Kauai – June 30 to July 7, 2007

Prolog

Last fall our friends Heath and Mini became engaged after dating for 6 years. When they invited us to their wedding in Hawaii, we were thrilled to accept. I made our reservations through Pleasant Hawaiian Holidays, booking our flight, hotel, and rental car for a week on Kauai. We'd been looking forward to our visit ever since.

Day by day

Photo Album

Saturday, 30 June 2007

Traveling from San Jose to Lihue

Our flight, United 41, was scheduled to leave San Francisco Airport (SFO) at 9:30. I had arranged for South and East Bay Airport Shuttle to pick us up around 6:45am to give us plenty of time. I woke up at 4:30, half an hour before the alarm, but lay with my eyes closed until it started blaring. The morning preparations were routine, and we were ready for the shuttle by 6:30.

It arrived at 6:50, and we were on our way. Usually, the shuttle has multiple stops to pick up passengers after we board, but this time, there was only one passenger on board, and we were the driver's last stop. On the way to SFO, we talked with the other passenger. Sadly, he was on his way to his father's funeral. We chatted about parents, good lives, and families during the entire 50-minute trip.

The SFO departures area was a zoo. Vehicles crowded the drop-off area and people and their luggage crowded the sidewalks. Inside the terminal there was almost no room to move. The night before our departure, we had checked in online. We had also requested an upgrade to first class using frequent flier miles. Once we were at SFO, all we needed to do was go to a special area where we could check our bags. The line for that counter was long, but moved quickly. Within 15 minutes a clerk was tagging our bags and we were soon on our way to the security checkpoint.

The security coral was overflowing, but we finally got into the cordoned maze and through the security screen. I thought the TSA agents would want to hand-inspect my camera gear, but we made it through without any delays. At 8:40, we were seated at our gate waiting to see if we would get the first class upgrade we had requested. It seemed unlikely, as busy as the airport was.

As we waited, a little boy—about 5 years old—sat with his mother across from us. After a few minutes, his father showed up carrying three food boxes. As they ate their pancakes, French toast, and bacon, Chris and I realized how long ago we had eaten breakfast. We would dig into our snacks as soon as we were on the plane.

Just after boarding began, the counter agent called my name on the PA system and asked me to come up. I thought "Maybe we got the upgrade after all." I was half right. The counter agent said "We only have one first class seat. Would you still like to upgrade?" I thought furiously, knowing if I got it, it would be for Chris. After a couple of seconds, I decided to save the 15,000 miles and keep the seats we had. When I told Chris what had happened she couldn't believe I hadn't gotten her the upgrade. When I finally told her how many miles it would have cost, she agreed I'd done the right thing. Her agreement didn't keep her from making comments like "I could be sitting there drinking orange juice" as we trudged through first class to our seats.

It turned out we had pretty good seats on our 767: side-by-side window and aisle seats in front of the middle galley section. There would be no one behind us, the seats reclined, and we were in the "Economy Plus" section with plenty of leg room.

We waited for the plane to fill and dug out our baggy of sliced apples to take some of the edge off our pancake-induced hunger. A boy about 10 years old stopped next to our row and said "This is a long plane." His younger brother didn't quite hear him and said "We're on the wrong plane?!" The panic was short lived, though, and they continued farther back to their seats.

After a long wait for takeoff, we were airborne. The flight was uneventful. Chris and I read, napped, and caught snippets of the movie (The Astronaut Farmer). We landed only 6 minutes late in Lihue.

The baggage carousel was extremely crowded, and it took about 20 minutes for our bags to come out. We had a large suitcase for my stuff (including camera tripod and electronics), a small case for our shoes, a roll-aboard for Chris, and a large diving-gear bag packed with stuff that Mini and Heath needed us to bring for them. We piled it all up along with our carry-on bags and rolled over to the Dollar counter. The agent told us to wait for the shuttle around back. The shuttle took us to the rental office where I stood in line for about 30 minutes while Chris stayed outside with the bags. While she waited, a man nearby constantly whistled mindless tunes, making her wait less enjoyable than it might otherwise have been.

We finally drove away in our red Dodge Caliber. We would be staying at the Aloha Beach Resort hotel in Kapa'a. I had programmed its location into our navigational GPS (a Garmin c330) before we left home. It got us right to the door with no problem. It was only 2:00 and normal check-in time is 3:00. However, the desk clerk found that our room was ready, so we checked in and lugged our collection of bags to our room.

Our Vacation Starts

After unpacking, slathering up with sunscreen and putting on our swim suits, we headed to the poolside bar. Chris got a marguerita and I got a Kona Pale Ale. We took our drinks to the pool and found a couple of chaise lounges. All the available lounges had straps missing right where you sit, so we had to sit up a little straighter than normal to keep from falling through. We sipped our drinks and read. When we got hot, we took a dip in the pool, then sunned for a little while longer. At 5:00 we headed back to the room.

While we were lounging by the pool, we kept hearing sirens on the nearby highway. As we packed up our books and towels, we heard some people nearby talking about a fire. We asked where it was, and one of them said "Across the road!" She wasn't kidding—a large grass fire was burning in a field right across the road and to the south. By the time we left the pool, two helicopters were dipping water from the Wailua River and dropping it onto the flames.

We showered and dressed for a casual dinner. We didn't have a restaurant in mind, so we decided just to drive up the highway and see what looked appealing. On our way out to the car, we decided to take some pictures of the fire-fighting efforts across the highway. We felt there was no danger of the fire jumping the road because the offshore breeze was pushing the smoke and flames away from us. After we had enough gawking, we got in the car and drove north.

We ended up at a roadside restaurant called the Lemongrass Bar and Grill. It looked pretty touristy, and the prices didn't change that impression. However, the service was friendly and fast, and the food was very good. I ordered the sautéed catch of the day, which was Ahi. It was perfectly cooked: light gray-brown on the outside, red on the inside. It was surprisingly flavorful and well seasoned. Chris ordered the seared scallops, which were also perfectly cooked and seasoned. We sipped a New Zealand sauvignon blanc along with dinner and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

On the way back to the hotel we stopped by a grocery store and picked up a bottle of Clos Du Bois chardonnay for the room. The fire was still going when we got back to the hotel. I went to the room and grabbed the video camera. We took pictures of the fire for a while and then just watched the action. As we stood at the entrance to the hotel talking to another bystander, we heard a tire squeal and a thud. We looked over to see that a pickup truck had turned in front of oncoming traffic and had been struck on the right rear side by a car that had right of way. The car that hit the truck looked like a rental. What a sucky thing to happen on vacation. I would think of that moment every time I turned into or out of our hotel for the rest of the week.

