Posted by: Cross Country Couple | March 11, 2011

How I heard about the Tsunami Warning in Hawaii

As the clock struck midnight, I decided to check craigslist one more time before heading to bed.  My boyfriend and I just moved to Maui a month and a half ago from Massachusetts, and I have made a habit of checking the site in hopes of accumulating some furniture for our new place.  Under the free section, I was surprised to see a listing called “Tsunami warning !” Interested, but skeptical, I clicked to read the following ad:

I was still skeptical, but moved enough to mention it to my boyfriend, Matt.  We haven’t got our cable hooked up yet, and as such had not seen anything on the news.  Matt instantly got up and went over to his computer to investigate.  Below are some of the sites where we found our information:

CNN Videos of Tsunami in Japan:

Hawaii News:

Reuters – Hawaii Orders Evacuations:

The earthquake that struck Japan on the morning of Friday, March 11, 2011 was the biggest in 140 years. The quake triggered tsunami waves of up to 30 feet, large enough to sweep away homes, vehicles and cause fires. At the moment, there is a tsunami warning issued for all of Hawaii and the civil defense officials have ordered the evacuation of all Hawaiian coastal areas. The safety area is extended to at least 100 feet inland and 50 feet above sea level.

Just as the news was settling in, our new landlord knocked at our door. He came to share the information of the earthquake and tsunami warnings. He also recommended we stock up on water, candles, flashlights, and other supplies. The county is shutting down the wastewater plants and asking everyone to only use water when necessary. At our new home, we have well water, but if we lose power we will still lose water. So, I spent the next 45 minutes washing all the dishes and filling all the gallon jugs we had (4 total – I hope that’s enough!). Funny how my reaction to all this is to make sure we wont be stuck with a pile of dirty dishes for the next few days. For the most part, I think it was more about keeping my mind and hands busy while trying to absorb the information of the possible tsunami. After the dishes were clean, the water jugs filled, and the batteries all charged, I turned to writing this post.

Tsunamis are completely unfamiliar to me and I’m ok keeping it that way. Matt’s dying to go out and try to catch a glimpse of the destructive waves as they hit land here in Maui. The estimated time of arrival of a potential tsunami at the harbor in Kahului is 3:23 AM.

By 1:15 AM, my father sent me a text message, “Hey R U OK? Tsunami warning in 2 hours from now. Make sure you are in high ground.” To which I promptly replied I was fine at an elevation of 600′. The time difference between Maui and Massachusetts is 5 hours. I can only imagine my father waking up at 6:00 AM and wandering down to the living to watch the morning news. Then, upon hearing of the devastating earthquake and subsequent tsunami warning, rushing to his cell phone to send that message.

A message to all my family and friends: We are safe and sound, and I will keep you all updated as best I can.

What would you do to prepare for a tsunami warning?

Posted by: Cross Country Couple | February 18, 2011

The Interrogation of a Roadtripper

Five months ago, my boyfriend and I set out on a road trip across America. We are a couple of travel enthusiasts and couldn’t resist the opportunity to hit the open road and make memories to last a lifetime. As we shared our plans with our family and friends, we could tell everyone had their doubts. And their questions. Now that we are getting settled in our new home in Hawaii, I thought it would be a good time to reflect on the trip and answer some of the common and the not-so-common questions about going on such an adventure.
 Before I get into some of the deeper questions, I will share with you some basic information:
  • Who: Danielle (25) and Matt (27)
  • What: A road trip across the US for over 4 months
  • Where: From Cape Cod, Massachusetts to Haiku, Hawaii
  • When: Depart Cape Cod, MA on September 14, 2010. Fly out of San Jose, California to Hawaii on January 29, 2011. Moving from Kahului, HI to Haiku, HI to settled into our new home on March 1, 2011.
  • Why: Because the people, sights, sounds, adventures and memories made along the way are Priceless.
  • How: Via a 1994 Ford Escort station wagon, NCL cruise ship, and eventually an Alaska Airlines flight. 
And now, on to the commonly asked (or just pondered) questions – 

1. Are you rich? Don’t you have Jobs?

In one word, nope. We over estimated our possible expenses and saved up over a year. After we had ample savings, we respectfully left our jobs. For us, this was necessary as we would not be returning home at the end of our trip. With a fixed amount of money available, we found ourselves doing whatever we could to limit our expenses. Having an open and creative mind, you can find options for every element of road tripping where you can save money as long as you are willing to sacrifice modern conveniences.

