© 2016, 2023 Rex Jaeschke. All rights reserved.
Aloha! Since I moved to the Northern Hemisphere, most winters, I've gone to a warmer place for several weeks. In January 2016, my original plan was to go to some place new in the Caribbean. To that end, I looked long and hard at Trinidad and Tobago, but simply couldn't get excited about that or any other island in the general area for that matter [perhaps I really have traveled too much!] Then, quite unexpectedly, Hawaii—half a world away—came onto my radar, and very soon after, I'd booked a 2-week trip there: 10 days in an apartment on the island of Maui, followed by four more staying with friends on the island of Hawaii, known locally as the Big Island.
[I'd been to Maui once, for two days in September 1982, as part of a 3-island trip. At the time, I'd applied for US Permanent Residency, and once my temporary visa expired, I couldn't get a new visa until I got permanent status. And that took three years! Therefore, if I'd have left the US during that time, I wouldn't have been able to get back in! As a result, I flew as far as I could go domestically. As for the Big Island, this would be my 10th trip there, the last one being more than 10 years ago. Eight of those trips were to attend conferences held during the very cold northern winters.]
This is an unusual trip in that it is not primarily for business, although I fully expect to work more than a bit. As I have a steady diet of business trips and plenty of time off, ordinarily, I extend those trips with personal time, and rarely take just a personal trip. Flying as much as I do, I have accumulated many Frequent-Flyer points, but in order to use them I have to travel even more (poor baby)! In any event, I cashed in some for this trip, so only had to pay the taxes, $11.20, not a bad price for a roundtrip ticket across five time zones to get a 40–50-degree F temperature improvement. (Actually, being the generous person that I am, I was prepared to pay as much as $15!)
The Long Trip Out
My 10:30-am taxi arrived 10 minutes early, and my driver was a very-well spoken, educated, young man from Ethiopia. It was a nice day out, and not at all cold. We talked about many things—mostly about his country—on the way to Washington's Dulles International Airport (IAD). Check-in was immediate and smooth, although security took a while. As a Trusted Traveler, I can leave my computer gear in its bag. However, my daypack contained two laptop computers, power cords and adaptors, a wireless and wired mouse, a disk drive, cell phone and pocket computer chargers, a headset, and more. With all that electrical gear, I was subjected to a detailed check—got to keep an eye on us foreigners—but the attendant was very polite and friendly. No "untoward" objects were discovered.
I took the mobile lounge to Terminal D where I walked to Gate 1. The flight to San Francisco was overbooked, and staff were asking for volunteers to take a later flight for $400 compensation. Although I was first in line to board, I didn't get to board first (don't you just hate that when that happens!) People with disabilities came first, followed by Global Service Members, then military personnel in uniform, Spanish-speaking left-handed carpenters, honest politicians (a very small group), and then all of us in Zone 1! No surprise, people had to check luggage at the last minute as the overhead bins were filled rather quickly. Flight UA525, a Boeing 737, took off on time for the 6-hour flight to the west coast.
As you might recall from previous diaries, I often fly in Business Class; however, on this trip, I made do with the Extended-Legroom section of Economy; no point "wasting" my flyer miles during a daytime flight! I settled into Seat 11A, a portside window. As we had 30 minutes until takeoff, I started work on this diary.
Late in the boarding process, an 18-year-old university student sat in the seat next to me. From our "Hellos" onward, we got along famously, and talked of travel and culture, among other things, for more than two hours. She was born in Budapest, Hungary, and had lived and traveled in several corners of the world. Due to her parents' ancestry, she had passports from Hungary, the UK, and the U.S. Based on her enthusiasm and abilities, there may be hope for her generation after all!
As we flew out over the Midwest, the sun shone brightly and was reflected up from the snow-covered countryside. In fact, despite our aircraft smoothly coasting at 30,000 feet, my side of the plane was uncomfortably hot. I worked on my laptop for three hours.
We arrived at San Francisco International (SFO) 10 minutes early in nice weather. I was very pleased to find there were no earthquakes in sight. I snacked on a fish sandwich before going to my connecting gate where I worked for another 30 minutes at a business desk.