Thirty seconds after the accident a firefighter came to the edge of the road and asked if everyone was OK. They were. Almost immediately, there were two police cars on the scene. They must have been very close by due to the fire and responded amazingly quickly.

Back at the room we poured ourselves some small glasses of wine and went outside to the poolside bar. The bar was closed, but we were able to sit at a table and watch the surf crashing at Lydgate Park beach. When our wine glasses were empty, we headed back to the room. Helicopters were still flying between the river and the fire. We prepared for bed and read for a little while, but both found it hard to keep our eyes open. I set my alarm for 5:00am so we would be able to get out to see the sunrise. By 9:00, we were both asleep.

Sunday, 1 July 2007

Sunrise Photography

When my watch started chirping at 5:00am, it did not seem like 8 hours had passed. I was eager to get out to take some pictures, though, so I jumped out of bed and asked Chris if she still wanted to come with me. She grunted that she did and dragged herself upright. Chris had not slept well. She said she had been cold much of the night and had "really weird dreams." We got dressed, grabbed the camera gear and were on our way about 5:20. We could smell damp smoke from the grass fire the night before, but we didn't see emergency equipment or flames as we drove away.

On our previous trip to Kauai, we had discovered a scenic Japanese cemetery near Anahola. I had programmed its location into our navigator before we left home. I thought it would be a good place to shoot the sunrise. I should have looked more closely at a map. It turns out that the view from the cemetery is to the northeast, not the east as I thought. The sun would come up behind a hill to our right.

We arrived at the cemetery about 5:45, more than 10 minutes before sunrise. There was enough light for me to get some predawn pictures using the tripod. The horizon was cloudy, and it looked like the sunrise might not be very colorful. The clouds provided some drama for the pictures, though, and I still got some that I liked.

One thing you notice early in your stay on Kauai is the wild chickens. There are hens and roosters all over the place. This time of year, there were lots of chicks, too. The story is that the chickens are descendents of ones that escaped wrecked chicken coops after hurricane Iniki in 1992. There were a bunch of the birds running around the cemetery while we were there. Since I was using the tripod, I didn't get any pictures of the restless birds, but Chris caught a few with the Nikon S10 she uses.

While I took pictures, Chris decided she needed some coffee. She took the car back towards town to find a McDonalds or something. As she drove south, she got a perfect view of a rosy sunrise, a sight I couldn't get from my location. After she returned, I finished up my photography and we headed back toward Kapa'a. We would be attending an orientation breakfast put on by Pleasant Holidays at 8:00.

Geocaching

It was still early when we headed back. We decided we had time to do some exploring. We headed up a promising side road that took us past Kapa'a schools and churches. As we drove rain fell off and on, sometimes heavy, but never for more than a couple of minutes at a time.

While we were driving, Chris suggested we take advantage of the time and try to find a geocache. The navigation GPS told us the closest one was only 8/10 of a mile away, so we headed for it. The navigator took us onto another side road and told us the cache was near a little turnout next to a rickety pier at a small reservoir. I looked for it near the pier, but Chris found it much closer to the road. We took some more pictures and decided it was time to head back. We had to go back to the hotel to pick up some vouchers before breakfast. As we crossed the Wailua River, we saw a single helicopter ferrying water from the river to the scorched hillside, probably dropping it on the few remaining hot spots.

Island Disorientation

At the hotel, I told the navigator to take us to ResortQuest, where our orientation breakfast would be. I should have double checked the address, because we ended up going to the wrong place. Once there, though I plugged in the right address, and we made it to the orientation only 15 minutes late. It hadn't started yet. "Breakfast" was croissants, pastries, pineapple, milk, juice, and coffee in a tiny buffet. The food was good, though, and there was plenty of it for the 15 or so people attending.

The orientation was a litany of activities we could sign up for while we were there. We were already booked on a Na Pali snorkel cruise, and the helicopter ride seemed far too expensive—$220 each for less than an hour tour. We ended up not signing up for anything with Pleasant Holidays, but we were happy to have had the free breakfast.

After the orientation, we headed back to the Aloha Beach Resort to rest from our busy morning. It was 9:30am.

Taking it Easy and a Trip up North

Chris decided to catch up on her sleep, so she settled in for a nap. I headed to the lounge where I could use the hotel's wireless network to get on the internet. There I downloaded the pictures from the cameras, checked e-mail, and caught up some with this journal. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the internet service there was free!

Around 10:30, I woke up Chris and we decided to drive to the north shore of the island. Our friend Sheila had recommended a restaurant called the Hanalei Dolphin, and we wanted to check it out. The drive was very scenic, and we arrived at the restaurant about 12:15. We were seated at a nice table on their deck and enjoyed a tasty lunch: a Fin Burger (white fish sandwich) for Chris and a Calamari Burger (fried squid steaks on a bun) for me. The food was delicious and the service was quite good.

Next door to the Dolphin is a little shop called Ola's. It sells art and knick-knacks. We bought some gifts for folks back home and chatted with the clerk. She was a very pretty young lady who was running the shop while the owners (her aunt and uncle) were on vacation. She had been spending her summers that way for several years—house sitting for them and running the store while they slipped away. It seems like a nice arrangement.

While we were in Ola's a heavy shower fell outside. It soaked the people at the garden tables at the Dolphin despite the umbrellas over the tables.

Around the corner from Ola's is a clothing store. Of course we went inside. The clothes were resort expensive, but I found a Kauai tee shirt I liked and bought it. The next store was a jewelry store/art gallery. When we were on Kauai 6 years ago, we bought some cute placemats based on the works of Kauai artist Kim McDonald. The art gallery featured full-size prints of her work, but they were very expensive. We didn't buy any.

