Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Granbury, Texas Memorial Day

It was the weekend of our 42nd wedding anniversary (also Memorial Day weekend) and I wanted do do something close by but fun. Granbury came up only because I got online about a month before to secure accommodations for that busy weekend and Granbury had an opening in what appeared to be a cool little bungalow which caught my attention named the California Cottage.

The pictures looked promising and it was available for the whole weekend so I jumped on it. Although it had a nice Internet site, I quickly learned it was not your usual slick “one-click” reservation system. It turned out to be a good old call up reservation. I had a very pleasant phone conversation with 89 year old (yes…she qualified her lack of tech savvy by telling me her age) Veriena Braune. She hooked me up and couldn't have been more helpful. She even emailed me a schedule of events for Granbury for that weekend.

So we made our way to Granbury and found our little California Cottage as advertised. A neat little two bedroom home with a full kitchen. Ok…Dianna was a little behind the power curve with a lack of Internet access, but that didn't stop her Facebook updates using the 4G. The interior was themed with art and photos of our former home state which really made it homey. Well, that and the homemade brownies and banana nut bread they left us on the kitchen table. Ok…..you closed the deal!

After a quick lunch at Fuzzys Tacos, we made our way to our first important stop, Barking Rocks Winery. Yes, the name intrigued us as well, so we made tracks to 119 Allen Court. Entering we were immediately met by Cellar the winery dog who welcomed us to the tasting bar. Sissy and Larry Tiberius met us and quickly got to the business of tasting their wines. Though they grow some grapes, they, like many in the industry blend grapes from other vineyards to make their stuff. They assured us they only used Texas grapes except their Tempranillo which comes from Chile.

The question came up as to the name of their winery, Barking Rocks. Sissy explained it was a well thought out intellectual process requiring deep thought and a prodigious amount of wine consumption by a group of friends. The ranch brand was |-|<. Initial deliberations came up with 1-1 less-than. Clearly clouded by the wine squeezings, it was a non-starter. So they finally settled on the idea that the ‘H’ resembled an animal (yes, the wine talking again) and the less-than sign was the mouth “barking”. Again, recalling how this deep consensus came about explains it all. But here we are anyway.

With only one white wine, Rousanne, and the rest were reds, Malbec, Tempranillo, and Sangiovese . The white was slightly sweet but a little dry for us but good. The reds were pleasant but dry, not our bag. Luckily they had a great Dessert wine named Dock which was good enough to buy. We were able to complete our tasting and dog petting in time for the first bus load of tourists to show up and overwhelm the place. Thanks Sissy, Larry, Shane and dog Cellar.

Dianna decided to nap prior to dinner and our Haunted Ghost tour so I struck out for the town square and some history hunting. First and foremost was the Hood County Courthouse. It constitutes the County seat for Hood County named for Confederate Lt. General John Bell Hood. The town was named after one of his subordinates, Brigadier General Hiram Bronson Granbury. The land for the town of Granbury was donated by Thomas Lambert and J. F. and J. Nutt (yeah weird) adjacent to the meandering Brazos River. The Courthouse is the fifth Courthouse built there in 1890 (the others burned down) built in the second empire style of Brazos Limestone with a wonderful clock tower clawing its way up to the sky.

The other was the old Hood County Jail. Built in 1885, also of Brazos Limestone, it replaced the original one-room log cabin jail which was substandard for holding desperadoes and that sticky point of being unsuitable for holding female prisoners. So the city council specified the new jail had to have three requirements. It had to house the Sheriff and his family, had to have separate accommodations for female prisoners and, oh yeah, you had to be able to execute someone by hanging. Pete and Karen were my tour guides as they reflected on the bad old days.

So the first floor of the two floor block wall jail had the sheriff’s residence and the second floor had  a soaring 22 foot ceiling to accommodate a hanging scaffold which was never completed. The female cell was rather spacious but originally did not have a toilet but had running water.

As a matter of fact, the jail was the first building in Granbury to have indoor plumbing back in 1885. The men's side had a giant steel cage which housed the men. It was positioned in the center of the room with a walk around path for the Deputies to monitor the prisoners. The high ceiling was covered in corrugated metal sheets with no windows and little ventilation. It must have been a breadbox in Summer. It wasn't much of a departure from Central Jail in San Diego.

