Volcano National Park on Big Island

vnpWe left Maui yesterday and boarded a small nine passenger puddle jumper airplane to Big Island. Traveling with two kids, five checked bags, three carry-ons, and two car seats is not my idea of a fun way to travel. But luckily our short trip to change islands went as smooth as possible.

Yesterday we got checked into our resort in a small town about a half hour north of Kona. Our room wasn’t quite ready for us, so we decided to drive around a bit. We quickly found out why they call this island Big Island – it takes forever to go anywhere! Big Island is more than twice the size of all of the other Hawaii islands combined.

Sophia and Sawyer point out the lava glow that is visible at night at Jagger Museum.

Sophia and Sawyer point out the lava glow that is visible at night at Jagger Museum.

Today was our first full day and we decided to check out arguably the biggest tourist attraction on the island – Volcano National Park. Big Island is the newest of all of the Hawaiin islands. There have been a number of volcanic eruptions in the past two hundred years, but the latest eruption started in 1983 and is still going strong.

We started our touring in the visitor center and watched a quick video about the park. It gave an update on all of the eruptions over the past few years and the current status of the volcano. The volcano is very active with lots of lava and steam pouring out. However, there is currently no viewable lava.

After the visitor center, we started driving to the best place to view volcanic steam. It is called Jagger Museum. The plume of smoke is visible 24 hours a day coming out of a well defined crater. It was quite a site to see!

Just a short drive from the museum was a place called Thurston Lava Tube.  It is exactly what it sounds like – a cave that lava carved out while flowing underground.  The kids thought it was pretty cool to walk through such a big cave.

Lava flow in 1983 caused a few problems for this road.

Lava flow in 1983 caused a few problems for this road.

Then we ventured down the Chain of Craters road down the side of the volcano. You can see evidence of multiple eruptions through the years as you make your way all the way down to ocean level. One cool thing at the bottom of the volcano is a spot where the lava spilled over the road and into the water. They never fixed the road, so you can park your car and climb around on the lava on top of the road.

After that we had a decision to make. We could start the long, 2.5 hour trek home. Or we could kill a few hours and come back to the park at night to see the lava glow. Like I said earlier, you can’t see any lava flowing. However, at night, you can see the glow of the lava at the Jagger Museum. We decided the possibility of seeing active lava was worth killing a few hours, so we drove around for a while and found some dinner.

The lava night glow was definitely worth waiting around to see.

The lava night glow was definitely worth waiting around to see.

We returned to Volcano National Park right at sundown. There was a very slight glow at first, but as the sky got darker, the glow grew very bright. It was qutie a site to see the lava in action!

Today was a long day with lots of time in the car. Tomorrow we are sticking closer to home. One thing we have learned during our travels is you don’t want to push the kids too hard. Otherwise nobody has any fun!

Road to Hana Part II

This is an example of a waterfall you might miss if you don't have a trusty guidebook to tell you when to stop and look back.

This is an example of a waterfall you might miss if you don’t have a trusty guidebook to tell you when to stop and look back.

This is our last weekend on Maui, so we wanted to do one of the highlights again before we left.  One of the most famous things you can do here is drive the scenic road to Hana.  Our last trip to Hana didn’t go so well.  Rain caused us to end our camping trip early, a lot of the waterfalls didn’t have any water flowing, and we got a flat tire on our rental car.  I’m happy to say this trip went much smoother.

The road to Hana is full of countless waterfalls and hikes.  I say countless because a lot of times you don’t know how close you really are.  There are multiple times when the road goes right over a huge waterfall and you wouldn’t even know it.  The biggest negative about the road is that there are not very many places to park.  Typically there is only a small pullout for a handful of cars.  But today we left the house a little earlier than last time, so we managed to stop at some of the places we missed last time.

Sophia took this lovely photo of Beth and I at Waianapanapa State Park.

Sophia took this lovely photo of Beth and I at Waianapanapa State Park.

One of the highlights of this trip was the Black Sand Beach at Waianapanapa State Park.  It wasn’t really black sand as much as it was black rocks, but it was still really cool to see a whole beach covered in them.  Plus there were lots of little caves for the kids to explore with their glow sticks.

