Thursday, January 4, 2018

To Hawaii and Back Again

This is truth the poet sings: That a sorrow's crown of sorrow is remembering happier things.
        Alfred, Lord Tenneson; Locksley Hall

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: As I sit here in Maine, writing this, we are expecting a bomb cyclone to turn a regular Nor'easter into a day-long blizzard, with up to fourteen inches expected in my town. After the snow passes, the Polar Vortex descends on us with a vengeance: Saturday's high will be 3F/-16C and the nighttime low is predicted at -20F/-29C. So it is bittersweet that I am here to tell you about my awesome Hawaiian vacation.

 Here are the girls and I about to take off on our flight from Boston. We were somewhat less chipper when we took off from O'Hare at 11pm (midnight, according to our body clocks) and positively staggering when we reached LA at 1:30am PDT (omgwhattimeisit EDT.)

Fortunately, we were traveling with the Sailor, and were able to bunk down at the Bob Hope USO, along with roughly 50% of the US armed forces and their families. Seriously, I slept on yoga mat beneath the piano in the reception area. We bounced back on the long flight to Kailua-Kona, and by the time we arrived we were fully able to appreciate the gorgeous heat and humidity - and the amazing drive to Hilo on the Saddle Road, which rises to over a mile above sea level and traverses the high lava desert between Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea.


We stayed on the Puna coast, which- as we were to discover - is the neo-hippie center on the Big Island. You have to go to Burning Man to see more white guy dreadlocks, Indian-print sarongs and nose rings. These free-living souls were a bit underwashed, but kind and accepting. In fact, at one beach a colorful fellow named Benjamin offered me a kiss and a joint. I declined both.

We were staying at a perfect house we had gotten from AirBnB (anyone heading to Hawaii? Email me and I'll hook you up.) It was inside a forest preserve, which in practice meant that every time we drove down the (dirt) road to the place, we felt like we were extras in Jurassic Park. It had a comfortable cabin style second floor and a ground floor that was really the ground - covered in pea gravel and open to the balmy air. I made breakfast and packed lunches every day while the neighbors' chickens wandered through. 



 We took our time and relaxed. We slept late (for different values of late. I would arise at 9:30am, the Youngest would join me around 11, and the Smithie and the Sailor, aka The Creatures of the Night, sometimes didn't make it out of bed until 1pm.) 

I discovered the many delights of traveling with twenty-somethings with real jobs: they each took turns paying for dinner (we intended to eat home-cooking as we did for breakfast and lunch, but somehow every evening we wound up at a restaurant or ordering take-out. They both drove and were both capable of loading the Jeep Wrangler with the necessities for a day out with minimal instruction. (those of you who are parents are impressed, right?)

Youngest was our DJ, as she's the only family member with a Spotify subscription. I honestly think one of the highlights of the trip for her was the chance to wear Lily Pulitzer clothing every single day. 

So what did we do besides sleeping and watching the chickens?



We spent Christmas Eve Day at Volcanoes National Park, where we were able to stand near natural steam vents, see the caldera of Kilauea, the most active volcano in the world, and travel down the Chain of Craters to see the collapsed cones of past volcanoes. They looked ancient, but the entire island is one of the youngest places on the planet, only a million years old.































We went to see The Last Jedi together! I know, go to Hawaii to sit in a cinema? But we all love Star Wars and have been waiting for TLJ, and we wanted to experience it as a family. There were VERY long lines at the only movie theater in Hilo. We missed one night, and came back much earlier the next. Also the girls and I all have massive crushes on Adam Driver. (Mark Hamill is more my age range, but apparently he's been happily married to the same woman for 40 years, so there you go.) 

We had some fabulous meals, including Pacific fish fresh enough to satisfy the most stringent Mainer's taste, grass-fed beef from the Parker Ranch that was so good I may never eat grain-fed beef again. Seriously, we have a lot of grass here in the continental US! Let's use it for better burgers! On Christmas Eve, instead of our traditional Chinese take out, we had...drumroll...Thai take out. And of course we enjoyed many tropical rum drinks. If you can't put the lime in the coconut and drink it all down in Hawaii, where can you?

On Christmas day, the kids were amazed to see Santa had flown their stockings all the way from the mainland and left them stuffed with books and dvds (and pocket-sized hand sanitizers, little tubes of Eucerin, and lip balm. St. Nick believes in prepping for winter weather.)




We spent Christmas Day at a nude-friendly beach. Bet you never thought you'd see me writing that, didja? The girls and I didn't actually know about the clothing-optional aspect until we were there, at which point the Sailor swore he had already informed us. We kept our suits on - mine is a particularly old-New England-lady number with a skirt - and Youngest took her glasses off, so everyone in the distance became a bit blurred. We read our new Christmas books, picnicked on tuna salad sandwiches and leftover Thai food, and swam in the warm Pacific waters. 

