January 2012

The Grand Canyon…

At The Grand Canyon

Week 52 of 52!

There is nothing like this place on Earth!

Santa Fe Church

San Miguel Mission in Santa Fe, the oldest church in the U.S.

After traveling through a 50-60 mph dust storm getting out of West Texas (called a haboob, no kidding!) and passing through some of the ugliest towns we’ve ever seen (sorry, Muleshoe), we landed in Santa Fe, New Mexico, under sunny blue skies. We had high expectations for this city in the high desert and were happy to finally see it, but sadly most everything we wanted to see was closed for one reason or another the day we were there, and the city itself wasn’t nearly as picturesque as we had hoped.

But that was OK; we went to the movies instead and saw The Artist and The Descendants. We recommend both if you haven’t seen them. The Descendants was particularly fun for us because it was such a realistic depiction of life in Hawaii — the good and the bad. We knew most of the places shown in the film and all of the wonderful Hawaiian music, and we felt like we knew the people!


Then we went on to the Grand Canyon: it is awe-inspiring, dignified, eminent, excellent, fab, first-rate, glorious, grandiose, illustrious, imposing, magnificent, majestic, marvelous, monumental, noble, opulent, outstanding, regal, smashing, splendid, stately, striking, superb, unreal, OMG… what else can we say?

This was Sharene’s first time to the Canyon and Harrison had not seen it for many years. It completely lived up to the hype and we had the good fortune to see it on a picture-perfect day. Visiting in off-season meant there were few visitors and snow all around, which added to the contrast with the desert colors of the canyon.

The Grand Canyon should be on everyone’s “Bucket List” — truly one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. And what a fitting end as we come to the close of our adventurous year!


From the Grand Canyon in northern Arizona, we drove south through Flagstaff, which, unlike Santa Fe, was a beautiful town that exceeded our expectations. We headed to Phoenix, where we stopped to visit old friends, and then on our way to Los Angeles we made a surprise stop to see another old friend. Collectively, we have known all these people for (yikes) over 100 years!!!


Marty has been Harrison’s friend since he met him at KING Radio in Seattle way back in 1974. Marty (whose KING friends will remember him as Joe Kelly) has the Voice of God, one of the greatest radio voices we’ve ever heard, as well as a larger-than-life personality. He has had a long career since then in Chicago, Milwaukee, and now Phoenix, doing voice work and producing music for radio stations. Take a listen to this recent Joe Kelly demo.

Sharene, Randy, and Lori go back to Sharene’s Bank of America days in the ’80s, but most of their memories are of trips they took together, many nights out on the town in San Francisco, and countless cribbage games and laughs along the way.

Another of Harrison’s KING radio friends from the ’70s is Laurie (known affectionately back then as Cheeks). Laurie and her very athletic husband, Joe, have started spending their winters away from Seattle in the warmer Southern California climate. Laurie is loving their gorgeous new sun-drenched home and Joe just finished a 75-mile bike ride that morning… wearing slightly different clothing than the bicyclists in Amsterdam!


Linda and SteveOur drive to LA ended at Beverly Hills 90212, just down the road from the famous 90210 zip code. Our dear friends (and former clients of Hawaii Holiday) Linda and Steve have an exquisite 1930s home within walking distance of famous Beverly Hills sites including Rodeo Drive. In fact, we did walk to a Chinese restaurant to celebrate Chinese New Year with a group of their long-time friends; it was so nice of them to include us in that fascinating group.

We’re in LA during one of the most beautiful times of year: clear skies, citrus trees bursting with fruit, flowers blooming; it’s the best of Southern California. And being with people we adore just makes it even more special, not to mention that they have a big teddy bear of a dog named Stockton to complete the picture.


Map Week 52

Our route this past week: Lubbock – Santa Fe – Grand Canyon – Phoenix – Beverly Hills

We had another amazing week! We have begun our last official week of “homelessness”; we left Hawaii on February 4, 2011, so this coming Saturday will mark the end of a full year away. We have another very busy, people-filled week coming up so we hope you’ll stick with us for just a little longer.

A hui hou!!!
Sharene and Harrison

Six States, Lots of Friends, Two Musical Legends, and Dogs!

