Family Vacation

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” St. Augustine

Roger and I recently completed our bucket list of traveling to all 50 U. S. states together. A recurring question is which state we like best. We’ve had good things to say about so many that the answer changes often. One of our state trips was special for several reasons. Our daughter and son-in-law invited us to travel with them and their young daughter to Hawaii.

One of my friends, who is childless, couldn’t understand why we took an eighteen-and-a-half-month-old child on a long overseas trip. She said that our granddaughter, Mia, wouldn’t remember the experience. Perplexed, I responded that her parents wouldn’t leave her with just anyone and they wouldn’t “board” her like a pet. Besides, they knew that Mia was a good traveler because she was used to us taking her on short field trips. This was to be her first long trip, and we hoped for the best. We got it!

The flight was indeed long. However, our daughter made sure that Mia was kept busy with books, toys, and snacks on the long flights.

On our arrival at the Honolulu Airport, on the Island of Oahu, we were greeted by warm sunshine, gorgeous scenery, and friendly people putting beautiful purple and white leis around our necks. The aroma of the flowers was also welcoming. Hawaii is known for its colorful and fragrant flowers such as the bright yellow hibiscus (the state flower), the fragrant pink plumeria, the bird of paradise, and the bright red anthurium.

When we arrived at the Marriot resort, we stopped to admire the outdoor fishpond full of large gold koi. Mia headed for the pond. “Quick, grab her,” I told my husband. “She loves water, and she wants to get in.”

My husband grabbed her just as she raised her foot to climb over the barrier. “Honey, you can’t get in there. The fish don’t need the company.”

As we walked further admiring the beautiful Hawaiian flowers, Mia saw a small insect on the walkway and stopped to watch it. “Ooh, look.” She taught us to notice everything large or small. The hotel was beautiful, comfortable, and spacious. The décor matched the Hawaiian scenery.

Outside the hotel, we enjoyed the sandy beach. While my husband and son-in-law went swimming, our daughter and I tried to let Mia enjoy the water. However, the tides were a little too strong to let her go all the way into the strong surf. My daughter and I had to hold her tightly to prevent her from being swept away. We eventually found a less intimidating area to allow her to enjoy getting into the water.

The next day we visited a pineapple plantation on the north side of Oahu. We toured the plantation and learned how they harvested the fruit. The fresh pineapples were delicious.

We returned to the resort for dinner. I can’t say enough great things about the delicious meals we enjoyed at the hotel and at various restaurants we visited during our stay. At one meal, our daughter was making a taco, putting cheese, tomatoes, onions, peppers, and meat onto a soft taco shell. Mia watched her mother intensely and grabbed a shell, put shredded cheese on it, rolled the shell the way she saw it done, and took a bite. Then she smiled knowing she did a good job.

The next day, we flew from Honolulu to Hawaii, called the Big Island, to explore Mauna Loa, the famous volcano. Before our flight took off, Mia wanted to see the steward giving safety instructions. She stood on the seat and listened quietly. She applauded him when he spoke bringing a smile to his face. Apparently, she thought he was giving a performance, and she wanted to applaud his effort.

Mauna Loa, considered the largest volcano on Earth, is one of the five volcanoes that form the Island of Hawaii. It last erupted in 1984. The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory monitors that volcano. While we were there, one of the park rangers told us that some of the volcanic lava had migrated some distance the week before we got there.

While my husband, daughter, and son-in-law walked over some of the volcanic lava, Mia and I stood a distance away for safety reasons. After touring the area, we flew back to Oahu to enjoy dinner and relax.

The next day, we arrived at the Polynesian Cultural Center to visit the six Pacific Island villages and exhibits featuring an authentic luau followed by an award-winning show. At one of the villages, Mia easily learned to do the hula.

At the luau, we were introduced to a variety of Hawaiian meat, vegetarian, and salad dishes including several made with fresh pineapples. This was our second taste of this delicious fresh Hawaiian grown fruit. We sent some home to family members who said they enjoyed the taste so much better than canned pineapples.

The award-winning show followed the luau. Because the show would last past our granddaughter’s bedtime, we were prepared to take her back to the resort where we stayed. Mia enjoyed the hula dancing, singing, and the men twirling fire sticks. She laughed, clapped, danced and stayed awake during the entire show much to our surprise. Her father picked her up at the end of the show, and she fell asleep immediately. We spent a few more days enjoying the sights, smells, and beauty in that heavenly paradise.

