“We are a country defined as much by distance as by culture,” says Keisha (Jasika Nicole) in “Alice Isn’t Dead”. I know the feeling. After twenty summers crisscrossing North America it all can feel so… big. And separate. With everyone mistrusting everyone else.
Garrett’s Desert Inn (Santa Fe, NM)
A few days ago we stopped to get gas somewhere between Lincoln and Omaha. At the pump behind us were three people solemnly staring at their smoldering car’s engine. After asking them if they needed help they answered no but thanked me for the offer. One said he was not worried because he had broken down in a “good place.” Another said there was no way anyone would have stopped to offer help in Miami. I think it is safe to say that “Miami” here was code for “city.” And “good place” likely meant any area filled with people looking like themselves (so my good place would be a city of mostly tall white people with poor motor coordination and questionable fashion sense).
The lead story in the local paper for Sterling, Colorado
Twice this trip our car sputtered in the middle of nowhere and twice people helped us as best they could. The second mechanic even called us a couple of days later to make sure we made it to our next destination. And outside of San Diego at a discount gr ocery store, where no one looked like us, a bottle of wine slipped away from our grocery cart a moment after we had purchased it. It made one heck of a dramatic mess. A long silent moment passed before the scary looking security guy asked if we were OK. A cashier told us to get another bottle and then told us not to worry when apologized for our carelessness.
The squirrels stand guard outside the Museum of Nebraska Art (or MONA) in Kearney, Nebraska
After six weeks and over five thousand miles (and also twenty years and fifty states) we know some things. It is a big country out there. Not everyone agrees with one another. But it is still a nation of people trying to do the best they can. Maybe in the end that is all we can ask for.
A Collared Lizard at Petrified Forest National Park. 1st time ever seeing one.
We have had a whole bunch of firsts this trip. Like most firsts, the results have been mixed. We loved making new friends on a trip and then staying with said friends at their home while still on the same trip. Not such big fans through of our first family ride in a tow truck. Also didn’t really enjoy southern Arizona with an on again (worked fine on the downhill) off again air conditioner (did not work at all when climbing). You have not lived until racing uphill in 115 degrees heat. The trick is cracking the window enough to let some air in but not allowing the outside heat to blast you square in the face.
Chilling with family on Fat Mans Loop in Flagstaff. Lucky for me I was still able to squeeze through the tight rocks.
Two awesome firsts were visiting San Diego and then later camping with a few cousins from Arizona in Flagstaff. We were not surprised by how much fun we had with Jamie and her family. We were surprised, however, by how much we loved San Diego. Just so everyone knows, Balboa Park has nothing to do with Rocky.
At Balboa Park in San Diego
Other firsts this trip include having a shoe swept from me while crossing a stream in Hawaii. This was followed by the first time ever hiking barefoot on a rocky trail. Later I iced my feet for the first time after a hike. On the plus side of firsts were a few newly discovered hikes in the Tetons and, of course, our foray into Hawaii. Am happy to say that not for the first time we have left our home in Chicago to find adventure and fun on the road.
Don’t talk to strangers but sometimes when you do you end up a few weeks later at their house sipping their awesome homemade IPA
At the almost quaint travel oasis in Coalinga, California there lies a small auto cemetery for cars not meant for travel on Interstate 5. Either abandoned by the side of the road or towed in with their owner they now sit humbly at an auto shop waiting to be towed to the great junkyard of the sky. For several hours I alternated between standing in the shade next to those cars or hanging out with Corey and Henna at the Best Western. The sky reeked of the thousands of cattle waiting to be slaughtered at the nearby cattle factory.
Thank you Dan and Carolyn for an awesome time in Santa Cruz!
After three glorious days hanging out with old and new friends we headed toward Sequoia National Park. Midway there we decided not to chance the fires and set course instead for Las Vegas. Soon after (and maybe in protest) seemingly every warning light lit at once.
It could have been worse and it was not all bad. The tow truck driver was one righteous dude. An amateur astronomer who was also able to fill us in on the water wars that devastate the valley (a local boy as well he took the side of the farmers over the EPA). The world weary chain smoking mechanic also had some tales worth a listen. In the end we paid for a very expensive oil change. We also made yet another course correction and will soon set sail for San Diego. Hope not to get blown off course again.