2. Where do you sleep?

Depending on your budget and comfort level, you have an array of options for sleeping. Anything from a hotel to a hostel, campground to casino, or even sleeping in your vehicle at the local Wal-Mart. Yes, I said sleeping at Wal-Mart. Believe it or not, this is actually a pretty common occurence among travelers. On your next visit to this nationwide retailer, give a good look around the parking lot. By 8:00 PM, a section of the parking lot usually begins to fill with RVs, hippie vans, 18-wheelers, and the occasional station wagon. There are even a number of forums and websites dedicated to keeping an updated list of the Wal-Marts that allow overnight parking. It is best to check these lists and ask a security guard or manager before you park as many counties and towns have overnight parking bans which take precedence (especially in California). These stores are a great option because of their convenient and numerous locations across the country. My personal favorites are the 24 hour Wal-Mart Supercenters where there are often security guards patrolling the parking lot, use of a restroom at all hours of the night, and easy access to pick up any supplies we might need.

What’s that? Spending the night at a Wal-Mart is out of your comfort zone? Never fear, there are other options. If you are comfortable sleeping in your car, rest areas and casinos can be a good place to rest your head because they have bathroom facilities and are typically just off the highway. However, some rest areas or casinos do not allow overnight parking and you may risk the chance of being woken up in the middle of the night and asked to leave. (This happened to us on occasion, and as long as you comply in a timely manner, it’s not so bad). Other options are of course a campground, hostel or hotel. While this can get quite expensive, they typically provide a safe place to sleep, restrooms, and even a shower. Which leads me to our next, and possibly, most taboo question …

3. What about going to the bathroom and showers?

Every traveler will probably have a different solution and a different level of comfort when dealing with these daily challenges. For us, we made peace with using public restrooms whenever we were on the road. The local gas station, Wal-Mart, supermarket, or rest area would typically suffice. When in more remote areas, the primal methods of digging a hole in the woods was necessary. For this and many other reasons, I suggest keeping a roll of TP in the car.

Showers are without a doubt more difficult to find. If we were lucky, we would stumble across a state beach or park with showers. Or, we have on occasion slipped into a campground and used their facilities in certain circumstances. In preparation for the trip, we did buy a solar camping shower for under $10 at (you guessed it!) Wal-Mart. However, we soon learned that the water never got hot enough when we were in the northern states, and we rarely stayed put enough elsewhere to use it. Not to say it didn’t come in handy at points. In Utah, we strapped the pouch to the roof to heat the water while driving through the desert. A few hours later, we hung the bag from a sign post, got into our bathing suits, and showered on the side of the road. There were many times when we would have to go a few days (even up to a week) without a shower. Gross, I know. We would use a soapy wash cloth to freshen up or slap on another layer of deodorant to get us by for an extra day. I have even washed my hair in the sink of rest area. But in the end, if it saved us a few bucks it was well worth it to explore the country for another day or two.

4. What do you eat? How do you cook?

Traveling on a tight budget, we chose to keep a large cooler in the car and stop at grocery stores to pick up food. We would try to stick to non-perishables and buy extra sharp cheddar cheese to avoid having to stock up on ice. For milk, we used the evaporated powdered version and would mix it with cold water whenever it was needed. A real cost effective, quick, and easy snack for us would often be a Cup-o-Noodles made with a free cup of hot water from the local convenience store (just be sure to ask first!). Matt also had a great Coleman 2 burner gas camping stove we used to cook up hot meals when we had time. And if we were lucky, we’d find a Farmers Market where we could pick up fresh produce and delicious fruits.

As expected, we did indulge on a little fast food here and there. (In-n-Out, anyone?) And of course, we splurged to try the regional specialities (Salt Lick BBQ near Austin, TX and The Habit in Santa Barbara, CA come highly recommended!). Overall, food is going to be a sizeable expense no matter how you go about it. As long as you budget for it and spend wisely, you won’t go hungry.

5. Aren’t you concerned for your safety?

Thorton Wilder once said, “When you’re safe at home, you wish you were having an adventure. When you’re having an adventure, you wish you were safe at home.” Of course, one’s safety and security becomes the number one priority when you find yourself far from home. We did our best to be aware of our surroundings at all times. If you have a good head on your shoulders and a bit of common sense, you should be fine. As a precaution, Matt always slept with a giant Maglight by his side, we locked our doors habitually, and always kept an eye out for trouble.

