So without further ado, here is my top secret deployment project which I have titled,
The Adventures of Flat Nick.
On August 8, 2012, my husband Lt. Nick Miller finally returned home from a six month deployment. I was so excited to see him...and almost more excited that I could finally show him the project I've been working on since the day he left.
So without further ado, here is my top secret deployment project which I have titled,
The Adventures of Flat Nick.
Special thanks to all my friends and family who put up with the very weird looks from strangers as they helped me complete this project- and also kept it a secret. Couldn't have done it without you and my good friend, wine.
I've been lazy about updating. I apologize. I've been eating up every possible moment with Nick that I could lately. And we picked up our new puppy a week ago and I have since felt so completely distracted I can hardly finish---
What was I saying?
Due to Nick's many Homecoming date changes and the fun of the Navy not extending our already shortened leave time (from 10 days down to 7), we ended up not being able to visit the island of Kaua'i, but we did get one extra day in Maui than originally planned. And we still got a honeymoon, so that was what counted amd what made me happy.
Kahului Airport- Excited even at 9am!
We left on Sunday, October 31st (Halloween!) and came back on Friday, November 5th, spending 5 days in Maui. I was excited to spend Halloween in Maui since Lahaina is supposed to be a fun place to go, but unfortunately this year the town didn't block off the main road Front Street from cars so it was much tamer than I have heard it has been in the past. It was still interesting to spend it somewhere new- and WARM! (I appreciate this more than many people- 2 years ago I was Pam Anderson for Halloween. Pam Anderson from Baywatch. With the red bathing suit. In like 45 degree Baltimore weather. I slow-motion ran for 3 1/2 hours, took shots to keep warm, and stuck hand-warming pads in strategic locations. So yes, a warm Halloween was welcome with open arms!)
Beautiful drive up to Ka'anapali
Nick and I didn't really get to put a lot of time into costumes though. We didn't think we would be doing anything this year for it since we were originally supposed to be on Kaua'i, which doesn't do anything for Halloween. So basically I dressed up pretty and said I was Barbie anyone asked, and Nick had a fedora on with some beachie clothes and told people he was Jason Mraz. It worked.
We didn't really know anything about Maui other than Haleakala is like the Grand Canyon of Hawaii. I had no point of reference for where we were staying.
We stayed in Ka’anapali located in West Maui, about a 45 minute drive from the airport. We had an early flight in, landing at 8:30am. Although it was only a 40 minute flight from Honolulu Airport, you still have to be at the airport early enough to go through all the TSA stuff so we were ready for a second breakfast en route to our hotel. And with my handy Maui Revealed guidebook in hand, we drove the gorgeous drive up the coast to Ka’anapali as I read aloud the history behind everything we passed.
Our gorgeous resort grounds- Westin Maui
We stopped in Lahaina and ate breakfast at Longhi’s. The food was just incredible. We rapidly realized Lahaina was the place to go on our side of the island. We lucked out too- Lahaina was only about a 10 minute drive from our hotel location. Lahaina has lots of shopping, bars, and restaurants. Really fun place in general.
After breakfast we strolled around Lahaina a bit before heading to the hotel to check in. Unfortunately, with the multiple changes I had to make with our honeymoon plans due to Nick’s multiple changes in homecoming date, we lost money as well as our ocean view room at the Westin. Fortunately when we got to the hotel around 11am (way too early for check-in) not only were we able to check in early, but the nice guy at the front desk gave us a complimentary upgrade back to an ocean view room after I explained about Nick’s homecoming date complications.
Partay at the Westin!
We LOVED the Westin. I had originally wanted to stay at the Grand Waimea because it was fancy and seemed honeymoon-ish. Also because I heard they had a bar inside a cave you swim up to. (Later in our trip I saw where the Grand Waimea was located- about 2 hours south of where we were- and was VERY happy about choosing the Westin.)
The Westin was located right by a string of other hotels, restaurants, and shopping. Great location. Realistically if you didn’t feel like going anywhere, you could totally stay at your hotel the whole trip. Of course we didn’t do that though.
Doesn't he do a great Jason Mraz impression?
That night we went out to Lahaina for Halloween and walked around. We were so happy to discover the hotel had an hourly shuttle to Lahaina which just made the trip so much more awesome when we didn’t have to decide who had to be Designated Driver for the night.
