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Monday, August 18, 2014

The First State is Literally the First State.

I often dream about water. And most of the time, the dreams are very much the same. I am driving in my car, and I drive out onto a bridge. That part is fine. But somewhere along the way, the bridge starts to change. Sometimes it becomes a large roller coaster. Sometimes it goes straight down into the water and I drive my car into the deep wonderinging if I can ever find my way back out again. It is petrifying. 

So you can imagine what it was like for me to cross the Chesapeake Bay at the bridge/tunnel combination in Virginia Beach. I actually paid fifteen dollars in tolls to ride across that thing….and into two tunnels. To me, there isn’t much that is more daunting than to turn a corner and see your bridge end in the middle of the water. 

But much unlike my dreams, I actually came out of the water into a beautiful sunset on the eastern shore of the Chesapeake Bay and it made the drive up the peninsula to Lewes, Delaware so much more enjoyable. I’ve never actually explored Delaware and luckily my buddy from way back lives there. His name is Keith and he turns out to be an excellent tour guide.

Monday morning as I tried to get my wits about me, Keith suggested we take a walk out on the beach. So, we jumped in his truck and headed to Henlopen State Park. This park is beautiful. It was once a "fort" during World War II and there are still turrets on the beach.  I am sure that it gets crowded during the summer. There are several places you can take the dog out for a stroll as long as he stays on the leash, as well as camping and hiking. Despite the leash law, Marley enjoyed himself in the sand. 

We then headed into downtown Lewes (for those of you like me who didn’t know, it’s pronounced like Louis or Lewis). We ate breakfast at a lovely little place called the Nectar Cafe and Juice Bar. We didn’t have juice. I had the largest portion of blueberry pancakes I have ever seen and Keith had the bourbon and cream french toast. I could only eat one of the pancakes, but Keith was quite successful with his. We were then ready for our biggest adventure of the day: Pirates on the High Seas!!

Ok, so the high seas turn out to be Delaware Bay on a replica of the Kalmar Nyckel, the first ship from Sweden coming to the new world and bringing with it a load of colonists who founded New Sweden in what is now Wilmington, Delaware. The replica makes two trips a day out on to the Bay and one of them is a pirate voyage. The crew dresses as pirates and leads the passengers in sea shanties and stories of piracy. Granted, it’s geared more toward children, but Keith made it ours when he pulled out two beers. Turns out, you can bring your own grog!!

The cruise is about two hours long and that day there was very little wind. But we did get dolphins in our wake and on the side of the boat. Captain Lauren is very knowledgable and personable and it was even fascinating to watch her train her crew. 

We ended our fantastic day at a waterfront pub called Irish Eyes. It was perfect because it was outside, allowed dogs on the porch, and had a good selection of beer. We spent the evening with Keith’s friend Sig (I’ve probably taken liberties with the spelling) talking, eating and watching the sun set over the canal. It was the perfect ending to a perfect day.

Some Pics courtesy of Keith Jones at KeithJoneswoodworking.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

A New Journey

I was looking back at this travel blog and realized that it’s been over a year since I posted and I wonder what happened. I didn’t even document my trip to Honduras. But I think I realize what happened. I got stuck. I got stuck in a place I did not belong and truth be told, I was somewhat miserable there. I just didn’t know it.

I had these grand dreams of settling down and starting a family. But the Universe has other plans for me. She has a harsh way of showing me reality, but truthfully I would have never left if she didn’t. 

Recently I picked up a copy of Tales of a Female Nomad by Rita Goldman Gelman and became enthralled. Here is a woman who at 47 years old sells all of her possessions and begins a life of travel. She has no real home and enjoys only staying in places for no more than 6 months at at time. I realized that I miss traveling. I miss the adventure of meeting new people, and trying new food, and new adventures. Perhaps I have become too accustomed to warm showers and soft beds. Perhaps I am antsy and unhappy because I am in one place for too long or holding on to too much.

This year I have had to let go of my home, a relationship, a family, some possessions, and recently, my long time companion puppy of 14 years. See, in my life I have always had plan B if things didn’t work out. This time, I don’t have plan B. As a matter of fact, I have no plan at all. It’s the first time in my life that I don’t have a plan. And I am unnerved by it. 

