DISCLAIMER

"To strive, to seek, to find and not to yield"
- Alfred Lord Tennyson, 1833

"live deep and suck out all the marrow of life"
- Henry David Thoreau, 1845

"Some guys, they just give up living
And start dying little by little, piece by piece
Some guys come home from work and wash up,
And go racin' in the streets."
- Bruce Springsteen, 1977

"...to the heart, there's no time for you to waste.
You won't find your precious answers now
by staying in one place."
- Frank Turner, 2009

"The best things in life aren't things.
They're living and breathing."
- Michael Franti , 2011

"I owned every second that this world could give,
I saw so many places, the things that I did"
- Ryan Tedder of OneRepublic, 2014

All written content and photos by Rob Fulfer unless otherwise indicated.





Tuesday, January 28, 2014

3 Islands and One State...of Mind

Let's Go to Hawaii!!
It's been on our Bucket List for a long time and we finally got the chance to visit three of the Hawaiian Islands recently.
Saturday, January 11, 2014 - We spent the previous night in Chattanooga and drove down the rest of the way to Atlanta to fly out after finding a great airfare deal from there to Honolulu with US Air.  Unfortunately, you sometimes get cut-rate service at cut-rate prices. Despite some very stormy weather, our flight out of Atlanta was delayed and then quickly cancelled by what the airline said was "crew availability" problems.  Their only solution was a later flight that made us miss our only possible connection in Phoenix, so we spent the night there and.they put us up at the airport Hilton.   We were disappointed and pretty angry at missing our first night in Hawaii due to airline negligence, but we found a good dinner at least at Los Taquitos Mexican Food Grill from the Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives TV show to sooth us at least a little.
We finally made it!!  Hello, Maui!!  
Sunday, January 12 - Different day. Different plan. Different island.  After US Air's solution of flying us first to Kona and then to Honolulu would have taken up the entire day getting there and leaving us less than a day on the island of Oahu before we headed over to Maui, we made them give us a direct flight to Maui instead and we got to visit this beautiful island a little early and not waste more valuable time with unnecessary travel.  We were able to grab an extra early night at the Outrigger Napili Shores Condos with a decent ocean view which we had booked for the following two nights also.  Not a bad place despite not having A/C - pretty common in Hawaii actually.  But the fridge and stove worked fine and we stocked up on some groceries and libations for our stay including our first evening meal in Hawaii consisting of party pizzas served out on our patio in the moonlight!
The Maui Valley surrounding the city of Kahului and the airport is stunning and the first thing we saw when we landed.


This is where we first stuck our toes into some Hawaiian water.  The beach at Napili Shores over on the west side of the island was great.  Just to the right of this rock outcropping is a beautiful crescent shaped beach where we did some swimming and Ashlee even tried some stand-up paddle-boarding which she found out was a lot harder in the ocean than it is in the Tennessee River, but she did manage to stand up a few times and I was proud of her for that.


 Our first sunrise in Hawaii was a dandy!



Beauty everywhere here!  Note the birds flying against the cloud.





Monday, January 13:  After our first dip in the Pacific Ocean, we had a delicious lunch (deep-fried mac-n-cheese and slider burgers) and some good craft beer at the nearby Maui Brewing.  

The good eats continued later that night with dinner and a show just down the road at the Old Lahaina Luau.   We had front-row mat-seating for the show at a low dinner table with pillows for chairs.  It was all you could eat and drink and we both tried fresh poi for the first time (which wasn't all that flavorful to be honest).  But the pig that had been cooking all day in the ground was excellent.  The weather was perfect for the outdoor show that started before sunset and went well into the night.
Gettin' the pig out of the ground at the Old Lahaina Luau
My, what a lovely bunch of coconuts at the Old Lahaina Luau.

Tuesday, January 14 - We got up early this morning to be picked up for a Road to Hana Tour which entails 620 curves and 59 one-lane bridges over a 48-mile trip to the tiny hamlet of Hana.  It was a long day and we were glad when it was over despite all the beauty we saw.  The ginger candy our guide gave us to ward off car sickness helped greatly.   That evening we had a great dinner back in Lahaina at Mala Ocean Tavern out on the back porch overlooking the ocean.


An early stop on The Road to Hana along the north shore of Maui was this impressive overlook
of a small cove with a black sand beach.  The road we had just come across is barely visible along the cliffs.

Coconut milk ice cream?  Yeah, maybe not so dumb.
While it was a long, rather grueling day, The Road to Hana Tour is not to be missed.  We saw several waterfalls, miles and miles of beautiful shoreline, local wildlife in the form of  breaching whales out at sea, mongooses (sp?), jungle fowl and feral cats.  Our guides pointed out celebrity homesteads including those of Jim Nabors and Kris Kristofferson.  We passed through the hip little town of Paia which Willie Nelson frequents and where Gene Simmons of KISS fame is having a bar built.  We had a couple of stops for some delicious goodies including home-made banana bread and ice cream made from coconut milk.  We had a great lunch at Wai'anapanapa State Park.  Our tour group was small and we traveled in a comfortable luxury van with captain's chairs for both of us.

