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)

Hilo, Hawaii

OK. So, there is a big rivalry between Hilo-side of the Island and Kona-side of the Island.Hilo Side Lushness

If you ask a Kona-side person what they think of Hilo, they will typically say things like:  “It rains too much.”  “They have coqui frogs.” “There’s no place to surf/swim/snorkel.”

If you ask a Hilo-side person what they think of Kona, they will typically say things like: “Kona? Pfft.”

We love both sides for different reasons. I will talk more about why we love Kona later. (The primary reason is that we have really wonderful friends there, and that always makes a difference, doesn’t it.)

But, some of the reasons that we LOVE LOVE LOVE Hilo side is that:
1) It rains. I don’t want to say “too much”, but it rains enough to make it lush and smell like a greenhouse. It has amazing waterfalls, vines, rainforests. And, I’m sure locals would tell me otherwise (they always do), but I haven’t seen it rain “too much”. The last time we were there (2 weeks), it rained every single morning – poured, actually. But, around noon, the sun came out and it go really warm, and then the next morning (or sometime throughout the night) the rain would come and cool down the earth again. For me, that’s perfect.
Rainbow Falls2) There are coqui frogs. I love them! I do! I’m sorry to all you coqui frog haters, but I love them! Sure, they are a little noisy (see previous blog), but if you think of them as “singing a song in chorus” rather than “screeching at 90 decibel”, I think you’d love them too! (and, if you can’t make them into “white noise” when you sleep, where earplugs and/or get a sound machine.)
3) There are MANY places to swim/snorkel/surf – they just are a bit off the beaten path and not near as crowded… (There’s more, too, than just that link I’ve included – they may or may not show up in my future blogs (or this one) but 1/2 the fun is finding these places by yourself.

But the REAL reason I love Hilo-side, is because of the “Locals.”  “Locals” include actual Hawaiian people, as well as (by way of my definition) people who are not tourists.  “Tourists” (by way of my definition) are those people who are travelling (obviously) OR people who’ve moved there, but haven’t really become part of the culture yet.Tom, the Chicken Guy

For example, I consider Tom, the Chicken Guy, to be a “local.”  Or, a little boy we saw at the beach, who, it seems, lives outside, and looks exactly like I would imagine Tom Sawyer looked – white blonde hair, lightly tanned skin with freckles, and no shoes.

Here’s another difference I’ve observed between Kona-side and Hilo-side.  Kona-side, you can pick out tourists because they are pale(r) than the residence.  Hilo-side, you can pick out tourists because they are tan(ner) than the residence.  (Not because of the amount of time that the sun is available, but because the Hilo-side has an abundance of people who wear hats and avoid full exposure to the sun.  Lots of – ummm – organic people on the Hilo-side. Heh! I love it!)

I will concede that there is more obviously touristy things to do on the Kona side (again, will discuss those later – if you are going to Kona before I get to that blog, please feel free to email me for suggestions), not including the most Hawaiian Hilo Hotelphotographed waterfall in the world (in Hilo) and the longest erupting volcano in the world (south of Hilo at Hawaii Volcano National Park.)

There are very few hotels in Hilo, and the only one I’ve ever stayed at is the Hilo Hawaiian Hotel, right on Banyan Drive, and beside the Queen Liliuokalani Gardens. (We usually rent a Vacation Rental by Owner.

Banyan Drive is known as “Hilo Walk of Fame”, because the Banyan trees along the drive have all been planted byBabe Ruth's tree celebrities, including trees planted by Babe Ruth, Amelia Earhart, former U.S. Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt & Richard Nixon, Dr. Thomas Jaggar, and others.  It’s an interesting walk, and just across the street is an ice cream and shave ice stand, so you can have a little break, too – especially if it’s hot out.

The Queen Liliuokalani Gardens was named after Hawaii’s last reigning monarch, and dedicated in 1917, the same year the Queen died.  (Her full name was Lydia Liliʻu Queen Liliukalani GardenLoloku Walania Wewehi Kamakaʻeha.)

The Garden is beautiful and last time we were there, we found a paintbrush in one of the trees.  You can just imagine someone spending the day, perched in a mango tree, painting the scenery below.  Perfect.

So…I have a LOT more to say about Hilo.  I haven’t really gotten started.. But, I have a tiny complication, which I will explain in a couple of weeks, so, I will have to return to this area later.  Hilo – to be continued…sometime.

In the meantime, next Sunday, I will be talking about some of the waterfalls.


Leave a comment »

Holualoa, Cloud 9, and Saddle Road

Who wouldn’t LOVE to go for a Coffee and Art Stroll? Now that I know there IS one, I might plan an entire trip aroundHolualoa Cafe it!

That’s one of the many things Holualoa has to offer – looks like the first Saturday of November.  Apparently, each shop in town (which is almost certainly an art gallery of some sort, whether it’s paintings or woodwork or quilt-type things) hosts a coffee from one of the (more than) 30 Kona coffee farms.

It is a fun, quirky, cute little town (well, it’s not as “little” as I thought – apparently, according to the 2000 Census, there were over 6100 that lived there) – one of my two (maybe three) favorites on the Island (so far).

