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Our BIGGEST Tour Yet-- Fun in The DMV!

Twenty-four souls joyfully united to give Hawaii Sports Fans its largest group since its founding in 2012 when we gathered together last May in the DMV, DC/Maryland/Virginia area.

Even in these last three months, the memories are fresh, the friendships still building, the recovery on-going, and the text message groups still dinging notifications on our phones. We've even had a reunion.

Outside of making sure everyone has fun and enjoys a unique experience they can't get anywhere else, that's one of the most rewarding thing about running Hawaii Sports Fans-- seeing the lifelong bonds formed between us all.

We accomplished that at our NCAA MVB Championship VIP Tour, and I feel confident in saying the feeling was mutual amongst all two dozen of us.

With a number that size, I was worried that I could be stretched too thin as tour escort, so it was comforting to receive this note from one of our tour VIPs, whom I would describe as being on the "quieter side":

"Thank you so much for making this a very special and memorable trip. You have a special way about you that makes everyone feel included and welcomed! I had so much fun...way more than I expected and it's all thanks to you! :) You're the best!"

That was definitely rewarding. Myself and my personality, that's proprietary here, that's what makes us different. My knowledge and passion are huge assets, but my ability to connect and forge trust is something that sets Hawaii Sports Fans even further apart.

I also give a lot of credit to my time five years as a teacher, working in classroom of children put in my charge and expected to learn from me, on top of all that. I think the many educators who tag along with us at Hawaii Sports Fans would give a nod to that too.


And now a look back at an amazing trip...

DAY ONE: Tuesday, May 2

It came so fast. Here we were all of a sudden, gathered on the couches at the Sheraton Pentagon City, a cavernous domain our group would fill with hours-long talk story sessions and boisterous shishi-your-pants kine laughter in the days that followed.

Having done virtual meet-ups over Zoom for the last several months prior, we had already gotten a sense of each other, but we took our orientation to the next level, after it was suggested that we play a name memorization game.

Everyone was down! It was impressive feat to witness we worked our way around the circle, each person having to recite the name of the player before them.

With pickup right at the lobby entrance, we filled our two vans - huge shoutout to our awesome Tour Assistant, Jenny, who also served as driver; she was a major help to me - and made our way from DC westward into Fairfax, VA, about 17 miles away.

Upon arrival at George Mason University's EagleBank Arena, the tailgate was already set and ready to go for our VIPs, and, boy, did we have a feast!

Starting with catering by Waraku Sushi, from nigiri to the specialty rolls to a pan full of edamame, they really hooked us up. Dozens of rolls filled with fresh fish, crispy shrimp tempura, spicy kani, tuna, slamon, eel sauce and even pesto in one-- BOMB.

Aunty Lori - my mom's actual twin sister, and a huge asset to this tour for us along with my Uncle Hugh - added even more to the buffet with her classic Korean fried chicken and mac salad.

We cracked open our coolers that always follow us wherever we go for the first time on the trip. Always filled with ice-cold waters, sodas, iced coffee, seltzers, beers, wine and more.

A signature part of every HSF tour is the tailgate-ready cooler, always ready to go for our VIPs before any game we go to.

One-by-one we all trickled into the arena to see the night's two matches, LBSU vs Grand Canyon and Penn State, a team that beat UH at home, vs Ohio State.

With the Rainbow Warriors scouting from the sideline, Big West rival Long Beach and Penn State would advance.

DAY TWO: Wednesday, May 3

With a day's rest in between each round of the NCAA Tournament, we had our first free day to explore the city.

After a drive up and around the White House, passing Smithsonians and Federal Agencies, marveling at the history and the architecture, the group was able to get out and explore with a convenient drop-off and pick-up at the foot of the the Lincoln Memorial.

Outside of visiting the famous statue of a sitting Honest Abe, the group also had the chance to visit the Korean War Veterans Memorial, and Vietnam Veterans memorial. Upon the latter, the name of a highschool mate of one of our VIPs, a somber reminder of the price paid by teenagers.

