52 States in 8 Months

A quite different breakfast in 40,000ft

Posted in Hawaii, Meals by Ulf on January 25, 2009

Just a quick note on our return flights from Hawaii: Three of us ended up on different seats than we booked.

nwa_logoThe first one to change his seat was Matthias. He asked his airline if they could offer a seat where he could lay down (due to his neck problems).  They could not offer him something in the first class, but he got a seat with more legroom (which was next to an emergency exit).

300px-delta_logosvgWhile Matthias M. was discussing with the airline personnel, I chatted with the other Matthias at their gate. Suddenly the loudspeakers asked a “passenger Ulf S., I repeat: Ulf S. to proceed to gate … immediately”. That was a shock, especially as we were still twenty minutes before our bording time. Anyway, I ran to my gate as fast as I could. And for what reason? They asked me if I would change my seat  from 23A to a 26A. I mean, sure, but why do they make me run for such a minor change?

I was not the only one who was called-for in the airport. The same happened to Andi. He was also moved to another seat. But he had even more luck: They moved him to the first class.

NWA does not seem to serve any free meal to regular passengers on their flights. But since Andi was a first class passender now, he got a pre-flight Mai-Thai and afterwards a dinner at an altitude of 40,000ft:
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That seams to be appropriate for Andi :-)….

Last hours on Hawaii: We went snorkeling!

Posted in Hawaii by Ulf on January 24, 2009

On our last day on Hawaii we went into the water again. More precisely, we went on a snorkeling tour. We paid around $20 for the complete equipment and the ride to a very nice bay. I’m still completely astonished  when I look at the pictures now:

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I did not spend too much time in the water as I was a bit afraid of ending up sunburned. Still, I’ve seen a large turtle and a small hammerhead shark, both at a distance of less than a meter! And there were many shoals of fish in every imaginable color.

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As one of us took many photos from the same spot,  I tried to combine them with hugin, an open-source photo stitcher. Here is my result:


You’ll notice some offset in the two innermost trees. So the picture isn’t perfect. But I liked playing around with the tool anyway ;-). If you are curious about the sharp bends which some of the palms have: They didn’t come frome the software, nature seems to be like that.

I’m afraid these are the last pictures I can show you from our Hawaii vacation. After all I can only conclude that this was the most intense holiday I have had. Thank you Ania, Andreas, Matthias & Matthias for this unforgetable time! I look forward to meeting all of you on some more holidays.

Ania’s birthday: Two meals and new Hawaii shirts

Posted in Hawaii by Ulf on January 23, 2009

After spending the morning of Ania’s birthday in Pearl Harbor, we wanted to find something to eat. The Lonely Planet told us about a traditional Hawaiian restaurant. When we looked at the menu we had no idea what the names meant, but fortunatelly there were not too many options. Basically it boiled down to choosing one out of four meals: “chicken”, “pig”, “fish” or a mixture of pig and chicken. As a side order we could to chose between poi and rice. We all asked for poi, and I only remember that I took the “kalua pig”.
When the old lady (who seemed to be both waitress and owner of the establishment) asked us if anyone ever tried poi before, we all said “no”. Therefore she served two kinds of poi so we could try it. Well, in the end all of us took rice as the side dish ;-).

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Poi is the brown thingy in the small cup on the left-hand side of the first picture. In fact, it was not too bad, but rice was just the safer option.
All parts of the meal were served in individual dishes. After we ate everything (wow, it was really a lot!!!) we could use them to build little towers :-).

After our meal we went through the streets of Honolulu. We wanted to buy some Hawaii shirts — you just cannot leave Hawaii without them. At the more touristic places you can’t get around the “ABC stores“. They seem to be just everywhere. That’s why one of the meaning of “ABC” is “all blocks covered” ;-). We have seen two ABC stores with only one other store in between. Wikipedia says that there is an intersection near Waikiki with four ABC stores at the same place!
But as we were walking through one of the back streets, we did not see an ABC store at all. Instead we found a little clothing store which seemed to be family operated. They were covering the full price range from $10 for a shirt to $200 for another one. We were obviously more interested in the cheaper shirts ;-).

