Joined June 2015
  • Day9

    The Mousetrap & Chips in Soho

    December 4, 2018 in the United Kingdom ⋅ ⛅ 7 °C

    Early, and I mean early, in the morning we stepped out into the cold and rain of the Netherlands and boarded a train for the Amsterdam airport.Five hours later we walked onto our flight to London. It was fitting that we fly on British Airways - for only $37 a ticket. In an hour we were on the ground in the UK and once again on a train. By 2PM we were in our ABnB flat. It's located near the Notting Hill neighborhood and is a pretty nice place, with only 8 flights of stairs to climb. Just great for a final workout evey day.

    Now, when you come to the UK from a country on the contenent of Europe it's comforting to be able to read all the signs and see familiar names of places that are easily pronounced in English. But you would also expect that English would be spoken here with that lovely (they use this word a lot here) british accent. While we hear plenty of that we also hear almost an overwhelming amount of foreign languages spoken, especially italian, at all the tourist spots. And... most of the workers in shops and restaurants don't have that british accent at all. I thought the US was a melting pot, but London may be even more so.

    By the time we got ready to head out for dinner and a play it was already getting dark, This happens around 3:50pm. With our freshly purchased Oyster cards in hand, with unlimited subway and bus rides, we headed off to have that quintisential english meal of fish & chips. I'd researched that a place in Soho called Poppies had some of the best in town. It turned out to be just OK, but that may have been because when I ordered the large cod to share, the waiter said they were out of cod. We settled for haddock. Not as good. Strange thing is that right after we ordered, another couple sat down next to us and asked for cod - they misteriously had it available now. I guess I never noticed the fishing boat pull up after we sat down.

    On our walk over to the play we passed through China town, remembering the dinner that Kaysha and I had there back in 2013, and emerged into Leicester Square. Here we entered into our first of several Christmas Markets in town. Lots of lights, Christmas music, Santa Clause and food. Maybe we should have waited to eat here. We also passed through the main shopping district on Oxford and Regent streets. They were all decorated with lights for Christmas.

    I've always liked going to plays. In high school I made it a point to go to all the plays. I would even drag Kim along and encourage here to take me to the plays at her high school. In college, while interning at NASA in VA, I even went to a high school play there - The Sound of Music. So, our trip to London would include a play. And not just any play, but the longest running play in the world - Mousetrap, by Agatha Christie. Sixty-six years running and we attended performance number 27,594. Our seats were carefully selected such that they woluld give us the best view at the lowest possible price. I succeded, but at the cost of having to sit with our knees up to our chins. Now, who done it, you ask. Sorry, at the end of the play we were sworn to secrecy.
    Read more

  • Explore, what other travelers do in:
  • Day1

    To the Netherlands

    November 26, 2018 in the Netherlands ⋅ ☁️ 6 °C

    I've been asking Kim to take a trip to Europe with me for a long time. I don't know for sure what made her agree this time, but she's coming with me to the Netherlands, for a work trip, and then back through London for a mini vacation.

    Our first stop is in Amsterdam, after the longest flight of Kim's life we arrived to a cold and grey. We had about 6 hours to walk around like two sleepless zombies before heading to Enschende for a few days of work. Of course the Anne Franke museum was booked up 2 months in advance, so we spent the day walking around, visiting coffee shops (the kind actually with coffee), and trying to stay warm. The smell of pot filled the air and reminded us a bit of how Denver is now, but Amsterdam is way over the top with it.

    There are lots of Europeans here, and some Americans, but here is hte most odd thing Kim noticed. Othan than cups of coffee, no one is walking around drinking anything. Kim got a diet coke, since they seem not to sell her normal diet pepsi here, the fluid that flows through her veins, and people were actually staring and commenting about her carying a coke around. Weird I guess.

    On the 2 hour train ride she slept. I continued to be a zombie and stayed awake because at every stop the only English announcement that was made said, "Thieves are on the trains, watch your luggage". Kim enjoyed spending several days in the hotel room in Enschende waiting for me to finish work each day.
    Read more

  • Day13

    This Is Why we go to Hawaii

    June 28, 2016 in the United States ⋅ ⛅ 28 °C

    Why do we go to Hawaii? Is it the warm and beautiful weather? How about to eat unique Ohia Lehua blossom honey, drink Kona coffee, or to dine on the finest spam loco moco on the planet? Is it to go to an “authentic” luau? Maybe it’s to see lava flowing from a volcano. Certainly it must be the snorkeling. Well, those all are great reasons, but the beaches and the ocean water make it to the top of my list. The varieties of beach opportunities are incredible. If you’re a person who doesn’t like the water, and being in it, then I recommend you just plan your next vacation to either Nebraska or Kansas as these are the states that are farthest from the Pacific and the Atlantic.

