Sunday, November 20, 2011

July 10 -- The Anti-Climactic Finish

I had an exciting, final day planned. I woke up early, jogged, then had my second breakfast at the Kountry Kitchen, the restaurant that opened earliest. I wanted to get as much done before my helicopter tour of the island, which I was told was a must. I have to admit, it was very, very pleasant. Here are the pics:

The company logo, along with a link...:

As for the other pics, if there are any Survivor fans, like myself, this was kind of like the "Fallen Comrades" march they do every season, where they review the people that were. I got to see all the sights I had seen on the ground from an aerial viewpoint. I saw the waterfalls:

The canyon:

And the coastline:

And here I am returning from the trip:

This was supposed to be "the calm before the storm" of my final adventure, an ATV tour. But in and of itself, it was quite enjoyable, and I recommend it highly.

With my time in Hawaii down to hours, I searched for the most authentic Hawaiian meal I could find for lunch. When I had trouble, I "settled" on the Mexican restaurant La Bamba -- where, ironically, I had a pretty authentic Hawaiian meal of fish tacos! Here is my usual pic with the menu and food:

A sampling of trinkets and pictures typical of those throughout the restaurant:

And the outside of the restaurant:

A generous, scrumptious meal!

Unfortunately, the ATV tour was a big disappointment. I had been told I would have no trouble learning to drive the machine, that it was the same as driving a car. I was told incorrectly. But I didn't learn that I couldn't do this until the tour had been underway, and we had been driving for awhile, and I couldn't navigate a tricky passage. Then I was told I had to be a passenger for the rest of the trip.

I have no problem with the tour guide deciding to keep me safe. But I was given misinformation. The tour guide informed me that riding an ATV is most certainly NOT the same as driving a car, and that I should not have been told it was. The guide also told me I still could see all the scenery, and I tried to enjoy it, but I couldn't -- I had seen the scenery -- I wanted to drive. After awhile, I asked to end the tour early.

The tour guide told me to ask for my money back. I did, and was informed I would not get my money back, but would be given a free T-Shirt. I asked to speak to the manager, and informed him that was not acceptable to me, and explained what had happened. He said that since the T-shirt was not acceptable to me, I would get back half my money, and they woudl charge me the passenger rate. This told me that his T-shirt offer was an idea he hoped would shut me up, and I would just go away. I told him this still was not acceptable, as I had not come to be a passenger, and had been told I could drive the ATV as easily as a car. He agreed to give me the money back.

But the matter still was not over! After I returned home, the concierge from my hotel called, and told me I would only get half the money back since I had been on a passenger the whole time. I told her that she had been given misinformation, and that I had, in fact, left the tour early. She eventually refunded all of my money. But I was surprised when she said I was the only person, in all her years of recommending the tour, who had ever had a problem driving the ATV! I know from the tour guide this is not the case.

I will not mention the company by name here. That is not my purpose. This blog is to recommend what is good, not criticize what is bad. I will say that I looked at on-line reviews of the company post hoc, when I got home. Most of the reviews were very positive, and those who have done ATV driving before will probably love the tour! However, the few negative comments were from people like myself, who had been relegated involuntarily to passenger status, after anticipating an exciting, driving experience. One person even referenced disappointment that, after the tour was underway, she, too, having been left with the impression she could drive the machine, was told she could no longer do so. I am happy the company values safety. I am not happy they waited until after they charged me money, gave me misinformation, and fought tooth and nail against returning the money I spent based on that misinformation -- including making the insulting T-Shirt offer -- to suddenly value safety. This was a very depressing end to my vacation. So for anyone who goes to Hawaii, and would like to go on an ATV tour, it can apparently be very enjoyable. But make sure you already know what you are doing! If you are like me, and take certain opportunities to expand your horizons, it is possible you will be very disappointed with an ATV experience if you have not already mastered it to an acceptable level to complete the tour. It should be an experience you have had and wish to repeat, not one you are doing for the first time, like me, unless, of course, you pick up such skills better and have better coordination than I do.

I had a final dinner at Duke's, before heading to the airport.

Overall, I am happy I went to Hawaii. If I hadn't done it now, who knows if I would have gotten another opportunity? So I have now been to all 50 States!

Personally, I might return to the state, but I certainly will not rush back to Hawaii. It is a long, long trip to see beaches and waterfalls, and to enjoy other experiences, all of which are available much closer to my East-coast home. But Hawaii is beautiful and relaxing and wondrous. There are more islands to see, so there is more to experience, more to write about. I will have other vacations -- next year I plan to go to other continents! And, in the upcoming days, I will write about trips I have taken since my travels to Hawaii, which have allowed me to put the disappointments behind me.

