Monday, April 28, 2008

Water Water Everywhere

First, I want to take a moment to say THIS is really cool. I hadn't heard about it before I read it on the Sub Report. Man, I feel old. That kid getting his dolphins looks SO YOUNG!!! He has some big shoes to fill following in his dad's footsteps - scuttlebutt I hear on the waterfront is that his dad is a superb naval officer.

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Second, congratulations to the new mommy that lives on our front porch. There's a bird's nest in one of LW's hanging plant baskets. Tonight as I was cleaning up the front porch, I heard a little peep-peep-peep noise from the basket and could see a little bit of motion just over the edge of the basket. I went and grabbed the camera, and this was what I found:

LW wants me to be sure to explain that the plant died while we were on vacation in Maui, and she didn't want to disturb the bird's nest when we got back, so it stayed as is. The other two hanging baskets have some lovely flowers in them.

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Okay, so getting back to supporting the local Hawaiian tourist industry...

After church today, we put on our bathing suits, grabbed some lunch, and headed to Hawaiian Waters Adventure Park. I wrote about my previous trip to Hawaiian Waters in this post. Like Waimea Falls, we also bought annual passes to Hawaiian Waters. LW and the boys need to go one more time in order to get our money's worth on the annual passes, I need to go two more times because LW went once without me while I was on shiftwork.

Immediately after arriving, we were very disappointed that the section called Waterworld was closed for cleaning or renovations. Waterworld was the boys' favorite area and where they spent most of their time on previous visits. It has some medium-sized water slides and obstacles like that floating log with the cargo net. Not only did that put a big damper on our activities, it severely cut the amount of water-side recliners and chairs for us to set up camp. Plus, it's right smack in the middle of the park, so it made getting to things around the park a longer walk to go around the closed section. The Keiki Kove was open, and we managed to grab the last few open chairs in the back row there.

YB had a pretty good time playing in the Keiki Kove.

YB on the blue and orange Keiki water slides.

Then again, as long as you have Daddy's legs to swim through, who needs fancy water playground stuff? Both boys entertained themselves for a while swimming back and forth between my legs, with me periodically closing my legs to catch them writhing and wiggling and giggling.

Traditional Blunoz Self Portrait in Keiki Kove

While LW and Grammy stayed with YB at the Keiki Kove, I took ES around the park to the bigger waterslides like the Waianae Coaster and the Big Kahuna. This was the first time I got ES to try the big waterslides with me, and I was a little worried he'd be scared by it and just want to go back to Keiki Kove.

Prepare for Launch

If you click on the image above and look at the hi-res version, you can see Diamond Head on the horizon in the distance, just to the right of my foot.

Check out that angle!

But did he LIKE it??? Was he having FUN??? Check out THIS Blunoz Self-Portrait:

Not-so-traditional Blunoz Self Portrait
taken as we FLEW down the Waianae Coaster

The still photos are cool, but we decided to try taking some video, too. We actually had a lot of fun doing runs on the waterslide and then watching the video after each run to see how it turned out. When we got to the pool at the end, ES liked "disappearing" through the innertube by putting his hands out straight over his head and sliding into the water.

Video 1: Forward view going down the Waianae Coaster.

Video 2: Self-Portrait view of ES and me going down the Waianae Coaster.

Video 3: Forward view going down the Big Kahuna.

We spent most of our time going down the Waianae Coaster. Toward the end, I finally convinced ES to TRY the Big Kahuna. The main differences I found were the Waianae Coaster is faster and you don't climb the walls as high in the turns. On the Big Kahuna, it's slower, and you go up on the walls a lot farther, plus there was a big dip at the end that shot you out into the pool. ES didn't want to leave. He kept saying, "PLEASE just ONE more time!"

Aside: We were pretty annoyed by the Waterworld section being closed because we had just checked the Hawaiian Waters website before we went, and they didn't mention ANYTHING about it on the website (and it's closed until May 1st). If it had warned us our favorite section was closed, we probably wouldn't have gone. Then again, we still had a lot of fun, so I guess it ended up being a good thing they didn't warn us on the website.

