Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The Life Aquatic

As I type this, three hurricane's are barreling across the Pacific, setting a historic record. The second of them, Ignacio, performed a near miss with Hawai'i's Big Island, so of course it's a perfect time to Kauai, right?

In actuality, our decision to return to the Garden Island had less to do with historic weather phenomenon, and more to do with the realization -several months ago- that some Alaska Airlines Companion Tickets were about to expire; and from our wonderful memories of our trip to Kauai three years ago.

Our departure, yesterday, was smooth, and -in an unexpected twist- two of our tickets were upgraded to First Class. Unfortunately, though, only two. (Woe is us, right?) Sarah suggested that Stella and I take the tickets, since she had recently gotten to ride First Class on a work trip, and -despite a perfunctory attempt at chivalry- I agreed. So, while Sarah and Otto crammed into Coach with the other commoners, Stella and I spread out in our luxurious seats, enjoying meals served with actual, metal utensils, mango French toast, salmon cakes, fruit platters, complimentary Mai Tai's and tropical mimosas... and that was just Stella's share.


Pretty rough, being a First Grader in First Class.

Arriving relaxed and refreshed in Kauai (well, at least Stella and I), we were immediately attacked by the humidity. Seattle and Washington state have had one of their hottest Summers on record, with wildfires engulfing large swaths of Eastern Washington, but still, it's a rare thing for heat and humidity to mix in the Pacific Northwest. So, whenever I walk in to that wall of moisture and sweat, there is something in me that immediately declares "exotic vacation!"

Collecting our luggage and braving the queues of Alamo car rental (which, as near as I can tell, had every tourist in Kauai waiting for their car), we set off in our (sexy, sexy) mini-van. First up: Lunch at Hamura Saimin! We'd first experienced Saimin -basically a fancy top ramen, with egg and a variety of meats piled on top- on our last trip to Kauai, and Sarah and read about this place -a local favorite- on Yelp. With it's unique rows of booths and somnambulistic wait staff, Hamura definitely had characters, and -as a half dozen local women sat down at our table with us- we realized it was also filled with characters. The woman, amazingly friendly and quick with the in-joke, were more than happy to teach me how to properly mix the chili water, mustard and soy sauce to make the perfect dipping sauce, while rattling of a laundry list of their other favorite restaurants, shaved ice stands and hints on how to get cheap groceries on the North Shore (trick: you buy them on the South Shore). With our stomachs of tasty noodles, we were back in the (sexy, sexy) mini-van and on the road North.

Not feeling the usual urge to race to our rental unit, we stopped next at Kapaa for shaved ice. The Hawaiian specialty, shaved ice, is something that Sarah and I both equate more with our trip to Oahu, years ago, but Wailua Shave Ice might change that. While previous shaved ices were content to be candy colored ice, served in a plastic cone, Wailua's shaved ice was a heading pile of flavored, topped with a mix of fruit puree, chopped fruit and served in a porcelain cup.

Shaved ice!

Then, it was on the road, again. While Sarah and I gravitate to new locations and destinations, it is fun when we get to revised places we've been before; and the drive to Princeville, outside of Hanalai, where our condo was located, was filled with memories: "Oh, that's where we stopped to change Otto's diaper." "I think it was up there that Justin, Gautam and I took the kids and had that great breakfast served by some random hippy commune." "Where was that great BBQ place?"

The condo we are renting, while not as palatial as our house from our last visit, still seems great, with a giant, wrap-around lanai, open layout and plenty of bedrooms and bath rooms for the four of us. Plus, it has access to a pool.

It's with a small degree of embarrassment that we've realized that Stella should be able to swim by now. Sarah actually spent a number of years working as both a lifeguard and a swim instructor, so it seems extra incongruous that we've managed to go this long without getting her into regular lessons. (To be fair, several years ago, Sarah signed her up for some beginners lessons, but she wasn't ready for it, and since then we've sort of just dropped the ball.) Still, with a week ahead of us, we decided to do what little we could to at least get her more accustom to the basics of being in the water.

So, we spent our first afternoon, with the kids taking turns with our one child-sized life jacket, while the other took impromptu swim lessons from Sarah. Then, toward the end, Otto became obsessed with climbing around the perimeter of the pool, while hanging from the edges of it. This seemed harmless enough until, as we walked back from the pool, he revealed his hands were now littered with blisters. Yow.

One day in Kauai has translated to 4 Band Aids. This is not going to end well.

At this point, general fatigue also started to catch up with the children and -despite a fairly successful grocery shopping trip to Princeville's sticker-shock Food Land, there was a good deal of crying until Otto eventually crashed on the couch and then both Sarah and Stella crashed a short while later in bed.

The living room... with a crashed out Otto-bot.

