Sunday, January 9, 2011

"A Trip of a Lifetime"

Typically I like to start at the beginning. But this time, I'm going to start at the end. A few days ago I got an email from Nick's mom Diane:

"So now it's back to reality after our vacation in paradise.  Everyone is going to want to come visit after they see our pics and listen to our stories.  It was a trip of a lifetime for us and it was all because of you two.  Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!"

Indeed, it was an absolutely fabulous Christmas! Diane and Nick's stepdad Russ came out to Guam for two solid weeks that we jam-packed with swimming, snorkeling, golfing, cooking, eating, working out, hiking, and exploring Guam. And thanks to a little advanced preparation, there was plenty of diving for Nick and Russ as well.

For years Russ had talked about getting SCUBA certified. He said he'd always wanted to, but year after year, it remained on the wish list. When flights to Guam were booked back in September, he sprang into action to start the certification process. Diane gets credit for springing too, but Russ was able to push through to the end, even doing his four open water cert dives in a muddy lake in cold October Houston! Ew! Anything would be an upgrade from that, and yet once in Guam, he got quite a show. On his very first dive, an easy one at GabGab primarily designed to figure out his weights and gear, Russ and Nick saw this glorious site:

The sea turtle was about three feet away from them and hung out for a while. Pretty awesome! I told Russ up to that point I'd never seen a turtle that close up. Pretty lucky first dive!
Russ became quite the fish under water.
Feeding the Giant Trevally Jacks at GabGab II. Look out Russ!

Each dive got more interesting. Russ dove all of our favorites, including the Blue Hole, Tokai & Cormoran, Pete's Reef, and the distinctly recognizable American Tanker (left). All in all Russ and Nick did 10 dives in the 14 days they were here. We're pretty sure Russ has found a new hobby!

When Nick and Russ weren't diving, we used the boat to take our guests out to our favorite snorkeling spots, one of which is Spanish Steps. With its plunging cliffs, crystal clear water, and plethora of underwater wildlife, Orote Point never disappoints. This ended up being Diane's favorite snorkeling day of the 4 or 5 we had. We went back one more time later in the trip. Anyone can hike here, but the boat makes for an even easier approach.

Diane showing off the blue sea star she found.
Like when Jenny was here, we found another amazing octopus hiding in a crevice in the rocks.
When we weren't exploring the ocean, we were out doing our favorite Guam land activity, that four-letter word we like to call golf. Where Nick was so helpful in getting Russ into diving, Russ has been so awesome as a golf coach the last seven months since we started playing. He has played for years and for a while back in the day was shooting in the low 70s (amazing!). He gave us lots of pointers and tweaks to improve our swing and ability to aim. We took him to three of Guam's seven courses and, while they weren't the best groomed ones he'd ever played (I mean, it is a jungle here), I think he enjoyed himself anyway.

Diane was a great sport as a cart rider. She hit a few good ones too!
On one of the rainier days when golf and taking the boat out looked questionable, we hopped in the car and took Russ and Diane on a tour of the southern, more rustic side of Guam. We started out at this World War II Memorial Park, one of the sites where the U.S. Marines landed on Liberation Day to free the Guamanians from the Japanese concentration camps. This spot is still quite a few miles from base, and it's amazing to me to think about what this landing and the approach to capture Orote Point must have been like. Continuing south, we showed Russ and Diane several of the island's best vistas.

Diane at the Cetti Bay overloook
 We found some carabao at Spanish Fort. But no caraboa rides today, since these beasts had been rolling in thick mud after the recent downpours. Beshy needs a bath!

We stopped at the ocean pools in Inarajan, where a local Chamorro man offered us all grilled ham and cheese sandwiches from his family get together. Nick, who is always up for food said, "Man, I was just about to say we should all go get a snack!" The locals here don't always impress us, but for the most part they are all extremely nice, especially down south where they're more like country folk, and especially when it comes to sharing food. 
Diane loved the gorgeous pools, so later on in the week we came back for a swim. The view out to the ocean from here is pretty awesome.

 Props to Diane for being adventurous and going for a swim sans swimsuit (fully clothed, people!).

That same day we also hiked Waterfall Valley, a series of four beautiful waterfalls all varying in height and all quite close together. 

