Craig N. Dolder, Ph. D. Acoustics

Day 18: The Tongariro Alpine Crossing

National Park, New Zealand (Friday)

This day is worthy of its own post as it recounts my experience on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing (TAC). The TAC is regularly cited as the best day hike in New Zealand. I have to agree it is pretty amazing.

I got up with plenty of time to be ready for the shuttle from the YHA Hostel in National Park. YHA is the New Zealand affiliate of Hostelling International. I ate breakfast and re-packed my bag to act as a day bag with all my layers. At the appropriate time I went to the main desk and there was already a group there discussing the weather. The people who ran the shuttle service were concerned because there was a moderate avalanche risk for the north side of Mt. Ngaruhoe. The pass for the TC went just under that side of the mountain. According to the weather report it had been snowing over night and was going to warm up, thought the temperature at the top of the pass was expected to be -11 C (~12 F) during the day. The shuttle people said one company had sent people to a lower pass that had a shorter hike and that another company had called up to ask if they were sending people. The resounding advice was that they couldn’t really advise us, but it would be safer to not go. Advice that wasn’t very useful. We (the hikers) resolved to wait for the next forecast (not that it would provide more info) and then we would make a decision. I know that for me and one other gentleman this was a stalling tactic. We knew that the professionally guided groups would probably be going and that they started later than the shuttle service drops off. If we could delay the shuttle for an hour they would be breaking the trail for us rather than the other way around. The second report came out and we resolved to give it a try. We all rented crampons just in case the trail was icy at the top. I rented an extra fleece layer, waterproof pants, and gloves. In total I had a mid-weight base layer, a tech t-shirt, a sweater, the rented fleece layer, my waterproof jacket, long underwear, travel pants, the rented waterproof pants, wool socks, rented boots, a fleece & wool beanie, a floppy sun hat, and the bulky gloves I bought. There were five people in our group and we resolved to stay together. The party consisted of two extremely fit European ladies around my age, a married couple a little older than us and much less fit, and me in between.

 

Near the back of Tongariro Alpine Crossing

Near beginning of Tongariro Alpine Crossing. Mt. Ngauruhoe (Mt. Doom) in the background.

On the road to the crossing to was clear we weren’t the only ones on the trail. In fact we passed over a dozen other shuttles, so the trail was likely to be clear. It turns out the predicted overnight snow had been rain and the amount of snow had actually reduced overnight.

Near the base I stripped down to my mid-weight base layer and t-shirt for my torso. I was quite warm while hiking. The trail was extremely well maintained, at points we were using steps and elevated walkways. I heard later that some days over 2000 people cross the pass, so erosion is a significant problem. They did a good job as the landscape on either side ofthe trail was pristine. After a while we finally got to the first plateau, just above which was the snow line. The trail rose steeply above the plateau with plenty of switchbacks. Shortly into the switchbacks I put back on my water and more importantly wind proof jacket. We were anticipating the second plateau. One of the amazing things about mountain hikes is the ability for the next climb to be hidden from view until you hit the top of the current one. You can’t help thinking, the plateau is just around this corner, though it rarely is. In a way this is a wonderful psychological trick that keeps you going better than if you could see the path ahead. Eventually we did hit the next plateau at the same time a cloud did. The visibility dropped steeply and was less than 10 meters, but was enough for us to see two trail markers ahead and two behind, then nothing but white. At the other side of the plateau it was around 11:30 am, and we had our lunch.

Tongariro Alpine Crossing

The first plateu. Getting the exposure right is tough when you have dark rocks, clouds, and snow. I’m getting better.

The climb after the second plateau was where the climbing got tough. The snow on either side of the trail was anywhere from ankle to knee high and the path itself was getting very slippery. Others questioned whether we should stop to put the crampons on, but I knew they would slow us down significantly, so I voted not to. I was definitely climbing at the top of my ability to keep up with the the lead European girl and we had to wait for the married couple to catch up quite often. The wind kept picking up as we got higher and the snow started to squeak, which I have always known as a sign that the temperature is below 16 F. Finally we got to the worst spot, there was a chain to assist in a short climb and than a wire mounted to use as a railing along the windy ridge. The cold didn’t bother me, but the wind on my face was bitter. I still hadn’t added any other layers and felt fine since the climbing was hard. I abandoned taking out my good camera and got my GoPro out. At that moment a gust caught my sandwich container and it was lost over the side. That frustrated me. I don’t like littering.

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We left the narrow top of the pass and had the peak ahead, but because we were out of the pass the wind had dropped down significantly. The peak was beautiful, though The top of Mt. Ngauruhoe was lost in clouds. The downhill scramble was interesting because the initial descent was along a steep path of volcanic sand. There were no obvious erosion countermeasures here, though I have no clue how they would implement them. At the bottom of the initial descent were three volcanic lakes, still ice free because of thermal heat. We stopped for a snack and a rest there though I had eaten all I had brought.

 

Here is the windy path on the way down the far side of the TAC.

Here is the windy path on the way down the far side of the TAC. 

I think this was the second Rahui sign we came across.

I think this was the second Rahui sign we came across.

 

The next part of the trail brought us along another plateau, up a small climb, and along the side of another larger lake, a little climb after that and we were on the other side of the mountains. We then saw our first Rahui warning sign. That side of the mountain had erupted a couple years and the crater was still quite active, so the aboriginal Maori tribe that was in control of the land had banned people from going near the crater and left warnings that people were to pass through and not stop for long on this section of the trail, and gave tips for what to do were there to be an eruption. The biggest danger during an eruption in mountains like this one are lahars, which are high-speed super-heated mud slides. As such getting to a high ground relative the slide, but continuing to get off the mountain is important.

The second we past the lakes the erosion countermeasures started again. The amount of effort they have put into the paths at this park is very impressive. After traveling along the zigzagging ridges of the mountain for several kilometers we came across a cabin that was eased shut. It had provided shelter for backpackers before the eruption, but was since deemed to not be safe from lahar risk. There were also several signs saying that the hot springs to the left of the trail were on private property and therefore off limits. At the end of the plains was a path going off in that direction that was of the same construction as the park paths, but had a sign mounted across it stating that the trail was closed. This makes me think the springs were once considered part of the park, but I haven’t researched this yet.

 

Here is the smoking crater that erupted a couple years ago.

Here is the smoking crater that erupted a couple years ago.

We the entered dense forest and a sign said we were out of the lahar danger area. We were all tired but kept up the pace because we had agreed to meet the bus at 5 pm. When we got down to the bottom of the forest there were now more lahar warning signs and there seemed to be strong evidence that the path of the river and therefor also the trail had been changed by one of the recent eruptions. We made it to the shuttle right on time and the driver seemed quite surprised. He was also glad we stayed as a group and didn’t have to wait for others to catch up.

We got back to the hostel and I had a cup of tea and then a shower. After that I cooked some more pasta for dinner and played Zombie Dice with the married couple before heading to bed.

Day 14 through 17

Day 14, Auckland, New Zealand (Monday)

Landing in New Zealand was uneventful. I followed my usual routine of declaring everything, controlled substances (medication), dairy (protein bars), shells (Hawaiian lei), etc. As usual I was asked about each one and let through. This time they did perform an x-ray of my bags, but nothing turned up that they were interested in. I walked out of customs and within ten steps was greeted with a cheerful “Craig?” from my New Zealand cousin (1C1R) Terry. I guess my father’s Christmas letters which he always titles “New World News” paid off since Terry recognized me on the spot without sending him a picture. He drove me back to his place and we had a discussion of orientation that left me completely baffled when we were headed north and supposedly off to the left of the car was the east coast. Later I realized he lives on a large northern pointing peninsula of the east coast, so the east coast was in fact on the western edge of the peninsula.

