Sunday, October 18, 2015

This Weekend....

...we built a fire pit.  And by we, I mean Scott.  

I retained my esteemed position of Chief Clean Up Gal and photographer.
Will was the runner, making sure Daddy had the right shovel, level, chain saw, etc. Yep, chain saw.  
Have you ever tried to shovel through North Carolina clay, completely embedded around tree roots?
Sometimes a chain saw is the best way to get through those roots. 

Scott got to use his new electric chain saw.  It doesn't really have the same savage sound as the gas powered version, but it got the job done. Take a look:
Eliza Grace managed refreshments and provided moral support.

Will also hauled stones and blocks.

All we need now is for ya'll to come over and enjoy it with us!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Cruise to Hawaii - Our Final Stop: Oahu (Part 2) - and Home Again!

After we said our farewells to the ship, and found our rental car exactly how we left it near the homeless tent city, we decided to hit the lovely north shore area of Oahu.

To get to the coast we had to travel up and through some mountains.  Not sure why I was surprised to see a tunnel but I was.

As was typical on each island, about half of the land was covered in clouds and mist.
But once we hit the east coast and headed north, it was blue skies and gorgeous ocean Hawaiian scenery.
Will and I both saw that little island and declared we wanted to be there.  Our own little piece of paradise.
Instead, we landed at a brand new Marriott in the town of Laie where we spent the next 24 hours hanging by the pool and tooling around.
However, I do have to note that not every pool umbrella offers UV protection.  For example, the ones pictured above? 

ZERO UV protection.

I learned that the hard way after spending a couple of hours out of direct sunlight under said pool umbrella and still got crispy enough that people winced in empathetic sunburn pain when they saw me.

Moving on.

We spent the afternoon and evening at the Polynesian Cultural Center, which shared a parking lot with our hotel.  And we still drove there. 

Why? Because: Hawaii = rain. 

The PCC was launched around 50 years ago to provide jobs for the LDS kids who were attending the Brigham Young Hawaii campus.  

Those Mormons must have one heck of a dental plan because those super clean-cut kids had the straightest, whitest teeth of any single group of people I have ever encountered!


It was interesting and well done but I think by this point we were all so wiped out (and hot and sweaty) that we only explored a small portion of what they had to offer.

We enjoyed the "canoe pageant" of the different islands and they had a really well done indoor film about the history and culture of the islands.

Thankfully, we were able to muster up enough energy to have some shave ice to offset the heat and humidity.
We had the buffet dinner but it wasn't a luau so we never did get to do one of those!
We really enjoyed the evening show, Ha Breath of Life, which was very well done. Nothing like a whole lot of energy and excitement and burning torch twirling to end a great visit to the famous north shore.
The next day we took one last drive for one last swim in the Pacific. This beach was known for its sea turtles, but alas, we didn't see any.

After we got cleaned up, we headed back down the shoreline, through the mountains, into the big city and got to the airport around 7:00 PM.  

Did you know the Honolulu airport is not air conditioned? Neither did we.

Thankfully we found a restaurant that was and had a nice long dinner in the cool air as we waited for our 11:50 PM departure to Phoenix.

The kids were still going strong as we gave our final shakas and headed into the last part of our adventure.
By 7:00 AM the next morning they were hanging out, charging devices in the airport like seasoned air travel pros.
After a long leg to Charlotte and then a short hop to Raleigh, we were finally back home from our amazing vacation.

And 20 minutes after we got home, this is what I was doing. Because, I get to be the Mom :)
Wow!  What an amazing adventure.  I mean, really amazing!

An adventure that encompassed:

  • A combined 17 hours and ~7,500 miles of air travel
  • 10 days and ~3,200 nautical miles by ship
  • Four time zones
  • Four Pacific islands
  • Two countries
  • One shipboard fireworks show
  • Zero illnesses, airline delays, lost luggage, or major meltdowns of any kind.

We are grateful beyond words for the opportunity to have such a grand adventure together.  We have made memories that will last a lifetime!

Aloha and Mahalo to DCL and the State of Hawaii!

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Cruise to Hawaii - Our Final Stop: Oahu (Part 1)

We made it to our 4th and final Hawaiian island stop - Oahu!

We had a nice view of Diamond Head and the big city of Honolulu from the ship.

First on the agenda was, once again, walking to the rental car shop to pick up our ride. We walked past this neat old building. I think may have been a fire station at one point in time.
Once we had our mini-van, we headed over to do the one thing we planned for the day: a visit to Pearl Harbor.  

In actuality, the official name is the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument.  

And we only saw a small portion of all there was to see.
Our first tour was of the USS Bowfin submarine.
I am always amazed at how men lived in these tiny quarters. I would have lost my mind with claustrophobia.

The view from the front of the Bowfin with the bridge to Ford Island to the right.  We never even made it to Ford Island to see the USS Oklahoma or the USS Missouri.
A view of the Arizona Memorial from the bow of the sub.
The museum was amazing and the audio tour really enhanced the experience.

As much as I enjoyed the hour or so we spent reading and looking at the displays, it was watching the kids' reactions and listening to the comments and questions they had that was really great.  

We work hard to make sure they understand that nothing in life is guaranteed or free, especially the freedoms that we enjoy in this country.  

It was an honor and a gift to be able to experience and share this part of our nation's history with them.

The entire national park/monument is done so well and is very well organized.

As expected, the most heart wrenching site we visited was the USS Arizona Memorial.
The distinct level of quiet and respect displayed by those on our tour was appreciated and allowed us to quietly pay our respects.
The fact that we were literally standing over the final resting place of so many who sacrificed their lives for our futures was beyond humbling.
As expected, it was a fairly emotionally charged day and we were all a little spent by the time we left.

Our next activity was to find a place to park our rental for the night.  Unfortunately, this was more difficult than we expected. We were unable to find a public lot or deck that allowed overnight parking without charging an exorbitant fee.

In the end, after driving around hot, muggy and crowded downtown Honolulu for over an hour, we decided to park along a side street at the advice of our rental car agency. The only thing that made us a little nervous about doing that was that we had been driving around city block after city block of homeless tents. 

We'd never seen anything like it, outside of a refugee or natural disaster type situation.  
This is not something they mention in the Hawaii visitor guide and it took us by surprise.  The homeless village stretched for blocks and seemed to surround the University Medical School buildings.
The car rental place assured us that, as long as we didn't leave anything in the van, the car would be fine.  So in the end, we parked overnight for free near the tent city.

We then walked a couple of blocks back to the pier where we would spend our last night on the Disney Wonder.
We were happy to be back on the ship, with the beautiful decor and the Disney tunes softly playing in all the hallways. It really does make you feel like you are away from it all.  

We were looking forward to our final night of Disney fun and then we heard an overhead announcement that went something like this:
"Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, this is your Captain speaking.  I'd like to make you aware of a situation that we are monitoring regarding the Tsunami watch that has been issued for the Hawaiian Islands."


Because of course. The one time the Hughes go to Hawaii, earthquakes and tsunamis.
It seemed that while we toured Pearl Harbor, an earthquake occurred in South America that caused a concern for the Pacific islands.

But, hey, at least it was sunny!  

Thankfully, the watch was canceled but it did provide some interesting discussion about potentially taking the ship back out to sea instead of staying docked for the night.

In the end, we had a lovely last evening on the ship and Will got so very close to his goal of 50 ice cream cones in 10 days. This was his final cone: #44!
It's important to set goals in life!

Up next: our final 36 hours on Oahu!