On Thursday, July 5, 2012, I did something totally out of character for me, driving myself to the Charleston International Airport at 4:15am. The neighborhood was totally dark, not a light on anywhere. Throwing my bags into the back of my car, I rushed to get inside and off I went. My flight to Dallas was scheduled to leave on American Airlines at 6:30am. Excitement and butterflies were inside my tummy, so I awoke at 2am, without an alarm – simply due to the excitement of a very spontaneous vacation to Honolulu, Hawaii. My husband, Phil left for the islands on June 30. A bit lonely, he phoned me on Tuesday, July 3 suggesting purchasing an airline ticket. I thought he was teasing me – sort of rubbing it in that he was in paradise working. He knew I was envious. When we were newlyweds, we had a much delayed honeymoon during his R&R from Vietnam in Honolulu. We promised to come back to the islands at our 25th anniversary. Little did we know that on our 25th, he would be unemployed.
Resting at the gate, I wrestled emotionally with myself. Just what was I doing hopping on a plane to Hawaii without an itinerary planned? I am a travel writer, accustomed to planning events, and interviews, but this trip was totally off the cuff. An escape from reality after depression had captured me again after losing my precious giant schnauzer Prince Marmaduke Shamus ten weeks ago. I simply did not have the time to plan destinations or contact the CVB’s or other attractions. Like a free-spirited bird, I was off to Honolulu, Hawaii. My bags were packed and I was ready to go! Just what I would do to entertain myself was the question, but I meet people well, so I knew I would have a good time, regardless.
Leaving Charleston promptly, I introduced myself to a young and slightly good-looking blond college student. His name was Richard. We chatted the entire flight, making a two-hour flight appear to be a simple errand to the grocery store. Richard is a senior at the College of Charleston, majoring in Leadership with a Business Administration minor. He was headed to a leadership conference in Santa Anna, California. A bit apprehensive about flying, he admitted this was his first flight. “You’ll be fine,” I said.
We discussed issues of the day, including the rights of gays, gay marriage, and how people who are gay are equal and deserve to be treated with respect. Before we departed, he told me he was gay and wanted to serve his country by becoming a leader for gay rights. How I admired his courage and tenacity. Richard was educated and proud to be gay in the Southern city of Charleston where gays strive to be treated with dignity and respect. After arriving in Dallas, I regretted not exchanging e-mail addresses.
During my journey to Honolulu, I met several interesting people and a few not so interesting, or perhaps they simply wanted to be alone and undisturbed. Arriving at the gate in Dallas, I checked in, to make certain I was at the correct gate. As a travel writer, I have discovered that monitors and gates do not always agree. When the agent told me I was at the correct gate, but the flight to Hawaii was delayed due to a ‘major and rare snow storm on the islands,’ I laughed. “Do I look like I’m an idiot or so gullible I’ll believe you. It’s the tropics. There aren’t snow storms there.” Under my breath, I thought could this be true? The agent laughed. “You were about to believe me, weren’t you!”
I found a seat on the corner of the terminal gate, opened my bag and started jotting notes on a napkin. I noticed a sweet, affectionate couple sitting across. An attractive woman with salt and pepper hair, she smiled at me. Her husband buried his nose in a small booklet jotting notes. I introduced myself, apologizing for scribbling notes on a napkin. “I’m a writer and I forgot to pack a notebook. Silly me. I didn’t have time to plan this trip.” She laughed, tapping her husband on his leg. “A writer. So am I.” He said. He tore a few pages from his small notebook, passing them to me. “For inspiration,” he said, his eyes twinkling. “It’s easy to forget something.”
We shared words of wisdom, exchanging a bit of our credentials. Living in Phoenix, Arizona, he writes nature articles for the local newspaper, specializing in birds. He showed me a list of twenty birds he wanted to see in Honolulu. They were celebrating their 50th anniversary, staying in Honolulu for a few days, then escaping to some of the other islands. My memory cannot recall the itinerary they had planned, but their 50th anniversary celebration would be a two-week vacation, seeing friends and reminiscing about their love for one another. “What better place than Hawaii to celebrate your successful marriage,” I said.
