2.24.2009

A "Me Commercial"

Just a quick post this time. I submitted an application (by video) for "The Best Job in the World" and wanted to share it with you. It's also on my Facebook page, but some of you aren't part of the cult yet, so here it is...

video

December 2008

Here is my promised 'catch-up' post for our December happenings. Next up is January...which I hope to get posted with less 'lag' time between posts.

December was pretty much a whirlwind of activity, as it usually is. This year seems extra frenetic and weird in some ways, more relaxed in others. The frenetic aspects stemmed from feeling not quite in the same time warp as the rest of the world. Our time on Kauai really messed with my sense of time, which is not my strong point anyway. It took me all of December and part of January to catch up with the pace of my every day world.

December is dominated by preparations for Christmas, of course, so I won't bore you with details. The hardest and coolest part of this Christmas season was our resolve to do a cash only Christmas. We've been implementing Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover principles to get our debts paid off. We're making nice progress, though with a few setbacks here and there (Murphy is alive and well) and didn't want to get caught up in the feeding frenzy of Christmas and ruin our progress. Because of our trip, we were down to a minimum of cash reserves so it was a 'slimmed down' version of gift buying this year. It sure feels good not to have those big credit card bills come up in January, though!

I have to confess I got 'big screen fever' early in the month and just knew life would not be complete or satisfying until I'd upgraded to a giant TV. We've had our 'door buster sale' 27" TV for over a decade and I was feeling left behind. Everyone was getting a big screen except me. Boo hoo. Thank goodness for my drive home...I listen to Dave Ramsey's show every evening and he addressed this very thing one night when I was really struggling. I was able to see how I'd gotten sucked into the discontent of not having things when it is relationships that life is really all about! Ah...that is a much better place to camp.

Blessings to you and I'll catch you up on more recent happenings soon...

1.17.2009

Time Flies...

Wow! I get such a reality check about how fast time passes when I check in on my blog and see that I haven't posted in such a long time. Sorry folks. 

Isn't it amazing? I actually think about blogging several times a week...I just don't seem to get to it. (I often like to blame this on the fact that Di and I share a single computer...but the truth is that I am often just too lazy to get it done. I still want my own computer though.) Well, let me start playing some "catch-up" on what's been happening in our lives since we got back from our dream vacation.

When we got back it was time to get straight into preparations for the holidays. We busily set about making final arrangements for where we were going to have our Thanksgiving meal and who would be attending. This may sound unusual, but my family is in a state of transition (hmmm, that seems to be a theme with a lot of people). 

Traditionally, we've had T-day at my parents' house. My brother Jim comes up from California (sometimes with his wife, Carol, sometimes not...it's complicated) and if my oldest brother Earl is nearby (again...it's complicated), he and his wife join in the fun, along with Di and I. My 'youngest' brother (8 years older than me) Ken has a really large family so he hosts his tribe at his home on T-day and comes over during the weekend as weather allows. Last year, however, my mom was not feeling particularly well and announced that she was no longer able to handle hosting the ravening horde (we're not quite that bad...but close) so we had the big meal at Earl's new house. He and his wife had just moved back from Arkansas and are living in a town nearby. 

This year, we had to make decisions. Earl and Nancy have a new grandchild in Reno, so we knew where they were going to be. Jim has been recovering from back surgery and had missed several weeks of work so we didn't think he could handle the travel up from Cali...and our household has grown by two, so we knew that we couldn't really imposed on Mom & Dad. In the end, we decided to host it at our house. We were joined by Mama Jan & Jerry (my in-laws), Rochelle & Eden, and Mom & Dad. It was a great meal followed by some killer pies Rochelle made (kudos and thanks Rochelle) and a beautiful turkey & fixin's prepped by my lovely bride and her mama (kudos and thanks to Di and Mama Jan). 

This year, I reflected again on how grateful I am for my life. I'm a young-feeling 50, active and pretty fit and have the physical ability to do pretty much anything I decide to try. I feel so blessed and grateful. I am especially grateful in light of the health challenges some of my friends are having. My prayers are with you Tom, Steve and Barry! I'm asking God to restore you to complete health every day. 