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Dinner at Bravo's

We went home to get cleaned up and changed out of our bathing suits and went to Bravo's for dinner. Ever since I discovered Plantation Iced Tea at Zia's, I've been trying it everywhere I go on the island. Some places have better P.I.T. than others.

Tonight I tired the P.I.T. at Bravo's for the first time. The good news is their P.I.T. is actually really good. The bad news is, I'm discovering it is a common thing for waiters and waitresses to forget you had PLANTATION iced tea and refill your glass with plain old icky dry unsweetened iced tea when you still had a decent half-glass-full of the good stuff left to drink. In other restaurants, I've complained and they've apologized and brought me a new glass of P.I.T. I just didn't bother tonight. I didn't want an entire 'nother glass of it that late in our meal, and our waitress was so infrequent in visiting our table, it would have delayed our departure by half an hour or more. I also thought about asking for 50% off my P.I.T. since I didn't get to finish it before she ruined it, but I dismissed that course of action for the same reason as previously mentioned.

Overall, we still love Bravo's. We were just disappointed with the service tonight. To make up for it, we went to Cold Stone to get some ice cream. :-)

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Saturday Odds and Ends

Friday for family movie night, we watched The Water Horse. It was pretty good. YB got a little bored in the middle and wandered off to play, but he came back to watch the finale. Overall, I think both boys liked it and it wasn't too scary or intense for them. Apparently they liked it enough that they wanted to watch it again today.

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Go Army! ...Not so fast.

This morning we packed up the car to take Grammy to the North Shore. On the way, we stopped to fill up the gas tank at Schofield Barracks. I pulled up to the pump and was really pleased to find they had the little locking device under the pump handle so you could prop the handle shut and not stand there holding it. At all the Navy bases I've been to in the past year or two, they have removed that device so that you HAVE to stand there holding the handle while it pumps.

So I flipped the thing on the handle and left it pumping. I opened the car door and said, "Go Army!" to LW and explained why I was so happy as I sat down in the driver seat. CLICK! The pump stopped. I got out of the car again to get the pump restarted, but it wouldn't restart. On the digital display on the pump, there was a message: "Please see attendant." Uhhh... okay.

We happened to be at the island with the little booth the attendant was in, so all I had to do was turn my head to the right 90 degrees to see him. He hollered out at me that I had to stay with the pump while it was pumping. Thbbbbbt! :-P I take back my enthusiastic "Go Army!" comment from earlier.

Jeez, it's not like I went into the store to go shopping. I was sitting RIGHT THERE. I HEARD the pump go CLICK! and immediately got out of the car to investigate. What's the point of having the little locking device thing on the pump handle if you have to stand there anyway?

On a positive note, gas was 11 cents cheaper per gallon than off base.

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It's Paid Off!

I had a feeling of satisfaction today because we got our money's worth when we bought the annual passes to Waimea Falls. We did the math and figured we needed to go three times in order to make it worth buying the annual passes, and today was our third visit.

Man on a Mission - Hiking to the Falls

It's amazing how much of a difference there is in the flowers in the botanical gardens over the course of two weeks. The flowers I took pictures of last time were mostly gone or brown and wilted, but there were at least half a dozen new blossoms along the path that weren't there last time.

LW had the camera today, so I didn't take pictures of what I saw. The photos below were taken by Forest & Kim Starr and are linked back to their website. Thank you, Forest & Kim, for granting permission for others to use the images on your website. If you click on the link, it'll take you to a sampling of other pictures of that species.

Some of the flowers I saw today were:

Gloria de Manana (ipomoea indica)

Hawaiian white hibiscus (hibiscus waimeae)

Rock's hibiscus (hibiscus ovalifolius)

Pink and purple bougainvilleas (bougainvillea spectabilis)

One new one I saw last time that I saw again today was a yellow shrimp plant (pachystachys lutea), but today there was like a ginormous bush of it.

We lucked out in that all three times we've been there, the pool under the falls has been open for swimming. They sometimes close the pool when it's been raining too much, because they get a lot of debris being washed over the waterfall.

