Thursday, September 16, 2021
For dinner, we went to the Lava Rock Bar & Grill. We could not get a reservation, but we got seats at the bar right away. We both got steaks. They came out on wooden platters with a sizzling hot flat hunk of iron. We raised the temperature of the bar a few degrees as the steaks continued to cook.
Tomorrow is a beach day. How exciting can one vacation be?
Wednesday, September 15, 2021
Tuesday, September 14, 2021
A GPS always helps, but in this case, it was crucial. We set off from Wailea and veered off the main road toward the little town of Haiku. This roads were good but winding and we eventually got to an altitude of about 1200 feet. We turned a couple times in the Haiku area and the GPS insisted we make a left turn off the paved road and travel another 0.2 miles. We found the loose stone tire tracks and proceeded past a rooster farm. Yes, at least a hundred rooters were pecking around little triangular shelters. We found out from the coffee guys that this farm (unaffiliated with the coffee) was involved with the cockfighting industry. Cockfighting is illegal in Hawaii (if only a misdemeanor), but raising fighting roosters is not illegal. Most likely, the roosters are exported, probably to Guam.
So anyway, we proceeded down the tire tracks to the end, in front of a barn and residence. We got out of the car and saw a business registration sheet on the window for "The Coffee Store". We looked into the doorway, and two men were in the room full of equipment and supplies. Jordan and Jay greeted me and then Susan came into view. Jordan's wife had just mentioned the Facebook post, so they had some warning and I confirmed my name. Jordan was actively roasting beans, and while we were there, he opened the oven and poured out hot, roasted coffee beans. The aroma was amazing. In this case, he was roasting Mokka beans, a specialty bean found on Maui.
Pure, 100% Kona coffee from the big island is the most expensive Hawaiian coffee, usually $40 per pound or more (retail, roasted). Pure, 100% Maui coffee is a bit less expensive, $30-35 per pound. South American and African coffees sell for about $20 per pound. Hawaiian coffee is good, but I doubt anyone would says it's twice as good. The higher price is apparently due to high labor costs and presumably environmental regulations and taxes.
This roastery acquires beans from Hawaiian and South American areas and roasts various pure and blended products. We purchased two pounds of Maui beans, a standard pure bean and a Mokka Peaberry blend (but 100% Maui).
We drove to a nearby vegan restaurant.
Sunday, September 12, 2021
From day 7, here are a couple more photos from the Road to Hana tour. The first is a bamboo forest, and the second is from inside a lava tube, looking at the ceiling at lava stalactites, sort of like upside-down Hershey's Kisses. There were also stalagmites, but my photo is unclear. There are some living creatures in the tube, mostly insects. We saw a pretty cool cockroach, but I don't have a photo.
Along this route can also be found a high concentration of locals who are tired of the ways in which heavy tourism can impact the human and natural environments. Of course, somewhere along the line, someone has to cut down a few trees to become a local, but without question, Maui struggles to deal with the constant swarms of tourists, even as tourism drops due to COVID-19. We saw a couple instances of locals indicating displeasure with tourists, including some gesturing toward our marked tour van.
The high point of this drive is to find a waterfall pool in which to take a dip. The waterfalls are not necessarily huge, but the attraction is to be one with the natural environment. However, the road is barely two lanes wide with no shoulders, so parking is limited to small pull-offs near the accessible waterfalls. By accessible, I mean, the ones visible from the road to which one can walk without too much trouble.
Recently, Maui has posted "no parking" signs near the known waterfalls because otherwise, careless would-be swimmers cause gridlock. There just isn't enough room for all the vehicles wishing to stop. The police write costly citations. We drove past people taking photos of their vehicles parked in front of the signs.
So, how did we get that photo? That's Gary in the middle of the pool next to Susan, with Lauren on the low ledge in the back about to jump, and our tour guide on the right (Dan took the photo). According to our guide, he and his boss explored streams along the route and found a hidden waterfall, unknown to most people. Apparently, there is no definitive guide to waterfall pools along the route. This spot had no parking restrictions. The guide said that occasionally, other tourists will follow his groups to the water, but the spot remains uncharted. We were at the spot for about a half hour with no other visitors. I tasted the water coming down one of the trickle falls on the left side of the photo. It was magical.
In all seriousness, tourism can be damaging. A local guide can help to minimize the footprint, but not everyone can afford a guide. My group is not rich, but we are privileged enough to have been able to hire the guy who could legally and safely show us the way. We left no trace aside from a few shifted rocks and a footprint or two through the bamboo forest, but only a few people will ever get to do this. Eventually, this swimming hole, too, will become popular and then restricted. Gary can provide details privately.
