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Austin Power

As I’ve been working on hashing out details for my son’s and my upcoming Christmas trip overseas, a recent, more spur of the moment trip came to mind. Last year, a good friend of mine asked me if I was interested in taking a weekend trip to Austin, Texas, to check out the Fun Fun Fun music festival that would be taking place at the beginning of November.

Twinkie the Kid at Fun Fun Fun Fest
Twinkie the Kid at Fun Fun Fun Fest
Fun Fun Fun Fest, Austin, Texas
So many stages, with so many music genres at Fun Fun Fun Music Festival
Fun Fun Fun Fest, Austin, Texas
Taking a little break in the bean bag “lounge” at Fun Fun Fun Fest
Art at Fun Fun Fun Fest, Austin, Texas
Local artist displaying his talents at Fun Fun Fun Fest
Tenacious D at Fun Fun Fun Fest
Tenacious D at Fun Fun Fun Fest

Unlike most of my travel endeavors, the planning for that trip, from the initial idea crossing our minds until the time we were headed to the Lone Star State, couldn’t have encompassed more than two weeks all together. Certainly, a little weekender trip is not of the same magnitude as a trip spanning multiple countries, languages and currencies, but this little trip to Austin came to fruition at warp speed. We opted against flying that sorry excuse for an airline, Spirit, and jumped on a pleasant JetBlue flight nonstop from Fort Lauderdale to Austin.  We secured a room at the Hilton, which helped to solidify my Gold Member status, and offered us a nice, central location.

The Driskill Hotel, Austin, Texas
The Driskill Hotel
Moonshine Patio Bar & Grill in Austin, Texas
Moonshine Patio Bar & Grill
Iron Cactus Restaurant & Margarita Bar
Iron Cactus Restaurant & Margarita Bar

While different than most of my well-researched excursions, this trip with my friend Suzanne was an enjoyable getaway nonetheless, and I have to say that sometimes a spontaneous little vacation really hits the spot. In a short three day trip, we did and saw a lot.  We sampled some tasty Mexican food and margaritas at the Iron Cactus Restaurant and Margarita Bar on the rooftop deck overlooking the downtown area of 6th Street. We had a few other memorable meals, although the names of the other establishments we tried by this time escape me. We also had to be sure to hit the food trucks around town that offered a variety of cuisines as well as some darn good desserts….so we were quite well-fed during our stay in Austin! During our short two night visit, we also managed to check out the music scene from 6th Street to the Red River area to areas a bit off the beaten path with the help of some of the local pedicab services. As much as Suzy and I are both planners/organizers, this trip really did contain the element of surprise, and we more often than not ended up where the day led us.

Austin, Texas State Capitol
State Capitol Building
"Never Give Up" graffiti mural on the Austin Railroad Graffiti Bridge over Lady Bird Lake
“Never Give Up” graffiti mural on the Austin Railroad Graffiti Bridge over Lady Bird Lake
Austin Duck Adventures
Austin Duck Adventures tour to Lake Austin
Austin Duck Adventures
Lake Austin with Austin Duck Adventures
Austin Duck Adventures
Lake Austin with Austin Duck Adventures
Lady Bird Lake, Austin, Texas
View of downtown Austin and (I believe) Lady Bird Lake
Segway tour, Austin, Texas
Not looking so Seg-sy with the crash-dummy helmets
Segway tour, Austin, Texas
Segway-ing it to the State Capitol

We did, however, participate in a couple of group activities – a city Segway tour and a  land and sea “duck” tour that took us to Lake Austin. Both of these activities allowed us to cover more ground (with far less walking than my trips usually include) in the short time we were in town. We did also spend a portion of one day in town at the Fun Fun Fun music festival that was held at Auditorium Shores and caught a number of performances, including one of Suzy’s favorites, Tenacious D with Jack Black.  We even managed our way to a club called The Mohawk to catch Tenacious D’s performance for a second time that night… While we were practically trampled in the uprising to maneuver for position in the general admission set up, we managed to get almost close enough to stage to have Jack Black sweat on us; fortunately, we were slightly out of range!

Tenacious D at The Mohawk
Up close and personal with Tenacious D at The Mohawk
Austin Pedicab
A pedicab ride here and there saved some wear and tear on our feet

What was similar about this little getaway to my other, better planned vacations, is that we covered a great deal of ground and had a great time experiencing at least a portion of what Austin has to offer.

J. Blacks on West 6th Street, Austin, Texas
J. Blacks on West 6th Street

Hawaii Again??????

Ohana in Oahu
Ohana Visit to Hawaii (circa 1975)
Ohana Oahu Hawaii Vist
Yes, we suffered through our visits to Hawaii (circa 1975)

“Hawaii Again!?!?!!?” was my brother’s and my exclamatory response to my parents when they informed us as small children that our upcoming trip would be to Hawaii. Their reasonable (somewhat lighthearted) reply was, “You ungrateful little brats!” or something to that effect. One might ask, who in their right minds would ever utter the words “Hawaii again!?!?” with such dismay and chagrin. Apparently, a couple of kids (right minds being debatable) who had been there quite a few times at a very young age and who had a hard time sitting next to each other for approximately 10 hours of air travel without World War 3 erupting.