Hawaii, our 50th state, is a beautiful place to visit. We plan to return in a couple of years with Mia, who is now a teenager, and her younger brother, Logan.

Is a visit to Hawaii on your bucket list or have you enjoyed that vacation in the past?

Office Nerd #5

My Favorite Vacation Spots in Video Games

For much of my adult life, I’ve dreamed of traveling to different parts of the world I’d like to see–Ireland, Australia, Hawaii. I don’t know if I’ll ever get the opportunity to do so, but I’ll always be able to say I’ve seen some very spectacular places in video games I’ve played. It would be nice if some of the stunning locations I’ve visited in the digital world existed in real life–and were monster-free so I could thoroughly enjoy what I was seeing.

Below is my list of ten fictional places, in no particular order, where I’d love to take a vacation.

1) Fortune City (Dead Rising 2: Off the Record) — Fortune City is a locale that is present in two separate versions of Dead Rising 2–one with motocross champion Chuck Greene as the protagonist and the other, Off the Record, starring photojournalist Frank West. The layout for Fortune City differs in Frank’s story–largely because one of the casinos is replaced with an amusement park. In either game, Fortune City would be the ultimate pleasure-seeker’s dream. The casinos, shopping centers, hotels, gladiatorial sports arena, scenic pavilion, and quickie wedding chapel make it a destination with something to appeal to most every vacationer.

2) Banoi (Dead Island) – The tropical island of Banoi featured in the first Dead Island game stands out for both its natural beauty and luxury hotels, bungalows, and housing. Whether you’re a fan of lovely beachside settings, cityscapes with modest weather-worn architecture, or remnants of a war—such as a concrete bunker—that plagued the island in times past, then Banoi is the place for you. It is a location I’d definitely love to visit, especially if I could rent one of the elevated houses out on the ocean.

3) Havarl (Mass Effect: Andromeda) – An alien world teeming with bioluminescent flora, Havarl is definitely a wonder to behold. I remember being awestruck when I saw just how beautiful it was for the first time. Nature-lovers will adore it simply because of the unique plant life, while sight-seers will love exploring the remnants of an ancient alien civilization. Me—I’d love to visit every now and then just to enjoy the natural beauty of this planet.

4) “Bouncy” Loot Lake (Fortnite) – Fortnite features a landscape that is ever changing; the area that was once Loot Lake has irrevocably changed. But I remember when it was once a massive body of water with a three-story house on the central island. At one point in the game’s history, an alien artifact dropped into the lake and transformed the surface into a purple bouncy material—you could be launched into the air merely by stepping on it. My teammates and I used to forego the gameplay objective of offing your opponents in favor of simply bouncing around the lake. Loads of fun—I wish such a thing existed in the real world, especially since you could get some pretty good height without getting hurt.

5) Queen Zenobia (Resident Evil: Revelations) – Despite being a cruise ship that was used as a headquarters for a terrorist organization, the Queen Zenobia is quite luxurious. Granted, I only saw one indoor pool and spa, the casino is rather small, and I didn’t spot any stores to purchase keepsakes or clothing. But the Queen Zenobia features the same architecture as the mansion from the very first Resident Evil game. It might be said that the cruise ship was made to cater more to those with an appreciation for art than pleasure—I like to think I’m open-minded enough to enjoy both.

6) Rapture (Bioshock) – The massive deep-sea domed city of Rapture might not be the most ideal place to live, but it is one of the most unique. Reinforced glass walkways and habitats provide a great view of oceanic wildlife. Built as a utopia by wealthy businessman Andrew Ryan who invested a fortune into its construction, Rapture is the place to go for the finer things in life. Five-star restaurants, boutiques, and theaters await those with the bank account to afford it. Even if it did exist in real life, Rapture might be the one place I could realistically only dream about visiting.

7) The Institute (Fallout 4) – There are many locations to visit in the Fallout series, though most are derelict or reimagined versions of their real-life counterparts in the wake of a nuclear war. Though I could have picked the Washington DC area, Zion Canyon, or Boston, these are locations I’d have the opportunity to visit in real life. Not so much with the Institute, a subterranean science facility that exists as a slice of perfection in a post-apocalyptic world. Contradictory to the damaged landscape above, the Institute is pristine—where one can find clean food and water—and is a reminder of how good the world was and can be again. Unfortunately, the Institute is limited on space—they don’t open their doors to just anyone. Should Earth ever fall into the state of ruin present in the Fallout series, then the Institute would be the place where I’d want to take an extended vacation if not live.

