Friday, January 30, 2009

The return of Francois deLay du Pompideau

The Devil Dog got a call the other day from none other than Francois deLay du Pompideau, racanteur extraordinaire, and wing man for the ages when trundling across the vineyards of France. You may know him better as travel writer Kent St John of and the author of the international blogfest "Be Our Guest".

Thats Francois above peddling through the vineyards of Burgandy just south of Beaune on the way to Puligny Montrachet. Thats him below at Chateau Bligny amongst the rest of our intrepid group as we sampled champagne from one of only two official Champagne Chateau in France.

He has just returned from the Great Barrier Reef and Queensland Australia which must have been epic in its wonder. Then he had a previously scheduled bout of surgery for skin cancer, and though he looked like the Phantom of the Opera in his post operative wrappings, Francois De Lay is a ruggedly handsome man who will bounce back soon and return to the feathered liberties of the road less traveled. (Thats us in the picture below). So heres to you Francois. A man of character and courage, wit and wisdom, and a good friend. 

Monday, January 26, 2009

Terry Fitzgerald's charmed life

Terry Fitzgerald has long been one of the Devil Dogs favorite people in Kona, if not on the planet. Terry is one of the original coffee pioneers, leasing four acres of rain forest in Honaunau in 1971 and restoring an overgrown coffee plantation, turned it into idyllic, award winning coffee farm that was one of the earliest single vineyard estate coffees.  He won the Gevalia Cup, as we have noted, in 1997, and more than that, he embodies the free spirited hippy types (tho he has always been more Kerouac than hippy), who restored Kona Coffee. Terry's house is largely built of Koa planking, especially the floors, and he has long lived the part of the wise avuncular man on the mountain.  But a few years ago Terry met Susie in China, and they married, and she came to Hawaii, where they had their beautiful son Sonny.  Now I have known Terry a long time but I have never seen him as happy as in his current domestic bliss, and Susie is as cool as she is amazing, but it is Sunny who has transformed the plantation in the sky where they live.  Thats Terry and Susie and Sonny in the picture above.

The Da Kine Coffee Farm is a wonderland, of course, for a little boy, and all the neighbors know and adore Sonny.  In the picture above we see Sonny leading the way down a path between two swaths of coffee trees, Terry close behind.  In a way of life that hasn't changed in decades, and in a place that is the very definition of unspoiled heaven, Terry has a life that few could imagine. But he works hard too, and Da Kine Coffee remains one of the great Kona Coffee farms, if not the touchstone for those who appreciate the heritage of the individualistic coffee farmer. Thats Terry at the table off his kitchen in the photo below, a man who as much as anyone else has taken his piece of Hawaii and made it emblematic of all that life would hope to be.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Big Island Beaches

The Devil Dog is always enthralled with the beaches of Hawaii and never more so than at two spots on the Big Island north of Kona that capture the imagination. Above is the perfect crescent shaped beach at the Mauna Kea Resort Hotel in Kohala, one the earliest of the notable pioneering resorts in Hawaii, built in 1965 by Lawrence Rockefeller.  It happens to sit on one of the most beautiful beaches the Devil Dog has ever seen, which I'm sure was part of the plan. The Mauna Kea has always been the most beautifully located, and architecturally distinct of the large resorts on the Big Island. Damaged in the Big Island earthquake two years ago it has just now reopened after a complete renovation and upgrading of facilities, but with the same beautiful style and sense of wonder that it has always had.

Key to that sense is the beach, a gently arching crescent of sand on a natural bay with gently sloping sandy bottoms and lovely shorebreak perfect for body surfing, but with enough depth for longer rides.  In all of Hawaii the beach at the Mauna Kea is one of my favorites, as much for the beauty of the place itself, as for the fabulous shorebreak and body surfing extravaganzas when the surf is up. 

