Category Archives: Travel Journal

A Quick Trip to “The Springs”

Wendy and I have greatly missed our friends, Kevin and Linda, who packed up their possessions in Pella and moved out to Palm Springs, California a few months ago. So, when Wendy happened to see that our airline had some super-saver deals we jumped at the chance to fly out to spend a few days with the snowbirds this past week. And, as the weather has been unseasonably cold, windy, and snowy in Iowa, it came at a great time.

 

We were supposed to arrive mid-day on Tuesday, but travel delays meant we got rerouted and spent much more time in airports than planned. Nevertheless, we arrived at 7:45 pm and enjoyed dinner with Kevin and Linda. We enjoyed playing with Linda’s dog, Ginsberg, and talking way too late into the evening, or wee hours of the morning as was the reality for our midwest bodies.

It was a gorgeous day on Wednesday. So much fun to sit in on the deck and look out at the sun on the mountains as I got a little work done. Once everyone was up and going we walked the mile from their condo to the main strip in Palm Springs, taking time to browse through some shops. The chorizo queso at Maracas has become a favorite of ours, so we had lunch there. Kevin and I picked up cigars to enjoy after dinner that evening. We walked back and napped in the afternoon. Dinner was on the patio at another Palm Springs favorite, Tropicale. We enjoyed cigars around the pool in the evening and even dipped our feet in the hot tub.

This is NOT an example of mid-century modern architecture.

Thursday was unseasonably cold and rainy for Palm Springs, but we didn’t let it dampen our day. Our friends gave us a tour of mid-century modern architecture around Palm Springs and we grabbed a burger at a local grill. The afternoon was spent visiting, napping, and reading. We took in the Palm Spring Art Museum in the evening for dining at Kaiser Grill.

Wendy taking in an exhibit at the Palm Springs Art Museum. Somehow, Wendy in a halo of red is just fitting.

The trip was all too quick. It felt like we blinked and it was over. We enjoyed brunch together at Pinocchio’s along with Kevin and Linda’s friend, Michael, who had flown in for a visit late the previous evening. Then, it was back to reality. We met snow in our layover in Denver. Ugh.

Blessed to have gotten a few days of r&r with our friends, however. Can’t wait for the next time.

Palm Springs & and Unintended Sabbatical

…but abide the change of time,
Quake in the present winter’s state, and wish
That warmer days would come.”
– Shakespeare (Cymbeline 2.4)

Even casual readers of my blog will know that my posting has been, at best, haphazard of late. For almost 11 years I’ve managed to average close to one post a day, but I found myself in an unintended sabbatical of late. I’m at a loss to easily say why. Let’s chalk it up to a mixed winter’s tempest of draining musical production, nasty virus that won’t go away, longer than average holidays, seemingly endless activity, year-end responsibilities, new-year responsibilities, awful head cold, then topped off by what feels like endless business travel.

In the midst of it, however, Wendy and I sought to escape the depths of Iowa winter to visit our friends Kevin and Linda in Palm Springs. Our dear neighbors undertook their first adventure as “snowbirds.” ¬†We have greatly missed their good company. So, we snuck out for a relational “fix” while enjoying a week in the sun.

Solving the world's problems into the wee hours (our sincere apologies to the neighbors).
Solving the world’s problems into the wee hours (our sincere apologies to the neighbors).

Neither Wendy nor I have spent any time in Palm Springs. I drove through on a business trip many years ago, but did not stay. Kevin and Linda have a lovely little condo with requisite swimming pool. They also had a cute little deck where the four of us could sit and quaff drinks while attempting to solve the world’s problems into the wee hours of multiple mornings. We didn’t solve the world’s problems, and we argued like the Founding Fathers over several issues which kept the neighbors awake. We also found things on which to agree – and in the end we toasted love in both our unity and our diversity (and then we joyfully did it all again the next day).

Our agenda for the week was very simple. We wanted to enjoy the good company of our good friends over good meals and good drink…and do a little reading for pleasure in the sun by the pool. Mission accomplished. We loved the Tropical where cocktails were accompanied with gorgonzola stuffed, bacon-wrapped plums. We also loved Melvyn’s which doesn’t seem to have changed since the days when Frank Sinatra regularly haunted the corner barstool. We had margaritas and chorizo queso on the patio of Maracas not once, but twice. So many great memories were made.

Thursday night market in the heart of Palm Springs.
Thursday night market in the heart of Palm Springs.

