Monday, December 1, 2014

San Francisco Giants Victory Parade October 31, 2014

I seem to get myself into these kinds of pickles, pickles that involve promises I make that I never feel like I will have to keep.  Two years ago, my daughters asked if they could dye their hair orange if the Giants went to the World Series.  I had no expectation that they would actually go, but they did, and I spent two nights in my bathroom wearing rubber gloves painting hair with a pastry brush and surrounded by rag towels.  This year in addition to the obligatory hair dyeing--yes, again with the gloves and the rag towels, oh, and this time my daughter brought two friends with her AND I dyed my hair too---my kids offered up this proposal, "If the Giants win the World Series AND the parade is on Halloween, can we go?"  Once again, having no expectation I would ever have to own up to my promise, I told them we would go.
The Giants could have won the World Series on Tuesday, October 28th but instead they were obliterated by the Royals 10-0.  They waited another day to finish the work, behind the masterful pitching of MVP Madison Bumgarner.  We paced and held our breath and screamed and drank the champagne I had put in the freezer about the seventh inning.  The next day I got AM text that the parade would be on Friday at noon, and, by the way, there was 100% chance of rain in the hours leading up to it.
Were we really crazy enough to do this?  I didn't have work and it was Halloween, an all but wasted day at school, no water polo, no rehearsal.  Our only commitment was at 6pm, dinner at our house with our friends.  But oh, the logistics that had to be arranged on short notice! Carpools rearranged, attendance desks called, appointments rescheduled.  How are we going to get there?  What do we bring?  Where are we going to set up all along the parade route?  What time do we leave?  What do we do about the rain?  Oh, and by the way, even though we only have room for two, can we take James AND Juliana AND Serafina?  The next hours were a flurry of consultations with the internet and hurried texts to friends who had done it before, jumbled with calls, a water polo game and making dinner.  Finally it was self examination which asked, "When might we ever have the opportunity to do this again as a family?"  That sealed our fate.  We were going.  Apparently we were this crazy!
We rose at 5:45 am and left our house at 6:30 am to pick up Natalya's two friends in Los Gatos.  Yes, we drove.  First inclination would leave one to believe that driving to the city the day of the parade would be the most ludicrous thing a body could do, but not so.  On the advice of our friend, we accessed a website,, the night before and not only reserved but paid for our parking space for the day just 6 blocks from Market Street.  There was very little traffic, and by 8am we were headed up the street to the parade route.  Our first stop, the potty inside a little McDonald's.  Take advantage!  This might be your last chance at a rest room!

Parked in San Francisco and ready to cheer!!

But not without that first stop in the Micky D's

By 8:20, we had parked ourselves right up against the guardrails on 6 ft of curb, somewhere in a nasty area of town between Taylor and McAllister, close to the end of the parade route.  It had been raining so we spread out plastic bags to protect our rear ends, and sat down for our four hour wait.
It wasn't so crowded and unsafe that you couldn't wander around a bit.  The girls walked to Starbucks (did I really let them do that??) and played games and texted.  The wait did not come without its share of agony, though, which could be summed up as weather, water, and weed.  100% rain was promised and 100% rain came.  It rained steadily from 9 to noon and for 45 minutes it rained hard.  The plastic bags lining the curb filled and flowed with rain.  We stood huddled under 6 open umbrellas, each of us trying not to pour water onto the person next to us, or worse, poke out someone's eye.  Someone had given us the great idea of taking a covered baseball bucket to sit on while we waited.  This turned out to have the added benefit of storing our belongings in a waterproof place!
Great seats, but a long time to wait!
As natural processes progressed, the problem of where to use the rest room also became a problem.  It became very clear that no business was going to let parade goers use their restrooms. It was suggested that we go into the BART station but I sure didn't want the kids going alone.  Port-a-potties were apparently set up in the alley ways, but I never found them.  Ally was getting pretty complainey about not being able to hold it much longer.  Eventually the girls found a closed tenderloin one teenager operation pizza parlor who begrudgingly allowed 3 of the girls to use the facilities. Natalya texted me with the discovery and I joined.  The bathroom was gross but it was better than BART.  I tipped the kid $10 when I left.
Oh and gosh the weed!  This was a lost battle.  Everyone was smoking it and the cops didn't even care.  Apparently they had bigger fish to fry.
I finally see Lou Seal!!
After 3 1/2 hours of rain, pot smoke and worrying about quickly filling bladders it was time for the parade to start!  But we were down at the end of the parade route and the parade didn't get to us for another 50 minutes!  Ugh!  Finally Lou Seal was in sight, at the head of the procession down Market Street.
There is definitely a lot of filler in this parade; front office staff, season ticket holders, some ridiculous cheer team.  The players were paired on party buses, on which they rode with their families on the upper decks.  Timmy rode with Javi Lopez.  Hunter Strickland rode with Tim Hudson.  Buster Posey and Santiago Casilla rode together.  They waved and smiled as they rode by.  Giants alumni like Willie Mays, Juan Marichal, Barry Bonds, Orlando Cepeda and Gaylord Perry all made appearances in chauffeured open cars.  Lots of vehicles threw candy and Tshirts and other paraphernalia and being in the front we caught quite a bit.  The parade went on for about an hour, wrapping up with MVP Madison Bumgarner in an open fire truck followed by Bruce Bochy carrying the World Series trophy.
My girls snapped pictures constantly.  Their pictures were far better than mine and most of the credit for the photos in this post belong to them.
As rush hour was approaching, we decided not to go to Civic Center for the speeches, but getting back to our car was not easy.  We were on the far side of the street. and the only way to cross the street period was to descend into the BART station three blocks away and emerge on the other of Market Street.  Well, everyone was in the BART station, either trying to get on BART, trying to enter the mall and go to the bathroom or to do just what we were trying to do.  The crowds in the BART station were the nastiest and the worst we had seen all day---wall to wall mob.
We left San Francisco about 3pm, had a straight shot to the freeway, and were home by 4:15.  We listened to the Civic Center event in the car on the way home, so we really didn't miss anything.
What a day!  We have Halloween after all this?  The parade was insane but we are glad we went.  Maybe in two tears we will have to ask ourselves again if doing it once was enough!
Here are some more pictures!
Buster Posey rode with Santiago Casilla

Kruk and Kuip
Skipper Bruce Bochy and World Series Trophy #3
MVP Madison Bumgarner
These children look very sad they skipped school today

Thank you for reading this post!  Now I've been to Disneyland dressed for the holidays too!  How am I going to keep up?  Stay tuned!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Hawaiian Hurricane August 8, 2014

Is it okay to post almost three months late?   Probably not.  I just haven't had the time to really pound this one out.  The kids take all my time.  The SF Giants take all my time.  Well, tonight they are losing Game 6 of the World Series against the Kansas City Royals and this gamer babe's not happy.  So I turned it off and went to my computer.
Can I go back to Hawaii?