Waterfalls are some of the bigger highlights.  Unlike last time when we made the trip, all of the falls were flowing.  Some of them required a small hike, but most of them were close to the road.  It would be neat to take a backpack and do some hard corp hiking to see some of the more remote falls.  Perhaps on a future trip to Maui!

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Underwater adventure on the Maui Reef Dancer

Reef DancerToday we did one of the last things on my tourist to-do list.  We took a ride on the Maui Reef Dancer.  The Reef Dancer is kind of a half submarine, half boat.  The boat takes you out to a reef to explore and see the fish.  The top half is just a normal boat, but the bottom half has lots of windows so you can see everything that is under water.

They even have a scuba diver come over to the boat to show you some star fish, sea urchins, and other things that they find.  They must give some of the fish some food, because a lot of fish just kind of appeared once the scuba guy got in the water.

The water was a little cloudy, and the camera didn't capture it well, but we did manage to see a lot of fish.

The water was a little cloudy, and the camera didn’t capture it well, but we did manage to see a lot of fish.

The water wasn’t quite as clear as it could have been, so I think that took away from the experience a little.  But it was still cool for the kids to see what the bottom of the ocean looks like.  Especially since neither of them have done any snorkeling.

We are down to our last two weeks here on Maui.  Officially in the home stretch.  Luckily since we took the company housing, our end-of-assignment task list won’t be nearly as chaotic as it usually is.  We don’t have very much stuff to sell on Craigslist.

I am excited to move on to our next adventure at camp.  But at the same time, I am kind of sad that my time as a stay at home dad is coming to an end.  I know I will look back at the times I’ve spent with the kids and really miss it.  It’s scary to think about the amount of influence that I’ve had on them the past couple of years! 

We just past our two year anniversary of traveling!

kidsWe have now entered year number three of our traveling adventure.  Looking back, it’s crazy how fast the time has gone.  It seems like only yesterday we were packing up all of our stuff and hitting the open road for the first time.  We had no idea how long it would last, but we were excited for the adventure.  Since then we have lived in North Carolina, Florida, Arizona, Connecticut, Colorado, and now Hawaii.

The kids have obviously changed a lot over the course of our time traveling.  It’s hard to believe when we first started, Sophia was at the same age Sawyer is at right.  Now she is finishing up Kindergarten and will be in “big girl” school before we know it.  Again, time flies.

Who would have thought that two kids from the Midwest would have so much fun at a goat farm in Hawaii.

Who would have thought that two kids from the Midwest would have so much fun at a goat farm in Hawaii.

We have had an amazing time on the road, but I don’t see us making it another year.  More and more, Beth and I have been thinking how nice it would be to be settled down in one spot.  We hit the same two-year wall when we traveled by ourselves the first time.  Living in small apartments with minimal stuff is bound to catch up with you at some point.

That being said, we are still enjoying our time here in Hawaii.  We are down to our last month, so our time will be over before we know it.  There are a couple of tourist things that I have been saving toward the end of our stay that we will do pretty soon.  Otherwise it’s been a lot of time on the beach.  Luckily we enjoy hanging out on beaches!

Enjoying a busy Easter weekend

Sophia's dash to get as many eggs as possible.  She and Sawyer were in different age groups.

Sophia’s dash to get as many eggs as possible. She and Sawyer were in different age groups.

We usually try and participate in community activities wherever we go.  With this being Easter weekend, there were lots of options on things to do.  So we have had a busy weekend!

Our Easter celebrating started on Good Friday with an Easter egg hunt just down the road from our apartment in Kihei.  Sophie and Sawyer did their best to hunt down as many of the 10,000 eggs as possible.  As usual, they managed to do pretty well.  Sophia even won a door prize of a gift certificate to Baskin Robbins!

Friday night we decorated our own Easter eggs.  As the kids get older, the mess isn’t quite as extreme as it use to be.  I think we decorated about 20 total eggs for the Easter bunny to hide.

The egg hunt at Kula Country Farms was a bust, but the kids did enjoy picking their own fresh strawberries.