Map Week 51

Week 51 of 52

Who knew part of Florida was in the Central Time Zone? When we showed up an hour early at Sharon and Tom’s home near Destin, a popular resort area on the Florida panhandle, we learned that, indeed, the western end of Florida is not on Eastern Time! But they welcomed us anyway into their beautiful waterfront home, complete with lighted dock and boat. Sharon ran Sharene’s company, Bed & Breakfast International, in the 1990s, and she went to work for Sharene at WorldRes after that. She and Tom then relocated to Hawaii and have recently moved to Florida where they are both in the real estate business with Keller Williams. Check out Next Stop Paradise for some great investment opportunities with true white sand beaches. As we learned on our beach walks, Hawaii might boast of beaches, but none of them have sand this gorgeous and not nearly this shade of white.

Interestingly enough, we had two connections in this same fairly obscure area. Harrison and Caroline went to the University of Minnesota elementary and high schools together from the third grade on and have kept in touch all these years. She and her partner Ben just moved from frigid Minneapolis to Navarre, Florida, just a few miles from Sharon and Tom. This is the first January Caroline has ever spent not shoveling snow. Instead, she and Ben are hitting that white sand beach!


Art Out Of Destruction

Art Out Of Destruction

Leaving Florida on our way to New Orleans, we drove through the southern tip of our next state, Alabama, but found nothing exciting to report. (Our apologies to John Dirgo of Hawaii Holiday who is from Alabama…) But passing through Biloxi, Mississippi, we traveled right along the gulf and saw both interesting and sad remnants of Hurricane Katrina.

On the left side of the road was the Gulf of Mexico and gorgeous beaches, with no sign of oil remaining from the Deepwater Horizon spill. In the median strip were beautiful carved wood statues of birds, fish, and other objects. After seeing so many, we realized these pieces of art were carved out of tree trunks left standing after the hurricane ripped them apart. For a quick slide show, see Biloxi’s Katrina Sculptures.

The right side of the street had a few glorious old mansions as well as some obviously new construction, interspersed with many empty lots in between. Even now, you can see foundations or an odd fireplace on lots where, before Katrina, stately southern homes stood with views of the gulf.


New Orleans may have been crushed by Katrina, but after spending two nights right in the heart of the French Quarter, we can tell you at least that part of town is pretty much fully recovered and as wild and crazy as ever! Music blasts from club after club, and although we were there during a very quiet time of year, there were still lots of people out enjoying the Big Easy.

Blues legend B. B. King happened to be in town our first night and we lucked into two seats that had just been released that morning. At age 86, his voice is still strong, his guitar, Lucille, still sounds as sweet as ever, and the touring schedule with his band would tire both of us out! He proved to us that The Thrill Is NOT Gone yet!


The highlight of the following day was a three-hour bus tour of New Orleans led by a knowledgeable, talented, and hilarious guide who sounded straight out of the Bayou. John gave a comprehensive introduction to the history, areas, and fascinating architecture of New Orleans and the devastating aftermath of Katrina. While some sections of the city, including many of the beautiful homes in the Garden District, were not badly flooded and appear much as they always have, the Ninth Ward, which we all saw in the Katrina news reports, is still struggling although almost seven years have passed. We saw several new housing developments, such as Musicians’ Village targeted to the many musicians who make New Orleans home and Make It Right, spearheaded by Brad Pitt, that features a number of interesting energy-efficient designs from a competition. But there are vast areas of empty lots, as well as many abandoned but still standing homes, such as the one pictured above that stands next to a rebuilt home. Many former residents have clearly moved elsewhere, and the long-term future of this area is very uncertain.


We left NOLA (New Orleans, Louisiana) and took the LONG trek to the suburbs of Dallas, Texas. We weren’t on horses but our butts felt like it! We only know a few people in Texas, but two sets of friends not only live near one another, but also both work with dogs! How odd is that? So Sharene was in doggie heaven visiting these old (or should we say “long-time”) friends of Harrison’s.

Margaret was a broadcast engineer Harrison recruited in the early 1980s, and after a 30-year career in broadcasting, she left to start her own business in portrait photography of dogs and their owners. She turned out to be just as talented a photographer and businessperson as she was an engineer and has won a number of awards to prove it. We saw lots of works from her impressive collection; check out some of her wonderful photos at Bryant Dog Photography.

We had a great lunch of Texas-style barbeque with Margaret and her partner Teri, and then off we went to visit Catherine, a friend of Harrison’s from his Seattle days. Catherine is the General Manager of a high-end doggie hotel called Woodland Park Pet Resort where some of the pet “rooms” even come with TVs (no kidding)! Catherine has three English Labs herself, and after spending some time with her, we can see why she is in the perfect job!


