Super Surprising Valentine

Valentine’s Day around our house isn’t a super-romantic holiday, but Manina usually does fun things for our kids to let them know we love them.

This year started with a yummy breakfast of homemade waffles, strawberries, and buttermilk syrup. And it wouldn’t only get better.

That evening we had the sister missionaries over for heart-shaped pizzas and salad. After they left, Manina handed out a little treat bag with a pretty big surprise inside. You see, we stumbled across a smoking deal on airline tickets to Maui (only $320 round trip!) and decided to take our entire family on a trip! We had been keeping it a secret for a few weeks and Manina could hardly wait to tell the kids. She couldn’t sleep the night before Valentine’s Day because she was so excited.

Here is what the gift looked like:

And here is the reaction from the kids:

We are so excited to go back to the Aloha state and bring our kids with us this time. Obviously, they’re pretty excited too. Maui, here we come!


Fall Dodgers Trip

My brother Matt lives in sunny Long Beach. He managed to talk me and Dad into coming down to watch a Dodgers game. Dad and I found flights for about $160 and headed out on Sunday, Sep 24.

The flight was a piece of cake and Matt met us at the Long Beach airport and took us to his house.

We had considered going to see an LA Rams game that day, but Dad was opposed to supporting anything related to the NFL due to the recent trend of protesting by kneeling during the National Anthem. So we hung out at Matt’s that morning.

As we headed out to lunch, Dad took his pills and apparently mixed them up because when we got to Seal Beach he wasn’t doing so great. When he started eating the chips and salsa and then the paper from the basket that it came in, we knew we were in trouble. He’d taken an Ambien by mistake. So we headed back to Matt’s to sleep it off.

Later that evening after Dad had somewhat recovered, we went out to dinner at a cool place called Tantalum, right on the water in Long Beach.

Uncle Steve had booked us a hotel in downtown LA, just to be nice. Matt decided to stay behind at his home in Long Beach, so Dad and I set off to the hotel. That turned out to be a great misadventure for several reasons. First we went to the wrong hotel. Once we got to the right hotel our room keys didn’t unlock our door. Security couldn’t get in either. So they gave us another room. The problem with that room was that it wasn’t very accessible. But, we were too tired to fight it. So we crashed there for the night and decided to check out a day early and head back to Matt’s and crash there.

So Monday morning we got up, ate breakfast and then cruised around downtown LA for just a bit before heading back to Long Beach for the rest of the day.

Dad and Matt watched a movie and then Dad wanted to stay behind and take a little nap. Matt and I headed out to go fishing off the pier, but then decided to go kayaking around Naples Island instead. It was cool cruising around the canals and looking at all the beautiful homes and boats. I got a pretty good thumb blister from having to paddle into a headwind all the way back while Matt allegedly “took a customer call” but it was worth it.

We collected Dad and headed to grab some pizza at one of Matt’s favorite places. I couldn’t help but be reminded of my grandpa Elwyn Johnson who was also known as “Big E”.

Then it was time to finally get to the entire reason for the trip, going to watch a Dodgers game. The Dodgers had already clinched their division and this was one of their final games of a great regular season. It was also a great night for a ball game, so we were in good spirits.

We had good, wheelchair-accessible seats out in the right field bleachers.

The Dodgers played well, jumping out to an early lead over the San Diego Padres. We left the game early because neither Matt nor Dad could sit in the same place for very long. But we had a good time and the Dodgers ended up winning handily.

Before flying on on Tuesday morning, we decided to try a breakfast place that Matt had never been to, but was fairly close to his house. It was a great way to end the trip.

Solo Summit of Mount Nebo

I thought I had a free pass for the day, so I took off to hike Mount Nebo all by myself on Saturday.

It was a beautiful day for a hike. The weather was awesome, but the trail wasn’t super busy. I passed a few groups here and there, but I walked for miles without seeing another soul. Nebo apparently gets much less traffic than Timpanogos. Maybe because Nebo is significantly steeper.

When I reached the summit, I ate one of my sandwiches, snapped a quick photo, and began the descent. Not much reason to hang out for too long at almost 12,000 ft.

I took two liters of water, a couple PB&J sandwiches and a couple snacks figuring it would take me about 4 hours. I was wrong. I definitely could have used another liter of water. I drank my last drop with more than a mile to go and was quite thirsty by the time I got back to civilization.

I recorded the hike using a new cool tool called GaiaGPS, which is a great backcountry mapping app I used on my iPhone to make sure I didn’t have a misadventure like when the family attempted Ding & Dang.

Nebo has been on my list since a few of my college roommates did it without me one Saturday many years ago. It was nice to check that one off and spend a beautiful day in the Utah backcountry.

2017 Spring Break – Kanab

For the last few days of Spring break we traveled down to Kanab, Utah. We drove down on Wednesday and drove back on Saturday, so it was a relatively quick trip, but we packed as much fun as we knew how into those few days. We traveled with the Rowberrys and the Jensen families and had a lot of fun together. Here are a few of our highlights from the weekend:

Wire Pass & Buckskin Gulch slot canyons

This was a pretty busy trailhead, lots of cars. The slot was really cool and had a tricky obstacle that required help for just about everyone.