Out of dedication to our large and growing fan base (mostly our parents and a few neighbors), we sucked it up and decided to spend a few nights at a resort. Clean sheets, AC, nice swimming pools and, so far, no roosters. That last point is a big one with most of my questions at check in rooster oriented (so, what do I do of I see a rooster?).
View from our digs at Camp Olawalu (Lahaina, HI)
One oddity of the resort experience is the sudden uptick in people speaking the traditional Hawaiian language. Aloha. Mahalo. And that’s pretty much it. Times we heard those phrases spoken in first two weeks on Maui? Zero. Times we have heard those two phrases in past 24 hours? 4,587 (rough estimate). And it does not seem to matter at all where the Mariott worker is from. They all just seemed to pick up the lingo. So aloha! And mahalo too.
For the last couple of nights we have been camping just outside of Lahaina at Camp Olowalu. It’s a nice place but the roosters suck. They go off an hour or so before sunrise. One of them hangs out at the campsite next door. Our neighbor (the human one) thinks it’s cute. Maybe she likes pretending to be some sort of destitute farmer who lost everything and now has to sleep in a tent next to her rooster. The campground actually seems divided with some people (including Henna and Corey) able to sleep through the hour or two of cock a doodle doing. Others, like me, are wondering how roosters might fare in a stew.
A crazier sight would be the cow standing on the bird!
Making up for the roosters is the easy beach access and private outdoor showers. Shino and his family (who we camped with a week ago at Wai’anapanapa State Park) are here too. They however are in the upscale Tentalows which include Adirondack chairs, cots, and a permanent canvas/screened tent. They also get a better breeze despite actually being further from the beach. Shino’s gone Hollywood.
Henna at the beach reading
Hiking at Waihee Ridge – a little over 2, mostly uphill miles, with impressive views of rainforest and beach
One of the more impressive places we have been was the Maui Ocean Center captures sea life, such as tiger sharks, via hook and line. The animals are then housed for a few months before being returned to the ocean a little bit fatter but probably better rested.
Maui Ocean Center
The center also takes in and filters sea water which is used for the exhibits before being returned a heck of a lot cleaner to the ocean.
Looking into the crater at Haleakala National Park
Up up up, like Jack climbing his beanstalk, you travel the park road to the summit of Haleakala. Then you peer down into the massive volcanic crater and marvel at the Martian like scenery.
Sunset from the crater – unlike sunrise the sunset is a very mellow affair
No one was allowed into the crater on our first day in the park. Details are vague, but a woman was attacked and there was a manhunt underway. Mid evening on our second night camping at Hosmer Grove we had a helicopter repeatedly sweeping low over the campground. And then that night while Henna slept and Corey and I sipped whiskey there was a rustling in the woods. Peering into the dark I saw a flashlight. It saw me and the light went dark (or so it seemed). A few minutes of quiet and then the phantom light returned to the tent next to mine. Let out a sigh of relief and thought at least there are no bears on the island.
Despite the potential attacker we loved the cool nights at Hosmer Grove (mid to low 50s and free too). At 7000 feet you sleep just a little above the clouds which also made for little rain and bright stars. On our last day at the park the trails opened and we quickly descended well into the canyon before crawling out exhausted and thirsty. A good time was had by all.
After three low key days in Wailuku (a quirky but decidedly suburban feeling place with roosters) we headed toward Hana. The highway to Hana is mostly sharp blind turns punctuated by one lane bridges so narrow that branches will almost definitely scratch up the rental. The endpoint though is even wilder than the drive. Things to see once you get there include black sand beaches, bamboo forests, giant waterfalls, cliff side hikes and faded religious shrines. And by camping at Wai’anapanapa State Park for three nights we pretty much had it all to ourselves (or at least between the hours of 6 PM and 11 AM). For the second time this trip we also made friends while camping. This time it was a cool family from Toronto. Together we pooled our resources to cook veggie and not-so veggie hotdogs over the fire (our coals their dogs) and sipped estate grown coffee in the morning (their coffee our stove). It was like a low key commune. We also met a few locals including a long since married couple who met while hiking at Wai’anapanapa in the early 80s. Besides giving great advice (my favorite involved cows in the pasture) they also gave us fresh guava. Not sure which was more valuable (definitely the sweet sticky fruit).
