Always an adventure

I love to travel, so I do it a lot. Mostly with my man, who has inspired wanderlust in me for almost 36 years. He plans the best trips, takes me out of my comfort zone, gives me confidence, and helps me dial back the travel anxiety that airports give me these days. Well, for the most part he dials it back. When he can’t dial it back, he gets me a glass of wine. Or two. That does the trick.  

I have lots of places still on my bucket list, but I have two favorites that draw me to them like magnets. Whenever my man gets that travel bug spark in his eye and starts planning a trip, he doesn’t even have to ask me if or when I want to go to either of these two places. He just plans the trip and tells me the dates.  

 New York City is the place I love to go to, spend 3 or 4 nights, see shows, do a run-about (or three) around the city, and wander around museums until my man is bored to grouchiness. Then, I love to go home. Big cities are a great place to visit, but I don’t think people would like me very much if I lived in one.  

Hawaii’s Big Island, on the other hand, is a place I could stay forever. The first time we came here, I got off the plane and into the rental car, and felt like I’d come home. It’s the only place on earth I would ever consider living off the grid, and that says a lot for a gal who really likes her hour long hot baths.  

Sunset on the first day

Tonight, as I sit enjoying the sunset from my balcony with a glass of wine, I feel more at home than ever. After a 9 1/2 mile hike to see the lava flowing into the ocean today, I’m exhausted, every muscle and joint in my body hates me, I have a blister forming on my pinkie toe that doesn’t bode well for the toe nail that resides there, and my sunburn is making me a true redneck, but I can’t wait to do it all over again tomorrow. 

Tomorrow’s adventure is under the sea.  

Even better.  

He loves living life on the edge

Lava making land. I’m not ashamed to say this sight brought me to tears


In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.  The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters.  And the spirit of God was hovering over the deep waters.  Genesis 1:1-2

Kona

The view from the plane the day we arrived.

The view from the plane the day we arrived.

We’re at the end of a magical two weeks in Hawaii, and I’m trying to think of ways we can move here. We came to Kona the first time in 2010, to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary, and we fell in love with this place. So, when my man asked me a few weeks ago if I would like to come back, I started packing immediately. We booked a last minute trip, and, I’ll be honest, I don’t want to go home. We’ve traveled a lot over the years, and been to some magical places, but this is the one I would call home if I could. I truly love it here.

Of course, at this point in my life, that’s not possible, so I’ll use this post as a tribute to the island, and just try not to think of how much I want to stay.

First off, to Kerry and staff at Kona Dive Co, job well done. Love you guys! We dove with you back in 2010, and Gary and I both marveled at how every dive still feels fresh and new under your guidance. I know you dive the same spots week after week, but you seem to absolutely love what you do, and that makes every dive guest feel like you designed that particular dive for them individually. Thanks so much for our time on the water! My underwater camera decided to sit this trip out, but I think that made my dives even better. It allowed me the opportunity to savor each one, and drink in the entire experience. While we didn’t see the things we saw last trip (at a different time of year), we had amazing dives filled with beauty and peace. Eagle rays, turtles, eels (including the beautiful dragon eel – thanks, David!), pompom crabs, and too many other things to enumerate here. Thanks, guys, hope to see you all again soon.

What makes Kona special to us is the topside experience we have in addition to the diving. As much as we love to dive, we love hiking and seeing all the area has to offer. That’s one of the reasons we love Kona so much. The diving is spectacular, and the island itself is like a beautiful puzzle we unlock one step at a time. This trip we enjoyed the Kohala coast, the southern district of Ku’a, the Honaunau Coast, the exquisite Mauna Kea sunrise, and, of course, the beautiful volcano, Kilauea. We used the website bigislandhikes.com almost exclusively for our hiking guide. We also asked the locals (Kona Dive) for their recommendations.

Enough words. Here are some of my favorite iPhone pics from our trip. We don’t fly out until tomorrow night, so I reserve the right to add another post later if we see something amazing tomorrow.

Mauna Loa from the dive boat

Mauna Loa from the dive boat

Honokohau Harbor hike

Honokohau Harbor hike

Akaka Falls. Hint: don't go on Wednesday, cruise ship day in Hilo

Akaka Falls. Hint: don’t go on Wednesday, cruise ship day in Hilo

Sunset from our condo

Sunset from our condo

Trying to stay warm on Mauna Kea

Trying to stay warm on Mauna Kea

Above the clouds, Mauna Kea at Sunrise

Above the clouds, Mauna Kea at Sunrise

Petroglyphs at Kilauea

Petroglyphs at Kilauea

The arches at Kilauea

The arches at Kilauea

The steep climp to Pololu Valley

The steep climp to Pololu Valley

Waipio Valley

Waipio Valley

Pololu Valley

Pololu Valley

Pololu Valley

Pololu Valley

Honaunau coast

Honaunau coast

 

So much left unseen. Until next time, beautiful Big Island…

Chicago

It’s been a fun, busy week, just now posting Chicago pics.  Didn’t really get a chance to take a lot, Delta & bad weather took a whole day out of our trip.  Of course, that just means we will have to go back, and with our metro cards still having $ on them, I think that’s a done deal.