We finally exhausted the shopping possibilities near the Dolphin, and the rain had stopped. We headed through Hanalei to find another geocache. As we pulled into the beach parking area near the cache, we recognized it from our previous visit. We had tried to snorkel at that same beach. The area was pretty busy with sun bathers, Sunday picnickers, etc. We tried to look for the cache without being conspicuous, but I'm not sure we succeeded. I know we didn't find the cache. There were a couple of young men looking around the same trees we were, and Chris thought one of them had a GPS. We don't know if they found the cache or not.

As we drove back through Hanalei, Chris needed another fix for her shopping jones. I dropped her off in the heart of the town and continued on to find another geocache. She shopped for about 45 minutes, but found nothing she wanted to buy. I was able to find the next geocache I looked for. It was at an overlook with a spectacular view of Hanalei Bay. I wanted to give Chris more time to shop, so I took a trip down a one-lane side road that parallels the Hanalei River. For such a small road, there was a surprising amount of traffic. I had to pull to the shoulder about 5 times to let vehicles coming toward me pass. There were nice views from the road, but nowhere to pull off and park while I took pictures. I just drove to its end at a private residence, then turned around and headed back.

When I arrived back in Hanalei, I parked and hunted around for Chris. I spotted her just a few minutes later crossing the main street toward me. She was done shopping, and we headed back the way we had come. Another overlook, another geocache—and another shopping center. Chris went across the street while I found the cache and took some pictures. This time Chris found a bracelet that matched the dress she would wear to the wedding, so she didn't come away empty handed.

More Relaxation and Some Decent Barbecue

It was about 3:30—time to head back to our hotel. By 4:45, we were at the hotel lounge, where Chris found a shady spot on the deck to read. While she enjoyed the breeze there, I checked email and looked for a restaurant on yelp.com. We wanted something besides seafood, and a likely candidate was Scotty's Beachside BBQ in Kapa'a. It had 3 good reviews on yelp, all talking about the view and the good food.

At 5:00 the bar in the lounge opened and I ordered a Kona Longboard Lager to drink while I surfed the web. It was good. When it was gone, I ordered another. Meanwhile I had joined Chris on the deck and read the last chapters of my book—an OK action adventure/romance called "On the Run" by Iris Johansen. (I should have been writing this journal instead. The notes were piling up...)

Around 6:00 we showered and got ready for dinner. I also called the desk to ask for some repairs in our room: the TV remote was dead and our tub drained very slowly.

With the administrative work out of the way, we headed to dinner. The restaurant is on the second floor of a building with an unobstructed view of the beach and ocean. The beachside wall is open to the outside—but we saw garage-door style windows that could be used to enclose the place. We were shown to a table for two right next to the open wall, where we thoroughly enjoyed watching the palm trees, waves, and chickens outside. The waiter tried to talk us into trying a Mai Tai, but Chris was driving and, as she pointed out to the waiter, I had "been drinking already."

Chris ordered the half-rack of ribs, which were fall-off-the-bone tender and very tasty. I ordered the pulled pork, which was disappointingly bland. The servings were huge, so we ended up with cornbread and some of my pork left over. I added some spicy BBQ sauce to it and transferred it to a take-out box. We planned to see how it tasted cold. Despite the mildly disappointing pulled pork, we enjoyed ourselves. The atmosphere and view were wonderful, and the service was good. The waiter asked where we were from, and then told us Scotty (the owner) is also from San Jose. We didn't get a chance to meet him, though.

We were back at our hotel at 8:00. I was fatigued, but Chris refused to let me consider going to bed before 9:00. I poured myself a small glass of wine (to make up for the missed Mai Tai) and we headed back to the lounge, where we found our table on the deck unoccupied. Chris got a decaf coffee from the bar and we enjoyed the sound of the waves, the breeze, and each others' company until we were ready for bed.

During the day we had discovered that the cause of Chris's chill the night before had been a draft from the air conditioner. Its cold air flowed across the top of the wall at the head of the bed and then blew down onto her side. We switched places this second night, since I was more prone to be hot than cold. Once again I made sure the alarm was set for 5:00, and we turned out the lights at 9:15.

Monday, 2 July 2007

More Sunrise Photography

Chris slept much better without the air conditioner blowing on her, and we woke to the alarm ready to get up and get some more pictures.

We found the right spot for sunrise photos this time. We pulled into an overlook across the highway from St. Catherine’s Cemetery south of Anahola. We made our way out onto a point with a wonderful view of a beach and the eastern sky. We weren't the only ones there. A small camping tent was perched on the end of the point. I set up the tripod a respectful distance away and started taking photos. Chris stuck around this time and took some good pictures herself.

As we were walking back to the car, it started sprinkling. By the time we got back to the parking area, it was really raining. We managed to get out of it before we were too wet, and before the camera bag got wet enough to endanger the gear inside.

The rain changed our plans. We had intended to walk along a nice paved path along the bluffs and then eat breakfast and just hang out until the traffic died down. We didn't want to wait out the rain. It was still early—only about 6:30—so we joined the traffic and drove back to our hotel where we feasted on cereal and orange juice.

By some miracle, I was able to get a decent Sprint cellular signal in our room. I took advantage of it and got online, downloading our e-mail and giving Chris a chance to correspond with some of her friends. When the signal faded, I downloaded all our pictures and deleted the obvious mistakes. After that, we headed to the lounge where I could type more comfortably. Chris found a chair nearby and closed her eyes for a while as I brought the journal mostly up to date.

Down South

We were ready to see more of the island. We had seen the eastern and northern shore already, so we headed south and west. We didn't have a particular destination in mind, but thought we might get to Koke'e State Park. Halfway there, we found that the police had closed Highway 50 due to a traffic accident. We detoured toward Koloa and Poipu on a road not meant for such heavy traffic.

As we reached Koloa, our GPS navigator alerted us to a nearby geocache. We pulled into a convenient parking lot to look it up on my Treo. As we sat there a brief, heavy shower fell, giving us some extra time to make plans. As the rain slackened, Chris decided she wanted to shop across the street while I hunted for the cache. By that time, I had determined we were only about 40 feet from the cache and knew about where it was. It wasn't going to be a long hunt, but I could stretch it out and give Chris 45 minutes to shop.

