Category Archives: Vacation


What’s it like to go from sea level to over 10,000 feet?  You can find out by spending an hour and half driving up Maui’s volcano – Haleakala.  It’s a long, steep, winding road.  On the way up, the temperature drops about 40 degrees.  It was sunny and in the mid-80s at sea level.  Around halfway, we passed above the level of the clouds.  Now it was in the 60s.  Good thing we brought sweatshirts.  As we got the top, we’re looking down at clouds floating by.  We can see the Big Island over a hundred miles away to the east, and it’s 42 degrees.  Without the wind chill.  Maybe we shouldn’t be wearing shorts?


The last time this volcano erupted was sometime in the 18th century, so we weren’t in any danger.  The only danger we encountered was possible frostbite!  We decided to follow a quarter mile trail up to the rim so that we could look down over the entire crater.  Lydia and Aaron (probably wisely!) opted to wait in the car.  The wind was whistling, and at 10,000 feet there is considerably less oxygen than your body wants when you’re trudging uphill.  So three frigid, trembling, huffing and puffing people made it to the top.




It’s really an amazing sight, and one that’s not easy to describe.  The pictures don’t really do it justice.  It’s like standing on another planet.  It’s so alien – couple that with the discomfort of the cold, and the lack of oxygen, and it’s really something that you should experience if you get the chance.  Wear pants.  And bring mittens.



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Oh, how I love to snorkel.  I’ve snorkeled many times, and each time has been memorable.  There’s something about being in deep water, just floating along in the peace and quiet, watching the fish dart here and there.  They are so graceful, and beautiful, and completely unconcerned with your presence.  I just love it.  This snorkeling trip, however, was just not to be.

It started out well.  I had planned ahead and got a seasickness patch, hoping to avoid a repeat of the last snorkeling disaster.  The water was a little choppy, as there was a storm coming in, but I seemed to fare pretty well on the way out to Molokini.


Molokini is a great spot for snorkeling.  The crater lip that juts out above the waves is a wildlife refuge, so it’s completely unspoiled, and the reef around it is amazing.  As soon as we dropped anchor, I left Nate to get the kids into their snorkeling gear so that I could get in the water.  In my experience, I’ve always been less seasick in the water than on the boat.  So I’m bobbing around out there, watching their progress getting gear on and working their way into the water.  It took a long time, as Aaron in particular was not excited about getting in.  So I’m bobbing up and down, looking at the boat, when I start to feel queasy.  I then rapidly feel more than queasy, and I know it’s going to be Not Good.  I had intentionally not eaten anything, hoping that having an empty stomach would help matters, but it turns out – not so much.  So I rapidly swim away from everyone, dry heave repeatedly, and then head back toward the boat.  By this time, the kids are in, Nate is in.  Aaron is still unhappy, so we got him a floaty raft which I towed around for a little while.  I stayed far away from people, and thus far away from fish, so that I could continue to hurl.  Aaron wasn’t really into it, so we let Nate, Jake, and Lydia have fun and we went back to the boat.

We had procured waterproof cameras for the kids so they could take pictures of fish.  Only a few of them turned out passably:



Aaron and I hung out on the boat (me clutching a plastic garbage bag).  The snorkel trip included two snorkeling spots – at the next one, Lydia and I tried to go out for a little bit, but the current was stronger, and I was yakking more, so we gave up.  Nate saw a lot, though, and Jake ended up going on a reef tour with one of the guides.  He had a blast.

As this is prime whale season off the coast of Maui (this is the time of year when they calve), we got to see a lot of whale action.  This particular whale was sticking his tail out of the water and repeatedly banging it down, making a huge splash.  I’ve never seen anything like it.


This is Maui on the way back (thank you, Jesus) to the harbor:


Personally, I feel the trip was not worth it for me, but I was happy that Nate, Jake, and Lydia got something out of it.  As much as it pains me to say it, I think my snorkeling days are over.


Jake loves snorkeling, and he doesn’t vomit while doing it.


Aaron loves snorkel gear. Snorkeling? Not so much.

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Hawaiian Respite

So we’ve just returned from our occasional January vacation to Hawaii.  We came back to snow on the ground with more on the way, frigid, near-zero temperatures, and an immediate return to work and school.  How quickly all the rest and relaxation is lost!