There are places on this earth that experience a lot of hurricanes.  Hawaii is not one of them.  When a hurricane hits Hawaii, everyone knows about it.  Most everyone can recall Iniki and Iwa, the two ladies that wracked the islands in 1992 and 1982.  For the most part, Hawaiian residents don't really have too much experience with hurricanes.  Tack onto that fact that at any given time during the summer half of those on the islands are tourists, and you've got quite a collection of novices.  So it came to us as quite a surprise when I learned Tuesday morning, while shooting at Kauai Eco Clays, that Hurricanes Iselle and Julio were headed for Kauai.  We were like, whatevs.
Tuesday afternoon we had to go to Costco in Lihue for nothing related to weather.  The place was a veritable zoo.  Seriously it looked like the Almaden Valley Costco the Sunday before graduation and Fathers' Day.  The line to check out was backed up to the bakery.  Craig got in line while I ran around to get the few things we needed.  What were all these people buying?  Then off to the gas station, where the line was literally around the block.  It looked like the Bay Area in the 1970's!  No getting gas now!  We'll come back later!

Sometime Wednesday we got a notice from the hotel telling us to prepare for a hurricane due to arrive by some time Thursday by purchasing non-perishable food and water to last our family three days.  We had some food, but not enough for three days and not all of it non-perishable.  About this same time I got a call from the owner of the rental property in Hanalei we were headed to Friday asking if we were still coming and filling us in on emergency readiness.  We looked at the bright blue sky and the weather report which kept pushing out the time of the storms arrival.  We shook our heads and waltzed off to the pool.

But, here is where the panic began to ensue for my parents, OK, mostly my dad, who flew into an outpouring of 'what if's.  What if there is there's no electricity?  What if there's no water?  What if we can't leave the island Friday (they were leaving Friday)? Where will we stay (ok, not really a 'what if')? What are we going to eat (a big one for my dad)?  What are we going to drink?  Feeding into the frenzy or even becoming impatient with it wasn't going to help anything, so I told him everything would be fine and not to worry about it anymore.  That must have helped because he didn't bring it up again.

Sunset off Kekaha Beach
on Thursday night
Given our laid back attitude about the whole thing up to that point, we decided Thursday morning that it might be a wise choice to acquire some hurricane food.  We refilled all the Gatorade bottles we were saving for recycling and stored them in the fridge.  We trekked on down to the Koloa Big Save hoping to find some store brand granola bars, but the shelves were picked clean of cheap non-perishables.  We bought a large jar of expensive peanut butter (after a long argument involving creamy vs chunky), some granola from La Brea bakery (bet you can guess that wasn't cheap), some bread and some granola bars.  5 items--$25!  Where exactly was the 'big save' in 'Big Save?'

The hurricane that was supposed to wallop the island of Kauai on Thursday never materialized.  We went to the beach all day.  At night, we drove to Kekaha Beach on the west side of the island and watched the clear sunset.  We went to dinner at Wrangler's Steakhouse in Waimea, who were going to be closed the night day for the impending hurricane.

Here we are on the beach Thursday night

At seven the next morning, a few clouds and some wind had begun to appear .  Something made me nervous about going for a walk and getting caught in the rain but then I decided to go anyway, and no, I didn't get caught in a storm.

But not long after it became pretty evident that something was coming.  The rain came and the palms trees started to rock, first a little, then quite a bit more.

We had a whole day's worth of activities planned, including mini golf and renting cruisers to bike along the Kapaa beach path, but by the time we had to be out of our room at 10am, it was clear these events were not going to take place.  We couldn't check into our rental in Haena until 4.  What ARE we going to do today?
The Poipu Beach area Friday morning-7am
Our friends, the Vernales, were in the same boat and were staying in the same place, so we trekked over to their room and watched the Little League World Series for a while.  Well, it's raining in Hawaii...what else are you going to do?

Hi Vernales!  Soon it started looking like this! 9AM Friday
My parents flight was due to leave at 10:15 am.  We got no call, so evidently the plane got off the ground.  Travel was not unaffected though!  My poor friends, the Mehlbergs, who were only coming for a week, had their flight into Kauai delayed one and a half days!

Well it was time to move on..we decided we were going to shop.  First it was off to the Poipu Shopping Center to stop in at Crazy Shirt and Starbucks. Lots of businesses were closed or closing early, including Starbucks, which was closing at three.  This is when the storm began to unleash its fury.  If I can figure out how to attach video to this blog I will, but it was nasty wind and rain.  People were huddled under the awning, usually used for protection from the sun I would imagine, covering and dashing only when completely necessary.  The lights flickered in the Whalers' General store as I stood in line to checkout.

Craig had bought a shirt at the Koloa Rum Company that fit weirdly and he wanted to return so our next stop was at the gift shop at Kilohana Plantation.  The Kilohana Plantation is between Lihue and Poipu, and is home to the Koloa Rum Company, the Luau Kalamaku, and a lovely courtyard restaurant, Gaylord's...but not today.  The entire plantation was closed.  Now we are stuck with that shirt.

We also wanted to buy Koloa Rum, but not at the gift store prices!  So off to Costco across the street--uh, no one here now in this weather!  Natalya was on a quest for chocolate covered macadamia nuts and I needed a gift for work.  We strolled the empty aisles looking for bargains.  The Koloa Dark Rum was far cheaper at Costco so we bought that and some candy and were on our way.

Wailua Falls still gorgeous
in a hurricane
We went to Hilo Hattie, but did we buy anything there?

