Saturday, October 27, 2007

Oahu & Kauai Part 1 of 2

Before we launch into our day by day adventures we think that a little information about the island of Kauai would help a lot. The Hawaiian islands are part of a chain of volcanoes that stretch to Siberia. The islands tectonic plate moves 3 inches to the northwest each year.

KAUAI - The volcanic island is 533 sq miles with 90 miles of beaches. Its population is about 55,000. Its nickname is "The Garden Isle." Its famous west side of Na Pali coast can only be accessed by hiking, boats or helicopters. There is a famous canyon on the west side called the Waimea Canyon which has earned the nickname "The Grand Canyon of the Pacific." It is 14 miles long and over 2500 feet deep. Micro-climates is a word that is commonly used here. We've all heard the phrase "If you don't like the weather in New England, wait a minute." Well, it really applies better to Kauai where there can be a rain shower and the sun shining within 1 minute.

Because of its unique geography, the high mountainous interior is the wettest place on earth. Mt Wai'ale'ale averages 450 inches of rain a year. About 10 miles south as the crow flies from this mountain you will find the town of Waimea that averages only 19 inches of rain a year. The north shore is beautifully green with lush hillsides and beautiful waterfalls. When the rain is very heavy on the north side of the mountain you can literally not be able to count the number of waterfalls on the mountainside.

Friday, October 26. The undulating mountains of Hawaii are amazing. They were formed by millions of years of rain wearing down the volcanic rock, looking unlike any mountains anywhere else.

We spent the night in Honolulu after getting up at 3:15 AM, and taking a 3 hour flight from Hartford and an 8 hour flight from Dallas. Warm air, sunshine, clouds and a little rain over the mountains, and flowering trees greeted us. That helped a little with our fatigue but by 8 PM we turned out the lights.

Sunrise and sunset are about 6 AM and 6 PM!

Saturday, October 27. Kauai: verdant north and dry south. The next day we had a 40 minute flight to Kauai. The first stop was the Kauai History Museum which was really excellent. There was info on the peoples (Japanese, Chinese, Portuguese, and others) and the birds, animals, trees, and plants. There was also a display about the Japanese who lived in Hawaii but were interred after Pearl Harbor was bombed. We also found out that the mother of a former Fort River School teacher, Bruce Wichman, started the Kauai Museum. He went from teaching 6th grade to writing children's books. We're going to try and get in touch with him.

Stone walls and walls of buildings are made of volcanic rock. Here's a picture of the outside of the museum. We found this red-crested cardinal on the lanai of our condo.
The gift store worker recommended a great noodles restaurant in Lihue called Hamura Saimin on Kress Street. She recommended the noodles (with matchstick slices of Spam!), chicken barbequed on a skewer, and Lilikoi (Passion Fruit) Chiffon Pie. Yum!

Sunday, October 28. Driving is challenging on the North Shore of Kauai with its many narrow bridges.

We hiked 2 miles that took almost 2 hours to a beach where we couldn't go in the water. George and Carol McGeehan recommended the Kalalau Trail hike along the Na Pali coast on the . The scenery was great but as you can see from these pictures it was a challenging trail with mud, rocks, and roots.

The Hanakapia Beach sign is not your typical beach sign! Here's a picture of some of the waves, filled with sand.

Kauai Road Kill: One peculiar thing about Kauai is that there are roosters and chickens wandering around everywhere, so many that they're what is usually seen as road kill!

We stopped at the Wishing Well Shave Ice in Hanalei (written up in the New York Times as being one of the best and most authentic in Hawaii) and met a retired couple from Pittsburgh who were visiting 3 of the islands. Hawaiian shave ice with ice cream starts with a scoop of ice cream topped with a huge amount of crushed ice with a flavored syrup. There were about 20 different flavors. It was really good but would've tasted better if we had been really hot.

Have you seen this picture before? It's a view of the fields of taro (a starchy staple crop in Hawaii) in Hanalei, where Puff, the Magic Dragon lived.

We know someone who vacations in Princeville so drove into that community. It was very nice! Lush and beautiful landscaping. We stopped at an Open House and talked with the realtor. It was quite interesting. The condo was gorgeous but really expensive. We learned that electricity is expensive as well as the maintenance fees but the taxes are very inexpensive. We're certainly not interested in buying a house in Kauai but they also rent. So maybe when we return . . .

Sandy had to know how the Red Sox were doing so he called the Mullins. (Remember, we're 6 hours behind here.) They were ahead so he could relax a bit, but asked them to call again at the end of the game. Yeah!! Another World Series championship.

