Back Home From Paradise

Jan 3, 2019   //   by bwilber   //   Bob's Blog  //  Add a Comment

Aloha and welcome! (Click on any photo to enlarge)

Well that was amazing. We’re back home in Minnesota after a whirlwind trip to paradise, and it was great. I know, that’s hard to believe. Four nights at the Lava Lava Beach Club, enjoying our private cottage on the beach, and four nights on Kauai, staying at a part of the island we’d only visited before. There was sun, sand, fancy drinks, sightseeing, body surfing, ukulele masterpieces, and family. All of the other stuff wouldn’t be as fun without that last part.

To recount… There were a lot of ways our travel plans could have gone haywire, but fortunately everything went smoothly. Barbara and I flew to LAX and when we arrived at the Delta Sky Club we found Kitty waiting for us. I’m really not sure what we would’ve done if one or both of the planes had been late. It was kind of a “book the tickets and hope for the best” plan and our friends at Delta delivered. We then flew to Honolulu, where we had a chance to munch and sip a little more at the Sky Club there, and then on to Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii, where we arrived right on time. Barbara and I had done the same itinerary last year, so we were better prepared for the dark drive up the coast to Lava Lava. It’s a hard place to find the first time, but we were ready and were in our cottage, the Hale Nalu, right around 9:00 p.m. That’s a bit of a long day, considering we’d left Woodbury at 10:00 in the morning and the 9:00 p.m. arrival felt like 1:00 in the morning to us.

The only hitch in our plan occurred when we brought our stuff into the cottage from the rental car, and we heard a bit of a chirp noise a couple of times. I thought it was my sneakers squeaking on the floor but then we all stood still and it happened again. Yep, the smoke detector was chirping to signal the end of its battery’s short life. That wasn’t going to work, in terms of sleeping.

We went to the restaurant, which was closing for the night (there’s no front desk or lobby at Lava Lava) and found a manager who sent a guy down to the cottage to replace the battery. Except they couldn’t find a battery. So, he took out the chirping 9-volt and unplugged the whole unit. We had to promise that we wouldn’t burn the place down before they could replace it the next day. We kept our promise.

We survived the petroglyphs!

The next morning was spent stocking up on supplies (there’s a great store very close to the resort) eating great food, and showing Kitty the area. We definitely wanted her to see the ancient petroglyphs carved into the lava, and that site is literally right by the hotel, so we did that first. Barb and I had wandered through there last year, and I remembered that the footing can get a little dicey in places. It starts out pretty smooth but if you want to see some really cool ancient carvings you have to get back into the site a little. One year sure made a difference, because all three of us were taking our time and really being careful on the rocks and lava. I remember thinking, and saying, “Let’s really be careful here. One slip by any of us probably ruins this whole vacation on the first day…”

We made it in and out of there,  but we cut the tour short a little once we’d seen some of the best petroglyphs. It was like “OK, nobody has slipped and sprained an ankle, or worse, so let’s go.”

Starting that first day, we were incredibly fortunate with the weather. Hawaii, in general, is a wet place. Even over in Honolulu on Oahu you know to expect an afternoon shower or two, and all-day rains aren’t rare. Kona is on the “dry side” of the Big Island, but rain is common there too. In all, this trip featured only one total wash-out of a rain day, and six really wonderful days. It’s hard to get that lucky, and last year it was almost the other way around. I know it rained every day last year, but we still got in a lot of great stuff. This time it was just a bonus.

Lava Lava Beach Club. Yeah, it’s not too bad. Somehow we found a way to enjoy it.

We swam, we walked in the water, we laid under towering palm trees, and we enjoyed the snacks and drinks the Lava Lava staff brought to us before dinner each night. Appetizers in Hawaii are called pu pu platters and they usually feature some meat, veggies, fish, or sushi. They’re fabulous, and a great way to get ready to enjoy the Lava Lava Beach Club restaurant, which is incredible. There’s nothing like sitting out under the palm trees, all trimmed with festive lights, listening to the waves gently roll onto the shore, while eating world-class fare.

Our main plan on the 23rd was to show Kitty the Captain Cook sites further south on the island. This is where I take 100% of the blame for a frustrating outing. I should’ve mapped it out in detail before we left, but I was sure I remembered how to get there. I briefly looked at it on Google Maps to make sure I knew how far away it was, but I didn’t commit it to memory. When we came to the first big fork in the road, my gut told me to turn left and I did. But after a few miles on that road it seemed like we were getting farther and farther away from the water, which was where we needed to be, so I backtracked. Basically, after making that turn-around, I had no clue how to find the place and the GPS on our phones wasn’t helping much either. We stopped at a McDonald’s and Barbara talked to some people in there, who helped us out with directions that sounded easy enough.

They weren’t easy enough. I again went against my gut and we ended up on a very long and very winding road, which got smaller as we went. To the point where you couldn’t help but wonder if it was technically still an actual road. I was really getting frustrated, and crabby, and it only got worse as we continued to fail in our quest to find Captain Cook’s fatal last stop. He could get there on a sailing ship from the mainland. I couldn’t get us there from 20 miles up the road in a rental car.

