Mark Atwood (fallenpegasus) wrote,
Mark Atwood

Hawaii Trip Report. "What I did on my winter vacation."

Sunday. Getting ready and going.

I returned from my gig in LA on Friday night, so I had Saturday to pack and do final preparations. I packed pretty light, turns out I could have packed even lighter. Kelly boboesangel gave us a ride to the airport. She will pick us up a week and a day later.

The sky over Seattle was pretty standard for the season, the pale grey lid of winter still present.

We travelled in a big widebody 767. Four plus hours were spent dozing, reading, writing, and flirting.

Honolulu International Airport is designed like many of the homes and structures in Hawaii: the "inside" and the "outside" blur together. The main purpose of glass windows is to hold in the occasional pocket of air conditioning. We exited the gate and were suddenly "outside", without going past security. It turns out instead that most of the airport is "outside", even inside the security perimeters. I saw this mixing of inside and outside many more times over the week.

The airport has staff looking out for people who are lost or confused, and then get them unlost and unconfused. One of them directed us to the shuttle we had been recommended to use, the "Roberts Bus". It took us on an unglamorous route into the city, and deposited us at our airport, the "Ohana Islander Waikiki". It was a passable good hotel, which I picked for price. They are doing construction, so they were offering a significant discount.

Waikiki itself is very much for tourists. It's a vast cluster of hotels, restaurants, luxury shops, and the ubiquitous "ABC Store". There were ABC's everywhere, nearly every block. They sold tourist junk, sunscreen, travel supplies, drugstore stuff, and so forth. We started with hats and sunscreen.

We used three different kinds of sunscreen over the week. A pressurized spray can was first, picked because it was on sale. It got good fast coverage, but made us feel like we were covered in spray paint. Next was an spring pump liquid that wasn't so sticky, but the coverage wasn't so good. Finally, during a stop at Costco, we were recommended to Neutrogena sunscreen lotion, which cost a fraction of the stuff at ABC, it lasted a number of days, and it was decently good lotion on it's own. Recommended.

Tigris's friend, Mark Wood (easy for me to remember) picked us up in front of the hotel. He brought a couple of leis, and so we did get the traditional welcome to the islands. We rode with him to Ewa, to a games night party being hosted by Tigris's friend Isadora. It was a typical and fun games night, with some cool people. Because of the timezone difference, two hours west, and because of travel tiredness, we started fading after halfway, so we were lent a bed, where we crashed until the party ended and Mark took us back to our hotel.

Monday. The beach at San Souci.

Leaving our hotel the next morning, we stepped blinking into blazing sunlight under a clear blue sky.

We went hunting for breakfast. The first way we took didn't lead us to food, but it did take us to a couple of lovely parks next to the hotels, and then to the beach. We found geckos on the trees.

Our wandering took us to the beach. I stood in the surf, feeling the sand shift and sink under my feet with each wave. The water was cool bathtub temperature, not as warm as a hot tub, but much warmer than a swimming pool. This was the very first time I had been in the ocean where it wasn't uncomfortably cold.

I asked the next person who passed where we could find breakfast. He was wearing a Colorado School of Mines t-shirt, but he turned out to be a retired dentist. He gave us directions to an IHOP, which basically consisted going back the way we came, and continuing for another couple of blocks.

After breakfast, we walked west on the sand, looking for San Souci beach, where we had arranged to meet Tigris. The sand varied from fluffy and sugary, to small pebbles. Walking on barefoot on sand is not as easy as walking on hard ground, it was a good leg exercise. After some experimentation, I learned to "cup" each foot, and to walk right at the surf line, where the sand is wet and better packed.

There were many people, a number of them very pretty, and most of the pretty ones wearing almost nothing.

After going a ways too far, and getting slightly lost, we figured out where we wanted to be. The beach was just east of the War Memorial. We settled in on a spot of evaporating shade. For lunch we had a pair of crisp cold apples from a local shop that was just about to close forever.

While relaxing in the sun, I got a call from gipsieee, and we commiserated a bit about a bit of personal drama we were both involved in. She wanted to know if she had done the right thing. It was interesting that she called me, I was planning on calling her soonish, and asking her exactly the same thing. Being in such a languid and relaxing environment helped a lot.

A bit later, Tigris joined us, and we did some more of the "beach thing", actively doing nothing at all. We all then went to a local place which is, I am told, pretty well known, called "Lulu's". Like the airport and the hotel, it blurred the inside and the outside. We sat at a counter ringing the edge of the room, looking out thru open space at the beach and greenways.

Tigris had heard about someone leading free yoga sessions near there, so we went looking, and found it. A middle aged man with mahogany skin was leading half a dozen women in a sequence. We joined in. It was stretching, relaxing, and strenuous, and he was a very good teacher.

After that, we all walked back along the beach in the rapidly darkening twilight and nightfall to the military hotel, where we met and had dinner with Tigris's friend Richard. If the weather and other factors cooperate, Richard will take us all out sailing in Pearl Harbor the next Saturday.

After dinner, we walked back to our hotel, after taking a wrong turn and getting slightly lost.

We got "slightly lost" a number of times on this trip.

Tuesday. A five hour hike.

We decided that we really needed a car to do all of what we wanted to do. After poking a bit at car rental websites, I remembered that I had access to a corporate travel agent. So I sent them an email, asked for the cheapest available car. I got an answer back very quickly, and it was going to cost quite a bit less than what I expected. The only downside was I was going to have to go back to the airport Wednesday morning to pick it up, having it delivered to the hotel would double the cost.

We had been told a much better place for breakfast was "Moose McGillycuddy's". We had seen it yesterday, they had a guy standing on the sidewalk wearing a moose head. So we gave them a try. The food there was decent, better than IHOP.

We then rode TheBus up to Taltalis Drive, and then hiked up the road, and looking out at the scenes of the city and of Pearl Harbor as we gained altitude. Every now and then we picked a trailhead and hike it. Most of them either just looped, or would end higher up on the road. We were occationally clucked and crowed at by feral chickens.

Near the top of the road we found the trail to the Bamboo Forest, and we hiked in. We got more and more altitude, better and higher scenic views, and then finally the forest itself. Bamboo plants, sometimes more than 4 inches in diameter, towered over us. We kept hiking up, the trail switching back and forth, until we ended up on a service access road. We didn't go the direction the signs said "no public access". The other way was a microwave relay station, and the start of another trail.

We randomly wandered from trail to trail, again being "slightly lost". The trail was somewhat challenging, but not too difficult. We kept trying pick ones that went downward, but each trail going down soon went upward even more. Still, the environment was interesting, lots of many different kinds of plants and trees growing out of the red and black soils, and sometimes directly out of the volcanic rock itself.

Finally, we lucked into the trail going down to Manoa Falls. The fall was very pretty, dropping several hundred feet down the rock face into a small pool. A steady stream of people were walking the gentle hike up and back. We rested there a bit, then walked down to civilization, which was a deserted bedroom suburb, found a stop for TheBus, and rode it back down to Waikiki. Drivers for TheBus have the best civil service uniform ever, an Aloha Shirt done in pictures and patterns of public transit in Hawaii.

After all hiking, we were starving. So this wasn't a good time to discover that all the restaurants close between lunch and supper. We waited for a Japanese Grill to open. While it was food, and somewhat tasty, waiting for foil wrapped fish and veggies to cook at the table was less than satisfying.

The original plan for the evening was to go with Tigris to visit her friend Amber, but we were so tired and footsore that we just went back to the hotel, and crashed for the night.

Wednesday. North Shore Beach.

The next morning, we took TheBus to the car rental place near the airport, and picked up the car, a Pontiac Vibe. We arranged with Tigris to meet at her place. On the way, we stopped at a shopping center. First priority, food. We got sushi to go from some chain who's logo is a yellow frowney face Their gimmick is buffet eating off a conveyer belt. Next, water. We went to the K-Mart, and bought a brick of bottled water on sale. That was a good purchase, we drank our way thru that brick over the next five days.

We then went to Ewa to Tigris's house. There we met the dogs who also live there. They are big, energetic, loud, and slobbery.

We followed Tigris up to the North Shore, to a beach she liked there. However, it had been closed with concrete barriers. So we backtracked to another one, but were a bit disappointed. The beaches there were formerly clothing optional, but now there were signs up forbidding it. Stupid complaining uptight repressed mainlanders.

The trail to the beach was between two horse farms, and the horses clustered up by the fences, begging for bites of grass from the other side. Tigris and I stopped a couple of times, feeding them. It was fun. They would grab the handful of grass and chomp it like chewy candy.

The water was quite a bit cooler than at Waikiki, but I still stood and floated in the rolling surf, and we all relaxed on the sand. Helen unrolled a Go board, and we taught Tigris how to play. It was fun, but challenging, because the beach sand kept invading and unleveling the board.

After a few hours, we headed to town, grabbed some food, then drove back to Honolulu.

That evening we three went to a "Mark Group", a structured social party run by an org that Tigris half seriously calls a "sex cult". Their main game is called "hotseat". Each person can spend some time being the center of attention, and everyone else takes turns asking "interested" questions. It was fun and interesting, and they enjoyed meeting us and hearing some of our stories.

After that, we called it a night, and went back to the hotel. And again, got slightly lost. This time it was figuring out where our hotel's parking lot was hidden. It turned out to be, of course, in plain sight, but I kept overlooking it.

Thursday. Learning to Snorkel.

After breakfast, this time fruit and yogurt at Starbucks, we again drove to Ewa to Tigris's place, and then the three of us went together to an set of artificial lagoons that are good to learn to snorkel in. Tigris patently, over a couple of hours, taught us how to use the mask and snorkel and how to dive with them. Swimming is a lot more fun when I can float and can breathe!

We took Tigris back to her place so she could walk the dogs, and we hung out at nearby cafe, until she was ready. Then we all went in together to Waikiki, to listen to her friend Amber sing and lead kareoke in a restaurant there. Conveniently, the restaurant was right across the street from our hotel.

When we were done with that, Helen went back to the hotel, and I drove Tigris home. Of course, once I got back to Honolulu, again I got "slightly lost". Finally I found the convention center, and from that, back to Waikiki.

Friday. Skydiving.

After breakfast, at a place called Eggs N Things, we returned to the North Shore, to Skydive Hawaii.
That was Helen's birthday present to me, a skydive. We signed in, filled out the paperwork, and then waited. And waited. And waited.

Skydive Hawaii does a poor job of scheduling. I think their problem is that they don't take a deposit when people call in, so they get a lot of cancellations, so they can't schedule well. So we waited and watched eight loads go up before it was our turn.

My tandem master was a big enthusiastic German guy who runs a DZ back home. He was originally planning on just a few weeks in Hawaii, but each time he was about to go home, he would look at the weather in Germany, the weather on Oahu, and extend his ticket yet another week.

I told him I had been about halfway thru an AFF program, so he went and got an altimeter for me to wear, and then talked me thru the dive. I was going to do a right full circle turn, a left full circle turn, keep checking the alti, and pull at 55. I was much more nervous about screwing up my turns than I was about falling thru the sky. Falling is easy and safe. Controlled turns was were I had kept screwing up in my AFF class.

The view going up was great. The landscape slowly crawled away, and the ocean kept getting bigger and bigger. I could see the big surf breaking thousands of feet from the shoreline, and the land turned into an abstract texture of bright green with streaks of red and black.

At 10500 ft, the door was opened. We were the first tandem out, immediately after the cameramen.

It was so great to be back in the air. I kept dropping my arch, but he kept us from flipping. I did the left and right turns pretty well. And then we fell into the clouds. It was my first time punching a cloud, as the world went dim and grey, and the screaming wind got oddly muffled. The alti read 55, I reached back, grabbed the handle, and pulled.

And that was the moment I got really scared.

The ripcords on the standard packs I had used before would completely pull out, leaving me holding the handle and a flapping cord, and the canopy blooming out of my back. The cord for a tandem is hooked in differently. It pulls out a foot or so, and then stops. There I was, heaving as hard, hoping to powers above that it would unjam. And then I felt the opening shock.

We rode the canopy back down, practicing landing legs instructions, and then enjoying the view. He liked flying the canopy more than I do, executing tight turns back and forth, stirring my stomach up. For me, the canopy ride is just supposed to be a safe way to the ground, so I can go up for the next freefall.

Anyway, we landed safely. Helen touched down about a minute later. This had been her first skydive, and being an athletic adrenaline junkie, she's already looking forward to going back up again.

After that, we drove up to some little bakery mentioned by our guidebook to buy a chocolate coconut pie that is locally famous. We stopped a couple of times to watch the amazing surf.

Just before sunset we stopped at Shark Cove beach and watched the surf breaking over the jagged weirdly eroded lava rocks. The sun sank down under the ocean horizon. I must have blinked at exactly the wrong moment, because Helen saw the Green Flash of sunset but I did not.

We drove back to our hotel, enjoyed a dessert of chocolate coconut pie and macademia flower honey wine, and then slept solidly for 12 hours.

Saturday. Hiking Diamond Head.

We reprised our breakfast at McGillycuddy's, and then pinged Tigris about Richard's sailing plans. When she said she hadn't heard back from him, we scratched sailing, and decided to instead hike up Diamond Head.

Leaving the car parked at the hotel, we hiked along the beach, then the parks, and then up the road all the way to the Diamond Head trailhead. We passed a farmer's market on the way, but didn't have any cash to buy anything.

Entering Diamond Head, we discovered there was a $1 admission fee, and again, we had no cash. The lady at the gate shrugged, gave us a map, and let us in anyway. The trail was almost trivially easy, in fact, the first leg of it had been paved, to prevent erosion from all the hikers.

There were some nice vistas looking into the old crater, and then there was the steps and tunnels into the old US Army artillery battery, and we crawled out the other end, to a magnificent view. We could see the ocean beach from Pearl Harbor to the west, and halfway to Hawaii Kai to the east.

After enjoying the view for a while, we hiked back down, ignoring the sellers of t-shirts and certificates announcing this "athletic accomplishment". Going back down was a lot easier than going up. We were in a mood for sushi for dinner, but couldn't find one on the way that took cards, so we found a cute little family owned Mexican place, Mi Casa.

When we got back down to the beach, it was time for "Yoga on the Beach", like we had enjoyed several days before. However, the usual yogi wasn't there, and his substitute wasn't nearly as good. "No! You're doing it wrong!" is not a wise thing for a teacher to say, especially not one leading a free walk-in event on a physical skill.

My knees and legs hurt too much, and I didn't care for this teacher, so while Helen worked thru it, I relaxed on the grass, and went and photographed the sunset over the beach.

We walked back to our hotel, stopping for a sushi dinner, and discovering the location of the "International Market", where we were planning on shopping the next day.

The event of the evening was an 80's dance party. But I was confused as to where it was, so we went to the wrong end of the highway of the directions, and ended up in Hawaii Kai, and then drove back around thru the mountains to get to it. When we finally arrived, it was in late swing, and we were tired and frazzled, and I felt about as socially skilled as I was back in the 80s.

Helen did win a delicious assortment of expensive handmade chocolates in a drawing. We enjoyed eating them over the next few days.

I was somewhat amused by the table spread of, ahem, toys. One of the guests is a francisee of a business where she hosts "pleasure parties" in peoples houses, showing them the catalog and a selection of wares to try and buy. Apparently Oahu isn't blessed with a good toy store, nothing like Babeland or The Crypt.

Before the party was over, we were finished. Saying goodbye to Tigris for the night, we drove back to our hotel, had some more pie and wine, and then turned in for the night.

Sunday. Shopping and Party.

After breakfast, again at Mooses, we walked up to the International Market, a block sized cluster of little booths, shops, and carts. It was almost all various tourist stuff, and there was a lot of duplication between shops, of the same kinds of Aloha Shirts and kitchy stuff, most of it made in China.

Helen bought a couple of gifts, and a lovely "wear it a hundred ways" skirt/dress/wrap/thing for herself. I got a couple of new sarongs, and a bag of cheap shell leas, for people back home.

After lunch, we went and sat on the beach one last time.

We then synced up with Tigris and Isadora. They picked us up in front of our hotel, and we headed east to Hawaii Kai for an Ohaha Sun Club party, stopping on the way at a Costco to pick up some potluck food for the party. Helen and I were bringing the liter and a half of wine we had not yet enjoyed.

The party itself was pretty fun. There were some interesting people there, including a number of people either from Seattle, or familiar with it. A photographer was there, so Helen and I posed for her. There was organized games and frolic, ending with a dip in the pool.

After the party petered out, we all pitched in and cleaned up the kitchen and party space. Tigris and Isadora drove us back to our hotel.

Monday. The Journey Home.

We were hoping for maybe one more hike or some more beach time, but on checking the folios, we had to be out of the hotel at noon, and even worse, had to return the car at 11. So we spent the morning packing up all our stuff in the hotel. It's a good thing that Helen's bag was expandable, to make room for the stuff we bought.

While she went across the street to get us breakfast, I cleaned out and loaded up the car.

And then came our last little adventure, our last time getting kind of lost. The car rental place wasn't at the airport itself, and they had forgotten to give us directions to how to get back. After getting stuck at the commercial docks, we tried calling them, but just ended up in voicemail hell. We finally found the place just barely in time to return the car at deadline.

Shuttling to the airport, we checked thru ag inspection, checked our luggage (now too large to carryon), then navigated TSA security, and then spent a couple of hours sitting out in a pretty little open air garden inside the building.

After we had gone thru security, Helen pointed out that, while one couldn't carry thru a pint of fruit juice, one could carry thru a whole papaya.

We boarded our plane, swapped seats with someone so we could sit together, and then wrote, dozed, and flirted our way back to Seattle.

Kelly picked us up, and we returned to Capitol Hill. We were starving, but nothing was open except the grocery stores, so dinner was a couple of bananas.

And that was the end of the trip.

Lessons and Observations.

Don't bring so many socks, I spent most of the time barefoot or in sandals.

Don't need to bring a beach towel, the hotels provide beach towels and one can buy a bamboo mat for $2.

Have sunglasses, the sky and everything else is very bright.

Bring a GPS, both to record a tracklog, and to help avoid getting lost.

The roads, signs, and directions are as bad as around Boston.

The buildings and homes are all mostly open to the air. This includes the airport.

Our guidebook, Oahu Revealed, was very useful.

It hurt my heart to see as much trash and litter as I did. When mentioning this to some locals, they said that the locals are far worse offenders than tourists, and that the very worst offenders were usually native Hawaiians. Sad.

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