Monday, August 21, 2017

Hurricane Harbor Waterpark

Kai's special needs swimming instructor sometimes organizes outings to Six Flags amusement park and its waterpark, Hurricane Harbor. Earlier this year he had given Kai a season pass, but with summer winding down, they had not yet gone to the park. Not wanting the pass to go to waste, and knowing how much Kai enjoys waterparks, we made a family outing to Hurricane Harbor yesterday.

Kai had told us that he wanted to get there when it opened at 11am and stay until it closed at 6pm. It would be a long day, but if that is what he wanted, we were willing to give it a go. We got there shortly after the waterpark opened. It was not yet crowded.

The first ride we went on is the one in the background of the above photo. The rafts that you ride on are brought to the top of the ride by a conveyor. Unfortunately, either because of malfunction or because no one was there to properly load the rafts onto the conveyor, the rafts were very slow to come to the top of the ride. What looked to be a short wait turned into a longer one, probably close to a half hour. Kai got a little impatient, but, under the circumstances, nothing extreme.

Once we finally got to go down, we all enjoyed it, but we decided that we would not come back to this ride again.

We went on most of the rides that used tubes or rafts and Kai had a fun time. The crowd had built up by early afternoon so we had to wait at every ride, but nothing too overwhelming. Of course, Kai has become much more tolerant of waiting; when he was younger, this type of waiting would have been much more difficult.

By 4pm, he was satisfied that he had had enough and we decided to go on one last ride and called it a day.

It was a good way to wrap up the last summer weekend before he starts school on Wednesday.

As this will be his last year of middle school before he begins high school, it will be an important time and we want to see more progress.

But the time to worry about that will be coming soon. On this day we just enjoyed the fun time we had.

Monday, August 7, 2017


After the travel delays that eventually caused us to leave nearly 23 hours later than originally scheduled, we finally just made it home.

Kai handled the last portion of our wait at the airport fairly well, as his agitation with United diminished. And once on the plane, he was a happy camper.

Despite the difficult last day, I am sure we will look back on our Hawaii trip with many very fond memories. Kai mentioned more than once that he was sad about leaving Hawaii. He usually doesn't express such thoughts about vacations coming to an end even when he has had great times, so I think this one particularly stood out for him.

Beautiful new places, great experiences, fun times... it was a wonderful vacation!

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Hawaii Vacation - Day 15: Maui Tropical Plantation, Stuck at the Airport!

The day of our departure had arrived. We had one last breakfast on our patio. We have been having fresh Hawaiian fruits every day, and on this day we cleaned up the remaining papaya, mango, pineapple, and lilikoi we had, as well as Hawaiian banana bread.

And then it was time to leave our condo. We had a few hours before having to go to the airport, and decided to spend our remaining time visiting the Maui Tropical Plantation.

We took the tram tour that took us through the grounds of the plantation, and showcased a variety of native Hawaiian plants, tropical fruits, and fields of row crops.

We could see the nearby valleys.

We saw a number of tropical fruits including banana.

Kai's favorite part was when we stopped and our guide showed us how to husk a coconut.

In the next photo Kai is holding a coconut where a new tree is already starting to sprout.

And here is a short coconut tree.

Afterward, we had lunch at the plantation. It was yet another occasion to eat outside in a beautiful setting.

My wife had kampachi (fish) while Kai and I had Hawaiian tacos (pork with a pineapple salsa).

We had our last taste of fresh Hawaiian pineapple - and by the way, there is no comparison in taste to the pineapples grown in Hawaii and the ones sold in the stores back home (that are not from Hawaii).

On our way to the airport, we saw Haleakala. During most of our week in Maui, the top of the volcano was shrouded in clouds but we had a good view on this last day.

We were sad to have to leave Hawaii, but not happy when, after getting in line to board, they announced that our flight was delayed due to mechanical problems.

As the wait grew longer, Kai started to get upset, remembering the horrible experience we had with United last fall. He kept badmouthing United while I tried to keep him calm by explaining that mechanical problems can happen with any airline.

United kept pushing back the departure time. When they announced that they were waiting for a part to arrive from Honolulu in two hours, and then it would take two hours to install it, we went to have dinner.

Kai was happy with his chicken wings.

