To celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary, my wife and I decided to get away a couple months ahead of the anniversary to enjoy a little vacation. 10 years prior, we went to Sandals Negril Jamaica. It was everything we could have asked for, and we have been looking forward to going back to a Sandals Resort at some point, and our 10th anniversary seemed to be the best time!
Why the Bahamas?
Why didn't we go back to Sandals Negril? Airline points! Due to my wife's business, she had obtained a companion pass from Southwest Airlines, and had a decent amount of points accumulated. Southwest had just so happened to finalize routes from Chicago to the Bahamas shortly before our trip!
We made the couple hour drive to Chicago, hopped onto a plane, and flew straight through to the Bahamas! The Sandals in the Bahamas, the Royal Bahamian and Emerald Bay, both looked amazing. We settled on the Royal Bahamian by feel mostly, but we also knew that the resort was being renovated shortly before our arrival.
The Private Island
In June of this year, while vacationing in Hawaii, I was blessed to be able to take my family to Pearl Harbor. As someone who is interested in history, WWII history in particular, this was a must-visit! I've visited before, when I was 15, but unfortunately wasn't mature enough to understand what I was looking at. This visit was going to be different!
The format of Pearl Harbor is a little interesting. There are a handful of exhibits that you can see for free. There are some memorials and other features placed around the harbor, but most of the big things, you'll need to buy a reservation/ticket for. The most competitive ticket is the tour of the USS Arizona, the most important feature of the whole experience.
There are a couple options. The first option is to pay a pretty penny and buy the all inclusive tour. This can be done through visitpearlharbor.org or pearlharboroahu.com. After some discussion with customer support at Pearl Harbor, we decided to buy the Passport to Pearl Harbor tickets from visitpearlharbor.org, which is the Pearl Harbor Visitor's Bureau. We bought the standard Passport, not the deluxe, to save a little bit of money.
Now, the Passport DOES NOT INCLUDE tickets to see the USS Arizona. We were driving ourselves because we wanted the flexibility of getting there when we wanted to, and leaving when we wanted to. We have three children, 8, 6 ,and 4, so we wanted the option of leaving if the 4 year old started to melt down. We could have bought an all inclusive tour pass, tour bus and all, but we would have been on their schedule. We decided to drive ourselves, which caused us to get creative with the tickets. So we bought the Passport, which left us responsible for buying the USS Arizona tickets. The tickets are free, if you want to arrive at 6am and wait in line. There are a limited amount of tickets, and no guarantee that you'll get tickets. But customer service recommended that we try to grab tickets online through Recreation.gov. This website allows buying tickets for many of America's parks, forests, and monuments, including the USS Arizona. This only costs $1.50 per ticket service fee. The catch with this service though, is that the tickets are opened up only 24 hours prior. We rolled the dice, jumped online 24 hours before we had planned on going, and were able to buy 9 tickets without a problem. We wanted to go a little earlier in the day, but no tickets were available. We ended up going right around noon, which worked well. All in all, we paid $65 per adult, $35 per child, and the service fee for the USS Arizona tickets. This allowed us access to everything we wanted to see, gave us the flexibility to do what we wanted, and we weren't pressed for time!
In April of this, I was fortunate to visit Louisville and we explored the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, check out the blog post here! As we left town, we had a few hours to kill, and it was drizzling out. As a lifelong baseball fan, I couldn't miss stopping by the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory!
After finishing up with our first dive and changing out tanks, we were on our way to our second dive location. We went to a shallow location, which was protected from the wind a little better. We had a little snack on the boat before diving. There were plenty of options and some water for everyone. There were a few more new divers that weren't qualified to dive at the deeper depth, so they took a little while to get into the water and settled. Once they were off the boat, the certified divers were able to get in and have at it.
Immediately, we were surrounded by a bunch of fish! The first thing we saw were a ton of Sergeant Majors! Then we saw a bunch of Yellowtail Snapper as well. There were a couple parrotfish, of some variety that you could actual hear chomping on the coral! At the 32 second mark of the video, I snuck up on a squirrelfish, hiding in a coral alcove.
This being my first ocean dive, I was shocked and amazed at how big the ocean was, but how small these individual environments were, and they were teeming with life! A whole world and ecosystem could be find on each individual coral bunch, it was so cool to see!
At the :38 second mark, you can see the parrotfish, chomping away!
During the Fall of 2016, my wife and I celebrated our 10th anniversary with a trip to the Bahamas. A long 10 years ago, our travel agent recommended we go to Sandals Negril, in Jamaica, and we LOVED it! So for our anniversary, we wanted to go back to Sandals, and we couldn't have been happier with Sandals Royal Bahamian.
As a certified diver, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to go diving in the Caribbean! One of the great things about Sandals is that they provide free SCUBA excursions for their guests. This made my decision to leave my wife for a morning a littler easier.
The process to dive was rather easy as well. I went to the dive shop they day or two prior to the day I wanted to dive. I talked with the dive staff, who were awesome! They made me feel right at home, and made everything super simple. They looked at my cert card, and logbook to make sure that I had dove recently. I dive regularly at work as a diver for the fire department. There was a medical waiver that I had with me as well, that was needed filled out by my primary physician. I had dropped the form off at my family doctor, who gave me a clean bill of health and filled out the paperwork. The Sandals dive staff wanted that paperwork as well.