So, one final time -- 40 = 50! For my 40th birthday, I visited my 50th State. Thank you to Joe Maddon for the new math -- I did it!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Scrumptious Local Eats on The Bayou

When I traveled down South, I had my first Po' Boys. I recently learned that I duplicate the experience just a few miles from my home in the Bronx, at a Mount Vernon restaurant called The Bayou! Here is a link:

I have been there three times, and had three different, scrumptious Po' Boys. My first was the skirt steak Po' Boy. My second, and favorite of the three, by far, was the Fried Oyster Po' Boy -- I discovered a new food that I enjoy! Yesterday, Halloween, I enjoyed the Fried Catfish Po' Boy, which was reminiscent of my first experiences with Catfish on my Southern tour. I substituted the house salad for the cole slaw, having been told excellent things about the dressing on the salad -- the excellent reviews did not even begin to describe how delicious it was! I also substituted the Smashed Potatoes for the fries -- very good. There are many, many different flavors of hot sauce to sample, and you can try them all! I haven't, but it isn't for lack of effort -- there just isn't time in one sitting!

If the food were all there were to rave about at this restaurant, it would be a highly recommended place. But given my history with losing weight and managing my current weight, I often request more out of a restaurant in the form of questions over what meals will fit my dietary concerns, as I have noted frequently. I am happy to say that, at The Bayou, the staff is incredibly friendly and informative. They have taken a lot of time to answer my questions, suggesting the meals above, and telling me which meals are likely too large, based on my concerns. They have suggested various hot sauces they thought were particularly tasty. And they have made substitutions to fit my wants as well as my needs. In short, the staff has gone far above and beyond what I ever could have expected -- and I have kept going back!

So, if you are in the Northeast Bronx/Lower Westchester area, and experience a desire for a scrumptious taste of Southern Cuisine, look no further than the Bayou. You will not be disappointed.

Saturday, October 29, 2011


Almost forgot some links: Here is one for the Lemongrass Grill:

Kaua'i Backcountry Adventures for the tubing:

Kalapaki Joe's:

Hukilau Lanai:

The Na Pail coast -- do more research than I did, so you won't suffer the losses I did with the camera and cell phone!:

And The Bull Shed:

Sorry for the delays on this -- these places were good to me in many ways, and I have to return the favors they were so kind to give me!

July 9th -- Hiking the Waimea Canyon, and Some Little Golden Nuggets I Enjoyed

July 9th was another peaceful, quiet day, the proverbial calm before the storm that would occur on my final day. It began with breakfast at Eggbert's -- I love the name ad I loved the food! Here are some pics:

I love the courtyard setting:

And the crabmeat omelet was scrumptious! Once again, the waitress answered all my dietary questions, letting me know which portion size would likely be sufficient for decent, yet not too large, meal:

Afterwards, I hiked the Canyon Trail in the Waimea Canyon, the largest in the Pacific region, drawing comparisons to the Grand Canyon:

Of course, there are waterfalls galore in the park:

And here I am with the canyon in the background:

Afterwards, I enjoyed tuna -- I had eaten tuna fish, which I never liked, so I assumed I would not like tuna itself. I was wrong! This was the first time I ever at tuna, at The Grove Cafe...:

...with the World's Westernmost Brewpub on site!:

Here is a link to the site:

Later, as I waited for my film from my waterproof, disposable camera to be developed -- the film I had used the day before during tubing, I visited the Allerton National Tropical Botanical Garden:

The gardens themselves are gorgeous:

And I was able to pick the fruit!:

Alas, I had to give the fruit away :(. It would not be allowed on the plane, so I gave it to the film developer.

Here is a link to the site:

I am not much of a plant lover, but I must say, this was a nice little nugget, a good, pleasant experience in my final days in Hawaii.

Another nice nugget was Spouting Horn, right across from the garden. This natural blowhole, in my humble opinion, was much more impressive than Old Faithful, which I saw on a 2003 trip to Yellowstone Park. Here are some pics:

I ended my day with dinner at the Lemongrass Grill:

The interior is pretty with the statues and flowers:

Live entertainment. I told the man it was my 40th birthday celebration, and he dedicated a couple of songs to me, including New York State of Mind, by Bill Joel, to celebrate my home state.

I love the tuna from lunch so much, I had seconds for dinner! :) :

A nice end to a very pleasant day, filled with natural wonders and some little trinkets I hadn't planned on! Sometimes those are the best parts of a trip, and while that may not have been the case on this day, those little trinkets certainly added to the day and the trip as a whole.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

July 8 -- A Relaxing Day of Tubing, Waterrfalls, and the Beach

 July 8 was a calm, pleasant day. It began with breakfast at the Tip Top Cafe -- More Loco-Moco, the local favorite at a local favorite restaurant. Here are the pics of the breakfast, the menu, and the restaurant name:

Afterwards, I engaged in water tubing, going through five different tunnels. It was actually calm and relaxing, a pleasant change of pace from the previous day. Here are some pics:

Here is the company -- Kaua'i Backcountry Adventures

Oh, no! I'm about to disappear into a cave! :) :

It's all good, though...and very relaxing! :

Afterwards, after jogging on the beach, I enjoyed a fish sandwich at Kalapaki Joe's

Before hiking to a scenic waterfall:

And just a nice relaxing walk along the beach, a bit of down time:

Before my dinner at Hukilau Lanai:

With live entertainment in the outside lobby of the hotel in which the restaurant was located:

Another top-notch salad:

And traditional Hawaiian fish meal:

July 8 wasn't the most exciting day of the trip. It was the break I needed after the stress of the previous day. I enjoyed it very much -- very pleasant!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Hiking the Napali Coast -- Did I have bad luck...or good luck?