Gosh, by now we were starving!  But downtown Lihue was a ghost town! We looked in our little blue book (see my last post) and decided on the Garden Island BBQ.  It was kind of a cross between local and Chinese but looks Chinese.  It is located at 4252 Rice Street, and is open 10am-9pm except Sundays, when it's closed.  Anyway, it was one of the only open businesses in Lihue, so we went for it.  The wild thing about this place is its menu of 150 items including more than 30 choices of plate lunches!  You can get a mini (with one scoop of rice and 1 scoop of macaroni or kimchee) for about $6.50 or a regular with twice the rice for $7.95.  The mini is plenty!!
The other great part is the price.  We paid $41.36 total for 5 of us and we were stuffed.  The most expensive thing on the menu was a $11.95 seafood hot pot and on the flip side there's a $2.50 hamburger.  Hey, better than starving!

Of course we had to stop at the bathroom, so we stopped at Lydgate State Park.  It was raining but beautiful.  We strolled out to the beach to check out the pounding surf.  We had a few more stops, successfully buying the chocolate macadamia nuts and off to the North Shore we went!

The Shores of Lydgate State Park--2pm Friday
Our plan was to check in at our house (which we had discovered was at the end of a one way gravel road a few days earlier) and head over to the Mediterranean Gourmet, a relatively new restaurant at the Hanalei Colony Resort in Haena, for happy hour.  We got into the house without incident.  The house was on ten foot stilts with a wrap around deck, open air windows (no glass), and a completely separate master suite.  On any given day the most notable feature might have been quite appealing, but during a hurricane, the fact that the house sat on the banks of the Wainiha River was not not so appealing, actually it was scary.

Rivers rise during heavy rain.  The tricky thing about the Hanalei area is the Hanalei River.  If the Hanalei River rises high enough, the Hanalei bridge will close.  If the Hanalei Bridge closes and you are on the other side, you are cut off from the rest of Kauai.

Well back to our little river.  We didn't really know how much it was up, but it was up and moving swiftly.

We drove out to the Mediterranean Gourmet for happy hour and found the place locked and boarded up for the hurricane.  Dagnabbit!  Turn around and head back to Hanalei town to try to take advantage of Kalypso's happy hour.  Well great.  Kalypso's happy hour ended at 5:30.  Lots of Hanalei restaurants were closed, Bubba's Burgers, Tropical Taco, Hanalei Gourmet...we were stuck eating non-happy hour priced happy hour food at Kalypso.  We were seated at an open air table, protected by awnings only.  By the end of the meal, my back was soaked.  While in Kalypso eating greasy appetizers and drinking weak drinks, the weather got significantly more hurricane, necessitating our dash back to the car in a tropical downpour.  One more stop at the Big Save was needed, where we bought a sale priced bottle of Kauai Gold Spiced Rum we had been searching all over town for!

We tried to stop by Kee Beach to watch the sunset, but yet another failure.  Not only was the beach closed, the stream that usually trickles across the road had risen to a point that the road was impassible.  We didn't dare risk it.  We sadly turned around and headed home.

The Wainiha River
from our deck--4pm Friday
We turned down the dark single lane dirt road in the pouring rain and wondered what awaited us at the end.  Well, not quite at the end, we ran into a utilities truck that was working on clearing vines off the power lines.  Not a great sign!  Anyway, they offered us no information, but rather let poor Craig come to them in the deluge.  He learned that they needed 15 minutes, and that we might have power, and we might not.

What was having no power going to mean? Well for tonight it was going to mean we were going to have to scrounge around in the dark looking for emergency equipment.  Worse was that with no power there was no phone, no router, and no cell service.  With a river rising rapidly next to us, we had no way to contact, OR be contacted by the outside world. 

We had power, gratefully.  There was enough light from the house to see the little Wainiha River had risen to about three feet from the banks.

Sleeping was scary.  The rain pummeled down hard on the roof.  We had no idea if and when we were going to lose power.  At about 11 o clock we were awakened from sleep by a phone call on the landline!  What?  Anyway, it was an official flash flood warning for the Hanalei River, in affect until 2 in the morning.  After that Craig got up every two hours to check the river.

The sunrise came with great relief.  Though still cloudy, the rain had stopped and the banks had not overflowed.  Businesses slowly emerged from beneath wet plywood as rivers receded.  The north shore was a mess.  Beaches and hiking trails remained closed.  Shores were awash with murky leaf filled water, run off from the mountains above.  A river ran through Haena Beach where only a few days before the boys had played baseball on a dry hot sandy beach.  Hurricanes Iselle and Julio had passed us and Kauai by.  We didn't wash or blow away, and we ate, drank fresh water, and had gas and electricity the whole time.  We wound up leaving the full jar of peanut butter and the bread we had bought for a small fortune at the Big Save in the rental house.  We dumped all of our saved water down the drain.  Big warnings turned out to be not much of an adventure after all,  but they did make for some interesting moments!
The kids stand in the river which was dry sand a week ago
on Haena State Beach

Thank you for reading this post!  Now I go to Disneyland for some Holiday fun in November!  Stay tuned to hear about it!

Saturday, September 6, 2014

The Road to Hana Saturday, July 26th, 2014

We survived the Road to Hana!
On July 25th, we left for our bi-yearly Hawaiian vacation.  The day had arrived that we had awaited since August 12, 2012, the day we left Maui two years ago.  Our Hawaiian vacations are two weeks of intense activity and intense family time, family which includes my parents, and has included my sister's family, my brother in law, and any friends we have met up with along the way. Our way of unwinding before coming home for our last three Hawaiian vacations has been to head to Hana, Maui and spent a few nights in this quiet oasis away from the Maui hubbub. This year however our island order was switched, and we wound up finishing our vacation on Kauai--meaning no Hana getaway.  If we wanted to see our beloved Hana on this trip to Maui, it was going to need to be a day trip, so that's what we did.

Vacationers avoid Hana because of the distance from the centers of activity and the "road to Hana's" very illustrious reputation for traffic and being windy.  This is a mistake.  The Road to Hana and the destinations waiting along it's path can easily be completed in a day if that is what you have.

