AndyO Blog

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Kauai - Day 4 (Thursday) - Thanksgiving

I woke up to the drumming of rain outside. The TV said that there were flash floods all over the island. There was so much rain that the famous Kauai red mud was now bleeding into the ocean from the Waimea River. Here's a picture:

The red mud flows into the ocean

Brenda and I decided to go out for a bit without the kids. She really wanted to go to Wal-Mart. On the way, we stopped at Lydgate State Park, one of our favorite snorkeling spots from our previous visit to Kauai. We'd heard from Snorkel Bob's that the storm that had blasted the island a week or two before had filled Lydgate with debris and dead animals. When we arrived, we saw a deserted beach and signs posted not to swim.

 Lydgate park is closed

The lifeguard who was on duty said it would be a month before the beach reopened. He said they had to let the ocean clean out the lagoon. It certainly looked like a mess.

No swimming at Lydgate park

Next, we drove to Wal-Mart. I've got to say that I'm not a big fan of Wal-Mart, but they do have a lot of stuff. We were mostly there to buy food, but I had to buy a Hawaiian shirt for the dinner we were going to for Thanksgiving. We also bought Lego car kits for the boys.

When we came outside, the rain had stopped and the air was muggy. Of course I started sweating right away.

Wal-mart on Kauai 

Thanksgiving Dinner at Gaylord's

For Thanksgiving Dinner, my parents took us out to Gaylord's at Kilohana, a large plantation on the Kaumualii Highway, in Lihue. We sat in a covered area outside.

 Thanksgiving dinner at Gaylord's

We brought the Lego cars for the kids to put together, but that only kept them occupied for 40 minutes.

Drew assembles a Lego car

Before long, the boys were running around on the grass. I gave Cameron the camera and he started documenting all the birds they were chasing.

Photo of Drew by Cameron

Photo of chicken by Cameron

We all ate a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, except Brenda and Drew. I started with a wonderful Kabocha Pumpkin Bisque and salad with arugula with Kunana chevre. Brenda had a "fabulous" fish dinner (I think it was halibut), and Drew had chocolate cake. (You read the correctly: chocolate cake.)

Drew eating his "dinner"

Brenda's Thanksgiving dinner: fish

After dinner, which took nearly two hours to eat due to slow service, we walked around the grounds of the plantation. (I noticed that it wasn't just Gaylord's that had slow service on Kauai; I just think the pace is slower on the island, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. It just becomes a more difficult thing when you have two kids and one of them is four.)

The view from Gaylord's

The view from Gaylord's

Cameron and Drew especially loved this truck in the parking lot:

Monster truck

Waimea Falls

After dinner we drove to Waimea Falls, the location that was used at the beginning of the 70s show Fantasy Island. Along the way, we saw a wild boar dart from the side of the road into the brush. My Dad, who was wearing his boar's tooth necklace, was pretty excited.

The falls themselves were spectacular, especially given the amount of rain that had come down that day. But we didn't stay too long since it started raining again. 

Waimea Falls runneth over

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posted by AndyO @ 7:56 PM   0 comments

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Kauai - Day 3 (Wednesday): Coconuts

Today, Drew woke up and wanted to be wrapped like a mummy. Brenda, who's the most resourceful person I know, made Drew's wish come true. All it took was a little toilet paper.

Drew as "Mummy Boy"

Cameron's wish, on the other hand, was to get his favorite breakfast in Hawaii -- biscuits and gravy. Brenda bought all the ingredients at Safeway on Monday, and she threw together a delicious big breakfast. My Mom and Dad were equally impressed with Brenda's culinary skills.

Brenda's Biscuits and Gravy

After we were fed, all of us headed out in the 6-seat minivan to tour the north part of Kauai. On our drive up highway 56 we ran into road maintenance, which meant one-lane roads and lots of waiting. But none of us seemed to care too much. After a few wrong turns, we made it to Anini Beach.

I'd read about a high-surf warning around Kauai the night before, and the waves were crashing all around Anini Beach. Snorkeling on a day like this would be impossible due to the high surf and the murky brown water (my Dad also told us sharks like to attack in water like this).

High surf at Anini Beach

Before we left, Cameron gave us all a tap-dancing demonstration on one of the picnic benches.