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After our little shopping trip (as you can see on the pictures, we’ve been sucessful) we went to the local Cheesecake factory. That’s a restaurant which mainly serves cakes. This is a great invention! And since it was Ania’s birthday, they’ve put a little candle on her piece of cake and even sang “Happy Birthday” when serving :-)
That was amazing! If I ever want to gain much weight in little time, I’ll just walk to the next Cheesecake Factory :-).

When paying in US restaurants, it’s common to add 15% graduity to the bill. Well, sometimes the 15% are automatically included. Most of the times however, you’ve to do the calculation yourself. But not in the Cheesecake Factory: They were so kind to give us a little chart where a reasonable tip can be easily read out.

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This also was the evening when I finished writing my postcards. That was really a tough job — I’ve written between 20 and 25 of them!

Remember Pearl Harbor

Posted in Hawaii by Ulf on January 22, 2009

On November 29th we visited the USS Arizona Memorial. In Europe we know this place as “Pearl Harbor”, the place where a Japanese attack pulled the US into WW2 on December 7th, 1941.

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The ammunition magazines of the Arizona were hit and exploded during the attack. Almost 1200 men died when the Arizona sank. (I just looked at this. That can really make you feel sick. Please look at the Soviet Union and China. I did not know about these numbers. I also tried to compare the Chinese losses with those of Japan. Please get an idea of that yourself.)

020523-N-9769P-057But let’s come back to the ship. The Arizona has never been lifted. It still lies on the ground of Pearl Harbor, next to many active war ships of the United States Navy. The Arizona was converted to a war memorial. Today there is a white structure on top of the wreckage which allows you to look down onto the submerged parts of the ship.

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Don’t expect to see too much. The socket of one of the gun torrents is easily visible, and you see some oil leaking from the Arizona (her tanks did not explode, so the ship is still almost fully fueled).

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I’m currently not in the right mood to comment on the other pictures.

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The only picture that shows something interesting is the one in the lower left-hand side corner. They do some geometric calculations for the torpedos, and there is a red lamp indicating that one found a “correct solution”. I assume this is a device to manually solve an implicit equation.

We’re leaving Maui. But before, we open another coconut!

Posted in Hawaii by Ulf on January 21, 2009

When we arrived in Kahului harbor, we figured out that we had one coconut in our car that we picked up at some point during our ride. Well, we could not carry it to Oahu, so we had to open it right there on Maui. However, without any tools it would take too much time to open a coconut. So we decided to use the most powerful tool we had: Our Jeep Wrangler.

At first we tried to open the coconut by just parking one wheel on it. The Jeep as an empty weight of 2,0 tons, so we put a static weight of roughly 500kg on the poor coconut. But the coconut could stand this!
Our car just got a bit higher, so our orangutan climbed on it. But Andis 120lbs didn’t help either, the coconut turned out to be uncrackable.

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If you’re interested, watch this video on how long it took me to carefully drive the car onto the coconut (1:10):

We still had not managed to open the coconut, but we did not yet give up. I had to try one more thing. Please have a look on how we finally opened the coconut (0:16).

Unfortunately the coconut turned out to be spoiled. The fruit pulp was soft and tasted like soap. But that didn’t matter, we had great fun while opening the coconut :-).
After this little amusement we removed all the goods from our car and returned it to the rental service. The Jeep was really a nice companion!

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While we were waiting for the ferry, we bought some motion sickness medicine and started to write our postcards. Matthias and Ania also went to a little cloths store and tried some new robes.

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Finally we boarded  the Hawaii Superferry and enjoyed a calm ride back to Oahu. We had no problems at all, besides being a bit tired. That might be a side effect of those motion sickness pills. While I was still wearing my short trousers, Ania switched back to the outfit she wore on the Haleakala and calmly slept in.