But this week, I had to do one of the hardest things I have ever had to do in my life. I had to release my Emma Girl, my first real pet and and greatest companion. But in doing this act of compassion, she gave me a gift as well.  She helped me see that letting go of everything else was going to be easy. All I had to do was trust in myself and the Universe. 

So now, I am ready to hit the road again. But instead of doing something across an ocean, I’m going to get in my car. The general plan is to head north. I have always wanted to visit New England and it being August and I have this issue with really cold weather, I think this is the perfect time to go. Marley, my other faithful four-legged companion is going to accompany me on the trip. I have tentative plans of stopping and visiting a few friends in Delaware and Pennsylvania, but other than that there is no plan. There are no reservations, there are no planned routes. There is just me, my dog, and the Goddess guiding me through.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Never underestimate the power of a volcano Goddess

One of the coolest things about this island is that there is new life--new land-- being created here everyday. I was offered the opportunity to hike down to the lava flow down past Kalapana a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, Pele had other plans for me that day and so she allowed some “clearing” to happen through an upset stomach. So I would have to see her another time.

Last Wednesday, I decided it was time to see her again so I decided to take a hike down the Kilauea Iki Trail (in Volcanoes National Park) which just means “little Kilauea.” I had heard and read such incredible things about this trail, so I decided that I should go for it since it was a day where not much was happening. Both Candy and Julie had to work, so I was on my own.

Side note: 
For some of you more spiritual people out there, you will note that Pele is the Goddess of fire, lightening, wind and volcanoes. She used her stick to bring the “fire” that created the Hawaiian Islands. Anyway, I know that I have been harboring anger for awhile and this was one of those things I decided to work on while I was here. What better way to do this through Pele....right?

The hike itself is only 3 miles long. But understand that 3 miles in Hawaii is not the same as 3 miles back home in North Carolina.  Thirty minutes here does not equal 30 minutes anywhere else in the world. There is definitely a space-time differentiation pattern here. This hike would be more than just a hike for sure. I had the entire day to do it. What was going to be fun was that there was an altitude change of over 1200 feet. 

I had been told by guide books and other experienced hikers (Julie) to take the route to the right. This way you go down stairs to the crater and up a slant as you make the loop back to the parking lot. Best advice ever. 

It was a crowded day in the park which makes meditation and seclusion difficult but I tried to just go with it. I met many hikers coming back looking worse for wear; they had no water and some had children. I wondered if they had gotten lost or taken the wrong trail. I was told to take food and plenty of water on this hike too. The guide books suggested rain gear, but for some reason, this made no sense to me. It now does.

I headed down into the rainforest listening to the birds, feeling the breeze and it did begin to drizzle a little. But it does rain in a rainforest. About a mile or so into the hike, you begin your descent down to the crater and it gets a bit steep. I met a family coming up and could hear the cries of a young kid yelling “there’s more steps, mommy!” and the murmurs of the mom saying “ok, we’re coming.”

Then when you reach the bottom, it opens up into a vastness of lava like nothing I have ever seen before. 

Now this is where the issues began...really. Or at least where I began to feel them. First of all, I had to go to urinate...badly, despite the fact that I went before I started the hike. Julie had told me that I probably wouldn’t have to because of the heat, but I like to drink a lot of water. Now I was in a vast open space and there was no where to go but up or down. As I said before, there were a lot of people in the park, so there was really no where to go where I would not be seen. I could find a huge rock to go behind, but there was a lookout above me where countless tourists were unloading busses and taking pictures. That would make an interesting story for someone. I refused to ascend those steps, so I headed out across the crater hoping that I would not be so miserable and that I could find a place to go. 

The crater was amazing. It was also a difficult hike. From up high, the path looks pretty smooth, but it is not. It is rough and uneven and not a place for a stroller (which some dude was carrying on his back). The closer I got to the steam vents, the warmer it got, but it was not really hot. I didn’t get too close to the vents; after all, sulfur dioxide is not exactly good for you. I stood in the vast crater just looking all around me. And then it came.