I have so much to be thankful for. Our country, though flawed and undergoing strain, is still the best place in all the world to live. I have great friends and family, a wonderful church home, a good job and a warm, snug home to live in. God is challenging me to live a more purposeful life, to focus more attentively on learning and living and doing, rather than just watching life go by and wishing it were different. 

Among the many blessings in my life, I am most grateful for my wife of nearly 22 years. What a blessing to wake up and go to sleep each day with my best friend and favorite person in all the world. She is the treasure of my heart. My life is richer and fuller for having her in it. I love you Di! You bring out the best in me and give me courage to try new things because you believe in me without reservation. You are the best!

Next post...I'll catch you up on December happenings...

11.14.2008

Day 14 - Homeward Bound

Di and I now know for sure why late flights are called "red-eyes". We left Kauai on schedule last night at 11:33 PM and are now waiting for our connecting flight to Pasco. I don't like to use this space for negative stuff, but I have to say that Alaska Air's coach class seats are the most uncomfortable airline seats I've ever experienced. They must have been designed by an evil conspirator with the practictioners of Chiropractic. Ugh! Five hours of total discomfort.

Okay, enough negative stuff. Our vacation time in beautiful Kauai is over and we both feel rested and recharged for the new challenges ahead of us as we seek to fulfill the purposes for which we were created. I, for one, am content to let God lead me where ever He chooses. I am ready for a new chapter of life in my fifth decade

Thank you for dropping by to check on our vacation activities. Even greater thanks to those who took time to write a comment. It definitely encouraged me to know you were checking in.

See you soon (most of you, anyway).

Aloha!

11.13.2008

Day 13 - Our Lucky Day

I have to make this a bit more brief and without pictures tonight because our Internet access evidently expired, so I'm typing this post on my iPhone. Last night, we decided to try the north shore beaches one more time, which meant getting early to get there early enough to get a parking spot at Ke'e Beach (that means before 9:00 AM).

Our reward was a beautiful morning drive followed by great teaching snorkeling in very clear, warm water. We stayed in until we got chilled. When we came out, we decided to walk south down the beach to find some sun, as it was still very shady and cool where we "set up camp". Much to our surprise and delight, we came upon a monk seal on the beach sunning itself. The guidebooks tell you that it is rare to see one of these critters in a stay on Kauai, and this was the third we'd seen in our time here. We felt so fortunate and blessed!

By the time we meandered back to our spot, the surf was kicking up. The predicted increase in surf was beginning and when Di asked, the lifeguard said they would shutting the beach to swimming and snorkeling as soon as the signs were delivered. We packed our gear and headed south, but not before an awesome Americano and muffin at Java Kai.

We drove south, stopping briefly at Lyndgate State Park to check on conditions there. Lyndgate has a man-made "reef" made of huge lava rocks that form two swimming areas. One is very shallow, meant keikeis (children). The other one is about 5 feet deep. Nice, but not what we were looking for, so headed on down to Poipu Beach.

We spent the rest of the afternoon there enjoying very clear snorkeling conditions and mild surf. We finally got to see the Hawaiian state fish! You'll have to look up the name - there's no way I'm going to try to spell it. We also got see yet another monk seal! This one swam into the area people were snorkeling in, looked around for bit, then hauled itself onto a smal islet!

Well, that's it for today's excitement. My next post will be from an airport.

Aloha!

11.11.2008

Day 12 - Jungle Love

Okay, so it's a corny title. (Can anyone name the band who played that song? Without using Google?)

Anyway, today unscheduled as are the rest of our days we here (we did that on purpose), so we spent a bit of time figuring out what we wanted to do. Since we'd only been north once so far, we decided to check out a a couple of North Shore beaches. On the drive up, we stopped at the Kilauea Lighthouse...or rather, stopped at the entry gate to the lighthouse. Since today was a national holiday it was closed.