We also took the Palms Springs Tramway from the desert floor to the top of the mountains that loom like a giant wall on the town’s western border. A little shopping is always in order and we found two hat shops where we each found a new hat for the lake this summer (actually, I found two). There is a Thursday evening market along the main thoroughfare and we enjoyed an after dinner stroll through the endless rows of vendors and listened to the street musicians.

The view from the Palm Springs Tram. The Salton Sea, which we passed on the way to Arizona, is in the distance upper right.
The view from the Palm Springs Tram. The Salton Sea, which we passed on the way to Arizona, is in the distance upper right.

Wendy and I also took the opportunity for a day trip to Arizona where we visited our good friend Ann who has been teaching Theatre there for the past few years. It was a fascinating road trip through the desert for us, along the Salton Sea and through the Sahara-like dunes just west of Yuma. Definitely a departure from cornfields and cattle.

We fought the crowds at "One Dollar Wednesday" at the Palm Springs Winter League. Thanks, Kevin, for treating me! ;-)
Kevin and I fought the crowds at “One Dollar Wednesday” at the Palm Springs Winter League. Thanks, Kevin, for treating me! ūüėČ

Kevin and I took in a baseball game one gloriously sunny afternoon. The Palm Springs Winter League is for college kids and minor league cast-offs who are are hoping for an invitation to MLB Spring Training. According to the league’s marketing, about half of them will earn one. I was excited to learn that the catcher for one of the teams played for my alma mater, Judson. It was also interesting to watch him catch for a young woman who came into the game to pitch in relief. I can’t wait for baseball season to start.

We returned home having made some great memories, and having enjoyed a nice break to the cold and snow. We are a little less apt to “quake in the present winter’s state.”

Enjoy a few of my photos of the trip.

 

Kauai: Day 9

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Our last full day on Kauai started a bit later than usual. Wendy and I rose just after sunrise and enjoyed a cup of coffee together. We got ready early and headed out to explore the west side of the island. We stopped for a light pastry breakfast and drove around the southern side of the island. It’s a bit of a strange experience because one minute you are driving through tropical rain forest, then you cross into an arid plain that reminded us a lot of eastern Colorado.

We¬†headed up the highway along Waimea Canyon which climbs in 18 miles from sea level to about 4,000 ft. Along the long and winding road (sorry, pun intended) we stopped for breathtaking views of Waimea Canyon which is known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. The 800′ Waipo’o Falls and then up to the Kalalau lookout overlooking the Na Pali coast which was the end of the road.

Wendy displayed an unusual case of the heebie-jeebies as we climbed up the canyon road. The combination of having nothing but a sheer drop off outside her car window and not being in control of the car tested her nerve a good part of the ascent. Nevertheless, we loved the views, the exploration, and the adventure of it.

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Old Town Hanapepe has a nice little art district.

We descended back the canyon road and stopped for a stroll in the old downtown market area of Hanapepe which boasts a number of art galleries. We wandered in and out of the shops. There was some beautiful artwork and photography and it was a quaint little area. They have an “art stroll” every Friday evening. We wished we’d have known about it last week.

We made our way back to the room. Becky, Court and Lydia were off on an adventure of their own. Wendy and I made a light lunch and got cleaned up. We are all going out to eat this evening to celebrate our last night on the island.

We strolled down the ocean walk to Sam’s Ocean View for Happy Hour. We were welcomed back by our friends behind the bar and enjoyed some great conversation as we peered out at the surf and the motley cast of characters who walked past. We will truly miss Sam’s, and will always have fond memories of the place. It was sad to say good bye. We walked back to the resort where the rest of the crew were ready for dinner.

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We drove to Lihue and dined at a nice Italian restaurant called Kauai Pasta. It was an enjoyable meal, though the room was amazingly loud (hard for me). It was a great way to end our time together with the Oakes clan. Tomorrow, it’s time to start the journey home.

Kauai Day 1
Kauai Day 2
Kauai Day 3
Kauai Day 4
Kauai Day 5
Kauai Days 6 & 7
Kauai Day 8

Kauai: Day 8

Tom, my friend, you are a man of routines.
– Sam Duregger

I know. Put in me in one place for a week and my life will settle into a routine. It’s just the way I am.

So, Wendy and I woke to watch the sunrise (see video above) and then made our daily pilgrimage to Java Kai coffee for a little Java, a chocolate chip muffin, and a perusal of the Wall Street Journal. We read about and discussed the sadness of the events in Charlotte, NC and then walked back to the resort. We walked to the pool and each had a 15 minute massage. The whole crew of us then climbed into the car and drove north to enjoy a few hours at Anini Beach on the north short of Kauai.

