Biggest Ball of String

Our road trip adventures, quirky roadside attractions, generally in the United States or Canada (and with occasional travel off the mainland into Hawaii, Alaska, Caribbean and Europe – so far)


I canNOT imagine why I haven’t started geocaching  before now.   It seems like the PERFECT blend – Biggest Ball of String roadside attractions andCutest Ball of String Geocaching sites! How many have I missed already???

What is Geocaching?  Well, according to the geocaching site, it’s: “a real-world, outdoor treasure hunting game using GPS-enabled devices. Participants navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and then attempt to find the geocache (container) hidden at that location.”

Basically, it’s a world-wide (185 countries, at least) scavenger hunt! but, instead of taking something from a location, you leave something there!  Someone, at some point (it can be you!) has set up a secret hiding place, with a geocache locator, and the treasure hunter has to find it! (There’s GPS coordinates, for the treasure map.)  Once you find the treasure, you can sign the log-in sheet (so carry a pencil with you), log your location (on the geocache site), add a treasure to the “treasure chest” (if that’s an option at the location), and put everything back exactly as you found it, so the next person can try to find it!

In my research, it seems that hiding places can be anywhere – on a chair in a tree, buried in a hollowed out fence post, basic containers set under a bush, in a fairy house… (see here for “19 Ridiculously Creative Geocache Containers“.)

There are 2 geocache sites hereThere are some very important rules, especially about leaving things:

~ This is to be an environmentally friendly game, so people are encouraged not only to NOT leave litter, etc., but to pick up any that they encounter.
~ Treasures left in a geocache container must be family-friendly, no food, and no weaponry (it’s too bad that these things have to be stated, but completely necessary, I suppose)
~ You can trade a treasure for a treasure, but you have to trade equal or increased value – (no taking an ancient artifact and replacing with a leaf you just picked from the nearby tree.)

I wish I had’ve started this sooner! I actually accidentally found one while snorkelling in Hawaii.  Well, by “I”, I mean one of the kids with us – it was a Waiopaeheavy-duty plastic tube, crammed into a lava rock in the tide pool.  Inside was a few pretty rocks, shells, a doll and a note.   We added a small trinket-y thing we had handy, resealed the tube and hid it, but we didn’t realize that it was an international game and we didn’t follow-up on it…

The other day, my friend and I were trying to make a plan for a day when her daughters had time off school, and she mentioned “geocache” and I’ve been a fanatic since! (We still haven’t had a chance to try it – but we hope to go next week! Come on, mild weather!)

I have to figure out what “treasure” we want to leave behind – I’ve already made up a username I really like, and I’ve set up an account.   Any ideas on the treasures? I feel like it’d be good to have a variety of things (toys, bandaids (not my idea, but a good suggestion), trinkets, stickers, stamps), but maybe also something representing our journey… (I think a tiny “big ball of string” might look like lint, so I’m going to choose something else…)

I feel “renewed” in writing about our Big Ball of String roadtrips, and plan to (hope to) be able to incorporate geocaching “adventures” to come!

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Big Island’s June27 Lava Flow and Hurricane Iselle

Hi!  It’s been a long time since I wrote!

When I was writing my Biggest Ball of String “adventures” more regularly, I was just finishing up my segment on the Big Island of Hawaii – all I had left was the Village of Kailua-Kona.  (I’ll come back to that.)Summertime

And, although I’ve thought of my blog often, and the unfinished Hawaii segment, and all the places we’ve been that I didn’t discuss, I was side tracked with “real-life” things.  Last time I wrote, I talked about one of the “real life” things, which was a Cottage we purchased on Lake Michigan! THAT has taken up so much of my time! and I love it! I am inspired to do thing for it – it’s like I have tunnel vision! Everything has to do with that one particular event/thing!

Because The Cottage is part of my new adventure, I’ve started a new blog for it.  It’s going to be very specific to that one place – the cottage, the area, the renovations & updates, local business – chocolaterias, wineries, pie & pastry shops, breweries, places to rent boats, etc.   Really, I hope there are people who “browse” and find it,  or maybe it’ll be people who come visit the Cottage and want to know what updates we’ve done, or maybe it will be random people… but, I also just want to remind myself of the journey, and this is a good way!  Come check it out!

Last time I wrote a blog about travel, and before we bought the Cottage, I was writing about Hawaii…

A lot is happening right now on the Big Island – including the relentless approaching lava toward the little village of Pahoa!

June 27 Lava Flow 1Kilauea’s newest lava flow is named for the date the lava began erupting from it’s new vent, June 27.   I don’t know much about it but the pictures on-line seem crazy and amazing!!   The National Park’s website says that, as of September 15, “The actual length of the flow, measured along the lava tube axis (so that bends in the flow are considered) is 17.7 km (11.0 miles).”

