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.