From the center of town, it was back across the river for lunch in Virginia.

I love introducing places to our group that most have never heard of before but are tasty and popular in the region we are visiting. Nando's fit the bill perfectly.

The South African chain with Portuguese influence is famous for its PERI-PERI chicken. Grown in African soil - mostly Mozambique - PERI-PERI AKA African Bird’s Eye Chilli, is the key to the legendary, flame-grilled chicken, that one of our VIPs called, "better than hulihuli chicken!".

Alongside an array of delectable sides, the VIPs got to top off their meal with sangria or, even, poncha, a special alcoholic beverage that comes from the island of Madeira, Portugal.

This was our second taste of Portugal as each in the group got their own Pasteis de Nata - custard tarts - that the three "Coito Sistahz" sponsored from a European Market in Crystal City near the hotel. And, yes, we have a common relative who emigrated to Hawaii from Madeira and whose village all four of us have visited on the island-- all part of this story now too, as we all discover something new together.

On "Foodie" tours like ours, these back stories behind the places we eat matter.

Whether it's Catfish in Chattanooga, Cuban in Miami, Kangaroo pies in Sydney, or Korean in LA - I could name dishes or restaurants in every city we've toured - leaving an impression through the food we eat is apart of the tour experience.

Of course, the other major part are the games!

After a two-hour rest at the hotel, the group was refreshed and ready for the drive to Nationals Park.

For me, it would be my 17th Major League ballpark, and I got all the first-time feels as everyone else.

We couldn't have asked for better parking; only three floors up with a view from the vans looking right into the stadium.

With only a handful participating in the parking lot libations - everyone was so excited to get in - we downed our beer & wines and took the two flights of stairs right to where an attendant took our tickets.

The fun began right away-- we got to take photos with the Mascots - the presidents who race each other each game - and receive our first-game certificates.

With $35 loaded onto everyone's tickets, the VIPs could meander around the entire park, dipping into any eatery or even the team store to spend their credit. The banh mi and crab cakes sure looked good.

When they were ready, they could make their way up to the Champions Club, a climate-controlled lounge with chairs, exclusive food items, and glass cases displaying Washington's memorabilia like is World Series Trophy.

Everyone had a blast - someone even attended a job fair taking place in one of the meeting spaces and did interviews! (Mike) - and we got to see the Capitol building all lit up on our drive back to the hotel.

Did I mention we had to stop for the president's motorcade on the way in?!

Check out this Instagram video recapping our game experience. And be sure to LIKE our page too while you're there. Mahalo!

DAY THREE: Thursday, May 4

Congressman Ed Case's office kicked off the day's activities with a private tour of the US Capitol building and offices.

Korean BBQ is pretty common at Hawaii Sports Fans, but maybe less common is being able to karaoke at the same time! Northern Virginia has a very large Korean population - as well as being a very multiethnic place in general - so we knew the food would be legit.

We had pork, beef, banchan, soju, sake and the best pre-party in our large private space at Breaker's BBQ at the Fair Oaks Mall, just steps from where our Rainbow Men's Volleyball team was staying. That would be important as our group would stand among the dozens and dozens of Faithful who greeted and encouraged the boys as they made their way from the hotel to the gymnasium.

It was back to EagleBank Arena, and we had to hold our okoles. The 'Bows would prevail though, getting revenge over the Nittany Lions in a five-set thriller. UH took Game 5, 15-10, and then made time to hang out with us Fans afterward.

DAY FOUR: Friday, May 5

We can't look back at this day without first talking about Dana.

Not only was this her second year in a row on the NCAA MVB tour, but it was another year for us to celebrate Dana on her birthday, May 5th.

Unfortunately this year, Dana had lost her husband just days prior to stepping on the plane to come on this trip. When I first heard from her via email, my mind immediately went back to 10 years ago, when I first met Dana and her Koba, when they came on their first trip with Hawaii Sports Fans, such a wonderful man.