Our favorite stop on The Road to Hana Tour was the blank sand beach at Wai'anapanapa State Park.


A cool small sea cave at Wai'anapanapa State Park. The sound of the surf rushing in over
 the smooth black stones was mesmerizing.
 


Keanae Peninsula at the end of our Road to Hana Tour.  
The color of the waves
has not been modified and this is only an IPhone 5 picture.

Wednesday, January 15 - The time difference in Hawaii had us going to bed rather early and waking up even earlier.  We were first in line for a good breakfast at a very popular ocean-side restaurant called The Gazebo.  It was pretty easy to do this since our room was about 100 steps from it!  We toured around the island the rest of the day in our nice Mustang convertible.  We did a little shopping back in Paia and visited the unique Surfing Goat Dairy Farm for some cheese-tasting.  We ended the day with a great hike in the gorgeous Iao Valley before boarding a  beautiful sunset flight over to Kona on The Big Island on a 10-seat puddle-jumper with Mokulele Airlines. There were quite a cast of characters boarding these little island-hoppers and it felt like we were in an episode of "Wings" especially when they turned one flight around that was going out to Hana to pick up someone they had left behind.  We landed in the dark on the Big Island of Hawaii and stayed just a few miles away at the beautiful Sheraton Kona Resort for the next couple nights.
Our last Maui sunset was a killer.  That's the island of Molokai to the right and Lanai to the left.
The pancakes at The Gazebo were good, but the huge half-order (?) of fried rice (for breakfast?) was awesome!


The Iao Valley Needle is 1,200' fee high and 2,250' above sea level.  We were able to dodge some rain and get an active hike up close to it.  This is a breathtaking little place and only a few miles out of town.



Time for some puddle-jumpin'!
Moon-rise over the sugar cane fields.  We are going to miss you, Maui.
 
Thursday, January 16 - We lounged around the terrific pool at the Sheraton Resort (it had a large slide and a lazy river in it) before going on a snorkel ride-along with the Kona Diving Company.  We went on one of their "two-tank" rides where their divers go down twice, once before sunset and once after and us snorkelers do the same above them.  This is the # 1 (and maybe only) night snorkel in the world and one of the top night dives as well.  The reason?  Manta rays.   Plankton are attracted to light and the rays feed on the plankton.  According to our guides we night-snorkeled with 30 different manta rays tonight (identifiable by the dot patterns on their bellies).  Their record is 36, so it was quite a memorable night (including Ashlee's late inning ocean barf after several hours on the rough ocean).  She was a trooper and definitely not the only one feeling the waves.
The big island of Hawaii is a lot different than Maui.  It's the "youngest" of the islands, so the beaches are more scarce and big, jagged cliffs of volcanic rock like the one on which the Sheraton Resort sits are prevalent.  The surf boomed all the time, and even increased in intensity as we were there with the Great Northern Swell predicted to come in the night we left.
 The video below is of a pod of spinner dolphins that chased our dive boat out of Kailua Bay in Kona.   There's more action the longer you watch it. 

video

Volcano!!  No, not really, just a fiery sunset atop the dormant Hualālai Volcano near Kona.  The crashing waves give you a clue of how rough the sea was that we were snorkeling in.
A truly amazing experience.  Each snorkeler lays out flat  on the ocean surface while hanging on to a board above a light that attracts the plankton which in turn attracts the large, yet gentle and harmless manta rays.  Instead of swimming around looking for something, you just let the show come to you.  The coolest thing is that as they approach you the do a huge barrel-roll and you get to see the entire creature, top, bottom and gaping mouth.
Here is a link to a You Tube video of the manta ray experience in Kona.  While this is not our exact experience, it's identical to what we encountered and it was simply breathtaking:



Cheers!!
Friday, January 17 - We packed up and headed for the north end of the island this morning.  We stopped for lunch at Kona Brewing where we each had a 4 beer sampler and split a sandwich of a local-catch of hebi spearfish - it was delicious!  It was an easy and scenic drive over to the city of Hilo, where we rented a private 3-story pagoda-style house overlooking Kulaniapia Falls .  We bought some great (and cheap) wine at Grapes in the quirky downtown of Hilo to enjoy back at the house that evening.  Thanks to the store owner, Randy Nunokawa, for some great  and thrifty suggestions!
Volcano field on the drive over to Hilo from Kona
The 100' tall and exquisitely beautiful Kulaniapia Falls. We took a glorious (and private) swim below the falls.

video




Our private pagoda-style rental house overlooking the falls was terrific.  It was stocked with food for a bountiful breakfast that we made ourselves and ate at the picnic table outside.