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When we finally arrived on Oahu we went back to our hostel. The check-in took a bit longer, so we celebrated Ania’s birthday at the counter of the Polynesian Hostel in Honolulu :-). Aloha!

Banana Bread, Mana Foods and quite a few surfers

Posted in Hawaii by Ulf on January 20, 2009

In the early afternoon of this lovely Friday we slowly drove back to Kahului. Driving slowly was equal to driving as fast as possible. The traffic on Hana Highway seemed to be a bit heavier on the way back from Hana than on our way there.


On the “Halfway to Hana” we made a small stop to buy some Banana bread (and also various other kinds of sweets). Banana bread tastes so great, we should have bought much more!

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The next stop was some beach near Paia. Paia is also known as the “World Capital of Windsurfing”. The Lonely Planet said that there would be some surfing championship on the last weekend of November. That just matched our trip! We did see many wave surfers, indeed. And there were a lot of cars with surfing equipment around, but it did not yet look like a competition.

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In Paia itself we returned to the grocery store which we discovered earlier. This time we took our cameras with us, so I can show you a few pictures:

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As I told you before, everything in this market is remarkable. I mentioned the variety of chocolate before, but here is the proof. But it weren’t only the industrially made goods. They also had many fruits which we had not seen during our journey so far.

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If you ever go to Maui, visit this shop!

Trespassing the Blue Pool

Posted in Hawaii by Ulf on January 18, 2009

Once we returned from the Seven Sacred Pools in Friday (Nov 28th 2008), we had to go back to Kahului to return our rental car and to catch our ferry back to Oahu.


We started near the campsite in the Haleakala National Park (A) and went to Kahului (D). As you can imagine, there must be something in between.

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Yes, of course, there was the most beautiful landscape you could possibly imagine. Although we were driving to Kahului, it was still the “Road to Hana” with its amazing bends and even some very nice straights.


Did you notice the Mustang on the opposite lane? The Mustang is the only American car that looks good. Except for our Jeep, of course.

Apart from looking at the road and the landscape, we also had something different in mind. Our guidebook told us about a place called the “Blue Pool”. Well, we could not really expect a blue pool. The Lonely Planet said that it would only be blue in the morning light. It was already the early afternoon, but we wanted to go there anyway.

So we left the highway at the milestone our guidebook told us, and we followed an unpaved road. Our project felt a bit adventurous when we saw more and more signs which said “Private Property”, “No Trespassing”, “Keep out” or simply “The blue pool is closed”. But come on! We were a group of four men and one lady, so we just headed on.

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At the end of the road we finally found the Blue Pool. To compensate for our guilty conscience we left $5 in a post box near the beach. But then nothing could stop us, so we just jumped into the water:

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I guess only all these “No Trespassing” signs made this pool something special. If the locals really wanted to get rid of the tourists they would better just make the place look boring.

After enjoying a great bath in a calm place next to the rough ocean, we spent some more time at the beach to get dry again. One of us could not resists showing where he got his swimming trunks from:

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Somewhere near the pool we saw an igloo. For practical reasons they did not build it from ice but from plastic, but it still looked like one. It also reminded me a bit of the large soccer ball that traveled through Germany before the World Cup in 2006.
Actually I don’t really know if this is used as a normal house or just as a temporary shelter. I mean, from the temperatures on Hawaii it does not really matter: One could live in a tent during the whole year. And such a tent is probably cheaper than a house (even considering the poor American building standards). Anyway, it’s an interesting way of living. Without any corners, without straight walls, even without the possibility to knock a nail into a wall!

Isn’t Hawaii beautiful?

PS: I read on Wikipedia that public access to the beaches on Hawaii may not be prohibited. So we did not do anything unlawful when visiting the Blue Pool.