Here are a few pointers from someone who has made this trek often--seven times so far.

It is imperative to start early.  We took advantage of our jet lag and left our hotel on Ka'anapali Beach at 6:10 AM.  This allowed us to be crossing through Paia before 8, to Ching's Pond by about 8:30, snorkeling in Hana Bay by 10, back to Waianapanapa State Park by 12 and to Hamoa Beach by 130.  We left Hamoa Beach by 4pm and were home by 8, and that included stops at Costco for gas, the liquor store, and Safeway.
By leaving early you do also minimize the traffic on the road, which ALSO minimizes the car sickness.  With a good passenger watching the road ahead, it is possible to roll the stop signs at the one lane bridges rather than constantly stopping and starting.  That's what makes ME sick anyway.

The road really isn't that bad.  Some rental car agreements will tell you that your 2WD rental
Waikani Falls (aka The Three Bears)
Took this one from the highway!
car is not insured if you drive "all the way around," which means that instead of turning around and returning to Kahalui the windy way you came, you drive past Kipahulu, through upcountry around the other side of Haleakala to return to Kahalui.  Frankly, for a day trip, we have NEVER not driven all the way around.  We have always driven a two wheel drive minivan, and we've always survived.  Though there are parts beyond Kipahulu which are narrow and rough (even a five mile stretch of dirt road), and there is no doubt that caution is in order, there is no real reason to avoid it.  Ask the ranger at O'heo Gulch if the road is open and drive carefully.  It's different scenery, is less windy, has almost no stop signs, and in my opinion, takes less time.

It is absolutely necessary to carry with you the latest edition of Maui Revealed by Andrew Doughty.  We purchase the latest edition of this book every time we go to Maui.  It is a guidebook like no other.  The authors describe the Road to Hana in significant detail, frankly pointing out what stops are worth a look and which are not.  In some regard, this is a formal endorsement of this book.  Our trips to Hana would have been significantly lacking had we not had this publication in tow.  Recently our friends wanted advice on how to spend their Hana day.  I sent them right to the book.

Two things you will need to take with you--food and gas.  It's in short supply out here.

When taking a day trip to Hana, you can't see everything, but this is where we stopped this time......

Ching's Pond

Who is Ching anyway?

Ching's Pond is a lovely little freshwater pond and waterfall just below the highway right before the 17 mile marker, not far beyond the Keanae Peninsula.  Right before the bridge, pull to the right and park.  Cross the highway carefully and take the path right past the no swimming sign down to the idyllic setting below.  As with nearly all little known idyllic settings, closed water shoes are a must during your entire visit to Ching's Pond.  Between the mud, sharp rocks underwater and uneven climbing surfaces, flip flops are a recipe for
disaster.  Flip flops and adventure in Hawaii DO NOT GO TOGETHER!

The water is super cold, more like an arctic lake than a tropical pond, but refreshing when
you get used to it.  The area has plenty of platforms from which to jump into the deep water, the most popular being near the waterfall into a 10 foot diameter opening, the only area deep enough.  From 8-10 feet up this is pretty easy to do without killing yourself, but the area is heavily visited by foolhardy local youth who jump 25 feet from just below the bridge into to this same space.  I don't have enough life insurance for such a challenge!
You will not have the place to yourself.  There is potential I suppose from stink-eye from the locals, but we have never had any problems--which brings me to the story of the naked guy.

I hesitate to tell this story but it was part of our experience.  We got to Ching's Pond by about 8 am and had the place all to ourselves, but it was not long until we were joined by a local vagrant dressed in one sock and a sarong, who decided it was time for his weekly bath, and in so doing stripped himself of all his garments and went swimming. Hmmm...

He didn't bother us, approach us, or talk to us in any way.  He just went and did his thing, whatever that was, over by the waterfall where we couldn't really see him.  Nonetheless, it was quite creepy, not to mention revolting (there is nothing good about the combination of nudity and cold water) so I have to admit we were uncomfortable and cut our time here short. It's a fairly small area so averting your gaze forever is not so simple. The final nail in the coffin was when he decided to dry himself by laying on the rocks in the sun..."time to go, kids, and by the way, DON'T LOOK AT THE NAKED GUY!!"

When I was arriving at the car, a large truck pulled over the bridge.  He stopped right in the middle of the highway, and yelled out his window to our naked friend 25 feet below "HEY!!!!  GET SOME CLOTHES ON!!!  THIS IS A COMMUNITY!  THERE ARE KIDS ALL OVER THE PLACE!"  I think at this point he made some attempt to procure some kind of loincloth, but too late--damage done.  I think I'm scarred for life.

Anyway, don't NOT go to Ching's Pond because of the naked guy.  He takes his bath Saturdays at 8am if want to avoid him. 

The usual fun at Ching's Pond

Snorkeling in Hana Bay

Okay.  The best snorkeling on Maui is at Molokini Crater--but you're gonna need some money to get there.  The best snorkeling on Maui that you can get to by land is in Hana Bay--hands down.  Clearest water and a great variety of colorful coral and fish, and NO crowds--maybe because it's not so easy to get to carrying snorkeling gear, neither is entry or exit into the water very easy.

To get there you need to travel all the way to the town of Hana and to Hana Bay.  Now of course you don't just run into the water via the beach--to get to something lovely, as usual, you have to take a 10 minute mildly treacherous hike to get there.  Park at Hana Bay and walk to the very end of the road, past the boat ramp.  Here you will see the beginning of the trail, complete with its own warning sign.  All you do is follow the trail, wearing your closed water shoes of course, along side of the red cinder rock until you get to the lava rocks that jut out over the water, leaving a nice spot to leave your shoes, car keys, etc.  Along the way you have to boulder scramble a little and pull yourself up on some roots.  Another hazard is the red rock itself, which leaves ample evidence that boulders do fall from its faces.  We are sure to keep our eyes and ears widely open, and I actually put my arm above my head, in case a small rock should fall.

Mornings are best.  We were there by ten but have been there by 730 in the past.  It is unlikely you will see another snorkeler.

