Mauna Kea

When we visited the first time, we didn’t get a chance to go up Mauna Kea because rental cars were sworn off of Saddle Back Road. Thank goodness for road improvements because this time, we were able to hit the road and drive up to the tallest point in Hawaii.

We started off in Kona and headed east toward Mauna Kea. When we were about halfway up the mountain, we stopped to layer up. That’s right, I was wearing winter clothing in Hawaii. Who would have thought? Now, let me just say this: I only had on a pair of jeans, a tee-shirt, sweatshirt, coat and a hat. Bob, on the other hand, wore jeans, long johns, a tee-shirt, a long sleeve shirt, a sweatshirt, coat and a hat. I guess the man was afraid of freezing up there. I’ll have to give him some leeway, Sam did warn us that it would be bitterly cold, I just chose not to believe him.

Once we reached the Visitor Information Center, we climbed up a hill to view the sunset. You are allowed to drive to the summit but would need four-wheel drive, which we did not have. We had arrived in time to hike up the hill and take these gorgeous photos on top of the world:
Sunset Atop Mauna Kea
Sunset Atop Mauna Kea
Sunset Atop Mauna Kea
The real appeal of Mauna Kea is the crystal clear night sky that occurs about 330 days out of the year. It is one of the BEST places to view the night sky due to the stable airflow, altitude and dry environment. Once you are up there, you are surrounded by the stars, you are just blanketed by them. It is incredible. There are no words to explain this, I can only show you the photos but even then, you don’t even get the full effect of how tiny you feel being surrounded by such a huge sky.
Stargazing on Mauna Kea
Stargazing on Mauna Kea
Stargazing on Mauna Kea
I would have to say that this was my favorite part of the trip. You have to check it out if you are on the Big Island, it’s worth the drive.

Road Trip to Hilo

The last time we were in Hawaii, we took a whirlwind trip to Hilo, we saw it briefly as we drove by it. This time, we decided to take it slow and spend the night on the other side of the island.

We headed northeast early Monday morning and drove up to Waipio Valley. We had been there before but you cannot just dry by without stopping. The view is absolutely breathless.
Waipio
Apparently, only the crazy and the hippies live down in the valley where there’s barely electricity and running water. I do want to live in paradise but I’m not about to sacrifice my hygiene for it. While there, we were fortunate enough to see a group of children from the local school chanting, giving thanks to the valley and gods. It was very hypnotic and moving.

Next, we stopped at Waiakea, a town that was wiped out by a tsunami back in the 1950s. We walked around the park and watched the waves crash on the jagged rocks. With Bob’s new SLR, he was able to capture the crashes through a series of photos, very cool.
Waiakea
Of course, when you are on the Hilo side, you have to stop by one of the many waterfalls in the area. We are a big fan of Akaka Falls. Sure, it’s a bit of a hike down (don’t worry, it’s all paved), but the view is worth it:
Akaka Falls
I actually enjoyed the walk down because you are surrounded by such lush greenery, the humidity is thick, you are engulfed by the tropics. When I think of Hawaii, I think of tropical landscapes such as this.
Self Portrait
After being in the car all day, we decided to check in at our B&B, The Inn at Kulaniapia Falls, an absolutely breathtaking inn, next to a waterfall!!! We had found this inn on the Internet and from the photos, it looked amazing and it lived up to the advertisement. Now, the only problem with this place is that it is definitely in the middle of nowhere and it was a bit of an adventure getting there. Part of the time, it felt like you were driving in the middle of someone’s orchard, through their pastures. We saw street signs that led to nowhere:
Not really a road
But at the end of the “road,” we knew we were in the right place when this appeared before us:
The Inn at Kulaniapia Falls
This place was on the expensive side but I decided for it because it served breakfast in the morning and I wanted something other than a cheap motel in town. I wanted the Hawaiian experience. Unfortunately, when we checked in, we were placed in the wrong room. Fortunately, we were compensated by only having to pay half the rate. Fine, no view of the waterfall from our balcony but only having to pay $80 for a room here, perfectly acceptable.

The next morning, we woke up to view the Hawaii sunrise and I do have to say, it was brilliant. Judge for yourself:
Hilo Sunrise
After a simple, yet delicious, fare of omelets, fruits, waffles, bread and Kona coffee, we took a tour of the property and hiked down to the waterfall. This time, it was an actual hike, no paved stairs available. We could not pass up the chance for this:
Us, Waterfall
You are actually allowed to swim in there but Bob and I checked in late and didn’t have time the next morning either. Next time, I promise, we will swim in the pool.

After saying goodbye to our hosts, we continued on our adventures, taking in the sights of the southeast side of the Island. We stopped and checked out the hot pools:
Hot Pools
And saw the lava fields:
Financing Available
We even saw where the current lava flow was going (so we saw the steam of the lava flow, but that counts, right?):
The steam is where the lava hits the ocean
It’s a crazy experience, being in such a desolate, barren, dead part of the land. You felt like you were on an alien planet and no one is around except the wind.

