The 2017 Christmas and Year-That-Was Letter

Well, we’ve been here in Hawaiʻi for about a year and a half, and we’ve settled into a comfortable routine . . . get up, eat a light snack, go to the gym for an hour and a half of exercises (cardio and weights), get back, snack a bit more seriously, do a little cleaning, go out and run some errands, relax with a few more pre-dinner snacks, eat dinner, enjoy a few after-dinner snacks as we surf the wide-wild-world of the Internet or watch a movie, wind down, and going to sleep. Rinse, repeat.

Generally, every other week or so we go for a drive. Most drives involve some kind of food. A popular one is the Island Fish & Chips at the King’s Shops (if they happen to be serving Ono). Another is the Luna restaurant in Waimea (pizza, there). Of course, Tex is always looming in our future because of the malasadas.

Another popular drive is to the Punaluʻu bakery which also has malasadas. They also make the bread we use for French Toast. Depending on how we feel, most Sundays are French Toast days. I usually make a few extra, and those become part of our snacks arsenal throughout the week.

To be sure, the drives themselves offer up more than food. Yes, yes, it’s a chance to be in an air-conditioned car, but the idea is to visit places. While it’s true that we’ve been to most places on the island, half the fun is the getting there. The other half is the weather we’ll find there. And the third half is the chance of seeing something different. Perhaps waves, perhaps surfers, perhaps goats, or turkeys, or some other thing clamoring to point a camera at it.

I do complain about the heat, but overall the island is not a bad place to be, and we’re treating it as an extended vacation of an indeterminate length.

Hmm . . . This sounds rather sparse as far as Year-End Letters go. Let me add a few more details.

I mentioned the gym, but there’s more to it. Earlier in the year, the routine consisted of going to the Old Kona Airport Park and walking anywhere from 4.5 to 6 miles depending on something called a Fitness Challenge. It has to do with the number of daily steps a person takes, and in this case, the person I refer to is Melisa. We would then return to the condo and relax (read: snack) until the early afternoon, at which time we would go to the gym for weights.

Here’s the thing with walking in the morning (or anytime other than when the sun is not up) . . . it’s hot. Sometime last year, we got into the habit of freezing wet rags overnight and then carrying them with us to the park. These would thaw as we walked and halfway into our walk would be soft enough — and still cold enough — to offer us relief when wrapped around our necks.

A few months into it, we decided it was better to just go straight to the gym as opposed to waiting until the afternoon. And then, we figured out that an hour and a half or two at the gym has us burn more calories than the combination of walking and then going to the gym. That’s where we are now. We’re both doing a decent — but unhurried — job of slowly losing weight as we constantly snack (full disclosure: the volume of my snacks is roughly twice that of Melisa’s . . . she says it’s more like four times but it’s all a food blur to me). We’ve always been in pretty good shape, but we’re probably now in better shape than we’ve been in the last 15 years or so, and yes, Melisa is doing better than I am in that regard. Then again, see the bit about snacking.

One side note about walking at the Old Kona Airport; I used to take care and nurture first one and then two small plants that germinated on some lava rocks (see blog for details) and changing our routine had me worry they would perish. As it turns out, they are still going strong, so I no longer lose sleep from having abandoned them.

So, what else? Well, being on a permanent vacation can make you lose track of the passing of time. “Weekend” is no longer a demarcation of the passage of weeks, so we had to come up with other ways to notice the days going by. The Pride of America took over that duty. On Wednesdays, when we leave the condo, we notice it anchored on the bay and it lets us know that it must be Wednesday. To be sure, there have been a few weeks when — because of bad sea conditions — the ship does not show up, but even its absence can trigger a “Hey! Isn’t this Wednesday? Where’s the ship?”

It’s also momentarily confusing when other cruise ships visit, but we quickly realize it’s just a transient and it’s not Wednesday after all.

To continue, we have other rituals associated with going to the gym. Well, actually, it’s a ritual almost every time we go somewhere. Specifically, we take Aliʻi drive on the way back to the condo. That drive takes us from the start of Aliʻi all the way to just past Magic Sands Beach Park.

We people watch, you see. There are always tourists milling about, and it’s nice to see the place bustling with activity. Mind you, we have no desire to partake in the milling about, but we do enjoy driving as I make up new lyrics to various songs. On Wednesdays, it’s “Look at all the shiple, where do they all come from” sung The Beatle’s Eleanor Rigby or “Look at all the shiple, walking on Aliʻi” to John Lennon’s Imagine. I could list others, but I don’t want songwriters to a) sue me, or, 2) steal my ideas.

I mentioned drives, and many of them are documented on my blog but here’s a brief mention of our most common drives.

Short excursions (two versions):
One has us driving from the condo to just past Kawaihae Harbor to a local Macadamia Nut Factory. This drive can be modified to stop at the King Shops for the Fish & Chips mentioned above or extended to Hawi for the pleasure of driving along the coast with nice views of the ocean. There are a few parks along the way that offer the opportunity for a few photos or just a quick drive-through to see what’s going on.

The other is a drive South to the Place of Refuge. There are bakeries along the way, a McDonald for a quick soft-serve treat, and various shops one can go into for a look-see. I’ve written about the Place of Refuge on the blog, and it’s a nice place to walk around, see tide pools, and in general relax for a bit. And, yes, lots of photo opportunities.

Medium excursions (two versions):
One has us travel to Waimea (either on the highway or the high road) and this usually means we are close enough to Tex to go there for some malasadas. I’ve documented Tex above and on previous blog posts, so I won’t bore people with it here, but suffice it to say it’s a nice drive with great food at the end of it.

The other drive again takes us along the southern route and ends in Naʻalehu and the Punaluʻu bakery for free samples of sweet bread and — of course — malasadas. These are different but are a close second to Tex’s malasadas (per our opinion).

Long excursions:
Really, there’s only one long excursion, and that’s going to Hilo. If we travel via the southern route, we hit the Punaluʻu bakery and perhaps stop by the Punaluʻu black sand beach before stopping at the Volcano National Park to see if there’s any lava shooting about. If we come in from the North, we pass by Tex and perhaps stop at the Laupāhoehoe park for some wave action. Sometimes, if we are in a hurry, we take Saddle Road to Hilo and back. That shaves up to an hour from the other drives, and it’s a chance to look at different landscapes than those along the cost.

So, what else for this year? Well, in January, I bought a Nikon P900 and the majority of the photos I snapped this year have been from the P900. Wait . . . is that true? Let me see:

D7000: 2,496 Hawaiʻi photos + 3,017 Alaska photos = 5,513 photos

P900: 5,710 Hawaiʻi photos + 3,671 Alaska photos = 9,381 photos

That includes a few videos here and there, but I’m counting them as photos. Of course, there were also phone photos.

Note II: 216 Hawaiʻi photos + 1,481 Alaska photos = 1,497 photos

Note 8: 790 Hawaiʻi photos

Yeah, the P900 wins out.

What? Oh, yeah . . . in September, we took a vacation from our Hawaiʻian vacation and — after a very nice visit with family in Illinois — went on a week-long cruise to Alaska. I’ve documented some of it and plan to document the rest once my busy vacation life slows down a bit.

And that’s pretty much our 2017.

We wish everyone good health, a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and for 2018 to bring you the best that life can offer, but most of all, good health.