When Dianna was ready we tried Farinas for dinner. Great Italian menu with really great service. I had my standard Lasagne and Dianna had the Chicken Pasta Alfredo. My Lasagne was excellent in that Farinas only use Italian Sausage for their meat. Good decision on their part.

Dianna was a little disappointed with her Alfredo. Seems we missed the fact they use mushrooms in their sauce. Not a favorite with Dianna and I might add the mushrooms did overwhelm the taste of the Alfredo. Couldn't even taste the Alfredo cream. The Sangria we washed it down with helped salve the wounds.

Now the desserts were amazing. I had the New York Cheese cake crusted in Heath Bar with a drizzle of Caramel. Dianna had the Tiramisu. Big ‘old Lady Fingers sandwiched in a delightful mousse thoroughly covered with cocoa powder. Both excellent.

Filled to the gills, we made our way back to our cottage until Ghost Tour time. At 9 p.m. sharp we made our way to a much subdued Town Square with the monolithic Courthouse standing guard in the 100% humidity while the sidewalks got rolled up. Thankfully the City allows you to walk around the Square with your adult beverage to slay your thirst.

In front of the Nutt House Hotel, we met Brandi, our tour guide with  Granbury Ghosts and Legends Tours. Brandi is a bit of a nationally recognized spirit chaser and lecturer. Brandi began by speaking about Granbury and its place in Hood County history and politics. She brought up Mary Lou Watkins, a direct descendant of the Nutt family and a major force in Granbury’s revitalization making Granbury the successful township it is today.

It should be pointed out that, though we have yet to encounter any paranormal activity on these tours, the upside is the tour guides tend to have a pretty good grasp of local history which helps me learn about the regions we visit. Brandi was no exception.

She referred us to the Acton Cemetery south of town where many famous Hood County residence were buried including Elizabeth Crockett,wife of Davy. Sometime in the 1850s (Davy died at the Alamo in 1836), Elizabeth settled her family in Hood County and when she passed, was laid to rest in the Acton Cemetery. Brandi said the grave site was impressive and worth seeing. Every year the Crockett descendants still hold a reunion in Granbury. She said the courthouse clock in its tower was rather unique. It is only one of two working hand wound Seth Thomas clocks left in the world. The other is Big Ben in London, England. Who knew?

We moved off to the Hood County Jail I had visited earlier. Brandi said there were a couple of spirits wandering the building. She said one was a Native American man named “Joe” who had occupied this area prior to white settlers moved in. Joe is harmless as are the woman and children who make the first floor their home.

As we walked by the Square Gas Station (now a restaurant), Brandi told the story of how, back in the thirties, when it was a real gas station, Bonnie and Clyde came through town. They stopped there to get gas and decided to get some food and sat on the Courthouse lawn to eat. They were soon recognized and before the Sheriff could be called, they hopped back into their car and quickly drove out of town.

Brandi said that during the late 1800s there were about seven saloons in the square and the town was the place to be when the cowboys came to town. Where the Nuttshell Café and Bakery is today, was a saloon. It has a colorful history, including a legend that John Wilkes Booth resided in the upstairs B&B and tended bar in the saloon next door. 

The owner was a woman named Dolly who often wore a red dress while working. Long after the saloon changed hands Dolly would often appear to size up the operation and could be seen checking on customers to see if they were being taken care of.

When the Nutshell Café opened, a woman artist was hired to do a mural celebrating the buildings history. The artist included an image of Dolly in the mural. One night the artist was finishing up and when she tried to collect her brushes for cleaning, they were gone. After looking around, she gave up and left. The next day, she discovered her brushes stuck deep in one of the planters on the sidewalk.

Brandi said there was a lot of controversy over the death of John Wilkes Booth after the Lincoln assassination. There is a version where Booth is not killed in the burning barn but how he escaped and made his way to Granbury under the name John St. Helens. St. Helens became a well-known bartender at a saloon where the current St. Helens Bar is on the Square today next to the Granbury Opera House. People who knew him described him as a well read man who occasionally acted and often quoted Shakespeare. He taught drama to the school kids. Although he worked at a bar, he was never seen to drink in excess but always got drunk on the anniversary of Lincolns Assassination.