As with most trips this year, Chicago was about following the Braves around.  When I heard that a remodel was in the works for Wrigley Field, I knew that we needed to make this trip happen, so we did.  We had several things planned this trip that we didn’t get to do, tickets to The Book of Mormon remained unused – still working on filing that insurance claim.  We also didn’t get to go to the Willis Tower or one of the museums I wanted to see, but we’ll do those things next time.   We loved Chicago.  The weather was fine, the walking/exploring was excellent, and Wrigley Field was all I hoped it would be.  Loved the Cubs fans.  They were gracious losers and awesome winners (the Braves took one & lost one of the two games we attended).  Couldn’t help getting caught up in the excitement as the Cubs won a hard fought game.  Really enjoyed my time at the ball park.  And, the deep dish pizza we ate ranks second only to the lobster roll from Fenway Park when it comes to ball park food.

I didn’t take as many photos as usual.   I left Big Bertha (my professional camera) at home, and relied on my iPhone to document those things I found noteworthy.  Here are my favorites from the trip.

Another selfie at "The Bean"

Another selfie at “The Bean”

Lakeshore

Lakeshore

Chicago River

Chicago River

Buckingham Fountain

Buckingham Fountain

My last trip to Chicago was made when I was 8. I only have vague memories of that trip. We rode the Amtrak there and back & I remember moments on the train. We visited relatives there and I remember my Uncle Jim walking with us through Chinatown, offering some very colorful language as we made our way through traffic. I remember a museum with a dollhouse, and I remember Buckingham Fountain.

I can be nostalgic at times, and I’ll admit to having a moment when we stood at Buckingham Fountain on this trip. I felt such a strong presence of my dad, and I stood and let the memory wash over me. I remember being cold, and my dad putting his coat around me. I don’t remember what the coat looked like, but knowing my dad it was a suit jacket. I do remember the tobacco and peppermint smell of it, and as I stood at the fountain the other day, I remember that little girl whose Daddy could do no wrong. Sweet memories. So thankful for my parents. We were beyond poor, but they still managed to give us an appreciation for travel and culture.

Buckingham Fountain

Buckingham Fountain

Stupid Braves fan not removing hat & talking on cell during National Anthem.

Stupid Braves fan not removing hat & talking on cell during National Anthem.

If Gary had not been with me, I would have had a “teachable moment” with this idiotic Braves fan who made us all look bad. As it was, I gave him the stink eye, but I left him alone. Didn’t want to start a fight that Gary would have to finish, but the old broad in me sure had to bite her tongue.

Scoreboard at Wrigley Field - notice top right flag - Braves lead their Division!

Scoreboard at Wrigley Field – notice top right flag – Braves lead their Division!

Downtown from Art Institute bridge

Downtown from Art Institute bridge

Downtown from Art Institute bridge

Downtown from Art Institute bridge

Sculpture on rooftop of Art Institute Museum

Sculpture on rooftop of Art Institute Museum

Navy Pier - flags still at half mast after the shootings in DC

Navy Pier – flags still at half mast after the shootings in DC

Lakeshore at dawn

Lakeshore at dawn

Gary and I walked around Chicago on Friday and made a loose plan for my long run on Saturday, but we ended up just following our feet on that run. There’s really no better way to explore a new place that by running it. We started along the lake, ran up to Navy Pier, then headed north along the shore with about a million other walkers/runners/cyclists. I finished my run while Gary waited for me along the shore line, then we left the insane crowd of runners and went to Michigan Ave to walk the Magnificent Mile. Of course, there was a Starbucks along the route, and we rubbernecked like the tourists that we are.

Wrigley Field - checked off my Bucket List

Wrigley Field – checked off my Bucket List

Close enough to kiss Brian McCann.  I didn't though.  That would have involved an arrest & bail money & other unpleasant things.

Close enough to kiss Brian McCann. I didn’t though. That would have involved an arrest & bail money & other unpleasant things.

We stayed at the Jay Gatsby worthy “Palmer House”, but, for some strange reason, I took no photos of it. I really dropped the ball there, the hotel is truly a work of art.