Wai'anapanapa State Park

If you can say it, Wai'anapanapa is a nice state park located about two miles before Hana at the 32 mile marker.  Here there is a black sand beach, officially Pa'iloa Beach, which is nice to look at and easy to access but bad for swimming. There is also a coastal hike which will take you 3.5 miles to Hana Bay along a lava rock shore line should you so desire.  There is a campground, fairly decent rest rooms (though dark), showers and plenty of picnic tables.  But we weren't there for any of this stuff...

Wai'anapanapa is also home to two spring fed freshwater caves (though only the first is suitable for any worthwhile fun) which are accessed by a short trail on the left side of the parking lot.  This is also another local hot spot, and when we arrived on this day the area was occupied by about 15 teenagers and their chaperones, all trying to outdo each other with there flipping ability.  Of course there is a small cliff and the requisite deep area and cold clear water.  Once you get started with the jumping you find yourself saying over and over, "Just one more time!"

The freshwater cave is yet another closed water shoe experience.

Hamoa Beach

Though many will say that the final destination, the pinnacle of your Road to Hana experience, is the O'heo Gulch, otherwise known sometimes as the "Seven Sacred Pools."  (The Seven Sacred Pools are neither seven, nor sacred, nor pools----discuss.)  We disagree.  We say that it is Hamoa Beach.

Hamoa Beach is consistently named one of Maui's best, and even America's best beaches by varying sources, and there is no doubt there is plenty of fun to be had here.  The beach is located about 10 minutes beyond Hana of Haneoo Road.  There is only street parking, but we arrived at 1pm on a Saturday and were able to park with relative ease.

The beach is a crescent of gray sand.  Shade is available.  The bottom is sandy as opposed to rocky which can make entry and exit at other Hawaiian beaches quite uncomfortable.  There is no lifeguard on duty.  You will notice lounge chairs, an attendant, and a cabana building with some decent looking bathrooms and showers--but stay away unless you are staying at the Travaasa Resort and Spa (a colossal rip off BTW) who has laid claim to these facilities.  For the rest of us low lifes, there is a single unisex restroom behind the building.  Hold your breath and wear your shoes--seriously makes your mom's words, "just go in the ocean" sound a lot better.

Anyway, yeah, the facilities not so nice, but the beach is lovely.  The surf can get rough so you gotta be careful.  You also have to steer yourselves and your kids away from the surfers and their hard pointy boards that can rip your head off.

This was our first day on the island, and not again on our vacation did we experience such great boogie boarding.  I used to really stink at boogie boarding but I've gotten better, and at Hamoa I was riding waves a 100 feet all the way out to the shore where they dissolved into the sand.  We were sore and wiped out after jumping on those boards over and over and over again, but it's hard to stop.  Even I was pulling the "oh, let me just catch a few more waves before we leave" line!

Building sandcastles never loses its charm

The same sandcastle on Hamoa Beach six years ago

Anyway, if it's your first time on "The Road" there are plenty of other places that are worth stopping that we skipped this time including the Venus Pool, the Pipiwai Trail, and Maui Cave Adventures/Ka'eleku Cave just to name a few.  Plan your trip around what you want to see and ENJOY IT!

And here are a few more pictures from past Hana adventures...

Skipping off to the Seven Sacred Pools

Finally actually swimming at O'heo Gulch
(and what do we have on our feet??)

Wailua Falls is between Hamoa Beach and Oheo Gulch

A hunter's road leads to Wailua Iki
(not sure we were allowed to be here!)

The End of Scenic Nahiku Road
 Well that is the end of our Hana adventure, and I've only covered the first day of our trip!  Look for upcoming posts about food and activities on both Kauai and Maui!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Glorious Lake Tahoe: July 12 to July 17, 2014

Well, it was off to our yearly trip to Lake Tahoe where we stay in the beautiful vacation home of our friends Dave and Laura.  For more info on this accommodation that you too can rent, check out my post from last year's trip or this link

We had a little trouble scheduling this this year.  At the last minute I decided to put my kids in a theater camp which meant we had to change our reservation dates pretty late in the game.  Luckily, I was successful in making camp/rental/work all line up and we were able to go.

Our Lake Tahoe trips are often full of repeat adventures--the Red Hut, Sand Harbor Beach, jet skiing--so rather than bore you with what we did AGAIN, let me pass on some previously undocumented adventures.

Hiking to the Top of Mt Tallac

Every year we spend a day hiking.  We try to be out for about 6 hours, allowing some time on the other end to visit the beach and soothe tired muscles in the icy cold waters of the lake.

We have done most of the big ones in the South Tahoe area, so we had to pull out the California Hiking book and make a family decision on where to hike.  The family decided to summit Mount Tallac, ranked a 10 out of 10 for scenery and 5 out of 5 for difficulty.  I made a promise to the family that if we were able to complete this hike, we could all go out for ice cream afterward.

Craig and I have done this trail before, 15 years ago, maybe more.  At that time I swore I would never go it again. Nine and a half miles and 7000 feet of elevation (3500 up, 3500 down) later I remembered why.

There are two trailheads that access Mt Tallac, the first, the Mt.Tallac trailhead, which we used, is located 3.8 miles north of the Y.  The other is via the Glen Alpine Trail which starts at the far shore of Fallen Leaf Lake.  The Mt Tallac Trailhead route is shorter, but steeper.

The trail passes in and out of forest initially, with a gradual but steady climb. Very soon you are offered a lovely view overlooking Fallen Leaf Lake on your left with Lake Tahoe behind you.  You pass Floating Lake at about 1.2 miles and then Cathedral Lake at 2.5 miles.  At this
Cathedral Lake
point you are just about half way to your destination, but you aint seen nothin' yet!  From here the intensity of the climb increases mightily, and it's just minutes before you are far above Cathedral Lake.  Here also is the point at which the forest canopy ends, and you are exposed to the direct sunlight as you climb 1000 ft over a very short distance up the face of the mountain to the first summit into the flatter meadows overlooking Desolation Wilderness.  By this time, friends, you are dead, and the energy to press on starts to wane.  This is where the kids started to complain--but visions of rocky road and strawberry cheesecake were strong motivators. Another two miles of steady climbing and some boulder hopping and we were there, overlooking expansive views of Lake Tahoe's south shore and Fallen Leaf Lake from 9735 ft., while chugging Gatorade and eating trail mix and beef jerky.