Meanwhile, further south at the Four Seasons Hualalai, their resort fronts a lovely white sand, man made beach, where the real action is offshore.  100 yards or more out, when the Kona swell is rumbling and the surf is up, the waters off the Four Seasons is a rocking local surf spot, as attested to in the photo above.  On this day 3 to 5 foot waves come in all afternoon in beautiful sets that were snapped up and ridden like kids at a carnival. In the picture above a lone surfer rides a wave all the way across its tubular break while another picture perfect wave comes in behind it.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inauguration Day

So two million people  turned out on the Washington Mall  for the inauguration of Barack Obama, while billions watched around the globe.  The sense of possibility and renewal is inescapable, as is the tangible feeling of the dawning of a new era. Washington was frigid but the atmosphere was electric.  These pictures of the Capitol and the Washington Monument were taken last summer for an article for New York Newsday.

The Devil Dog knows a lot of people who may have not voted for our new president, and who have found themselves grumbling under their breath at the chorus of "change" they see all around them. To them I say take heart, embrace the new era and the vitality of our democracy, give the new President the chance to be  a vessel that takes the country to a new and better place.  Politics does not mean the requirement to disrespect the process of democracy.  Politics demands that we accept the new face of Washington and be proud of the history we have made and the example it sets around the world.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Martin Luther King

Martin Luther King Day this year clearly took on an extra deeper meaning with the inauguration of President Barack Obama one day later, and on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial where Dr. Kings immortal I Have A Dream speech was given in 1963 hundreds of thousands of citizens turned up on a blisteringly cold day for the free public concert celebrating President Obama, with performances by Bruce Springsteen, U2 and numerous other acts.

These pictures were taken last summer at the Lincoln Memorial while the weather was MUCH better. But the Devil Dog salutes Dr. King and the unmistakable fulfillment of one aspect of his dream.  It is forgotten now that Dr. King was only 38 when he was assassinated. Sometimes its hard to remember how far we have come as a country since that turbulent year.  1968 saw riots, revolution, and the murder of Robert Kennedy, a raging war in Vietnam, and a youth culture on the ascendency.  It has been a seminal achievement in this election year that it seems like the possibilities of the future we envisioned in 1968 have finally found root in our new President.

I certainly hope so. 

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Back in LA

The Devil Dog is back in Los Angeles after a whirlwind week in Washington DC.  The excitement in the city as we build to inauguration day is palpable, and the monuments of this Acropolis on the Potomac are  aglow at night in preparation for the crowds to come.

But in Los Angeles the Devil Dog retires to his zen compound in Sherman Oaks, the principle features in which are the two endless fountains that mark the front and back yards.

Above is the view of the golden urn fountain from just inside the front gate, and below is the blue green obelisk fountain in the midst of the Garden Bar.  The compound is a place to refresh and restore the batteries, to write and repose before the next undiluted journey that lies ahead.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Happy Birthday Mom

The Devil Dog is in Washington DC to celebrate his mother's 90th birthday.

Along with all the other beautiful qualities she has, Mom is responsible for the Devil Dog becoming a travel writer. In the summer of 2005 Mom wanted to go on a European River Cruise from Budapest to Amsterdam, and couldn't find anyone to go with her. (She was then a spry 86). When she was going to cancel her trip, the Devil Dog volunteered and, knowing it would be a great travel article, queried 18 newspapers and magazines and newspapers and was turned down by 17 of them.

One man, Richard Slusser, travel editor at The Washington Times said yes. The trip was amazing, a true adventure, 15 days on the Rhine, Meine and Danube Rivers, spectacular scenary, fairy tale castles, tiny villages, beautiful towns, Cologne, Nurnburg, Vienna, Durnstein, and Budapest, among others. After that article was published (Sept 25, 2005) the Devil Dog did 17 more pieces for The Washington Times. I also took mom on subsequent adventures, a cruise among the Fjords of Norway, from Oslo to Bergen to Kirkines well above the artic circle; a two week tour of the castles of England with my wife, her mother and my mother (the Mums Tour we called it); and last year a Mississippi River Paddleboat Cruise from Memphis to New Orleans.

As my travel writing career has blossomed, with pieces in numerous other newspapers (and upcoming articles in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Austin American Statesman, and the Honolulu Advertiser) I have never forgotten how it all began.

