Hawaiian Rollercoaster Ride

“There is a kind of magicness about going far away and then coming back all changed." ~Kate Wiggin

Day 1: The return to the Big Island. I am not sure I can express my intense love of Hawaii. Some places just feel like home. Aside from our Ouray home; Boulder, San Diego and the Big Island; two of which I have no intention of ever living there again, but they feel like home when I visit. I am sad to say that in the 5 years since our last visit, Kona has been discovered and infiltrated by Boomers. It has become a bit of a mini-retirement SoCal or Aging Boulder. But, perhaps, that is why I love it. 
Nonetheless, when my family journeys, we tend to take the paths less traveled. We booked the newest craze, a short-term rental, our VRBO was very adequate; however, located on a very hilly neighborhood, with an ocean overlook, and a black pebbles beach only a short, steep, drive away. We were south of Captain Cook, remote from any convenient store; roosters and north american turkeys roam free and also greet you at 4am. Which, is actually 7am MST, so I was up anyways. 
Kona is found on the west (dry) side of the Island. Driving around this west side could be great fun, the roads are smooth and winding. Did I mention the boomers? Drive times take twice as long as they should due to Porsche Convertibles going 5MPH slower then posted speed limits, everywhere, all the time. 
This trip was fairly spontaneous and we planned food-prep poorly, using our kitchen to mostly store sunscreen and granola bars, oh, and share it with a friendly gecko living under the stove. Regardless, we tried local foodie hangouts as much as we could. Annie's Fresh Island Burgers and Beer was our first stop after an 8-hour plane ride and a meal of Chex mix. Ya'know 'cause we had nose-bleed seats and all other $12 airplane hot-wiches were all gone by the time they got back to the toilets. Anyhow, normally, I am sketchy about roadside food, but I was hangry and the sign looked decent, it was very good and they served mai-tais. A nice respite since we landed in the down-pour of the century and we're all soaking wet with poodle-hair. The atmosphere in the restaurant was fun and friendly and the trees growing-up through the enclosed lanai was quintessential. 
We worried about the weather, rain was predicted for the entire long Presidents Day weekend. Crossed fingers as we went to bed at 9pm...midnight at home. 

I’m actually pale blue: it takes me a week of sunbathing to turn white. ~Billy Connolly

Day 2: First stop Kona Coffee. While the convenient stores were more north from our short-term rental, the coffee plantations were plentiful; however, most do not serve food. We ducked into Two-Step Cafe, quaint but we were quickly reminded of Island time, Island altitude and Island work-ethic, or lack-thereof. The macadamia nut milk was a treat, but I burnt the top of my mouth (damn that sea-level) and the croissant sandwich was cafe-quality at best and it took a-while and a missed order. And fair warning, the acaí porridge is served cold, brain-freeze cold. 
With promise of our best weather day for the weekend, we loaded up the snorkels and drove north of Kona to Makalawena beach. This is one of our favorite beaches anywhere but it is a bit of a hike, unless you take a back-road in. (Read more from our first trip here.) 5 years of growth in your kids makes the hike much easier. Now teenagers, they can carry their own towels, water bottles and beach paraphernalia, as opposed to last time when we had lost swimsuit bottoms and a piggy-back carry of our youngest, now taller then his eldest sister. 
While, there is a shorter approach parking lot at the other end, had we not taken the long way round, we would have missed the ginormous monk seal sunning herself, and the other mommy and pup at the more accessible public beach Kekaha Kai State Park. We found out later from a marine biologist that these seals are reclusive around the Islands and they are not normally found on land, particularly on a busy holiday weekend. Unfortunately, the single female was (anthropomorphically) grieving for her recently lost pup.

After a long day snorkeling, hiking and glorious sunbathing, we headed back south for shower and dinner. We desired an authentic Hawaiian dinner, and while most would think "luau", I think most natives would agree, luaus are overpriced, watered-down dinner theater for the tourist. Instead, we went to a motor-lodge diner that has been serving food on the Island for 100 years. The Manago is a local's favorite, if you're really well known, they even give you a white tablecloth. We were seated at a 50s Formica table and mismatched chairs.  My fame did not apparently proceed me... 
Asleep, adjusting to
3 hour time change
I felt a bit conspicuous with my sundress and cowrie shell necklace. But I wasn't Hilo Hattie Tourist, so we blended, as much as a freshie, sunburned houlie can blend-in. No menus, your protein choice of-the-day is listed on a chalk-board (mostly fresh fish & pork options), side dishes are all the same, served family style and of Japanese origin. A unique chautauqua feel to the whole restaurant, drinks are basic and under-involved. 

