Trip to Kaua’i – Day 7

Here we are. Our last day in Kauai.

After a great night’s sleep, we are ready for the final day. We packed up our stuff into our car and prepared to execute a genius plan.

The master plan

We had to be out of our hotel room by 11. However, we had an ATV tour scheduled at 2 with our flight at around 9. The ATV tour warns you that you will get dirty. So, how would we shower off between our ATV tour and our flight?

We figured we would have small bottles of bio-safe soap and shampoo ready and shower at the outdoor showers at our hotel. It was a perfect plan.

Killing time before the tour

We had some time to kill, so of course we went back to Deja Vu to see if there were any clothes I had missed since the last 5 times we had been there. I got me a nice, large sun hat that my friend Brandon still makes fun of me for.

Look at that sun protection!

We spent most of our time around the southern part of the island since that is where our tour would start. After perusing several stores, we headed to the tour company’s building.

We checked in and they gave us a bandana thing to keep the mud off our face (see later pictures) as well as the directions to the real start of the tour, so we drove another 5 minutes there.

Pre-tour fun

We got to the facilities where all the ATVs slept. It was pretty groovy. One couple in a rented Camaro somehow high-centered on a rock. It wasn’t even in the parking lot. It was behind one of the garages. I’m not entirely sure what they were even doing over there, but the lady who high centered it (hold your sexist female driver jokes people…) refused to drive an ATV. She and her husband made an uncomfortable amount of jokes about it throughout the tour. I get it. They were embarrassed.

There was another family next to us speaking in an accent I recognized. I asked them (in Russian) if they were Russian. They said they were and we had a nice little chat (back in English). I rarely get to use my Russian anymore, and when I do, it’s usually asking people I think are Russian if they are Russian, and then we switch back to English because they speak better English than I do Russian at this point of my life.

Let the tour begin!

This ATV tour was wicked fun. It felt like a mix between the Jurassic Park and Indiana Jones rides at Disneyland. You’re sliding around on these muddy, deeply rutted roads and seeing all kinds of cool stuff.

We drove down the road that is the motorcycle scene in the more recent Jurassic Parks with Chris Pratt. They have a little dinosaur skeleton and Jeep to mark the spot.

We drove through a 1/2 mile long tunnel with a cool backstory on how it was made. At this point, you all get out of your ATV and the guide tells you the story. You also introduce yourself to all the other riders. The usual… where you’re from, what you’re doing there… etc.

Met a cool guy from Detroit who works on the Corvette. My family has always been big into Corvettes so he and I spent some time talking cars.

Don’t go chasing waterfalls

The tour is called the “waterfall tour.” It is a bit of a stretch because there is only one stop with a waterfall. At about the halfway point, the group jumps out and there is a set of 3 waterfalls, each falling into the other, that you can frolic around. One was deep enough to jump into (see video). Not a big jump, but you do have to jump out over rocks to get to the deep part.

Such a daredevil.

We had a little snack of granola bars and some pineapple juice drink that is fantastic.

We stopped by an old World War II bunker in the middle of a mountain. It was super cool to me. I love history stuff, especially WWII. You’ll have to check it out and see the petrified crackers.

Moving along, we stopped at a big open space where several movies have been shot. Jurassic Park, Indiana Jones, King Kong, and several others.

The last stop on the tour was the serene Waita Reservoir. This was a peaceful place with a bike zip line (sold separately). You jump on a bike and ride it across a zip line. Pretty nuts.

If you notice… there is a lot of mud. Luckily, you already know about the master plan.

They had some showers to rinse the mud off your clothes and shoes, so we blasted ourselves off in that. We grabbed a quick ice cream bowl and then we headed back to our hotel.

You might be expecting a big plot twist, something like, “Oh no! We couldn’t get back in the hotel!

But everything went exactly as planned. We showered off at the outdoor showers in our swim suits. We changed clothes in the public restroom, and enjoyed one last meal at the Lava Lava restaurant with our friends, the chickens.

One last sun hat picture with Beach guy.

We still had a little time to kill, so we drove around to a part of the island we’d never been, just west of the airport. We drove through some neighborhoods trying to imagine what it would be like to live here, then, we had to return our car and head to the airport.

Returning home

The airport and flight home were fine.

That’s a lie. The flight was miserable. It is a red-eye flight. I am 6’4″. Me and airplanes don’t get along well. I couldn’t sleep at all so I am grumpy as can be for the 6 hour flight and subsequent day, but all in all, everything went nice and smooth. We were happy to be home, but planning our next trip to Hawaii as soon as we can.

I hope you enjoyed the recap our our little trip to Kauai!

Trip to Kaua’i – Day 6

After the 40-ish miles of hiking over the past 5 days, my feet and legs were sore. It was time to skip leg day.

We slept in because we were both exhausted and the only thing we had planned for the day was a boat tour of the Na Pali coast.

Now, when you do this, you have a few options. The two most common are on a large 55′ catamaran yacht. We did this one the last time we visited Kauai and it is great. They are much more comfortable and typically stay further away form the shore. The last time we did this, we saw whales and had dolphins swimming right next to the boat.

Your other option is a raft.

This is a much more adventurous option as you and 9ish other people jump in a raft that has a massive motor attached do it and experience every wave, wind, and rain that crash into you.

To skip the reading part, scroll down for the pictures.

Shopping

The tour started later in the day so we had some time to kill. Naturally, we had to stop back into Deja Vu and pickup some clothes. I got a waterproof jacket and a hat. Caitlin got some cute pants.

We wandered around a shopping center and shared a Jamba Juice together. From there, we drove over to west side of the island where our tour would kick off and spent some time in the town of Waimea. There was a cute little cookie shop where we grabbed a few chocolate chip cookies. They were good, but not as good as Caitlin’s world famous cookies.

Boat Tour

We went to the dock where our boat tour would begin. We watched as a few other crews were coming back and there was this local lady who would welcome the crews returning by dancing around and shake shake shakin’ her booty (that was the song that was playing as well as an accurate description of her dancing).

All of the boat captains seemed to know who she was. I wasn’t sure if she was just genuinely into tourists returning from a boat tour, was paid by the boat tour companies to hype them upon return, or (the most likely scenario) was a little cray cray.

She was nice and at least gave us a story to write about.

We were all sitting around a picnic table waiting for instructions on what to do on this tour. While we are all waiting there awkwardly, my mind wanders into the dangers of what we’re about to do. I mean, I would say I’m an okay swimmer, but out in the ocean with huge waves… I’m a dead man. Plus the rocks and sharks and who knows what else could kill me, I’m preparing myself for survival scenarios.

Which is why I’m assessing these strangers that I’m about to spend the next 6 hours with and wondering to myself, “would this person help my survival or hurt it?”

“Oh, she’d definitely be the first to go.”

Turns out, there was another family from Utah on our boat of 10 people. What a small world.

Waves and sores

We chose to go with Captain Andy’s tours. Our captain gave us a long lecture about how this was a vigorous tour and not for the physically weak. If you have any heart issues or physical impairments, you’re going to want to choose the larger yacht, not the raft.

After we agree that we are all okay, we jump in the raft. The captain lets us know that the front of the raft is more extreme and bouncy, while the back of the raft… aaaaand Caitlin immediately runs to the front. She is in the very front. Like, there is a line on the boat where it tells you not to cross and she repeatedly crossed it.

So, we head out and we fly over waves. It feels like we are getting air off of these things and we’re right at the front experiencing it. To help you get an idea of what is keeping us safe and secure in this raft careening over 10 foot waves, don’t worry. We are sitting on the very edge, about to topple over. But we have one foot (bare foot) under a rope in the foot of the boat, and are holding onto another rope along the side of the raft. Not helping my whole death-anxiety.

Our captain is great and tells us all about the island as we cruise around. It takes us a good 2 hours to get around to the other-wordly awesomeness of the Na Pali mountain fingers. By this time, my sore legs have been replaced by sore hands and forearms from holding onto these ropes for dear life for 2 hours straight.

Sea caves

The unique part about the raft experience is that you can go right up to the coast. In fact, they took us inside several different sea caves that were super cool. This one had a waterfall going into it. Check out the swells and how much the water level changes.

Sea cave with waterfall

There were a couple others they took us into that were super cool. One that stood out went into this clearing that resembled a donut. Well, the donut would be the water. The donut hole was rock. And outside the donut was 50 foot rock cliffs and then the clear blue sky. I wish I had taken pictures or a video, but alas, I didn’t. There was a turtle swimming in there with us. He or she (I don’t know how to tell) seemed like a nice turtle. Not one of those stuck-up turtles we all hear about in the news.

Here are a few more pictures to make you go ooooh and aaaaah.

The further up the coast you go, the more dramatic it seems to get.

Someone photobombing our photo.
Crazy, amiright?!

We saw kayakers making their way down the coast, which seems crazy to me considering how big the waves were in certain parts. We also ran into a pretty strong rain storm. Good think I had that waterproof jacket from Deja Vu and my nice hat. I’ll admit, it doesn’t make me more attractive. All function here.

We worked our way back down the coast and stopped at this beach/reef/ancient ruins. We snorkeled for a bit and ate lunch. One of our guides ate with us and we were asking him about the impact of covid. He said that it hit the island hard. His observations were that a lot of people got their covid checks and either blew them on new cars and useless stuff, or they figured they didn’t have to work for a while. He tried to save his and find work, and he’s glad he did. He thinks this is why it is so hard to find restaurants open and stores because they can’t staff them.

I asked him his genuine thoughts about all us tourists who come. He said he loves us, especially the respectful ones. The vast majority of tourists are nice and don’t do stupid things. You get some who are idiots and mess with the wildlife and, if they are caught, have pretty serious punishments.

He was a nice guy and gave all of us a nice tour of these ancient ruins with lots of cool stories.

Check out the cool ‘X’ in the rock.
Can you spot all 4 turtles?

After a good hour or so here, it was time to head back. We hopped back into the boat and got ready for the long ride back.

The edge of the boat is rough, so all that holding-on-for-dear-life business had worn a couple sores on my hand that were burning from the salt water. I complain a lot, and with this being my biggest grievance, you should get an idea as to how awesome this really was.

We got a pretty sunset picture. You can see why they always have you staring into the sun for pictures because with the sun behind you, you can’t see our faces. If we had used a Samsung camera, it probably would’ve looked great. But, we used an iPhone.

The ride in was uneventful other than the large waves and rollercoaster feel of the raft. We made it back safe and sound and thanked our captains.

Food

A common thread throughout all of these entries is that I like to eat, and I get hungry often.

Since we only had a small meal on the boat tour, it was time to eat a lot. I asked our captain where the best burgers on the island would be. She said Street Burger. Turns out, it was within walking distance of our hotel! But, we still drove because my body is screaming incessantly at me at this point from my overall lack of physical conditioning.

The burger was fantastic. I got the Bacon and BBQ burger. They have these garlic and Parmesan fries. Not sure why, but I just wasn’t feeling them that night. I still ate them all. But weren’t my favorite. Still, a super cool restaurant with a rad vibe to it.

We went home and packed up most of our stuff as our trip was nearing its end. We still had a fun day planned for tomorrow since our flight wasn’t until the evening, but our checkout time was 11 am so we made sure everything that we could pack away, was packed away.

Watched 3rd Rock from the Sun, and faded off to sleep.

The final day… Day 7.

Trip to Kaua’i – Day 5

Well, I TOTALLY lost momentum on this. What has it been, four months since Day 4?

My bad, y’all.

But, this is site is as close to a journal as I’ll get, so I still need to get this out there.

Just when I thought Kaua’i couldn’t get any better… Day 5 had to come along and TOTALLY blow my mind.

Today is hike day. More specifically, the Kalalau Trail – one of the most famous (and dangerous) trails on planet earth. Also, probably more importantly, the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen in my relatively short life.

A little background

Three years ago, Kaua’i experienced severe flooding on the north shore and up around where the Kalalau Trail begins (Ke’e beach) as a result of record rainfall. The water washed away quite a bit and gave the island an opportunity to re-think how they wanted to approach this popular spot that, pre-flooding, was being hammered by tourists.

The state decided to require a permit to get to this beach and hike the trail. The permit to hike really comes in the form of a parking pass, and you have two options here.

Option 1 – You purchase a parking passes for your vehicle. You drive all the way to a parking lot near the trailhead and verify with a park ranger that you have your parking pass. Then, you can enjoy the beach and the trail.

Option 2 – You purchase a shuttle ticket. There are a parking lots that span a couple miles away from the trailhead where shuttles are… well… shuttling people. If you purchase a shuttle ticket, that acts as your hiking trail permit.

