Sunday, November 22, 2009

They Have Seen The Beauty . . .

For three weeks I have been trying to avoid posting an entry about my drive along the Road To Hana.

The Road To Hana is about the journey; not the destination. This is because there really isn't anything in the actual town of Hana. But the journey is filled with beautiful waterfalls, black sand beaches, trees, and bridges. Lots of bridges. All one lane.

It is recommended to start the trip to Hana by 8am. That will allow you time to get there and to turn around to go back.

I had purchased a CD called "Maui's Premiere Musical Adventure, Hana Audio Tour." The instructions said to pop the CD in when you get to the Big K (Kmart) on the corner of Hana Highway. The CD features two locals who talk you through the three hour journey to Hana. The CD was great because it also contained songs by many local Maui musicians.

I highly suggest that if you take the Road To Hana while using an audio CD; listen to the CD once before starting your trip. That way you will not spend time skipping back tracks trying to make sure you had made the right turn.

So I have been avoiding this post because I took about 200 photos along the Road To Hana.

Yes, I did leave at eight in the morning.

Yes, its true, I didn't get back to the hotel until close to seven at night.

Yes, I was completely exhausted by the end of the day.

But it was quite a beautiful adventure and there was no way I was going to be able to narrow down those 200 photos to just five or six to post on this blog. That would just not do the trip justice.

So I am trying something new. I picked the 84 of what I consider the best photos and I created a slide show to share with you the Loyal Readers. The video makes the photos a little blurry but I think you will still get the beauty of the trip.

Please enjoy The Road To Hana.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

You'll Be Right Here With Me . . .

Last Monday my Grandmother passed away.

I thought it would be nice to share some memories of my Grandmother with you the Loyal Readers.

Just Jon would also like to thank guest editor Big B (a.k.a. his brother Brian) for helping to compile this list of memories about Grandma.

For the first ten years of my life, my brother and I were the youngest of the grand kids. This guaranteed several things:

1. We always sat at a separate "Kids Table" in the kitchen for all holiday and family get togethers.
2. For Christmas, Grandma would make us either a set of pajamas or a bath robe. She would also put a Hot Wheels car in the box.
3. At Christmas and Easter, the end of evening always came with a "cup" or "plastic egg" full of little chocolates.

My Grandmother was smart. She had a subscription to National Geographic, she traveled the world, and she loved to do cross word puzzles.

Maybe that is why when my brother and I were the youngest, outings with Grandma usually involved something educational.

Big B said that one of his "Top Five" trips with Grandma was the tour of the Queen Mary. I remember that trip as well, and I think I still have my souvenir post card set.

I countered the Queen Mary trip with my memory of going to see a traveling exhibit of Jim Henson's Muppets. Big B got a little plastic Fozzie Bear and I got a little plastic Animal as a souvenir on that trip. For some reason I think that trip also included an art exhibit of "giant angels." I could be wrong.

Big B's next favorite trip was to the Mystery Spot in Santa Cruz, CA. That camping trip was also memorable because we both took separate trips to the emergency room. I think he had strep throat and I needed stitches after an ill fated dive into the campground pool.

My next choice was the La Brea Tar Pits.

Big B came back with Fairfax. This was long before The Grove shopping center existed. We went to go to Farmer's Market for lunch and window shopping. Big B said that this is where he bought his "SC" mug that he still uses.

Going with the farm theme, I brought up the time we went to the Ventura County Fair. I remembered two things about this trip. First, we got caught in some running of the pigs which I remember being very scary. Second, we got to go on one "ride" and my brother and I chose the Fun House. The only problem was, we never figured how to get into the fun house and eventually gave up after trying to climb up the exit slide.

Finally, Big B brought up the trip to the "Blue Whale" shopping center. Now I have to quote my brother on this one. He said, "it was in the middle of nowhere." I will say, as a child, I too thought we had gone to the end of the earth to see that mall. Reality is, the "Blue Whale" is more commonly known as the Pacific Design Center on Melrose Ave. between La Cienega Boulevard and Doheny Drive. So I guess we were still in the center of it all.

