Sunset, Kailua-Kona, The Big Island, Hawaii, March 11, 2024

Sunset, Kailua-Kona, The Big Island, Hawaii, March 11, 2024
Sunset, Kailua-Kona, The Big Island, Hawaii, March 11, 2024

Saturday, March 23, 2024

We Have Visitors from Houston! - Saturday, March 23, 2024

And not just any visitors! Rich and Kristin are part of our family. They moved from New Jersey to Missouri City, Texas, 2-1/2 years ago. He worked for Costco and got transferred to Costco Business in Stafford, Texas. Kristin also works for Costco in their Optometry Department. 

We visited them in Missouri City when they first moved to Texas. That was a fun trip and we explored parts of Houston together.

They are settled into their home now and have time off together. We are thrilled they are letting us show them San Antonio this weekend. Rich has never been here before.

When they arrived, we stored their bags at our place until they could check into their hotel and took our car to Cheddar's at Brooks City Base for lunch. We then took them to see Espada Dam, Mission Espada, the Acequia, Stinson Airport, and Mission San Jose.

At Mission San Jose (known as the Queen of the Missions) in San Antonio, we watched the 25-minute video. Um, I think Bob, Rich, and I fell asleep. Kristin saw most of it. The soothing voice and music put me to sleep when I watch it. It's very interesting, though. We live 1/2-mile away from the mission and I have watched the movie multiple times before, so there's that.

The curious keyhole door at Mission Espada.

Bob, Kristin, and Rich at Mission Espada.

Inside Mission Espada.

Mission San Jose - "the Queen of
the Missions."
Bob at Mission San Jose.

Mission San Jose - "the Queen of
the Missions."

Rich and Kristin at Mission San
Jose - "the Queen of 
the Missions."

The ornate entryway to the church
at Mission San Jose.

Inside the church at Mission San Jose.

This explains the symbology of the
ornate façade of the church at 
Mission San Jose.

Mission San Jose - replica of a room that shows
how the Native Americans lived at the mission.

The arches of the granary.

Inside the granary at Mission
San Jose.

Kristin and Rich were tired from the 3-1/2-hour drive today. We agreed we all needed a break and would get back together at 6:45 pm to explore the Riverwalk in downtown San Antonio and have dinner.

Randall, our son, joined us for the evening exploration. A parking garage was our best bet for parking on Saturday night! 

We walked the Riverwalk downtown at night. It is beautiful and crowded. We found The River's Edge Café & Patio Bar where we had dinner.

Then we walked the Riverwalk some more. "San Antonio: the Saga," a history of San Antonio, was playing at the San Fernando Cathedral. It is a 25-minute laser light show projected onto the façade of the cathedral accompanied by music. 

When that ended, we walked across the street to the Bexar County Courthouse. It looks awesome at night!

Randall, Bob, Kristin, & Rich in front
of the Bexar County Courthouse.

The Lady Justice in front of the 
Bexar County Courthouse.

We walked down Houston Street, past the Majestic Theater, and back to the parking garage. The weather was excellent all day and evening. We ended up walking 4.4 miles, according to my phone. 

Tomorrow, we will show them the King William Historic District, The Alamo, The Pearl, the Japanese Tea Garden, and whatever else we can pack into a few hours. We're happy they were able to get away for the weekend!

Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Old Walua Road Volksmarch in Kona, Hawaii - Tuesday, March 19, 2024

One of our goals on this trip was to walk the Old Walua Road Toni Fortin Blair Memorial Bicycle and Pedestrian Scenic Path. Whew! That's a mouthful. We only have a few days left in Hawaii. Bob did not want to walk yesterday because he had done the Hilo Marathon the day before. He needed another day to recuperate. I don't blame him!

We took it easy this morning and left our timeshare to walk at 12:15 pm. A chance of showers was in the forecast and it was supposed to be pretty warm. 

When we arrived at the trailhead, it was cloudy, and there was a cool breeze. As we started walking, dozens of yellow finches flew up from the grasses along the trail. There were also tiny brown birds with red beaks, but I couldn't photograph them. They flitted around a lot and blended into the tall grass. 

This is at the start of the Old
Walua Road Bike Path.

The bike path is wide. This is where we saw
birds flitting around the grasses.

Dueling photo taking. 
This walk is a nice mix of natural landscapes, ocean vistas, and beautiful homes. It's springtime and local flowers provide added color. 

"High-end homes" take on a dual 
meaning in this neighborhood. 

Beach Hibiscus, Sea Hibiscus, or Hau
 [Hawaiian] (
Hibiscus tiliaceus

Stunning views of the Pacific Ocean from 
these hillside homes.

I love this tropical front door!

Bismark Palm (Bismarckia nobilis).

This front yard landscaping is crazy beautiful!

More ocean views.

Roadkill Cactus (Opuntia rubescens)?

Another pretty view!

We found a stray cat. There was a food and water station nearby. I call this cat a stray because it allowed me to pet it. A feral cat, however, wants nothing to do with humans except receive food and water.

We continued on our way, going slightly uphill most of the way. We barely noticed we were going up, but when we turned around we could see it was downhill most of the way back!

Here are more interesting photos, mainly of flowers.

Flame vine (Pyrostegia venusta).

Orange day-lily.

Arabian jasmine (Jasminum sambac).

Butterfly Light Lavender Starflower
(Pentas lanceolata).

Ivy Gourd (Coccinia grandis).

This tree trunk is confusing!

The Hawaiian Pink Hibiscus below is stunning. The colors are so rich and the texture looks like velvet!

 Hawaiian Pink Hibiscus.

