Hawaii. September 1998.
In an effort to keep the memories alive, unlike my tan(which has all but faded), I started a rough outline of my Hawaiian adventure last week. It's evolved into something more. I think I've finally gotten the errors corrected in this installment, so, put on the Raymond Kane CD, turn up the heat and read on.
Day 1. Mon. 9/21 . Finally got out of the civic center office at 12:15a.m. Finished lashing the pack together around 2:30, up at 6:45 and out the door headed for Buffalo at 7:30 . Got on the flight headed west after receiving a Monday-morning-nasty-look from the ticket counter person. I guess she didn't like how I packed my pack and she certainly didn't care for how much it weighed either. "Good thing the scale isn't working", she said as she handed my ticket back after kicking the pack soccer-style onto the baggage conveyor. Gear up at 10:21a.m., landed at O'Hare and immediately began a quest for a pad of paper knowing well that my tour books weren't going to occupy me the whole way to the west coast. I had no idea a pad of paper would be so hard to find in the free world(better make that "America", okay, make that "in such a big freakin' airport"). After 45min. of fruitless searching, I found one, in the front of the first shop I had breezed through. It was $1.99 .
Arrived L.A. around 2:30p.m. I know, I know, I said "Never" and "L.A." in the same sentence at least 200 times since working with Bob Newhart's guy. I didn't see Bob or his buddy at the airport so I felt it was safe to get into my Aunt's Benz and head for The Hills. I stayed with my aunt Mary Lu Mon. and Tue. nights. Before bed the first night, I was given the Welcome to California Earthquake Drill shortly after looking at the cracks in the walls from "the last one". If we have a "big one", my aunt cautioned, "meet me in the back yard by the pool and DO NOT FORGET TO PUT ON YOUR SHOES." My uncle had a rather bad time getting through the kitchen barefoot during the last quake. I put my Mag-Lite in one of my shoes next to the bed, just in case.
My Aunt Mary Lu got us parking reservations at the Getty Museum on Tue. On the way to the Getty we cruised the "neighborhood", stopping by Lucy's old house. She had a few tips on what the house looked like when Lucy lived there. I didn't write down a single detail, but I'm going to put our museum director on the trail to my aunt so we can add to our information base(*shameless plug time* - Are you a fan of Lucille Ball? Go to www.lucy-desi.com for info on The Lucille Ball - Desi Arnaz Museum of Comedy in Jamestown, NY . Christmas is on the way, so don't forget to ask for our latest museum gift shop catalog, too. Okay, I'm done).
The Getty Museum is not to be missed. I shot through my first roll of vacation film in about 90min. We spent 5hrs. there(a record for my aunt) barely scratching the surface. You could spend an afternoon just in the scale model/gallery design room. And, hey, the cappuccino wasn't bad either.
Having had a quake-less night Tuesday, headed back to the airport on Wed. morning 9/23 and caught the AA #31 to Honolulu, airborne again at 9:00a.m. for another smooth and relatively peanut-free flight(I still think the headsets should be complimentary!). In-bound HON, my first impression was that I was still on the west coast, we must have been flying in circles for three and a half hours! Lots of high-rises and landscaping done in and endless variety of shades of brown, but I was certain the water was bluer. Landed at 11:42a.m., local. I caught a Wiki-wiki bus to the inter-island terminal and, "hello Aloha." I was ahead of schedule and there being a plane to the Big Island about every half hour, I headed for the next available flight. I had to wait about, say, 3min. At 12:35p.m. I was back in the air for the 45min. hop to Hilo. Looking down I saw three subs and a surface ship playing in the water outside Pearl.
My first impression of Aloha Airlines was of a faint resemblance to Aeroflot. That's not terribly fair, but the sight of fog rolling out of the a/c unit in the ceiling and Aloha's policy of open seating were bringing back memories of a different style of air travel. Unlike their Russian counterparts, they serve complimentary fruit juice and soft drinks with sincere hospitality in world record time. Don't blink, the portions are small, too. In a few short moments, I decided I really(really) liked Aloha Air.
Got into Hilo at 1:20p.m. It was raining. It was also very green. Small airport. More helicopters than rental cars. I decided to rent a car anyway as I headed to the the baggage claim area. Unfortunately(I thought at the time), my bags were still on schedule to arrive with the next flight, so, I had plenty of time to chat with the lady giving out rental cars and to collect lots of pretty flyers at the info booth. All and all the baggage delay made life much easier. Hawaiian airports are quite convenient. By the time I had my car my bags had arrived on the next flight. I was able to pull up to the curb at the baggage claim area, toss my gear in and go. It's a great strategy I'll use again, even when my bags are on time.
Cruised around downtown Hilo. This didn't take very long. Hilo is not too exciting, unless they're having a tsunami or a ho'olaule'a. Noticed it was rather cool, temperature wise that is. I also noticed gas was $1.69 . Got my bearings quickly and headed out Rt. 11 for My Island B&B in Volcano Village, a mere 28mi. ramble up the hill. Almost a straight line. Hung a right at altitude 3500'. Cooler and wetter up here. Checked in. Very, very lush grounds 1mi. from Volcanoes National Park. Got upgraded to The Studio(now called The Red Room), a large efficiency sharing a detached building with another 1B.R. about 100' from the main building, a two-story mission house circa 1886.
