Warranty and Wanderly

Last Sunday I left New Mexico and its wondrous red, orange, and yellow mesas and took a leisurely three-day drive to Forest City, Iowa.

Why Iowa? That’s where I adopted Tamasté last October, and I was running out of miles on the warranty. Needing to have a lot of little things (and one big thing) fixed before I hit the 15,000-mile end of coach warranty milestone, the good folks at Lichtsinn RV in Forest City gave Tamasté a health check up and fixed everything on my list.

Ironically, my next destination is my old hometown of Findlay, OH, where it will be my turn for health fix-ups via a slew of annual checkups and tests with doctors, dentist, optometrist, masseuse, and ayurvedic coach! I think Tamasté had less hands-on attention than I will over the next two weeks. But then, he’s less than one year old, while I’m…ahem…much older.

I did the direct drive from Forest City to Findlay last year in two days, and in a word, boring. Got there quicker, but what’s the fun in that. So as the map below attests, I decide to take three days and drive north into country I haven’t seen, and over the beautiful Upper Pennisula (UP) and the Mackinac Bridge.

While this was not so much a stop-and-explore travel, as it was an enjoy-the-beauty-while-driving trip, there was plenty of lush green nature to look at. Surprise of the trip was northern Wisconsin, which I had no idea was so densely forested and gorgeous, rolling hill country. Between the idyllic farms and occasional log home, it was a treat made all the better by being the only vehicle on most of these back roads I traveled. I did think this would be an awesome, nature-infused place to live…until I realized how far north of Green Bay this area is and you know what winters are like there. I marvel at people who can live in such harsh climates.

Monday I begin my long list of appts with healthcare places, visits with old friends, and exploring my Findlay haunts once more. Taking three leisurely days looping to the north and across the UP on route 2 then down through Michigan, was much more relaxing than the two-day sprint across the midwest. But as the signs like the one at the right I keep seeing up in Wisconsin and across the UP reminded me…don’t try this in January.

Back On The Road

After close to a two-month break away from living in Tamasté, I’m back on the road again.

After spending this week back in New Mexico, I’ll head to Forest City, Iowa, for some Tamasté warranty work. After that, I’ll head to Findlay for 10 days, followed by 10 days in Ann Arbor. Just as Tamasté needed his “doctor” time in Iowa, so must Tamasté’s driver get some annual poking and prodding split between numerous Findlay healthcare providers.

After Ann Arbor, I’ll head to New England and the Northeast for at least three months of extensive exploring, including, hopefully, another time-away from Tamasté via train to play in New York City. Or maybe Boston. Or both.

Mahalo, Honolulu

Tomorrow I fly back to the mainland to Denver, and end my 25-day Hawaiian vacation and adventure. It’s been a great trip and visit with my two sons who live in Honolulu. And while I didn’t catch any of the other islands on this trip, we made good use of the days to explore Oahu’s nature. Of course, there was also a lot of just hanging out, eating great food, taking in a few movies, and catching up on life.

My memories of this visit include becoming a fan of boba tea drinks, sushi (more than before), and an awesome downtown Whole Foods that gave me a great place to get some writing down while indulging in some fabulous people watching. Add to the list the incredible colors in the waters around the island, and the vegetation and nature on parts of the island away from Honolulu, and it was a successful trip. Much of the nature here is difficult to photograph, but amazing to see on drives through and around the mountains of Oahu.

If you’re just now stumbling onto my Hawaii-related posts, you can revisit them here, here, here, here, and here for commentary and island photos.

For now, I’ll take my 25 days of consistent warm climate and my tan and head back to the mainland. Looking forward to resuming nomadic living in Tamasté, provided I can wake him from a 25-day slumber for more journeys ahead.

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Surf’s Up: Exploring Oahu’s West Coast

Since I leave Hawaii a week from tomorrow, I decided to start exploring Oahu’s nature by zones, taking roughly a day in each zone rather than the sporadic visits so far. We started yesterday by driving the west coast highway north from Kahe Point Beach Park until we ran out of paved road in the Ka’ena Point State Park.

As stunningly blue the water is with staggering shades from turquoise to deep blue, the hills, mountains, and vegetation opposite the shore were equally beautiful in their way. As much as I’m enjoying hanging out at Whole Foods in downtown Honolulu, spending the time to drive out of congested areas and into island nature is a fantastic way to see the true Hawaii.

Injured seal on ledge, and her (or his) mate staying close by

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Hawaii Hike

Koko Crater upper right

Took my first Oahu island hike yesterday with my younger son. As with most (just about all) hiking trails here, you have to do a lot of vertical climbing to get to the views. And as expected, the views are spectacular but you have to earn them through a lot of cardio over the 500′ elevation rise on the trail!

Mongoose, not native and unwanted invasive specie (not my photo)
We hiked up the Makapu‘u Point Lighthouse Trail but didn’t make it all the way to the lighthouse. Sadly, the lighthouse is gone now and only foundations remain. And while we didn’t see any whales (a common sighting along this trail per comments I read) we did watch a mongoose go in and out of the grass along the trail’s edge. The trail offers no shade and the day was hot so we rested at one of the higher lookouts then turned back to go down.

This trail is touted as one of the easiest hikes on the island, yet was challenging for me. We’ll see how I fare on the other trails later on and hopefully share more island paradise views.

Anywhere America

One thing I’ve noticed more in my travels this year is that fundamentally, American big cities have more in common than they are unique.

As I was eating lunch at Whole Foods today, I pondered the above scene out my window and realized, except for the palm trees (and even that is common to many U.S. cities), I could be looking at Anywhere, America: similar vehicles, recognizable retail places, large developments wiping out unique stores and hotels, etc. Granted I could have walked three blocks to where I took the beach picture shared yesterday, and clearly that wasn’t Anywhere, America. But it does feel like our population centers are rapidly morphing into consistent, rubber-stamped developments of corporate and retail conglomerates.

Remembering travels over past decades, before the advent of big box stores and rubber stamped brands across America, each city seemed to have a more distinctive feel with unique representations of local retail and culture. Not any more it seems. Understood that fundamental capitalism and the need of many to become unusably rich drove local businesses, restaurants, and retail out of downtown areas. Places where preservation of architecturally historical buildings exists like Boston, Chicago, etc., have at least protected those unique icons, but for how long?

I have to confess having a pet peeve about the rapid extinction of local coffee shops in big cities. Having spent a lot of time in these, I remember enjoying many with their local cultural or artistic vibes. It’s been sad to visit New York City, as an example, over the years and witness the elimination of such places. True to our capitalistic addiction, they’ve been replaced by the now ubiquitous Starbucks. Did it really make sense to wipe out a local coffee shop so an intersection could have two Starbucks diagonally opposite? Saw that multiple times on my most recent trip. And for the record, although it takes extra effort, you can search and find some local NYC coffee shops, at least for now.

I guess this post comes off as old-fart whining for the good old days, but with the proliferation of Wal-Marts and the continued embedding and growing dominance of the Amazon empire, how long will any uniqueness remain in our signature cities? How long before we start taking down historical buildings, replacing them with high-rise condos complete with street-level unaffordable retail space? And I, for one, wouldn’t bet against seeing a Starbucks there before the first well-heeled tenants move in.