Above is the most recent picture of Grandma with my mother and I. Whenever I came down to Southern California I always made a point to stop in and visit with Grandma.

In addition to the memories that my brother and I just shared, my favorite memory is one that just involved Grandma and I.

Grandma loved sushi. About ten years ago Grandma and I went on a date. I picked her up in my little black BMW and we headed over the Conejo Grade to Agoura where we went to a little Sushi Restaurant. I remember she seemed so happy.

In more recent years, when she was less mobile, sometimes I would go to the grocery store and pick us up some pre-made sushi. It was no where near as good as what you would get in a restaurant, but we would sit at the kitchen table and enjoy our "California" and "Unagi" rolls.

I think that is what I will miss the most, my sushi dates with Grandma.

So Grandma, I will think of you when I eat sushi, and I will think of Grandpa when I have a warm beer.

Ahh, who am I kidding, I am not going to drink a warm beer. Sorry Grandpa, I still don't understand why you liked that.

The Song Of The Day - Right Here (Departed) by Brandy

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Stop The Press . . .

I interrupt this blog to bring you this special report!

You may remember back in August I posted an entry about a photo of me that was being used in an online marketing campaign for my Company.

Yesterday, I was told that the photo, along with 47 others, appear in a print advertisement in the Fall 2009 issue of Good magazine. This issue is on newsstands now!

I had never heard of Good magazine until yesterday, but I can confirm that it does exist.

When I joked that I had finally become a Gap model I didn't realize that I really was a Gap model.

*And yes Dad, it is a $6.00 magazine!

The Song Of The Day - Batdance by Prince

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Come Fly With Me . . .

Tuesday was all about flying high. I had to get up early and make the 45 minute drive back to the airport because I had booked an early morning helicopter tour.

The activity booth salesman had recommended that I take the Molokai Tour. This tour would include views of West Maui and the Island of Molokai.

I had never been in a helicopter before and as a precautionary measure I wore my "sea sickness" wrist bands.

After a brief safety lesson, myself and four other passengers had life vests strapped to our waist and we were quickly walked out onto the heliport. They then guided each of us under the spinning propeller of the helicopter so that we could have our picture taken.

Seriously, couldn't they have taken our picture without the ridiculously looking yellow life vest fanny pack thing that they insisted be worn as shown in the photo above. I don't even like the above picture, but since it was the only one I have of me and the helicopter I felt like I had to buy it. Also, be sure to take note of the dumb pilot in the cockpit giving the "hang loose" sign.

I was fortunate enough, or so I thought, to get a window seat. We were told seating was solely based on our body weight. Although, I found it very funny that for $50 extra dollars I could have "guaranteed" the front seat. Suddenly, weight was not an issue if you showed them the cash. I was just fine sitting in the back row.

The helicopter gently lifted off the ground and floated up to our cruising altitude. Despite being a little overcast the view was pretty cool.

Cool, but not spectacular. Considering how much a 55 minute flight costs; I was really hoping for spectacular.

The water below was so clear you could see the coral reef.

The tour was with Sunshine Helicopters and the pilot's name was Steve. Steve was a real talker. He told the same joke twice. Don't believe me? I have the proof. I bought the DVD of our flight. Steve told us about how he flew in the military. He told us how he used to be an aerobics instructor on TV in the 1980's. He passed around a picture of himself as an aerobics instructor in the 1980's. His most recent claim to fame was that he was the pilot who flew Reid and Jillian around the Island on the last season of The Bachelorette. Steve yapped for the entire 55 minutes. This was a one way conversation because we all were wearing headsets that prevented him from being able to hear us.

After crossing the Pailolo channel we reached Molokai. This is where we saw Hawaii's tallest waterfalls. Then we crossed over a mountain to the arid side of the Island where Steve was able to spot some animals running along the bluffs.

When Steve was "chasing" out animals from under the brush he was really excited.