You can park and walk from end to end of the main street, stopping in at this Gallery or that Gallery, have a break at this coffee shop or that restaurant.

Pink Hotel (Kona Hotel)There’s an iconic pink hotel that completely represents the friendly, relaxed atmosphere of the town.  We stopped in one time, to take a look around.  There was nobody at the front desk.  There was someone asleep in the rocking chair, watching the TV in the reception area, and a cat sleeping on the other rocking chair.   (Nobody came, and we tiptoed out.) I didn’t take many pictures, but I’ve filed the memory away for safe keeping.
Cat Sleeping @ Kona Hotel

It’s better if you make an afternoon of visiting Holualoa – don’t rush through.

Right before you get into Holualoa Village (if you are coming from Kealakekua), you will pass a little wooden shop, Kimura Lauhala Shop ,  with a wooden boardwalk (at least that’s how I remember it), and filled with shoes and hats and bags made of Lauhala (pandanus leaf).   The little shoes (slippahs) are very durable and I’ve had mine for years! (They even lasted through a teething puppy.)

We had the opportunity to talkKimura Lauhala shop with the ladies who make the hats (which, by the way, are very intricate and delicate – not just like a typical woven leafed hat), and their art has been handed down, from generation to generation.  Unfortunately, they don’t have anyone to whom to hand down their art… 😦  (At least when we talked with them – maybe that has changed by now, hopefully.)

I didn’t buy a hat (or take pictures), but I have a couple sets of the slippahs.

Passing straight on through, and out the other side of Holualoa, you will go down a very scenic drive, with a very winding road through coffee plantations.  If you go at the right time of day, you might even be able to stop at a shop or two along the way for samples.Eucalyptus Trees at Intersection

Eventually, you come to an intersection where you can go down the hill to Kailua-Kona, or up the hill towards Waimea.

Be sure to take a look at the Painted (well, Rainbow) Eucalyptus trees there, before you proceed.  My picture isn’t great (but it does show the particular Eucalyptus Grove…I’m including another picture I took in a different place on the Island, just so you can see how pretty they are!!)  Apparently, they are the only Eucalyptus to grow in the Northern Hemisphere AND the most colorful trees in the world!
Eucalyptus Trees on the Big Island

We are going up the hill towards Waimea.

Just about a mile up the hill is the turn off, onto Kaloko Drive, to go to Cloud 9.


I don’t know exactly where, but you can get out and walk around in the Tropical Hiking the Cloud ForestGardens of the Kona Cloud Forest.  It’s a beautiful walk with moss-covered trees, and native tropical plants.  Unlike a Rain Forest, which receives it’s precipitation from Rain, the Cloud forest receives 40% of it’s precipitation from – guess where! yep! Clouds & Mist!

Continuing up the winding and fairly steep Kaloko Dr. (and perhaps Hao Street, says Google-maps), you will start passing addresses: Cloud #7, Cloud #8 – Cloud #9 (the ideal address), and on up! I forget how many “CloudTop of Cloud forests” there are, but it seems to me that we got to at least Cloud #14.
Road up through the Cloud Forest

This grey cloudy picture is a view from the top of the Cloud Forest road, looking back down to the shoreline.  I guess seeing the shoreline is rare since normally, it’s completely clouded in!

Down at the bottom the hill, and continuing uphill toward Waimea, you will probably be surprised by the scenery.  It’s rolling hills and tall waving grass, and cattle ranches, and pear cactus! Yes, in Hawaii – cactus.Pear Cactus

There’s also Hawaii-typical scenery, too – The Ocean, for example, and Cinder Cones.

After driving about 30 miles (from the Cloud Forest road), you will get to Saddle Road.

Once upon a time, rental cars were not allowed to take it – the road used to be TERRIBLE and the Pass is high altitude, and not very busy, so if you ever had any car trouble, you’d be stuck.
Old Saddle Road Old Saddle Road 1

NOW, the road is GREAT! And well travelled! It saves about an hour of travel time (at least) from the old route.

Up at the top of Saddle Road (well, it feels like the top – I think it’s actually sort of on the way down the other side), it’s completely barren.  It looks like the lava just came through – almost nothing has grown back (probably the high altitude?) and is usally misty and eerie.

Then, suddenly, you emerge, and sometime after that (I always think it’s going to be 10 or 15 minutes, and then it feels like hours), Saddle road you see the sparkling lights of Hilo, coming through the trees.

Next Sunday, Hilo.

(Normally, as some of you know, I post on Wednesdays and Sundays, but I have a project I need to work on, so, I’ll just be posting on Sundays until probably the end of August.  I’ll keep you posted… heh.)


Kealekekua Bay and Captain Cook

Once upon a time, there was a brave sea-captain, name Captain James Cook.Where the Ocean meets the Sky

Capt. Cook was born in Yorkshire, England in 1728, joined the British merchant navy in his teens and then joined the Royal Navy in 1755.  He was an explorer, navigator and cartographer (his maps were so accurate that some of them were still being used in the middle of the 20th Century!)