This year, we went to Maui, staying for the first time on the western portion of the island, about a half hour beyond Lahaina.  It was a little out of the way, but our condo complex had several pools and a nice beach… we didn’t feel like we were missing out on anything.


The view from our condo.


One of several swimming pools in the complex.

Most days we swam at the pool, then swam at the beach.  Sometimes we swam at the beach, and then swam at the pool.  It’s amazing how easy it is to leave regular life behind and just exist differently, as though you’ve been plucked into an alternate universe.


The western coastline of Maui is quite rocky, with little beaches spread here and there.  There was a path along the shore that wound its way through the rocks – a great place for exploring and whale watching.


Stay tuned for a few upcoming posts – snorkeling and the volcano!


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Berkshires Adventure Part III

While we were in the Berkshires, we also went to the Norman Rockwell museum.  Norman Rockwell was from Stockbridge, MA, and spent his later years there.  He’s most famous for illustrating the cover of the Saturday evening post for decades.  He also did Rosie the Riveter.  It’s funny how iconic many of his works are.  I really don’t know art, but I was familiar with canvas after canvas.  Walking through his illustrations was like walking through history.

After his death, a museum was created for his works, and his studio was moved there.  It is a really idyllic location.  The museum itself was a bit on the expensive side, but if you just want to see the grounds, there is no charge to wander around and see the studio.


The leaves were just at their peak – beautiful!


Rockwell’s studio.

They had a cool activity for the kids to do.  It was like a scavenger hunt – they had to look for particular paintings and then answer a question about them.  And of course, it was nice to once again be able to do some activities inside, and then run around outside to get our wiggles out.  Here are Aaron and Lydia playing among the apple trees on the museum grounds:



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Berkshires Adventure Part II

While on our mini-vacation in the Berkshires, we went to the Hancock Shaker Village, located in Pittsfield, MA.  It’s a living museum, meaning there are volunteers that are working in various areas doing what people would have done in the 19th century – blacksmithing, caning, cooking, farming.  It is absolutely gorgeous.  The land and the buildings are meticulously maintained.  There weren’t very many people there, so we were able to have long talks with the various volunteers who were all friendly and clearly loved what they were doing.



The Shakers were a religious sect that believed in strict division between the sexes.  When they gathered, the women all sat on one side of the room, with the men on the other, and they sat facing each other.  There was a women’s workhouse, where the women’s work was done (weaving and broom-making), and a men’s workhouse, where they made chairs and other furniture.  They did quite a business selling their goods – particularly their furniture.  Not surprisingly, they died out (I guess that’s what happens when you can’t touch each other – no new members are ever born!).

The Shakers were not afraid of new technology.  They embraced a lot of newfangled ideas.  When they had a catastrophic barn fire, they spent several years constructing a circular stone barn.  I asked one of the volunteers why the barn looked the way it did.  What was wrong with the traditional red wooden barn that you see everywhere (still!) in New England?  Here is their barn:


It turns out they put a lot of thought into the design of this barn.  Rather than expending energy throwing hay up into the hay loft of a traditional style barn, only to have to pitch it down again for the cattle to eat, they made the second story of their barn accessible to oxen carts via a dirt ramp.  The oxen carts would drive up into the second floor and around the circle, and the hay would be pushed off the cart and down into the center, where it would be ready for the cows to eat when they came in.  The cows themselves stood with the front of their bodies on slightly raised platform where the milking would be done, and their back ends lowered a bit, so that any cow patties would end up on the lower floor, and the milk canisters stayed clean on the platform.  There were hatch doors in the lower floor that could be opened and the cow patties could be shoved right down and into a waiting cart below, which would then drive up and out and away to fertilize the fields.  It was really ingenious, especially considered there was nothing even remotely like it in this region.

The kids had a great time – there’s nothing like a museum that involves spending time out of doors!  When the littler ones got tired of looking at furniture and things inside, they ran around outside.  Here they are tumbling around in the grass outside while we were learning about the history of the Shaker chair:


The other fun thing was that the sheep were just roaming around free.  They wandered in and out of the barn, and the kids walking through them, which they were ok with, until they weren’t, and then they’d run off all in a pack.  It really did feel like stepping through time.