We went with Option 2.

There are a limited number of passes, whether for your own car or the shuttle. We got the 2nd earliest shuttle (7:00 AM) so we could get enough time to hike.

There is a short hike from the parking lot to the trailhead/Ke’e beach, which is pretty interesting in and of itself, and then, you’re ready to start the journey.

Here’s the little walk from the parking lot to the trailhead.

Here’s a map at the trailhead that guided us along our hike.

Competitive Hiking

Back in the day, my family used to do a lot of road trips. When my mom got cancer, she, my dad, and I visited every county in Utah to complete a passport. Separate from that, we went to countless car shows all throughout the state and into other states.

With these hundreds of hours on the road, it always seemed like my dad was racing everyone else on the road. I think it was subconscious, because I find myself falling into the same patterns at times. It doesn’t matter how fast the person in front of you is going, you want to pass them. Where am I going with this?

Here is where I’m going with this.
This is Caitlin. She is a reckless hiker and has no concept of a speed limit.

If they handed out tickets for tailgating while hiking, my entire salary each year would go to paying for Caitlin’s tickets.

She hikes fast. And if someone is ahead of her, she needs to pass them. Unfortunately, much like driving in the fast lane in Utah, people who think they hike at a brisk pace will go an uncomfortable amount of time before moving to the side to let Caitlin pass. I just try to keep up and apologize to those left in her wake as I slip by.

“Sorry.”
“Sorry.”
“She’s fast, isn’t she? Hehe. Sorry.”

Our entire shuttle took off on the hike at about the same time, and we weren’t the first ones out, so we had to pass quite a few people. Once we were in first place amongst our shuttle-mates, we quickly caught up to the group who had been on the earlier shuttle.

We were haulin’.

Here is a glimpse of the scenery while we were between shuttle groups and had a little space between us and everyone else.

Purdy, purdy

Hanakapi’ai Beach

At the 2 mile mark, you come to the Hanakapi’ai stream that leads right into Hanakapi’ai beach and the ocean. You cross the stream in what was just below knee-height water for me – around neck high for Caitlin

(I joke, I joke. I’m tall and she is short, but not that short).

Stream crossing and Hanakapi’ai beach

This is cool spot to walk in the sand and watch the waves crash in, not the mention the view of the Na’Pali range looking back.

View looking back from the ocean


A little cave
A little make-shift shelter

Once you reach this point, you have a decision to make.

Apparently (we learned this later), your regular pass only allows you to come to this point and then hike up to Hanakapi’ai Falls – another 2 miles following the stream up into the mountains. This is a 300 foot waterfall that is supposed to be pretty awesome. We didn’t go here and instead, continued along the Kalalau Trail.

Picture Credit: https://www.kalalautrail.com/hanakapiai-falls-among-worlds-most-amazing-waterfalls/

To continue further along the Kalalau Trail, you need a separate pass. We knew about a separate pass, but thought it was only if you wanted to camp at the end of the trail. We didn’t plan on camping and wanted to go deeper in to a different water fall.

So, we split off from the regular group, 90% of whom were headed to the Hanakapi’ai waterfall, and headed further along the trail.

One other notable feature of this spot is the toilet. This is an elevated structure that smells like… well… you can imagine. It was one of the most foul smelling things I’ve experienced and I don’t know if I’d go in there to avoid an accident myself.

Moving on…

Breathtaking scenery

Everything was so lush and green. The contrast between the greens of the vegetation and the blues of the sky and ocean gave me what I like to call eyegasms. It’s incredible how beautiful everything is.

It was also very humid. The temperature wasn’t too warm. Right around 72 degrees, but the humidity cause a lot of perspiration and sweat running into the eyes.

Even being there in person, it all just didn’t seem real.
Check out this cool picture.

Here’s a little stream crossing. Hear the helicopters? You’ll see why.

Hanakoa Stream

So, at just past the 6-mile mark, we find ourselves in the Hanakoa Valley. A friend had told us that this is the waterfall we should try to see. We split off the Kalalau Trail and onto the Hanakoa Falls Trail. We are on this trail for about a half a mile until we reach Hanakoa Falls – the climax of our hiking experience.

Hanakoa Falls

When we arrived at this waterfall, there was a couple who had camped back where the trail split and they were just leaving this unbelievable spot.

Once they left, Caitlin and I were the only ones at this waterfall for an entire hour! It was so cool having our own little private waterfall. Well, except for all those helicopters I mentioned.

Remember that Hanakapi’ai Falls were 300 feet? Well, Hanakoa Falls is a 1,000 foot waterfall. Now, you can’t see all the way up to the top from the pool in the video, but there are sections along the hike where you can spot the massive waterfall, and helicopter tours are flying in here all the time to show the tourists this incredible spot.

Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/wallyg/4695385504

We both jumped into the pool, which was very cold. Looking up, you could see how fast the clouds were flying past and, when there was cloud cover, it was cool (temperature). When the sun came out, it was nice and warm.

So, we swam, laid out on the rocks when the sun was out, admired the scenery, and enjoyed this little piece of heaven.

Doesn’t get much better than this

The way back

As we headed back, it was at this point the we had the discussion of whether or not we should do the entire trail in one day. That would be 22 total miles in a day (11 each way), and we had another 5 miles to go before the end of the 1-way trail. It was also at this point that I was reminded of 2 other things:

  1. My knees aren’t great.
  2. I should’ve packed more food and water.

So, if you ever venture out on this hike, bring more than just a Gatorade bottle of water for each person and more than a cup of grapes.

The view looking back at Hanakoa falls

As we started back, my knees were feeling it. We had been hiking up and down mountains and it was catching up to me. Not to mention all the fluids we’d lost to sweat and only having a 32 oz water bottle. I told Caitlin that I had no doubt she could make the hike in a day, but I wouldn’t be able to, and like most things in her life, I held her back from accomplishing something pretty nuts.

In the post covering Day 3, I mention the shoes that I had for this trip. These shoes were perfect for all the hikes we had done up to this point. And to be candid, they were great for this hike as well. I think the problem is, that by the end of this hike, we did 14 miles in a day. Add to that the 9 or so miles we had done on the other days, and my feet were not feeling great.

I felt like I could feel every rock and pebble hitting my feet on the way down. This wasn’t the case on the way up, but maybe as you’re hoping to get back to safety, everything starts to feel uncomfortable. These shoes held up well and it was nice knowing I could cross streams without having to change shoes.

We work our way back, drinking what water we had left and taking pictures alone the way.

Super cool

Does Caitlin meet her match?

As we got back to the Hanakapi’ai stream, we encountered this family of parents and two early-teenage kids. There was a girl, probably around 13 who was like a mini-Caitlin. She saw this hike as a race, and she was trying to pass as many people as possible.

You can imagine what this did to Caitlin.

Caitlin didn’t say anything, but our pace went from fast, to stupid fast.

So, as my knees are wobbling and my feet are sore and raw, Caitlin takes off on this high-speed chase to track down and pass this 13 year old who is hell-bent on proving to whoever is near that she is the fastest hiker of all time.

I think we all know how this ends.

We catch up to this girl and Caitlin is quite literally breathing down her neck. The girl finally concedes that she’s been beat and lets us pass. We get to the end of the trail about 2 minutes before her and congratulate her on 3rd place.

You can see it in her eyes that she has met the GOAT when it comes to speed hiking – Caitlin. With a few more years of training, she could become great herself.

Ke’e Beach

5 1/2 years before, when we first visited Kauai, we took a picture on Ke’e beach together and we tried our best to recreate it.

Look how young we look in the 2015 one… And the water levels were much different. There was a lot more exposed rock this time.

I did a good job of hiding it, but I was pretty miserable physically at this point in the 2021 picture. My body was sore. I was dehydrated and crazy-mad hungry. Which is unfortunate, because this is my favorite beach on Kauai. The sand is soft and the water is warm. There is a little cove that is calm and doesn’t have waves crashing down on you. This place is amazing.

Caitlin laid out on the beach while I hobbled back to the shuttle area to find some water. I ended up resorting to the shower water because there weren’t vending machines or other forms of water.

We had a nice chat with the shuttle driver who drives shuttles all over the country. His contract brought him here for a couple months and then he’ll head back to the mainland for other work.

These shuttle drivers are amazing. The roads are super tight and these shuttles are wide. They are inches away from hitting the mountainside or other cars, but they cruise around with impressive calm.

We get back to our car and Erik needs food.

Searching for a restaurant

In previous posts, I mentioned how the road had been destroyed by a landslide a few months before our visit. This meant that we were stuck on the Hanalei side until they opened that road up during certain times of the day.

We parked our car in Hanalei and went looking for food. It was one of those moments where I am so hungry that nothing sounds good. Plus, everywhere was packed with long waits.

With the pandemic, restaurants were hit hard and they are all short staffed. This meant longer wait times. We walked around for a good half hour before we settled on the Hanalei Gourmet.

This is a cute restaurant with a bar. They sat us at the bar next to this older gentlemen who has led quite the interesting life. He is house-sitting for a friend of his and has been off and on for years.

The food tasted amazing. I wasn’t sure if it was because it was genuinely great, or I was just so hungry that anything would’ve tasted like the best meal I’d ever had. The view out of this restaurant is so beautiful, too.

I didn’t think to take a picture so using this. Credit to: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/54324739239196928/

This whole island is just absurdly gorgeous.

Once the road opened up, we headed back to our hotel, jumped in the pool and hot tub, showered, and crashed. It was an epic day.

Enthusiastic recommendation

If you ever visit Kauai, getting a glimpse of the Na’Pali coast is a must. The Kalalau Trail hike was both Caitlin’s and my favorite parts of this vacation. There are several other great things we did mentioned in other posts, but this hike was THE highlight of highlights on this round.

Check out day 6!

2021 Book List

This year, the goal wasn’t to cruise through as many books as possible like it was last year.

I wrote a post called How to read 2 (or more) books a week detailing how I went about finishing a crazy amount of books in 2020.

2021 brought with it other passion projects that involved more video tutorials and hands-on learning, but we still got quite a few books in (and the year isn’t over yet).

I’ll add up the total pages read when the year ends and I’ll update this list as more are finished.

*Note*
My ranking system is personal.
5’s usually mean that it got me to see the world in a new way, it entertained me in an unexpected way, or it offered what I needed to hear at this point in my life.

Many of these were recommended to me as life-changing books.

If the book you recommended wasn’t rated highly by me, can we still be friends?

I’ve found that when you read books – meaning the timing and circumstances of your life – impacts your feelings about that book.

If your recommendation is lower than it should be, it was just the wrong timing for me.

2021 List

NumberDateTitleAuthorRating (1-5)
11/2The Coddling of the American MindGreg Lukianoff & Jonathan Haidt5
21/5American DirtJeanine Cummins4
31/9The Moment of LiftMelinda Gates2
41/12Being MortalAtul Gawande4
51/13StiffMary Roach4
61/20Why We SleepMatthew Walker5
71/29Drunk Tank PinkAdam Alter3
82/6The Righteous MindJonathan Haidt5
92/10CalypsoDavid Sedaris1
102/13The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ckMark Manson3
112/17Midnight in ChernobylAdam Higginbotham4
122/21The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn HardcastleStuart Turton5
132/24SeabiscuitLaura Hillenbrand3
142/26GreenlightsMatthew McConaughey5
153/3Extreme OwnershipJocko Willink & Leif Babin3
163/8The Happiness AdvantageShawn Achor4
173/16OpenAndre Agassi5
183/28How to Survive the End of the World as We Know ItJames Wesley Rawles2
194/5The Power of NowEckhart Tolle4
204/7BreathJames Nestor3
214/17CasteIsabel Wilkerson2
224/21Eleven RingsPhil Jackson3
234/22Where the Crawdads SingDelia Owens4
245/2Bitcoin BillionairesBen Mezrich4
255/8The Man Who Solved the MarketGregory Zuckerman3
265/20A Random Walk Down Wall StreetBurton G. Malkiel3
275/28None Dare Call it ConspiracyGary Allen3
286/4Wealth, Poverty, and PoliticsThomas Sowell4
296/11Hate, IncMatt Taibbi3
306/18Lies My Teacher Told MeJames Loewen5
316/30Our Mathematical UniverseMax Tegmark4
327/9Human ErrorsNathan H. Lents3
337/15Know What Makes Them TickMax Siegel3
347/21The Only Negotiating Guide You’ll Ever NeedPeter Stark, Jane Flaherty3
357/23You Don’t Have to Be a SharkRobert Herjavec5
367/28Thinking in BetsAnnie Duke5
377/31The Theory of EverythingStephen Hawking2
388/8EnergyRichard Rhodes3
398/31The Personality BrokersMerve Emre3
409/22Tesla Margaret Cheney4
4110/18Surprise, Kill, VanishAnnie Jacobsen5
4210/21Billion Dollar LoserReeves Wiedeman4
4310/30Personal Finance 101Alfred Mill, Michele Cagan3
4411/5The Hiding PlaceCorrie ten Boom3
4511/6Everything is FigureoutableMarie Forleo4
4611/22LoonshotsSafi Bahcall4
4712/2The Boy, the Mole, the Fox, and the HorseCharlie Mackesy5
4812/11On the RoadJack Kerouac2
4912/14The Book of MormonSeveral4
5012/20Real vs RumorKeith Erekson2
5112/29The Innovator’s DilemmaClayton M Christensen2
5212/31Homo DeusYuval Noah Harari5
2021 Book List

What books need to go on my 2022 list?

