Family, Money, Travel: Part II

My own frugal ways were self-taught. Because of the mixed messages I had received about money growing up, I went through many trials and plenty of errors before I figured out how to manage money, and more importantly, how to budget and live within or under my/our means. Brett’s income while he was in the navy forced me to quickly learn how to live on a (very) small income. When our son was born, after our bills were paid (rent, utilities, a washer & dryer payment, and payment towards the debt Brett’s previous wife had accumulated in his name), we had just $18 a week for groceries, including baby formula and baby food. I’m still not quite sure how we did it, but we never went hungry. I made bread from scratch and we ate lots of beans and pancake suppers, and little to no meat, but our bills were always paid on time. Although it took real effort we were able to get out of debt in less than two years, before heading off to our first tour in Japan.

I don’t know how it is now, but back then the military did not pay for everything when you moved to a new duty station – that turned out to be a myth. Although Brett received a per diem allowance, it was very small and we still always had to come up with a majority of our moving expenses, things like first and last months rent for an apartment while we waited for government housing and all those other hidden costs of moving. Buying a house and settling in anywhere was also out of the question because Brett was transferred to a new duty station (rotating between sea and shore duty) every 2 1/2 to 3 years, and mortgage interest rates were hovering for a while at around 15%-18% back then. Thankfully the navy moved our household goods for us and bought the plane tickets for our flights to Japan and back. Brett always had to take two months advance pay every time we moved to cover all the extra out-of-pocket expenses (almost all of our moves were across country or overseas), causing us to spend the first 24 months at our new duty station paying that back rather than being able to save much of anything for the next move. It was hard to catch up and get ahead but we left the navy with no debt and a good amount of savings. I worked when I could, but with Brett deployed most of the time, we both felt it was more important for me to be home for our son rather than at a full-time job.

During our navy years I learned how to make do with less, how to budget, and the beginnings of how to evaluate the difference between a need and a want. We were always able to pay our bills on time. We ate well, and traveled when we could. However, I still frivolously spent on things – those old feelings that owning the “right” things would make life better continued. We accumulated debt from time to time, and then had to work and scrimp to pay it off, a pattern that continued even after Brett retired to civilian life. When we adopted the girls our financial situation changed dramatically and I finally began to understand some of what it must have been like for my parents. Eight years ago the change in Brett’s employment situation took us to a point where debt threatened to ruin us, and we got serious about paying it off for good and changing how we lived. All those frugal habits I had taught myself and practiced over the years came fully into play, and not only did we pay off our debt, but we were able retire and move to Hawai’i. We happily live a much simpler life now, we’re comfortable and confident about our finances, what we have, and where we’re heading next. The most surprising thing of all has been the realization that some of the frugal choices I make these days mirror some of my parents’ – I apparently did learn a few things from them.

Shasta trailers were famous for the fins on the back. Our family of six camped in one this size one summer for a fun and memorable vacation.

I mentioned in Part I of this post that my family almost always took a vacation every summer. As a teacher, Mom always had the whole summer off from work, and she LOVED to travel so she made it a big part of our lives too. Mom always planned interesting and fun trips for us: one year we went camping up and down the California and Oregon coasts for three weeks, living in a Shasta trailer that my parents rented. Another summer we took a surprise trip by train to the Grand Canyon for a week (still the best vacation ever for me), and one year we did a summer-long driving trip back east to New England and then down the Atlantic coast, visiting cities, historic sites and natural wonders. Twice we moved to our grandparents’ beach house for the summer, where we grew a garden, walked to the beach every day and went beachcombing every evening, checked out books and jigsaw puzzles from the local library. We didn’t have a TV there, just a small transistor radio so Mom could listen to Dodger baseball, and we played lots of croquet on the vacant lot next door which my grandparents also owned. We sometimes took trips over to Tucson, Arizona during the winter so Mom and Dad could visit old friends there and often visited other sites around the state as well. We visited San Francisco, Yosemite and many other southwest national parks. Mom had to take continuing education courses every few years while she was teaching, but she would register for those at out-of-state colleges so she could “get away,” and my siblings and I would stay with friends and family during those weeks. I always chose to stay in Indiana with cousins, and have fond memories of lazy summers filled with all the fresh picked sweet corn and tomatoes I could eat, my grandmother’s yeast biscuits, and my aunts’ delicious fried chicken and gravy (I still dream about that gravy!). On the drive back to California Mom always made sure we did plenty of sightseeing, and we stopped at every historic marker we came across. Our family never traveled overseas or to places like Hawai’i or Alaska though – too expensive – and the only foreign country we ever visited was Canada. I wonder now if those kinds of trips might have been possible if we had lived somewhere other than San Marino.

This motel would have checked all the boxes for us kids: a pool with a diving board AND a slide! The only thing that could have made it better would be beds with the “Magic Fingers” massage option.

Traveling was the only time my parents seemed relaxed about money. While we always stayed in cheap motels they made sure there was a pool for us to swim in each evening. There was often nothing but apple juice and pretzels for breakfast (the morning meal was never Mom’s strong suit) and we picnicked on cold cuts, cheese, crackers, and apples for our lunches. However, we stopped every afternoon for pie and coffee (or sundaes for us kids) and we always went to a restaurant for dinner each evening – no fast food. My parents paid for tours and for tickets to visit every historic or important site along the way with no grumbling about the cost. If we were going to go on a long trip, like our summer trip back east, they tried to come up with ways for us to earn a bit extra throughout the year so we had spending money for souvenirs and treats and wouldn’t be bothering them to buy stuff.

Of course, because there was no discussion or conversation about it, I always assumed our vacations and travel was something they just took out their checkbook and paid for. I was an adult before Mom told me that she had always kept a travel savings account and funneled every extra penny into it. She always kept a “penny jar” (sort of like our change/$1 bill jar) on her kitchen window sill and literally saved every penny to put toward those afternoon pie and coffee stops. Although I wasn’t initially aware of it, I was learning valuable lessons about the importance of saving for travel as well as how to travel well on a budget, and ultimately that experiences were more rewarding than things.

It seems to me now that I picked up lots of what I now know about financial matters and money management from the things my parents didn’t do versus what they did.  And while it took me a long while to figure things out, the best lesson I learned by omission was that while you don’t have to reveal everything about your personal finances to your children, it’s important to give them an idea of what’s going on, what your priorities are, and why you make the choices you do. Children should be part of the family “team” when it comes to finances, even at a young age. They deserve and can learn from even a simple explanation when you say “no” to one thing but “yes” to another, or why you choose to spend for one thing versus another. Children can also be taught, with encouragement and support, how to save and make frugal choices with their money – it shouldn’t be assumed that frugality is an innate skill or something that can be learned through observation.

