Bicoastal (if you consider Louisville a coast)

The longtime dream of a real second home near the kids and grandkids is finally coming true. But it’s a LOT of work. So far this week I’ve:

  • Signed up for water service
  • Signed up for gas and electric service
  • Signed up for Internet service
  • Set a date for Internet service installation
  • Shopped for and bought homeowners insurance
  • Shopped for and signed up for lawn care service
  • Signed up for streaming TV service (not going the cable route)
  • Ordered a bed for delivery after closing day

That’s kind of the bare minimum for occupying a place, in my opinion. Electricity, water, gas for cooking, a bed for sleeping and Internet service. All the rest can come later.

Next week we get the keys. I can’t wait to see the place in person for the first time.

Road trippin’

(Title is a nod to the Red Hot Chili Peppers.)

We’re back from Hawaii and mostly recovered from the travel day and time zone change. It was a great trip with memorable highlights: the anniversary evening and dinner, the manta ray swim, visiting the tops of Kilauea and Mauna Kea, the bright blue water and vivid daily sunsets…lots to love about the Big Island.

And looking forward to the next 18 months, we have a lot more memories to make. This travel blog can finally return to its original purpose – to document our travels in words and pictures. In the next year and a half, here’s what we have teed up:

  • One or two trips to Cabo
  • A trip to North Carolina for a nephew’s wedding
  • A long cruise around the tip of South America and into Antarctica
  • The inverse cruise into the Arctic (Norway) to see the Northern Lights ( we get to visit the top and bottom of the world in one year – how cool is that?)
  • A trip to the Colorado mountains for K’s sister’s 70th birthday gathering
  • Multiple trips to Louisville, some long, some short, now that we have a place to call our own
  • A couple of golf trips, one to Oakmont (!) and one to Tchefuncta in NOLA

And those are just the planned trips, the ones I know we’re doing. There’s still room for last-minute trips to Napa, or to visit relatives, or to Borrego, etc. We’re gonna be busy. And that’s the plan – stay busy and see the world while we can. Travel can be a little rough on the old body, and we’re never going to be this “young” again.

Astronomy in paradise

We visited the observatories atop Mauna Kea today. Another day, another great memory.

You have to really want to get there. We drove upward for miles, and at the 9000 foot visitor’s center we were warned about eight miles of rough, steep road ahead. We forged ahead, up another 8 miles and 5000 feet. The scene at the volcano’s peak is simply surreal. You’re at 13,700 feet, high above the clouds, in a Martian landscape dotted with high technology monoliths. Atop a volcano that last erupted 4500 years ago, though geologists say it will do so again. Sometime.

It’s one of the most alien landscapes I’ve ever seen. And the views…pictures don’t do it justice, though we tried. More pictures later, mostly due to f’ing WordPress suddenly not liking Apple’s HEIC photo format.

The Church of the Manta Ray

We had a near-religious experience last night – swimming with manta rays at night. I wasn’t sure what to expect – I mean, it sounds cool, but…most highly-touted tourist events over-promise and under-deliver. This was the exception.

Seaquest was our tour operator, and they were perfect. Well-organized, professional, everything right on time, and friendly. We left the docks at 715pm wearing Seaquest-furnished wet suit jackets and Zodiac’ed out to an area offshore from the Kona Sheraton. Turns out that Sheraton has created this attraction by accident. For years they’ve played spotlights onto the ocean to create ambiance for their guests. Those spotlights created an attraction for ocean plankton, and that in turn attracted giant manta rays to feed on the plankton. They now show up every night, creating the tour opportunity. A happy accident.

We entered the water about a half hour after sunset, grabbed onto a community float board equipped with spotlights and kept heads down in hope of seeing a ray. In only a few minutes we were treated by a 12-foot ray swirling up out of the depths, coasting within inches of us. That was a shocker – we thought we might see them at a distance, but their behavior was to come to us, mouths wide open scooping plankton, and buzz by us over and over.

Our guides said we saw 5-6 rays, but because they hung around us so long and made multiple passes, it seemed like many, many more. They are majestic and peaceful animals (fish?), and it was incredibly relaxing to float in the dark water and watch them. We only spent about 45 minutes in the water, and every minute of it was a treat. In between the appearance of rays we saw hundreds of needlefish and a big ball of some kind of bait fish swirling about. I was comfortable in the water because I shaved my mustache, solving the nagging problem of water leaking into my snorkel mask.

Our only regret is that we waited so long this trip to try this. We would do it again if we had more time. But it’s proof that even at my somewhat advanced age, there are spectacular new experiences to be had. I’ll look forward to another visit to the Church of the Manta Ray

Island time

After 7-8 days in Hawaii, I’ve lost all track of time and priorities. I suppose that’s a good thing. I have to think hard or use my phone to figure out what day it is. I missed an important meeting with folks back on the mainland yesterday – that was embarrassing, but again probably a good thing. I’m relaxed.

