Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Hello from Monticello, IN

Hello from Monticello, IN

Wednesday April 29, 2009 (Second travelogue of this trip)

As is often the case, we are staying in a Wal Mart parking lot (map).

Our first post of this travelogue was written from our shop when we were snowed in and staying in the bus. We had planned to leave on Sunday (4/19). Obviously that did not happen. We finally got away about 2:00 PM on Tuesday. As we left the house, we noticed that the tow bar was not locking in the extended position on the passenger side. Every time we slowed down, the truck would shift to the driver side about 8 inches and kind of jerk around. Once we got into traffic, it got quite interesting. When I slowed down I would look in the mirror and watch folks try to dodge what they thought was an unhitched big truck coming at them {grin}. It was really not all that funny, but what else can you do to make the best of a bad situation?

We had planned on stopping to get the bus emission test done (mandated and always a frustrating and expensive experience). While I waited for them to do the testing I contacted the tow bar manufacturer and they told me how to disassemble the arm. Problem was, the parts were corroded in a way that they were “welded” together. The folks at the truck service location that did the exhaust testing used some BIG tools to get the parts separated. I worked on the parts a bit, and gave up since we needed to get down the road.

We drove to Ft. Morgan, CO which is only about 100 miles from Denver. It was getting late, and I was tired and frustrated and needed to work on the hitch. We parked in a Wal Mart lot. The next morning I cut some steel bar that I had with me and jammed the bar on the arm so that it was forced into the extended position, holding it with radiator clamps. It worked like a champ for the rest of the trip to Iowa.

Our next stop was York, NE. We again stayed at a Wal Mart. On Thursday we drove the rest of the way to Prescott, IA where we stayed with our relatives. This is always an enjoyable stay. The first day it got into the 80s. After that, it turned cold and rainy. Indeed, it rained over 2.5 inches in three days. There was some minor flooding and the farm sustained some damage to the terraces.

During our stay, I completely disassembled the tow bar and cleaned all the parts. There was a lot of rust scale in the tube portion of the arms and that probably caused the problem. It now works great.

We visited with a bunch of folks and generally had a great time. As always seems to be the case, we really fell off the diet wagon. Food in IA is always great, and Jeanie (our host) is a great cook. I even got the run the tractor for a couple of hours. That machine is sure a lot more sophisticated than my old International this I use to plow and mow.

On Tuesday (4/28) we left about 1:00 PM and started heading towards Goshen, IN where we have a couple of trade shows. Our route was planned so that we avoided the Interstate system in the Chicago area. Our route took us on US 34 and then US 24. Lots of folks enjoy traveling on two lane highways. This leg of the trip (SE IA to Goshen) is a bit over 550 miles and we allowed three days for the travel. Thus we were not pressed for time and really enjoyed the rolling farm land and great small towns that you travel through. We would like to travel in this mode more often. We just have to plan our travels accordingly.

Last night we stayed in Mt. Pleasant Iowa at a Wal Mart (detect a theme?). We are only a bit over 100 miles from Goshen. Tomorrow we will get the bus parked in the fairgrounds and be ready to set up on Friday.

That is all for now.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Camping in the shop!

Camping in the shop!

Saturday morning April 18, 2009

Well, sometimes we get to use our bus for reasons other than travel.

Over the last two days, we have had over 27 inches of snow (see photo) and it is still snowing! The power went off a bit after noon yesterday and is still off as I write this (about 8:00 AM). We moved into the bus just before dark yesterday and had a very comfortable evening/night. It is sure nice to be fully self contained!!! We can go quite a while on the house battery bank and the inverter (makes 120V) and then we can fire up the generator. I have rigged an exhaust pipe outside the shop and we have the shop door open. All the comforts of home, except we don't have TV since the dish is not up and the dish on the house is covered with snow.

In a little while, I will connect the bus generator to the house power distribution box (making sure I disconnect from the public power) grid and let the furnace run and the refrigerator/freezers cool down. I just went into the house and the temperature was around 60 degrees thanks to a self-standing natural gas fired stove in the basement.