In spite of all the mistakes and stumbles Brett and I have made along the way, we’ve always tried to be open with our kids about our finances while still retaining our privacy, and to help guide them when we can. We’ve tried to model generosity too and work to provide some of their wants as well as meet their needs. When we haven’t been able to afford something, we’ve been honest about why and explained that we would try to provide it later. I’m not sure of how well we did, but all four seem to be good money managers, all have a generous spirit, and they all love to travel as much as we do. It’s exciting and rewarding these days to watch them work toward their dreams, budget for the things they want as well as save for their futures.

I haven’t written about the influence Brett’s family had on him when it comes to finances and money. He grew up in circumstances about as different from mine as possible, yet had a happy childhood. His story is his own to tell, but in spite of the differences we’ve made a good team over the years.

Family, Money, Travel: Part I

Last week in The Frugal Girl, a question was posed: “How did your family of origin affect your financial habits?” As I read through Kristin’s response and the comments from other readers, most said they had been raised in frugal households, and learned their frugal ways there. I was also raised in a frugal home, but didn’t really figure out about living simply and frugally until somewhat later in life. I’ve been thinking about the question the past few days, and it’s brought many memories and deep feelings to the surface. I’ve thought carefully about how things were and how they’ve turned out. This post ended up as something rather long-ish, so I’ve broken it into two pieces – Part II will be up on Thursday.

My parents grew up during the Great Depression, and both came of age and served during WWII. Neither of their families were poor, but they weren’t well-to-do either, and both my mother and father were raised in homes that practiced frugality even before the Depression arrived. My mother’s father owned an independent insurance agency, and my dad’s father managed the Department of Motor Vehicles in Indiana, and both remained employed during the Depression. My mom grew up in an exclusive suburb of Los Angeles, San Marino, and my dad was raised on a farm in Westfield, Indiana, just north of Indianapolis, where they grew crops for sale as well as their own vegetables, and also raised chickens and cows. My parents met at a sorority-fraternity dance at the University of Arizona following World War II, got married a few months later, and eventually ended up back in San Marino where they raised four children. My mom taught biology and math in the San Marino school district, and my dad became the Los Angeles area credit manager for GMAC. Their two incomes put our family in the middle of the middle class.

When I think about the messages and lessons I received about money growing up, the best I can say now is that they were mixed. We always had enough to eat (although always the cheapest of everything – I didn’t know until I was in my teens that there was a cut of beef other than chuck), decent enough clothes to wear, and we took a vacation or traveled almost every summer. We had good health and dental care. We lived close enough to Disneyland that we visited somewhat often (usually depending on who came to visit), and my grandparents owned a beach house in San Clemente that our family used frequently because we were just a little over an hour and a half’s drive away.

However, money or finances was never a topic for conversation at our house unless it was to tell us we couldn’t have or do something. My siblings may have different memories, but I have no recollection of any positive financial discussions on any topic, ever. I’m not sure why that was – either my parents thought it unseemly or that family finances was one of those things children didn’t need to know. They never talked about why they chose to live so frugally or about the lessons they had learned growing up in the Depression (except about the hardships), or what they were saving for or why.  Neither my siblings nor I ever received an allowance or any instruction on money management. Although my parents provided for us, we were also expected to figure out how to earn our own money for the things that they considered “extras.” I began babysitting when I was 11 or 12 years old (for 25¢ an hour), and saved my money to buy many of my clothes, or at least the fabric and notions to make them – I bought or made most of my own clothes beginning in middle school and all through high school. Christmas was miserable for me, and I always dreaded going back to school to hear about all the wonderful times my friends had had and the gifts they received, or see the new clothes they were wearing. My mom set up a Christmas Club savings account every year but it always felt like my parents begrudged having to spend anything on Christmas, and the gifts my mom purchased for us were for the most part cheap, often with little to no thought put into them. My dad always gave us a little money before Christmas so we could shop, but it was usually barely enough to buy everyone a bar of soap.

I understand now that besides raising four kids my parents were also saving to be able to put each of us through college (no student loans or grants back then), and have funds for emergencies when they arose (and they did). They did not use credit cards or borrow beyond their mortgage, but that was more something I sensed then rather than heard from them. The result though was that their frugality came across as stingy, cheap, and uncaring – frugality was never a positive. One of my strongest memories of my parents was when I think I was 13 or 14, and they bought our family a color TV. It was meant to be a surprise, and the day it was delivered my sister and I were home from school, but we sent the delivery man away, not because it wasn’t safe to let him in the house but because we knew that even in our wildest imaginations there was no way our parents would ever spend their money on a new, let alone a color, TV and he must have gotten the name mixed up with someone else.

Of all the factors that affected my early views on money, probably the most influential was my parents’ choice to settle in San Marino. To this day I don’t understand why we lived there, and I didn’t understand it at the time either. I know my mom wanted to live in San Marino because her parents** did, because the neighborhoods were close-knit, and because it was a beautiful city with amazing schools, but the cost of living there was well out of my parents’ league in spite of their two incomes (the city was also lily white at the time, and I’m ashamed to admit that aspect must have appealed to my parents as well). San Marino was (and still is) a very expensive place to live and it was often difficult and discouraging for me to live in a place where everyone else seemed to have not just everything but so much of it, and where it felt like money never seemed to be an object except for our family. We certainly weren’t destitute, but I know now we could have lived just as close to our grandparents and had an easier time of things financially if my parents had chosen to live in South Pasadena, San Gabriel, Arcadia, Pasadena or any number of other neighboring cities. We would have gotten a good education too.

In hindsight though, things might not have been as different as I imagine. Later in life, when my mom had a solid amount in savings and a steady income, she was still always moaning about being “broke” and not having enough money, the same complaint I heard all the time growing up. I wonder if us living less expensive location would have or could have changed those perceptions. Both of my parents were good savers but they never seemed to have figured how to invest, or make their money work for them so that they could someday follow their dreams. For years my dad, who had been a navigation officer in the navy and loved being out on the ocean, talked about buying a “tuna boat” and taking us around the world, but he never did anything to make his dream or anything resembling it a reality. He slogged along in a 9-5 environment his whole career, never rising very high up the chain and becoming more bitter and resentful as he went along. His bitterness and failure to go after his dream deeply affected me and my later views about money and dreams.

