Hello readers, this is Alexei.

Never in a million years did I think mom would ask me to write an entry for her blog. Turns out I couldn’t have been  more wrong. I can’t quite picture myself being one to gossip about inappropriate beach wear, discussing the best spa treatments (everyone knows the answer to that is the hot stone massage), and I certainly refuse to partake in shopping for new art and carpet for the condo… that’s my parents job. Fortunately for me, I instead got to play golf this vacation, and a lot of it. Even though my game was not in tip-top form, I was still able to enjoy it… most of the time.

I have played my fair-share of courses on the island, so here is an abridged version of the courses I’ve either heard of or played sometime in the past.

Ka’anapali: They have two courses, the Royal and the Kai which stretch from our condo complex all the way to Whalers village. I have never played either of these courses mainly because of the ridiculous price for two courses that look like a bad muni ($235 for the Royal and $195 for the Kai), and the fact that any stray hook or slice (depending on which side of the highway you are on) will result in a 10 car pileup. I wonder if that would constitute a free drop?

The best part of this golf “resort” is their driving range package deals. They sell 6 or 10 bucket packages with the 10 costing $65 and the 6 around $40. They are open from sunrise to sunset, however they do close the range from 12-1 and whenever they need to retrieve the balls (the cart doesn’t have a metal cage). Note: If you drive longer than 250 yards, you won’t be able to use your driver on the range without the guy in the shack freaking out. I’ve found sticking with the 9-iron keeps you out of trouble.

Kapalua: High handicappers beware, the Plantation course will tear you to pieces. This course has got it all: high winds, frequent rain showers, plenty of weeds and places to get into trouble, and menacing greens. Although, I would expect nothing less from the course that hosts the annual Mercedes Championship. I was lucky enough to play this course 6 years ago, and my most vivid memory was having to go into the pro shop after 9 holes to buy more balls for myself and my dad… it was that bad. I could probably manage it now, but that is after many, many lessons and 2 years of high school golf. I have not had a chance to play the other two courses, the Village and the Bay (I assume they are easier than the Plantation).

Pukalani Country Club: Don’t be fooled by the “country club” facade, as this is just your typical municipal course. At 80 dollars, it is not terribly cheap, but still good value for the money… or so it used to be.  It’s a good course to visit if you’re new to golf, or not at the top of your game.  Beware – there are a lot of hacks on this course, and if you get behind a foursome enjoying way to many adult beverages, you could be in for a very long day.

Dunes at Maui Lani: I have not had a chance to play this course, but from what I can see from the highway, it looks pretty nice. I’ve heard from sources that it’s a relatively easy course.  Yeah, I’ve heard that before.  Still, I look forward to playing it at some future date.

That is all for now. Stay tuned for other course reviews.

There is never a shortage of things to do on Maui.  In the more than 25 years that we’ve been coming regularly to the Ka’anapali/Lahaina area, we’ve done a whole bunch of things that appealed to our interests.  Please note each title is a link to the adventure described.

Atlantis Submarine – this is the only one that actually submerges.  It goes down to the bottom of the channel and you can see incredible marine life.  They bought the old Carthagininan sloop a few years ago and scuttled it in the middle of the channel.  It is now a reef, and home to a variety of endangered marine species, all under the watchful eye of the University of Hawaii marine biology department.  Very cool, and worth every penny of the $100 or so per person to go and see.

Reefdancer Yellow Submarine – it’s more of a glass-bottomed boat that floats around off the coast and in the harbor, but if you don’t want to submerge, or are claustrophobic, it’s a good way to see some of the marine life that lives close to the coastline.

Jet Skiing – Alexei does this at least once every time he comes here.  They start from a public park just before the Ka’anapali complex.  Pontoon boats take you out to a floating wharf, and there you pick up the jet skis.  You can reserve either 30 minutes or one hour and off you go.  There is a course you’re restricted to, but it is challenging – especially when the trade winds are blowing, and the ocean is a bit choppy.  Beware – you WILL hurt the next day!

