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Thursday, March 15
Up at 3:45 a.m. (both alarms plus computer alarm performed correctly) and enroute to the HUT shuttle by 4:25. Also in the lobby of the Red Lion Hotel, waiting to go to PDX was Barb's sorority sister, Jeanne and her husband, Dick, who was also flying out of PDX. Dick and Jeanne lived in Juneau for many years, so, we had a nice chat with him about Alaska and the Yukon (related to our Alaska trip in May) as the van drove along to PDX.
We found that Mark’s gift to us of a United “Premier associate" membership was very nice. We sailed up to the counter and got immediate attention from one of the few counter people still employed there, while there was a BIG line for the steerage folks to work through. Bought cereal and milk and that tided us over until the plane rides, where we dug into our apples, muffins and oatmeal cookies.
A full flight, but everyone must have hustled to get aboard early. We left almost 15 minutes ahead of schedule, and also landed early by the same margin. Nice flight, with good views of the Cascades, and later the Golden Gate and Silicon Valley campuses.
Our next flight, to LAX was also full but again, we luxuriated in the "Economy Plus" extra knee and leg room. However, my right knee apparently didn’t appreciate all that comfort. Getting off the plane at LA, as I started up the jet way, I must have twisted my right knee (the worst one) and suddenly it hurt like the dickens, and kept making all sorts of "popping" noises. There was a wheelchair waiting for me at San Francisco, but not at this arrival. I could hardly limp up the jet way, and was grateful to learn that we would be leaving from the same gate for the next flight—and on the same plane! Glenn made sure they had a wheelchair to get me back on the plane. So, between the Premier category and being in a wheelchair, we got whisked on all of our trip's flights, even ahead of the first class folks. Neener neener!
This LAX to Kauai was another flight that got in ahead of schedule. United must be trying very hard to improve its “on time” ratings. We started off with our row of three seats full, but the psychiatrist sitting next to me used his professional powers of persuasion to convince the solitary occupant of the row in front of us, that we would ALL be much more comfy if she would just move to another empty row at the rear of the plane. She finally did, and we were.
The movie was “Casino Royale” which came recommended by Mark, who saw it while flying on Alitalia from Rome recently. Unfortunately, the sound was terrible; we finally took off the headphones, but there was too much action to totally ignore the movie. Mark was already planning to send us a rental DVD, and I’m glad he’s doing so. Will be nice to know what the heck they were saying!
We napped a bit (at least I did) and continued to eat our stash of muffins, apples and cookies, washed down with the only gratis refreshment provided by UAL—juice and coffee. Not even pretzels on the first two legs. Chintzy!
For a small airport, Lihue/Kauai managed to make retrieving our bags a challenge. Confusing directions on which carousel they would appear on, and the bags came along in spurts, leaving a lot of anxious people wondering what happened to their bag. They did have a wheelchair for me at the gate, but poor Glenn had to figure out where the Hertz car rental agency was; then how to get four bags and one wife in a wheelchair to the shuttle van for Hertz. With many trips, back and forth, and some heavy-duty pushing of me AND two backpacks, he made it.
As usual, picking up the car was way slower and more complicated than the car rental ads would have you believe. But, when the dust settled, we drove out in a Mercury Marquis instead of the economy car that the Marriott Waiohai Beach Club said we would have. NO economy cars left—so, wouldn’t we like the pretty red Mustang convertible? "No." (then we would have to learn how to put the top up and down, and would it hold our entire luggage?). Well then, how about this BIG Marquis? "Nope. Too big." "What if Hertz pays for the gas?" (A $52. charge, usually). "Welll, Okay."
The Marquis had a very sensitive accelerator so that made driving off the rental car lot and trying to find the right roads to Poipu Beach even more interesting. To say that Glenn was under a bit of stress would be an understatement, but he did a great job of driving the car and as we went along, we began to figure out how to: roll up the windows, adjust the A/C, get some annoying warning chimes to shut up, etc.
Kauai looked just like Bali Hi in the late afternoon sunlight. Rain clouds hiding the top of a rugged mountain, and all green and full of beautiful blooming trees and shrubs. But, we were too focused on finding the resort to appreciate beauty this afternoon.
Finally, after a few wrong turns, we pulled up to the Waiohai Beach Resort. Explaining my sore knee, we were given a room close to the elevator and the underground parking area—Room 7305, in “Hale” Seven, on the third floor. Even walking from the elevator to the room was extremely painful. So, we put in a call to the front desk for a wheelchair, which promptly arrived.
Before going to our room, we also had to check in with “Rhonda” who had “gifts” for us, but mostly wanted to sign us up for a timeshare presentation. With a painful knee and a great need for a cold beer, it was easier to say, “Well, okay, Sunday, maybe” than argue. She gave us each a beautiful purple and white orchid lei as part of our welcome.
Before heading for the parking garage, Glenn stopped at the resort's store & deli, “The Market Place” and bought two cans of beer—for a whopping ten bucks! After that price shock, the grocery store prices the next day ($4-$5 for a smallish loaf of bread) seemed almost reasonable.
I was glad I tucked in the "Handicapped sign," as those were the only open parking spots near the elevator. Glenn used the trolley to load everything and up we went to Villa No. 7305. The resort is apparently about two years old, and looks all nice and fresh. There was plenty of room for two people, with two bedrooms, two baths, living/dining room and kitchen. Three TV’s, so no need to fight over what to watch, and way too many utensils for someone who hates to cook--especially on vacation!
We were too pooped to go looking for a restaurant and really not very hungry. So, supper was the five-dollar beers, the rest of the muffins and raisin cookies, plus a walnut and fruit snack plate Glenn got back in San Francisco at McDonald’s. I got out the ice pack and started applying cold to my knee.
Once “dinner” was over, and the bags unpacked, we tried to access the WiFi, a promised amenity. No could do. Phone calls to the front desk, and the 24-hour tech line still didn’t make the computer hook up to the Internet, using our WiFi card. We gave up, and fell, exhausted, into bed about 9 p.m.—which would be midnight back in Oregon, and therefore it was a very, very long day.
Friday, March 16
Glenn was ready to change plans and come right back home, but I didn't think there was anything immediate the doctor would do for my knee. I used an ice bag on it, tried to stay off it as much as possible, using the cane to hobble about, and it felt slightly better this morning. A knee that hurts a lot certainly puts a crimp in our activities, but there are nice paved walkways all through the resort so, via wheelchair and Glenn's manpower, I'm doing o.k. (Is Glenn? Time will tell.)
