August 21, 2018

Hawai'i with Hurricane Lane

I have to admit, I have one of the coolest part-time jobs evah, running bags for American Airlines (AA) here in Phoenix (PHX). Last year AA won a major award and in return gave each employee two roundtrip tickets anywhere we fly with guaranteed seats. This is a big deal since our travel benefit is for standby travel. We had until the end of 2018 to use them, but where should we go? Our first thought was Australia & New Zealand, but we drug our feet a bit and realized we hadn't really saved up for that kind of vacation. We also have a timeshare unit with Disney and decided we'd use that and go to Hawaii. Plus, Hawaii can be difficult to fly standby sometimes, so why not take the worry out of the equation. We timed our trip to overlap K's birthday in late August. All was set. We were island bound!!
Approaching O'ahu's turquoise blue waters.
It was sometime late during our flight that the fella sitting next to K mentioned something about a big storm heading towards the islands. We didn't think much of it as we circled over the island.

Here we are, tucked into the SW corner of O'ahu, in Ko Olina.

Part of our balcony view.

The other part. Not too bad other than the construction.

Room tour.

Always nice to have a mini fridge.

Once again, very pleased with Disney accommodations.

Taking a walking tour of Aulani.

Spacious entry to the hotel.

Lazy river winds around the pool area.
We made our way down poolside to find a bite to eat and some Mai Tai's. It didn't take long. The food was fantastic and the drinks hit the spot, then the bill came. Whoa! Ok, better pay attention when dining out. I know Hawai'i is more expensive in general, but $90 (tip included) for 4 fish tacos & 2 drinks? Sheesh. It was good, but not THAT good. Time to go grocery shopping!

We really didn't have any set plans for our entire stay. We drove into Honolulu on Monday to find a visitor welcome center for more ideas.
Downtown Honolulu from a parking garage rooftop.

Stumbled onto this surfboard alley leading to Waikiki beach.

Hang loose.
Iconic view of Diamond Head.

Soft serve with fresh fruit & Nutella.

Midweek flight at Maui Brewing Co.
 On our way back to Aulani, our rental SUV, began vibrating very noticeably. It didn't feel right at all on the freeway. I contacted the rental company back at the hotel and we made arrangements to swap it out. One more trip back to Honolulu and we had a vehicle that didn't bounce down the freeway.
Huge fish tank back at Aulani.

Aulani's private beach.

First full day winding down.
The next morning we flipped on the TV and all the talk was about the incoming storm. Hurricane Lane had Hawai'i in its crosshairs.
Looks like we better squeeze in whatever plans we had.

Meanwhile, all calm & carefree at the beach.

Koi pond at Aulani.

Everywhere you went, the property was beautiful.
We talked to the hotel activity planner and set up a dinner cruise for that night since K really wanted to do one and it may be our last chance with Lane closing in.

We made a Safeway & gas run before heading out and found a lot of the shelves wiped clean. We did manage to find some water. A few of the nearby gas stations were out of gas, but the 7-11 was still pumping and the lines weren't too bad. With those chores complete, we could enjoy the rest of the day.
We were now getting very familiar with our route into Honolulu. Our cruise departed next to the historic Aloha Tower.

Pano from the top of the tower.

We look relaxed.

Cool looking condos that were featured on Dirty Jobs for the intricate window cleaning process.

Our dinner vessel.

Off we go.

All you can eat crab legs+

Great view of the sprawling Honolulu skyline.

Diamond Head. We had planned to do the hike up later in the week.
This would be our last sunset of the week.
Wednesday brought cloudy skies and uncertainty for the rest of the week. The staff at Aulani began making Hurricane preparations and ensured the guests we were safe as best they could.

We decided to make this day a 'Tour the Island' kind of day. First stop was the famous Dole Plantation.
I was really looking forward to sampling fresh pineapple.

All smiles after cracking open a black pearl.
 There are three main attractions at the plantation: Pineapple Express train tour (most popular and can have the longer lines), tropical garden & the garden maze (world's largest apparently).
We got in line early for the train which turned out to be a smart move.

All aboard!!

The tropical vegetation is so unique.

Pineapple crops still require a lot of manual labor.


Waianae Range.

Only 6,970 miles to Antarctica.

I guess we really never knew pineapples grew like this.

Dole Whip. Fanfreakingtastic. Worth the stop alone.

We took a stroll through the lush garden.

Local coffee beans.

Huge hedge maze with strategically placed card stamps to find.

Which way to go??

Definitely worth the stop.

Hungry for lunch, we made our way to the famed North Shore food trucks. Giovanni's Shrimp truck in particular.

The line was long, but moved steadily. We felt bad for the other vendors as 95% were there for Giovanni's.

Piping hot garlic shrimp scampi. Messy, but terrific.

Now for dessert: Waialua Coffee & Chocolate. We took a short tour then purchased some amazing toffee.

Driving around the NE side of the island the winds from Hurricane Lane started to intensify.

Conditions were worsening, time to head back to Aulani.

Koolau Range.

Back at our room, one final outdoor show featuring Mickey & Minnie Mouse was taking place below our balcony.

Humuhumunukunukuapua'a aka Reef Triggerfish is Hawai'i's state fish.

Dazzling light show.

The hotel really was quite spectacular.
That night on the news we were seeing reports of high winds on the Big Island over by Hilo. Rain was already pummeling the area. Meanwhile, it was a light breeze and barely a sprinkle on the SW corner of O'ahu. The local reports were showing empty streets & freeways, people were taking heed of the uncertain affect of the storm.

The next morning was more of the same. We walked across the street and a few establishments were still operating. We opted for a good breakfast as did a bunch of other tourists. I was craving a local favorite, the Loco Moco.
Loco Moco: rice, hamburger, eggs & gravy.