While there, we decided to do a little walking/hiking on the Kalalau Trail. The trail is pretty famous - and long - and strenuous (I read tonight that the Sierra Club rates it a "9" on a scale of "10" in difficulty). The full trail starts at Ke'e Beach and is 11 miles long, through tropical coastline. Our plan was to go to Hanakapi`ai where there is a 300 ft. waterfall, 2 miles in (the plaque describes that portion as a 3-4 hour round trip). We hiked about a mile into the trail when we realized that there was no way we could get to the falls and back before it got dark so we headed back down. We were able to get to a scenic lookout that gives you a great view of the first peaks of the Na Pali coast. We took a breather and a couple of pictures there, then headed back. Even so, we got back to the Jeep a little after 3:00.

We're going to check the surf report tomorrow. If it looks good, we're going back to Ke'e Beach to snorkel tomorrow. It was so beautiful and the reef looked absolutely perfect for snorkeling. God willing and the weather holding...that's what we're doing tomorrow. Until then, I leave you with some pictures of what we saw today.

Kilauea Lighthouse Lumaha'i Beach


Lumaha'i (This beach was made famous by the movie South Pacific where Mitzi Gaynor "washed that man right out of her hair"!)


Waikanaloa (Blue Room Wet Cave), near Ha'ena Beach Park




The Na Pali Coast as seen from Kalalau Trail


Looking east from the same spot we took the pictures above.


More of the trail...






Aloha!

11.10.2008

Day 11 - Flying High

As you might have guessed from the title, today was the big day, the day Dianna has been dreaming of since we scheduled our trip to Kauai. Today was powered hang glider flight over Kauai day. Yep, we took an introductory flight lesson on powered hang gliders today. I must say for the record, that I am not the fan of small craft flight that my wife is. I'm okay with it, but it isn't my hot button...not my cup of tea...not my bag. But I have to admit that the flight today was one of the coolest things I have ever done.

I know, I know..."I got some 'splainin' to do". Let me first direct your attention to the website for the company with whom we booked our flight. It's an outfit called Birds in Paradise and it's run by a world-class hang glider pilot who used to compete professionally on an international circuit covering North, Central and South America. His photography and video credentials are equally impressive. He's credited with over 600 magazine covers, mainly for Ultra Flight magazine, which is targeted to all ultra-light fliers, including hang gliders, paragliding, fixed wing ultralights, etc. He's been running this business in Kauai since 1988. In short...he knows his stuff. (That's mostly for Dianna's mom's benefit...check the website, Jan - you'll feel better. )

The craft, which they call "trikes" are pretty much that. Sort of a 3-wheeled motorcycle that runs on premium grade automobile fuel with a propeller on the back of the craft. The lift is provided by a large, specially-designed hang glider wing. The trike provides power for takeoffs, some control of ascent and descent and landings, but once the craft is airborne, it actually can fly for miles without motor assistance. I've heard that non-powered hang gliders have traveled over 250 miles.

We had scheduled a 90-minute flight so we could see a maximum amount of the island by air. The route we flew tooks us from the southwest 'corner' of the island (Port Allen Airport) along the interior mountain ridges to Wai 'ale 'ale crater (which was unusually clear today...God has just been so merciful to provide unseasonably clear weather for our activities so far) up to Hanalei then along the Na Pali coastline to then over the Waimea Canyon (called the Grand Canyon of the Pacific), then back to the Port Allen Airport. Un-freakin-believeable! Di's pilot/instructor told her that we'd gone over mile high at one point, but what's so astounding and cool about the flight is that it is not a static, go-straight-there-come-straight-back type of flight. Rather, the two pilots clearly love this sport, so they make it fun. They show you what the craft is capable of doing and even have you steer and control the flight for short periods of time.

