Iselle and Julio

The weather reports and warnings about Hurricane Iselle and Tropical Storm Julio approaching the Hawaiian Islands are worrisome. It’s a rare double threat for the Hawaiian Islands. These two tropical cyclones present a back-to-back risk within as few as 10 days apart.

Meteorologists say that they have to go back to 1949 to find a case when tropical cyclones with direct impact to the Hawaiian Islands were 10 days apart. These two storms are predicted to hit Hawaii within two to three days. “Unprecedented in the satellite era,” is how Kevin Roth, lead meteorologist at The Weather Channel, described it.

In travels to the Islands of Hawaii, the one word that always comes to mind is peaceful. So, this forecast warning residents and visitors to prepare for a state of emergency makes my heart break.

The Big Island will be affected first. The National Weather Service has issued a Flash Flood Watch for the entire state of Hawaii from 4 a.m. on Thursday until 6 a.m. on Friday. This means that conditions on all islands may develop and lead to dangerous flash flooding.

One would have to go back more than six decades to find a case of two tropical cyclones with direct impact reaching the Hawaiian Islands—and they were 10 days apart.

In 1994, there were three storms that passed the Hawaiian Islands—Daniel, Emilia and Fabio. Two out of the three, however, had fizzled out quite a bit before they hit land.

The current models predict that there is a 50 percent chance of tropical storm force winds affecting Hilo on the Big Island, a 44 percent chance of tropical storm force winds in Kailua-Kona and a 42 percent change for South Point between Thursday and Friday.

My thoughts are with the residents of the Hawaiian Islands—and the visitors.

Below is a photo of a sacred place on the Big Island—Waipio Valley. This photo was taken from the Waipio Valley Lookout in March of this year. Waipio means “curved water” in the Hawaiian language. Wishing all in beautiful Hawaii safety from the storm.

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Time flies

It’s been six weeks since my last post. During that time, we had two kids graduate—one from high school and one from college. We also said good riddance to one of the nastiest winters on record. It was painful. Snow and cold and then more snow and cold, plus sleet and freezing rain to add to the misery index. Today, it’s a lovely 75 degrees and mostly sunny, which reminds me of my favorite place on earth.

We were able to escape the cold, gray and ice for a week in late March to this favorite place of ours. This time we visited the Big Island. Heavenly. Here’s the view of what we gladly left behind in the Midwest. It was snow and ice as far as the eye could see. Okay, it sort of looks pretty from this angle, but it really wasn’t pretty to live with day in and day out.

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The biggest obstacle for us spending more time in Hawaii is the flight. There is no doubt about it: It’s long. The Hawaiian Islands are the most isolated place on earth in terms of distance from land. Los Angeles is more than 2,500 miles away and Tokyo is even further at more than 3,500 miles away. I try not to think about the fact that there is nothing in between, but for some reason we always seem to get the pilot who wants to remind us of this fact on takeoff.

Most return flights to the mainland leave at night. A blessing since this seems to be the only time I’m able to sleep during a flight. On the flight over, I do my best to focus on the destination, but I am not a big fan of long flights.

For most of the flight, you look out the window and see something like this.

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And then, magically the southernmost island of Hawaii is in sight. What a sight it is. Even from 10,000 feet its beauty and majesty always get me.

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The Kona International Airport feels familiar and welcoming to us with its charming outdoor baggage carousels and lack of jet bridges. Down the stairs to the tarmac you go. This time, we were greeted with an afternoon shower. It was warm, smelled like paradise and we could have cared less that we were soaked by the time we picked up our luggage.

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For the first time in months, the landscape is filled with color, flowers, a familiar tropical perfume that once experienced you do not forget.

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We made it just in time to watch the sunset near Kona.

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Aloha indeed.

 

 

 

Church and surf

The tiny, 12-pew St. Peter’s Catholic Church is located on an oceanfront setting on Ali’i Drive in Kailua-Kona on the Big Island. The church’s setting is a peaceful piece of land, in front of a popular surfing spot. The church’s website explains that it was built in 1880 and moved to its current location in 1912, and has been pushed off its foundation twice by hurricanes . Today, it is as welcoming of a presence as ever and the street in front of it serves as an aid station for the Ironman World Championship, which will be held on Oct. 11 of this year in Kailua-Kona.

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It’s always interesting to sit and watch the surfers near St. Peter’s Catholic Church. One surfer said, “At dawn, I usually go out to catch some waves and if I line up my board with the cross, it always brings me safely to shore.”

Tropical fragrance of gardenias

The gardenia is a genus of flowering plants in the coffee family.  In Hawaii, there are several species of gardenia plants and they are known as na’u. The gardenia flowers have a strong, sweet fragrance that seems to last and last, even when cut. This bunch of gardenias is from the Keauhou Farmers’ Market on the Big Island. The fragrance from the brilliant white flowers lasted for days and days.

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Driving on an island

On a first trip to the Hawaiian Islands, the scenery may feel so different and beautiful that it almost feels overwhelming. This is especially true if you are a mainlander and especially true if you are a flatlander. This isn’t driving through North Dakota, folks. (With all due respect to North Dakotans, as some of my very favorite people in the world are from or live in North Dakota.)