The flight from Dallas was delayed a bit due to our plane needing brakes and tires. When we departed, several people struggled to get comfortable. I crossed my right leg, recognizing that air planes simply did not have enough elbow or leg room. My right knee suffers from osteoarthritis. When still, my knee aches with significant pain. I continued to move it in a circular motion, crossing it and doing all I could so the knee would not lock up on me. I sat at a window seat, glancing out the window, I waited in anticipation of seeing the Pacific Ocean from a plane, remembering how beautiful the view was when I traveled to Hawaii for R&R. Just a few years ago, too many years to mention, I recalled the young, excited, and innocent wife I was back in those days. Dressed in a red floral dress with spike high heels, after landing in Los Angeles, I recognized I should’ve dressed for comfort, but this was the second trip I had taken by air, so my experience as a jet setter did not exist. Today, I wore khaki shorts, a long sleeve shirt so I would not freeze on the plane and my feet were comfortable in my Shape-Ups. Suddenly proud of all of my accomplishments since the days of newlywed bliss, I still wanted to be the wife my husband would rush to in the Honolulu Airport.
I kept glancing out the window to see the Pacific Ocean, noting a sea of clouds, reminding me of peaks of fluffy whipped cream, or cream cheese frosting. No land or ocean could I see. My eyes stared at a collection of clouds, in the image of my precious Prince Marmaduke Shamus, my sweet, precious giant schnauzer now at Rainbow Bridge. Staring at the clouds, I saw his eyes, his cascading tale, and tears filled my eyes. Perhaps this was the sign I had prayed so hard for. Now my sweet Shamey-Pooh was OK in Rainbow Bridge. I wiped tears from my eyes.
I attempted to introduce myself to the guy sitting next to me. He ignored me. Obviously, he wanted to be alone. I was hopeful he would not snore in my ears. Yes, you meet all types of characters on an airplane excursion.
Two movies and many hours later, we arrived in Honolulu. I admired the beauty of the scenery, the breathtaking peaks of mountains, and the clear, dazzling, beautiful turquoise blue oceans. “Finally,” I whispered. “My dreams and journey to see whales in Blue Hawaii are about to begin.”
I turned the cell phone on. Dialing my husband I said, “Aloha! The eagle has landed.” I glanced at my watch – 9:00pm, Eastern time, 3:00pm, Honolulu time. No wonder I was tired, but the sun was shining on a beautiful day in the tropics. My body got a sudden burst of energy. The sweet refreshing scent of plumerias, hibiscus, and other tropical aromas tease my nose. Moments later, I rushed into my husband’s arms, with my luggage and excitement raring to go. I noticed several people wearing leis. I made a promise to myself to get a lei, since my husband did not have one when I arrived. I excused his forgetfulness. He’s working and tired. It’s ok. He’s never been the romantic or thoughtful type.
We left the airport, headed to the location where Phil parked his rental car. From there, he suggested going to Wal-Mart where I could get a notebook and a few essential items. I was under the impression he knew his way to Wal-Mart. Little did I know he would be using his I-phone GPS, holding it in his right hand while driving. I unpacked my GPS, conveniently packed within my camera bag. Searching frantically, Tom Tom refused to locate Wal-Mart. So, off we go, with Phil holding his GPS in hand while driving. I wanted to choke him! One of the major common-sense rules of the road in paradise is, “Hands off gadgets. Use of cell phones and all handheld digital devices is prohibited.” When I mentioned this to Phil, he snapped for me to just ‘sit quietly.’ He does not know me very well after all of these years! How dare him to suggest my sitting quietly like a sweet little Southern belle should. I’ve never been described as a sweet Southern belle. Steel magnolia, perhaps, but nothing sweet and passive. Less than 15 minutes together and he is the grumpy old man again, dictating to me like I am a child, telling me to sit quietly. Foolish guy. He still doesn’t know the woman I am! Deciding to pick my battles, I stare out the window, noting the rows of tower buildings, the palm trees, and tropical plants. The people walking along the wide sidewalks, in a hurry, busy to get to a destination, but not carrying cell phones in their hands. This must be the Hawaiian way of life, I thought to myself while Phil grumbles about traffic and the fact that he missed another turn.