Thanks Mom, and Happy Birthday.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

King Kalakaua's Beach House

David Kalakaua was King of the Hawaiian Islands from 1874 to 1891, and was known as the Merry Monarch for his colorful enjoyment of the finer things in life.  He had a very contentious reign, where the struggles between native Hawaiian culture and the encroachments of the Western powers (the United States and United Kingdom mainly) were an ongoing undercurrent culminating in the overthrow of his successor, Queen Liliokalani (who wrote Aloha Oe in protest of her imprisonment in Iolani Palace, bemoaning the loss of Hawaiian independence) and annexation by the United States in 1898.

But in happier times King Kalakaua used to come to Kona and relax at this beach house, which sits on the grounds of what is today the Outrigger Keauhou Beach Resort, and is very close to the birthplace of Kamehameha III. Unassuming by modern standards, it is interesting to think of the Hawaiian King in the glory of his reign spending many a relaxing day fishing or on the beach before coming back to his royal bungalow by the sea. The Devil Dog delights at the thought.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Rancho Aloha

Bruce and Lisa Corker have a beautiful property high in the hills of Holualoa, just outside the tiny village, with one acre of coffee trees, but it must be a spectacular acre because they won the Gevalia Cup in 2006.

A lawyer by training, Bruce served in the Peace Corp as a youth and was smitten with the coffee farms in the mountains of Columbia, so when he moved to Hawaii it was a natural progression to buy his own farm.

While the property is quite nice, with a larger rental house at the top, Bruce and Lisa live in this unassuming bungalow at the lower end of the property, with an idyllic surrounding and stunning views.  They produce about 1000 pounds of Rancho Aloha coffee and it ALWAYS sells out so order early and often.  Rancho Aloha Coffee can be found at or by calling 808 322 9562.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Malia Ohana

Malia Bolten is a rising force in Kona Coffee.  The daughter of Dan and Jan Bolten, founders of Kona Coffee and Tea Co. (which won the Gevalia cup in 2003), Malia has her own 8 acre coffee farm, Malia Ohana, which came in second in the Gevalia Cup last year.  Malia not only handles a range of duties for her fathers operation, she is completely on top of her own farm and whatever else is going on with Kona Coffee, and she's certainly not hard to look at. The Devil Dog approves.  Of course it helps that she's sharp, bright, witty and independent, dedicated to her craft, and deeply knowledgeable about the Kona Coffee industry. Expect Malia Bolten to be around a long time.  Her Malia Ohana brand coffee can be purchased through www.konacoffeeand or by calling 808 896 7907.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Mountain Thunder Coffee

Trent Bateman is a coffee man on a mission.  His Mountain Thunder Coffee occupies 8 organic acres at the highest elevation for a coffee farm in Kona, 3200 feet, and he processes mills and roasts for a number of other farms as well.  But his Mountain Thunder organic coffee is sensational, and Trents reputation is such in Kona that he mills and roasts the coffee for all the entrants to this years Gevalia Cup.  

Trents operation is impresssive, but his home and coffee fields are beautiful.  Thats him above in front of his home.  We walked down to the middle of his coffee trees as the sun was setting where Trent has built a patio platform.  The two pictures below show his fields, first looking down towards the Pacific, and then looking up towards his house, bathed in the golden red light of the setting sun.

Mountain Thunder Coffee can be found at or by calling 808 325 2136.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

New Years Day

The Devil Dog hopes everyone takes the time to reflect on New Years Day how good you actually have it in life, in spite of what ails you; think positively about the possibilities for 2009 and view the challenges in your life as opportunities for the redemption of the human spirit. Its a big beautiful world out there, right at home and all around the globe, so indulge....take a trip with someone you care about and find the memory of a corner of the sky you can call your own.

Last year my wife Alison and I went to St. Paul de Vence, a medieval village in the hills of the south of France, staying at the legendary Colombe d'Or, the most exqusitely personal hotel I have ever stayed in.  Our first morning there we woke up early and walked the ramparts of the tiny village as the sun was rising.  In the middle of town, at the highest point, is the church, a beautiful conclave from the 14th century.  We sat on the steps and had a local early rising passerby take the picture. It was one of the most beautiful mornings of the Devil Dogs life, and the start of an amazing 8 days in St Paul, and Vence, and Tourette sur Loup, and Cap d'Antibe, and Cagne sur Mer.

Happy New Year !!!