Saturday, September 11, 2021
On our last day on the Big Island (the island of Hawaii, part of the state of Hawaii), we drove to Kailua-Kona (near the airport) for breakfast. A wall on one side of the street caused lots of splashing. Greg got a good shot of Gary.
We then went to the airport. Greg left for home while Dan, Lauren, Susan and I went to Maui. Inter-island travel is pretty smooth, especially with TSA pre-check. Hawaiians are pretty conscientious about wearing anti-virus masks. We found the Krispy Kreme, the doughnut chain no longer available within a hundred miles of Rochester, NY.
Maui is not covered in recently hardened lava fields like the big island. However, the drive from the airport to our B&B was two-lanes each way, bumper to bumper, at 45 MPH. Again, apart from nice views from specific spots, Hawaii doesn't look like I thought it would look.
Gas is over $4 per gallon.
We arrived at our B&B and tried to view the sunset over the ocean, but distant clouds blocked the view.
Friday, September 10, 2021
In the morning we used up the breakfast food in our suite, with Sue making her feta scrambled eggs . Then for dinner, Greg grilled steaks by the hotel pool.
In the evening, we drove to Mauna Kea where there is an astronomical observatory and research station. Only true four-wheel drive vehicles are allowed to the 13000 foot summit due to the steepness of the road, so most visitors stay at the visitor center at 9000 feet. It was drizzly at sunset at 6:40 pm, but we waited, and the skies cleared around 7:15, and we saw the milky way and a shooting star, and of course, lots of other stars.
Finally, we packed for tomorrow's flights when Greg goes back home and Dan and Lauren and Su and Gary go to Maui.
Thursday, September 9, 2021
We proceeded to Volcano National Park. Greg, Dan and Lauren hiked down to the lava lake at Kilauea Iki, which is a hardened area of lava left after an eruption. The shrubs in the photo are people-sized, so this is a large area. Kilauea erupted in 2020, but there are currently no active lava flows in Hawaii. The hike is 4 miles round trip with an altitude change of 400 feet, and the air temperature on the lake was 85 degrees plus in direct sunlight, so Susan and I did not do that hike.
Susan and I took the road trip down Chain of Craters road to see several areas of previous eruptions and hardened lava flows. The beginning is in a rainforest, and the road runs to the ocean where lava has hit the water. After the lava cools and hardens, the crashing waves erode the rocks and sometimes cause holes, including the arch in the photo at top (you'll need to enlarge the photo to see it). Here is a stitched panorama of Laumanu Crater.
We then visited the Thurston lava tube, which is a tunnel high enough to walk through. This was the site of a lave river that partially hardened, followed by more lava, and then more hardening, but resulting in a tunnel. Also, we visited the Punalu'u black sand beach where sea turtles poke around in the shallows.
Around this time, Greg's eyeglasses case disappeared containing his regular glasses (not sunglasses). After much searching, and even phoning the park visitor center to check the lost & found, Dan found the case under a car seat. But, leave it to the Gocek boys (all three of us, Gary, Greg and Dan) to find an excuse to make a joke about butts. I won't try to repeat the exact jokes because "you had to be there", but Lauren found out the hard way that one never tells another butt joke in front of the Gocek boys, because it only encourages us. Trust me, it was a a series of funny family moments.
We finished the day with dinner at the Kona Brewing Company and a chocolate shop.
Regarding car rentals, I looked a couple months ago for a car on Maui. All cars at the airport offices were booked for all companies, but I found an Avis office near our B&B with a Mustang for about $90 per day. Dan noticed today (during our trip) that Enterprise had cars at the airport office for about $50 per day (for a Corolla), and I was able to cancel Avis and switch to Enterprise. We could only imagine there was a steep drop in reservations due to Hawaii's discouraging remarks about travel, so cars became available at a lower price. (Avis had cars but at the same price,)
Wednesday, September 8, 2021
Tuesday, September 7, 2021
Earlier, Susan got a massage at the spa which was apparently extremely great, while I got my first Kona coffee pourover. We checked out the ocean beach.
Rochester, NY residents think Florida is nice, but Hawaii is at a different level. It just "feels" great.
Later Susan, Dan, Greg and Lauren went snorkeling. I don't do much in the water, so I went looking for shabu shabu joints. This consists of thinly sliced beef that is swished around in hot oil. Although shabu shabu is popular in Hawaii, the only place I found, "TK Shabu Shabu" is no longer serving the item, regardless of the name of the place. Shabu shabu is a family-style item, and this was stopped at the beginning of the pandemic.
So, I went grocery shopping at a Walmart and a KTA Super Store. We are staying in a timeshare property, so we are doing some of our own cooking.
Earlier for lunch, I had lau lau, which is pulled pork with taro leaves.
