To the mountain and back . . . .

Trip Start Feb 04, 2011
Trip End Mar 07, 2011

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Flag of United States  , Hawaii
Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Didn't expect to wait nine days to update the blog, but that’s what happens when you’re chillin’ in Paradise. Somewhat less than the real Hawaiian Paradise, actually, with continual Kona (southerly) winds bringing cloudy and hazy conditions (called "vog" -- volcanic fog) and intermittent rain. We’ve had just one moderately magnificent sunset in almost two weeks. But a bad day in Hawaii is better than a good day anywhere else.

Our periods of activity over the last nine days have been interspersed with days of down time and relaxation. Perfect.

Carolyn’s bad back wasn’t improving after the 14-hour journey from Atlanta, so that finally led us to Keahou Emergency Care up the coast from our apartment. The doctor looked like an aging surfer, but dispensed medication that put her back on her feet after a few days.

Ray had a ukulele lesson, his first musical endeavor. Everyone was amazed and agreed he should not pursue a career in music.

Friday we walked around Kailua-Kona, winding up at Kona Brewing for lunch and a brewery tour. Of course, the beer sampling at tour’s end was the highlight. Key information for brew lovers: the Kona Brewing beers and ales available on the mainland are cooked up in Washington or Oregon. The brewery’s Kona product is available only in Hawaii on draft or from the brewery in 64-oz. “growlers.” So caveat emptor.

Last Saturday Ray stood in line at 7:20 a.m. for forty minutes to buy fresh ono (wahoo) from Da Fish Guy at the Keahou Farmer’s Market. Good fish, but it was just as good from Costco – without the long wait. Ray was first in line; by the time he left, there were two dozen people in the line.

Sunday we rented a four-wheel-drive Jeep for an excursion to the top of Mauna Kea, the tallest mountain in the world, measuring some 33,000 feet from its base 19,000 feet below the surface of the Pacific. From sea level, it’s still the tallest spot in Hawaii at 13,796 feet. You can drive to the visitor center at 9,000 feet, but 4WD is recommended above that because of the steep, graveled washboard roads. We convoyed to the top in our Jeep with guides from the visitor center and marveled at the terrific view from the summit (and thin air). Mauna Kea is sacred to the Hawaiians, but it also is perhaps the best spot on the Earth to practice astronomy. Since the creation of an access road in 1964, thirteen telescopes funded by eleven countries have been constructed at the summit. Our guide took us into one of the “Keck twins” -- duplicate observatories. Each has primary mirrors that are the largest optical/infrared mirrors in the world, 10 meters (33 feet) in diameter and composed of 36 hexagonal segments that, through the magic of computer technology, work in concert as a single piece of reflective glass ( We watched the telescope rotate on its almost frictionless hydraulic bearings and marveled at the astronomers’ ability to control such a large piece of equipment with incredible precision. After our summit visit, we descended for a dinner of hot soup and bread at the visitors’ center, and some observing of our own. We got a close-up look at the moon and viewed Jupiter and four of its moons. Then we navigated the Saddle Road back to the coast, turned in the Jeep and headed home – a long day.

Monday we spent the morning learning about natural energy in Hawaii at the Natural Energy Lab of Hawaii (NELHA), not far from the Kailua-Kona airport. NELHA is the home of a number of aquatic enterprises ranging from ocean thermal energy conversion to seahorse farms. The very cold seawater pumped up from 2000-foot depths apparently is very high in nutrients and free of bacteria and other contaminants, so it’s really good for seahorses, fish and abalone. Energy generated from the combination of warm and cold seawater has the potential to be a major source of power in the future. Later we mingled with the tourists at Waikoloa Beach. Overpriced jewelry, clothing and Hawaiian tschotskies, but fun to watch the mainlanders pretend to relax. We spent some time at the Waikoloa Hilton, where you can take a tram or boat to the far reaches of the hotel property. We watched whales breach and blow from the point and then headed to the Kona Village resort to see our favorite Hawaiian entertainer, John Keawe. A Navy veteran, John is “three-quarters Portugee and one-quarter Hawaiian.” He lives in Hawi on the Big Island’s north coast and is one of the finest slack-key guitarists in the world. We spent three hours enjoying the music and the calm, cool night in one of the original Hawaiian resorts. Mai tais were involved, of course.

After tourist-watching again yesterday, we’re in the middle of a down day today, so time to catch up on the blog. We’re having dinner tonight at Jackie Rey’s, voted the best restaurant in Kailua-Kona on Tripadvisor. We'll let you know.
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croxandlilt on

Looks like you guys are having a great time and the weather is terrific! Wish we could be there.

Alan Freitag on

Exceptionally well written narrative -- you could work in a related professional field such as public relations if you'd apply yourself. Fantastic photos as well. Hope Carolyn's back is fully on the mend. Happy trails!

Dick Crockett on

Wow. No wonder Joe and Liz always counted their visits with you on the island as top shelf. Have fun and keep the blogs coming.

Suzie on

Love the pictures. Glad your back is doing much better.

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