Things came to a head when St. Helens became gravely ill and believing he was on his death bed confided in several friends that he was actually John Wilkes Booth. Problem was, he recovered and realizing the gravity of his disclosure, suddenly left town never to be seen again.

Another famous desperado, Jesse James may have made Granbury home in his later years. The story goes that Jesse wasn’t killed but another gang member had been killed in his stead. In his later years, he mentioned to several people that he always wanted to spend his final days in the place he met “the love of his life”. A young woman he met in Granbury back in the day. It was a time before fingerprints and DNA but the Sheriff was suspicious and kept an eye on him. At the time of his death, the Sheriff at the time, attended the postmortem and wrote that he had seen evidence of 32 gunshot wounds and a rope burn around his neck.

Interestingly, he was buried at Acton Cemetery in a grave listing him as J. Frank Dalton. His headstone in the Granbury section of the Acton Cemetery, formerly a plain headstone inscribed with the Dalton name, was later replaced by a nicer headstone with the James name. It's inscribed, "CSA - Jesse Woodson James. Sept. 5, 1847-Aug. 15, 1951. Supposedly killed in 1882." The grave stone was apparently paid for by James Family descendants. A small Confederate flag is etched above the inscription. Meanwhile, the grave of the "real" Jesse James back in Kearney, Missouri, is supposedly occupied by a man named Charlie Bigelow, who was killed so Jesse could begin an new life.

We arrived back at Farinas which used to be owned by a man named Estes. Back then it was a merchantile selling all kinds of staples. It has changed hands several times and before Farinas moved in, it was a dress shop. There employees often ran into a gentleman wandering the store and the voices of children singing somewhere on the second floor where no one was supposed to be.
There are tales of a faceless little girl who wanders among the shops in the 100 block of Houston St. on the west side of the Square. An apparently precouscious young girl who would turn on all the toy hanging monkeys in what is now the Brazos Moon Boutique when the clerk was trying to close.

There is another story of some mischief at a glamor photography shop. When it opened, they found a camera had been moved to a chair with a blue dress laying over across the chair. When the film had been processed, their was an image of a woman dressed in the blue dress with a blurred face seated in a chair. That brought us to the end of our tour of historic and spooky Granbury.

The next day, on Brandi’s recommendation, we set out for Acton Cemetery. As advertised, Acton is a large, well kept cemetery just on the outskirts of Granbury City Limits. Still in use today, it chronicles the lives of many of Hood County's residents.

There, prominently affixed by an American and Texas Flag was the grave site of Elizabeth Patton Crockett. It is very ornate and has been designated an historic site in Texas. The grave site is actually a protected and maintained State Park  and is officially the smallest State Park in Texas.

Being the Memorial Day Weekend, like all cemeteries which contain war veterans, we saw flags displayed on various grave sites including Confederate flags alongside Civil War veterans. The cemetery goes back to the first burial in 1855 so there are veteran grave sites from all the wars since. (P.S. Please don't send any Facebook hate-email over my observations. It's important to distinguish the difference in racist-politics and pure history. I’m just a professional observer and report what I see.)

One of the more poignant grave sites were the site with the decedent’s dog “Buford” watching over his master.

From there we made our way back to Granbury and came upon an awesome Memorial Day remembrance. Hundreds of American Flags flapping in the Texas wind flying in a field adjacent to the highway.

Each flag had been lovingly placed by a friend, community group or family member in remembrance of a particular veteran. It is run by the Greater Granbury Military Officers of America since 2012 as a way of showing respect for service members and vets. Yes Dana, it is an Aeromotor windmill in the photo…I checked.

Later in the day, we returned to the Square to walk among the booths plying their wares like bag balm, tie-dyed shirts, spinning yard art, purses for concealed carry. Here is an Andrews Sisters Tribute group entertaining the troops and…..most important of all…..Funnel Cake!