Kauai is just as beautiful as I remembered and the resort has a great location, right on Poipu Beach, with an offshore reef that shelters the little bay and makes it perfect for swimming. However, the extent of our swimming was the pool and (mostly) adjacent hot tub. But hey! Nothing wrong with that, right? This resort is a Marriott timeshare, but also rents to non-owners like us and prospective buyers. It was only completed a couple years ago. And, why is this resort, on a prime piece of Poipu Beach, only two years old? See the following:
From Sunset Magazine, June 1, 1993 :
“When Hurricane Iniki roared through the Hawaiian Islands last September 11, tiny Kauai took its full force right on the chin. Indeed, it was a rare structure that was left undamaged. Winds that howled at a steady 100 miles per hour frequently gusted to 145, sending roofs sailing like Frisbees and turning trees into kindling. Waves up to three stories high pounded resorts and houses edging the island's south shore.”
From the Aug. 25, 2002 San Francisco Chronicle:
“The most noticeable immediate change on Kauai was the wholesale remodeling of the south shore beaches, collectively known as Poipu. Formerly beachfront properties -- mostly condos and time shares -- now overlook banks of lava rock, after Iniki (a Hawaiian word for "sharp" or "piercing") brought 20- to 30- foot waves that took the sand back to the sea. Today, intrepid surfers and snorkelers ply those former beaches, while sun worshipers head up the shore road to the lovingly rebuilt PoipuBeachPark, which has a protected cove plus showers, rest rooms and almost enough parking to go around. (Arrive early during holidays and weekends.)
Head down the shore road, and Spouting Horn still thrusts its plume of water through the lava rock with a roar -- but now it's accompanied by the clucks and crows of feral chickens and roosters, which parade through nearly every public park and private yard since Iniki dispersed their forebears.”
“Three major Poipu hotels -- the Sheraton, the Poipu Beach Hotel and the Stouffer Waiohai -- took the full brunt of Iniki's savage winds and water. The Sheraton took nearly five years to reopen, and the other two were written off. However, from PoipuBeachPark, you can see construction of several new low- rise buildings on the site of the old Waiohai. They will become part of Marriott's new WaiohaiBeach Club, a time-share resort opening in January. Because of zoning restrictions, a handful of hotel rooms will also be available; parking will be underground, and as a goodwill gesture, Marriott is adding more public beachfront showers. Be aware that construction may continue through June 2004.”
Last night I slept, albeit fitfully, since my knee couldn’t find a pain-free position for very long. Glenn did a bit better. We were up about 6 a.m. as the sky began to lighten and about a thousand birds (including the famous Kauai roosters) all started twittering or crowing. On Trip Advisor, many people griped about the noisy roosters, but I thought them rather charming. We’ll see if that holds up after five more morning serenades. It had been raining during the night, which I think is the norm for Kauai. Now, the sun was appearing, and some very interesting birds were perched in the trees below our deck. We learned later that one of them is a Cardinal, with different coloration than the Arizona variety. Later, we saw the all-red Arizona variety as well.
Our convenient-to-the-elevator room is located on the “island” not the “ocean” side and looks east, toward the parking lots for the adjoining Poipu public beach, with some glimpses of the Pacific Ocean to the south and those scenic "Bali Hi" mountains to the north. It was rather nice to look up at those cloud-shrouded peaks to the north of us. We have no complaints on our room location.
We decided that breakfast from the “Market Place” deli here at the resort was worth whatever it would cost. Grocery shopping came later in the day. We selected a croissant filled with sausage, eggs, asparagus, onion and mushroom with some fruit garnish. $7.50 each. Glenn picked up our plates when ready and we sat out on the “lanai” part of the restaurant enjoying the beautiful gardens and the local sparrows that were quite adept at clinging to the stucco wall, then quickly snatching whatever tidbits generous Glenn chose to toss them.
We took a wheelchair “stroll” through the resort grounds, out to the beach and the lovely areas at the west end of the property. Surfers were out on their boards, of course, busy doing their surfing thing. Sunny and very pleasant. Not muggy and a nice breeze. Our spirits were reviving. We just relaxed in the comfy lounge chairs near the beach and coral rocks extending out into the ocean. There was an interesting area nearby, fenced off and with a small lawn and some type of stone structure. An ancient Hawaiian "Heiau. The gate to this area said “Don’t enter! This is kapu” which if I remember correctly,means the same as the word “Taboo.” A nearby plaque said this was a religious site and no doubt the resort had to set the area aside. Some of the local TV news implied that there are now laws in place to protect the ancient Hawaiian religious and other significant historical sites. Developers must do more than just bulldoze them over now.
After breakfast, we made out a grocery list, and headed for Koloa, four miles away. Enroute, we checked out the nearby mall, across the highway from the resort entrance. Better prices in Koloa. AND a pharmacy, where I bought a $10.00 ACE knee bandage. Between the bandage, the cane and the wheelchair, I’m managing. We purchased $56. worth of lunch and breakfast food.
Glenn discovered there was an Ethernet cable for the laptop connection over by a sofa lamptable. Hurrah! We talked to Mark via Skype, and I put in a call to my doctor in Salem. Earlier, he had said that since I had done all the things required by my HMO before knee surgery, I was to let him know when "You can't take the pain any longer." I told his nurse to tell him that time is here! I'm hoping he will start the steps necessary to get me in to a knee surgeon.
After lunch in our villa, it was nap time, then a dip in a not-very-hot tub, followed by the mandatory viewing of the sunset which was, indeed, very nice. Back to the room in twilight—no lingering light at this latitude. Dinner? Raisin Bran Crunch, pineapple slices, coffee & oatmeal cookie. Preceded by peanut butter & bread appetizer with beer and Dr. Pepper.
Spent the evening on the computer; and we downloaded two days’ worth of photos. I sent some to friends via a Picasa web page. Glenn gave up about 9:30, I toddled off to bed at 11:05 Hawaiian Standard Time (no daylight savings over here).
Saturday, March 17, Happy St. Paddy’s Day!
We both got a better night’s sleep and woke about 7 a.m. My knee is at least no worse, and I think the brace is keeping the "popping" at a minimum. Glenn is no doubt building up impressive arm muscles from pushing me in the wheelchair. (Or, is this just going to make HIS knee give out??)
We called the owner of the Country Goose B&B at Volcano, on the Big Island and asked "How many steps to get to our quarters?" She said "four or five" so we asked, "have you anything on a level with the ground?" Bless her heart, she moved somebody else to the room we had reserved. Now we will be in the "Queen" room. She even offered to bring breakfast to our quarters if I couldn't handle the five or six steps to the dining room. But, once or twice, I can hobble. I just hated to deal with steps every time we leave the room. There will be no wheelchair available at the Country Goose. May be able to rent one in Kona where we will arrive. Or, maybe I'll just have to make do with the cane. Anyway, we will assume that we can finish out the ten days in Hawaii.