At Gate 90, Flight UA1749, another Boeing 737, took off full for the 5½-hour trip to Kahului, Maui (OGG). I had Seat 7A, a bulkhead window seat with a large amount of legroom and a power outlet, don't you know! Seated next to me was a German couple from the state of Lower Saxony. They had just flown in from Frankfurt on the polar route, so had already had a very long day. He spoke some English, and she had none, but she had questions, so I quickly got into my (quite rusty and limited) German mode and managed to help her. Later, I helped them fill out their agricultural forms. (With Hawaii being a remote island chain, many things are prohibited.) She was quite surprised when I asked her if she had any live snakes in her baggage or on her person! (Yes, that was one of the questions on the form.) Now I knew the German word for "snake," but not for "live," so I improvised with "not dead." She claimed to not have any, but I wasn't so sure!
I worked another hour in-flight, but started to fade, so I read a bit, and then lay back in my seat with the light off, resting my eyes. However, no sleep came.
The Island of Maui
We landed at 9 pm, local time, to a balmy 75 degrees F (24 C). I got a bunch of tourist books and brochures from a stand and then picked up my bag, which was one of the first out on the carousel. I hopped in a taxi and the driver took a while to find my destination on his GPS. Near my place, we stopped at a supermarket so I could lay in some basic supplies for the next day.
I found my apartment unlocked with the ceiling fan going and the windows open. I unpacked my gear, had a nice, not-too-hot shower, and crashed at 11 o'clock with just a sheet over me. It was probably 11:30, however, before I went to sleep.
Around 4 am, I woke to feel a chill, so I closed the windows and pulled up a blanket. I was wide-awake at 5:30, after about 6½ hours sleep. The apartment owner had provided some fresh fruit, so I sliced a banana over my cereal with milk, and boiled the kettle for a cup of coffee. The first signs of dawn came at 6:15, after which it got light rather quickly.
My new style of personal-travel accommodations these days is AirBnB; however, after six times renting a room, this time I chose an apartment, so that my traveling companion, Mr. C (my stuffed caterpillar, and traveling companion of late) and I could have our own kitchen and bathroom. After a few false starts, I finally found just the right place, up a mountainside on the last street looking out over the main town. It's called Treehouse Cottage, and while it isn't literally up in a tree, it is surrounded by many large ones, including a papaya and several banana, with plump fruit hanging right where I can reach them. A balcony out the back was screened in to keep the insects out, and it overlooked my very own little jungle. The place was one large room with a small bathroom set in a corner. The bed was only a double, but I could just about fit across corners. At least it didn't have an end-board! The kitchen was very well appointed and had all I needed, and then some.
I passed the time working on a list of administrative chores and going through the tourist information to see where to go and what to do. My plan ended up being to work, read, write, and nap at the apartment and to walk the local areas for the first five days, and then to rent a car for the last five, so I could visit several interesting areas around the island. At 10:30, I headed back to the supermarket to lay in supplies for the remaining nine days. The first half mile was gently undulating, but the second was downhill at a 30% grade. It was getting quite hot, so I stuck out my thumb. It'd been many years since I'd last hitchhiked, but I thought I'd try it. Well, don't you know, all kinds of yuppies in their land yachts raced right by me without a clue as to the wonderful time they might have had had they stopped to pick me up. (Perhaps I'd have had more luck if I'd worn some clothes; just kidding, after all I had on my straw Hawaiian hat!) Well, halfway down the mountain, my faith in humankind was partially restored when a man pulled up in his big pick-up truck and drove me right to the front door of the supermarket. He'd served in the US Navy and had been to Adelaide, Australia (my home state's capital), and loved it. He recognized my accent right away.
I had my daypack and a reasonably strong paper bag with carry handles. I barely managed to get all my groceries in them, and the lot must have weighed at least 30 pounds. As I trudged back up the mountain, it seemed that just maybe the earth had moved while I was shopping, as the angle of the ascent seemed much steeper than the trip down. Unfortunately, no one stopped to pick me up, so I had to stop several times to rest in the shade and to put my heart back in my chest. By the time I got back home, I was drenched in sweat, and after I packed away my stuff, I splashed water over myself and lay on the bed unable to move for some time. I know for certain that I don't work that hard for money! Later, I showered and tried to nap, but to no avail.
