Cowboy Code

Being a “cowboy” has become a disparaging term in our upside down society where common sense got on a boat years ago and sailed for terra incognita.  Still as a kid, I remember that my heroes were cowboys.  Men like John Wayne, Jimmy Steward, Randolph Scott, Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, and Hopalong Cassiday were the folks on the silver screen to whom I looked for inspiration.  For those who think being a cowboy is a bad thing, this is what Gene Autry said about being a cowboy.  I’m sure that these ideas will seem trite to many and offensive to others, but this is my blog.    🙂

I wish those domestic enemies of the Constitution in D.C. — on both sides of the aisle — would abide by these simple ideals.

Armies for Kids at Historicon 2019

The recipients of the free armies and Chris Johnson, this year’s GM.

At Historicon 2019, the Harford Area Weekly Kriegspielsers hosted another Armies for Kids game.  This year’s GM was Chris Johnson.

The game in progress.

I think this is the eighth or ninth year we have done this.  We paint six sets of armies, one for each “side.”  We package those along with rules (Milk and Cookies Rules from Big Battles for Little Hands), rulers, dice, paper terrain, and other goodies.  The game is a participation game for kids under ten years old.  When the game is over, each of the kids gets to take home a full set of painted figures and all the accessories.

A closeup of some of the action.

The idea is that hopefully these kids go home and start playing games with their buddies. The kids at the convention come with their parents, so in many ways we are preaching to the converted; however, we hope that these kids go home and introduce their little buddies to wargaming.

The kids and all their swag.

We only had five kids this year, but we were prepared for six.  Do these kids look happy to you?  A couple of recent years we’ve had trouble getting enough kids for this project.  Maybe we’ll need to put it away for a while.

Hawaii Vacation, Days 7-11

The caldera at Kilauea volcano

We began day seven by visiting the various volcanos, steam vents, and lava fields in Volcano National Park.  We got a late-ish start but got out the door early enough to see all we wanted to see in the park.  Kilauea is the least active it has been for 35+ years, so there were no active lava fields or flowing lava.

Departing our cabin in the morning
Active steam vents

Near the visitor’s center there are a number of active steam vents where hot gasses from the most recent eruption are visible. We took a couple mile hike into the Kilauea caldera.  Until recently this was an active lava lake until last year’s major eruptions.  There are two major types of lava in Hawai’i: ‘a’ā and pāhoehoe. ‘A’ā is rough and chunky, while pāhoehoe is smooth and ropy. They may vary in color from shiny black to dull brown. Both types have the same chemical composition, but pāhoehoe is hotter when it erupts and is more fluid than ‘a’ā.

Candy standing on some pāhoehoe lava in the Kileaua caldera
Walking into the caldera. At this point we were squarely inside the volcano.

After this hike we drove the Chain of Craters road stopping at sites along the way to see different types of lava flows, craters, etc.

Tom and Buck on a road along the Chain of Craters that was covered by a lava flow
Where the lava poured into the water when it was flowing
Are those the Griswolds?

On the way back up the Chain of Craters road to the visitor’s center we stopped at an area with 23,000 petroglyphs engraved into the lava flow.  Since they were engraved in the lava rather than painted on a cave or canyon wall, they were much more visible that normal.

A sample of the many petroglyphs we found

It was a bit disappointing that there were no explanations of what scholars think some of the symbols might mean.

The symbol of the men’s restroom in ancient Hawaii?

After this night of hiking and walking we had dinner in the cafeteria at Kilauea Military Camp, which is much like a military-style mess hall.  The food was good, but no frills.  We then went back to our cabin to watch Moana and have dessert.

We started the next day by walking along the trail past the sulphur vents around the visitor center.  These are similar to the steam vents on the opposite side of the road, but the escaping gasses have more minerals, particularly sulphur, and they stain the rocks bright colors.

The sulphur vents near the visitor’s center

Then we drove the eastern side of the island, stopping to see various overlooks, beaches, and sites along the way.

Candy at rainbow falls
Candy at Rainbow Falls
Standing on a black sand beach that looks more gray in this picture. The black sand beaches are made by lava ground down by the action of the sea over many years.

As we stopped at these beaches — all beaches in Hawaii are public — in most cases we were surprised how few people were on them.

We stopped at an out of the way place for lunch
We had wraps and fresh fruit, most of which had been grown on the property

Then we kept driving.

Our next stop was Akaka Falls state park for a short hike to see several falls.
Akaka falls

These falls were impressive but were only a fifth as tall as Angel Falls in South America.

