Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Thanksgiving and Florida

On Thanksgiving, I got picked up from the airport and immediately got to work cooking stuffing my face. This was this year's vegan feast:

We didn't go quite as overboard as in previous years as I wasn't home for most of Thanksgiving, and I also had to catch a plane the next day and didn't want to be bloated for the entire ride.

However, this pie would've been worth it:

Friday morning, I boarded a plane to Fort Myers to work at the Laugh In Comedy Cafe. One of the coolest parts about working here is that rather than a hotel, you actually stay on a yacht!

Playing captain for the day.
I opened for my good buddy, Steve Sabo, and we had a blast!

Telling jokes or channeling spirits?
Hello? Is it me you're looking for?

After Fort Myers, I headed up to Orlando for a couple of days. I took a bus from Fort Myers to Tampa, hung out in a pretty train station (pictured below), and then took Amtrak to Orlando.

I stayed in the cutest little bed and breakfast! It was pretty, really close to downtown, and featured a complimentary cocktail hour (yes, please!). Some pictures:

I also got to pretend this was my porch for a couple days:

My room (pictured) was located in the oldest building in all of Orlando.

I may or may not have spent half my time there praying that it wasn't haunted.

It was definitely great to be in the warm weather for a few more days. When I wasn't closing my eyes and pretending not to see ghosts, I checked out downtown Orlando for a while. I'd been to Disney World before, but the downtown was new for me. I love the excitement downtowns have to offer, and the sunshine certainly made it even better!

Going back to the snow is so not going to be easy.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Last days in Maui

I spent my last days in Maui eating entirely too much food. During the first part of my trip, I tried to save money (since food in Hawaii is so expensive) by buying food at the grocery store and using my hotel room's microwave and refrigerator. I even got a Foodland savings card, and felt like a local when I went in there (I'm sure everything else about me gave away that I was not). Plus, I'm also that person who totally brings an entire dish set in their checked luggage.

But, I looked up some rather inexpensive, vegan-friendly places, and I decided to try them. One of my first finds was brownies at Joy's Place.

So delicious! And even better once I removed the plastic wrap.
My other find was a place called Fork & Salad. It was a build-your-own-salad place, and they had so many fresh and tasty ingredients from which to choose. I may or may not have gone back the next day, too.

Chickens everywhere in Maui! This guy was outside of Fork & Salad.
I also spent quite a bit of time on the beach. How can you not enjoy looking up at this?

I also creepily took videos of strangers.

How fun does that look?!

One of my the coolest parts of my trip was when I got to do stand-up! Since one of my goals is to perform in all 50 states, I looked online and found an open mic. Before heading that way, I met up with my new plane friend, John (the gentleman, also traveling by himself, who sat next to me on the plane), and we grabbed some dinner.

John decided to accompany me to the open mic, and we headed over to Nalu's. I'm pretty sure we were the only folks there who didn't know each other. Luckily, all of the Maui comics were really nice and welcoming. Chuck, the MC/organizer of the open mic, was so kind and invited me to come back any time I'd like. Sadly, I told him I had to leave the next day.

Blurrily telling jokes.
I had a lot of fun during my set, and I'm pretty sure it's the first time I've ever showed both arms and ankles on stage.

The show also presented one of the most unique moments in comedy I've ever experienced. Everything is open in most venues in Maui, so doors are not generally required to enter an establishment. So, while one of the comics was performing, out of nowhere, another guy entered from the parking lot, rushed the stage, and chucked a salad at the comic!

And, then, like nothing happened, he immediately left.

Instead of a drive-by shooting, it was like a walk-by salading. So strange!

Nobody at the mic seemed to know who the guy who, nor why he did such a thing.

I immediately had flashbacks to Fozzie Bear getting tomatoes thrown at him. I thought that was a myth! But, now I realize that produce does indeed get thrown at comics.

The comic who was performing handled the moment beautifully, and used it as an opportunity to bust out easily 3 minutes worth of vegetable jokes! Wow, who knew that someone other than Gaffigan even has that?! I was quite impressed.

I am happy to report, there was no more salad-throwing for the rest of the night.

Before heading to the airport on my last day, I decided to head back to Hookipa Lookout to watch surfers. You can't tell from the looks of this picture, but there were so many (I'm sure they just look like little specks here)!

I was blown away by how easy they made it look. If I weren't such a 'fraidy cat when it comes to physical danger, one day, I might even try to find it.

As I was leaving the Lookout, I spotted a rainbow.

A beautiful end to a beautiful and relaxing trip.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Running on Maui

On Sunday, I decided to get up bright and early to run the Sun, Surf & Hoops 5K. I figured that I might as well take advantage of my body still not being adjusted to the time difference (Hello, body waking me up at 3 AM!) and do something productive.

Since deciding to go back to law school, my running went all to crap. During my first semester of school, I ran a half marathon. By the time I graduated, I would be lucky if I could pant my way through a mile. So, after I graduated, I was determined to get back into running. I did the Super Hero 5K and followed it up with a 10K in Iceland. I also tried to chip my way through the Couch-to-5K program.

So, when it was still dark out, I piled in my car and drove to the race starting point. The race took place in Lahaina, which is about a forty-five minute drive from my hotel. I made it in plenty of time, and I may have even been the first person there. I picked up my free t-shirt and looked for a close place to park. I always find it amusing how I'm willing to run 3.1 miles, but I am not willing to park anywhere that requires even the slightest amount of walking.