We’ve done a lot – snorkeling a few times, swimming, a bus tour around the whole island, a no-holds-barred meal or two, bought a house (!!), watched some world-class sunsets and some movies. And in spite of all that it’s been relaxing. We have a few more days and we’re visiting the Keck Observatory atop Mauna Kea (we can’t really visit the observatory, we can only observe it) and swimming with some manta rays at night. Both are things we can’t do in Socal or KY, so there’s that.

I like the Big Island. I’m not sure I like it more than Kauai, but it’s in the running. There’s a LOT here, many things and places we haven’t even attempted yet. The rain forests and canyons around Hilo are spectacular – we saw bits of them on our one-day round the island tour, but it’s obvious you could spend years getting to know those areas. And golf. I haven’t played any here (yet), but the courses here look amazing.

Finding this AirBnB rental right on the water has been central to our being happy on this trip. It’s not as fancy as a high-end Waikoloa resort, but it’s got a kitchen and multiple rooms, parking right at the front door and an on-the-water patio that’s as good as anything for 3-4x the cost. Listening to the waves crash at night has made sleep pleasant.

We’re leaving in a few days. I’m not sure why….

Hapuna part two

Yesterday we returned to Hapuna Beach for a second visit. It’s a long drive from our Kailua-Kona condo, but worth it. It may be the best swimming beach I’ve ever visited.

I don’t have many pictures of it because I didn’t take any electronics to the beach this time. The sand is very fine, sugary and white – perfect for ruining lenses and any device with moving parts. Turns out Hapuna’s white sand is imported from Australia – the entire beach is a man-made playground. Someone (probably the Westin, or perhaps the HI state park system) spent a lot to create the perfect flat sandy beach. It’s a half mile wide with about 200 feet of exposed sandy beach, plus hundreds of feet of sand underwater. You can see the beach in real time via this webcam at the Westin.

There are a lot of 3-4 foot shore-breaking waves as you enter the water, with the occasional 6-7 foot breaker as you move out. But after you get past the shore break zone (about 100 yards out), the water is 10+ feet deep and pretty calm. Just floating and relaxing in the very clear water is the best.

One other feature I like about Hapuna – it’s not crowded. A similar beach in Socal would be packed shoulder-to-shoulder. But our two visits to Hapuna had a pleasantly low crowd size, even on Memorial Day weekend (see photo above).

All in, whoever in the media decided that Hapuna is the #1 beach in America got it right. I’m a fan.

Big day on the Big Island

Big day yesterday. We circumnavigated the Big Island, saw some sea turtles, drank great Kona coffee and crummy Hawaii wine, looked into a giant volcano and bought a house. In fact, we may be the first people in history to buy a house in KY while at the top of a volcano in HI. Technology is pretty amazing – via a T-mobile wireless signal and iPhones we reviewed and signed documents atop Kilauea (pronounced kill-ah-way-ah), some 4300 miles away from the purchased property.

Kilauea wasn’t oozing lava, but it’s the most active of the Big Island’s five volcanoes. It erupted in a big way in 2018, so it’s sleeping peacefully at the moment. While I would have enjoyed seeing some lava, I’m OK skipping the whole eruption, earthquakes, lava bombs and poisonous gas thing. It’s better on TV.

I will say that Kilauea’s caldera is amazing. Ten miles in circumference, three miles across, six hundred feet deep around the edge and another 1900 feet deep at the center. It’s a really big hole in the world.

Back to the house. I’m very happy to land a KY home in the Clifton / Crescent Hill area. It’ll be soooo much better than staying in random rentals, and the grandsons will enjoy the yard. And now it’s time to shift gears from home shopping to furniture shipping and shopping.

Snorkeling blues

I’ve always been a miserable snorkeler. I don’t like the mouthpiece on a standard mask/snorkel combo, it gags me. And I can’t seem to keep water out of my mask and nose. That’s very common for someone with a mustache, and I’ve had one…pretty much forever. So every snorkeling trip, I’ve fought those problems.

Before our trip to the Cook Islands I bought a full-face snorkel mask, and loved it. I was able to wear it for many minutes at a time – it solved both my problems. So I was looking forward to some good snorkeling today.

We thought we’d try to snorkel at Magic’s Beach, not far from our place. It was full of mostly swimmers, but a few snorkelers further out in the surf.

I was in chest deep water, putting on my fins with my mask perched up on my head. I wasn’t facing the surf (rookie mistake), and a much larger than expected wave rolled me up and stripped me of fins, mask, shirt and almost my trunks. After surfacing and cursing, I found my fins and got my shirt/trunks rearranged, but my mask was nowhere to be found. Turns out that first wave was one of a set of waves much, much larger than we had seen before entering the water. Bad timing, and…rookie. So we hung around a while but no mask ever surfaced.