    We went to the beach often while on the Big Island and on Maui. The beaches on the Big Island are fewer and more difficult to access than on Maui. I felt like a kid that was on his first trip to the ocean, in awe of its vastness and its power. I remember that first ocean experience, in Naples, Florida when I was about 13. I can still see all the white sand, feel the hot sun, warm water and count all those sea shells. When I was in college I went back to the ocean, this time in Virginia and North Carolina during my internship at NASA. The ocean at Virginia Beach was brownish green and the water not very clear or warm, but boy did I love riding the waves on that little inflatable raft. I still have that raft in a box in the basement. Every time I rummage through boxes and come across it I smile and remember. The thing would probably disintegrate if I exposed it to sunlight again.

    The beaches in Hawaii come in all kinds of shapes, sizes and colors. On Maui we went to the Red Sand Beach near Hana. This tiny beach has red sand the diameter of those dip-n-dots you get at a baseball game. Being just a brief stop on a long drive that day, I didn’t have my water gear with me, but wish I had as there was a marvelous sheltered cove to swim in. On the other side of Maui near Makena was an orange sand beach. Maybe it was brownish orange but in the light that day it was orange. Across from our condo in Kihei was a brown sand beach. On the Big Island we went to several black sand beaches. The best one was in the Waipio Valley (what a gorgeous view from the viewpoint) near Honokaa (make sure to stop at Tex Drive-in for a Malasada – the best on the island). We needed our Jeep to drive down to the beach here, but one could walk it in 30 minutes downhill. On the other side of the island was Hapuna beach with its white sand and beautiful sunsets. Then there was the green sand beach. This beach was at the southern tip of the island. The sand is really green and is one of only two green sand beaches in the world. Again, it took a 4x4 to get to the beach, but there were plenty of people walking the 2.5 miles one way and others were paying locals $10 a person to drive them there.

    Every one of these beaches was wonderful. The water was that aqua blue you see in pictures and in your dreams. The water temperature was around 80F and felt a little cold getting in, but once in the water it was the perfect temperature. When we went to the beach I spent the entire time in the water diving through the really huge waves, boogie board riding and body surfing the others. I smiled so much that my teeth got sunburned. I can’t remember when I’ve had so much fun. But, there was a price to pay. No, I wore plenty of sunblock and managed not to get burned, but the waves beat me up. Several times I found myself at the top of a big wave one second and falling off of it the next. I felt my body twist and bend in ways that only a yoga instructor bends, and finally being washed onto shore like some piece of soggy driftwood. Can a person drink sea water and not get sick? Yes. The answer is yes. I had water forced up my nose and down my throat countless times. Tastes very salty. But, back in again I went. The good waves come is sets of 3 or 4 so you have to get back out there quickly or end up waiting another ten minutes. The biggest price to pay was exhaustion. After one or two hours in surf like this I was absolutely worn out. Oh, but what fun it was.

    The biggest waves were at Hulopoe Beach on the little island of Lanai. We took a ferry there from Maui one day. This island used to be part to the Dole pineapple empire, but is now owned by Rupert Murdock. The beach is a short walk from the ferry port and we had two hours to kill after our island tour and before our ferry ride. I am not kidding when I say that the highest waves were 12 to 15 foot high. Close to the shore were all these little kids, 6 to 12 years old or so. There was a birthday party going on. They laughed and screamed and got pummeled again and again. I felt like one of them and probably acted like it to. At one point I was able to body surf for about 50ft or so and came right up onto the beach next to all those kids. Covered in sand with a huge grin on my face, I opened my eyes looking right at a mom holding a baby at the edge of the water. Was she laughing at me or smiling with me? I’m sure she was smiling with this big kid.

