Archive for April, 2012

And now – we wait.

Posted in education on April 29, 2012 by needlefingers

I did something momentous last Monday. I simultaneously submitted my final project for my master’s degree and sent an application for another graduate certificate. And now, we wait.

I really don’t mind waiting, even though I have no patience to speak of, because I’m the one that delayed this.  Since they are kind enough to deal with me, I can grant them as much time as necessary to consider my efforts.

But I really do wish I could know if it’s all going to go through.  I get to order my Kindle when my degree is done.

Stay tuned . . . .

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Hawaii Day 9 – Oahu and trip wrap-up

Posted in Travel on April 24, 2012 by needlefingers

Saturday morning, it was time to leave the ship. We had planned to catch a shuttle to our hotel, but that was a bit of an issue. The port had only so much bus parking, and every time our shuttle would come through, there wouldn’t be a space. This would require it to leave the area entirely, and circle around to get back to come into the parking lot. It repeated this procedure at least three times we were aware of.

After a wait of well over an hour, we were finally on the road. The driver warned all of us passengers that there might be some issues getting to all of the hotels as there was a parade down on of the main roads in Waikiki. Fortunately, he was able to get us to our hotel. Unfortunately, we were not able to do much since the parade had blocked off most of the bus routes.

We were able to store some of our things and walked to the Ala Moana mall. We stopped in at Barnes and Noble for a frappuccino and some internet, our first dose since the airport in Salt Lake City.

We wandered back to the hotel, dropped off the laptop in Ramblin’s backpack to help lighten the load, and now that bus service was restored, we headed to Diamondhead. Frequent readers of the blog will remember my crushing failure at the Bunker Hill Monument. That was only 294 steps and 221 feet tall. This was going to be an .8 mile hike of ascending switchbacks with 74 steps, a 225-foot tunnel, 99 more steps,

Stairs to Diamondhead

then you would just about be at the 760-foot summit. How on earth was I going to be able to do this?

We started off, and I thank Ramblin’s patience to stop about every 30 feet for me to rest. The good news is there were great views along the way.

On the way to Diamondhead

Hanauma

And soon, I was triumphant!

Waikiki from Diamondhead

Inside Diamondhead crater

I don’t know if you can tell the magnitude of the place, but look at the center of the rim in the above picture. That’s a tunnel into the crater, so you don’t have to hike up and over, then up again to the summit. Here’s the view of it from the inside.

Tunnel from inside Diamondhead

And here’s the view from the outside.

Tunnel to Diamondhead

And if the view and the overwhelming sense of accomplishment wasn’t enough, here was one more reward for my effort.

Reward Hawaiian shaved ice

We made our way back to the hotel after a prolonged wait for a return bus (there is nothing that can make you feel forlorn as a full bus passing you up) and went in search of food. We ended up terribly underdressed at a rather upscale Chinese seafood restaurant. Oops. We returned to our hotel and prepared for the next day, a very long day of travel.

When you fly to Hawaii, you can get flights with very reasonable arrival times in the afternoon. On the way back, you’re taking a red-eye. Our flight was at 1:00 pm, and we wouldn’t see Indy until 5:30 local time the next morning. Oof.

A shuttle was scheduled to pick us up at 11:00 am, which should have been more than enough time to board our flight. The four stops after they picked us up did not help matters. Nor did one of the the security gates going down. We got into line at about 11:40 am, and the line was barely moving. There was another security area further down, but I kept seeing people walk down there, then come back into our line. Ramblin counted a person going through the scanner about every 3-5 minutes. There was no way we were making it. It was noon, and we weren’t even in the back-and-forth queuing area. I pondered how many hundreds of dollars this would cost.

We had just about reached the beginning of the queue, when they sent the whole line behind us to the other security area. The family directly behind us was on the same flight we were, and we all debated. I told Ramblin, “Whatever we do is going to be wrong,” but we decided to go for it.

Now it was 12:20 pm. The line was even longer since they had ushered everyone down there, but there were more scanners. We began moving rapidly. We hit the actual queue area and kept a steady pace. Yes. We made it all the way to the next in line to go through security, and suddenly they decide to start funneling passengers going to Japan through security. Oh. My. Word. Finally they ran out of people they could send in front of us, and we finally were scanned and deemed acceptable. At this point, it is 12:36 pm. We start the trek to our gate, weaving our way through the airport. Finally, we found our gate, with only six people left in the boarding line. Made it.