We’re on our way to Santa Fe, New Mexico, and since it was too far to drive in a day we decided to stop in Lubbock, Texas, for the night and visit the Buddy Holly Center. Lubbock-raised Holly was one of the pioneers of rock ’n’ roll who died much too young in the infamous plane crash of February 1959. Although his career was short, he and his group, the Crickets, had a major influence on the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Hollies, Bob Dylan, and other future rock stars. West Texas is the home of many influential American musicians including Bob Wills, Leadbelly, Roy Orbison, Waylon Jennings and others, but Holly definitely put Lubbock on the map!


Texas DemocratWe leave the south behind and, as our Texas friends would say, “We’re fixin’ to head west for a spell.” But on our way out, we were happy to see this bumper sticker proving there is at least one Democrat (besides the ones we know personally!) living in the Lone Star State.

Oh, just to give you a head’s up, this weekly update is Week 51 of 52, but we won’t really be finished next week. We began our “year of being homeless” on February 4, 2011, and we sent our first weekly update shortly after we arrived. That first update was at the beginning of Week 1, so by the end of Week 52 we will be on the 53rd update. (Got that?) So our year of weekly updates will go to 53, possibly 54 weeks. We’re coming around the bend as fast as we can, but we’re not there yet!

A hui hou and Yee Haw!
Sharene and Harrison

Where America Began and Georgia On Our Minds


Week 50 of 52

Map Week 50

Our route from Virginia to Georgia

Our route back to the West Coast isn’t exactly the most direct, but it gives us new territory and people to visit and it’s a lot warmer than the northern U.S. this time of year. We headed south from the Washington, D.C. area this week and have been immersed in American history at several colonial sites and further south in coastal Georgia.

Our first stop was Charlottesville, Virginia, to see our friend Ronna and visit Thomas Jefferson’s home, Monticello (photo above). Sharene and Ronna worked together in the gold rush days of the dot-com world and even though neither “struck gold” there, they had a lot of fun. Ronna’s home is a 10-minute drive from Monticello so off we went to take a tour. One of the greatest fathers of our country, Jefferson was the principal author of the Declaration of Independence. He was also a true Renaissance man, credited with saying, “There isn’t a single blade of grass I’m not interested in.” His home, which is now a historic landmark estate, is filled with books, art, historical artifacts, and many amenities that were state-of-the-art in the 1700s. He is still referred to here as “Mr. Jefferson.”

From Charlottesville we headed to Williamsburg, site of the settlement that was the capital of colonial Virginia for much of the 18th century, where Dave and Dorothy welcomed us to their beautiful home. Dave and Harrison worked together at KING Radio in Seattle in the 1970s. If Ronna and Sharene thought they had fun at the dot-com, it was nothing compared to working at a rock ’n’ roll radio station in the 70s! Dave will be retiring at the end of this year after a long career with IBM, and Dorothy is working hard but not having as much fun as she would like at a small software company.

Dave took us on tours of Williamsburg as well as nearby Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in what is now the United States. It was fascinating to see the humble beginnings of our country, especially since we have seen so much of Europe’s history this past year. The biggest surprise was seeing how small the ships were that brought these first immigrants across the Atlantic, a reminder of how comfortable our lives have become.


After a long drive from Williamsburg, we landed in Savannah, Georgia, on the steps of the gorgeous home of Harrison’s cousin, Beth, and her husband, Bob. It’s true what they say about southern hospitality; we were given our own suite upstairs overlooking the golf course and personal tours of historic (and charming) Savannah and the surrounding areas, including Tybee Island.

A favorite book set in Savannah (so popular, people around here just call it “The Book”) is Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Published in 1994, it was on the New York Times bestseller list for 216 weeks! Clint Eastwood made a movie of it in 1997 and shot much of the production in the Mercer-Williams House where the story took place. So our hosts took us to the house and rented the movie for us to watch!

Savannah is a beautiful city with 23 squares (small parks with statues and fountains) and amazing architecture in the historic district. We toured the Green-Meldrim House where General Sherman based himself after taking Savannah in 1864 during the Civil War. Sherman must also have been charmed by this gentle southern city since he was kind enough not to burn it down when he left, unlike Atlanta and others in the South.

Beth and Bob live on Skidaway Island surrounded by lagoons, wildlife, and yes, even alligators! We did see lots of birds and deer during our stay, but no scaly critters and that was just fine. Once again the weather gods were good to us with blue skies every day.


Tybee Beach

Savannah’s Beach on Tybee Island — it’s not Hawaii, but it’s beautiful all the same

From Savannah we drive south to the Florida panhandle, where we turn right and start heading west across the country.

We’re on the countdown now… we hope you’ve enjoyed our weekly updates but, if not, you only have a few more editions left, and so do we!