Cameron gives tap dancing lessons at Anini Beach 


After the murky water and crashing waves, we drove a few more miles to Princeville. My parents have another timeshare in Princeville, and we'd never seen it before. This place is referred to as "The Cliffs," because the condos sit on top of a cliff with an amazing view of the ocean. On this day, the surf below was even bigger than at Anini Beach. Here's a panorama shot I took:

Princeville Panorama

After that, we checked out the Princeville pool, which my Mom said had been remodeled since they'd last stayed there. There's something really inviting about pools with lava rock and waterfalls. It was a little too inviting for Drew, who decided to jump into the water sprayers.

The pool at "The Cliffs" in Princeville


We left Princeville and headed to our final destination north, Hanalei. We were all pretty hungry after seeing all that high surf, so we stopped in Ching Young Village and ate at the Polynesia Cafe. This spot ended up being ideal, as they had a lot of different types of food (chicken teriyaki, chili, toasted cheese sandwiches, and fish 'n' chips), and Cameron and Drew could run around in the Village if they got bored (they never did, thanks to all the birds flying around the tables).

Polynesia Cafe

After lunch, we drove to Hanalei Bay so we could watch all the surfers from the pier. There were definitely two levels of surfers here: those near the shore, and those out in the Big Waves, assisted by jet skis. Cameron looked at all the kids trying to surf and longed to get out there himself.

Surfers in Hanalei Bay 

We left Hanalei and drove straight back to Kapa'a, which took about half the time as driving up (no construction). We stopped at a Farmers' Market and Brenda found the boys coconuts! The farmer cut a hole in the chilled coconuts so the boys could drink the coconut juice (not to be confused with coconut milk). It was pretty refreshing in afternoon heat, but no one could finish theirs.

Coconuts at last

The farmer cut out the coconut meat for us, and my Dad also bought the biggest avocado any of us had ever seen (I forgot to take a picture).

All in all, a pretty good day on Kauai.

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posted by AndyO @ 9:06 PM   0 comments

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Kauai - Day 2 (Tuesday) - Snorkeling and Puka Dog

In the late morning, everyone except my Mom (who wasn't feeling well) piled in the Dodge minivan and drove to Poipu, which is on the south side of Kauai.

Poipu has one of the best beaches for snorkeling, especially for kids, because the water is shallow and  the fish are plentiful. A few years before, I'd had a transcendent experience snorkeling on this beach where I'd finally gotten the hang of floating around with fish and the ocean.

Once we arrived at the beach and got our base camp set up, Brenda, Cam, and my Dad went snorkeling while I sat on the beach with Drew. (It turned out that Drew didn't want to go in the water -- no matter what.) So, that meant we'd be taking turns with him.

Poipu Beach

On this particular day, there was a huge monk seal lying on the beach, and the beach patrol had roped off the area so no one would bother him. I'd seen seals basking on a dock or rocks before, but never on the beach like this. 


After a while, my Dad came out of the water and offered to watch Drew while I went snorkeling. I grabbed my gear and walked down to the water. As usual, the water felt cold when I sat down in it -- which is due to the air being so warm -- but after a few minutes I was used to it.

Like my experience before, I floated over the rocks and saw schools of brightly-colored fish. This time, Cameron was snorkeling right next to me, occasionally giving me the thumbs-up under water when we saw an especially interesting fish.

After about 30 minutes, I was ready to stop snorkeling. The salt kept building up in my snorkel leaving an awful taste, and the shallow depth made it somewhat difficult to maneuver effectively. I knew I was ready for more advanced snorkeling.

Plus, I knew it was time to go to Puka Dog.

My Puka Dog journey is finally complete

A few years ago I was watching a Travel Chanel show about hot dogs. On their list of the best hot dog places in the U.S. was Puka Dog (pronounced "pooka") in Kauai. The difference with these dogs was that they were stuffed into a small loaf of Hawaiian bread. Then they filled them with exotic Hawaiian relishes. At the time I was watching this show, I'd just returned from Kauai and I was disappointed I'd missed this place.

Puka Dog

But that was about to change.

Since we'd arrived on Kauai, I'd worked up the entire family (except Brenda, who doesn't eat hot dogs) for a visit to Puka Dog. We parked at the shopping center where Puka Dog is located and started standing in line with everyone else.

Waiting at Puka Dog

It took a while, but we finally were sitting down and eating our Puka Dogs. Cameron had ordered his with just ketchup and mustard. I'd ordered mine with mango relish, I think. And when I sunk my teeth into that dog, I have to say I was disappointed. It was just too sweet for me. The relish was more like syrup than, say, a real hot dog relish. I like a more savory hot dog, I guess, and thought that the next time I'd order a dog like Cameron's -- with just ketchup and mustard.

