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Kohala  -  2016 Summer

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In Hawai'i 7/9 to 8/5  (28 days - 484 total)


July 9th, 2016  -  First five days

This is our tenth trip to the Big Island and Kohala District. Eleventh time actually... we visited this island in 1991, actually before Donna and Dennis Brown lived over here. That trip was our second visit to the state of Hawai'i. This island has changed somewhat since we first visited. The Kohala District suffered an earthquake in about 2006, and they have built the new(er) Hiway 19 north from Kona along the coast toward the Kohala District, even if the first time we came to house-sit for the Brown's we could not use it. We had to find our way on the old roads, because the Ford Ironman Triathalon was running the day we landed, and they commander the entire highway for that race.

Back to the present... before we flew over, I managed to stub my toe against something, and bruised it behind the nail. My left large toe... the one  that I lost the nail on when helping Nick Dukellis move his washing machine some 24 years before. The nail has never been right, and just grew thick rather than out. All the doctors kept telling me it was needing some help.

Added to that, a trip three weeks prior to Northern California for a family wedding brought on a plugged up left ear. I had not heard a thing through that ear since it plugged. My doctor wanted me to wait as long as possible before taking anti-biotics for the ear, but he prescribed some to me. He did an inspection of the ear and felt it was "on course" (before medication). I was not at all excited about trying to deal with an already plugged ear at 33,000 feet on the flight to Hawai'i. So I waited another four days and started meds in time for them to be finished before the flight.

Instructions on the medication warned about stomach problems and bruising and seemingly a thousand other warnings, so after three of the prescribed seven days... after two days of really upset tummy... and not this ugly black mark behind the nail on my toe  (is this the bruising I was warned about with the anti-biotics?) I stopped the meds. The ear was still not clearing up. I hated to stop anti-biotics before their full process.

We hired a car/driver to take us to the Oakland Airport and he showed up on time Saturday morning. He recognized us from picking us up for another earlier trip.

One significant point about this flight day... I turned 75 this morning. As we got to the airport, we were not "pre-checked" for expedited security screening so we were facing the longer lines to be cleared for flight. A sign in the waiting line said something as to "Passengers that are 75 or older are not require to remove their shoes or light jackets." Does that mean we are too old to be suspected of carrying bombs?

As we got a little further along, we were selected to bypass the X-ray scan and other stuff and were literally "expedited" to the front of the magnetic gate and we were through. WOW! Happy Birthday to Us!

We are in the air, heading over the Pacific, with an expected five plus hours of flight time so I took the extra step others often take and popped some gum in my mouth to keep my jaw working, hopeing that it would prevent my ears from plugging even worse. As we kept climbing, my right ear kept popping clear, and when we were at altitude, my left one popped. CLEAR! I can hear! Even the baby behind us that was crying sounded WOMDERFUL! Thank you God! I wondered if something like this could happen. Pressures are strange in the ears.

The flight was rougher than we usually experience. Not so bad as to complain, however, especially since I was already having a wonderful birthday present with clear ears. Our flight was shortened a little due to tail winds... part of the reason for our rough flight. That is a good trade-off any day.

As we were dropping down over Hawai'i I again started a stick of gum. When we got lower I started doing the plug - clear - plug - clear sequence similar to when we were climbing out of California air space, but I knew I was going to be disappointed because my left ear was not doing the 'clear' part... just the 'plug' part. We were on the ground and in a short time my right ear worked itself clear, but no luck on the left one.

As we were taxiing up to the terminal, one of the stewardesses came on the plane's PA system saying "We want to thank you all for flying with us today. And we want to welcome Mr. Ken Smith aboard today. He is celebrating his 75th birthday." That was cool. How did they know that? I know they know a lot more than we realize. Rosalee claimed no knowledge of how they knew. A couple of days later she did 'fess up to slipping a note to the Stew. Thanks Rosalee... that was cool. Very Nice!