You bet we wore sunscreen. The sun can kill you, you know.

We saw the Waipio Valley and the high country beyond it and drove the ridiculously scenic Old Māmalahoa Highway, which climbs and turns past waterfalls, deep chasms and heart-stopping gulches. We visited with old friends who have retired to the island. We shopped for tourist kitsch and lingered through a museum on the geology and history of the island.

My favorite part was on our last day. Our flight wasn't until almost 9pm, so we packed up and picked up in the morning and spent the whole afternoon at the thermal pond in Ahalanui Park. Cool water surged in from the ocean through a winding channel to meet up with hot volcanic spring water. It was the perfect temperature, shallow enough so almost everyone could walk comfortably on the bottom (covered in sand and smooth lava) and the county of Hawaii had improved nature by providing a safe walkway all the way around and rock steps with handrails to get in. 

Here at home, the drains in the downstairs bathroom AND the kitchen have cracked from ice. I'm trickling water into a ten-gallon tub set in the sink, in the hopes we won't lose H2O completely downstairs. When it fills up, I have to empty it off the side of the porch, because the downstairs toilet is frozen. Literally.

Is it any wonder, dear readers, that in my head I'm still floating in the thermal pool, with the sun filtering through palm leaves and a breeze keeping things from getting too hot? I'll rub a little coconut-scented hand lotion on between tossing water into a blizzard, and remember warmer times.

64 comments:

  1. Oh, your Hawaiian holiday sounds absolutely marvelous . . . it’s good to know all of you had a wonderful time there.

    We’re going to be checking out that Nor’easter before it reaches you . . . with temperatures hovering in the minus numbers, I have absolutely no plan of setting foot outside. There’s several inches of white stuff covering the ground already . . . .

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    1. I had to roll out of bed this morning and shovel off the porch steps so the dogs could go out. I've been saying I won't replace the kitties - just have dogs - when they pass on, but I may have to rethink that. The only thing I've ever had to shovel for them is litter, through a scoop.

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    2. Yes, kitties are much easier in many respects . . . .

      Right now the snow is a foot deep, the white stuff is still falling, and the wind continues to gust. I see snow shovels in our future . . . .

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  2. Murder at a Hawaiian Nude Beach - Sounds like the start of a new not quite cozy series. :D

    Glad you had a good trip.

    Hawaii is one of two places I would like to visit someday and I always like to see the trip recaps from people who do get to take their own trips.

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    1. Maybe I could start my own sub-genre, Jay: Racy Hawaiian crime fiction.

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    2. If that 50 Shades of Gray stuff can sell, I can't see why that wouldn't.

      Good luck on that new writing endeavor. LOL

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  3. What a perfect getaway, and with your entire brood, too. I have only flown through Hawaii on my way to and from Japan, but silly me never scheduled a layover.

    I just came home from four days in northern Indiana, where for three of them the high didn't get above zero - just in time for the blizzard!

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    1. It's definitely the kind of weather that makes New Englanders rethink their life choices.

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  4. I love the photos! You look fantastic.

    The closest I've come to leaving Michigan in the winter was a trip to Disney World during spring break in late Feb. When we left there were two feet of snow on the ground and we were seriously worried our flight would be canceled due to bad weather. We arrived safely to 70 degrees in Disney and the first thing I did was run for the pool! The native Floridians were all bundled in winter coats, shivering, marveling at the crazy lady from Michigan. LOL

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    1. I got to go to Fort Lauderdale for a book festival several years ago, also in February. Youngest and I did the same thing - lounged by the hotel pools and swam while the Floridians wore jackets. 70 degrees in Michigan and Maine is summer weather!

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  5. Oh, Julia - you are transporting me! And you managed to miss a hunk of a nasty cold spell, though you've returned for Act III. Or what we hope is Act III. Reading your blog today is so lovely as I stare out the window at falling snow and listen to the wind howl.

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    1. Seriously Hallie, you think we're getting the last act this early? I think this will be a Wagnerian winter, too many acts to count, and most of us will be asleep long before the final one.

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    2. Pretty sure we're starting Fimbulvetr, the Great Winter that precedes Ragnarok. Time to start practicing the choruses from Götterdämmerung.

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  6. Sounds like that was absolutely what you and your family needed! Even facing what is happening at home now you still sound pretty mellow. I'm very glad that you took the Christmas stockings so that Santa could fill them!

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    1. Who, me? They appeared via Santa magic.