Want even more book recommendations?
Check out my 2020 list

Trip to Kauai – Day 4

We last left each other in this series as Caitlin and I were going down for a quick nap at 5:30 PM that led to us sleeping through the night, waking up the next morning, dazed, a little confused, but pumped to get an early start on the day.

The plan was to head out to the opposite side of the island and hike the Grand Canyon of the Pacific – Waimea Canyon.

The Southwest part of the island seems to have more shipyards and docks. A lot of boat tours are launched from this area. As you move to the West side of the island, you’ll drive through the town of Waimea. Captain Cook landed here and “discovered” Kauai in 1778. The town has a sign and, going from memory, said something around “Kauai’s most historic town.”

Partway through the town of Waimea, you head east towards Waimea Canyon State Park.

Waimea Canyon

I don’t know how to adequately prepare you for what you will see here. I have some pictures, but again, they don’t fully capture what is there.

As you drive through the State Park, there are several scenic overlooks that are literally breathtaking. This canyon is enormous with massive cliffs that fall away at severe angles. If you’re scared of heights as I am, you will get a severe form of butterflies in your stomach, and you’ll be death-gripping any rail nearby to keep you safe.

As mentioned earlier in the series, rain was a part of the previous day so the picture below doesn’t adequately portray this place with the clouds hiding the incredible beauty of this canyon.

Us at the Waipoo Falls Trailhead
Aren’t we fun…?

We were the first car in the parking lot of the Waipoo Falls trailhead. You do need to pay per car and per person to park/hike here, and you do so at a pay station in the parking lot. I think it was $20 for the car and us two, plus tax, so about $23 and change. The machine prints out a receipt that you put on your dashboard to avoid a ticket or getting towed or something.

Waipoo Falls

This hike is gorgeous. We did it last time we came here and were relatively familiar with where to go. The hike has some pretty slippery spots as it is usually wet and a little muddy. Remember those shoes I had from the last post? They were awesome here.

As you hike through some thick rainforest area, you pop out on a cliff.

Here’s a video of us on said cliff and a full rainbow.

Keep walking a bit further, and you come to a cute little waterfall.

This waterfall goes into a little pond, which leads to a small stream, which leads to this…

800 foot Waipoo Falls

It is the nightmare of someone afraid of heights. I mean, you are standing inches away from a slip, slide, fall, die. It’s beautiful. It’s terrifying.

There is a trail visible on the other side of the falls. We later learned that it has been washed out and is no longer “active” due to its dangerous risk, the trail falling away down hundreds of feet cliffs, and flash floods. Not knowing this, we continued on.

We weaved in and out of this jungle-terrain and wandered onto incredible views.

As we were hiking along, it got pretty windy and rainclouds started barreling down on us like a freight train. On the outside, I was cool, calm, and collected… leading Caitlin through this jungle paradise with courage and charisma.

On the inside…

Screaming.
I was screaming so loud people.
I can barely keep my wits about me and I’m thinking, “I’m gonna die! I’m gonna die! I’m gonna die!”

Luckily, I gather composure and we finally duck into the safety of the mountain. We start wandering away from cliffs and through some super thick plant life. As I mentioned, this isn’t a trail people hike frequently, so my face, and arms, and legs, and hands are getting plastered by all kinds of freaky-deaky spider webs. I can’t see where I’m stepping. Flies and other bugs are welcoming us with open arms. And, I’m pretty sure wild boars and jaguars are stalking us to eat us.

They say jaguars aren’t on Kaua’i, but who are ‘they’?!

The jaguars.

The jaguars are ‘they’ and ‘they’ told people that ‘they’ aren’t on Kaua’i so ‘they’ could sneak up on ME and eat ME.

Wandering this trail was actually reasonably pleasant, but pretty long. We happened upon a YMCA camp with some cool cabins that looked like a fun place to stay. There was an odd growth I noticed on a tree. I examined it in further detail after Caitlin had passed it.

It was a gutted pig.
Yep.
Pig guts all over a tree.
I didn’t tell Caitlin because she had expressed her fear of wild hogs about 35 seconds earlier.

We ended up hiking somewhere in area of 7 miles total before we popped out on the main road that winds through Waimea State Park. It also happened to be right where the Kokee Lodge is nestled neatly in a little slice of paradise.

Open field in front of the lodge/museum

This place had a delicious diner with amazing food and smoothies. They had souvenirs and other knick knacks designed to pull at your sentimental side and take your money.

We were beat, so this place was like a miracle to us.

Here’s the view inside the diner:

There were a gazillion chickens that Caitlin tried to herd. It didn’t work out so well, but it made for some fun memories.

Check out whatever the opposite of Chicken Whisperer is.
The Chicken Shouter? The Chicken Banshee Screamer?

See how the chickens just completely ignore her?
Poor Caitlin.
Now she knows exactly how I felt in high school as I tried to get girls (including her) to notice me.

We hiked about a mile or so back up the main road. There isn’t a lot of room on the shoulder of the roads so Caitlin would judge drivers and the future of their eternal soul by how considerate they were of us – evidenced by their willingness to move over a bit so as to not kill us with their car.

If they didn’t move: No wave, and eternal damnation
If they moved a little: Head nod, but still eternal damnation
If they gave us enough room so we didn’t feel the wind against our cheek: Wave, but you’re going to hell.
If they were good people and went into oncoming traffic to avoid us: They are headed straight to heaven and, probably more importantly, Caitlin would throw the Shaka sign – the ultimate gift 🤙.

More breathtaking views

We made it back to our car and continued up the road, deeper into Waimea State Park (and back past the Kokee Lodge). At this point, you find yourself coming to the ends of the road.

The first is the Kalalau lookout.
Kalalau is where one of the most famous hiking trails in the world, ends. See the Day 5 post for more there.

This Kalalau coast is 4,000 feet below your cute little toesies at this lookout, where you are in the clouds looking down on one of the most magnificent scenes the eye can behold.

Well… 2nd most beautiful…

Here’s #1 with sunglasses and a strange-looking man with #2 as the background. Yo buddy! Camera’s on the other side!

Here are some more pictures:

Stunning
Enormous waterfalls that look tiny in context with these massive mountains and cliffs.

The second end of the road is the Pu’u lookout, which makes immature people like myself giggle every time we say it out loud.

Go ahead… Try it. Say Pu’u out loud right now.
If you’re human, at minimum you chuckled. Most likely, you snorted out whatever you were drinking while saying Pu’u and reading.
If you’re like me, you said it again and laughed again.

Pu’u… is further up the road and I guess it’s technically the only end of the road.

Here is a video from that lookout.

The end of this video is pointed at the Kalalau Lookout point from earlier

After I picked my jaw up from off the dirt, we headed back to our car.

Parking

I think now is as good a time as ever to mention parking.
Parking spots on this island are comically small. If you center your car in your stall, and the car next to you does the same, neither one of you can open your doors enough to get out of your car. Trust me. I tried one night. I had to climb through the window to get out, which is stupid, yet impressive that I still have the nimble athleticism to pull off such an advanced maneuver.

Maybe… MAYBE a Smart car would fit in one of these stalls, but the stall would make the Smart car appear like a Hummer.

Speaking of… I saw a few Hummers here and they must’ve taken over 5 spots rather than their usual 3. Not because they are that wide, but because anyone who drives a Hummer is probably a d-bag.

We, not being d-bags, had a Chevy Impala and look at this:

Imagine someone parked equally well next to us. Doors slammed into one another. Dents. Mayhem. Allstate.

This is an empty parking lot, and these were the widest stalls on the island! The grocery store stalls… nope. Uh uh… don’t park next to someone if you plan on leaving your car at any time, because neither one of y’all are getting out.

Back to it

We drove back and revisited a beach we stopped at some 5 1/2 years ago. It was our first Hawaii beach ever, and it was the place where, an hour into our first trip to Hawaii, with Caitlin’s brand new phone, she got too close to the waves, got smacked with water, and her phone was trashed.

We had a much better experience this time. We wandered around until we got bored and headed back through the area with Da Crack where I could Da Shop for Da Clothes.

A local shop settled a decade-long debate between Caitlin and I on the pronunciation of Teva. You know, the hiking sandals. Let’s just say that the shop owner said he feels both ways are right. Teva like Evan and Teva like Teeva. But the Teva rep says Teeva, which is absurd and I think it is still wrong, and I’m right.

We came across a store called Deja Vu, and this is probably the most dangerous store I’ve ever entered. I felt like I needed, not just wanted, but NEEDED to have every single item they sold in this store.

The shirts were amazing. The hats, the shoes, the belts, the towels… I wanted everything. And then, I look over to Caitlin, and they have the most adorable, comfortable looking girls clothes on the planet! For Caitlin… not me. For some reason, I feel it’s important to clarify that.

We spent too much money buying clothes that were too amazing to leave on the shelves of Deja Vu and not on our bodies. We returned to Deja Vu on Days 6 and 7 as well…

Winding down

We went back to our hotel and swam for a bit, sat in the hot tub for a bit, laid out for a bit, and then ate a bit at the Lava Lava Club. Caitlin ordered the pineapple chicken, which is chicken, rice, and pineapple… in a freakin’ pineapple! Yes, that’s right, the pineapple carcass is the bowl that holds your meal. Pretty sweet.

Yum

We watched the sun set and went back to our room to watch 3rd Rock from the Sun and drift off to sleep.

We needed our rest after hiking more than 9 miles today with the Kalalau Trail along the Na Pali coast waiting for us tomorrow…

Here is Day 5

Trip to Kaua’i – Part 3

Day 3 promised a lot of rain in the forecast, so that made it rather difficult to plan specific activities. As I mentioned in Part 2, shuttle services had canceled their routes for today because of the severe weather headed our way.

We woke up early and Caitlin got in a quick workout on our hotel room porch while I vigorously watched TV.

Caitlin came bouncing into the room, full of excitement as she beckoned me to check out some interesting characters hanging out there with her.

Giant African Land Snail

As you can see, these snails are humongous.

If you look closely, you’ll notice two little rascals frolicking there in the background. Caitlin thought they were fighting or wrestling.

She is the cutest person alive, but I had to have the awkward conversation about the birds and bees with my wife of nearly 11 years and mother of our three children. So that was… interesting. And a little unsettling.

Fun fact: these Giant African Land Snails are hermaphrodites so the two in the back getting freaky probably both got pregnant on this magical day. It’s nice to know Caitlin and I got to be a part of such a splendid occasion. Although, homeboy/girl there by Caitlin’s hand wasn’t part of that snail porn we captured in the photo and he/she/they probably felt left out. He/she/they sped over to the sultry affair, knocked one of the snails off the other, and got to enjoy its own impregnation/new pregnancy.

Moving on…

Morning jog

After Caitlin’s workout, she and I decided to go on a morning jog. We took much the same route as our bike ride yesterday and ran along the beach, dodging chickens and sweating buckets in the humidity. We ran about 3.5 miles with occasional walks for me to catch my breath… er… ahem… I mean… admire the beautiful waves.

After the jog, we walked north along the beach to checked out some different hotels, you know, to compare our situation to others to feel better or worse about ourselves.

Actually, Caitlin loves swimming pools so we were scoping out our options. We walked past the Kauai Coast Resort, which looked groovy. Pool wasn’t anything to write a blog post about. We went past the Sheraton Kauai Coconut Beach resort, and this one looked amazing. They had a super cool looking pool with waterfalls, a lazy river, and a gate keeping us out of all the fun.

Quick side note here

The hotel we chose was perfect for what we needed. As we walked by all these resorts, we thought that they kind of defeat the purpose of visiting Kauai. We wanted a place to dump our luggage and have a comfortable night sleep. Not a resort with cool amenities that would keep us at a hotel rather than exploring the beautiful scenery of Kauai.