8) the Carnovasch Estate (Phantasmagoria) – A century-old mansion constructed by an illusionist in the late 1800s, the Carnovasch Estate retains much of its original décor in the modern era. It is a one-of-a-kind house that features Victorian architecture and includes a full-sized theatre where hundreds of guests could enjoy magic shows. The wine cellar, observatory, and reception hall add to the mansion’s charm. The grounds of the estate include a vintage greenhouse, gazebo, fountain, and creekside terrain ideal for hosting picnics. Aside from the fact that the house is haunted, it would be a historical site I would love to visit time and again.

9) Twisty Bridges (Subnautica: Below Zero) – Subnautica is set on an alien world that is mostly water, but also features some extraordinary underwater vistas. One of the most spectacular is Twisty Bridges, a series of rock formations that curve around each other and are partially bioluminescent. It is a scuba-diving locale I wouldn’t mind seeing over and over as a reminder of how beautiful and mysterious deep-sea environments—alien planet or not—can be.

10) Arcadia Bay (Life is Strange) – Though it is a relatively safe locale unless you match the criteria of a deranged serial killer, Arcadia Bay is the place to visit for a glimpse of small-town life. The coastal town features a private academy for gifted students, family-owned businesses, and a scenic lookout in the mountains with a lighthouse and public park. Arcadia Bay is an ideal vacation spot if you wish to just get away from it all. I’d love to vacation there just for the peace and tranquility that the town has to offer.

I imagine there are hundreds of locations in video games that would make a great vacation destination, but these are the ones that stand out the most for me. Whether I’m looking for excitement or serenity, I would definitely pick one of the places on this list. If you would like to share your thoughts on a fictional place you find appealing, please do so in the comments below.


“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” St. Augustine

Last summer my husband, Roger, and I completed our goal of visiting all 50 states together in the nearly 30 years of our marriage. An acquaintance asked which states I liked best and which I considered the worst. Because the last two states we visited were South Dakota and Wyoming, I talked about the wonderful sights of those states first. I then mentioned the attributes of some of the other states. I never said which states I consider the worst. I believe there is something good about each of our 50 states.

In South Dakota we photographed Mt. Rushmore where we saw the carved faces of presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln. We visited the museum which displayed pictorial information about the construction of that phenomenal monument. Fascinating! We were also in South Dakota just in time to see the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally which lasted about 10 days. Last year an estimated half a million bikers attended the annual rally. The noises of the many motorcycles drove the bison toward the hills making us miss seeing the animals.

We drove from there to Jackson, Wyoming, the last state on our list. Jackson is a small city in the Jackson Hole Valley of Teton County. One of the best restaurants in Jackson is The Bunnery Bakery & Restaurant which serves traditional American breakfasts, sandwiches, and delicious baked goods and desserts. While Roger and I were discussing the successful completion of our state visits, several of the customers overheard us. We were congratulated by several of the them. One man sent a large cinnamon roll, The Bunnery’s specialty, to our table as a gift for our accomplishment.

During a walking tour of the city, we saw an impressively huge arch made of shed elk antlers collected by local children. We walked the boardwalk to a local museum which detailed how people in the past lived. While we were there, we saw one woman demonstrate the loom to weave yarn. We also took a short ride in a horse drawn stage coach to see the rest of the city.

In Yellowstone Park we saw Old Faithful, one of the most famous geysers in the world. This area has more geysers than any geyser field anywhere. We also saw elk, moose, and some friendly donkeys being fed by tourists which was forbidden. Just before exiting the park, we finally saw herds of bison in the fields. Some of the bison stopped on the two-lane road blocking the traffic for some time. It is illegal, and dangerous, to try to move the bison. Of course, there were some impatient people who tried or got too close to those huge, wild animals. Foolish! I’ll write more about some of our statewide trips in future blogs. Have you traveled to many of the 50 states? What did you find interesting about them?

In Yellowstone Park we saw Old Faithful, one of the most famous geysers in the world. This area has more geysers than any geyser field anywhere. We also saw elk, moose, and some friendly donkeys being fed by tourists which was forbidden. Just before exiting the park, we finally saw herds of bison in the fields. Some of the bison stopped on the two-lane road blocking the traffic for some time. It is illegal, and dangerous, to try to move the bison. Of course, there were some impatient people who tried or got too close to those huge, wild animals. Foolish!

I’ll write more about some of our statewide trips in future blogs. Have you traveled to many of the 50 states? What did you find interesting about them?

Office Nerd #4