How I Spent My Spring Vacation
by Mike Miller
This is a bit overdue, but I’ve had a bunch of other things to catch up on. And I haven’t played poker in about three weeks now so I don’t really have much else to write about.Day 1. Travel
It was 6:30 in the morning and I was hitting the snooze button for the third or fourth time, only this time, my alarm clock wouldn’t shut up. Then I realized the reason it wouldn’t stop is because that obnoxious noise was coming from my cell phone, not my alarm. What kind of asshole is calling me at 6:30 in the morning? There could only be one person, and it’s my friend John. John and his wife Allison were flying out of Richmond. They had a connecting flight at O’Hare where my wife and I would meet up with them on our way to Hawaii. He was calling because his flight was delayed, meaning he would miss the connection in Chicago. Luckily he got rebooked for a later flight and would be arriving three hours after us, rather than two and half days as the airline originally told him.
Other than that, the flight was rather uneventful. My wife and I arrived on the big island on time, and were able to pickup the rental car, and check into our condo despite the fact that John had registered for everything. I was expecting them to tell me that since he made the reservations he would have to be there to check in/rent the car/condo, but everything worked out ok. Their flight got in on time, and we picked them up at the airport and the vacation was on.Day 2. Kona Beer Festival.
Ummmmm …. Rock? We spent the early afternoon walking around Kona
doing checking out the touristy shops and things. We were basically killing time waiting for 11th annual Kona Brewers Festival
to start. John and I had pretty much talked this thing up to the point that it could never come remotely close the expectations we had set. We had ordered tickets months ago, which was fortunate because it sold out. It worked like this. $40 got you entrance to the fest and eight tickets. You also got a free beer mug. They had over 40 microbreweries, many of which were local, although there were a good number of beers from the mainland. They also had over 25 different chefs offering up samplings of their various cuisines. Everything from sushi, to tacos, to lamb, to curry to deep fried apples, and chocolate fountains. All the food was free, and each ticket you had got you a “4 oz” sampling of beer. Most vendors gave a bit more than 4 oz. Allison is pregnant, which meant John and I each got four extra tickets, and my wife isn’t much of a beer drinker (weird I know) so we had a few more from her. I definitely got my money’s worth as far as beverage consumption goes. Despite the expectations we had set, the festival was way better than we even imagined. Even my wife gave rave reviews despite not fully partaking in the beer part. Looks like they already have the date set for next year. Get your tickets now. Its totally worth the nine hour flight to attend.Day 3. Beaches.
Day three was the day we finally made it to the beaches. We wanted to travel around the island checking out a bunch of different options. A lot of the beaches there have different colored sands, which my wife wanted to collect. We went up the western side of the island stopping at a salt and pepper colored beach and white sand beach.
The scenery on the big island of Hawaii is quite interesting. You go from these lush areas filled with tropical vegetation to almost completely barren lava deserts wherever there was somewhat modern (within 100 years or so) volcanic activity. There is also a pretty unique form of graffiti there. Since the terrain is almost all black people will gather white rocks and pebbles, and use them to spell out names or slogans or whatever. The landscape in some areas is covered with them.
I continued my streak of getting a bad sunburn on some obscure part of my body. A few years ago we went to Cancun and I had my first snorkeling experience. I had a shirt and life jacket on, so I didn’t think my back would get burnt at all. Well my shirt rode up to the bottom of the vest exposing about a four inch strip on my back which was then exposed to direct tropical sunlight for hours. It took a few years but I think the tan line has finally worn off. Just for the record, sitting in a plane for four hours when anything that touches your back causes excruciating pain: not fun. The year before the Cancun trip we had gone white water rafting. I managed to forget to put sunscreen on my knees which were exposed to the sun all day as we were sitting on the raft. I think I still have scars. Oh and putting on a wetsuit the next day because it was cold and rainy: also not fun .
This time it was the back of knees that I missed. They were a nice shade of purple by the time we went home. Yeah, and walking when the backs of your legs are burn: you guessed it. Not fun.Day 4. Volcano.
On day four we were going to hit a few beaches on the southern end of the island, picking up some black and then green sand on our way to check out the volcano. We were then going to drive around the volcano and then hike out onto the lava fields at night in hopes of seeing some lava.
Somehow we missed the turn for the green sand beach. By the time we made to the black sand beach it had started raining. We basically ran out grabbed some sand, took a picture and jumped back in the car.