Drill team girl (what surprises me in this picture is not that I was ever this young and thin, but that you can see the mountains in the background – usually they were completely obscured by smog)

It also always seemed in our family that boys were more valued than girls when it came to how our family’s money was allocated. The favoritism could be blatantly overt at times too. For example, my parents bought all of my older brother’s clothing from a top men’s shop in Pasadena, and his expensive shoes from a high-end local store. The clothes my parents bought for my sister and me, on the other hand, came from cheap discount stores (and we didn’t get any more clothes than my brother), and I sometimes had to use my babysitting earnings to buy shoes when I got to high school. Both my brothers also played hockey for years, and new skates and other equipment was purchased without complaint or question for them every year, sometimes more than once a year if they grew out of things. My parents also spent time and $$$$ driving them to games and practices around L.A. County or to send them to exclusive hockey camps. I had two years of private clarinet lessons, and got my teeth straightened, but my sister and I were often refused things we asked to do, told they were too expensive or my parents didn’t have the time. I earned a place on the high school’s school drill team in my sophomore year, but instead of receiving congratulations the first thing my dad did was yell at me about having to buy the uniform (which cost the same as a pair of hockey skates).

Anyway, at age 18 I headed off to college not knowing the first thing about money or how to manage it, or if as a female I was even worthy of managing it. I just dreamed of having it. I was not afraid to work, and knew how to save for things I wanted in the short term, but I was pretty much a confirmed spender at that point in my life, always desiring, and buying the things my friends or others had, believing that when I had those things life would be better. I was considered a goofy, immature, frivolous person by my family, and if I’m honest, when it came to my finances back then I lived up to that reputation.

My grandparents’ house (on the right) was a very special place for me. My grandmother planted the (now very big) ginko tree in front when I was a little girl.

**My grandparents were also solidly middle middle-class, but they were able to buy a beautiful Mediterranean-style house in San Marino in 1925 at a bargain basement price when the builder went broke and couldn’t pay my grandfather his insurance premiums. My grandparents were always very frugal, and they were careful, dedicated savers who invested in property throughout Southern California whenever possible (they even owned an orange grove at one time). They always took good care of their home and possessions. My mom once said her parents were actually quite stingy, but they were always very generous to me and my siblings. I think my grandmother (my grandfather died when I was seven) turned out to be a stronger positive role model, financial and otherwise, than my parents ever were.

Sunday Afternoon 6/24/2018

We spent some of Father’s Day at the beach – it was a beautiful day!

After a few weeks of feeling like nothing much was happening around here, things are about to get busy, at least for the next few weeks. This coming Friday morning Royal Hawaiian will arrive to pack up the items we are shipping back to the mainland, then the following week our friends Alan and Cheryl arrive on the island and we’ll be moving the furniture and items they purchased from us over to their house, and the week after that will be our big garage sale. I’m going to try to keep to my regular writing schedule, but will not make any guarantees. If nothing else, I want to at least do the Sunday Afternoon post to catch up. I hope readers will hang in there with me until all these things get taken care of and we can sort of stand down again..

The glassy water on Tuesday should have been a warning about how still the air was.

This past Tuesday evening I had a scary run-in with heat exhaustion while Brett and I were on our walk. We are walking later in the day now in order to give the sun time to go down a bit more and the breeze to pick up a bit, but that evening there was absolutely NO breeze when we got to the beach path – I’ve never felt the air so still. It didn’t seem all that humid though, or overly hot, so we started off at our usual brisk pace. We always carry water, and always stop to drink at our turn-around point before starting back, which we did. The return trip to the car is mostly downhill and there’s usually a breeze in our face to cool us off, but if anything the air was even more dead this time on the way back, and about halfway to the car I started to feel strange. I stopped and drank some more water but by the time we got down to the bottom of the hill I knew something was wrong – I was sweating profusely, my legs were cramping, I was starting to get a headache, and felt like if I went further I was going to pass out. I stopped and sat down at one of the shaded picnic tables and Brett went off to get the car. I must have looked awful because a woman who was walking her dogs stopped and stayed with me until he came back. I took a long, cold shower and drank a lot of water after we got home, but it took several hours before I felt normal and not overheated. Anyway, lesson learned – we can still walk if it’s hot, humid and there’s no breeze, but not at our usual pace, and we need to turn around sooner.

We’ve decided our landlord is just plain nuts. He brought some potential renters over this past week, a lovely retired couple, but after showing them around he made himself at home in our living room and proceeded to rant about his expectations, what someone could and couldn’t do in the house, how much he charges for minor things, etc. pretty much effectively talking them out of ever wanting to have to deal with him. Plus, he slipped in a few racist remarks and gossiped about other potential renters including making up stuff about them. It was appalling. We’ve pretty much decided he’s setting us up to give us back very little if any of our security deposit – he was looking over everything while he was showing the house, and told us while he’ll do a walk-through with us the “real” inspection happens after we move out and that’s when “finds” things (which is illegal under Hawaii landlord-tenant law). We will be glad though to be finished with this guy – but it’s sad because up until the last few months he has been very easy to work with.

Some of the “river of debris” that currently runs the entire length of Kealia Beach, made up of small pieces of driftwood left over from April storms and flooding. Clean-up crews will eventually get to it, but it’s not a priority for now.

This afternoon I am:

  • Reading: I finished Grant – such a good biography and for a couple of days after it was done I felt a bit lost not having it to read. I had two more books come off of hold at the same time though which worked out well. I read The Year of Less: How I Stopped Shopping, Gave Away My Belongings, and Discovered Life Is Worth More Than Anything You Can Buy In a Store by Cait Flanders in three days and am now reading The Temptation of Forgiveness: A Commissario Guido Brunetti Mystery by Donna Leon.
  • Listening to: Another quiet day at Casa Aloha. YaYu is working the breakfast and lunch shift today, and Brett is reading. It was raining earlier this morning, and there’s a nice, cool-ish breeze now. No one for now is working on their lawn or power-washing anything, and the chickens are quiet, so it’s all very peaceful and I love it!
  • Watching: We finished up the second season of Goliath – great acting all around – but didn’t enjoy it as much as the first season. We’re currently watching Scott & Bailey, a British series about two female police detectives in Manchester. So far it’s been good, and we’re glad there are a few seasons of it as well. We continue to watch an episode or two of Parts Unknown a few evenings a week. The new season of the Great British Baking Show is back on PBS too – I love that show!
  • Cooking/baking: Not sure what we’re having for dinner tonight but we have several choices. Quiche maybe? The oven door is supposed to be repaired on Tuesday, so it will be nice to have that option available for cooking again. On the dinner menu this week will be pork and eggplant stir fry, macaroni and cheese, pepperoni pizza, and noodles with pork sauce. My KA mixer is going into our shipment on Friday, so I’m going to try to bake one more cake before it goes.

    My favorite view on Kaua’i shows the power of the ocean, and how far away we are from every other place out here in the ocean.