The author finally eats a Puka Dog

My Dad enjoyed his Puka Dog, but he'd ordered it extra spicy -- and it wasn't spicy enough for him. So, he was a little disappointed too.

Normski wants more spice in his Puka Dog

But how could I not be disappointed? I'd built up my expectations for literally years. There was no way Puka Dog could live up to these type of expectations.

I'll return on my next trip and try one of these dogs without all the syrupy relish.

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posted by AndyO @ 9:22 PM   0 comments

Kauai - Day 2 (Tuesday): Sunrise

I woke up at 6:30 a.m., and I found Brenda working on her computer in the kitchen. The boys were snoring on the hide-a-way bed. My parents were asleep in their bedroom. She mentioned that sunrise was going to be amazing. I looked out the bedroom window and saw a dramatic band of orange and red on the horizon. I put on my clothes, gathered my camera gear, and went down to the beach.

A sunrise on a Hawaiian island is a primal, magical experience. Here's what it looked like:





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posted by AndyO @ 12:17 PM   0 comments

Monday, November 23, 2009

Kauai - Day 1 (Monday): No coconuts

Today was our first full day on Kauai, and we started off a little slow. Part of it was that we'd gotten in at 12:00 a.m. Seattle time the night before, and part of it was that I'd slept on the hide-a-way couch with Cameron (he didn't want to sleep alone -- and his brother was sleeping in my bed).

Once we got up and dressed, I took my parents to breakfast at Egbert's while Brenda took the boys to the swimming pool. Breakfast was good, and even though our server forgot a lot of stuff, she made up for it with her humor and island charm. When she did bring me my salsa for my Portuguese sausage omelet, she said she said she didn't need to charge me for the small size. "But make sure you stir in some Tabasco, because it makes it a lot better."

The ants go marching in the condo

After breakfast, we returned to our room. We're staying at the Kauai Coast Resort at the Beachboy in Kapa'a, which is on the east side of the island. We have an oceanfront view room. Here's the view from the third floor balcony:


We also found out the condo had a few problems with pests, including some ants that liked to march across the countertop. I figure if you're living in the tropics for two weeks, a few pests are a small price to pay.

Snorkel Bob's and shopping

Later in the day, Brenda and I took the boys to Snorkel Bob's to get our snorkel gear. I realized that I still had jet lag, because 2:00 p.m. felt really late. The guy at Snorkel Bob's got us set up, and then it was on to Safeway in search of a coconut for the boys.

Snorkel Bob's

As we looked around in the store, I finally asked someone who worked there where we could find a coconut.

"We don't sell them in the store," he answered.


"What do you mean?" he said.

"Is there a reason you don't sell them in the store?" I asked.

"You can get them on some of the roadside stands," he said, still not answering my question.

I thought I'd violated some kind of island code by asking about this, so I gave up.

Safeway in Kauai

Testing out the snorkel gear

Later in the day, we went to the resort pool to swim and try out the snorkel gear. Cameron had actually learned to swim in this very pool four years ago, He didn't waste any time putting on his mask and fins and cruising around the pool like a human torpedo.

Before we left, Drew had told us he didn't want to swim -- so we didn't put on his swimming suit. But as soon as he saw the pool, he wanted to go in. So then I had to walk all the way back to the room with him to get his swimming suit.

This only took 20 minutes.

When we got back, my Mom had made friends with a couple who sported tattoos and chain smoked. I jumped in the water with Cameron and Drew and we had a great time.

Later, my Mom introduced me to Kimo, one of the staff at the Kauai Coast Resort who helped them carry all those Costco groceries up the three flights of stairs the day before. Kimo and I talked about music.

But I was dying to ask him why we couldn't buy a darn coconut at Safeway. He said it had to do with coconuts being so plentiful on the island that there was no reason to stock them in the stores.

So, no coconuts on this trip.

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posted by AndyO @ 11:42 PM   2 comments

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Seattle to Kauai - Nightmare at 35,000 feet

They're serving dinner on the plane right now, but about an hour ago the aisle next to me looked like an emergency room.

It all started with some commotion in the seats behind Brenda and the kids. I thought that the young man sitting there just felt sick. But then came the call over the intercom, "Is there a doctor on board?"

In all the limited flying I've done in my life, I'd never heard a call for a doctor. (And of course I imagined if this ever happened, that doctor would surely look like Leslie Nielson from Airplane!) But this obviously wasn't a laughing matter.