Our second day we decided to book a couples' massage. I wasn’t sure if Nick would want to do it after I told him how much it cost, but when I asked him about it he agreed before I could even finish my sentence. We had our hour long couples' massage in a beach cabana next to a waterfall. It. Was. Incredible. I didn’t realize Nick had never had a massage before. I’d had two in my life. This beat both of those.
We went to the Old Lahaina Luau later that night. I had read in our guidebook and heard through multiple sources that this particular luau was the best in all the islands. I had gone to Paradise Cove Luau on O’ahu when my sister visited and it was just okay. I felt pretty cheesy there. It could have also had something to do with the fact that it was only 15 minutes away from my house.
Old Lahaina was awesome. We got there early and had $3 Happy Hour Mai Tai’s at the Aloha Mixed Plate restaurant next door to the luau. Three Mai Tai’s each later we headed over to the luau and received an additional Mai Tai at the door. All the drinks there were complimentary. Awesome. (We had taken a shuttle there too.)
The food was excellent, the drinks were yummy (did I mention included in the luau price??), entertainment was really fun, the view was just gorgeous. I was even impressed by the flower leis they provided. It's a real sign of quality when they bother to give you the flowered ones- usually it's just the cheap shell leis (that I have about 18 of at this point, all draped on my rearview mirrow).
One of our stops along the drive.
Tuesday we decided to do a drive to a waterfall and hike the falls. We drove up the West coast of Maui along this dirt road that was only a lane wide over mountains, basically. I was so thankful that I was not driving. Multiple times if you looked out the driver’s side window the car was literally inches from the edge of the road/mountain with a drop of hundreds of feet down. I freaked a little every time a car came from another direction and we had to pull up onto the side of the mountain best we could. Eeek!
After about 3 hours of driving the Hana Highway we went through this crazy little town called Pa’ia. I was fascinated by the guidebook’s description of Pa’ia: “It has become an attraction without any attractions other than itself. No great views, no waterfalls, no scenery, no big institutions like an aquarium. Pa’ia’s sights lie in its character- and characters.” The book wasn’t kidding. The people watching made it fun to drive through. So much in fact that we purposely drove back that way to get food on our way home. We shopped in a store called Alice in Hulaland that had some fun clothes. I was thrilled actually that I found a great little store with all organic foods and vegetarian stuff. (So sue me. They had awesome food. Even old fashioned real cream soda. So there.) We also drove by a town called Haiku. No kidding. I had to take a picture.
Waterfall Number 1
After about 3 hours of driving that morning and shortly after passing through Pa’ia we finally reached our destination: Na’ili’ili-haele Falls. Our trusty guidebook described it as overcoming multiple dillemmas to reach "the kind of scene most people dream of." It stated that due to how difficult the hike becomes eventually, most people stop after only the second waterfall. This made Nick determined.
We spent three hours total hiking to make it to that final waterfall. The book promised it would be difficult but worth it. We had to climb essentially a 12 foot rock wall to get past the 2nd waterfall, then a pretty fair amount of hiking afterwards. To get to the last waterfall, the best one, we had to swim through a cold muddy lake where I was freaking out I couldn’t see the bottom. Disgusting. At the end of the lake we had to climb up another mini waterfall to get to the final falls. We finally made it. The waterfall was about 34 feet high. We were the only ones there and just sat there for a few minutes taking pictures and admiring it (and me dreading getting back into that lake again).
That was definitely one of the highlights of the trip. I think it was Nick’s favorite part.
Black Sand Beach!
My favorite part was our last full day there. We finally spent that day exploring beaches. I was a little bit tempted to search for Little Beach, which has a reputation of being…well, a nude beach. Alas, Little Beach we did not visit. We did visit one of the Black Sand Beaches of Maui, Oneuli Beach. We spent some time at Po’olenalena Beach which was virtually abandoned. We thought we were alone, but a stroll along the beach revealed some nude sunbathers hiding behind rocks. Oops.
The snorkeling there was awesome. Nick saw a 3 ½ foot turtle before I joined him in the snorkeling. The coral was relatively untouched by humans and looked like the fake kind found in fish tanks. After a little while at that beach, we moved on to another one further up in Kihei and spent some time there before going to lunch at Tommy Bahama’s Café.
