Highway Robbery

As I mentioned eons ago, last October I went to Italy.

When we started researching and telling everyone about going to Italy, it seemed the one overall theme was thievery. Horror stories about people being pickpocketed and overcharged and taken advantage of at every turn started popping up everywhere and by everyone we told about our upcoming trip.

We planned and re-planned and over planned about how to deal with this and even had back up plans if this would happen or that would happen. We obsessed over travelers insurance, which handbags to use, how to spread out our cash, where to keep our passports and credit cards, and fastidiously reminded ourselves not to leave anything in the rental car. In hindsight, I think know we (all of whom have lived in New York City at one point), spent way too much time overthinking it.

Not once in our 10 days were we pickpocketed or overcharged and never felt taken advantage of–except once. By our rental car company.

Yep. Our rental car company. Ironically, I decided to go with Avis because of all the car options we were presented with while booking, it is one that I use quite frequently here, so I thought it was the “safe” choice. They offered a great rate and when our reservation had to change literally 2 days before the trip they were very accommodating.

Once we were there, the overly friendly Avis front desk man explained to us that we needed additional insurance for the car to “cover accidents and theft.” I thought insurance was included in the quoted price but of course, it was in the middle of the night in the USA when we landed in Italy, so I couldn’t get a hold of anyone to confirm exactly what my reservation included. We opted for the additional insurance, partially because we were in a foreign country and partially because we were still in the throes of assuming everyone was out to get us (yes, I realize how ridiculous that sounds but trust me, the horror stories plus the jet lag plus the 9 hours of airplane coffee had us a little on edge!).

We pick up our tiny little car. TINY. TIIIIIIIIIINY. After a bit of finagling of luggage because only 2 suitcases fit in the “trunk,” we were off!

Thankfully our tiny baby car was perfect for navigating our way through Rome, where the driving style is best described as “just go, try not to hit anything, and hope for the best” (aka a chaotic clusterfuck). You think I’m kidding, but I am not. We encountered numerous intersections without any signage or lights and one lane exit ramps with five rows of cars across it.

Our tiny baby car, whom Cait named Luigi, wasn’t so great with the Tuscan hills. And by not great, I mean we couldn’t keep up with the locals taking the uphill curves at breakneck speeds. But we made it! Sometimes with a lot of encouragement for Luigi, that he could, in fact, make it to the top of whatever mountain summit we were trying to reach. And not without a fair bit of panicking and near-death experiences. Also, may I suggest not looking down the side of the mountain to see how far you’ll drop if the car suddenly careens off the road?

After 10 days of laughing, cursing the GPS, and a lot of u-turns, we safely returned Luigi back to Avis before boarding the plane back to New York and saying arrivederci to Italy.

And then? Then we got the finalized bill, which was nearly triple what we originally quoted. I called Avis to ask about all the additional charges, and discovered that the additional insurance was nearly double that of our actual rental charge. And was further informed that no, we didn’t actually need it, we had basic insurance that would have covered everything but the additional insurance just meant that we wouldn’t have a deductible. Since we agreed to the extra insurance at the counter there was nothing she could do to reverse the charges. I tried arguing that we were told that we didn’t have coverage and it was required. Had we been told it was just an upgrade from our already included insurance we would have declined, but she wasn’t budging.

Fine. We paid the additional insurance. Not that we had much of a choice, since it was already charged to the card. But we bitched about it at length and then chalked it up to a very steep learning curve.

Six short weeks later, I got another charge from Avis along with a letter in the mail stating that we received a traffic citation and [wait for it], Avis was charging us $50 in order to process the citation and they would kindly keep us abreast of how much the citation would be when it was processed.

JUST TO BE CLEAR, AVIS CHARGED $50 JUST TO PROCESS THE CITATION, NOT FOR THE CITATION ITSELF.

Yep. True story: you can’t make up this bullshit. Incidentally, we’re still waiting for the actual citation and fees associated with it. So after all the worrying about the thievery in Italy, the only time we came across it was with our American owned rental car company. Define irony.

img_1321

at least the views were spectacular…

Around-ish The Island

As previously mentioned, our last day we decided to put some miles on the rental car and see where the open road would take us.