If you’ve never been to Honolulu, you must realize, the city is built with towers everywhere. Stores you are accustomed to seeing, such as Wal-Mart are camouflaged within a tower. Honolulu Wal-Mart is not your typical Wally World. Denny’s Restaurant, McDonald’s, and Kentucky Fried Chicken are easy to miss since they are not the typical structures I am accustomed to in South Carolina. I anticipated a typical shopping area, unaware that the discount store is hidden within a tower. Parking is in a garage. The Honolulu I remembered as a young bride does not exist anymore. Change is everywhere, along with an abundance of people and traffic.
After leaving Wally World, I was quiet, simply too tired to fight or ask anything. Phil suggested walking to a small restaurant across from the Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort and Spa http://waikiki.hyatt.com/hyatt/hotels-waikiki/index.jsp?src=agn_smg_hr_ppc_google_ss_propertyspecific_hnlrw_hyattregencywaikikiresortspa&k_clickid=kw102915&mckv=s39ZEWChH|pcrid|11994296727|&hyattprop=yes I accepted. I was simply too tired to make a suggestion since I didn’t have the time to research Honolulu before leaving Charleston.
We dined at Blazin Steaks http://www.blazinwaikiki.com/ Phil expressed how delicious the food was and since I was so tired, he made the suggestion. At first, I was a bit apprehensive since the décor and ambiance is so rustic, something I am not accustomed to as a travel and food writer. Entering the restaurant, I glanced over the menu. The special was steak and Mahi Mahi. “Yummy,” I said. Our food was cooked over a hibachi grill, served in to go boxes and plastic forks. My Angus steak was cooked to perfection, along with the Mahi Mahi. Teriyaki sauce was on the side, a delightful accompaniment to add a unique taste. Arugula salad and brown rice accompanied the entrée. Dinner for two cost us only $20.00. Although Blazin Steaks is rustic in charm, the food was absolutely delicious and fresh. I ate every bite. We sat outside on the patio, so I could admire the atmosphere. Honolulu has a lot of fabulous, athletic men walking on the streets, carrying surfboards, their bodies taut, and golden brown. If you go to Honolulu, be certain to look up Blazin Steaks, located at 2446 Koa Avenue and if you see a guy named Eddie nearby, ask him for a coupon for free drinks! I confess, we ate at Blazin Steaks several times. The food was always freshly cooked and delicious, and it was not expensive.
After dinner, we walked around a bit, discovering the ABC Stores. http://www.abcstores.com/ ABC Stores are everywhere in Honolulu and they have many interesting items for all of your needs in Honolulu. I shopped there many times purchasing beautiful tropical colored Hawaiian bracelets, earrings, Hawaiian shirts, bags, food, water and other items. More than a convenience store with much to offer, ABC Stores prices are affordable and their employees will greet with you a pleasant, “Aloha” and “Mahalo.” Escaping back to the Hyatt Regency Waikiki, I plotted myself on the bed, glancing at my watch, still stuck on Eastern Time. It was 2am, Charleston time, 8pm, Honolulu time. Tomorrow is a new day and I will explore the fun on Waikiki Beach while Phil works. Excited and exhausted, I could not wait to sleep.
Aloha! My journey in beautiful Blue Hawaii will continue as I share more details while searching for whales. For now, I have major jet lag, but I would go again tomorrow if the demands of life, and my pocketbook would permit. Aloha!