Daddy, YB, Grammy, and ES under the waterfall

Today was actually my first time going in the water. The water was really nice - like mid-70's. I meant to bring my water shoes, but I forgot. The entry into the water is rocky and then a shallow-slope of gravel into the water. It was okay in bare feet, but it would have been more comfortable with water shoes on.

YB dries off and watches Daddy swimming.

Today was also the first time we've eaten at the Waimea Valley Grill at the welcome center to the park. The prices are a little on the high side, but the ingredients in the food were very fresh and delicious. I'm going to go back to my Waimea Falls summary post and add the menu and information about the food there for others looking for information on coming here.

This is the grill at the Waimea Valley welcome center.

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Turtle Beach

After we left Waimea, we went down to Turtle Beach. We've driven by here many times, but this is the first time we've found an open parking spot as we drove by. We've stopped here before and I've stayed in the car, but this time I got to get out and check out the turtles.
There were two of them on the beach today, both with the GPS transmitters on their backs.

Self-Portrait with the Sea Turtles

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Note to Self
: Before going to the North Shore, check the Dole Plantation website and see if there is any BIG EVENTS going on. Today was the Family Fun Day at the Dole Plantation, and traffic on the little two lane road going to the North Shore was backed up for miles. It wasn't so bad on the way heading out to the North Shore, but coming back took us a LONG time to get home creeping forward inch-by-inch.

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Quote of the Day

Quick background: I think we should outlaw Lincoln Logs from our house. Anytime one of the boys builds anything with Lincoln Logs, then it ends in a fight because whichever son didn't built it will disassemble or otherwise destroy it, and the builder will then scream bloody murder.

Fast forward to dinner tonight: The boys finish eating and excuse themselves from the table and head back to the play room where they had been playing with Lincoln Logs before dinner. LW, Grammy, and I are still sitting at the dinner table talking when we hear...


Based on his tone of voice, I can tell that ES has one of those mischievous grins on his face as he responds.

ES: I'm not breaking it.


ES: It's breaking by itself.


ES: I'm just standing on it.


LW, MIL, and me: Laughing out loud.

Me: I'm SO blogging that!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Thank You Thursday

I don't know if it'll stick, but I had a couple of things to say thanks for, so I thought I'd make it my post for Thursday.

We had our Cub Scout Pack meeting a couple of nights ago. We started off with the flag ceremony.

Then we gave out awards. Congrats to ES who earned his Astronomy belt loop and his Swimming activity pin this week.

My first note of thanks tonight goes out to Boutiki for their very generous donation to our Cub Scout Pack. We took a photo of our pack to say thank you to Boutiki.

I'm not sure why the turnout was so light. We normally have about twice as many scouts at our pack meetings.

After the group photo, we had our usual baked goods raffle. My second note of thanks goes to LW for baking the cookies that we took for the raffle. I'm not sure why I bother carrying the baked goods over there though. I buy a few raffle tickets for a few bucks, ES's number gets called, and ES always ends up picking out exactly what LW baked. I could save us the hassle of carrying it over there and back to the house again if I just gave the few bucks I normally pay for the raffle tickets to the pack. At least tonight someone else took the cookies that LW baked before they called ES's number. ES was distraught that he couldn't pick out LW's cookies and had to choose some brownies instead.

After the raffle, we went inside the community center for a special treat. We had a magician by the name of Magic Mark. His show was half silly childish comedy and half simple magic, but he was great with the kids. So my third note of thanks goes to both Magic Mark for a good show and to our Cub Master for setting it up for our pack meeting.

He "hid" the wad of toilet paper in his mouth. J wasn't fooled and is pointing to where Magic Mark "hid" it. Much to all our surprise, when he started pulling it OUT of his mouth, he pulled out NOT a wad of toilet paper, but a long string of colored handkerchiefs. For some reason the camera was taking a long time to save and recharge in between pictures, so I didn't get a picture of the colored handkerchiefs coming out of his mouth.

All in all, we had a great time at the Cub Scout Pack Meeting this week.