I did wonder (since the lava is advancing kind of slowly, I mean, compared to movies like Dante’s Peak) if there were plans to divert the lava… when I asked, the answer was basically “no”.  I had my own guesses as to the reason, but Huffingpost had this to say:

“But diversion methods can be risky, according to officials. Not only could they make the problem worse, there are also considerable cultural sensitivities at June 27 Lava Flowplay.”

Diverting the lava flow — whether by obstructing it, rerouting it or attempting to alter the terrain in its path — is seen as blasphemous to Pele, the Hawaiian goddess of volcanoes who is believed to live in the Halemaumau crater of Kilauea Volcano.

“This is a very sacred place,” Hawaii County Civil Defense administrator Darryl Oliveira said in response to one Puna resident’s question about diversion, per footage of the community meeting posted online Sept. 3 by Big Island Video News. “It is important to recognize and respect the culture that was and is still here.”

Oliveira also explained that any kind of diversion could worsen the situation and unintentionally send the lava flow toward another community.”

Culture and uncertainty were my guesses.

Maybe something amazing will happen, and there will be a rift that doesn’t affect anyone, and the lava will just drop straight back into the earth and take an underground route to the ocean!

Methusaleh 1 So, speaking of Hawaii, and that side of the Island – did I mention that we have land there…?  The reason I bring it up now is because on that acreage was “Methuselah”.  Methuselah was an O’hia tree , estimated to be around 970 years old (hence, the namesake), and right beside the top of our driveway.

When we first put in our driveway, we took special care of the larger trees and made the road go around them.  Especially Methuselah.

O’hia trees grow up to be about 20–25 meters (66–82 feet), but Methuselah was probably around 50 feet tall, and had been broken in half by either wind or lightning at some point. Two people could not reach around his trunk.  There was an entire ecosystem growing in and on his trunk! He was covered in roots from other trees.  In his leaves near the top, you could see flowers and leaves from orchids living and growing in his bark.   He was magnificent.

This year, during Hurricane Iselle, he blew down.  Even now, writing it, it makes my eyes water.  I love that tree.Methusaleh 2

The people who told us that he’d fallen (and currently is blocking complete access to our driveway) know that I love the tree, and everyone has wonderful ideas: Maybe we can make it into a beam in our house. Maybe we can make it into a bench. Maybe we can lift it with a crane to the edge of the property, and let the branches grow into new trees (this happens in Hawaii…)

It’s hard to find someone with a crane who also appreciates how much I love that tree… also, when O’hias die, they turn to such hard wood, it’s almost like petrified and then …so… I need to decide soon…

Hurricane Iselle (a tropical storm?) did a lot of damage to the Island –  trees and power lines were down everywhere, and tens of thousands were without power for weeks, some communities were without running water, and some people were isolated because of giant trees down blocking the roads.  There are really great stories, though, about communities coming together to help others – which, despite these two major catastrophes, is a really nice part of the story!  It’s worth the Google.

I was going to talk about Kona this time, but I think I’ll save it for next time…which will be sooner than later! (It’s mostly written anyway – just need to add pictures!

Stay tuned!

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LakeShore Haven, our cottage on Lake Michigan

You may or may not have noticed, but I haven’t written a blog lately…

Last time I wrote, though, we were on a boomerang trip to Michigan (visiting Richard and Shannan, and family – they come up in my blogs from time to time) where we stayed for a month.  (More about that trip later.)

One night, during our visit, we were all sitting up having some inspirational drinks (wine for the girls, scotch for the boys) and having one of those inspirational conversations that people often have at 2:30 in the morning, and it went something like:

Summertime“Hey! You know what we should do? We should all by a house together and rent it out!”


and then, it didn’t come up again – I completely forgot, until on the way home.

I said to Peter: “I wonder if they thought we were serious about that? Or if they thought it was just one of those fun-to-talk-about-at-the-time conversations?”

Not too long after that, we got a text: “Look what we found!”

Maybe just the cutest cottage EVER!

It’s 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom cottage walking distance (maybe 3-5 minutes) to Lake Michigan.  We can see The Lake from the living room window.

beachIt’s right beside a nice park with a playground, and 630 feet of white sand beach!

Richard’s family already has a cottage here and he’s been coming for 30+ years to visit the area.  So, we know all the ins-and-outs of the place – where’s the best restaurant, where’s the nearest golfing, where can you find a local chocolateria, and don’t forget the wineries!!   (Also, Michigan has recently voted a #1 place to come for beer connoisseur with all of their local Craft beers!)

Basically, there’s something for everyone in Michigan, and especially at our cottage! 😀

Let me tell you all about it! (This has been all-encompassing for me, which is one reason I haven’t been around in blog-world.)rag quilts

As soon as we decided to purchase it, I decided I had to make a quilt. Having never had made quilts before, I decided the best thing for a LakeShore cottage was a “rag quilt”.  I could go on and on about rag-quilts, but then my Upstairsblog would be about quilting.  Suffice it to say: I bought a sewing machine and made my first quilt, and now it’s in Michigan, in the main bedroom.