Just keep that in mind as you book places to stay. If you’re wanting a posh resort that’ll encourage you to lay around and sip drinks by a pool or ocean, there are lots of places not in Hawaii to find that.

There are very few places on earth like Kauai.

Side note complete

As we were checking out the Sheraton resort, it started raining. Like… a lot.

We hid under a balcony and Caitlin called the ATV tour company to see if they had any openings later in the week. We were able to book the last two seats on an ATV tour taking place on Friday (the day we leave) so you’ll hear about that in another post.

The rain settled down and we headed back to our hotel to change out of our sweaty/rain-drenched clothes, shower off, and head out on a new adventure.

Wailua Falls

We stumbled upon Wailua Falls the last time we were in Kauai, and we just had to go back to see it again. It’s along the east side of the island and not far from our hotel. It’s a short drive through some beautiful country to get to the falls and, much like the Queen’s bath, parking is limited. We had to wait in our car for a couple minutes as people left and a parking spot opened up.

The parking lot sits on top of, and just to the south of the falls. As you walk to the ledge, you are welcomed with this incredible view.

Here is a video of the surrounding area to give you an idea of just how beautiful this place is.

If you notice the birds flying in this video, you’ll realize how truly magnificent and huge this area, the falls, and the surrounding trees really are. My phone camera doesn’t do this place justice.

Most people sit atop these falls where I took the picture and video and, well… take pictures and videos. Caitlin and I, however, wanted to be a bit more adventurous.

If you walk back towards the road you came in on, there is a fence lining the road that tells people how dangerous it is to attempt a climb down, and that you shouldn’t do it. If you read day 1 of this trip, you already know I have a bit of a problem following rules. So, we started the hike down.

The hike is steep, wet, and very slippery. There are certain areas that have ropes to help you down. I highly recommend using these ropes and I found it easiest to walk down the hill backwards, holding onto the ropes in an almost rappelling-esqe manner. Just make sure you’re going down a trail that has ropes at the steep parts and you should be going the right direction.

Product endorsement

Now is probably as good a time as ever to bring up the footwear that really saved my trip. Prior to the trip, I spent WAY too much time researching the best types of shoes to take to Hawaii, more specifically, Kauai. The last time we visited, I wore flip flops or running shoes. The first few hikes in flip flops had me fearful of losing my life. My running shoes got destroyed by sand and mud. I don’t know how I did the Wailua Falls trek in flip flops last time and made it out alive. In fact, there was a flip flop graveyard towards the bottom of the hill you climb/fall/slide down to get to the bottom of the falls.

This trip, I bought the Whitin Men’s Trail Running Shoes

I do not get anything by mentioning these. I bought them with my own money. They were about $40 on Amazon.

They are a mix between the barefoot running shoes, trail running shoes, and water shoes. They were light, grippy, protected my feet from rocks, sticks, coral, you name it, and did a great job in water as we crossed rivers, jumped into waterfalls, and swam in the ocean.

I absolutely loved these puppies. I put about 40-45 miles on these in the week and they held up wonderfully and were easy to wash off.

Seriously, bring these and flip flops and you’re set. Flip flops for the beach and walking around town. These for everything else.

Caitlin wore Tevas that didn’t have closed toes, which ended up with her blurting out four letter words on multiple occasions. The Tevas didn’t have great grip and resulted in several slips while also rubbing a sore on her ankle where the strap touched her ankle ball. She also had some trail running shoes that ended up muddy and sandy, and had a tough time drying off after getting wet. Remember, the humidity here is 80-100% so drying off clothes or shoes is nearly impossible.

I 100% recommend these shoes or shoes like them. I have the version with the strap.

The bottom of the falls

“Finally, Erik. Just tell us about the bottom of the falls!”

Okay, okay. So, after we rappel/slide/fall down this hill, we end up at the base of these glorious waterfalls. Strangely, there are massive pieces of twisted metal, I’m assuming from large boats or something that have fallen over the falls and settled against the banks of the river. Someone said that the metal used to be in the deeper water at the base of the falls and people cleaned these metal shards out because swimmers were hitting them.

Either way, there are huge metal shards that got there by toppling over the falls. So just be careful doing what we did because a thousand pound metal beam could get pushed over the ledge and land on your noggin. More commonly, rocks of various sizes topple off the waterfall and, if they hit you, you will probably die. I tried to avoid being out in front of the water fall.

Fair warning: I am pasty white and not in good shape, but we snagged a picture and video of us at the base of the water fall.

Caitlin swimming at the base of Wailua Falls
Aww! So cute! Us after our swim.

We swam along the left side of the waterfall (if you’re looking at the waterfall), climbed up some very slippery, moss-covered rocks, saw a beautiful view under the waterfalls and the illusive, backside of water (Jungle Cruise anyone?).

Wailua Falls will always have a special place in our heart and we highly recommend it to anyone visiting Kauai. That hike down is very treacherous and the hike back up is steep and tricky, so if you’re nervous about your health or body or life, enjoy the view from up top.

Poipu Beach

After Wailua Falls, Caitlin wanted some beach time. Caitlin loves her beach time. Jumping around in waves, laying out in the sand, getting tan… you know, all the things I don’t do (as you can tell from my super-white skin).

We drive down along the south side of the island that leads to Poipu Beach. To get to Poipu, you turn off the highway or state road or just road labelled 50 and onto the one labeled 520. Well, as soon as you turn on the 520, you are greeted with the tree tunnel.

Driving through the tree tunnel
This is not my picture, but is much better than what my camera phone could do while I was driving. Photo Credit: Brian Harig

It’s a pretty cool road and after the tree tunnel, you pop out into Jurassic Park territory with sprawling fields of green grass and massive trees.

After about 5-10 minutes, you end up at Poipu Beach.

Borrowed picture. We didn’t take any pictures here.
Photo taken from: https://www.hawaiianbeachrentals.com/Hawaii/Kauai/Poipu/beaches/PoipuBeachParkandBrenneckesBeach.htm

Poipu Beach is my sister’s favorite. It sits in a little cove and has a reef where a lot of people float and snorkel. In the evenings, you can find sea turtles crawling up the beach. I initially typed that you can see sea turtles, and that made me giggle. Then, I tried to find a way to write see “C” sea turtles just to get ridiculous. But then I deleted those and wrote the above, only to argue with myself and type out this glorious explanation.

Welcome to the inner workings of my brain.
You’re welcome.

We got out of our car, hauled our beach gear onto, well… the beach, and the second we spread out our towels, it started pouring rain. A ton. It was windy, and the rain drops were cold, and everything was getting soaked. Caitlin and I ran to our car and after about 2 minutes, it stopped raining and there were blue skies as if it had never rained here since the dawn of man.

We scuttled back out to the beach, I lathered up with sunscreen, and we jumped in the water. This beach has some reef and rocks as you walk out, so it would’ve been a perfect place for my sweet shoes I mentioned earlier, but alas, I was in flip flops, and walking along the the coral was tricky and slightly painful. Once you get out far enough, you throw those goggles on, plunge that snorkel in your mouth, and watch the fish swim around you while you look like a fool.

You know, we all like to look at pictures of the blob fish and laugh at how ugly there are, myself included, but I’m sorry, there is nothing attractive about anyone in snorkel gear.

Your eyes are bugged out from tightening the goggles into your frontal lobe so salt water won’t get in. your nose is squished into this piece of plastic that is as permeable to water as air, meaning it leaks like a siv and is seemingly whatever the opposite of a waterproof is. Your front lip is pulled up by the nose slot. You throw your mouth around the plastic mouthpiece that tastes like a mixture of a biohazard and salt water.

It’s just not pleasant.

Caitlin’s wonderful parents let us borrow their water hammocks, which were pretty cool. Be sure to get the fabric type. We played around with the plastic versions and the colors bleed off into your skin so you have blue or pink strips on your back and neck.

We could throw the floaties under our arms and snorkel to see the fish and then flip over and put our neck on one floaty with our legs over the other and just ride the little waves and soak up the sun.

After a good hour or so of floating around and laying out, the hunger bug hit me. I hadn’t eaten since before our run, meaning we’d done all of the above-mentioned activities without refueling little ol’ Erik. And anyone close to me knows, I tend to get hangry.

Threat level: Hanger

I ever-so-politely asked Caitlin if it was okay to go grab something to eat. She kindly obliged and we gathered up our stuff. As we were doing so, clouds magically appeared. We got in our car and another downpour started – good timing Erik. Thanks.

The classic husband-wife conversation began:

Erik: What would you like to eat.
Caitlin: I could eat anywhere.
Erik: *looks up restaurants in the area* How about this one?
Caitlin: Nah, let’s find something else.

We drive around for another 5 minutes. Erik getting more and more hungry.

Erik: Okay, how about this one.
Caitlin: Not really feeling that.

Drive around for another 5 minutes.

Caitlin: Let’s go to this one.
Hangry Erik: *boiling with rage* Great!

We speed off in the direction Google Maps tells us.

Google says the restaurant opened a half hour ago, and as we pull in the parking lot, there’s a line out the door. This means more waiting. I drop Caitlin off to investigate as I find a parking spot. She isn’t up there long before she is walking away from the line, so I do the gentlemanly thing and pick her up – meaning I drove the car near her general area and made her open the door and get in.

The restaurant isn’t open yet. No one is in there so everyone is just sitting outside.

That’s odd.

We drove to another restaurant in a fitness club.
Nope.

We drive to a shopping district with several restaurants around. It’s now about 30 minutes since I hit code-red hanger level so Erik is not happy right now. We go to Bubba’s Burgers, which Google also says is open. The building porch is roped off at the end we approach and it says use the other entrance. We walk to the other side of the building. Still roped off. Try the third side. No door.

Interestingly enough, this is one of those four-sided buildings, leaving us with one more option: the fourth side. Also roped off.

Bubba’s Burgers is closed.

In fact, all of the restaurants in this shopping center say they are open, but are really closed.

So, guess where we ended up?

If you guessed the original place that Erik had suggested 45 minutes ago, you’d be correct.

Now, granted, the name of the place was Da Crack, however, Da Crack was da bomb and had very yummy food. I need to take a step back and understand that I was having the meltdown of a 3-year-old, so anything probably would’ve tasted amazing, but we both seemed happy with our meal from Da Crack. It has the highest reviews of any restaurant in the city, by the way.

Ladies: Please, please, please never say you will “eat anywhere,” or “are good with anything,” unless you truly mean that you are 100%, fully willing to eat at Del Taco, or Betos, or La Frontera. Hell, I’ll throw out fine dining establishments like Cafe Rio, Little Caesars, or Arby’s if it means you’ll stick to your word of “being good with whatever.”

Us guys really don’t care where we eat, as long as there is a substantial amount of food from animals that eat the food you choose to eat. If we are famished, suggesting a kale salad or a parfait probably won’t end well for anyone. But literally ANY other suggestion, and we are willing to whisk you away in our metal chariot as fast as the engine will allow to get you exactly the food you want, no matter what the cost.

Bliss

A quick recap:

I was hangry. I am now full. It is raining rather aggressively.

We head back to our hotel, turn on 3rd Rock from the Sun, and lay down for a quick nap before we plan to experience the happening night life at our hotel pool and restaurant.

We lay down… is it lie down?
We collapse onto the bed at 5:30 PM and close our eyes.
We wake up and it’s 5:00 AM.
Now THAT is a nap!

It wasn’t what we planned, but it felt amazing and we definitely needed it given what was coming up the next day.

A really long PS:

Kauai in general has been hit hard by Covid. Restaurants and the tourism industries have been hit as severely as anywhere else in the world from an economic perspective.

The state of Hawaii kind of just turned on the faucets to tourists all at once, so restaurants are severely understaffed. This is why many of these restaurants are closed on days they would regularly be open. This is why wait times are longer.

Please turn back into a human when visiting restaurants and interacting with your waiter/waitress. They have been through a lot. They are overworked. They are doing the best they can to get you seated and fed as quickly as they can.

Thank you to all of you in the hospitality industries. I can’t imagine what you are going through. Many of my thoughts are satirical and I’ll express moments of frustration, but I always tried to give the people I interacted with the benefit of the doubt, tip them well, and be as polite and nice as my crusty self could muster.

Now… Check out Day 4

Trip to Kaua’i – Part 2

Part 2 of this series is where the magic starts to happen.
Waking up in a time zone four hours behind what you’re used to is the first magical part of day 2. After a long travel day (Part 1), a good 8 hours of sleep later and we’re still waking up at 5:00 AM, refreshed and ready to go.