Donna met us at the gate with a hug and a lei. Always special. She surprised us with a skinnier body. She looks very nice. I asked her if she was doing anything special... she said she was eating "nothing white and lots of flesh". So... no starches or carbs and high protein. Seems to be working.

We grabbed our bags from the carrousel and headed to her car. On the drive home (about thirty minutes) my left ear popped clear. Halleluiah!. 

We arrived 'back at the ranch' and all seemed normal and good. All the roads in the Kohala Ranch gated community have been 'slurry coated' which makes them look new and fills any voids that have developed. Since the crews were in the area, some of the residents with asphalt driveways paid a little premium and they slurried their drives as well. The Brown's did it and it looks great!

Rosalee an I always wear sleeves, pants, and tennis shoes when we fly. If a plane goes down on take-off or landing, which has happened, we stand a better chance of walking out of it with some protection. Plus it is a little more respectful of other fliers. It is unbelievable how some people wear such a minimum when they fly they would be totally open to any element. So when we reached the Brown's we stripped down to Hawai'i Dress so we could go to dinner. As I removed my left show I was presented with a bloody sock. That toe nail that was bumped days before and the blackened skin behind the nail was in trouble. The nail was ajar but not off, and the skin was bleeding. First Aid. No pain... just messy.

Being the week-end, and with no pain, we disinfected and treated with an anti-biotic cream and dressed it. I put on my sandals and we went to dinner. The following Monday we went in to the Urgent Care facility in Waimea (Kamuela) and the doctor treated it. Talk about your tough Mama-san... LOL. She beat me up a little and prescribed me anti-biotics 3X a day for ten days and said to soak and treat twice a day. She wants to see me for another match next Saturday. Being diabetic, my doctor at home told me that if I have an injury to a foot, I go in. Period. OK Doc... I did. :-) It is looking better. The nail is history as soon as it finally comes completely off.

We are running temps of low eighties in the day, which seems pretty warm here. There is no A/C or heater in this home, so the temps don't climb too much higher or too much lower all year along, We got a nice little cloudburst of rain Monday night and another shorter one the next night. Both only added up to about 0.15 inches however.

We had a traffic jam here this afternoon. We may go the entire stay without ever seeing anyone but us drive into the drive, but today the Cable communication truck pulled in, and behind him was a delivery girl with an Amazon package.

The cable man told me that they were getting signals from this home that were 'noisy' and he just need to take a look to see what might be wrong. He and I together went to work to see if we could figure out the system in the house to know where to begin looking for a problem. Dennis and Donna have a digital home network that has two signal sources (Cable and Satellite), seven TVs, two computers, three printers, an X-Box and wireless connections. The cable source hits a splitter at the box outside the house, and two lines entering the house. One line was fine and the other had a really bad 'noisy' reading on the magic box he attached to the system. He did find a finger-tight cable connection behind the main cable box on the Living Room TV and that resolved the problem.

After that... after his teaching me about the system... I taught him how to make sure that he did not burn up the transmission in his service truck. A beautiful 2015 Ford F-450 Diesel with an automatic transmission. He said most of his buddies are burning up their transmissions, so I explained that he always wants to keep his rig locked OUT of overdrive except when he hits flat land, and then to allow it to come IN. A factory rep showed that to me when we first bought our Ford diesel w/automatic overdrive. He was excited to learn that his transmission had a retarding brake/clutch built into  it, which is required with a diesel Ford rig... and how to use it. He was excited to use it on his way back down the 2000 foot descent to the main road and the half-hour drive back to the office.

The excitement was because when his rig is 'down', he has to use one of the old ones, and nothing works on them, the tools are not up to date, they have troubles, and his buddies give him heck when he loses the use of his service truck. Now he will be able to tell THEM how to keep their rigs out of the shop.

We made our initial grocery run Sunday morning after we dropped the Brown's at the airport for their early morning flight to Japan. So tonight we are doing stir-fry with shrimp tonight... hand cut veggies. OH... we were able to score a WHITE PINEAPPLE yesterday at the fruit stand. Their season is very short... maybe a month if we are lucky. They are so delicious. Not nearly as much 'bite' as a regular pineapple. Very mild and pleasant.