ATV – this is a huge favorite of ours.  You are taken by van into the hills above Lahaina, and shown to your 3-person ATV.  The course they take you on is challenging, and the views are amazing.  The dust kicked up is even more epic.  We rented camoflage clothing from them (highly recommend that!) and they supply the helmets, goggles and bandanas that you wrap around your face.  At the top of the course, they have some crude waterslides that go into a natural pond.  Great for the 7-9 age group, but no great shakes for adults.  If you don’t have kids, take the ATV only tour.  It’s better.  One last word of warning – wear clothes you don’t want to keep.  The dust will NOT come out of anything you wear.  You will also be cleaning dirt out of your ears for about a week.

America II – for those who love sailing, they’ve taken one of the racing yachts used in one of the America’s Cup several years ago, shortened the mast, and turned it into a daily performance sailing experience.  For those of you who love to sail, this is amazing.  They amble out into the channel, get into the 6 foot waves and higher trade winds by Molokai, and put up the sails.  The boat immediately goes sideways, and you FLY through the waves, grinning hugely.  It was the MOST fun of anything I’ve done here, but I love to sail.   Alexei and Vlad were severely  traumatized, and refuse to go on any boats now as a result.  Wimps.

Haleakala – the drive up to the crater is beautiful, and the views once you get up there are really something to see.  There are a few options, depending on your tolerance for exercise and sleeping patterns.   If you like bike-riding, taking the 4am shuttle up the mountain on one of the bike tours and then riding down the mountain right after sunrise is a true experience.  If you are really lucky, the Travel Gods will put in a good word for you with the Weather Gods, and you might even get a day without too much cloud cover obscuring the views.  If not, the pink glow that is all around you through the clouds at sunrise is also a nifty thing to see.   If you do take the bike trip, please be careful.  The road can be very dangerous and every year a few tourists don’t make it down the mountain in the way they originally expected.   If you don’t like bike riding, and aren’t too keen on sunrises, driving up the mountain on your own is nice as well.   Just be very careful of all the bikers when you’re driving up and down the mountain.

Snorkeling at Molokini – This is something great to do once, and is usually done the first time you visit Maui.  You go on a catamaran from Ma’alena, and speed out to the small atoll between Maui and Kahoolawe.  There you will see a lot of beautiful fish, several turtles, and if you’re really lucky, some dolphins feeding.  The boat captains are usually very amusing.  The one my brother and his family took said at the beginning of the boat ride that if you were wearing a speedo, you didn’t get lunch unless you said “Go Bears”.   Although I sympathize with the sentiment, I’m not sure I would say that to paying customers, but hey – this is Maui!

The Road to Hana.  OK – we really got bit on this one, I must confess.   Perhaps it’s because I get car sick, or perhaps because when I spend 4 hours in a car I like there to be something really worth while seeing at the other end of the trip.     As it was, we visited the 7 pools, or 7 puddles, as it really should be named, thinking it would at least be worth the drive.   The Travel Gods were really laughing that day.  The drive would be somewhat nice, it is rather pretty, but it’s very, very crowded, and you really creep along at 10 miles per hour, breathing in the exhaust of all the cars in front of you.  Add to that a dearth of rest-stops, and you have an experience that may not be what you want.  Those t-shirts with “I survived the Road to Hana” aren’t referring to the road – they’re referring to all the people who were stuck in a car filled with kids in the back seat for 6 hours and ended up not going insane.

Whale Watching – Whale watching is in the winter.  In the summer, the whales are in the northern pacific.  If you’re here in the winter, you can’t miss any of the dozens of whale watching expeditions that leave from just about every spot that boats can put into.   Be careful which one you choose – there are a lot of scams out there.  Talk to the concierge of your hotel to get recommendations.

Parasailing – this is available primarily in the resort areas of Maui – Wailea, Hana, Ka’anapali and Kapalua, but may not be everyone’s cup of tea.  That said, being strapped into a harness and towed behind a boat while flying in the air for 10 minutes may appeal to a good many readers of this  blog, and be worth the $125 that you would spend.  If you’re afraid of heights, or don’t like getting wet, you may want to skip this activity.  I will say, it is beautifully quiet up there, and it certainly is nice to get a great view of Maui.

