Hawaii trip wrap

21 04 2012

It was nice to get away, even if for a week. This trip was the first time I took a holiday in almost two years.

So the family and I stayed in Honolulu for three days, four nights. On the first day, my siblings and I walked through a residential neighbourhood to get to a Whole Foods, and we stumbled across a car with this vanity plate. A total random find, but it was an early highlight of the trip:

Vanity Hawaiian license plate - "MCLOVN"


We also visited the Polynesian Cultural Center and the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor.

We then flew to the Big Island, where we stayed at a townhouse in Waikoloa for four days and three nights. Our first night was at a luau, and it was situated right by the shore, and we were positioned for a great sunset:

Sunset at Kailua-Kona, Big Island, Hawaii

Kona Sunset

The rest of the time involved beer tastings (the Big Island has a couple of great breweries), walking around in Kailua-Kona (the seaside Ali’i Drive closed down for an open market on Sunday afternoon), and taking pictures. Some of the best ones I’ve posted on my flickr, but my sister did take one of me avoiding a rogue wave that Sunday.


Some pictures from Hawaii

13 04 2012

Finally, a bit of downtime! This is my first real holiday in two years, hence the long gap between posts to this blog.

It’s a family holiday to Hawaii, and the first half on Oahu is complete. It will be on to the Big Island in the morning.

Until I sort out the photos (taken from three different cameras) when I get back, here are some select ones:

Hawaiian vanity license plate: MCLOVN

MCLOVN - a totally random find on a walk through a residential neighbourhood in Honolulu.

A view from the north shore of Oahu

A view from the north shore of Oahu

Palm trees at Pearl Harbor

Palm trees at Pearl Harbor

Trip wrap, part 6: riding the rails

31 05 2010

And so, the final day. It was an epic journey that lasted 16 hours, from when I left my hostel in Eugene to the arrival at my front door back in Vancouver. 12.5 hours of that was spent on a train. That might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but the cost (USD 67.00 total) and the experience were enough for me to try it out.

Amtrak Cascades train after its arrival in Portland

This was the second time I’ve ridden Amtrak Cascades, but it will be the first doing the full route from Eugene to Vancouver, with a layover in Portland. Having ridden on some trains while I was in the UK and Ireland a couple of years ago (including the Eurostar from Paris to London), I feel that most of North America is missing a lot because the rail infrastructure isn’t there. To me, watching the scenery fly by (much different than trying to do that while driving) while comfortably seated in a train car has that allure of a forgotten era when this was the best way to get across the country.

The Cascades trip certainly has a lot scenery to pass through. The best part is when it hugs the coast between Tacoma and Bellingham. That alone was worth the ticket price, and for me, is the reason I will take the Cascades for my next trip to Seattle and/or Portland. Here’s one of sunset as the train was approaching Bellingham:

And so ends my travelogue for this trip. I’m not too sure where I’m going next, but I’ll certainly post it here when I know. All the pictures I’ve posted with the text are found in this flickr set.

Trip wrap, part 5: running in Eugene

30 05 2010

Nearing the end of my trip, and I wasn’t sure if I should stay in Eugene, or just move on to Portland. And as much as I love Portland, I figured a night in Eugene wouldn’t hurt.

It rained most of the day, and I had to drag my suitcase through it all, since the hostel I was planning to stay at did not open until 3:00. I managed to make my way to the University of Oregon, in an attempt to visit Hayward Field, the legendary track that hosted the 2008 US Olympic trials, and will do so again in 2012. Unfortunately, I came during a heavy downpour. Clearly, it wasn’t a good time for a visit.

I wasn’t going to be deterred, however. On the way back to the hostel, I remembered about Pre’s Trail, the running trail that was inspired by Steve Prefontaine’s visits to similar trails while competing in Europe.

portion of Pre's trail

Luckily, the rain stopped briefly, with some hints of sun, during my visit to the trail in the early evening. Apart from a couple of information boards, I wasn’t too sure if I was running on the trail or not. But as long as the trail composition was the same, I thought, I should be OK. Just being there, on a pilgrimage of sorts, reinforced for me the reasons I’m still running after four years: the simplicity, the quiet solitude (for me at least), and the sheer fun of it. And in the end, it was the highlight of my trip to Eugene.

Trip wrap, part 4: the appeal of Ashland

29 05 2010

Ah, Ashland. I came here for culture, and I got culture, and then some. For me, this was the high-school trip I missed out on. My school organized a yearly trip to Ashland at the beginning of the year to take in some Shakespeare (and go on a really long trip away from home; I think it was for a week). Back then, I was the typical math nerd who really didn’t like English class. As the year progressed, I started to take an appreciation in Hamlet, which was what my English class was reading that year. It also coincided with Kenneth Branagh’s verbatim film adaptation that I somehow endured when I watched it in the theatre.

Dan Donohue as Hamlet in a promo poster for OSF

Evidently, fate must have stepped in, as the Oregon Shakespeare Festival was presenting Hamlet in this, the 75th anniversary of the first productions held in Ashland. And for this small town to celebrate such a milestone is something great indeed. This year’s festival produces 11 plays (half of which aren’t Shakespearean in origin) in rotation in three theatres. What I missed while I was there was the outdoor Elizabethan Stage, which doesn’t open until June. You can bet that I’m coming back to experience that.

