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2011 July

Hawaii: You Should Go

On July 26, 2011, in Travel, by admin
The following is a post from a family vacation in Hawaii.  We posted as this was a great overview of the island and it’s charms
We had a great adventure in Maui this summer and I had been planning this trip ever since January to spring on my wife’s 50th birthday.  She does not look anywhere close to 50. I had thought about another Alaska cruise and then even entertained the cruise idea for Tahiti….but in the end just figured the logistics are hard enough and I didn’t want any “passport” or “customs” issues to worry about.  Also since the whole family is pretty healthy and we often take hikes , etc , there was only one way to do Maui and that is to be on the island and pick up several of the additional packaged side-trips offfered.
Yes, it was an expense be we had stayed in states last 3 years so this time I decided expense was a non-issue for this kind of trip.  Travelocity for 7 nights at Sheriton plus airfaire plus car for 7 days was $6200 for family of four and then the food and other trip expenses while there was about another $1500.  The positive was that I was able to prepay the core trip before we even left over the 4 months….so it was just pure good.
Day 1 – 5:30 am and routed from Indy to Dallas , picking up a mid morning flight from Dallas straight to Maui.  Got in Maui at about 3:30 pm which was really close to 10pm our indy time.  Tired as we were we, stopped in Lahaina safeway and actually picked up sandwich meat, bread, cereal and fruit, plus drinks so we wouldn’t have to alway go to restaurants….ps we never at at Sheriton since Lahaina was only 14 mins away and I had scoped out online numerous places for meals $20 strategically located near the tourist sites we would go to around the island.
Got into the Hotel and the first night they had us on an inside corner , low level, “ocean view” room but could only see some of the ocean and a little of Black Rock cliffs.  Room was spacious and we just roamed the grounds, hung out by pool and beach and just ate the groceries purchased.  Watched divers from Black Rock.
Day 2 – first thing I did was request from reservations if they had other “ocean view” class rooms.  Surprisingly they moved us up two floors plus out 4 rooms and that gave us total courtyard, beach, Black Rock, pool view —- same price but the rooom right next door would have been $30 more a night.(so a good resolution).  Traveled to Iao state park which is valley within mountainous terrain and gets rain 300 days a year.  Tall jagged peaks and streams usually with rain clouds touching top….sunny for us and we hiked some small trails.(this park is on the “head” portion of Maui east of where we stayed;  While Haleakela takes up most of the “body” land mass.  Had lunch at a deli/bakery near the park.  Awesome tuna sandwiches and pastries.  Had burgers near hotel and spent rest of day/eve swimming in beach and sunning around pool.  Night Cocktails by the many pools in eve.
Day 3 – Surprise #1 – I booked “Quicksilver” double decker huge boat for a snorkel trip out to Molokini island 9 miles off the coast.  This lasted from 7:30 to 3:30 and consisted of snorkeling the reef at molokini, breakfast and lunch (awesome grilled chicken and pork bbq sandwiches plus salads, etc.)  Then from Molokini we stopped at “Turtle Town” reef and were able to swim with 5ft diam. green see turtles.  they just glide past you like UFO’s.  not suppose to tough them but often nearly bumped into them they were 6 inches away.  Captain also gave us tour of south part of island showing celebs homes and we attempted looking for dolphins but none seen.  Day trip was fabulous.
That night we watched sunset at restaurant in Lahaina near beach then just had desert and cocktails at Hotel.   NOTE: surprisingly we pretty much were crashing every night at 10:30 since our days were full.
Day 4 – back to Lahaina,  The rest of the family hung out around Lahaina shops (Mango smoothies) and also the Banyan tree looking at crafters wares.  We also rented cheap snorkel gear and snorkeled just 10 and 20 yards along the black rock cliff in front of hotel.  Tons of colored fish just right there.  More cocktails and deserts at restaurant and just did jacuzi in eve around pool.
Day 5 – *I reallistically could have watch my wife die this day;  we headed out early for Road to Hana and stopped and hiked numerous trails along this narrow switchback road on north side of island.  Waterfalls, jungle rainforrest trails, surfers, bamboo forrests, – we had a great time and made it just outside of Hana to our next stop at a Black Lava Rock beach with lava tubes, etc.  Beautifull. Getting out of the car in the parking lot, Dana’s eyes popped out of her head and she gasped “I can’t breath”;  she had popped some Tylenol and the pill aspirated into her Laynx and Trachea causing massing laryngo-spasm and produced copious tenacous mucus.  She could barely breath in around it!  But I knew I had to keep her calm cause we were in a remote area and helicopter would have been only solution(ie. takes hours to drive the switchback road).  So I stayed calm and coached her to breath slow around it and occasionally use the force to clear her airway.  The pill was dissolved but the spasms where there for 2 more hours.  Only then I knew it was safe to drive back but she also could not swallow(ie. take water) and she was not fully recovered until about 14 hours later the next morning.  This is the second time such an event has happened and last time Alicia was in utero and Dana had to call ems to take her to hospital.  We at least did walk down to lava beach and walked through lava tubes.  Great pics you can see posted on the Snapfish invite.  This was almost total airway closure and not just Oh she choked on a pill.   Very Very scary.
Anyway, we were only 2 miles from Hana but had to drive back at 3:30,  didn’t get to hotel until about 8pm.
Day 6 – Surprise #2, went back to Lahaina for an awesome breakfast and then took mitch and alicia over to a private surfing lesson with Maui Wave Riders.  They had a blast and the instructor was great with alot of other people on the adventure.  Dana and I shopped some more around town.  Then we drove to another Bay area and went to an Aquarium with some great displays.  Later that afternoon, we snorkeled again near black rock and there were a cluster of 5 sea turtles eating algae on the rockes.  we swam right into the pod and were 6 inches again away just watching them eat and float around.  Went to a nearby fashion mall in Lahaina that night and they were having a free hula show with male and female dancers of all kinds in the open air mall so made for great free entertainment that night..
Day 7 – Drove up to Haleakela volcano, at 9am next day and were at 10000 ft , totally clear as we broke through cloud cover at 7000 feet.  Viewed the crater and could even see the silhouette of the big island 75 miles away.  Lounge by pool rest of day.
Next morning back to airport and took all night flight to get us in Dallas at 5:30 am – crap our flight was cancelled at 7:30 and we got bumped all day from each flight ….finally got on at 4:30 and back in home in indy at 8pm.   I called in sick the next day and took me day or two to recover. Note to readers:  we do not recommend you call in sick….I could get away with it, you likely, cannot.   ps. . I wont wait another 19 years to go back again.  Fantastic.
You need to go if you never have…….
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360 Vodka Review