A wall of white mist. Well, it looked like mist at first. It was, in fact, rain and all I could do was just stand there and watch it come. I did not have rain gear--all I had was a hat and it was already on. So here I am, in the middle of a crater with a HUGE urge to pee, tired, cranky, working out anger issues and I am about to be drenched. Awesome.

Great Pele, just freaking great. This is about the time where the expletives began. But what can you do? I begged Pele for a spot to squat and her response was NOT ON MY CRATER!! I swore that when I reached the cover of the rainforest, I would squat as soon as I got a chance. I had a walking stick that I had prepared for the lava walk, as I I trudged though the rock and rain and banged that stick on the ground cursing and screaming (in my mind) all the way to the exit point. This, and the cursing of the goddess, is what I would soon regret.

After waiting for many people to pass me on the trail, and two switchbacks, I finally found a place behind a tree to relieve myself. At that point I was thanking Pele and releasing a load of water and tension in my body. I made my way back up to the park slowly, because the 600 foot ascent is tough. I made it back to the parking lot and to the car where I dogged the egg salad sandwich that Julie had made for me and sucked down some water. I was feeling pretty accomplished. I was feeling pretty darn good!

When I got back, I told my friends the story of how I trekked through the crater, angry with myself and swearing at Pele. They were not amused. Or maybe they were because they giggled and told me I was in for it. Pele would have her vengeance. You don’t hike though her home swearing at her. That was just wrong.

I, however, did not feel it was such an awful thing. I mean, the whole reason I wanted to commune with Pele was to work through some of this anger that I had had for so long and Pele would help me though it. She would show me the way....right?

I blew it off. I came home and was delighted to find that the banana tree in the back was ready to harvest the bananas. Julie grabbed the saw and pulled the tree down as I sawed through the branch and we pulled them down. The banana tree juice ran down my arms and hands as I pulled the bunch up and hung it from the back. It was a really good day. I went into the house and took my clothes off to shower. I threw them in the hamper not thinking another thing about it. Why should I?

A week later, I pull my clothes from the washer to hang them on the line and find...this:

What the.......??!!

The stain was only on these clothes--nothing else in the load, so it couldn’t be anything left in our pockets. We wracked our brains trying to figure out what the heck happened. I wasn’t too bummed about the shirt--after all, I had only spent about 5 bucks on it at the Walmart. But the shorts...I loved those shorts.

Pele had smote me. Hard. That was the only explanation. I wondered then if I should make amends, but the damage was already done. “Just let it be,” Julie tells me. I was ok with that.

As it turns out, I’m not sure if Pele got her revenge, or the banana tree did, or both. As it turns out, the sap from a banana tree leaves stains that are very hard to remove from your clothes. They did not show up right away and since I just threw my clothes in the hamper, I totally wasn’t able to treat them. At any rate, I have found that you most often get what you give. I had to give up my favorite shorts for some anger release and really good bananas. It was worth it.

Lessons learned

At the end of the hike, this is how the crater looked.

For more crater pics, click here.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Action in between the Polynesian Paralysis

Time flies by here. Before you know it, a week or even two has come and gone. I sit here this morning wondering what exactly I've been doing those days. I can tell you that there has been snorkeling and reading involved. Other than that, there is one particular day that stood out. I think the Polynesian Paralysis has kicked in.

Saturday, June 30th, the Pu'uhonua o Honaunau National Park had a day of cultural events. The park is located on the southern part of the island, south of Kona and took us 3 hours to drive to it. They had all sorts of fun things to do like make baskets and hats, hula dancing, eating sea urchins, making flutes, ipus, and pu'ohe (bamboo horn). Julie and I were able to make both the ipu and the pu'ohe before they ran out of supplies.  The entire park was beautiful and offered a great many details into the area and the history of the Hawaiian people. If you ever make it here, I highly recommend you visit this place. The beauty alone is worth it!

