Look Ma – I’m flying!

5 Apr

Chopper ride over Oahu

Anyone who knows me knows I hate flying. I’m convinced that I’ll meet my end in a fiery blaze of jet fuel.

When we started planning our trip and I asked Alan what he absolutely wanted to do in Hawaii, his response was immediate: Helicopter ride.

My response was equally fast: All you, buddy.

Then a few things conspired to change my mind.

  1. Alan began guilting me. “If you’re ever going to do it, Hawaii is the place.”
  2. Alicia told me she had a few solid “posts from the grave” ready to go for Facebook, such as:
    1. Worst helicopter ride ever.
    2. Don’t do it – see my Trip Advisor review.
  3. My friend Brent hooked us up with his friend who is a pilot/instructor in Honolulu and flies with the fire department. There’s a vote of confidence.

So it was that we found ourselves lifting off over the water on Wednesday afternoon for a loop around the island with Joey, the pilot, whose calm demeanor did a lot for putting me at ease.

Because pictures are worth a thousand words, I simply offer you this:

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I am an Octopussy.

4 Apr
Hanauma Bay... not too shabby!

Hanauma Bay… not too shabby! (And I actually took this photo!)

Somehow, I made it 40 years without ever snorkeling. I’m not sure how that happened – especially since I’ve probably logged more miles in a pool in the last five years than most adults will swim in their entire lives. (Note the humble brag… that’s how it’s done, folks!)

We set out to remedy this by heading to Hanauma Bay at dawn on Thursday. We’d been warned that it is a popular spot and can get a bit crowded in the afternoon, so we rolled out of bed and zipped over there as soon as we were up. Fortunately, it’s only about nine minutes from where we’re staying, so that part was easy.

What wasn’t easy was my initial attempt at snorkeling. I hated everything about it: my flippers filled with sand (which felt horrible on my sunburned feet), the mask makes it impossible to breathe through your nose (which is generally how I breathe when swimming) and I’m a bit wimpy about things that live in oceans, so as soon as I stuck my face in the water and saw everything I could potentially step on, I had a mild freak out, during which I ripped off my mask, told Alan I hated snorkeling, and stomped to the shore.

Definitely not one of my finer moments.

In my defense: It didn’t help that the conservation/orientation video we’d just watched upon admission had featured a mean-looking eel striking out from a hole in the coral, so every time I stuck my face underwater, I imagined eels lurking in every nook and cranny, bracing for attack.

Back on shore, I gave myself a stern talking to. It sounded like this:

Get your ass back in that water. This might be your only chance to see a legit coral reef. You can’t leave here without seeing that – you’ll kick yourself.

So while Alan was swimming around looking at things, I went down to a different part of the beach that was a bit deeper and made a second attempt. This time, it was fine. And almost immediately, I saw some of the most colorful fish I could imagine, so I was immediately mesmerized.

An hour later, initial trauma forgotten, we were on our way to visit Shark’s Cove (up on the North Shore) for more snorkeling with our friends.

Borrowed from HawaiiTripper.comI’m glad I started my snorkeling adventure at Hanauma Bay where it was fairly shallow, because Shark’s Cove was rocky and fairly deep (around 20 feet in most places). Also? It was AMAZING.

The water was so clear that with the sun overhead, it was like snorkeling in an enormous fish tank. We saw all kinds of fish – and found ourselves wrapped in a school of hundreds of sparkly silver fish that moved like a wave around us.

And despite the name (which had prompted one of my friends to say, “Shark’s Cove? What could possibly go wrong?”), we didn’t see any sharks. Or eels. Or octupussies, to quote James Bond.

Turns out? I love snorkeling.

Next up: Confronting another fear – Hawaii by helicopter.

A day that will live in infamy…

3 Apr
USS Arizona by helicopter

USS Arizona Memorial – you can see the ship’s outline under the surface.

 

The only “must-see” item on our list when we were making our plans to visit Oahu was a trip to Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona Memorial.