As mentioned, the Cottage has 2 bedrooms. One is on the main level with a super comfy queen size bed, and the second is kind of like a loft bedroom with 4 (also comfortable) twin size beds.

The most picturesque thing about The Cottage is that it has an enclosed front porch solarium area with summer screen windows – I cannot wait to have a nap out there in the summer.   That is, if the hammock (which will hang between two of the oak trees) is occupied!

Right now, the Cottage is a one bathroom place, but we have big plans for that second bathroom, and there’s talk about an outdoor shower, too.

The area is mostly known for summer activities (wine tours, bicycling, hiking, walking around the cute little character towns – Saugatuck, South Haven & Douglas (we are about 5 minutes from Saugatuck, 3 from Douglas, and 10-ish from South Haven) but we all agree that it is gorgeous in the winter and people should be invited to come – maybe cross country skiing, snow shoeing, snow fort building… possibilities are endless!!  (To this end, we’ve added a gas fireplace – well, like a wood stove fireplace.)

We have a currently undeveloped basement (home of a future bathroom), but it does have a laundry utility room down there, and we are working on converting the rest into a social place for kids.  (One portion for a TV, DVD player, books, etc – a movie area – and the rest for a playground for smaller children.  So far (because we just have arrived Thursday night and are leaving Monday), we have added those rubber prime colored square puzzle flooring pieces, and it seems to be a hit with Shannan & Richard’s 4-year-old son, so yay!!

We’ve installed cable, Wi-Fi, and free long distance phone calls.

Let me see… what else!!? Well, I’m sure I’ll have more to say the more I get to know the place and the more the updates continue, but for now:



A Slingshot Trip

Taking a break from my blog about Hawaii, the Big Island, Kona conclusion – onlyMichigan because I’ve run out of time for now, and because I’m going to be without wi-fi for … who-knows-how-long – I am diverting temporarily to our upcoming trip.

We are “sling-shotting” to Michigan to visit friends (Richard, Shannan, Evan & Jack), and, for the most part, travelling a road we’ve already gone AND I’ve already talked about in my blog at some point.

Which is good, because we don’t have time to stop anywhere, so I won’t be pouty that I can’t stop to see the Roadside Attractions.

AirstreamThe plan is – get to Michigan as quickly as possible, by the most direct route, according to Google Maps. (The most direct route is approximately 3,000 kms/close to 1900 miles.)

The “adventure” part of it is that I’ve decided that, rather than hotel-ing, we are going to bring the Airstream, so that we have our own “home away from home” while visiting Richard and Shannan. Since it’s off-season, most campgrounds are already closed, so we plan to stay at Rest Areas, parking lots of places like Wal-mart, and truck stops.

We’ve never done that before (rest-stops, truck-stops and parking lots.) Makes me nervous. And, a little excited. Normally, I have the route carefully planned, campgrounds or hotels booked well in advance. A book with confirmation numbers, addresses, and phone numbers.

This time, I have a “hope for the best” mentality and a website ( which lists every truck stop (including which have showers, restaurants and lounges), rest stops (including whether they are East/West or North/South bound), and parking lot that allows overnight stays, for every interstate in the United States.

Here’s what we’ll be passing:

1) We will be going through Medicine Hat, Alberta, which is home of the World’s Largest TeePee. This I haven’t seen AND we will be stopping for pictures.

2) Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, home of the World’s Largest Moose, and a townWorld's Largest Moose which actually has a few things I do want to do that I missed last time (the Al Capone tour and the Underground Tunnel tours), but we don’t have time. I will eventually be back there for those tours.

3) Dog River/Rouleau, Saskatchewan, filming location of “Corner Gas”.

3) Weyburn, Saskatchewan, home of what could be the World’s Tallest Wheat. (Same link as #3, Dog River)

The World's Largest Buffalo4) Minot, North Dakota, whose motto is “Why-not Minot”….

5) Jamestown, North Dakota, home of the World’s Largest Buffalo AND albino buffalos. (Same link as #3, Dog River) I might try to stop there for a better picture of the Albino Buffalo, actually.. Which reminds me. I should bring the big camera….

6) Fargo, North Dakota, home of the Infamous Wood Chipper, and the Fargo Walk of Fame.

7) A Continental Divide, not THE Continental Divide.Alexandria's Runestone

8) Alexandria’s Runestone. (I did say if we were ever there again, expecting we never would be, I’d stop and see the real one in the museum, instead of the replica… but that won’t be this trip…)

Skimming passed Minneapolis and St. Paul (tons more I need to see there, too, but I didn’t even get that all done last time I was there, and I was there for … 2 days, not 3 minutes…or probably an hour? that it’ll take us to “skim passed”?

Once we get to Wisconsin, though, we will be on a part of the highway we haven’t been before.

Here’s what I’ll be missing (maybe):

1) In or around Eau Claire: Paul Bunyan Logging Camp Museum, a Ship-shaped CarPaul Bunyan Wash, and a Transmission Man.