Monday, October 29. We drove part way up the Waimea Canyon (the Grand Canyon of the Pacific) on the west side of the island. The road is on the ridge and has amazing views of the canyon and the ocean. We only drove 1/3 of the way and hiked the Kukui Trail down a little over a mile. The first thing we noticed was lots of birds singing. This canyon's river is the Waimea, not nearly as big as the Colorado and there is much more rain than in Grand Canyon! We'll get more great pictures when we go again on Thursday.
This afternoon we drove east to Poi'pu Beach Park, a beautiful park with grass, picnic tables, and a shallow protected swimming area for kids. We went snorkeling and saw moorish idol, parrotfish, unicorn fish, and many others. We didn't see as many as we have at other places in Hawaii but the area was shallow so what we did see was very close. We spent the next hour reading and just enjoying the scenery. The water temperature was about 80 so it was lovely.

About a mile west of our condo is the "spouting horn," a geyser of water shooting through the rock.

Temperatures here are about 81 daytime and 67-70 at night. There is always a breeze, sometimes very strong near the shore. It's delightful, especially when Amherst is having temps below freezing!

Tuesday, October 30. Golf is really expensive in Hawaii but George McGeehan told us about an inexpensive course near Poi'pu. So, Becky being a good sport, went with Sandy to play golf this morning. The Kukuiolono Golf Course is up on a hill so the views were great! And we heard lots of birds. The golf, however, was not memorable. Sandy had a good time but deemed it not that challenging with very wide fairways. I had a hard time first hitting the ball and then hitting the ball in the right direction. Then my shoulder started to hurt. So, I got through 6 holes and then just putted.

You've heard of courses in Florida who have resident alligators. Well, here in Kauai, they have resident chickens and roosters!

Here's some interesting sand at Glass Beach. Look closely at the colors. (They're broken bottles and auto glass, not sure why but that's what the tour book said.)

Here's a picture of a cleared sugarcane field that's being planted with coffee. Sugarcane is no longer the cash crop here. Yes, the dirt is really that red. And it's hard to get out. There's even a T-shirt company called the The Red Dirt Shirt Company made with "authentic" red Kauai dirt!

We took a Sunset Cruise to the Na Pali coast with HoloHolo Charters. The coastline is best seen from a boat. It was a great tour with an informative captain and friendly and informative helpers, one from Duxbury, MA and one from Kauai. We were lucky to have only 16 people on
board instead of 30-40. We drove out pretty fast on a catamaran and then came back slowly near the shore so we could really see it up close. We passed one large beach called the Pacific Missile Range Facility which is owned by the military and is where they test the anti-missile missiles. The scenery was surreal. Here are some pictures of the Na Pali coast. One picture has brown footed boobies nesting on rock that's fallen down.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Amherst in the Fall

Saturday, 10/20. It was a beautiful sunny fall day for the drive to Amherst. Unfortunately, there was lots of traffic in NYC. We gathered some things that we had left in our garage in Amherst and headed up to Chuck Dauchy's and Judy Weinthaler's. Shortly thereafter Betsy and David Mullins and Denise and Doug Gagnon arrived. It was great to see some of our friends again! We had a wonderful dinner and were going to play a game but opted just to watch the Red Sox beat the Cleveland Indians to win the American League Title.

Sunday, 10/21. We spent the night there and took a great hike up to the Mt. Toby tower with Chuck and Judy. It was another gorgeous day. Here are some pictures of Chuck and Judy and the Connecticut River Valley.

We spent 3 nights with the Gagnons and 2 nights with the Mullins. The next few days were spent like this: Sandy visiting his friends: Ron Moyer, Bill Read, Chris Van Leeuwen, and Don Spearance; playing golf with Ron and Bill, having lunch with teachers at Fort River, learning to operate his new cell phone, dealing with mounds of mail, and odds and ends. Becky had some appointments, also dealt with mail, had a massage, got her soft bifocal contacts, and odds and ends. We both visited Melissa Kroodsma (Don was still collecting bird songs in Australia). We also went on a nice hike with David Mullins and his dog to Buffam Falls in Pelham (on a Thursday - early afternoon!).

The first three days the weather was in the 70s and then more normal weather, about 60 for the last 2 days. The colors may never reach their peak but here's a picture of the maple tree in the Gagnon's backyard.
David was kind enough to drive us to the airport very early Friday morning for our American Airlines flight to Honolulu by way of Dallas.

It was a lot of fun watching the Red Sox with the Mullins. We hope they'll win the World Series again but want to post this before the end.