It may seem like Chris had been doing a lot of shopping. There was a good reason: she had a mission. She wanted to find a Hawaiian-style top that was a good match for a pair of shorts she brought along. Their particular shade of teal was making it hard to find anything she liked. She struck out again in Koloa.

I took my time finding the cache. Its location was at the site of the first sugar cane mill on Hawaii. A 25-foot tower is all that remains of the mill, but there is also a monument to all the sugar-cane workers nearby. I headed out to the monument where I found life-size bronze sculptures of cane workers. The rainwater had nearly dried, but there were streaks of water on several faces that looked like the tracks of tears. I jogged back to the car to get my camera, but by the time I returned, the sun had dried up all the streaks. I had missed an opportunity at a very touching photo.

After a little searching, I found the cache and made my trade. Chris still had about 20 minutes of shopping time left, so I killed the time by watching the nearby hens and roosters and thinking about how we should spend the afternoon. Traffic was still very bad on the detour road, so I didn't want to continue west. I decided lunch in Poipu followed by a visit to the Spouting Horn would be fun.

When Chris was back from her hunt, we drove south to Poipu. We ate an unremarkable lunch at the Poipu Tropical Burgers restaurant. While we ate, we were entertained by all the people milling around the nearby Puka Dog hot dog stand. Their clothes (and exposed skin) gave us plenty to talk about. We found it amusing to hear our waitress lament that she really wanted a Puka Dog, but that counter had been too busy for her to get over and buy one. We weren't surprised that she didn't want to eat at Poipu Tropical Burgers.

Spouting Horn

From lunch, we drove along the beautiful beach at Kukuiula to the Spouting Horn. Spouting Horn is a hole in a rock shelf at the water's edge. As waves come in, they go under the rock shelf and spew up through Spouting Horn, making it look like a geyser. It's fun to watch for a couple of minutes, and some of the bigger waves cause it to really blow high. Between spouts, I looked around and spotted a brown form in the water nearby. I thought it was a seal, but a woman standing next to me said it was a turtle. When I looked at the pictures I took later, I could see she was right.

There is a small bazaar at the Spouting Horn park. Chris looked at the wares there while I hiked up the road to hunt for another geocache. No luck, but there were some great views of Spouting Horn, the rocky coastline, and Kukuiula Bay. Chris had better luck—no matching top, but she did find a pair of gold starfish earrings to wear to the wedding.

By the time we were done at Spouting Horn it was nearly 3:00, and we were ready to head back to Kapa'a. Traffic in Lihue was stop and go, but we made it back to our hotel by 4:00. Once there, we slathered on more sunscreen and headed to the smaller of the hotel's two pools. After a cooling dip, we lounged in the shade and read for an hour.

Ick

At 5:00 we went back to the room to clean up for dinner. We got a nasty surprise in the bathroom—there were two fuzzy brown objects in the soap dish. At first I thought they were flies, but a closer inspection showed them to be little balls of hair, each about 3/8" in diameter. I didn't know what they were or how they got there, but I was disgusted. I finished dressing, put the soap dish, soap, and mystery objects into a Ziploc bag, which I took to the lobby desk. The receptionist also thought they were bugs and asked if I wanted the room sprayed. I got her to look closer, and she said she would speak to housekeeping. While I had her attention, I asked about the repairs I had requested the previous night. There was no record of them, but she wrote down the problems and called maintenance while I was standing there.

Sushi!

I had dressed for dinner in casual shorts and a nice tee shirt, but I noticed Chris had on a very nice outfit. Before leaving, I changed into linen pants and a tropical shirt, so we wouldn't look mismatched. We looked marvelous!

Dinner was at a Japanese restaurant in Kapa'a called Kintaro. We had eaten there on our previous Kauai trip and remembered liking it. Kintaro has teppanyaki, where they cook the food right at your table, but we were in the mood for something quieter. We opted for a table alone and sushi: hamachi, ebi, unago, smoked sake, and California rolls (yellow-fin tuna, shrimp, fresh-water eel, smoked salmon, and crab-and-avocado rolls). Chris doesn't much go for the raw stuff, so I ate the hamachi and gave her both ebi. The food was excellent and the service was pretty good, considering how busy the place was. There was one waiter whose only job was to refill water glasses. Our glasses never had more than an inch of room in the top. Frankly, his frequent visits got a little annoying after a while, but we enjoyed the dinner overall.

Back at the Aloha Beach Resort we found a new remote and a quick-draining tub. The maintenance had been done while we were out. We thought a walk on the beach would be fun and romantic, so we put on our beach clothes and started down the hill. As we passed the poolside snack bar—which was closed—we started to feel raindrops. Within moments, it was pouring, and we took shelter under the bar's overhang. The rain passed within a few minutes, but the clouds looked threatening. We opted to skip the walk.

It was far too early to go to bed, so we watched TV for the first time since our arrival. "Two and a Half Men" and "How I Met Your Mother" got us to 9:00, and that was good enough. I set our alarm for 6:00; we turned out the light and were soon asleep.

Tuesday, 3 July 2007

Scenery and Geocaching Way out West

We woke up just after 5:00 and couldn't get back to sleep. At 5:30, we figured we might as well get up. We had a breakfast of cereal and orange juice in the room. Our plan was to go to Koke'e State Park and see Waimea Canyon. We thought we might even do some hiking. Just before 7:00, we headed out.

Traffic wasn't too bad, and by 7:30 we were in Ele'ele, the home of Glass Beach. This beach is known for the smooth bits of glass that wash up on the beach. Years ago, there were many colors of glass on the beach. Now it is mostly white and brown. We managed to find some blue bits and Chris even found a rare red piece. Maybe she will make some jewelry from them. We spent about 45 minutes on the beach. Chris took pictures and collected glass while I looked for and found a nearby geocache.

From Glass Beach, we headed up the Waimea Canyon Road, stopping at overlooks with beautiful vistas of the canyon and the coast. At one of the overlooks we found another geocache.