My last note of thanks goes to some random people at the Navy Exchange last week. One of our visiting friends from the mainland was a former submariner. He was a diesel boat guy and earned his fish back in the days when you had to do the two ascents in the dive tower. The dive tower has since been converted into a nice conference room facility, but there are historic photos all around the conference room. He was really excited when I took him to see the top of the dive tower and one of the historic photos was of his old boat, USS TIRU (SS-416).

At one point we all went shopping at the NEX, but Mr. R didn't want to do any shopping, so he just sat on a bench in the grand foyer of the NEX. I felt a little bad that we had just left him there sitting all alone and bored, but when we met back up with him, he was just glowing.

He was wearing a ballcap and shirt from one of his USS TIRU reunions. Several guys had seen his hat and stopped to talk to him about his time on diesel boats. It made his day to be able to share some sea stories with other bubbleheads. So I send a sincere thank you out to those few people who noticed the lone submarine veteran sitting on the bench and took the time to stop and talk with him. It really meant a lot to him and was undoubtedly one of the highlights of his vacation in Hawaii.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Monday Night Food and Fitness


This week, in addition to some of our new staples - tortilla soup and chicken meatballs, LW also made one of my old favorites this week that she hadn't made in a while. It was from this Cooking Light recipe she found when we lived back in Monterey. If you don't like spicy food, don't be alarmed by the word "spicy" in the recipe title. It really isn't spicy (at least by my standards). It's a chicken rubbed with some spices and cinnamon and served with a relish made of diced onions, red peppers, basil, and balsamic vinegar. According to the Cooking Light nutrition info, it's 4 points per serving on WW (one chicken breast and 1/2 cup of relish).

One of my new favorite snacks is the Organic Beef Jerky that LW found at Costco. I love beef jerky, but most of the regular stuff has MSG in it. The organic stuff is really good!


Tis the season once again when we see large groups of people mustering in PT gear near the big yellow line painted on the pavement to mark the PRT start point. We kicked off our first PRT this morning at 0630, and we're running it every day this week. I did mine this morning to get it out of the way. I did okay.

I need to pause here and say congrats to my good friend Loping Squid on his AWESOME PRT run time. (a) I've NEVER run the PRT that fast. (b) On my last PRT before I left shore duty, I set a personal record (PR) and ran it faster than I had as a midshipman, and I remember how AWESOME that felt. So I can relate to Loping Squid's feeling of accomplishment.

After I got back to my office this morning after the PRT, I was looking up my PRT score and got to wondering. Why is there a non-linear relationship between run time and score on the PRT? In order to improve your grade from a "Satisfactory" to a "Good," you only have to knock 15 seconds off your run time (14:23 to 14:08). Likewise, at the other end of the table, in order to improve your grade from "Excellent" to "Outstanding," you only have to knock 30 seconds off your run time (10:38 to 10:08). It's a lot harder in the middle of the table though. In order to improve your score from "Good" to "Excellent," you have to knock a FULL MINUTE off your run time (12:23 to 11:23).

So if I was either a borderline failure or a jack-rabbit leading the pack, then there would be incentive to try harder because 15 to 30 seconds will bump you up a grade. As a guy who typically scores in the "Good" category on the run, what incentive do I have to try and improve my run time? I got a "Good - Medium" this morning (just under 13:23). I'd have to knock a full minute off my time to get an extra 5 points and the distinction of a "Good - High", and another full minute off my time to get an "Excellent - Low."

You would think when the Navy went back and revised the PRT scoring table and divided the Satisfactory, Good, Excellent, and Outstanding grades into Low, Medium, and High sub-divisions, that they would have made the increments a little more achievable to provide incentive to improve.

Okay, I'm getting off my PRT soap box now.

More Fitness-Related Shopping

I have previously written about my quest for Under Armour running shorts. As much as I love the Escape II shorts I picked up, I decided to try something else out. For one thing, I still have a few nice pairs of cotton PT shorts that I would like to continue to use. More importantly, the Navy is about to release the all-new, officially sanctioned Navy PT Gear (see Bubblehead's post on that topic). We received a message that encourages people in leadership positions to get their official Navy PT Gear right away and set the example. Being one of those guys in a "leadership position," I suspect I'll be getting my official Navy PT Gear sooner rather than later and won't get to wear my nice Escape II UA shorts to Command PT anymore.