Monday, September 6, 2021
The flight from Rochester to Chicago was full, but the flight to Kona was only a third full, so we each had a row of three seats. Entry into Hawaii went smoothly with a lot of online preparation required by Hawaii, although Greg is still waiting for his checked bag. The bag either never made it to Chicago, or missed the connection to Hawaii, we'll know more tomorrow.
The weather was overcast in Hawaii with a few sprinkles. We checked in and had dinner an went to the grocery store.
Sunday, September 5, 2021
After spending yesterday online getting checked in to our flights and preparing for the Hawaii bureaucracy, we will now spend the day standing in lines waiting to talk to people who will make sure we spent the previous day online.
Watch this for our exciting activities!
Friday, September 3, 2021
I think the thing I am most looking forward to is the Road to Hana tour, in a van with a hired driver and the four of us who will be on Maui. I don't swim much, but I am looking forward to those little waterfall swimming holes.
Thursday, September 2, 2021
The weather today was amazingly nice, high 60s Fahrenheit and sunny (which is why I pushed myself so hard). We send our best wishes to the south and eastern seaboard as they recover from the heavy rains of hurricane Ida. That weather system did not get to western New York State. Unless the jet inventory is disrupted, we should not have trouble getting to Chicago and then flying over the wildfires in the west and finally to Kona.
The virus numbers in Hawaii dropped substantially for a couple days but then spiked back up yesterday. We have our N95 masks for indoor events and flights, and cloth or cheaper masks for outdoor events.
Wednesday, September 1, 2021
But eventually, one takes one's turn, and today is my first day of a three-week vacation (including two weeks in Hawaii). I don't mind waking up at my normal workday time, but it takes me a couple days to stop thinking I need to psyche myself up for the next leg of the rat race.
To be clear, I am not complaining about my job, but it's nice to play hooky for an extended period.
However, the big project during my few days at home is to paint the deck, not exactly the most fun I'll have in the next three weeks. It's a small wooden deck, and it has already been scraped and cleaned, but opening a can of paint is such a commitment.
Tuesday, August 31, 2021
Oahu now requires restaurant patrons to show a vaccination card or a negative test result. We're vaccinated, of course. I still think the elected officials talk a big talk and then hold back on the rules (a relief for me). A vaccination rule is probably annoying for the restaurants, but getting vaccinated is such a no brainer (aside from the microchip), it's no worse than showing an ID to drink alcohol.
Monday, August 30, 2021
Today, the lieutenant governor suggested there could be a stay-at-home order for Labor Day weekend (that's this coming weekend). The governor walked that back, slightly, but the leaders are clearly concerned. We arrive Sunday afternoon. Maybe they'll keep us at the airport until Tuesday.
I don't mean to trivialize the dangers of the pandemic. People are dying. But again, there is little danger from my family group, and our activities are pretty safe (mostly outdoors, even the luau) throughout the trip.
It's just hard to take all the comments at face value. There are a lot of conflicting constituencies pressuring the elected leaders, but few actual orders over the last few weeks.
Sunday, August 29, 2021
After wading through hotel lists for dozens of hotels (all with individual strengths and weaknesses), and hundreds of customer reviews, and comparing prices for various sorts of rooms to get a feeling for a price point I could accept, my top choice was a Junior Suite at the Laylow Autograph Collection property (Marriott). The public areas are in a modern style following a $60M "overhaul" in 2017, and the room is big. It's not right on the beach, but close, and I already had a membership in Marriot's membership program (named "Bonvoy").
At first, the room was offered on Marriott's web site at $280 per night (senior rate, 62+). The various travel sites (TripAdvisor, TravelZoo, Expedia, Orbitz, hotels dot com) were no cheaper. After several days, I decided to log in to Bonvoy and book the room, and the price had gone up that day to $299.
So, I booked it along with a second choice (not Marriott, smaller room, better view, $271). I eventually canceled the second choice, so I won't discuss it in detail.
I kept poking at the Marriott web site each day. If the price changed once, I at least wanted the satisfaction of seeing the price go up again while my booked rate stayed at $299. But, a few weeks later, the price dropped back to $288. I logged on to Bonvoy, edited my booking, rebooked the same Junior Suite room type, and my price did indeed drop back. To Marriott's credit, I didn't have to call a live person.
Then, a few weeks later the price dropped back to $271 (my first choice was then the same price as my second choice which never changed rates). I was again able to edit my booking and get the lower rate.
I cannot explain the reason for the rate changes except to guess that some algorithm alternately encourages and discourages customers like me. The $271 price appeared before the worst of the delta variant virus surge and has held for a few weeks. The arrival date for Waikiki is still almost three weeks away, so we'll see if we can squeeze a few more dollars out of Marriott.
