Thursday, March 1, 2012

Going Home

Going Home
We got into San Francisco late and by the time we got to the Fairmont and got checked in it was past 11, we were tired and hungry.  The restaurant was closed so we ordered from room service.  My mom said it was the first time she had ever done it.  I ordered a pesto pizza, my mom had a BLT, I found Nutella and raspberry jam finger sandwiches on the kids menu and ordered them for our dessert.  That plus 2 glasses of wine cost $95.  Yikes, but what the hell, it’s fun to be decadent once in a while.  I had e-mailed the travel agent earlier in the trip about a few things that weren’t quite right, he sent us a goody basket on Kauai and one on Maui.  At the Fairmont they put us in a “Tower” room, on the 19th floor with the most fantastic view of the city.  Also waiting for us was a box made out of chocolate with some fancy chocolates inside.  Not only was the box made out of chocolate but it had a picture of the Fairmont painted on the top.  Deluxe!!
We had breakfast in the hotel Monday AM.  There was the cutest maitre’d, same one as on the way out.  A very nice African American man with an accent I couldn’t quite place.  His hair is thinning on top and it looks like he took a sharpie and drew in a hairline and then filled in the thin spots.  Unique.  But he was so friendly, after we ate I shook his hand and told him we were glad to see him again and how welcome he made us feel.  Oh, he hugged us and kissed my mom on the cheek, so sweet.

We flew to Chicago, then to Columbus, it was a long day and we finally got in at midnight.  Tuesday we rested and today, Wednesday I brought my mom home to Canton.  Tomorrow I’ll take her to see her sister in Akron and then head home.  I’ll have Thurs night in Columbus then am off to DC for 2 nights.  My nephew Joe is headed to Pakistan March 19th, it’s his latest assignment for the state dept and I want to see him before he goes.  He’ll be gone a year and I’ll be worried the whole time. 
I figured that Thursday will be the only night in 3 weeks that I’ll sleep in my own bed (when my mom visits I sleep on the couch).  I’ll have been on 12 flights when I get home from DC.  After that I’m going to have to settle down, get some sewing and things around the house done.  Also, I’ll go back to grading proficiency test March 22nd.   Whew.

Couple notes: some of my pictures are a little funky, especially the underwater camera shots.  My pal Seth is going to help me learn to manipulate them and get them looking a little better.  Also, I think I may have figured out how to put captions on the individual pictures so will try that.  I’m also trying to figure out how to be able to write a little, post a picture, write a little more-rather than have a line of pictures, then all the text.
Postcards: I tried to be so smart and organized.  I bought postcard stamps before I left.  I bought address labels and printed names and addresses of people I wanted to send postcards to.  So easy, right?  Buy the card, put a label and stamp on it, write a few lines and Bob’s your uncle.  Well it worked until the airport in Kauai on the way to Maui.  I had the address labels, the stamps and my itinery in a folder in my purse.  I did a few cards waiting to check in at Island Air, but when we got to our room on Maui, the whole folder was gone.  So, not everybody that I intended to send a card to got one.  Hope you all can enjoy the blog instead.

The Aloha spirit.  Folks, this is a real thing.  People in Hawaii almost without exception are friendly, helpful, and want you to enjoy your stay.  Sometimes the other tourists are hinky, but there’s no controlling that.  People went out of their way to help us, my mom was either using a cane to walk or holding my elbow as her balance is poor.  She is waaaaay slow, too, but everyone was patient.  At the Basil Tomato, the host grabbed a flashlight and shone it on the steps as we went down because it was a little dark.  He loaned me the flashlight later when my mom was having trouble reading the menu.  Mom is very hard of hearing as well.  She has hearing aids but doesn’t like to wear them much, so she misses a lot of what is said.  People were kind to repeat and talk louder or let me “translate” for her.
It was a great trip.

Maui Noku Oi

Maui Noku Oi or Maui is the best

Saturday we decided to spend some time outside at the hotel and take it easy in the morning.  I found my mom a chair in the shade where she could see the water and went down to the beach.  It was our last day so I wanted to just sit and take it all in.  After some lunch in the room we went to Lahaina for our whale watch trip.  Lahaina is an old town, it was the port originally used by the whalers and was the first capital of Hawaii.  There are remnants there of an old fort, a prison and lots of history.  There is a huge banyan tree in the city square and there was a craft show going on.  My pal Marty the photographer was there.  We were a little early for our whale trip so my mom sat at the dock and I looked around.  I found an old hippie making sandals from a pattern used by the Roman soldiers centuries ago.  Really a cool design, just a sole and one continuous piece of thong that attaches to the shoe and wraps around your foot and ankle.  We talked for a while, he’s been on Maui 30 years and before that lived in Lima, OH which is where I grew up.  More small world. 
The boat for our trip was really a big raft with some bench seats in the middle and 2 rows of stadium like seats in the back.  Mom was a trouper going down the narrow dock and onto the raft.  I got her settled on the bench and went forward to sit on the side tube.  There were 2 guys up there who started talking and we were having fun.  I asked them if they had seen the boys in skirts and Jerry said “honey, I was that boy yesterday”.  We talked about our favorite queens on Ru Paul.  When we spotted our first whales Jerry said we were lucky and we went right to “we’re all lucky”.  Jerry and his pal live in San Francisco now, but he lived in Toledo for a while, came to Columbus and knows my pal Andrew Willis.  Being with a small group on a raft was wonderful.  We saw some of the other cattle boats out looking, but we could get up close and not be intrusive.  The captain had such a good eye for spotting groups and predicting their behavior.  She also put a hydrophone in the water, sort of a microphone so you can hear the whales.  WOW.  We saw all sorts of jumping and diving and tails.  As we were getting off the raft my Mom told the captain it was the best thing she’s ever done, in all her 83 years.  That made me feel wonderful.