As Dana waited in the Sheraton lobby with her fellow VIPs for daily pick-up, she was ambushed with birthday candles and song. I was also able to present Dana with a gift on behalf of Hawaii Sports Fans, an Ohtani 13K Bobblehead, a rare and extremely popular promo item from an Angels game I attended earlier this year, highly-valued by third party resellers.

What was even cooler was what would happen next though.

Right before I boarded my own flight, I received a call from Dana's son saying his father had a gift that he had purchased for his mom before he had passed for her birthday. I got to surprise Dana with another gift presentation, explaining to her who it was from.

As she tore through the wrapping paper, a familiar box appeared-- it was also an Ohtani 13K Bobblehead.

Chicken skin. I mean, what are the chances?

That moment was truly a gift to me, as well.

A cherished memory in the bank already to kickoff the day, it just kept getting better.

First was lunch at the original location of the world famous Ben's Chili Bowl, President Obama's favorite spot, where we not only got to try the famous half-smokes, but we also got a private history lesson from the Owner himself, a legacy he's been carrying on with his family for 65 years running.

Even in one of the busiest eateries in DC, the executive staff made sure to answer all our questions and retrieve various t-shirts and Ben's paraphernalia from the back that many in the group purchased for omiyage.

With our bellies happy, we were off to a broadway show at the Ford Theatre. Yes, the place where Abraham Lincoln was assassinated.

Talk about mana-- that's walking up the flowing, carpeted wooden staircase and into the actual location where Honest Abe was shot.

The show was incredible too! SHOUT SISTER SHOUT! celebrates the extraordinary and courageous life of Sister Rosetta Tharpe. The acting was superb, the singing angelic and the story one we should all know. I am still moved by the closing scene in which they aged the lead character in real time right in front of us.

Still reeling from the performance we witnessed - or just a good nap, which counts for a good time too - we headed westward back to Fairfax, VA. There, we came together with fellow UH Fans, the band, and even the Rainbow Warriors themselves to wish them the all the best the night before the game at the UH Alumni Association Rally.


A beatiful afternoon in Northern Virginia with the hues of Spring all around, our group was among the Faithful clad in Manoa Green ready to welcome out a team going for back-to-back-to-back National Championships. We enjoyed heavy pupu and conversations with fans who had come from all over the world to see this global phenomenon, UH Men's Volleyball.

From the hotel, we joined the caravan over to EagleBank Arena, where Aunty Lori & Uncle Hugh had our tailgate ready, featuring Potbelly Sandwiches, including steak, Mediterranean and their signature Wreck®: Roast turkey, smoked ham, roast beef, salami and Swiss, toasted to perfection.

Diane's cousin who joined us for the game even brought a long a made-from-scratch prune cake, a recipe that has been in their family for generations. ‘Ono!

As for the game, the 'Bows fought hard, but the Bruins would claim another national title. It was incredible that they even appeared in this match three years ago. As a little boy watching this team from Klum Gym to Stan Sheriff, it's amazing how far they've come.

We were able to give lei and congratulate the boys again after the game, and our Hawaii Sports Fans group was prominent in a lot of the media coverage. A great experience for all around, even in defeat.

We still had something in store for the VIPs though.

I've really missed the postgame soup tradition from our days tailgating at Aloha Stadium. There was always something so comforting and nostalgic about that piping hot soup right after a game, win or lose.

And that's when Aunty Lori pulled through again. Not only cooking a vat of Portuguese bean soup but opening her home for the entire group to come over and eat it.

It was the perfect way to tie the bow on a perfect trip, surrounded by family.

Particularly for me, Aunty Lori & Uncle Hugh's former ring-bearer, having my own ‘Ohana support me in my passion and in our growth at Hawaii Sports Fans is extra special.

And by the end of every trip, we are all ‘Ohana.


BONUS PICS: June 16th Reunion in Aina Haina

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