Excellent trip, cut short by flight delays. I hope we’re able to return there soon. There’s a lot left to explore!

Polishing my faith

Airports seem to bring out the inner alcoholic that resides in each of us. Our seatmate from Jackson had a little Irish with his coffee. Okay, he had a lot of Irish with his coffee, and we departed Jackson at the relatively early hour of 7:50 a.m.

Into Atlanta-Hartsfield by 9:50 a.m., and the bars and cafes were lined with half drunk glasses of wine, mixed drinks, and foamy glasses of beer, all accompanied by people with wild eyed looks on their faces. I’ll admit, I was judgemental. It wasn’t even 10 in the morning, and everywhere I looked, folks were getting sloshed.

We encountered our first delay quickly, pushing our 12:15 departure time back until 1 pm. While we ate an excellent meal at PF Chang’s (you really can’t go wrong there), we encountered our second delay. This one until 3:07. Did I mention we have very expensive theater tickets tonight in Chicago? The wine bar near our gate is looking better by the minute.

Fortunately, this terminal has an Express Spa. How awesome is that? So, rather than tipple before 5 pm (my usual witching hour), I’m getting a pedicure. And, a mini massage. Beautiful Atlanta native, Freida, is gently polishing my worries away. Life is good, isn’t it?

We have a tendency to get frazzled when the least things go amiss in our lives. Flight delays, traffic snarls, long lines at the checkout with a whiny child in our cart (or the one behind us). We’ve become such a “fast food” society. If we can’t have it when we want it, we have a fit, show our road (or airport) rage, or take it out on some poor, defenseless kid just trying to make her way through college. Or, we turn to some external source to ease our frayed nerves. Whether your poison is alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, or food, they’re all equally harmful. What is the matter with us? Why can’t we learn to cope?

I think the answer is a pretty simple one. We always forget to turn to the one who can truly alleviate our worries. The only One who fills that God shaped hole in our souls. The One who can give us the peace to step away from that bottle or that cake; make us remember to allow others to see Him in us, and soothe our troubled souls.

As I sit and enjoy sweet Freida’s ministrations to my feet, I’m reminded that Jesus tended to the feet of His disciples, much to their consternation. But, He was teaching them and us a lesson. Giving a reminder that we are here to serve others, not to allow our temporary discomforts to become impediments to their knowledge of Him. How often have I been guilty of letting my frayed nerves make my tongue sharp? Way too many times, I’m afraid.

Whatever your troubles today, take a breath, step back from it, say a prayer, and allow God to give you peace. Go get an unplanned pedicure. Go for a run. Walk outside and look at the sky. These are temporary troubles, anyway. And, in comparison to a world filled with pain, my troubles are small and insignificant. My theater tickets are actually insured against flight delays.

20130919-124450.jpg

I even had time to let the polish dry.

Attitude

neg splits
My half marathon training started last week, and it went well, for the most part. It did involve a long run fail, but that was because I forgot that old broads should REST on their rest days, not dust, vacuum, move furniture, and mop. Lesson learned. Running trumps housework. And, I got the long run in a couple days later.

I learned long ago that training is more mental than physical, and attitude is everything. I felt tired and sore over the weekend, but mostly what I felt was thankfulness. Thankful that running is still a part of my life, thankful for the calm and clarity that comes from a soul cleansing run, even thankful for the achy muscles and joints that snap, crackle, and pop when I walk. I’m thankful for those wicked hills on my neighborhood run that my man swears will build my character. I’m thankful that I can wake up each morning, put my feet on the floor, gulp my coffee, and head out for an early prayer meeting on the running path. Little things. Things I hope I never take for granted.

In addition to being a runner, I’m also an avid reader. I love books. And, not just in one specific genre. My reading tastes vary from C.S. Lewis to J.K. Rowling, from Greg Iles to Truman Capote, from Randy Alcorn to Pat Conroy, and everything in between. Lately, I’ve been absorbed in biographies and autobiographies. Without doing too much self reflection, I think my new love of people’s life stories may boil down to the simple fact that I’m nosy. I like to see how the other half lives, whether it’s elite athletes, First Ladies (Eleanor Roosevelt is a recent fave), or people who have changed the world through their art, in business, or technology (currently listening to “Steve Jobs” and reading  “Too Brief a Treat, the Letters of Truman Capote”).

Two books I’ve read in the last couple of weeks bear mentioning. I love reading motivational stories of people who have overcome much to excel, whether in sport, business, or life in general. Sometimes, I read them, mostly on my e-reader, even though nothing compares to the feel and smell of a new book. Other times, I listen to the them while I pound the pavement. I’ve run many miles with the likes of Harry Potter, Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan, and Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy to keep me company.