That whispy  powdered sugar tossed about like snow flurries over that deep fried five-miles-of-bad-road sculpted dough. The pleasure of each bite followed by a dusting of white death all over your clothes. Worth the effort every time.

The following morning, on our way out of town, we ran across a Granbury breakfast icon, Cari's on Hwy 377. There we were intrigued by a shameless selection of breakfast staples and some not-so standard fare. And I loved that everybody got a different coffee cup. Like the mismatch you have at home. Dianna had the Little Granbury, one piece of everything. Our server Mimi served up one egg, one piece of sausage, bacon and one pancake. I had to try the Cherry cheese pancakes. With a layer of cream between each of four (count 'em four) pancakes and a big blob of cherries and whipped cream....well, this thing should have had two hashes through the Heart Association heart if the owners had allowed them in to do so. It was awesome.

Cari's Thought for the Day

Thus we finished up our stay in bucolic Granbury. Now that we have found a great place to stay, we may make more trips here to relax.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Hawaii 2016

Yes…..yes, it has been awhile but I have an excuse. I always considered that we would have grandkids someday. But when that day came….I was somewhat unprepared. When little Robert came along, I hearkened back to those early days when we had Nicole and William and life was easy. We were relatively young and had energy to take on any challenge that came along. Kid rearing was part of the fabric that became our lives and we seemed to zip through jobs, two kids, competitive roller skating and vacations while dragging along entire bedrooms (and kitchens) of stuff to and fro without (generally) a complaint. That has all changed. As John Mellancamp said in ‘Longest Days’….”So you pretend not to notice, that everything has changed, the way that you look and the friends you once had, so you keep on acting the same. But deep down in your soul, you know you got no flame and who knows then which way to go. Life is short, even in it’s longest days.”

After much soul searching, I (and my wife) have come to the conclusion that I have gotten old. I can not muster the stuff of yesteryear and leap tall buildings…etc, etc. Child rearing is serious work and I have to reach down deep to keep up with the little darling. But it is fun and thank goodness we can ship him back after a time to his parents and we can recover our strength and wits (the kid is the Eveready bunny in disguise…and his grandmother will gladly provide the drum if called upon). Mind you, we only have the GS (yes the world is anachronism crazy) maybe twice a week and just putting the house back together after he makes his strafing pass causes me to take a nap.

The Reader’s Digest version is some weekdays and weekends are taken up with our grandson and have superseded our weekend jaunts to far flung points of interest and cool places to eat (we’re all about the people and the food).

So we decided back in April to book a cool cruise to Hawaii by way of Vancouver, British Columbia. Yes….strange as it seems, that was the only port serving Hawaii during the month of September when it was scheduled. Which led us to a really convoluted (but cheap) air route to B.C. From DFW to Seattle, to Vancouver by way of Alaska Air. After we get off the ship we’re going back from Honolulu to Portland to DFW. Crazy.

So our first day was mostly on airplanes and a not too pleasant Immigration entry into Canada. Vancouver International Airport (VCY) is a very nice airport but the exit through Customs really sucked. After exiting the aircraft you have to log in to an automated processing of your Declaration of Goods and show passports to a kiosk. Then present same to an Immigration Officer. You then get to collect your bags and stand in line for the exit which also has Immigration Officers who stop and collect the Declaration you already submitted to the machine and the first Immigration guy. This led to quite a bottleneck in that they only had one officer collecting Declarations from everyone on the way out in a line that snaked all the way back to the Immigration Checkpoint. It was nuts until somebody thought to add another two officers to collect Declarations.  Oh well, the price of freedom I guess.

We hailed a cab who’s Indonesian driver was wayyyyy too light weight to manhandle Dianna’s luggage. I had to lift and shove our load of three bags into the back of this guys’ Toyota Prius (preferred cab of Vancouver…they were everywhere…with free wi-fi in each car) and made our way into downtown to our hotel, the Victorian Hotel on Homer Street.

The Victorian is a neat old historic hotel in downtown, a stones throw from the port where our voyage would begin the following day. It is the oldest continuously operating hotel in Vancouver.