Afterwards, Julie and I were hungry, so we stopped in at the Kona Coffee House and Cafe that was just up the road. Good grinds!
We both were looking for some snorkel time and we had heard that some of the best snorkeling was to be done right outside the park. Unfortunately, it was a Saturday, and EVERYONE was at the park. I was not feeling the crowds, so we headed north back into Kona to shop and find another place to snorkel. We ended up that afternoon at a place called 69 Beach. This is a fantastic place to relax and snorkel. The beach has paved access to the road and facilities if you need them. The beach is surrounded by trees and rocks, but it's sandy and it's easy to get into the water. We took our snorkel gear out and swam around for at least a half hour. Then we relaxed on the beach and watched the kids play in the surf.

On the way back home, I was gifted with my first Hawaiian Rainbow!

I wanted to get back to Honomu by 7pm because the local Honwanji was hosting a Bon Dance. This festival has its roots in Japanese Buddhism and is a time where people gather to dance for their ancestors. They serve food (hot dogs, chili and this stuff called saimin which is pretty much fish and noodle soup) and people dance in a circle to music. The best part is when the live musicans come out to play. At that time, EVERYBODY gets involved. I did not, but I did get some good video footage.

When Sunday came along, I sank back into my beach chair and enjoyed the water and people on Reeds Bay. I tried out a standup board, but found that standing on water is not my thing. I'll float and swim and even sit next to the water, but I will leave the standing for the Hawaiians. Now, back to my book.

More photos of our adventures can be found here.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Sunday--not exactly a day of rest.

Our diving was supposed to be completed by Saturday, but sometimes things don't go exactly as planned on this island. But we wanted some time to get Ardra up to the volcano and you cannot dive and do the volcano the same day due to the rise in elevation at Volcano National Park. So, Phillip gave us Sunday off.

So what did we do? Candance found out early that there were 3 spots open on the morning tour at Skyline Akaka Falls Zipline, so we walked down the hill from our house and hopped on the tour. I have to say, this was the coolest experience so far! Compared to diving, it was a breeze. The fact that on some of the lines you are suspended hundreds of feet in the air did not bother me at all. In fact, it was an awesome ride!

After the ziplining, we headed over to Richardson's beach for a picnic and sunbathing. There was a bit of snorkeling involved, but mostly we just floated in the water and talked. The beaches were crowded, but the views were nice. We only stayed a few hours since we needed to feed the dogs and shower before we headed to volcano. Our plan was to get there a little before dark to see the crater and walk around and then if all worked out, the supermoon would rise over the crater and we would see it with the glow of the lava lake.

As usual, Volcano is a bit chilly. Not everyplace in Hawaii is warm and sunny! The higher elevations make it chillier and then there is the wind. I had on my longest shorts and a sweatshirt, and was cold. Everyone else had on long pants--and was still cold! But we got some great shots of us by the smoke.
Unfortunately, as the sun set, the moon did not want to show herself just yet, so we took Ardra to the Thurston Lava Tube. I love this magical cave! The walk to it in the dark is quite a different experience, but fortunately, the path is paved and we navigated ourselves by the lights of our cell phones.

By then, it was after 8pm and we were hungry so we headed into Volcano town to eat at the Thai Thai Restaurant. We had plenty of time to relax and eat since the park never closes. When we were finished, we headed back up the hill to see if the moon wanted to come out and play. Luckily for us, it did.
The drive back to Honomu takes about 45 minutes and it was all I could do to stay awake. It was totally worth the trip to see the glow of Kilauea for the first time on the night of the supermoon. This day will be very hard to forget.

Wanna see further pics of the trip? Click here.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Dive Time: 3 hours=5 days

Well, Wednesday arrived and I finally made it two hours late. All of the flights went well until I reached LA, where the plane had some malfunctions and we could not board. The bad news--that was the only flight to Hilo. The good news--they found another plane to put us on. We left a few hours late, but at least I was going to make it that night!

Thursday morning hit pretty hard. I would have loved to sleep in a little, but my clock was still running on EST, so I was up at 530am. We had the first adventure planned at 930 with diving lessons! We (Ardra and I) decided that since we were going to be in Hawaii and Honduras this summer, why not get certified and check out the underwater life. Had I known all that was involved in this adventure, I probably would have put it off. However, I am not sorry I did.
Our guide, Phillip, in the back with Ardra and Jaya.