The island is a lot bigger than I expected. It was about 100 miles from the town of Kona to the volcano. It was still raining when we got there, and it was considerably colder than I expected it would ever be on Hawaii. We scrapped our plans for doing any sort of hiking and opted for the much shorter drive around the rim of the volcano with a stop to check out a lava tube
, and the steam vents
. The lava tube sucked. It was basically a cave in the lava, and thanks to the rain, it was cold and miserable. The steam vents were kind of cool, but still cold and miserable. We headed back to Kona early and chilled in the pool. The West side of the island, where Kona is located gets very little rain while the Eastern side where the town of Hilo is located gets all the rain. As a side note, the next day we heard on the news that the rain washed out part of the road between Kona and the Volcano, so it’s a good thing we returned when we did. Intermission. I’m a jinx.
Before I get into the second half of our trip, I want point out that my wife and I are Jinxes when it comes to travel. Consider the following examples.
A few years ago some friends and I rented a house on North Carolina’s outer banks. We traditionally get together for a week or long weekend around Memorial Day each year, and that year we were in North Carolina. The second to last day of the trip saw a huge storm go through the outer banks, knocking out the power for at least the next 24 to 48 hours and forcing us to cut our vacation short by a day. Now if you consider that on its own, it’s probably not a big deal, but if you consider the next few pieces of evidence I think you’ll see a pattern.
A few years before that my wife and I were on our honeymoon in Belize. I don’t blame you if you don’t know where that is. I didn’t until I started looking for vacation destinations. It’s a small country on the Yucatan Peninsula
, South of Mexico and East of Guatemala. It’s well known for its great snorkeling/scuba diving, Mayan ruins and Jaguar reserves. Oh, and the first season of Temptation Island was filmed there. We spent the first half of our trip inland doing jungle tours, and excursions to Mayan ruins and stuff like that. The day before we were to head out the Cayes for a few days of beachfront leisure at we received a call from our travel agent. (There were no TV’s or radios at the lodge). She said that we might want to consider staying where we were for an extra day since there was a pretty major hurricane on its way through the caye we were going to stay on. The next morning the hotel staff informed us that they were evacuation the lodge since it too was in the path of the hurricane. We were already a few hours inland and had to move further in, almost to the Guatemalan border. It ended ok, as we were only relocated for an extra day and the hurricane missed our area. We made it to the now almost deserted island a day late and had a great time with the remainder of our vacation. It was just a little more adventure than I bargained for.
This year I had tickets to see a Bears away game. Booked the airfare and everything. I bet you can’t guess where it was. Yeah that’s right. New Orleans. At this time at least Mother Nature unleashed her destruction before I was there, although I’m sure that’s little consolation to the city’s residents.
Now where was I? Ah yes. Kauai.Day 5. Rain, and Travel to Kauai.
On Day five we headed to the Garden Island of Kauai
. At the airport we were warned that while the flights were on time at the moment, there were strong storms moving in and flash flood warnings, so we might end up getting delayed. Our flight did make it out on time, but that was about the only thing that went right for the next week.
The guy at the car rental agency said we might have problems getting to our condo since there was a landslide earlier that day. Fun. Fortunately they had been working on the road all day, so by the time we got there they were almost done. We were only delayed an hour or so. Our condo wasn’t ready when we got there anyway so we drove around for a bit and checked out the scenery
. It was kind of late by the time we checked in, so we didn’t do too much else.Day 6. Also Rain, but, some sunshine too.
The weather channel was calling for rain all week, and issuing more flood warnings every hour. A reservoir on the North Eastern side of the island burst the previous night destroying several homes in its path. At least one person was dead, and several were missing. People in the Northern most towns were getting airlifted out. We were on the southern town of Koloa
, near Poipu which wasn’t hit quite as bad, although the reservoir closest to us was also close dangerously high. As we learned on the Big Island, the Western side of the Island tends to be dryer, so we headed out that way, touring the little towns and taking in the scenery along the way. The beach
was actually rather nice and we managed to get a few hours of sun. Day 7. Also Also Rain. And then some more rain.
Ummm…. Suck? This time the entire island got it. There would be no sneaking off the West for us. It rained all day, pouring for hours at a time before letting up for ten minutes and then pouring again. During one abnormally long break in the rain we ventured out for a walk. We were gone for all of five minutes before the rain picked up again and we got drenched. I had planned on getting in the water a lot this trip, but this wasn’t quite what I had in mind.
The one good thing about the situation is that this was the first day of the NCAA tournament, so I watched basketball for about 12 hours. The 5 hour time change works great when it puts live sports on my TV at 8am.