We drove all the way up to the end of the road where there is an overlook that allegedly has views of the Na Pali cliffs and the coast. It is common for the view to be obscured by clouds, and that was the case when we arrived. We got a quick glimpse down to the coast, but the fog/clouds completely hid the cliffs from our view. As we walked up, we had a clear view of the trees just on the other side of the safety fence, but we could only see the gray blanket of clouds beyond. It felt like we were walking up to the edge of the very planet.

We hung around the overlook for about half an hour waiting for the clouds to part. At one point we could just make out a ridge several hundred yards away and well below us. That was as clear as it got. As we waited for the view to clear at the top, we discovered we were getting hungry. On our way back down the road we stopped at the Koke’e State Park headquarters, where there is a museum and a gift shop/restaurant.

We found a table in the restaurant and perused the menu. After about five minutes, we hadn't seen a waiter or waitress. I asked the cashier of the gift shop if there was an order counter or a waitress. She looked up from the newspaper she was reading and said "I'm the waitress." She followed me back to our table and took our brunch order. Chris ordered the Polynesian bean soup and cornbread. I was in more of a breakfast mood, so I ordered the "Local Breakfast": 2 eggs (over medium), Polynesian sausage and white rice. The food came pretty quickly and everything was very good. The cornbread was especially tasty—light and fluffy, sweet and buttery.

After breakfast we checked out the museum. There wasn't much there except a room dedicated to explaining the impact of Hurricane Iniki on the island, and especially on the Waimea Canyon area. Iniki devastated the island when the 10-mile-wide eye swept across it on 11 Sept 1992. While many plants bounced back quickly, others have never recovered.

We started to look for a nearby geocache, but we would have had to go off the nature trail to get to it. The area looked pretty fragile and there was already a "social trail" going up the hill toward where the cache should be. We didn't want to scramble over the hillside and cause more damage, so we ended our hunt, returned to the car, and continued our descent from the park.

On our way out, we turned onto a different road to see if there were more views to see. This road followed a track farther west from our entrance route. It provided some good views of the Na Pali coast and Niihau, the island 17 miles northwest of Kauai. Our GPS alerted us to two geocaches near the road, but in both cases, there were already cars pulled off in the nearby overlooks. We didn't want to try to wait out the geomuggles, so we didn't stop for either cache.

By that time, our gas gauge was beginning to dip toward E, so we filled up at a Shell station near Waimea, paying $3.399 per gallon. I guess living in California has numbed us to high gas prices. We barely remarked on it.

As we drove through Hanapepe, Chris noticed some clothing stores, so we parked and did some shopping. Once again, she did not find a top to match her shorts, but I bought a knock-off red dirt shirt. Red Dirt Shirts are a brand of tee shirts died a rusty red color using the local red dirt. The shirt I bought was a Red Earth shirt. It cost $10 instead of $20, which is what the real Red Dirt shirts sell for.

From Hanapepe, we drove back to our hotel, arriving around 3:00. While Chris took a 30-minute nap, I headed to the lounge to check e-mail, log our geocache finds, and catch up on this journal. While I was typing, Chris headed out to the small pool again. After a dip, she sunned herself for a while and then pulled her lounge into the shade. When I was done with my writing, I bought a beer, grabbed my book, and joined her in the shade.

Dinner at Brennecke’s Beachside Broiler

Mini had invited us to join her and Heath for dinner in Poipu. They had flown in that afternoon, but Mini had made reservations before leaving California. We would be meeting them and some other friends at Brennecke's Beachside Broiler at 7:00.

Just before 5:00, we headed back to the room to get ready. Since we were going to be staying up later than usual, we both took a 15 minute nap before showering and getting gussied up for dinner. Just after 6:00 we headed for the car. We remembered to take the bag we had transported for Heath and Mini. We would transfer it to their car after dinner.

Traffic was heavy through Lihue, and we wondered if we would make it by 7:00. However it loosened up before we got on the road to Poipu. We pulled into the parking lot at Brennecke's about 10 minutes early. We were the first ones there, so we ordered drinks and sat down to wait. My beer was in a Brennecke's logo glass with the slogan "A Pint of Paradise" on it. Chris asked a waitress if we could by it, and she said we could get one in the gift shop downstairs. I bought one and took it to the car before heading back to my beer.

At 7:00 Chris and I were still the only ones there, but the hostess showed us to the table. We took seats where we could see the ocean through the open windows. Within a few minutes, everyone else showed up: Bruce, Michelle, and their son Liam, Chuck (who would perform the wedding ceremony), Deanna, April and Mike. Heath and Mini showed up about five minutes later.

With ten adults and a five-year-old, dinner was chaotic but lots of fun. The food was excellent and our waitress was very attentive. She was very patient and kept a sense of humor as we all tried to hold conversations and order at the same time. Chris and I ended up ordering almost identical meals: Ono and Mahi Mahi. I ordered both of mine seared, while Chris had her Ono broiled and the Mahi Mahi seared. It was all cooked and seasoned extremely well.

By 9:00 we were all done with dinner and the conversations were lagging. We said our goodbyes for the night and headed back across the island to Kapa'a. The trip back was very quick, and we were back at our room by 9:35. We read our books for about half an hour and then turned out the light. I had turned off the alarm. We were going to sleep in.

Wednesday, 4, July 2007

Our plans to sleep in were interrupted by a rooster outside our window at 5:45am. We kept hoping he would shut up and/or go away, but he didn't. At 6:15 I decided I wasn't going to sleep any more, so I got up. While Chris snoozed on, I checked e-mail and caught up on news, and then made some coffee. Chris got out of bed when the coffee was ready at 7:00.

Polihale Beach

After a quick breakfast of cereal, Chris took her book and I took my laptop to the open-air lobby. We sat in a breezy alcove where Chris read and I wrote until the laptop battery gave out. The weather was cloudy and there were occasional short showers as we sat in our alcove.

Our plan for the day was to spend the afternoon at Polihale Beach on the western side of the island. After that, we would get cleaned up and go to the Sheraton in Poipu for a fireworks show. Back at the room, we packed a change of clothes and some toiletries into our overnight bag. We figured we could use the shower of one of our friends staying in Poipu before going to the Sheraton.