He travelled the Globe, going  here and there and everywhere, including, on his last voyage (apparently in search of the Northwest Passage): they went from Tahiti to Hawaii (he and his crew were the first Europeans to ever visit the Hawaiian Islands) to Cape Foulweather on the Oregon Coast (of the United States), which he named because – guess why – they had bad weather when they arrived…

Back to Hawaii (otherwise, why would I have it brought it up!) he first landed Hawaii (at Waimea, Kauai) sailing his ship, the Endeavor, in 1778.

The EndeavorIn 1999, we happened to be visiting in Kona when the replica of the Endeavor, a 3-mast sailing ship, was on its voyage.  The replica was recreated using the Endeavor’s original plans that are stored at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, England.  The replica was completing a 4 year, around-the-world tour, and though it was “new”, they made it so it looked weather-beaten.

Oh, you can “join a voyage” on the Endeavor, and learn to be part of the crew! Huh! (Shannan…I am NOT doing this! But, it does seem very interesting!)

We didn’t go onto the ship, but we did see it sail by from our 4 mast schooner.  (Well, not “ours”, but the one that we borrowed.)

Captain Cook returned to Hawaii (this time in his ship, the Resolution, in 1779, and made landfall at Kealakekua Bay, on the Big Island.  (“Kay-ala-kay-kua”, not “Kea-locka-kua” 😀 )

Apparently, he happened to arrive during the harvest festival, in which the Hawaiian’s worshipped their god Lono… And apparently, the ship mast had some sort of resemblance to something that had to do with the Hawaiian’s worship (not totally sure), so when they arrived, apparently, the Hawaiian’s mistook Capt. Cook as an incarnation of Lono…

They stayed a month, and during that time, “exploited the Hawaiian’s Good Will.”Heiau at Kealakekua Bay

After they left, one of the masts of the Resolution broke, and they had to return to Kealakekua Bay.  It was an unexpected return, apparently the season of Lono was over, and the Hawaiians were UNhappy!

The details are random, but it goes something like this:  Captain Cook and crew returned, quarrels broke out, someone took one of Captain Cook’s boats (a small cutter), Captain Cook tried to take King Kalani’opu’u hostage, the Hawaiians prevented that (big surprise), and Capt. Cook and crew had to retreat.  As the Captain turned away, he was struck on the head and stabbed to death…

Or something like that.

Anyway – you can go to Kealakekua Bay – it’s BEAUTIFUL! and go visit Captain Cook’s Monument. (By the way, despite theCaptain Cook Monument final demise of Captain Cook, the Hawaiian chiefs still handled the Captain’s body the same way they would handle their own chiefs and elders (graphic description I’m skipping), and eventually, some of his remains were returned to the British for a burial at sea.)

You can either kayak, hike or boat to the monument, which is across the Bay from the easy-access road.   The hike is reported to be strenuous – no problem going in, BUT 1300′ elevation increase in 1.8 miles on the way out.

The snorkeling in the area is supposed to be AMAZING!

Along the road from Hawaii Belt Road (Hwy 11) to Kealakekua Bay, keep your eyes out for the St. Benedict’s Painted Church.Painted Church It was built in 1899, by the priest overseeing the parish – John Velghe.  He had no formal training (painting, that is) and used house paint to paint the scenes depicted on the walls.  The Church’s website tells that most of the Hawaiian people during that time didn’t read, so he used pictures to teach.
Painted Church, inside

Going North along Hawaii Belt Road, you come to Captain Cook (the town/village) and then Kealekekua.

I wanted to move there, just because I like the sound of the name 🙂 . It’s a little town of about 1,650 people (as of the 2000 Census), is 1,427 ft (435 m) above sea level, nice warm temperatures without being too hot, and the subject of this major hit song from 1933, “My Little Grass Shack in Kealakekua, Hawaii.

We’ve been to a few nice, and quaint, restaurants there – let me see…one is the Aloha Angel Cafe (I’ve read reports that this might be close down…), and one is The Strawberry Patch, and I forget the other names – I Googled, but there are a few choices, and I’m not sure.. but if you are in town, spend some time there.  (In the meantime, I will find out the names of the others.)

Another fun thing to do there is to visit the Kona Joe’s Coffee Plantation. You can go for lunch, samples and/or a tour.  They are the world’s first “Trellised coffee plantation“.

Sunday, on to Holualoa, the Art District, and maybe Cloud 9.

“The man who wants to lead the orchestra must turn his back on the crowd.”
James Cook

1 Comment »

Place of Refuge, Punalu’u Bakery, and Mark Twain

Between Punalu’u Beach and South Point, you will pass through Naʻālehu.  It’s a tiny little town of around 1000 peopleIs this Heiau? and one main street that runs through it.

TripAdvisor says “3 things to do in Naʻālehu.  And, without looking, this is my list of 3 things to do there:

1) The Punalu’u Bakery – I would drive all the way to the other side of the Island for Punalu’u Bread, BUT now you can just buy it in the local grocery store.  Still, it’s worth going to the actual bakery, which not only has the best bread EVER (along with samples) but just happens to be the southern most bakery in the United States.

Punaluu BakeryYou can buy purple (taro), pink (guava) or yellow/cream-colored (traditional) bread or swirled combinations.  You can buy mixes to make your own at home later.  (At the Maku’u Farmer’s Market, I had a Polish sausage on a Punalu’u Guava bun.)

