Independence Day at Pearl Harbor

Independence Day at Pearl Harbor

We turned and stood erect at 8:00am when the National Anthem blanketed the entire Memorial, silent in contemplation and in wonder at the stillness of hundreds of people honoring our country’s flag over the tomb of thousands of soldiers. When the Anthem concluded, there were no applause, no immediate sounds, just breath being caught, tears wiped, and thoughts gathered.

To attempt explaining the overwhleming mix and surge of feelings being at the Pearl Habor Historic Memorial on Independence Day seems merely impossible.


Docked side by side in the Harbor were a United States Aircraft Carrier and a Japanese Battleship who flew an American Flag in honor of our Independence. Our tour guide atop the USS Missouri said, “Look how far we have come,” as she pointed to the two ships across the Bay.

A view from the USS Missouri Battleship toward the Pearl Harbor Memorial.
Left: United States Aircraft Carrier – Right: Japanese Battleship – Docked together as they both fly the American Flag in honor of Independence Day

We entered the Pearl Harbor Monument Theater to watch a daunting 23 minute video as a preface to our boat tour passing Battleship Row to get a closer look at the USS Arizona who lay at the bttom of the bay as a resting place to 1,102 of the nearly 1,800 men killed in the Japanese Attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941. The almost 30,000 ton ship sank in 14 minutes and burned the just-filled oil tanks for 3 days following the attack. Oil, or “Black Tears,” continue to seep from Arizona at a rate of 1 gallon per day; believed to be the tears of the soldiers below which will conclude rising to the surface when the soul of the last soldier rests.

USS Arizona Memorial and the USS Missouri (behind to the left). They sit bow to stern as a representation of the ‘start’ and ‘end’ to WWII.
Tree of Life (oil) above the USS Arizona. *Photograph by Jerry Kaufman

As we walked about the ‘Road to War‘ and ‘Attack‘ gallaries, we listened to various accounts of the Attack from Civilians, Survivors, and Children (via self-guied audio tour). We walked carefully and quietly along side of hundreds of people around model ships, preserved uniforms, and facts and stories spread across every wall of the open buildings. Feelings similar to that of being in your favorite History class, investing your attention so much so that you lose track of time and never want the class to end, is how I felt as we inched our way through every exhibit, hoping my eyes could capture every bit of information.

We stood in the exact spot where the Japanese surrendered, marking the end of WWII, atop the USS Missouri Battleship. We walked about the quarters of the ship impossibly imagining a sliver of how it would have been 77 years ago.

One of the most interesting and empethising backgrounds was that of Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, a man of contemplation as every human experiences. It is recorded that Yamamoto, while all his staff members were celebrating, spent the day after Pearl Harbor sunk in depression. True or not, the background of Yamamoto is definitely provoking.

The Pearl Harbor Memorial should be among the top of everyone’s bucket lists. We have never felt such a sense of patriotism, reverence, and honor – especially on the Fourth of July. I can’t help but wonder and ask: what would July 4th mean to you if the world were in black and white? No red, white, and blue, just 50 stars and 13 stripes flying high over the free land we stand on at the expense of so many defending peace, democracy, and love. IMG_9350

We watched fireworks over the Memorial from a neighboring beach that night.
A few more pictures showing sheer joy of being at one of our favorite places on Earth on one of the best days of the year!

Human kindness has never weakened the stamina or softened the fiber of a free people. A nation does not have to be cruel to be tough.
– President Franklin D. Roosevelt

Maui in a ’88 VW

Maui in a ’88 VW

|| Maui || June 18-20, 2018 ||

We wanted to go to Maui! So I booked us a flight and Ruby, our ’88 Volkswagon Vanagan for 3 days! We found our van on Outdoorsy (a van rental website for the outdoorsy-types) from Walle and Becky, a couple who owns POME (Product Of My Environment) surf shop in Paia, Maui. Now, Ruby was a manual transmission. You know when someone introduces a new, terrifying skill/experience to you and they demand you jump in the deep end head first to learn the quick way? This was driving Ruby. Finicky, manual transmission, in the dark, on a one-lane road with over 600 hairpin turns… Imagine us stalling out at a stop going up hill – lol. Or parking arcoss 3+ parking spots for easy access out of a parking lot without having to reverse. That was us. 40 mph max (usually about 15 mph) white girls living the pinterest-van-life experience.
But, off we went! 2 bags, Ruby, and ourselves!