Just to give you another indication of bad the rain was, this was Allison’s birthday and we had reservations at the restaurant that happened to be next door to our condo. It couldn’t have been more than 100 feet away from our door. We drove. And used the Valet parking. The valet probably had to park further away than the parking lot for our condo.
After dinner we went into town to pick up something to mix with the excessive amounts of rum we had already purchased. Upon returning to our condo we noticed a patrol car parked outside. The officer was recommending that we evacuate the area to somewhere more westward because the water level was almost up to the only bridge into this section of the island. We had noticed that the water levels were impossibly high on our trip in, but didn’t consider that the bridge might be in danger.
We really didn’t know where else we would go, and we were going to be stranded somewhere regardless, so we figured we would just hole up in our current location. But first we had to go back across the bridge into town to pick up food and supplies for the next few days and hope they didn’t close the bridge before we got back.
We made it back safely and I don’t think they ever had to shut down the bridge. Day 8. That’s right. Rain.
The weather channel claimed this day would be mostly sunny. Apparently by mostly sunny they meant continual heavy rain, because that's what we got. As we were sitting in the condo prepared for yet another day of just watching basketball and lounging around, one of the nearby condos decided it would be great time for some home improvements. I'm not sure what they were doing, we theorized that it was some sort of router type machine, but whatever it was it generated the loudest most mind numbingly awful sound you could possibly imagine. After about ten minutes we couldn't take it any more and decided to drive somewhere in hopes of finding something to do. Its probably a good thing we did leave because my wife might have killed someone, obnoxious noise or not, if she was forced to spend another vacation day trapped in that tiny condo.
We headed into Lihue, which is the big "city" on the island. At least I assume so. It’s where the airport is anyways. We drove around for a while, and checked out the Kauai Museum
which killed a few hours. We were all in bad spirits, and starting to contemplate moving our flight up a few days so we could just go home and get not have to deal with the crappy weather on Hawaii.
We ultimately opted to stay since there really wasn't much benefit in going home. It was supposed to be cold and snowy in both Chicago and Richmond. Instead we drove to see the Wailua falls
, which you can only see from the road anyways, so it didn't matter if it was raining. Just in case you doubt the amounts of rain that we were receiving, this is what the falls should look like.
and this is what it did look like. That's a lot of water.
On the way to the falls we started to see patches of blue sky. It was almost too good to be true. We tempted fate by jumping back on the highway and heading west, where the clouds were breaking up more and more. By the time we got to the beach the sky was almost clear.
In our optimism we had packed our beach clothes and chairs, and boogie boards before heading out that morning, so we were all set for an afternoon of beach time fun. Unfortunately all the rain ran off the island taking large amounts of dirt with it and contaminating the entire shore line. Instead of the picturesque clear blue waters, we had dirty red brown dirt colored waters, and were warned not to go in due to high bacteria counts. So we settled for sitting in the sun for a few hours.
We even got to see a sunset for the first time on our trip that evening. Day 9. Surfing.
One of the items on our list of things to do while in Hawaii was to learn how to surf, and we managed to check that off in the morning. It was actually much easier that I expected. Once you can stand up, it’s not too hard to keep your balance and ride the wave in. The challenge is catching the wave in the first place. Fortunately we had an instructor to help us and give us a little push if we needed it. You probably don't expect surfing to be all that tiring but it really is. Before you can ride a wave in, you have to paddle your way out there, and that is exhausting. We were only going out about 40 feet, but after an hour or so, I was ready to call it a day.
The rest of the day was cool and cloudy again, and we really didn't do much else. Day 10. Sightseeing and checking out.
This was our last day in Hawaii. We checked out at 11 and went out to drive around the canyon. Of course this was the sunniest day we had, but we couldn't go the beach because we had to check out of the condo and we had no where to shower/change afterwards. So we drove up the Waimea Canyon
and checked out the scenery. I'm glad we did, because it was amazing. I’ve never been to the Grand Canyon but John and Allison said it was similar except green.
We drove all the way to top, stopping at the various lookouts
along the way. On the way back we stopped to do a little hiking which was another activity that was on my to-do list. I was pretty disappointed that we hadn’t been able to do it yet, but slopping around in the mud and rain with just didn’t sound like much fun. We didn’t go far because didn’t want to do anything to strenuous without the ability to shower before getting on a plane, and plus it started raining again.
By the time we got back from the canyon and drove to Lihue, we had just enough time for dinner before checking in at the airport.
And thus ends the longest post ever on this here blog, and it had absolutely nothing to do with poker. If you made it this far then you have way too much time on your hands.