Next up was Talofofo Caves. This short hike is well rewarded by the series of five different caves of various sizes that have chiseled their way into the rocks overlooking the Pacific Ocean on the east side of the island. This picture is in front of the deepest of all the caves. You throw a rock in and it takes quite a few seconds until it hits anything. One of these days we will have to rappel down it and see what's in there. But we had a hunch R & D wouldn't be up for that this trip :)

Between the initial jet lag and all the days' activities, Diane and Russ also did some good relaxing. I think we tuckered them out once or twice!

Merry Christmas from the Fam-a-a-leeee!
While Russ and Diane were enjoying the vacation aspects of our island, the huge bonus of the visit for Nick and me was that it fell over Christmas break. Being so far away from home, we felt so fortunate to spend the holiday with family. We found some Shiner Bock (well worth the $12 six-pack!), put on some Robert Earl Keen, plated some Three-Pepper Blast, and it was amazing how much it felt just like Christmas in Houston.

As with any wonderful Christmas, there were some fantastic surprises. Nick surprised me with a golf bag push cart! Now I can push MomMom's clubs while Nick walks. We just have to make the gamble as to whether or not it's going to rain on us :)

Diane got a great surprise too... Russ and Nick went in together and got her a laptop! It's a cute little one that she can easily take with her on her extended trips to New Jersey. She can use it to keep up with emails and show pictures to family and friends there. With retirement pending, the timing for a portable gift like this couldn't be better. She definitely was not expecting it and the look on her face was priceless!
Another awesome Christmas surprise was the night boat trip we did to Alutom Island. Taking the boat out at night is amazing if for no other reason than to look at the stars. So we spent a few minutes pointing out constellations and adjusting our eyes to get a better look at the Milky Way. After stargazing, we jumped in for a night snorkel and saw all sorts of amazing things, especially the massive 2-foot lobster! I wish we had a picture, but as soon as Nick saw it, he freed up his hands from the camera to try to grab it. It would have been quite the feast, but the darn thing was too fast and got away. But here's a picture of another kind of lobster we were fast enough to snap a picture of. These things blend in so well, they are hard to find!

Russ also got a Christmas surprise when Nick pulled this little guy ("Bob") out of his BC pocket down at 100 feet under. Merry Christmas from Russ & Bob!

The last few days were spent finishing up last dives, last rounds of golf, last meals, and last viewpoints. We even watched a couple of movies, but never got to the Scrabble game we kept talking about playing. Probably for the best since I would have creamed everyone and it would not have been very Christmas-like.
I was able to join Russ on his very last Guam dive to the American Tanker. By that point, he played the part of any other experienced diver. It was so much fun showing him a wreck that you can swim inside. We took this picture in the last three minutes of his last dive. But I have a feeling we'll be seeing some more underwater pictures of him soon. Pat on the back to this guy for going for it and getting SCUBA-certified at 62. It just goes to show, you're never too old for a new adventure!

The last day we took Russ and Diane to Two Lovers Point, one of Guam's signature viewpoints, for their last island sunset. It was a beauty!

All in all, it was a Christmas none of us will ever forget. The weather was heavenly, the water was crystal clear, and Guam's underwater wildlife was showing off left and right. We are so grateful Diane and Russ were willing to come all this way. And now, after two rounds of visitors, we have to wonder who out there will be next :) Only time will tell!
Russ and Diane are now back in Houston showing off the DVD Nick made of the 300+ pictures and videos we took while they were here. The day after they left, Nick said it felt like Sunday at the Naval Academy, when all the fun was over and all the work was about to come. And just like you're never too old to learn to dive, you're also never too old, too fast or too strong to miss your family. Love you guys. Thanks for coming. Now send us our next victims!


  1. What great pictures. Wish we could have seen all of you too. Miss and love you all.

  2. Wow! What a trip! You guys sure know how to entertain! I'm loving the pictures, especially of that turtle!

  3. I highly recommend a visit to Guam for anyone willing to make the trip. Nick and Peyt could make a living off of being tour guides. They sure showed us an unbelievable time!!! Love and miss you two!!

  4. Natalie and Kevin say they are ready to go!! Happy New Year, you guys! We love and miss you (under two feet of snow!!)

  5. Looks like you all had an amazing time!! Love the pictures - especially Nick's Dunder Mifflin shirt. :)

    Miss you guys!!

  6. Wow! And I thought our trip to Jamaica was amazing--now I feel like we went to New York's Hudson River!!? Thanks!! LOL Love, Joanne and Tom (we had 27 inches of white stuff to deal with later on, too!)

  7. These are wonderful pictures. See you soon! Love, Mallory


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