6. Where’s your next stop?

Having a rough idea of your route is great and often necessary for the sake of time. In our case, we were only limited by our budget and had no set dates or schedule to stick to. We knew we wanted to stop in certain areas to visit friends and family, and we understood that the most affordable airfare to Hawaii (our final destination) would be from the west coast, but that’s about it. This allowed us to travel anywhere and everywhere we wanted. One of our essential items was certainly our GPS. Not only was it great to have in terms of directions, it also had options to look up local parks, beaches, attractions, and more. As we met fellow travelers along the way, we would share stories and tips. Often times, this would lead us to check out an area we may have otherwise missed. When asked, “Where’s your next stop?” or “What’s your next destination?” We’d typically have a very general answer like “east”, “south”, or “along the coast,” keeping our options open.

Keeping an open mind and thinking creatively about your next stop can often result in amazing experiences. For example, a random conversation about a cruise we had taken earlier in the year sparked the idea that we might find a last minute cruise deal since we were flexible on the departure port and time. With a little research and a leap of faith, we ended up on a 7 day/8 night cruise to Roatan (Honduras), Belize City, and Costa Maya, Mexico for $299 per person!

7. What do you do about internet?

A very practical question seeing as the world wide web is today’s information highway. What a useful tool! To have restaurant reviews, a directory of national parks, and infinite more tidbits of information at our fingertips. In our case, both Matt and I have newer cell phones that provide internet access as long as we are in an area with good service. This was handy for looking up good places to eat, traveler reviews and suggestions for attractions, or the location of nearest Wal-Mart (we found the GPS didn’t always have the right address and we were better off looking at the store locator website). For the times when we needed full internet access, there was the occasional McDonald’s, Panera Bread, or Starbucks nearby.

8. Don’t you get sick of each other?

Of Course! We are humans after all. Spending all hours of every day, never more than a mile apart for over 4 months, there are bound to be arguments. Luckily, we have known each other for nearly 10 years and get along pretty well (for the most part). In times of stress, you can always turn up the radio, go for a short walk, or sit quietly appreciating the surrounding beauty to help defuse the situation and clear your head.

Choosing the right travel buddy is important. You will end up in tight spaces and tough situations, but also miraculous places that you will remember always. Some people like to travel on their own while others prefer big groups. Take some time to seriously consider your personal preferences.

As a reference for anyone thinking of hitting the open road, below is a list (in no particular order) of some of our must have road trip items:

  • GPS – this probably saved us from countless arguments and stress from getting lost
  • National Park Pass – for $80 (and only $10 for seniors) this pass will give you almost unlimited access to all the US National Parks
  • Multiple outlet car adapter – great for charging a laptop, cell, and GPS all at once
  • Laptop – good for watching movies, getting online and looking up information
  • Good Transportation – For us the key to our ultimate road trip mobile was (a.) a vehicle that we could comfortably sleep in, (b.) fuel efficiency – we were getting upwards of 35 MPG with our manual Ford Escort wagon, (c.) tinted windows, (d.) a roof rack, (e.) wind visors – so we can crack the windows on hot nights without anyone knowing
  • Cargo Carrier – great for extra storage space, we found one we could fit in the back for better gas mileage on longer highway drives
  • Camping stove – key for hot meals on the road
  • Cell phone with internet access (and games to help pass the time) 
  • Cooler
  • Road map/Travel guide – great for finding your next destination 
These questions were some of the common questions that people would ask, but if you have any others, please feel free to leave them in the comments!


Posted by: Cross Country Couple | February 18, 2011

Day 137 … Hawaii or Bust!

We both woke up from an uncomfortable sleep around 6:00 AM. T-Minus 4 hours and 50 minutes til our flight leaves!!! We decided to head towards the San Jose airport in hopes of avoiding any bay area traffic. We stopped at a McDonalds just down the road from the airport to grab breakfast. By 8:00 AM, we returned the rental car, grabbed our mountain of luggage and checked-in for our flight. Once we received our boarding passes and dropped off all the checked bags (Matt had 2 and I had 3), we made our way to the security check-point. The new body scanning machines we in use at the San Jose airport, I opted to go through the scanner (taking on my fair share of radiation, I’m sure), while Matt opt-out. He received a quick pat down and we were on our way. At the terminal, we discovered the free wifi offered by the airport and proceeded to try to skype with our families before leaving. By 10:20 AM, we received our boarding call and boarded our flight to Hawaii.

During the flight, we tried some complimentary Passion Fruit, Orange, Guava (POG) juice. Delicious! We were instantly hooked. As the hours passed, we watched movies and episodes of Always Sunny. Just before landing, the crew offered everyone of age a complimentary Mai Tai to welcome us to the island. As we touched down, we celebrated our new beginning on the island of Maui.

