Climbing Mountains, Stalking Turtles and Traveling Blues

November 3, 2017

Travel planning remains at best an approximation of the probable. As I sit in the pleasant and salubrious conditions at the Kona Airport, I realize once again that things usually work out for the best. Here is today’s whale of a tale.

Last night we managed to take care of most of our first day Costco beer and wine purchases. We left enough Longboard Lager in the rental car for the clean up crew to enjoy after the last car is washed, or maybe before. But to get to Kona, we needed to traverse the island. The Saddle Road is just that between Mauna Loa on the south and Mauna Kea on the north. We tackled that road after a filling meal at Ken’s Pancakes in Hilo. The place was very old school. The waitresses all were teens when the 50’s sound track that played continuously in the background were first recorded. No Don Ho but plenty of Pat Boone. The gals all wore their Hawaiian garb like naturals and their hair done with flowers was a nice touch. The place is a local institution and three pancakes is enough for several mortals. I waddled out and was ready to climb a mountain.

As we drove out of Hilo, I realized that it is now my favorite Hawaiian town. The commercial buildings downtown reflect past glories of the cane sugar era. Even the few chain outfits kind of blend in. What I liked most was the residential design. Unlike the Kona side of the island, the eastern shore looks like it belongs in a tropical environment. The houses are mostly raised and you can see through the underneath. Not really sure of the reason. It would certainly help deter snakes, but Iam assured by the now sadly deceased eminent herpetologist Vic Knight that there are no Hawaiian snakes. Peggy is not convinced and stays clear of bushes and grass anyway. But I digress. The roofs are usually of hip design and made out of corrugated rusty iron. The whole place looks kind of Micheneresque. The other side of the island could be San Diego or Long Beach. 

We cruised up the Saddle Road some 30 miles before reaching the turn off to Mauna Kea at around 6,000 feet. We knew we couldn’t take our mighty, midget rental to the top so we stopped at the 9,000 foot Information Center. It was closed until noon. It was 10 am so we didn’t get to look at the displays. The road to the top requires four wheel drive which we lacked. I almost snagged a ride for us in an antique 4WD Ford that was being driven by two adventurous Senior ladies who had no idea how to use their transmission. I gave them a quick lesson. I hope they made it down the sections of 17% grade. I thought about it briefly, but we left our down jackets at home. Maybe next time.

We had time, so we headed back to Kailua in search of a grandchild ready fish puzzle of Hawaiian fish. No luck so we headed for the airport after being hustled by some of the local homeless folks. Being without resources is never fun but at least you don’t get Hawaiian frostbite except atop the two Maunas. While heading to the airport we spotted a National Historical Park on the highway. I am always a sucker for anything labeled National. We pulled off and made it past the Jehovah’s Witnesses stationed at the entrance. The friendly docent said the magic word, “Turtle”. 

We soon found ourselves on a beach watching a number of 2 foot diameter green turtles munching on sea grass. Number 143 would raise his head briefly and too quickly to capture the perfect photo. We stayed the required distance from them and finally wandered down to where the turtle researchers were tagging the reptiles. I asked what turned out to be a very dumb question. I wanted to know if their were turtles nearby. The lady patiently pointed to a 3-400 pond leviathan about 30 feet away. Evidently she had been laying eggs and was slowly scooting down the beach to the sea. Peggy finally got her turtle pictures. It was very cool that we were in the right place at the right time. We would have stayed to watch the re-entry but we needed to think about catching a plane.

We had one more ritual to perform when traveling, we always get one Costco dog to evaluate their consistent quality. Hawaii is no exception and we needed to fill the car with gas. After seeing the 10 cars in each lane waiting for $2.85 gas, I made an executive decision to splurge on 3 gallons of $3.26 gas station gas with no wait. I admit to being frugal but I try to avoid stupidity. We had just enough time to return the car an make the required two hour pre-flight timeline.

I have the time to write this missive because our flight is delayed three hours. If the travel alerts had worked correctly, we could have watched mama turtle head for Maui. Instead I am looking at a 3:30 am arrival in Oakland.  No shuttle to our car works at that time. Our  hotel car lot is closed so a cab wouldn’t work. I was not a happy camper. I explained that I liked Oakland but not ar 4am. Peggy couldn’t watch this discussion and remained safely away so she could bail me out. For a change, I was using my best behavior and the counter people said was I was being very nice.Without belaboring this too much, we got 5000 air miles and are now flying First Class. An old guy should be able to catch some shut eye after a couple drinks on a five hour flight. I am still not looking for the night watch in Oakland while waiting for the shuttles to start their rounds. I will be good to be back on the Ridge.


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