2) At Mauston, the Kwik Trip sign is apparently a hanging semi-truck… Might be able to see that from the road if I’m looking!

3) Wisconsin Dells – now the home of the Russian MIR Space Station… hmmmm… maybe we can stop on the way back… Looks like there’s also an Upside-down Whitehouse, Storybook Gardens (more research required to see if this still exists), a Muffler Man that looks alot like Burt Reynolds, Paul Bunyan restaurants (might need to stop there), and the World’s Possible Largest Flamingo….

4) DeForest – home of Sissy the Cow and Ehlenbach’s Cheese Chalet. … Actually, now that I know there’s an all-things-cheese place, might need to stop there for sure. (I mean – at some point, we have to stop at a Cheese Tourist thing – it IS, after all, Wisconsin!)

5) A bunch of sites in Madison, including Otis Redding’s Plane Crash site…

6) An Apple Water Tower at Edgerton.

7) Janesville – Bessie the Cow (apparently in a Fruitopia commercial?) and a 2-story outhouse,

SPAM Museumm8) Beloit – A Giant Bulldog and a Giant Hormel Can…

Speaking of Hormel – last time we were here, we visited the SPAM Museum, (SPAM being a Hormel product). This time, I am in search of La Victoria Chunky Jalapeno Hot Sauce – apparently this is the best hot sauce on the planet – if anyone knows where to find it… Originally, we found it at a little store in Sandpoint, ID (future blog topic), but can’t find it again. I did email to MegaMex Foods (which is “a joint venture between…Hormel Foods and Herdez del Fuerte“) and they are searching. (It IS available on-line, if I can’t find it any other place.)

ENTER Illinois. Still on a “fresh road”.

Oh too bad. I’m out of time.  See you later!

Thank you to our wonderful friends for house-sitting for us, too! Mwah!


Lu’aus, Kalua Pua’a, and icky Poi

Each time we went to Kona (well, The Island, actually), we did some tourist-y things –edit like, visited the Volcano and went to a bunch of beaches and snorkelled… but, we didn’t actually make it to a Lu’au for NINE YEARS!

Lu’aus just weren’t on the list of things I wanted to do. Until, I realized, we’d been there 9 times, and hadn’t done the most classic thing.

After taking a random opinion poll, we decided to go to the Lu’au at the King Kamehameha Kona Beach Hotel.

The Royal Family ArrivesWe chose that particular one because the Royal Court arrives by boat, the Court Herald announcing their arrival blasting the Conch.  Also, it was our understanding that they were the only lu’au at the time that had the Fire Dancers.  The dress was traditional, but not what you see in the movies – well, the male dancers were wearing loin cloth, but the hula girls were in full dress, not in coconut shells. (We were fine with that – not sure how the guys in the group felt, but we knew in advance.)

They have the unveiling of the Kalua Pua’a (pig) that is cooked in an underground oven (imu), and they serve that, along with poi (which is basically Imugoo made out of taro root… it comes in different textures – depending on how many fingers you need to eat it – one, two and three finger poi, depending upon the gooiness (spell check says that’s the way to spell it). Poi is, in my opinion, GROSS!! but apparently…popular.)

Unburying the pua'a in the imu

pua'aComplimentary mai-tais helps to drown out the icky taste of poi, though, so that’s great! and for dessert, often pineapple upside down cake, which is YUMMY too!

We learned that we could attend a Time Share Presentation and get 4 free Lu’au tickets, which seemed like a good idea at the time.

We agreed in advance to “just say No” – no matter what.  WELL! those are TERRIBLE!!!  Peter’s good at them.  I am NOT!   I caved right away. Well, I made it through the first room and the first presentation.  The second was trickier.  And, by about the 4th, we were arguing.  It pretty much wrecked the entire day.  We didn’t buy a time share.  We DID get free tickets.

We had a lot of fun at the lu’au.  We crossed it off our “we have never done this before” list…

This year, as mentioned, we were with Chris & Amanda & daughters, who hadn’t been to a lu’au before, so we chose the one at the Royal Kona Resort.  (This time, we chose based on the “classic” attire – coconut shell bikini tops BUT, it turns out, they ALSO have Fire Dancers!)More Hula DancersThe hula

The lu’au dinner menu seems similar to the King Kamehameha Beach Hotel (yummy kalua pua’a, pineapple upside down cake, icky poi)…Icky Poi

We paid for the tickets this time – NO MORE TIME SHARES FOR US!!  Learned that lesson the hard way for sure.

Both shows were great! We enjoyed both.  Each had things to offer.  So far, we haven’t been to a lu’au where the dancers invite people up to learn to hula, like in all the movies – but it must happen.  Anyone know where?

Fire Dancer

You should go!  There are other options at other hotels, too. I’m sure we’ll find ourselves at another some time, and maybe I’ll pick a different hotel again. (Which reminds me – sometimes the hotels give special deals, too, if you are staying there.)