Not this open road.

highway-wallpaper-8

But the one that follows this map (courtesy of Lonely Planet!):

map_of_kauai

We started in Poipu (southern most tip)–as that’s where we stayed.  We drove to Lihue and then took the 56 (Kuhio Hwy) along the eastern and northern coasts as far as the road would take us.  Also since I have the map here, if you were wanting a visual for our snorkeling/boat trip: we departed from Hanapepe westward bound for the Nā Pali Coast–so I wasn’t exaggerating when I said we pretty much circumnavigated the island!

Cartography aside, if you find yourself in Kauai (highly recommended)–then you should carve out a good chuck of time to make this scenic drive along the Kuhio Hwy.  Estimated drive time from Poipu was about 3 hours roundtrip–more if you want to stop and take a shit-ton of pictures…which we did.

And of course, you need to allow yourself even more time if you want to tour the Kilauea lighthouse or snorkel along the way….which we did not.

Not that we didn’t want to but we were flying to the mainland that evening, so our first priority was to make sure that we had given ourselves enough driving/ogling/eating/drinking time to get all the way to the end of the road and back to the airport before our flight departed without us!

For the majority of our trip, the view on our east side was essentially something like this:

IMG_4693

Meanwhile, our western view was almost a 180°:

We soon found ourselves literally at the end of the road and had to make a u-turn (as demonstrated by the red truck below!).

IMG_4690

Okay, so “soon” is a relative term–the scenic views and frequent photo stops made the trip seem a lot shorter than it was (although, I wasn’t driving so perhaps Tracy has a different opinion about “soon”).

Of course, I know the real reason you’re here–the photos!  Obligingly, I have a small sampling of a mere 197 photos from our drive.  Kidding…just…kidding… 😉

Aloha!

 

Thirsty Thursday To A Tea…

In trying to find pictures for Throwback Thursday, I realized I have a lot of pictures of adult beverages (that is said with pride, by the way!). As such, I’ve decided that rather than share pictures of me with bad 80s hair and glasses that legitimately covered half my face, I could easily share glasses of a much tastier kind. So without further ado, I present to you: Thirsty Thursday!

On our last day in Kauai, we decided to take a drive–all the way around the island.  Well, as far as the road would let us go (although–we did see the parts we couldn’t drive to by boat, so technically I’d say we made it completely around the island!).

As usually happens in a road trip, we reached a point where we were eager to stretch our legs.  Conveniently, we found a roadside drink truck advertising pineapple tea.  How does one say no to pineapple tea in Hawaii? One does not. 


It was definitely a refreshing & tasty reason to get out of the car!

Aloha!

The Tsunami Clock of Doom

The picturesque town of Hilo has been hit by three major tsunamis in the last century.  With no warning system and the largest wave, the first tsunami hit in 1946 and was the most deadly. The second hit in 1960 with a 35 foot wave, stopping the town clock at the time it was hit (1:04am).  The third was in 1975 and with the smallest wave of the three, caused the least amount of damage.

The clock is called the Hilo Clock–or more dramatically the “Tsunami Clock of Doom.”

Of course when I heard there was a such a thing called the “Tsunami Clock of Doom,” I felt compelled to see it (and may have been a tad bit insistent about it).

It sits along the Mamalahoa Highway in Hilo and I have to confess that we drove right past it several times before realizing it stands along the highway by the golf course, right before you cross the Waiākea Pond.

If you’re interested in reading more, I found an article in Hawaii Magazine with details about all three tsunamis:

April 1, 1946

  • Time struck: 6:54 a.m. (Hawaii Standard Time)
  • Source of tsunami: 7.1 magnitude earthquake in the Aleutian Islands, Alaska
  • Maximum wave height: 50 feet
  • Damages: $26 million ($300 million today)
  • Deaths: 159

May 23, 1960

  • Time struck: 1:05 a.m. (Hawaii Standard Time)
  • Source of tsunami: 8.3 magnitude earthquake in Chile.
  • Maximum wave height: 35 feet
  • Damages: $24 million ($171 million today)
  • Deaths: 61 people

November 29, 1975

  • Time struck: 3:35 a.m. (Hawaii Standard Time)
  • Source of tsunami: 7.2 magnitude earthquake off the southeastern coast of Big Island of Hawaii.
  • Maximum wave height: 26 feet
  • Damages: $1.4 million ($5.6 million today)
  • Deaths: 2 people

To read the full article, click here.  And if you wanted to read more about the clock, go to Roadside America’s website.

