Low Down, Royal Summit Runnin', and First Happenings

So the low down on what I’m doing this summer. I’ll be working for HYCC again, but as a team leader and on the island of Maui. Another team leader and I will be guiding a group of 3 guys and 4 girls, between the ages of 15 and 17. We’ll be going to a different site every week to learn about conservation. Last time I did this, as a team member, it involved a lot invasive species removal, trail maintenance, and erosion control. It’ll likely be the same thing this summer, but much more remote and intensive. We’ll be camping Monday through Friday for six weeks on Maui. I can’t wait! This coming week, I’ll on on Oahu doing team leader training, and the week after that I’ll be on Oahu again to do team training with all the teams from all the islands. It’s gonna be a great summer, seeing some amazing places that the public doesn’t often get the opportunity to visit.

Today I’ve just been running around, getting everything ready and visiting family. I got to go on a run early this morning behind my auntie’s house. There is a trail back there that a friend and I happened upon about 6 years ago. I biked on it a lot the last summer I was here. It’s basically a big loop that goes up the ridge auntie lives on, up to a peak and down the other next ridge, into a neighborhood. It’s about 8 miles of steep up and then really steep down. The trail is completely remote, with no signs of humans except for a couple powerline towers. Today was the first time I ran it and it was a blast! The weather was perfect, just overcast and early enough to not get burnt. Over the course of the run I saw some people sitting on adjacent ridges, but couldn’t figure out what they were doing. As I was finally descending the other side, I saw a pick up truck with a big cage in the back…must have be running boars or something. I kept running, thinking that it’d be wise to wear brighter clothes next time, instead of black shorts…getting mistaken for a pig wouldn’t be good for my health. Descending the now double track trail, I spotted a neatly stacked pile of wood in the trees. I continued on, realized shortly after that it was definitely a berm. I went back to check it out and stumbled upon Brett from the Coast Guard building the back half of a dirt jump in what was already at least a mile of berms, table tops, and jumps winding through strawberry guava trees. It was amazing! He said a bunch of people ride there but he was basically the sole builder. Man did I pick a summer not to bring a bike. I wish I still had this beast:

We talked for a while about riding and whatnot and then I continued on with the end of the loop. I came out of the neighborhood and as I was running on the sidewalk, I stepped on something hard and round, almost rolling my ankle. I turned around and it was an avocado! From an avocado tree that was hanging over the sidewalk! I know where I’m going tonight! The rest of the day was spent doing errands and visiting cousins. I’m going with my auntie and uncle to a graduation party in a couple minutes. A friend of theirs I guess. Uncle says there’ll be a bar so I’m thinking it can only be so bad, haha!


On the Move

What a great start to my summer adventures! My travel from Gainesville to Oahu was much more interesting than normal. I stayed up all night on the 3rd, seeing the last of some close friends for a couple months. All nighters in such fashion are always well-worth it, but this one left me more exhausted than usual! The crisp early morning hour of 3am came around and I said my last goodbyes. Now, normally I could find a ride to the airport, but everyone seems to have beat me out of town this summer! With no ride, a shuttle seemed the only option. I’d never taken one before, it was $62 one way, I wouldn’t have to worry about parking or gas…it would’ve been an appealing option had it not been a necessity.

Me mum took me to the pickup site on campus around about 3:30. Dead on time arrived a blacked-out brick of a bus, brakes squealing to a halt. Another guy and I were greeted by the driver whose name I have no recollection of, but I found myself referring to him as Willy in my head over the next two hours. He was an older, rotund black man who at first and only glance appeared to be missing all four front, top teeth. I challenged Willy’s early morning cheeriness with a happy hello and how are you, and he responded in kind, flashing a toothless smile and beckoning us aboard. I liked Willy then, rare to find someone that excited at that hour. We boarded the rectangle (in the strictest sense of the shape…it was similar to the dimensions of a book, traveling with the title facing forward), finding just one other passenger, and were quickly off.

Campus speed limits must have kept Willy’s normal driving demeanor disguised. Once these signs were shed and we entered the realm of 70+ mph on the Interstate, it became really apparent that I wasn’t about to catch any sleep on this transit. As I was fiddling with my iPod (and finally fixing a connection problem that’s been around for months woohoo!) I became aware that every 2-3 seconds, I was forcefully swayed a good 30 degrees to either side of my normally upright seated position. Willy was swerving between the reflectors in our lane for no reason; no traffic, no other cars, no bad weather. I watched one of the other passengers in front of me shift from his original seat where his view of the road was obscured, to one where he could see what was going on. I then exchanged fearful glances with the other guy next to me. Pinball William bounced back and forth like this, frequenting the rumble strips and other people’s lanes often, for a solid two hours. Better than coffee for waking yourself up, hahaha! Maybe it was something that’s never happened to Willy before, maybe there was wind? Who knows, but I can say we were all pawing at the door when we arrived at MCO.

Here’s a little glimpse of the ride:

The ghoulish silhouette outlined to the left is Willy, I’m sure grinning maniacally, white hands gripping the reigns to his terror machine.