One of many beaches we stopped to view

Us with the Waipi’o Valley in the background. This is still private land and somewhat sacred to Hawaiians.  We chose not to hike the mile into the valley, as the signs implied that the locals find it disrespectful.

The next morning we bade farewell to our cabin and took a short detour to see the interior of the Volcano House lodge in the national park.

So long cabin!
Volcano House. Of the many national park lodges we’ve seen, this was the least ornate on the outside, but it was nice on the inside and provided a wonderful view of the lava lake prior to last year’s eruption.

Our plan was to drive up the coast (mostly) from Volcano National Park to Kailua-Kona where we were would stay the last two nights in Hawaii.

A lava beach at which we stopped along the drive from Volcano to Kailua-Kona.
Entrance to “the refuge”

Along the way we stopped at a place known as the “refuge.”  The punishment for nearly all crimes in ancient Hawaii seems to have been death.  A marked person could flee, and if he made it to this place and spent some time with the priest here, he could be absolved of his crimes and return home.

The beach on the ali’i (king’s) side of the refuge compound
Sam and Tom engaged in an ancient Hawaiian strategy game that on the face of it looked like Othello
That handsome family again!
Sam made a new friend

We arrived in Kailua-Kona (mostly known just as Kona) in time to check into the Royal Kona Resort and get the lay of the land before our scheduled luau.  We had time to put on our swimsuits and play in the hotel’s private lagoon and then in the pool before showering up for the luau.

An imu in which the pig was cooked for our luau

This was some of the best kalua pork we had on the trip.

The family enjoying bottomless mai tai’s as we waited for the luau to begin
Buck and his trophy wife — or is that Candy and her trophy husband. I never get that right.
There was live entertainment throughout the luau provided by these local musicians.
The weather threatened to rain on us all night, but we didn’t get rain until after the luau ended. In the meantime we were presented by two rainbows.

At the luau we had excellent food and all-you-can-drink mai tais.  Candy drank mai tai’s like a fish.  Depending on who you ask the number was between four and six!

The sunset from the luau at the Royal Kona Resort

The luau lasted until after sunset.

The luau hula dancers presented dances from various Polynesian islands. We had nice, close seats, which game me a chance to really watch the hula dancers’ hands. When they sang songs in English, you could really see how the hand gestures mirrored the lyrics.

As with all luaus, the highlight was the fire guy.

Nighttime hula dancing

The next morning, we slept in and then went to the pool for a couple of hours.

Sam begin dragged into the water
Tom tried a sample of four different types of mai tais. There is controversy over who invented the mai tai, with our hotel’s Don the Beachcomber claiming the title.


Candy sips a mai tai by the pool. With all that fruit, it must be healthy!

This evening we planned to take a tour to Mauna Kea to see the stars.  We have seen the brilliant star fields at Bryce Canyon, and Mauna Kea is supposed to be better.  We met the van at 1430 and got part way up the mountain for an early dinner when the National Weather Service close the road to the observatories due to rain and flash flooding.  We were very disappointed, but we made it back down to our hotel in time to watch the fireworks in the harbor, since it was the 4th of July.

A view of the outside of our hotel

The next day was really a travel day.  Our flight left Kona at 2000, but we got a somewhat late checkout and planned to enjoy the day.  We started at the pool again and then went to visit the Vanillerie.  This is a small farm where the local businessman is trying to make a go of farming vanilla.  After the tour, I have a much greater respect for vanilla.  It is a HARD and LONG process.  This is why you have probably never actually had vanilla, but imitation vanilla which is much more easily harvested from the bark of some type of pine tree.

Entering the Vanillerie for our tour
Inside one of the four greenhouses

At the end of the tour we got a small sample of ice cream made with his real vanilla, and there was a definite taste difference.

One last look at a beach before retrieving our bags from the hotel and heading for the airport
… and as the sun sets gently into the horizon of Kailua-Kona we bid a fond farewell to Hawaii…

The flights home were uneventful but painfully long at the end of a ten-day vacation.  I don’t know when we’ll all be able to take this much time together for a vacation.

Hawaii Vacation, Days 4, 5, and 6

Lookout from a cliff near the Makapu’u Lighthouse trail

On day 4 of our vacation we began with a short drive to the Makapu’u Lighthouse trailhead.  The trail was about 1.5 miles mostly uphill to the point of land overlooking the lighthouse.  The lighthouse was built to prevent ships running aground while traversing the water between Oahu and Molokai.

