Friday, July 31, 2009

Memorial Day Weekend in Vermont

Nearly every Memorial Day weekend for the past couple of years, several of our cycling friends have gone up to Stowe, VT. Most of us go for the cycling, but some go running, shopping and occasionally, canoeing and wine tasting.

Once again we stayed at Ye Olde England Inne, where they feed us wonderful big breakfasts to keep the energy up while on the bike.

This year Michele & Todd joined us and since ML brought her road bike, I had friends to ride with so I didn't have to try to stay with the "big boys" while they climbed 2 or 3 mountain gaps in the course of 110 miles... ;-)

On Saturday ML, Michele, Todd and I rode 38 miles from Stowe to Lake Elmore and back. We stopped at the "Lake Elmore Beauty Spot" for a photo op.

Saturday was also Todd's 40th birthday. We celebrated with a surprise ice cream cake.

On Sunday, some of the boys were feeling like a more mellow road ride, so Michele and I cycled with Geoff, Todd, Justin and Dave. We did a 43 mile loop from Stowe that ended by climbing over Smuggler's Notch. It took a while to get up there, but it was worth it. The scenery was so beautiful - huge giant boulders and twisty road. The descent was a blast too. I only hit 49 mph (I think my all time maximum speed is 52 mph), but it was still thrilling.

That night we all went to the Flatbread Kitchen in Waitsfield for dinner and celebrated Justin's 30th birthday and ML's (undisclosed) birthday.

That's Michele modeling with the pizza.

(Photo by Geoff)

On Monday Geoff & I and Scott & ML rode together and stopped for photos of shaggy cows and miniature horses. Geoff also got kissed by a cow.

(Thanks to ML for the photo!)

It was a lovely way to spend a long holiday weekend.

Maui Trip - Part 3

Ok, folks, once again I am on vacation and am able to finally finish writing up the Maui trip from January. I know, it's sad. Anyway, here it is. It picks up where Part 2 left off...


My parents and Geoff and I went down to Lahina harbour early Friday morning for a whale watch trip. We were in a smallish pontoon boat that held about 25-30 people. It was piloted by Captain Jill. She and her first mate were very knowledgeable about the whales - where they migrated to/from, what they did when they got to Maui, their mating behavioral patterns, etc. Almost immediately we found a pod of whales: mom, calf and escort. We followed them for a while and Cap't Jill decided to nickname the male "Crankypants" because he kept breaching and thumping his tail, even though there didn't seem to be any competition around.

It was nice to be in such a small boat. Geoff and I sat right on the edge on the pontoons and we were only about a foot or two above the water. At one point we moved over to a different group of whales, where there were two males fighting over the female, wanting to escort her and her calf. The boat had to keep a certain distance from the whales, but the wales were of course free to approach us if they felt like it and when they did that, the captain had to cut the engines. The two males who were fighting each other were extremely active, jumping out of the water and doing all sorts of "tricks" to get the attention of the female.

They came really close to the boat - probably within 10-20 feet, and at one point, one of them swam underneath the boat! It was super exciting. Geoff got some amazing photos of them.

They were a lot closer to us than when we were in the kayaks, and while it was certainly thrilling and exciting and wonderful to see them cavorting so close to us, it wasn't quite the same peaceful, majestic experience of kayaking because we were surrounded by other people shrieking, gasping, calling out, and pointing. But it was still an amazing experience and I am so glad that we did it, especially because that is where we met Tom and Silvia.

When we sat down in the boat, we quickly realized that there was a couple sitting next to us speaking to each other in German. I always pick up on this since I was born in Germany and lived there until I was 5. Geoff and I were joking about how long it would take before my Dad started to speak to them in German, but sadly he didn't take the bait.

Instead, Tom was admiring Geoff's camera and asked to see some of his shots. We all started chatting and found out that Tom was from Munich but lived in Zurich, and that Silvia was from Italy but lived in Hamburg. Wow, what an international couple. After the whale watch, Tom and Silvia asked Geoff and myself if we would like to get together for drinks later on and we exchanged phone numbers.

After the whale watch, we had time for an ice cream before we went on the Atlantis submarine adventure. This was a small submarine that takes people down to the coral reefs to look at the beautiful reef fish that live there. My dad doesn't swim, so this was a great option for him - he usually doesn't get to see the fish up close like that. None of us had ever been in a submarine before (how many opportunities are there, really?), so this was really cool.

Unfortunately, the photos didn't come out very well because there wasn't much light down at the bottom of the ocean and while it looked great in person, the camera couldn't work it out. Human brains (amazing machines that they are) are able to render an image so much better than a camera.


Geoff went on a 5 hour bike ride from Kaanapali to Kahalui and back and I went snorkeling in Hono Bay (Turtle Bay) with my mom. I love turtles and had been a bit sad that I didn't see any on the kayak-snorkel trip. I was really hoping to see at least one before I went home. Mom and I had to clamber over a lot of rocks to get into the cove and there were a few other people who were just getting out of the water as we went in, and they said they had seen turtles. Yippee!

In we went (brrr!) and we saw all kinds of fish, but no turtles! Mom eventually gave up, and went back to the shore, but I carried on right across the cove in my quest for turtles. Just when I had decided to give up and had turned around to head back, I swam across some coral and saw what I thought was a very large rock at the bottom of the bay.

As I passed over it, I realized that the rock had feet and a head! Yay! I finally saw my turtle. :-) After I got back to shore, I was looking out across the cove and I saw a turtle come to the surface to take a breath. Awww.

That evening we went on a sunset dinner cruise, which was my idea. I don't know what I was thinking, because I often have a tendency towards sea sickness, and I should have known better. Since I had been absolutely fine in the kayak and on the pontoon boat, it never occurred to me.

About 30 minutes after leaving port, I started to feel a little sick. By the time they brought the food, I couldn't even look at it. The waitress was very nice and gave me some candied ginger to eat and I think it helped a little bit, but eventually I had to go to the back of the ship, where it was most stable, and hang out there. Geoff was so sweet to come with me and we both missed desert. I am proud to say that I didn't throw up, and we even saw some more whales before I started to feel bad. The matre d' felt sorry for us and gave us our desert to go in a napkin for later.

After we got back to solid ground I immediately started to feel better and we met up with Tom and Silvia for drinks and learned more about them. They are really nice and I hope we can see them again some day.


We had to fly home on Sunday. We left Kaanapail after breakfast and drove back to Kahalui. Then we flew from Maui to San Francisco, and had a red-eye from San Francisco to Boston, arriving very early Monday morning. I don't think it was snowing, but it was difficult to come home, both because of the dreary weather and the jet lag. But it was wonderful to see the kitties again. We had really missed them.

The End

Here is a link to the photos I took that day. Sadly, the ones I took of the whales are terrible, so just appreciate Geoff's. :-)