  • Happy I accomplished this past week: I got the last of the pictures down and nail holes filled, but the landlord not so subtly let us know the other day that in his opinion we were in violation of our lease by hanging any pictures at all (even though I dare him to find any of the holes), so I’m not sure at this point why I’m putting all this effort into it. I’m still working on the pantry shelves because the shelf liner we used stuck to the paint so I’m having to sand and then repaint the shelves. YaYu did a great job of cleaning out her room, closet and dressers the other day so things are moving along in there as well. We had hoped to walk five days this past week, but only got in four – we didn’t get to walk on Friday because it rained most of the day. On Saturday though it was cool and breezy enough for us to walk out to the Pineapple Dump to check out my favorite view on the island.
  • Looking forward to next week: I’m greatly looking forward to getting the first round of our upcoming move out of the way on Friday. We’ve got lots of work to do this week to get ready for that, but it will mean things are starting to move along again. Hopefully Brett and I can also fit in another trip to the beach.

    Duke came a relaxed with us for a while – such a good little pug!

  • Thinking of good things that happened: Brett and I went to the beach not once, but twice this week – so nice! Last Tuesday the sweet little pug in the picture above came and sat with us while his “mom” went swimming – he had come up to say hello and then made himself at home on my beach mat, and the young woman asked if we would keep an eye on him while she went out in the water. No problem – he must have known we were “pug people!” YaYu worked lots of hours (and got overtime) and made lots of tips this past week. She is getting ready to pay her first bill at Bryn Mawr in the next couple of weeks so this helped calm her down a bit. We found haupia (Hawaiian coconut custard) cakes at Costco and  bought one – Brett is in heaven as he hasn’t had any for over two years and it’s one of his favorites.
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: It was just a so-so frugal week for – we skipped the farmers’ market again but stopped at Safeway for a few things so it evened out, and we bought peaches and another watermelon (and a cake) at Costco when we went to get gas for the car. I also ordered a replacement screen from Amazon to hang in the doorway between the house and the garage – the one that was here when we moved in is on its last legs. We put $3.46 into the change/$1 bill jar, the change we got back at Safeway.
  • Reporting gains and losses: I didn’t gain or lose any weight this month, and we put $2775 toward the Big Adventure.
  • Grateful for: I’m feeling sort of thankful right now for all those times we had to clean our navy housing for white-glove inspections – we know how to deep clean and we’re going to hold the landlord’s feet to the fire to get as much of our deposit back as possible!
  • Bonus question: How did you learn to cook? I am for the most part a self-taught cook. My grandmother on my mom’s side was not a good cook – the only thing she made that was memorable were her stewed apples. They were divine, but she never passed on how to make them so they’re only a memory now. My dad’s mom was a wonderful cook, but she lived far away so I only got to observe her and eat her cooking during the times I visited Indiana (same for my dad’s sister and his sister-in-law – they were both amazing cooks). My dad didn’t cook, and mom was frankly mediocre. Cooking was more of a chore for her because she had never really learned from her mom, plus she worked full time and was heavily into convenience foods which were very salty and not very healthy. Growing up I paid attention when my friends’ moms cooked and picked up some of their techniques, ideas and flavors, and I also noticed things that tasted good whenever I went out and often tried to replicate them. I consider myself a “journeyman” cook though – I have solid basic skills, know how to follow a recipe and when and how to adapt or change it, and the things I make turn out well and taste good, but cooking is not a passion for me. I’m also at a stage in my life right now where I’m ready for a break from regular cooking and meal planning.

The grands – this cracks me up!

That’s all for this week! I’m not sure when or if I’ll get to post this week – we have a lot going on. How did your week go? What are you reading? What frugal things did you do? What good things happened for you?

Hiking Waimea Canyon with Friends

At long last, I got to hike in Waimea (reddish-brown water) Canyon, and with friends from the mainland, on the Canyon Trail no less! Two of my former coworkers came for a week’s visit to Kaua’i which happened to span our weekend getaway at Barking Sands, so a hike in the canyon was practically unavoidable. Our inclement weather plan was to enjoy wine on the lanai as we watched storms roll by, but as far as the weather we got lucky.

sharon, brett, christi

Former co-workers Sharon and Christi and me on a windy afternoon at the Waimea Canyon Overlook

We thought about taking the first trail we came to, the Kukui Trail, but after reading a few reviews online we thought better of it. The Illiau Nature Loop, between the eight and nine mile markers leads to the Kukui Trail which consists of 2.5 miles of switchbacks into the canyon—2,700 feet down. Because the trail is so steep and exposed, reviewers recommended continuing down through the canyon toward the ocean rather than hiking back up, and making arrangements for friends or family to pick you up in Waimea.

As we didn’t start out until after 2:00 PM, we proceeded to the Waimea Canyon Overlook (3,120 ft/951 m), just past the 10 mile marker for our first stop. At at the top of the walkway to the viewpoints, I looked to my left and saw two women who had climbed over a protective fence and descended beyond the WARNING sign along a steep slope strewn with loose soil to the edge of a precipice. I mentioned to my friends that I was reminded of Over the Edge, a book about foolish and unfortunate visitors to Grand Canyon National Park.

A little further on one of my friends spotted a beautiful small flower that she wanted a photo of (neither of my friends had remembered to bring their cameras or phones). I’ve searched but cannot determine what this little plant is, so I’ll just show it. Maybe one of you recognize it?

Rock hugging 8-petal white flower with yellow center, and sawtooth leaves on woody stem at Waimea Canyon

White blossoms bursting from rock

While we were at the Overlook, I also captured a panoramic view of the canyon. In the process I spotted what looked like Warner Brothers’ Roadrunner, just left of center, created from the pale green of the new understory as it grew out following April’s torrential flooding.

Panoramic View from Waimea Canyon Overlook

Panoramic view from the Waimea Canyon Overlook

We continued on up the road,  just passed the 11 mile marker and stopped at the Pu‘u Ka Pele overlook (3,662 ft/1,116 m). The Hawaiian name loosely means a large protuberance where lava flowed forth. One of the best views of Waipo‘o Falls (headlong waters, 800 ft/244 m to be precise), as well as another perspective of the canyon, is available from here.

Waipo'o Falls and Waimea Canyon

Waipo’o Falls and Waimea Canyon from Pu’u Ka Pele Overlook

Up the road another two miles, between the 13 and 14 mile markers, lies a more developed overlook, Pu’u Hinahina (3,606 ft/1,099 m), meaning gray or grayish outcrop. Beginning in the overlooks’s parking lot, a relatively new spur trail links up with the Canyon Trail. Halemanu Road, just beyond the 14 mile marker, is strictly for 4-wheel drive vehicles and leads to a dirt parking lot beside the original trailhead of Canyon Trail where the new spur ends.