I met the owner, Mark, who lived in the basement of the main house in a huge studio, in which he painted and made metal sculptures and ceramic koi fish. We chatted a while and he gave me the Holy Grail, the password to the wireless internet. After nearly two days of being disconnected, the legitimate messages and spam had piled up, waiting for my attention. I disposed of them while the sounds of a neighbor playing various instruments wafted in my windows along with a slight breeze. I can't say it was a bit of Heaven, but perhaps it was in the outer suburbs of said place! I paused to make and sip a cup of boiling Earl Grey tea, and to nibble on some crackers containing peanut butter.
Alas, I'd encountered a major problem with my new home. As I planned to do more than a little personal and business work on both the laptops I'd brought, I needed a decent table and chair with support. However, these did not exist. The narrow table-like stand—intended as a breakfast bar—was too low for my tall knees, as was the coffee table on the balcony, but what to do? Well, don't you know, just as I was climbing back up the mountain from the supermarket and about to collapse from exhaustion, I had an idea that was more cunning than the Professor of Cunning at Oxford University. (There you go Black Adder fans!) Knowing I would have an apartment, as I was packing my little travel kitchen back home, I included four strong plastic containers with lids in which to store leftovers in the fridge. Now, I put their lids on, turned them upside down and stood the breakfast bench legs right on top where they fit very nicely into the indentations as if they'd been made for that very purpose. I then brought a comfortable cane chair in from the balcony and filled it with cushions to get me at just the right height. It worked wonderfully well, so much so that I'm thinking of patenting the idea. However, I think my working product title, table-leg-lifts-made-from-plastic-tomato-and-basil-soup-countainers, needs some tweaking. Perhaps I'll hold some focus groups! [Would you pay $29.99 for a set of these? No? But wait, there's more; included in all orders placed in the next 30 minutes will be, yeah, a raspberry-flavored tongue depressor!]
I stayed in for the rest of the day working on my laptop on a whole host of personal things, including this diary. Afternoon tea consisted of a large mug of steaming Earl Grey tea. Supper was a ham salad and a tall glass of whole milk, just the thing for a growing lad!
I started my first reading project, a biography of two US Navy carrier pilots during the Korean War. One was white and from a wealthy New England family, the other black and from a poor southern family. It was called Devotion: An Epic Story of Heroism, Friendship, and Sacrifice, by Adam Makos. From the start, it was a good read. [Thanks, Danielle, for that great birthday present.]
I was yawning from mid-afternoon on, but managed to stay awake until 7:30, at which time, I crashed. I think I was asleep at 7:31!
Iao Valley State Park
After 12 hours of reasonably restful sleep, I was wide-awake and ready for the world, but was it ready for me? The dress code was bare feet and boxer shorts. As breakfast is the most important meal of the day, I had a tall glass of orange and passion fruit juice along with sausage and egg on bread with ketchup.
I checked my email and was delighted to hear that it was below freezing with light snow back home. Hopefully, all or at least most of winter's weather will come and go in the two weeks I will be away.
At 10 o'clock, I headed out with my daypack containing rain gear, emergency rations, water, sunburn cream and insect repellant. The cloud cover made it pleasant. My destination was Iao Valley State Park, which I estimated was a 5-mile round-trip. Once again, I held out my thumb, and after a quarter mile of walking, a young guy picked me up and dropped me at the main road to the park. He smiled and told me the fare was $150! However, he backed off when I threatened to sing instead. I walked 10 minutes more before a young American guy in a jeep stopped. With him were a young woman from Germany and another from the Ukraine. It was a veritable United Nations gathering.
At the park entrance, there were terraced gardens with Korean and Chinese pagodas, koi ponds, ornately trimmed trees and bushes, and a memorial to all the people from Puerto Rico who emigrated to Maui in 1900 after their own country (in the Caribbean) was devastated by a hurricane. I stopped to chat with a French-Canadian couple from the province of Quebec.
The road to the second parking area ¾ of a mile further on was closed, as construction of some sort had started. I read all the warning signs and after thinking for 10 seconds, stepped over the barrier, and headed up the road. Soon I encountered numerous others going in my direction or coming back. Apart from some large tree branches that had been cut, there was no evidence of anything remotely dangerous. After a 15-minute walk, mostly in the shade, I stood on a bridge over a fast-flowing creek coming down from the mountains, taking in the view of Iao Needle, the 1,200-foot (400 m) remnant of a lava cone.