K went for the tower of whipped cream!!

They were pulling out all the stops to keep the hurricane away.

Wind speed map of Lane.
The island was essentially shut down for the next two days. We spent a lot of time watching TV, reading and walking around the resort. The winds held steady near us around 20 mph. Still hardly any rain.

The next day was more of the same. We managed to find a place open for lunch, but spent the day around the resort and watching the news.
Burritos & booze to pass the time.

Aulani from across the way.

I was hoping to take a ride on the historic railway in front of the hotel, but that too would be closed for the upcoming weekend.

We did find a store open that sold Koloa rum, so we topped off our dark rum reserve and picked up something new to try. The dark rum is by far the best we've ever had.
Friday was kinda bizarre as we watched the news coverage of the storm. It was still very uncertain how much O'ahu would be impacted, meanwhile the west side of the Big Island near Hilo was receiving over 50" of rain in 48 hours. Crazy. That afternoon in a matter of a few hours Hurricane Lane fell apart. We were fortunate to be on the dry side of O'ahu and barely saw any rainfall at all. It was nice to see how prepared the island and the city of Honolulu were. People seemed to take the warnings seriously too, which isn't always the case during these kinds of storms elsewhere. The traffic cam on H1 freeway during the Friday afternoon rush hour was eerie, you could count all the cars easily across 7 lanes of roadway.

By Saturday the storm threat had passed by, but the overcast skies persisted. We were bound and determined to at least drive around.
Funky looking trees, almost appear painted on a canvas.

Driving around the west coast of O'ahu, most of the overlooks were closed off due to storm surge threat. No snorkeling at the famed Hanauma Bay either, closed for the weekend.

This one was open!!

Beautiful even under dreary skies.

Didn't see any to feed.

We rolled into Kailua around lunchtime and Yelp brought us here. Mahaloha Burger was incredible!! Win!!

We drove past a vacant Polynesian Cultural Center on our way to deserted north shore beaches.

Found a few surfers catching some waves.

Shark's Cove was still buzzing.

Hale'iwa, cool little surf town.

Our route took us by the Dole Plantation again, might as well stop for another round of Dole Whip!!

View from our floor of Aulani's central gathering place.

We finally had a chance to simply kick back and watch the sky painters go to work.

Same location, changing palettes of color in mere minutes.

The purple hues were mesmerizing.

Lights of the Four Seasons hotel.

Never made it on our lazy river, as it too was closed. :(
Sunday was to be our last day on O'ahu before our red-eye flight home that evening. We decided to drive around some more, going to the NW part of the island.
Near the end of Rte. 93 on the west side of the island.

The sun was trying to make an appearance at this overlook.

We found ourselves back on the north shore around lunchtime, might as well get more garlic shrimp from the other Giovanni's location.

There was a bit more space here and plenty of other vendors.

Hang loose brah.

I had to get an authentic chilled coconut drink.

Back again to this surf town.

End of the line for Rte. 930 on the NW side of the island.

Wind farm on the north shore.

The best sugar happens to make incredible toffee!!

A third stop for Dole Whip?? You bet!!

Close up of the Dirty Jobs condos from the other day.
We dropped off the rental, checked in, ate and hung out at the gate for our flight out. It was nice not having to worry about flying standby from a popular destination. We were there for a while, then heard our plane was going on a 30 minute maintenance delay. Ok, no big deal. Then our name was called to go up to the podium...

Boom!! 1st Class upgrades. Nice. Always a treat on the longer flights.
Now we just had to get on the plane. Another 30 minute delay...then another. Hmmm, sounds like it's much more than they're telling us. It was now going on 12:30a and I wasn't getting a confident feeling we'd be getting home the next morning. Sometime around 1a I heard the crew try an air start that wasn't like any air start I've heard. I knew right away, we weren't going anywhere. Sure enough a few minutes later our flight was cancelled. Ugh. At least we were getting put up in a hotel, but no rental car, more food expense and another day of vacation burned unnecessarily. Getting stuck in Hawai'i really isn't all it's cracked up to be.

The good news about having the 1st class ticket meant we were re-routed in the first group of passengers. Unfortunately, the 7a flight to LAX was full and our next option was the same flight we had only 24 hours later. We were put up in the airport hotel, not exactly the easiest location to kill a extra day. We ended up buying a bus pass to head over to Pearl Harbor for the afternoon. We had been there during our first visit to Hawai'i some 12 years ago.
Bus stop & bike path tucked under the freeway across from our hotel.

Anchor from the U.S.S. Arizona.

U.S.S. Arizona Memorial on the right.

U.S.S. Bowfin submarine.

It was nice to spend time walking around the grounds at the memorial, but it was extremely muggy. Even though we still had hours before our flight, we opted to head to the airport.
The Honolulu airport is very open.

The Raiders?!?

There's a huge cultural gardens inside the secure portion of the airport.

It was easy to pass a bit of time here.

Eventually we coach. Booo!! But we were headed home from a rather unusual vacation.

White Tank Mtns. to the west of Phoenix.

Cardinals stadium on final approach.

Uptown & downtown Phoenix. Almost home.
While it wasn't what we had planned, it was still a great time in Hawai'i seeing new places and relaxing a bit.

We've now been to the Hawaiian islands four times and each time something sizable has happened. During our first trip we stayed on Maui and experienced a 6.7 magnitude earthquake while up on Haleakala for sunrise, our second trip to Kauai resulted in an unplanned extra day after getting bumped out of our flight home by one seat, the third trip to the Big Island was great until we went through airport security and all of a sudden my camera was gone!! Lost a bunch of pics on that one. And now this trip: Hurricane Lane and a maintenance snafu. Fifth times the charm??

Either way at least I had K with me, wouldn't want it any other way.

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