That night (well, last night) was a strange and fitful affair. The North Shore of Kauai is one of the wettest places on Earth, and that was on full display with what could only be called intermittent typhoons. Combine that with the wind whipping through the condo's open layout and randomly slamming doors and a little boy waking up confused and wondering were his PJs were... and I don't think that either Sarah or I got what could be called a restful nights sleep. But, unlike our typical day, there was neither an alarm clock, nor a needy child to wake us up... so we both awoke ready for our first full day in Kauai.

Kauai decided to greet us with more rain. While the sun kept shyly revealing itself, it would just as quickly be replaced by an epic downpour. Still, Sarah and I were both content with this situation and hunkered down on the balmy lanai with our cups of Kona coffee and new books. The kids for their part, after a day of traveling seemed content to chase each other around the condo and draw pictures on coffee filters.

The view, whenever the rain let up, at least. You can see why Sarah and I might be happy just sitting on the deck.

Still eventually, we felt like it was time to explore the island a bit. So, it was off to Ke'e Beach! The kids were dragging their feet ("beaches are boring, we want to go to the pool") and it was still downpouring, but both Sarah and I had loved Ke'e Beach on our first trip (though I could never quite remember it's name), and it seemed like as good a destination as any.

During the long and winding trip to the end of the road, crossing the one-way bridges and passing beach after semi-hidden beach, the rain continued to dump on us. The whole time the kids continued to ask: "What will we do if we get there and it's raining?" To which we'd respond: "We'll find something else to do." ...But, I'm not sure we really had a plan B.

Luckily, we didn't end up needing one. As we pulled up to the Ke'e Beach parking lot, the sun finally made it's first real appearance of the day. And, as an added bonus, the morning's precipitation had chased of most of the crowds, leaving the beach with a fraction of the numbers we remembered.

And, Y'know what? The kids realized that beaches weren't boring. In fact, between their sand, and waves and water, they are actually sort of fun. They are even more fun when they meet twin 5-year-old girls from Edmunds who are willing to build epic sea-walls with them.

Testing out the water. 

 Ke'e Beach. As you can tell by this picture, it's a real dive. I mean, who would want to spend their day here?
I hiked up the beach a bit, and took a picture back down the way I came. You can see Ke'e Beach, and then the Na Pali Coast disappearing into the mist and rain behind it. Na Pali is only accessible by boat or along the 11 mile trail that runs down the coast. Someday, Sarah and I would love to try it, but maybe not with a daredevil preschooler in tow.

(At this point, it probably bears mentioning that Sarah and I have noticed something with the kids, when it comes to water: Stella is overly cautious and Otto has no sense of self-preservation. While it took a lot of coaxing just to get Stella to go into the water passed her knees; Otto, meanwhile, continued to charge headlong into the water, seemingly presuming that he'd figure out the swimming thing later. As needed. Sarah and I agree that we sort of wish we could split the difference when it came to their collective aquatic courage.)

Anyhow, despite one or two passing showers, the middle of the day passed amazingly. Pretty much perfectly. Beautiful scenery. Perfect ocean water temperatures. Pristine beach. Entertaining wild chickens. Sun. Forgotten sun screen.

...oh, wait. What was that last part?

Well, this morning, as we prepared to head out, a conversation occurred that went something like this:

"OK, the kids have sun screen on them."
"Great, Tyler. Did you put some on yourself?"
"On my arms and legs. I'll put some on my torso when we get there."
"You should really do your chest and back now. It'll be easier."

At this point, I decided to heed Sarah's advice, and properly covered my chest with sunscreen. Then, I intended to ask Sarah to get my back for me. But, she was busy. Then I was busy. And then the thought went completely out of my mind. And then, later, I convinced myself that she had put sun screen on my back, and I'd just forgotten.

And now my back it really sun burnt.

Attempt to show off my sun burn, or just give you all a sexy, topless selfie? You make the call!

And so now, while everyone else is asleep, and the rain falls again our rooftop, I sit here, enjoying the cool breeze, trying to figure out how to squeeze our dinner at Chicken in a Barrel into the final paragraph of this blog entry, while waiting for the air to cool enough to finally venture to bed myself.

More aloe!

Chicken in a Barrel!! So good!

1 comment:

Susan Hill said...

I just totally enjoyed reading your post TYLER!!! Thank you. I am once again UP IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NITE ( prednizone). The "F" word comes to mind. But sitting here with Belle asleep on my lap for her last week of hear me talk and sing, and her squeaky toys, and the thunder....... Get my point,,.. I am really sad. So your blog was a very good pick me up. I am so lucky that you and Sarah, Stella and Otto have such a fun life. Kinda makes up for my crappy one. Keep the blog a coming. Only 😂7 days of having my sweet Belle hear me sing to her. Aloha. I love you guys. Mom