The plan: no plans

We drove up to the North Shore to revisit some of our favorite places from last time. Since last time, there had been a landslide on Hanalei Hill. It happened on April 15th this year and there has been a lot of work to get the road opened up.

April 15, 2021 Hanalei Hill Landslide

However, it is one way with each side taking turns so if you want travel past this point like we did, expect some delays. The road is open during certain hours of the day, closes during the middle of the day, and reopens later in the day.

Luckily for us on this day (Sunday), the road is open all day but still one direction at a time.

Our favorite beach is Ke’e beach, which is where the main road ends, the famous Kalalau trail begins, and you have an epic view of the Na Pali coast.

Well, since the last time we were there, the north part of the island experienced a massive storm that flooded the entire north end of the island and cut off those locals for three months. It washed out a large portion of Ke’e beach. The beach and trail had become so overrun with tourists before the flooding that the state of Hawaii decided to use the reset and rethink this incredible site.

They moved the end of the road away from the beach, set up some agricultural sites, and required a parking pass or shuttle pass to visit the spot, including hiking the Na Pali coast.

This meant that we were only able to drive to a certain point before some park officials turned us around and we headed back to explore other islands until our scheduled hike the next day.

Our first beach

On our way back, we hit up Lumaha’i Beach as our first official beach of the trip. It has the Lumaha’i River running into the ocean. There is a nifty rope swing on the northwest portion of the river’s entry into the ocean that is pretty cool. There are also some rocks you can walk on and see waves splashing against them. Be careful, don’t get too close, don’t die.

We walked along this beach for a while and played around in the sand. There was only one person that we could see on this beach so it felt like our own private area to goof off and watch the waves.

After a while, there was another spot we wanted to go see.

The Queen’s Bath

I didn’t really know what The Queen’s Bath was. All I knew was that several people had recommended it as a must-see.

It is located in Princeville, just north of the Makai Golf Club. There is limited parking at the trailhead and everywhere else you would think to try and park is monitored and will have your car towed if you don’t have a pass.

The good news is that people are coming and going from the trail pretty regularly so we just parked by the trailhead in the neighborhood, stayed in the car, and waited for someone to come out and leave so we could take their spot. We only waited about 5-7 minutes and got our parking spot.

It is a short hike through some beautiful scenery before you are on the rocky ledges of this area. There are lots of little crabs running around and we saw a couple turtle swimming around in the ocean near the ledges.

Turn left once you hit the rocks and you’ll wander into a sinkhole of sorts, filled with crystal clear water and waves splashing against it.

Here’s a video of Caitlin swimming around in The Queen’s Bath

Caitlin swimming in the Queen’s Bath

There are a lot of fairly good-sized fish in this pool that you can see swimming around you. Bring some goggles for an even better view of the life that exists in this little area.

There is a ledge that we all jumped off and into the pool. It is salt water, so plug your nose unless you want salt water up in the area that only a Covid test can reach, and this burning lasts longer than the brain-tickle of the Covid test.

Here’s my not-so-epic jump:

Here’s Caitlin’s more-epic jump:

We spent quite a bit of time here, chatting with a cool couple from Florida and floating around. Afterwards, we went hiking further north around the rocky ledges. There are a few other decent-sized pools that you can jump in and play around in. One has some pretty big swells so be careful there.

We hiked around a corner and found a little cove where a sea turtle was swimming and trying to catch food. It was pretty cool and worth the tricky hike in there.

The ledges have areas that are pretty sharp. I got a very small cut on my left thumb and pointer finger. Really, about the size of a paper cut, but boy, when that cut gets into salt water… it stings… so heads up.

Secret Beach

After The Queens Bath, we went and checked out Secret Beach, which… spoiler alert, isn’t really secret. It’s real name is Kauapea Beach and plenty of people know about it. You walk down a good-sized hill through the backyards of some homes with spectacular backyards to get down to the beach. It’s a pretty big beach with a nice view of the Kilauea Lighthouse and some cool caves within the ledges.

A storm was heading in so we headed back, but before we did, we saw a fallen coconut and took our shot at getting inside a coconut. It’s quite the challenge, but with the combined strength of Caitlin (super strong) and myself (the strength of an infant) we were able to crack that coconut open. We weren’t brave enough to eat any of it.

Time to eat

We headed back to an area near our hotel and ate at Chicken in a Barrel BBQ. If you like BBQ, this place was yummy with lots of different meat options and fries. Caitlin went with the sweet potato fries, I went with the Sample Plate that has BBQ chicken, steak, ribs, beef, and pork all on top of rice. Chicken in a Barrel has a spicy teriyaki sauce and a sweet sauce. I went with the sweet because that’s just the kind of person I am.

We snagged a massive snow cone from JoJo’s Shaved Ice. Caitlin went with the banana colada, strawberry colada, and pina colada mix. It was refreshing and delightful.

Next, we jumped in our hotel pool and splashed around a bit. I worked on my freestyle stroke and dolphin kick while Caitlin got more tan.

Quick bike ride

Our hotel offered free bike rentals to guests as long as you had the bikes back by 6 PM. We took off around 5:15 PM after signing a waiver stating that if we damaged the bike, we were responsible to replace it at a cost of something like $750 for the bike.

In the nicest way I can muster, those bikes weren’t worth $750. They weren’t worth $100… super old, super rusty… although, maybe I’m just not up with the bike trends. I guess if it is “in” to have an old, paint-chipped, rusty, falling apart bike, then yes, these are worth a ton. Or if you can recycle scrap metal at $25 per pound, then we’re getting closer.

We rode from our hotel, across the Kuhio Highway that spans the Wailua Beach, Wailua Beach Park, and the Wailua River. We saw decent sized waves crashing, some locals fishing, and some people surfing a bit further out.

Our ride took us to Hikinaakala Heiau, which are the foundation ruins of an ancient temple, so that’s pretty cool. We wound our way around Lydgate Beach Park and watched some families playing in the park and a graduation luau taking place in the park pavilion.

On our way out of Lydgate park, my bike chain popped off and I had to throw that back on there with fears that this rusty old thing was going to now cost me $750, we’d be late for the 6 PM bike curfew, and I’d get tetanus from the rust getting in the cuts in my hand. Luckily, it went back on fine and made it back to the hotel in time without further incident. To my knowledge, I don’t have tetanus.

Here’s a video of Caitlin dancing around on the bike and nearly lopping off her head via tree.

Doesn’t she look so happy?!

Pretty proud of my filming while riding talent so if any Hollywood directors need such skill, my price isn’t high.

Winding down

After our bike ride, we went to the grocery store to get some water and snacks for our upcoming hike of the Na Pali coast the next day. After we got back to our hotel, we got the news that the shuttle service to take us to the hike was cancelled all shuttles for the next day because of severe weather in that area the next day, so we had to reschedule our hike to Wednesday, two days after our plan. Didn’t end up being a problem and everything worked out well.

Continued our 3rd Rock from the Sun episodes before bed and we were out.

Ready to read about the adventures of Part 3?
Sexy snails.
Wailua Falls.
Hangry Erik…

Check it out here: Day 3

Trip to Kaua’i – Part 1

Caitlin and I just returned from our week-long trip to Kaua’i.
It was magical.

Kaua’i has the most beautiful scenery that I have ever seen and during this trip, Caitlin and I saw the island in a much different way than we did 5 1/2 years ago on our last trip here.

So, with that, here is part 1 of the Kaua’i trip series. Each day will be a different part so… buckle up.

Day 1 – Travel Day

Day 1 really starts 3 days before travel day.
There is very little that is pleasant to me leading up to and during this day.
I despise travel days, so this first post will be mostly negative news, but it is probably the most helpful post in making your Hawaii travel plans as I will show you how to avoid our mistakes.

Covid-19 and travel to Hawaii is an absolute nightmare. The state of Hawaii is extra cautious about letting travelers in. I understand and get that. Requiring travelers to have a negative Covid test and/or vaccination cards, especially during a time when cases continue to grow, makes sense to me.

Here’s where things stop making sense.
The whole mentality around Covid – and not just in Hawaii – is guilty until proven innocent… and then still guilty.

In order to travel to Hawaii and avoid a 10-day quarantine, you must do several important things within a specific time frame. I was not reading very closely and almost messed up our vacation.

Covid procedures

If you plan on taking a trip to Hawaii, here are the things you have to do (as of August 29th, 2021).

Set up an account on the Safe Travels site
You’ll need to go to https://travel.hawaii.gov/ and create an account.
I used my email and a password. There are other options for you, but you need to have an account to finish up the next few steps.

Add your trip
Within your Safe Travels account, you’ll need to put in your trip details. Things like:
• Travel dates
• Travel locations (which islands)
• Purpose for travel (business, pleasure, honeymoon, etc.)
• Airline & flight number
It is important to note that each traveler will need his or her own Safe Travels account. For example, I had mine, Caitlin had her own. Each of us had to do each of these steps individually.

Apply for exemption/exception from quarantine
You can find the rules here: Quarantine exceptions
This is where things get fishy for me. The gist of it is you need to upload either:

  1. Your Covid Vaccination Card
    Your vaccination card showing you are fully vaccinated and (this is important) your last vaccination dose must have been received at least 15 days before you begin your trip, will get you an exception.

    We received our 2nd dose 3 days before our trip, so our vaccination card didn’t “count” as a valid exception to avoid the 10-day quarantine.

    This isn’t my gripe with the system. We weren’t trying to sneak in with a last-minute vaccination card, it just happened to fall too soon to have that count. Which left us with option 2.
  2. Covid NAAT/PCR Test Exception
    This would entail getting a negative Covid test within very particular parameters – and this is where my gripe begins.

    You see, Hawaii only accepts a negative PCR test (which is fine) that has been administered within 72 hours of the last leg of your flight into Hawaii.

    Let me try and clarify that a bit for those like me who didn’t read carefully enough.

    We flew from Salt Lake to LA at 11:40 AM. We then had a few hours to spend in LAX before we took off for Hawaii at 3:54 PM (4:54 PM in MST where we originated… time zones are important).

    This means that the tests Caitlin and I got at 3:00 PM, 3 days before our flight, would not have counted. We must have had the test administered after 4:54 PM our time, 3-days or fewer before our flight. Seems simple enough. Well, it kind of isn’t.

    Caitlin and I got tested at one of the testing sites here in Salt Lake. It is an approved site for the State of Utah – having the Utah Department of Health stamped on the results, and you have your results turned around in less than 24 hours. It’s beautiful.
    It also doesn’t count.

    Hawaii only accepts tests administered by a select few entities across the country. Of those entities, only three exist in Utah:
    1. Walgreens
      This is nice because it is “free,” meaning your insurance will pay for it, which means you’ll eventually pay for it with premiums, but I digress… the problem with the Walgreens options is that each and every person I have spoken with that has traveled to Hawaii and tried to schedule with Walgreens have run into a couple problems.

      The first is getting a time that falls within the window they need for the PCR test. The second, is getting the results back in time.

      My sample size is small, roughly 15 people, but all 15 of them had issues scheduling a time within the 72 hour window. One was even willing to drive 3.5 hours to a location in a different state because that was the only location with an available time.

      Also, all 15 people who took the Walgreens test, didn’t get results back in time as more than 72 hours had passed, meaning that they didn’t have the results by the time their flight took off.
      You see, once you get results back, you have to upload them to your Safe Travels account by the time you try to leave the airport in Hawaii (more on this later). Two people NEVER got results back from the Walgreens test. So that’s fun.

      And that’s why the Walgreens test doesn’t really help.
    1. CVS – Self Pay
      Your other option in Utah is the CVS Self Pay option. They make this very clear on the Safe Travels website around the CVS option: “ONLY www.cvs.com/selfpaytesting, not a different CVS website or walk-in.”

      These tests are $140 per person and results are “typically 1-2 days.” Keep in mind that results seem to be delayed on weekends, so if you plan on traveling near a weekend like we did, you may run into longer results times.

      We didn’t go for this option because we were sure we could get away with the “free” option.
    2. XpresCheck
      This is the even more expensive ($200 per person) test administered in a handful of airports around the country. Luckily, the Salt Lake Airport has one of these.
      https://www.xprescheck.com/

      Your $200 gets you results in about 30 minutes. Magic.

I feel like I’m taking crazy pills here.

So, to get an exception, you have to prove you don’t have Covid (fine) but you can only use tests from a couple (massive) companies.