Just as we were done with dinner, we got a text saying that the flight had been rescheduled to 11am the next day. We rushed to the gate to learn more.

It turned out that the time needed to get and replace the broken part took so long that the flight crew was no longer able to fly that night.

We got into line to get a voucher for a room for the night, and to learn more.

After awhile they announced that they had only 11 rooms available, and there were many more families than that ahead of us in line. I checked websites but the only rooms I could find were well over $500, plus we would have to take expensive cabs to get there. We decided to stay at the airport.

I waited in line for three hours to learn more. I had heard that the airport normally doesn't permit overnight visitors and we might get forced outside. Also, we had not been told of any compensation for our troubles, or even been given dining vouchers. Communications from the airline was nonexistent. I heard from other passengers that the crew that flew our plane into Maui had discovered the malfunction and radioed it in three hours before they landed, but the part was not ordered until our crew was doing their final checks while our boarding process was beginning. So, they could have gotten the part much sooner.

In the three hours I waited, the line barely moved. We received no further news. I don't fault United for the original mechanical problem, but how they dealt with it and the lack of communications and service provided to their customers was terrible.

My wife and son were anxious to just try to get some sleep so I finally decided to get out of line and we went to a quieter spot in the airport where we could lay down.

We got some sleep, but these airport chairs are not made for a good nights sleep. And at 5am, the loudspeaker announces the time every half hour so it was hard to sleep after that.

Well, at least that meant that we got to see one last (hopefully) Hawaiian sunrise.

As well as a clear view of Haleakala (through the dirty airport windows).

Kai was very angry last night, as he kept berating me for choosing United. (I did because they offer the only nonstop flight to Chicago from Maui). This morning, his anger seems to have diminished. He is currently looking up customer complaints for United on his phone, as well as funny videos mocking United's customer service.

It is still three hours until our scheduled flight time. We are hoping that there will be no further difficulties. As it is, we will not get to our house until well after midnight.

And no word on whether there will be any compensation. I am guessing that like last time, I will have to write a complaint letter, then will get a cursory form letter back with only a minimal credit toward a future flight.

Wish us luck on getting home!

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Hawaii Vacation - Day 14: Our Last Full Day in Maui

Our vacation is just about over. We had one last full day to enjoy, and wanted to go to the beach one more time.

We had gone to a different beach every day and continued that pattern right to the end. Our choice this time was Pa'ako Beach, better known as Secret Cove, and also known as Wedding Beach. This is a small beach just to the south of Makena (Big Beach). It is a "secret" because the beach is hidden with its entrance through a narrow pathway between two stone walls. It may be a bit of a secret to tourists, but locals seem very familiar with it as it is a popular spot for weddings. In fact, when we got there, folks were gathered for a wedding and one man asked us if we would leave so they could have the place to themselves. Of course, as a public beach, they really are not allowed to do that.

We decided that we would be happy if we could take a quick look at the beach and snap a few pictures, then we would leave and find another place to swim.

You can see why this picturesque spot is very popular for weddings.

We drove to neighboring Makena Beach and swam there. Known as Big Beach, it is long and unusually wide by Maui standards. It is very scenic, but you have to be very careful as there are large shorebreaks close to shore. So, it is important to pay attention when going into and coming out of the water so that you aren't barreled over by a huge wave.

Once in the water and away from the breaks, Kai relaxed and bobbed in the water.

After awhile my wife came in but I didn't want Kai out there by himself so I stayed out with him. He enjoyed bobbing for quite a long time.

When the sun was shining, the water was a beautiful emerald green.

When we finally came in, it was time for lunch. We decided to get food to bring back to our condo.

We first went to Wow Wow Hawaiian Lemonade where they make fresh, handcrafted lemonade using locally-grown ingredients. Kai had lavender blackberry, may wife had ginger pineapple, and I had lilikoi strawberry in a mason jar. The lemonade was delicious as it tasted so fresh.

We then went to Eskimo Candy, a take-out joint recommended by Kai's former speech therapist. My wife had a poke bowl, Kai had a burger, and I had chicken teriyaki which we enjoyed on the patio of our condo.

My wife said her poke was the best she had while here in Hawaii. It was great to eat a relaxed lunch with the ocean in sight.