Back at the main park, I sat in the shade and made notes for this diary while having a small snack. Many people were BBQing, and the food smelled awfully good. Afterwards, I took a few photos of Mr. C against some tropical backgrounds.
I started walking back home, and soon was passed by a steady stream of at least 40 classic VWs, mostly Beetles and Kombi-vans, but with some Kombi-trucks, Karmen Ghias, and dune buggies, as well. Shortly after, an elderly couple from Memphis, Tennessee, stopped to give me a lift. When we got to the road that went off to my place, they very generously said that as they didn't have anything better to do, they would drive me all the way home, saving me a mile, mostly uphill. All told, I figured I'd saved about 3½ miles of walking.
Back home, it was snack time, so I made a healthy salad sandwich, which I washed down with ice-cold milk. To aid the digestion, I cranked up the in-house stereo and settled into some 60s/70s/80s classic rock from a local station. [Ironically, back home, I often listen to an internet radio station that plays traditional-Hawaiian music.]
It was a national public holiday (Martin Luther King Day), but I was in the mood for some serious work. So, work I did, putting in 17 hours over two days. To break out of my sedentary mode, I stopped occasionally for snacks and drinks, and a stretch.
A Drive up to the Haleakala Crater
After a serious breakfast suitable for a growing lad, I spent the morning reading and dealing with email. Around noon, my landlord, Mark, generously drove me to the airport where I picked up a rental car, so I could get "out and about" on the island. Well, I have to say that the Ford they gave me had so much electronic gear, I couldn't even figure out how to start the darned thing! Apparently, the key I'd been given only opened the door and the trunk; it didn't actually start the car. For that, I had to put my foot hard on the brake pedal and press the start switch. [Is that progress? I remember driving very old cars in the 1960's that had no ignition switch and a starter button.]
It was a pleasant day, with a cool breeze, so I had all the car windows down, at least that is until I got higher up the mountain where it got significantly cooler. My plan for the day was to drive to the top of the extinct volcano, Haleakala, and to pay my respects to the Goddess Pele. Early on in the drive up the mountain, I came across two young guys hitchhiking, so I picked them up. They too were headed to the top. Having recently turned 62, I was eligible for a US National Park lifetime-entrance card for $10, what a deal! Therefore, at the entrance to the park, I bought one, which entitled all the people in my vehicle to enter without charge as well. After a look around the small visitor center and the summit peak (10,023 feet/3,055 meters), we parted company. While the two guys hiked way down into the crater, I ambled down no more than a mile where I sat and took in the vast crater, one side of which had been blown out. I met and chatted with quite a few people, mostly from Canada, a German, some women from Spain, a Frenchman, and a Chinese woman from Hong Kong. And believe it or not, two natives of Bismarck, North Dakota. The walk back up was arduous, and I stopped and rested on a regular basis. [Some 34 years earlier, I'd learned the hard way about physical exertion at altitude when I was in Cuzco, Peru, very high up in the Andes.]
The two hitchhikers and I met up again at the summit where we joined 100 others to watch the sunset. Many were shivering in their shorts and T-shirts, while I had on long pants, a warm jacket, an outer wind-proof coat, and a woolen cap. The sun dropped quite quickly, and the most interesting aspect of the sunset was that we were well above the clouds, so the sun set below the cloud top, not the horizon. Below the clouds, sunset was 5–10 minutes later. We drove the very windy road back down in the dark, and at one point nearly hit a very large cow in a small herd grazing by the roadside. Around 7 pm, light rain started, which got quite heavy as we got further down the mountain.
It was a challenge driving in a new place, at night, in the rain, but I had some basic maps. Fortunately, a main highway went to the end of my street, so I found my way home by 8 o'clock without incident. I made a nice ham salad for supper and settled down to do some reading while the rain came down. Lights out around 10 pm with the windows mostly closed.