The big white tents erected yesterdayin the grassy field to the east of the resort are apparently the site of the “Artisan Faire” featuring Hawaiian and Polynesian crafts. Sounded just barely interesting, and when we learned there was no way to run a wheelchair on the grass, we decided to pass on the Faire. Instead we took a little drive to the end of the road to the east—maybe two miles. Saw some lovely coves with surfers, but then the coastline disappeared behind a solid wall of resorts, condos, homes, etc. This exclusion of the coast to the public view makes Malibu seem almost friendly! We did see the Hyatt Regency golf course which had Tiger Woods' name prominently displayed. No doubt he has won a few tournaments there.
We turned around where the pavement ended and a “no trespassing” sign was posted at the entrance to a dirt road. We ended up almost back at the Waiohai—just a few blocks east of the resort at Poipu Beach St. Park. Apparently this is the only beach that is easily accessible to the public in this area, so it was a busy spot, full of folks enjoying the perfect beach—a shallow area for the little kids, great quiet snorkeling area, then some nice big waves for the surfers. The bathers had to share the picnic area with plenty of Kauai chickens though!
It was lunch time by now and right across from the park was Brenneke's Beach Broiler" -- sort of a local eatery institution. We figured lunch would be cheaper than dinner, but I don't know--fish and chips were $19.95!! However, (and this will please Mark) they had a St. Patrick's Day special--corned beef sandwich and Guinness Stout. So, we thought that sounded good. We had a table at the open (no glass) window, looking out at the beautiful sea. Good sandwich too. The Guiness beer? O.K., but they only give you 11 1/2 ounces. Those sneaky Irish! Enough sandwich for two meals, so we ate the other half for supper.
We hit the pool and hot tub about 3 p.m. A perfect time for it--sunny and breezy. I tried some easy walking/movement in the big pool which was a pleasant temperature. Glenn did some pool-walking too, and then we had a relaxing soak in the spa. Glenn pushed me and the wheelchair around the grounds--we discovered pools and waterfalls in places we hadn't looked before. The landscaping here is very well done.
There is a lot of Kauai we WON'T see on this visit, but on the other hand, we are really enjoying the resort--and it's pleasant to just relax and take advantage of the amenities here. The only requirement each day is to be down at the beach overlook at sunset. Dirty job, but we are dutifully showing up. About 5:30 p.m. Glenn manned the wheelchair and off we went to the west end of the resort property. Watching the surf and the surfers is always interesting. These are beautiful sunsets, but they lack the “red” of Oregon sunsets. Maybe because there always seems to be a bank of clouds on the low horizon and before the clouds can turn a deep pink or red, plunk! The sun has sunk behind them. No “green flash” to be seen either.
Tomorrow we take in the Marriott timeshare pitch at 1 p.m. and I told them we expect to be handsomely paid for our attentiveness with Marriott points. I opened a Marriott account so there will be a place to park the points. No other plans for the day, but hey, we have not even opened our big books yet. (Glenn brought "1421" the story of the Chinese Emperor's fleet sent out toward the Americas. I have "Doubt" to work on.) This loafing takes more time than one would think.
Our resistance to scenic helicopter rides was already very high, but an article from this morning’s edition of the local Kauai “ Garden Island” newspaper did nothing to change our minds:
“The NTSB and the FAA are conducting exhaustive investigations into two helicopter crashes that occurred within four days of each other on March 8 and March 11.”
The spouses of the three couples aboard the first helicopter plus the pilot were killed. The second crash killed one person, and injured the others. Definitely, we won't be using our timeshare reward for a death-defying scenic helicopter tour of Kauai!
Sunday, March 18
We woke up about 6 a.m. and a peek outside on our deck showed the sun almost ready to appear, and dry pavement in the nearby parking lot. First night with no showers. The usual morning clouds, but by 3 p.m. the sky was almost cloudless. Bet that doesn’t happen very many days on green Kauai!
I found the Sunday paper outside our door, plus a sheet of the day’s events. One caught my eye: a stroll around the resort grounds with a guide, to learn a bit about the luxuriant plants growing at the resort and the history of this piece of Kauai. This was an “early bird” event—starting at 8:30 a.m. so we didn’t dawdle over breakfast.
A nice young woman was our leader and she pointed out mostly the plants that were either here when the Polynesians arrived, about 200 A.D., or what they brought with them. She said this property has natural springs and they were worked into the ponds and waterfalls throughout the resort. Can’t recall many of the names of the trees and shrubs—one tree bears nuts which are very oily and were used for burning—also they make a good laxative she said. We saw the red version of the Ti plant—very similar in appearance to the Crotons of the Yucatan. There is one native plant near the resort entrance. Apparently it has a rather ugly flower, so its main claim to fame is that it has almost disappeared. Our guide pointed out a couple coconut palm trees—they were almost the only survivors of Hurricane Iniki. The resort takes pains to cut off all the coconuts before they ripen and fall. I'm sure their lawyer suggested this. Can't harm the guests by having coconuts falling on their heads! The tour wound through the “hales” and ended up out at the western boundary of the resort—at the site of the Heiau sacred area.
Our guide commented that monk seals often hang out on the sandy beach but only in the early morning and late afternoon. When the humans show up, they head out for a swim. About the time she said this, one man in our group spotted a monk seal thrashing something about in the water—maybe his fish breakfast. She also said the lava rocks below the Heiau were a good place to spot turtles. None showed up for us, but we did see a rather large gray bird, with a long curved bill, efficiently poking that bill between the lava rocks.
We dropped out of the tour at this point and enjoyed the beautiful vistas of blue ocean, sunshine, and the early-bird surfers, already working the waves. There was a class of wannabe surfers down the beach near the Sheraton, all bunched up and learning how to “read” the waves, I guess. I never saw any of them standing up on their boards. Maybe that comes in Lesson 2.
We tried a "Skype" conference call to Mark and Karen and that was successful. Mark is busy finalizing his trip plans for his next “mileage run” from Toronto to Italy. He’ll leave before we get home. Karen and her friend Sharman were working on Sharman’s preparation for a math final coming up.
We enjoyed lunch on our “lanai” then headed over to the timeshare department for our session. We got the tour of a model villa and learned that the same 2-bedroom, 2-bath floor plan is used in ALL the Marriott timeshare resorts. We also learned that Marriott is now one of the biggest lodging chains in the world. They have purchased many other well-known corporations, including the Ritz-Carlton, and go all the way down the price scale to rather modest motel chains. They have also gone into timeshares big-time and have them all over the world. We were actually surprised at what seemed a fairly low price to buy a time-share at this resort. One week- $36,500, two weeks was $73,000. These prices were for the non-ocean view villas. But then, there is the yearly maintenance fee—presently at $1297, and goes up every year by about 4 per cent. Their big inducement is that if you are a timeshare owner you can stay at ANY Marriott hotel for a much reduced price. This is separate from your week at the Waiohai Beach Club.
