Monday, July 16, 2007

Honeymoon Continues - Volcano, HI

As the Big Island came into sight through the airplane window, Courtney and I knew that we were visiting a place wholly different from crowded Oahu. Hilo, the Big Island's biggest and Hawaii's second largest city at 47,000 people, is a quaint, but sleepy town on the island's eastern shore.

Once we picked up our Chevy Cobalt from Avis, we ventured into Hilo town and made the farmer's market our first stop. We were in heaven as the produce was all locally-grown and much cheaper than our neighborhood Safeway. We bought hothouse tomatoes, Japanese (burpless) cucumbers, a giant avocado, mangoes and a huge bag of papayas (this must be peak season as I got 7 for $2!!).

After the market, we explored more of Hilo, then made the 30-mile drive West to Volcano, home of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. The Guest Cottage at the Volcano Rainforest Retreat was heavenly, complete with a cozy, but adequate kitchen and a woodburning stove.

The next few mornings we got up early to hike around the national park. It's tough to describe how odd the terrain was at the bottom of the different caldera, but if I had to sum it up in one word, it would be "otherworldly." I kept commenting to Courtney that it seemed like we were on a different planet - minus the few plants springing up now and then. The scene was terrific - the Alpha and Omega. Some parts of the caldera were completely barren, a wasteland representative of a place where all life ceases to exist. Other areas were hopeful and inspiring as Ohia trees and ferns were springing up, almost unbelievably, in the black volcanic rock - proving the fortitude and perseverance of Mother Nature.

Other highlights were walking through an underground lava tube that was once filled with molten magma and steam vents where the the subterranean heat was close enough to the surface to heat rainwater seeping down, turning it to steam.

Check my album for photos from this part of our trip.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Honeymoon Begins - Latta, SC

Latta, South Carolina, was a tiny town stuck in a simpler time with tree-lined streets and a downtown post office and library. Everything in walking distance and everything quiet (of course, we were there on a Sunday), tucked just far enough away from I-95 for it to be sheltered from Interstate visitors. Courtney and I left the wedding reception at about 10 p.m. and made the 35-minute drive to Abingdon Manor - a Greek Revival mansion set on a lush yard complete with magnolia trees and an enviable herb garden.

The next morning Courtney and I awoke, feeling pretty well-recuperated from the previous day's festivities, and readied ourselves for church at the quaint Methodist church down the street. We were the obvious newbies in the small congregation, and after the service, Ms. Iratene Henry welcomed us, inviting us to their monthly pot-luck lunch. It didn't take much to convince us, as we hadn't at that point given much thought to where we would have lunch on a Sunday in sleepy little Latta. Ms. Iratene was a very gracious host, introducing us to everyone and quickly making us feel like celebrities (a few folks had seen our picture in the Florence Daily News that morning).

Lunch was a great mixture of summer food with squash casserole, shrimp and grits, deviled eggs and an incredible creamy pecan cake for dessert. We had a wonderful time, and it was a perfect reminder of the generosity and graciousness of small-town America - something Courtney and I have been away from for a long time now.

Monday morning we rode to Charlotte with Courtney's parents and brother, Chris. We connected in Atlanta for the 9-hour plane ride back to Honolulu. Although we were dreading returning home (mainly because it means returning to work), arriving in Honolulu to 75-degree weather and a light Hawaiian mist was definitely refreshing.

Remodeling Update

I laid the tile and Courtney and I painted this bathroom before we left for the mainland. We planned to finish it completely during our one-day visit home between the wedding and the honeymoon. It went down to the wire, but we did finish before we left - leaving it in pristine condition for our new roommate. It seems with remodeling there are endless frustrations and complications, but when it's all said and done, the feeling of accomplishment is overwhelming.