We then relaxed and started to pack before heading out to the small quaint town of Paia (which is at the start of The Road to Hana). We visited a few of the art and craft shops, the went for an early dinner at Mama's Fish House where we had reservations. Located right on the shore just outside Paia, this place came highly recommended by a colleague at work, and also by Kai's former speech therapist.

We started out with some tropical non-alcoholic drinks.

We had crispy mahimahi rolls and raw oysters for appetizers. Both were delicious!

Kai didn't get upset even though I told him that he could not use any electronics after the food was served.

For his entree, Kai chose the Traditional Hawaiian which included both fish and meat. He said that he wild boar was very good... as a boy who doesn't usually comment on his meal, this was quite a statement.

My wife had mahimahi.

I had opakapaka, a Hawaiian snapper. It was steamed with ginger and peanut oil, and was very tasty.

The ambiance was wonderful as the restaurant had an seaside feel inside and a view of the actual ocean outside.

Kai's favorite part of the meal was dessert! He had coconut ice cream.

But I think he was most impressed with my liliko'i chocolate mousse in a pastry seashell. My wife had the guava cheesecake with breadfruit.

After dinner, we walked the grounds outside the restaurant. Unfortunately clouds had rolled in just where the sun was to set, but it was still pretty there.

The rocky shoreline was striking.

And here's a view looking back at the restaurant with the full moon overhead.

And so wrapped up our last night in Hawaii. We will have about a half day before heading over to the airport, but our vacation is definitely winding down. So, it was nice to have this celebratory dinner to commemorate our trip.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Hawaii Vacation - Day 13: More West Maui

On our second-to-last full day of vacation, we went back to West Maui. We wanted to try snorkeling at Honolua Bay, the place the guy at the roadside curry truck told us about the other day.

After our long day driving the Road to Hana, we wanted to take a more relaxed pace. We set out from our condo after 9 am, and reached our destination in about an hour. The small parking lot was full, but after we circled around and came back, a car was just pulling out.

There was a nice trail that led down to the beach.

This is a true snorkeling beach in that the rocky shore does not make it conducive for sunbathing or just hanging out.

We set out eager to see what we would find.

The water was somewhat cloudy close to the beach so we swam further out.

We saw a number of different fish, including this one that was larger than most.

Our big thrill of the day came when we crossed paths with a very large school of fish. The following photo only captures a portion of the huge line of fish that extended for some distance.

We have had some great snorkeling experiences in Hawaii. It has been like swimming in a giant aquarium.

After we had finished snorkeling, my wife and I came back to shore. Kai wanted to go back in the water to swim and just bob in the water. As we had no set schedule for the rest of the day, we let him stay in the water as long as he wanted, which was quite a while.

When he finally came in, we packed up and headed back to the old town of Lahaina to have lunch. We found a nice spot right on the water. The place is called Cheeseburger in Paradise and they specialize in, you guessed it, cheeseburgers.

We got a table by the open window. The breeze from the ocean was very refreshing and we had a great view.

I had the Cheeseburger Island Style which includes layers of Kalua Porka and pineapple over the hamburger patty.

Kai had the Pizza Burger with pepperoni and mozzarella cheese.

My wife had the shrimp burger.

After lunch, we walked around Front Street visiting numerous shops and stopping for our first shave ice on Maui. It was good, but I don't think it is quite as good as the best shave ice we had on Oahu.

We came back to our condo, cleaned up, and had a bit of free time before going just outside of our condo to see another sunset.

For dinner, we were in the mood for sushi so we returned to Sansei. This is the sashimi special that I had

Kai mostly just likes octopus (tako) sushi.

My wife and I had agedofu (fried tofu) and my wife had the poke special.

And so now we are down to the last full day of our vacation. My wife and I are dreading leaving paradise and going back to reality. Perhaps because Kai feels so much security in the routine, he doesn't seem to be feeling the same despair over our vacation coming to an end. In fact, he seems to be looking forward to being home. He's already making plans for going to Target to add another Basher character to his collection, as well as plans for the next plush character that he will make and his next video that he wants to film. (He actually wanted to go to a Target here but we emphatically told him that we will not be using our precious vacation time to do what we could do at home).

But let's not think too much about all that just yet.

We have one last full day of vacation to enjoy.

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