All that being said, I decided to try some UA HeatGear boxer jock shorts as something I can wear under my older cotton gym shorts or under the new Navy PT gear shorts. I really like them a lot and plan to buy a few more pairs. They provide the same anti-chafing comfort and support that I liked about the Escape II shorts.

When I go hiking, I want the extra pockets on my cargo shorts for my GPS receiver and cell phone (common, who can go hiking without a cell phone? :-) ), but they were never the most comfortable. However (comma) the UA boxer jock shorts work great with my cargo-shorts when I go hiking.

I don't understand UA's L, XL, XXL sizing system though. For both the Escape II shorts and the boxer jock shorts, I've had to try them on to figure out what size I really needed, and I took a different size for each type. My point: TRY THEM ON BEFORE YOU LEAVE THE STORE OR BUY MORE THAN ONE PAIR ONLINE.

Sub Ball

Wow, I haven't written anything new all week? Well, I did update the information on the sub ball posting, but no new blog posts.

LW's birthday was this week. In lieu of a birthday cake, I got her an Edible Bouquet, and it was a big hit.

We had some friends in town visiting from the mainland and were doing touristy things with them mostly. Thursday we took them on the COMPACFLT Remembrance Tour.

Memorial Flowers Adrift in the Tears of the ARIZONA

LW took this great shot at the ARIZONA Memorial - oil from the ARIZONA mixed with flower blossoms from some wreath or memorial tribute. The tour guide said the wreck continues to leak something like 9 quarts of oil per day, and they call them "The Tears of the ARIZONA."

Here I am looking at the colorful tropical fish and coral on the starboard side of the ARIZONA.

Friday night we had a great farewell dinner for our visiting friends at KoKo's restaurant in the Hale Koa hotel. If you're in the military and looking for someplace to eat in Waikiki, I highly recommend KoKo's. The food is excellent and the prices are significantly lower than any of the other places you could try going on the beach in Waikiki. We almost forgot that they shoot fireworks from the beach in Waikiki on Friday nights. We were in the car driving toward home, but got to watch them from the car.

Saturday night, we had a great time at the Submarine Birthday Ball out at the Turtle Bay Resort. LW and I left the boys at home with Grammy around 2 p.m. to head up there to the very northern tip of the island, expecting to encounter some traffic along the North Shore.

It was pretty weird pulling out of the driveway with no little boys in the car with us. It was also sorta sad that the boys didn't seem disappointed we were leaving without them, but then again Grammy did promise them ice cream.

We did encounter some traffic on the North Shore, but we got to the hotel around 3 p.m. and had time for me to use the gym at the resort while LW tried to take a nap. We didn't want to go to the cocktail hour before the ball and start drinking on an empty stomach, so we had some fries and some banana cheesecake from the Palm Terrace restaurant in the lobby and it was AWESOME.

We had a pretty good turn-out at the ball. Most of our wardroom was there.

Mighty MSP Wardroom Plus Admiral & Mrs. Walsh

In case you aren't familiar with submarine birthday ball traditions, there is always a competition for the best table centerpiece. Our centerpiece theme was the MSP Mart. As the shipyard boat in decom, we have become the spare-parts source for every other 688 Class submarine in the fleet. We had the flashing blue light to draw everyone's attention to our big Blue Light Special sale. We had some valves and switches (with Danger Tags still attached), some nuts and bolts (with a QA tag attached), various tools, the sink from the XO's stateroom. I tried to bring the door to the XO's stateroom, but it was too heavy and too cumbersome. Our centerpiece ended up being too big to fit on one of our tables, so it ended up being a side-piece on a separate table in the corner instead.