We would need lunch on the beach, so we drove to the nearby Safeway. There we bought drinks, a couple of deli sandwiches, snacks, ice, and a small cooler. Another shower blew through as we were packing our groceries into the car, making it difficult to pack the cooler without getting soaked. We got everything in order and, by 10:15, we were on our way to Poipu once again.

Traffic was light and we arrived at the Hyatt in Poipu about 10 minutes early for the 11:00 assembly in the lobby. Chris and I poked around in the shops and galleries in the hotel while we waited to see anyone familiar. Shortly after 11:00 we saw Mini and Heath talking to people we didn't know. We joined them and introductions were made all around.

From the Hyatt we went to Polihale Beach. For reasons that will become obvious, I will not specify who drove or which rental cars were involved in the trip.

Polihale Beach is a long stretch of pristine beach on the western side of Kauai. The northern end of the beach is just south of the start of the Na Pali Coast. Polihale is the closest you can drive to Na Pali, and it is 4 miles beyond the end of the paved road. The dirt road that goes into the beach area appears to have never been graded. It is by far the bumpiest road I have ridden over. For about the first 2 miles we were taking the road at about 5 MPH, letting the car ease over the huge bumps and holes. After several other vehicles (including a van) passed us going much faster, we decided to speed up. We found that at 20 MPH, the road seemed much smoother. We still had to be careful to steer around the larger potholes, and the ride was not smooth, but it was much less bone-jarring.

The caravan of vehicles rendezvoused at the Queen's Pond area of the beach. Queen's Pond is a calm area of water surrounded by a reef. On other areas of the beach, waves come crashing in and there is the danger of a rip current. Within the pond, though, the water is shallow and calm. In high contrast to the Kapa'a area, the sky was clear and it was quite hot! We had to walk over hot, loose sand to get to the shoreline. Our group set up camp about 200 yards south of the actual Queen's Pond. The waves were sometimes rough, but the water was fairly shallow out to about 30 yards, so swimming and body surfing were possible.

It was after 1:00 when we arrived, so Chris and I went ahead and ate our sandwiches. We had put on sunscreen at the hotel, but we refreshed it just after lunch. The sun was daring us to leave any skin unprotected, so it could burn us to a crisp.

There was a geocache near Queen's Pond. I asked several people if they wanted to join the hunt, but I got no takers when they found out they would have to walk back across the hot sand and up to the top of a tall dune. I made the trek by myself, found the cache, and took some panoramic shots of the beach. While I was gone, Chris went for a swim with some of the others.

We spent about two and a half hours on the beach there, chatting with new and old friends, snacking, and occasionally wading into the water to cool off. Chris and I tried a walk down the beach, but the sand was so soft, it was hard slogging. We turned around after less than a quarter mile and came back. We refreshed our sunscreen again.

Turn Before You Burn

At 3:15, we were no longer convinced the sunscreen could do its job. The sun was beating down fiercely, and there was no shade nearby. Others were ready to go, too, so we gathered up our stuff and headed back down that horrible "road" away from the beach. The drive out was much faster than the approach had been, and we passed several other vehicles that were doing the 5-mph crawl through the holes. Several of the cars—including a Mustang and a Miata—had so little ground clearance, they had no business on that road.

By the time we were back on pavement, we had decided we were too tired for fireworks at the Sheraton, so we headed back to our hotel. It turned out to be just as well, because the Sheraton had cancelled its fireworks show due to dry conditions on the island.

We got back to our hotel about 4:30 with sand glued to our body with multiple layers of sunscreen. We both took nice, long showers. The skies in Kapa'a were still cloudy. The heat and the drive had sapped our energy and the gloomy skies made us sleepy. When we were good and clean, we lay down for a twenty-minute nap. Somewhat refreshed, we took our books to the deck by the hotel lounge to read and relax with some drinks.

At 6:30, we were hungry, but not in a mood to go out for dinner. We decided to give the hotel restaurant, The Palms, a try. The deck we had been sitting on while we read was shared by the lounge and the restaurant. We got a table on the deck fifty feet from where we had spent the previous hour, ordered another drink and enjoyed the view. The sky had finally cleared while we were reading, and there were only small patches of fluffy clouds left. As we watched them, they started turning pink from the setting sun on the other side of the island, and the eastern horizon began to darken with the earth shadow.

Dinner was pretty good. Chris had the Mahi Mahi with a fruit salsa. I ordered the Whiskey Pepper Steak. Both were better than average, and our waitress was very good. We even left a little room for dessert and split a key lime mousse that was quite tasty.

Fireworks

It was the Fourth of July and all through dinner we could hear fireworks being set off at Lydgate Beach below us. We even saw an occasional Roman candle or starburst above the trees. When we were finished with dinner, it was nearly dark. We walked down to the beach to get a better view of the amateur fireworks shows going on there. Many of the fireworks were fairly small, ground-level devices that made noise and sparkled, but weren't very exciting to watch. However one of the groups had brought some good stuff. Every couple of minutes they would set off a series of starbursts that had everyone around ooh-ing and ahh-ing. They finished up their show just before 9:00 with a grand finale of about 10 starbursts with willow-tree trailers. When it was over, there was applause from all around them.

With the show over, we returned to the room, made some preparations for the next day and read until just after 10:00.

Thursday, 5 July 2007

Once again we were awakened by the wild roosters outside the hotel. This time we were prepared, though. We had earplugs on our bedside tables. We put them in and went blissfully back to sleep until 7:00.

The plan for the day was to spend the afternoon on a catamaran cruise up the Na Pali coast. The cruise would include a stop for snorkeling. We ate breakfast in our room, eating the last of the Raisin Bran, and then packed our towels and clothes for the snorkel trip.

We had some time before we needed to leave for Poipu, so we found a quiet alcove in the lobby where we could enjoy the breeze. I wrote in this journal while Chris read. Chris suggested we get massages before the wedding, so we looked in the Yellow Pages for a spa. We selected Alexander’s Day Spa at the Lihue Marriott and made reservations for a couple’s massage on the beach at noon the next day.

Na Pali Coast Cruise

At 11:00 we left for Poipu. We needed to be there by noon to rendezvous with the rest of the cruise passengers, and we were taking two family friends of Heath’s to the marina in our car. On the way through Lihue, we stopped at a Subway sandwich shop and bought lunch to take with us on the boat. We arrived at the Hyatt in Poipu just before noon.