Our main “activity” was The Road to Hana.
I downloaded an app called GyPSy Guide that worked offline as a GPS Tour Guide – GOLD, you guys. We named the Siri-like man’s voice, Harrison. He told us all about the history of Maui, kept time for us, let us know what stop options were ahead AND when to turn. I highly recommend this app ($10.99) if you come to any of the Hawaiian Islands and don’t exactly know what you want to do.
THIS ROAD IS INSANE (look at the map below):roadtohanamap
The Road to Hana on Google Maps, with no stops, says you can get there in about 2.5 hours. Hana, the town itself, is nothing special, and we didn’t actually even stop there. We continued from where the map above says “END” around the most thrilling, intense, scary, narrow, edge-of-a-mountain, road path we have EVER experienced. Ever, ever, ever. Twice as crazy as the Road to Hana, and that was crazy.

At one point, Mara watched out her window while the car going the opposite direction watched my side to pass each other without hitting – about 5 inches to spare. The guy driving the other car and I high-fived for not pooping our pants.

A few of our stops along the Road to Hana!

Garden of Eden Arboretum
Besides the 24,587 bug bites I got on this very short, paved hike through the garden, the best plant here was the Rainbow Eucalyptus Trees. They literally look like someone painted them – AMAZING!!!

Kaumahina wayside
This stop was random, but had a wonderful view. We took a picture of a nice couple from Kentucky. The wife told us they were hysterically laughing a mile or so back at sign that said “DO NOT PASS” on a one-way part of the road. lol I liked her. She has a sense of humor.

Pua’a Ka’a Wayside
Harrison told us to bypass this stop as it was a wayside where locals like to come swim because not a lot of tourists stop. Except THESE TWO TOURISTS! (Who happened to need a shower). We parked Ruby, got our travel size shampoo, conditioner, and body wash, and headed to a little waterfall tide-pool were we had THE BEST bath we had our whole trip (compare to showers at public beaches with people around and having to press the button every 3 seconds for water to continue to spray unevenly at one-trillion fastness. This was arguably the best stop.

Hana Lava Tube Cave
“Let’s go,” Mara said, as Harrison told us about he Lava Tube Caves as I zoomed passed the turn. I swung a U-ey and $25 and two bright-ass flash lights later we were inside the Lava Tubes giving ourselves a self-led tour. They were AMAZING. Hawaii’s geographical history is mind-blowing. We don’t understand how people don’t stop to read the historical description signs… If you travel, read. Learn something! There’s NO way this trip would have been as amazing as it was if we didn’t care to learn about what we were doing!

Wai’anapanapa State Park
Okay, this bay was out of a freaking book. Every shade of blue you can imagine, crystal clear water, black sand/pebble beaches, and black lava cliffs everywhere. I was hoping to see someone just off one of the cliffs so I could convince Mara that we could do it too. But, no one did. Probably because it’s not advised??

Haneo’o Beach
I have no words – definition of paradise. There are 2 legends of the island behind us in the photos: First, the demi-god, Maui, pulled up the island with his magic hook that connected to the heavens (Moana, right? lol). The other is that Pele, the goddess of volcanoes broke the earth open from the Kaiwiopele hill and created the island. Sidenote: Hawaiians take Pele very seriously and believe the current volcano on the big island in erupting because Pele is angry. Mara won’t let me take a lava rock home because we cannot be held responsible for volcano activity. lol

Ohe’o Gulch / Seven Sacred Pools
We took the short loop. By this point we were exhausted so a two mile each way hike didn’t sound appealing. We chose the bang-for-your-buck trail that lead us to a look out point without a railing – giving Mara anxiety the naturally brings her hands to the earth for stability. lol It was fine, there’s no way we would’ve fallen. Her eyes thought otherwise.