One probably won’t work because of scheduling and result turn-around time.
One costs you $140 per person and may get you results in time.
The last costs $200 per person at the last possible minute in an airport (because they know the other two options probably won’t work) and you can magically get you results in 3o minutes, rather than 3 – never days.

Why aren’t they all the 30-minute turnaround time?

So, you’ve shelved out $200 per person and have your Covid results (yay!).

*** Update ***

We were able to submit this test to our insurance company who ended up covering this test. They mailed us a check for the amount we paid to have this test. So that was nice.

Upload results into Safe Travels
The next thing you need to do is upload those results into your Safe Travels account.

Just taking a picture won’t cut it because, well, that would be the easy thing to do. To upload into the Safe Travels website, you can only upload a PDF – not a regular image.

Both phone systems allow you to get a picture into a PDF with a few extra steps.
iPhone instructions
Android instructions:

  1. Select photos on Photo Gallary.
  2. Click on the dots to open a menu, and tap on “Print”.
  3. Choose “Save as PDF”.
  4. Edit the PDF settings including paper size, letter, orientation, color, etc.
  5. Choose a location from your phone to store this converted PDF.

Pre-screening
Alright! You’ve made it this far!
You’ll wander to your gate that departs to Hawaii and notice another long line of people getting wrist bands. If you’re like me, you’ll ask someone in line what the line is for. They will tell you, “I don’t know, just seemed like the line I was supposed to be in.”

You’ll nod, confused, and meander towards the front of the line and ask someone up there.

This person will roll his eyes and say, “It’s where you complete your pre-screening,” and turn his back to you. You’ll politely ask if they can help you understand what that means and they will say, “if you don’t know by now, you’re already screwed.”

Just what you wanted to hear.

You’ll ask a third person, because all worthwhile things come in threes, and that person will finally explain that after you have jumped through all these hoops and uploaded your documentation (as a PDF!), you now need a QR code to complete your attempt to prove you don’t have Covid.

Health Questionnaire

Within your Safe Travels account, you will need to fill out a health questionnaire where you will answer questions that basically ask if you have Covid. Upon completion, you will get a QR code emailed to you from your Safe Travels account. This super long line in front of your gate is a pre-screening where, if you can make it through the line to the front, you will get a wristband allowing you to bypass this same process in Hawaii.

But, of course, if you’re like me, you won’t make it to the front of the line before your plane leaves and you will do this same thing in the airport in Hawaii.

I have heard that the wait time can be hours at the airports on Oahu, Maui, and the Big Island. Our wait time on Kauai was only about 20 – 30 minutes.

So, as with seemingly all-things Covid related these days, just remember:
You are guilty unless you can prove you are innocent. And then you are still considered guilty.

But, at least you can fly to Hawaii and avoid the 10-day quarantine.

Salt Lake to LA

The Salt Lake Airport is beautiful, and my appreciation for the airport grew on this trip after seeing LA and Lihue. The Salt Lake airport is remarkably clean, efficient, and lots of nice restaurants and stores. It his huge and there is walking involved, but everything went smooth for us.

I grabbed a breakfast burrito from Cafe Rio and we ran into our neighbor/pilot/friend Mike Best while waiting at our gate.

We flew Delta and our flight from Salt Lake to LA was fine. The plane seemed like it was in good shape and the entertainment screen on the back of the seat in front of me was everything I needed.

I chose to play some games and watch an episode of Billions.

We had a 3.5 hour layover in the LA airport and had to switch terminals on a bus. Not bad and went fine.
Caitlin and I grabbed a bite to eat at the Border Grill in Terminal B, Caitlin took a little nap, and we watched the diverse people traveling through LAX.

It was here that I had the 3-person dialogue at the gate to figure out what the long line was about with the whole pre-screening thing.

LA to Lihue

Caitlin and I both felt that the 6 hour flight from LA to Lihue should be a better plane experience than the hour and a half flight from Salt Lake to LA.

Delta does not feel the same way.

It felt like the leg room was less, the entertainment screen was falling out of the seat and didn’t have nearly the same selection of movies/shows, and Caitlin’s headphone jack didn’t work. Caitlin was left to read a book while I watched S5:E2 of Billions because it only had the first 2 episodes (flight to LA had first 5 episodes). I also watched Inception, which blew my mind again.

My legs were cramped and my butt fell asleep, but the flight itself was fine. No real crazy turbulence or out-of-line passengers and we landed without dying. Always my top criteria for judging a plane ride.

We made it to Kauai

We step off the plane into the warm, humid Lihue airport.

Those who had the wristbands from the pre-screening headed on out to their rental cars while Caitlin and I spent 20-30 minutes scanning our QR code showing we had the vaccine, tested negative (3 times in 3 days), and filled out the health questionnaire. We were allowed to explore Kauai.

The shuttle to our rental car was quick and easy. The driver thanked us for traveling there because that island’s economy is centered around travel. I’ll talk more on that in later posts, but from every native I spoke to, they are glad travel is back on.

We had 2 cars to choose from (rental cars are hard to come by) and got the Chevy Impala.

My dad has always said – referring to people – it’s not the years, it’s the miles. Well, this applied to this car. Only 14,000 miles on the odometer, but on the inside, this puppy looked and sounded like it had seen 140,000 miles.

The outside looked fine as you’ll see from my video walk-around. The tires were nearly bald, but looks zippy from the outside.

It got us where we needed over the course of the next week and I am grateful for it.

We drove the 15 minutes to our hotel: The Kauai Shores Hotel

To check in, we again had to show our Safe Travels account QR code proving we were innocent (again). I kept thinking, “we wouldn’t be standing in front of the counter if we hadn’t already passed this portion of the test, right?”

We found our room, dumped our luggage, and went for a bite to eat at the onsite restaurant: Lava Lava Beach Club

Caitlin had the sweet potato fries and I got the pepperoni pizza. The food was good and the scenery was great. The restaurant has indoor/outdoor seating, a nice bar, and the ocean about 30 yards away so you can hear the waves crash and see the moon rise across the ocean while eating your meal. Live music is playing and a pool is nearby with a bunch of people swimming, drinking, and hanging out.

Here is a video of the beach just off the restaurant and the super-bright moon.

After a long day, we went to our room, watched an episode of 3rd Rock from the Sun, and went to bed around 10 PM (2 AM Utah time). This 4 hour difference is awesome traveling backwards. Not so much traveling forward home.

There’s day 1 for you. Days 2 – 7 will be much more eventful with better stories and pictures.

Read about Day 2 here: Trip to Kaua’i Part 2

How Erik got his man-card back

Some of my loyal readers recall my post a few months back that documented the emasculating purchase of a minivan. The van-buying experience was miserable because, well, I was buying a van… but most importantly because the dealership was a nightmare to work with.

Well, 8 months after that experience and 8 years of driving my super cute, super economical, super intimidating Hyundai Accent, I decided to make a change and go car shopping again.

Now, you may be asking yourself, “Why would anyone want anything other than the classy Hyundai Accent?”

What my old car looked like… only way nicer than how mine actually looked.

That is probably the smartest question you could have ever pondered. The Accent is a hell of a machine.

Mine had no power locks and the key hole was only on the driver’s side so I haven’t opened the door for Caitlin in years. Her fault… not mine. She doesn’t have the patience for me to unlock the doors from the driver’s side, run around to her side, albeit at the speed of the Flash, and open her door. She just opens her door when the locks click open.

She’s so independent.
I love it when she takes charge.

Anyway, my Accent also lacked power seats, went 0-60 in… well… I don’t know that I ever made it to 60 mph, and was a stick (manual for the purists). The fact that it was a stick meant that it had the best Millennial anti-theft system on the planet.

Caitlin (a millennial) doesn’t know how to drive a stick, which was a blessing and a curse. She couldn’t drive my car and crash it into light poles, but at the same time, we could never switch cars when I wanted to cruise around town looking cool in her van… I mean… when I HAD to drive her van for manly things like going to Home Depot and buying big tools or wood or whatever is it that real men buy.

Car Shopping

Recent events have led to me making the decision to buy a truck. What’s more manly than a truck, right?

Quick aside: I’m noticing how often I’m referring to manly things. Due to the current cancel-culture of planet earth, please recognize that many of my posts have satire and sarcasm. Moving on…

So I want a truck. My heart was set on a Toyota Tacoma because I think they look amazing and I don’t want a big truck. I want a truck that drives more like a van SUV and can still fit in my garage.

A midsize pickup truck is all I need. I’m not into those massive trucks with monster tires, 9″ lifts, and stickers of a kid urinating on other truck brands. I’m not going to tow much of anything, I don’t need to haul large boulders, and I don’t feel the need to overcompensate for, well… you know.
At least not in my vehicle choice.

Based on my previous buying experience, I was dreading the whole process. So this time, I brought my 5-year-old boy with me so I could blame us leaving a dealership without buying on the fact that it was past his bedtime. Can you think of any better way to show how secure you are with yourself and your feelings than relying on your child as a way to tell someone no?

Toyota Tacoma

Jared and I went to the Toyota dealership first. We walked/skipped up to the front doors with confidence and enthusiasm. We approached the first person we saw and asked if they had any Tacomas we could test drive.

Response: “It’s my first day so… I don’t know. Let me check.”

Hmm… interesting start.

Another employee comes over and informs the new guy what he should do and escorts us into the building. There was a little tension there. Almost like an older brother/younger brother thing, but that’s beside the point.

They asked a few questions to see if I could afford a bicycle, let alone a Tacoma (I was in crummy clothes at the time). After they came to the conclusion that I was harmless, they pulled around a couple used Tacomas for us to check out. Everything looked great on the outside and Jared and I were ready to go on a test drive.

As we pulled out of the parking lot, I noticed that something was tickling my head. That something was the roof.

You see, for those who don’t know me, I’m 6’4″ when I stand up straight. I slouch a bit, but even so, the top of my head was touching the roof of the Tacoma. The seat wouldn’t adjust up and down, only forwards and backwards along with the seat tilt, so I could feel the roof during the entire drive. The only way to alleviate this issue was to scoot my seat way forward and lay the seat way back. It wasn’t comfortable and, if I’m honest, it was a deal breaker for me.

Another thing that ground my gears was how the Tacoma’s gears seemed to grind. I don’t mean there was a grinding sound, just that the transition between gears didn’t feel super smooth whenever I went to accelerate quickly (think freeway onramp). We used to have another Toyota that had the same issue.

Finally, two of the three seat belts in the back were buried under the seat so Jared couldn’t get buckled. Not a Tacoma issue, but still… strike 3.

I was devastated. My heart was set on a Tacoma, but the tickling was lame and heaven forbid I got in an accident and my noggin got lopped off, which would be less than desirable for me.

So… Jared and I moved onto the next option.

Ford Ranger

Right across the street from the Toyota dealership was the Ford dealership. Jared and I went over there and took a look at the Ford Ranger. The sales person was super nice and very helpful. We looked at the different packages they had a lot to offer. Jared and I liked the Ranger FX4 Lariat.

Me: Because my head fit.
Jared: Because it was a truck.

Oh, to be 5 again…

The Ranger’s headroom and lack of strange transmission transitions put this out in front of the Tacoma.

The downside was that I didn’t particularly love the look compared to the Tacoma and others I’ll mention. Even so, I could fit comfortably inside without having a cowlick on the top of my head and it drove nicely on the short test drive.

Jared and I were leaning toward this truck but we decided to try a couple more the next day.

Chevy Colorado/GMC Canyon

Colorado
Canyon

The last on my list to test was the Chevy Colorado/GMC Canyon. These are essentially the same truck, just with different branding badges and located at the same dealership.

We continued our quest to this dealership the next day after Jared’s baseball practice.

The Sales Guy

Pulling onto the Chevy lot, we were excited. There was a line of trucks at the entrance to the dealership and Jared’s pumped seeing all these big, fancy vehicles. As we parked, a tall, skinny guy (relevant later) came out of the dealership and welcomed us. He asked the standard questions to me and then asked Jared if he likes sports. Jared, decked out in baseball clothes, told him he just came from football practice.

Dana wasn’t so sure that sentence was accurate based on the baseball uniform, and I realized that I have failed to properly teach my boy the difference between baseball and football.

I’m embarrassed, Jared is on cloud 9, Dana is confused, and we’re all headed to the part of the lot where the Colorados and Canyons live, facing the main road like a litter of puppies in a pet store window hoping people notice them as they pass by.

I told Dana where we were at on our noble journey and why I was bummed about the Tacoma. He could relate. He sized me up and asked if I was 6’4″ like him. We did the only thing two grown men can do when asked about their height. We both stood back to back, as straight as we could, and adjusted our hands on top of our heads to show that we were taller than the other, all while asking Jared to tell us who was taller.