I’m no history buff (mainly because I struggle to remember the dates and details so it just seems easier to focus on the future), so although it made our list, it didn’t have any special significance to me – until I got there.

Let me start with the logistics in case you’re contemplating a trip to Pearl Harbor…

Tours of the USS Arizona Memorial are FREE but they only give out 2000 tickets each day (each for a specific time), so you’re advised to get there at 7am to claim tickets before they run out. We left our place in Hawaii Kai at 6:30am, assuming 30 minutes would be ample time to cover the 15 miles to Pearl Harbor.

Think again. Turns out Honolulu has quite the little rush hour. We pulled into the parking lot 75 minutes later and I was freaking out that we were going to be too late. Alas, we were fine. Even managed to score tickets to the 8:45 admission, so I think all the other tourists were stuck in the same traffic we were.

As we headed from the ticket booth, the National Anthem played, marking the opening of the Memorial at 8am. I have to say, when you’re looking out across the water where eight battleships were destroyed and where thousands of people lost their lives – pretty hard NOT to be moved when you hear our anthem.

The tour kicks off with a 30 minute movie that was well done and provided just the kind of WWII crash course I needed to appreciate the significance of the memorial. After viewing the video, we were herded onto a ferry that took us to the memorial, which is floating in the water above the remains of the Arizona.

I didn’t find the memorial itself that moving, but it does provide a good way to connect with the wreckage of the ship, since you can look straight down and see her underwater, knowing she still contains the bodies of over 1,000 people. THAT is moving.

When we were done at the USS Arizona, we toured the USS Bowfin, a submarine that boasts a pretty fortunate record from its missions, considering we lost 20% of our submarine fleet in WWII. I can’t fathom living on one of those vessels – just touring it was about as much as I could handle of the cramped quarters. (Admission was $12 and included an audio guide – definitely felt worth the money.)

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We wrapped up our visit to Pearl Harbor on the USS Missouri – a battleship that fought in WWII, the Korean War and the Gulf War. The “Mighty Mo” was the last battleship commissioned and the site of Japan’s surrender, which ended WWII. (Admission is $25 and includes both a guide-led tour and an audio tour.)

After a brief tour that covered some of the key highlights, we were left to explore on our own. It felt like we had full run of the ship – we were able to go downstairs and tour the living quarters (it’s good to be an officer!) and above deck we climbed to the wheelhouse, which impressed us with its bank vault-like door. It’s quite impressive that a ship like that functions as a self-contained city – making, baking or manufacturing pretty much anything it needs while at sea.

The Mighty Mo!

The Mighty Mo!

We ended up spending almost seven hours at Pearl Harbor and still didn’t get a chance to see or read everything that was available. For true history buffs, I think two days would be needed to really do it justice. For me, it did such a great job bringing history to life that I’m now curious to learn more about the Pacific portion of WWII, since almost all the history I’ve learned has focused exclusively on Germany.

Any books or films you’d recommend to help me satisfy this itch? 

When it rains it – ZIPS!

1 Apr

Ziplining at Climbworks Oahu

Our first full day on the North Shore started with a walk along the beach, a brief wander around Waimia Valley and a run to the grocery story. By noon, I was starting to get my first inkling of “I want a nap!” just as it started to lightly mist outside. Within minutes, that mist had turned into a full-on downpour and Alan and I sat staring at each other, wondering if we should give in to the urge to nap.

Answer: NO! When you’re on vacation, you milk every minute out of it. (At least, this box-checking, spreadsheet keeping person does.) Relaxing and sleeping are NOT the same thing.

So we brainstormed things that would be fun to do in the rain – and decided that ziplining was the way to go. We headed to Climbworks Keana Farm, signed a rather extensive waiver and got strapped into our gear.

