24 November 2007

Aloha, and Aloha

It's a joke, you know...
We're told "Aloha" means Hello, Goodbye, I love you...several different things in Hawaiian.
Actually it means "I'm a gullible tourist wearing stained underwear."
Native Hawaiians have trouble keeping a straight face when we tourists use the word.

With this post I'll wrap up my thoughts on our trek to Hawaii. First I'll answer the question you may or may not have asked... "Should I go?"
It's every bit as beautiful as you've heard... maybe more.
And for reference, remember I'm talking about the island of Oahu... we didn't Island Hop this time. I'm told other islands are even more beautiful... is that possible? Yeah, I suspect it is... I trust the folks that have made that statement.

In some ways, going to Hawaii is like going to a foreign country... their Interstate Highways have letters!
The natives speak a foreign language! They have names like Kamakawiwo'ole!
Until recently, the State Fish was named, and this ain't no fertilizer folks... the Humuhumunukunukuapuaa. And although the natives are certainly willing to accept your dollars for their goods, the exchange rate can sometimes be painful.

High School classmate Golden Horse invited classmates to come visit. Seven classmates/family members took her up on the offer. She sent half-a-ton of promotional material showing what was available for us to see and do when we arrived. She sent so much material- it was overwhelming.
It took no time at all for me to realize it would take longer than a week to do the things we wanted to do.

I had considered biking down the dormant volcano on Maui. I called one of the shops that rents bicycles for that event and got their voice mail. The next day, Golden Horse sent me an article from the Honolulu Advertiser-
On the ride down the volcano, a female tourist had lost control of her bike and had become the hood ornament for a 1999 Chrysler Mini-Van. Pending an investigation, these tours had been canceled.

The other thing I really wanted to do was see lava flowing. The Big Island can accommodate, but it's best if you spend the night there and go the next day. Otherwise you have to get up before the bars close in order to hop a flight to the Big Island. Our budget this trip was not bottomless, so seeing molten lava will wait 'til our next trip to Alohaville.

So the Greybeard family would spend the week on Oahu. On Ford Island I'm surrounded by history... National and personal. One of my personal desires was, to the extent possible, walk the circumference of Ford Island. Let me tell ya why...

My Dad had an older sibling, my Uncle G.
Uncle G. joined the Navy in the late 1930's, and woke the morning of 7 December '41 aboard the U.S.S. West Virginia. When the shootin' and exploding started, Uncle G. made his way to a gun turret and started shooting back at the Japanese. When the order was given to abandon ship, Uncle G. and the others with him in that turret found the door jammed... they were trapped in the turret. They made the decision to die fighting and went back to their guns until the ammunition was gone.

Then a stroke of luck... an explosion sprang the turret door open. Uncle G. and his mates scrambled out on deck to find they were the only men left aboard the big battleship. The Tennessee was berthed next to the West Virginia. They caught the attention of crew there and a line was shot across to them. Tied-off at both ends, the men walked hand-over-hand to the Tennessee. Obviously, chaos ensued for several days. My Grandparents were informed my Uncle was missing and presumed dead. Then around Christmastime came his letter...I'm not dead. Can you imagine their response?

After 30 years in the Navy, my Uncle retired just North of Honolulu with the rank of Commander.
He died in 2003, was cremated, and his ashes were sprinkled into Pearl Harbor at the Utah Memorial, just a four minute walk from where we were staying at the Navy Lodge.
His spirit is strong on Ford Island.

I wanted the chance to think about 7December and my Uncle.

While two of my classmate/couples hopped over to Hawaii to see the active volcano, I accomplished my circumferential walk of Ford Island, starting West and working my way South. There are places where construction or "restricted" facilities preclude you from walking the bank, and in those areas I stayed as close as possible. But finishing my walk on the East bank I found memorials for the battleships West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Nevada that few tourists are aware of, much less see. (The Memorial for the Nevada was sorta in the facility-Commander Rear Admiral's back yard.)