I think the young sales rep realized we were not likely candidates for buying a timeshare, but he did point out that your allotted time can be “traded” for time at many other resorts—and one week at Hawaii resorts is easy to trade for two weeks elsewhere, since Hawaii really has no high and low seasons. At the conclusion of our chat, the sales rep gave us $125 in “guest money” so we will have to think of ways to spend it in the next two days! Shouldn’t be too hard, as it can be applied to our bill here, or used at other shops and restaurants. Later, I had a change of heart about the Marriott's "funny money," and instead, we are to get 20,000 points added to our Marriott account, which can be used for room rental at any of their properties.
We then took a short drive to the west end of Poipu Beach to see if the Spouting Horn was putting on a good show. Good, yes; spectacular? No. A beautiful day though and we enjoyed the seacoast scenery. We drove past the “Lawai Beach Resort” where Glenn and I stayed in 1990. Still looks well-kept. It, too, has a good location near the beach, but the beach is very minimal. There’s no doubt that this Marriott resort is on one prime piece of property. Beautiful grounds and the lovely beach just a short stroll away.
On the way back, we stopped at the “ Plantation Gardens” which were planted by the wife of a sugar cane plantation manager back in the 1920’s. This is just adjacent to the Marriott Waiohai Beach Club. The wheelchair was a bit of a problem here for Glenn—all downhill getting to the gardens—all uphill coming back. So, I walked where it would be too hard pushing or too likely that the wheelchair (and me) might go careening into the flowers! And what flowers! Bed after bed full of gorgeous orchids of all kinds, colors, sizes. Lovely lily ponds, full of big fat colorful “koi” fish. And then, the garden’s claim to fame—an amazing assortment of cacti and euphorbias. Apparently the manager’s wife took on the challenge of collecting all kinds of cacti and other things with thorns. Odd to see these desert plants on this lush island, but apparently down in this “sunny” side of Kauai they have thrived. We even saw escapees of one of the garden's cacti, similar to the Organ Pipe cactus of Arizona, which are now growing on other land not too far from the gardens. The Plantation is a big resort, with a restaurant in the former sugar plantation manager’s home. Probably a rather spendy menu, I’d guess, since a wedding party was heading down the hill to the restaurant. Touring the gardens was free—probably one of the best bargains on the island since the gardens seem to be highly regarded, although much smaller than some of the other botanic gardens. I bet the others don’t have many cacti either!
Back to the villa for a cold beer and cheese. We debated the pros and cons of timeshare ownership, but for us, it just doesn’t pencil out. So, back to cruises, all-inclusive resorts and rentals in the desert.
We tried a dip in the spa, but not too satisfactory as the heat is off again, in one pool, and too many people in the other. But we sat down near the beach for awhile—being Sunday it was almost crowded. Lots of boogie boards and surf boards going back and forth, and the bikini watching wasn’t bad either, Glenn said. There is public parking and an access walkway to the beach, so the Waiohai Resort shares it with the local folks.
Tonight was laundry night. When we leave here on Tuesday, there will be no more easy access to washer and dryer, but we should be able to get home without smelling too “ripe” now. Tomorrow, we may burn a bit of that free gas and go up to Waimea Canyon.
Monday, March 19
(Copy of my e-mail to Mark and Karen the following morning)
Hi Mark and Karen,
I think we finished up our stay on Kauai in fine style. Headed out for Waimea Canyon after talking to you--seemed every bit as impressive as the first time we saw it in 1990. And, we lucked out at the Kalalau Valley overlook at the end of the road. The deep canyon was pretty much full of clouds when we arrived, then they nicely parted and we had great views 4,000 feet straight down to the Pacific Ocean! Talk about a view!! The Na Pali cliffs above the valley have to be one of the geologic wonders of the world.
Glenn did a masterful job of keeping a strange car on the winding, and VERY steep (in places) road up to the top. You can imagine how much he enjoys driving down steep grades in a non-stick shift car he's only been driving for five days! He got an extra ration of beer for his efforts.
On the way back to Poipu Beach, we stopped at Salt Pond County Park—saw “real” Hawaiians, old men sitting at picnic bench, listening to Hawaiian music on their portable radio, little kids apparently babysitting themselves, etc. Tents in the park too. The beach and water looked safe and lovely. Very pretty clusters of coconut palm trees scattered throughout the park. After being up at 4,000 feet it felt somewhere between warm and hot in the sun at the beach, but under some shade, the trade wind just felt cool and wonderful.
The dinner and hula show we attended here at the resort tonight ($35.00 each) was very nice, although it started out a little rough. We had front row seats, with an umbrella over our outside table. We got our "tropical drinks" and some beautiful big shrimp with a cocktail sauce containing Wasabi. Mmmm, good. While we were inside filling up our buffet plates, (our favorite dish? The tender roast beef in a teriyaki sauce. Double Mmmm!) a shower moved through and dampened most of the outside tables. The umbrella helped keep our table partly dry. Some wimps left for indoors but not us! We stuck it out, wiped off the chairs and of course, as usual over here, the shower blew by and we could enjoy the show right up front. (Pictures to follow at a later date).
We are now all packed, flight to Kona confirmed, wheelchairs ordered at both airports. So, off to yet another island in Paradise !
Aloha for now.
Note: There appear to be NO RV’s on Kauai!
Tuesday, March 20
We requested a 6 a.m. wake up call from the front desk, but as usual, we beat them to the punch. We were both up by 5:45 and polished off our minimal breakfast (cereal, milk and coffee) in short order. Check out was fast and easy, and we were on our way to Lihue by about 7:15 am . Just in time to join all the commuters heading for Lihue! We still had over two hours at the airport after going through the security, checking bags, etc. Having a wheelchair gives you almost as many privileges as “elite” status. First on the plane, choice of seats if not previously assigned (well, not if there is a first class). The plane was a 737 with seats three abreast. We chose the rear of the plane so we could take photos and even though the plane was almost full, we managed to retain an empty middle seat. My “don’t make eye contact” ploy apparently worked.