On July 19, 2011, in Vodka Reviews, by admin

360 Vodka is reviewed today. Frankly, I am long overdue in providing this review of a most vibrant brands on the marketplace. I guess you can kind of gauge how this review will turn out, but read on anyway. 360 Vodka is manufactured in tiny Weston, Missouri. This town of less than 2,000 now boasts a vodka brand that has ridden the vodka popularity ride and has done a great job in the making. As you can see from the map below, the city is near Kansas City, and Levenworth, Kansas, with its prisons and military installations. The region near Weston is generally void of the hills of Missouri, the town itself is actually quite picturesque as it borders the Platte river, and the hills that the river basin has formed over the years.  This vodka is made from grain, and distilled, and filtered 5 times overall resulting in a taste that is clean and crisp, smooth, yet not too much so to leave itself in the pack as a a vodka imposter.  Lets face it, some of the allure of the taste of vodka that differentiates itself from other alcohol is its unique bite.

This 80 proof product (that’s 40% alcohol, and standard for most hard liquors) begins with a fairly instant and strong rush of that vodka push which I often refer to the chemical taste (that which a lot of drinkers cannot stand about vodka). The tastes rushes in with a blast, then slowly fades into a smoothness that leaves you actually appreciating it’s grain origins and multiple filtering process. While I cannot quite taste the difference this makes, the last filtering is through coconut shells….do not ask me how or the advantage. But the result is a very satisfying vodka that I prefer to drink over ice straight. For those of you who shy away from the strong rush of vodka but enjoy the overall taste, you should mix with a dash of water or pour over ice and let the ice melt a bit……of course, remember, all of my vodka drinks are served straight from the freezer, and great 360 should be no different.

Another interesting point of this vodka is the branding. First of all the pricing.  This is considered a ‘premium’ vodka by the marketplace.  It is priced lower than most of the premiums and those that have been reviewed in this site. It ranges from $35-40 generally all over for a 1.75 liter bottle (we only price 1.75 liters here, I mean, what the use of the smaller bottles anyway?). There are also deals out there to be had since this brand is less known to the masses.  But they are working hard on the branding from another approach. They present a very friendly image. Along those lines, they have positioned themselves as a ‘green’ vodka.  What this means is: Although they do not advertise using organic grain, they do emphasize recycling by donating $1 for every bottle cap contraption sent in. They donate it to a green cause, and their website Vodka360 (click here for website) boasts that they have donated over $50,000 for this cause for caplet contraptions sent in.  They even pay postage.  Couple that with a very cool, clean, no nonsense packaging, leads to a brand approach  that can work for you hippies of the world. No data is available if their marketing budget dollar spend is higher in places like Boulder, CO, Austin, TX, or the Bay Area.  Their website has a list of stores.  You can check it out for your self.

On a scale to 10, I give this a solid 8 martini shakers……….