Ziplining – If you have children under 10, you won’t be able to bring them to this extremely fun activity.  If you have older children, or are traveling sans enfants, this is one activity you should not miss.   It’s exciting to go speeding along above the vegetation, and the thrills are awesome.   There are a few places scattered throughout the island that do this along the mountains. Check with your concierge to find the nearest facility.

Horseback riding – There are several outfits that take groups in various areas on the island.  I can recommend riding in upcountry Maui or in the Kapalua areas.  Horses can go places where most wheeled vehicles can’t and if you’re into nature, plants and incredible volcanic formations, I recommend this activity.  They can usually take children over 7, so it can be a good activity with your youngsters.

Booze cruises –  These sunset cruises usually feature incredible sunset pictures along with loud music, mediocre appetizers (sometimes  dinner), pedestrian alcohol and really bad wine.   There are a couple of up-market cruises out there that have decent food and wine that won’t give you a headache, but they are pricey.  Do your research before selecting one of these cruises.  Your stomach will be glad you did.  Word of warning -if you get seasick, don’t take one of these cruises.  Please.

Golf – Maui is a golfer’s paradise, but this activity is not one in which I can comment with any authority.  My son Alexei did the entries here on golf, being our family enthusiast.  Read his entries under Golf in my categories to the right.

Whatever you end up deciding to do, bring sunscreen, a hat, a camera and your enthusiasm.  It’s a lot of fun.  Enjoy!

It was our first day on Maui, and the Travel Gods  already scored their first point on this vacation.

At Kahului Airport’s baggage claim, Alexei and I retrieved our two suitcases, and Alexei’s golf clubs. We were rolling them along to get to the rental cars when some dude failed to estimate the amount of effort he needed to expend pulling his suitcase off the carousel. He fell backwards, breaking his fall on Alexei’s suitcase. The dude was OK, but the suitcase handle snapped off, thereby rendering it useless. One point for the Travel Gods.

Our first stop after picking up the rental car was now the Kahului Costco, to replace the damaged suitcase. The Costco Experience always reminds me of that scene from Spaceballs where Mel Brooks as Yogurt talks about the importance of ‘moichandizing’. You know, Spaceballs-The-Lunchbox – Spaceballs-The-Flamethrower – and so on. We spent a few minutes wandering around like lost souls before we found Kirkland-The-Suitcase. After signing the adoption papers, it became a part of our family. Problem solved.

Take that, Travel Gods. We’re not going to let this get us down. Not here.

On our drive to our condo, Alexei plugged his iPhone into the car stereo so we could relax to some nice music. As we rounded the corner to the oceanfront highway and the views of deep blue ocean shading to bright turquoise, our chosen selection was Handel’s Water Music. Breathe….. Breathe……

Ah the lovely waterfront in Lahaina...

By this time we were starving. Our first tradition, after dropping our stuff off in our condo is to immediately head to Lahaina and lunch at Kimo’s for their incredible fish tacos. Sitting on the patio with the waves gently breaking below the railing is the best way we’ve been able to find to start the de-stressing process. Ahhhhh. Lahaina……

Dinner that night is another tradition. We always go to the Hula Grill Barefoot Bar at Whaler’s Village. Their crab and macadamia nut wontons are the stuff of legend. I’ve never been able to replicate the soy-mustard dipping sauce, but it has to be the yummiest decongestant ever invented. Listening to the Hawaiian slack guitar music, sipping a Plantation Lemonade, and watching the moonlight playing on the ocean in the background is the perfect way to start a vacation.

Sunset view at the Hula Grill.

Mahalo, Travel Gods – The game’s not over yet.

Few things can throw women into a tailspin more than shopping for a swimsuit. 100 years ago it was simple. A nice little cami and some poofy knickers with stockings were the going thing. You could hide a lot in one of those little numbers. Top it off with a fetching cap with a bow, and you were ready for the beach.