We had planned at least one hour of available time at the airport, during which we would get lunch. No lunch for us. When we boarded the plane, we were directed down the appropriate aisle to our seat. Since most people were already on board, the seats were mostly full. Including ours. What?! We arrive at our seats to find a man and woman sitting there. “Um, these are our seats,” I said. “No, these are ours.” I present my boarding pass with our seat numbers and letters. They produce theirs . . . and theirs is across the plane. There’s then much to-do about moving and leaving their luggage over our seats and us having to put ours elsewhere, then they need a cup they had crushed in the seat back passed to them, “Careful, it’s full!” Okay, who in their right mind puts a cardboard cup of soda in the seat back which smushes it flat? Crazy people.

Fortunately, the rest of the flight was uneventful until we got to LA. We hit some turbulence, some pretty good turbulence, and a few people screamed. We did come up out of our seats, confirming exactly why they tell you to leave your seat belt buckled. Once we were safely on the ground, we were starved. There had been a bit of a delay getting to approach due to traffic, so our layover of only about an hour had shrunk. Unbelievable luck that our next gate was just across from our arrival, I left Ramblin to guard our seats, and I went in search of food. There wasn’t much choice nearby, so I opted for a sandwich shop with, of course, a line. The line moved fairly well, though in my mind it was creeping, and $25 later, I had two wraps and a bottle of water. We devoured them, and it was time to board.

Four short hours later, we were back in Indy, a good 30 degrees cooler than what we left behind. As Ramblin had gotten no sleep, I was the designated driver. We stopped off for breakfast about an hour and a half from home. At last, we were back home to our fur-kids.

Hawaii was a beautiful, wonderful experience. I wanted to fall in love with the balmy temps and perpetual growing season, but it turns out my heart belongs to Maine.

Hawaii Day 8 – Kauai Part 2

Posted in Travel on April 24, 2012 by needlefingers

Kauai was another port where we spent an overnight stay. It was a short second day as we would do a sail-by that afternoon by the Napali Coast.

We only had one activity for the day, a helicopter tour of the island, and there was a bit of a hiccup. When we got back from the luau the night before, I had a missed call from the tour company. Earlier in the week, when I called to confirm, they had lost our reservation. However, they were able to schedule us an hour later. (confirmation numbers meant NOTHING) After giving all of my information again, they ‘found’ the first reservation. I confirmed, “So, we’re good for the 9:30 flight?” They assured me we were.

Fast forward to Friday morning, I had to wait until they opened at 8:00 to talk to someone. Why no, there is no record of us having a 9:30 flight, but they can get us on at 10:30. Sigh. So, we had our time that day split in half, leaving no opportunity to do any additional sightseeing. The original plan would have left us with a solid chunk of 2 1/2 hours after the tour. Now we would have maybe an hour or so, and that’s just not enough leeway.

Now if you will remember, our first helicopter trip earlier in the cruise left me a bit woozy. In fact, when I called the first time to confirm, the person had said, “I guess you haven’t seen the weather for Thursday and Friday; we’re supposed to get storms.” One, no you don’t get The Weather Channel when you’re on a cruise ship; and two, when I made the reservations back in January, I didn’t call Miss Cleo first to check on that. Add the first heli wooziness coupled with the mass confusion about the reservation, and I really didn’t care if they canceled our tour. Meh.

But, there were clear-ish skies (for Hawaii), and we were a go. This is where I got the tip that saved the ride for me – don’t focus on the camera much at all. Thank you, Wayne. You have my eternal gratitude. Now, you’ll have to forgive the pictures as we were in a helicopter, and it was raining a bit, and I really wasn’t focusing on the camera.

First up, the Waimea Canyon.

Waimea Canyon from heli 5

Waimea Canyon from heli 3

Waimea Canyon from heli 1

Waimea Canyon from heli 4

Waimea Canyon from heli 7

Waimea Canyon from heli 6

Then we started to head to the Napali Coast.

Waimea Canyon from heli 2

Kauai from heli 3

Kauai from heli 2

Kauai from heli 1

Kauai from heli 4

Hanalei Bay

This trip was so much more enjoyable since I wasn’t feeling like I was going to pass out. We headed back to the ship, got lunch at the buffet, and waited until the evening sail-by. We would be going by the Napali Coast, the beautiful cliffs we had just toured from the air.