Rosalee decided that she would like to do some of her sewing work over here, so she did some research and we drove into Kona to pick up a new sewing machine that we will see if we can leave here with the Browns. On the way 'home' we stopped in to visit the West Hawai'i Veteran's Cemetery. We have driven past the entrance many times and talked about visiting it one day. Many times it is closed. Today it was open.

Fortunately, it is small. Not a lot of headstones or crypts which is good... fewer losses. The second image is what you see standing in front of that pavilion you see above. It is looking out to sea, to the west.

July 18th, 2016

Things are pretty quiet here on 'The Ranch'. When I am down to blogging about my ears, my injuries, and the cable man's transmission, you can tell it is pretty quiet. LOL.

We have been dealing with pretty hot days. We are not happy when the wind blows, but when it doesn't, it gets pretty warm. Humidity is only running around 63%, and temps in the day are not exceeding 85°F so how can we be complaining? I believe that the basic problem is that this beautiful home is laid out so that there is no real cross-flow of air through it. The floor plan is long and strung out so that every room except for Kitchen and Bathrooms have views to both sides of the house, which is great, but the home lies in a north-south orientation and the air flow is from the south.

Many of the windows are beautiful, large glass areas with wide overhangs keeping the sun out, but they cannot open. Bedrooms have nice openable windows but the Living/Dining/Kitchen combination has a total of two openable windows and two sliding doors, which is good, but they are all on the one west wall. We find that by opening the front door (east wall) and another door (north wall) air moves better, but they are unscreened and interior lights draw in bugs in the evening. Ceiling fans are helpful.

We made our trip into Kamuela Saturday morning so that the doctor could have a look at my toe. She was very pleasant this time, and said that she was proud of me. :-) She said I was dismissed and to see my podiatrist when I get home. The toenail seems to have re-attached for now but I'm sure it will not stay too long. She did want me to continue to soak it and treat it.

We then went down the street to do some shopping. I need to find a small snap-ring to repair an exercise bike for Donna. It is a very nice and well-built bike, that is about ten years old, but Donna said that it just locked up and quit, and she would have to replace it. Well, we all know that Ken cannot allow anything to go un-challenged like a non-powered exercise bike.

Last week I opened it up. It has plastic covers over the whole bike so nothing that is mechanical is exposed. About 8 screws gets it loose but the pedal is well attached to the shaft coming out of the bike, and it was not going to come off without a gear puller. That is not a tool that I have seen here, and it is rather pricey to pick one up. Especially since it would be very seldom used. I tried the other side of the bike and that pedal was equally well attached. By taking both 'skins' loose from the frame I could reach the 'guts' of the machine. Removing four bolts it all came out for working on the bench.

It was soon apparent that a small snap-ring is supposed to keep a flywheel centered in the frame of the mechanism, and it was missing. I located it inside the machine, broken in half. That missing ring allowed the flywheel to move over enough that the brake shoe could catch in one of the holes in the side of the flywheel. The flywheel is also an internal expanding brake drum, with two brake shoes inside that push outward to place friction upon the wheel and give the resistance you want when you are pedaling the machine. The Brake shoe linkage is also a bit worn which allows the shoes to get lazy and lean too far toward the flywheel, aggravating the situation.

I used a white nylon cable tie to hold the brake shoe away from the flywheel while still allowing it to press against the flywheel/brake drum when it is engaged. I did find a new snap-ring at the ACE hardware in town. It is sitting in my hand. The original was only half of that ring. The end of the shiny silver shaft in the center of the mechanism is what the flywheel spins on, and one of those snap rings is on each end. WAS on each end. IS now again. It all went back together again nicely and pedals very smoothly.