MSP Mart Centerpiece Sidepiece

Yes, that's the commode from the CO/XO Head on the boat. The A-Gangers rigged it for the Enlisted ball the night before with a fan and some brown streamers. The fan is blowing the brown streamers up out of the ball valve, and if you pull the flushing handle, it sounds an air horn. One of the RC-Div (Reactor Controls Division) guys made the "Rx Low Fuel" alarm (Rx = abbreviation for Reactor - ours is very nearly "out of gas"), complete with the red flashing lights and alarm bell that went off when we flipped a switch in the back. (See it lit up in red in our wardroom photo up above). Being the environmentally-concerned people that we are, we thought we should recycle as much of the boat as possible, so we brought a jug of "Used Hydraulic Fluid" (Captain Morgan's), a sample bottle of "Controlled Pure Water" (Vodka), and "DI Water" (Gin) among other things.

It worked out really well for us considering the prices they were charging at the cash bar. Mixed drinks were $8.75 for a six-ounce glass with about 5 ounces of ice. For $3 at the bar I could get one third of a can of soda poured into a glass full of ice, so I decided to go up to the vending machine by our hotel room and got the entire can of soda for $1.50 (STILL an outrageous amount of money for a can of soda, but half as expensive for three times as much soda).

We won the "Hyper-Nuke Award" for our centerpiece.

I don't know which was funnier...

(A) The fact that the Chop thought he would find a date for the Sub Ball on Craigslist.


(B) The fact that there REALLY WERE listings for sub ball dates on Craigslist (both M4W and W4M).

Poor Chop though, his date backed out on him because she didn't realize it was the same night as some Earth Day concert going on down in Waikiki.

LW and I felt pretty old when we found out one of the JO's wives didn't know the words to the song 867-5309.

Of course, we had to have a self-portrait.

Of course, we had to have the traditional blunoz self-portrait at the ball. This one was actually taken by LW, but I was proud of her for upholding the tradition. :-) I couldn't have done a better job myself.

I drank a lot of water and took some motrin before going to bed last night. I felt fine this morning (hangover wise), but my arms and back are really sore. LW says it's from too much dancing, but I don't buy that. In spite of the fact the hotel "blinds" (if you could call them that) could not hold back the morning sunlight, LW and I enjoyed sleeping in until 8:30.

This was the view from our hotel room balcony this morning.

We had planned on relaxing by the pool this morning, but it was just way too windy. We had a light breakfast in the lobby and wandered around the hotel a bit. Then we got showered and checked out. We avoided North Shore traffic and drove home via the windward side.

We stopped to have lunch at the infamous Giovanni's Shrimp Truck, and it was really good stuff. The story about them in the Oahu Revealed book is pretty funny. It's hard to believe that little truck is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. Their menu is pretty simple. $12 gets you a plate with 12 shrimp and two scoops of white rice, and you choose between scampi (heavy garlic), spicy, or lemon-butter. LW and I shared one plate of the scampi, and it was really good. Note: You can get their hot sauce on the side to dip the shrimp in. I'm not sure I would want an entire PLATE of the shrimp drenched in that hot sauce.

I hope you all had a good weekend! I suppose I should go do something productive now.

Submarine Birthday Ball Pearl Harbor Info

I continue to get a stream of hits from people doing Google searches for every possible variation of "when / where / why / how is the submarine birthday ball pearl harbor hawaii," so I'm going to post this at the TOP of my blog for EVERYONE'S EASY REFERENCE until the ball is over and done with.

Update 04/18/2008:

NEED A DATE? There are listings on Craigslist both M4W and W4M.

NEED A TICKET? It's not too late! One of my JO's has a spare ticket for sale, and my Chop needs a date.

UNIFORMS: In addition to the general "submarine ball" google searches, as the submarine birthday balls occurred in other home ports last weekend, I got a LOT of hits from people doing searches for "placement of mini-medals on dress uniforms" and whatnot.

Update 4/19/08: The previous link I provided to the Navy Uniform Regs has been down all day, but it just so happens the Public Health Service uniforms use the same placement. If you go here, page 22 has the same drawing of the placement of the mini-medals as the Navy Uniform Regs. Quick and simple: On the Dinner Dress White jacket, the bottom row of mini-medals goes 3 inches below the notch of the lapel.