Now, fashion has decreed that it’s all out there to be seen. No mystery, no hiding little imperfections – hey, no hiding ANYTHING. Anyone who’s been to a beach lately knows just how bad people can look in the Wrong Suit.

Hence my stress.

Going through my options prior to my Maui trip, I stopped to ponder this bit of life’s unfairness. What will work with my middle-aged body? Being in the middle of a bad case of menopause, seeing myself in one of this year’s swimsuits is a whole new experience in angst. I kept thinking “when did THIS happen?”. Not that I ever got an answer, mind you…..

Swimsuit manufacturers make their suits for teens and twenty-somethings that anyone over 30 looks terrible wearing. Then they make some suits for people who are over 80, with industrial-strength underwires and unflattering flower prints in chartreuse and electric blue. There is nothing in between. Women of ‘a certain age’ are a large segment of the discretionary income market, and I would think designers would fall all over themselves to tap into a group of people who have money to spend. I was ready to drop some serious cash per suit, if it fit and looked good.  Silly me.

I’m not asking for much. An age-appropriate suit needs to cover much of the bust in a flattering and supportive way. Nice colors that can be found in nature, with a little fun embellishment would be good too. Add a little tummy control to cover that small bump caused by childbearing that only goes away with surgery, and women will flock to your racks in the store. A short, flirty skirt is not only flattering, but for those of us over 50, it’s a public service.   Why does this combination not exist in this year’s collection?   The designers must be men.

After all the angst, I’ve decided to stick with 2 suits I already have, done by designers who really understand the lucrative boomer target market. They were expensive, but worth every $$$$, and I hope they’ll live for a few more years.

I’ve reallocated my swimsuit budget this year to spa treatments. After all this stress, I need some pampering. And yes, I’m going to ROCK those suits at the beach.

I’m a big reader, as my friends and family well know. Growing up, the comment “get your nose out of that book and (insert chore here)” was the most common form of communication between Mom and me. Now that I’m an adult, I still hear that same phrase coming from my conscience whenever I sneak a few minutes on a weekend or evening after work to read a few chapters.

EXCEPT while on vacation. The voices are silent on Maui.  It’s one of the things that keeps me going back every other year to rest, recharge and generally get ready to survive another busy year.

With 8 hours of uninterrupted reading time, I can plow through at least one book a day and sometimes two. I emerge from the glorious day in the shade of the banyan tree or pool umbrella with a mind that is either wiped clean from a mindless piece of fluff, or enriched by something I’ve learned. Either way, I’m refreshed and ready to take on life again.

This trip was no exception. For 13 days on the beach of reading bliss, I ordered 15 mostly used books from Amazon. They’re a carefully selected mix of biographies (I still believe that if I can’t learn from my own life, maybe I can learn from someone else’s), historical novels, and the obligatory beachfluff.   I mentioned that on my Facebook status page, and had good friends and colleagues razz me for not having moved to a Kindle, Nook or iPad.  They all had various recommendations for me on the best e-reader for my needs.  Nope. I’m not ready for that yet.

There are 5 very salient reasons why I’m resisting the urge to go digital.

1. It’s very difficult to read electronic books in the sun or where there is a lot of glare. Yes, I’ve tested it. Until the technology is a bit better, I’m sticking with my anachronistic books.
2. This may sound silly, but I like the smell of books. Especially old books. It reminds me of the library where as a kid I spent so many hours on foggy summer days .
3. I love seeing all my books on the shelves in my library, and knowing I can walk up and choose the one I want. Yes, I do have a library at home, with shelves covering the walls. It’s my favorite room in the house.
4. I re-read books. Over and over, depending on what I’m in the mood for. If I had to search through a menu, it would drive me crazy.

But the most important reason –
5. I’m a klutz. I drop my books all the time – into water, off tables, desks, whatever.   If I ever had an electronic book in my hands at the beach or pool, the next sound you would hear would be bzzzzzz as it fries in some form of water.  Books eventually dry out.

Therefore, I can’t take a Kindle into the pool. But, I CAN take my book in with me. If you were on Maui over Labor Day, you couldn’t miss me – I was the one in the jacuzzi with my nose in a book that was still a bit wet from having been dropped a few times.