I could get used to this view from the second-floor master bedroom and sleeping with the window open to the relaxing sound of the falls.  One of our favorite overnight stays ever.  Why didn't we stay here longer??

 Saturday, January 18 - We reluctantly left our beautiful waterfall pagoda house and headed for Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park where we would spend most of the day before jetting over late in the evening  to Honolulu on the island of Oahu for our last full night in this beautiful place.
The amazing  Kilauea Caldera smokes in the distance as seen from the appropriately-named Steaming Bluff off Crater Rim Drive in Volcanoes National Park.  Pictures will never do this place justice.  Simply amazing.

The stunning Holei Sea Arch at the end of the Chain of Craters Road in Volcanoes National Park

No more road, just lava at Mother Nature's "new" end of the Chain of Craters Road.

Other-worldly is the best description of the this place.
The previous flow of the lava is apparent here. Note the Chain of Craters Road cutting down the slope.

The massive Makaopuhi Crater.  Note that those white specks in the center of picture are a group of hikers.
The fascination with volcanic activity continued for us as we also stopped by the hauntingly beautiful Lava Tree State Monument outside Hilo.  These lava molds of the remnants of giant (and obviously wet at the time) 'O'hia trees caught in an ancient eruption are amazing to see in person including the fact that life still tries to grow from them.
Sunday, January 19 - This was our last day in Hawaii and we made the most of it with a great driving tour around a lot of Oahu Island including visits to the huge city of Honolulu, the iconic Diamond Head volcanic tuff,  the famous North Shore, historic Pearl Harbor, and the popular Waikiki Beach.  We then flew out late for an overnight flight back to the mainland.   

Surf's up and so were we, early enough to catch the morning light from Diamond Head.
Makapu'u Lighthouse peeks over the cliffs as we head east on scenic Kalanianaole Highway from Honolulu.
The mighty and powerful North Shore of Oahu Island.  Closed to surfing on this day.

Beautiful and historically tragic Pearl Harbor.  Note the solemn USS Arizona Memorial far in the distance in the center of the picture.  Our early travel woes caused us to miss a scheduled tour of the memorial, but we vow to be back again. 

We had some great food on Oahu with lunch at The Shrimp Shack food truck on the North Shore and The Rainbow Drive-In (one of President Obama's favorite places) back in Honolulu for dinner.


A perfect sunset walk along Waikiki Beach was a perfect way to end our trip to Hawaii.
Monday, January 20 - We landed back in the continental U.S. around 8 A..M. with another stop in Phoenix and then back to Atlanta (without incident this time).  The drive back home was long and tiring, and we had clocked in over 19 hours of travel by the time we laid our heads on our pillows tonight, but it was worth every minute to conclude one our best trips so far despite the early hiccup. We had almost perfect weather the entire time.  Everyone we encountered was very friendly.  And the islands are much more rustic and natural and much less undeveloped than we expected.  With more islands to see and more things to experience, Hawaii is definitely a place we want to return to any chance we get.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Goodbye, 2013 and Hello, 2014 and a New Collage!

after midnight...2014 arrives!

One of the less-goofy products from our photo both that we rented for our NYE party.
1/1/14 - We slept in late after seeing most of the earliest hours of 2014 at our NYE party.  We did make an effort to go see another film with a lot of Oscar buzz around it that evening along with Amy and Jeremy.  American Hustle is praised by a lot of folks, but our foursome didn't like it very much.  Seemed like a lot of overacting and a gap-filled story line in our opinion.   It won't be on our Top Ten List, that's for sure.
We missed the Jack Daniel's Barrel Tree
as they were dismantling it when we visited.
Maybe next year! 
(Photo courtesy of Pinterest.com

1/2/14  -  This was Amy and Jeremy's last full day in Tennessee, so we decided to give them a full tour with an early visit to the Jack Daniel's Distillery over in Lynchburg per Jeremy's request.  While Ashlee and I have done this tour a couple times,  it was nice to see they have added a tasting tour now for $10, and have added a visit inside the cool charcoal room where they make the tiny briquettes for the whiskey to filter through. We ate lunch in Lynchburg's charming downtown at the BBQ Caboose which was pretty darn good.  Next up was a stop at the lovely Arrington Vineyard for some wine tasting and a bottle of white in front of the fireplace out on the deck.  Next up was some beer (the TN alcohol trifecta) at The Flying Saucer downtown where our friend, Danny and Brenda, joined us along with some of Amy's old friends from Nashville.  Afterward was a late night run out to The Sushi Train in West Nashville for some grub, and a stop at Jeni's Ice Cream over in 12 South for some dessert.  It was quite a Tennessee Day to say the least!