DRESSES: There are probably a few young ladies out there who have not been to a submarine ball before, because I've had quite a few hits of people googling, "appropriate attire / type of dress for submarine ball." Check my wife's post on that topic for more details.


What: Enlisted Submarine Birthday Ball
When: Friday, 18 April
Where: Hilton Hawaiian Village.
There are a few fund-raisers going on to defray the cost of tickets for E-5 and below. One of which is the selling of commemorative Sub Ball coins.

Click on image for larger view of fliers.

What: Officer Submarine Birthday Ball
When: Saturday, 19 April
Where: Turtle Bay Resort on the northern tip of the island. Note there's a golf tournament during the day of the ball. Spouses/significant others are invited and encouraged to attend.

Click on image for larger view of the flier.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Spring is in the Air

Before I came here to Hawaii, I didn't think there were seasons in Hawaii. I thought it was just tropical summer weather year round.

The first "season" I learned about here was the North Shore surf season. The big surf and big surf competitions happen in the winter, and it's downright dangerous to try swimming off the North Shore in the winter. In the summer, I hear there are some excellent snorkel and scuba diving spots on the North Shore.

The next season I found out about were the whales. They only come down here in the winter.

In both of those cases though, it's due to changing seasons somewhere else that cause the big waves or the big whales to come across the ocean to Hawaii. I didn't expect to encounter any changes in the plant life because they're stuck here 24-7-365, and the weather sure doesn't seem to change much. I was really impressed by some of the flowers we saw today, but I'll get to that in a minute. I started typing and this just sort of evolved into a recap of our sightseeing trip around Oahu today. However (comma) you will see that "spring is in the air" theme pop up a few times in the course of our adventures today.

Quick Synopsis: Well, today we took our visiting friends on the Tour de Oahu. We did a counter-clockwise tour of the Windward side and the North Shore. We started by going up over H-3 to Kaneohe and went to the Byodo-In Temple. Then we continued up the coast to the Tropical Farms tour. Then we went up around the northern tip of the island past the Giovanni's shrimp truck and down the North Shore to Waimea Falls and Turtle Beach. We wrapped it up with dinner at Breakers in Haleiwa before coming back home via H-2.

First Stop: Byodo-In Temple
(Photo by LW. Click on image for larger hi-res view)

At our first stop at the Byodo In Temple, we were admiring the fish in the pond and almost had a CC moment when first a pair of frogs and then a pair of turtles swam by. The boys thought it was pretty funny that the frogs and turtles were giving each other "piggy back rides." (Nudge, Nudge, Wink, Wink, Say No More).

Boys watch the fish, frogs, and turtles.

ES took this picture of YB and LW. I thought it came out really nice.

I included this shot not because it's that great a picture, but just because I know you're curious how YB's picture came out from the previous shot.

For more pictures of the Byodo-In Temple, check out my previous post on our last visit.

Second Stop: Tropical Farms

It occurred to me that the last time we went to Tropical Farms was before I started blogging, so I don't have a previous blog post to reference. Tropical Farms is a hidden gem on the windward side that I highly recommend. I think it's one of Oahu's best kept secrets right now. When I did a Google search to try and find their hours and tour information, I found nothing. It's not even mentioned in the Oahu Revealed book. So for anyone else searching for information about it, here are the basics:

What: Ali'i Tour
Business Hours
: 7 days a week, 10:45 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Except on Tuesdays when there is only ONE tour at 10:45.
Time: The tour lasts 1 hour.
Cost: The shop is free with lots of free coffee and free macadamia nut samples (see below). The bus tour costs $15, and it's worth it.
Directions: It's about 8 miles up the Kahekili Highway heading toward the Polynesian Cultural Center from Kaneohe. It'll be on the right hand side before the park that looks out at the Chinaman's Hat island. If you get to where you can see the open ocean and the Chinaman's Hat is behind you, or if you get to the Kualoa Ranch visitor's center, then you went too far.

You need to keep a sharp eye out. The sign on the road isn't fancy.

In the outlet shop, you'll find a delicious assortment of macadamia nuts with free samples.