Napali Coast

Napali Coast 2

And as we turned around to head back to Oahu, we were sent off with yet another beautiful Hawaiian rainbow.

Napali Coast rainbow

Hawaii Day 7 – Kauai

Posted in Travel on April 21, 2012 by needlefingers

Overnight, we were ferried to the oldest of the Hawaiian islands, Kauai.  It’s known as The Garden Isle.  We had quite a bit planned for this port.  First up was a van tour of some of the sights, starting with the Waimea Canyon.

Waimea Canyon 4

Waimea Canyon 1

Waimea Canyon 3

Waimea Canyon 2

Waimea Canyon 5

Waimea Canyon 7

Waimea Canyon 6

And I could subject you to several more pictures, but there’s a certain person (Hi Michelle!) who may beat me about the head and neck if I don’t get this vacation wrapped up. There were a few more sights, but one in particular needs explaining. When you look at anyone’s pictures from Hawaii, they include at least one picture of a chicken.

Look a chicken!

Now that that’s out of the way, let me tell you why – Kauai is full of wild chickens. They’re everywhere. At the port, on the golf courses, at the airport, along the highway, everywhere. In 1982 and 1992, hurricanes came through and destroyed the chicken coops on the island. The chickens, however, were just fine. They left the now-feral chickens alone, and they have thrived. They also keep the bugs down, so they are much appreciated.

The other major event of our day was a luau. Yes, you can’t go to Hawaii without going to a luau. Well, you can, but why would you? The grounds where the luau was held were beautiful.

Luau grounds

Luau grounds 2

And it had peacocks.

Peacock at Smith Family Luau

And pineapples.

Pineapple

After our meal, we walked to the amphitheater for the show. It featured several different dance styles of the cultures that make up Hawaii.

Luau dancing 1

Luau Dancing 2

Japanese Dancing

Tahitian Drum Dance

Samoan Fire Knife Dance

Then it was time to head back to the ship. After the long day we had, there was no question it was bed time.

Hawaii Day 6 – Kona

Posted in Travel, Uncategorized on April 16, 2012 by needlefingers

For our next stop, we swung around to the other side of the Big Island to Kona.  One thing I forgot to mention is that the prior evening was to include a sail-by of Kilauea to see the lava flowing into the ocean.  However, other than a brief ocean entry in December, no lava has been flowing into the ocean for months.

Kona is well-known for two things – snorkeling and coffee.  We were all over both of those.

First up was our snorkeling excursion.  Kona is a tender port, meaning the ship anchors in the ocean and you ride in the lifeboats to the shore.  Since we had booked the excursion through NCL, we got priority tendering.  Otherwise, you would have to wait for tender tickets to find out when you can get to the shore.  Or you could book a suite and get priority tendering, but we are not made of money.  Yet.

POA anchored at Kona

The company doing the excursion was Body Glove, which you may have heard of before.  It wasn’t an overly warm day, but the weather was beautiful.  I confess, with just having learned to swim last year, I was a bit apprehensive about this whole thing, but I was looking forward to it.  Our tour guides gave us the basics on the gear we would be using, which was very helpful.  They also told us what is NOT the universal signal for “Honey, honey, bring the camera!  There’s a sea turtle!” (waving one’s arms about like crazy)  That will just get you towed to the boat and mouth to mouth whether you want it or not.   :)

After about a 45-minute ride, we were at our spot.  Now, I had done a bit of research on snorkeling, and I thought it would be in shallowish water.  They told us we would be in 30 ft. water.  What?!  I successfully diverted a panic attack.  As it turns out, there was no need for concern on my part because as I may have mentioned, I am buoyant as all get-out.  Fat floats.  With the floaty noodle they made sure everyone took and the salty sea water, I could barely stay on my stomach to look at the fish.  My body kept trying to flip over.  The only problem was that I just had a disposable underwater camera to take pictures, which required focusing through the viewfinder.  If you read the previous day’s post, you already know what effect that has on me.  I had even taken ginger before the trip.  Still, bobbing on the ocean like a cork while concentrating on the tiny viewfinder made me a bit woozy.  It was still a really neat experience.

snorkeling in Kona

The other thing I should mention is despite being near the equator, the water was not warm.  They said it was about 76 degrees, which was still warmer than the ’82 degree’ swimming pool in Maine. (those Mainers are just hard-core; that’s all there is to that).  But it was chilly.  I was starting to get cold, plus the slight wooziness, so we started to make our way back to the boat.