Trailhead of New Spur to Canyon Trail

Trailhead of the new spur trail to the Canyon Trail

From the onset, the new Spur Trail was deceptively easy looking, until we met mud spattered hikers near the first dip. While many of the flowers with which I’m familiar were well past their prime, and a few were showing early fruit, there was still quite a lot to take in along this undulating path. I say undulating because it did not merely switch back and forth in a steadily toward the falls, but rather rose and fell steeply, crossing two major streambeds. Philippine ground orchids had gone to seed on the slopes while guava were just beginning to blush and yellow ginger along the streambeds still bore fresh blossoms and were heavenly fragrant.

A very short distance beyond the clearing at the intersection of the New Spur and Canyon Trails the Cliff Trail branched off to our right. Since we were already a little behind our turnaround time, we decided to go out that way rather than proceeding a further steep mile to the falls.

Cliff Trail Viewpoint

A Long Way Down from the Cliff Trail Viewpoint

We could barely make out the light feathery red blooms on the Lehua (red ashes), the sensitive trees said in literature to be Pele’s sister.

Friends at Cliff Trail Viewpoint

More proof that everyone enjoyed hiking in Waimea Canyon – Sharon and Christi at the Cliff Trail Viewpoint

Descending from Pu’u Hinahina Overlook we headed back to Barking Sands. Sharon and Christi had brought wine so we enjoyed that and talked story over a lovely Italian sausage dinner that Laura had prepared. I’m grateful I got to make the hike into the canyon, and also that I got to do it with two good friends – it was a memorable day.

A State of Inertia

Hot chocolate packages sit out on the counter so we remember to use them.

Inertia (n.): a tendency to do nothing or to remain unchanged.

It feels a little right now like we are holding a place in slow-moving line. It feels like nothing is happening, or at least the things that are happening are small and mundane, and aren’t moving things along much, if at all.

I’ve been taking down pictures and filling holes (and I defy our landlord to find them!), cleaning out the pantry, continuing to go through and sort things to go the thrift store or trash. Brett has cleaned out our papers and has shredded the items we’re not keeping. We’re working through what’s left in the pantry, using things up or at least trying to figure out how to use them up. No matter what we do though, for now it doesn’t seem as if we’re accomplishing much of anything.

I don’t remember feeling like this back in Portland, before we moved over here. There seemed to always be something to do, something big and important that made a noticeable difference. Maybe there wasn’t though – maybe there actually were long stretches of nothing like we’re experiencing now and I’ve forgotten it all.

I keep reminding myself that all the little stuff adds up, and I will be glad in a few weeks that I have been taking care of all these small things now. The movers are scheduled to pack us out on June 29, our friends arrive on the island on July 1 and will be taking most of our furniture, and we’ll hold a garage sale on July 6-8. After that it will pretty much be just us and our clothes, one bed and an inflatable mattress, our computers and Kindles, the vacuum cleaner, and maybe the slow cooker if it doesn’t get sold at the garage sale. The car will be listed for sale toward the end of July. We’ll step up our deep cleaning around here so we’re ready to do the walk-through and hand over the keys to the landlord on the afternoon of 28th of July so we can head over to the condo to begin our last three weeks on the island.

There are still a few reservations to be made for our trip before we leave Kaua’i, but in the meantime we’ll keep plugging along with the small stuff, and I’ll keep reminding myself that we’re just at a slow spot in the river right now, and that things will soon pick up and begin moving swiftly again. I know when it’s time to depart we’ll wonder how the time passed so quickly.

Sunday Afternoon 6/17/2018

We call this section of the beach path we’re walking now the “Pass of Doom” – each side of the cut is high enough that the breeze stops, the sound of the waves disappears, the temperature climbs by 10 – 15 degrees, and the humidity concentrates.

Happy Father’s Day to any and all dads who are reading today! YaYu is working, but here at Casa Aloha Brett is enjoying a Day of Doing Nothing (although he still got up and made the coffee this morning). We bought a beautiful fresh fruit tart at Costco the other day and will having that this evening as part of our celebration.

Pass of Doom II – thankfully not as long as the other one, but all the same oppressive features (this was in the early evening, when it was in the shade – still hot and muggy though).

Summer has arrived . . . and so has the humidity. We’re not to the stage yet where it’s a constant, miserable presence, but it’s getting there. The heat and humidity has been hardest to deal with when Brett and I go for our walk. There’s thankfully almost always a cool breeze down by the beach, but we still seem to always come back soaked in sweat. We recently changed where we walk on the beach path because we wanted more hills to help continue our “strength training,” and are enjoying all the different views and vistas.

This view is our reward at the turn-around point of our walk. Note how the waves arrive out past the rocks and their directions as they approach the shore!

One of the things I will miss the most about Kaua’i is our year-round local farmers’ market. The weekly Kapaa market is always been bursting with affordable, beautiful produce, and it’s made it possible for us to eat far more fruits and vegetables than we would be otherwise. I also will miss several of the farmers that we’ve gotten to know. Below is what we bought this last week, all for $24.50. We got the two big bags of lychee for just $5, less than we usually pay for half that amount. They’re also very sweet and juicy.

This week’s haul from the farmers’ market.

We were supposed to be heading to the Big Island next weekend to visit Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, but because the park and Camp Kilauea (where we were going to stay) are both closed due to volcanic activity we’ve decided to cancel the trip. We had thought about driving up from Hilo over the north side of the island and spending the night in the Kona area, but just are not feeling it and were not thrilled about incurring the extra expense for gas, meals, and a hotel room (our cabin at Camp Kilauea had a kitchen). Plus, our flight times conflict with YaYu’s work schedule which would have made things tricky, so we’ve decided to save our money and put it toward the Big Adventure. Our airline tickets were purchased with miles I had accumulated, and while I’m sad to give those up it’s not as painful as if I had paid cash (although realistically if I’d paid cash we’d still be going)

This afternoon I am:

  • Reading: I finished The Cooking Gene this week and am making good progress getting through Grant. Using food and Southern cooking as the central theme, The Cooking Gene gives an in-depth view of the lasting influence of slavery. It’s an interesting, but a tough read at times. I’m thoroughly enjoying Grant – it’s well-written and has added lots of detail and nuance to things I already knew about him. I had no idea though when I started that the book has 1104 pages! I’ve been reading three to four chapters a day, and hopefully I can finish it before it goes back. I’ve started Cave of Bones by Anne Hillerman. I loved every one of Tony Hillerman’s mysteries, but this is the first one by his daughter that I’ve read and so far it’s great.
  • Listening to: It’s very quiet around here today. YaYu is at work, Brett is reading and I guess all the dads are taking a day off from yard work and other chores because there’s not one weed trimmer or lawn mower being operated in our neighborhood (yeah!). There’s just the buzz of the ceiling fan right now and a few birds singing in the trees outside. The laundry awaits, but I’m not in any hurry to get it started – I prefer the quiet.
  • Watching: We’re still watching two or three episodes of Parts Unknown each evening – we’re now in Season Three. We’ve also started watching the new season of Goliath, with Billy Bob Thornton. Loved Season 1 and so far Season 2 is keeping up.
  • Cooking/baking: We’re having curry with chicken and vegetables for our dinner tonight, one of Brett’s favorites. We were hoping for the oven to be repaired last week, but parts are on order and it’s anyone’s guess when they will arrive from the mainland – they could arrive this week or it might take a while. This week’s dinner menu includes panzanella (bread salad) with chickpeas and feta cheese, mabo nasu with steamed rice, chicken noodle soup, and pizza (which can be cooked out on the grill).
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: I’ve got almost all the pictures down and nail holes repaired along with lots of other small tasks that keep moving us forward. Brett and YaYu got her passport/eye exam/college lab work all done last Tuesday – it was a very busy day. Brett and I did our not-so-Big Shop on Friday and went to our election training on Saturday but otherwise it’s been a fairly slow week.
  • Looking forward to next week: There’s really nothing on the calendar this week. YaYu will be working but otherwise Brett’s and my time will be our own. Maybe, just maybe, the stars will align and we can get down to the beach for a while.

    So proud of our son! (not sure what lap he’s on here)

  • Thinking of good things that happened: Our son completed his annual fundraising event in Japan yesterday, the “Imperial Challenge.” He collects pledges, and then walks around the Imperial Palace for as many laps as he can (one lap is just over three miles) – this year he walked over 27 miles in almost nine hours, and raised almost $4500 (¥498,900). He created this event three years ago, and has now raised a total of $11,500 for Nanbyo Network, an organization that assists children suffering from incurable conditions as well as their families. We are so proud of him! We also learned that we don’t have to strip and wax the floors when we move out! YEAH!! The landlord brought in a masonry specialist this past week and as we suspected the entire floor needs to be cleaned with a special solvent and then re-sealed, and it will be a major job. The landlord will take care of everything including the stripping, so we are completely off the hook. This is the best news ever for us because we have absolutely been dreading getting the floors done to the landlord’s satisfaction. We’re still planning to turn over the keys three days early though as the condo will be available and we’d rather be over there than staying in an empty house.
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: We had another fairly low-spend week, but we did take care of our monthly food shop, visited the farmers’ market, and we paid our electric and water bills (with cash).  Brett did bring home some tasty items from the Kilauea Bakery last Tuesday, including lilikoi cream puffs. We almost completely emptied our refrigerator and freezer this week, and were able to get everything cleaned out of the pantry and moved into the kitchen. I’m proud of the nutritious meals I was still able to pull together using the very little we had on hand. We put $8.95 into the change/$1 bill jar, $3.88 in change back from the bills, $3.07 from recycling and $2.00 change from the bakery.
  • Grateful for: I look at travel blogs, articles and forums that are available online almost every day in preparation for our travels. Any angle of travel I want to know about or figure out, I can find something about it online. While we’ve bought guidebooks (they still have their place and function) and and will take them with us, these days it’s easy to read others’ experiences and advice to figure out what we might want to do in any location, where and what are the best things to eat, what we maybe want to avoid, how we can save, etc. Every day I learn something new.
  • Bonus question: What do you like best about summer? Well, it’s definitely not the humidity here! When I was a child I loved summer: no school, swimming, barefoot days outside, our library’s summer reading challenge (yes, I was a nerd), barbecues, and summer fruit. Summer is no longer my favorite season except for the fruit. These days you can get summer fruits (melons, berries, etc.) year round, but there’s still something special about summer fruits picked in season. Ripe peaches, juicy melons, sweet plums – it’s hard for me to pick a favorite. We get tropical fruits here year round, and I will miss papayas, lilikoi, mangoes, lychee, etc. but I admit I’m already looking forward to Oregon berries, melons, plums and peaches next summer. One of my favorite summer desserts is Peach Melba: a perfectly ripe peach half topped with a scoop of good vanilla ice cream and fresh raspberry sauce poured over it. YUM!

Another pretty view along the stretch of the beach path we’re walking now.

That’s a wrap for this week! How was yours? What good things happened for you? What are you reading and eating? How’s the weather where you are? What’s your favorite thing about summer?

A West Side Getaway

Sunday evening’s beautiful sunset (the unihabited island of Lehua can be faintly seen on the horizon).

Sometimes you just need to get away from regular life, to decompress and forget about all the everyday things that you have to do. Here on Kaua’i, we discovered that going just 35 miles away from home put us in a completely different environment, both climatically and culturally.

The weekend before last Brett and I took care of an item on our Kaua’i bucket list: a little holoholo to the island’s west side, to stay in one of the beach cottages at the Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility at Barking Sands (PMRF). The getaway was supposed to be part of YaYu’s graduation celebration, but since she’s now a working girl and couldn’t take time off, and because reservations are currently hard to come by (summer season), Brett and I decided to head out on our own rather than cancel.

Our cottage

The view from our lanai

The beach cottages are run by the Navy’s Morale, Welfare and Recreation department, and are available to all active duty and retired military members, some reservists and other classes of military veterans and civilians. We were surprised to learn when we checked in that we had been “upgraded” which meant we were assigned one of the oceanfront cottages versus one in the second row back. Our two-bedroom cottage was clean, spacious and very well-equipped, including a in-house washer and dryer – the only thing missing was a dishwasher. We had a good Internet connection (a surprise), and cable TV was also available. Our bed was comfortable, and there was air-conditioning in the bedroom which made sleep heavenly. Best of all was the amazing location – besides the view of the pristine Barking Sands’ beach and the 24/7 background sound of the surf, we could also see Niihau and Lehua islands.

Barking Sands beach, looking east. We walked out to the far point and back in the mornings

Saw loads of these on our beach walks – can you guess what it is*?

After the past few months of craziness, our time at Barking Sands felt like indulgent laziness – it’s been a long time since I’ve felt so relaxed. We woke when we were ready to get up, and took a long walk on the beach each morning. Brett went hiking in Waimea Canyon one day with friends who were visiting from the mainland but I stayed back and pitched our umbrella out on the beach and relaxed there for a few hours. We enjoyed our coffee in the morning and a glass of wine each evening out on the lanai while listening to the sound of the surf, and we headed out the beach at dusk each day to catch the sunsets.

Mango-lilikoi pie (and yes, we brought whipped cream with us!)