[Now apart from seeing the sunset on the mountain, I had also considered going back to see a sunrise. As this was such a popular thing to do, the Park entrance was manned from a very early hour. Currently, sunrise was around 7 am, but the Ranger at the entrance told me I should be in line with my car at the entrance around 4:30! I pondered that advice for the rest of the visit up there, and at the end of the day, I decided that I really should leave something new to do during my next visit, so why not make it that!]
A Day at Home
It rained through the night and didn't stop until about 8 am. I read in bed for a while and decided to alternate work and play days. With this being a wet and overcast day, I'd stay home. Breakfast was a bowl of cereal with tropical fruit pieces in juice, topped with milk, and a steaming cup of coffee alongside.
I idled away the morning going through my photos from the day before and dealing with the inevitable email that kept on arriving. Apparently, the world simply could not get along without me! Reports from back home told me that schools were closed in anticipation of the big blizzard, and snow had already fallen (as had the temperature). It appeared that the Weather Gods had heeded my request to wait until I was gone. Hopefully, the mess will be cleaned up before I return home.
I was less than enthusiastic when I started work around midday, so much so that my efficiency was only at 105%! Soon after, things improved, and I put in a solid and productive afternoon.
Supper was a bowl of hot tuna with pasta and a creamy sauce, followed by some tropical fruit. I went through all the reading material in the bookcase and found "Dave Barry Does Japan." I've long been a fan of his writing (and his influence is shown in some of my essays and diaries from time to time), and I enjoyed the first few chapters immensely while sitting out on my enclosed balcony. Lights out at 9 pm.
I was wide-awake at 7:30 am, ready for the world. I put the kettle on to boil and then made a 4-egg omelet with sausage and cheese. It was all very tasty with leftovers for Ron ("lateR on," that is). The organic brown eggs had ever-so-orange yokes, the chickens that laid them seem to have actually been outside scratching for worms!
The wireless network had gone off air the previous night and was still not working, so I went to see the landlord. He reported a general outage and that someone was coming later today to fix it. Hopefully, "later today" is not island-speak for "later this month!" It's so easy to rely on technology which can quickly become unavailable without warning. Oh well, as I've maintained for many years, "Always have a Plan B, even for Plan B." As I had planned a driving trip around the north and east coasts that day, the impact was minimal, although I really did need to go online to my bank to transfer some money between accounts. C'est la vie!
A Drive Along the East Coast
Around 10 o'clock, I headed east on the Hana Highway, which, surprise, eventually leads to the town of Hana. There was plenty of cloud cover and a fresh breeze, so it was a good day for driving. I stopped at Ho'okipa Beach Park where I saw my first beach. As I was taking some photos, I saw a large sea turtle swimming out thought the waves. It was 2–3 feet (1 m) across. (Apparently, at sunset they come to that beach in large numbers.) I already mentioned the complexity of my rental car, but it went to a whole new level at that stop. You would think it a simple thing to lock a car, but NO! Each time I pressed the "lock door" button on the remote, the doors locked and then after a few seconds they unlocked again. After a half dozen tries, I consulted the man who had just pulled in next to me. He told me that I had to step away from the car a few paces before I locked up. Then as soon I got close to any door, the door and remote recognized each other and the doors opened. Call it "convenient" if you must; I call it "a bloody nuisance!" In the parking lot, I saw a vehicle with California license plates, which got me thinking the driver must have made a wrong turn somewhere!
Early on in the drive, I passed large areas of sugar cane, something rather rare these days. Later, I was surrounded by one of my favorite plants, ferns, on each side of the road for miles.
According to my guidebook, "The road boasts approximately 617 curves and crosses 56 one-lane bridges," which I can confirm. I stopped off at a couple of places to look at waterfalls and out over the coast, and to stretch. For the most part, the speed limit was 15 or 25 mph. I didn't speed much, and the 50-odd miles took nearly three hours. To be sure, the highlight was Wai'anapanapa State Park just before Hana. (Try to say that name three times quickly!) The old lava flows went right down into the water, and the vegetation was tropical. The small beach was quite black, mostly made up of small and medium-size rounded pebbles, but also some lava sand. The waves came in high and hard, which challenged the swimmers. I had a quick look around Hana and decided that the drive had really "been about the journey, not the destination."