In seconds the doctor was sitting next to the young man who was sick. Flight attendants stood in the aisle, giving him what he needed. People turned around in the front of the plane and gawked. Voices were never raised, but there was a palpable tension in the air.

One of the flight attendants plugged a headset into a connection in the overhead compartment and relayed information back and forth from a hospital somewhere. I could hear words like "blood sugar" floating in the air. And soon it was clear the young man was suffering from a diabetic seizure. He had low blood sugar, which could be life-threatening.

Of course, the first thing that came to my (and probably everyone else's) mind  was that the plane might need to turn around and go back to Seattle. But the doctor, flight attendants, and several "nurses" who were also on the flight were working feverishly.

After 30 or 40 minutes I saw the young man talking calmly to the doctor, and it seemed that the danger had passed. Soon, the doctor got up and walked back to his seat to applause.

Everyone breathed a sigh of relief.

In this world of superstar celebrities and people who are famous for being famous, we often lose sight of the true heroes. Like the doctor who came forward. Like the flight attendants who kept their cool through the whole situation. Like the nurses who assisted. Like my wife Brenda who offered food and other supplies.

What could have been a true nightmare turned out OK. Later, when I was waiting for the lavatory at the back of the plane, I asked one of the flight attendants how often they see problems on the plane.

"Oh, it happens on overnight flights a lot." By overnight, I believe she meant a flight where the crew stays overnight somewhere. "And when there's a full moon."

(I should point out that there was no full moon on this particular night.)

The flight attendant said she'd never seen diabetic shock before, but that she'd been trained to deal with it. I didn't ask how close we'd come to turning around. Some things are better left unsaid.

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posted by AndyO @ 8:45 PM   0 comments

Sea-Tac Airport - Hawaiian Vacation begins

We arrived at Seattle-Tacoma airport two hours early for our flight to Kauai. On this particular Sunday before Thanksgiving, the crowds were thin. It was still good to have plenty of time with so much luggage and two kids.

We took the subway to the N concourse, the same place I'd started my three-week vacation to Europe 10 years ago. Both boys were so excited, they were asking questions about everything. And Brenda's plan of having the boys pull their own luggage was working. They were also both wearing red sweat suits (which we thought would help with tracking them--and, no, I don't think Brenda has seen The Royal Tenenbaums).

When we got to the gate, passengers were disembarking from the sleek Boeing 737-800. Drew walked up to the window and stared out at the airplane. A little later, we ended up meeting the co-pilot for our flight, who was sitting next to us in the waiting area. He invited Cameron and Drew into the cockpit during boarding.

Drew and the Boeing 737-800

Sure enough, when we got on board, the pilot and co-pilot welcomed the boys into the cockpit. They even let Cameron sit in the co-pilot's seat!

Our pilot, Drew, and Cameron

One interesting thing the co-pilot told me was that the winglets (those tails on the end of wings) on the 737-800 help with fuel efficiency. Evidently, just having those 8-foot winglets reduces vortex drag (those little tornados you sometimes see coming off the wings of airplanes).

I asked if he could tell the difference when flying an aircraft with winglets and one without. He said the ones with winglets take longer to slow down and "want to stay up in the air."

The pilots offered to let Cameron or Drew talk on the microphone, but they were too shy. Then they offered to answer any questions. Finally, they gave them airplane cards. (Thanks to the Alaska Airlines crew who made this visit to the cockpit possible. It meant a lot to the boys.)

After that, we took our seats and waited to take off. Brenda, Drew, and Cameron sat on one side of the plane, and I sat across the aisle.

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posted by AndyO @ 6:14 PM   0 comments

Al Gore stops by my work

On Tuesday, former Vice President, senator, Nobel Prize winner, and author stopped by my work. He was there to promote his new book, Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis.

Photo of Al Gore by Jay Munro

He said his book, An Inconvenient Truth: The Planetary Emergency of Global Warming and What We Can Do About It, was more about the evidence that the Earth is warming, and that humans are the cause. Our Choice is about the ideas to solve the crisis -- from solar to nuclear power.

A few things Mr. Gore said that I found interesting:

  • Just one hour of sunlight can power the earth for an entire year.
  • The population on earth will level off at about 9.1 billion, since most people are not having more than one or two children (and many other factors).
  • He thinks President Obama is doing a good job of getting climate change on the agenda -- but it's clear he thinks we should be even more aggressive. One thing he said was that companies will be required to report their carbon emissions starting in 2010.
  • He said that even if you guarantee the safety of nuclear plants and contain their waste, there are too many questions around cost and building estimates.

