they were out the night before. We didn’t have a fire last night even though there was enough wood collected. For some reason there was no feeling.

TrAlps_2015_208 We went down and within an hour or so ended up along the Deer creek at the junction with Bear Basin trail. I guess there were bears here at some point, and deer. There was this constant talk about some day hike somewhere. Good thing I wasn’t leading. So I was just following along with the group making sure things were taking care of.

The junction had a decent campsite – flat, under trees, and next to a river. People were setting up, mostly to prepare the camp but also to dry out the dew. However, there was a change in plans. Someone made a communal decision to continue to the Black Basin and camp there. The trail going there was not the major one, but that usually much more interesting. Generally National Parks have all trails marked and well maintained. National Forests – not so much. There may be some unmaintained trails that could go anywhere or disappear altogether. But that usually means that the destination could be interesting and devoid of inexperienced groups.

TrAlps_2015_221The Black Basin was located on a plateau above Deer Creek. Getting there required a steady climb through forest with many down trees. The weather was changing to some rain in places, but nothing came down from above. Yet the moving clouds provided nice change in scenery.

We reached the Black Basin in good time. Finding a decent campsite there was a bit of challenge. There was a nice flat area, but it was swampy. Nothing there really had good views of the Deer Creek valley. There was always some bushes in the way. This basin seemed popular because I found several old campfire pits and lots of unburned trash. Seriously, people – Leave No Trace. In the end we decided on a flat-ish secluded place near a flat rock cliff. It seemed that it was used before.

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Meditation on the Pass

While the rest of the group stayed at the campsite Kim, Michael, Jenny, Peter, and myself went for a hike to the next unnamed pass. The main goal was to explore its difficulty, and also pass time. If the pass was too difficult we would take a different route. It didn’t take long for our small group to reach this pass. The view from it was spectacular. Even Mt Shasta was visible somewhere in the distance.
At least I thought it was Shasta because there was no other mountain in the vicinity fitting the description.

The rest of the evening was spent discussing planet formations and life issues, and enjoying spectacular sunset. The campsite was facing West. The floating clouds really brought up a lot of colors. There was also this strange lone female deer walking around. People were saying that she lost something, maybe a child. Not sure why she would hang around humans though. Maybe we were scaring mountain lions.

Monday, May 25

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Pass Photoshoot

The first order of business was to cross the pass that we scouted the day before. Michael went ahead of the main group since he packed his fancy ultralight backpack first. He seemed to be getting slow and wanted to have a head start. We caught up with him right at the crest. I wanted to see Mt Shasta. Perhaps there would be fewer clouds in the morning. But she was still hiding. The descent on the other side was fine, though a bit steep. Then we went down to Mumford Basin trying to follow a very faint trail. Not many people visited this place apparently.

There was a tiny junction at Swift Creek with one trail going up to Horseshoe Lake. The decision was to do a day hike to this lake after lunch. Then continue further down Swift Creek.

The Horseshoe Lake is located at this plateau up in the mountains. A bit of a basin like formation that allowed snowmelt to collect and actually form this lake. However, accessing this basin required a bit of a climb. Nothing difficult, though, without a pack.

We met a couple of groups going down from camping at the lake. It was a gorgeous place to camp. Beautiful secluded semi amphitheater with a clear alpine lake in the middle.TrAlps_2015_329 Unfortunately, I apparently have no photos of this lake. Perhaps because I was busy swimming and then warming up after. I wasn’t the only one swimming. Michael was the leader in this process. And then under peer pressure Suji, Jenny, Peter, and your truly. V and Rima were supervising it from a rock above.

After the swim and warm up the hike down was just a breeze. Actually the hike with the packs was a breeze too – slow downhill slope. The weather was nice, the trail was good, easy to follow. We followed beautiful green Swift Creek valley. Interestingly, there were several lonely redwoods dispersed among pines. I wonder if they moved into these mountains or were the remains of the old vast redwood forest that covered most of West coast.

We passed remains of some structure indicated on the map as Fosters Cabin. Someone probably tried to homestead this area. They were actually well-preserved ruins. The climate perhaps was too dry and thus preserving the wood well.