We were supposed to leave for Iowa tomorrow. That, of course, will be delayed. I will have to plow today (plowed yesterday) and get some things done that got delayed by the weather .

Our trip this time will be to Iowa to visit with our relatives (we love that!) and then on to Goshen, IN for a couple of rallies where we will be vendors.

UPDATE: as I was finishing up this short blog, our daughter Lisa called and said that parts of Jefferson and Clear Creek counties (our area) has over 41 inches of snow and it is not supposed to stop snowing until noon. In addition, over 10,000 homes in the Evergreen area are without power. The strange thing is that Denver has mostly gotten rain and the roads are clear.

That is all for now.

April Showers (Snow!!!!)

Monday, April 6, 2009

Hello from Honolulu, HI and Evergreen, CO

Hello from Honolulu, HI and Evergreen, CO

Friday evening April 3, 2009 (Third travelogue of this trip)

This installment will start at the Honolulu airport and finish up somewhere on the way home. I will publish it when we get home. Things have been a bit hectic since we got home, so this travelogue is a bit tardy (being posted on 4/6/09).

Tuesday we took it kind of easy. I did a lot of work on my business website. It was getting pretty dated and needed a general overhaul. I did a major format change and got some of the content updated. I also got the e-store updated as well. Take a look at: It may sound strange to be doing work in such a beautiful setting, but it needed to be done and it was fun to take breaks and really enjoy the setting. That evening we went into the small town of Hanalei. We love that town and will discuss it more in a couple of paragraphs.

Wednesday, we again drove south to visit the Kilohana Plantation and ride the Kauai Plantation Railway. This was a great tour. The plantation was a huge sugarcane plantation at one time. It is now an experimental farm and great tourist attraction. Our tour included a ride out into the plantation where we stopped to feed “wild” pigs. We then took a hike down into a beautiful valley that was close to being a rain forest. Our guide was very knowledgeable about the vast number of plants and trees that we saw. After the hike we had a fun box lunch and then hiked into the experimental farm area. Here they are growing a large number of fruit hybrids. Not many were in season, but we did get to eat a great fruit that was a combination of a lemon and orange. It tasted great. We got to see banana trees, pineapples and many more varieties of fruit. We then met the train for a return to the visitor center.

The sugarcane plantations used trains to a fair extent. This train (see photo) was pulled by a 1939 Whitcomb locomotive. I had not heard of Whitcomb locomotives, but it turns out they built a lot of mine locomotives in the early part of the 1900s. Later they were bought by the more well know Baldwin locomotive company. In any case, it was an interesting locomotive that really was more like a truck, in that it had a small diesel engine/four speed transmission/clutch for the drive train.

After the plantation, we went to the Kauai Coffee Museum. This is a huge coffee operation with very advanced coffee processing equipment. It was quite a contrast to the very small “old fashioned” processing plantation we visited in the Kona district. It was fun to see the drastic differences in the processing.

Thursday we again had a leisurely day with an excursion to Hanalei for dinner. So, let's talk about Hanalei. It is a very small town with a great deal of charm. In the fields around Hanalei, the majority of all of the Hawaiian taro is grown in fields that are constantly flooded. Taro is used primarily for poi, a staple of the Hawaiian diet.

Hanalei is also famous for the filming of the movie South Pacific. In addition, it was made famous by the song Puff the Magic Dragon. The cliffs near the town are said to look like a dragon. Lastly, the town in Lilo and Stitch is said to be based on Hanalei. But to us, it is just a fun little town with some great casual eating opportunities.

As seems to be our habit, we found a great little ice cream store on the way home from Hanalei. It is Lappert's and seems to be fairly famous in Hawaii. It serves great ice cream and very fresh, tasty coffee.