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Galveston is Back

On July 14, 2011, in Travel, Uncategorized, by admin

Galveston After Hurricane Ike

 
This was the scene after 2008’s Hurrican Ike. The victim?  Galveston Island. Mass destruction took place on this city of about 60,000 in a massive way. Not foriegn to hurricanes, Ike tore through in a damaging way not seen since the epic hurricane of 1900 that killed over 5,000 people and led the city to build itself up on “stilts”. Galveston is a weekend getaway for us lowly Texans. On the Gulf of Mexico, it sports decent beaches, great seafood, and a few attractions that regulary draw families on weekends and during the summer.
 
Ike changed all that. The destruction was relentless and thorough. Landmarks were washed away. Not only did the winds get near 200mph, it was accompanied by a surf that jumped the famed seawall, designed to keep such issues at bay. The rest of the island lay beneath the seawall in depth, so you can only imagine what a tsunami type surf did to the houses behind the seawall. The picture speaks for itself. Each year, this area lives with the threat of hurricanes.  It was unclear how Galveston would return.
 
Three years later, a visit to the island for a weekend told a vivid story.  Galveston is back.  It started with the search for a hotel on a Saturday night.  This was not a holiday weekend. Yes it followed a holiday weekend, but still, this was war torn Galveston. The Knights Inn, one step above hookerville advertising hourly room rates, was $160 a night. The Tremont House,  a hotel on the shopping district called the Strand, was booked. It was clear we would have to spend money to stay this weekend.  We finally got a last minute room at the Tremont House for $249/night. While driving through the city, a few things were apparent:
  1. There was no lack of people on the island.  We could not find a parking space along the seawall up to 61st
  2. There was little indication of the devastation that took place in 2008. There were a few, but there was also new and great businesses (read Rum Shack) that have opened up.
  3. 99.8% of business has returned to Galveston
  4. Business was brisk.

I thought it would take something significant as a motivator for business to return, like the backward conservative right of Texas finally passing a law allowing casinos on the island.  I was wrong. Business was hopping, the island crowded, and people appearing to have a great time.

I was completely encouraged by this. Galveston is a relatively inexpensive weekend for us Texans. OK. The beaches are not LA or FLA, but they are beaches non the less. We will review the Tremont House in a separate post….but for now, just please know, Galveston is Back, in case you were interested.

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Travelogue 009: Montana from Jason Hockney on Vimeo.

We at Reddgranite.com do not follow the typical internet formula. Nope. Instead of focusing in on one subject over and over, we take our bohemian attitude and spread it over a variety of subjects and content. Yes this is a music site, but it is so much more. Even at the expense of traffic…..(woe is the site that dances around subjects, bad for traffic and ad conversions!). WEll, we bring you different things here at redd…. and today it is no different! So we begin a series with yet another one of our expert contributors, Jason Hockney. Seems he has a knack of bringing his video cam along for the ride to a variety of interesting places and meeting some interesting people. This travelogue takes us to Montana….and the wilds and strange folks who live where man is not meant to exist…..

And you cannot resist the opening quote “they used to eat Indians in their canoes…its true”
Tune in. Intestesting stuff. And more will follow.

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Cinderella Review: HOB Dallas

On July 4, 2011, in Concert Reviews, by admin

Cinderella Spot On at House of Blues Dallas

Back to reviewing the music that got us here in the first place. Cinderella, a ‘hair band’ from the late eighties played House of Blues in Dallas on 3 July 2011. This was the first time I had seen them since they started touring again years back in a smaller venue, so tonight was a must to see.

 

I consider Cinderella a great story because of the challenges of front man Tom Kiefer. He is the musical scribe of all of the bevy of hits from the 80’s that Cinderella plays in its shows today.  One after another. But the story for Kiefer has been challenging. He has a signature vocal sound combining great range with a growling approach. Unfortunately for him, this approach has led to many vocal cord issues leading to multiple surgeries to remove nodules from the vocal cords. He also has a paralyzed left vocal cord.  Even with many surgeries when Cinderella was in its hey day, he continued to press on.  His latest surgery came in 2008, when his left vocal cord hemorrhaged again. After over a year off, he is back. His voice is strong, although he will not go to the real high notes on many songs (and there are many in Cinderella songs). If you know the above story, you do not mind.  I would rather have them around for years to come touring, as this band truly gets it right.

The night opened with John Corabi, of Ratt fame, doing an acoustical set. While Corabi has great control of an acoustic guitar and an endearing personality, but an acoustical set is not recommended to open a act like Cinderella.  At one point Corabi asked if he was boring us…..my answer would have been a resounding yes.