Because of my chaotic experience with purchasing new toys, changing clothes twice, and misplacing credit cards, I immediately unpacked my bag, checked my inventory, and regrouped one he showed me his guest room. I met his partner Tanya, who is originally from Russia. They offered me tea and then gave me a tour of the seaside around their home. Tanya cooked a lovely dinner, and then I sat down with both my laptop and tablet to plan out my stay on the North Island. Because of my hurried experience booking a flight out of New Zealand I only left myself a week and a day in New Zealand. I got plenty of advice from Terry and consulted the advice I was given from other travelers in Hawaii and scheduled an entire week. Unfortunately I had to make some hurried phone calls because my reservation for my first stop came back as a private room booking for $50 a night. The biggest drawback to booking as you go is 24 and 48 hour cancellation policies, since if you book less than 24 or 48 hours ahead of time, he second you click the purchase button online the sale is final. Fortunately the people at a the hostel were forgiving and I only lost my deposit of $10. I the found much more reasonably priced accommodations and booked them.

I then asked very kindly if Terry would drop me off downtown quite early in the morning so I could catch my first bus. I made my first three bus reservations with NakedBus. Contrary to their name they are an exceptionally professional budget bus line. I bought a pass of three segments for $99. After his kind reply to drive me in far earlier than he often wakes up we started discussing genealogy. As many of you know I’m often an advocate for precise language. Often I’m lecturing on the difference between damping and dampening, or the subtle differences between perambulation and circumambulation, but I also strive to get the terms for relations right. Terry and my father share grandparents, that makes them first cousins (C1). Terry thought that I would be a second cousin, but actually I’m his first cousin once removed (C1R1). His children are my second cousins (C2). For a long time I didn’t understand the cousin removal system, here’s an explanation:

As is commonly known, someone who you share grandparents with, but not parents, is your first cousin. If you share great-grandparents with someone you are second cousins, if you share great-great-grandparents you are third cousins. The term removed helps fill in the gaps between tiers. You take the lowest level of cousin that applies, and you are removed once for each generational difference. Take someone who has a great-great-grandparent who is someone else’s grandparent. The level of cousins for sharing a grandparent is first cousins, then there is a two generation difference so it is twice removed. They are first cousins twice removed.

Day 15, Auckland, New Zealand – Rotorua (Tuesday)

My first bus segment was Auckland to Rotorua. I got up early (but not quite early enough) and repacked my bag. After I finished repacking my bag there was no time for breakfast, and Terry drove me to the downtown bus stop. I found the crowd waiting for the bus and started chatting with a couple. As there was 15 minutes before the ride and I was hungry I followed the lady of the couple to a coffee shop around the corner. I grabbed a muffin and waited far to long for an espresso (I had arrived in fancy coffee land, where on demand, instant drip coffee doesn’t exist) and saw busses pull up just as the cashier started making my coffee. I got back to the busses as quickly as I could and there was still a que for loading bags and getting on the bus.

The ride itself was uneventful. There was one half hour stop two hours in for stretching legs and in a couple hours more we were in Rotorua. The town of Rotorua is a popular tourist stop and is located in a volcanic coldero. Volcanic springs abound and the air is constantly filled with sulphur. It was still to early to check in, so I left my bags at the hostel and did what I do best, wander.

I soon found the government gardens. They were a beautifully landscaped park with several lawns for English bowl, which is a bit like bocce, but you roll the balls instead of throwing them. There were thermal bath houses near by. And my first look at a steaming thermal pool. I then noticed another tourist headed down a path and followed. It was a walk way around a the thermal lake. It had nice historical and factual placards along the way and while there were signs warning that the thermal pools were dangerous there was nothing preventing you from going up to them. Welcome to tourism outside the USA where they assume people can make their own decisions about safety. I wondered up to a pool with a medium amount of bubbling. The heat of the pool definitely seems to be proportional to the amount of bubbles. I waved my hand over to judge the heat, then trusting my thermally resistant hands dipped a finger in. It was hot, but not quite boiling. Other pools were only lukewarm and the most furious ones I wouldn’t go near. I wanted to test my new virtually indestructible toy so I mounted the new GoPro on a pole and stuck it in the medium heat geothermal pool. The casing got a little warm, but no leaks and the camera was fine. The video is really just muddy bubbles, but I had to give it a try. Another traveler came along while I was making the video and they called me insane. They then made a strong recommendation for Wai-O-Tapu as a must see attraction near Rotorua.

I checked into my hostel and logged on to the fortunately free WiFi. I booked two half day tours for the next day, Wai-O-Tapu and Hobbiton. A lady then came into the room, introduced herself as Katey, and invited me to join her and another lady in going to a pub to watch the Melbourne cup. The other lady introduced herself as Krystal and we went to the Irish pub a few blocks away. After a very exciting horse race, where Katey’s horse didn’t win, and a beer Krystal said she had to go catch a bus for a Maori cultural show and dinner. I expressed that it was a shame I hadn’t booked something like that as I had nothing booked for the evening, and Katey suggested that her and I could try to book the show last minute. We asked the booking lady at the hostel, she made a phone call, and some how it worked out. Despite a little false communication we were booked on the same tour and for the same table. The bus driver was a bit of a bad comedian. He kept talking the entire way to the village.

The Maori cultural presentation was smaller and far less commercial than the Luau in Hawaii, tough it was in essence the same style event. After the welcoming ceremony we split up into groups and were given cultural presentations in small rotating groups. This made the presentations much more personal, though the village we were in was clearly constructed just for tourism purposes. The first presentation was on the Haka war dance of the Maori. They made a few man in the crowd dance with them. The second station was on Poi, which has demonstrated and the a few women were asked to come up and try. Krystal volunteered. The third station was on agility games for warriors. I volunteered for this station. It started with four men facing each other holding staffs. When a command was given for either right or left (in Maori) you needed to let go of your stick and catch he stick to that side before it hit the ground. The stick hitting the ground meant elimination. I came in second place, though a feel that the winner adding some velocity to the stick before letting go was not in the spirit of the game. The fourth station was traditional weaving; no real demo there. The fifth station was traditional weapons and more training games, involving a stick ladder on the ground with decreasing spacing. You are out if your foot touches a stick. The sixth station was on the meaning of traditional tattoos. Then we gathered again as a group, they discussed the underground oven which was very similar to the Hawaiian one, pulled all the food out of the ground, and asked us to continue to the village hall. They discussed the traditional construction of the village hall, how it related to the head, spine, and ribs of the ancestors. The song and dance routines followed, beginning with traditional instruments and eventually adding guitar. We then continued to the feast. It was clear that they had two banquet halls in order to host two groups each evening in close succession. We were led to the further hall so the next group wouldn’t see us when they were done with the song and dance. They had a fascinating tisane that was a traditional cureall. I think I have a photo of the name that I need to find. I spoke with an Indian couple across the table from me, and they had suggestions for my trip to India. The feast was great, they opened the gift shop with desert, then we were back on the bus. The bus driver wanted to sing songs of all nationalities on the way back, when others didn’t join in he kept crooning, not well, all the way back.

Day 16, Rotorua, New Zealand (Wednesday)

I was up early and showered. I ran into Katey again and said goodbye. I noticed that the time on my watch was off, so I had less time than I thought, my bus to Wai-O-Tapu was around 9. There was a continental breakfast available at the hostel that included cereal, toast, tea or coffee, milk, and jam for $6.50, but I wanted to go to a grocery store to try and find something that would last me a few days. It was a long walk to the grocery store and after tallying up the prices and considering how large the boxes were and how much leftovers I would have to haul with me, I decided the continental breakfast would be better. After the long walk back I purchased the breakfast, asked where it was and they handed me a brown paper bag with a box of cereal, a carton of milk, etc. I was unsatisfied, but I had no choice at that time. I wolfed down the food and headed to meet the bus.