We’ve only stayed at one hotel in Kona and that’s the King Kamehameha Beach Hotel, when we were too late coming into town and so we snuck and told everyone we arrived the next day 🙂 shhhhhhhhhhh.

The King Kam Inn (which I believed was the name, until I started writing this particular blog) has THE BEST EVER dinner buffet on Fridays and Saturdays.  They feature Prime Rib (Peter’s favorite) and Seafood (including Snowcrab, which is my second favorite), and a LOT of other items, and a great dessert buffet, too.  (The Buffet is on my To-Do list every year!)Probably the World's Largest Shave Ice

After dinner, you can take a lovely stroll down Ali’i Drive ~ enjoy the sound of the waves lapping against the shore, the happy people sampling what could be the World’s Largest Shave Ice, chirping birds in the Banyan Tree putting themselves to bed for the night, the scent of the seawater merging with plumeria, and the perfect 72°F (22° Celsius) weather (which, as we all know – 72° IS “Comfort Zone”.)

Speaking of Ali’i Drive – I think that’s what we’ll tour next blog.


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Welcome to Kona

Ironman TriathleteWhen you hear the name “Kona”, you might automatically think of the world-class Ironman Competition. Or the world-famous best-ever Kona coffee.

One thing is certain: it is the hub of tourism for the Big Island.   I mean, many people come to see the Volcano, but that’s just a day. The rest of the time, most people visit Kona-side.

And why? well, for one thing, the weather is pretty perfect, and normally predictable.

The weatherman says, every day, something like: “Today will be 83° with a few minutes of mist around 3pm.”  And guess what? Every day is 83°, and every day, there’s a mist, around 3pm. Rarely a pelting rain. Rarely a “cool” day.  (83° Fahrenheit is 28° Celsius.)

You want to be able to count on certain things (like good weather) when you are vacation. Especially if it’s your first trip to Hawaii.

Our first trip to Hawaii happened to be the same weekend as the Ironman Competition, coincidentally.

We were coming to visit family, so they “warned” us of the Ironman and got inner-Island flight tickets for us at Kama’aina rate.  (At that time, there were no flights from Calgary directly to Kona, so we’d had to fly into Honolulu, which will be the topic of another blog sometime.)

Along the Ironman route“Kama’aina” basically refers to an actual resident of Hawaii, and the rate is generally very worth-while.  It’s pronounced “Comma-eye-nah” (kind of) and often you have to ask for the rate (Shop people don’t ask you if you are eligible) but you must have proof of residency to get the discount.  (To tell the truth, on the Hilo side, I sometimes can get kama’aina rate, because I blend in better there…)

Anyway, we managed to get onto the Big Island during the Ironman World Championship, one of the toughest triathlons.  Not only do athletes have to complete a 2.4 mile (almost 4 kms) swim in the Ocean, followed by a 112 mile (180 kms) bicycle race (still covered in salt water residue?), and then a 26.2 mile (42 km) run/walk/crawl to the Finish Line, they also have to deal with thick humidity, the hot sun over an ancient lava field, and cross winds.

The morning of the Ironman, I was blasted out of my solid slumber by the sound of the Starter Pistol – from our view, we could see a sea of bodies heading out into the Ocean .

By the time we got down to Ali’i Drive (the main street on the wharf in Kailua-Kona and great for experiencing all-things-Kona, including restaurants)MmmmmmMai Tai for breakfast, the triathletes were zooming by on their bikes.

And, after a day of overall relaxation and laziness, and just breathing in the thick humid air, scented with Plumaria, we settled in for dinner and mai tais near the Finish Line, and watched those amazing athletes finding their way to the finish line!!

After months and months of what I can only assume is grueling training, athletes must first qualify and be accepted to run. It’s not like you can just show up and participate.  Rigorous training (an average of 7 months, according to the Ironman website) including weekly swimming (7 miles/11.3 km), biking (232 miles/373 km), and running (48 miles/77 kms).

This year’s Ironman competition is October 12th, and approximately 1800 athletes are expected.

Amazing! I would like to say that I was inspired, but… well, I can say I was “awed”.

Coffee Shack, Plantation in backgroundSpeaking of “awe” about things I won’t be doing – one of my friends (who also happens to be family) decided to make her own coffee.  And, not just “make myself a cup of coffee”, but since she happened to live on a coffee plantation at the time, and since Kona coffee is, after all, world famous, she decided to start from scratch.

She went out and picked coffee berries from the bushes.  She followed all of the intricate steps in between, and then roasted the coffee beans. Then she ground them.  She made 1/2 a cup of coffee. … It was DELICIOUS!

But NOT worth doing again…

It’s a good thing, then, that you can buy coffee EVERYWHERE.  You can buy it at kiosks on Ali’i Drive. You can buy it at Walmart.  You can buy it straight from the Coffee Farmer. You can even buy it on line.  I’m not saying it’s all the same quality, and you have to watch for “blends”, but it is available.My Kona Coffee

You can also tour some of the Coffee Plantations. One of them is Kona Joe Coffee.  (They also have a nice lunch and an amazing view.)

