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When it's twenty degrees at home, it's great to be able to escape the cold. At the end of January, Nhu and I went to the small island of Curaçao for five days. The weather was beautiful: just a few puffy clouds, and a relatively balmy 85 degrees. I picked the destination out of a desire to see somewhere new, and also to burn four nights' worth of free Hilton certificates. Unfortunately, the destination of Curaçao is now served only by American Airlines, after Continental abandoned it just a month prior. So, without my top status to get us into first class, we were prepared to suffer in the back on a redeye to Miami followed by another few hours to the island. Fortunately, one of my friends from work, who lives in Chicago and flies American Airlines as much as I fly United, decided to give us two upgrade certificates for the redeye to Miami. We were very thankful, because we were at least able to get some sleep!

After arrival in Curaçao, we were greeted by an immigration line that contained not only our plane, but a 747 that had just arrived from Amsterdam as well. Forty five minutes later, we finally made it out of the airport and made our way to the hotel in the rental car. The hotel was very nice, though not the nicest Hilton I have visited. It was located on the beach, but the beach was rather small. Overall, I liked the Hilton in Cabo much better, but this one was still nice. Perhaps the best part was the executive lounge, which one night even had chicken wings! That night, Nhu and I didn't even bother getting dinner afterward.

Most of our trip consisted of relaxing, exploring the island, and swimming. I personally don't care for swimming all that much, but if you put a snorkel on me, I'll be more than happy to get in the water and look at fish. And Curaçao had some beautiful fish! We took a day trip to the small uninhabited island of Klein Curaçao, just a few miles away. As part of the trip, we had a great barbecue lunch. The beach was beautiful, and the water was a gorgeous blue-green. The island also sported a fantastic abandoned lighthouse, which I of course had to explore and photograph extensively. Unfortunately, the area just around the lighthouse had bunches of lizards, of which Nhu has a bit of a phobia. So, we didn't stay toolong. Afterward, we went back to the boat to enjoy some snorkeling, and some free booze that came with the day trip. I would highly recommend!

After five days of getting thoroughly cooked (despite my sunscreen), we made our way reluctantly back to the airport. Fortunately, the line to leave the country wasn't nearly as long. Unfortunately, the line to get back into the US at the Miami airport was even longer. We waited in line for nearly an hour before getting our passports checked, then rushed to the security line to make our connection. That took forever as well. All I can say is that the Miami airport is a nightmare. We did make it to our flight though, and even had time to grab a bite to eat before we boarded. We were definitely very happy when we finally made it back to Denver.

Posted by nick.steinbaugh at 4:57 PM

Over the past month, I haven't had much luck with the weather, despite my best efforts to dodge some of the winter cold. In December, I had two and a half weeks of vacation to burn, and I decided I didn't want to spend all of it at home. So, I took off to Southern Florida for six days. I had never been south of Orlando, and it seemed like a good time to go. The weather looked as if it would cooperate, up until the day before I was to leave. The predicted temperatures had been dropping for a while, but quickly it went from sunny to cloudy to thunderstorms. It was raining enough that when my plane got to Fort Lauderdale, we were put in a hold pattern for fifteen minutes to wait for a particularly heavy bit of the storm to pass over the airport. I then had to drive all the way to Homestead in the rain, in Miami traffic. By the next day, it had gone from a storm to a downpour. Miami ended up with fourteen inches of rain that day. I went to the Everglades Park anyway, though I didn't get out of the car much, and I went back to the hotel fairly early. Thankfully, by the next day, the rain had subsided, so I went to Shark Valley on the north side of the park. The wildlife was spectacular, with plenty of birds and alligators. I hit up some other spots on the north side as well, including Fakahatchee and Big Cypress. The next morning, I got up to see some of the south side of the park, including a nice sunrise over Pa-hay-okee.

After a morning in the park, I made my way down to Key West. Unfortunately, it seemed that my bad luck with weather was not over. Though it was sunny when I left the park, it became increasingly cloudy and cold as I made my way south, and I was worried that I might be in for more rain. Thankfully, the weather started to turn around after Islamorada, and I was able to spend some time on a trail in Long Key State Park. The trail went through some beautiful hammocks, with impressive mangroves and other greenery. From there, I went to Duck Key, which looked enticing from the road, so I drove around the neighborhood. I stopped on Big Pine Key next, which also had some nice trails in the northwest corner. Finally, I drove the rest of the way to Key West. By the time I checked in, it had begun to rain. The next day was better; it was dry, but still cloudy. I went downtown to see the sights. I went to Fort Zachary Taylor to see the fort and stay for sunset, but I left early when it was apparent that the clouds were too thick. The next day, I walked to Smathers Beach and spent some time basking, then went back to the hotel to read. Finally, I made my way back to Fort Zachary Taylor, and I finally got my sunset. The following morning, I made the four hour trip back to the airport. I fully expected the flight to be cancelled, as Denver was in a rather severe snowstorm. To my pleasant surprise, my flight left on time, though landing in Denver made me somewhat uneasy. There was plenty of snow flying by the plane, and I couldn't see the ground until we were about a hundred feet from it. To make matters worse, I had to take a taxi home, but I did finally make it. It was good to be back.

Unfortunately, that was not the end of my bad luck with weather. This past weekend, I went to Hawaii with some people from work. The morning we left, the prediction was for 80 degrees, sun, and zero percent chance of rain. While the prediction held for the first day, the second was overcast in Honolulu, and the third it was quite cloudy, and it even rained briefly. Thankfully, it was not bad enough to ruin anything. We went to Waikiki Beach the first day, Chinatown, Pearl Harbor, a Japanese temple, Diamond Head, and a luau the second. The third day we went to Kailua and Lanikai beaches, and spent the rest of the time on the North Shore before making our way back to Honolulu for dinner and the airport.

Posted by nick.steinbaugh at 10:28 AM