After the whales we had plans to have dinner with my pal Drea Blau who used to live in Columbus and was part of CSP.  She works for the Ritz Carlton and got transferred to Maui.  She picked us up and took us to Cool Cats, a sort of burger joint in Lahaina.  It was casual, the food was good and there was a guy playing guitar.  He broke into Friend of the Devil and one point and Drea and I sang along.  It was fun to see her and catch up, she is skating with some roller derby girls, diving and having fun. 
Sunday we few back to San Francisco and spent another night at the Fairmont.

Molokini and Turtle Town


little bit of whale

there was a small shark under this ledge

big turtle sleeping

After sort of resting up on Wed, Thurs was my diving day.  I got up at 4:45 (yes, AM) and those of you who know me, know there are very few things I sacrifice my sleep for, but Molokini is one.  So, got up early, had to drive down the cost to Ma’alaea where the dive shop was and the boat was anchored.  I got there before the dive shop opened at 6 so sat in the parking lot with my window open, staring at the stars.  They were spectacular.  I think it’s because there is so little ambient light, the stars really show up.  The guys had scrambled eggs, bacon, breads, fruit and coffee ready for us.  There were about 15 people total, some were diving, some snorkeling and some just along for the ride with family.  It took us about an hour to get to Molokini, it is a dormant volcano, nearly totally submerged in the ocean.  From the surface you can see just a crescent shaped part of the lip of the volcano.  Some really adventurous people will dive off the back of the wall where it gets very deep.  Our group went inside where there is a gradual incline to about 50 feet, and then a giant drop off.  The guys on the dive boat were very nice, I got up on the top deck for the ride, where I could see and of course ask the captain questions.  I don’t mean to be annoying but when I’m in a new place my mind just spins with questions and I think my head will explode if I don’t find stuff out.  The captain was a very nice young guy (a total buttered biscuit, too) and talked to me.  We saw big wind turbines on Maui as we were leaving and spotted whales a couple times on the way.  Once we got to Molokini, they split the divers up into small groups by ability.  The dive masters went over hand signals and safety procedures and off we went.  For once I wasn’t the slowest one.  We started to descend and I was so glad I’d done my pool refresher before I left and my shore dive in Kauai.  I just felt very comfortable going down in the water and was able to get going in the direction I wanted.  I stuck to the dive master like glue, we were down in 45 feet of water and the visibility was fair.  We saw lots of cool coral, fish, eels and other stuff.  I hate to sound jaded but the coral was nowhere near as colorful or plentiful as what I saw in Belize.  However, being inside a volcano was pretty damn cool.  The dive master kept checking with us about how much air we had and sent folks back up as needed so the ones who didn’t suck their air up quite so fast could dive longer.  Once we all got back in the boat, they set out dishes of fruit and we pulled our buoy line and headed to Turtle Town.  This is a place off Makena where a volcano erupted and sent two streams of lava out into the ocean.  The lava hardened with lots of shelves and caves, perfect for turtles to hide and sleep in.  There is also a golf course nearby and the fertilizer run off creates an algae bloom that feeds the turtles.  As with Molokini there were many other divers and snorkelers there, but here there were also a lot of kayakers here since it was closer to shore.  We did see several turtles, one big guy all backed in under a rock sleeping and several others swimming around.  They are protected so you can’t touch or pursue them.  One guy swam right by me and it was all I could do to resist reaching out.  After the turtles, we got back on board and I was pooped, I’ve GOT to get back into better shape.  They started the boat and I felt like I was either going to have a heart attack or puke or both.  They passed around water, which helped.  Breathing the air from the tanks really dries you out.  Then they put out sandwich fixings, pretzels and cookies.  I made a little plate and went back up on the bridge with Captain Butter Biscuit and the food and fresh air made me feel better. 
After we got back to shore I noticed that there was a craft fair on the 2nd floor of the building that the dive shop was in.  I went up to look around and it was local people selling different things.  Nicer than a lot of the tourist souvenirs you see.  Then I saw photos, beautiful stuff, and the guy who had taken them was right there.  I talked to him a while and picked out some very cool pictures: a whale with a 2 day old calf, a school of marlin parting like the Red Sea for some jacks swimming through, a close up of a turtle and a landscape.  He told me when and where he had taken each one.  After I got back I had a shower and a bit of a lie down.  My mom wanted to go to the Sheraton on Black Rock for dinner.  When she and my dad were in Maui 20 years ago they had stayed there and she wanted to see what it looked like.  As I walked down to get the car there were 3 people at the bottom of the little hill, they asked me if the trolley stopped there.  There is a trolley that circles the hotels and drops off at Whaler’s Village and from there a bus that goes into Lahaina, convenient for people without a car.  I really didn’t know, but the lady looked sort of on her own and the Japanese couple with very limited English seemed lost.  I told them I was getting the car to take my Mom to dinner and would drop them at Whaler’s Village which was on our way.  Jeez, you would have thought I’d offered to give them a million bucks instead of just paying forward a few nice things people had done for me.  The Sheraton was a very beautiful place and we had a table looking out over the water.  They do a torch lighting ceremony every night which end in a procession and a dude dives off the cliff.  Pretty impressive.  We had a nice meal.