Since I’m one of the only people traveling alone the driver suggests I sit in the front passenger seat of the small bus. As we were waiting for the last few passengers I hear two ladies discussing the bus roster, which is sitting between the driver seat and the passenger seat, and they said something to the extent of “It looks like this person named Craig is doing a half day trip as well.” At which point I turned around and introduced myself. We were soon on out way and first stopped at bubbling mud pools. Another tour bus pulled up and I noticed our group was headed back to the bus, so I followed suit. Once on board the guide asked if we were missing anyone and we were missing two, the ladies who were sitting behind me. We waited a couple minutes, the the guide had to go and get them. They looked quite embarrassed and had gotten mixed up with the second group. We got to our second stop, which was the biggest geyser in the park. People crowded into the large amphitheater. The park ranger gave a detailed history of the geyser, back to the convicts who discovered it while washing their clothes. He explained that the natural cycle of the geyser was around 28 hours and how a small packet of soap (surfactant) could trigger the geyser early for a regular daily show. The geyser got up to a sustained height of at least 20 feet, maybe nearer to 30 for almost a minute. When it started tapering off the park ranger told us that we had seen the best of the show, and it would continue to flow at lower levels for at least 15 minutes. I got back to the bus and sure enough we were waiting on the same two ladies, who weren’t far behind this time. When we got the main entrance of the thermal park the bus driver stated that there were three people doing half day tours who had to be back by 12 sharp, this was me and the late ladies, who promptly suggested that they should stick with me and I would be their time keeper.

Once in the park I asked them where they were from. They were on holiday from India, one from north, one from south. I said that I was pleased to meet them in Hindi. The response was along the lines of “That is so cute.” and “Your Hindi is better than mine.” Since that’s one of only a few phrases I know, I found the praise very hard to believe, but graciously accepted the compliment. I mentioned my plans to visit India and they planned my whole itinerary out, more out of fun for themselves than to help me. They also debated about which of them knew which parts of India better.

The walk through the park was gorgeous. We made it along all three loops with 15 minutes to spare. That time was spent in the gift shop, where I picked up a post card and a New Zealand pocket game called Tantrix. In the parking lot the late ladies and I parted, since they were going to a Maori show for the afternoon and I was headed to Hobbiton.

The tour bus dropped us back in downtown Rotorua. I hadn’t realized that the tour I took merely booked a tour with the official Hobbiton tours for the second half of the day, rather than taking us there.

I grabbed an inexpensive meat pie for lunch on the way back to the bus stop. A little after the scheduled time a very professional coach bus emblazoned with the finesse and artistry of a major motion film and large lettering for “Hobbiton” pulled up and I was off again. The fancy coach bus put the little 12 passenger bus I had spent the morning in to shame. I hadn’t realized that the set was so far from Rotorua. It is actually in the small town of Matamata. The bus ride was quiet and I dozed. Once we hit the property the bus driver started discussing the set’s history, the original secrecy of its construction and how the New Zealand military actually built the road to the set and did the heavy lifting. My unspoken question regarding why they decided to build the set out of permanent materials was answered. We picked up a tour guide and were dropped off on the far side of the set. Unfortunately it was a guided tour. The map we had been handed had given me the hope that I would be able to casually wander the shire, alas, that was not to be. The tour was filled with a myriad of fun facts that I won’t put down here. The tour started with gorgeous weather but turned quickly to a downpour near the end. When we made it to the Green Dragon? At the end of the tour we were offered a free beer. I chose the stout, but also got a sample of the golden ale and the cider. All three are brewed especially for the set and not sold anywhere else. All three were spectacular. After being given plenty of time to enjoy the beer and the atmosphere were were ushered back to the bus and then given 15 minutes in the gift shop, which is located on site but off set over a hill. Not everyone that came with us left with us and new people joined, which was mind blowing. Busses for the tours come from as far as Auckland and Taupo, so you can arrange to go back on a different bus, essentially cutting out the need to travel the next day. I wish I had known that. It’s such an awesome idea to get both a tour and a ride to your next destination.

It was still raining and the combination of rain and beer made for a nice nap on the way back. When I got back to the hostel I broke out my new game and played the solo version, then made for bed.

Day 17, Rotorua, New Zealand – National Park (Thursday)

Day 17 was a travel day. I could have skipped this day and spent a day in Wellington had I known of the Hobbit tour trick, but I have no regrets. Since my bus trip to National Park didn’t start until 1? I got up, showered, and went for a long walk. I had wanted to visit the museum next to the government gardens, but didn’t gather a sufficient quantum of time to do so. I did purchase a broad rimmed cloth hat for 8 NZD with New Zealand emblazoned on it at the gift shop. I returned to the Hostel and checked out. I contemplated going back to see the museum, but knew I didn’t have the time. Instead I wandered around and almost bought some expensive, light weight, and compact gloves for the Tongariro Alpine Crossing (the crossing). A combination of a long line, not wanting to miss the bus, the expense, and the sale associate insisting that I should take “just a few minutes to sign up for their rewards program” caused me to leave without purchasing the gloves.

I returned to the station and hopped on the bus. We had a stop in Taupo and had to change busses. There I saw some fluffy, bulky, snowboarding gloves for $35 AUD and bought them. The flier I had for the crossing said that gloves and hats were available for purchase but not rent. I figured it was better to buy before getting to the actual crossing where the supply would be limited. My next bus was a little late and more late after we finished loading. Once on the road I could hear the drivers side of his radio conversations with the dispatcher, and the climate was not good. He was supposed to switch drivers with another bus in Tungari, but was 30 minutes behind schedule. Our new driver was already waiting at the stop, and wasn’t happy about the prospect of two busses being 30 minutes late if he had to wait. The solution was an unorthodox driver swap at a small gas station half way between. Our new bus driver was fuming when he got on board and apologized to us while adding some unnecessary choice words about the bus driver that had just left.

When we got to Tungari I had to switch busses again and fortunately my connection hadn’t left. It was a small passenger bus like the one that brought me to Wai-O-Tapu. Upon arriving at National Park I went into the gas station/grocer (This was indeed a very small town) to look at their winter gear and ask where the hostel was. They had some very nice reversible fleece jackets and I was sorely tempted to buy one, rather than renting one later. They also had a very nice thinsulate lined wool beanie which was pretty inexpensive. I put that decision aside and checked into the hostel. Having shed the burden of my bags I returned to gas grocer and picked up groceries for my stay and the beanie. I decided to rent the jacket. The predicted temperature for the top of the climb the next day was 12 F after wind chill.

I cooked myself a pasta dinner, played with Tantrix some more, fleshed out some of my Hawaii blog posts and headed to bed. Unfortunately some Swedish travelers watched movies in the room until late in the night.

Days 12 through 13+

Day 12, Oahu Hawaii (Friday)

We set out for our anti-clockwise trip of the island at around 5:45 am since sunrise was projected to be at 6:30 am and got to the Makapu’u lookout around 6:20. From this lookout the entire eastern shore of the island can be seen. Unfortunately the sun was behind clouds. I still got some nice photos and we saw some abandoned military bunkers in the hill side. From there we backtracked to Hanauma Bay, which is a protected area with some of the best snorkeling on the island. We were told the best time to get there was before the majority of tourists show up at 10:30.

Three of us watched the safety and conservation video and did some snorkeling while the fourth member of the party slept in the car. The hardest part about the snorkeling was that the coral was less than a foot and a half from the surface, so there was no way to sit up and tread water once over the coral field, which was big and wide. Just touching the coral or fish in the reserve is illegal, though pretty much unenforceable. I nicked me knee early on. Eventually as we got further out we started being hit by surf. Not only were there less fish in this area, but it was difficult to keep the snorkel clear and difficult to keep away from the coral. When one wave hit me hard I paddled hard (waved my arms around frantically) to keep from bumping into some coral and accidentally released the door on my waterproof camera. In a couple quick gulps it was filled with saltwater. I saw a memory card read error, hit the power button, and the screen went black never to turn on again. I signalled to one of my partners that I wanted to swim back towards the beach and we both looked around for the third member of our party, but couldn’t see him. Mind you we couldn’t look out above the water because we couldn’t sit up. After circling a couple times we started heading back toward the shore. When we got there we saw our missing part member swimming after us. I rinsed the camera out with clean water, but knew it would be to no avail. We agreed that we had done enough snorkelling and didn’t want to be in that surf, so we headed back to the car.

Sidenote: Hawaii has two main tourist seasons, summer and winter. In summer there are very few waves and the water is very clear so it is perfect for snorkelling. In winter the waves are high and it is best for surfing. In the fall it’s not best for either as the waves are small, but the water is a little cloudy.