After unwinding in the room for a few minutes and breathing in the smell of the red ginger, I headed right out for the Park and a spin around Kilauea to scope out some hikes. At the Kilauea caldera I found out quickly how abrasive a'a(the unfriendly version of solid lava) can be when you do stupid things like trying to take photos of Halema'uma'u while straddling a railing. Mme. Pele teaches you R-E-S-P-E-C-T the hard way, and she ain't singin'. I didn't bleed much, I just hurt. Like being assaulted with sandpaper and then gored by a dirty broken Coca-Cola bottle, all in very short order. As I stood there after my fall and finishing backward roll I thought I may have heard applause from the folks back in the parking lot, hiding from the sulfur steam in their cars. Returned to the B&B by 6:45. I'm guessing the sun set around 6:30 . It was hard to tell from all of the clouds.
After a shower and a little first aid, I headed back down to Hilo for food. No choice. Anything inexpensive on the top of the hill closes shortly after sunset. Did some shopping for some necessaries and afterward found topo maps for the Big Island and Kaua'i at Borders(great island music selection there, too). I couldn't resist Taco Bell. Stopped at a Wiki-Wiki Convenience store for more necessaries on the way back up the hill in the rain. Lights out by 10:30.
Day 4. Thurs. 9/24. Blew off breakfast(I wouldn't make that mistake at My Island again!) and headed straight for the Puna Coast around 7:30. After much driving around along the coast, I discovered where the old hippies went. They're living on the Puna Coast! Not a bad choice judging from the scenery(oddly enough, this was the only place on the trip where I felt my car wasn't safe). Cruised by the beaches along Rt. 137 and ran into the lava flow that ate Kalapana. Definitely a dead-end there, unless you're a property owner. Respect.
Turned around, headed to Kapoho and Lava Trees Park. Drove down the beaten up cinder road to get to Kumukaki Pt., the eastern most point of all the islands. The lighthouse of legend has been replaced by what looks like a radio tower. However, the huge fields of a'a still remain. Was re-beaten by the road on the way back mauka(toward the mountain). On to Lava Trees, a small park full of lava stumps left by the consumed trunks of trees. Watch out for the live trees here, the really tall ones. They're constantly shedding their branches and they're REALLY tall.
Back on the highway and heading for the north side of Hilo this time on Rt. 19. Mauka again to Anaka Falls. An embarrassing drive up to the park, an endless parade of rental cars in three colors, red, white and green. "Do you think anyone knows we're tourists?", I said as I motored by. The local on the side of the road just smiled back. He was giving the "hang loose" sign to everyone that drove by. I suspected he owned retail property in Honomu.
Arriving at the park it was a short hike to see Kahuna and Akaka Falls and well worth the price of admission! Then a quick scenic spin down the 4 Mile Scenic Drive. Had I had more time I would have toured the Botannical Gardens located there, it looked quite inviting from the road. Stopped by a food stand a few miles to the north and had "lunch". My "Lava Java" Smoothie had yogurt in it, so I considered it a meal(you probably could have called the ground coffee beans in the Smoothie part of my meal too, but who wants to complain? I'm in Hawaii!). After picking a few more grounds out of my teeth it was time to head back up the hill to Volcano Village.
Got back to the B&B around 2:30 . Got outfitted and headed right to the park for a quick 10mi. hike. Stopped at the Visitor's Center for a peek and was walking briskly south, towrds the Crater Rim Trail by 3 . Took that to the Kiulauea Iki Trail and was soon down on the crater floor, passing sulphur laden cracks and silent steam vents. Took the Iki Trail to the Devastation Trail and out across the huge lava field for another visit to Halema'uma'u Point and then back to the Volcano House on the Halema'uma'u Trail.
On the last leg of Halema'uma'u I stopped near the top of the crater rim for another water break at a small shelter. As I put my water bottle back in my ruck, I noticed "Paul & Joan" carved in the wall across from me. I was thinking about my regular travel buddies a lot, this trip being a solo one. The coincidence was too much, EVEN IF YOU GUYS DIDN'T CARVE IT WHEN YOU WERE THERE!
The parking lot was deserted by the time I got back to my car. It was amazingly quiet given the pace of the place earlier in the day. The sunset and Mauna Loa still remained hidden behind the clouds. I had spacious privacy, so I changed clothes in the parking lot. I sat on the trunk of the car for a while and soon realized how hungry I was. Starved was more like it. I heard a rumor that chow(for public consumption and minimal cost) was being served at the military R&R facility just past the Visitor's Center. I stopped by but it looked rather quiet, dead actually. So, back to the room for a shower, microwaved burritos and several bottles of Kona Longboard Lager. Postcards and another disaster installment from The Learning Channel before sacking out. This night was it AIR CRASHES, TSUNAMIS or EARTHQUAKE!? I have no idea, I just remember being impressed by how well they were programming for the tourists.
To be continued, sometime.