1/3/14 - Jeremy and Amy headed home today and we are going to miss them, but we hooked up with some of our local friends, Danny Wayne and Carolyn, for dinner over in Green Hills at Table 3, a pretty good French restaurant, and a showing of yet another Oscar contender, The Wolf of Wall Street.  Ashlee and I liked it despite it's crassness, but no one else did.  To each his own I guess.

COLLAGE UPDATE

2013 is up on the wall!!


Man, what a great year 2013 was.  Can't wait to try and top it in 2014.

The Decemberists

December 2013 was a fun and busy month of us




12/3/13 - We attended our second Preds game of the young season together tonight with our friends, Chris and Tarryn.  We had great lower bowl seats behind the defend twice goal.  Beforehand, we had a yummy dinner up on the Patron Level before the game.  It was a tough loss to a talented Vancouver team by the score of 3-1.


12/8/13 - In further preparation for the Oscars season, we caught a showing of Dallas Buyer's Club with our friend, Carolyn, this afternoon at the Green Hills Theaters where I am pretty sure we witnessed the winner of the next Best Actor statue.  That actor goes by the name of Matthew McConaughey.  His gripping portrayal of and staggering physical alteration for the role of an 1980's AIDS patient was amazing  He's definitely come a long way from Fool's Gold (which we love, by the way) and Magic Mike!


After the movie and a great dinner at Ted's Montana Grill, we headed downtown to collect a par of tickets to the Brian Setzer Orchestra 10th Anniversary Christmas Show at The Ryman which I won off NowPlayingNashville.com.  Thanks, folks!
We had seen this show several years ago (see below) and loved it, but I don't remember it being this good.  It was great from start to finish (a finish that included snow falling).   Setzer is a great entertainer and his band/orchestra are some of the best musicians around.  Thanks again, NPN.com, for the free center row, balcony tickets!

Collage Blast from the Past

 Our first time seeing the Brian Setzer  show was the 3rd year it came to the Ryman way back in 2006 with our friend, Carolyn.  Our seats were down on the main floor and we actually paid for these.

12/15/13 - We took in a showing of the holiday classic, White Christmas at the newly-restored Capitol Theater here in Lebanon this afternoon.
Not only were the tickets a bargain at $5 each, the concessions are dirt cheap too in the beautifully-restored facility.

12/18/13 - We were back at The Ryman for  a benefit concert hosted by Brendan Benson that included one of our favorite performers, Butch Walker, plus appearances by Jakob Dylan of The Wallflowers, Jessie Baylin who we've seen at Bonnaroo before, Jack White, Ricky Skaggs and several others.
A great night of music for a greater cause to benefit military veterans.  100% of all proceeds went to the cause.  In our biased opinion, Butch Walker, stole the show with his two song performances, but Jack White was impressive as well, as was Jakob Dylan with a great cover of The Rolling Stones' "Loving Cup."  All performances were accompanied by the talented master of ceremonies, Brendan Benson, who's a great musician, songwriter and overall person for putting this event together.
12/19/13 - Saw another possible Oscar contender tonight in Saving Mr. Banks, an almost perfect film with great acting from the entire cast (Emma Thompson, Tom Hanks and Colin Farrell were outstanding) and an interesting true story of how Mary Poppins came to life in books and finally to the screen under the Disney moniker.

12/23/13 - It was back to The Capitol Theater for an impromptu viewing of  the modern classic, "Christmas Vacation" on the big screen tonight.   It was hilarious as usual.  What a great addition to our town this lovely restored theater is!

12/26/13 -  We got a BOGO offer from Zanies Comedy Club for tonight to go see actor/comedian Steve Rannazzisi (aka "Kevin"  from the hilarious TV show "The League").  He was pretty funny despite having a wicked head cold given to him when his 5-year-old reportedly sneezed in his mouth on Christmas Eve...ewww.  Opening for Steve was Cort McCown who's also been on "The League" and was pretty funny as well.  A surprise guest comic set was done by actor/comedian Ahmed Ahmed as well but he didn't do a lot for us in his short 10-minute stint.

12/30/13 - Our good friends, Amy and Jeremy, flew in today from Nebraska for a New Year's vacation and visit.  Amy used to live in Nashville and Jeremy had never been here before, so we showed him the sites downtown and we showed Amy the changes going on in Nashville since she's been gone.  We ate at The Slider House which is funky new little restaurant over by Vandy with great food and a good beer list.


12/31/13 - We held our first-ever New Year's Eve Party tonight with Two Fat Men Catering providing delicious food and a photo booth for some goofy and fun entertainment.  It became an "epic night" with most of our core group  of friends staying late with lots of fun and frolic including a rousing game of the hilarious "Cards Against Humanity."  Let's just say that "being a [RADIO EDIT] sorcerer" has never been funnier.

 

To be continued....(see next entry for After Midnight)