The Seven Sacred Pools

Posted in Hawaii by Ulf on January 14, 2009

2008-11-28_10-16-56-hawaii-0081There are seven sacred pools on Maui, but I’m not sure if we saw any of them. There were hundreds of pools in the area. Every waterfall had its own pool just below. Anyway, we figured out that we had to find one of the sacred pools. Therefore we followed the “Pipiwai Trail” on a 2.5 hour walk through the National Park.

It did not take long for the first waterfall to leap into view. Please also look at the roots on the cliffs on the other side of the canyon. Those plants really understand to fill even the last empty spot on Hawaii with green color.

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Somewhere on our path there was a tremendously large tree. I’m not sure if this is just one tree or an entire colony of trees, but it was breathtaking:

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But as you know, one of us has a very special relationship to high altitudes.

Some say that orangutans casually walk on the wings of airplanes during the flight, and that one of them even dances on the spinning rotor blades of an helicopter. All I know is that Andi once again climbed onto a tree.


2008-11-28_08-56-35-hawaii-0050Meanwhile I also thought about trees, but in a less acrobatic way. I asked myself why trees would develop growth rings in their stems. At least the Hawaiian trees don’t have them. Well, I had to ask Wikipedia about the details:
According to Wikipedia the annual rings come from different growing speeds. In spring the trees seem to grow more rapidly than in summer and autumn. This results in a lower density of the “early wood” which gives it a different color. Sounds like it might make sense.

But let’s go back to the main topic. We were looking for some sacred pools. We now got really close to some pools. So close in fact that we already thought about just jumping into some of them. But we backed off and restricted ourselves to taking some photos:

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After we saw the first pools we encountered something else which we had been looking for for quite some time: a bamboo forest. Especially Ania was so full of expectation that she missed the signs.

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After traversing the bamboo forest (and finally tearing Ania out of it), we eventually reached the end of the path. There was a huge rock face in front of us, prettified by the tallest waterfall we had seen on Hawaii.

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We decided that if any of the pools we passed so far would be a sacred pool, then it must be this one. Matthias G. immediately sought his path into the water. Would this bath make him immortal like swallowing from the holy grail?

Meanwhile I played around with Matthias’ camera and took the following picture. Suppose you hadn’t seen the waterfall before. How long would it take you to realize that the picture was taken upright to the sky (instead of a horizontal landscape view)?


Our next campsite in the Haleakala National Park

Posted in Hawaii by Ulf on January 13, 2009

It was completely dark when we arrived at the campsite the other night, so I had no idea how things looked like. In fact I was already very happy when I found the toilet using a pocket lamp (and the help of some other tourists).

We started putting up our tents in the stale cone of the car’s dimmed headlight, but soon the display said “BA66”. I guessed that was a short form of “battery”, but I did not know if that meant “battery discharging” or “battery almost empty”. Well, as one cannot push-start a car with an torque converter gearbox, we decided to turn off the electric light.

Instead our neighbors gave us a little gas lamp. That came in handy, thank you again! In fact, our neighbors also gave us some more fruits and even invited us to borrow their canoes (they live on Maui and only spent Thanksgiving on the campsite). If any one of you is interested: Ania might still have their phone number.

In the next morning we were awoken by the bright sunlight over the pacific. It was an amazing view, especially as I had not realized before that we were sleeping just next to the ocean!


Our camping site also turned out to be incredibly beautiful! It was such a pity that we could not spend more time on eastern and southern Maui. We had to pack everything together once again and start our journey back to Kahului.

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Well, we left this campsite at 8am, but our ferry would only go before 8pm. So we were still able to see a lot more on this day! Coming up next: “The seven sacred pools”! Aloha!

A Black Sand Beach, a closed campsite and very little about Hana

Posted in Hawaii by Ulf on January 12, 2009

Our next major stop on the road to Hana was the Waianapanapa State Park. It’s marked with a “D” on the map I posted a few days ago. There is a lovely little campsite at that place. They have clean restrooms and a huge area of fine grass for putting tents. And the area was almost empty. We saw just one tent on the whole site.