It was built in 1898 when the Gold Rush was rolling through the Northwest to house the many prospectors working their way to the Klondike. A guest of note was Klondike Kate Rockwell a Vaudevillian of Klondike Gold Rush fame in Dawson City.

Very Creative Canadians
I am a big fan of historic hotels and try my wife's patience when I book one. This was one of those times. The hotel has been remodeled and has some modern appointments but on our floor, we had shared bathrooms with the rest of the floor. Not a first for us but after a long day of airport shuttles, Dianna was not amused. And there was the matter of no air-conditioning. Luckily, it is fall in Vancouver and the temperature never got over 70 with overnight lows of 50. So as long as she could open a window…we were ok.

Our first mission was dinner. We had been on airplanes with little more than soda and pretzels. The vivacious Michelle at the desk recommended we head for “Gastown” just a short walk away. We came upon the  “Rogue Kitchen and Wetbar” inside the Waterfront train station.

Their burgers are epic and Dianna had the Rogue Burger while I had the Quinoa Veggie Burger. Really cool spot to people watch right on W. Cordova Street. Including the homeless who come right up to the glass and ask for contributions. It was around 6 p.m and workers from all over were heading for the train depot probably heading home. We then headed back to the hotel for a good nights rest to the sounds of the city winding down.

The following morning, we headed out to try breakfast. Cruise day and we had to gather ourselves to face the check-in and walk-on. The hotel had an uninspiring Continental Breakfast and we needed something grander. A short walk up Homer to Dunsmuir Street took us to “The Legendary Whitespot Restaurant”.

Dianna had the Classic Benedict (that she rates all restaurants with) and I had the Spinach, Portobello and Feta Omelette. Each came with “smash brown” potatoes. Rick, our server, explained they took baked potatoes, cut them into bit-sized sections, pressed them and then deep fried the pieces. Really tasty replacement for standard fries or hash browns.

Rick asked us about our travels and we asked him about living in Vancouver. Rick told us the real estate market had gone crazy making it impossible for common folk to live within the city limits. He credited it to a large influx of Asian investors  who were buying up land and were building high-rise apartments and condos everywhere (there were high-rise cranes all around us). He said the average home in the city goes for about 1.7 million and they have a very large wealthy population of students who's parents have sent them to college in Canada which has dried up all the available housing.

Rick said he was typical of the average worker in that he has to commute about 30 miles one-way each day to work and that wages were not keeping up with the cost of living so he cannot afford a home. Sounds a lot like portions of the US including our own State of Texas which is experiencing an up and coming California style real estate boom making home buying very hard for starter families and the lower income brackets.

We then moved on to Dianna’s favorite pastime in foreign countries….pharmacy shopping. We found one just down the street where she found several items she would normally need a prescription for. Looking around at their various “over-the-counter” remedies and you could spot lots of pain relievers and cold remedies at prescription strength that lined the shelves. It’s amazing what you can find.

Loaded up with her booty, we made it back to hump our bags back down the creaky staircase to an awaiting cab for the trip to the  Canada Place Cruise Terminal. Canada Place was originally a terminus for the Canadian Pacific Railroad to ship Canadian lumber and goods all over the world. In 1986, it was the Canada Pavilion for the 1986 World Expo and in 1987 became the Vancouver Trade and Convention Centre. It was the Press Center for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics and continues as a home port for most Alaska cruise lines.

We had gotten there early enough to deposit our luggage and did the check-in without incident so we wandered around so Dianna could use her phone app at the Starbucks right around the corner from the terminal. Life is good when your dollar is worth more than the local currency. Soon we were aboard and watching as the Lions Gate Bridge passed overhead.

Repositioning Cruise primping
The Carnival Legend is a Spirit class ship built in 2001. She's a little bit long in the tooth and was showing her age. In a world of super cruise ships, she lacks some of the extreme amenities of her sister ships like massive shopping malls, climbing walls and water parks. I learned ,once on board, she had just had a mechanical problem on a recent Alaska cruise when the starboard azipod malfunctioned and she listed severely causing water to cascade out of the pools and caused quite a stir just a month ago.