Soon after I started back, one of my alternate personalities took over my body, and proceeded to test the rental cars brakes and steering through all those tight corners. Now I won't admit to breaking any laws, but let's just say that I got back in one hour less than the out-bound trip after what might be called "Toad's Wild Ride." As I neared home, I managed to regain control of my body.
At My Apartment
Back home, I had an early supper and a warm shower. For something different, I'd spent the day sitting in a car seat rather than in a chair at my laptop. I wiled away the evening reading, snacking, and doing logic puzzles on my computer while both CDs from Leonard Cohen's Live in London album played.
Although I was in bed a long while, I wasn't particularly rested. However, after a small breakfast and tea, I felt better. I started a load of laundry; you can't escape those domestic chores even in Paradise! Email from back home informed me some 24" (60 cm) of snow had fallen in my area. I phoned a neighbor to check, and he told me it was still coming down and was so deep, he couldn't even get his large tractor out to start plowing his yard and driveway. The whole DC metro area likely would be shut down for days.
I worked solidly for much of the day, but as the old saying goes, "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy." Around 4 o'clock, I headed out for a beach where a reliable source had informed me, I might be able to see some giant sea turtles around sunset. Once there, I sat on a large rock in the sunshine and finished my Dave Barry book. Then I walked down to the beach area where 22 turtles were sunbathing on the rocks. They were each 3–5 feet (1–1.5 m) long. It was a first for me. Near my car, a woman was lying in a hammock making baskets from palm fronds, and I bought one she'd just finished. As I was speaking with her, a very distinctive, strong, sweet smell came from behind me. Two young men were seated in their pickup truck smoking joints.
Back home, I had an easy supper, browsed online, listened to music, and read until lights-out at 9 pm.
[Next day] I was awake at 6:15 am feeling well rested. Around 6:45, the neighborhood roosters announced the coming sunrise, so I got up and made coffee and a small breakfast. I went online to find that the storm back home had ended with 36" (90 cms) of snow on my street. The temperature was predicted to get above freezing for the rest of the week and rain was coming, so between those two a lot of snow likely would melt before I got back. Although I was happy to be in a much warmer place, part of me wanted to be back home to experience the rare event.
A Drive Around the South Coast
I thought about working, but after 10 seconds of serious consideration, I said, "Nah!". At 8:30, I headed out. It was already 75 degrees up my mountain, and a cool breeze was blowing in my windows as I drove down. However, it was very bright, and a hot day was ahead. Down at sea level, it was at least 5 degrees warmer. I stopped to fill up with gas. [Being a small island, lots of stuff must be brought in from another island or the mainland, so prices for many things were much higher than back home.]
I drove down the south coast, passed Kihei and then drove until the road ran out for 2-wheel-drive vehicles. I was in the middle of a field of old a'a lava, which while it looks interesting, is pretty much impossible to walk on. I definitely was on the dry side of the island. I drove back north and then headed to the west side, stopping at an overlook to remove my trouser legs and to apply some sunburn cream.
In Lahaina, I drove along the beachfront where I decided to have a traditional Hawaiian snack. Yes, dear reader, I stopped at a McDonalds for some French fries and a coke. I figured that if I was only going to eat out once in Maui, I'd go all out! I drove north to Napili and then turned around and found a parking spot back in Lahaina. My first order of business was to buy some postcards, which I did. I then sat under a huge banyan tree that covered 1–2 acres (0.5–1 hectare), I kid you not! There, I spoke with a delightful, retired couple from Minnesota. On a sidewalk, a man had a number of rather exotic parrots with which he was taking tourists' photos. Much to my surprise, one was a galah from Australia, where it is considered a pest and not at all exotic! While walking through the town, I shot more than a few photos that will end up in an instalment of "Signs of the Times" on my monthly blog (which I just know you are following, right?)
[As I ready this diary for publication on my blog in August 2023, sadly, Lahaina had just been devastated by fire.]
The highway to the west was well made with a high speed limit, so once again I put the rental car through its paces. It was very warm, a nice breeze blew through the car, and I was listening to my favorite songs from the 60s/70s/80s with the volume turned waaay up. Life doesn't get much better than that in mid-winter! About five miles from home, I came across a young Native-Hawaiian hitchhiking, but with a difference. He was pushing a bicycle on which he was trying to balance a car wheel, complete with a very heavy metal rim. It was 85 degrees, and he was sweating. I stopped, we loaded the wheel into the trunk, got 90% of his bike in after it, and I tied the trunk lid down with a piece of trash I found along the side of the road. He was very polite and grateful, so I offered to take him right where he needed to be, even though that was a few miles out of my way. Regarding the favor, I asked him to "Pay it forward!"