Posted by: Cross Country Couple | February 18, 2011

Day 136 … Last minute errands

This morning, we requested a late check-out (as usual) and snacked on some muffins and coffee provided in the lobby. As I researched housing options for when we arrived in Hawaii, Matt gave himself a hair cut and cleaned out the camp stove. We packed, weighed, and repack the checked bags to find the right combination. The airline will allow us up to three checked bags each provided they weigh no more than 50 lbs. At $20 a piece, we wanted to make sure we got as close to the 50 lb weight limit. Our first stop of the day was at a goodwill store to pick up some last minute clothes. We hear everything is more expensive in Hawaii and figured it wouldn’t hurt to pick up a few things before leaving. Next, we dropped off the camping stove at the UPS store to be shipped home to Matt’s parents. Seeing as the stove uses fuel, its not permitted on the airplane, no matter how essential it could be once we are on the island.

At a nearby shopping area, we killed some time walking around Trader Joes, Radio shack, and Payless. In the same plaza, we saw what appeared to be a car that had recently crashed into the side of the local Wal-Mart.. We theorized that someone must have hit the gas instead of the brakes, driving right into the wall. By the time we saw it, the driver had already been carted off and the store manager and security guards were outside waiting for the tow truck. At Radio Shack, we picked up a splitter so we could both plug in headphones into one laptop for the plane ride. That evening, we made our own luggage tags while sitting in the car at a park. Last minute errands included stopping at CVS, returning the scale to Wal-Mart, and driving back to the 24 hour gym in Fremont. We thought we would go in for a final shower before our flight, but both ended up falling asleep in the parking lot.

Posted by: Cross Country Couple | February 18, 2011

Day 135 … Rental Car and Hotel

I can’t believe today is the day we drop off the Escort. This car has ben our home, our safe haven, for the past 4 months. The shipping process takes 10-14 days from the day the car gets sea bound. Since we are dropping the car off on a Friday, it will be an extra week before the car is loaded onto a ship.

Our first order of business today is to drive to the San Jose Airport to pick up our rental. For those of you tracking our route, it may seem weird to drive south to the airport only to turn around and drive back north to the port, but it saves us over $40 in rental fees if we return it to the same place we pick it up. Plus, I found a great deal where we are able to rent the car for two days, unlimited miles, for $32 total. Once at the rental counter, I found myself signing away as the primary drive on the first car I have ever rented. A small milestone for a 25 year old. I picked up our Nissan Versa and followed Matt (driving the Escort) to Fremont, the half way point between San Jose and Oakland, and the home of the buyers of ou camping gear. We met up with Sean, our new friend, and gave him the remaining items – the cargo pod and cooler. It feels awfully funny to part with these items we considered so crucial to our trip. But alas, this part of the trip is coming to an end and a whole new adventure is beginning.

We stopped a the local Subway for lunch before heading a bit further north. We arrived at the Matson Port in Oakland, CA just after 1:00 PM. Here, we met with a representative who gave us the details of shipping the car and bid a fond farewell to our home away from home. It could be almost 3 weeks before we will see that familiar car again.

At this point, the plan is to hold up in a hotel for the night, organizing our checked baggage, showering and relaxing. Tomorrow night, we will spend an uncomfortable night sleeping in the Versa before catching our flight to Hawaii. Before settling into the hotel, we stopped at the grocery store to pick up something for dinner and a 6 pack of beers to celebrate. At the hotel, we relaxed, settled in, and watched some TV.

Posted by: Cross Country Couple | February 18, 2011

Day 134 … Cleaning House

With everything pushed up a day, we can’t helped but feel a bit rushed in the process. Today, we are put to the task of cleaning the Escort inside and out so it will pass the agricultural inspection necessary to ship the car to Hawaii. With no option of it failing the inspection, we went crazy cleaning every nook and cranny. We power washed the car, cleaned under the hood, vacuumed, dusted, washed windows, and Rain-X’ed every window inside and out.

With the car as clean as could be, we relaxed with a walk around a nearby lake. Tonight, its back to the quiet side street in the safe neighborhood. Tomorrow, we will be picking up the rental car.

Posted by: Cross Country Couple | February 18, 2011

Day 133 … Countdown to HI

After letting the WD 40 soak overnight on the switch, Matt quickly install the new part this morning. At this point in the countdown, we need to finalize the details of shipping the car. Our plan for the next few days is to pick up a rental car in San Jose the on Saturday morning (the day before our flight) – (for reference, today is Wednesday) and drop off the Escort at the port on the same day. Upon calling the shipping company, I was a bit flustered to learn that the ports do not accept drop-offs on weekends! I was totally bummed!