We finally did find it, thanks to a guy who was organizing kayak trips, but it was a really complicated way to go. When we got there, with the government shutdown in effect the park was closed, but you could still go in. There were just no programs going on or park rangers around. I still feel bad about that whole ordeal. Sorry Barbara and Kitty. Your tour guide usually doesn’t fail, but I did this time.

We did stop in Kailua-Kona town, a quaint little village we’ve been to many times before, but even that was harder to get to than I remembered. The GPS units on our phones did a much better job with that than they did with the Captain Cook sites. Later that evening, we had dinner at the Macaroni Grill that’s just around the corner from Lava Lava, just to mix it up a little. Barbara and I did that last year, too. We love all the fresh fish at the resort, most of it caught that day, but every now and then you crave some pasta.

Hapuna Beach!

On our final full day on the Big Island, we ventured north to Hapuna Beach, a place we also visited last year. In 2017, the beach was incredible and the body-surfing waves were the best I’d ever experienced. All you had to do was jump as the wave crested and you could get carried 15 to 20 yards, right out on the front of the wave, like a human surfboard. I was afraid we might have gotten the exception to the rule a year ago, but it was nearly as good this time as well. Just a little smaller, in the wave department, but just as fun. Plus, it’s a long beach and I used that as my reason for getting about 8,000 steps in, by walking up and down the full beach numerous times. I like being at the beach, but I’ve never been one who enjoys just laying there broiling under the sun. So I walked a lot and rode as many waves as I could. Finally, when it was apparent that all three of us were getting a little too much sun (the tops of my feet got it the worst) we packed up and said goodbye to one of the greatest beaches I’ve ever been to. In my book, Hapuna Beach is the best beach in Hawaii.

After another fine dinner and beautiful sunset, we were up before dawn on the 25th (yep, Christmas Day!). We had a 9:00 a.m. Hawaiian flight direct to Lihue Airport on Kauai, so we were rolling out of the Lava Lava resort by 7:00. Once we landed, we went straight to my sister Mary’s condo in Kapaa because we couldn’t check in to our rooms in Poipu until later that afternoon. Mary, Lonnie, and niece Leigh met us at the door with Mimosas. That’s a heck of a way to start your Christmas celebration on Kauai. We did exchange gifts, and enjoyed the lasagna feast Mary had expertly put together for us, then Kitty and Barb and I made the drive up to the two neighboring resorts where we were staying, in Poipu.

Even getting to the resorts after 3:00 p.m. we still had a hard time getting our rooms. Our first room had two queen beds, so we didn’t want that. The second one they showed us had a king bed, but it was directly above the bar and pool. That would be a firm “no thanks” as well. They finally found us another king room at the other end of the resort, but we had to wait about two hours for it to be serviced. Kitty, meanwhile, was going through the same thing at her place. It’ll make you a bit grumpy, for sure, but the rooms were great and both places were fantastic.

Not too shabby in Poipu! Am I right?

At the resort where Kitty was staying, a Marriott property, we even had breakfast vouchers and that was awesome. They had a great little bistro grill and the bacon and eggs were perfect. On the 26th we drove Kitty up to Princeville and Hanalei on the north shore of the island, and although the rain showers were intermittent, Kitty got to see her first massive Kauai waterfall, way off in the mountainous distance. The girls also found a shop near the restaurant we went to for lunch, and it specialized in Hawaiian clothes and swim suits for little kids. Needless to say, they found some adorable stuff for Stassi and Bella.

That afternoon, we had to get back to Mary and Lonnie’s place before 4:00 because Wednesday nights in Kapaa are special. That’s the regular night for ukulele virtuoso Aldrine Guerrero to perform at the wonderful Oasis By The Sea, near the condo. It is not to be missed.

Aldrine is amazing. He can play just about anything and it’s rarely classic Hawaiian hula songs. Put it this way, his version of “Purple Rain” brought the house down. It’s really a concert, as opposed to most of the time a singer/performer is playing at a bar or restaurant and a grand majority of the crowd pays no attention. Everyone pays attention to Aldrine, and the vibe at The Oasis is electric. If you ever get a chance… I’m just sayin’

The vibe at The Oasis is awesome. Hang loose!

Kekaha Beach was our main destination on the 27th, and it’s always a great experience. It’s a gigantic beach up on the northern end of the west side of Kauai. It’s at least five miles long, and very wide. There are picnic shelters there, and it was common for me to head up there from Mary’s condo when I was cat-sitting last year. Take a book or a magazine, stop at a deli and get a sandwich and can of guava juice, and just relax at one of the picnic tables then walk on the nearly limitless beach.

It’s not a great swimming beach because the waves are coming straight in from across the Pacific and the rip current is strong. We took a long walk and got in as far as our knees, but that was about it. Even when the water is that shallow you have to fight the rip current as it goes back out. The best part of our afternoon at Kekaha was the little 3-year-old girl we met at one of the picnic areas. Anna was her name and she was not only adorable, she also looked uncannily like little Bella down in Orlando, but just about six months older. She was so outgoing and talkative we were all laughing with her and having a great time. Then, another one of the picnic shelters opened up a few yards away, so we moved over there, but not before Anna Banana gave everyone hugs and kisses and said “See ya later alligator” to all of us. She was priceless.

