In September, for our one year anniversary Jess and I took our long awaited ‘big’ honeymoon trip to Maui, Hawaii. We left Richmond on Friday the 10th and thankfully the most trouble we would have on the whole trip would happen in the first hour. After a scheduled Lyft didn’t show and we could get any other ride share at 5 in the morning, we drove ourselves to the airport and entered the self park. We then immediately lost the parking ticket down the dashboard vent and had to get let out of the parking area to be let back in with a new ticket. All of that didn’t leave a lot of time to spare, but we made it in time and would have an otherwise uneventful flight connecting with one stop in Denver where we completed all of the COVID pre-screening necessary to be allowed into Hawaii without quarantine.

The beach walk along Kaanapali Beach
The beach walk along Kaanapali Beach

We arrived in Maui mid-afternoon and picked up a red 2-door Jeep, did some grocery and supply shopping and checked into the Sheraton Maui Resort and Spa at Black Rock for 10 nights. After settling in the room we walked along the beach walk to the mall at Whaler’s Village and picked up some tacos to take back to the room and eat as the sun was setting and saw what would end up being the prettiest sunset of the trip.

Sun setting on Black Rock from the Sheraton Maui Resort and Spa.

Saturday and Sunday we mostly stayed around the resort. We hung out at the pool or the beach, checked out some nearby restaurants, did some snorkeling and Jess even did a lei making class. Sunday night we went to a very nice dinner at Merriman’s.

Monday was another day of mostly hanging around the resort, sleeping in and going snorkeling. We saw the sun set on the the beach at a park north of our resort, and picked up food from food trucks to have in our room.

Rainbow over the Sheraton Maui Resort

Tuesday was to be a marathon day of flying to the island of Oahu to see Pearl Harbor and Waikiki. We made the very early drive to the airport in Maui and took a 30 minute flight to the island. We went straight to Pearl Harbor where we had intended to take a boat out to the USS Arizona, but we had found out the week prior that one of the docks was damaged and they were not running tours. We saw what we could and talked to a park ranger about the family member of a family friend who died in the attack on the Arizona and learned some interesting history of his.

View of the the USS Missouri and the USS Arizona Memorial from the Pearl Harbor National Memorial.
View of the the USS Missouri and the USS Arizona Memorial from the Pearl Harbor National Memorial.

Our next stop was to find some great sushi and even the Uber driver was surprised when we asked to be dropped off in Chinatown where we had to find our way to a poke vendor in the back of a market. It was worth it and was the best poke we had on the trip. Our next stop was the Bishop Museum which was a cultural museum chartered in the 1880s. There were a lot of interesting cultural artifacts there especially since the museum was collecting them well before Hawaii became a territory and later a state. Our final stop on Oahu was Waikiki beach where we walked through one of the old hotels, the Surfrider, and had a drink at their bar on the beach. We also walked along the beach and saw the Duke Kahanamoku statue. We had dinner nearby where we had some of the best Mai Tais of the trip and took the last flight of the night back to Maui followed by the 45 minute drive to the resort and were in bed just before midnight.

Jess and Jon on Waikiki beach

After a busy Tuesday, Wednesday was to be a relaxing day. Jess booked a spa treatment up the road at the Ritz Carlton and after I dropped her off I went exploring and hiking along the north-west coast of Maui. In the evening we went to a nice restaurant in Lahaina.

On Thursday we decided to try snorkeling at a beach in the South Maui resort area. Only by the time we got there the water was stirred up and not very good for snorkeling. We found another good poke place and picked up some Hawaiian spices to take home and spent the rest of the afternoon by the pool at our resort.

Friday was our day to drive the road to Hana. This has been a bucket list item for Jess since long before we met and was one of the highlights of our trip. Coming from Kaanapali we had to get up very early to start the drive in time to take in some of the sights along the way. We ended up driving straight through and arriving at the Kipahulu national park around 9am. We hiked the Pipiwai trail and saw Waimoku Falls -a 400′ tall waterfall at the end of a trail through a bamboo forest among other things.