This now meant we would have to bump everything up a day. Pick up the rental car a day early, spend two nights with no comfortable place to sleep, and meet up with the people buying camping stuff early. With this new information, we scrambled to overnight the deposit check to the shipping company (because they need it 2 days before the car gets dropped off). The guy at the UPS store helped us arrange for it to arrive next day by 10 AM. Luckily, the buyers of our camping gear were pretty understanding and let us drop off the boat and tent (and some other miscellaneous stuff) early. This gave us some extra room to get things organized.

As a matter of finding some showers, we took advantage of a trial membership at a gym. The gym offered a free 7 day pass and is open 24 hours. Afer our late night wash down, we went back to the quiet neighborhood to get some sleep.

Posted by: Cross Country Couple | February 18, 2011

Day 132 … Getting Ready

As the days tick down to our departure, we are steadily checking things off our list to get ready for the move. Today, we are hoping to get the car checked out. What first appeared to be an easy task, soon turned into a wild goose chase. We finally ended up at a Midas where the considerate staff checked out the car free of charge. There recommendations included new tires, new struts, and a new cooling fan switch. We kindly thanks the staff and headed off to Autozone where we picked up the cooling fan switch. Before finding a parking lot where Matt could take a look at replacing the switch, we stopped in at Verizon and Scottrade. In the nearby Quiznos parking lot, Matt worked on replacing the cooling fan switch. Since the switch has not been touch in over 16 years, we would need some WD 40 to finish the job.

TO rest for the night, we found a quiet street in a nice neighbor just around the corner from a park. We took a stroll through the park, watch a movie, and settled in.

Posted by: Cross Country Couple | February 18, 2011

Day 131 … Making Waves

Last night, we found ourselves in a small coastal town with little in terms of a good place to sleep. We ended up parking in a condo complex beside the harbor. At 7:30 AM, we heard the familiar knocking on the window. “Alright folks, time to move on” the man explained. And so, we packed up and hit road.

Today, we begin the laborious task of going through everything we have. We must decide what will stay and what will go. Much of the stuff we won’t be taking to Hawaii will be sold or donated. For this, we needed to find a parking lot where we could unload everything and not be bothered. Just down the road from where we slept, we pulled into a state beach. The parking lot was plenty big, not too crowded, and there was the beach to distract us when we needed a break. We walked down the beach to a rocky area to hang out for a bit before getting down to business.

As we sorted through everything, the idea of packing everything up seemed a little less daunting. With the camping stove already out of the cargo pod, we decided to take a lunch break. While Matt cooked up some pasta, I tried to make some progress backing up all the photos we’ve taken onto CD. After lunch, we put everything back in the car and went for another walk along the beach. At one point, we climbed up a big rock near the water’s edge to watch the waves crash against the coast. Little did know, soon enough it would be our turn to get splashed by the waves as one crashed against the rock we were sitting on. Slightly damp, we went back to the car and hit the road.

Posted by: Cross Country Couple | February 18, 2011

Day 130 … The Avenue of Giants

With our countdown to Hawaii ticking away, we started heading south again. We had not quite had our fill of Redwoods yet and decided to take the scenic Avenue of Giants. This famous route winds through massive Redwoods and offers great pit stops along the way. We detoured down a side road to see the Giant Tree and the Flatiron Tree. Feeling a bit exhausted from all the hiking yesterday, we needed an opportunity to get out and stretch our legs. When we arrived t the parking area, we were rather puzzled at first. According to the trailhead map, there was supposed to be bridge leading us across what was now a heavily flowing river, but there was no bridge in sight. It was only upon closer investigation that we read the bridge was seasonal. Being the adventurous couple we are, we decided to find another way across the river. We followed the water until we came across one of the giant redwoods that had fallen and created what we would use as a bridge across the river.

Once we made it across the river, we followed the trails through the woods to the Flatiron Tree. This wide tree had fallen some time ago and its wide flat trunk formed a cool pathway to explore. As with many other fallen Redwoods, this tree took many other tree down with it. The criss crossing of fallen trees made for a pretty cool sight to see.

Just a bit further down the trail, we stopped to check out the Giant Tree. Once recognized by the AMerican Forestry Association as the ‘National Champion Coast Redwood, Sequoia Sempervirens’, was measured in 1991 at a height of 363′ with a circumference of 53.2 feet! Now, twenty years later, this tree is still standing. living, and growing. Go mother nature!

The rest of the day was spent driving along Rt. 1 headed south towards the bay area. What a beautiful, yet crazy drive along steep cliffs, winding roads, and tight turns.

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