“The Secret Race, Inside the World of the Tour de France”, by Tyler Hamilton and Daniel Coyle (my review is here); and “Running for My Life,” by Lopez Lomong both absorbed me with their tales recently.  They are two wildly different books, one about professional cycling, the other about professional running; but both motivational in their own way. One is about athletes in a sport that became a “win at all costs” scenario, and the redemption of its heroes (and hopefully the sport itself); the other is the hauntingly beautiful story of a lost boy from Sudan who becomes an American citizen, who ran first for his life, then, later, for joy, just because he could. He realized that his gift was about something much bigger than himself or any sport. One reminds us of how badly things turn out when we allow the winning mentality to overtake our lives, the other is an uplifting reminder that we owe it all to God, and when we honor Him with our gifts, He blesses them exponentially.

I’ll be honest. “The Secret Race” pulled me in with its real life intrigue and gossipy secrets. Again, the nosiness in me rises to the surface. I was touched by the honesty with which Tyler Hamilton exposed his part in the drug scandal, and by the effect that it had on his life. I used to be an avid Tour watcher, and remembered the races as he described them, even recalling some of the more spectacular crashes. PED’s are not exclusive to professional cycling, and I think all athletes, even weekend warriors, could benefit from the lessons learned by Tyler Hamilton, et al.

“Running for My Life” was a horse of a completely different color. I purchased it, quite honestly, because it was a less expensive audiobook than many of the others I was looking at. Nosy and cheap. Not two of my finer qualities, I guess. Anyway, I’m looking for good audiobooks as my long runs start to increase, and this was one of the first ones I chose. And, wow, was it ever a good choice to kick off my training. It had me wanting to go out Saturday in the heat of the day and knock that long run on its knees. I didn’t, of course. Good sense prevailed.

I ended up listening to the entire book on Saturday, even after the long run fail. I simply couldn’t turn it off. It moved me to tears and made me reflect on how much we take for granted in our lives. The freedom to run, not out of fear for our lives, but out of joy and the love of running. The availability of good nutrition and clean drinking water, excellent health care, safe places to run, the ability to buy shoes to run in. It also reminded me of the responsibility that comes with that freedom.

One of the things I loved in Lopez Lomong’s book was when he shared his prayers at difficult stages of his journey.  So, I’m sharing mine as I enter this training phase:
Precious Father, thank You for allowing running to be a part of my life. For whatever length of time it is, and for each step, no matter how slow or painful, I am thankful. Thank You for reminders of your faithfulness in my life, for allowing me to be born in this country – with all its flaws, still the best place to live in the world. I ask your blessing on my body, my legs, and my lungs as I train, and I offer it all back to You, to be used for your glory in whatever way You see fit. May my attitude always be one of joy and gratitude.
Amen

feet-mind

DC quick pics

Holy moly, air travel ain’t what it needs to be! Wednesday was a loooooooooong day, filled with aggravation, frustration, and exhaustion. We missed our ATL connection, were on standby for a 5:55 flight that left at 6:30ish, didn’t get on that one;  then, were confirmed for an 8:30 flight that actually left about 10:30 pm and changed gates at least twice with no announcement from Delta. Long day, but I did finally get to sleep in my bed the following morning about 1:30.

Up early on Thursday to go to the cell phone store (my man lost his in DC), then realized he also lost his debit card. Yes, I’m thinking of getting super glue for all the things he has to keep up with, but that’s a tale for another day. Finally got a nap Thursday afternoon and began to feel human again. Slept like a dead person last night, and got up feeling great today.

So, here are the pictures I mentioned in the last post, followed by the things I loved about DC, and the things I wasn’t so crazy about.

White House north lawn, night view

White House north lawn, night view

White House north lawn

White House north lawn

Capitol building

Capitol building

Iwo Jima

Iwo Jima

Iwo Jima and Washington monument

Iwo Jima and Washington monument

Mount Vernon

Mount Vernon

Mount Vernon, from the river

Mount Vernon, from the river

Lincoln memorial

Lincoln memorial

Lincoln memorial

Lincoln memorial

Korean War Memorial, my favorite.  I went back multiple times, absolutely loved this.

Korean War Memorial, my favorite. I went back multiple times, absolutely loved this.