As the group assembled we met more of Heath and Mini’s family and friends, including Heath’s mum, Sondra. We also met Marg and Jonathan, who would be riding with us from Poipu to the Port Alan Marina in Ele’ele, very close to Glass Beach.

About 12:15, everyone was assembled and we took off for the marina. We had a wonderful time chatting with Marg and Jonathan during the half-hour-long drive. We checked in at the desk at Captain Andy’s and waited for our boat’s captain to meet us on the deck outside the office. When he was ten minutes overdue, Chris and I unwrapped our sandwiches. Our purpose was two-fold: 1) we were hungry and 2) we figured the best way to get the captain to appear was to start eating.

Within a minute, our captain was greeting us and Chris and I were packing our sandwiches up again.

The captain herded us down to the dock where we all removed our shoes and boarded the Akialoa — a 42-foot catamaran sailboat. It has a covered cabin area with a bar, a cooler full of water and soft drinks, several tables, and lots of seating. There are two heads below decks. The forward part of the boat has benches and two "hammocks"—large trampoline-like sections of heavy cloth that join the cat’s twin hulls to its midsection.

After a safety briefing, we motored out of Hanapepe Bay and turned west. We continued to motor as we passed the Waimea Canyon. We turned north to follow the coast and passed the Pacific Missile Range Facility, Barking Sands Beach, and Polihale Beach (where we had visited the day before).

The north end of Polihale Beach marks the beginning of the Na Pali Coast. "Na Pali" is Hawaiian for "the cliffs." From the water, it is easy to see why. For fifteen miles, the ocean rolls up to steep, tall cliffs. There are a number of small beaches where creeks drain into the Pacific, but the rest is just steep, inaccessible cliffs and canyons. The cliffs are pitted with many caves, some of which are at the waterline.

The Akialoa hugged the coastline as the captain gave us a running commentary about all the places we passed.

Just before 3:00, a few miles north of Polihale Beach, we dropped anchor and put out the dive platform. The captain gave us a safety briefing about snorkeling, and then most of us donned our fins and masks and swam off the rear platform of the boat. We swam for about 45 minutes, looking at the coral under eight to fifteen feet of water. There were lots of small fish around the coral and lots of bigger fish drawn by the slices of bread the crew flung from the boat.

When we emerged from our swim, the captain gave us a quick rinse with a shower spray. Swimming in salt water makes me very thirsty, so I headed straight to the cooler and drank a couple of bottles of water. Once all the swimmers were back on board, the captain called the roll to make sure we hadn’t left anyone behind.

By 4:00, we were on our way north again, with the captain continuing his narration of the sights. We saw a number of small waterfalls, one sea turtle, five goats (including a dead one in the water), several hikers and lots of kayakers.

Just before 5:00, the captain turned into the wind and the crew raised the catamaran’s sails. Since we were not going to be swimming anymore, the crew opened the adult beverage bar—beer, wine, and a mixed drink with rum called a "sneaky tiki."

After half an hour of sailing, we reached the lee of the island and lost our wind. Down came the sails and we motored the rest of the way back to Port Allen. During the return cruise the crew served a very nice dinner with different kinds of meet, vegetables, salad, and dessert.

At 7:00, as the sun approached the horizon, the captain slowed the boat down. As we motored east, we watched the sun set behind us. As soon as it disappeared, we sped up and headed north into Hanapepe Bay and back to the dock. We thanked the crew, reclaimed our shoes and trekked back uphill to our car.

We drove back to Poipu with Marg and Jonathan and dropped them off at the Hyatt. Then we drove ourselves back to Kapa’a. When we got there, we were exhausted. We showered, read for a few minutes, and then turned out the light at 10:00.

Friday, 6 July 2007

We slept until 7:00. We had run out of milk and cereal and our bagels were stale, so we headed to the hotel restaurant, The Palms, and were seated for breakfast. I ordered a breakfast very similar to the brunch I had eaten at the Koke’e Lodge three days before: eggs, Polynesian sausage, and white rice. Chris ordered the "pancake sandwich"—two pancakes and two eggs. The pancakes came with maple syrup and coconut syrup. We had never tried coconut syrup before. It was a cloudy white color, like coconut milk, and not as thick as the maple syrup. It was very sweet, but definitely tasted of coconut. After trying it, Chris opted for the maple syrup instead.

Relaxation

We spent a couple hours reading in the shade by the pool before we drove to the Marriott for our massages. While we were reading, the Marriott called and said their manicurist was out sick. They asked if we could change Chris’s manicure appointment to 5:30. We told them we would be at a wedding in Poipu at that time, so we would not be able to fit in the manicure. Chris checked the Yellow Pages again and made a 1:30 appointment at a nail salon in the Kukui Grove Center Mall in Lihue.

We arrived at Alexander’s just before noon, but the receptionist was on the phone ordering some spa equipment. Several minutes later, she interrupted her conversation to ask us if we had an appointment. When we told her we were there for a beach massage, she gave us directions to the cabana and went back to her phone call.

We hurried to the beach where we met our masseuses. The cabana had a wooden platform floor and green canvas cover, but was open on the sides. When we made the appointment, we were told to wear our bathing suits. The reason was obvious—there was no privacy, so we needed to keep our suits on. After a little bit of paperwork and introductions, we settled down on side-by-side massage tables and relaxed as the masseuses kneaded our muscles and the waves crashed on the beach nearby. The whole experience was very soothing, and the fifty minutes passed far too quickly.

On our way back to our car, we looked around the Marriott. It seemed like a very nice place. The pool area was huge. In fact the whole complex was so large we ended up getting lost on our way back to the lobby. We eventually found our way and returned to our car. The mall was a very short drive away, and I dropped Chris off at one of the entrances. I found a place to park near Sears and headed into the mall from there. I almost immediately passed Professionail, where I saw Chris waiting for her manicure.