Looking back, I find it extremely difficult to fathom ever having felt going to Hawaii to be a hardship of any fashion. Not only is Hawaii spectacularly beautiful, but my brother and I are fortunate to (seemingly) be related to the good majority of the inhabitants of Oahu. Our amazing Ohana (family) in Hawaii is reason enough to go there are often as time and finances allow. Being that my son has always been quite a bit more diplomatic (and probably appreciative) than my brother and I were regarding our youthful travels, he never complained about my having “dragged” him to Hawaii three times in a six year time span. We were able to attend our family reunion during Devan’s second and third visits, and despite our family’s numerous trips to Hawaii over the years, these visits were the only ones when I was able to attend our huge Ohana gatherings. Being surrounded by so many of our relatives in one place (between 300-500 of them according to some counts!) at the reunions made me realize how much I’ve missed growing up so far away from my mom’s home state.

Western shore of Oahu
Stumbled across this while exploring western shore of Oahu (2013)
Hanauma Bay, Oahu
Hanauma Bay (2013)
Waimea Bay, Oahu
Waimea Bay, Oahu (2010)
Hilton Hawaiian Village Fireworks
Hilton Hawaiian Village Fireworks (2013)
Barbers Point Beach Cottage
View from Barbers Point Cottage (2010)

Since I love visiting and experiencing new places and activities, getting back to Hawaii is not easy to manage, since it’s neither a close nor inexpensive place to visit. While our trips to Hawaii are more about family than tourism, I do try to factor in an element of playing tourist while there and also to incorporate some new things along with the typical “things to do in Hawaii.” For me, certain things and sites are “must do” during a stay in Hawaii. I can’t imagine not taking my son surfing on Waikiki, climbing Diamond Head or having a Mai Tai and Hula Pie at Duke’s while in Honolulu.  Matsumoto’s, Baldwin’s, Uncle Clay’s, Kokonuts and Ice Garden are all on my long “must visit” list for shave ice when I’m in Hawaii; Shimazu’s is on my “must visit practically daily” list when on Oahu, since my day is not complete without a red velvet shave ice from this glorious little store.

Paddle board ride, Hale Koa, Waikiki
Devan giving Nanny a paddle board ride at Hale Koa, Waikiki (2013)
Skydive Hawaii, Farrington Highway
Nothing quite like trusting your life to a complete stranger! (2013)
Skydive Hawaii Landing
Devan coming in for a landing at Skydive Hawaii (2013)
Surfing White Plains Beach, Barbers Point , Oahu
Surfing White Plains Beach, Barbers Point (2010)

But, since I do love expanding my scope of experience, I try to be sure that each visit to Hawaii (and elsewhere) always includes a new place to visit or activity I’ve not yet tried. I’ve managed to find some places to visit that my mom had never seen, despite the fact that she lived in Hawaii for the first 18 years of her life and the fact she’s visited numerous times over the years. While my mom hasn’t always physically participated in some of the more “outdoorsy” things my son and I have done, she’s been along to share the experience with us. My son even took my mom out for a paddle board ride on Waikiki during our last visit; even though “Nanny” was just a passenger on my son’s board, she enjoyed the ride – and would never have “paddle boarded” if not for Devan playing gondolier for her. She was all smiles during and after the ride, which proved my theory that new experiences some of the things that make life richer and more rewarding.

Flying in a helicopter over the Nā Pali coast, hiking to see Manoa Falls, seeing the “moonscape” view from atop Haleakalā National Park, wandering through the sugar cane trails to find the commotion at Kipu Falls, riding horses and taking a tour of movie sets at Kualoa Ranch are just a handful of inclusions during our wanderings throughout the Hawaiian Islands in addition to the more standard sites of Waikiki, The Road to Hana, Blow Hole, Hanauma Bay, Volcanoes National Park, North Shore, International Marketplace and too many other old favorites to mention.

US Army Museum of Hawaii, Honolulu
US Army Museum of Hawaii, Honolulu (2010)
Shrimp Shack, North Shore
Shrimp Shack, North Shore (2010)
Pali Lookout view of Kaneohe
Kaneohe from Pali Lookout (2010)
Byodo-In Temple, Valley of the Temples Memorial Park, Oahu
Byodo-In Temple, Valley of the Temples Memorial Park (2010)
Rainbow Drive-in, Honolulu, Oahu
Iconic Rainbow Drive-in for Plate Lunch (2010)
Chinaman's Hat from Kualoa Ranch, Oahu
Chinaman’s Hat from Kualoa Ranch (2007)
Haleakala Crater, Maui
Haleakala Crater, Maui (2007)
Volcanoes National Park, Big Island , Hawaii
Volcanoes National Park, Big Island (2007)

While it may not be as easy to find new things to do during each subsequent trip, we always manage to add something to our visit’s repertoire to keep things interesting. During our most recent visit back to Oahu in 2013, my son and I saw fit to jump out of a perfectly good airplane, courtesy of Skydive Hawaii off of Farrington Highway. That jump literally gave us both an entirely new perspective of the island…one from an altitude of approximately 12,000 feet! I don’t know when we’ll be able to make the trek back “home” (while I never lived there, Hawaii does feel like home during each and every visit on account of our warm and welcoming Ohana making us feel as though we belong) again, but I can’t imagine, should opportunity arise, that the words “Hawaii again!?!?!” would ever again flicker between the neurons bouncing around my grey matter.