However, the caretaker of this facility was the most unfriendly woman I met on Hawaii. Actually she was the most unfriendly woman I met during my whole stay in the US so far. Well, even in Germany it has been a long time since I met someone who was as dismissive as this witch. I just noticed that there is just a one letter difference between a “witch” and a “bitch”. Concerning the woman at the camp ground, this letter certainly would not change much. As it was still Thanksgiving, we assumed that she failed to prepare the turkey dinner. At least for me, I would not even try to eat the charcoal which results from her cooking.

We did not have a permit for camping in State Parks as the municipal counter was closed when we tried to get it. Therefore we only visited the Black Sand Beach which is just next to the camp site. This is how the Black Sand Beach looks like from above: 2008-11-27_17-43-36-hawaii-0298

They have plenty of warning labels on the way down. They used to have six times as many warning signs as life preservers at the beach, but then someone removed the sole life belt. Maybe we have to count the existence of an empty life preserver box as another, more subtle warning sign ;-). The messages on all those danger signs reminded us a bit of our “bad luck day” on Oahu: Matthias was told about the waves at this place while Andi read the inscription about jellyfish. One of the signs even told us about some “Man-o-war”. As we expected neither battle ships nor loud and monotonous metal music down there, we finally figured out that “Man o’ war” was something similar to jellyfish.

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Down at the beach Andi forgot about the jellyfish warning, so he had a close walk into the water anyway. He was more lucky this time…

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Besides the beach itself they do also have little lava tubes next to the Black Sand Beach. We walked through one of them (trying not to hit our heads against the cave wall). At the end there was another tiny beach with water streaming into the cave with every wave. It’s an amazing feeling that lava was flowing right through this place many years ago.

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As this was perhaps the first and last time on our lives to stay on a black beach, we obviously could not resist grabbing some of the sand.

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Were all of us getting our hands dirty in the sand? No, obviously not. Some people say that orangutans could climb the World Trade Center using just one arm and one leg, and that they would eat ten bananas in just under a minute. All I know is that Andi once again went up a palm tree:


After we left the Waianapanapa State Park we finally arrived in the city of Hana. It was already dark, so we did not take many pictures. In fact, it also seemed as if there is not much to see in Hana. They have two roads in the city. One goes along the beach. That’s the road the tourists are supposed to take. The other one is the “business road” which goes along the police station, the fire station and the gas station. We took the second road for a very simple reason:

My a priori fuel calculation for the road to Hana turned out to be rubbish. We made about 10 mpg while I expected to do at least 20 mpg. With the gas we added on the way from the Haleakala to Paia we wanted to go all the way to Hana and back to Kahului airport (that’s where the rental service is located). Well, we obviously could only do half of that ;-). The only gas station in Hana sells fuel for $4/gallon. That is about $1 more than you pay near the Haleakala, and about $2.50 more than what is normal back in Delaware. Well, running out of options, we wanted to refill in Hana. On Nov 27th however, the gas station was closed. But at least we knew where to go on the next day…

We decided to drive a bit further around the island until we once again reached the Haleakala National Park. As we already bought a National Park ticket the day before, we were allowed to camp there. The road really changed my view on what a “highway” is. LEO offers several translations for a “highway“. They include (in alphabetical order) “Autobahn”, “Bundesstraße”, “Fernverkehrsstraße”, “Schnellstraße” and finally “Straße”. Well, the last one seems to be the most adequate one in this case. It was just wide enough for one car in most places, and the density of chuckholes made driving any faster than 5 mph like a bombing raid for Matthias’ broken neck. But for the rest of us it was great fun!

By the way: Between Hana and the National Park we’ve seen twice as many cows as other cars! Here is the proof:

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And since we were driving very slowly, two of the cows even followed us for about half a mile. We finally reached the National Park and put up our tents. But I’ll tell you more about this place in tomorrow’s blog post. Aloha!