We waded in the surf, bathed in the sun, and enjoyed a few hours of relaxation together. On our way back to Kapa’a we stopped at a burger joint we’d read good things about. Duane’s Ono Char-Burger was an old fashioned burger stand on Kauai. We ordered burgers, fries, and chocolate shakes. The food was as good as advertised and we enjoyed filling ourselves.

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After returning to the resort, Wendy and I headed up to the ABC store for supplies. After depositing them in the fridge we walked up the ocean path to Sam’s Ocean View for a happy hour drink (or two). We returned to the room, showered, and settled in for a quiet evening with the family.

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I asked for a “Long Island” and our amazing bartender suggested a “Long Beach” (Long Island ice tea, just substitute Cranberry Juice for the cola … and the fresh Star Fruit doesn’t hurt). Lovely.

 

Kauai Day 1
Kauai Day 2
Kauai Day 3
Kauai Day 4
Kauai Day 5
Kauai Days 6 & 7 

Kauai: Days 6 & 7

Our Kauai vacation fell into a gentle, anti-climactic routine on days 6 and 7 (Tuesday and Wednesday). Each morning began with the requisite viewing of the rising sun. Wendy and I then walked to Java Kai in Kapa’a for coffee and a reading of the events back on the mainland. I’ve fallen in love with Java Kai, and bought a diner mug as my trinket momento of our time in Kauai.

Wendy and I then returned to the room to get a little work done before heading to the pool here at the resort to read, sun, and take a dip in the pool. Afternoons were spent reading on the patio while sipping cool beverages and listening to the surf. We fed the zebra doves, listened to the Cubs beat the Reds, and nodded off on occasion or cuddled in bed with Lydia.

On Tuesday evening we enjoyed a light meal togehter and on Wednesday evening Wendy and I watched Lydia while Court and Becky enjoyed a much deserved date night together.

Our nights here in Kauai have generally ended fairly early. Between 9:30 and 10:30 we’re usually in bed reading as the sound of the surf sings its incessant lullaby outside our bedroom window.

Kauai Day 1
Kauai Day 2
Kauai Day 3
Kauai Day 4
Kauai Day 5

Kauai: Day 5

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Every morning of our time in Kauai has begun around 6:00 a.m. I get up, put the coffee on, and then we walk out the patio to watch the sunrise. The sunrise is a daily event here. People line the ocean path and the various patios and balconies to watch God paint a new sunrise. There are always a lot of cameras. It is different every morning. Cloud formations change. The hues of pink, gold, orange and red are mixed differently against the backdrop of blue. It’s a wonderfully peaceful way to start the day.

The next few hours after sunrise are generally lazy. Drink coffee, have a bite to eat, and ease into the day. This morning Wendy and I ended up back in our bed just lying around. Lydia came in and climbed into bed with us. It was fun cuddling and playing with her.

On our first day in Kauai we had attended an orientation here at the resort in which different tourist vendors described things that you can do. They also held a raffle. Becky and Court won a two-for-one deal on a plantation train ride and walking tour and gifted it to Wendy and me. It happened to be the same plantation where we had eaten brunch on Sunday morning. So, the five of us returned to the Kilohana plantation on Monday morning.

At one time the sugar can plantation consumed some 40,000 acres of the area, but now takes up a very small foot-print. While sugar cane is still grown there, it is mostly a large orchard in which many varieties of fresh fruit are grown, along with some small barnyard animals for tourists to feed as part of the train tour.

The figure eight train route took us along side the orchards as our guide described the various varieties of fruits and herbs that are grown on the grounds. We stopped about half-way through to feed the animals. Wendy and I kind of stood back and watched. When you grow up in Iowa, the experience of feeding a goat, chickens and pigs is not a novel concept.

At that point our tour guide, Josh, met those of us who had signed up for the walking tour. He led us down into a deep valley on the back side of the property that had become a tropical canopy supporting a large variety of native plants. Josh took us down the narrow dirt trail, stopping to point out various exotic looking plants.

One of the cooler plants Josh introduced us to was the Hila Hila plant, which in Hawaiian means “bashful.” When you touch it, the plant closes up in an instant. We had a lot of fun finding the plant on the ground and then making it close-up. Josh also¬†shared the homeopathic remedies that different plants were used for and would regularly reach out, pull a leaf off a plant and eat it as he described what it tasted like. He would also tell us what plants not to eat, like the one that was like Habanero pepper on steroids, which his friend once tried and spent two days in the hospital.