Jon and Jess at the end of the Pipiwei trail in front of Waimoku Falls
Jon and Jess at the end of the Pipiwei trail in front of Waimoku Falls

After the trail we worked our way in reverse on the Road to Hana making our way back north and east stopping at sights along the way. We were in Hana for lunch at a food truck where Jess had a ‘plate lunch’. Just North of Hana was the Black Sand Beach in Waiʻānapanapa State Park where we had an early afternoon reservation. The volcanic formations around this beach were breathtaking and the dark black rock against the luscious greenery was incredible. The beach was neat despite being very small. The water was a bit rough and not great swimming for those who tried it. After exploring a bit more of the park we made our way back to the car and stopped at a few more stops along the Road to Hana as we made our way back to the more populated part of the island and eventually on to our resort area.

Black Sand Beach in Waiʻānapanapa State Park
Black Sand Beach in Waiʻānapanapa State Park

Saturday was another day of hanging out at the resort. We had dinner at a sushi place in Lahaina and then visited the Lahaina Yacht Club for a drink.

Lahaina Yacht Club

Sunday Jess wanted to see some of the sights I had seen earlier in the week along the north west part of the island. Unfortunately, the ocean waves were a lot rougher making it harder to get close to the blow hole or the pools. On our way back we stopped at the Honolua Bay Marine Reserve and went snorkeling with turtles.

Monday was check out day after a fabulous time in Maui. We made one last stop at the sugar plantation museum on our way back to the Airport. This history and impact on the island on the sugar plantations was fascinating.

The island ended up being exactly what we wanted for this trip – enough of a resort to not to have to leave, but with enough stuff nearby we could explore a variety of places to eat and things to do. Maui had a wide diversity of beaches, shopping, history and hiking and we didn’t even cover everything in 10 days with our relaxed schedule. Our overnight flight landed in Chicago very early in the morning where we waited for our mid-morning flight to Richmond and were home by early afternoon.


Saturday took us on a ferry trip to a island just off the coast called Monhegan Island. The island is a fishing village a couple miles off the coast and is 1.75 miles long by .75 mi wide and has just 60 year round residents. In the summer a number of inns and rental houses have many times that staying there. The island draws everything from day trippers like us to artists who come for the summer for inspiration.

The ferry took about an hour and was a little breezy on the top deck. When we got to the island we walked through ‘town’ and hiked along the south and east coasts. We saw rock shorelines, a ship wreck and cliffs.

Hiking back through the middle of the island we went past a beautiful light house and had a gorgeous view of the inhabited side of the island.

Monhegan Island Light House
Monhegan Island Light House

We walked through a little more of the town and stopped at Monhegan Island Brewing before catching the ferry back at the end of the day.

Hardy III just off Monhegan Island
Hardy III


Friday took us to Acadia National Park where we hiked Jordan Pond and Bubbles. We wanted to go up Cadillac but didn’t have a reservation and were tuned away. We stopped by Sand beach and hiked to Thunder Hole and back.

Jordan Pond
Jordan Pond trail
Sand beach
Sitting on the rocky shoreline between Sand Beach and Thunder Hole

For dinner we went into Bar Harbor and had a great meal, some Ice Cream on the waterfront and checked out some of the shops.

Bar Harbor water front
Bar Harbor at sunset


The day after our wedding Jess and I headed to Warm Springs Virginia for a short honeymoon. We had grand plans to leave the country for a beach on an island that would some day be underwater but with COVID we didn’t want to leave the state. That lead us to a few days at the Omni Homestead. It is a beautiful property in the mountains and were upgraded to a corner suite in the tower on the 20th floor (10 floors above ground) that had great some great views. On the way out there we stopped in Staunton to visit friends Mark and Melissa who weren’t able to attend the wedding. The suggested a cool pizza join in Staunton for dinner. Staunton had closed one of the main roads downtown and all of the restaurants had seating in the streets. It almost had a European vibe to it.