After Gore spoke for an hour, he signed books for a lot of people. Here I am getting my book signed (I'm the one in the blue coat).


I bought the young reader's edition Our Choice: How We Can Solve the Climate Crisis (Young Reader Edition) for my two sons.

Later that day, I was talking to my wife Brenda about Al Gore's life and all he's done. The one thing people usually think about is that he lost the election to George W. Bush (thanks to the Supreme Court); but I think Gore is one of the rare politicians who was able to make a difference outside of public service. You could say that he probably made even more of a difference, providing the tipping point for America to wake up and take this problem seriously.

Now we just need to continue to take action and decrease our carbon-based energy emissions. I think it can be done.

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posted by AndyO @ 10:24 AM   0 comments

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Petco Zoo

Yesterday, my boys and I went to Petco to get some flea medicine for our cats. But, as always, we ended up seeing a lot more.

We spent an hour perusing all the animals in the store, which really borders on being a small zoo. Some of the animals included:

  • Chinchillas (one was running around the cage, giving us a glimpse of how fast these rodents can run)
  • Ferrets (they were putting on a wrestling match)
  • Parakeets
  • Mice
  • Rats
  • Guinea Pigs
  • Hamsters
  • Turtles (red-eared sliders)
  • Tortoise
  • Lizards
  • Scorpion (hiding)
  • Tarantula (hiding)
  • Snakes
  • Frogs
  • Fish (beta, koi, and many others)

Cameron, my older boy, kept begging to bring home some of the animals.

As a bonus, they had a greyhound adoption event sponsored by Greyhound Pets of America - Greater Northwest, where we saw seven or eight greyhounds. Greyhounds seem like they're from alien planet, with their long narrow snouts, swept back ears, and aerodynamic muscular bodies. They also seem strangely unemotional (no tail wagging for me), but did get excited when new greyhounds showed up. Here are some pictures of the pack:






posted by AndyO @ 9:57 AM   0 comments

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Swine Flu Saturday

No, the family did not get Swine Flu (H1N1) on Saturday. Instead, we set off to Stevens Hospital in the Edmonds area to get the kids vaccinated against it. We got there a little before 9:00, and the line already snaked into the back parking lot.


Cameron asked me, "Why are all these people waiting in line?"

I explained that the Swine Flu vaccine was in short supply, and that this was one of the few places people could get it on Saturday. 

The first estimate we had was that we'd be waiting 2-1/2 hours.

The line moved ahead, and everyone was happy.


Then a volunteer came by and told us we'd be waiting 6 hours. Some people left. We stayed.

I told myself that if I could wait for hours for rides at Disneyland, I could certainly wait for my kids to get vaccinated. Brenda and I talked about one of us taking the kids to a movie, but in the end we didn't exactly how long it was going to take.

The good people at Stevens Hospital (I found out later that most of them were volunteers) did everything they could to make our line experience as smooth and pleasant as possible. They passed out breakfast bars and cereal. Clowns came by and gave the kids stickers. Another clown performed a show for all the kids. (I thought several times that someone could have made a fortune selling good food, drinks, and coffee in line that day.)

After 1:00 p.m., it became clear that we were going to be in the line for a long time. Brenda and I took turns with the kids, using the car as a home base. Drew watched a movie or two. I read a book to Cam (Enders Game). I was surprised how well everyone did around us. There was no complaining. People saved places for other people in line. People shared food. And it didn't rain.


At 2:00 p.m., I was starving so I walked down to McDonald's on 99 to get some food for me and the family. When I got back, Brenda was already in the covered area, which you can see in this picture:


And then we reached the point in the line that was right next to the hospital. As you can see, Brenda's very happy.

phone 001

Then it was time for the kids to get their "nasal mist" injections of the vaccine. They both took it like men.

Here's Cameron questioning why the delivery device looks like a shot:

phone 006

Here's Drew -- I mean, The Skeleton -- getting his vaccine.

phone 007

As we left the hospital, an overwhelming feeling of accomplishment came over me. We had persevered 6 hours to get this vaccine. And now we were going to get ready for Halloween (it was 3:00 p.m.). I thought to myself, this will be a Halloween that these thousands of people never forget.

Thanks again to Stevens Hospital staff, all the volunteers, the Fire Department, the Police Department, and many others for making this day as easy as it could be.

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posted by AndyO @ 6:12 PM   0 comments