"Here, I'll spin around so that you can see them again."

It was about then that I realized I was not feeling so great.

"Really Steve, you don't need to spin us around. I saw it good enough the first time."

I found myself closing my eyes at times, taking deep breaths, and trying not to get sick.

Then Steve said, "Hey everyone, how about we fly over to the Island of Lanai so that you can see that one too!"

"Really? I would be totally fine if we called it a day and headed back to the airport!"

"Just fifteen more minutes, just fifteen more minutes, just fifteen more minutes," became my mantra.

We eventually made it back to the airport.

As we were waiting in the lobby to preview the DVD of our flight I heard one of the other passengers say she wasn't feeling so well.

"Oh my God, I am so glad you said something, because I was feeling sick the whole time," I said.

It turns out dare devil Steve's piloting had actually made all five of us nauseous.

I bought the DVD of our flight not because of the stunning imagery, since it is kinda hazy throughout the video; but more because I wanted to see the parts that I had closed my eyes for.

It is also really funny because there are points where the camera was filming us in the cockpit and you can see when I start to not feel so good. Suddenly I become extremely focused on adjusting the overhead air conditioning vent.

Now, when I planned the activities for Tuesday I didn't really think about the fact that I might get sick on the helicopter tour. So it probably wasn't the best idea to book parasailing for that afternoon.

Fortunately, my "sea sickness" wrist bands kicked in and I did not get sick on the parasailing boat.

Tuesday had really strong winds and the water was rough.

The parasail operators were having a very hard time launching the parachute because of the wind. It was so windy that even though I was a single rider they made one of the other passengers go up with me because they didn't think I weighed enough.

This is the second time I have gone parasailing and once again it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience that I highly recommend.

After parasailing I was done for the day!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Pass That Dutch . . .

Monday I didn't have anything planned. I went back to the town of Lahaina to stop at one of those infamous activity booths so that I could discuss booking what activities I wanted to do for the rest of the week.

After a very expensive breakfast that included a $9.00 cup of coffee, I plotted out the rest of my week.

Monday was going to be a free day and I would spend the afternoon soaking up the sun on beach at the resort.

Loyal Readers who are also on Facebook know why I took the above picture. As I was walking around the town of Lahaina on three separate occasions in two days I had people come up and offer me marijuana.

I should have responded with, "Umm, hello, my hotel is totally non-smoking!" I don't think they would have seen the humor in that though.

My joke on Facebook was, "Apparently Stocky Bald White Guy translates to "Pot Head" in Hawaii."

I took the above picture as photographic evidence that maybe the bucket hat and Crocs I was wearing caused the locals to profile me as a "Pot Head."

One conspiracy theorist stated that they thought it was undercover police officers trying to catch tourists buying drugs. I doubt it.

After my day of soaking up the sun I had dinner and then once again drove back to Lahaina to go to Maria Lanakila Catholic Church.

The church was having a prayer service from 7 to 9 PM in thanksgiving to God for the gift of newly canonized Saint Damien of Molokai. The prayer service would include the presence of the reliquary bearing a bone fragment of Saint Damien which was making its way from Rome back to the Cathedral in Honolulu.

I misunderstood the bulletin and thought it was going to be an open adoration from 7 to 9 PM and didn't realize it was a prayer service starting at 7 PM. I arrived about twenty minutes into the service but just in time to line up to take a turn placing my hand on the reliquary to say a prayer to Saint Damien. This whole process was very regimented by the Knights of Columbus in full dress.

After the service they handed everyone a metal with Saint Damien on one side and an image of Maria Lanakila church on the other side.

On my way back to the resort I stopped off at Barnes And Noble Bookseller for a frappuccino and picked up a copy of "Holy Man - Father Damien Of Molokai" by Gavan Daws to learn more about the man who ministered to the lepers in Kalawao.

Sunday Morning . . .