TrAlps_2015_376We found a very lovely campsite along Swift Creek. It was on a flat bank above the flowing water and a bit off the trail to provide good privacy. It was an established site so we didn’t have to arrange logs around a campfire. There was enough room for all the tents. Also enough wood for a decent fire. It was the last day so we had finished all the food and drinks over interesting conversation. We finished the day early enough that was still time to meditate on the rocks of the Swift Creek.

Tuesday, May 26

Going back was very fast. We only had to do a handful of miles, downhill.TrAlps_2015_406 Sadly, early in the morning I’ve missed to photograph the morning mist slowly drying in the morning sun. No excuses – my laziness got to me.

On the way back Michael, who have already connected to the wide word , was planning the after trip lunch. The funny thing was that the trail looked very different from 4 days ago. The rain really made the difference in colors. I knew that we came up this way, but the surroundings looked very different. One of the rules of outdoors is to periodically look back at the trail so that you won’t be lost if going back, so that you will recognize the trail, which may look very differently.

After we successfully come out there was a regrouping event at the aforementioned Mamma Llama place. I wasn’t sure why. Some people had drinks there. The place was also selling ice cream, but I wasn’t interested by their flavor selection. Instead I was looking at their comic book posters and checking my emails. Not sure why – nothing really happened while I was gone. The world didn’t even notice my absence.

The best lunch place with steak and vine Michael found in Redding. The driver there, however, took a while. The driver there – the scenic route CA299 – has, apparently, being widened (and getting more boring). It was a substantial construction activity. The machines were moving material from one part to another and thus smoothing the twisty curves. The traffic was only allowed on one lane and there was a pilot car to guide cars. This kind of construction is common in far away forest places. But this one lane closure was a bit long.

The after trip lunch was in the place called Moonstone Bistro. Michael found it. I generally trust his judgement on food places. This bistro looked a bit too upscale for our dusty sweaty crowd. But it was midweek lunch time and it wasn’t busy. The burgers were good, thanks Michael.


Map.

Photos.

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Maui. April 2015

Prologue

This first visit to Maui was arranged by Rita. She wanted to visit the islands for a long time. Ok, fine. After the trip to Catalina Island I was a bit spent on the planning front. She found some deal in Costco that included flight tickets and resort – Kā’anapali Beach Hotel. The hotel had breakfast, but not dinner or activities as usual – it wasn’t all inclusive.

Tuesday, March 31

Arrived in the afternoon to a relatively small Maui airport with all the other tourists. Gotten the rental and went to eat lunch at a place that was recommended by a local. It turned out to be a regular greasy food court. At least it wasn’t expensive, by local standards. We spent the rest of the day soaking up the sun on the tiny beach and planning the next week’s activities. However, the ocean was great – warm and peaceful. Too peaceful – as flat. There were a couple of places right close by to our hotel to watch the fish. But it was already evening and late for that.

This is where I’ve gotten my first Hawaii disappointment. Fine, perhaps the greasy Maui food court was an aberration close to the airport, but the food for the tourists should be good, right? No, same thing. There was a little stall right next to the beach selling some rot of cold fruity drinks with optional little fruit balls. Ok, Maui being a tropical island should have the best fresh fruit. No luck! The girl at the stand just poured sole canned syrup to cold water and ice. Seriously? And the little balls were from a can from Thailand.

In the evening we used the hotel-given coupon for their restaurant. It was OK. I was expecting a bit better fish. There was also some sort of “performance”. Hawaiian music to an empty restaurant. But it was a bit far away.

Wednesday, April 1

The hotel has all that guest tourist thing organized very well. At the time of check in they gave us some materials, food coupons, and the invitation to first day breakfast. There was nothing special about that breakfast other than it was in a separate room. All just arrived guests were there. The workers did the Hawaiian welcome thing – one large dude blew a sea shell, then many of them sang and danced. The workers looked Asian, I’d say Thai. I wasn’t sure if there were really native Hawaiian or just simply hired labourers from the same Thailand. Anyways, their white manager explained the conditions and what we should expect on our trip.