Normally, coffee plants are bushes or shrub-like, but at Kona Joe Coffee, they have mastered a way of growing coffee on trellises, like grapes in vineyards.

From what I can understand, the advantage of trellis raised beans (or, as I’m reading, coffee cherries, not beans) is that they have a more dispersed exposure to the sun, and that enhances the quality.

I’ve tried Kona Joe Coffee, and it is GOOD!  I’d have to do proper taste testing to determine which method is my favorite … I love coffee! I love trellised coffee…and I love “shrub” coffee…

One thing is for sure! I LOVE KONA COFFEE! any which way.

Kona SunsetSomething else for which Kona is famous: THE MOST Brilliant and Amazing Sunsets! (Will discuss those more later..)


Seahorses and Petroglyphs

I missed seeing the Petroglyphs in Volcano National Park (we accidentally opted to take a scenic drive downCoy Pond at Queen's MarketPlace an old road so it was too dark by the time we got to the Petroglyph Trail), BUT, fortunately, Chris & Amanda and the girls were up for hiking to the Petroglyphs along the Kohala Coast.

The Petroglyph Trail is beside the King’s Shops, and apparently, there’s a free tour of the petroglyphs.  We just walked around out there and made guesses about what everything was (there are occasional signs, too, to help with your guesses), but it might be handy to have an expert on hand…

The King’s Shops are located in Waikoloa Beach Resort, and include high fashion stores (Louis Vuitton, for example), restaurants, and gift shops.  Across the street is The Queen’s MarketPlace, which includes, along with the fashion stores (Quicksilver and Sunglass Hut, for example) and restaurants, the Island Gourmet Marketplace, which includes gifts, groceries and wine tasting.  (There’s also a large coy pond, at which to wile away the hours, if that interests you – I stayed there while Peter went watch-shopping.)

Petroglyph FieldBetween the Kings and Queens shops is the Petroglyph Trail (or Ki’i pohaku, which means something like “Stone Image”.)

The majority of Petroglyphs were carved into the lava stone sometime between the Hawaiian people’s arrival on the Island (obviously) and the late 1700’s (the sign on the pathway says between 1400 and 1800).   Since then, there’s been an occasional addition – some of it is still considered petroglyphs, just newer, but I’m certain that the Smiley Face is just vandalism by some… idiot…

The walk down the trail is as long as you want it to be, really, I think.  You can spend a few minutes or hours, but take water – there’s no shade at ALL!

Petroglyphs and Shelter Petroglyphs

Also at the Waikoloa Resort is the Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort & Spa and the Hilton Waikoloa Village.  I’ve never spent any time at the Marriott there, but you could actually spend an entire trip at the Hilton, I Cute little Seahorsesthink. (Time and entertainment-wise, anyway.  I can’t speak for your budget…heh… maybe just Google it.  But, they have a lake in the middle for boating (non motorized), Dolphin Quest, a luau, restaurants – and all this just 20 minutes from the Kona International Airport.)

Just 11 minutes from the Airport is Ocean Rider Seahorse Farm.

The Tour is really amazing!  You get to:

~ see baby seahorses (which you can almost not see- but if you look very close, you can see their tiny little Not as tasty as it lookstails curling while they swim)
~ sample some super salty seahorse food (veggies grown in salt water, not the microscopic shrimp – blecht)
~ see some pregnant seahorse dads (Yes, it’s true – although the mom deposits the baby egg(s) into the dad’s pouch, and he carries them (maybe 1000’s of them !!!) for up to 25 days!!    The eggs actually hatch in the dad’s pouch, and he carries the babies until they are ready to be out on their own. According to National Geographic, fewer than 5 of every 1000 survive, which is one reason for their decreasing population.   (Also, the same article explains that, although the spiny plates on the seahorse make it difficult for other animals to eat, it’s survival is still threatened by humans, who hunt the seahorse for traditional medicinal usage…)

Seahorse RanchThe Ocean Rider’s website reveals that “According to research done by Project Seahorse the current world consumption for the medicine market alone is estimated to be over 20 million individuals per year and increasing at rate of over 10% per annum and there has been a 50% decline in the world seahorse population from 1990 to 1995, and 70% since 1980.”

Another cause of the declining population is that the poor little wild seahorses are not acclimatized to living in fish tanks, and many people want to include them in their scenery.  Not only are they not acclimatized, but they don’t get proper food, so they die.

It’s very sad.

So, places like Ocean Rider, Inc., are studying seahorses and ways to preserve them, especially for domesticated pets.   They have successfully rebred seahorses in captivity, and provide education and food for people who feel they must have seahorses as pets.Being held by a Seahorse

The experts at Ocean Rider have also figured out a “work around” when dealing with the fact that seahorses are monogamous, and what happens when one member of the happy couple dies… But, I don’t want to give it all away, and I also don’t want to get the details wrong, so you will just have to go on the tour yourself.