Back home I had an ice-cold drink before jumping into the shower. Being a "boy from the bush," I was raised with bath-day being every Saturday morning, whether you needed it or not! Therefore, this showering every afternoon seemed quite decadent. To end, I had a rather cold shower, not because I'd had evil thoughts (well, maybe a few), but because it just seemed like the thing to do. Afterwards, I was ready to bring this diary up to date.
I had a quiet evening, reading, listening to music, and enjoying some unnecessary snacks and drinks.
A Short Hop over to the Big Island
[Next day] I was wide-awake at 7 am. It was Travel Day, but nothing too strenuous. After breakfast, I washed my dishes, stripped the linens off the bed, and packed my luggage. My groceries were almost all used up with just enough to make a sandwich for lunch. I put the apartment back into the same shape as I'd found it and set out at 11 o'clock. I drove to the port and parked in the shade overlooking the sea near the dock where a medium-sized cruise ship was berthed. About 100 yards out to sea, the head of a large sea turtle came up for air as it swam along the shore.
At noon, I headed to the airport nearby where I returned my rental car. I was pleasantly surprised at how inexpensive it was. A few minutes later, I was on the bus for the short ride to the terminal. It was my first time in air conditioning during this trip, and it was way too cold. The check-in kiosk refused to help me, instead directing me to a counter for assistance. It seems that I was somehow "special." I checked my bag and got my boarding pass, but had to pay $25 for the luggage, the first time I'd paid for that in many years. I'd also paid an extra $10 to get a seat with extended legroom. You see, I was flying on Hawaiian Airlines, not my usual one with which I have all kinds of privileges.
Hawaiian Air Flight HA140 took off on time at 2:35 pm from OGG for the short flight to Kona (KOA) on the neighboring Big Island. It was a Boeing 717, a not very common model. I sat next to a couple who have lived there for many years. They ran an art gallery, and she was an artist. Some nice fruit juice was served. Once I got my luggage, I phoned my friend Tom, who was five minutes out. He and his wife, Lana, picked me up and we drove north towards their place on the dry side of the island. [I'd last seen them in September when they stayed with me for two nights.] We stopped at a resort village where we walked along the beach and had an early supper outdoors at Lava Lava, a very pleasant restaurant with a great waiter. I had fish with vegetables and rice, along with a Divine passionfruit smoothie!
We arrived at their house around 7:45, and after getting settled and meeting the three extra-friendly dogs, all of whom needed my attention, it was lights-out at 8:30 with the ceiling fan slowly pushing around some cool air.
A Visit with Tom and Lana
[Next day] I was awake at 7:30. Breakfast consisted of coffee, bread and jam, and some wonderful fresh blueberries. It was time to post a new essay to my blog, so I got started on that. Then Lana and I headed out to the wet side of the island to a state park where we hiked a short trail through the dense forest and ferns. We sat in a picnic shelter afterwards and drank water and had a snack. All that exercise and fresh air made me yawn all the way home. Along the way, we stopped off at Waimea to mail some postcards and to buy some more. Back home, I was so tired, I had a 2-hour nap. This vacation thing sure can be tiring!
At 4:30 pm, I finally got around to finishing posting the new essay and sending out the next one to my reviewers. Then I took care of business and personal email that had been accumulating.
We had drinks on the verandah while watching the sun set behind the clouds. Then we moved inside for hot soup with fresh-baked bread. I washed that down with a bottle of Hawaii's finest gingerade.
Afterwards, it was time to bring this diary up to date. Lights out at 9:30 after a very nice first full day on the Big Island.
[Next day] I had a leisurely day, eating and drinking, and doing a few hours of work for various projects. It was so hard that I had a 90-minute nap after lunch. Lana made some great taco soup for supper after which we had some delicious dessert. Lights-out at 9 o'clock with the ceiling fan turning slowly and just a sheet over me.