Kathryn had suffered almost the same fate a few yards from me, but her mask washed in and was recovered by a nice young surfer. We left defeated, but decided to move on to a legendary snorkeling spot, Two Steps.

Two Steps was only about 20 minutes away, and much, much better. No big shore breaks. And lots of fish. But all I had for a mask was the typical eye/nose mask combined with a snorkel.

I gave it my best effort, but after only a minute or so each time my mask would fill with water, the water would enter my nose and ultimately my throat. So, see some fish, then surface, shed gear and cough/choke. Repeat. Not the ideal experience. We stayed in the water a while, me mostly just surface paddling, and left after an hour or so. Not defeated, but humbled again.

So my choices for the rest of the trip are…shave or go buy another full face mask. Haven’t decided which to do yet.

Note: The featured picture above the headline is NOT Two Steps – I didn’t take a camera to the water. But it gives one an idea of the blue water and the Mauna Loa topography where lava meets ocean.

Another swing at the pitch

Update: This is the second time I’ve had to repost something lately. Either WordPress has a glitch or I’m consistently doing something wrong.

We’re taking another swing at the red-hot Louisville housing market. We made an offer on the nice little Crescent Hill place seen below. We’ll know tomorrow night if we swung and missed, or cleared the fence. Wish us luck.

One fine day

It’s 6am on the Big Island, 9am in Socal and noon in Louisville. Each morning this trip I’ve enjoyed a cup of coffee (OK, several cups) and sitting with my laptop looking out over the ocean. There’s always a flock of small birds flitting about, hoping that a human will lead to seeds or bread crumbs. With the waves crashing against the lava only a few yards away, it’s incredibly peaceful. Here’s the view from my seat this morning. I could get used to this.

During a drive south we discovered a tiny public beach yesterday, not too far from our condo. It’s in an ultra-rich development called Hokulia. Million dollar lots and eight million dollar custom homes. Plus a Nicklaus-designed golf course. Turns out that to get the rights to develop 1300 acres of pristine Kona mountainside and coastline, they had to provide public shore access. So we took advantage of that, drove through all that luxury and walked about a quarter of a mile on a rough trail through lava to find a perfect little cove with bright turquoise water. Ppictures of that are on the Fuji, so will add them later.

We finished off the day with an absolutely perfect meal at Huggo’s. We got there at their 4pm opening, so we got our choice of seats. (They don’t take reservations; it’s first-come, first-served, which I find to be a very civilized way of doing business.) We chose a couch-style seat right on the railing, looking directly at what would be a beautiful sunset. The food and wine were excellent – Huggo’s is a new favorite. Here’s the sunset we were gifted at the end of our stay.

All in all, a great day.

Twenty years!

We’re on our 20th anniversary trip on the Big Island of Hawaii. Only been here a couple of days, but they have been eventful.

We flew non-stop from San Diego to Kona on Alaska Air. The non-stop is a huge plus, and our $60 extra “premium” seats were a great bargain. No bag fees, go through all the first call lines/check-ins, and an extra four inches of legroom. Win-win-win.

Upon arrival, we expected to have to go through all kinds of paperwork and checks, as described in the Hawaii state website. Turns out all we had to do was show our vaccination cards and we glided right through. A good surprise.

Our “maybe too good to be true” Airbnb is as good as advertised. Right on the water, something you just can’t get at the big resorts up north. Listening to the ocean waves crashing all night 30 feet away is very soothing, even therapeutical. Love it.

We went exploring yesterday, including a survey of the aforementioned big resorts up north. We took a break and visited a promising-looking state beach (Hapuna), and enjoyed getting in the temperate Pacific water on a huge sandy beach. Turns out by complete chance we visited the #1 beach in the US, according to CNN. Who knew? Hapuna pictured below.

Later in the day we met an interesting entrepreneurial young (everyone seems young, very young, these days) couple at dinner last night. Their lives are very different than ours, but we had a lot of fun talking with them. The young man almost spoiled things by having too much to drink, but we helped him say no to another round and wished them well.

And today’s the actual anniversary. At almost exactly this time 20 years ago we were in Castle Stuart getting hitched in one of the all-time great destination weddings, if I say so myself. That’s a great memory, and one we celebrate today. Happy Anniversary, Kathryn! (And to me too…)

Moving on politically

USAToday has a great headline today, one that speaks for itself:

“Senators swore to support America, not the filibuster.  Kill it to save the January 6 commission.
  —  If Republicans filibuster the January 6 commission, they’re joining Trump’s insurrection.  Will Democrats choose democracy or a rule that undermines it?”

They’ve got it right. Democrats need to push as hard as they can to get the work of governing done, within the rules, and ignore the foot-dragging, hypocritical moves of Republicans. On budgets (getting money to the parts of America that need it) and on investigating the insurrection, put the pedal to the metal. Leave the Republicans behind and let them whine. Until they remove the cancer that is/was Trump from their party, they don’t deserve a seat at the adult table.