North Hawaii Sites

May 21, 2016 – We started our day with great espresso drinks and bagels (and avocado) at the Waimea Coffee Company.  They don’t have a ton of tables, but we had no problem finding a spot to eat outside.  Tony enjoyed an everything bagel with egg, cheese, bacon, and avocado, while Louisa had an everything bagel with cream cheese, veggies and pesto.  The pesto was also very good.

We started the drive with a rainbow.
We started the drive with a rainbow.

Today was a driving day, exploring a few different sites in north Hawaii.  First up was Puukohola Heiau, about 20 minutes from out lodging.  Yes, we drove there with the convertible top down, the weather was perfect.  The heiau is still very important to native Hawaiians, and only people there for religious ceremonies can enter the ruins.  The rest of us can walk pretty close to them though, and also follow the short trail towards the water.  Historians think the protected cove used to be the site of an older town/center of power, but nothing remains of it now.

We couldn't enter the main part of the site, but walking around the grounds was fair game.
We couldn’t enter the main part of the site, but walking around the grounds was fair game.

Instead of going right back to the car we kept walking through a little park, apparently people can just set up their campsites wherever they want.  A handful of people were enjoying the gorgeous weekend by the little beach.  That beach was perfect – beautiful water, white sand, shade, and a foot rinse station.

The one advantage of an island is ample coastline.
The one advantage of an island is ample coastline.

Along Rt 270 we found a random beach with white and black volcanic rock, so we stopped to take a few photos and admire the turquoise water before continuing on to Lapakahi State Historical Park.  It’s the site of an old settlement, with old building foundations and a beautiful view.  Also, flies.  Lots and lots of flies.

See, here's more.
See, here’s more.

By now it was raining, so we stopped at Kohala Coffee Mill in Hawi for a coconut macaroon, a mocha and a cafe au lait.  By then the rain had stopped, so we headed over to the Pololu Valley Overlook.  We found a parking spot, got our hiking shoes on, and almost immediately realized that the trail was going to be a little too slick for us.

The slick trail kept us from the valley, but we came back a few days later.
The slick trail kept us from the valley, but we came back a few days later.

Instead we drove back into town to get lunch at Sushi Rock.  We were hungry and everything looked good, so we got ahi nigiri and the Waimea platter.  The ahi was fabulous,  with a dab of wasabi underneath the fish.  The platter was a chef’s choice selection of four rolls, including spicy tuna, mahi, the hokey pokey with ahi poke, shrimp, cucumber, lime aioli, and cilantro, and unagi.

You will find some birds here that aren't present on the mainland.
You will find some birds here that aren’t present on the mainland.

After lunch we parked by the airport a few minutes away and walked to within site of the Mo’okini Heiau.  There is a road, but it’s really best for four wheel drive vehicles.  By then we were ready to head back through the hills, taking a shortcut to Waimea. Our destination for dinner was at Luna’s, a very nice Italian restaurant with fantastic home made pasta and good garlic bread.

Big Island Arrival – Kona and Waimea

May 20, 2016 – Our flight to the Big Island (Kona), via CA, left at 7am Friday morning.  That gave us time to get breakfast at Einstein’s Bagels in Boise, and a (much better) coffee fueled breakfast from Peet’s Coffee in San Francisco.  Peet’s has a new iced drink with sweetened condensed milk and coconut flavoring; it’s excellent, particularly when you’re not fully awake.

We were feeling pretty good after some coffee treats at the airport.
We were feeling pretty good after some coffee treats at the airport.

Our flight to Kona was uneventful, with the biggest surprise for us being how close we flew to Maui.  Despite all our research, we didn’t realize how close the islands were to each other. Kona’s airport is open air, and it was 85ish and rather humid when we landed.  Tony went to go get our rental car while Louisa waited for the luggage.  Somehow Tony got a mustang convertible, our luggage showed up slightly damp from the humidity, and we headed into the construction zone in search of food.  With the traffic we had some time to admire the lava field to our left, the view of the ocean, and the gorgeous flowering shrubs.

More cars need to have seat coolers.
More cars need to have seat coolers.

Lunch was at Umeke’s Bowls and Rolls.  The sushi was really good, although we weren’t a fan of the chirashi bowl (the shrimp and rice were good, as was the ahi, but the other fish was quite fishy; however, it did give us a chance to try various types of seaweed and flavored tofu).