Okay, it didn’t quite happen like that. It was more along the lines of us standing up as straight as we could, gazing into each other’s eyes, and realizing that we were, in fact, the same height. He empathized with my headroom issue because in one of his past professions, he drove a company truck (Tacoma) and his hair was constantly rubbing against the roof.

This guy gets me.

I liked the Colorado/Chevy looks more than the Canyon/GMC and told Dana that it’s time to test drive this puppy. Dana ran (literally) and got us the keys so we could take it for a spin.

The Test Drive

As we started driving, the first thing I noticed was that I fit comfortably inside with plenty of head room. Big plus.

It was cold that night so we were all shivering for a bit as we started driving. We turned on the heater to warm us up and Dana mentioned that his hands get sore and stiff when it’s cold.

I’m like, “Hey, me too! I’ve always had poor circulation in my hands.” Then, Dana pointed out a button on the steering wheel that is, in my opinion, one of the top 3 inventions of all time.

The steering wheel warmer

I don’t know if that’s the official name for it, but the steering wheel warms up, much like a bum warmer – what we like to call the seat warmers. This is huge because when it gets cold outside, my hands become pretty useless. But, armed with a steering wheel warmer, I feel like I have essentially become invincible. I pop that button on and the steering wheel warms right up. It’s brilliant.

The interior was leather and super nice. Given the car I was used to, I felt like I was in a luxurious space ship, and it was awesome. Big plus.

The infotainment system was fantastic and had everything I could ever want and more.

The truck accelerated nicely, brakes worked, and Jared was happy as a clam. Dana did a great job of answering all my questions and not judging my parking job as I tried to put the truck back where I found it, just at a strange angle that would make Pythagoras roll in his grave.

We looked at a brand new Colorado on the showroom floor with fancy wheels and a few upgrades. I informed Dana that I planned on being back the next day to continue the conversation around the new one, or the one we test drove.

The next day

I’d made up my mind that I wanted a Colorado. I was impressed and it checked all the boxes of what I was looking for. Now, I just had to go through that whole car-buying process at a dealership again.

Ugh.

I was not looking forward to that. In fact, I sent Dana the article I wrote on the van experience and asked him if this is what I had to look forward to, because if so, I wasn’t going to go through that again. He assured me it wouldn’t be like that.

So, after all that back story, here’s a quick review based on my experience of Riverton Chevrolet:

The Good

Sales Person:
Dana has been mentioned throughout this article. He was fantastic and very helpful. I feel like a good car salesperson’s job is to just be your friend more than anything. He asked questions to better understand what I was looking for. He showed me different truck options that would meet the things I was looking for, plus some extra features and recommendations. We had a lot of similarities in body dimensions.

That sounds weird as I read it back in my head.
We’ll try again…

We’re both tall and skinny. We both understand how the world is not built for people our size and he knew about how our impairments are alleviated with this truck.

He did a great job of helping me understand the next step of the process as I moved closer to the purchase and he didn’t bombard me with messages like some clingy girlfriend who asks if you’re breaking up if you don’t respond to her text after like 4.5 seconds. I appreciated that.

When I went back the next day, he had read my other article and even had a “no recording devices” sign propped up on his desk as a joke. It was fantastic and he did say, “Hey, feel free to record this because it’ll be the best testimonial we could get.”

I didn’t record the process, but he’s right, it would’ve been a great testimonial.

Even though the whole process took a long time (more on that later), Dana respected my time and would literally run back and forth to get keys, paperwork, approvals, and signatures. His hustle was legendary.

Sales Manager:
I think that was Scott’s role. He came around once price talks started happening. The person in this role at the dealership where I bought the van last year really caused things to go south and I was pretty clear to both Scott and Dana about my apprehension during this step. I kept thinking that Scott was going to slip something in that I hadn’t agree to, or tell me that some mysterious fee was required. Thankfully, that never came. Scott was great and everything he said and promised turned out exactly the way he said it would.

And that’s all I really ask for from anyone in this world.

Finance Manager:
In my van experience, this was the worst step of the purchasing process. At a different dealership, the finance manager made me say ‘no’ to an extended warranty 20-30 times. He insulted me. He went back on all previous promises made by others in the process. He refused to let me make a down payment until a manager got involved. He tried to force me to accept a rate 3 times higher than the rate my credit union pre-approved (who they claimed to work with). He told me certain fees were legally required when they weren’t.

At this present-day dealership, Ben was the exact opposite of all that.

Ben told me about the extended warranty they offered in a matter of seconds.

I said, “no thanks.”

He said, “no problem.”

And we moved on.

I was in shock. I thought it was some sort of tricky tactic and the warranty would come up later. I was bracing myself for the barrage of insults that never came. That was the last we spoke about extended warrantees.

I had been pre-approved by my credit union for a super-low rate. Ben said they were currently a point higher but he sent a message to the credit union based on what I said and got back a message back from the branch that we were good to go on the lower rate. It was awesome.

He said, “It looks like you wanted to make a down payment, how do you want to make that?” We made it happen.

The whole process with Ben felt like it took maybe 10 minutes to sign what I needed to sign, print off documents, and head out to my shiny new truck.

Ben – seriously, thank you. That was awesome.

Trade in
Two days prior, when I was test driving the Ford Ranger, that dealership checked out my car and put up an offer for a trade-in should I move forward with the Ford.

Riverton Chevrolet offered double what the Ford dealership offered.

Negotiation process
The whole negotiation process wasn’t bad. They came down a little and it wasn’t this hour long back and forth with the mysterious managers in the back.

Scott showed the price of the car along with an itemized list of all taxes and fees associated with the price he was showing me (I never got that after 4 hours with the other dealership).

He told me which fees were required. Given that my stepmom works for a dealership, I knew which fees are negotiable and which were not. Scott presented only one fee that wasn’t required but is standard across all dealerships and that is the Data Dots or Vehicle Theft Registration fee. He and I broke that one down and figured it out together.

There wasn’t high pressure, however, once they had made the concessions they could and agreed to what I asked, they kept my decision process moving forward rather than stalling. Basically, they took away all my barriers to buying to where I didn’t have any anymore. All there was left to do was sign.

The Could-be-better

Advertised prices
In my experience, this happens with 99% of dealerships. The internet price is designed to get you to the lot and looking at cars, but it’s not the price their going to give you to start.

This happened with the new truck I was wanting to get. The online price was at $42k-ish. Once we started talking, it jumped up to $50k.

Similar thing happened on the truck I ended up purchasing. Online, it was shown about $5k less than where our negotiation conversation started.

I’m not a big fan of this tactic. My ‘real job’ is in marketing, so I get the demand-gen idea, but I’m still not a fan. As I mentioned earlier, a rule of thumb I try and live by is if I tell you how something will go, or be priced, or will work, then it better go, be priced, or work that way.

In my experience, this was the only thing at this dealership that wasn’t as advertised as they say.

Time
From letting them know I wanted to buy the truck to when I left the dealership was about 3 hours. Now, there are a few factors that were a part of that, including some computers and printers going down, preventing anything from moving forward for a bit, but that felt like a long time.

Do I expect to be in and out in 15 minutes? No.
An hour? Maybe…?
3 hours? That felt too long. Especially since I wasn’t my usual chatty, friendly self given the car-buying PTSD I was experiencing from other experiences.

Dana did his best trying to cheer me up in my moody, anxious state, but even my favorite comedian would struggle keeping me entertained for that long.

Also, this was March 31st and I had 3 epic April Fool’s pranks planned that I had to get to. It was nice to get this done that night though, because I needed the truck to haul 10,400 ball pit balls to the office for this prank:
Office ball pit prank

Follow-up
The morning after the test drive, I had scheduled a time with Dana to come back and buy. After that happened, I got a call and voicemail from someone at the dealership stating we needed to talk ASAP. I got a text from them as well. I called back and they asked if I planned on coming back in to look at the truck. I informed them that I had already scheduled a time with my sales guy.

An hour or so after I had purchased the truck and was cruising around town in it, I got another call and voicemail asking if I wanted to come check out the truck I was now driving.

In the grand scheme of things, not a big deal. Just a CRM tweak to make sure the people calling me know that the car is sold… to me… and I won’t be coming back to buy the car I have already bought.

Final Summary

All in all, I am very satisfied with my car-buying experience here and the people I got to work with. I love my truck. My kids love the truck. When they first saw it, they were squealing with happiness and they ask me every day if we can go for a ride in the truck.

My boss jokes with me about how he finally feels comfortable sending me to meet clients now that I drive something that isn’t what I was driving.

A couple friends have mentioned that a midsize truck isn’t “really” a truck and that I should’ve gone with a full-size version, but that’s just not me and it’s not what I need.

Caitlin thinks it’s perfect, but what else is she going to say?

So… I feel like that man-card that was ripped into a thousand pieces and thrown into the wind after the van purchase – has been found.

Well, about 2/3rds of those thousands of pieces have been found and reassembled and taped back together, meaning I now have 2/3rds of my man-card back.

Good job, Erik.

My new truck

Hope you enjoyed my story. I write on the random things in life that make me think, laugh, cry, or that I find entertaining. If you liked reading this or some of my other stuff, subscribe to get notified when I post something new.

Thanks!

– Erik


Honesty or kindness? Pick one.

Let’s travel to Russia

It’s April 1st, 2008. I’m on an airplane, flying from Germany to Russia.

Rostov-na-Donu, Russia to be more specific. I’ve spent the past 3 months in the Missionary Training Center (MTC), a 39-acre campus owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints located in Provo, Utah.

It’s where newly-called missionaries spend between 2-12 weeks learning more about the church and how to do missionary work, among other things.

One of those other things is learning the language of the country to which you’re assigned and, if you’ve paid attention so far, you could guess which language I’ve been studying for three months.

Russian is not an easy language to learn for us English speakers. It uses a different alphabet with several sounds that our mouths struggle to produce. The average English word has 1.3 syllables. The average Russian word has 3.1. Much of that three months in the MTC involves my mouth and tongue muscles cramping while trying to make these ungodly sounds. Single words seem like paragraphs. I have a pounding headache most days from trying to remember vocabulary words and grammar rules.

There are entire days where we’re supposed to “SYL” – Speak Your Language. This means you try to spend the entire day speaking only Russian in my case, and no English. At the mature age of 19, after three months learning from Russian-speaking Americans and conversing exclusively with your fellow missionaries who speak just as poorly as you, I am ready to fly to Russia and talk about Jesus to the people of the country that produced the likes of Pushkin, Tolstoy, Mendeleev, Kasparov, and Anna Kournikova.

Piece of cake.

I feel confident. Why wouldn’t I? We all understood each other perfectly well in the MTC as we struggled through memorized phrases like:

“Hello, my name is Elder Soderborg.”
“What time is it?”
“How many people do you have in your family?”
“Chapstick.”

Chapstick? Why chapstick?

Well, the course that taught us this wonderful word translates it as – гигиеническая помада – in English letters – gigienicheskaya pomada…

English – Chapstick… 2 syllables.
Russian… see above… 10 syllables.

Remember how I told you Russian is rough. There you go.

But hey, surely people in Russia speak SOME English, so if I struggle with chapstick or any other Russian phrase, I can just explain it with really basic English said slowly and loudly topped off with elaborate hand gestures and they’ll get it. We’ll be fine.

Everything… will… be fine.

Speaking to my first Russian

So that brings me to April 1st, 2008. I’m on a plane from Germany to Rostov-na-Donu, Russia and I’m sitting next to my first real-life, genuine Russian.

I can tell he’s Russian. He looks different. He acts different. He smells different. And he’s definitely not speaking English to his wife sitting next to him. It must be some weird dialect of Russian. I can pick out a word here and there, but not much. He must not speak Russian very well…

I don’t remember his name. We’ll call him Boris, and after several minutes of me mouthing one of those memorized phrases I’ve learned over and over, I muster up the courage to speak Boris – a supposed Russian who speaks very poor Russian in my opinion – for the first time. I lean over to him and nervously force out (in flawless Russian) “What time is it?”

Boris: “Что?!”
Me: “What?”
Boris: “Что ты сказал?!”
Me: Uh oh… he sounds angry… “Uh… What time is it?” – Again, in flawless Russian with a hint of doubt sprinkled in my tone.
Boris: “асдфчаодичфаоисдйф” – At least, that’s what it sounded like to me.
Me: …
Boris: …
Me: *confused look
Boris: “You are American, yes?” (in English with a heavily Russian accent)
Me: “Yes. How did you know?”