The cliffs made me nervous and sick to my stomach and I insisted that the kids keep a large distance from the edge.

Was it worth it?  Well, I probably would have enjoyed it more had I a helicopter.  After 
Almost there! High above Lake Tahoe and Fallen Leaf Lake
climbing 3500 feet over 4.5 miles, there was now a 4.5 mile 3500 foot descent to be reckoned with.  Many say that going up is harder than going down, but for me it is the opposite. Sure the cardio aspect is less, but the muscle work is harder, and for me, the toes and feet pain is the worst.  Much of the trail is covered in bedrock, which is unstable and very hard on your feet. There is no choice but to keep going, so you endure.  The last 1.2 miles past Floating Lake was the longest of my life.  Sheer agony.

I'm in really good shape, but my quads were wicked sore for two full days.

You should do it once, to say you did.  But do it when you're young.  We concluded that this hike really is a 6 out of 5 on a difficulty scale.  Make sure you have plenty of water.  Don't even think about trying this trail if you don't have hiking boots.  Got that?  Don't even think about it!
The long road home has a nice description of this hike.

Camp Richardson Ice Cream Parlor

Well it was time to fulfill my promise.  A right turn out of Mt. Tallac Trailhead road, followed by a short trek down the road and you arrive at Camp Richardson and more importantly the Camp Richardson Ice Cream Parlor on the right side of the road. 

Free parking is somewhat of a challenge so it is safe to drop your party off and let them wait in the line likely out the front door while trying to park.  The kids working are efficient and friendly, so the wait is not painstaking, and BOY do those kids know how to cram ice
cream in a cone!!!!!!  If you have any consideration for calories at all, avoid anything larger than a kids scoop--which is PLENTY at $2.50.  With our 20000 steps and 7000 feet under our belts, we went for the single scoop for 4$ which was like two if not three large scoops if you were anywhere else.  There are about 20 flavors including some sugar free, with plenty of options for sundaes and toppings.
$20 well spent--probably put back everything I burned on that trail!

I had trouble getting exact hours but I know they are only open Memorial Day through Labor Day and probably open til 9 pm.

Pope Beach

Now if you need to get into some icy waters to cool your muscles following your long hike, or you just need a place to spend the day on a wide open beach, right down the street (Highway 89)  from Camp Richardson is Pope Beach.
The entrance fee is 8$, but this gets you into Baldwin Beach, Nevada Beach and Meeks Bay beach as well, should you decide to go there the same day.  The beach does fill on the weekends, but just because there is a sign out saying the beach is full, as when we went Sunday at 3:30, it doesn't mean it is, so it is worth waiting in the short line to check at the kiosk.

There is plenty of parking with easy access to the beach, shade, picnic tables, and plenty of bathrooms.  There is a "Tahoe Treats" lunch truck--but I only saw this on Sunday.

This beach is not as nice in my opinion as Sand Harbor State Beach.  The water is greener as opposed to blue and has more "stuff" in it, especially on a busy day.  But it costs less and is closer to the center of South Lake Tahoe activities.  The water is just as clear and refreshing.
We loved it so much we came back the next day!

My little crew enjoying lovely Pope Beach

South Tahoe SUP

I decided it was time to try out some kayaking. I had often seen people gliding along the
lake, enviously awaiting the day we could give it a try as a family. I decided that day had come and I was looking for rental possibilities.

South Tahoe Stand Up Paddle is conveniently located on Eldorado Beach in the South Lake Tahoe area.  The rental booth is easy to spot.  All registration is conveniently recorded on tablets.

They basically rent two things, stand up paddle boards and single and double kayaks, from 7am to 7pm, 7 days a week. A standard stand up paddle board is 20$/hr, $35 for two hours and $65 or the whole day.  A single kayak respectively is $25, $45, and $80, and a double kayak $30, $55, and $105.  A season pass is available for $275 for an adult, seems pretty good considering you can go for a few hours every day between May 15 and Sept 15, should you be so inclined!

We rented two double kayaks and a single kayak, trusting the fourteen year old to hold her own in the single.  We were in the water by 10 and kayaked until 12. Viewing scenery by kayak is quite peaceful, and the view from 3-4 hundred feet off the shore is one that beachgoers will not get to see typically.  We were able to paddle almost all the way to Pope Beach in one hour, so it might be possible to make it to Emerald Bay with a full day rental, though sitting in a kayak all day may be uncomfortable for many.  The water was quite shallow, 3-5 feet mostly so we were able to jump out and swim and then get back into the kayak without too much difficulty.

Kayaking itself, unless you hit quite a headwind, is not very difficult, and, at least in Tahoe, is a safe activity the whole family can enjoy.

What's New at Round Hill Pines Beach and Marina?

If you have been reading by blog for a while you might have seen my post last summer mentioning the shift of our loyalties from Zephyr Cove Marina to Round Hill Pines Marina when renting personal watercraft...

Ride it like you stole it!!!
A few policies changed at Round Hill Pines, so here is the deal...

1)  Now you need to present a coupon to get the Early Bird discount (before 10).  We didn't have it and they didn't give it to us.
2)  Every driver is required to present their driver's license to drive the jet ski.   I never carry mine, and though I am always concerned that I don't have it, they always let me drive.  Anyway, since Craig had his, they allowed me to drive.
3)  Only two to a jet ski.  They said that this is because people are constantly rolling the jet skis requiring them to rescue renters and their hired watercrafts. I guess more weight increases the risk.  They let us take three if two were kids, never mind that Natalya weighs as much as a small adult.  We promised them we were not daredevils and that they didn't have to worry about us flipping the jet ski.

But Craig flipped his.  He was carrying Nicky and Natalya, i.e. he was driving the jet ski with three people.  He was at almost a full stop and a wave just pushed them over, so it really was no fault of his own.  He got it flipped right back over, so they were not in need of rescue, but there were some tense moments as the crew examined the engine of the once capsized watercraft, assessing our liability.  Not to mention feeling incredibly sheepish after our earlier moments of bravado regarding our jet skiing prowess.