The day before in all the touristy materials we found the local Aquarium – Maui Ocean Center. It seemed like an interesting place to visit.Maui_2015_015 The Aquarium was well organized. However, it didn’t have those giant tuna tanks like Monterrey one has. But it had one fairly large shark and ray tank. We managed to see the feeding event. Interestingly, the lady presenter passed around shark jawbone. Damn those teeth were sharp. There was a small native Hawaiian stall at the end of the Aquarium displaying wooden weapons – clubs with shark teeth. Nasty stuff.

There were several tanks with surgeonfishes. They looked cute, many varieties. The information listed that they had some sort of very sharp scalpels on their tail (that’s why is the name). And I kept wondering where it was and how it worked. Finally it dawned on me – there were two protruding horizontal essentially hooks on each side on this neck between the main body and the tail. Nasty. Some of these fishes had two of these hooks on each side. These fishes are slippery, so a bit of a wiggle and they can really cut things. I wonder how they are caught (and taste). The decently sized restaurant in the aquarium served good fish meals. Perhaps it was a bit too big – the size of this restaurant was almost half the size of the main venue. Kind of shows the priorities. I wonder if for some extra money they’ll cook one the fishes from the tanks.🙂

After the aquarium we went back to the beach stopping on the way at the local ice cream shop. This time I did some snorkeling and there was fish at the bottom. The ocean was so salty and calm that I could just swim anywhere, even far away from the shore.

Dinner was a constant problem in the area. Yes, there were lots of pricey options around, in our hotel and the neighbors. Since we’ve had a car we could drive somewhere else to possibly better choices. Somewhere else was just as crowded and expensive. Rita found some fancy ramen place. By the time we arrived they had about 2 hours wait. At a ramen place? Well, they seem to be popular. So we went to this Lahaina downtown. Parking was a bit of an issue so I’ve let Rita pick a place and went to leave the car very far away. Somehow we quickly picked this place called Kimo’s. It was a large American restaurant. Decent food. By this day I wasn’t expecting excellent fish any more. But they gave us just giant dessert at the end.

Thursday, April 2

Maui_2015_033Visit to O’o farm. I found their ad in some of the tourist brochures. I was expecting some interesting information about local flora. There have to be some unique plants in this tropical island. But it was mostly regular vegetables. The people there guided us through the farm, which was actually really small. Somehow they managed to grow quite a variety of fruits and vegetables, and coffee. Most of it went to the local restaurants and the tours like ours. The farm owners seemed to be into coffee. There was a drying and roasting house specially built for that. However, the lunch included in the tour was divine. Really – the freshest, tastiest food I’ve had during the whole trip. There was a cook who explained what he was planning to prepare. I kind of lost the train of his plan right after the appetizer. He had a small outdoor brick oven that most likely contributed to the quality of the food. So the lunch was the end of the tour. People were talking digesting all the lavish meal. One couple wisely bought local vine before the tour. Maui_2015_034And everyone was photographing the cute local chameleon sitting in the tree next to the eating place.

We also visited nearby lavender farm. Then local boutique Ocean vodka farm. They were cooking vodka and rum from sugarcane. We bought a tour of the facilities that included some tasting. I have to say that the vodka was a bit hard on the way down; not very smooth, despite some advanced refining they were doing. Technically, vodka is just pure alcohol and should taste nothing regardless on where it come from. It isn’t vine that depends on the grapes or whiskey that depend on how well the barrels were burned or something. Still, not all vodkas taste the same.

There was also a goat farm nearby. However, due to some permit issue they were not allowed to sell goat milk, which was kind of useless for us. I guess for young kids it would be cute to pet and feed the goats, but I was already out of these activities. To me a goat is a source of milk or meat, not much a companion or a pet.

Friday, April 3

This was our third day in Hawaii. It was time to do something beach relaxing. After the same boring breakfast Rita went to sit by the pool and I went to learn how to surf.

For this we were given fairly large boards and one instructor. Then we went to a small stretch of the beach a bit further South from our hotel. This was pretty much the place for surfing in the area – there were waves. The rest of the wild Pacific around was flat like glass. As a result, all surfing classes from all the hotels in the neighborhood were congregating in this tiny spot.

