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Friday, June 8, 2012

Kailua Kona

Welcome to Friday my weary friends! It has been a long week, of long days for me and probably all of you as well, as we try to do too much in too short of a time span. With the amount of sunshine we have now it is hard to stop trying to do "one more thing" while it is still light outside.

The weather for beautiful downtown Fallon, where the birds go human watching and the dogs take naps, will be mostly sun covered skies and a very pleasant 80 Fahrenheits to warm the bones, while we hang onto our hats because of the 20-30 mph winds from the west. Don't let the mild temperatures fool you, put on that sunblock if you will spend any time outside the UV index is Very High.

I am trying to hold tough and write this blog as the e-mails bang into my inbox and trigger my insane compulsion to answer them immediately, but it is hard. I have to remind myself (and you should too) that no matter what job we have taken on, we must do what it takes to keep our own sanity or the rest won't matter anyway.

Today we take Mr S. to lunch and then to nuthouse that is Wally World to do his shopping. I am apprehensive as to what his mental state will be this morning after spending hours with him earlier this week and seeing that his short term ability to remember anything was almost nil. We were making duct tape roses (google it) which is not a difficult project and is mostly repetition. He had to be told each time we did a step how to do it, over and over again. Which we did of course, but it is difficult to watch someone who was capable of complex construction thinking, unable to remember how to fold a piece of tape.

Mr S. has been feeding the birds in the parking lot outside of his assisted living complex and the other residents and staff leave a parking space open, just for the birds. He is over doing it, dumping about 20 lbs of birdseed out there a week, but the birds aren't complaining and the residents are having fun watching quail, doves, pigeons, yellow-headed blackbirds and the ever present sparrows gorge themselves. If it makes him happy, we will continue hauling bags of seed to him. It is funny to watch what happens when someone parks where the birds eat and the residents give them Hell for blocking the birds spot. The facial expressions are priceless as they splutter out, "I didn't know, I didn't know!"

Also on today's agenda is a trip to Reno for one errand and then the Bridal Shower for our soon to be daughter-in-law Ashley. She is a delightful girl and brings a lot of joy and stability to our son Patrick and we are very happy to have her in our family. Which leads us to today's story.

Anna and I got married January 1, 1996 and after an epic battle with my Postmaster who tried to cancel my leave, we departed on our Honeymoon to Hawaii. The following is the tale of our day trip to the big island to see the erupting volcanoes. I hope you enjoy the travelogue.

Kailua Kona

I trusted someone else to make the arrangements and didn't follow up on it myself, so it's as much my fault as the travel agent. We planned a day trip to Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island, Hawaii, during our honeymoon in 1996 and it almost turned into an "over-nighter" without the park.

To travel inter-island via air, you have to go through Honolulu coming and going, at least you did on Hawaiian Air in January of 1996 when we did it; and Honolulu Airport is no fun on a good day.

We left Maui on the first flight out in the morning, bound for Honolulu and our connecting flight, back across Maui to Hawaii, the Big Island, home of Volcanoes National Park. The flight to Oahu was easy, nothing to it; but when you have to deal with the desk people at the gates in the Honolulu airport, you wonder why you subject yourself to such aggravation. They routinely overbook and will sell your seat right out from under you, or bump you for some one that they are trying to make points with or taking a bribe from, like the Japanese business groups from the home office of Hawaiian Air. They tried to bump us from our connecting flight to Kona but I wouldn't stand for it.

If I had paid more attention to the arrangements we wouldn't have flown into the Kailua Kona airport. It was as far in the opposite direction from the park that you could go. We should have flown into Hilo and then it would just be a short ride to the Volcanoes. But shoulda and coulda, don't fix much.

We had a rental car reserved at the Kona airport and when we got off the DC-9 and went to Dollar Rent-A-Car, (who we had used several times and liked), they showed our reservation all right; but no car. They said that we should just wait and it would come in. After a round of I-don't-think-so, they offered to upgrade us to another car for only.... I wasn't buying it, I said NO. Same price, your fault! OK, OK. They hate it when the crazy howlie gets in their face.

They gave us a Chrysler Lebaron convertible instead of the compact car. After losing an hour messing around with rental car BS, we finally hit the road. There was still the little matter of driving around to the other side of the island, seeing the park, and making it to Hilo to fly out again. Oh Yeah; we had them change our departure point from Kona to Hilo. We never would have made it on time otherwise.

The convertible was a nice touch; at first. Sunny Hawaii and all, but as Murphy was our tour guide on this expedition, naturally it started to rain and continued to rain for most of the trip around the southern end of the really big, (at least it seemed like it), island.

I wanted to see the black sand beaches, so when we saw the sign for the turn off, we took it and followed the short road to the beach. It was as black as ground up fresh charcoal and there were people of all sizes, shapes, and modes of dress on that ebony landscape.

There were a couple of girls in their twenties on a towel wearing only a thong bottom, with several admirers drooling around them. A family of Europeans, (who proved to be German once we heard them speak), swimming around the rocks with snorkels; looking at or for something, I couldn't quite figure it out. There was a self-proclaimed priest of some variety preaching away, standing waist deep in the water wearing a tie-dyed caftan and sporting a head full of hair growing in all directions and an equally profuse beard, all in a silvery-gray color. A small contingent of the black socks and sandals crowd off of a tour bus, and a scattering of the rest of us; who were a more or less normal appearing group.