The Makapu’u Lighthouse

Sam was decidedly unimpressed with this “dumpy little lighthouse” and didn’t think it was worth the uphill climb to get there.   The views from up on the point were very nice.

Sam and Tom at the lookout.
Buck and Candy

We then drove to the north shore to visit the Polynesian Cultural Center.

Fancy hotdogs with lots of stuff on them from a truck outside the Polynesian Cultural Center.

Since the last time we visited the PCC, they have added a lot of shopping and food outside the center.  We bought some fancy hotdogs from a truck outside the gates (apparently food trucks are a big tradition in Hawaii).  Then we had to try some malasadas, which are like filled doughnuts.  We bought one of each flavor to share:  guava strawberry, chocolate, and coconut cream.

Sam devours a malasada.
The entrance to the PCC.

The Polynesian Cultural Center has six distinct areas for the various Polynesian islands.  Each area has traditionally constructed buildings, traditional crafts, and entertainment.  After our truck-lunch we entered the PCC just in time for the show on the water that runs through the center of the park.

One of the rafts of dancers that traverse the waterfront “theater” during the show.
More entertainers on boats.
A sample of the entertainment at the PCC in the Cook Islands area.
Some of the entertainment by the Maori of New Zealand.
Candy and Sam in front of a waterfall
Throwing spears in Tahiti.
Sam and Tom at the Luau.

After a day of walking around the PCC, we attended the Luau dinner show.  The food was good, but we were disappointed the the kalua pig didn’t have much taste.  As that was what we were most looking forward to, we though the luau was “okay.”

Some of the entertainment during dinner.
More of the entertainment.
A woman who juggled fire during the luau show.

The highlight of the day was the Ha, Breath of Life live show featuring a huge cast of dancers and (the highlight for us) fire jugglers.  The storyline was impossible to follow, as a Polynesian family transits from one island to another.  The storyline wasn’t that important however, as it was really about the various acts.

You aren’t allowed to take pictures during the show, so these are ones I found online.

We were in the second row, so we had a great view of the entire show.

The next day we got up early to head to Hunauma Bay for some snorkeling.  We were worried that the crowds would be heavy on a Saturday morning, but we really didn’t feel crowded.  We rented snorkeling gear and had a really good time seeing the sea life up close and personal.

Panoramic view of Hunauma Bay
Candidates for Jaques Custeau’s next television special

Hunauma Bay is a wildlife preserve, and it is full of sea life.  We even got to see a seal that was sunning himself on the beach.

A seal on the beach
Looking at descriptions of the different fish in the bay so we could identify what we saw.
All of us at Hunauma Bay

You enter Hunauma Bay from up top and then walk down tot he beach.  From this view you can see how the bay was once the caldera of a volcano, but part of it has eroded away.

The bay from up top

After snorkeling we went back to the Hale Koa to rest and then got two hours of surfing lessons on Waikiki.

Surfing lessons with Trevor
Surfer girl Sammy
Tom, Sam, and Trevor

We didn’t get any pictures of any of us up on the board.  We were at least a quarter mile out (quite a swim!!), and they wanted $50 per person to provide a photographer.

Sam and Tom after surfing.

After a tiring day, we went back to the hotel and cleaned up for dinner.  We went to a local place, called The Goofy Cafe, for Mahi Mahi.  The food was great.  After dinner we walked to a local ice cream parlor and had ridiculously large ice cream desserts.

The next day we got up early to check out of the Hale Koa and head to Honolulu airport for a flight to the big island.

Last panoramic view of Waikiki from our hotel balcony
Arriving at the big island of Hawaii

After getting our rental car a the Hilo airport we drove to a farmer’s market outside town where we hand a nice lunch and picked up a bunch of fresh, local produce.  This was to make salad with our dinner in our cabin.  We then drove to Volcano National Park, took in the victor’s center, and checked into our cabin at the Kilauea Military Camp, inside the national park.


On the way from Hilo to our cabin we stopped at a grocery store to buy stuff for dinner, breakfast, and lunch. We had to stop and take a picture of the spam aisle.
The entrance to Volcano National Park
A view of the Kilaueau Military Camp
Our cabin has a nice back porch.

This is a military camp, so it has a theater, PX, several places to eat, a recreation center, and a six-lane bowling alley.  We made quesadillas with two different flavors of spam (jalapeño and garlic) and then went to bowl.

After two games of bowling, Sam and Tom played pool in the recreation center.  We capped off the evening with some fresh watermelon and mango from the farmer’s market and a couple of mai tais.