Only 20 minutes flying time to Honolulu where the plane made a stop. There was barely enough time for sipping some “tropical juice” or coffee. We stayed on the plane, and moved back another notch, hoping to have even better camera angles. The “don’t make eye contact” ploy couldn’t overcome the fact the seats were oversold, and they had to bribe one passenger with a free trip to get him off the plane. But, we sat in separate window seats, one in front of the other, on the left side of the plane, and again, had nice opportunities to snap photos as we flew on to Kona—a bit longer flight, about 40 minutes. This time, they added coke to the juice/coffee menu. NO pretzels though!
It was a sunny day from Kauai to Oahu and we got some nice shots of Honolulu both coming in and again leaving the city. Even an aerial shot of the crater within Diamond Head . It got cloudier as we went south, but Haleakala still rose above the clouds over on Maui. The volcano looked very dark and sinister at a distance. By the time we landed at Kona the skies were just plain gray and some of the clouds looked like they might start spitting rain any minute.
Kona has a very unusual airport—a series of little open-sided, nonconnected Polynesian style buildings, probably meant to look like Hawaiian village structures. All one-story, so no jet way access from and to planes. I got down the steps, very slowly, but they quickly had a wheelchair for me. Getting the rental car on Hawaii was a bit easier for Glenn as we are getting smarter about plane travel/car rental. He retrieved the bags, and then deposited me in the wheelchair at the curb, surrounded by our luggage. We tried something new on this hop between islands; we packed the leftover food items that did not require refrigeration and empty water bottles into the collapsible ice chest. Worked just fine! Everything came through unscathed.
While I waited by the curb, Glenn boarded the AVIS shuttle, picked up a small Pontiac, but still big enough for us and our bags. Actually, it was a better car for the twisty roads we had to drive on between Kona and Volcano Village . Of course, this time the “automatic” shift lever was on the console between us and not on the steering wheel. Always new gimmicks in rental cars, which you have to figure out right away while moving out into traffic. Glenn was still sighing as he drove.
The Kona airport is smack in the middle of a HUGE lava flow which must be fairly recent—almost nothing growing in all that bare lava yet. But, as we drove down Highway 11 through the main part of Kona, the sides of the highway were lined with beautiful Bougainvillea shrubs—in reds, pinks and yellows. It must be some trick, digging a hole in that lava and getting a poor plant to grow there!
We moved at a crawl for at least the first 45 minutes and Glenn’s heart sunk when he read on one of the maps, “96 miles from Kona to Volcano, a 2-hour and 45-minute drive.” He hadn’t figured on that much driving on this “relaxing” vacation. But, we pressed on, stopping at the town of Kealakekua for Big Macs. There would be no Golden Arches at VolcanoVillage! Our next stop was in Na'alehu, the town at the southernmost part of Hawaii —a rather poor-looking town, with a rather trim-looking Mormon church as the main centerpiece. We badly needed a pit stop, and tried to buy a bathroom pass with purchase of a piece of pie at a restaurant—but they were closed! However, when we explained we really needed a bathroom, not a piece of pie, they said, “Well, sure, go around back” and we did. We knew the toilets were clean—the entire bathrooms had just been washed down with Clorox and water!
The countryside looked very rocky and uninviting from Kona, to the southern end. Then, macadamia groves started appearing and provided a nice dark green appearance to the landscape. There was "escapee" sugar cane growing along the road but most of the cane is gone now, and cattle were grazing on what probably were sugar cane fields not too many years ago. Almost no parks near the highway, and little access to the coast, except at the “Black Sands” park. No pulloutsfor tourists, to appreciate those tremendous waves, crashing up against the black lava cliffs near the Black Sands area. Hawaii could take some lessons from Oregon. More parks! More viewpoints! More roadside rest stops!
The sun reappeared as we rounded the south end of the island and approached the entrance to Volcanoes National Park. The vegetation was more interesting too. The “Ohi'a-lehua” trees had bright red patches of their “bottle brush” blossoms. There were a few other roadside flowers, but in general, once we were out of the areas where non-native plants were being used for landscaping, it was rather sparse for flowers.
We pulled into the “Country Goose” B&B a few minutes after five. The hostess, Joan Earley, welcomed us and took us down to our “Queen” room, a few steps below her kitchen and living room. A nice enough room, but having just left the space and amenities of the Marriott Waiohai Beach Club, well, it seemed pretty minimal. We hadn’t been in the room very long when Glenn discovered that the wall-mounted TV stand had exceedingly sharp edges. In this little room, the stand was just at head high, and Glenn collided with the corner of the stand as he was putting something away on his side of the bed. Ouch! We ended up hanging his sweater over the stand to soften any further collisions with it. Joan has a green thumb with orchids and the yard was full of gorgeous specimens, in full bloom. That was something we didn’t see on Kaui during our September, 1990 visit. Just beyond the little deck outside our room was the dense, green, lush rain forest, full of gigantic tree ferns.
After a beer, we headed into the village to find our supper. First stop—a Thai restaurant, where the hostess waved us off. “Nothing for a half hour!” O.K. On to the Kiawe restaurant, with $20 10-inch pizzas and other entrees several notches more expensive. We figured we’d already had our protein for the day so settled for a $6 smallish bowl of very good clam chowder and a huge $5. “Side salad.” Somehow, it’s less painful to pay a large price for an all-inclusive resort or a cruise than to dole it out to restaurants here and there!
I am wondering just what the allure of Hawaii is today for US tourists. Before Mexico developed so many areas for tourism, I suppose it was the closest place to find tropical sun in the winter, but now, I’d say Mexico’s resort areas are really nicer and cost less. Tourism is Hawaii’s main industry but I’d say it is way OVER-developed for the tourist. The coastline at Poipu was lined with resorts/condos but just driving by, you couldn’t even SEE the ocean. Here on Hawaii , the drive from Kona to Volcano had only two parks, depressing, shabby-looking homes and almost no pull-outs or view overlooks. And what's with all the rusty tin roofs? Even on large, new homes—there's that tin roof! The highway had immediately left the coast at Kona and was soon at least 1500 feet above it with VERY steep roads leading back down to sea level. There were few roads along our route that led down to the sea. Our drive along Highway 11 was not one I’d want to make very often.
I think we will not feel cheated if we never come back to Hawaii. Kauai was generally much more beautiful than what we saw of the Big Island today. Huge lava flows are interesting, when the lava is flowing, but rather barren and unfriendly-looking terrain to drive through after that. Not places for a nice stroll!
Well, we haven’t seen the Hilo area; perhaps that will be more lush and green. Certainly, the “Country Goose” is sitting in the middle of a beautiful, dense rain forest with giant tree ferns all around.
Wednesday, March 21, 2007 -- the first day of spring!