We had to laugh when we rented our first car in Hawaii. Of all things, it was a PT Cruiser (same car as we have at home). It is considered a mid-size car by Dollar Rental. When we got to Kauai, guess what? Another PT Cruiser {grin}. At least we knew where all the controls were.

We did pretty good on expenses for this trip. Stampin' Up! paid for the hotel/airfare/meals for the first half. We used our timeshare for the second week, used miles for the rented cars, and now we are sitting in first class (via air miles) on the way home. Our flight from Denver to Honolulu was over 7 hours, and it got very cramped in coach. We decided to spend the air miles for the upgrade on the way home and it sure feels good.

Well, we are home. Got into Denver at about 9:00 AM Saturday. They had predicted a foot of snow by the time we arrived. However, it turned out that Denver only had about 1 inch. By the time we got home it was snowing pretty good and we ended up with about 6 inches and temperatures in the low 20s. Talk about thermal shock!!!

That's all for this trip. We head out in the bus in a bit over two weeks, so join us then.

BTW, did you notice that we have added a map showing the states the bus has been in. If our schedule works out, we will be in a few more states by the end of the year.

Kauai Plantation Railway

Our Great Tour Guide at Kilohana Plantation

Kauai Coffee Visitor Center

View from close to our condo overlooking the taro fields

Our condo in Kauai

Friday, April 3, 2009

Hello again from Kauai, HI

Hello again from Kauai, HI

Friday morning April 3, 2009 (second travelogue of this trip)

As it turns out, this travelogue is written in two parts. The majority was written at the condo, but we had to check out and I did not get it finished. The final part is being written in the Honolulu airport.

Now we need to start talking about this island. Kauai is the northern most Hawaiian Island. It is 552 square miles (about 14% the size of the big island). The highest point is Mount Waialeale which is 5080 feet (about 1/3 as high as Mauna Kea of the big island). The mountains of Hawaii are very deceiving. On Kauai, they look sharp and rather tall. On Hawaii, they do not look tall (until you notice the snow), because the slopes are very gradual. Indeed, when you compare the altitude of Mauna Kea, it raise almost 14,000 feet above the base which is said to be a higher elevation differential than Mt. Everest..

This island is called the “Garden Island” for good reason. It gets a lot of rain. At one location the average rail fall is 460 inches! Everywhere you look, the vegetation is very thick and green.

The weather here has been windy and we have had quite a bit of rain (normal). That is OK. We have been going at a much more leisurely pace. We had thought about several tours and dismissed most of them. We chose not to go on a whale watching cruise since the ocean swells are rather high and the whales have mostly left this area. I had thought about doing a dive here, but because of the rough seas, I changed my mind. When we were here in 2003, I did a dive with Pat's brother and his wife, and the diving conditions were not all that great.

We talked about the cats and mongooses on the big Island. Here the “wild” animal population is chickens. They are everywhere and the rooster crowing is rather fun (right outside our window as I write this). Domestic type chickens were brought here decades ago. Some folks also brought fighting roosters. The story goes that in 1992 the devastating Hurricane Iniki (third worst damage causing storm in the US) caused all the chickens and roosters to be turned loose and roam free. They do not have natural predators, so the population is quite high. Both islands have very large wild pig populations and they are a big problem. Hunting is permitted at all times.

We are staying in a time share that we swapped with our timeshare in FL. It is actually a part of the Westin Hotel (map). As is generally the case, I post a link to a satellite photo of our location. This one is particularly interesting. I double checked the GPS coordinates and the location of the indicator is very close to our building. However, the satellite photo is rather old and does not show the rather extensive complex. Our building is on a high bluff overlooking the ocean.

The Westin is in the Princeville area of Kauai. That is on the north shore of the island about 30 miles form Lihue and the airport. It is gorgeous here.

One of the first things we did, was to look up the house where Pat and I and several members of her family stayed in 2003. For documentation, the address was: 3948 Anini Rd (map). As the crow flies, it is less than 1 mile from our location. That house was right on the beach. It looks like the place is a bit run-down since we stayed there, but it sure brought back good memories.