Two more reasons to go: 1) they also have Sea Dragons at which you can take a peek (no pictures – they are not yet successfully domesticated) and 2) at the end of the tour, you get to hold one of the seahorses!!  (Or, rather, as they clarified, “the seahorse holds you”.  You make your hands like a coral basket and the little seahorse wraps it’s tail around your finger and holds on.  AMAZING!!!)
Seahorses loved the girls The Girls love the seahorses

Next week, Kailua-Kona.

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A Right-Brain Distraction

 Queen of Hearts    Maggie   When I first started writing this Blog, “The Biggest Ball of String”, my idea was that it would be a quick way to tell our friends about whatever trip we were on – I could tell everyone at once, and show a bunch of pictures.

But, right away, I realized that 1) I think way too many things are interesting and I take way too many pictures, and if I tried to blog that, it would probably be boring to everyone else, clog up the system with 1000’s of pictures of green fields, and I’d never finish writing; 2) I think way too many things are interesting, so got sidetracked into telling information about the location – not just that we’d been there, but other things to see, how much some attractions cost, hours of operation, etc.; 3) I don’t necessarily like to write about what I’m doing right that second, because, to be honest, I don’t necessarily want people to know where I am, right at that second… depending on the what, the where and the who….Tennis Tycoon

Anyway! I’m bring this up now because it takes longer to research the areas than it does to just chatter away about what I loved and what I didn’t, and so – and here’s the point – I got side tracked this week, and ran out of time (I didn’t realize it was time for my weekly Sunday blog!)  I could quickly whip something up now, but I want to talk about the Seahorse Ranch (Farm, actually) and want to get the details right, instead of “we went to the Farm – it was cool”, which, by the way, it was!

So, Seahorse Ranch next week. Confession, this week.

New Little BrotherIn the meantime, the reason I was distracted is because I’m working on an art project, and I always lose track of time when I’m working on something “right-brained.”  So much so, that when I am working on something, I have to set the alarm to remind myself that I have other things to do. 

This time, I’m painting a bottle (I can’t show a picture because I want the outcome to be a surprise for the person to whom it belongs…. and I don’t know if they are reading my blog or not… … guess this is one way to find out…)

I’ve had a lot of projects this summer, which is why I went from a “twice a week” blog to a “once a week” blog…

Sometimes, my projects are painting pictures, usually the projects involve sculpting little quirky figurine type things (I call them “My Little Creatures“), and this is my first bottle. 

Dinner out Lifes Stages

I had already started painting by the time my “Left-brain” said, “Hey! You should’ve taken aBottle edited “before” picture.” Oh well.  Unless… here’s a picture (edited) – maybe someone will recognize what the bottle is? The part that’s covered is an embossed sunshine…or sunflower…? all clear…

So, that’s that! Hope to be back on track! In the meantime, I am committed to getting something written about the Seahorse Ranch for next week.

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North Kohala Coast and Waimea

Once upon a time (1878),  Thomas R. Gould, a sculptor from Boston, living inKing Kamehameha I Florence Italy, sculpted a statue of King Kamehameha I.

Now, the way I heard the story is that there was a debate over where the statue should be placed – the people of the Big Island wanted to for North Kohala, where King Kamehameha was born.

The Government Seat, though, is in Honolulu, and the plan was for the statue to be placed there.

Well!  Mr. Gould forged the sculpture in Italy, and sent it off to Honolulu by ship.  The ship sank somewhere around the Falkland Islands, near Cape Horn, and the statue was lost at sea.

Mr. Gould made another sculpture and sent that one, again, to Honolulu. That one arrived safe and sound and was erected in in front of Aliiolani Hale (Hawaiian State Supreme Court), and dedicated in 1883.

Pololu ShoreBUT THEN, in 1912, the original statue was recovered, restored, and guess where it now sits!  North Kohala, in a little town called Kapaau.

I don’t know which town is which, when I remember them, but there’s Hawi and Kapaau, and they are only  about 2.5 miles apart.  So, if I tell you all about it, and you get there and it’s not how I explained, just go on to the next town.

Here’s what I know: there’s a little boardwalk, quirky art stores, galleries, and ice cream parlor and patio, some yummy little restaurants, and a grocery store.  I think, technically, you Hawicould spend a whole day walking that 2 block strip and going in and out of stores, and stopping for coffee and lunch.  (I think it’s Hawi.)

Pololu Valley OverlookBut, we (each time) have been passing through – to and from Pololu Valley Lookout.

  Actually, this year is the first year that I’ve hiked down INto Pololu.  Totally worth it. Take water.  (And your inhaler, if you need one.)

Pololu PathWPololu Pathway

Pololu Valley is like the sister valley to Waipio Valley, and in fact, you can see the jut-out from Waipio if you look way beyond Pololu.

It is about 1000 feet deep and cuts into the Kohala Mountain, and the Pololu Stream runs through it.Pololu Valley 3   (By the way, further inland, Pololu Valley is Privately Owned, so you need to stay near the Shoreline.  I guess there are tours, too, that can help you navigate properly.)