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  7. What a wonderful trip for all of you! The pictures are great and I'm so glad you all had such a wonderful time! Love Jay's idea for the 'not quite cozy' series. ;-)

    Even here in Central Texas, we've had what for us is very cold weather. I'm not a big fan of it, but then spring is my favorite time here. The bluebonnets and other wildflowers are glorious. And, may I say Julia, I have loved your series for years. It's on my list this year for a total reread - start to finish. I'll have such a good time! Hope all of you in the path of the big storm fare well.

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  8. Thank you so much for that delightful diversion to warmer climes! My car battery died yesterday in the Manitoba cold, but I am feeling better already reading about your time in Hawaii. So sorry about your frozen toilet, though. That sucks.

    I don't think I'll ever forget that remarkable feeling of tropical-style air against my skin when I got off the plane on my first trip to Mexico -- so different from the nostril-hair-freezing air I am experiencing these winter days!


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    1. Right? I need to re-up my YMCA membership just so I can sit in the sauna and suck some moisture into my parched flesh.

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  9. Julia, thank you for sharing your vacation with us! It's clear you all had a great time--and who wouldn't in such a fabulous setting?! Can't believe people who need something else to get high when you are in the midst of such natural beauty!

    And I feel your pain on the brutal return to home--when I first bought my home and was on the road a lot for my job--an uncle volunteered to come over and disconnect the basement heaters--so I wouldn't have to pay for heating the basement when I wasn't home. Who cared about the electric bill?? It was so great not to have to worry about the pipes or toilet freezing! Take care, stay warm, and dream of Hawaii!!

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    1. Interestingly, the pipes did quite well over our vacation. I had the heat turned to 50 and left the water running in both downstairs sinks. The freezing came right around the New Year, when I was away in upstate NY visiting my college roommate and my daughters were home. I'm thinking if I have THEM pay the plumber's bill, they might take more precautions next time...

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    2. That sounds like a great idea, Julia:-)

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  10. wonderful! Christmas in a new and wonderful place with all the kids. I hope the scented hand lotion carries you through a Maine winter.

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    1. That and a couple Piña Coladas...

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  11. This is such a treasure! Fantastic! And aw, Santa. How did you manage that?

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  12. Julia, it sounds as though you and your family chose the perfect way to change up what was going to be a difficult holiday. I'm also impressed at the stockings showing up. That took some packing expertise! And isn't the Big Island amazing?

    There are thirteen different climate zones in the world, and the Big Island has ten of them, all in a thirty-mile by thirty-five mile space. Driving from Hilo to the north end of the island I went through one rainforest that was about a mile long. It was the darnedest experience. The lava fields near the airport freaked me out a little, though, I have to admit. Doesn't it look like a lunar landscape?

    And you have discovered the best part of having kids: when they become adults. Little ones are great, but I feel like having amazing adult children is the reward for the long years (35, in my case, since they're so spread out in age) of raising them. It's the best.

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    1. Karen, I agree. I LOVE having adult sons!

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    2. Agreed. It was nice having the Sailor around to haul suitcases, take the Jeep top on and off, and fill up the gas.

      And Karen, yes, the lava fields feel otherworldly. I've been to a lot of places, but I had never seen a landscape like that.

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  13. I'm glad to hear you had a wonderful Christmas with your family, Julia. The pictures look amazing! I'd love to go to Hawaii, but The Hubby isn't a fan of the long plane trip.

    Stay warm and I hope your toilet thaws!

    Mary/Liz

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    1. You can get a cruise ship to Hawaii, Mary...

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    2. Hmm, now THAT I might be able to talk him into. =)

      Mary/Liz

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  14. Ahh, the Big Island. It's one of my favorite places! I'm so glad that you had such a wonderful trip, Julia. Thanks for sharing the details, and good luck with those pipes today!

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    1. Also discovered we have no hot water this morning. Sigh.

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  15. what a heavenly trip J, so glad you planned it. Your son looks so much like Ross! We did have our toilets freeze once while on a weekend in VT. Not fun! 2018 showing us it will not be underestimated....

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    1. I was thinking the same thing - if this is the kick off to 2018, what ELSE is in store for us?

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    2. I was also thinking how much the Sailor looks like Ross.

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  16. Thanks for sharing this, Julia, and to your kids for being willing to be included. I agree with those who have said you look great. For some reason I particularly like the pink hat. And yes, aren't adult kids great? Just wait till they have their own kids and gain a deeper appreciation for what you did for them. Best of luck with getting through this ridiculous weather.

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    1. I liked wearing the pink hat, too! I'm still wearing mourning at home, but I decided trying to find all black hot weather clothes in December was unworkable, so I brought along my usual summer stuff.