I had a gift certificate to go to the café, otherwise we might not have gone. When I think of Tommy Bahama’s, what pops into my brain are way-too-expensive Hawaiian shirts that only middle aged white golfers purchase. Definitely wouldn't have thought the food would be good at one of their few cafes. Amazingly I think that was my favorite place we ate the whole trip. The décor was beautiful- it reminded me of Charleston’s laidback, beachie style. The food was excellent and our server was just the best. We took home a slice of Key Lime Pie (I was in a total southern mode) to enjoy later.
Champagne + Hot tub + Love of my life = Perfection
The last evening in Maui we had a lovely dinner near the hotel with some wine tasting, then we finally visited the resort's hot tub and beach bar and I got to drink champagne in the hot tub. Definitely such a fun day.
The next morning, since it was once of my life goals to order room service at a hotel, we ended up having a ridiculously overpriced breakfast in bed and spent the morning being lazy as we had a late checkout and flight. What a great end to the trip!
While I was initially bummed we didn’t get to go to Kaua’i and do the incredible ziplining I have been wanting to do since I found out we were moving to Hawaii, Maui was awesome. I wish we had had more time there. We didn’t make it to the town of Hana which is supposed to be pretty cool, nor did we get to visit Haleakala, the Hawaiian Grand Canyon. But we got to do everything else- hiking, waterfalls, massages, beach time, and more Mai Tai’s than….well, basically I don’t want to see another Mai Tai for at least another year.
We came home well relaxed that evening, and Nick had duty the next day. We picked up our new puppy that Sunday. But more about our new little devil later.
Thanks everyone for all the homecoming and honeymoon wishes! I just can’t describe how amazing it is just to be able to sit next to my husband on the couch and cuddle and eat pizza. Having him gone for half a year really makes you appreciate those little things, and the honeymoon was a great way to kick off his coming home.
After 186 days of deployment, two homecoming date changes putting him three days behind schedule (and three changes to our honeymoon to get everything straightened out!), Nick is finally home.
All ready for him to come home!
I was so beyond excited and nervous for him to come home. I picked out my outfit online over two months ago and have been gradually piecing it together. I even got my hair done for the occasion. (And my necklace even says "Hello Sailor!")
I always had to work when the boat pulled in from work-ups (where they go away for a few days to a few weeks at a time) and typically photography is forbidden on the sub piers anyway, so it was pretty exciting to see the submarine pull in for the very first time.
About a half hour before it pulled into port, some of the wives met the boat out before it pulled into the harbor and put a HUGE 28 foot long lei on it. Well, I think they gave it to the guys to put on the boat. I didn’t take that boat trip because I knew Nick wouldn’t be on the top of the boat anyway. I did help make the lei a few weeks ago.
Anxiously awaiting our men!
The lei was actually a lot more work than I thought it would be. It was created by cutting rolls of tablecloth in half and lying three rolls on top of each other (blue, white, and gold), rolling them out on picnic tables, punching holes every 6 inches, and basically weaving rope through the tablecloth and scrunching it up every three feet of rope. It took about 3 hours to make but looked really cool hanging on the sail of the sub.
That's our boys getting tugged in- see the big lei?
I recognized Nick as soon as he climbed up to the topside of the boat. It was so weird staring at him from behind the little tent they had set up waiting for him to walk across the pier and onto Hawaii land for the first time in over 6 months.
It felt so strange to see him again. Almost a little awkward! Who would have thought! Then again, we have been married for 7 months…and only seen each other for about 2 or 3 weeks of that time.
Maggie was pretty darn happy to see her daddy!
It just felt so great to be hugged and kissed by him again.
Even Maggie was SO happy to see him again. She came over to greet me after a few minutes of just licking him (she really isn’t a licker either!) and went right back over to him.
After a lot of rearranging and unfortunately quite a bit of money lost, we will finally have our honeymoon. It was originally supposed to be on Kauai for 4 days and Maui for 3 days. But with all the homecoming date changes and loss of leave time that Nick unfortunately won’t get back, we had to cut it down to 5 days in Maui (and pay more just to get that and to get downgraded). But it will be a lot of fun. I am hoping to book a couples massage on the beach for us. Our second night there we are going to go to the Old Lahaina Luau. I hear that’s the best one in the whole state of Hawaii.
I’m so excited to just spend time with him. My goal is Mai Tai’s on the beach in a beach chair like those Corona commercials. Ahhh, happiness.
I’ll post pictures about our honeymoon after we get back. Then we get to pick up our new puppy too! So many exciting things ahead. I’m just so happy to have my handsome husband home!