After rousing out fourth party member we started driving up the coast. We stopped for breakfast in Kailua (I ended up having huevos rancheros) and checked out Kailua beech to see if there were any sea turtles. There were no sea turtles, but there was a lot of kite surfing going on. We then stopped at the Valley of the Temples park, but is was raining so we didn’t pay to go see the Byodo-In temple. We drove past the Polynesian Cultural Center and the Mormon temple and stopped for lunch at the legendary Giovanni’s Shrimp. Since I had already tried the shrimp so I tried a mushroom cheese-steak from another food truck and grabbed a coffee. We hung out for a while. I got a shave-ice cone, someone else got a smoothie, a third for a bag of pineapple. The fourth tried some of my shaved-ice and complained that the taste was too chemical. I understood what he was talking about, the flavorings were very commercial and synthetic. Mine was a rainbow with strawberry (red), banana (yellow), and vanilla (blue).

From there we went to Sunset Beach. There was a surfing competition that was supposed to be going on, but the waves weren’t right so they had suspended the competition until the waves were right. There were a couple surfers out practicing and several local boys boogie boarding in the high surf. We drove to a couple other beaches that sometimes have turtle sightings with no luck.

We were then 3/4 of the way around the island and started to head back to Honolulu and stopped at the Dole Pineapple factory on the way. We wandered around and got a few souvenirs. We didn’t pay for the train tour or the maze as it was still raining. I got a taste of some of the Dole Pineapple Soft Serve someone else bought and right at the and I saw a flashy pineapple and my Halloween costume problems were solved. I would be a pineapple! Three of us actually bought the hats.

From DoleLand we went to Chinatown. Parking was a huge challenge, and once we had parked and walked over to the art museum it was closed. We stopped by a walmart (Australians are eager to visit Walmarts for some reason) and then found a really nice coffee shop / bar / cafe. The three were set up as different stores called “Something” Cofee, “Something” Bar, and “Something” Cafe, but I can’t remember the name. Worst of all the place seems to be too new to be found on Google. I’m pretty sure it was on Nuuanu St. and I’ll update this when I find the name. It was a really nice place and I’d frequent there if I lived in Honolulu. After coffee and drinks we returned the car and walked back to the hostel.

I showered, declined an invitation to join a drinking game, put on my pineapple costume and took to the streets. There were a lot of good costumes and a lot of selfies being taken. My pineapple hat had a lot of blinking lights and at one point there was a small boy being fussy, then he saw my hat and was mesmerized for three blocks until I passed them. Hopefully he didn’t go back to being fussy.  My highlight of the evening was getting a selfie with Jinora from The Legend of Korra. After quite a lot of walking around I decided I was tired and just went to bed.

Day 13, Oahu, Hawaii (Saturday)

Day 13 was quite a day indeed. I woke up with a few goals in mind. 1. Mail a few things back to MA, 2. Replace my waterproof camera, 3. Get some internet work done, maybe update my blog. I was somewhat successful. I packed and checked out of the hostel with my parcel for home in my shoulder bag. I walked over to the second closest Post Office, the closest was closed for no stated reason. Posting the package was easy. I then caught the free shuttle to Hilo Hattie’s. The driver questioned me when I got on with my bag, but I told him I wanted to drop by the store before I left, which wasn’t a lie. Conveniently Hilo Hattie’s, which is far removed from downtown, is next to the only Best Buy in Honolulu. I ate lunch at Hilo Hattie’s and then headed over to Best Buy. I took my time looking at all of the different camera options and did eventually settle for a GoPro. I went to pay and my credit card was denied. I long phone call later I found that my travel notice had only been put on my debit card, and didn’t transfer over to my credit card. I had locked my bags up on one of the Best Buy shelves while doing this, and had gone back to them to get my debit card as proof of my identity. When I did that I accidentally moved my lock from the locked, to the open, to the reprogram setting. I had also bumped one of the numbers. When I went to leave I found my bag locked and my combination did not work. I swallowed and breathed through a minor panic attack, and then logically started going through one digit variations from my combination. Fortunately that only left me 81 combinations if my assumption that a the shift from the code had been by no more than one digit. Fortunately my guess was right and I found the answer in short order. I turned and asked the salesman who had helped me where I could make change for the bus and he generously offered me a dollar to fill out my fare for the bus.

I took the public bus to the airport. Arriving at the airport I changed into my suit for the flight and went to check in… no one was at the desk. Admittedly I had gotten to the airport 9 hours early, but I was hoping to get in, sit down, and work. I called the airline and they told me that the check in desk would not open for another 6 hours. I then changed out of the suit because there was no location with air conditioning outside (or inside for that matter) the airport. That was a very boring hot wait and I will try not to make the same mistake again.

It was at that moment I realized I could not locate the credit card that I had spent so much time earlier getting unblocked. Rough day.

I had two long discussions with lovely strangers who were in similar predicaments. Then I finally got to check in and get through the the un-air conditioned other side of security. There was conditioned air in the waiting room for the flight, but no one could enter it until the incoming international flight had deplaned. I had some sushi for dinner, watched a family play some word games and finally boarded the plane. The lady who sat down next to me put her Nalgene bottle in the seat back, put in her ear plugs and put an eye mask on. I found it humerus that I then did the exact same.

Day 13+, International Date Line (Sunday)

Didn’t happen.

Week 2

Disclaimer:

My stream of memory uploads only have one level of detail; that which you find here. I apologize for those of you who are reading this if it is too long winded for your pleasure. It would take considerable effort to edit the less impactful content.

tl;dr:

  • Day 8: Surfing lessons – Hike – Shopping
  • Day 9: Ukulele lessons – Hula lessons – Sunset Yoga – Tales
  • Day 10: Jabs
  • Day 11: Surfing – Local food – Cheesecake – Rental foibles

Day 7: Oahu Hawaii

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I just wanted to add that I went and got two Malasadas at Leonard’s bakery. I got an original and a pineapple filled and they were the best doughnut style pastries I’ve ever had. After getting back I arranged to go to a surf lesson in the morning with a lady named Erin from Australia.

Day 8, Oahu Hawaii

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We got to the beach around 9:50 and signed up for lessons with the first booth at the beach. A semi-private lesson (2-people) was $60 each. We were given water shoes and a rash guard shirt and carried the two boards to the water. As we checked in I realized I had a split down the back of my swimsuit, so I was glad my rash guard shirt came down to my thighs. We were surfing in a coral bottom area so the shoes and shirt were very welcome. We were taught three positions of the beach and went into the water. The instructor alternated pushing us when big enough waves came along. The waves were fairly small, but every few minutes there was one big enough to ride. Erin was better than I was and rode quite a few to the shore. I managed to stand and ride two to the shore. I fell a lot, but it was a fun experience. We headed back to the hostel where I showered and changed.

At the hostel Erin and I met up with Marcie. Marcie had a very strong Australian accent, but was from Germany. We all decided to go on a hike to see a local waterfall. Erin and I grabbed a quick lunch at Wolfgang Puck and joined Marcie for a bus ride out to the falls. The trip to the trailhead should have taken an hour, but the transfer timing didn’t workout, so it took almost an hour and a half to get there. One there we booked it up to the falls and we’re all dripping with sweat be the time we got to the top. The trail and the hike were all in the forest. I don’t know whether it was technically rainforest, but it looked like it to me. The flowering vines overhead were beautiful. The falls at the end were over 150 ft high. It was clear that people used to swim in the pool at the bottom of the fall, but there were barriers and warning signs all around so none of us dared it. We took the hike down more slowly and enjoyed the side falls and interesting plants on each side of the trail. One part of the trail was a bamboo forest. Since most of the bus routes are circular and not linear, you can’t get back the way you came. This time we walked further to catch a bus, but the trip was quicker and the transfer was at the lovely University of Hawaii campus rather than at a street corner Subway.