While in town, I saw a bike parked outside the shopping center. The size of the tires are what caught my eye. I suppose it is made for riding in the hills and in the dirt. Maybe in the sand at the beach? We are twenty miles from any beach, however. Pedaling that bike looks like a lot of work to me, making those fat tires turn. When I was a kid we worked hard to make enough money to buy a new bike with SKINNY tires, so it was easier to ride and it would go faster. Of course, we did the same to get a car with the gear shift up on the steering column and an automatic transmission so we could get rid of the clutch pedal. Now they pay extra to get them back. So much for progress.

We do not get too many dynamic sunsets here because of the Vog that lies off the island to the west, so this one was a bonus.



Things are pretty quiet here on the ranch. Except for the weather. We are getting a lot more rain than we usually see here. And the winds are pretty strong. We frequently are getting gusts into the mid twenties. Temperature is not reacting as one would expect however. Days are in the mid eighties, and dropping maybe 12 degrees at night. That does not sound hot, but with the humidity it just saps the energy out of you, and the wind drive you a bit batty. Sometimes we will look forward to going into town or down to the main gate to pick up the papers and mail, just to get out of the wind.

We have not seen too many cows on the road inside the gated community, which is usually open range area. But sometimes we will have a 'reception committee' when we come down from the upper gate.

These guys are not 'loose'... they enjoy the open range as well as the cattle. But they have gathered in this area before. And they are not that anxious to move out of our way. This time, they took the hint and as we crawled up toward them, they reluctantly moved aside.

One evening as the sun was setting, we looked south east of the house and the setting sub behind our backs was lighting Mauna Kea and her observatories on top very nicely.

 These observatories are about 35 miles from where we are standing, as the crow flies. There are nearly a dozen of them up there, with a new "world's largest" scheduled to be added soon. They are run by many different nations, for shared knowledge. The mountain is the highest point in the state of Hawai'i at 13,800 feet and change. It is covered with snow in the winter months, and you can access parts of the summit. Considering this mountain starts at the bottom of the ocean, from the base to the peak it exceeds 33,000 feet, making it the highest mountain in the world. It is a volcano, as all  mountains in Hawai'i are, but is considered dormant with the last known eruption from 4,000 to 6,000 years ago.

We were getting bulletins about a hurricane that was scheduled to dance across the Big Island, and discussions were rampant about doing whatever you could to prepare for it. There was little we could do, other than be sure the dogs were secure in the house and hunker down. Named Darby, it was scheduled to hit us hard on the week-end, and our friend Darlene that worked with Rosalee for some years was scheduled to fly in Saturday evening from San Francisco. She had a schedule change that moved her up to arrive around noon, which was good. She flew in safely and the weather was not that bad.

The island's east side took the brunt and suffered some damage in the Hilo area, but Darby drifted along the southern side of the island and headed to Maui and Oahu to do some damage there. We got two inches of rain in less than an hour and flash flood warnings were flying about. We are at 2048 feet elevation, and have no gullys near us. Driving south to the airport, however, we crossed a bridge over a wide dry gully that was not dry that day. Massive amounts of water were coming down through that gully. We noticed that water was flowing through there for nearly a week before it was dry again.

That was the most we have experienced a hurricane in Hawai'i. Small earthquakes... Tsunami warnings (again, no alarm at 2,000 feet elevation, but they can be problematic if we are out and about.

Caught another nice sunset. More this trip than usual to this area.

Darlene was planning on spending the week here with us so we did some moving about the island. We always have to take a twenty minute run over to Honakaa (Hoe - nah - kah - ah ) to visit "Tex's" where they produce a marvelous treat from Portugal called a "Malasada". Think of that delicious and delicate Spud Nut Donut ...raised donut?... like we enjoyed as kids. Now take that same dough and make a 'biscuit' that is four inches by four inches by a full inch thick. Deep fry it (but it is not oily), cover it with sugar, and fill it with a filling if you desire, and that is a Malasada. Oh My!

While in that area, we did our annual visit to Rosalee and my favorite view spot on the island. Waipio Valley (Wah - ee - pee - oh). This is a view of the beach that is the face of the valley, from the view point.