Every two years, my family gets together for a trip somewhere.  It all started in 1988 – –  My parents love Europe and decided that they wanted to take the whole  brood to France, England and Ireland for a couple of weeks.  Dad’s secretary did the planning, and all we had to do was show up.  We had a great time, and the Family Trip was created.

In later years, our Family Trip Plan was devised by  my dad, who would putter happily on the internet for months trying to find the perfect villa that will hold the whole brood, have a pool or lake, and a washing-machine.  Anything less is camping.   He’s retired, and can devote the time that’s necessary to the extensive planning and preparation that is needed for a fully-programmed trip for 8-10 people.

After one of those vacations, it usually takes us all some time to recover and earn enough miles for the freebie flights, so we decided to take a year off in between.  On these off years, Vlad, Alexei and I always spend a couple of weeks at my mother-in-law’s condo on Ka’anapali Beach on Maui.   It’s two weeks of no schedule whatsoever – kind of a reverse Family Trip.  It’s our Happy Place.

Last spring, I had the bright idea that since EVERYONE loves Hawaii, and the Pizarev Family Condo is in the great beachfront complex at Maui Ka’anapali Villas,  I thought it would be a good spot for the 2010 Gorry Family Trip.   In this family, having an idea means you immediately volunteer to chair the committee.

Dad took executive action and immediately abdicated all responsibility – correction – delegated all responsibility for the organization to me.  Since I have a more-than-full-time job, and he’s retired, I felt it was a bit unfair, but I’m perfectly trained and didn’t argue – much.    I therefore got the Joy and Pleasure of doing the planning – an exercise I feel  can only be described as Herding Cats.

As the family Cat-Whisperer, I have discovered that getting my cats to do what I want and go where I want them to go is far easier than organizing a Family Trip.  Everyone has their own issues, needs, wants and quirks, and sometimes you need a scorecard to keep up with everything.

Finding dates for the trip was the first issue. Bro the Attorney had a trial that was planned for this time.  He was hoping for a postponement, but couldn’t count on it.  He was literally at the Mercy of The Court.  I had an unexpected business trip to New York pop up the week I was planning to leave.  Vlad had important client meetings he couldn’t miss.  Alexei had summer school finals, and then his annual camping trip with his prep school buddies.  Mom had Altar Guild and various other volunteer commitments she couldn’t wiggle out of.  Sis-in-law was working on a new project, but said she could be flexible (she’s awesome!).  The Cutest Nephew in the World had a narrow window between summer camps ending and 2nd grade starting, but it wasn’t anything Sis-in-law couldn’t work around.

Sheesh.   I really wanted to work the trip around my Mom’s landmark birthday (she’d kill me if I said which one) so at least I had a final date to bludgeon the rest of the family with.  I decided we were going to all be there on Labor Day weekend, and everyone could arrive whenever they wanted – they just had to be there for the weekend.  I thought that was the easiest.  I threw it out there and crossed my fingers.

It worked – with only one small hitch.  Dad was trying for free mileage plane tickets, so he needed to book his flights quickly before they were all gone, or face flying from California to Maui via Chicago or Atlanta (honestly – those were options that came up!). As a result, I got daily phone calls from Dad asking me if I have ‘heard from my brother yet’ just adding to the fun. Amazing how the time-honored practice of throw-the-sibling-under-the-bus never goes away – no matter how old you get. I told Dad to call Bro himself and work it out…. and they did, to my great amazement.  Glad I wasn’t on that call.

Miraculously, we found a period that worked. The stars aligned, and the court postponed the trial. The 2010 Family Trip was on.   The only thing I REFUSED to do was plan what people would do each day.    I knew the lack of daily planning would make Dad break out in hives, but hey – it’s Hawaii!  I figured my cat-herding was over as soon as everyone’s flight was booked.   I can hear the Travel Gods snickering already.

Oh yeah – sorry, Bro for the bus-throwing, but I know you’d do the same to me. – Love ya, Sis.