    Kim faithfully watched me as I wore myself out. She took a few photos and videos, got a great tan and was always there to give me a smile after one of those incredible rides or crashes. Yes, she got in the water. Yep, right up to her knees that one time when she timed her run away from the wave wrong, or was that when I held her from running. Go to the beach often when you’re in Hawaii. Act like a kid. Get thrashed by the waves. Put it on the top of your list of things to do and enjoy the sunsets at the end of the day.
    Read more

  • Day7

    From Sea to Summit

    June 22, 2016 in the United States ⋅ ⛅ 10 °C

    The bay, and spot of shoreline on which Captain Cook was killed, is marked by a white spire of a monument. This sits in Kealakekua Bay just down the hill from the town of; you guessed it, Captain Cook. We Kayaked and snorkeled here today. But, prior to this we started our day with a great breakfast and “Kona” coffee at the Coffee Shack overlooking the bay. As we ate Portuguese sausage, eggs and French toast, and I drank 2 cups of coffee with cream and sugar, we were being observed – geckos crawled on the railing of the porch, the floor and the chairs. Kim couldn’t handle the handsome little creatures crawling so close to her, so we switched seats.

    In a cove at the bay, we paid our $60 for the kayak, a double, and set out paddling. The water was choppy and the current strong. Kim really stretched her boundaries on this one. She was scared to be out on the ocean like that with nothing but a life vest and a plastic boat between here and drowning. She so fears the water. Won’t even get her face wet in the shower. However, when we spotted the first dolphin her whole mood changed. Maneuvering close to them, there must have been 20 or 30 total, they performed jumping acrobatics and swam right under our kayak. Well worth overcoming her fear for this. I spent a little time in the water near the monument snorkeling. Yellow fish, black fish, stripped fish, huge blue fish and sea urchins. Quite a show of color and marine life. Getting out and back into the kayak was tricky and this made Kim very nervous as she felt like she would capsize. But again, she came through with minimal panic. 3 hours later we were back at the cove turning in our kayak. There would be no drownings today.

    This afternoon also was our planned summit of Mauna Kea, the highest point in Hawaii at 13,796 feet above sea level. Though, from the ocean floor Mauna Kea is 33,000 ft. high. That’s taller than Mt. Everest and is therefore the tallest mountain on earth! We drove all the way to the top, with 10 minutes to spare, to witness a one-of-a-kind sunset in this place of telescopes. Here the sun sets above the clouds, not below them. This was a spectacular sight. Getting to the top was also an adventure of sorts. The guy at the visitor center, at 9,000 ft., told us we should acclimate for 30 minutes before driving to the top. Wait, I’m from Colorado! I don’t need to acclimate. The rough volcanic cinder road bed again pushed Kim to her limits and I drove too close to the edge and too fast. Hey, I had to get to the top before my ten minute window closed.  Following the orange and red view from above we drove back to the visitor’s center and looked through telescopes at the night sky. A guy there used laser light to point our worthy objects and corners in the sky. For the first time, at least that I can remember. I saw the Southern Cross in the south sky, 85% of the southern hemisphere’s sky is visible here. So many stars, a milky galaxy of them, a universe packed full. Kim said she had never seen so many stars before. This is why they put those big observatories on the summit here. It’s the darkest sky on earth.
    Read more

  • Day5

    Volcanoes Are Fun

    June 20, 2016 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 22 °C

    I've enjoyed visiting and hiking in many national parks, but this one is the farthest from my house and is the most different. While Yellowstone is a volcanic caldera  that someday will blow up and kill most of us living in the western US, no worries though, we will all be long gone before that happens, Volcano National Park in Hawaii is the most active volcano on earth. It has glowing red/orange lava bubbling and flowing about. On one night as we drove near the park I remembered that at night the lava in Kilauea volcano can be seen glowing and lurching into the air. We pulled into the park, bought our pass and followed the cars. From the closest viewing area we could see the glow, the smoke and spikes of lava leaping upward, albeit not to high.

    But there is more to this park. I arranged for a lava tube tour in advance for $30. This is a tour of a secret tube that was only discovered in 1990 and only 24 people are allowed in per month. It's pristine and unspoiled by man. There is no evidence that even the native Hawaiians came to this place. I've had a love for caves and volcanoes since I was a kid when for the first time I saw the movie "Journey to the Centre of the Earth", staring Pat Boone of course. My favorite movie and book by Jules Verne. My parents took us on a Carlsbad Caverns trip when I was 11 and that solidified my adoration.