We took the tour down into this valley in Fall of 2009 with Kent and Linda. If you would like to see more about this valley you can check that under "Kohala Fall - 2009" Hawaiian Travels. We did the valley again in 2014 with Ed and Andi.

This is an image that I took of Darlene and Rosalee after we returned to the ranch after picking her up.



When we went into Waimea (Wah - ee - may - ah), our nearest town, we checked out the Parker Ranch Shopping Center. Darlene caught us coming out of the bathroom section, where a man is a Kane (Kah - nay) and a woman is a Wahine (Wah - hee - nay).


According to the symbols, a Kane and a Wahine has to look the part as well, so we tried. When In Rome... and all that.



Darlene has a real liking for Four Seasons, so she treated us to a beautiful lunch at a Four Seasons resort down near the airport, right on the coast, of course. Very lovely. And the food was good.



A strange day today. We woke up to a beautiful day. The ocean was clearer and bluer than we have seen this whole trip. The wind was still. Views all the way to Mauna Loa, and the other way, clear to Maui. Today was the first time that we have seen Maui with Mount Halelakala standing proudly above the sea, while we were driving back from the Airport. We have seen it from the north bedroom at the ranch, but this was different.

Darlene got off and we heard later that she was safe at home. So we were going to make a nice relaxing afternoon of it. We decided to fix lunch so Rosalee opened the refrigerator to get out sandwich material and I opened the freezer (lower part of the fridge... a large drawer) to get the bread out... and all Hell broke loose. The refrigerator was coming away from the cabinet directly toward us, and everything was crashing out onto the floor.

A huge refrigerator that is a full seven feet tall, with the compressor on the top, totally caught us by surprise. Four hands went flying to stop it from doing a face-plant on top of us, and as we got it under control, drawers were falling out and Rosalee was screaming. Her thumb was trapped between the refrigerator and the cabinet, a sharp area that totally made a bloody mess and a purple thumb. Fortunately it was not enough to break it or cut it off. We had to pull the refrigerator back a little to extricate her thumb. The drawer and door could not shut with stuff hanging out of the box. Broken glass was on the Kitchen floor and I was bare footed. Jars of stuff were opened, the pickle jar was ajar and the fluid running out. And that irritating little beeper was telling me that the damned door was open.

First aid on her thumb... first aid on my foot... keeping the dogs away from everything... throw rugs with liquid spilled on them... what a mess.

Rosalee could not do much for clean-up with her thumb throbbing and bleeding. I started picking through the mess salvaging the unbroken plastic bottles, gathering the broken glass bottles. With ceramic tile on the floor the grouting was all full of juices and two quarts of tea. We found some rags (did not find a wet mop) and scrubbed the floor. A miracle no tiles were broken, and no glass shelves from the refrigerator were broken.

An hour later and a freshly cleaned kitchen, and a cleaned and scrubbed refrigerator... we had lost our appetite for lunch. I cannot believe that the builder that remodeled the Kitchen did not secure a top-heavy refrigerator when he installed it only a couple years ago. With the earthquakes that have been in this area, were Donna in the kitchen when it shook, she could be seriously injured by this appliance falling forward. There is no way I'm leaving here without securing that appliance as per the instructions from the manufacturer.

We picked up a 2 x 4 and constructed a triple block like the installation instructions for the refrigerator called for and installed it at the top of the refrigerator, over the compressor. It is all hidden by the cabinetry above the refrigerator. Now both the refrigerator door (with loaded shelves) and the full freezer door can both be wide open at the same time, and the refrigerator snugs up against the block screwed to the wall and stays put.













BEFORE                                                                                                                                                                                              AFTER

In the BEFORE image you can see that the top of the refrigerator compressor housing (silver box) is a good two inches below that brace (2 X 4 block) above it. If the refrigerator tips forward, it will never touch that block. Plus, the block is not attached to the silver angle bracket on the wall... the block is just sitting on it.