It was really fun to catch up with our friends. Thanks to everyone who made time in their schedules to visit. We hope to catch up with Mike and Peg Ross around Thanksgiving. [The picture above (us with Mullins and Gagnons) was taken in Ogunquit, ME this past August.]

We're off to Kauai and the Big Island! Check back in a week or so for highlights of Kauai.

A Wicked time in NYC

Thursday, 10/17. We flew to NYC and were greeted by warmer weather than in California! Julie and her boyfriend, Michael, who live near Prospect Park in Brooklyn, picked us up and we all did some sightseeing for 2 days. We visited the Brooklyn Historical Museum and learned that it was named for a Dutch town Breukelen. We walked along the Brooklyn Heights Promenade which borders the East River. What a beautiful walkway and view. We imagined ourselves living in some of the old houses there.

Sandy, Julie and I enjoyed the delightful Broadway musical, "Wicked." (It was a full house.) If you don't know, it's the story of what happened before "The Wizard of Oz." Before we went to the theater we stopped in the Village to visit Amherst friends, David and Jane Lithgow, who live there during the week. They have such a nice apartment! Julie was drooling.

Friday, 10/17. By the time we emerged from the subway in Manhattan it was raining. (Now we felt right at home since we had 3 wet days in California.) Our first stop was Sotheby's Auction House where they had a exhibit of Grace Kelly commemorating the 25th anniversary of her death. There were videos, memorabilia, jewels, dresses, hats, even sunglasses. It was interesting to learn a little bit more about her. We were unaware of the Grace Kelly Foundation in support of the arts.

We walked miles to the Paley Media Center, formerly the Museum of TV & Radio. On the way we went by the filming of a movie. We stopped to check it out and I heard a male voice say, "Hi, Julie." It was "Chris from Long Island" who, on this film, is an assistant director. Julie knew him from a couple of movies she was in where he had been the PA (Production Assistant) in charge of the extras and stand-ins. The movie is "Ghost Town" and they were filming the first scene with Greg Kinnear (the father in "Little Miss Sunshine"). So, that was kind of fun to be with Julie and have her be recognized like that.

At the Paley Media Center you can choose any TV show (or radio show) to view and then go to a booth with earphones for 4 people . We chose "The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis." It was fun to watch that old show with Julie. She only knew Bob Denver after that show and in "Gilligan's Island." We also saw Highlights of Sid Caeser. What an incredibly talented man!

After dinner I showed Julie how to make a macrame plant hanger and we watched the final episode of "Mad Men." She doesn't have cable so watches shows after they air on her computer.

Julie and Michael are vegan so we had some food that we don't usually have, like buckwheat pancakes and different kinds of sprouts. Everything was great!

We loved being able to visit both of our kids and their significant others. We'll see Julie and Michael at Thanksgiving and plan to see all of them together at Christmas in Florida.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Wine & Gold

In previous emails with the Sproats, we discussed our plans for sightseeing Monday and Tuesday. It turned out that they enjoy hiking and museums as much as we do!

Monday, 10/14. Napa Valley Wine Country. We met Dave and Brenda at the Beringer Vineyards in St. Helena. It was started in 1872 and is the longest continuously operating winery in the US. (Now, that's pretty tricky with Prohibition in there. They can claim this honor because before Prohibition they were making wine for Communion so were allowed to continue that.) While we were waiting in the beautiful garden there were numerous hummingbirds darting back and forth. We toured the old house, finished in 1883, and also tasted 4 wines there, 1 white, 2 red and one red dessert wine. Not being a real wine drinker they were all pretty good. They showed us the caves, dug by hand, to keep the wine cool while fermenting in the oak barrels. Now, most of the wine is fermented in stainless steel drums across the street. Did you know that white wine isn't aged and red wine is? So, now you could see a 2007 white wine in the store but not a 2007 red wine.

After lunch in St. Helena, we drove to Napa to a really interesting museum called Copia, "The American Center for Wine, Food, and the Arts." Besides the museum and great gift shop, it has a restaurant for lunch and dinner, food demonstrations, and workshops. The latter had ended for the day but we watched a movie and looked at the displays about lots of food. Among other things, we learned about the origins of ketchup, hot dogs, Lay's Potato Chips, and Fig Newtons.

Tuesday, 10/15. The Gold Rush. Dave drove all of us to the Marshall Gold Discovery State Park in Coloma, CA. This was where John Marshall discovered gold in the stream at John Sutter's lumber mill in January 1848. There was a Visitor Center and lots of buildings from the original town to look at and learn about.