    The tube tour did not disappoint. Following the rangers along a secret trail, with threats of phone confiscation if we were tracking with GPS, we came to a ladder and desended into a hole in the ground and past a pig skeleton. Inside were stalactites, micro organisms unique to caves and are being used in cancer treatmant research, cave spiders the size of a pin head, and lots of rocks to crawl over. Looking back at the entrance gave an erie perspective. The cool dampness dripped all around as the light from our headlamps reflected off ilmenite, a titanium based mineral. Hawaiians used tubes like this for shelter, storage, water and defense against waring attackers. Oh, by the way, Kim dropped me off and went shopping in Hilo, an activity more to her liking.

    We drove down to the coast along the chain of craters road to see the Holei sea arch. The wind never stops blowing here. The low setting sun reflects of the smooth caps on the lava making them look wet.

    I also went on two hikes. I'd recommend both of these. The first was a 2.5 mile hike through forest and down onto the Kilauea Iki crater floor. In 1959 this crater erupted into a fiery cauldron of molten rock. Steam still vents out in places. The second was to the top of Mauna Ula. Now this one suprized me. A 2.5 mile round trip to the top of a mountain. At the top was an enormous crater, so deep and so large I hesitated at the edge before looking in, and that's not like me. I usually walk right up to the edge. Maybe it was the 40 MPH winds. Maybe it was the cornice lip edges of crumbling lava. But, it was an exhilarating experience and made me think of what it would look and feel like the walk on Mars! The view was awesome. A bonus on this hike was all the blooming Ohia and Ohelo berries that grow on the lava. The red berries are cousins to the blueberry, but their not as tasty.

    On the walk out I left the trail, what little trail there was anyway, and crunched my way down. This stuff just falls apart under your feet and is like walking on burnt toast. Volcano National Park is a 5 star park on my list. I didn't see flowing lava on this trip, but there is always next time.

    I have to give kudos to Kim while I hiked around for hours. She waited in the car, reading and coloring in her coloring book for grown ups.
    Read more

  • Day1

    Bones Extracted, Day 1

    June 16, 2016 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 16 °C

    In 1778 Captain James Cook completed his epic journey from England to Hawaii, the first white man ever to set foot on the island. The voyage was unbelievably difficult. Months at sea on a wooden ship, packed with men that hardly ever bathed, were crude and always drunk with rum. Many of the crew would perish before the ship returned home. On the fateful day of February 14, 1779, during his second journey to Hawaii, Cook had overstayed his welcome and the Hawaiians killed him. A few days later a Kahuna rowed out to the ship and tendered a boiled human thigh and hands, the bones completely removed and distributed to various leaders among the Hawaiians, an act reserved for great chiefs.

    Unlike the expedition led by the captain, our trip from Denver took about 8 hours and we still smelled like the soap we had used that morning. The world is much smaller today. The airline flight crew and gate attendants consistently were anything but crude, always ending everything they said with, “mahalo”. It’s like being at a Chick-fil-a where the employees incessantly say, “my pleasure”. Kim made the flight over so much water without the aid of sedating medication, I’m proud of her.

    Our first day out on the Big Island started with a trip to Costco, the cheapest gas in the state, and onto our little Air BnB cottage on the western slope of Mauna Loa volcano. We’re well out of the tourist area on a small organic farm. As I write this I’m sitting on the lanai looking out over the Pacific. We packed the day with tours of a coffee farm and macadamia nut farm, a lunch of Hawaiian BBQ complete with feral chickens at our feet, a visit to the painted church, and a swim at the beach around sunset. Well, I swam and Kim watched.

    The Greenwell coffee farm is a must for any coffee enthusiast. We – really it was just me - partook of samples of all of their coffees, and we had a much informative tour about the history and production of Kona coffee. No sugar. No cream. But after 4 or 5 samples I got used to it.

    Our macadamia nut farm host was Joe, the owner. He runs a small business out of his home. A very talkative and friendly man. We discussed the finer points of the growing and processing of nuts, and knee surgery. Did you know these nuts are simply dried and are not roasted? Supposedly better flavor is maintained this way. An odd thing happened again during this tour. At Greenwell there were 6 of us on the tour and the guide constantly kept looking at Kim and talking directly to her. I was asking all the questions, but I wasn’t his focus. At Joe’s it was the same thing! She is much prettier than I am, and her new lovely hair style, due to the lack of sufficient power to run a blow dryer at our solar powered cottage, may be the reason.

    Tomorrow we head over to the Hilo side to check it out. We plan to travel all over the island during our stay. I wouldn’t want to overstay my welcome in one place and find myself being boiled and my bones extracted.
    Read more

Never miss updates of DeWayne Howell with our app:

FindPenguins for iOS FindPenguins for Android