We flew through clouds. We flew low over valleys. We slowed the engine to an idle and just flew as silent as birds on the updrafts coming off the cliffs. We dipped with several hundred feet of the ocean, then back up to thousands of feet is a few seconds. And we saw parts of Kauai that can be seen in no other way, because we went to places that not even the helicopters go...and we did so at a slower, more interactive and fun-filled pace. It was amazing. They don't allow you to bring your own camera (liability) but they take 60-70 shots on their wing-mounted cameras and, if you opt for it (we did) they also take high definition video from nose-mounted camera on the owner's trike (I was riding with him). We don't have those images yet, but you can be sure I'll post a few here on the blog when we get them. We should be able to get the still shots CD tomorrow. They are going to mail the video home to us.

I have been trying to formulate descriptors for this post to somehow relate this incredible experience to you...and I keep coming up short. There simply are no words to fully convey the details of even a small portion of the sensations of something like this. The air smells different up there. There are times, when an updraft pushes you up that you feel completely weightless - like gravity doesn't apply to you for a short period. There moments of "Oh, crud...what did I get myself into!" when you are in the first few minutes of flight as your instructor demonstrates how easily your trike can bank, climb, and descend. There were several times in the flight where I was stuck mute by the sheer beauty and enormity of this part of God's creation that I was privileged to see. There were waterfalls, of course, and such majestic ridges of richly green mountains that it almost made you hold your breath. I could drone on and on, but it would all fall short.

Inspired by what we saw from the air, we braved the twists and turns of HI State Highway 552 the 11 miles to the top rim of Waimea Canyon. There are several parking areas for lookout points to see different profiles of the canyon. It was truly stunning. We took some pictures with Di's 'big camera' but don't have them downsized to fit on a blog yet.




After coming down off the mountain, we were exhausted and a little hungry for a treat, so we stopped at the original Lappert's Gourmet Ice Cream Store and Factory in Hanapepe. They still make their super premium ice cream on premises fresh every day. (Ummmm good....). That held us over until we made a late dinner and we're getting ready to turn in for the night.

Aloha!

11.09.2008

Day 10 - Mild Side

We started the day with 'church on the beach.' Walking on the beach nearest our condo, we asked God to give us each a verse that we could talk about. We brought along a bible, walked along for a while, and later shared the verse we got. To our delight, we both were impressed with verses from Colossians 3. Dianna got Col. 3:8, I just heard Col. 3. The interesting thing is that Col. 3:8 has been the "theme" verse for my fast. We got a nice chance to chat about what God was doing through this time of R&R and what may come next. That was FUN! We definitely missed worshiping with brothers and sisters from the Bridge, though.

We did another mild, but not completely mellow, day exploring some different and new-to-us beaches. The first two were kind of off the beaten track and weren't really swimming beaches. We decided to check out two of the south shore's hangouts for the locals. These are beaches that are beautiful for very different reasons, but share a common theme...the surf is far too dangerous and violent for swimmers, but it's great for surfers and windsurfers.


Oh, did I mention that we saw, and took pictures of, a beached monk seal too? Oh yeah.

We found this beauty on Gillin's Beach. It's located east of Poipu.









We drove east on the same dirt road that took us to Gillin's Beach to find the eastern most beach on the south shore, Ha'ula, famous for the lithified sand formations. These formations are created by the wind and salt spray from the waves that crash below. As far as we've been able to tell, this is the only place on the island where these formations exist.

And...yeah...there's a person up there on the point of that cliff, a local - fishing.















So, how do you top looking at these bizarre and wonderful creations of nature? We were pretty hungry by then so we headed for Poipu Shopping Center and got a world famous Puka Dog. It's essentially a grilled Polish Sausage in a very unique bun. Instead of a sliced bun like you normally see, the bun is formed with a hole (puka, in Hawaiian) down the length to accomodate the sausage. They also have some very cool, tropical condiments. We chose the Mango Relish. Check out the link it's cool.


Later, we headed off to Poipu beach to snorkel and lie around for a bit, but with all the clouds (yes, our first full day of clouds), it was a bit cool so we only stayed an hour or two.

Well, that's really all I have for now. Aloha!