Because it was threatening to rain all day we took a 2 hour hike first up and down the mountain. We passed some 4th graders from the Bay Area (Lafayette) on a camping nature trip. They taught us about the manzanita tree, the Ponderosa Pine and the toyon or Hollywood plant. They were very cute explaining facts to us. The manzanita is really interesting. It has a smooth, red, twisting bark that peels off in strips and it's cold to touch. The native americans ate the berries and the bark. They told us that the Ponderosa Pine has a rough bark that looks like puzzle pieces and it has pine nuts in the cones that are edible (mostly by wildlife). The toyon bush with red berries (bird food in winter) is an evergreen which Hollywood, CA is named after.

The gold that John Sutter found had flaked off from decomposing quartz. By the end of 1850 there were 90,000 gold seekers (argonauts) in California!! There were some buildings still standing and some just the remains: hotels, general stores, a printer, a prison, etc. in Coloma.

We drove back to Davis by way of Auburn, another gold rush town. It was a pretty heavy rain but it cleared up before we got to Sacramento. We picked up dinner on the way so we could all have a quick dinner together before Scott's and Libby's Ultimate Frisbee game.

Unfortunately, the other team didn't show up so we just watched them practice. It was fun anyway. We hadn't seen our kids play in a while and we all enjoyed just talking.

We drove back to the hotel where we were all staying and said our goodbyes. We were heading for the airport and NYC tomorrow. They were heading for San Francisco until Sunday. We had a great time sightseeing with Dave and Brenda and getting to know them. They were great travel partners!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

California, Here We Come!

Monday, 10/8. We had a great visit with our next door neighbors, Larry and Judy Kaufman. We found that we had a lot in common. They're also from MA but from Waltham. They have 2 children, 1 in NYC and 1 in CA. One works in the media as a movie producer. They like active vacations but aren't quite yet retired. And the big surprise was that Becky knows Judy's boss at Mt. Ida College. He used to work in Development at UMass!

Tuesday, 10/9. We wanted to make the most of our last day in Florida before returning in December so after breakfast we took an exercise walk and then I swam in the pool for a bit. It felt great!! (What a great feeling to be doing this on a weekday in October!) Then we got to work on cleaning the house and getting it ready for our renters. By 2 PM we were on the road for the 2 hour trip to Becky's mother's home in Largo, north of St. Petersburg. We had a nice visit and dinner before heading up to Sandy's mother's home in New Port Richey, about 1 hour north. She wasn't there but we needed a place to spend the night and leave our car until we came back down after Thanksgiving. After locating the circuit breaker for the electricity we were all set.

Wednesday, 10/10. We had a great breakfast at Steve's Place, the restaurant that June and friends go to regularly. About 10:30 AM June's sister-in-law picked us up and took us to the airport for our flight to Sacramento by way of Las Vegas. Helen Venedam has a little business driving people to and from the airport.

California. It was very cool to fly over the Grand Canyon and Lake Mead after having rafted down it only 3 months before. What an incredible work of nature, with those plateaus eroded away down to the river!

(When we made our plans to visit Scott and Libby, our long-time friend, Jim Rubins and his wife, Dianne, kindly offered us a room in their house. Thanks, Jim & Dianne!)

After picking up the rental car Sandy felt like he was starting off where he ended up on Aug. 28 when Scott left him at the Sacramento Airport. We arrived at Scott's and Libby's in Davis about 7 PM. They only live 30 minutes from the airport. We've seen them a lot in the past few months but it still was great to see them in their new home. They have a nice, big 2 bedroom, 2 bath apartment with new cabinets, countertops and floor tile in the kitchen and bathrooms.

We visited until 8 when Jim showed up to escort us to his house. He lives up a winding road on a lake north of Napa and was concerned we might made a wrong turn. As it turned out our GPS system had no problem getting us there. We got to Jim's about 9 PM (our bodies felt like it was midnight) and wanted to adjust to California time but couldn't make it past 10.

Thursday, 10/11. Julie's 27th birthday!! We headed off with Jim Rubins as our guide winding through the roads of Napa Valley's vineyards. One thing we noticed coming down the mountain where Jim and Dianne live is some shiny things amongst the grapes. These turned out to be strips, shiny on one side and red on the other that are tied up to keep the starlings and crows away. Apparently they work. Here's a picture of Cabernet grapes which will be harvested at the end of October. On the right is a picture of Napa's "Old Man in the Mountain" complete with a pipe (on Rt. 121).

Jim, after living here for 27 years, knows the area well so was a terrific guide. He took us to an old adobe, part of a ranch built by a Mexican. There were displays on how they farmed and milled wheat (not the kind we grow today) and sheep. Jim showed us the nut of a beech-nut tree that is gummy (which the Beech-Nut gum company used to make gum) and that the Indians boiled to make yellow cloth.

