Goodbye Kauai, Hello Winter…

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December 29th, 2015

Well, that was spectacular. As much as Barbara and I both love Hawaii (as evidenced by the fact we got married there, 18 years ago) it has become clear that Kauai has taken its place atop the leader-board in the “Our Favorite Island” rankings. The Big Island of Hawaii ranks second. We love us some Oahu and Maui (which is the island that hosted our small wedding in 1997, on a beach near Kihei), but the rustic laid-back charms and the incredible scenery presented by Kauai make it both relaxing and breathtaking at the same time. Having a dear sister, her hubby, and a wonderful niece all living there doesn’t hurt, either.

Serenity. Beauty. Kauai.
Serenity. Beauty. Kauai. (Click any photo to enlarge)

We spent a week this time. It seems like it was either a year (based on the amount of things we did) or a day and a half (based on how quickly it passed), but the passage of time is like that. Remember math classes in high school? If you were like me, those 55-minute gatherings seemed to take half a day. Creative Writing?  Those classes seemed over before they started. How does subject matter alone contort the time/space continuum?

Here, in no particular order, are the wonderful things you do on Kauai:

You walk.

You hike.

You eat (very well).

You get to know the spirit of Aloha.

You stare (and blink) at unfathomable vistas of mountains, jungles, and waterfalls.

You walk on soft sands and hear the palm fronds crackle above you.

You get to know the local waiters, restaurant owners, and bartenders in the town of Kapaa as if you’ve lived there for a decade. It doesn’t hurt that your sister and brother-in-law are as popular as Norm from “Cheers”.

You soak up the sunshine and refuse to let the daily rain showers deter you. They go away. You won’t melt.

Selfies are an island way of life!
Selfies are a new island way of life!

You spot whales out on the horizon.

You relax by the pool, day or night (especially at night, on a big round floppy chair, as the full moon rises).

You go coffee tasting at a real plantation in the morning and rum tasting at a real distillery in the afternoon. Wine tasting happens daily, with most meals.

You consume more Mai Tais in one week than you’ve had during your entire life (not counting other trips to Hawaii).

You discover that longtime friends from the NHRA world (the Evans family) have a beach home at the northern tip of the island, and you visit them to to have a fabulous home-cooked lunch, and learn the incredible tale of their family tree, finding out how it’s part of Kauai lore. (For reference, see the movie “The Descendants”).

You buy too many souvenirs, but you wouldn’t leave any of them behind.

You find your iPhone to be useful mostly only as a camera. It’s a good camera, and its lack of use as an actual telephone is a good thing.

Barbara and Leigh get into the Christmas spirit!
Barbara and Leigh get into the Christmas spirit!

You visit Hanalei Bay and marvel at not only its beauty and remote charm, but also that it was home to Puff The Magic Dragon.

You ford rivers in your rental car, which is a Chevy. (See what I did there?)

And, you embrace family and enjoy meeting and getting to know their friends in this tropical wonderland.

Then, on your final day you tread gingerly to make each moment important, in order to slow the clock. You somehow, though, refuse to spend the day in math class just to make it last longer.

Then, you head to Lihue Airport for a short 9:00 p.m. up-and-back-down flight over to Honolulu, after spending far too much of the day straightening out problems Hawaiian Airlines inflicted upon your Delta reservations. Once in Honolulu, it’s a short wait before you board your overnight red-eye flight to Seattle. You’d love to sleep the night away, but if your name is Bob Wilber you know better. It never happens when it needs to happen.

Instead, you watch the movie “The Man From U.N.C.L.E” and you marvel at how actor Henry Cavill not only plays a solid Napoleon Solo, but he also pays just enough of an homage to Robert Vaughn’s cadence and vocal inflection from the TV series of yesteryear. You also enjoy the movie.

Incredible Kauai. We will be back!
Incredible Kauai. We will be back!

Then you pass the last three hours of the flight watching “Apollo 13” for roughly the 10th time in your life. It’s that good.

You see the horizon brighten as you near Seattle.

You feel the cold embrace of a rainy 38-degree morning in the jetway, and you try not to shed a tear over the paradise you left behind just hours before.

You find you connecting gate, board your regional jet, and arrive in Spokane after finally sleeping for that entire flight over from Seattle. The only problem is, the “entire” Seattle to Spokane flight is roughly 40-minutes.

And there’s six inches of snow on the ground and more coming down.

And Kauai seems like a dream.

That’s kind of how it goes, right? But in this case, it hasn’t just been a vacation. We didn’t go to some faraway island to be alone and just be tourists. We spent it with my closest sibling (at 11-months apart, Mary and I are “Irish Twins” and we grew up together) and we were able to get another real taste of what it would be like to actually live there! It’s a pretty good taste. I’ll admit to checking into a few real-estate listings before we left.

Could we do what Mary and her husband Lonnie Smith did, and basically drop everything and move there?  (First of all, no he’s not the former Cardinal and Phillie Lonnie Smith. He’s the former SIU-Edwardsville Cougar by way of Jerseyville, Ill. Lonnie Smith, but he’s a heck of a Lonnie Smith in his own right.) As for whether or not Barbara Doyle and I could pack up the essentials and then sell or give away everything else before actually moving to Kauai, well…  I think we could. I don’t know if we will, and maybe some day we’ll split the difference and just buy a slice of a property, but this trip seemed to tell us both that we absolutely could live there.

With each passing day, you care a little less about what seemed so important “back home” on the mainland. And you remove another hunk of stress from your life. And you realize what’s really important. And no, the Mai Tais aren’t really that important, but they sure are good. And of all the Hawaiian islands, with their wonderful people, you begin to think that Kauai is quite special in that regard. There’s a measure of respect and friendliness that is so genuine, and so opposed to the petty differences we dream up here in “real life”. It’s a special place. It’s a good place. It has real heart.

Basically, I want to go back.

Snow has its own kind of beauty, right? RIGHT???
Snow has its own kind of beauty, right? RIGHT???

The one thing I did keep track of while over there, was my Kickstarter campaign. I rationalized that by describing it as a prudent use of very little of my time, to keep the campaign on track in order to reach the goal that will allow me to focus strictly on writing, and not on going broke or cutting corners in order to self-publish this project.

How goes it? It goes well. We’re almost at 40% of the goal and still have more than four weeks to go. Once it’s officially 2016 and the Christmas / New Year’s holiday season is behind us, I’ll ramp up the social media promotion again and try to finish strong. We still have more than half-way to go, but I have confidence that we’ll make it. I think this book is simply meant to be, and it will happen, and it’s heartwarming to know that so many people have faith in me to do this. I will not let them down.

“Bats, Balls, and Burnouts” will be written, edited, and published before the year is out, and the day upon which I am holding a physical copy of it in my hands will be one of the most important days of my life.

If you haven’t checked it out, you can do that here:

And remember, I’m @BobWilber5 on Twitter and you can also follow my progress with the book on Facebook here:

Happy New Year, everyone! Enjoy, and be careful. We’re off tomorrow to spend the holiday (and our anniversary!) with dear friends in Minnesota, and upon our return I think I’ll finally feel like my “job” and my full-time profession will be writing this book. I have the help of some amazing professionals, and I can’t wait to see how it turns out. It’ll be a “job” that requires dedication, focus, and a lot of patience. I can do this.

Bob Wilber, at your service.



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