Just then I saw it.  They had told us what the universal “Honey, honey, bring the camera!  There’s a sea turtle!” sign wasn’t, but they hadn’t told us what it was.  Fortunately, I was able to get Ramblin’s attention without attracting a full-fledged rescue, and he was able to get video footage. (You’ll have to watch the whole thing to get to the sea turtle.)

Soon, we were heading back to the shore.  We changed out of our bathing suits and prepared to wander Kona.  The other ports were all very industrial and didn’t have much to see within easy walking distance.  Since this doesn’t have the capacity for ships, there’s more shopping opportunities.  First, we found a farmer’s market and got some delicious strawberries and pineapple.  (no pictures – burp)  Then we started hitting the coffee places.  Coffee is becoming big in Hawaii, mainly Kauai and Kona.  The difference is Kauai mainly uses mechanical harvesting where Kona’s harvesting is entirely by hand.  The result is they can grade their coffee beans and give the customer some unique options.  We got some Rainbow Roast from Cherry Hill Coffee, Extra Fancy from Country Samurai, and Peaberry from Kona Brothers.  Only 4% of the coffee harvest in Kona will grade Peaberry.

Peaberry coffee

Yeah, you can imagine the price on it.  However, we got 1/2 a pound, and I can honestly say it is the smoothest coffee I have ever had the pleasure to sip. We also had time to partake of Scandianvian Shaved Ice.  How is that any different from Hawaiian Shaved Ice?  Quantity.  This is a small.

Scandinavian Shaved Ice

It is the size of a softball.  Medium is the size of a volleyball.  Large, requiring an entire 10-pound block of ice, is the size of a basketball.

Since I was so woozy on the snorkel trip, I opted not to try any of the delicious-smelling lunch they provided.  Seeing as how even a softball-sized shaved ice will not sustain you for long, we dined at the Cadillac Diner once we were back on the ship.  It’s one of the free dining venues on the ship.  Their fish and chips were quite tasty.

We’re not much on the activities on the ship, but that day we were actually back in time for me to take part in a ribbon lei class.  I was the first one finished.  Must have something to do with my mad knitting skillz.

ribbon lei

And yet another evening of lounging and relaxing.

Hawaii Day 5 – Hilo

Posted in Travel on April 13, 2012 by needlefingers

The port we were most looking forward to was our second port – Hilo, on the Big Island aka Hawaii.  Do you know what is near Hilo?  Kilauea.  I would love to post a picture here of an impressive volcanic cone, but that’s not what the Hawaiian volcanoes are.  They are shield volcanoes, which means they have a very gradual slope to the crater and are mostly flat.  They will never have homage paid to them in papier-mache form.

We had two excursions scheduled for the day to give us a comprehensive look at this natural wonder.  After all, we hardly have a volcano in our back yard.  (and we do not want one, either, so don’t get any cute ideas, New Madrid Fault)

First up was a helicopter tour.  Neither one of us had ridden in a helicopter before.  I want to give you a piece of advice that I sadly did not get until our second helicopter tour later in the trip – do not attempt to take pictures focusing intently through the eye piece.  Seriously, use the lcd screen or just don’t take them.  The trip was very cool, but it made me very woozy.  I think the picture-taking was the culprit.  Anyway, enjoy my efforts, minus the urpiness.

Volcano

Volcano 1

It is so alien in nature. You could have very easily believed you were on another planet. I think what was so unusually and beautiful about it was that a non-living force made such organic-looking designs.

volcano landscape

Part of the tour was supposed to be a fly over the last house standing in the Royal Gardens area. See the whitish spot in the middle of this picture?

Jack's house

Um, here’s what’s left.

Jack's House closeup

The lava finally got it two weeks before we arrived. However, others have rebuilt in another area that has also seen destruction by Madame Pele. By the way, there are no utilities out on the lava flow. Definitely ‘roughing it’. Nor can you get lava insurance.

Houses by the volcano

While Kilauea is active, its activity is not generally lava bursting into the sky. It’s more subtle than that. Molten lava generally can only be seen through sky lights in the underground lava tubes.