We brought all our own food along from home, and with the low daily price we had a very affordable little vacation. We made a couple of stops on the way down to pick up fresh pies from two of our favorite places: a mango-lilikoi pie from The Right Slice in Kalaheo, and a lilikoi chiffon pie from Aunty Lilikoi in Waimea, to bring home for YaYu. We had planned to stop at the original JoJo’s in Waimea for a shave ice on the way back, but were sad to discover they had closed.

On Sunday I had the beach all to myself. Sadly, Barking Sands is not a swimming beach – there’s a dangerous shore break and lots of rocks hidden just under the water.

Brett and I have decided that when we come back to Kaua’i to visit this is where we want to stay. Besides being affordable, it’s also sublimely quiet and peaceful, and the drive back to the south or east sides of island is not too bad. The west side is more relaxed, and there are fewer tourists. Neither of us was ready to leave when our time was up, and we wished we could have stayed a few more days. We’re happy though our our experience, and excited about the prospect of coming back some time in the future.

*This little guy and his (or maybe her?) friends were responsible for all the holes and sand hills on the beach. He’s about as big as my fist, and didn’t like having his picture taken!

Oh, the Airlines They’ll Fly!

Other than our flight from Tokyo to Portland at the end of the Big Adventure, we have wrapped up all of our flight reservations, and counted up all the different airlines we’ll be flying – the current total is 14!

Here they are in alphabetical order:

  • Aerolineas Argentinas
  • Air Europa
  • Air New Zealand
  • Alaska Air
  • American Airlines (2)
  • Cathay Pacific
  • China Airlines
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • Iberia Airlines
  • India Air
  • LATAM Airlines
  • Norwegian Air Shuttle
  • Ryanair (2)
  • Southwest Airlines

We won’t know the Tokyo to Portland flight information until late fall or December, but the airline we use will be the one with the best fare/best schedule!

All flights are non-stop except the flights from Portland to New Delhi and the flight to Boston from Madrid. We won’t change airlines on either trip, but will have a stopover along the way. We stayed with non-stops as much as possible as they will hopefully lessen the chance of our luggage being lost.

The longest is the 12-hour+ flight from Vancouver, B.C. to Taipei, the stopover on the way to New Delhi. That entire journey will take more than 24 hours from start to finish, including our drive from Portland up to Vancouver. The most expensive flight is the one to Buenos Aires followed closely behind by the flight to Paris from Montevideo. The least expensive (and shortest) flight is one from Lisbon to Madrid. All the flights cost at least what we expected, but most cost less, sometimes much, much less than what we had estimated. Other than first class seats from Lihue to Portland at the start of our trip, and premium economy on our flight from Boston to Portland in December, we’ll be flying economy.

I also figured out all our flights put together equal around 53,000 air miles – more than two trips around the earth’s circumference! It’s very exciting and satisfying though to see that all our flights are arranged.

We have not signed up for any mileage plans yet either (other than Hawaiian), but will do that as we go along and see what we can accumulate for future travel.

Sunday Afternoon 6/10/2018

Looking west from Barking Sands – next landfall is Japan!

Brett and I both felt that our getaway to the west side was too short. It was a very relaxing time for both of us, and we wanted to stay a few more days before coming home. Both of us also wished we had gone out there earlier, and that YaYu (and the other girls) had been able to come with us as well.

The almost-end of another pretty sunset. The island of Niihau can be seen on the left horizon.

But, we are back into the thick of things. If we thought YaYu’s school and volunteer schedule was nuts, her work schedule is almost crazier with her working day shift one day, evenings the next, or having it changed at the last minute. She is working her tail off, bless her heart, and making lots of money, but she’s also exhausted and having a hard time fitting in other tasks that need to be taken care of, such as applying for her new passport (she has to appear in person) and getting some more medical stuff taken care of for Bryn Mawr.

Brett and I are taking care of things around the house, trying to get something done every day so we’re not overloaded with a ton of work right before we move out. The people who were supposed to look at the place before we left last weekend never showed up, and there’s been no other interest. The landlord claims he still has the other two interested parties from a couple of months ago on the line, but Brett and I would be very surprised if they haven’t moved on to other opportunities. It’s kind of sad because the house is actually a very nice place in a great location.

This afternoon I am:

  • Reading: I’m still reading The Cooking Gene, and enjoying how the author links together history, race, genealogy and food. I’m learning a lot as I go along as well as having to think more deeply about some things (and rethink a few things I thought I knew). My copy of Ron Chernow’s Grant came off of hold from the library at the same time as another book, so I’m reading Grant during the day on my computer and The Cooking Gene at night. Hopefully I can get one or both finished in time to get to the third book before it has to go back. Two of Brett’s and my favorite mystery authors, Ian Rankin and Tana French, both have new books being released in October. I’ve already pre-purchased both of them from Amazon.
  • Listening to: It’s pretty quiet around here right now. Brett is reading, and YaYu is still sleeping – she doesn’t go into work until later this afternoon – and we haven’t started the laundry. A few birds are singing outside, a couple of roosters are crowing off in the distance, but there’s thankfully no noisy yard work going on (for now, anyway). Yesterday our next door neighbor ran his pressure washer for over three hours non-stop, even when he wasn’t doing anything, and I thought I was going lose my mind! In the meantime I’m mainly listening to the sound of the ceiling fan overhead – summer is here, the humidity is back and the fans are on almost all the time now.
  • Watching: Brett and I finally finished Indian Summers, and are now watching Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown, which is proving to be a bittersweet experience. The series is supposed to leave Netflix on June 16, so we’re trying to squeeze in as many episodes as we can between now and then.
  • Cooking/baking: We’re having kalua pork tonight versus fried rice because we currently have to avoid using our range as much as possible – the outer oven door spontaneously shattered in the early morning hours on Thursday while we were asleep (it hadn’t been used in five days either). The glass thankfully has not fallen out of the door (yet), but there’s no guarantee that won’t happen at any moment. According to the landlord, repairs are “in the queue.” In the meantime, everything we cook has to be prepared in the slow cooker, the microwave or out on the grill, and baking is obviously out of the question. I’ve put grilled pork chops and grilled teriyaki chicken on the menu this week, and we’ll fill in with leftovers as necessary, but I am going to have to almost completely redo the Big Shop list.
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: I’ve been steadily working on getting items on our monthly goals list taken care of. I removed all the pictures from the hallway, and some from the girls’ room and filled the nail holes – the landlord will be hard pressed to find them because I can barely find where they were! I’ve also been working on getting things out of the pantry and have three shelves cleaned off so far, but I’m going to have to do a bit of touch-up painting because the shelf liner stuck to the paint and has had to be sanded off. It’s been a good week for walking and other exercise too. Instead of studying French online, I’ve gone back to studying my phrase book and practicing how to order, or buy something, etc. – things I will actually need to use.
  • Looking forward to next week: Brett and I will be working at the polls in August for the Hawaii primary and we have our training session this coming week. YaYu has worked the elections for the past two years, and was asked if she would do it once more, but she can’t because of her job so Brett and I stepped up. Otherwise, there’s nothing special on the calendar other than our Not-So-Big-Anymore Shop on Friday. We’re looking forward to a relaxing week – the weather is getting better so we may actually get to the beach.