The next day, I arrived at the dive shop around 8am. They handed out some rental gear, mask, and fins. I opted out of the wet suit, having become used to diving in cold water at home... I figured I'd be okay with the 70-80 degree Caribbean, and I was. Throughout the week, we had noticed the dive boat picking divers and equipment up at the main pier, but over the first couple days of our stay, the wind and waves had noticeable increased. We found out that for our dive, we had to board a small tour bus, travel to the other side of the island to escape the wind a little bit. We boarded the bus, drove for 20 minutes, to an inland pier where the dive boat was. Sandals dive staff did all of the heavy lifting, which was awesome! We boarded the boat, received some instructions and off we went!
The boat ride was about 30-40 minutes, and the waves made it interesting! I thought it was great, but someone that is prone to sea sickness could have had a problem with it. Everyone on the boat survived without yarfing up their breakfast and we reached our first dive spot.
Our first dive was the deep dive, max depth of 70'. We were going to dive along a shelf, then to a couple of wrecks. Here's the video!
Over the last couple of years, I've been fortunate enough to see some of the most amazing parts of the world. Ranging from Nicaragua, Hawaii, San Fransisco, Florida and Indiana (well, maybe not Indiana). Just about everywhere I go, I grab my GoPro Hero Session 4. I also added a couple accessories to make filming a little easier.
The Camera, GoPro Hero4 Session
I've liked this camera since the day I got it. I love how durable it is, and the size is amazing! The camera, by itself, is waterproof up to 33', making it great for beach shots and pool shots. I had to buy a couple accessories in order to dive with it, I'll discuss those later. The camera takes a MicroSD card, and off you go. One thing I like about the camera too, is that you can preview what you're filming and you can see what you've already filmed, without the need to connect the camera to a computer. This is all done through the Capture App.
Living 10 minutes from Yesterday's is a problem, one of those good problems. Yesterdays is a great little restaurant, perfect for Notre Dame football weekends or when visiting the South Bend and Mishawaka area. It's easy to get to, accessible from the Indiana toll road.
Yesterdays is a small little farm house, converted to a restaurant. We've always had good luck with the wait staff and bar staff. It is a little pricey, but high quality food and lower priced options make it a great place to check out.
The Chicken Lip Sandwich is my favorite. It's the best buffalo chicken sandwich I've ever had, by far! Their chicken is cooked perfectly, and the blue cheese dressing is a perfect match. They have great steak and fish dinners too, but my wallet let me try those out! I forgot to take a picture of the chicken sandwich, I fasted all day and couldn't wait the extra 10 seconds!
Now, the most amazing part? The desserts are to DIE FOR! Check out these pictures!
This right here, oh man... The Yesterday's Peanut Butter No Bake is legit! Graham cracker crust, peanut butter filling and a dollop of home made whip cream makes this my favorite dessert ever! It really is special!
Forgive me, I forget the name of the dessert my kids shared, pictured above. Blame it on blacking out after the PB No Bake was delivered! Mint ice cream with warm chocolate cookies, holy cow! The kids love it and my wife said she found a new favorite dessert from Yesterday's! Yesterdays goes above and beyond with dinner and dessert, making this our favorite medium priced restaurant in Northern Indiana! Check it out soon!
Living 2 hours away from Chicago has it's benefits. There are a couple options for us to get there. We can drive, which takes around 2 hours, but the parking becomes a problem. You can find a parking garage and pay the $35-50 for daily parking, but then you have to take Uber's or cabs the rest of the day. The city is spread out enough, to get a solid day in, you'll need a ride. We decided to take the South Shore train. This train runs from the South Bend Airport to Millennium Station in downtown Chicago.
Traveling on a Thursday worked out well. The fares were $13.50 a person, one way. This was certainly worth the cost, to avoid driving, avoid tolls, gas, parking, etc. We had to pay for Uber's when we got into the city, but we would have had to anyways. Plus, you can drink on the South Shore, if that's your thing. There are a lot of Cubs fans and city goers that get the day started with a drink on the train there.
Studying and Resources
When I first found out our family was traveling to Hawaii, and visiting the Big Island, I immediately wanted to climb something. I have had a goal of climbing Mt. Rainier for the last year, planning on going in early Summer 2018. After looking through some options, we landed on Mauna Kea, the 13,800 dormant volcano which happens to be the highest point in Hawaii. This was going to be a big day, and we prepared and studied the best we could. I wasn't able to find a bunch of information, but found two useful sites. The first was the Mauna Kea Visitor Information Station (VIS) website. The second was an article written by Dobbs, a hiker, who wrote for On Walkabout. The Dobbs account can be found here. I depended on these two articles heavily, taking a lot of notes, then comparing these notes with a couple YouTube vides I was able to find.
In this blog post, I will do my best to break down how we prepared, how the altitude and incline affected us, and ultimately, where we went wrong. That's right, we didn't summit, but we had a great time in one of the most visibly amazing places we had ever been!
Fitness and Preparation
Disney's Aulani Resort and Spa is located on the island of Oahu in Hawaii. It was about a 30 minute drive from where we picked up our rental car, to the resort. Most of the drive was on big highways, so the drive was nice. Aulani is nestled in with a group of resorts located on Ko Olina Beach. This is on the southwest corner of Oahu and is a beautiful location. There are golf courses surround Ko Olina and great little shopping areas too.
We were amazed at the smallest details, like this picture above. Where can you find views like this, FROM THE PARKING GARAGE!! Everywhere you look, there are views like this, pretty cool, especially from some people from Indiana! We were very happy though, that there was a Target within 10 minutes, plus small shopping centers and places to grab food outside of the resort. The small shopping areas and food shops were within walking distance and a nice second option.
Jack of All Trades, Master of None