I sort of got the hang of surfing – paddle with arms while the wave is coming, which turned out to be surprisingly easy, then stand up quickly and properly when the wave is at the top. I just needed more skill to actually stand up on the board correctly and keep the balance. It was like any other skill – initial feel is easy, but mastery really takes time.

Then I went back after this introduction. Part of the equipment was a thin synthetic long sleeve t-shirt to protect against the sun. I’ve also put some sunscreen on my ears and neck. But I completely forgot about back of my legs. Lying on the board waiting for the good wave to come totally cooked my legs. And I had no idea at the time. The real awakening came later.

After the surfing lessons we just stayed on the same narrow beach sunbathing and swimming. Since we came to Maui I was trying to find a place to get some scuba diving. I thought that after my classes in Thailand I had some sort of certification with PADI. It appears that PADI has some sort of global database that has information on all certified divers. It was good since I didn’t have my paper. But in reality I didn’t have anything after that simple class in Thailand. It was just an instructor-led dive. Real certification takes a lot longer. Thus I resigned to do a simple dive right here in Maui off the beach. I found an open spot in a group running in a hotel next door (waiting forever in line of one person to buy the class).

In the evening we picked one widely advertised place that cooked in front of you some Japanese beef – Kobe. It was a show. I was surprised Rita never seen it. It was a lot of fried fresh meet. Fine, just a bit too heavy for this climate.

Saturday, April 4

Haleakala national park.

We were coming back a bit late for lunch, but early for dinner. Stopped at Kula Lodge & Restaurant on the way. I’ve gotten tempted by their advertisement of a brick oven pizza. The view was good, the food and service – not so much. The workers there seem annoyed that we showed up in this odd time. Well, they could have just told us they were closed. We’ve ordered salad, french onion soup, and pizza. Only the salad was edible. The soup was insanely salty, the pizza was undercooked and swimming in cheese. As a result I was compelled to leave a ‘good’ review for this place.

Sunday, April 5

Today was Easter. The hotel was planning several events for that. There was some sort of preaching area. A local priest came in the morning brainwashing the willing participants. The priest was kind of cute Hawaiian type, on a pickup truck. I bet he’s also a surfer too. Whatever works, dude, to sell your wares. Hm, that would be interesting to organize a church of surfing with meetings conducted in the open ocean. Anyway, to avoid all this religious madness we decided to head to the famous Road to Hana. Well, I decided and Rita agreed.

Road to Hana is this local the must-see thing. It’s a very windy narrow highway in the jungle going essentially abound the entire island. It is paved most of the way, but not always. It appears that getting a well working road in a tropical island isn’t that easy. Or maybe this Hana place wasn’t that high priority on the tourist conglomerates hit list. Anyways, there were these consistent scare tactics about the dangers of this road and unfriendliness of the locals. All designed to nudge people to buying a packaged tour. Air Conditioned limo, lunch, experienced drivers, etc. I would have bought the tour just because I want someone to explain to me that was happening. But due to Rita’s condition and rough driving we had to opt out into driving ourselves. The sad part about it was that I, personally, would have no clue what I was seeing around, which would be sad. A bit after we arrived to Maui and were planning what to do I was thinking that it would be nice to find a podcast or something about Road to Hana. I was also thinking that the phone would have all the needed location data to explain exactly what was around. Rita suggested to search Google App Store (or maybe she just wanted to get rid of my annoyances). And I did find this very useful GyPSy Guide App on the Road to Hana. It had all the info I was looking for and it would work in offline mode (no reception in that side of Maui). It was a bit large, but totally worth it. So armed with the guide App we headed out to Hana not in the early morning.