We were up about 6:30a.m. but what with showering, shaving and such it was about 7:30 when we opened the door between our room and the main part of this B&B. Not a cloud in the sky and the sun was up and beaming. Joan Earley already had one long table full of guests, so we opened up her second table. No complaints about the breakfast—it was huge, and all good. We started with orange juice, then fresh "apple" bananas (sliced in half lengthwise and the banana cut into segments so it could eaten with a fork, rather than our usual monkey-style with the fingers. In the middle of the plate was half a papaya. Then came French toast, made with special Island bread and soaked overnight in the batter. The toast was dusted with powdered sugar and you could top it with freshly thawed berries, or maple syrup. Decisions! Decisions! And, let's not forget the scrambled eggs and little sausages. All this was accompanied by a china coffee pot full of fresh coffee (Kona, no doubt). We sort of shouted back and forth to the other table—a family of grandparents, children (newly moved from Colorado) and their children. Also a couple from New Hampshire. Later, a couple from Maine and California joined us at our table. The general consensus of the guests was that lunch would not be needed!
We got a few tips on what to see near and in Hilo, then I asked Joan for some time at her computer for e-mailing and she quickly agreed. Amazing how fast the e-mails pile up in the "in box" in just a few days.
I asked Joan if a letter had come for us from Mark. “No,” but she admitted she hadn't checked her post office box for a few days. She promised to do so today. After breakfast, Mark phoned, via Skype Out, and told us that he will be leaving on another mileage run to Rome tomorrow. He will be there just for four days this time.
We packed up the car and were enroute down Highway 11 by 9:30 am, headed for Hilo. Basically, Hilo is 26 miles pretty much straight down, down, down from Volcano Village. We watched the elevation markers go by—from 3500 ft. to sea level. Our first stop was at the Akatsuka Orchid Gardens, recommended by Karen, and seconded by our hostess. A good tip! They had lovely displays of orchids of every shape, and color.
Our first stop in Hilo was “Banyan Drive” which follows the shoreline around a peninsula jutting out into Hilo Bay. Back in the 1930’s they started planting Banyan trees all along the drive. They are now HUGE and have impressive numbers of aerial roots reaching down from the branches to the ground. The trees also make a lovely lining to the drive. Well-known people of the 1930’s and later decades planted the trees, and there are signs on each tree with the name of such “planters” as movie stars, military generals, even some presidents. Before the tsunami of 1960 this was an upscale residential area. It came back as a hotel area.
We had a good view of the NCL cruise ship, “Spirit of Aloha” across a small bay and a few little boats at anchor nearby. Along Banyan Drive we saw several big hotels all lining the Bay. At the north end of the Drive, we entered a lovely park with a huge Japanese-style garden. Little ponds, all connected to Hilo Bay were artistically linked by high arched stone Japanese bridges, or had a red-painted pagoda reflecting in the water. Very nice! The guide book said this park is “not frequently visited” but that wasn’t true. Several tour buses came by, although none stopped. What appeared to be Hilo locals were enjoying the park; some fishing either in the Bay or the little ponds. Nice views across the bay to downtown Hilo and above, to impressive Mauna Kea volcano, with its white astronomical observatories dotting the summit. Mauna Kea is a bit more rugged than Mauna Loa and at 13,796 ft. it is also a bit higher. In fact, it is the highest mountain in the Pacific, and if you measured from its true base (18,000 feet down at the bottom of the ocean) it would top even Mt. Everest. (Personally, I think that would be cheating.) Mauna Loa (12,679 ft.) just looks like a very large hill on the horizon, but it also rates some superlatives—being the most massive mountain on earth—and weighing more than California's entire Sierra Nevada range!
Our next objective was the Tsunami Museum in downtown Hilo. But, we couldn’t find it on the one-way street, and by the time we got turned around and came back, our enthusiasm for the museum had faded. We did stop in another large, grassy park along the main drag, Kamehameha Avenue," and went over to admire a gold-caped and helmeted statue of the King Kamehameha, “George Washington of Hawaii.” He was born on the north side of the island, but spent a good bit of time with his “navy” in Hilo. The gold cape is no exaggeration—except the King’s original cape was fashioned from the gold feathers of a native bird. Guess what? No more native bird.
We finished our visit to Hilo by finding a KTA supermarket where we stocked up on cold drinks, fruit, ice, etc. Then we spotted the Golden Arches, and had lunch. We split a 10-piece order of McNuggets, and I cashed in a 2-fer coupon for two “blizzard” ice cream desserts. Glenn announced this was a WAY better meal for $7, then what we had last night for $25. I completely agreed, as I finished my “Oreo” blizzard, and then ate half of Glenn’s.
It was a pretty drive back up, up, up to Volcano Village. Some clouds, but very pleasant temps—about 80 in Hilo, and 71 in Volcano. We never left our room for the rest of the day and evening. Just relaxed, read, and enjoyed the pleasant breeze that wafted into our room along with musical bird songs. I had another e-mail session, and gave Mark and Karen our daily update. A most pleasant day. We followed the new plan of eating out for lunch and in for supper. Tonight, after the big breakfast and a McDonald’s feast, a peanut butter/jam sandwich and soft drink sufficed.
Thursday, March 22
We were the early birds for breakfast this morning, but soon had company—a couple from the Ballard neighborhood, in Seattle. I thought maybe Joan always served French Toast (not that that would be a BAD thing) but no, this morning it was Belgian waffles, with the same toppings (syrup, fruit, whipped cream) plus the “usual” -- eggs, sausage, juice, fresh fruit. Definitely a VERY nice breakfast. After the Waiohai Beach Resort, this place seemed quite a come-down: small room, ridiculous toilet seat that is squishy, and when you sit on it, it “squishes” down so much that you and the water in the bowl come into contact, difficult place to park and back out of, etc. but there is no complaint about the breakfast. Also the hostess seems happy to let me use the Internet, so really we could have done much worse. Glenn was nostalgic about the Volcano House, where we stayed in 1990, but I reminded him that today a Crater View room starts at $200, and goes up from there. (With NO TV, meals extra, mattresses that are "historic" but none too comfy, etc.) The "Trip Advisor" gives the Volcano House a paltry few stars and lots of negative comments, while every review of Joan Earley's B&B was a rave review. The "Country Goose" at $90 including those huge breakfasts is a darn good bargain in Hawaii. I think Karen gave us good advice in suggesting the Country Goose to us.
Instead of sunshine peeping through the rain forest and tree ferns this morning, it was rain drops we heard. Well, they don’t call it a “rainforest” for nothing! We headed for the Volcanoes National Park entrance right after breakfast, hoping to beat the tour buses to the Visitor Center. We were there by 8:45 a.m. but a couple buses had already arrived. It was not too crowded at the Visitor Center and we took in the first movie of the day at 9 a.m. There were also nice exhibits in the Center. From there, we walked over to what was the first “Volcano House” which once sat on the western edge of the caldera. This is the one Mark Twain stayed at. Now it is the Volcano Art Center, with exhibits displayed in the small former hotel rooms. Some very nice paintings, blown art glass, pottery.
After a look at all the exhibit rooms, we started off on our tour of the caldera. Looking at the map, it seemed that going clockwise would mean we could easily turn off on the right to most of the major viewpoints. This went against the advice on our tour brochures, but it turned out to be much easier even if we were going the “wrong” way. We checked out the view into “Kilauea Iki” (the little crater) but at first all we saw was clouds. Then we got some breaks in the clouds and even a few sunbeams now and then. This proved to be the way the weather went all during our drive. Way, way down on the "Iki's" crater floor, threading their way through the steaming fumaroles, we saw what could have been a scene out of "The March of the Penguins." But these were just tourists, all covered up in their rain slickers, and marching single file behind their guide across this ominous-looking moonscape surface.
When we got to the junction with the “Chain of Craters” road, we turned down that highway for a few miles. Along the way, we took a little side road to the east which gave a graphic view of what Pele thinks of road construction. She just rolls right over it! This road was once the main highway down to the coast until the 1970’s, but now it ends abruptly at a high wall of rough, rugged lava. Bordering it were lots of trees and shrubs, including some beautiful ferns that appear to climb up on other plants. (Probably the "uluhe" fern.)
We returned to the caldera road, and soon came to the “biggie,” the Halema'uma'u crater, sunk deep within the huge Kilauea caldera. Glenn walked out to the overlook, sharing the trail with all the bus tour folks. I stayed at the car, but there were plenty of fumaroles to see right at the parking lot. The cool, rainy weather today actually made the fumaroles’ steam more evident. Certainly, the entire caldera and the other areas we visited appeared to have more plumes of steam than we remembered from 1990.
At one pull-out, there was a sign explaining the "Solfataras"--
"Following an eruption, a few vents (fumaroles) remain open allowing volcanic gases to escape. Fumaroles emitting sulphur are called Solfataras. Clusters of sulphur crystals give rise to the yellow coloration. These vents are the result of the July 1974 eruption."
This area must have been something to see in 1974 when curtains of flame were coming up from fissures in the caldera!
We hoped that by afternoon the clouds would break up and we would have more sun. Not to be—the drizzle/rain continued all during our drive. We stopped at the main tourist attraction—the Jaggar Museum. This is a new addition since our 1990 visit to the volcano. It looked like it had some interesting exhibits, including all sorts of scientific instruments, measuring earth movements and “tilt” (not sure just what “tilt” is) but the museum was WAY overfilled by bus crowds. Glenn also thought he was having some vision problems, so we gave up on the museum and headed back to the Country Goose. Thankfully, the vision problems resolved quickly. We just relaxed and watched TV, plus sent another e-mail off to the family. We considered going back to Volcano House for an early dinner, but once back in the room, with cloudy, drizzly weather, just staying put and making do with our peanut butter & jam sandwiches, cheese, and fruit seemed more attractive. We packed up most of our stuff before turning in. I could still hear “drip, drip” outside the window as I drifted off to sleep.
March 23, 2007 Friday
Glenn had a pretty much sleepless night after about 2:30 a.m. but appeared to be sleeping at 6:30 a.m. (He says no, he just “plays possum.” ) I left him “playing possum” and went up to the B&B’s kitchen/living room where Joan was busily stirring and whipping as she got breakfast ready for us and her other guests. She rents out two rooms in her home, and also is an agent for lots of the homes around her. She serves breakfast to the lot at her home every morning.
I took advantage of her computer and Internet connection, and sent off letters to family and friends, as we wound up our stay at Volcano Village. Glenn appeared about an hour later and today we were treated to sour cream pancakes as the main breakfast entrée. The rest of the menu was the same as the other two days.
We loaded up the car, backed out of the driveway and started our drive to Kona. In spite of a few sun breaks during breakfast, we were soon driving down toward Hilo in a heavy rain. Glenn had debated between going back the way we came, or seeing the rest of the Big Island. Alternative No. 2 won. As we dropped down the long, gentle slope of Mauna Loa, the rain let up and by the time we entered Hilo, it was nice and sunny—although Mauna Kea was still hiding in the rain clouds around her shoulders.
The only gas station we spotted was very close to the Japanese park we visited two days ago; and we got another look at it, as Glenn maneuvered the car so that we could get into the gas station. Assured we wouldn’t run out of gas, we took Highway 19 which looped all the way around the northwest and north sides of the island, and back to the coast west of Waimea. The sunshine stayed with us and the first part of the trip was a lovely drive with the ocean not too far to our right most of the time.
The lush growth we found at Hilo continued, and if anything grew lusher. The area of the coast north of Hilo is now designated as the "Hilo-Hamakua Heritage Coast and it certainly deserves recognition! Both for its history and its scenic beauty. We drove through an area of “gulches” as they are locally called. Deep valleys carved into the flanks of Mauna Kea, the sidesof the "gulches" are covered with tropical trees and big-leaved plants. Truly, a jungle. Spectacular “flame trees” were scattered along the canyon sides and bottom, and the "gulches" were absolutely beautiful. The bad news? Not one of the many spectacular “gulches” had a pull-out where you could stop and admire their beauty. Hawaii is missing a great tourist attraction; this portion of the drive was just as beautiful as the west end of the Columbia Gorge with its lush greenery. At least on the old Gorge highway, you have opportunities to enjoy the scenery. There were some sea coast parks along the way, but again, it was hard to find the turn-off in time with the poor to non-existent signage. Finally, there was some advance warning that we were coming to Laupahoehoe Point County Park, so we turned down a narrow, winding road that descended to the bottom of a “gulch” and ended at a beautiful rocky headland where the surf was crashing against an old lava flow. The coastline at this point was already displaying the high, sheer cliffs that would keep getting higher from here to the impassible “Pali” at the northern tip of the island. At one edge of the open grass area of the park several campers had pitched their tents, with a million-dollar view from their tent window. There was also a large shelter with tables and probably some cooking areas too.
A sad story of the area: this had been one of the major landings back in the sailing ship days and when sugar cane was king all along this part of the coast. The town had been bustling and busy on into the 20th century. But, this low spot in the otherwise high sea cliffs proved fatal when the huge tsunami of April 1, 1946 struck. The little school, the teacher and some 20 children were all wiped out. We saw a memorial to those lost in the tsunami at the edge of the shore.
Glenn has memories connected with that terrible tsunami. He arrived in Honolulu early in the morning of April 1, 1946, to start his US Navy assignment at Pearl Harbor. He had arrived about 1 a.m., and was assigned a bunk in one of the barracks. At about 7 a.m. the tidal wave struck Oahu, rushing up the Ala Wai Canal and destroying many boats moored there. Glenn just assumed tsunamis were a common occurrence, not realizing that he had arrived just before the worst tsunami in modern history (up to that time). The tidal wave swept away 159 people and more than 1300 homes—with most of the damage around Hilo and the coast to the north on the Big Island.
A few miles north of this beautiful spot, the highway turned inland and west and suddenly, we could have been in the grass and oak-covered hills of California! Cattle were grazing in the green fields, and here and there a singular tree dotted the grasslands. Probably not oak, but sure looked similar. We were in the “Paniolo” country of cowboys, cattle and the huge Parker Ranch, which historically was headquartered at Waimea. Today, Waimea looks more prosperous than most of the Big Island; apparently it has close to the ideal climate: high enough (2400 ft) to be cooler than the coast, and still in the “rain shadow” of Mauna Kea so it gets a lot of sunshine. There were lots of very spendy homes scattered about and very attractive small shopping malls. Even Waimea's McDonald’s had to abide by the architectural code—and was trying hard to look like a “ranch house.”
We had a choice at Waimea, take the scenic, upland route back to Kona or go (literally) straight down to the coast. We chose the latter, and were soon back in dry, not green grasslands. We could look up the mountain side and see where the green started. Easy to see where the rain falls here!
Once on the coast, we looked for a nice beach park where we could enjoy the scenery and our lunch (our traditional peanut butter and jam sandwiches, plus cokes and oranges.) We found “Hapuna” Beach Park, and drove down toward the beach and a parking lot full of at least a couple hundred cars. Once again, the “handicapped” sticker saved the day, and let us park very close to a nice picnic area with shaded picnic tables a bit above the beach. We dawdled here, watching the swimmers and boogie boarders down on the beach. The water beyond was several shades of turquoise and blue. The Moon Handbook rates this the second or maybe even the best beach on the Big Island. We saw no reason to argue with that; but in comparing Hawaii and Kauai I’d still give Poipu Beach Park the edge as it had so many areas suited to everyone from toddlers to the serious surfers.
I gave up on my request to go to Wal-Mart for their more reasonably-priced souvenirs. It turned out that the airport came before Wal-Mart and neither of us wanted to deal with Kona traffic if we didn’t have to. So, we turned in the car at Avis, and were quickly on our way on their shuttle over to the airport. We arrived excessively ahead of our departure (got there about 3 p.m. for a 9:15 p.m. flight). But this little airport managed to make it so difficult to get checked in, and file through its one security line, that we were thankful to be too early rather than just on time! We managed to get in the security line along with a company of US Army Artillerymen who were heading back to Schofield Base in Honolulu. They were in their battle gear, the dun-colored camouflage now popular, what with a desert war going on in Iraq and Afghanistan. I guess they come over to the Big Island for maneuvers on a big military reservation. Those young men certainly filled up the line, that’s for sure! Once we had crawled through security (with Barb in a wheelchair and Glenn pushing) we had lots of time to do little but wait. Glenn said the first priority was a cold beer, and the restaurant within the security area took care of that. I checked out their souvenir shop and decided that Kona coffee at $28.00/pound was beyond my idea of a souvenir!
As the sun was going down, about 6:30 p.m., we headed back into the restaurant for a hamburger ($8.00 with lettuce and tomato). More tedious waiting and while the unique design of this airport might have seemed inspired to the architect, it really is not a very pleasant arrangement for the traveler. All waiting areas are outside—some do have a roof, but no sides. It must be interesting when a windy, rainy spell comes through! And you get all the noise and fumes from the planes which just roll right up to the buildings and use steps to load and unload passengers. And, it’s pretty darn hot and humid, sitting out in the tropical air for many hours. I vote for the Lihue, Kauai airport—much nicer, and air conditioned.
Finally, at 9:30 pm we climbed up the steps into our plane to Los Angeles. They never did tell us what gate United would use; apparently they only use it for three flights back to the mainland, all in the evening. But, with much going back and forth, and inquiring, Glenn learned where we should be and when. We noticed a crescent moon in the balmy night sky as we climbed aboard.
After one offering of drinks for which we gratefully cashed in a couple of Mark's free drink coupons (thank you, Mark!) the evening's movie started, and it was …….Casino Royale!! It was not listed as an "eastbound" movie, but for some reason, that's what we got. I just shut my eyes, ignored the headphones and managed to sleep through the entire movie. Glenn could only manage about 45 minutes sleep, total during the five hour flight back to Los Angeles, so to say that we were a bit bleary-eyed upon landing at LAX would be no exaggeration.
Saturday, March 24
A wheelchair and pusher were waiting right at the jet way, I plopped down, and away we went—it was all Glenn could do to keep up with this woman pushing me—she almost ran through one terminal and into another for our next gate. Glenn scouted out the restaurants near our gate, found one that was offering eggs, bacon and cheese tater tots, so we ignored the inflated price (seemed almost reasonable after Hawaii) and ate breakfast. Back to our waiting area, where it was hard to fight off sleep. Somewhere along the way, United started playing "musical chairs" with the poor passengers from other flights. Apparently they canceled a flight, and made the passengers race across this huge airport to find where they were to join a new flight. We heard lots of heavy breathing and cuss words as they arrived! We were feeling a bit smug, since we were at our gate so early (our flight was to leave at 10:15 a.m. – actually, it didn't leave until about 11:30) but then on one of Glenn's frequent trips to check the status board, he learned OUR flight had just been moved to a gate one flight down, but in the same area. So, off we went and settled into a new lounge.
The two hour flight was uneventful (just the way we want plane rides to be, right?) but again, they only offered us one opportunity to cash in Mark's free drink coupons—and he had given us enough for three drinks each. But the drinks we had were appreciated.
Glenn had the window seat, looking west, and could recognize some landmarks until about the Oregon border, then it clouded up. By the time we landed in Portland, it was cool and showery. With the help of my wheelchair chauffeur, we just barely made the 2:15 HUT shuttle. Glenn found the Buick had waited patiently at the Red Lion hotel for us (although when he pushed the remote to open the doors, the trunk door flew up instead—the car knew how to scold us for abandoning it). Salem was in full bloom as we drove toward Salemtowne—the Capitol Mall cherry trees were almost finished blooming, but still a cloud of white. Pear trees lining Wallace Road were in bloom, the early azaleas too, and we could honestly say after our trip to a tropical paradise, as Dorothy once said, "There's no place like home."
March 25, 2007
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