I recommended trying out the food court at the Royal Hawaiian Center, there was a Pho place there that I quite enjoyed. Upon return to the hostel I stopped to buy a replacement swimsuit. I went to a more expensive store that several travelers had recommended. The first swimsuits I saw were marked around $50 USD. I fortunately found the clearance rack and there was a suit I liked, it appears to have gotten there because is was scandalously short, and by that I mean it came about the knee. I’ve never been a fan of baggy swimsuits anyway. Beyond the rack price there was an additional 25% off at the register, so I only paid $30 for what should have been a $50 swimsuit.

After that I chilled on the rooftop and made tentative plans to surf the next morning with another traveller, them hit the sack early.

Day 9, Oahu Hawaii

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The morning surfing plans didn’t work out, plus the waves were too small, so I jus walked the beach. After that I decided to walk up the road to a Safeway supermarket to pick up a few essentials. I was surprised that the supermarket prices weren’t much less than at the corner store and they didn’t sell any small (<32 oz) bottles of aloe. I met up with Erin and Marcie at the hostel and went with them for my second, their first, Ukulele lesson. We were a few minutes late, but the lesson went well. The instructor recognized me and when he joked that they would be teaching advanced techniques the next day. I told him not to make promises he wouldn't keep. In response he asked me if I was a local and I said that I, unfortunately, was not. Marcie had to check out so I gave her my name that she might find me on Facebook and we parted ways. Erin and I continued on to what we thought would be a free Hawaiian massage lesson (Lomi Lomi), but ended up being a hula lesson. I really enjoyed the hula lesson. The instructor was fantastic. She broke down the ladies part and broke the men's part down, (there were only 3 men in a massive group lesson of about 45 people) then harassed the women for dancing the men's part (a significant part of the crowd probably didn't know english well). The movement is a bit like bachata and blues and the hand motions are like sign language, certain gestures representing different concepts. I think the song we danced to was Kona Kai `Opua, but I'll have to verify that later. I wish I remembered the whole routine, but regardless I'll use it to inform my other dances. Erin left before the end of the lesson to go grab lunch. After the lesson I sought out a restaurant that I had seen in an advertisement with a burger patty with a sunny side egg on time over rice. Unfortunately the meal looked nothing like the advertisement, and was not very pleasant. After that I lounged on the beach some, showered and cleaned some of my clothes and then went for sunset yoga with Erin. This instructor was also great. When we got back to the hostel free pizza was being served. I had a couple very small slices and left the rest to others as it was going quickly. The rooftop discussions that evening were a lot of fun. First of all two partiers came up, stuck a bottle of jäger down in the middle of the floor and said the party should get started. The then went on to recount their morning adventure on the big island. They had one primary goal, to see lava snow and the sea while there. They had succeeded with the latter two but had failed with former until their last day. They had been given the number of a local guide who had agreed to meet them at 5 am to lead them out to the active lava flow. They cut through forest to avoid the police blockades. Because of the current lava flow, which was headed for a local village, all the roads around the fair weather tourist spot and the village impending doom were closed. They got to an area that had cooled the prior night and walked on the crust of the active flow with lava running beneath them and red crack showing through the crust. They had the photos to prove it. They then heard the surveying helicopter coming and the guide made them run and hide in the bushes until it was gone. That must have been quite the adventure. Then the rednecks came. Most of the people at the hostel had not met rednecks before and these three represented. There was one over the top extrovert and the other two were definitely introverts. The leader brought out a Bluetooth enabled amp and one of the others put on a combination of both types of music, Country and Western. The adventurers offered up the jäger and when the redneck couldn't find a cup and the adventurers told him to just take a sip from the bottle, he obliged and took a few gulps. They went on to talk about life in real America and about how rednecks are just the Americans that know how to have fun. It turned out the three of them were from the contractor that services air conditioners from Walmart and had been flown out by the company to service the stores on each island. Someone offered me a Wailua Wheat Ale, which was by far my favorite local Hawaiian beer. Much fun was had, but unfortunately I didn't see the three southern gentlemen again. Rumor had it they were caught smoking herbs that are legal in Colorado and Amsterdam, but not Hawaii.

Day 10, Oahu Hawaii (Wednesday)

Wednesday was the day for my Japanese Encephalitis booster, so I slept in and took the bus to the clinic. The vaccine cost me over $500, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. I grabbed lox on a bagel with cream cheese for lunch and got the bus back on my transfer ticket just before it expired. I then made a plan to plan. I grabbed my laptop and headed to a coffee shop with wifi across town, but near a store that was offering a free CD of local, traditional music. I got my drink, sat down, opened my laptop, and saw a picture of a red battery on the screen when I went to turn it on. This travel laptop has been good to me, but sometimes when it goes to sleep it can drain itself overnight unexpectedly. Plan to plan foiled. I got the free CD and returned to the hostel. At the rooftop patio I met Erin and a few others and we planned to rent a car to tour the island on Friday. It was another early to bed night.

Day 11, Oahu Hawaii (Thursday)

I got up in the morning for a jog on the beach. After my jog I decided to rent a surfboard and take another crack at the sport. Instead of grabbing a beginner board rental for $15 I decided to rent an advanced board for $10. I figured I wouldn’t do well regardless so why not try a different board and save some money. Attempting to surf was fun. I caught a few waves, but wasn’t stable enough to stand up. I worked at it for 45 minutes and the returned the board early.

Then I just laid down and sun bathed form a while. After toasting both sides I got up and decided I’d had enough sun for a bit. I went back to the hostel, took a two hour nap and then a shower.

Refreshed I returned to my quest for WiFi. I grabbed my fully charged laptop and the charger just in case and headed to find a coffee shop. On the way I came across an afternoon farmer’s market. Popping inside I purchased some Apple Bananas, which are about half the size and have a much stronger flavor that does hint of Apple. I then found a guy who was selling squeezed sugar cane grown on the island. While I knew this amounted to basically sugar water I couldn’t resist the novelty. It was quite good. Finally to top off the culinary experience I bought a fresh coconut. The vendor chopped a hole in the top for me to drink the water and I returned after I had drained it to have it chopped in half so I could eat the meat. Then it was time to go take a few sunset photos. I had a shot in mind, but whe I got to the spot I realized that I didn’t have my tripod on me. It was time to improvise. I found a utility box and took photos of catamarans and surfers silhouetted on the sunset. The I found a seattle’s best coffee and gained access to wifi. I can’t remember what I did on the Internet, but I know it was important. Erin messaged me saying that she would not be able to go on the Friday car ride and that her day was a bust, but she was interested in getting dinner.

Apparently people not from the United States have an obsession the The Cheesecake Factory because it was featured in The Big Bang Theory. Erin wanted to have their food at least once so we ordered takeaway (take out). I was full so I just ordered a slice of cheesecake. On the way back we stopped and picked up the rental car. That’s where I made my biggest mistake. Habitually I declined the insurance. I knew it wasn’t right, but went through the motions anyway and got to the hostel. Then I checked my credit car coverage and thought it over, and realized there was no way I should be driving with no third person liability. I called the local agent… answering machine. After 15 minutes I called national and they said I had to show up in person at the rental location to sign documents. Now this rental location is on the second story of a hotel and their garage is in the basement with no nearby parking spots, so my logic dictated I should jog over rather than waste time finding and paying for parking. That was mistake number 2. I got there and the agent responded with a dumbfounded air that although they just checked the car out to me they needed to reinspect it to change the insurance. Duh. The flaw of my logic rang out immediately. Worse the rental agency closed in 20 minutes and the car was parked on the other side of Waikiki at the hostel. Summing up a sprint back to the hostel and a roundtrip drive later I was exhausted. Late to bed early to rise.

That’s all I have out of bulleted list form at the moment.