Ke’anae Peninsula
“Ke’anae’s Old Stone Church, called “Ihi’ihio Iehowa o na Kaua” in Hawaiian, was built in 1856 and is the sole surviving building of the April 1st, 1946 killer tsunami which wiped out the entire village. There was an 8.6 monster earthquake that originated in the Aleutian Islands chain off the coast of Alaska that caused a 100 ft. high, devastating tsunami near the epicenter in the Aleutians, but had lost most of their energy and were maxed out at 35 feet by the time they hit the Ke’anae Peninsula.”
Church in Ke'anae

We had one small hiccup after the Road to Hana on Piilani Highway around “The Backside of Haleakala (mountain)” 

We came to a stop close to the top of a dirt/rock road following 5+ cars because (God forbid) traffic was coming the opposite direction. Like I said before, the roads are TIGHT so stopping to let traffic through is more than common. Except this time, Ruby quit. And wouldn’t start again. We started to lose our cool (Mara). We knew Ruby was hot and needed a breather from the rough terrain and hills, but she would. not. start. again. It would cost thousands of dollars and HOURS to get help out here. We thought, battery. Okay, let’s wave one of the trillion cars passing us down to ask for jumper cables. So we did. about a dozen times. Turns out, rental cars are not equip with jumper cables (something to consider Enterprise/Hertz/Alamo). Finally a nice man with his family stops and says, “have you tried pop-starting it?” We both yell, “NO!” in the most hopeful voices we’ve ever had. He pulled over, recruited two more guys, and before you know it, they were pushing Ruby around the bend and after a couple attempts of different combinations of clutch and gas, Ruby was running. Walter, our angel from heaven who stopped to help us, was shouting, “Pump the gas! Go! And don’t stop!” SO WE DID. This, atop the anxiety from driving a manual along the side of a mountain all day, about gave me an ulcer and Mara a panic attack. Off we went! What’s a road trip in a VW without a little mechanical problem? ;) As we drove along the 50+ mile road back to where we started, we felt as if the long line of cars following the slow VW became our cheering squad and they chose not to pass us just  to see us make it to the end of the road. We passed Walter and his family many times as they stopped and on the highway – hooting, hollering, and honking at him every time, yelling, “Mahalo!!!!”

We showered at the Maui Planet Fitness, had Mexican for dinner, and camped out in the Home Depot parking lot. :)

‘Iao Valley State Park
The next day we went to ‘Iao Valley which was AMAZING. Home of The Battle of Kepaniwai, fought in 1790 between Hawaiʻi Island and Maui. See for yourself:

D.T. Fleming Beach Park
Our last stop of our trip to Maui was at a white sand beach near Honolua Bay. We bought a pink raft at an ABC store who blew it up for us!!!! We spent an hour in the water, scrubbed up at the public beach showers, and headed back to the POME shop. Ruby died on us one more time on the way home – this time while going 35 mph down hill through a stop light. 25 minutes later, she started up! You know what I always say – what’s a road trip in a VW without a little mechanical problem? ;)

Thanks for sharing our journey!!!

Caribbean Paradise

Caribbean Paradise

Spring break 2018 || March 2-11 || Adventure of the Seas
||Puerto Rico, Curacao, Bonaire, Aruba, St. Maarten||

Day 1: Travel

To avoid a lengthly layover somewhere in the Northeast overnight, we hopped a flight to Chicago where we (Mara) slept on the airport floor for 7 hours! Right near Southwest Airline’s baggage drop. We made a nook on the floor with our 3,738 bags we brought (4). I experienced sour gummy worms that tasted like something you’d find under your bathroom sink at 2:30am. I also used the bathroom at 3:00am and directed a very peppy family of 6 toward the closed baggage drop where they quickly learned that you don’t have to show up 2 hours before boarding like you used to in the 1900’s. Let’s be real – almost missing a flight is way more fun… we will get to that part.

Day 2: At sea

WHAT TO DO WITH ALL OUR TIME? All day on a ship and we had no idea what to do or where to go. It wouldn’t be until Day 3 or 4 that we found the SELF-SERVE ICE CREAM MACHINE by the pool. Guess how many we ate. Guess. Although the ship was laced with jewelry stores, we enjoyed free pizza from the snack restaurant, buying candy/snacks and mouthwash from the liquor store, and laying pool side to get a base tan. Music all day long, Zumba, trivia, reading a good book, and thinking about nothing we’re a few of our favorites.