In the gift shop/concession stand/you name it store, they were selling samples of black sand in a bottle, but right along side of that was a sign that proclaimed the bad luck which would befall you if you removed any sand from this sacred beach. I didn't need any more bad luck, and I didn't need to bring sand home to Nevada. Sand we have lots of!

As we were taking a few pictures, while working our way back to the car to leave, a local resident became very belligerent and aggressive, giving voice to his opinion of tourists in general, and me in particular; and I hadn't done a stinking thing to him! When he started poking me in the legs and trying to bite me, I had finally had enough and picked up a stick to whack him with. And then I saw the sign. Damn! He was a protected species of pest. A Hawaiian NeNe Goose to be exact. What a bully!

On around to the park we raced, wanting to get there while we still had enough light to use all the camera gear we were hauling with us and get some spectacular shots of molten lava flowing to the sea. It was going to be awesome!

We finally reached the turn off and marveled at the lack of traffic; until we reached the entrance gate and there sitting in his car, munching potato chips, listening to the radio was the gate guard. The sign said "Park Closed". What the Hell do they mean, "Park Closed!" we drove, and flew, and waited, and flew, and drove some more, to see this park! Nowhere in our travels on this day, did anything say that the "Volcanoes National Park" is closed. I asked if we could just drive the loop, once around, staying in our auto and take a look and then come right back out and check out with him.

It wasn't the "no", as much as it was the way it was delivered to us, that made me angry. The jerk said, "What don't you understand? I said no, STUPID!" I wanted to remove this insignificant gnat from his home on wheels and throw him into the molten lava that we were not going to be allowed to see, and sacrifice him to the Gods of Vacationing-with-limited-time-and-funds, to appease their anger with us. They must be angry to keep "Murphying" all over us like this! The Park was closed because of the "No Money to run the Government" BS they pulled in January of 1996 and we unknowingly timed it perfectly!

Anna wouldn't let me hurt him, so we left, following the perimeter of the park in the general direction of Hilo, where we had to end up to catch our flight, etc. We could see a plume of steam rising from where the lava hit the sea and it was calling to us and we kept trying to go to it, following roads to nowhere through cane fields and small communities. We traveled past more and more empty buildings, always turning towards the steam. Somehow we located a road that took us to the edge of a recent lava flow.

It was completely cooled and hard and the signs said "Keep Out" and "No Trespassing" so of course we went on in. We weren't alone, there were quite a few people who weren't ready to accept "No" for an answer and were trying to reach the current lava flow, specifically where it emptied into the ocean. We went as far as time allowed and took pictures of where the lava had crossed the road and just bulldozed everything in it's path and then had to leave for Hilo and our flight.

We made it to Hilo in good time and even took time out for a bite to eat at Port of Subs. We got the car gassed up and turned in to the Dollar Rent-A-Car folks and checked in for our flight back to Honolulu then on to Maui. I was looking forward to the ocean breezes coming in through the open doors of our 7th floor balcony, back at the Kaanapali Shores. I was ready for a nap but we still had some traveling to do yet.

When we checked in at the desk, it wasn't looking real good; the place was packed solid with outbound passengers and we were booked on the last flight out. After about an hour we started hearing noises about the last flight being canceled due to mechanical problems, and we were getting worried that we were going to be stuck in this airport all night with countless gobs of people and no where to go, and no car either, we had already turned that in.

After working in the aviation industry for years, I knew that everything was not always as it seems and looked over the ticketing and gate crew until I spotted what I recognized as an old veteran who knew the ways of the business and could make things happen. I approached this person with a nonchalant, but friendly question about: what would the procedure be for connecting flights to Maui and where was the airline going to put us up and feed us for making us miss our flights, etc.

When the "blame" and reason for "out of budget" expense falls on their watch, the effort to accommodate the "connecting" passengers seems to intensify and things begin to happen. No one wants the finger of blame pointed their way.

The gate attendant told me to wait by the railing at a particular gate and as soon as there was an airplane on the ramp, we were being escorted out to it and boarded right away. We had no more gotten our seat belts fastened than the plane was on it's way to Honolulu, bypassing Kona because we had no room and no one to offload there.

The flight was short and smooth and also the last flight out of Hilo that night. They shut the airport down right behind us; no more airplanes until 7:00 a.m. Hawaiian time. Which could mean 7 a.m. or 8 a.m. "all-a-same-same" whenever. "Hawaiian" time is a general estimate and not to be confused with the position of clock hands.

When we landed at the Honolulu airport, I asked the gate attendant about the flight to Maui and was informed that it was boarding and would be leaving real soon. And it was... you guessed it; the last flight of the night! Using my lifetime of being in airports skills, I asked the gate attendant to call over to the departure gate and tell them that we were on our way to them and already had tickets, and that we had just arrived on their airline and that we requested that they hold the flight until we boarded. After all it was their fault that we were late again.

If you know the right words to use, you can get things a little closer to your way; they held the flight and we ran to the gate and got on board and had safe and very smooth flight to Maui. Where our little gray Cirrus rental car was sleeping in the parking lot, waiting for us to get back.

We made it back to the hotel just in time to get a piece of cheese cake from the restaurant and take it up to our room and collapse. What a day!

One last note: Never book the last flight of the day flying inter-island, the cancellation rate is ten times that of the rest of the day, according to the airline people themselves. For whatever reason; pilot fatigue, flight hours, mechanical problems, not enough passengers to bother with, good party to go to, don't feel like making one more run tonight; they will pull the plug on you! Fly smarter and you will have less stress!

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