Week 1 – San Diego & Oahu

Howdy all,

This is my first post from on the road. One week blocks might be a bit large for posts but I’m giving it a try and will post shorter, more frequent updates if I need to. Note: I’m having trouble getting photos uploaded. I’ll add them to the post when I get a chance.

tl;dr:

  • Day 1: Busses and Planes – Beer and Whiskey
  • Day 2: Golf – TheBus – Skyline
  • Day 3: Sunrise Photos – Waiting – Breakfast – Swimming – Ukulele Lesson – Walking the beach – Bowl – Diamondhead
  • Day 4: Pear Harbor – Ala Moana – Hilo Hatties – Planning
  • Day 5: Changing hostels – Academic Call – Snorkeling – Luau
  • Day 6: Photography tour – Hostel BBQ – Bar Night
  • Day 7: I rested

Day 1: Springfield, MA – San Diego, CA

I did my best to start my trip off with thrift and took a bus from Springfield to Logan Airport (I can actually thank my father for the bus ticket). It was actually a quite pleasant experience. I was surprised to find that the bus had AC and USB power for every seat. I had to transfer at South Station in Boston and the gates where to Logan bus left from weren’t labeled; however, there was a fair crowd of other confused people waiting to go to the same destination.

I booked an Alaska Airlines flight from Logan to Honolulu for $367 with an overnight layover in San Diego. Fortunately I have a cousin in San Diego and he was able to put me up for the night. It was actually a great, though tiring experience. My cousin, Rusty, and his son picked me up at around 10 pm the airport. It had been about four hours since my last dinner, so they suggested I might get something to eat at a local bar. By the time we got there the kitchen had closed, but Rusty bought me some liquid dinner which was followed by a round of Irish whiskey that the bartender got us. After that I went back to Rusty’s place and crashed.

Day 2: San Diego, CA – Honolulu, HI (Tuesday)

The next morning I had a flight at 11:15 am, but decided to join Rusty for 9 holes of golf first. I’m glad I joined him because not only did I have a lot of fun, but I got Par on one of the holes! Never mind the part I got over double par on most of the other holes. I got back to the airport in time to grab something the to eat (all I had since getting there aside from beverages was a granola bar) and board the plane.

Alaska Airlines really impressed me. There was plenty of leg room (for an airline) and power outlets in every seat. There was no free entertainment, but I had electronic devices with me to keep me busy. I did end up buying a meal on the plane, but it was only $6 and was fairly sizable.

Upon arriving in Honolulu I heads someone calling out that the shuttle for Waikiki and I asked that chap how much it cost. I told him “no thank you” after being informed that it was $27. My hostel room was only $28 a night and there had to be a cheaper way to get around. Fortunately the lady at the Information booth was able to point me to where I could find the city buses, called “TheBus” and got a ride to my hostel for only $2. It was well into the afternoon so I checked into my hostel (HI – Waikiki) which is only two blocks from Waikiki beach.

I then proceeded to wander and found a super market. I got PB&J supplies for a week and a half, cereal, milk, yogurt and bananas. That has covered two meals a day for my trip so far. Eating two meals in and eating a really tasty meal out each day suits me well. After a nap and enjoying a free show on the beach I went out and took some night time pictures of Waikiki skyline.

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Day 3: Honolulu, HI (Wednesday)

Due to the time difference I knew I would be up early, so I took advantage of that to get some sunrise photos of Diamondhead and Waikiki. The Photos of Diamondhead didn’t come out great, but I did get some good photos of the skyline.  The biggest downside that I did not foresee was that the kitchen on the hostel didn’t open until 7. At that I went and got a 2.50 cup of coffee and waited while doing research on my laptop. I was quite hungry by the time the kitchen opened.

After a wonderful breakfast consisting of both a small bowl of yogurt with bananas and cereal with milk I changed into my swimsuit to swim a little. I was able to take a swim, shower off at one of the beach showers and air dry before a free Ukulele lesson at 10:00 am. The lesson was a blast and went over because it was pouring outside and no one wanted to leave.

After playing getting my I – VI – IV – V – I chord progression down I took off to walk the length of the beach, which is quite long. Along the way I came across a catamaran named the MaiTa’i which I had seen reviews for in the morning. I decided to book that $45 snorkeling trip for Friday. I then continued to the end of the beach and found a shrimp food truck. Unfortunately it wasn’t open so I walked into the city and started back down the main road toward my hostel. I found a little spot called the Hiking Hawaii, which seemed to be filled with locals. For lunch I had a local coffee with refills and an item on the menu I didn’t recognize for lunch. Apparently the Pitaya (Dragonfruit) bowl and it’s cousin the Acai bowl are local delicacies. It consisted of a base of pitaya, banana, pineapple gelatto topped with house-made granola, banana, kiwi, raspbierries, and honey. It was both tasty and filling. I also needed a rest at this point so I chilled there through two mugs of coffee, and I drink coffee slowly.

I then wandered back to the hostel and was awed at the premium New York shopping I passed. If there is a high end shopping chain, they have several in Waikiki. I can not comprehend why people would travel here just to go shopping for big city fashion you can find in any major city, but that appears to be a big thing here.

I then changed and got ready for a hike. I took the public bus over to the DiamondHead State Park. The bus ride cost $2.5o and admission to the park was $1. It was a fairly steep hike, but it was quite beautiful. I was accompanied by a mother daughter couple who were touring when the mother was free from conference for the American Association for Reproductive Medicine, which made for some interesting discussion while hiking. She was an advocate for embryo adoption, which is certainly a form of adoption that isn’t often talked about. When I got down the volcano it started pouring and getting dark. The bus driver questioned the validity of our transfer tickets, but let us on anyway.

Day 4: Honolulu, HI (Thursday)

Day 4 was the day to visit the Pearl Harbor memorial and see the USS Arizona. After breakfast I took an hour public bus ride to the memorial. Unfortunately I hadn’t realized no bags were allowed, fortunately I could check my bag with my lunch for $3 and fit most of my stuff in my pockets. The admission to the USS Arizona memorial was free and I got a ticket for just 15 minutes after my arrival. The video they show before the ride to the memorial was very good, informative, and emotional. There had been rain the last day so the water had low visibility. It was impressive to see the remains of the ship and the diagram of what was showing. I also noticed oil that still constantly leaks from the ship. I viewed the other free displays which were all well put together and maintained and was done around 12:30 pm.

I got on the bus back toward Waikiki and got off right at the edge. I then walked over to the Ala Moana shopping center. It’s one of the largest shopping centers on the island and was filled with stores you would expect on 5th Avenue in New York. I had just missed the free daily hula show so I wandered around and people watched. I also took some pictures of the Koi that were in the mall. After that I started walking back toward the center of Waikiki and noticed the free trolley to one of the biggest gift shops on the Island, Hilo Hatties. I figured I might as well continue windo shopping and took the free shuttle and was greeted with a free shell lei when I got off. The store had free samples of local honey and coffee, but the vast majority of what was being sold was actually from China, Korea, and Vietnam despite looking Hawaiian. I took the shuttle back to the edge of the beach area and walked back to the hostel. I got some really great Pho at the food court of the Royal Hawaiian Center and there was a great free performance going on when I finished eating. There were a bunch of hula dancers who were obviously students. The way they practiced bits in the back and looked nervous made me think of my first dance performances. I also made plans to switch hostels the next day, since the hostel I was originally at was closing its kitchen for reservations.

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Day 5: Honolulu, HI (Friday)

I slept in a little later, but was still able to pack before breakfast. After breakfast I checked out and walked my stuff (not very well packed) the four blocks to the new hostel, which was a significant upgrade from where I was staying. I wasn’t able to check in so early, but I had my snorkeling trip at 10:30 am so I locked my gear up in the lobby of the new hostel and brought a day bag out with me. I had been in touch with some academics regarding some motorsport noise work and had a call scheduled for 9 am. I had to admit is was amusing to be talking technically about acoustics over the phone while walking down a white sand beach in beautiful weather.

I walked around the beach until 10:15 when the tour started loading. A professional photographer took a photo of each passenger as we boarded.

The snorkeling experience was amazing. We only went about a kilometer out from the beach to a reef and water about 25 feet deep, but it was far enough out for there to be few people and several sea turtles cruising around the surface. Another boat with divers was also there. After a short demo we started snorkeling. I wasn’t a match for a few of the other snorkelers who could dive down for a bit before returning to the surface and the water was still a little cloudy from the rains, but the bottom was visible and at one point there were three sea turtles beneath me.