Wedding Preparations

I would be video-taping the wedding that afternoon. I had grown concerned about the audio quality, since the wedding would be on the beach. The wind and wave noise was sure to obscure the ceremony. I needed some new equipment to overcome the problem. At Sears I bought a Sony digital voice recorder. At Radio Shack, I bought a small microphone that Friar Chuck could clip to his shirt. The recorder was small enough to slip into his pocket. While I waited for Chris, I experimented with the mike and recorder and verified they would work together. I would use the recorder for the ceremony audio and then synchronize it with the video in the editor. [Note: The system worked perfectly. On the final video, Chucks, Heath’s and Mini’s voices are clear.]

While Chris was having her manicure, she talked with a local woman. One of the topics was where we could eat a late lunch. The woman suggested La Bamba, the Mexican restaurant next door to the nail salon. It was a good recommendation. Chris enjoyed a taco salad and I had a heaping plate of beef enchiladas, rice, and refried beans. The service was a little slow, but we were in no hurry. We were surprised to see a pre-teen boy bussing the tables. We figured he must be the son of the owners.

By the time we returned to our hotel, it was after 3:00. We showered, put on our wedding clothes, packed up the camera gear, and drove to Poipu for the final time. At the Hyatt, we ran into Mini’s parents who directed us toward the wedding area. I set up the video camera and got Chuck set up with the microphone and recorder. We were able to hide the mike inside his shirt where no one could see it.

Heath and Mini get Married

As we waited for the ceremony, the couple’s family and friends arrived and assembled on the beach. A Hawaiian guitarist played gentle music and set the mood. The "alter" was made of two vertical rustic poles with another rustic pole joining them across the top. The simple altar was decorated with flowers and a few leis.

At 5:30 an attendant announced the beginning of the ceremony with a toot on a conch shell. The flower girls and ring bearers made their way to the altar, and then Mini joined Heath for their walk down the aisle. The guests gathered close around the couple as Chuck performed the ceremony. His service combined perfect amounts of humor, remembrance, and promise for the future. And it was short. In less than 15 minutes, Heath and Mini were pronounced married, and the congratulations poured over them in a chaotic receiving line a few feet from the altar.

Soon the couple and their guests made their way to the reception on a grassy area nearby. For the next three hours, we enjoyed excellent food, drink, conversations and music. After a buffet dinner, Mini cranked up the dance music. About half the guests overcame their shyness enough to dance in one form or another. By 9:00, I was getting tired and starting to think about our drive back to Kapa’a and our flight the next day. We said our goodbyes, withstanding the ribbing at leaving so early.

For the second time that day, we got lost on our way to a hotel lobby. The Hyatt’s public area is huge, and it was dark. The signs we had used to navigate to the wedding were gone, and no signs pointed to the lobby. We finally asked a couple of employees how to get there. One said, "I’m on my way in that direction now," so we followed him and is trolley of dishes up the path until we could see the lobby’s back entrance.

From there it was easy to find the car. Traffic was light on the highway, and we were back in our room at the Aloha Beach Resort at 9:45. I set my alarm for 8:00 (just in case) and we went straight to bed.

Saturday, 7 July 2007

The alarm had been unnecessary. We woke up without it at 7:00. We spent some time getting our things packed—getting a head start on a hectic day. When we reached a stopping point, we headed to The Palms again for breakfast. It was more standard fare this day than the one before. We both just had eggs, sausage, and hashbrowns.

Not wanting to end our vacation, we read in the shade by the pool until 10:00. While Chris stayed there, I showered and then checked us out of the hotel. By the time I was back to the room, Chris was there. We finished packing and took all our bags to the lobby. We would travel home with one bag less than we had brought with us. We had forgotten to retrieve the empty scuba bag from Mini and Heath, so they would have to get it home without us.

Our vacation ends

We left the hotel just before 11:00. We gassed up the rental car and drove the short distance to the airport. I dropped Chris and our luggage at the terminal and took the Caliber back to the Dollar office. Coincidentally, Chris waited for me right next to the family who had teased us with their pancakes in San Francisco a week before.

We had arrived at the airport two hours before our scheduled departure time. We took our bags through the agriculural inspection and then found the end of the very long check-in line for United. The line moved excruciatingly slowly. It took half an hour just to get to the cordoned off area before the counters.

About that time mass confusion hit. A United agent came out and redirected part of the line. It looked like she was just making a loop to give more room at the back of the line, but that turned out to be wrong. After we moved to the new part of the line, we found out it was only for passengers traveling to Los Angeles. The LA flight was to leave forty minutes before ours, and they were giving priority to those passengers. We couldn't get back into the San Francisco line, because it had closed up behind us. We stayed with the LA passengers.

About ten minutes later, another ticket agent came out to make sure only LA passengers were in our line. I was hot and dehydrated and losing my usual cool. She tried to get us to move back to our line, but I refused. Instead, we let the LA passengers go past us to get to the ticket counter.

By this time, it was apparent what the main problem was: All passengers had to use self check-in kiosks. Many of them were having problems and taking a long time to get their bags checked and their boarding passes printed. Later we would discover another problem. Once we had checked our bags, we had to take them to the TSA x-ray station ourselves. There wasn't enough room for passengers to get to the kiosks and check in and move their bags back out of the ticket area. Many of the kiosks sat unused while we passengers tried to maneuver our possessions in and out of the area.

Once we had dropped our bags at TSA, we headed to the security checkpoint. That process went pretty well. We finally made it into the secured area an hour and a quarter after I joined Chris on the curb. I finally got a drink of water.

When we got to our gate, our flight was already boarding, but our section hadn't been called yet. Pretty soon we were onboard, and I got a chance to cool down, hydrate, and ragain some calm. It seems that in order to leave paradise, one must go through hell.

Our flight was delayed twenty minutes by a mechanical glitch, but we were soon over the Pacific. The flight was very smooth. We bought lunch on board and treated ourselves to a couple of servings of wine. The inflight movie was Blades of Glory, which we really enjoyed.

Home again, eventually

Back in San Francisco we reclaimed our bags without incident and took the South & East Bay Airport Shuttle back home. The driver added about half an hour to our trip by exiting the highway to avoid a traffic jam. With the round-about route he took, I'm sure it would have been much faster just to stay on Highway 101. At 11:30 pm, we dragged our bags into the house and left them to be dealt with the next day.