Our instructor, Phillip, took us to a locals beach just up the road from East Hawaii Watersports that rented us our equipment. We were learning all about diving and were in the water within the first hour! I have to say that this is one of the hardest things for me to do. It screws with you mind--I mean, we're not supposed to be able to breathe underwater! However, we did have a fabulous instructor, and by the 3rd lesson, I was feeling much more comfortable with all the equipment. We saw lots of wildlife including coral and fish and Ardra even saw some sea turtles. You will have to wait on the pictures though. I don't own an underwater digital camera.
Last dive: Heading out

Our lessons lasted around 5 hours every day, so we spent the better part of our time the first week in the water. We took a day off on Sunday (will post that entry later) but on Monday, we finished up--well, Ardra finsihed up. My ears were stuffed up and making it down to 60 feet was not going to be fun. But I will make my final dive while I am here. We both took the test and passed and Ardra was able to leave Tuesday a certified diver. She was thrilled not to have to take that mask off underwater anymore. As for me, one more dive and I will be set. Meanwhile, I think I will take the next few days to relax and enjoy the energy of the island.

I took a little video of them swimming out and coming back. If you want to see, click here.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Busted flat in DC; waiting for a plane.

I’m baaacccckkk!

After a 6 month hiatus (stupid day job cuts into my traveling) I am back in the airports headed off to my next adventure. This time, I will have a Big Island summer seeing as how I am going to spend a month on the big island in Hawaii. I bought my tickets 3 months ago and carefully selected my seats for the LONG ride. So imagine my dismay as I write this in the Newark Airport on the 19th of June when I was supposed to arrive in Hilo, Hawaii on the 18th of June. Apparently, I did not offer the correct sacrifice or offering to the travel gods. After about 6 delays, my flight was cancelled due to airplane malfunctions. Guess it’s better to be stuck somewhere than on a faulty plane. 

I can think of worse places to be stuck than Washington DC. When life deals you lemons, you put in your big girl panties and deal with it. So after getting settled in the hotel (which included changing clothes, making several phone calls, and crying uncontrollably on the hotel room floor) I dug my sneakers out of my luggage and caught  the hotel will shuttle to the metro station. 

I have been around DC many times, but I am most familiar with Dupont Circle and Adams Morgan, so I headed that way. Dupont Circle is probably my favorite area with all its eclectic shops, cool bookstores and foreign restaurants. I finally arrived in the neighborhood about 4 pm and realized that I hadn’t eaten since 930 that morning. I walked the half mile up to Adams Morgan to a small cafe called Keren. I found it on my Yelp app. It got good reviews and was cheap. My kind of place. 

I ordered the veggie enjera and it was enough for 2 people! I sat for a while reading the reviews on Yelp and  they recommend the coffee; so of course I indulged.  I was not disappointed. This place is awesome. The locals come to hang out with the owners and although I did not ask, it seems to be family owned. It sits on a major corner so you can sit and watch the people go by. So I did and listened to the soft accents of the people around me. It was a welcome relaxation time.

I walked the half mile back down to the circle and walked around for a while working off my lunch. I remember times walking thought this area dreaming of a time when I would live in one of the houses with the cute square foot gardens in the front. I would park my car permanently and walk to the metro station everyday for my morning commute. I would lose weight that way--if I didn’t eat out every night and there would always be something to do and see. My how times change. I enjoy being a tourist in DC, but glad I don’t live here full time. It is busy and noisy and there is so much going on--and that’s nice when I visit. But I do enjoy the quiet street and the countryside. 

I ended up at Kramerbooks and Afterwards where I bought a paperback and sat in the cafe sampling the draft beer (to counteract that coffee I had earlier). I have always liked this bookstore and the food is excellent. I was suddenly reminded that I have a one beer limit right after I ordered the second beer and decided I needed a little something to sober me up enough to catch the metro back to my hotel. I ended my night with key lime pie.

So, not a bad day at all considering I was supposed to be on a 12 hour flight to Hawaii. Hopefully, I will arrive tonight, 24 hours later than planned, but will be there nonetheless.  I have been looking forward to this trip since I returned from winter break and it will be great to see my loved ones waiting for me at the baggage claim. Come on Universe. I have been patient. Please help me out. 
Maybe Tom Cruise can help me out....