Day 9 - The REALLY Wild Side

For those of you following the posts, I apologize for not posting yesterday's events in the evening as I have been doing. We had gotten up very early for our major activity and, in the evening, had gone out to our "dress up dinner" which, on Kauai, means long pants and an aloha shirt for me, a very fetching dress for Dianna (thanks for the loan Rochelle). Afterward, I was just too darn tired to think. So here are the events of Saturday...I'll do a separate post for Sunday.

You may remember that in last Tuesday's post about our surfing lesson, I mentioned a surprise activity for Saturday. Well, here's what it was...we took a catamaran ride up the Na Pali coastline. Wow! Absolutely stunning scenery. Dianna took the "real camera" so we got some absolutely beautiful shots. There are too many for a blog post (102), so I am considering whether to post them on my Picasa online album or on Flicker. I'll post my decision later so you can see all of our shots online at your leisure.

We started our day at 5:15 a.m., (or O'Dark-15) to make it down to Port Allen for our check-in at 7:30. We sailed on Catamaran Kahanu (Breath of Life, in Hawaiian...pretty cool, eh?) shortly after 8:00 for our 5-hour tour of the Na Pali coastline. This is one of the smallest catamarans making this trip and our captain is a native Hawaiian, whose family can trace it's roots to a small valley that opens to the Na Pali coast from 1632. They have an oral history that goes back to the 1500's. He not only knows this coastline and these waters like the back of his hand, but he also loves his homeland. He was a bit gruff at first, eventually warming to the 12 passengers aboard his vessel. Because of his incredible knowledge, his status as a native Hawaiian, and the size of his vessel, we were able to go places the bigger tour companies aren't allowed to go. Some of the sea caves we backed into, for instance are usually reserved only for the smaller 'Zodiac' type rafts. The other big plus was the ability go into protected reef area for our stop to snorkel. I was so wishing I had an underwater camera for that.

Mere words cannot express how majestic and wild this stretch of rugged coastline looks in real life. The pictures can only begin to tell the story...but here goes.

As we rounded the point of land that marks the end of Polihale State Park (and the last of that 17-mile stretch of beach), we begin to see why this is such an attraction. These cliffs are at least 1,000 feet tall, and have been the backdrop for many, many movies. (Jurassic Park, King Kong, 6 Days, 7 Nights, to name a few.





Not too long after we saw the cliffs for first time up close, we got a wonderful surprise. We saw a pod of porpoise swimming lazily through the water. They were in what the captain described as an "alpha state", their equivalent of sleep swimming. In this state, they can rest but they are also have to breathe, so they maintain a slow, rhythmic motion. The captain stopped the boat and asked Dianna, who'd moved up front to take pictures, to sit on the front end of the catamaran. Porpoises are attracted to bright colors, and she was wearing this bright pink hat - they responded immediately by swimming right under her feet.




Okay, I could go on and on about the porpoises but on to some more shots of the cliffs.
If you closely in some of these shots you'll see ribbons of white...those are waterfalls coming from the runoff of Wai 'ale 'ale, the wettest spot on earth. It receivesover 440 inches of rain per year.


One of the caves created by the constant pounding of the ocean against the lava rock that forms this island. You can see that surf exploding from the back of the cave.

We were there on a extremely calm day, especially for this time of year. Even so, the surf is violent here. Getting in the water to swim here will get you killed.




Every mile has some breathtaking vista - we found the unique colors found at the base of this particular cliff really beautiful and interesting.

Please note, too, how clear the water is here. At this point we're probably in 35-40 ft. of water. It's like this all around the island where the bottom is either rock or reef. The sand bottom areas get significantly stirred up so the waves become brown.



Another of the sea caves...we're in pretty deep at this point, so I brightened up the picture a bit as we didn't have a flash with us. The same cave without the brightness enhanced...







Well, there you go! That's a few of them and, as I said, they still did not do justice to the place. You simply have to come here and see for yourself.

As for our "dress-up" dinner. We headed down to Poipu to The Beach House. Rated as Kauai's best restaurant several years' running and now we know why. Omigosh! Awesome food. We had wonderful food and one of the best deserts either of us have ever eaten. (Banana's Foster since you asked.)

Aloha!