Foolishly, it was only as we climbed to the top of the first platform that it dawned on me that there might be an aspect of this that was mildly terrifying. I couldn’t pinpoint if it was the height or the fact that my entire body weight would be suspended from a cable using just one point of contact. The weigh-in they’d performed upon arrival suddenly seemed less embarrassing and more alarming.

As soon as I had this realization, I began scrutinizing our three guides – all appearing to be in their 20s and potentially having a taste for weed. Did I really trust them to attach me to a cable correctly? At this point, my heart began to race, and I hadn’t even stepped off a platform yet.

By the time I arrived on the other end of the first zipline, my mouth was dry and my knees were weak. I obsessed over watching the guides clip people to the cable to make sure they were doing it right. Nevermind that – thirty minutes prior – I’d had no idea what “right” even was.

Fortunately, the course is long so I had ample opportunity to shake my jitters so I could actually enjoy the ride. And once I did? Yee haw!

Perspective on a zipline

The course consists of seven zip lines, two repels, a rope bridge and one climbing station. It’s spread out over sixty acres and starts at the top of a jungle-like mountain and works its way back down to ground level, taking you over the tree canopy along the way so you can soak in some pretty spectacular views of the mountains and the ocean.

At times you’re zipping 120′ in the air, and the longest line is over five football fields long, so you can really pick up some speed – and have a chance to look around.

The guides ended up being completely professional and hilarious. We had a trio of Tyler, Andrew and Cami, and they made the three hours pretty fantastic. There were about 10 people in our group, and they did a great job creating a friendly vibe so we all felt “in it together” even though we were strangers.

There were a few mis-steps along the way – like when I came in a “bit hot” (read: too fast) and almost kicked the receiver in the balls. Here’s what it looks like when you’re worried you’re about to sterilize your guide:

Climbworks Keana Farms

By the end, we were zipping backwards and upside-down. Even people who had admitted a fear of heights had broad smiles on their faces. And we only ended up getting rained on a little bit.

All told: awesome first full day on the island.

Next up: Pearl Harbor brings WWII to life for us. Also? Our obsession with the shaka. 

Travelogue: Aloha!

30 Mar

Aloha from Oahu!

You’ve probably gathered that I work for a pretty spectacular company and am one of the few people who can say that I love my job and mean it. I realize you probably want to stab me, so I’ll just add fuel to the fire: one of the perks of working for my organization is use of a beach house in Hawaii.

Not too shabby right?

Which is how Alan and I found ourselves at DCA at seven o’clock Friday morning, checking in for a flight to Oahu by way of Seattle. And how – a mere 19 hours later – we were standing at the luggage carousel in Honolulu, watching as a lone bag made its victory lap, my own bag no where to be seen.

I was trying to reassure myself  when a representative from Alaska Air approached. “Are you Alison?” I nodded. “Your bag is on the next flight arriving from Seattle, which gets in in two hours.”

I wanted to cry. It was 8:30pm Hawaii time, which meant that in my world, it was 2:30am. I hadn’t slept on the flight and was deliriously tired. Alan wisely persuaded me against having the airline deliver the bag to us in the morning. “You’ll sleep better with your own clothes and toothpaste,” he argued.

Finally, I acquiesced, so we headed to Waikiki to burn an hour while waiting for my bag to arrive. Waikiki was low on my list of places to see, so I was completely fine knocking it out while I was tired and just needed to kill a bit of time. Check. I’m fine if we never go back.

Two hours later, we retrieved my bag (yay!) and were bound for the North Shore, where we’d made reservations in Haleiwa via AirBNB. Although I was so tired I wanted to stab someone at the time, it probably was the best thing for reseting our clocks and shaking jet lag. We crashed at midnight and got a solid eight hours in – and have been running on Hawaiian time ever since.

Lesson: Thank You, Alaska Airlines for losing (then quickly finding!) my luggage.

Well, it probably didn’t hurt that our lodging was right on the Ali’i Beach. It’s hard to wake up angry when you’re looking out over the Pacific.

Next up: What to do on a rainy day on Oahu?

 

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