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Day 1 - Friday, 21 September 2001

What a long day! We woke up to the alarm at 4:00am, Pacific Daylight Time. We had packed our bags the night before, and only needed a quick shower before we were ready to leave for the airport. Our friend, Mini, showed up a couple minutes before 4:30, and we hit the road right on time. The highway was not as empty as one would expect this early on a Friday morning, but there was no one in our way, so we made good time. We pulled our luggage into the international terminal at San Francisco airport at 5:10 and spotted a group of our fellow travelers near the ticket counter. They had already checked in and were heading for the gate.

We had been hearing all week of the new security procedures that have been instituted in the wake of the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks. However, our check-in at the ticket counter was no different from what we have been through in our previous travels. We had been careful to make sure there were no blades of any kind in our pockets or carry-on bags. After we got our boarding passes, we headed towards the gate. I had eaten a protein bar on the ride from San Jose, but Chris was starving. We each got a coffee, and Chris got a croissant at a food counter we passed. We had plenty of time, so we sat and finished our food before heading through security.

Once again, we were mildly surprised that the experience was pretty much the same as always. The only difference was that only ticketed passengers were being allowed past the security checkpoint, and a guard was checking ID's there. Our carry-on bags were x-rayed and we didn't set off the metal detector. My carry-on was a briefcase with my laptop, digital camera, GPS, cell phone, etc. I fully expected to have to turn each of these devices on, but they didn't even make me open the bag.

We sat down in the gate area at 5:45, more than 90 minutes before departure time. We read for a while, Chris perusing a Kauai guidebook looking for ideas on what to do once we got there. After that, we talked with some of the others in our travel group, passing the time until we boarded just after 7:00.

We were in luck. The seat beside Chris remained empty as we left the gate, giving us room to spread out. That was especially good, as the legroom between rows was almost non-existent. There was no way for me to sit without my knees touching the seat in front of me. The entire flight was incredibly smooth. I turned on the GPS once the flight attendants said it was OK to use electronics. It was interesting to keep track of our progress, speed and altitude as we flew across the Pacific Ocean. Other than the usual noisy children on the plane, we had a very nice flight.

Hawaii's time zone is 10 hours earlier than GMT year 'round, as the state does not observe daylight savings time. That means that this time of year, it is three hours earlier in Hawaii than California. After our five-hour flight, we arrived at Lihu'e airport at 9:30am local time. We claimed our luggage and got our rental car (a light blue Neon) and, using the GPS for guidance, drove towards the hotel, the Islander on the Beach. The Islander is not visible from the main highway, so, despite the GPS, we drove past it. That turned out not to be a bad thing, as we decided we were hungry enough for an early lunch.

It was just after 11:00. We pulled into a shopping center and found a coffee shop. The man at the counter greeted us as if we were old friends. He said he didn't have "real" food, but recommended a couple of restaurants close by, one just two doors down in the shopping center. I had a fish sandwich with marlin and Chris had a Caesar salad with ahi on it. We were very hungry, and the food was quite good. On our way back to the car, we stopped in the coffee shop again to thank our guide. He showed us that he had a computer set up in the corner where we could access the internet if we wanted. Since I had my laptop, I did not expect to take him up on his offer. If we were to have trouble connecting from the hotel, however, I would come back here to use his connection.

In addition to the owner of the coffee shop, there was a woman there. It turns out that she represents a time-share company, and she tried to interest us in a tour. Chris politely declined. Our "guide" gave us directions to our hotel, and we were off once again. This time we found it with no problems. I checked in while Chris waited at the car with the bags. Our room was ready, and it happened to be close to the car. We lugged our bags up, unpacked, and settled in. The room was large, with a king-size bed, refrigerator, kitchen-style sink and a balcony. We can even see the ocean if we sit close to the balcony rail and look to the right.

After we unpacked, we decided we could use a nap and snoozed for about an hour. As we dozed, we could hear the faint strains of a Japanese flute coming from somewhere outside.

Not wanting to waste another second of our Hawaiian vacation, we promptly donned our tee shirts, shorts, and sandals, then headed to ... Walmart! Yes, Walmart. We needed to get some staples for the week -- plus Chris just had to check and see if any of her patterns were available at the Walmart here. We picked up bug spray, reef shoes (rubber shoes to protect our feet from rocks while we swim), beach mats, a map of the island, stuff to eat off of, etc. I had left home without a cable to connect our camera to the laptop, so I also bought a compact flash card reader. Oh, and one of Chris's patterns ("Kiss Me" bed in a bag) was there, and she saw patterns created by some of her colleagues, too. However, the "Farmland" table cloths and shower curtains weren't there, even though they are in the stores on the mainland.

The Lihu'e Walmart carries lots of fun clothes that the ones in California don't sell. It took me quite a while to convince Chris that we should leave Walmart rather than look at all the different stuff. She could come back without me later in the week.

After Walmart, we headed to Safeway to get some snacks, breakfast food, and wine. On the way to the grocery store, though, we passed "Snorkel Bob's". We stopped there to rent snorkel gear for the week. The salesman was very helpful and, within half and hour, we were outfitted with masks, snorkels, fins, carrying bags, and anti-fog goop. Chris even got prescription lenses in her mask so she wouldn't have to wear her contacts. Total price for the week for both of us: $60.

Once we finished shopping, it was nearly 5:00pm. We headed back to the Islander and had a glass of wine on the balcony. The breeze was wonderful and we finally felt like we were on vacation. We had made reservations for dinner at a restaurant at a neighboring hotel. At 6:30, we started walking and made it there in plenty of time for our 7:00 reservation. The food was good, but not great, at "The Flying Lobster." The service was good, and the restaurant is open-air. Unexpectedly, there was a Hawaiian show on a stage just outside the dining area. The show started with long, haunting blasts from a conch shell horn, followed by stories, dances, and songs. We enjoyed the music, but couldn't see much of the dancing from our table. Not to worry. We expected to see an excellent show at the luau we were to attend on Monday night.

By 8:30, I was about to fall asleep at the table. We left the restaurant and headed out to the dark beach to walk back to the Islanderstepmoon didn't provide much visibility, but the night was beautiful and warm. Once on the beach, we discovered that the coarse sand of Kauai is very difficult to walk on. We sank in with every . Tired as we were, we didn't last long on the sand. We finished the trip by strolling across a grassy field. The crescent moon didn't provide much visibility, but the night was beautiful and warm.

Finally back at the room, we were soon in bed. It was only 9:00, but we had been up (except for the nap) since 1:00am local time.

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