On Kauai, the scenery heading from the airport to the Princeville area was so beautifully distracting that I was thankful I wasn’t in the driver’s seat and could try to take it all in.

On the Big Island, much of the scenery is so out of this world different from anything we had ever seen—and it changes so quickly. One minute you’re in the Waimea area filled with an upcountry feel, green grass and cattle ranches and you drive a bit further and you’re on the coastline with vistas of lava rock and whales breaching in the distance.

The view from Keahou to Kailua-Kona on the Big Island

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On Maui and Oahu, there are many scenic driving tours such as the 68-mile Road to Hana on Maui or a drive on the leeward, or Western, side of Oahu. You could probably make these drives dozens and dozens of times and never tire of the views and stops along the way.

The road ahead on West Maui

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A view from an upcountry road in lovely Lanai

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Once near the town of Kawaihae on the northern side of the Big Island, there were so many whales active near the shore that someone actually placed a sofa facing the ocean for people to stop and wonder and enjoy the views. It was perfect.

Time spent in Hawaii is a reminder to focus on the journey, not the destination.

Yoga by the sea

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When the going gets tough, the tough do yoga by the sea. Morning yoga practice at the Sheraton Kona Resort & Spa at Keauhou Bay south of Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii. Aloha.

The beauty of the Big Island

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When you land at the Kona International Airport (KOA) on the Big Island, you are greeted by the unique beauty of West Hawaii. This is the island known for its active volcano, gorgeous coastlines, diversity in climate and natural, rugged beauty. Once in a while, you find yourself stopping to take it all in, such as when you discover an orchid thriving in a bed of lava rocks. As you explore, the scenery is difficult to describe or categorize. Ocean views or a trip to the 4,200-meter high summit of the Mauna Kea Observatory. Snowboarding or surfing? It’s your choice. The Big Island of Hawaii lives up to its name. It will call you back again and again.

The first day of fall, on the lookout for whales in the Hawaiian waters

Although the change of seasons may not seem dramatic on the Hawaiian islands, it’s still there. And while the temperatures may not fluctuate in drastic ways, seasonal changes abound.

One sure sign of fall is the return of the humpback whales. Each year, humpback whales migrate from Alaska to the warm waters of Hawaii for breeding. This is a photo I took of a humpback whale with a baby calf in early March near Kailua-Kona on the Big Island.

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Typically, the whales are first seen in the Hawaiian waters in late September or early October. The peak whale watching season is usually in February and March.

This is my amateur photographer’s shot from the beach in Wailea, Maui in early March 2008.

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They were everywhere–playing and frolicking right off shore. On a whale watching tour, you’ll learn about the different behaviors, such as breaching–when the whales lunge out of the water. The whales often do this repeatedly. It looks like they are having a great time and it’s magnificent to watch. During the winter months, you’ll often see them right off the shore. Even in a professional’s photo, it’s difficult to capture the wonder of the whales, but I plan to keep trying.

Winters in Hawaii? I think the whales are into something good.

The mai tai

It’s the one cocktail mainlanders usually think of when we dream of Hawaii—the mai tai.IMG_0237

Usually two different types of rum, pineapple juice, lime juice, orange Curacao and definitely an umbrella with a slice of island pineapple. The truth is, I’m not much of a cocktail fan at all. I much prefer a glass of wine with dinner.

When in Hawaii, however, it’s irresistible. The ocean, a light breeze, a schedule on Hawaiian time. No hurry whatsoever. Pull up a chair, order one up and stay a while. While you’re at it, watch the sunset and hope for the ever-elusive green flash.

Here’s the mai tai at the classic Don’s Mai Tai Bar in the Royal Kona Resort in Kailua-Kona. An oceanfront, open-air spot in Kailua Bay offering up Don’s Original Mai Tai and other Hawaiian cocktail options.

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It’s five o’clock somewhere, right?

Wanted: trade winds and a cool breeze

Make your own bouquet of tropical flowers

Make your own bouquet of tropical flowers

Always a great selection of island fruits and vegetables

Always a great selection of island fruits and vegetables

Colorful flowers always seem to be plentiful in Kona

Colorful flowers always seem to be plentiful in Kona

In the Midwest, land of temperature extremes, we are dealing with record-breaking heat and humidity this week. Yesterday, the relative humidity hit 79 percent, which we were told made the temperature outside feel like 108 to 111 degrees. As the saying goes: It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity.

This dry and hot late August weather wreaks havoc on the flowers, trees, vegetable gardens and lawns unless they are watered regularly. Although it’s steamy hot, we desperately need rain. Most of the blooming flowers look exhausted and ready to be replaced with mums or other autumn plants and flowers once the heat subsides.

Yes, we have color everywhere and the farmers’ markets in our region are bursting with vegetables, herbs and plenty from the harvest season. It’s here, and then—poof. It’s gone. So, we enjoy it.

Hawaii residents and visitors are so fortunate to experience color, flowers, nearly perfect weather year-round.  I’ll take the high temperatures any day over the cold and snow of January, February, March and sometimes even April. (Yes, it sometimes snows in April, the cruelest month.) One weather newscaster told us yesterday that the temperature was 140 degrees warmer than our coldest day last winter. Yet, today I dream of the next visit to Hawaii. This time it’s to cool off from the heat.

Kona Farmers Market

Kona Farmers Market