Korean Memorial, with reflections on wall

Korean Memorial, with reflections on wall

Thomas Jefferson quote

Thomas Jefferson quote

More from Korea

More from Korea

Iwo Jima, Marine memorialIwo Jima, Marine memorial

Medical Corpsman carving, Navy Memorial

Medical Corpsman carving, Navy Memorial

Navy memorial, for my dad

Navy memorial, for my dad

Navy Memorial

Navy Memorial

North lawn of White House, early morning

North lawn of White House, early morning

Smithsonian Castle

Smithsonian Castle

South lawn of White House

South lawn of White House

Washington monument, covered in scaffolding due to repairs from earthquake damage

Washington monument, covered in scaffolding due to repairs from earthquake damage

The Potomac river from Arlington bridge, taken on our night bike ride to Arlington cemetery
The Potomac river from Arlington bridge, taken on our night bike ride to Arlington cemetery

There may or may not have been some serious deviation from my diet here.

There may or may not have been some serious deviation from my diet here.

Jefferson Memorial across the Tidal Basin

Jefferson Memorial across the Tidal Basin

A little Mississippi at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum

A little Mississippi at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum

Braves/Nats game

Braves/Nats game

Things I loved:
1) DC is very walker friendly. We saw most of the sights by walking to them. Renting bikes was fun, too, if a little nerve wracking.

2) It was easy to plan our trip online before we got there, purchasing metro passes, tickets to Mount Vernon and other attractions (we did). It’s a tech friendly city, you’re even able to order food from your seat at the Nationals ball park using your cell phone (we didn’t).

3) The Smithsonians are all free admission!  Loved that!

4) The metro/rail system was pretty easy to figure out and was cleaner than others I’ve used.

5) The Braves swept the series.  🙂

Didn’t love:

1) Wi-fi was a little wonky everywhere.  Almost enough to make me a black helicopter girl.  Well, even more than I already am.

2) Nats fans.  (See #5 above)

3) Crowding on subway leaving the ballgame.  Of course, my man has a “show no fear, take no prisoners” way about him, so I tucked in behind him and moved forward on his slipstream.

4) Scaffolding, scaffolding, scaffolding.  Great images were hard to come by with so much repair work going on.  Of course, I realize this is necessary & that summer is probably the best working time, but it sure put a crimp in my style.
5) Crowds on the National Mall were epic, but I think that’s to be expected. It wasn’t too bad early in the day.

A very nice trip overall, but I’m not sure I’ll go back anytime soon.  Would love to have had a few more days in the National Portrait Gallery & other Smithsonian art museums, but maybe not enough to plan another trip around them.  Bottom line, I think everyone should visit our nation’s capitol at least once.  It’s a beautiful city with a lot to offer.

I’m ready

The beach turned into a different place over the weekend. The blue haired, black sock and tennis shoe wearing snow birds have melted into bleach blonds with teeny weeny bikinis and flip flops. To be fair, some of bikini wearers also have blue hair, just a slightly different hue.

The peaceful quiet of the beach has erupted with college kids on spring break littering the sand with beer cans and kids digging holes to Middle Earth that present ankle hazards on my late evening beach walk. No more solitary walks at sunset, or peaceful days spent working quietly with the windows and doors open wide to enjoy the sound of the surf. As Gary and I are closer to the black socks with tennis shoes generation than the teeny weeny bikini one, we are ready to go home. I don’t begrudge them their beach time, I just don’t want to be a part of it. Sheesh, I’m turning into a real old fogey.

It’s been a productive stay. I got some work accomplished, not as much as I wanted to, but more than I thought I would. Race weekend was fun, and since that weekend, Gary and I have tried almost every restaurant along 30A. I can tell you who serves the best key lime pie south of Highway 98, which restaurants to put on your to do list, and the ones to avoid. I’ve had a small vineyard of wine, haven’t run like I should, and eaten more bread and dairy in the last two weeks than I’ve eaten in the last six months. But, almost every day brought a bike ride and a beach walk, so I’m not beating myself up too much. Of course, now I feel overfed and sluggish, but getting home and back to our routines will help with that. And, all that biking and beach walking was very therapeutic for Gary’s leg.

I finished up one last work project this evening, then we went for our last sunset beach walk for a while. We didn’t know when we planned this trip so many months ago how well timed it would turn out to be. The perfect way to lick my wounds, and let the waves wash over me with their healing powers. We didn’t know this would be a trip used to grieve my dad, work out some kinks in our minds and bodies, as well as spend some quality time together away from our regular routines. It’s been a quiet, magical time; filled with joy and sadness. It’s been a time I am most humbly thankful for. I wish that all huge life events came with a month long grace period at the beach right after.

I am ready for home, for spring, and all that it brings. I’m ready for the dogwoods to bloom and the world to be green again. I’m ready for warmer temps when I run. I’m ready to sweat and not be cold. I’m ready to rejoin the world, with a heart full and at peace.

I’m ready to return here soon.

Blue Mountain Beach, Florida

Blue Mountain Beach, Florida