Maui_2015_106It seems that the density of people on the Road goes down with distance from the tamed part of Maui. Initially there were many more tourists trying to navigate the tight turns. Or maybe we were just late and the majority of tourists, especially on guided trips, have already passed. First we stopped at the Hana Maui Botanical Gardens. It had beautiful lush display of trees and even some weird fruits. Well, as before, it would be nice if they had some walking tours explaining what was there. A bit later we stopped at a small town right on the shore of the Ocean. There was some a story about it with one of the Beatles staying or living there. There the Pacific was the real deal – windy, stormy, strong and moving. Not that indoor pool that we had on our side of Maui. I was really thinking that we should have stayed in one of these small cities instead. The vacation would have been very relaxing. Just had to bring a lot of books. We stopped at one of the state parks on the way checking out the lava caves they had. Small ones. It was actually raining for a bit when we were there. Some of the Road tourists were swimming in the ocean. I didn’t dare going into those waves. No lifeguard – one wrong move and no one would be looking for you. I suppose this shore would make for excellent surfing. Still, with rugged lava shore it would be quite dangerous. Maui_2015_125

We finished the road at the other entrance to the Haleakala national park. The park goes from the top of the Haleakalā volcano all the way to the ocean. There is actually a route people do from top to bottom. This is some serious elevation change. But in this place, just manage the precipitation and due to warm weather one can go really light. Anyways, there were some interesting trees to see and water pools formed by the cascading river. Due to fairly consistent rain on this side of Maui the water was fairly constant.

On the drive back the app was keeping up informed about the colorful history of Hawaiian Islands. We barely finished the most iffy part of the road before the dark. For this day Rita found some ordinary Chinese ramen shop in some strip mall. The price was good. The food was ok.

Monday, April 6

Another all day at the beach. All the week I wanted to get up early and go swimming. Didn’t make it this day either. But I did it after breakfast. It was very easy to swim in this warm salty ocean due to fairly decent buoyancy. I did go snorkeling to The Rock next to our hotel to see some animals before they would retire for the afternoon.

After lunch was the time for my scuba diving. The little shop in the hotel next door was run by a father+son team. Out of all people it was me and a woman with her son (10 or 11 years old). They did dive before as well. As a result all the short diving refresh was done fairly quickly.

The whole dive thing was just walk off the beach under water. I was a bit skeptical about the quality of marine life that could be observed like this, as opposed to open ocean diving. But it was fairly good. I saw all manners of weird marine creatures. living right off the very busy beach. My issue was always keeping neutral buoyancy – I was either sinking to the bottom r raising to the surface. The main old diving guide was more concerned about the mother+son pair so I was essentially left to my own devices. One interesting feature was some old anchor at the bottom. Allegedly it was some sort of pirate ship anchor. But it was nicely covered with all sorts of life forms. I kind of regretted not buying a cheap waterproof camera.

For this last supper we went to the same restaurant we went on the first day – Kimo’s. They’ve also given us a coupon for some insanely large dessert. At least the food and service there was a known quantity and for some reason there wasn’t a two hour line. The restaurant probably had a very nice ocean view, but it was too dark by the time we went there.

Tuesday, April 7

Last day. All we had to do is pack up, return the car and fly out. However, the hotel people had special “see off” procedure for the guests. They collected all the people leaving this day in the lobby. There was a group that sang something and every person has gotten a wreath of macadamia nuts. They used to use flowers, but the guy said they would deteriorate too quickly. Macadamia nuts, on the other hand, were quite durable. It was a nice marketing touch. Now people would bring these useless wreaths home and they would remind them about the nice Hawaiian vacation and perhaps nudge to come back.

After that we went to the airport and flew back to SFO. The long 6 hour flight, plus the time change brought us back at SFO squarely at midnight. Just the right time to be in real pain to get back to Sunnyvale. CalTrain was no longer running well and taxies were insanely expensive (and all this taxi business always seemed strange to me – I never knew exactly how much it would cost). So to reduce the pain I’ve decided to try Uber. I’ve told it the destination and start and it gave me the price and the name of the poor soul who would be driving us. It turned out to be some immigrant (of course) from Pakistan or whereabouts driving a prius. The price was about $70 from SFO to Sunnyvale. Not too bad, except he was falling asleep periodically on the highway.

Epilogue

That was the end of the first trip to Hawaii. I can’t say I was too blown away by these islands. Well, the islands themselves were very beautiful, but they seem too developed and Americanized. Perhaps we didn’t choose the best time and place to visit. So we might go there again, but it wouldn’t be our first choice.


Photos.

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