Thursday, March 26, 2009

March Maledictions (sounds more fun than March Madness).

So here it is, almost a month out after being back from Hawaii, and I still don't have everything posted. What's wrong with me? And, I haven't posted anything about my trip to Florida either. Lame. Okay, so you can see from the posts below, I've got a few days listed. You *could* just jump to all of the photos here.

I'll be working on getting this wrapped up SOON. In the interim, this is the first week I've had off, and actually home, for a few weeks. Although, my week is cut a bit short as I'm heading in to work a day early to pay back for my Hawaii time. You'd think that with a good solid six days off, that I'd be able to get caught up on everything. We'll you'd be wrong.

First, I spent a considerable amount of time trying to get my taxes all wrapped up. After several hours in a Starbucks with files and folders of receipts, the package is now in the hands of my accountant. In addition to that, I did some spring yard cleaning, took loads of yard waste to the dump, got a haircut, spent a few hours with the Geek Squad getting some computer issues squared away, took a Photoshop class, went riding and running a couple of times each, did lots of bike work (including building up a new Rig), spent some quality time with the dogs, boosted the economy (in my own special way), and tried to save money by calling Verizon, AT&T/Cingular and Comcast to reduce my home phone/DSL, cell phone, and cable bills. Add in to that, getting caught up on logging CME hours in with the NCCPA, washing my car and Jean's car, AND of course, contributing a photo a day to our 365 Project, and it's easy to see how a few days can fly by in a blink of an eye.

Oy. Let's see what I can get done this coming week!

Maui--Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Yep, up to the birds again, although this time, they were accompanied by the sound of gentle rain. Hmmm… didn’t mention rain. Maybe it will pass? No. We took a leisurely approach to the morning as we had riding planned. We wanted to see if the rain would stop. As we were sitting in the cottage, Jean noticed a rainbow. Dutifully, I got up and photographed it.

Well, about 15 minutes later, the rainbow was brighter and thicker. Okay, I took some more photos, then it was gone… or so I thought. About 20 minutes later it was back, this time even with more vivid colors and closer too. Damn—how many rainbow photos was I going to have to take? I actually felt like I was being stalked, or at the very least harassed by the rainbow. After that, I refused to take anymore rainbow pics—and there were rainbows all God-damned day.

Once we realized that the day would be a constant mix of sun-showers, drizzle, clouds, and annoying rainbows, we made our way down to Paia for lunch at the Paia Fish Market, then hit the road for some riding. It was WINDY, but again, it was good to be behind handlebars rather than a steering wheel. We just explored some dirt roads in sugar cane fields and other dirt roads in the area. As the official “finderer” of Maui, I found a set of keys (which because they held a PO box key, I returned to the Post Office). I’m working on some good Karma. The ride was not epic, but when you’re turning over pedals, and knobby tires are rolling on dirt beneath you, it doesn’t have to be epic to be fun.

After we had had enough of being buffeted by the Pacific Trade Winds, we made our way back to the car and headed back to Makawao, then up to our cottage for chilaxing. And NO MORE raindbow photos.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Maui--Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Yep, up again to the sound of birds—much better than a blaring alarm clock! Our day’s agenda had some driving on it, although at the outset, we didn’t realize that it would be the whole day! We had been planning on the doing the “Road to Hana,” which is a popular and scenic drive of about 50 miles. Actually, we had thought about riding the road, but we had heard mixed reviews on the quality and safety of the road so we thought we’d drive it first. I’m glad we did. As I’ve mentioned, Maui has an affinity for narrow twisty roads and the Road to Hana is the epitome of this transportation design. We were literally hugging the steep right side of the road with the car (as in, almost scraping the side mirror), in an effort not to hit mirrors with oncoming traffic. Add in to this super narrow road some distracted tourists, some impatient locals, and regular business use of the road (i.e. oil trucks, etc), and you get a road that bikers are probably not wanted. Now, I’ll probably hear from plenty of people who say they’ve done the road and how wonderful it is, but for me, it's probably outside of the comfort zone. I ride to get away from cars, not to put myself directly in their way. There were hundreds (no exaggeration) of tight right turns that I’d make ever so carefully in case a cyclist was riding just around the bend (and out of sight), and I don’t think other drivers were doing the same. Okay, so we didn’t ride the Road to Hana, but we did drive it, and it was a long, slow drive, especially when we’re stopping every few miles to take more photos.

One of the first photos stops was at a grove of trees called “painted eucalyptus” trees. Jean and I had first seen some photos of these trees in a gallery, and we both thought they had been retouched in Photoshop or artisticly enhanced in some way—until we saw the trees! They were amazing.

From there we made countless stops at black sand beaches strewn with volcanic rock, including Wai’anapanapa State Park where we got to watch some locals risk it all while cliff diving.

We also devoured some local home-made banana bread at Aunt Sandy’s roadside spot. Delicious.

Then, of course, it was time to get subterranean to explore Ka’eleku Caverns—lava tubes that were once filled with more than 17,000lbs of cattle bones from a local slaughterhouse. Yikes.

After more miles of incredible beaches and tropical vistas, we finally made it to Hana. The Hotel Hana Maui is a beautiful resort that’s got four dollar signs in our travel book, so if you have to ask, you probably can’t afford it. We browsed some art in the gallery and gift shop, then made our way to another roadside food stop for a fresh handmade sandwich and salad, and got to meet a feral cat named “Piggy” because of its curly tail.

While it’s called the Road to Hana, there’s actually much more to see if you keep going, such as the famed Seven Pools og Oheo Gulch in Haleakala National Park. The water was a bit too chilly for swimming, but warm enough for photos.

So, the national park was essentially the turn-around point, as our books and maps made the rest of the road (which would have completed a total of about 100 mile loop around east Maui) sound rough, impassable, and perhaps closed because of mud slides, earthquakes and other dangers. Fortunately, a quick question to the Park Ranger cleared that up as he said that the road is open to all vehicles with no restrictions. I didn’t know what was ahead of us, but I knew to head back the way we came we’d be going about 15mph—this time clinging to the edge of the road (as opposed to the side of the mountain), ever wary of oncoming traffic. Besides, I really HATE going out and back, and I’ll often go way out of my way to do a loop. We took a left out of the park and had another 50 miles of—you guessed it, narrow, winding, twisty, steep roads. It certainly made for interesting driving, and I’m glad that abuse was on a rental car’s suspension, and not my car’s. The drive was fun—although long—and beautiful. This of course meant more stops for more pics.

Before we left civilization again for the desolate southern slopes of east Maui, we hit yet another roadside food stop, this time for some coffee. This little cafĂ©/smoothie bar had a bicycle powered blender that customers had to use if they wanted a smoothie. That’s living off the grid. As we were leaving, one of the locals scooted away on her moped with her dog sitting on the deck…
Up until this point, the only dangers we had encountered on the road were steep cliffs, narrow one-lane bridges, steep hills, falling rocks and tight turns, but soon we had a new obstacle to impede our progress—cattle in the road. Burgers anyone? Actually, the cattle were fine, the road wasn’t that bad (although I still don’t think it would be a fun road unless the cars were gone—then it would be killer), and as I mentioned, the scenery was spectacular—which is interesting because all of the books made it sound like a barren wasteland.

We FINALLY made it back to our cottage at about 8:00pm, after about 12hrs in the car.