Are we done jet skiing?  Maybe.  The kids are only going to get bigger, very soon mandating that we rent a third PWC, and then who's going to drive it is another issue.  It's a hoot and a half, but it's really expensive.  In fact, we could rent 5 stand up paddle boards with South Tahoe SUP for two hours and it still would not cost as much as it costs to rent just TWO jet skis for half an hour at Round Hill.  Hmm.  Not much competition when we're talking bang for your buck.

What's New at Sand Harbor State Beach?

This might not be new at all.  Maybe we never noticed it before, but suddenly you are able to rent SUP's and kayaks right on the beach at Sand Harbor!

Sand Harbor Rentals rents basically the same things that South Tahoe SUP rents, for about $5 more per hour. Location, location, location, I guess.  The rental canopy is located by the boat ramp, at an area of Sand Harbor Beach I had never ventured upon before!  Here is a little cove, with a little beach, the only area in which you can have a hard bottomed craft in the swimming area.  Some have their boats moored right along the beach!

Anyway, we had never SUP'd (sorry, just got tired of writing it out every time!) at Lake Tahoe and we were eager to give Nicholas some practice time on a still lake before trying this in Hawaii in a few weeks, so we rented two SUP's for one hour, just to play around a little.

Paddleboarding is tricky, but once you get the hang of it, it's a blast.  The trick I found is to start paddling immediately upon standing up.  This stabilizes the board.  Trying to balance on a non-moving board is a great lesson in frustration!

Once again, everyone can do it!  You can even have a small child or a dog as a passenger!  On Lake Tahoe you can get great exercise while enjoying great scenery and great water!

Okay that does it for Lake Tahoe!  Now I'm off to Hawaii!  Trying desperately to get this posted.  Sorry about the lack of personal pictures, but my water camera was in disrepair and we did do a lot on the water!!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

If it's Tuesday, This Must be the Red Sox...One Family's Journey through the Los Gatos Little League AAA Tournament

My blog is not about when I was contacted by, a leading online pro sports apparel retailer, to write a piece about a time when sports brought my family together, I was hesitant.  Besides, I really couldn't think of anything to write about.  Then it came to me, the AAA tournament, nine days of emotional excitement, during which the whole family fell into a routine of laundry, late nights, hoarse voices and superstition, leading up to the nightly call, "Let's go!  Your brother has a game!"

The Los Gatos Little League tournament is a 19 game double elimination tournament in which ten teams vie for the honor of playing in the Minors Tournament of Champions.  Two losses and your season is done.  My son's team, the Reds, with their 13-4-1 season record, scored the #3 seed for this tournament, not a bad place to start.

I am nervous during all of Nicky's games.  It doesn't matter if the score is 17-5, I'm still nervous.  This is baseball, and worse-it's Little League--where a bad string of walks, stolen bases, passed balls and overthrows can turn the score on a dime.  During the tournament, I am even more nervous.  The jitters start about three hours before the game and by first pitch I am a complete wreck.  During the entire game my heart pounds with a depth and intensity of an exhausting workout.  I rarely sit, and have been known to pace the creek trail and pray while Nicholas closes a game.  I tend to be on the louder and more vocal side, and there seems to be pressure to contain oneself, further stressing me out.  When I'm finally allowed to jump up and scream, like when that double is smashed to left field to drive in two, it often results in a few dizzy moments of having to put my head between my knees.  I wonder if other parents go through this, somehow I don't think so.  I am always pleasantly pleased when some parent (sometimes that parent is me) has the wherewithal to bring some discreetly disguised adult beverage to the game.  It far from stops the adrenaline rush, but it does take the edge off.

My husband, Craig, gets to every game as soon as he can.  I know he is also fully vested in what happens, but he can sit, he doesn't pace, and he doesn't need to drink.  Unfair.

Nicky's 14 year old sister, Natalya, is another big fan who frequently puts her homework aside to come cheer on her brother.  Natalya made it her goal to get to the games early and set herself up as the scoreboard keeper, much to the disappointment of a collection of little siblings who frequently have a hard time keeping the count accurate.  We always knew the correct count when Natalya was on scoreboard duty.

Ally sits in the tree.  She has no interest in the game or the score.  The day after day grind of the tourney irritated her, but even Ally wrote "Reds" on her cheek in red face paint the last day of the tourney.

My son Nicholas is who we all go to see.  He is a talented, focused, and serious athlete who plays with heart and ferocity.  Watching him do what he does is a beautiful thing.  As a whole family we are very proud and excited for him to be doing so well.

Journey Through the Tourney

Wednesday March 28 was out first tournament game against the #6 Cubs.  Though we had already beaten this time twice, and though this game was not an elimination game, the game was absolutely a must win.  If we won, we wouldn't play until Saturday night.  If we lost, we'd be playing Friday AND Saturday, leaving a path of fried pitchers in our wake.
Well, the Reds played well.  Good pitching, good fielding, solid batting.  Reds 7, Cubs 0.  No baseball until Saturday the 31st at 6pm.

Thank goodness someone remembered to bring wine to our Saturday night game against the #1 A's.  We split with this team during the season and were one of only two teams to hand them a loss.  Though we had handled them once, we knew they were deep with hitters and pitchers and fielders, hence their 16-2 record.  Well, they handled us soundly.  The score was 11-2. Wow.

All right Reds.  Another loss and we pack our bat bags for good. Tomorrow night we face the #8 Yankees.  Later on that night we got an email that Nicholas would be the starting pitcher.

The morning of Sunday, June 1, which happened to be my anniversary, Nicholas woke up
My little slugger
with a fever and throwing up.  As he stood there in his dress shirt and pajama bottoms, head over the porcelain wishing well, he declared, "I want to play today.  I can't miss my game!" It was true, he couldn't miss his game.

Well this wasn't no Blossom Hill Elementary school.  No rule against him playing sick.  We got him back to bed, let him rest all day, pumped him full of orange cold medicine and took him to the field at 4:30.Nicholas was brilliant.  He caught 2 innings and played shortstop the rest.  He made run saving catches, hurled spot on throws, and hit his second homerun.  Reds fans were starting to make jokes about Nicholas playing better sick.
But the Yankees were brilliant too.  They held us neck and neck the entire game.  It was Nicky's job to finish the game from the pitcher's mound.  It wasn't to be.  By the end of the 6th we were tied 9-9 and we were going into extra innings.  The little feverish arm that was supposed to be saved to pitch the next day needed to continue to throw.