In the After image you can see that there are three blocks, and the one on the bottom is BELOW the silver angle bracket, but screwed into the two blocks above it, and each of them are screwed well into the wall behind the refrigerator. If the refrigerator tries to tip forward, the compressor box will hit the bottom block and that is as far as it will go forward. The refrigerator can still be slid/rolled forward out of the cabinet without detaching anything.

When we are headed "back to the ranch" we either have to drive the mountain road up above the ranch or we drive the coastal road which goes right through Kawaihae (Kah - wah - ee - haw - ay), a small town that contains one of the two sea ports on the island. The other is in Hilo. This small strip mall has several shops, restaurants, etc., including the best ice cream place in the area. As we were leaving I noticed these two white cars. Exactly the same car. OK, curious. But look closer. Look at the plate numbers. These guys are twins. They most likely belong to a rental company and when brought to the island they were licensed at the same time and were issued consecutive plate numbers. But intriguing how they ended up parked next to each other. This is a large island. Likely, a large family rented two of them and they all stopped for a burger or an ice cream cone. We saw this happen one other time, back in 1991, our first visit to this island, when at the end of the road at the overlook to Pololu Valley (Poh - loh - loo), where two matching blue Geo Metros were parked next to each other, with two consecutive plates just like these. Islands are small places. Sort of like growing up in a small town.

Do we have room here for another sunset? :-)

At the north end of the Island of Hawai'i is a tiny town named Hawi, and pronounced by the locals as Hah - Vee... yes, V. In some instances a W is actually pronounced as a V, and other times it is accepted either way. It depends upon which vowel is nearby.

At one time the bustling center of sugar production, Hawi is over 165 years old, and in the 1970's the sugar cane farming literally left the islands to go to the Philippines, where labor was cheaper. The town of Hawi was fast becoming a ghost town. Enterprising locals picked themselves up and turned it into a tourist-oriented town and it is now on most Hawai'i Island visitors' wish lists to visit. This is a view of the main highway going through town. The owners are trying really hard to fix up the buildings and make the town inviting.

It has been a unique visit. The Browns will be returning from their cruise in two days. The house cleaner that Donna has come in every week has been in and out of the hospital, so we will be doing a housecleaning tomorrow before the Brown's return.  

The Brown's made it home from Japan and we had the chance to spend a full day with them before we had to head back to Pleasanton. They usually have long flights to get home from their travels, and need some time to unwind and let their body clock catch up with the right day and hour, but we enjoyed our time with them.  The following day Donna took us down to the airport in Kailua Kona, and we headed home.

On the plane I was reading from our Kindle, the story of Colton Burpo , the 4-year old that came out of surgery with a wealth of knowledge about God and Jesus and members of his family that had died long before his birth (Heaven Is For Real by Todd Burpo). I had just read that he had mentioned to his dad, an assistant pastor of a small Midwest church, that he had seen Angels. He described them as having a bright light about their head. His dad, who was the author and narrator of the book described how he tried to tie each new comment from his son that described what he had seen, to what he could remember in the Bible. He thought about how the Biblical teachings described Angels. The dad describes “The apostle John in the book of Revelation wrote that he saw a “mighty angel coming down from heaven, surrounded by a cloud, with a rainbow over his head,” and that the angel’s face “shone like the sun.” “

It was at that moment that I happened to look out my starboard window of the plane to see this scene:


That is the wing of our 737, and we are flying home, away from the sunset over the islands. So the sun is behind us, and is being reflected off our wing tip. If you have not flown in a while, most of the passenger aircraft are being refitted today with a turned up tip of the wing to give what is supposed to be better control of the aircraft, a smoother ride, and better fuel efficiency. With the tip ‘bent’ upward like that, it is catching the sun’s rays nicely. I had never seen the sun catch on that tip before. Yes, it did make me think rather deeply for a moment or two, as it 'shined like the sun' .

Arriving at the Oakland Airport at the strike of eleven pm, our driver was an 'old friend'... Tim from Ambassador has picked us up at least a half dozen times and driven us home. It is always his last run of the day and he just goes on over to Livermore to his home.