Volcano 2

Volcano with sky light

volcano with two outbreaks

Volcano with lava sky light

After getting a good view of the volcano, we flew over a bit cooler and refreshing vista.

Waterfalls near Hilo

We even got to see our ship from the air.

POA from the heli

For our second volcano experience, we were going to get up close. No, not with the molten lava. But it was once upon a time.

Lava meets life

We got to hike out on an old lava flow. What was so amazing about this was the stark contrast of iron-rich basalt lava sprinkled with life.

flower in lava

flower tree in lava

ferns in lava

coconut in lava

Here’s something really cool. This is a breadfruit tree.

breadfruit tree

And this is what is left behind when a breadfruit tree meets molten lava. Instant fossil.

tree stump imprint in lava

tree trunk in lava

fruit imprint in lava

At the end of this recent-ish lava flow, there is a dramatic black sand beach.

Waves at black sand beach

You know how I love the splooshy water. To encourage growth (well, until Madame Pele wipes it out again), they seed the area with coconuts. I bet you were wondering how that coconut got there in the picture above.

Coconut in black sand

We made our way back to the van and continued to Mackenzie State Park. This is a sight that has an old lava tube with a collapse in the top that you can see into and an exit to the water. I’m not going to show you that; because while it was neat to see, this was more impressive.

At Mackenzie State Park

Here’s an area our tour guide warned us to stay away from.

Splash zone before

Why? (the water in the background probably gives you a hint.)

splash zone after

And I want you to know, no sooner than those words were out of his mouth and the van stopped, one of our party went right over there, like a moth to a flame. Granted, he was an older gentleman, and English was not his first language, if any of them, but he had family who spoke it very well that were not stopping him. Eeee.

Most of the lava I have shown you is very smooth and looks like the molten lava froze in place. That’s the pahoehoe lava. It is warmer and has a low viscosity. As the lava gets further away from the heat source it cools and increases in viscosity and can turn into a’a lava.

a'a lava

There was also a forest area, now known as Lava Tree State Park, that experienced rapid lava advances and retreats over a short period of time. The result was almost like dipping a candle over and over in wax. This was what was left after the tree burned.

lava tree

As you can probably tell by the picture count in this post alone, I really enjoyed Hilo.  I have lots more pictures of the lava, but I’ll stop.  (Ramblin’s final picture count for the entire trip was over 2000, mine was 1300+ – you’re welcome)

I’m sure the evening was another ‘Aloha Cafe – back to the cabin – bed’ evening.  We had a lot of those.

Hawaii Day 4 – Maui Part 2

Posted in Uncategorized on April 8, 2012 by needlefingers

As I mentioned, NCL has the most port days in Hawaii.  A nice benefit to this is getting overnight stays on two of the ports, and the first of these overnights was in Maui.  For our second day, we had a whale-watch excursion planned.   I should mention that the POA docks at Kahului, whereas most of the other cruise ships are in Lahaina, but they have to tender in.  For those not salty sea-dogs like us, a tender port requires the ship to anchor off the coast, and the crew uses the lifeboats to ferry people to the dock.

Our whale-watching trip left out of Lahaina, so we had to board a bus to get to the other side of the island.  The company providing the trip was the Pacific Whale Foundation.

PWF boat

This was our fourth whale-watching experience, and while we did not get as close to the whales as we have in the past, we did get to see some unusual things.  One was a competition pod.  This was a group of males trying to beat all the rest of the whales silly woo one female.

competition pod of whales

More whales

We also saw a mother and calf with lots of breaching, but of course being further away, I didn’t get great pictures of it.

whale breach

Afterward, we make our way to the PWF store to purchase some goods and pick up a free poster as a thank-you for going on the trip.  Since we booked through the cruise ship, we had the benefit of extra time in Lahaina until 3 pm, but time was quickly slipping away.  Instead of a proper lunch, we opted instead for a Hawaiian shaved ice for me and ice cream for Ramblin.  As we waited for the return bus, we looked around Hilo Hatties, a Hawaiian clothing store with locations throughout the islands.

Later that evening, we would once again eat in the Aloha cafe.

Monk Seal in Lahaina

Monk Seal

Banyan Tree in Lahaina (this is all one tree)

Banyan Tree in Lahaina

View of West Maui Mountains

view from PWF boat