Hmmmmm.  There was a tour and trail that went to, and around, Kapaloa Falls.  Apparently, the waterfall dropped 300 feet above and 200 feet below the trail! However, the trail was destroyed in Hawaii’s big earthquake a couple of years ago, and there’s no access anymore… Keep your eye out, though. Maybe someday it’ll be re-opened?

It’s ANOTHER spectacular view from the Pololu Valley Overlook and I completely forgot to add it to my Top Favorite Views on the Island. (Obviously, the almost entire Island is beautiful and my list of “Absolute Favorite View” is growing…)
Pololu Valley 2Pololu ValleyPololu Valley 1

Enroute, between Waipio Valley and Pololu Valley is Waimea, also known as Kamuela. (“Kamuela” was adopted later (because of some confusion with the Postal Service) in honor of a resident named Samuel Parker, but Waimea is the original name and means “reddish water”. )

We haven’t spent a lot of time there, but always like driving through the little town of just over 9,000 (according to the 2006 Census).   It’s a “western” town, partly made up of Hawaiian cowboys (Paniolos) who work on Parker Ranch, and the Stop Signs say “Whoa” instead of “Stop”.  🙂

It’s a good place to stop for lunch or dinner, or to pick up your supply of Parker Ranch beef at the local grocery store.  (For non-meat eaters, the veggies and fruit are generally locally grown too, and high quality.  It is Hawaii, after all.)

Just down the road (30 minutes South of Hawi and 20 minutes West of Waimea) is Hapuna Beach.  I’ve talked about black sand and green sand beaches.  This is the WHITEST sand beach I’ve ever seen!

HapunaThere is now a $5 entrance fee for non-residents, but not only does that include almost 62 acres of fine, white sand, but it has restrooms, drinking water, lifeguard services and is right beside the Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel, which has restaurants and lounges, and, of course, accommodations.

Hapuna 1

OK! So if you’ve been looking at a map at all, you will know that we’ve gone around the whole island, and are now coming down the stretch to the Kailua-Kona area.

Many would say I saved the Best for Last 😀 (refer to my Kona vs. Hilo blog!) I love both sides for different reasons.  But, for a certainty, without bias, Kona-side as ALOT to offer!

We are going to talk about… the Seahorse Ranch next. And, Petroglyphs, I think.


GlobalFest Calgary

Every year for the past 5 years, and not because it’s a holiday, not because it’sFireworks 3 the Calgary Stampede, and not because the Calgary Flames won the Stanley Cup (heh), I can hear the “pop pop pop” of fireworks in the distance – AND if I climb on my roof, I can see some of those that shoot high into the air.

Fireworks 4

What’s happening, you wonder? in the middle of August?Fireworks 8

Calgary’s Globalfest.

It’s a 5 day International Fireworks competition.   Teams come from around the world to display their Fireworks show, and compete with other countries.Fireworks 16

This year, I finally made it! (Thanks to Jessica for getting the tickets!)

We went on opening night and watched the display from China, which, I’m certain, has to be the most spectacular, since didn’t they invent them once upon a time?

Globalfest is kind of a “picnic” atmosphere – bring a blanket or lawn chairs (beach chairs are better than lawn chairs, really – better angle and nobody angry behind you…) We had GREAT “seats” – thanks to Amanda, who went at 6pm when it opened and set up camp (we showed up around 8:30.
seating 2)seating

There are cultural food and other display pavilions set up around the Park4 buckets please (Elliston Park) where you can sample different items… we had Mini Donuts … because we could!  mmmmmm sooo yummy! pavilionsThanks to Chris, who stood in line for who knows how long to get buckets of donuts.  And entire bucket (35-38) for $13!  (Plus, the bucket came with a lid, so that’s handy, too, when you are sitting on a sloping hill.) 

Fireworks 15There’s also the OneWorld Cafe and International Bar, which serves alcoholic beverages from around the world.  (Didn’t have a chance to try this out – after Fireworks 2walking to the Park, we just wanted water!)

Speaking of walking to the Park – parking is atrocious in the vicinity of GlobalFest.  There are places that advertise that you can park in their parking lots from $5-$20, for the convenience.  And that might be a great deal if you are in a position that you are unable to walk (health reasons maybe?) but if you can get there on foot, it’s better to park further away and walk.

The City shuts down the main road (17th Avenue) going passed the Park, and it remains shut down until the streams of people in the street, coming and going from the Fest, have cleared.  Which means those who are parked nearby are stuck in that parking spot for a long, long, long time after. Fireworks 20

I’m not going to say where we parked, but we found good, safe, legal parking, for free, 12 minutes walking distance away…

As mentioned, we went on the night China represented, but other countries participating this year are/were France, Great Britain, and the United States.Fireworks 9  (The Grand Finale is this coming Sunday – August 25th.)

Speaking of Sunday, more about Hawaii – the North Kohala Coast of the Big Island.


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