It was a pretty fantastic voyage. I did enjoy myself road-tripping it with my husband but I do have to say, I recommend Kona over Hilo any day. If you want to see tropical landscape, take a day or two over on the Hilo side but enjoy your vacation on the Kona side.

Halloween In Hawaii

It’s not often that I can say that I spent Halloween in Hawaii so it’s nice when I do. Bob and I had so much fun visiting Sam in Kona seven years ago, we thought it was about time to take advantage of free lodging in paradise.

Our first full day in Hawaii happened to be on Halloween. What does one do on Halloween on the Big Island? Why go to the beach, of course!
Beach
We spent the morning enjoying the surf and sand on a small beach north of town. While I laid back and soaked up the rays, Bob and Sam frolicked in the crystal clear ocean.
Beach
Later on, we were invited by Sam’s fried to the resort that she was staying at. There we had a lesson in paddle boarding. That was an adventure! We had our lesson inside the cove where the waves were not choppy and learned how to stand on the board and paddle. Once we mastered that (or close enough), we were led out into the rough waters beyond the protection of sea wall. There were quite a few spills out there and in the end, I ended up paddling back on my knees. I barely made it back in. Bob, on the other hand, had quite a different story. The poor guy didn’t even make it out of the cove at all. Apparently he has no center of gravity whatsoever. Good thing he’s a water baby because he sure spent a lot of time in the water.
This was the easy part.
The real highlight of the evening was watching Sam perform in Rocky Horror Picture Show. He played Brad (such a perfect role for him) and he was fabulous. I do have to say, though, seeing your friend in his tightie-whities does really burn that in your retinas. So, since I’m such a giving person, you can have the same privilege:
Rocky Horror Show
I have to say, the entire cast did a wonderful job and I was impressed with the community theater vibe. One complaint, though: Mr. Man Sitting on My Right, I did not appreciate the entire musical sung in my ear.

Weekend Road Trip to Memphis

You Are Here
Bob and I had been talking about making a trip down to Memphis for the past couple of years and never acted upon it until a couple of weeks ago. Along with two other couples, we headed down south for a weekend of drinking, eating, drinking and eating (oh and a couple of sightseeing things as well).

When we arrived Friday afternoon, we checked into the Hampton Inn on Beale Street. Okay, my opinion, a great hotel to stay at for its location. I mean, you walk outside, turn right and there’s Beale Street. You’re also close to the Fedex Forum and Autozone Park. How perfect is that? I will definitely be staying there again the next time I’m down there.

Once we settled in, we headed out to Silky O’Sullivan’s for some dinner and drinks, especially the drinks:
Enjoying the Diver
That is the Diver, a bucket of ice and alcoholic goodness. Of course, it would have been suicide for one person to drink all of that so they shared…two buckets. I’m glad that what we learned in kindergarten stuck with us for 25 years (okay, I know, Sarah, not for you. Stop making me feel so old).

After leaving Silky’s, we explored Beale Street.
Fun times in Memphis
Beale Street is surprisingly short and yes, it’s full of bars. And beers. They made it so convenient for you to get one:
Kindred Spirits
Once we sufficiently wandered up and down the street, we ended up at Coyote Ugly.
At Coyote Ugly
Did not live up to the expectations. What do you mean the movie isn’t indicative of real life? Sure, the ladies danced on the bar and had body shots available, but that was about it. But I can now say I’ve been to Coyote Ugly and no, I did not dance on the bar.

Saturday we took a tour of the “Birthplace of Rock-n-Roll” aka Sun Studio.
The Legendary Sun Studio
This was where Elvis, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and more made some of their biggest hits of the career. We went through the history of the place and toured the recording studio.
Sun Studio

U2's Drums

With Elvis' Mic
Yep, Elvis spit on that microphone.

That day we also found a fabulous barbecue place: Corky’s.
So Delicious
We all feasted on ribs that just fell off the bone. Memphis is known for it’s dry rub barbecue and so that had to be ordered. We were fortunate to have our rack of ribs split dry/wet for a taste comparison. I do have to say, I think the dry rub won me over.

Graceland wasn’t on the agenda, but we did see it:
We Even Visited Graceland
Okay, so we passed by it on the way to some shopping and got a quick glimpse at it. It may have to be something that needs to be checked out the next time we’re in town.

Later on in the evening, after taking a nap (Amanda and I took naps while the guys lounged in the hottub and pool), we checked out A. Schwab’s on Beale Street.
A. Schwab
Established in 1876, it’s a dry goods store that has the most random things in it. Apparently it had enough things to entertain us for a while:
Sombrero'd

Inside A. Schwab

Inside A. Schwab
After taking a trip back in time, we stopped by the Blues City Cafe where they have the BEST tamales that Bob has ever tasted. It’s not much to look at but this is all you need to know:
OK!