I was the last one off the bus thing and dished out a meager $4 tip to Willy, for the intact and punctual arrival and maybe a cup o’ joe for his drive home. I boarded the flight uneventfully, and sat in for a beautiful ride with three seats to myself and gorgeous sunrises, heading for LA.

I did something a bit different than normal and opted for an 8 hour layover before leaving Cali for Hawaii. It turned out to be a great decision. I left LAX and jumped on a bus heading towards the Getty Museum, to find out that I only brought big bills…no ones. I expected everyone on the bus to start getting antsy about me delaying their early morning commute to work, but much to my surprise, no one cared. In fact, the bus driver offered to just let me on for free. Before I could bashfully accept the offer, David, a tall scruffy man with seafoam green scrubs covering what appeared to be a jumpsuit made entirely of denim, thrust a single into my hand. I reluctantly accepted his generous offer, vowed to pay it forward, and sat down next to him. We small talked (the smallest talk some may say) about the bus route and LA until he got off. These first interactions set the tone for a great jaunt through the city of angels. Thanks David and other bus people!

So heading towards the Getty Museum, I dismounted the bus in what has proven to be my normal, nervous fashion for public transportation: way way too many stop too early. But it wasn’t bad, I just got to walk for a couple miles to get to a place that I could basically throw a rock at, but instead had to walk to a tunnel under the highway to hike up some stairs, to take a monorail back over to the museum. This is definitely a city built for driving. The Getty is known for architecture and gardening, I was told by another lady on the bus. It had both of those things. Really pretty, but kind of spacious to the point of empty. That’s about it though, here are some pictures of the prettier things:

Fancy architecture.

Gorgeous floral arrangements abound.

I decided I needed to head back to the airport but got distracted at the bus stop by some Canadian lady, and ended up getting on the wrong bus. This one still went to LAX, but just took a different route. It ended up going down Montana (drive, boulevard, who knows?), which was described by this dude I bought a candle from as pretty “upity.” Indeed, everyone was suddenly driving around in Maseratis and Porsches, and looked like they belonged in insert drama sitcom here. But a nice area nonetheless. I was advised by candle man to get to the beach before my flight. I crudely calculated my time and decided to make the long walk. Here’s what I found. A view of the ocean I’d be flying over. The same one I’ll be enveloped by for the coming months. It was gorgeous.

I upped the pace, after deciding that my rough calculations were completely wrong and I was gonna be cutting this one close. I boarded the Metro City Line 3, just in time to pick up and drop off every school child in the beach-side LA area. After an hour and a half of stop-go, we made it to LAX at 4pm, my flight boarding at 4:10. Although we were at LAX, the shuttle had a massive U shaped road to travel to make it to my terminal 7, starting at terminal 1. I asked the lady commanding the shuttle what she thought about running it and she said she wouldn’t. I was ready to miss my flight, when another guy stepped up and asked the same question. Strength in numbers. Before I knew it we were both running up four flights of stairs, over a bridge, through two parking lots, down stairs, dodging 8 lanes of traffic, swing on vines over pits of alligators…you get the idea. Somewhere in the mix, I lost my friend, considered turning back…but no…it was too late. He would have wanted it that way. In the end, I was the last to board the flight! Sighs of relief were aplenty.

Landed in Honolulu, greeted by my beloved Auntie Nora the Great and Uncle Ice Cool Calvin, and was taken over to the get some delicious Mahi plus veggies. Ooooh it was just what I needed. Now I’m all settled into the house for the relaxing weekend ahead, and more ready than ever for some horizontal shut eye.


A Quick Recap, the 707 Dispersal, and Summer Plans

Hey y’all! I’m back after a while of not posting. I finished out the Spring semester strong with something I haven’t accomplished since 8th grade…straight A’s! It was a real rewarding way to finish out four years of college, the first three years of which I managed to slide by not caring much at all about grades…not the proudest three years of my life for sure. Now that all of that school stuff is out of the way and summer is in full swing, I’ve got some adventures to share!

First things first, we’re moving out of 707. The most beautiful three years of my life so far have been spent living with my two closest friends and brothers, in a house just around the corner from UF. For those of you that we were fortunate enough to spend our time with in this house, you know how much it meant to us and the people around us. It’ll be the end of an era. One for the books. That’s about all I need to say about that here.

All of the next-step excitement and parting sentiment has brought about their fair share of adventures now and to come. Nick KG is currently car tripping around the NE, visiting friends and farms, and enjoying some well-deserved time off. Kai has graduated and is off to Africa with an old friend to go catch some of the World Cup and volunteer in Ghana. They are both going to have some amazing summers, not to mention lives. Fellas, I’ll miss you. For now.

As for me, I’ve secured a job with Hawaii Youth Conservation Corps for the second summer. I worked with them two summers ago and kept a journal blog to update friends and family. I’ll be heading back from June to July to be a team leader this time, and I’d like to keep you guys in the loop about all that’s happening. After all, most of you guys who’ll be reading this have supported me immeasurably. This summer wouldn’t be possible without you! Full details to come…

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