Friday was our tour up the big volcano, Haleakala.  We had 2 choices, get up at 2 AM to get there to see the sun rise or go at 7AM and just look around.  See previous blog about things that are worth losing sleep for, we went on the later tour.  It was a short bus with Charles our driver, he was born and raised on Maui, so was very knowledgeable about what we saw and also all the history of the islands.  First we went to the small airport near Lahaina and picked up 5 people who had flown in from somewhere for a day tour of Maui.  The drive to the eastern part of the island and up the 10,000 feet with all the switchbacks took some time.  At the lower elevations there are some very nice houses with lush gardens, then as you climb the climate changes to pasture land, then cacti, then just dirt and rocks.  We were above the clouds, it was windy and cold even with the sun shining bright.  We saw lots of people riding bikes down (they go up in a trailer) but a few crazies biking up.  The views are spectacular.  There are a couple different research facilities at the top.  We read in the paper while we were there that there was a freak snow storm at the top of the big volcano on Oahu and they had to evacuate the observatories there.  Charles as very nice and offered to walk with my mom a while so I could climb the steps up to the tippy top.  We took the long slow drive down and ended up in a totally non-descript restaurant for lunch.  They must give the tour company some kind of kick back because the food was only so-so.  After lunch, we headed to the Io valley (spelled eye-oh).  The volcanic mountains on the islands are so tall that the windward side gets all the rain and the leeward sides are bone dry.  The Io valley is on the rainy side with beautiful vegetation and a monolith that has resisted erosion and is a sort of an attraction, called the Io Needle.  It was very pleasant with lots of flowers, including the shell ginger which we really liked. 
We dropped the day trip people off in Lahaina, so they could look around while Charles delivered the rest of us to our hotels.  It was about 4:15 when we got back and we had reservations for a luau at 5.  It was in an area connected to our hotel so all we had to do was freshen up and go down the slope.  There were a LOT of tables set up, a stage, a buffet line, a bar and some crappy craft stalls.  I don’t know if it was because we were staying at the hotel or what, but we got front row seats.  Very nice.  Blue Hawaiians and Mai Tais were included in the price and the waiters kept bringing trays of drinks around.  I got a little buzzed.  They made a big deal of pulling the pig out of the hole in the ground with the hot rocks, etc.  The best part of that was the young Hawaiian men doing the work in “native” costume.  No shirts, sarong type skirts, muscles for days, it got my appetite going.  They announced dinner and despite 6 buffet lines and hostesses herding people, the food line was a cluster.  Then the food was mediocre at best, the pork had obviously been pulled out of the ground oven the day before, no way they had time to pull all the meat off the bones and serve it.  There were funky teryaki beef things and some sort of fish baked in a dish with a lot of filler.  What the hey, I found stuff to eat and had some coconut custard for dessert, I was eyeballing the mac and cheese at the kids table but decided not to make a German spectacle of myself.  After everybody had been through the lines they started the entertainment.  Some cheese ball MC sang, he had a drummer and 3 guitar back up, then he got a bunch of us ladies on stage and one of the dancers taught us some hula moves.  I tried to get the Time Warp going but no luck.  After that the professional dancers started.  Men and women doing dances from various cultures.  Hawaiian, Polynesian, Maori with the MC doing bits between the dances.  Then he announced that Danny Couch was in the audience, evidently he is a fairly well know singer in Hawaii and he came up and sang 2 songs.  Not my type of music but he did have a good voice.  The dancers changed costumes depending on what culture they were representing, that was interesting and I could appreciate the amount of practice and effort that went into the dances.  Some were very athletic.  They ended with the fire dancing which was very dramatic.  After the luau, we had to walk up the slope to the hotel.  I was tired and my mom is so unsteady on her feet, especially in the dark, so I asked one of the guys herding the parking lot to call the hotel and ask a valet to come get us in a golf cart.  No problem and a nice tip for the guy.