    Sweet, juicy lychee are only in at the farmers’ market for a very short time.

  • Thinking of good things that happened: Lychee were back in the farmers’ market again this week – so happy for the chance to enjoy them once more before they disappear for another year. We also enjoyed a lilikoi chiffon pie from Aunty Lilikoi’s in Waimea that we bought on our way down to the PMRF last weekend and brought home to share with YaYu – so delicious! It had been too long since we last had one. We all had a lovely luncheon at the Nawliwili Yacht Club yesterday with the Zonta Club of Hanalei, where YaYu and others received their scholarships.

    Lilikoi chiffon pie – YUM!

  • Thinking of frugal things we did: 1) Brett got a very nice free haircut from a Supercuts trainee (although the guy next to Brett didn’t fare so well with his cut). 2) Other than a trip to the farmers’ market we had a no-spend week, and ate from the pantry, fridge and freezer, all of which are getting exceedingly empty. 3) Our water and electric bills were both once again lower than they were the month before. 4) I did some research, and was happily surprised to figure out that we won’t need to purchase travel insurance, a savings for us of over $900. Our credit card insures lost luggage, cancelled flights, etc. – everything but medical – and our medical and dental insurance cover us worldwide. 5) We put just $3.00 into the change/$1 bill jar, our change from the farmers’ market.
  • Grateful for: What a sorrowful week this past one was. Kate Spade, Anthony Bourdain, and others whose names most of us will never know, gave up their struggles with their demons. Once upon a time someone reached out to me when I was at my lowest, and let me know that I was valuable and that I was needed in the world. Because of that person’s intervention I was able to go on and eventually met Brett, had four amazing children and now two beautiful grandchildren, and I have had a wonderful life. My demon hasn’t been around for a long, long time, but I know it still exists – I can still hear it pacing just out of sight now and again. If you know someone who is suffering from depression, reach out to them because they might not be able to reach out to you to ask for help. You don’t have to be a therapist; just be available and let that person know you care and are there for them. Don’t wait for someone to ask – make the first move. It can make a difference.
  • Bonus question: What is your favorite song opening (because I need to think about something happy)? There are two song openings that always, always draw me in no matter what I’m doing: Monkey Man by the Rolling Stones (1969), and Kryptonite by 3 Doors Down (2000). Both are at the top of my list The Rolling Stones have had loads of great song openings, but I think what gets me with these two songs are that the openings are quirky enough for some reason to always make me stop whatever I’m doing to listen. I heard Monkey Man this past week, which got me thinking about other openings that have caught my attention in the same way, but after a lot of thought, besides Kryptonite I couldn’t come up with anything else. The opening to Norman Greenbaum’s Spirit in the Sky is high on my list of favorite openings but mainly because it triggers nostalgic feelings more than anything else, immediately taking me back to my senior year, driving around San Diego in my little red ’63 VW bug. Brett said his favorite song opening is the guitar riff at the beginning of Aretha Franklin’s Chain of Fools.

Anthony Bourdain’s death has affected me deeply, and it will take me a long while to come to terms with it. He was one of the most honest people around, seemed to lead a charmed life, and yet we now know carried demons along with him that eventually overtook him. He had such a pure interest in the world and a genuine affinity for the unpretentious, especially for the common man or woman, viewing their lives and contributions as an integral part of a good and just society. And, he embraced the unknown and was always curious, always wanting to know and learn more. Ian Sinclair said it best for me in a tweet I read on Friday, about how to mourn the loss of this man: I feel we should mourn Anthony Bourdain in the way he would have wanted. Eat something cooked with love. Drink a cold beer. Book a trip somewhere you’ve never been. Try a new food. Tell your friends and loved ones that they are loved. Pour a bottle of truffle oil on the ground.

#Kauai: Backcountry Adventure Tubing Tour

Our grandson coming down the waterfall – he loved the tour from start to finish!

The tubing tour here on Kaua’i was never all that high on my “must experience” list. I’d heard about it, but never thought about actually doing it until family came to visit this year and I was trying to find fun, local activities to do with my grandson. Floating in a giant inner tube through old irrigation channels looked like it might have just the right amount of excitement for a seven year-old.

I ended up having so much fun that I now can’t recommend the tour enough, and keep telling Brett and YaYu they should do it before we leave the island.

Lights on! Heading into one of the tunnels – there are five of them in all.

The tour takes place on what was the former Lihue Sugar Plantation, now privately owned by Steve Case who, like the owners of the Kipu Ranch, has agreed to keep the land undeveloped. The irrigation channels and tunnels were dug in the late 19th century by Chinese laborers to supply necessay water daily to the thirsty cane (over a million gallons a day). The tunnels were hand dug through rock with laborers digging from each side and meeting in the middle. They are still considered an engineering marvel for their size and length – some even curve in the middle. The first people to float the channels did it in a kayak, and flipped over while traversing one of the tunnels, losing their light and having no way to know how long the tunnel was. It gets very dark inside the tunnels so I can only imagine how unnerving that experience was.

Starting out everyone is bit crowded but the channels move everyone along at a different pace.

Participants on the tours are provided with a helmet, lamp and gloves at check-in, then driven over to the starting point, with a couple of stops along the way to check out some spectacular views that are otherwise hidden from the public, including Mt. Wai’ale’ale’s Blue Hole and its Weeping Wall of waterfalls. At the float starting point, after receiving a safety briefing and instructions, guests climb on to their tubes and once everyone has boarded the group is released to float. Helmet lights are needed for going through the tunnels, and the gloves prove their worth over and over when the tubes drift too close to the sides and riders have to push off from rocks or mud on the sides of the channels or tunnels.

Running the “rapids”

The current through the channel can move swiftly at times, but usually the pace is leisurely. The two biggest challenges are going over a three-foot “waterfall”  and keeping from getting wedged together with others’ tubes inside the tunnels. The entire ride though is fun and relaxing, and takes a little over an hour to complete (2.5 miles), with the entire tour from start to finish taking around three hours. The guides moved among us throughout the tour and even provided live ukulele music and Hawaiian songs as we floated along! At the end of the tour we were treated to  deli sandwiches, chips, and cookies and then driven back to the tour office.

Tubing tours can be booked through Kaua’i Backcountry Adventures. They offer several tours each day (which fill up fast, rain or shine); all are suitable for children aged five and above. Tour price is $110 per person; there is no price discount for children.