It’s a bakery, so they also have cookies, and other desserts, but we really love the bread. (Oh, there’s also a quirky gift shop there, too.)

2) Shaka Restaurant – it’s Claim-to-Fame is that it’s the Southernmost Bar in the United States. But, Peter says it also hasShaka Restaurant the coldest beer he’s ever had! It’s a good place to eat – pub food – yummy fish-n-chips, macaroni and cheese – that kind of food.

3) Mark Twain‘s Tree – Mark Twain’s tree is actually in Waiohinu, a town 2 1/2 miles north of Naʻālehu.  He visited the town in 1866 and supposedly planted a Monkey Pod Tree. THAT tree blew down in 1957, but a shoot lives on and grew into what is now there, on the side of the road.

Mark Twain Monkey Pod TreeIf you follow the Hawaii Belt Road (Hwy 11) clockwise from Mark Twain’s Tree, 37.5 miles later, you will arrive at the Place of Refuge Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park.

This was a place that “protected the kapu (sacred laws) breaker, and civilians during the time of war and the defeated warriors”, according to the description on the Place of Refuge website.  You would have to run for your life, literally, and if you made it to the Place of Refuge, you could gain asylum.

There are two main areas – the Pu’uhonua and the Royal Grounds.  The Royal Grounds housed the chiefly residences and ceremonial structures. The Pu’uhonua IS the actual Place of Refuge and was sacred (it is still considered sacred, so there are some very specific rules about how to behave while there.)

The Pu’uhonua included:

  • the ‘Āle‘ale‘a Heiau (a “heiau” is a Hawaiian temple – all that I’ve seen are stone platforms made from lava rock Hale o Keawe– they are easily recognized and still considered sacred, so you canNOT walk on them…I don’t know what ‘Āle‘ale‘a means…?)
  • the Hale o Keawe (this is reconstructed – the original was built around 1650 but has that was a long time ago! It originally held the bones of many chiefs, including Kamehameha I’s son) (*By the way, Hale o Keawe means: House of Keaweʻīkekahialiʻiokamoku. Keaweʻīkekahialiʻiokamoku was great-grandfather of King Kamehameha I, who was the first king of the Kingdom of Hawaii…)
  • and Konane (a game similar to checkers, and also chess..sometimes, the chiefs would use this game to settle disputes).Konane

Once upon a time, apparently, Queen Ka’ahumanu had to swim there after a fight with her husband (King Kamehameha I).   She got caught, but made up with the King, so… all’s well that ends well.

There were once many Places of Refuge, but now this is one of the few that has lasted… There is a fee to get it – $5 per vehicle for 7 days!

There’s aLOT to see and lots of history. Just go and get the guide from the National Park Service and see all you can see.

Whittington Park There is a view that can’t be missed!  Between Punalu’u Beach and Punalu’u Bakery in Naʻālehu (5.3 miles from Beach and 3 miles from the Bakery) is one of the most breathtaking views on the Island.  It’s of Whittington Beach Park (Honuapo).

Once upon a time, it was a thriving sugar cane town, but then a tsunami (in 1946) destroy the town and left behind just remnants of what used to be the shipping pier.  That’s exactly what it looks like.  It’s beautiful and deWhittington Park areasolate. It looks like a scene from a movie.

Pull over and take the picture – don’t forget!

Sunday – we continue on to see where Captain Cook met his demise.

Leave a comment »

Punalu’u, South Point, and the Green Sand Beach (Hawaii)

Back to Hawaii! It’s been awhile, but last time I was telling about our Hawaii adventures, I meant to continue on to the Green Sand Beach…

I can’t remember when I first heard that there was a “Green Sand Beach”, but I’ve been trying to get there since.South Point  The problem is: there’s a 2-3 mile hike to get there.  That didn’t seem like very far, but nobody was willing to go with me.

However, every time someone new comes with us, I continue to suggest we go.  THIS TIME, Amanda and family thought it was a good idea! YAY!

So, one day, when it was supposed to be rainy in the Hilo area (I know – you think it’s always rainy there, but I find the weather very pleasant with a good mix of sun and rain), we went on a field trip to South Point.South point blow holes - tides out

South Point (“Ka Lae”) is only about 50 miles south-ish from Volcano Village and Hawaiian Volcanoes National Park.  It is the southern most point in the entire United States (19° North), including the Florida Keys (25° North.)

It’s possible that this is the landing place of the first inhabitants of Hawaii – Polynesians from Tahiti.  James Michener wrote in his novel “Hawaii” that they were escaping political upheaval – and headed out to sea in Fishing shelvescanoes, following the North Star… and eventually came to land safely, on the Big Island.  Of course, that’s technically fiction, but it’s fiction-based-on-fact, and the fact is: The Polynesians came, and archeology supports that they landed right there, on South Point.   Wikipedia summarizes: “Ruins of an ancient Hawaiian temple (heiau) and a fishing shrine can be found here. In addition, ancient Hawaiians drilled numerous holes in the rock ledges to use for mooring their canoes. Tying long ropes to their boats, they would drift out to sea to fish without fear of being carried away by the strong currents.”