The egg hunt at Kula Country Farms was a bust, but the kids did enjoy picking their own fresh strawberries.

Saturday morning we drove to the Maui Upcountry to go to a different egg hunt.  “Upcountry” is the term for the people who live on the volcano of Haleakala.  It’s nice to go to that area of the island because the temperatures are cooler than everywhere else, plus you get a nice view of the ocean and the island.

The egg hunt was at Kula Country Farms.  Despite the fact that it was a very disorganized hunt, we still had a good time.  Sophia and Sawyer got to pick their own strawberries and they got to say hello to the Easter Bunny.

It's hard to beat a free outdoor Easter movie!

It’s hard to beat a free outdoor Easter movie!

Saturday night was a special outdoor showing of the Easter movie “Hop”.  We got our beach chairs and blankets and joined a lot of other people and watched a movie under the stars.  The kids had a good time.

Finally it was time to go home and get ready for bed.  The kids woke up this morning to find the Easter bunny had finally come!  Of course that meant we have all been enjoying a breakfast of marshmallow peeps, jelly beans, and a variety of other candy.  It has been a good Easter weekend!

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Lots of beach time and my first 5k race

There are a decent amount of beaches here where we can hang our new hammock and swing chair.

There are a decent amount of beaches here where we can hang our new hammock and swing chair.

It’s hard to believe we have been in Hawaii for almost three months.  Beth’s original contract end date is coming up, so that’s normally when we would be looking at where we are headed next.  But since we are already committed to going back to Camp Chinqueka in June, we are forced to extend here until the end of May.  I suppose we can suck it up and spend another couple of months here.  🙂

Our exploring has actually slowed down quite a bit the past couple of weeks.  We haven’t done everything there is to do on Maui, but we have hit pretty much all of the highlights.  This is where the island aspect is a bit of a negative for me.  Normally, I like to plan weekend trips and drive a few hours away.  But here we are confined on how far we can go.  At 727 square miles, Maui is actually fairly big.  But the majority of that space is taken up by the mountains and volcano and is not accessible.

The most popular thing to on Maui is go to the beach.  There are tons of beaches here and that is where we have been spending a lot of our weekends.  We bought a hammock and swing chair at a swap meet, so we try to find beaches that have trees to hang them.

Proudly displaying my medal after my first 5k road race.

Proudly displaying my medal after my first 5k road race.

On a different note, today I completed my first 5k race.  I’ve actually gotten into running quite a bit since we got here.  Normally my exercise of choice is an exercise bike, but for the past couple of months I’ve taken to running.  My normal path is a 1-mile city block right next to our apartment and I try to run 2-3 miles every other day.

I ran my first 5k length a while back, but today was my first actual race.  I got 127th place overall, but 5th in the male 30-34 division.  My time was 26:01, which is a personal best for me.  Running in an actual race was interesting.  Dodging the people who sprint past you and then quickly decide to walk was the most challenging part.  It wasn’t too bad though.

I’m not sure how long this running kick I am currently on will last.  It’s a great form of exercise, so hopefully it will stick for a while!

2013 Year in Review slideshow

Yes, I know it is late March.  But I finally got around to doing something I’ve been meaning to do for a while – make my annual “year in review” slideshow.

Maybe it’s the Journalism side of me showing, but I’ve always been a fan of documenting my life and the life of my kids.  I’ve been making an annual photobook and slideshow for about five years.  My philosophy is I don’t want all of these pictures I take to get buried in my computer and never get used.  Years down the road it will be fun to go back and look at everything we did and what the kids looked like when they were younger.

I started doing the slideshows because I tend to take a lot of small videos.  You can put pictures in a photobook, but I didn’t have a way to use the videos.  With a slideshow I can use the best of both.  I already enjoy going back and seeing what life was like when Sophie was still a baby.

Be warned – this year’s video is about 15 minutes.  There are a lot of friends and family who are in it, so I figured I’d post a link so those who have time to kill and want to watch it.

Click here to see the video on Youtube:  http://youtu.be/8kpQH4OnWvk