Hilo and Volcanoes National Park
[Next day] I was awake very early and did not get back to sleep. After breakfast, I packed my luggage and computer gear, and around 9:30, we headed out. We drove south and up the mountain to the new saddle highway, which we took over the top all the way to Hilo, a pleasant piece of old Hawaii. There, we had a picnic lunch on the famous Banyan Drive, a road flanked by huge banyan trees and hotels on the water's edge. Afterwards, I walked a bit around the beautiful Liliuokalani Park and Gardens.
From there, we drove to Volcano, a town and area right near the entrance to the Volcanoes National Park. We'd booked a 2-bedroom vacation house for the night and settled in there. It was a very nice place and was right on the edge of a golf course. I was in a queen-suite across the deck from the king-suite, just past the hot tub! After a short rest, we headed to the park and its Jaggar Museum, where we looked at photos of the active crater nearby. Cameras nestled on the crater's edge were taking and sending pictures every 30-odd minutes. There was a large active red pool of molten lava. Two weeks earlier, it had exploded in spectacular fashion, and people came from all over to see it erupt into view. It's a small crater in a larger one, which is inside a very wide one. Recent lava flows had closed the circular road around the main crater. We drove into the park a way and looked out over the broad lava fields from a lookout point right next to a collapsed lava tube. We were back at our house by 4:30, where I brought this diary up to date as the sun streamed in my window on its way to setting.
Soon after 7 pm, we headed out to dinner, and along the way, we saw a bright red glow coming from the main crater. It reflected on the low clouds above. We had a wonderful fine-dining experience at the Lodge's restaurant, and I very much enjoyed a nice steak with vegetables. We shared some desserts. At 9:15 pm, we drove back to the observation area in the park where we watched the glow from a half-mile away. It's the closest I've ever been to active lava.
Back at our house, I closed all the windows but one, and settled into my nice, hard bed. However, at 4,000 feet altitude, it got a little cool during the night, and I closed that one window.
Kona and Home
[Next day] We drove back to the Lodge for breakfast, half of which I took away with me to eat later. After we checked out, we headed out on the 2-hour drive to Kona. There, we parked downtown and walked around the waterfront through some shopping arcades and markets. At 1 o'clock, Tom and Lana dropped me off at the airport. It had been a great visit with them.
Flight UA1263 took off on time, and the Boeing 737 was pushed hard by a strong tail wind getting us to SFO an hour early. I had no window, but then again there was nothing out there to see but the ocean. I worked on my laptop for several hours before starting to read an autobiography I'd read some years earlier. [It was Karen Armstrong's
Through the Narrow Gate: A Memoir of Spiritual Discovery.] I had a 2½-hour layover at SFO, by which time I was starting to fade. Flight UA697 was another B737, and although I had extended legroom, the seat did not recline far enough for me to get any meaningful sleep.
[Next day] We touched down at IAD at 6:30 am, where the temperature was a cold 15 degrees F (-9.4 C), some 60 degrees F colder than when I'd departed Kona; brr! I appeared to be the only person at the airport wearing a straw Hawaiian hat; imagine that! I'd left my car at Jenny's place, and after spending having breakfast with her and catching up with a few things, I made it home to my place around 2 pm. Although all the streets had been plowed, my long driveway was 1–2 feet deep in snow. After I unloaded my gear and waded through the deep snow, I dug out a space large enough to get my car off the street. It was easy digging as it was neither cold nor windy, and the sun was streaming down. Besides, the snow was light and only the bottom inch was icy due to melting and refreezing overnight.
While I was away, my neighbor couldn't get to my house for eight days, and my indoor plants were looking quite forlorn. However, a couple of hours after I gave them a good drink, they perked up to their former glory. As I had plenty of food in the freezer and pantry, I did no shopping other than to pick up milk. I crashed at 7:30, sleeping soundly only until 9:30, and then I unpacked my computer gear and dealt with email until midnight. Then I got a decent sleep. It was a GREAT trip!
Did you know that Captain James Cook "discovered" the Hawaiian Islands? In 1778, he named them the Sandwich Islands after his patron, The Earl of Sandwich (for whom the humble sandwich is named). As to why the Hawaii State Flag has the British Union Jack on it remains unclear; there are a number of possible explanations.