As I said earlier in my blog, I had some difficult experiences on my trip. On July 7, hiking the Napali Coast, I had some difficult times. What a terrible day! Or was it? Let's review and see:

The day started out with breakfast at the Kountry Kitchen, the most popular breakfast place in town. It is a pretty place with trinkets playing homage to the local animals:

Here is my kimchee omelet -- props to the staff for helping me pick out a moderately sized meal, even though I asked about other meals which they thought were too big -- the staff's honesty is VERY much appreciated:

And here are a few pics of me hiking the coast:

The sign of what I would accomplsih:

Views of the cliffside:

Me with a large water bottle. I bought it off a stranger after poor planning on my part. I waited too long to buy water, until I hit the final opportunity before the hike -- and the store was closed! I knocked on the nearest door, and was sold the water by a kind stranger, who also told me to hike carefully in the wet weather...oh, were those prophetic words:

And that's the end of my pictures from the coast -- because that was the end of my camera! When I reached a beach, halfway to a waterfall I had intended to hike to, I had to wade through waist deep water. I forgot to lift my camera and cell phone above my head, or somehow keep them from the water, and both died. I replaced them on the trip, but it was quite a loss, and I regret not being able to take pictures.

I tried to hike on to the waterfall, but I kept falling. It was raining, the ground was slippery, and I was hiking through lots and lots of water, soaking wet and uncomfortable. I finally came to this conclusion -- my camera had died, my cell phone had died, and the next thing that my die would be me! So I finally had just enough wisdom to turn back.

I rushed to get back. I eat on a time schedule, and I wanted to get to a restaurant and eat on schedule. I guess that's part of my obsession with food. It could have cost me. I fell a number of other times, hitting my chin in the process. A woman who saw me fall asked if I was aware of what had happened -- obviously, she thought I might have hit my skull! That would have been much worse!

I can't remember if I had the next experience before or after lunch, but it is worth mentioning -- after I started driving, I was delayed by something. At first, I was annoyed -- then I saw what it was. A man was sprawled on the streets! I stopped said I wanted to help, but was told the situation was being dealt with.

My purpose in describing this is to express my conflict over my Na Pali Coast experience. I was angry and depressed about what had happened. I was angry at the concierge from the hotel, who indicated she knew nothing about such difficulties as waist deep water, both before and after the hike, when I spoke with her. I was angry at my own stupidity, not taking care of my electronics. And I was depressed about my losses, and how they were avoidable. This was obviously a bad experience, right?

Or was it? I was blessed by my Higher Power with just enough wisdom to keep myself from serious injury. I had some nice moments on the hike. And if that wasn't enough, I could compare myself to the man sprawled on the street -- I wasn't injured, like he was, and I hadn't hit my head, as the kind woman observing me fall had been concerned about. Maybe this was a better experience than it first appeared.

I am not including my lunch meal here -- perspective aside, I can't praise a restaurant that makes me take a menu to my seat and get my own water, even if the food was decent. I only acknowledge the positive experiences with others by name, so the restaurant, the hotel, and the concierge will remain anonymous.

But my dinner restaurant later that day -- The Bull Shed -- was notable for more than a cool name. Here are pics from my meal -- scrumptious fish and a nice salad, again:

By this time, I had replaced my camera and cell phone. I was moving on, as best as I could, from what was a depressing experience. I was alive and was still on vacation in Hawaii, with three days to go. Life was not all that terrible. Thank You to my Higher Power for everything.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Back to Hawaii

It's been awhile since I posted. Sorry dear readers -- began working a second job recently. When last I posted, I was getting ready to leave Maui for K'auai.

I arrived in K'auai adventurous as always. But it was difficult to just run and do things. My first day was kind of quiet. Some themes for my time on the island emerged on this first day, however.

I had my first meal at the Olympic Cafe. Here I am with my yummy Thai Peanut Butter Wrap, with the beautiful background.

I thought the K'auai roosters were cool:

At least initially, the scenery was beautiful -- here is one of the many island waterfalls...:

More beautiful water scenery:

 Not pictured were my next stops. I bought a refrigerator magnet of the serenity prayer -- In Hawaiian dialect! Then I had a nighttime walk along the beach -- the pictures did not come out well. This was before my evening meal, at Duke's. The restaurant was open the latest, meeting my dietary, times meals in that manner. I was told good things about Duke's. It did not disappoint. I really liked this pond, with the fish, right in the bar area:

I was told the salad bar was a treat in itself -- and it was! Here is my salad, which I enjoyed immensely:

And here is my yummy fish dinner -- Opah, I think:

My server, Caleb, wanted to be in the picture...what was I gonna say, no?

On my last day in Hawaii, I would return to Duke's for a second -- and third -- meal (I needed a meal for the plane). These pictures should tell the story as to why! :)