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  17. The trip sounds amazing, and at least you missed some of the N.E. weather. Stay safe in the storm and cling to those balmy memories to get you through!

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    1. I may stream Hawaiian music while stoking the woodstoves!

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  18. What a wonderful trip! I wrote a long and thoughtful post about this earlier, but it seems to have vanished into the ethers.

    I'm sorry you couldn't have stayed longer, at least until the storm of the century has passed.

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    1. I'm sorry, too. Had I But Known, I would have happily eaten the ticket-change fee and stayed on the beach!

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  19. Grass Fed Beef in NH. http://milessmithfarm.com/ and it is excellent. We don't get up there as often as we would like from MA.

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    1. Cows don't naturally eat grain. It's goofy that we feed them corn.

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    2. It is, isn't it? And grass-fed is healthier for us, since the cows dons't have to be injected with hormones and antibiotics just so they can process the corn.

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    3. We have a great local butcher. We don't eat a lot of beef, but when we do, we buy from them. Grass fed, usually Waygu. Divine.

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  20. Thank you for sharing your Hawaiian adventures with us. We love the photos.

    Diana

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  21. Sounds like a great trip. Hope the warmth carries you through the upcoming storm.

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    1. I'm trying to be philosophical and say you can't appreciate the warmth unless you go though the cold. (But -20? Really?)

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  22. Julia, thank so much for sharing. Love the photos, and you do look terrific!!! (Love the pink hat, too.) I've never been to Hawaii, although Rick lived there for a while when he was a glamorous blond surfer dude, and he would really like to go back. One of these days! Glad to know you liked your airB&B. That's an option we hadn't considered. Right now anything warm sounds good, and I am shivering for you!!!!!!!!!!! Good luck getting through the storm!

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    1. I think we need to see pics of Rick as a glamorous blond surfer dude!

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  23. What a wonderful and healing way to spend your first Christmas with your children. Stay warm. Your house in Maine sounds scary to me -- cracks and frozen toilets and blizzardy winds??? You could write a murder mystery in a place like that!

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    1. It's a wonderful old house, but the emphasis is on old. It was built around 1810-1820 and although there have been improvements over the years, there's also a lot of "somebody's brother-in-law did this on the cheap": the downstairs bath was built against two uninsulated walls, the kitchen is located over a crawlspace that is still drafty despite two layers of rolled insulation, and most egregiously, the heating vents were installed NEAR THE CEILINGS. The kids once said to me, "Maybe they didn't know?" I pointed out people have known heat rises since the ancient Greeks.

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  24. What a wonderful travelogue of a Hawaii trip! Now I want to go back and visit that island. So glad you had such a terrific time with your wonderful kids - and, yes, it is fantastic when they can pack, pay, and drive! Here's hoping the cyclone bomb passes you by!

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    1. We're in the middle of it right now, Jenn. It's making Arizona look very tempting.

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  25. Julia, I'm so glad that you and your children were able to travel to Hawaii for your Christmas holiday. I think it was such a wise decision to do that. And, the sailor got to go, too! So happy he could get the time off, as I know from experience it doesn't always work out that way in the service. Each of your children have seemed to gained so much from the example the you and Ross set, which to me appears to be one of happiness and doing what one loves.

    The Big Island sounds incredible, too. In my trips to Hawaii, I haven't been there. The only island other than Oahu I've visited is Molokai, which is amazing. If I do get another opportunity to return to Hawaii, I think I will have to visit your island and experience some of its wonders. Thanks for sharing them.

    I hope your freezing issues don't get any worse. If I were there, I would wave my Harry Potter wand and make them go away.

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    1. Does the wand work long-distance?

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    2. Let me know, Julia. I'll try.

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  26. Thanks, Julia, for transporting us to Hawaii! I've been there three times, but decades ago, pre-mortgage. With a blizzard raging outside I really needed to see your Hawaii photos and read about your trip! (Friends were supposed to fly to Hawaii today. Something tells me they're still at the airport, if not still at home.)

    DebRo

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  27. I will stop complaining about the weather in Virginia. It's zero degrees (with wind chill) but nothing compared to your situation! Happy you have the warmth of Hawaii to remember and get you through the current cyclone.....

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  28. Sounds wonderful, Julia. So glad that you and the family got away. Kudos on the glaring departure from tradition and going Thai! The stockings were a lovely touch.

    Stay safe in this storm, completely understand the plumbing problems. I swear, if I ever renovate, I'm putting the pipes below the frost line!

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  29. Sorry I didn't chime in sooner. We've been driving to Arizona all day. We love the Big island and are so glad you and the family were able to share such good adventures after such a sad year

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