Did I mention that our assistant coach got thrown out during this game for arguing a strikeout call?

The next 40 minutes were pure torture.  The worst.  With every pitch and call the adrenaline rose, not made any easier by the Yankees going ahead in the top of the 8th.  When our team tied it in the bottom of the inning, I jumped up and down and screamed so hard I peed in my pants--you got that, I said it--I peed in my pants.
When the last run came across the plate a few minutes later we jumped and hugged and screamed.  The Reds had avoided elimination behind 2 sick pitchers.  It might as well have been the championship.  Whatever happened now was fluff and gravy.  We headed off to our team party in good spirits.  The adults drank beer and ribbed Wayne about being ejected while Nicky nearly fell asleep on his Costco cake.
Seriously the best anniversary present ever.

Now it was Monday and only the top four teams remained.  Nicholas stayed home from school to rest up for that night's game against the #4 Indians, who had spanked us silly at our last meeting.  Oh, and by the way, our top two pitchers can't throw a single pitch until Wednesday.  Good luck boys.
It took me a while to get to the field--something regarding my commitment to the activities of my other two children.  The scoreboard revealed a disappointing score of 4-1 in the 4th..then I found out that we were the home team and the disappointment turned to utter surprise.  Our youngest team member was shutting down the Indian offense with his off-speed charm.  The lead extended to 6-1 before the little guy reached his pitch limit and it was time to call upon a new pitcher to finish the game.
Ian had only pitched in two other games, but he pitched like a star.  I mean, he totally held them--the tribe who kicked our keisters over the Balzer field fence the last time we met.  However, they had a good inning or two and after the top of the 5th we were tied at 7, but we answered back quickly in the top of the 6th to make it 9-7.
Ian had only to face the bottom of their order to end the game.  We did not want him to face that lead off batter again.  The first two went down pretty painlessly, and up to the plate comes the coach's daughter.  We all know she's not a great batter but the count was nail biting 3-2 before she hit a line shot right to Nicholas who robbed her of a hit by snatching it on the fly off his laces to abruptly end the game.
The reaction was definitely less than the night before. I stood there in a stunned stupor.  We had sent another team packing.  We were coming back to play again tomorrow night.

There is a definite element of sadness to the act of eliminating another team, an element which subdues your own elation and celebration.  While your team hi fives and dogpiles, another salutes their fans for the final time sometimes through tear tracked muddy faces.  It is a reality check and a reminder of how your actions affect others.

We stuck around a while to watch a few innings of the next game as we would play the loser the next night.  We stuck around long enough to discover that the Red Sox were burning their ace pitcher, and for me to text everyone to inform them of said lucky break for the Reds.

On Tuesday June 3 (after another day off school for Nicky), we returned again to Balzer field to face the #2 Red Sox.  The Red Sox were a darn good team, the only team to beat us twice in the regular season.  The game conflicted with my eighth grade daughter's award ceremony, so we missed the first part of the game.  I must confess that we lingered somewhat at the ceremony, uneager to witness the crushing simultaneously taking place.  I mean, really, who seriously was going to pitch this game? The dugout manager?  He may be the only one we haven't fried.
Well, we did have a pitcher left and this little 9 year old turned in the performance of his life.  As we approached the field about 6pm in our awards ceremony attire, we were greeted with the shock and surprise of a seven run lead in the fourth.  I knew, however, that this game was far from over, because at some point soon, Derek was going to reach his pitch limit.  In the 5th inning the words, "last batter" were heard from the scorekeeper and everyone's heart sunk.  We were really out of pitchers now.
Welcome to the mound Jacob Casper, who had a grand total of about one inning of pitching experience under his belt this season.
6-4-3 Double Play?
One ray of light through this grim scenario is that when your players can't pitch, they can play infield.  Our coach stopped up the middle with his best and moved Derek to first when he couldn't pitch anymore.  This trio had turned at least two double plays during the tournament.  Jake just had to throw strikes and let the defense do the rest.
We all held our breath.  Whatever was going to happen, it wasn't going to be pretty.
Jake got through the 5th and we scored some more runs in the top of the 6th.  3 more outs.  Can we really do this?
Jake walked the first batter.  The next batter struck out and the runner on first was caught stealing by shortstop Nicholas...or something like that..but all of a sudden there were two outs.  The opposing coach came out and argued the call for about five minutes, something about interference, but to no avail...2 outs stood.
Jake walked another batter and that was it.  It was going to be up to James Hunter to close the game.. the same James Hunter with no more experience than Jacob.
James through 3 pitches, 2 strikes and a ball.  The first pitch was a hit, the second a ball and the third a grounder to short.  Temple flip to Moore at second--game over.  The score was 11-4.  We killed them, seriously.
The Reds were in the championship, to be played the next night against the #1 A's.

Our happy boys after defeating the #2 Red Sox holding their
"special achievement" certificates
All the pitchers were fresh and ready to go for this game, but somehow we just couldn't make this happen tonight.  Nicholas as the starting pitcher got banged around good in the second inning, and we never really recovered.  The A's outplayed us and we knew it.  When the coach told me in the top of the sixth to get the Reds parents together for a standing ovation, as the game was about to end, I started to lose it.  We made a valiant effort to come back but when our catcher was thrown out at the plate for the final out, the score was 8-6.  We were not the AAA champions.

But then a beautiful thing happened.  All the players on both teams stood and faced their fans.  Not only did our family stand side by side and cheer, families upon families stood side by side and cheered--parents, siblings, grandparents, and friends on both sides united in recognizing the great season these boys had just completed and this, my friends, is how baseball brings families together.

Thanks for a wonderful season, Reds--you sure made it fun!

And now for some pictures!!

Our proud team with their runner-up trophies
No sad faces here!

Loss forgotten!!


Here's our whole family---So proud of our runner up Reds!

Yes, kind of an off beat post!  Thank you for reading.  I'm planning our trip to Hawaii so hopefully I'll be able to pass on some info about that super soon!

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