There is no shortage of colorful flowers on the island.
There is no shortage of colorful flowers on the island.

After lunch we drove another half mile down the road to the marina and the trail to Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park.  We parked at the marina to save a mile round trip walk through the shadeless lava field.  This also meant we were only a short walk from a beautiful beach and a reconstructed fish drying lean-to.  We saw the foundations of old buildings, a petroglyph, cardinals, and heard other birds.  After a bit of being outside though we decided to see if it was cooler up north, and headed to our B&B in Waimea.  Overall we preferred Waimea, although we enjoyed north Kona.  Waimea was a bit smaller and quieter, in the hills, was cooler, and had great views.

The ocean can be helpful for getting accustomed to the high heat and humidity.
The ocean can be helpful for getting accustomed to the high heat and humidity.

For dinner we tried to go to Big Island Brewhaus.  Maybe doing this on Friday night wasn’t a great idea, since it was both very crowded and very loud.  The classic beers are good, but the orange chocolate stout is really sweet (too sweet for our tastes).  The food was good however, particularly the fish sticks and the burgers and fries.  We got the food to go and ate it on the porch overlooking the town and out towards Mauna Loa.

We had a great spot for dinner on the porch.
We had a great spot for dinner on the porch.

We were surprised how windy the town got as soon as the sun went down.  By morning some of the flowers had lost their petals, and an orange and a few avocados fell.

Las Vegas to Death Valley

April 24, 2016 – We wanted to experience a buffet in Las Vegas, and decided to enjoy the breakfast buffet at Red Rocks.  The buffet was quite good, with hash, eggs Benedict, very good doughnuts, fruit, pastries, and of course, coffee and juice.

It didn't take long for the rain to roll into Red Rocks.
It didn’t take long for the rain to roll into Red Rocks.

After breakfast we thought we would do some exploring at Red Rocks park.  While we had some great views, the storms rolled in earlier than expected.  Hiking in the cold rain and wind (and without rain gear) didn’t sound too appealing.  Instead we got gas station taquitos and Barq’s rootbeer and headed out to Death Valley.

Thankfully, the storms did not reach Death Valley.
Thankfully, the storms did not reach Death Valley.

This was the first time we’d been to Death Valley, and while it was past peak wildflower season we did get to see some yellow and white ones.  The different colored rocks were quite pretty as well, particularly the bands of green running through the browns and reds.  We had a flight to catch that night, so didn’t stay long.  Highlights of our time in the park were watching a raven land on our car’s mirror, and doing a short walk up a dirt road.  The sun was warm today although the air was cool, we couldn’t imagine being here in the summer.

Expect to see some cracked mud and earth from the dryness here.
Expect to see some cracked mud and earth from the dryness here.

Dinner was burgers, mac n cheese, and more beer at Yard House, conveniently located near the airport.

Lake Powell and Vermillion Cliffs National Monument

April 23, 2016 – Today’s adventure was another driving trip, this time through Lake Powell and over to Vermilion Cliffs.  Lake Powell was beautiful, with a nice dam and a few hiking trails.  First we stopped at Ranch House Grille in Page, AZ for breakfast.  Their coffee was nice and strong, and we got pork green chile omelets, topped with more green chile, hash browns, and toast.  Well, Louisa got a biscuit and sausage gravy instead of toast, and insisted it was the best biscuit she’d had since Early Girl Eatery in Asheville, NC.

It was a great day for a red rock hike.
It was a great day for a red rock hike.

After lunch we headed down the road for a short hike, the highlight of which was seeing the largest wild lizard we’ve ever seen.  He must have been at least a foot and a half long, and looked like a mini Komodo Dragon.

This was certainly a big lizard.
This was certainly a big lizard.

We took the long way around back to our hotel, driving near Vermilion Cliffs National Monument along the way.  We were hoping for some hiking, but didn’t find any trails.  After a drive down a dirt road, we found a little road and a dry creek bed to walk down.

There are different varieties of birds in the Southwest.
There are different varieties of birds in the Southwest.

No road trip would be complete without a trip to In ‘n Out burger, where we stopped on our drive back to Las Vegas.  Our lodging for the next few nights was Red Rocks Casino.  The rooms are still very nice (we had a view of the red rocks), though we could do without walking through the smoke-filled casino.  However, Yard House had great ventilation, no smoke smell, and great beer on draft.