A hui hou and as they say here, see y’all later!

Sharene and Harrison

Back in the U.S.A.

Map Week 49

Week 49 of 52

Our Final Road Trip Begins!

If we had a home, you could call this the home stretch! On Wednesday morning we said fond farewells to our Swiss family and boarded a flight in Zurich bound for the U.S. When we arrived at Logan Airport in Boston Wednesday afternoon, our Honda Element was waiting for us courtesy of a friend of a friend who stored it for the past six months… thanks, Kate and Deborah!

So the Road Trip begins, the last phase of our “year of being homeless”! We came to the East Coast last spring via the northern route; we will spend our next few weeks making our way back to the West Coast via the southern route, visiting more family and friends along the way. One great lesson from this past year is that travel is much more rewarding when you can connect with family and friends old and new.

Fred and Brenda Family

Fred, Mark, Brenda, Tessa, and their senior cat

After a good night’s rest and a day of exercise and errands, we gave the Element its first road test with a drive to North Andover, Mass, to see our friends Fred and Brenda. Long-term readers may remember that Fred and Brenda visited us at our Boston apartment last June, and Brenda, who is Dutch by birth, also visited us a few weeks later at our first Amsterdam apartment when she came to visit her family. This time, we were entertained in their charming 150-year-old home by Fred and Brenda along with two of their three children and their 20-year-old cat! Of course, we mostly talked about how we love Amsterdam and hoped we could all spend lots of time together there when they retire.


With Frank and Ann

Wow, Frank and Ann are SO tall!     Just kidding!!!

We left Massachusetts and drove to Westchester County, north of New York City, to spend the night with our friends Ann and Frank (not to be confused with ANNE FRANK…). Ann is one of the three women Sharene travels with each year and one of her closest friends. It was great to see Ann in her own house, something Sharene rarely got to do when we lived over 5000 miles away in Hawaii.

With Mort and Lois

Admiring Mort’s art with Mort and Lois

From Westchester we took the Saw Mill and Henry Hudson Parkways into Upper Manhattan and crossed the George Washington Bridge into New Jersey on a record warm day with sunny blue skies. Yes, we picked the RIGHT year to travel! We were invited to lunch by a friend of Harrison’s late mother, Agatha. Lois worked for Agatha at the St. Paul (Minnesota) Public Library in the 1960s and they became lasting friends. Harrison hadn’t seen Lois in over 40 years so it was a nice reunion. Turns out her husband Mort is an talented artist! Mort grew up near the Atlantic City Boardwalk and many of his paintings depict scenes of that area; we loved seeing his work.


Rick and Satu

Rick and Satu

No, these two are not models, but Sharene’s nephew Rick and his wife Satu, who is from Finland. Rick is a pilot for Jet Blue and they live with their two children just west of Washington, D.C., in Virginia, our last stop for this week. We arrived on this unusually warm Saturday evening and were promptly invited for a glass of wine by their outdoor fireplace. Imagine sitting outside in front of a fireplace under clear skies and a full moon in January on the East Coast!

Life is good and our first few days back have been clear sailing and a wonderful start to our month on American roads. We’re still getting used to the U.S. again after six months in Europe, but right now it feels just fine.

Hope everyone’s first week of 2012 has been a good start as well!

For Week 49, a hui hou!

Sharene and Harrison

Happy New Year!


Week 48 of 52

Today is January 1, 2012.

Gelukkig Nieuwjaar (Dutch) Šastný Nový Rok (Czech) Heureuse nouvelle année (French) Glückliches neues Jahr (German) Buon anno (Italian) and Guete Rutsch (which in Swiss German translates to “have a good slide”); they are all meant to convey good wishes for 2012 and are in the languages of the places we visited in 2011.

Our Swiss friends and family have treated us to so many wonderful times during the holidays: dinners out, a Christmas concert where our dear friend Janice played viola, an amazing walk near Maxine and Maya’s home in the shadows of the snow-covered Alps (pictured on top), and more than one dinner party at Sarah’s beautiful home. Once again, we realize how fortunate we are because of the people in our lives; it’s what has made this past year truly magical.



We both know what an extraordinary 2011 we had as we round the corner to 2012 and the last month of our year away. For today, January 1, 2012, we send this old Irish toast to all our friends near and far:

In the New Year, may your right hand always be stretched out in friendship, but never in want.

Wishing each and every one of you a magical 2012!

A hui hou and hau‘oli makahiki hou! (Hawaiian!)

Sharene and Harrison