I started to get nervous that I hadn't prepared enough. First, the race was small, meaning, it became harder and harder to give myself  the 'there are thousands of people here, so you can't be last!' pep talk. And, I immediately had flashbacks to the time I finished second to last in Wisconsin. Second, I was nervous because people are fit in Hawaii! As more runners showed up, I quickly realized this wasn't like any Michigan race I had been in (where I've literally scene people, pushing strollers - and not even jogging strollers - while talking on the phone and sipping Starbucks). These people were serious!

I tried to calm myself down, and repeatedly told myself I can only do my best.

Thumbs up for trying not to be last!
Group shot.
During the race, I found a woman whose pace I quite enjoyed. Well, quite enjoyed might not be the right term, as I don't quite enjoy huffing and puffing and wanting to cough up phlegm while gasping for air. But, I could keep up with her without feeling like complete death. So, I trailed her nearly the entire race (P.S. my apologies to her as I'm sure listening to me breathe was something she could have done without).

Not too shabby view along the course.

Despite the humidity making my lungs feel like they were going to burst, I was impressed by how quickly the race seemed to go. Sometimes I feel like the finish line seems worlds away. But, with this race, I listened to my music, focused on the vibration of my feet hitting the pavement, and just enjoyed the amazing scenery.

My time wasn't anything to write home about (far from it, actually), but I was proud of myself for finishing. After the race, I hit the beach for the rest of the day.

Full of beer.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Swap meets and hot weather ice sculpting

On my fifth day in Hawaii, I decided to check out the Maui Swap Meet. I had read about it in my tourist books, and it promised 200 vendors for the admission price of 50 cents.

"Who doesn't love cheap fun?" I thought to myself as I paid my admission and headed in. I was struck by the vast number of things being sold: woven bracelets in one booth, fresh fruits and veggies in the next, clothing, glass, art, all kinds of things.

I looked around for a while before scoring some really cheap avocados and oranges.

And then I stumbled upon a taco place that sold vegan tacos. It called itself Taco Maui 8 Wonder, and I figured it had to be good. I haven't yet seen the pyramids, but if I can eat a taco and knock off one of the wonders of the world, I figured I must.

The tacos certainly did not disappoint! So delicious! I even met the owner, and we chatted about tacos, and travel, and Hawaii for a while.

I then headed over to watch an ice sculpting competition. Yes, you read that correctly: ice sculpting in 86 degree weather (AKA the 'work your butt off on something that lasts five minutes" contest). Despite the ice melting rather quickly, I was amazed by what one can do with a chain saw and some ice. Their creations were beautiful, and the level of detail was nothing short of massively impressive.

After watching the ice sculptors, I went to a hula show because I figured I couldn't leave Hawaii without watching one of those. The show featured dancers of all genders and ages. There were kids who looked to be about four years old, and there were older dancers who could have easily been 60. I believe the shows are put on by a community organization that is dedicated to teaching traditional Hawaiian dance and culture. They were fantastic to watch!

I then headed home (man, I'm getting used to saying that) where I may or may not have eaten all of the avocados I purchased.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Hana Highway

Before I left, whenever I mentioned I'd be traveling to Maui, the first thing out of my conversation partner's mouth was usually "you have to take the road to Hana!" And this was no subtle recommendation; they were adamant! At first I had no idea what Hana even was, and I certainly didn't know much about a road that may or may not go there. But, I grabbed my trusty travel book and quickly discovered a few things:
1. Hana is a city.
2. The road there, while only around 60 miles, takes nearly four hours since it is so narrow and curvy.
3. It is supposed to be one of the most scenic drives in the entire country.

So, I figured after a relaxing day on the beach, I was up for an adventure! I started out bright and early and first stopped at the Hookipa Lookout, which was gorgeous. I was informed that this was a prime surfing area and advised to come back to watch surfers ride waves. Noted.

After leaving Paia, the last major town before Hana, the road started twisting and getting more narrow. I had no idea then just how narrow it would get, but for portions, it was down to one lane.

I was blown away by the scenery along the road. There were so many waterfalls, and sights like this:

Taken at a rest area along the road.
It reminded me a lot of Iceland because of the gorgeous landscapes right along the road. Oh, and the lack of cell service was quite familiar, too.

I started off listening to music and singing along as I meandered through what looked to be a tropical rain forest. But, then I realized I had to concentrate as to avoid an accident. One lane bridges are no joke!

Here is some of what I saw. Amazing!

I stopped several times along the road, and it was quite rainy at some points.
Thankful for my trusty purple hood and umbrella.
The rain bounced off of the trees and made them look even more green and beautiful. And since I set out so early, sometimes I felt like I was in my own little forest hideaway since there weren't other people in sight.

Some more views:

Maybe the Honda Civic that I junked three years ago is now advertising plate lunch somewhere.

And a little video:

After being in my car for about three hours, I started seeing signs of human habitation again, mostly in the form of little fruit stands that starting popping up along the side of the road.

Since Hana is the only city on that side of the island, I was expecting a rather large one. I was not expecting a village of fewer than 2,000, but that is indeed what Hana is. It was quaint and scenic, and I even stopped by the shoreline, but it didn't seem like there was a ton to do there.

So, instead, I got back into my car and started the trek home.

Ha! Home. Like I live there.

Although, I certainly wouldn't mind.