You'll also find complimentary Kona coffee.

Here comes the tour bus!

This is "The Chief" and your tour guide. He's a really funny guy. In fact, he's just started a new Polynesian Comedy show on the weekends in Waikiki. First he drives you through the farm and points out several different types of plants found in Hawaii and what they are used for.

Next, the bus drops you off at this little amphitheater for a show. They teach you about some Hawaiian customs and foods, and they teach you to shuck a coconut.

Our friend J and another member of the audience try the fresh coconut juice.

The Chief shaves off fresh coconut into your hands.
Mmmmmm! :-9

They show you how to rub sticks together to make fire, then do some really cool stunts with a twirling fire-baton.

Spring is in the air.

After the show in the amphitheater, they take you on a short boat ride around the fish pond and talk about the history of the fish pond and the recent film-making history of the area.

This is where they filmed Gilligan's Island, Fantasy Island, Lost, 50 First Dates, Tears of the Sun, an episode of ER (set in Africa), Joe Versus the Volcano, Mighty Jo Young, Along Came Polly... I lost track he just kept listing so many different shows. The history behind how the man-made pond was created and used for fishing was pretty interesting, too.

After the boat ride, you get back on the bus and the Chief takes you through the fruit trees. He stops in a couple of places to walk out and pick some samples for you to try. On the "spring is in the air" theme, we got to see quite a few more types of fruit than our previous visit to Tropical Farms. Last time we came, we got to try star fruit, and it was REALLY good. This time, the Chief said the star fruit are out of season, but there were plenty other fruits for us to try.

Chief hands out oranges to the people on the tour bus.

These little half-green oranges were actually really good.

Next up: Guavas!

I had never tried a guava before. It turns out, you just bite into them just like an apple. It was actually really good! At this point, YB was VERY excited because he had collected two of the three ingredients of his favorite POG juice.

He wanted to save them and take them home to make his own POG juice.

Anyway, you're probably saying to yourself, "Self, is he EVER going to stop talking about the Tropical Farms tour???" Yes. Yes, I am. Suffice to say, it's a great tour and I've tremendously enjoyed it both times we've done it.

From the Tropical Farms tour, we continued north along the coast past the Kualoa Ranch and the Polynesian Cultural Center. None of our visitors like shrimp, so we did not stop at the famous Giovanni's shrimp truck. We just ate our picnic lunch as we enjoyed the scenery of the drive over to the North Shore.

Third Stop: Waimea Falls / Audubon Society Botanical Gardens.

I've previously written about how much we liked the Waimea Falls hike. However, along the "spring is in the air" theme, I really enjoyed the beautiful flowers that were out this time that weren't out last time we went.

This Canna was the first to grab my attention.

There were lots of these pretty ginger blossoms.

I think this is heliconia. The sign was about heliconia and ginger, and I know the other one was ginger, so I guessed this one was the heliconia.

Of course, bird of paradise and hibiscus.

These didn't have signs next to them, so I'm not sure what they are.

LW, YB, ES, and our friend J swimming under the waterfall.

ES dries off after swimming under the falls.

J is a Spanish teacher, and ES has been getting Spanish on Tuesdays and Thursdays in school. On our way walking back to the car from the falls, ES impressed J with his vast Spanish vocabulary.
Talkin' shop.

A sign of the age we live in: Noticing the forward curvature of the peacock's feathers, one kid looking at the peacock said it looked like a satellite dish.

We stopped briefly at the Turtle Beach before we continued down to Haleiwa for dinner. I thought it was really cool the turtles had little GPS transmitters on their backs. (Yes, I'm a techno-gadget geek).

We've been to Breakers a couple of times now, and I've been very pleased with the quality of their food and service, the reasonable prices, the variety on their menu (both in terms of types of food and price), and the absence of a long wait. The reason we went here the first time was because of the long wait at the other nearby popular restaurants. If you're looking for a place to eat on the North Shore, I recommend either Breakers or Jameson's. (Breakers being the less expensive of the two).

Okay, that's it for today's adventures. Hope you all had a good weekend!