As a huge added bonus, we saw some whales from the beach. Looked like a momma and her calf because the blow spray always happened two at a time and one was much smaller than the other. They were the only whales we spotted the whole time we were there, but we felt fortunate to have seen them.

Our final full day was the one where we mostly got washed out, but by then it was time to relax anyway. We had a fantastic dinner at the resort, had some fancy drinks with umbrellas in them, and started the process of figuring out how we were going to get all of our clothes and stuff into the small carry-on suitcases we’d brought, which were crammed to the breaking point on the way over. We had been able to do some laundry, thankfully, because Kitty’s room had a full-size washer and dryer in it, but we’d also bought a lot of gifts and souvenirs.

The answer was the same thing I did last year. Barbara stopped in at a post office and picked up a stack of Flat Rate Priority boxes. A lot of our dirty clothes went home that way, although they haven’t gotten here yet. Hmmm. Oh well, it’s just a bunch of sandy clothes.

We were flying out of Lihue on Hawaiian around 2:00, so we needed to have a plan. Mary had loaned me her binoculars for whale watching and I needed to get those back to her, but her condo is 20 minutes past the airport and we were going to be in a bit of a hurry. The plan was to go to the Lihue post office to drop off the boxes, then take the binoculars to Pier 1 where Mary works, to drop them off for her there, and then finally fill up the rental van with gas.

As we were leaving the Poipu resorts, it dawned on us that it was Saturday. We’d all kind of lost track of the days. Barb got on her phone and found the hours of operation for the Lihue post office, and discovered it closed at 12 noon. It was 11:15. If it wasn’t going to be open, we’d be in a world of trouble with all of our stuff. We had to hurry!

So, I dropped Barbara and her sister off at the post office, then drove over to Pier 1 and dropped off Mary’s binoculars, then finally filled the van up before heading back to pick up Barbara and Kitty. Everything worked out fine, but not without some more drama at the airport.

I’d picked up a sense that the airport might be a bit of a zoo when we were still at the resorts. A ton of people were checking out, since it was the Saturday before New Year’s Eve, and they all only had one way off the island. They had to fly. When we got to the National Rental Car facility, the line of returning cars was out of the lot and out onto the street. Even the shuttle bus couldn’t get in because the cars were so backed up.

We finally got that worked out and hustled to the Hawaiian check-in desk. Our “priority” status helped us avoid many of the lines, but the desk agent scoffed at us when we asked if he could check our bags all the way through to our final destinations, despite the fact that’s exactly what we did last year. I think he was just overworked and overstressed and didn’t want to do it. We had no choice but to check our bags, though, because we had some liquids in them and they were overstuffed beyond what the little Hawaiian jet’s bins could handle. Our only choice was to check them to Honolulu. That’s something you’d kinda sorta want to avoid at all costs. We weren’t happy about it, but at least we had a two-hour layover at HNL.

We landed, found baggage claim, got our stuff, and then had to get to the Delta check in area, which seemed to be about a mile away. I’m not kidding. There is an inter-terminal shuttle bus, but the guy at the information booth told us, “It’s quicker to walk. The bus takes forever…”  So we got some more steps in, walking seven terminal lobbies down the road. Then we had to get our bags checked and go back through TSA to enter the terminal. Remind me to sort that out ahead of time next year. Seriously. Don’t make that mistake at HNL. It’s a good thing we had such a long layover.

When it was time to board, Kitty headed to her gate to fly to JFK in New York, where she made her connection to Orlando. We flew nonstop to MSP, and for once I actually slept on a red-eye. I got about two hours of shut-eye, but the truth is we were all very jet-lagged. In just two weeks, Barbara and I had gone all the way to England for the three days, then all the way west to Hawaii for parts of nine days. We were officially “zonked out” by the time we got home.

It was about 6:00 a.m. when we unpacked, and then we both said “Let’s just lay down for a few minutes.” It was 12 noon when we woke up. We even slept another 12 hours the next night. I think I’m about back to normal now.

All in all, throughout November and December, Barbara and I flew a grand total of roughly 32,000 air miles. That would be a lot. Yes, with our elite Delta status we were able to be in the front cabin for almost all of it, with lay-flat seats on the longest flights, but that’s still a lot of travel. I need to be home for a while…

Finally, huge thanks to our friend Erica Moon who went to such great lengths to be here with Boofus and Buster throughout almost all of the Hawaii trip. She lives and works a long way from here, but she’s so good with The Boyz and such a great cat-sitter we can’t thank her enough. I’m not sure what we would do without her. Thanks Erica!

That’s it for this big wrap-up. As always, if you perused any of this and liked it even just a tiny bit, please click on the “Like” button at the top. Maybe I can reach Platinum “Like” status to match my Delta rank!

See you next week. No more Mai Tai’s for me, at least for a while…

Bob Wilber, at your service and still feeling the sand under my feet. Aloha!

We’ve got mail…

BREAKING NEWS UPDATE!  Look what just showed up. Ask and ye shall receive, I guess. Time to do some laundry!


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