Instead of being restored, the clock was left with its hands frozen at 1:04 and now stands as a memorial for those who perished in the tsunamis.

Aloha.

 

Paul Bunyan and Other Big Things

A few posts ago, I mentioned that April and I had penchant for searching for “World’s Biggest [insert random object here]”–well, this trip was filled with them!  I mean, how else are you going to break up a long road trip?

sidenote: now that I’m thinking about it, Minnesota and Australia seem to have a large number of “World’s Biggest” objects.  And I would also like to express my personal belief that if you’ve never seen the World’s Biggest Prawn in Ballina, NSW Australia, your life really is never going to be completely whole.  Of course, you could disagree with me, but well….you’d be wrong.

Anyway, back to Minnesota and this trip.  April had already marked out several stops to see big things, such as the World’s Biggest Walleye.

IMG_1999

However, this turned out to be a BIG FAT LIE.  It’s not the biggest.  We have actually seen one bigger (ha! that’s what she said!!).  It was on my first trip to Minnesota years ago.

see?  this one is A LOT bigger!

see? this one is A LOT bigger!

We also stopped to see the World’s Largest Hockey Stick.

IMG_2036

I’m not arguing this point…it’s dangerous to even talk about hockey in Minnesota unless you’ve grown up there (or Canada) and since I grew up in neither place, I respectfully abstain from commenting…except to say that is also the biggest hockey puck I’ve ever seen.

While it took a bit of a detour and it’s hard to see the scale, this is apparently the World’s Largest Loon.  It didn’t appear to be anchored, but of course, it could have just been on a really long line (The World’s Longest, perhaps?).

IMG_2040

I’ve already shown you the large lumberjack–again, not the biggest in the world but pretty darn big–and Smokey the Bear, which was the largest Smokey I’ve seen…does a bigger one exist?  I’m not entirely sure.  But if it does, then that’s one biiiiiiiiiiig bear.  And that’s all I have to say about that.

The highlight of this trip (in terms of World’s Biggest objects) was Paul Bunyan and Babe.  As long as I’ve been visiting Minnesota, I’ve been trying to track this elusive legend and his blue ox [click here for the story!].  We got close on my first trip, but…something didn’t seem quite right.  Perhaps it was the blatant advertising for the bowling alley that shared its parking lot with the Minnesota icons?

03330023

Maybe it’s just me, but I can’t imagine Paul Bunyan and Babe bowling with anything so…small…

This trip was totally different.  As soon as we pulled up, we knew it was the real deal.  Paul Bunyan and Babe.  My quest at last was over–and in the process–a few more World’s Largest objects added to my collection!

I HEART ROADTRIPS! 🙂

Have Passport, Will Roadtrip.

You always travel with your passport, right?

Of course, I keep it with me all the time–because you never know when you might have to leave the country quickly.

I thought so, but I wanted to double check…and well, remind you to bring your passport.

Like for Birthday Trip #1, my only requests for Birthday Trip #2 is to go somewhere I hadn’t been before and I didn’t want to plan it (wow, I really AM a prima donna!).  Once we had decided that MSP would be our starting point, I pretty much let April take over the planning.  And by pretty much, I mean totally (thanks, April, for allowing me to foist that upon you!).

So when the aforementioned conversation happened, I was hopeful that Canada was going to make the itinerary.  I mean, April does live in a border state.  But one never knows, perhaps you now need a passport to go to South Dakota.  All I was told is that my first full day in Minnesota would be an early start and I would need a change of clothes.

Passport?  Check!

Extra clothes?  Check!

Snacks?  DOUBLE CHECK! (what?  this is me–April knew snacks were her best bet to keep me awake during our drive).

Coffee?  First stop, right around corner from April’s house.

As we pulled out of the parking lot, April handed me a stack of papers:

You navigate.  And since you’re bound to figure out soon, if you haven’t done so already, we’re headed for Canada, so if you forgot your passport now would be the time to say something.

I’m quite sure I squealed in response.  In less than a month, I went from the most southern point to the top of the country.  I was excited.  Six hours and change is how long it took to get our destination: International Falls, MN.   This meant that I could cross another place off from my 1,000 Places to See Before You Die book.  Don’t roll your eyes at me–it’s the little things in life.

During our drive north, the foliage changed considerably–from barely any change in the Twin Cities to nearly bare trees when we got to International Falls.  It was quite a beautiful contrast to the plush greenery of Florida.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.