More drinking! We ended the evening at the Flying Saucer. I have to say, it’s probably my favorite place because there was such great people watching! We sat along the open window and watched the parade of cars drive by and women in such incredible outfits. “What Not to Wear” should do an episode in Memphis, right on the street. We even saw riot cops!
Riot Police

Sunday was Duck Day! We got to see the famous Peabody Ducks hustle down the red carpet and into their fountain. It was pretty adorable and hilarious, it’s a must see when you’re down here.
Ducks!

Ducks!

Ducks!

We also popped over to Mud Island and saw the Mississippi River scaled down.
Mud Island
It’s a detailed model of the river flow all the way down to the Gulf.
On Mud Island

Don't!

A perfect day to top off a fun weekend and a great group of friends. Thanks for letting the Sherrons tag along! You guys are such great traveling buddies, I hope there are more trips like this in the future!
Group Shot on Mud Island

And what’s a trip without more photos?

Floating the Black River

The 2010 Float Trippers

Ah, summers in St. Louis. Do you know what that means? Going floating! Third year in a row for this group of friends and so far, this year has been the biggest group yet. Of course, we followed last year’s act and had the boys head down there Friday night, their cars stuffed to the gills. Really, the main purpose was for them to set up the tents for us so we didn’t have to participate in that and no sleeping outside for two nights, one night is my limit.

Bright and early Saturday morning, five girls crammed into Stephanie’s car and drove the two hours down to Lesterville to Parks Bluff. Don’t worry, we did not get pulled over for tinted windows again (we actually drove with the windows down when we were going through the small towns – we were smarter this time). Funny car trip story: my sister drove down separately from Arnold and we were texting back and forth while on the highway. She called me to say that she was passing by the Harley store, I told her no, that we were driving by the Harley store. I turned around and there she was, right behind us! Perfect timing!

We got down there and launched around 9:45am. I was a bit worried that the weather wasn’t going to cooperate but it was absolutely beautiful! The sun was shining, it was hot and the river was cool. Great conditions for a 6 hour float trip. We ended up with three rafts and one canoe and we pretty much stayed that way throughout the trip. Let me introduce the players:

Team Drunk:
Team Drunk
Team Drunk was the raft of drunks and spent more time drinking, going around in circles and pushing each other off the rafts. I wished I had pictures of that but unfortunately they were too far behind for the camera to capture these moments.

Team GAR (Good at Rafting):
Team GAR
Apparently this raft dubbed themselves Team GAR probably due to Matt aka “Rower Joe” at the head of the raft, directing and rowing their raft down the river. But really, I think Matt’s rowing skills were more of a detriment to the raft and Andrew spent more time correcting that. But Matt sure did look like the captain.

Team Chose Poorly:
Cheese!

Us
Team Chose Poorly was named only because we chose the wrong side of the river when going through some rapids. I mean, it wasn’t that bad. Kari got dragged underneath the raft, Chris fell face-first into the water (she seriously fell like a board, smack) and I, while laughing at my sister’s fall, proceeded to fall ass-first into the water. This all happened in the matter of seconds. The only person left in the raft was Bob. It was a comedy of errors, wish I had gotten that on video, it probably could have won “America’s Funniest Home Videos.” Besides choosing poorly on the river, this raft as aptly named when I chose poorly and wore my rings. Wrong move, especially when I tried to pull Paul from his raft and my engagement ring slipped off into the river. Well, that was a scary moment until Doug, sweet, drunk Doug, found it and grabbed it from the bottom of the river.

Then you had the canoe with Rob and his brother, Ryan. I’m going to include them on Team Chose Poorly because they chose to let Kari onto their canoe and this is what happened:
Adventures in Canoe Tipping

Adventures in Canoe Tipping

Adventures in Canoe Tipping
As you can see, those who are supposed to be in the canoe ended up out of the canoe.

We did choose wisely with the Black River, though. The water was crystal clear (hence, being able to find my ring), there was a nice current and the river was deep. We spent more time swimming and floating and NOT dragging the rafts across the river beds. There was even some rope swingin’ at one of the banks and three of our guys went up to try it out:

With Feeling

Hi!

Cowabunga!

After coming off of the river, we headed back to the campsite and proceeded to clean up. Now, I will have to say, the amenities were not as nice as the Bass River Resort. There was absolutely NO hot water and the showers and bathrooms were disgusting. It was so bad that as soon as I was done showering, I walked outside in only my towel and proceeded to put my clothes on out there. I had no shame when it came to that. Even Bob went around to the back of the facility and changed there.

As for the evening, it was a night sitting by the fire, enjoying the stars and contemplating life as we know it. Actually, it was really time for people to pass out:
Chillaxin'
We all went to bed fairly early that night and I slept better this year than last year. Oh, but it’s not like I slept in, I was up at 6am because it sounded like someone was peeing on our tent (it was really condensation dripping from the trees). I do have to say, I really enjoyed waking up to the quiet morning and looking out my tent to see this:
The Lone Picnic Table

As always, it was a fabulous trip with a great group of friends! We will definitely be coming down to the Black River again!

Here are the rest of the pictures from the trip.