Nowadays, people fish along the same shore – some even wrap their fishing “rope” around the wheel of their car, and when they catch something (which…I’m not how they know, but they carry their fishing lines far out into the sea with huge industrial size garbage bags tied to them every 100 feet or so), they start their Jeep and wheel in the catch!  (I haven’t seen this happen, but I’veCliff Jump seen it set up, in hopes of happening.)

We also saw people cliff-dive from one of the fishing stations, too, this year. In fact, I saw that there are tours offering South Point cliff diving/jumping as an option…  This girl was encouraged by her boyfriend to jump, on the promise that he’d jump right after her… which he did… which is good… so we didn’t have to push him…

Off we went towards the Green Sand (Papakōlea) Beach.

Just so you know – it IS too far to walk. WAY TOO FAR!  Some people do it, but you have to be really dedicated to it, in good shape, with sufficient water.

Some people drive in, but they need 4 wheel drive vehicles that they don’t care about.

Being in a rental car (shhhhhhh), we decided to walk.  We didn’t know, yet, that we would never have made it.

This man parked beside us (at the last possible place to abandon your vehicle) said: “I’ll drive you in, for $10 perRoute to Green Sand Beach person, kids for free.”

Although I was the advocate for “Lets just walk – how hard can it be?”, I immediately abandoned that idea as soon as this guy offered to drive us.  After convincing everyone else, we placed ourselves in his truck.

His truck, by the way, was held together by rope and duct tape.  The truck is completely covered, inside and out, in dust. There’s a jump seat inside, and a couch in the back..  I could understand the apprehension about renting his truck BUT it was a GREAT option!

He, himself, was EXACTLY who he should be – a local.  He was wearing board shorts and a beat up baseball cap, and flip-flops (which are “slippahs” in Hawaii), and when he drove, he could reach his big toe over to the clutch while still keeping his foot on the gas.

Green Sand BeachIt might not sound like a pretty picture, BUT he quickly became our hero!  So much so, that I asked him if I could keep his name (Magee) and phone number and hand it out to people who wanted to get to Green Sand Beach.  (So, if you want to go, and you don’t know anyone to drive you in, and you can’t walk in, please let me know!)

Also: he didn’t make us pay until we were safely delivered back at our own vehicle, AND he let us just take our time at the beach – he stayed up above and visited with the guy selling coconuts until we were ready to leave.

The Beach itself was amazing! I’ve never seen anything likeGreen Sand Beach 1 it! (I mean – there are only two beaches in the world that are made out of Olivine – this one, and one in Galapagos Islands (to which I haven’t been), so it makes sense that this was my first time seeing it…)

Olivine is a “magnesium iron silicate with the formula (Mg,Fe)2SiO4.” (That’s for my sister – checking to see if she’s reading… I should cut-and-paste it incorrectly… that’d be the real test 😀 )  Here’s what I know about it – it’s green. REALLY green! (Although you can’t really tell from the pictures, for some reason…) It’s “this close” to being the precious gem, Peridot. (“This close” is based on quality and size, but it didn’t stop me from feeling privileged and giddy to walk around on sand-size gemstones.)

Apparently, the Beach is inside what used to be a cinder cone.  It has now eroded on one side (Footsteps in Green Sandmaking the beach) but that completely explains the steep, steep, STEEP walls that you have to climb down to get to the Beach.
Green Sand Beach 2

You are NOT ALLOWED to take any sand from the beach – the fine, I think, is $500.  This makes sense, since there are only two such beaches in the world, and if everyone took some of the sand….

Speaking of interesting colored beaches in the area – there’s also the Punalu’u Black Sand Beach.   This is a turtlePunalu'u Turtle nesting area, and, though you aren’t allowed to touch them (penalty of $10,000 to $25,000 fines – I’ve seen both signs), you CAN snorkel in their vicinity!

This beach also has bathrooms, a refreshment stand, and a shower.

There are a few Black Sand Beaches on the island (as I’ve previously mentioned ~ Kalapana/Kaimu and Kehena), but this one is very easily accessed, and it’s worth it to just “be” there.  If you haven’t been to a Black Sand Beach before, you might be just as surprised as I was that the sand doesn’t make your feet dirty… It’s like little tiny black glass beads, made of basalt.
Punalu'u Punalu'u Beach

Wednesday, on to the Place of Refuge!


My Day at the Stampede

It’s hard to believe that just 2 weeks ago, the Calgary Stampede Grounds were under water, and this week, the Show actuallyCalgary Stampede 101 went on!!

Not that everything is back to normal, and it canNOT be forgotten that many are still displaced (especially in the nearby town of High River), and most are still trying to cope and recover..

But, happy sounds of laughter and shrieking children as they fly across the sky on some way-too-scary ride, and the dingalinging of games people play while theThe Culprity try to win the ultra-stuffed frog that they are then stuck carrying for the rest of the night, and bright shiny lights, and whiffs of donuts and cotton candy and caramel apples, and horses and cows … it all helps.

As you may remember from my last blog, some very wonderful friends gave us their tickets to last night Grandstand Show!

Front and Center (actually, Front and a little off to the side – we had the BEST location for Chuckwagon Races, and a prettMidway Gamesy good view of the Grandstand) – which is especially great, since it’s my first time ever there! (And, Peter’s official “first time” at the Show, too, having spent many teenager years watching the Chuckwagon Races, through a knothole in the fence.)