The OSF production of Hamlet is given a modern setting, and I think it’s quite effective, similar to the Royal Shakespeare Company’s recent production. The OSF version modernizes it further, with the play-within-a-play given a hip-hop context. (I personally can’t wait for the full version, using the original Shakespearean text!) Maybe it’s to give the primarily student audience something to latch on, but it still works.

In addition to Hamlet, I took in a staging of Pride and Prejudice. As a fan of Jane Austen, this was another one I couldn’t miss while I was here. This adaptation was enjoyable; the plot flowed rather nicely, and the simple staging (only chairs and a piano rotating in and out) contributed to it. Sitting at front row corner, I did get to see it up close, but at a not-so-desirable angle. On the other hand, I could see some of the actors’ spittle flying as they spoke; that’s probably to be expected when they have to project their voices inside the theatre.

As I mentioned, Ashland and the OSF were quite fun to experience and I definitely recommend a visit.

Trip wrap, part 3: driving the redwood coast

28 05 2010

I knew when I headed to San Francisco that this would be the part of the trip that could test me mentally. In case you can’t tell, I’m doing this trip by myself. While I did do a coastal detour from Seattle to Portland two years ago (at least 500 km through nine hours of driving), I’d have to do this two days in a row and get distracted with impressive vistas of oceans and redwood forests. Now who wouldn’t want that?

After leaving San Francisco, I paused at Healdsburg, at the edge of wine country. While taking in a winery tour would have been nice, I wasn’t risking going back on the road after some tastings. I settled instead to buy a local bottle for my dad. I also had a cup of French-pressed coffee at a cafe that had St Vincent and the Be Good Tanyas as background music. Lovely!

After Healdsburg, I took Highway 128 to get to the coast. This road was curvy beyond belief, but fun to drive. It was along here that I experienced the first of many, many redwoods along this drive:

Indeed, the forest continued right until Highway 128 meets up with the coastal road, Highway 1. And the awe-inspiring scenery continued with the Pacific on my left side for a number of miles before it curved inland. Just before Highway 1 ended, all the curves finally got to me; I had to pull over to the side (no mean feat, as nature dictated simple two-lane roads most of the way) and succumb to carsickness.

After refueling the car and myself in Garberville (the guidebook description of a “pot”-ville did hold true), I got to the Avenue of the Giants. This is one of two scenic detours of the main Highway 101, and I highly recommend both. There are enough pull-outs to attempt explorations on hiking trails, but the views are just as good on the road itself:

Along the Avenue of the Giants

The second day started a bit rainier than the first, but the coast and the redwoods are still there. I paused quite a lot early on, such as this one shot, right at the ocean. I briefly soaked my feet in the water soon after taking this photo; it wasn’t as cold as I was expecting.

On the coast at Redwoods National Park

By mid-afternoon, I veered inland; the redwoods mixed with other trees the closer I got to Oregon, then thinned out completely. By this point, I was just driving; after almost 500 miles, I got to the point of exhaustion and felt all the awesome bits were behind me now. But aren’t trip odometers awesome? My first day, I drove 314.4 miles (506 km) from San Francisco to Arcata. The second day was much shorter, but no less epic: 221.6 miles (357 km) from Arcata to Ashland. Here’s a map of the general route I took.

So 537 miles later, I arrive in Ashland, but my day wasn’t done.

Trip wrap, part 2: just four days?

27 05 2010

Looking back at the four days I’ve spent in San Francisco, I’m amazed at how much I wasn’t able to see. But I’ll summarize instead what I did do, and maybe you can tell me what I should see or do next time.

• Day 1: I stayed close to my hostel when I arrived; nevertheless, I did manage to walk quite far, going through a dodgy area to pick up my shirt and bib for the Bay to Breakers race. I ended up going back to that neighbourhood (SoMa) for a pub crawl.

• Day 2 started with a walking tour organized by the hostel. This was a slightly different tour, as the tour guide pointed out the various events in San Francisco’s history that certainly won’t be found in the standard history texts. Howard Zinn would be proud of this tour. After lunch I took the California Street cable car. Even though I read a description of it as the route the tourists don’t take because they don’t know where it goes, it was nevertheless quite busy. I decided to hang out of the side of the car the whole time; it was quite exhilarating to try it!

Hanging out of the cable car

• Day 3: Bay to Breakers day. Lots of costumes, some none at all, but all fun. I wrote more about it here. I relaxed until the evening, when I took the cable car to and from Fisherman’s Wharf. I maximized this by taking one route there and the other one back, so at least I’ve experienced them all. My tip: since riding the cable car costs disturbingly high relative to the rest of SF Muni ($5.00 single trip vs. $2.00 for bus/Metro/streetcar), a single- or multi-day passport will certainly pay for itself if you intend to use the cable car while in SF.

• Day 4 was a complete rainout, but I still managed to bike across the Golden Gate Bridge and return by ferry from Sausalito. I was quite surprised at how many tourists still managed to make it out despite the weather. Luckily, most of them only made it to the first tower before going back, so I had most of the rest of the bridge to myself.

Ensconced in rain and fog

• All four days have been punctuated with copious amounts of food and/or alcohol. Even all the walking and biking I’ve done would have offset the disturbing (even for me) amount of caloric intake. Even though I think I controlled my budget (ie. I still had USD spending money when I left), everything was just cheap and plentiful; I couldn’t help myself!