Day 3: Curacao

 Curaçao has a bridge that is straight out of a Dr. Seuss movie. Run with your imagination. In Curaçao we jumped in a taxi and went to a beach where we had to pay to rent a beach chair for the day. Lazy. Day. We learned the (sort of) equivalent of the USD$ and ANG quickly. We also found a mini mart and stocked up on snacks like a bag of Cheetos puffs and an 85¢ eFruitti Pizza Gummi Candy. Please tell me you remember. I flipped, hadn’t seen them in years!

Day 3: Bonaire

18-square-mile-Bonaire was so fun! We rented a moped for the day for $32. We didn’t know it was the crappiest one they had, we just knew it was the last one. We snagged it and rode all day around the entire island! Wild flamingos, beach stops, lunch, icees – whatever we wanted because you can do whatever you want when you have a moped. Our 2nd favorite island.

Day 4: Aruba

Anticipated to be our favorite island, we were excited to see it called “One Happy Island.” Plot twist. We walked a mile inland to a place we thought was our Jetpack Excursion starting point. It turned out to be a nutrition store with a nice lady who called a taxi for us. Two taxi rides, a public transit ride, and a walk in the rain later, we arrived at the world’s smallest, hidden Excursion counter IN a Hyatt Hotel. Our Excursion has been cancelled and I was praying to get my $200 back. We did, and went impromptu Jet Skiing instead! Cheers to Aruba!

Day 5: At Sea

I would say around day 5 I learned I had a fine art obsession. I found these INSANE 3D paintings of trees that were so colorful and vibrant and I had to have them. At $2,000 a piece, they offered me two pieces of art for one low payment of $1,450 with free shipping! Hold your pants, I didn’t buy them. We also got to be great friends with your waiter, Artan, and waitress, Dinah. We sat at the same window seat every night. Dinah remembered lemons for my water, real butter bricks, and the buns we preferred. Artan memorized our orders (mine): Caesar Salad, New York Strip, and Strawberry Cheesecake for desert. He also got confused when we switched sides of the table one night. He asked us nicely to stay where we were. :) by day 5 we were BRONZE.

Day 6: St. Maarten

Our favorite island! St. Maarten is STUNNING. The only island we didn’t explore to it’s depths, it was the one we could live on! After finding beach chairs to sit on, letting the waves sweep our bags away, getting my childhood dream islander braids, and losing the jet ski key in the middle of the cove, we had THE best meal of our entire trip. The nice gentleman working is the island’s best shot maker. Obviously we had a shot. Or 3. We could have stayed in St. Maarten for days!

Day 8: Puerto Rico

Docked at 7am with a flight at 8pm calls for a rental car exploring San Juan! We spent the morning zip-lining and ventured the coast – the damage from the hurricanes lingers reminding us that returning home is soon to follow. We enjoyed a nice ocean bath, took a snooze in the fanciest mall parking lot I’ve ever been to, and accidentally got 4 4-piece chicken nugget orders before heading to the airport for one last pit stop.


$1,500 per person. (Not including flights because I’m awesome and have a
Southwest card that gave me 50,000 points! Wig.)


  • Pay whatever it takes to get a room with a port hole. Or if you’re made of gold, a patio. Accidentally sleeping in until noon is fine, unless your missing daylight on the most beautiful islands ever! Also, I wished I could fix my eyes on the horizon to compensate for the swaying of the ship. Get a window, man!
  • Bring lots of cash. You never know how many taxi rides & public transit rides you’ll take to get to a beach you thought was on the other side of the island.
  • Don’t pre-buy excursions. Our 2 fell through and we ended up doing 2 impromptu ones and saved $275! When you get off the ship, locals are waiting to take you anywhere you want to go & give you the means to do so (& will negotiate).
  • Buy a drink package prior to the trip. Even if you don’t need the alcohol, get a soda/juice package so you can have lemonade, & such. It’s SO much cheaper buying it ahead of time.
  • Prepay gratuity. We got charged $14.50 per day, per person, for gratuity. Kind of a slap in the face after thinking it was all included with the cruise price. Make sure you pay it before you go!
  • Do karaoke. Seriously a blast & you make friends instantly. Ignition Remix if you want a couple extra bonus points.