Monday (3/30) we drove down the west coast and along the south coast and then turned onto the Waimea Canyon road. This road leads up to several overlooks that give a great view of a huge majestic canyon (see photos). This canyon is not as big as the Grand Canyon, but it is spectacular. The road then leads up to the Kalalu Lookout (see photo). This gives a great view of a steep drop-off into the Na Pali coast region of the island. The Na Pali area is remote and can not be accessed by car.

I will end the travelogue here. We are supposedly headed home on a 10:00PM flight. Only problem is, Denver is expected to get about a foot of snow and there is a possibility that they will have to cancel the flight.

We will finish up the final travelogue in the airport and on the plane and publish it when we get home.

2003 Rental House on North Shore

Pat at Waimea Canyon

Falls at Waimea Canyon

Kalalu Lookout looking down on Na Pali

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Hello again from Princeville on the island of Kauai, HI

Hello again from Princeville on the island of Kauai, HI

Tuesday evening March 31, 2009 (Second travelogue of this trip)

Wow, I feel like I am so far behind on this travelogue!!! Lets try to finish the details of our stay on the “Big Island” last week. In the next travelogue I will start on the details of our stay on this island.

On Wednesday we took a “Sunset Cruise” that had a buffet dinner and some whale watching. This was a sailing catamaran. They did raise the sail, but we really did not do much sailing – most of the cruise was done with the engines. It was a fun cruise and we did see a few whales. Pat's brother and wife took the same cruise a couple of weeks earlier and saw a very large number of whale. It appears that we are on the tail end of the whale season. They have had their babies and are starting to head towards Alaska.

On Thursday (3/26), I did a two tank dive just off the shore and a bit north of the hotel. The first dive was great. We saw two sharks, an manta ray, and a small eel. The coral was magnificent. I was able to control my air and that combined with a relatively shallow dive (about 50 feet) let me stay down for over 50 minutes. The temperature of the water was in the mid 70s so a wet suit was necessary. The second diver was a challenge. I could not seem to adjust my buoyancy. Part of it was that I was a bit tired from the first dive, as we had to work harder than normal because of the wave action. The second dive was still fun, but a bit frustrating.

The dive boat was rather small and there were only three of us diving (plus the dive masters). The seas were a bit rough, so the ride was “exhilarating”. We saw several whales in the distance. One was slapping his tail repeatedly.

The big island has a huge population of feral cats. The story goes that various ships brought in rats by accident several decades ago. Then they imported cats to deal with the rats. That did not work out well. Then they brought in mongoose. That also did not work out well, since the mongoose is out in the daytime and rats are nocturnal. We saw a ton of cats, and a few mongooses (yes, that is the correct plural form). An decent site on mongooses is: Both are said to be a real problem. We did not see any rats, but I think they are also a problem.

On Thursday night Stampin' Up! hosted a fantastic luau. There were over 400 demonstrators that earned the trip. Each had a guest/spouse and many also had additional guests. Thus there were over 1000 people at the event. Luau's are served buffet style and this one had a huge variety of great food. Most of the dishes were typical Hawaiian cuisine. The entertainment was super and extensive. The event was held outside and the weather was perfect.

Last time I touched on some of the geography of the island. It has two mountains/volcanoes that are nearly 14,000 feet. Mauna Kea is the tallest mountain on the island of Hawaii and also the tallest mountain in the state. However, they have very gradual slopes and they looked more like tall rolling hills, till you see the snow at the higher elevations. (see photo)

The state of Hawaii is a bit confusing. It consists of several islands. The capital is on the island of Oahu. The largest island is Hawaii. It is the furtherest south island in the chain and the largest (4038 square miles).

There are some interesting facts that are unique to the state:

  1. is not geographically located in North America

  2. grows coffee

  3. is completely surrounded by water

  4. did not have a written language until the missionaries arrived

  5. is the southern most state

That is all for now.

Mauna Kea 13,796 feet