Our plan was to go early, so we could meander around the Midway area, and munch on “Those Little Donuts” and corndogs, but then we realized:

We are puppy sitting a 7 month old dachshund (Dash) and we have a one year old (Lucy), and it didn’t seem … reasonable… to leave Coco (8 years old) in charge… so some other very wonderful friends agreed to come over and puppy sit…

To make that worth their while, we decided to provide them with a steak and lobster/crab dinner… Eventually, it became clear that… we wanted Steak and Crab/Lobster more than we wanted corndogs… Sooooo, we stayed home instead.Those Little Donuts

So! we made a mad dash to the Stampede Grounds, screeched to a halt at the Mini Donut shop, short line up, grabbed our donuts.. (by the way, they weren’t THOSE Little Donuts, but they were REEEEALLY good anyway…)
Donuts in the Making

and ran, and screeched to a halt at the Stampede Marching Band, which happened to be playing “Carry On”, by FUN, which has been adopted by Calgary as “Their Song”, especially the Chorus of “If you’re lost and alone, Or sinking like a stone, Carry on, May your past be the sound, Of your feet upon the ground, Carry on… We are shining stars… we are who we are… We will find our way home… Carry on… Carry on…”"Calgary's Finest"

Finally, we found our seats for the evening. By the way, it was POURING rain earlier and we were afraid we weren’t going to make it, but then the sun came out and the sky was completely blue, just in time to kick off with the Chuckwagon Races (officially called the GMC Rangeland Derby).

Now, they give you a demonstration and tell you what to expect, and what the rules are, and … I’m sure that was SUPER Interesting! AND, I kinda wished I paid attention (without paying attention, you get a good idea what’s going on, so don’t panic if you miss the instruction period, too), BUT, well… I was… distracted…)

The Chuckwagon Races were 9 heats, and 4 teams each time.  They race each night and then the Grand Winner is determined in the end. (There’s also a nightly winner.)  Then, there’s also some rules about not knocking over barrels and something about the Outrider coming in behind (I think that’s right) the team… Oh, see? I was sort of listening.
DSC02332 DSC02333Barrel down

 Without knowing (most of) the rules, I still had a great time! In fact! It could be even better NOT to know. For example: after the horses and wagons and outriders had thundered by, I’d look back and be surprised to see a barrel down – meanwhile, someone who knew what was going on, would see that right away, and not have that element of surprise!

An Outrider

After the Chuckwagon Races ended (9 heats goes by just like that), I wondered how they could call the little announcer stage, “the Grand Stage” for the Grandstand Show! And then, I saw this coming:The Grand Stage Cometh

The Heebee-Jeebees kicked off the show with a get-the-crowd involved musical and comedy routine, and introduced the next acts.  One of the things I really appreciated about the whole Show is that they set up the stage for the next act while the previous act was still on stage, incorporating the action of switching the stage into the act before.  Very well done – no wait time.

I can’t write a play-by-play, but it was ALL amazing! Enjoyed all of the acts (one was less favorite, but I won’t tell you who, and some were MORE favorite, and I may tell you who! 😀 )

So: the night included:Beijing Acrobats

~ Acrobats and Ballet Dancers from Beijing, China (The program says the Flag Circus and Pole on Globes, but I didn’t actually see Globes, sooo it could be my angle, or maybe that was changed…? However – we DID see an amazing show of dancing and an INCREDIBLE acrobatic act)Beijing Acrobats

Beijing Ballet


~ Atherton Twins ~ Andrew and Kevin, who are gymnasts, originally from the U.K., who performed with Cirque du Soleil for the last 13 years.
Atherton TwinsAtherton Twins 2Atherton TwinThe Young Canadians

~ The Young Canadians of the Calgary Stampede ~ who have performed at the Calgary Stampede for the past 45 years – the youngest was…I forget – really little (I think 7 years old?)- and the oldest is 21.

~ The Alberta Ballet ~ with a little baseball number, performed by Sir Elton John’s “Bennie and the Jets“.
Bennie and the Jets
During THAT performance, I was completely distracted by horse skeletons “galloping” across the sky (I d"As they ride across the sky"idn’t get very many good pictures of that, because I switched to video – the pictures look a little awkward, but they were really graceful!), which was the segue into the First Nations’ dances, which are always my favorite, as I’ve mentioned previously.  After that – my pictures all start to blend.

There were two segments of First Nation dancers, but I don’t know which were which (I’M SORRY! but everything was blending so well, and even though they announced it, I was caught up in it all, and didn’t write anything down.)

The groups included Dallas Arcand and Treaty 7 First Nations (Dallas, from the Cree Nation, is famous for his Hoop Dancing) , and also the Spirit Eagle Dancers (who’ve been dancing at the Stampede since it began in 1912.)
Hoop DancersDSC02482
Hoop Dancing to Donovan Seidle
The Hoop Dancing was performed to the music of Donovan Seidle of the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra (Donovan also had his own segment on the Show too – he’s amazing!)
Calgary Philharmonic, with Donovan Seidle

Like I said, the shows were melting into eachother, so I can’t really remember how Raghav appeared on the stage.  I think his dancers might’ve intermingled with some of the Beijing dancers…

Raghav’s musRaghav and crewic is a fusion of hip-hop and R&B, with a Bollywood background. Very energetic. Very entertaining.