The Pacific Aviation Museum has not yet been open a year, but they have the foundation for a great facility. Located in one of the hangars strafed by the Japanese, it has several WWII aircraft on display, with films and documents of interest. There I learned something important I had never heard...
the story of the
Ni'ihau Incident. (The article incorrectly states "the manager" did the plowing. The plowing was done by the Robinson family... owners of the island since the 1840's.)

Everyone must attend a luau. The one at Paradise Cove came highly recommended.
We left well-fed, well-entertained, and satisfied.

We drove Northwest through the center of Oahu on H2, with a stop at the Dole Plantation for some "Pineapple Ice Cream". It looked wonderful, but tasted more like sherbet, and I'm not a big sherbet fan. Try it and let me know what you think.

We continued driving until we couldn't continue Northbound any longer, then turned East and hugged the coast. The vistas are indescribable... much of "Jurassic Park" was filmed on the East side of Oahu... that part of the island is just gorgeous.

Driving the East side of the Island we saw Chinaman's Hat, the "Blow Hole", and Diamond Head.

Our last day on Oahu we bought tickets to see the Polynesian Cultural Center. It's a Theme Park devoted to sharing Polynesian culture with the rest of us, supported by the Mormon Church. I recommend you attend early in your visit... We were too tired to fully enjoy all the Park had to offer. To fully experience the Park you'd need to spend the entire day. We saw a wonderful "IMAX" film about saving Coral Reefs, and the day ended with 300+ performers in the big ampitheater, performing dance, chants, and other Polynesian activities. Worth your time.

Some overall thoughts:
The flight over/back was uncomfortable. We flew ATA and got a great rate, but the bathrooms got too full on the flight over, and for the last hour they stank. On the redeye flight home the seats were so close together we couldn't find a comfortable place for our arms so we could sleep.
My recommendation- pay a little more and get comfortable seats and lavatories that don't overflow.

Take more time. We tried to pack so much into our week that we exhausted ourselves. Sara Jean is still sick from the trip two weeks later. I'm still trying to get my batteries recharged.

I love history, so bein' on Ford Island was the highlight for me.
I'll never forget touring the Submarine. But next to those things I recommend driving the Island. The views are just spectacular! (And we still haven't seen the West side of Oahu... that's for our next trip.)

I'm sorry, I know this post is a scrambled mess. But I wanted to close this chapter and let you know what to expect/plan for. Those of you that have been to Hawaii... please chime in with your favorite things, and the things you wish you hadn't wasted your time on. Over the next years Sara Jean and I will be spending a week on Maui, then a week on Hawaii, then maybe Kauai?
Give us your thoughts. I can use your help.


John said...

My favorite thing about Oahu was renting a Cessna/instructor and flying to Molokai, along the cliffs, then back around over the north side of the Oahu, over Ford Island and Pearl Harbor back into HNL.

My least favorite thing, and unfortunately something that will always taint my visit to Pearl Harbor, was the obnoxious behavior of my fellow Americans at the Arizona memorial, snapping the "I was here photos", and not treating the memorial with the reverence it deserves. Unfortunately they were the majority of visitors that day. It made me sad.

I'm sorry I missed the USS Missouri tour. A piece of history would have loved to have seen.

We had an amazing meal at Alan Wong's- my best dining experience in my entire life, and listening to music on the patio at The House Without a Key.

Everyone should try to go to Hawaii at least once. Thanks for the trip report.

elay said...

hey...that was a fun trip out there - makes me want to go to hawaii myself..and Uncle G's story! i liked that part =)

OlePrairiedog said...

I had the opportunity to evaluate an Aviation Unit many years ago. The PTA or Pohakalua Training Area sits in the saddle between ML and MK. The Army Air Field has two wind socks, one at each end of the active. Rarely did I see them blowing the same direction. Flying over the Big Island is quite the experience. I think I spent as much time sight seeing as I did evaluating. One hint, Take goooood sturdy shoes or boots. I went thru two pair of combat boots in just 10 days walking thru the lava beds. Georgeous Island. Wish I could have seen more.