At the bottom of the valley was a stream by which we saw a giant mango tree that was 150 years old as well as a large banyan tree. We then made our way back up the valley. They fed us a sack lunch under a canopy while we let the regular mid-day rain shower pass over us. Desert was a fresh pineapple that Josh cut up and served to us. Wow. Talk about sweet. Josh was a native of the island and, as we ate lunch, he shared about growing up on Kauai, answered questions about Hawaiian culture and history, and kept us entertained with stories.

After lunch Josh led us into the orchards where he pointed out different exotic fruits they grow, as well as some of the regular. We got to pick fruit right off the trees and taste it. The train picked us up at the orchard and took us back to the station. We stopped at the sweet shop for a treat before heading back to the resort.

Everyone was pretty tuckered out, so we took naps in the afternoon. After getting up from our nap, Wendy and I decided to walk up the beach to a local restaurant and watering hole called Sam’s Ocean View. Our concierge had given us a 2-for-1 happy hour drink special coupon, so we decided to check it out. The restaurant is a house on the beach, but the ocean-side of the house has two giant garage doors that open so that the entire side of the house opens onto the beach and the incoming surf.

 

Wendy and I enjoyed a happy hour drink and made friends with the bartender who was absolutely fabulous. A local musician set up to play live music and I thought I recognized him as the guy playing at the Hanalei Farmer’s Market on Saturday. I asked him, and I was right. He played solo guitar and a mix of coffee-house standards. Wendy and I would have joyfully had dinner there and stayed all night. Our bartender told us they were closed every Tuesday and Wednesday but we promised to go back for a visit (or two) before we leave the island.

We walked back to the room. Dinner was homemade pizza while we watched a late replay of Monday Night Football. We enjoyed playing with Lydia and chatting before heading to bed.

Kauai: Day 4 (Our Sailing Adventure)

On Sunday we enjoyed the sunrise (a daily occurrence) and then headed to Gaylord’s for brunch. The old sugar cane plantation has been remade into an amazing destination. The old plantation house contains a gorgeous restaurant with an upscale brunch buffet.

Wendy and I really enjoyed the experience at Gaylord’s. The brunch was wonderful. The plantation now contains orchards which contributed fresh fruit to the buffet and to the incredible Mai Tai I enjoyed. It was stellar.

It was Sunday and we retired back to the room to enjoy some Sunday football. It’s a little strange with the time change. Games Wendy and I would rush home at noon to watch start at 7:00 a.m. The mid-afternoon Bronco’s game (which Court was most interested in) had already started by the time we got back to the room around noon. We watched football and relaxed during the afternoon.

When we were getting ready for our Kauai vacation I had one specific desire for me and Wendy. I wanted to sail on the ocean. I wanted Wendy to experience sailing for real. I didn’t want the commercial “herd 100 people on a huge ‘Sailboat’ and feed them Mai Tai drinks from a plastic pitcher” sailing, but a smaller experience on a real sail boat owned by a real sailor. I scoured the myriad of websites by all the tourist minions and eventually found a total gem named¬†Stephanie.

I e-mailed Stephanie and, long story short, we circumnavigated negotiations with a local and found ourselves on a 36 foot catamaran with a young sailor, his girlfriend, and three other passengers. We headed out from Hanalei Bay at 4:00 p.m. We sat out on the front of the boat to the sound of nothing but the wind and the waves. We  experienced dipping below the ocean swells until they felt like they would swamp you and then got soaked from the waves crashing over twin hulls.

Our host shared about his journey on the sailboat from San Francisco to Hawaii. I can’t imagine the arduous task of sailing a 36 foot boat across the Pacific. He shared his dreams and desires of cleaning up and outfitting the boat for a sail to the south Pacific. I enjoyed thinking that we could contribute to his dream even as he made one of my dreams come true.

sunset-rainbow

We sailed northwest out of Hanalei and then sailed back as the sun set next to Bali Hai and the Na Pali coast. It was an amazing evening of sun, salt water, and wind. The rain began to fall even as the sun set. To our right we could see the blazing sunset and to the left was a gorgeous rainbow.

We returned at dark and drove the 30 minutes south back to our temporary home. Beck, Court and Wendy enjoyed a video but I was bushed from the day and retired to our room to read.