Then one scene became another scene which became another scene and when the smoke cleared, THIS was the stage:

KISS, by the Destroyers

They opened with “Rock and Roll all Night” – they have been playing for almost 20 years (oops – I forgot to mention – I’m talking about THIS band, Destroyer, the most famous and convincing KISS tribute band)  – so convincing that people around me actually thought it was KISS at first.  (I mean, you can’t blame them really – KISS was supposed to be at the Stampede this year, but their venue (the Calgary Saddledome) was flooded out and the concert got cancelled… That would’ve been a GREAT surprise if ALL of them showed up on that stage… huh… that’d be SUPER COOL if they did! They were supposed to be here July 13th… THAT would be the day to go to the Grandstand Show…just in case)
KISS Tribute Band, The DestroyersKISS Tribue Band, The Destroyer

While I was distracted by the fireworks over the KISS/Destroyer stage, Peter said: “Hey! look!” and then something like:Flying piano “Look at that Blue Floating Piano.”

PRIZE for best entrance goes to Marc Martel, who (apparently) resembles Freddie Mercury… although I don’t see it. BUT, he can SING Queen songs and did! I have to confess, at this point… I want to say he sang “We are the Champions” and I’m almost certain he did, but I was SO distracted by the flying piano, I can’t say for sure.  (Peter says, that Yes, it was “We are the Champions“, and he also sang “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” (after the piano landed)…
More Flying PianoMarc Martel

Segue, segue, enter Cinderella by sky. When she came, the lady behind me, said (I think she was saying it in awe, but, unfortunately, it got caught in my recording): “She looks like a Barbie Princess Cake.”  WHICH was funny, BUT terrible timing, because it is in my recording of my absolute most favorite song: O Mio Bambino Caro.  (The link is by my FAVORITE Michelle MinkeOpera singer ever (also the only one, other than the Pavarotti, that I actually know), Kiri te Kanawa, but the one performing at the Stampede, is Michelle Minke , of the Calgary Opera ~ her singing was amazing, but I couldn’t find anything on-line, to attach.  I myself, only took a couple of pictures with my cell phone, because I was recording her performance with my camera… Love that song. So beautiful. Sigh.)

And, from there, we moved into the Grand Finale.
Grand Finale
DSC02511 DSC02524 DSC02525 DSC02527
The Show that Must Go On, WILL go on, until next Sunday, July 14th, for the GRAND Grand Finale! and then we wait for Stampede 102.Minions

Our evening wasn’t quite over – as we wandered around downtown Calgary, trying to find a cab, we DID come across this truckload of Minions.  THAT doesn’t happen every day!!!!

See you Wednesday!

Leave a comment »

Calgary Stampede 101

If you live in Alberta, or if you’ve been watching the news for Alberta, or if you’ve read my blog before, you will know that weCalgary Stampede just had a TERRIBLE disastrous flood here in Calgary (and many other places in Southern Alberta).  The area around the Calgary Stampede Grounds was hard hit, and we thought that the Stampede was going to be a No-Go. At least, on the first couple of days.
Gavin Young, Calgary Herald's photo

But then, the sun came out, and the water started to recede, and the Mayor and the City officials said, “Nope- the Show must go on”..  Not only is it good financially for the City, but it’s also great for morale.

My friend, Kris's, photoAnd now, look at us! Stampede Sneak-a-peak is set for tomorrow night! ($8, July 4, 5pm to midnight).  And the streets that were just flooded a few weeks ago are now hosting the Parade on Friday!

And why? Because, as the Calgary Stampede facebook page says: “The spirit of this city cannot be washed away. As floodwaters recede, community spirit continues to run high. The power of people is rebuilding this community – along with Stampede Park.”  The statement ends with: “The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth WILL go on.”

And, despite the warning, “Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys” (that’s Waylon Jenning’s and Willie Nelson’s advice to the general populace), off we rush to the Stampede!

They say the reasons are “They’ll never stay home and they’re always alone…Lonestar belt buckles and old faded Levis”…

But, if you grew up in Montana (or another other cowboy country – Alberta, Wyoming, etc), OR if you grew up in the city somewhere but happened to watch Electric Horseman, with a young(er) Robert Redford (sigh), then that advice is probably ignored…or, at least, maybe thatThese boots were made for walkin' cowboy tipping his hat can give your heart a little flutter… or, if cowboys aren’t your thing, what about Daisy Duke (either the original or the Jessica Simpson version) – you have to admit – there’s something about faded jeans and cowboy boots…(could maybe replace that lyric about belt buckles with boots… that’d be more appropriate for me.)