We spent the first day exploring the grounds, relaxing at the socially distanced pool and having dinner at the restaurant. I went for a late morning trail run and startled a baby bear along the path.

The next day we left the property to do a hike about 10 miles away at Douthat State Park. To get there by car we had to go over/around a mountain and it took over an hour on some pretty rural roads. Early in the hike we both spotted 3 baby bears and a mother crossing our path. We were on high alert the rest of the hike. We made our way up to the top of a mountain, past a waterfall, along the ridgeline and then back down. There were a few beautiful views and some great terrain. Much of the trail looked to be seldom used and we had to do some bushwacking in parts.

That evening we got takeout from a restaurant in town and ate in our room.

The next morning we ate breakfast on the porch in the rocking chairs and started making our way home. We stopped at Pollock winery for a bit and then to Bold Rock to resupply some of the ciders we can’t get in Richmond and tried some others while sitting in chairs down by the creek.


Laurie, Jess and I were in Charlottesville to catch the UVA vs Duke Football game. It ended up being a bit of a blowout and it was great to see quarterback Bryce Perkins playing in person and dominating the game. The lopsided result made it a fun game to be at.

That night Jess and I stayed just west of Charlottesville and then went for a hike to McAfee Knob on the Appalachian Trail. The foggy conditions were a bit spooky but also meant we didn’t get much of a view for most of it. At the top we were entirely surrounded by fog. It was nice to be in nature and a fun hike.


The second leg of our trip took us to Sacramento to visit my sister and her husband to meet my new nephew. Monday afternoon we arrived in Sacramento and intended on checking out the art museum there only to realize it wasn’t open on Mondays.  We explored old town Sacramento before meeting up with Cheryl, Dean and Calvin to visit a neighborhood sports bar to watch UVA win the NCAA Basketball Championship.

Tuesday we all piled in the car and headed towards Sonoma and dropped Calvin off at his grandparents house for the day. Calvin’s grandfather was a sailor and has a huge train layout in his basement that was fascinating.  Our next stop was Iron Horse Vineyards for a sparkling wine tasting.

We got lunch in Boone and then went to Porter-Bass winery for another tasting and met back up with Calvin. Next we drove out to the coast to see the ocean and walk on the beach which was made a bit treacherous with the high winds blowing the sand around. It was still pretty.

Wednesday we took the dog hiking in the Auburn State Recreation area. We hiked about 6 miles around the North Fork American River across the No Hands Bridge and under the Foresthill Bridge – one of the highest bridges in the country.  The views were amazing and the trails were very nice. The whole park was just under an hour away from Sacramento and an easy drive.


Thanksgiving weekend we had a beautiful afternoon and Jess and I went exploring in the James River Park system. We started at the south end of the Potterfield Bridge, went east along the flood wall, then to the slave trail before backtracking to the Manchester Bridge and through part of the city back to Brown’s Island and the Potterfield Bridge back to the car. It was a long hike, but it was cool to see parts of the river we’ve not seen before. We were really surprised by all of the development east of The Boat House along the Capital Trail. We’ll have to do this again when the river level is lower and we can do the pipeline walk.

Tracks as seen from the floodwall


Sunday following the football game Jess and I filled the day with scenic drives, hiking and a winery. We started at the southern end of Skyline Drive and stopped about 20 miles in to hike Calvary and Chimney Rocks. It reminded me of the hike we did a couple years ago up to Old Rag without the scambling. It featured some wooded trails up and down hills that went by some rocks with lookouts and good views. The trail was 3.2 miles and took about an hour and a half.

We finished the drive to the Swift Run Gap entrance and continued to Barboursville Vineyards where we tasted wines and enjoyed the sunset.


This year after Thanksgiving my family went for an #OptOutside hike in the James River Park System in Richmond on Black Friday.  The weather was beautiful for a hike and we spent about 2 hours going around Belle Isle and the Potterfield bridge.

Hiking Richmond