The black sand beach at Wai’anapanapa State Park
Makahiku Falls (Haleakala National Park)
A section of the bamboo forest at Haleakala National Park
Glen’s Coconut Ice Cream- sold both on the highway and also in Hana. Delicious!
Day 3 on the island and we finally feel normal. We are never really “normal” but we feel better adjusted to the time difference. We will be leaving our air BnB tomorrow (or today if your reading this 7. 13) and heading to the Hana Highway to camp. The locals are all talking about the rain that is coming, remnants of a far off ocean hurricane that will be hitting exactly as we are camping. Ah such is life and travel. We are ready for whatever comes our way, or at least we will have a good story to tell.
Today we ventured out, stopping in the town of Haiku (which inspired this haiku):
Town Haiku saw us
A hammock we did acquire
With Kumbucha sweet
Says it all. Bought a hammock and drank some sweet Kumbucha on tap. Awesome hippie/artist town that sees few tourists. We were mistaken for townies, which always makes us feel cool. Next we headed down the road to join the real tourists along Twin Falls Hike, which follows upward along a rushing creek, past warning signs of flash floods and high water levels, through a gate that says-not to enter, forging a rushing creek to a waterfall replete with swimming hole….oh and about a dozen or more people. Oh the people. But what nice people. As we crossed the creek, the water was running so fast that it seemed to want to push us over the falls. I was leading our little army across and could here Henna saying, “I’m getting dizzy” because the water was rushing past so fast that it messes with your eyes. I knew I had to get her across and quick, but each step was met with uneven rocks and nudging from the water. We made it across only to see Noel planted in the creek with his shoe flowing with the creek over the fall and on toward the ocean. Noel was fine, aside from a bruised ego and some expletives he shouted. But now he had no shoes to wear along this rocky path. People were so kind, and as Noel plugged upward wincing in anguish they all empathically shared his pain. We made it to the waterfall and Noel enjoyed a swim. The hike took a bit more time then it should have, but it ended well; with some shaved ice while watching surfers brave the waves. Although my pictures always show smiling faces, there are countless stories to tell of ups and downs along this journey. Each day has something of a high and a low. Such is life.
Henna testing out the Hammock
oh the people
Noel tempting fate before he lost his shoe
The gate everyone passed through in spite of the warning
All trip we’ve been haunted by the number 41. Our campsite in the Tetons? 41. The day after was room 214 which I know is not technically a 41 but, wait for it, the following night we lodged in room 241. But the biggest sign we live under a specific odd number cloud came today when flight 41 ferried us from San Francisco to Maui. Crazy.
Other patterns this summer have involved cats. Cats tucked in Baby Bjorns being lugged up mountains. A cat used as a service pet by a nervous worker in the Tetons. And a whole mess of cats in a parked car next to us at a gas station in Nebraska. Then today on our first night in Maui we fight jet lag to see a beach and run into people volunteering their time and money to feed the 40+ feral cats hanging out at a harbor near Wailuku. They come nightly to pet, feed, and listen to the cats (whose plaintive meows clearly speak of their anxiety).
Another surprise in Maui are the roosters. They not only crow outside our modest Airbnb rental but they also crowd the unlikeliest places like the Safeway parking lot. Cats, roosters and the number 41. Rock and roll.
So it’s a little after nine and we are chilling at a Comfort Inn off Route 1 in Half Moon Bay, CA. So far today we have checked out a few cool art galleries, wandered around San Francisco, walked a section of the Golden Gate Bridge and packed for our flight tomorrow to Maui. We should be exhausted. In fact we are exhausted. But also excited. And ready to be somewhere new, to hike on trails unknown. If we could drive to Hawaii we would. But instead we will tackle long term parking, airport shuttles, and rental cars. Yuck. Will let you know how it goes.