Dessert Bar at the Buffet

Cheesecake at the Steakhouse
Our trip involved a long five-day ocean run to the Hawaiian Islands. A great time to get your sea legs and get a bunch of reading done. That was good because rain pursued us for the whole 5 days. It opens up just as we got into hailing range of the Big Island and our first stop, Hilo, Hawaii.

Hilo is on the northeastern shore of the Big Island and is the government center for the County of Hawaii (that must make it easy to remember). Hilo is also home to five volcanos, two of which are the most active Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea. The two are considered the tallest mountains in the world. Although Everest is 29,029 feet above sea level, Mauna Loa is 13,678 above sea level but is another 16,405 feet to the sea floor (remember the visible island is the volcano), a total of 30,085 feet. Mauna Loa  has a satellite volcano, Kilauea providing a continuous flow of eruptions and lava flows since 1823. Volcanoes National Park was the 15th National Park established by Woodrow Wilson in 1916 making it 100 years old this year. It is the island where British explorer Captain James Cook met his demise. It also sprouts the largest number of astronomical observatories in the world.

Thus we found ourselves on the “Chain of Craters” Tour with Captain Rob. Captain Rob provided a running commentary and historical record of the island based on his 25 years of being a tour guide on the island. On the way to the Volcano, we took a side trip to the  Nani Mau Botanical Garden for a great lunch and walk around some of the most beautiful Japanese style gardens around.


The Volcano tour got us a stop at the Kilauea caldera as well as the famous Lava Tube. Captain Rob pointed out that that part of the Island of Hawaii is a rain forest with about 140-150 inches of rain a year (12 feet…wow). As we traveled up the lush green Highway 11, Rob pointed out the Kilauea Military Camp. It was established as an Army training camp in 1916 but became an Internment Camp for Japanese residents after Pearl Harbor and a Prisoner-of-War camp later in the war. It is still used today as an Armed Forces Recreation Center. But as we arrived at the Kilauea caldera, the thick trees retreated and we found ourselves in an almost barren landscape. Rob said it was due to the high temperatures. The ground was so warm, it can’t sustain trees and only low brush survives.

On the way back, he explained about the Hawaiian State flag. It boasts a Union Jack for the long British presence. It also has seven or eight alternating white, red and blue stripes representing the eight main islands of Hawaii. The current flag was designed by King Kamehameha in 1816 and is most probably based on the British East India Company’s flag. It is the only state flag in the United States that was once a royal flag representing a monarchy.

The following day, we anchored off the city of Kona. Still on the island of Hawaii, it is coffee central for most of the civilized world. Our guide was David, a native Hawaiian. He explained a long running disagreement over the “native Hawaiian” designation. David pointed out that there are no “native” Hawaiians. The islands have no indigenous people. They  were discovered and populated by early Polynesian and Tahitians in the 4th century. Things were further complicated by the sugar industry. The sugar plantations became so big that they didn't have enough Hawaiians to do the work so many people were recruited to come to Hawaii to work the plantations. Thus people from many different lands came to Hawaii to work really mixing things up with intermarriage of the different races.

David pointed out that this year, Hawaii was no longer in the sugar business. He said the sugar industry had been shrinking for some time and the last island with plantations, Maui, were doing their last harvests. He said the high cost of labor was to blame and stiff competition from South America and the Caribbean were driving them out of business.

Our first stop was Royal Kona Coffee. Everybody made a beeline for the free samples and store to buy up 100% Kona Coffee. Our guide told us you need three things to qualify to use the term 100% Kona Coffee. You had to grow it in a small region on the western slopes of Hualalai and Mauna Loa. It has to be an Arabica bean (subspecies Typica)  processed and packaged in Kona. The coffee plant is not native to the islands (neither was sugar..came in with the Polynesians) and was brought to the Kona district in 1828 by Samuel Reverend Ruggles from Brazilian cuttings. Little known fact, Kona coffee and other Hawaiian coffees are the only coffees commercially grown in the United States. All coffee beans in Hawaii are hand picked mostly due to the rough volcanic hillsides, machines can't handle the terrain. The beans are originally green and are red when ripe (referred to as “cherries”). The beans typically have two beans within a pod, the best (and most expensive) have a single large bean. These are called peaberries. The processed coffee will run about $25 dollars a bag and $10-$15 more per bag for the peaberry beans.