There were also pineapple cactus whose fruit you could eat. Here's a picture of what the hills look like in the Napa Valley in October. Jim told us that by Christmas, after the rainy season is in full swing, those same brown hills are green.

Here's a picture of a stereotypical California house in Jim's neighborhood built on stilts. Below this is the view of Lake Berryessa, a reservoir, from one of Jim's many decks. Nice, huh?

Our destination was Pt. Reyes National Park north of San Francisco. First we went to the Visitor Center and had a picnic lunch, and walked along a trail explaining about the San Andreas Fault. It showed how the 1906 earthquake caused part of a fence to move 22 feet away! Next stop was the lighthouse on a peninsula 19 miles out. Jim drove on a really windy road but with beautiful scenery. Some highlights of Pt. Reyes: 1) the red, fuzzy algae (trentepohlia) growing even on the building and window;
2) western paintbrush flower;

3) cypress leaning away from the windy coast; 4) "old man's beard" lichen growing on the rock and in trees;

5) ice plant; 6) below the lighthouse were cormorants and pelicans sharing a rock.

Nighttime entertainment was watching Julie in her first big scene on "Mad Men" on AMC. Yeah, Julie!!

Friday, 10/12. Rain, Fog and Sun. We woke to clouds and it had rained but Sandy and I took an exercise walk around Jim's neighborhood before the rains really started in force.

We headed north of San Francisco. The weather forecast was for only morning rain so we figured by after lunch we'd be in fine shape to do some walking around. Wrong!! By the time we had reached Muir Woods with their majestic redwoods, the weather forecast was for "decreasing rain in the afternoon." It was a bit of a wet walk through Muir Woods but the trees are huge and impressive. The large ferns on the forest floor were beautiful. My feet got pretty soaked. I was glad I wore wool socks since it was only 53 degrees! Here's a picture in the rain. See the water droplets on the lens!
Next stop was a nearby beach where we watched surfers in 12-15 foot waves. We all took a little nap and headed for the Marin Headlands Visitor Center. It's part of the Golden Gate National Parks, 12,000 acres of open space just north of San Francisco.

We did see some wildlife: 4 river otters while we crossing the bridge. It was still a driving rain so the Visitor Center was a nice place to visit since we weren't really going to be able to be outside seeing much. The displays talked about the Miwok Indians, the Portuguese settlers from the Azores who originally came over during the mid-19th century gold rush and ended up being dairy farmers, bird identification and World War II info for the area.

By the time we were close to the Bay Bridge the rain had stopped, the sun came out briefly and we could actually see the whole bridge and across to San Francisco. Such an impressive bridge! (If you've never been here, having the fog by the bridge is not an unusual sight.) Below that is a postcard picture of the park side where we were.

Saturday, 10/13.
Sunshine! We took a walk with Jim and Dianne and their dog, Ollie, along Lake Berryessa. It was just like a fall morning in Amherst with cool temps and brilliant sunshine. The fall may not be as impressive as New England but this area of California does have some trees which turn a beautiful red. Here are two: a beech and a Japanese maple.

We drove to Davis (about 1 hour away) to take Scott and Libby out for lunch. They live very close to campus so can walk or bike everywhere. It had gotten up to about 70 degrees and lots of people were out on the sidewalks. We had a great conversation and a delicious lunch of crepes at a restaurant called Crepeville. After a brief visit to their apartment we headed back to Napa for a hike along the Blue Ridge Trail in the Cold Canyon Reserve at the southern end of Lake Berryessa. It was a 1500' gain in elevation so pretty steep going up. After an hour we had our first glimpse of the lake. Ten minutes later it was even more spectacular.

Sunday, 10/14. We woke to another beautiful day in Napa, CA. We packed up and headed for Davis to meet Libby's parents, Dave and Brenda Sproat, when they arrived from Minnesota. (They're from Duluth.)

Davis is the biking capital of the world. Biking safely in the city is of utmost importance. There is a sign on the traffic lights indicating a $370 fine for running a red light. There are many bike paths in town and on campus. From their apartment on Olive Drive they can walk to campus, stores, and restaurants. But riding their bikes is quicker. Olive Drive is lined with olive trees (surprising, right?) and cork trees-see picture (very thick bark). That was the first time we'd ever seen cork trees. There are lots of sycamore trees as well. It's a very leafy city.

It was such a beautiful day and we had a great time walking through the arboretum, campus, and Scott's office that he shares with 3 other grad students. We had a lovely cafe stop for dessert and then more walking and talking. The afternoon flew by.

The rest of our CA trip will be in the next post.