After snorkeling we got back on the catamaran, the crew put up the sails and we cruised around the coast for an hour. Non-alcoholic drinks were included and alcoholic beverages could be purchased. I had one MaiTai, while others had at least three. After the sail we were presented with the photo taken while loading. It was actually a really good photo, but I wasn’t about to pay the $15 for it. I declined and was more sad that there were printing out all those photos and throwing many of them away. Unfortunately this wouldn’t be the last time this happened in my trip.

I returned to my hostel, checked in, showered, and changed, because soon I would be headed to my official Luau of the trip. Paradise cove was one of the highest rated Luaus on the island and was less costly than several other options. I got to the bus stop early and soon enough a coach bus with “Paradise Cove” on the side pulled up, the person of authority who stepped of gestured for a line to form and voila, there was a line. Our guide for the evening was named Khi (Like the Greek letter X), at least that’s how his nickname was pronounced and he was amazing. He kept us well entertained on the long drive so we barely noticed the time passing.

Upon arrival we were leied with respect to how much we paid. I go the least expensive ticket to I got a shell lei, the ladies I was talking with on the bus got fresh flower leis, and the premium people got leis that looked like they were composed of large seeds. Our drink tickets were also stocked in proportion similarly. The first drink, however, didn’t need a drink ticket and we all got a MaiTai at the gate. Then they took a photo of us with dancers (sign, another waste of photo printing). Then we could spread out and see a bunch of different activities from Hawiian bowling, temporary tattoos, and flower head bands and wrist bands.

Then there were a bunch of different small activities leading up to the main presentation, including hula demos, palm tree climbing, and a very corny fishing demo that went back and forth between what might actually have been a cultural demo and embarrassing attendants and doing stuff that was comedic, but could also be considered considerably racist.

Then we all sat down and watched them pull the massive pig that would be served with the meal from an underground oven, saw more dancing, and then sat down at the banquet tables. The rest of the evening  was a mix of great food and great dancing. People went on stage for a hula lesson. I couldn’t resist. All the people who went on stage were given “Certificate of  Achievement” for successfully completing an accelerated course in Polynesian Dancing. That I hope to save for my alternate dancing resume.

There was a lot of emphasis calling out engaged, honeymooning, and various durations of marriages. They did mention single people once, and their suggestion was to go buy a drink, that’s probably the one part of the ceremony I didn’t appreciate. At the end I was handed another printed photo to decline and on the way back most of us slept on the bus. I went straight to bed since I had to be ready for a 7 am pickup for my tour Saturday morning.

Day 6: Honolulu, HI (Saturday)

My Saturday morning tour is definitely the was I was most looking forward to. In the Alaskan Airlines magazine I had read about the concept of photography tours, where a professional photographer takes you out to beautiful places and gives you suggestions on how to improve your travel photography. In essence it’s a combination of a tour and a photography class. I booked my tour through Blue Hawaii and couldn’t be happier. To top it off, when I was picked up I was informed that I was the only customer for the day, so I had a personal tour guide and photography teacher for 7 hours. She drove me around the island stopping at the major beaches and some stops that are not common tourist stops. We stopped to grab some of the best shrimp I’ve ever had from a shrimp truck on the north shore, saw the major surfing beaches, and some set up for a surfing competition later in the week. I also heard some lovely stories about turtle conservation on the island and the personalities of sea turtles.

After the photography tour I attended a BBQ dinner at the hostel, met some other wonderful solo travelers, and then most people went out to a local bar afterward. I called it quits shortly after midnight.

Day 7: Honolulu, HI (Sunday)

I hatched this crazy idea that Sunday should be a day of rest. As such I attended a local church, bought a $5 lunch plate for their hula club who traveled doing the hula and representing the church and Christ. Watched the latest Korra episode and wrote this post. In the evening I walked to Leonard’s Bakery for their famous Malasadas, and the bakery did not disappoint. It’s good to have a down day every now and then. I also hope I get quicker at writing these posts because this has been quite a bit of work.

Peace,

Craig

 

 

Quick Takes on 9 Social Media Platforms

Today I took some time to track down all of the different social media or networking profiles that exist for me. It is tough trying to keep my online identity up to date and relevant. Here are my quick takes on 9 social media platforms.

1. Facebook

This is the worldwide giant. As with many people I’ve become frustrated with Facebook but have a hard time giving it up. On this site people that post do not own or have rights with respect to content they post, and no matter how you restrict your settings data is mined and sold to advertisers. That said it has the largest user database, has a great events system, and a very flexible interface with great apps. I feel that startups like Ello and Sgrouples might give Facebook a run for its money.

Verdict: I find it abusive but I can’t give it up.

2. LinkedIn

This is the largest professional networking site I use. It provides a digital resume that recruiters can look up and allows me to see all the professionals everyone in my network knows, not that I have ever found that feature useful. LinkedIn is now encouraging users to publish articles on LinkedIn, which I find suspect at best. The new news feed seems to be imitating Facebook and I am not a fan of it. LinkedIn can do one thing well, and that is professional networking. LinkedIn is not where I go for news and updates from my colleagues.

Verdict: Good for a professional online networking presence, not good for much of anything else.

3. Twitter

While I do use twitter, I have always found it a cacophonous and crazy place. I find it is good for getting a quick message out and learning about breaking news. In order to have fun on twitter you have to have a very narrow and focused perspective. I have not done this for my Twitter account and may never do so, however I had a lot of fun when I was maintaining my local Acoustics Society Twitter feed.

Verdict: Great for sharing quick references and shouting out to the world, but the most fun when you have a very focused message.

4. Google Plus

This is a social networking site that I don’t use and never wanted to use. It’s not clear whether you own or have rights to what you publish on this network. There’s no doubt that the content you post and share is mined and sold to advertisers. The biggest negative I hold against it is I did not opt into it. I was forced into having a profile because I use GMail. Even Facebook and Twitter allow you to close your profile. Their circle feature is novel with respect to Facebook. Using circles you can tailor what different groups see. It allows you present different faces to family, friends, coworkers, and acquaintances.

Verdict: I don’t use it. I feel the bad implementation of the mandatory opt in is unforgivable.

5. Research Gate

Research Gate’s mission is to “connect researchers and make it easy for them to share and access scientific output, knowledge, and expertise.” It is a publication based social network where researchers can post their publications to their profile and ask questions of their academic peers. It is a good place to get a publication list of any author that uses the site and a good place to showcase one’s own publications. The site encourages and rewards users for answering forum questions through its RG score, which is proprietary combination of publications, forum questions, forum answers, and followers. As of writing this post my RG score is 15.08.

Verdict: Good for showcasing publications. The discussion forum and RG score’s usefulness may vary for each individual.

6. Publons

Publons strives to give credit for an extremely thankless duty of academia. For those of you that don’t know, scientific literature is driven by peer review. Peer review is a system where articles are screened by other researchers who determine the quality and merit of the work and make suggestions, for free. That’s right, researchers spend a significant of time working to improve someone else’s research with no reward since these reviews are often anonymous. I credit Publons for trying to create credit where it is due. It’s usefulness, however, is yet to be seen.

Verdict: Good site making a valiant attempt to give credit where it is deserved.

7. Path

Part of Path’s mission is to “be a source of happiness, meaning, and connection.” They do that through encouraging you to share “music, check-ins, movies, books, trips, workouts, photos, and more.” They also allow you to post to other social media “Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Foursquare, and WordPress” through the Path App. It has a very simple, pretty, and functional interface with great privacy controls; however, this is also where they have one shortfall that prevents me from investing in this service. The network is entirely based on mobile devices. They have no web based platform. For some reason having a web based interface is critical for me to buy in to any social network. They also limit you to 150 friends, which doesn’t bother me.

Verdict: Great apps and great privacy settings. The lack of a web interface prevents me from using this service more.