Cinderella came on for the 1:15 set. They wasted no time to get to their catalog of hits.  Kiefer spoke rarely, only to give the obligatory shout out to Dallas and Texas….something that is taught in ‘how to be a rock star’ school. But his lack of chatting translated into a driving set from the band that remains amazingly tight musically. Kiefer is  a presence on stage. Not a wild man, he lets the music speak. He is also an accomplished guitarist and keyboards player. While all of the driving rock hits such as “Shake Me, Gypsy Rose, I’m Coming Home” and the like, it was actually a lesser hit that I felt was done to perfection. “The Last Train” was done masterfully by the group, with an impressive audience sing along where I could distinctly hear spot on harmonies from the audience. They took the more mellow song and built into the thunder of the song…..the difference with Cinderella is that you get the feel they are actually performing the song with emotion, that it really means something to them rather than just playing for the sake of playing.  This is further witnessed by the musical interludes in a few of the songs.  Rather than go into individual solos, which I hate in any concert, they do musical jams between Kiefer, the other guitarist and bassist. The group’s music is based upon blues rock, and when they go into a jam, it is usually blues based progressions and leads. They do not let them last too long so as not to loose the mostly A.D.D. audience.  You can tell they are into the music, and this makes all the difference in the show. Too many bands play for the egotistical entertainment value and relay on stage props to entertain.

Kiefer clearly was pacing himself throughout the show.  With the voice issues he will continue to have, this only makes sense through a grueling tour schedule. But as the show drew to a close, he invested more and more into the performance.  While they concluded the encore with “Shelter Me”, not one of their stronger songs, clearly Kiefer had built up his performance, leaving the stage in a robust fatigue from giving at the show.  I truly appreciated the gut and performance.

The crowd of 1500 or so 20-40 somethings were truly appreciative.  While not an overly off the hook party crowd, they were very enthusiastic. The place was nearly packed, showing that there is certainly no lack of popularity of this act from Pennsylvania originally discovered by Bon Jovi. Between parking, concessions, and ticket entries, I estimate the revenue for this show to be $84,000. I also estimate that we will continue to see Cinderella touring again, as long as Kiefer’s voice holds out.

This is the best concert (and believe me I go to a lot) that I have seen in years.  Perhaps it was propped up by the fact that it was at the House of Blues.  I have seen Cinderella 6 times now, and in all previous times, they were part of a multi-bill show in an outdoor or larger arena where they could niether play their complete catalog or translate their strong sound into a club atmosphere.  Here is your chance to go see them. Most of their remaining tour dates are in clubs, with the exception of a few outdoor multi-day festivals that I wish I were going to.  Check out the band website below for more details

CINDERELLA

On a scale of 10, I give this concert  solid 9……….go see them if you can.

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Kettle One Vodka Review

On July 2, 2011, in Vodka Reviews, by admin

Oggi Pro Stainless-Steel 10-Piece Cocktail Shaker and Bar Tool SetFrom VODKAFACTS.COM

It had been several years since a customer of mine suggested I try Kettle One Vodka.  This was during the initial boom of the popularity of Vodka that resulted in this explosion of choices we now have in the marketplace.  I recall I liked it then.  However, I was relatively new to the Vodka scene, and many were good in my mind back then. So this was my first passage back to the Kettle in nearly a decade.

I was surprised by the initial impact of Kettle One.  I was expecting the bite to leap out upon first glance. To the contrary, it was as if there was not much of a taste at all. While you could certainly taste that you had a powerful vodka on the palate, it did not present that overriding chemical tastes that ends up biting the tongue in so many Vodka brands. As you the drinking experience continues, Kettle One transcends into almost a fruit taste as it finishes.  This is quite unusual for any Vodka brand. As Kettle One finishes, the aroma and the after taste introduce the more familiar chemical taste, one that is quite unpleasant. This finish just does not seem to fit with the initial smoothness of the start of the drinking experience. The second martini (for reviews, I always prepare them straight up, no fruit or twists, and shake them well and use a frozen goblet) the taste seem to jump out a bit more from the start.  Kettle One then started reminding me more of some of its brethren in the high end Vodka market.

Kettle One is a 100% wheat based product, distilled in copper tanks over charcoal. This is a bit different type of approach for Vodka distilleries. Kettle One is produced in Schiedan, Netherlands by Nobit Distilleries. It is considered in the high end Vodka marketplace, but priced a bit lower than the Grey Goose and Belvedere of the marketplace. It will run you between $45-55 for a 1.75 liter bottle, unless you live close to Mexico as I do, where I recently gave less than $20 for a 1.75 liter bottle in a border town while trying to avoid the bullets and kidnappings of the drug trade there.

Overall, Kettle One is a fine Vodka to begin your journey if you are not a normal Vodka drinker. Its smoothness is less harsh on the normal palate. I also consider this a good Vodka to mix into other Vodka related drinks.  Since it has less of an impacting taste by itself, it is a great marriage partner to mixes to make chocolate martini’s, cosmo’s, and the like

On a scale of ten, I give Kettle One a 7. Try it and let me know your thoughts

 

 

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