Spider Hibiscus
(Hibiscus schizopetalus).

Here's a fun mailbox.

Pink and white plumeria trees 

Bitter Melon plant (Mormordica charantia).

Bitter Melon plant (Mormordica charantia).

Schefflera actinophylla or 
Trumpet Tree (Cecropia adenopus - 
a Big Island invasive)??

This walk was an out-and-back, so we saw the same scenery on the return. We were amazed that the weather was perfect for a walk in the early afternoon. Cloud cover and a cool breeze saved the day!

Thank you to the Romigs for putting together the lovely Hawaiian walks. Mahalo!

Monday, March 18, 2024

I Have A Manta Ray In My Face! - Monday, March 18, 2024

Today was a marathon recovery day for Bob, although he worked in the morning. A trip into town was needed to mail a package and buy groceries. Then, we hung around the resort and relaxed. 

Our big adventure was a nighttime manta ray snorkel. The boat Hula Kai was our passage to a whole new world. We arrived 40 minutes early to sign in and look over the harbor. Then we read signs about Keauhou Bay's history as we strolled along the cliff.

Our manta ray tour boat, the Hula Kai.

King Kamehameha III history.

A path along verdant cliffs at
Keauhou Harbor.

It was time to get fitted for our shorty wetsuits. It's the first time I've put on a wetsuit and they are hard to get into. Bob had to hold the zipper together so I could zip it up. Next, I helped him.

The ride to the manta ray area was only three minutes from the dock. On the way, we watched another beautiful Hawaiian sunset.

Upon reaching our snorkel location, snugged in amongst six other boats and rafts, our boat was tied to a mooring line. An orientation was given on interacting with the manta rays, using the snorkel equipment, hanging onto the line of ultraviolet lights, and returning to our boat.

Yep, those are our wetsuits.

Sailing into the sunset.

A cluster of boats was already here. 
More came after us.

In the photo below, you can see snorkelers in the water hanging onto a light bar to the right of the ship Konastyle. You will need to enlarge it a little. That's the kind of light bar we hung onto.

The Konastyle boat next door.

The ship was rocking and rolling on the swells. That meant the ladder to get into the ocean was going up and down dramatically. I was third to the last in line to get in the water. I took my time hanging onto the ladder for dear life until I felt it was safe to let go and jump into a swell. Bob was right behind me and we swam over to the lights. The lights floated tied in a row and we grabbed onto the handholds. 

Our instructions were to float flat on top of the water. We had our masks and snorkels on so we could see manta rays. The tour boat crew helped us put pool noodles under our ankles so our legs would stay on top of the water. The manta rays would come up from beneath us, and our legs, arms, and cameras couldn't be in their way as they "swam" through the water to filter plankton into their mouths.

For the first five-10 minutes, we didn't see any manta rays, just a blank ocean bottom. Then, we started seeing tiny fluorescent creatures under the lights. I saw tiny blue jellyfish the size of my small fingernail, a short, skinny see-through fish with a long snout, and plankton. It's amazing what's under the sea.

OMG! Then we started seeing the manta rays! Those things are huge. Their wingspans are 13-18' on average. Apparently, there used to be a manta ray at this spot that had a 30' wingspan. First, the rays were down 20-25'. 

When they swam up to feed, we were not to reach out to touch them or disturb their feeding patterns. If they brushed against us, it was fine. 

But, whoa! They swam up from the bottom, curled, and did a roll so that their white bellies were about 2" from our masks and hands. At one point, a manta ray swam so close it brushed my hand! I was delighted, surprised, and fascinated that they swam so close. That was the biggest surprise of the night. They are so graceful. Numerous times, two manta rays would swim toward each other, go straight up belly to belly, let us look straight into their mouths, and then curl away from each other upside down a few inches underneath us! 

The manta rays are so graceful. While they were feeding, it was like watching a ray ballet. Or an aerobatic stunt plane doing tricky maneuvers. They look like they're flying in the water.

An interesting fact about manta rays is that each has unique belly markings. They're like our fingerprints. Our crew told us that we saw six manta rays tonight. The manta rays do not have poisonous spines and there are no teeth. 

The sea was rough with good-sized swells. Holding onto the light bar took a lot of upper body strength. The waves pushed and pulled my body in different directions. The pool noodle got knocked out from under my legs, so I yelled "NOODLE" and a staff swimmer in the water retrieved it and put it back under my ankles. They were doing that for people up and down the line.

I surprised myself by lasting 30 minutes in the water in those conditions, but it was worth it. This was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. A staff swimmer helped me back to the ladder that was going up and down on the swells. I took my time, grabbed onto the ladder, and planted both feet on it before I climbed out.

Included in our tour were soup, a roll, and hot cocoa. Mmm. I was cold and the jackfruit soup was yummy.  The hot chocolate really hit the spot, though!

When it was time to take off the wetsuit, I could not figure out how to get out of that soggy, wet thing! It had a zipper down the front to the bottom of one leg (remember it's a shorty wetsuit). That opened up half the front of the suit, but I couldn't get it away from my skin. Finally, I asked a teenage boy who was walking by to grab the wetsuit's arm. He pulled hard away from me and I pulled my arm the other way. Free! I was finally free! 

Meanwhile, everyone else had to get out of the water; the snorkel part of the tour was over. I found Bob getting his soup. He didn't want hot chocolate, but the server gave it to him. Guess who got an extra hot chocolate? If you guessed me, you are right.

The boat took us to the dock where we debarked and then drove to our timeshare. We loved this nighttime snorkel. I recommend this tour to everybody!

Now we're tired and ready to flop into bed, like a wet fish. Blub, blub!