Despite my love for jeans and boots, and despite the fact that I grew up in Montana, and despite the fact that I had a TREMENDOUS crush on a certain cowboy when I was 12-15 (if any of you know or remember who that is, shhhhhhhh),  I didn’t own a pair of boots until I moved to Calgary and was preparing to go to my first Stampede… now I have a good collection…
The Chinese dragonThe butterflies, maybe

Calgary is (technically) a cowboy town, stemming back to “Once upon a time”, in the late (it seems) 1800’s.  In fact, one of its nicknames (which some people hate and some love) is “Cowtown.”  To celebrate that, there is a “parade” of Cow sculptures (all individually painted by various local artists), called Udderly Art,  now on display at The Legacy Pasture, in the +15 walkway, north side of 9th Avenue, between 5th and 6th Street, S.W.

I think some don’t like it because it makes the town sound…well, like a “town”, and perhaps a town reeking of cow manure and agriculture…

CowgirlNot everyone in town is a Cowboy/girl, but during Stampede everyone does find SOMETHING Stampede-y to wear.  Even in the corporate downtown, suits and ties are replaced with jeans & boots.

It’s a great time to be a local “sightseer”… sigh.

Except the traffic.  And the dust.  And the tourists going the wrong way on a one way (almost all the streets downtown are “one-ways”.)

To make up for it, though, there is the jeans and boots (have I mentioned that already?), and free breakfasts of pancakes and sausages and coffee, and barbeques of burgers and pulled-pork sandwiches, all over theThe Gentleman city!

People are less rushed – more “moseying” around, tipping their hats, waiting patiently in lines, hooting it up here and there!

And then, there’s the Stampede itself!

This year’s Stampede is July 5-14, and is the 101st year!  Before The Flood, I hadn’t decided if I was going yet or not – I used to go at least once a year, and then, one2013 Fees year, I went every day… and wore myself out.  But NOW! I’ll definitely be there!  (In fact, really great friends just gave us their tickets to the Grandstand Show, which I’ve never actually seen… Too bad they had to give them up, but yay for us! THANK YOU!)

The Stampede is more than just a rodeo and agriculture fair.  It IS the biggest outdoor show on the planet – last year’s attendance was over 1.4 million…GOODNESS!) – it also includes a LOT of music venues, beer gardens, Mid-way rides, fair-food (you have GOT to have “Those Little Donuts”), art shows, an Indian Village and the Hoop Dances…oh! and the Chuckwagon Races & Grandstand Show.  You can go year after year and never go to the actual rodeo.

It’s not always just country music at the Stampede either – this year, along with the Dixie Chicks and Tim McGraw, is KISS…. Ummmm… THAT SHOCKS ME!! How about that!  (****I don’t want to delete this paragraph, just in case things change, but I just read that all of the concerts that were being held within the Saddledome have had to be cancelled, due to the flooding 😦  That’s so terrible. Not surprising. But very sad… However, Google that – maybe they’ll find another venue, or as the days go by, they’ll be able to go on as scheduled.****)

The DancersMy favorite thing to watch is the aforementioned Hoop Dancing in the Indian Village. (Not sure about the “politically correctness” of this name, but that’s what it’s called.)  The website says it’s been a part of the Stampede since the Stampede started, in 1912. “It is a great way for visitors to experience the First Nations traditions and culture first hand”.

Another highlight is the Parade. It will be on Friday, the 5th of July … Apparently, you can reserve a nice seat for the parade OR you can really appreciate the whole Stampede experience and show up with everyone else, 3 hours before the parade starts, and elbow your way to the front. (Last year, an estimated 300,000 showed up to watch the parade.)  I’ve only gone once, because I don’t want to be down at my spot at 7am, every year.
First Nations 1First Nations 2
First Nations - PeiganThis year’s Parade Marshall is Canadian Astronaut (the first Canadian astronaut to walk in space), Chris Hadfield.

Scattered around town are various … Stampede parties – here and there – at “saloons”! Now, I’m not saying I recommend these places, but two top country/cowboy places people go are Cowboys and Ranchmans (… go to their websites and check out this year’s Stampede line-up!)

By the way, there’s a Calgary Stampede app for your cell phone – it includes GPS, so you can navigate the Park… so you won’t miss a thing.

Oh goodness – so, I went to check out the app, and I found a second app that tells you where to find all the free StampedeThe Tinkers Pancake Breakfasts in the city.  The app is still set for 2012 (probably too soon for the upcoming 2013 Breakfast season), but last year, there were over 190 Breakfasts to choose from!!

Don’t forget to stay awake for the nightly fireworks show over the Stampede Grounds (following the Grandstand show)!

That’s Stampede 101.  Come on down and enjoy the show!

Comments Off on Calgary Stampede 101

National Day Calendar

Fun, unusual and forgotten designations on our calendar.

LakeShore Haven

Our Cottage (yes, it's a vacation rental!), steps to a white sandy beach on Lake Michigan

Hyperbole and a Half

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)

Dowedoff's inThailand? Seriously?

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)

In an Irish Home

What Life is Really Like Behind the Hall Door

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)

Where's my backpack?

Romancing the planet; a love affair with travel.

Life's Passions

The Road Trip Hound

“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” – Henry Miller

The Silk Road Spice Merchant

The latest spice news from the Silk Road

off the beaten track in spain

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)

One Dusty Track

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)

Bucket List Publications

Indulge- Travel, Adventure, & New Experiences

Self Reliant Network

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)

%d bloggers like this: