Aloha! And Let There Be Racing!

Feb 8, 2018   //   by bwilber   //   Bob's Blog  //  Add a Comment

Aloha everyone, from the shores of Kapa’a on the island of Kauai. It’s a tough and challenging life here. Sometimes the sand gets stuck between your foot and your flip-flop, and that is so annoying. Or there’s the incessant sound of the Pacific Ocean lapping against the shore. And don’t even get me started on those obnoxious trade winds rocking the towering coconut palm trees. Those trees should be a lot shorter. C’mon, who needs trees that tall? Or the food here. How much fresh fish that was just caught today can one guy eat? I can’t believe I signed up for this!

Aloha from Kauai (Click to enlarge)

But here we are, and I’m almost totally acclimated to the time zone. I’m obviously fully acclimated to the lifestyle. My sister Mary is getting packed for her flight over to the mainland and when I looked at my phone to see a text message, I realized it’s Thursday. I’ve only been here since late Tuesday night, but I’d already forgotten what day it was.

So I grabbed my laptop, which is indeed on my lap, and here we go. That time zone thing was a challenge at first, but I’m thinking by tonight I’ll be totally dialed in. I left our house Tuesday morning at 9:00, figuring MSP airport might still be dealing with the aftermath of the Super Bowl. It was, but an army of volunteers and airport employees were on duty, pointing people in the right directions. Plus, I’ve never seen the airport at that sort of staffing levels. Eight Delta agents were on duty just for the Sky Priority lane, when I checked my bag. There’s usually three. Maybe four. And with all the TSA lines buzzing, they kept people moving. I’m in the CLEAR program, and didn’t have to wait for a single person ahead of me.

With all that, I was in the Sky Club by 10:00, prior to my 11:15 flight to LAX. Badda boom, badda bing.

The flight to LAX was about 4 and a half hours. Just long enough to be boring. Then I had a 4 and a half hour layover at LAX. Delta, right now, is in the process of renovating and updating Terminals 2 and 3, after many years of being in Terminal 5. The only tricky part is, Terminals 2 and 3 were never designed to be used by one airline, so there is no direct connection from one to the other. You’d have to go either outside or through baggage claim to get there, and then back through TSA if you walked. My departing flight was, indeed, in the other terminal. With so much time to kill, I went to the Sky Club right outside my arrival gate and when I checked in there the agent told me how it works.

You walk toward baggage claim but just before exiting through security you veer to the right and head down a flight of stairs. At the bottom, a Delta bus picks you up and takes you over to Terminal 3. Kinda weird to exit the bus almost under the engines of a big jumbo jet before heading back up some stairs to get to the gates. The woman also said, “There’s a club over there, as well, but it’s temporary, crowded, and not very good. Stay here for your layover, but then give yourself 20 minutes to get to your gate.” All good advice.

My nonstop flight from LAX to Lihue, here on Kauai, left at 4:45, so I had plenty of time to kill. By the time we boarded, it was already after 6:00 back in Woodbury. Another uneventful flight, this one in the dark over the Pacific with a movie on the seatback in front of me, and a lot of just sitting there. No way to go to sleep, really, and more than five hours to kill. To their credit, the flight attendants were remarkable. Super attentive, very nice, and funny. When one of them handed me a mimosa before take-off, she looked at it in my hand and said, “Oh no, Christine made a mistake. There’s just WAY too much orange juice in that.” She then took it to the galley and fixed the perceived problem, with additional champagne.

And tell me if you’ve ever said this to anyone… We were an HOUR early into Lihue. Still a very long day, but my sister Mary was at the curb waiting for me at just after 8:00 local time, which is just after midnight Central Time. We headed to the condo and even though she had gotten up at 5:00 am to get to work that day, and would have to do that again on Wednesday morning, we couldn’t help but sit in the living room talking for more than an hour.

I was finally tired enough to go to bed, and ready to let Mary do the same, and I was asleep within moments after laying down. Then I woke up at 3:20 in the morning, because my brain still thought I’d just stayed up way too late and that it was 7:20 in the morning. I only dozed until I got up around 6:00. That’s the price you pay to fly all the way to paradise.

Just another Kauai sunrise

Mary had quietly sneaked out of the condo without me even hearing her, and she wouldn’t return until around 2:30, so I had Day 1 to myself mostly. First order of business was breakfast, from a place just up the road. After that, as long as I was out and about I figured I should just keep going, so about 6,000 steps later, according to my new Fossil watch that syncs with my iPhone, I was back and actually (I hate to say this if Barbara or our other Woodbury friends are reading) I was a little sweaty. It was 75 degrees, which is roughly 79 degrees warmer than it was when Barb dropped me at MSP.

I’m here, of course, to watch the condo and watch the cats. Interestingly, Maxie (who looks just like a skinny version of Buster) came out and snooped around to look at me, but we didn’t really interact. You can’t push that on cats. They decide such things.

Biscuit, who isn’t even very sociable with Mary (he’s still very much my niece Leigh’s cat, since she adopted him when she lived here) made a dash through the living room to get under the bed. All I saw was a brown blur as he ran through the room to escape the evil humans.

A little later in the day, which had started very early, I went and got some snacks from a local market and went on another walk. Until Mary got home, I saw not one cat. They were both in stealth mode, under the sofa or the bed. I knew they were there, because there was telltale kitty litter on the floor. I put some treats out for them, to see if that would lure them out, but no go. Again, after my second walk, I saw the evidence they were there (the treats were gone and the kitty litter I’d cleaned was once again on the floor) but no sightings at all. Once Mary got back, around 2:30, Maxie finally came out and Biscuit peeked his head out from the behind the sofa. Maxie, at that point, even let me pick him up, although he was on full alert. Hopefully, by next week’s blog, I’ll have stories of both of them being in bed with me or on my lap. I think that will happen with Maxie. He just came out here while I’m typing and rubbed his head on my ankle. He’s coming around fast. No sign of Biscuit at all, though.

We made it to 7:00 pm, and I’m so glad we did.

Mary and I had a goal of staying up until 7:00 p.m. yesterday, and after a fine dinner of blackened Ono and a glass of wine, during which I got to meet and get to know all of her favorite bartenders and servers at the Olympic Cafe (the OC, and a great place), it was all of 4:45, we both thought 7:00 sounded impossible. But, we had a mission to accomplish. We had to get over to The Oasis to see their standard Wednesday night act. His name is Aldrine Guerrero and he sings brilliantly as he plays the ukulele. So, admit it, you’re thinking of ukulele music that hula girls would dance to, or you’re possibly even remembering Tiny Tim singing “Tiptoe Through The Tulips” right?

Aldrine plays the ukulele like Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Alex Lifeson, and Joe Satriani all rolled into one. I’m not kidding. I have, quite honestly, never seen nor heard anything like it.

Seriously, take a minute and check this out:

What an amazing night. And, just like at the OC, I got to meet all the staff and other locals Mary knows. I’m pretty sure she knows everyone. If not the whole island, at least the east side of it. I think I can go to either place now and just sit at the bar and have fun. I’m Mary’s brother, after all.

Oh, and all my life I pronounced it “Yook-A-Lay-Lee.”  They all pronounce it correctly here. It’s “Ook-u-Lay-Lay” You’ll thank me if you ever come over here and see Aldrine. The version of “Purple Rain” he played is still bouncing around in my head, on repeat mode. It has been all day.

And, this is key… I “slept in” all the way to 4:20 this morning. By tomorrow, I think I’ll be all settled on Hawaiian time.

Today, it was breakfast at the Tip Top, a Kauai landmark restaurant and store, where they take your order and then bring it to you on a rolling cart. The scrambled eggs and thick-cut bacon were to die for. After that, a quick swing by Pier 1, where Mary is a manager, to meet her colleagues there, and then a Costco run for some key supplies. Amazing store, but really how many rolls of paper towels can you keep in your house at once? I was kinda hoping we’d buy a new set of tires, five dozen eggs, a new sofa, and a 72-inch LED TV, but we concentrated on cereal and milk. And some wine. Gotta have the essentials.

Tonight, I’ll drop Mary at Lihue for her (gulp) 11:00 pm flight to Phoenix, which will get her to a connection to Orlando, and then she gets on a little tiny puddle-jumper to fly up to Fort Walton Beach where her daughter Rhiannon lives, with her kids Joe and Harper. Now THAT’s going to be a long travel day. And last night we didn’t think we could stay up until 7:00…

Back over yonder, across the blue Pacific on the mainland, tomorrow is a big day. The Winternationals actually began today, in Pomona, but pro qualifying begins tomorrow. I’ll have to get up, have some Cheerios, and dial it all in on All Access, because I have to go to work!

The first pro session starts at 12 noon in California, so I’ll be in position and at my post (here on the sofa, with laptop on lap, and maybe Maxie with me) at 10:00 am Hawaiian time.

I send all my best to Del, Tim, all my former colleagues, teammates, and friends. And in a couple of weeks I’ll actually be in Phoenix my own bad self, back on the road and in the Media Center.

To make that happen, I’ll need a new “hard card” credential and a parking pass. Those forms, and the waiver you have to sign in front of a Notary for Restricted Area access, went in the mail from here this afternoon after some Fed-Exing to get all the proper signatures. I also needed a new headshot photo for the hard card, and amazingly managed to do that myself. A standard “selfie” using the back-facing camera wouldn’t be high enough resolution, so I did it blind by holding the phone at arm’s length (using the good camera) and clicking the button (after a few tries when I missed it.) It came out surprisingly fine. That got emailed to NHRA Media Relations just before I started this blog.

It was truly a Super Sunday, with friends and tacos!

Finally, I’ll wrap this up with mention of the wonderful Super Bowl party we hosted at our home in Woodbury, way back on Sunday. Seems like ages ago. Almost all of the Woodbury gang was in attendance. One couple had to go to California for the weekend, and one of the husbands (Mitch) actually went downtown and “waited out” the scalpers by saying “no” to every price he heard, right up until the start of the game. He finally got a deal he wanted and sent us all a selfie from the stadium.

Barbara and I thrashed all day to get the food and party essentials ready. I’m proud to say that my taco bar was a hit. First time I’ve ever made shredded chicken for tacos, and everyone loved it.

Also happy to report that the “Texas Martinis” Barbara made and served were also a hit. Like a huge hit. We used an online recipe to duplicate the drinks served at Chuy’s in Austin. Those “martinis” (really just top-shelf margaritas poured out of a shaker) were extremely popular. So much so that no one drank any beer. I don’t drink beer, but I bought two cases just to be safe and I figured we might run out. After the party, the beer bottle count was 45. Three bottles had been consumed.

And I’m thinking that if you’re a regular reader here, many of the faces in this party pic are starting to become familiar to you. At the far left is Lynn Blake, with her husband Terry standing behind her. Next to her, in the theater seats, is Scott Meehan, and his wife Barb is in the red jersey on the little ottoman. Behind her, in the purple Vikings jersey, is Mary Beth Gillis. Her husband Joe is standing behind her, in his Packers jersey. Like many people back home, they are a mixed football couple. Lots of couples in the Twin Cities have both purple and green jerseys for game day. Scott and Barb are a mixed football couple, as well. Next to Joe are Dave and Nichol Jacobsen, of course. Barbara is at far right, with her arm around what would’ve been me. Behind my chair is Kristy Martin. Her hubby Mitch was the one who went to the game. We do have some fun. Best friends in the world…

Hey, I gotta go. I’m in Kauai. There are things to do!

But remember… If you liked this blog, please “Like” it by clicking on the button at the top. Mahalo if you do.

Aloha, everyone.

Bob Wilber, at your service and trying my best to deal with all these Hawaiian challenges.

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