We continued to Buckskin gulch, which is a very long slot canyon. Unfortunately, because of the heavy rains earlier in the week it was still pretty wet. So we couldn’t go very far down Buckskin before we ran into knee-deep water. We turned around and went upstream for a while, walking in the mud and looking for pockets of quicksand.

On the way back through Wire Pass I had to help several groups come up the main obstacle. I was pretty sore from helping pull people up by the hand.

Glen Canyon Dam

After the slot canyons we decided to go see the Glen Canyon dam. We spent some time in the visitor center and walking out on the bridge. It was pretty impressive.

Red Canyon slot from Peekaboo trail head

Right at the last minute, we decided to bring along Greg’s 4-wheelers to maybe help get us to the trailhead. We were very glad that we did. The road was pretty deep and sandy, and about 2 miles to get to the start of the slot canyon. It wasn’t a well-marked road, so after a few wrong turns we finally got there. Once we all arrived, we spent just a short amount of time in the slot. It wasn’t a long one and ends in a 20-foot high obstacle. But the colors and patterns and terrain were impressive. We passed several official tour guides taking groups there.

Best Friends Animal Sanctuary

We stopped by here late in the afternoon right as they were closing. However, Manina talked to the right lady, who arranged a mini-walking tour for us. The older teenagers were throwing some serious attitude, but were quickly won over. All the kids liked seeing the horses (especially the smiling one), the pigs, deer, and turkey. The people there were super nice and welcoming.

Goodfellow House

Manina found a good deal on VRBO, so we stayed at this house in Kanab. It smelled like mothballs (but it wasn’t mothballs, it was made with railroad ties). The Rowberry and Jensen families joined us, so the kids had lots of fun. We all have kids around the same ages, so they had a lot of fun together.

The house had a pool and a hot tub, but neither were officially opened. That didn’t stop the kids from jumping in.

Lots of good food

We took turns cooking dinners and also had a big combined breakfast. We were in charge of pizzas on the BBQ grill, which turned out great.

Bruce Jensen employed his new smoker ahead of time and we had delicious pulled pork dinner on Thursday night.

Rowberrys did a Mexican night. At no point did anyone want for food.


Kauai: Travel Tips

We had a wonderful time in Kauai. We loved the beaches. The catamaran tour was unbelievable. The hikes we did were lots of fun, and so were the surfing lessons. But, there was still plenty of other things worth remembering and a few things to do differently the next time we get a chance to visit Kauai.

Places to stay

Our first few days we stayed up north in Princeville in a great condo. It was a great find. The owner had just remodeled and was looking for some tenants who could provide good reviews. The price was very reasonable and we liked being up north for the first few days of our trip.

During the second half of the week, we stayed in Kapa’a. It was an AirBnB, which was a pretty nice little unit, but the location wasn’t very nice. We were right off the main highway and then out the back gate was a boat launch / homeless person hangout.

There wasn’t a whole lot to do in Kapa’a, most people either go south or go north. They had a cool bike path, but other than that, there wasn’t a ton to do around Kapa’a.

I actually liked splitting up our trip into two different places to stay, but next time I would avoid Kapa’a. Stay near Poipu down south for half the time and then up north for the other half.


We almost cheaped out and just got the base rental car, and I’m so glad that we did not. We shopped around a bit, paid just a little extra and rented a convertible Mustang. It was totally worth it. We loved putting the top down and driving around the island. A small SUV or Jeep would also have been a good choice.


Food on the island was just OK, and quite expensive. We ate at only a couple places worth their cost and worth writing about. The food truck up in Hanalei was good.

Duke’s was amazing. It was pretty expensive, but we got there early and got a great table overlooking the beach and the food was great. Totally worth the time and the cost.

The Dolphin in Hanalei was also excellent. We got there later in the evening and the wait was still long, but the food was good. The sushi was excellent. I ordered the Hanalei roll and thoroughly enjoyed it.

We also looked for any excuse to stop and try a shave ice. My favorite included some macadamia nut ice cream, but your mileage may vary. Better to try different flavors and styles at each place you pass just to make sure you get a wide variety and can narrow down your favorite.


We were bummed that the day we went out to see the Wailua lighthouse it was closed. It was on a Tuesday or Wednesday, so check a guidebook or call ahead. We had seen some whales out near the lighthouse from afar from when we had gone to Secret Beach, but we didn’t ever get out onto the peninsula to where the lighthouse was to get a closer look.

While down exploring Poipu and the surrounding area we stopped by to see the Spouting Horn blowhole. It was pretty busy with tourist busses stopping by and there was a bunch of pop-up tourist-trap shops to fight through, but it was pretty cool to see the waves come in and force their way up through the blowholes. The seas were pretty calm on the day we were there, so this wasn’t crazy explosive.

We didn’t get enough time exploring Waimea Canyon. We’d planned to do a few hiking trails up in the canyon, but the one time we drove up there, a pretty nasty storm blew in, so we headed back to sunny Poipu.

Next time we’re there

Get an earlier arriving flight. Our flight didn’t arrive until about 10pm, so it was pretty much drive to the condo and head right to bed. I think the ideal thing would be to arrive on the island earlier, mainly to load up on groceries and supplies at Costco and Walmart before heading up north to our accomodations.

We had some friends kayak to the Wailua waterfall and highly recommended it. Definitely on our short list for the next time we visit lovely Kauai.