Saturday, August 28, 2021
- At this time so close to our arrival in Hawaii, it is possible the governor could reinstitute testing rules or mandatory quarantines. However, the lieutenant governor stated recently that any onerous changes would be announced with at least two weeks' advance notice. We'll be well into our trip two weeks from now. Still, a COVID test is not itself onerous and we have considered testing "just in case" the rules change at the last minute.
- Based on Hawaii's rules for non-vaccinated travelers, the testing option for us would be a rapid ID NOW test at a Walgreen's drug store. The test has to be administered within 72 hours of departure, and the PCR tests take too long to get the results. There are several stores offering the drive-through rapid tests. Well, it turns out getting an appointment is difficult. Appointments become available early in the morning about 2 days in advance (every day is different), and they are all booked at all stores by dinnertime. Appointments are available every day, but only between around 9:30 and 4:30. We would need to be tested on a Thursday or Friday and upload the results before the Sunday departure. Given all the difficulty, should we take up testing slots required for others when our tests would not be required?
- I am not COVID positive. No, I don't have a test to prove it, but I'm not. The governor's discouragement is related to pressure on the Hawaiian healthcare system caused by community spread between residents. We'll use the Hawaiian exposure notification phone app. Here at home, my weekly activity outside the house is a trip to the grocery store and an outdoor church service. I am not the guy the governor is worried about, but he's under pressure to take action.
- A false positive test (that is not even required for me) would end my vacation before it starts. The odds of a false positive appear to be pretty small, and testing has improved throughout the pandemic, but there's always a chance.
- Will I feel guilty about traveling now? I feel guilty about a lot of things. I run the air conditioner, drive a gas-powered car, eat meat, benefit from a military but never served, benefit from white privilege, and a bazillion other things. Guilt over a safe Hawaii trip is not at the top of the list.
- I don't make the rules. The rules are a complicated result of health, economic and political considerations. We are where we are and I will follow the rules.
Friday, August 27, 2021
- In fact, I am anal about traveling. I book everything far in advance. The flights, rooms, tours, dinners, golf, luau and cars were reserved long ago, in some cases before the virus rates dropped in the spring.
- They haven't said "no". Since we made our basic plans, Hawaii changed the rules to make it easier to enter the state. Recently, new restrictions have been mandated, but our group of 5 is smaller than the maximum gathering size of 10 and the restaurants are open. Vaccinated US citizens like me are exempt from quarantine. The Lieutenant Governor has said any new testing requirements would be announced two weeks before taking effect, and we'll be in the state in 9 days. Politically speaking, the governor is loathe to shut down the tourist industry (again).
- I suppose tourists put pressure on the community spread already occurring, but if I am in Hawaii, I am not contributing to the spread somewhere else. The virus is not a Hawaiian issue; it is a global issue. It simply doesn't matter where I am. The governor of my state could just as easily tell all the residents to go on a trip to reduce the pressure at home. In any case, the rules for flying and entering Hawaii keep the infected away.
- Most of our planned activities take place out of doors; hiking, beaches, golf, even the luau. We just need to wrap ourselves in plastic during the flights.
- My kids are taking me to Hawaii, how cool is that? If we try to postpone, who knows what will happen?
Sunday, June 27, 2021
Saturday, June 26, 2021
Began with watermelon with a sauce, then a salad, then eggs benedict, finally a coffee cake. This description does not do it justice, all tres gourmet.
That's my selfie with a bald eagle in the background. It is cool how these birds of prey watch you as you walk by. On this day, a blue jay stole the show, quite the ham (no photo here). He ate seeds next to the fencing and chirped.
We went to Spook Hill in Middlesex, NY. Search for that on the internet, look for the great Youtube video. You drive over a hill and stop the car on Newell Road, and put the car in neutral. You clearly see you're looking downhill. You take your foot off the brake, and the spook pushes your car backwards, and you have gotta be rolling up a steep hill, right? The web sites explain the exact location. It's called a "gravity hill", a very cool illusion. And only a few miles from Naples.
Friday, June 25, 2021
We have arrived at the Sutherland House B&B outside Canandaigua.
This little place in downtown Canandaigua is one of our favorites anywhere. A French Bordeaux. Salmon with a mustard glaze, linguine with shrimp, French onion soup, a ratatouille appetizer, and a cobbler with pear and chocolate. Prices are surprisingly moderate, and it is one of very few places we have been to in the USA where no customer arrives in a torn tank top. (No dress code, just saying the clientele have an upscale understanding of what it means to go out to dinner.) Owner George is a wonderful host.
Here is the inn at dusk. Love the widow's peak.