Caffeined up, we made our way to the Pu'uhonua o Honaunau (place of refuge at Honaunau) National Park. In old Hawaii, if you had broken a law (pretty much any law), the penalty was death (tough place to live). Laws, or kapu, governed every aspect of Hawaiian society. If you had entered into an area that was reserved for only royalty, or had eaten forbidden foods. Your only option for survival is to elude your pursuers and reach the nearest Pu'uhonua, or place of refuge. While there, you could perform certain mea-culpas until a priest (Kahuna) would sign off on your parole and you could return to society without fear of retribution. Not sure how they would get the word out to everybody….but I’m sure it all worked out.

Next stop was St. Benedict’s Roman Catholic Church  also known as the “painted church”. The church was originally on the coast of Honaunau Bay (the place Captain Cook was killed by natives when he disrespected the Chief by pushing him while trying to take him hostage). When Father Aloys Lorteau passed away in 1898, it came under the care of Father John Berchmans Velge a native of Belgium. By the mid-1880s, the people of that area had decided to move farther up the mountain to more fertile land. When Father John took over, he decided to move the church up to what is now the town of Captain Cook. One piece at a time, he loaded mules with pieces of the church and rebuilt it where it sits today. Father John, a self-taught artist, decided to paint the interior to help the Hawaiian parishioners learn about the religion.

In the 1800s, most Hawaiians could not read or write English and so Father John painted the walls and ceiling with religious messages to help them understand the teachings of the church. Inside there are very colorful renderings of scenes from the Bible with hidden messages which conveyed the things Father John wanted the natives to learn. An example are the palm fronds painted on the ceiling. Each frond has both brown and green leaves. The leaves pointed toward the back of the church were brown and the ones facing the altar were green meaning that following the church and its teachings helped one grow but turning away from the church meant a poor life and a bad death. Very cool and a moving sight to see.

Feral Pigs and Chickens...Huge problem
Back to the ship for a run to Kauai. There we met up with Leonora, a cab driver/guide we snapped up in town. She took us around to Wailua Falls and rode us through the valley which was the backdrop to both Jurassic Parks and the King Kong remake. Beautiful countryside with lots of lush green in what most would think of when they visualize a tropical paradise. Most of the valley is privately owned and Leonora remarked that the rumors were that the owners were selling off portions for future development. Not surprising….the islands have been going through a definite growing spurt of new high-end housing and commercial development as well. She drove us to one of her personal favorite city parks at Lyncate Park and a really cool driftwood strewn beach. There was wind kicking up and it was pretty choppy but very scenic. On the way back, she took us to the Old Lihue Harbor where early shipping came to dock. Right behind the Lihue Airport, we had to cross behind huge lots of stockpiled rental cars waiting for use. Hundreds of new Mustangs, Cameros and fields of high-end SUVs sitting in waist-high grass behind chain-link fences.

Mike is Skinny
Our last stop was Maui. We did not partake in any tours and decided to hit the mall to pick up souvenirs and take in a movie. It's nice to hang out and watch the locals go through their day. Families buying school clothes, paying bills and getting the kids ice cream. It's like home but different. Even in paradise people have lives and live them like anywhere else. Make sure, when your in Lihue, get over to Skinny Mike's for an Hawaiian Ice.

We left and arrived in Honolulu the next morning for the big departure. We’ve gotten real good at packing and getting off the boat. We now pack an empty bag for souvenirs so we don't have to stuff the bags we bring. We have sets of matching luggage which fit inside each other. I therefore pack a medium bag inside the largest bag and don't pay the extra bag until the return flight. Works real well and keeps the bag weight down as well and saves some bucks there.

The downside is the flight back. Saving on airfare results in no direct flights and stopovers in Seattle and Portland before an equally long flight back to Dallas. But it was good to get back until we learned from our son that we suffered a leaking garbage disposal which ran for an entire cycle of the dishwasher. So,
first thing on returning home was a trip to Home Depot for replacements and cleanup. No rest for the weary. End of vacation.