He sounds just like the bad guy in pretty much every movie you’ve ever seen. He goes on to tell me that I speak Russian very poorly and he can’t understand me. He tells me that he realized I was asking what time it was, but I asked incorrectly.

“We don’t usually ask the time like that anymore. We ask it another way.”

I was asking the English equivalent of, “Of which hour do you have?” instead of “What time is it?”

He goes on to ask what I’m doing in Russia (all of this still in broken English still by the way. In fact, he and I struggle through our conversation entirely in English from here on out). I tell him that I’m on a church service mission and I’ll be there for about 21 months. He grunts and tells me I’m going to have a very difficult time because I don’t speak well at all.

“Not a lot of Russians speak English, and they won’t waste time trying to figure out your poor Russian. You must learn to speak better.”

Thanks Boris.

I’m not so confident anymore.

We spend the rest of the flight in silence as I try and cope with this man’s complete disregard for my feelings. Surely he understood my first question. Can’t he at least acknowledge that I was doing my best? Maybe mention that I sound alright for only three months of practice? Did he have to use the words “very bad” when describing my speaking ability? That wasn’t very nice.

This was probably just an elaborate April Fools joke he was playing on me. That’s got to be it. Maybe someone was filming this.

Wait, do they have April Fools in Russia?
(No, they do not)

Russians must not have a refined sense of humor like myself.

Russians are blunt

Your perception of Russians may be different than mine was before I went there. I thought that they were all angry, rude, stubborn, and drunk. Always.

Are there some that match that criteria? Sure.
Are there people in every country that match that criteria? Sure.

What separates Russians in my opinion is that they are unapologetically and brutally honest. They are blunt. They will tell you how they feel about you, your actions, your appearance, and your beliefs.

Marry or Murder?

Most of the conversations over the next three months follow the same pattern. I try saying something, I get head tilts, raised hands interrupting me, and the subsequent, “I have no clue what you are saying. You speak Russian very poorly, and I don’t want to talk to you anymore.”

I am completely dependent on an older missionary who speaks and understands the language better. 99 out of 100 Russians in this area don’t speak any English. As in, they don’t know a single word of English. I quickly learn that my charades ability is nowhere near as good as I thought it was.

Imagine being surrounded by people who you want to find a way to help, who you want to speak with and get to know, yet you can’t express a single thought. You struggle pronouncing any word correctly, let alone stringing a sentence together. You feel completely isolated, despite being surrounded by millions of people.

No one understands you. No one wants to understand you. You can’t understand a lick of what anyone else is saying. You can’t tell a taxi how to get you home. You can’t order food at a restaurant. You can’t tell if the lady in front of you wants to marry you or murder you… but from her tone… you’re pretty sure it’s the murder one.

I check with the other missionary:

Me: I think I’m following along and I’m understanding most of what she’s saying… but I just want to make sure with you… did she just say that she wants to marry me or murder me?
Him: Neither. She said your neck is bleeding from when you cut yourself shaving.
Me: Oh good. I thought she wanted to murder me. Sorry for interrupting. Carry on. I’ll be over here.

It gets better with time
After about three months in Russia, I started understanding the language better. I started speaking better. The headaches weren’t as common and I was becoming much more comfortable.

The missionary that trained me was at the end of his mission and went home. He was German and there were cultural differences that added friction to my already-rough acclimation.

My new partner happened to be a childhood friend, and he made everyday life much easier to handle. We had the same humor, we knew the same people back home, we both enjoyed the same topics like music, movies, sports, and the craziness of our circumstances. He spoke marginally better than I did to start, which forced us both to have to learn even quicker.

The biggest change that happened was that I slowly started to appreciate the Russian straight-shooter mindset. Sure, it wasn’t pleasant to be told that your tie looked ugly or that Americans are uneducated, fat, and lazy, but at least you knew what that person was thinking. I don’t remember backbiting or gossiping about someone behind their back because they’d say it straight to your face. If someone had a problem with you, they’d tell you, and you could tell them how you felt as well.

Is it all rude?

At the end of my two years, I feel like I spoke Russian reasonably well. Maybe my Russian mission president will comment on this and say otherwise, but I felt very comfortable conversing on just about anything. The reason I felt that way is because, just as they will tell you if you speak “very bad,” they will also tell you directly if you speak well.

Compliments in Russia are genuine. They aren’t forced out of someone in hopes of padding your ego. They aren’t thrown in as an afterthought to break an awkward silence. Russians are absolute masters at paying genuine, thoughtful, blunt, open-hearted, unapologetic, specific compliments.

I need to include people from Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and other Eastern-European countries in this as well. They have this ability to be direct, both with good news as well as bad news.

And, may I be blunt?

I miss it.

The Invention of Lying

The Invention of Lying, starring Ricky Gervais and Jennifer Garner had recently come out around the time I was headed home. It was one of the movies I saw on the 10.5-hour flight from Moscow to New York. The premise of the movie is a world where nobody lies. Everyone is 100% honest. They don’t know what lying is.

Well, the character played by Gervais tells the first lie and things spiral out of control from there.

I love this movie. The thought experiment is interesting and fun and unsettling for me, and it reminds me of Russia.

“Now hold on Erik, are you saying that people in Russia don’t lie?!”

No. I am not saying that. They lie just like all of us. But in their conversations, they worry less about hurt feelings and more about getting to their truth and expressing what needs to be communicated.

It can come across as having a lack of tact. It can come across as rude.

American food has a lot of sugar

When I returned home to America, I experienced a culture shock once again, this time with food. Food here is incredibly sweet. Everything seems to be pumped full of sugars and artificial sweeteners. And I think that is a fitting connection to make. After being away for two years, I noticed that many of the interactions I had with Americans involved a ton of artificial sweetener pumped into every dialogue.

We have those knee-jerk phrases exchanged each and every day. It’s like a dance that we all know the steps to and have to stay in line.

“How are you?”
“Good, how are you?”
“Oh, we’re great!”

Meanwhile, they’re in the middle of a divorce, their dad just got diagnosed with cancer, and their dog died. But hey, everything is awesome! And when this person’s health deteriorates and their job performance suffers and they lose their job as a result…

“Hey, are you okay?”
“Oh yeah! I’m great! Hahaha! How are you?!”

That’s not healthy.

It’s a two way street

The problem in my little brain doesn’t sit solely with the respondent. I am guilty of asking ‘how are you’ without really caring to know the answer – keep reading for an example of when that went wrong. The asker and the askee both fall into this mold and mode of conversation, doing and saying what they are ”supposed to.’

Heaven forbid someone admit that they aren’t doing well emotionally. They don’t want to look crazy. And when you run into someone who breaks the script, it can be unsettling, abrasive, or sound like they are just being dramatic. And if this is how I react to a genuine, honest answer, why did I even ask?

For the first little while after I returned home, I was told on more than one occasion that I was rude. When asked if I wanted to go out with a certain group, I’d say, “No, I don’t want to spend time with that person.” When asked if I liked a certain meal or outfit, I’d share my honest thoughts. Certain former romantic relationships I had before the mission that I didn’t wish to pursue were handled poorly on my end based on the culture in which I now found myself. To be frank, I probably handled them poorly according to any culture’s standards.

I had to reacclimatize to the artificially sweetened mode of communication. I wasn’t intentionally trying to hurt anyone’s feelings, I had just become more blunt than normal. I could never attain Russian-bluntness-status, but I had to become “nicer.”

I think I did. Too much so, in fact.

But now, as I think about it and go back to my time in Russia, which is better? Being brutally honest – or being nice?

And really think about that for a second.

Would you want your spouse, friend, coworker, or server at a restaurant to feel comfortable telling you how they really feel? Or, would you prefer that they wrap their real feelings in sprinkles, glitter, and rainbows to the point that you never really know what they’re thinking?

Would you rather feel comfortable and safe to express your feelings and opinions more openly to these same people – your spouse, your boss, your in-laws – or walking on egg shells hoping that your beliefs on politics, religion, raising kids, or life choices don’t set someone off, get you fired, or get you cancelled?

You don’t know me, you don’t care, don’t ask

Come back with me to Russia, the city of Stavropol this time. I’m walking around on the streets with my missionary companion and I see a babushka shuffling along. She passes by and I stop and ask her how she’s doing. She stops. She looks at the two of us. She asks, “Do I know you?”

“No, you don’t.”
“Then why do you care how I’m doing? I don’t know you. You don’t know me. You don’t really care how I’m doing. You must not be from around here. Don’t ask strangers how they are doing. It’s not your business and you have no reason to care.”

She shuffles away.

That didn’t go how it was supposed to… she went off script. She was supposed to say, “I am good! What are you two handsome boys doing? We should talk about Jesus.”

Turns out, my script was not even close to the final version everyone else was using.

There were countless other times where I’d ask a stranger or acquaintance how they are doing.

“My life is bad. I’m in the middle of a divorce, my dad just got diagnosed with cancer, and my dog died.”

Oh… okay. That explains the sadness. That may explain the smoking habit. That may explain the drinking, the depression, the acting out, the poor job performance.

The cards were on the table. The good, the bad, the ugly, it was all out there and now both sides are making informed decisions about how to proceed with the relationship.

There are moments where I wish I could return to a more blunt culture. It isn’t bliss by any means. It’s uncomfortable and hard, but I still miss it.

Opinions are just that – opinions

We all know that person who walks around being a complete tool shed. You know the kind, insulting as many people as possible and offering their contrarian opinion on just about every topic, most of which they know absolutely nothing. Not to mention the fact that nobody asked for their opinion… and then they say,

“Hey, I’m just being honest.”
“I’m just speaking my truth.”
“I’m just being blunt, did you want me to lie?!”

No.
Stop it.
You’re just being a jerk.
There’s a difference.

It’s important to understand that while a Russian may disagree with you, he or she understands that it is his or her opinion. Just because you hold an opposing opinion doesn’t mean you’re bad person. Just because that person doesn’t like your outfit doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t like your outfit, or that it’s bad, or that you have an irredeemable character flaw that will send you to hell. Opinions are just that – opinions.

Most of the time (not always), their opinions came because you asked for them. Russia isn’t a land where everyone is riding around on bears and insulting each other about clothing choices. For the most part, they are reserved and keep to themselves (Russians… not the bears… do not feed the bears). But if you open the conversation and want to know what they think, be prepared to find out exactly that. No sugar-coating.

Honesty is kindness

I have a goal to be more blunt. I want to be able to express opinions and beliefs in an open, honest way. This has become most apparent to me in a work setting. As I work with vendors, colleagues, or clients, there can be important information that falls through the cracks because I’m trying not to hurt feelings rather than say what I’m thinking.

I have lucked into a company and culture where everyone has the ability to be open, honest, and blunt about topics while still staying polite and kind. In fact, I appreciate the fact that if there is a concern, it’s laid out on the table immediately rather than sweeping under a rug to fester and grow bigger than it needs to be.

I think that bluntness is kindness, as long as everyone is playing by the same set of rules, the opinions are applicable to the situation, and egos are set aside.

Remember Boris? The guy on the flight to Russia who told me I didn’t speak well? As I think back to that conversation, I realize that he was extraordinarily kind to me. Rather than dismissing me and swearing at me under his breath, he took the time to teach me how to ask people what time it is. He gave me a heads up around the pounding headaches I would end up getting. He warned me that people wouldn’t want to talk to me, or give me the time of day, or respect my opinions if I couldn’t express them clearly. It was the kindest thing he could’ve done for me under the circumstances.

Thank you Boris.

Easier said than done

Watch, I’ve just opened myself to criticism by proclaiming to the world, “Just give it to me straight!” and then, as soon as a comment comes back saying, “I really don’t care for your writing,” I’ll huff and puff and write a blog post about it.

I’ve asked for feedback before and been hurt when it wasn’t what I expected. I’ve been asked to give feedback and hurt others when it wasn’t what they expected.

“Sometimes the hardest thing and the right thing are the same.”
-The Fray

I guess what I’m getting at is that I’m making a concerted effort to tell people what I think when appropriate. I’m going on a no-sugar diet. Not real sugar… it’s the metaphor from earlier… Remember? Artificial sweetener = dishonesty… never mind. Just know that I ate an entire sleeve of E.L. Fudge cookies last night so a real-life no-sugar diet isn’t looking too realistic. But a metaphorical sugar-free diet when it comes to how I communicate… I’m working on that.

Maybe not sugar free… maybe just a reduced sugar diet.

We’ll see how it goes and how many people I offend.

If you don’t hear back from me, well… don’t follow my lead.

PS – Have you had similar thoughts? I’d love to hear your story.