Speaking of stepping through time – here is the bathroom.  Thankfully they had actual bathrooms for visitors. to use, because I was not getting anywhere near one of those corncobs!


We’ll definitely be back there someday… there was a lot to see, and it’s one of those places that I think you could get something new out of every time you go.

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Berkshires Adventure Part I

We’ve lived in Massachusetts for 10 years now, and until this fall we had never been out to the Berkshires – the Stockbridge, Lenox, Lee area.  A happy confluence of events ended up providing us with a week’s stay at a time-share resort just outside of Stockbridge.  While we couldn’t take an entire week off of work or school, we scheduled a mini-vacation over Columbus Day weekend and headed west.

The resort is one of those time-share resorts, where you buy two weeks worth of vacation and can choose among all of the resort properties.  This one is nestled in the hills just outside of Stockbridge, MA.  We had no idea what to expect, and ended up being very happy with our two bedroom condo.  They had two indoor pools, mini-golf, and an arcade.


Lydia almost made a hole-in-one!


Jake golfing like a pro!


Nate looking hot. Just because.


Aaron has a bit of difficulty keeping the ball on the course. Said the lady who almost got beaned with his ball whilst taking pictures of him.

I have never, nor will I ever, understand the pull of the arcade.  The lights, the noise, the chaos – for me it’s an automatic headache.  Add to that all the little germy kids running around putting their little germy hands all over everything, that you are then expected to touch.  And add to that the tickets that you earn to buy “prizes”… prizes that cost about $10 to earn, and are worth approximately $0.23.  We gave each of the kids $10 to spend.  Gone are the days of stuffing quarters into slots.  Now, you put cash *or your ATM card!* into a machine, and it spits out a card with money value on it.  You then swipe the card through the various game machines, and they deduct your hard-earned money and add tickets.  I warned my little angels that $10 was all they were going to get all weekend, which they of course blew through in about 20 minutes.  The real meltdown didn’t come until it was time to turn the tickets in.  Jake didn’t care – I don’t think he traded his tickets for a prize at all.  Aaron was beside himself that they had little plastic soldiers – one for two tickets.  So he depleted their soldier supply and traded all his tickets for soldiers.  So far so good.

Then it was Lydia’s turn.  It was going fine until she realized that Aaron has won many many more tickets than she had (he had played this spin-a-wheel thing that won him a whole crapload of tickets).  Once she realized that she would only get two small prizes while Aaron got a bagful of soldiers, she completely lost it.  We had to leave without choosing any prizes.  Once we got back to the condo and she calmed down, we discussed going back and trying again to chose her prizes.  Eventually she realized that we were really not going to add any money to her card, and she was going to have to choose her prizes or get no prizes at all, so she begrudgingly chose a couple little trinkets and we mercifully said goodbye to the arcade.

Stay tuned for more Berkshire adventures, including the Hancock Shaker village and the Norman Rockwell museum!

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Muir Woods

While we were visiting in California, Jake put in a request to see Muir Woods. Honestly, I wasn’t too excited about it. We’ve been to Muir Woods many times.  I felt that it was kind of stale.  We’ve seen the big trees.  We have pictures of the big trees.  What more could we get out of it?

Well, it turns out Muir Woods never gets old.  It’s so hard to describe… it’s majestic.  It’s humbling.  Maybe because I went in feeling a little blase about the whole thing, I felt particularly small and insignificant as we wandered quietly through the trees.  But at the same time I felt a calmness and inclusion – a part of something larger.  Sounds spiritual, right?  It felt spiritual.  Coming from someone who’s really not all that spiritual, that’s really saying something.

It’s impossible to capture Muir Woods on film.  I’ve tried many times – I take so many pictures, gasping at the beauty of each one, and then I get them home and… they are small and flat and empty.  Nonetheless, here are my attempts:


Harrumph. It looks like plain old woods.


More run-of-the-mill woods. Harrumph again.

I had more luck this time aiming on a smaller scale:



If you feel like you’ve been to Muir Woods and seen it all before, I’d urge you to go again.  You won’t be sorry.

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