Sunday morning I was off to an early start as I headed into the town of Lahaina for 8:30 AM mass at Maria Lanakila Catholic Church. It was 80 degrees and no air conditioning, just a bunch of open windows and some ceiling fans. Mass ran long as I think the priest wanted to make a connection with each person that he gave communion to.

After church I set out to explore the town of Lahaina. I soon came upon the famous Banyan tree. The tree is located behind the old court house and takes up almost the entire park!

After spending some time at the Banyan Tree, I continued to explore Front Street along the water. It was here that I saw this old sunken boat in the ocean.

After strolling up and down Front Street I finally decided on a place to eat and had a delicious breakfast burrito with tropical salsa.

Refreshed from my meal, I decided to drive across the Island to the town of Wailea because I knew there used to be a Gap there.

Yes, I needed to continue my Shopping Mall Tour Of America and find the Shops At Wailea.

I found the mall and had a good chuckle when I discovered that the only Gap on Maui was a women's only store. As I stood in the store for several minutes I reflected on the fact that it was full of winter sweaters and puffy vests and it was 87 degrees and humid outside!


After exploring the rest of the mall I headed back to the resort.

I decided I would buy a ticket for the hotel's on site Luau for the evening.

The Luau was an all you can eat buffet with traditional Island fare and delicacies. It was also an open bar with standard cocktails, beer, wine, sodas and fruit punch.

After dinner The Myths of Maui show began with singing and dancing. The evening culminated with a Fire Dance Finale.

I was seated at a long table with a woman named Toni who had nothing positive to say about this Luau experience. It was NOT up to her expectations.

Frankly, I thought it was fine. I wasn't expecting much from a Luau at the hotel that is put on nightly. It was exactly what I thought it would be.

Toni was also willing to share her thoughts on everything! The town of Oxnard, where she and her husband own a condo, religion, TV weatherman, The Gap, local tours on Maui, airlines, and probably more things that I have already forgotten about. Thank God the show started or I think she would still be talking to me.

After the Luau it was time for bed.

The Song Of The Day - Sunday Morning by No Doubt

Vacation . . .

About a month ago I was reviewing my paycheck stub when I noticed my vacation balance. I had reached the cap once again and was no longer going to earn vacation hours until I brought that balance down.

Here's the thing; I have taken time off already this year, but my balance is still extremely high from my time working in stores. That being said, I looked at my work schedule and it seemed like I might be able to take some time off.

Normally, this situation would result in a "staycation." A week of waking up by 10am to catch The View followed by several more hours of television, a shower by 1pm, a trip to a mall by 3pm, followed by some food, and more TV. Then I would repeat the process the next day.

This time I wanted to do something. That something ended up being a spur of the moment trip to Maui which was an Island I had never been to before. I was a little apprehensive because I was going to be taking this trip by myself and I wasn't sure if I would enjoy 7 days and 6 nights alone. With the encouragement of my co-workers I booked the trip.

My intention was to blog about the experience daily so that the Loyal Readers could enjoy the trip too. Unfortunately, the hotel did not offer free Internet access and I was too cheap to pay for it. That resulted in the two brief "picture" posts last week. I was trying "mobile" blogging from my iPhone and I wrote this whole piece about the first day of the trip only to discover that it would upload either the photo or the written content but not both. At that point I decided to scrap the whole blogging idea and just enjoy the trip.

Now, I have lots of pictures to share with you! I hope you enjoy my trip to Maui (one week later.)

I booked my trip through

My flight was on United. One tip that I learned is that you can save five dollars on your checked bag fee if you check the bag in over the Internet prior to arriving at the airport.

I stayed at the Royal Lahaina Resort in what was supposed to be a "Garden View" room. I was pleasantly surprised that my "Garden View" room actually had a view from the ocean to the mountain when standing on the balcony. See photos above. The resort was great. It featured several swimming pools and a white sand beach that was never crowded.

That being said, the Royal Lahaina Resort was not actually in Lahaina. It was about ten minutes past Lahaina; which was about an hour from the airport.

The Song Of The Day - Vacation by The Go-Go's