8. Ello

Ello is one of the new services that threatens to steal users from Facebook. It is an ad-free social network with a core pledge of no data-mining and full privacy control. They plan to finance the enterprise by having premium features that require payment. If this system proves to be financially viable it will be a powerhouse to contend with. Tagline “You are not a product.” They are still in Beta and don’t have their full suite of sharing tools available. They plan to have mobile apps, however they haven’t launched. I can provide a few invites.

Verdict: Wonderful idealist network that won’t sell of compromise your data. I hope they succeed.

9. Sgrouples

Another idealist startup, but this one has ads. These ads however are anonymous and non-targeted. They claim to be “The world’s safest social network” and assert that “you own your content.” The owning of one’s posts is an assertion I have not found on any other social network. They are far more advanced than Ello and already have functioning mobile apps and group privacy settings.

Verdict: Another wonderful startup where you own your content. I hope they succeed.

Peace and happy networking,

-Craig Dolder

Obligatory iconized version of profile links:

facebook Facebook Twitter googleplus researchgate Publons Path-icon Ello  Sgrouples-96x96

If you send me a message I’ll gladly add you to any of my networks (except maybe Facebook). A simple personal message is all that it takes. Here are the links to my profiles:

You can always find me through my website: My website – http://craig.dolder.us

Segment 0: Across the USA from Austin, TX to Springfield, MA


tl;dr – TX : KY : OH : VA : PA : MA


 

It dawned on me that the first leg of my trip is actually the one I just completed. I moved from Austin, TX to Springfield, MA. In fact I have temporarily done the thing that most parents dread, moved back in. I get the impression, however, that my parents are quite glad to have me. The trip really started with the sale of my beloved Forester which served me well for 8 years.

A picture from my 2008 migration from MA to TX.

As seen on CraigsList in 2014.

 

Hopefully it serves its new owner well.

Before selling the car I closed out my storage unit and found a last minute deal on a 10 foot box truck from Budget. It appears that a shortage of box trucks in the northeast allowed me to rent one for less than half price. While I didn’t really need a box truck and didn’t look forward to driving one, the week long flat rate unlimited miles was a great deal because it meant that I could visit friends on the way up. With that in mind I packed up the truck with the help of Hannah and Ashley.

Loaded Truck

My plan was to visit four friends in four cities: Elizabethtown, KY, Cincinatti, OH, Hampton, VA, and Lancasterish, PA

The drive from Austin to Elizabethtown was fairly uneventful. I got to drive two hours after dark with a torrential downpour my first day and I landed in Little Rock, AR with a splitting headache, but a good night’s rest got rid of that.

The second night I met up with a good friend, Becca, who I was in marching band with. I got this lovely… okay rather lackluster photo of a fire hydrant in her town. I was also offered some wonderful Banana Bread Beer.  I’m going to have to beef up my photo taking if I truly plan to blog my trip. That’s another reason I’m calling this Segment 0.

Hydrant2014-09-07

 

After being treated to a splendid breakfast at Cobbler’s Cafe in downtown Elizabethtown I took off for Cincinatti. The first recommendation I got for touring Cincinatti was to visit the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, but it was a Monday and they were not open. The second sight on my list was the The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, which was open.

I really enjoyed seeing the fusion of a zoo and a botanical garden. Here are some photos I took:

 


 

Nonorthogonal signs

Finally, some signs that take into account that not all intersections are orthogonal.

After playing at the zoo I met up with my friend Nicole, dropped my truck off at her place, and we went for dinner in downtown Cincinnati. We ended up at the Moerlein Lager House where I enjoyed their Steak Frites. Nicole reported that the Short Rib Grilled Cheese was quite good as well. One of the things I liked best about the place is that they listed the International Bitterness Unit, IBU, for each of their house beers to give a relative idea of the bitterness. I wish all breweries adopted such a scale. We then went to an upscale bar to hear Nicole’s father play piano. To top off the evening I was introduced to the best ice cream in the US, Graeters. That was the opinion of my host and I had to agree once sampling a few flavors.

The next morning my host offered me some coffee and I was on my way. I decided to take another break on the way to Hampton, VA and spent the next night in Charlottesville, VA. I knew it was just a few hours to my next stop and my friends there had to work so I decided to take in some history, but wasn’t sure what history to take in.

It was all decided after some Corgis were led through the hotel lobby while I was eating breakfast. A lady at the table next to me said aloud “I don’t know if I love Corgis because they or awesome or because I am a nerd.” I asked her if she was referring to Cowboy Bebop and her nod sealed the friendship. For those of you who don’t know the show has a Corgi named Ein. Another lady joined her and I learned they were on their honeymoon. I told them of my plight and was told “You should visit Monticello because Jackson was badass.”

That made my decision. I packed up and headed to Monticello.

After than I hung out with J&L. I loved seeing their new place and eating at one of their favorite restaurants. Here there was a little detour to my original plans as my next host had a complicated series of events that would have made crashing at her place difficult. Fortunately I have an awesome cousin that lives in Philadelphia that said I could stay at her place even though she was flying out that day. Lesson one of that day was that South Philly is not box truck friendly. I got stuck on her road and needed her help to back out. I was very fortunate to find a parking spot three blocks away.

I got to see the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall. and a lot of fun Philly history. I got to see friends from Undergrad, Salsa Dancing, and from J’s wedding. It was a wonderful evening and yet again I didn’t take any photos.

After my adventures in Philly I was just a short drive from my final destination in Springfield, MA. That last leg was thankfully uneventful and I arrived right on time. I’ve run out of writing steam for now.

Peace,

Craig

World Travel Map

Wrapping up my Ph.D. provides a wonderful break as I make connections and look for jobs.  For those of you who don’t know, I am planning on using this break to travel around the world starting October 2014 and ending around May 2015. Many people have been asking about my world travel plans and where I intend to visit, so here is rough draft in the form of a map. This will be revised as I get closer to my trip and will be updated as I travel.

I have a few side missions planned for my travel beyond relaxing and taking in the various cultures:

  • Visit acoustics research labs/events and give seminar presentations.
  • Collect soundscapes and see how loud different places are around the world.
  • Dance Casino and other styles of dance around the world.

I am extremely open to suggestions about where I should visit or things I should see.

Events:

Current country list:

  • New Zealand
  • Australia
  • Sri Lanka
  • India
  • United Arab Emerates
  • Israel
  • Turkey
  • Italy
  • Germany
  • France
  • Spain
  • England
  • Ireland

Student Paper Award: First Place in Acoustical Oceanography

This is a post to say that I am honored to have been awarded a best student paper award at the 167th meeting of the Acoustical Society of America for my presentation titled Extracting effective medium properties for fish schools from resonator and free-field measurements.

FishExpPhotoOxygenation

I was given the award just in the nick of time, seeing that I graduated the weekend after the conference. The presentation detailed my dissertation work on “Direct measurement of effective medium properties of model fish schools.” To make a long and complicated dissertation short, I recorded the resonance frequency of glass tubes filled with water and live zebrafish in order to determine the sound speed of an “effective medium” of fish.

Think of it like an organ pipe, which sounds a certain note. If the substance inside the pipe changes, the resonance frequency changes. Through that frequency change we gain knowledge about the contents. New methods for more precise observation of the acoustic properties of fish schools are in demand, especially in the light of new about large changes in fish populations over just a few generations.

I am currently working on two journal articles detailing the work and its refinement since my dissertation was published.

I’d like to congratulate several of my friends who were also presented with student paper awards:

Adaleena Mookerjee, Univ. of Michigan, for her presentation “Comparison of near-field acoustic coherent backscattering simulations with optics theory and experiments.”

Whitney Coyle, Penn State Univ, for her presentation “Clarinet playing frequency predictions: Comparison between analytic and numeric simulations.”

Anthony Bonomo, Univ. of Texas at Austin, for his presentation “Acoustic scattering from a sand layer and rock substrate with rough interfaces using the finite element method.”

Relaunch of web site

Hi All,

This site has been neglected while finishing up my dissertation. It is time for a new look and new content. I’ve moved over to a blog-style website so that I can post information related to acoustics and my research, but still provide general background information. I hope you find this site useful and please feel free to drop my a line.

Peace,

Craig Dolder