Hawaii is paradise. It sounds cheesy to say it, but there's music in the air there. ~Bruno Mars

Day 3: Up early again, Saturday. The weather was still questionable, the thought of luau's still in my mind (who wants to pay $114+/person?), we head into the main district of Kona. On the hunt for some good breakfast, we stop at a weekend market area and find A Whale of Crepes, myself being sensitive to eggs, sigh and resign myself to a frothy Kona almond milk latte. But, since the Boulder Hippie Retirees have also found Kona, The Whale also makes vegan crepes "all the time", gluten-free, too, but our Serbian entrepreneurs hate making both vegan and gluten-free combined...thankfully, I am not that high maintenance! Oh joy! Wait, what? Yep, I had a vegan crepe with pineapple, strawberries, blueberries and macadamia nuts! Um, yum! Anyhow, the married immigrants follow the whale migration with their crepes business, moving up to Alaska in the summer. 
Satiated for the time being, we head into tourist land and, lofting in the air is the sound of traditional Pahu drums. As serendipity will have it, we happened upon a legitimate hula contest. Mostly coming-of-age teens competing in various age brackets. Dancers come out in groups of 2-3 and they earn varying marks, semi-finals, finals, etc, girls and boys compete gender-wise. Yay! No luau needed and the only cost was our cheers. It's like watching a high school athletic competition, played with all heart, for the love of the game. Not for a paycheck or endorsements. 

Weather held out, girls got henna tattoos and then in the afternoon boys went snorkeling near Pu'uhonua National Historic Park at Two Step Bay. I, on the other hand, had a bad headache and tried to take a nap in the car with windows down, so I didn't have engine A/C running. Of course, on either side of where we parked were teens with loud cranking music, happy doors and musical cars (you might be getting old when...) Two Steps Bay is a lava flow that host some of the brightest fish for viewing, also popular with locals and tourists, easily accessible for young and old and real old. However, there is no real beach to enjoy and the girls couldn't go in the water because their "tats" had to set, so they looked out for cute boys, or did the cute boys look-out for them? 

If I had to come back in life, I'd come back as a dolphin... they're always smiling; they're always playing. ~Nathan Phillips

Day 4: Our most exciting day. Sunday was supposed to be the day we re-visited Volcano National Park, but John was getting really tired of the slow, circuitous driving and wanted more beach time. At first, we thought we'd trek down the hiking trail to the Captain Cook Monument, only 2 miles, but as we read, severely steep. Instead we decided to rent sea kayaks and paddle over to this popular snorkeling bay. 
Painted Church
     We rented from Bayside Adventures and they were a super nice, native-owned outfit. While snorkeling the Kealakekua Baywe saw, no less than 4 reef sharks and a large pod of 10-20 Spinner dolphins. They swam close enough to reach, but, of course, we kept our hands to ourselves (not that they would have actually let us touch-them, I imagine some pretty good sonar dolphin jokes about tourists toes and buoying fat Americans amongst these porpoises.)  We also managed to flip a kayak and soak our dry-bag all before lunch time. Good times! 
Not having elegant beach sufficiency, we headed to yet one more beach, the closest to our actual VRBO. Ho‘okena Beach Park is a real locals dig. It is a mostly black sand beach with a long sandy shelf and decent waves for surfing. Just for reference, black sand is made when hot lava temps and cold water meet and essential explode. This also means there are lots of lava outcropping and sharp lava edges. 

Cue dramatic music... 

My dear son, goes to the rental car, a Toyota Corolla, and digs out some snorkel gear we forgot, son dutifully returns and laid his shirt, cap, shoes near our towels. Concurrently, my middle daughter slips and SLICES the bottom of her big toe. I am half asleep, laying in the sun, husband is happily splashing about. Remember, I said, my kids are loads more self-sufficient. Middle child goes to rinse-off foot in beach shower, me in la-la land, and son has trotted-off playfully into the ocean. I hear a female voice yell "Marcy," I look at eldest, she is listening to her iPhone. "Marcy" again... I'm thinking "Hmmm...no girlfriends here, must be another Marcy." Odd but not unheard of...
Before the Injury - Smiling
Oh no...it's my other daughter bleeding profusely. A crowd is gathering, giving her bandaids and stitch-aides and I am just about the worst mom ever. So, I give my elder daughter a towel to go and help stymy the bleeding. And begin frantically looking for the car keys. Notice, I did not say my son left the car keys near our towels. Nope, now, daughter, still unattended by mother, I have to get my husband's attention, 50 yards out over the rolling waves, and I am essentially in panic mode. 
Thankfully, what my son did NOT do, is leave the keys in his pocket and go out swimming. Nor did he easily drop them along the route from car to towel. What he did do was lock them in the trunk.  
So, now, I have gathered the family and limped my daughter over to a gazebo. While my eldest and husband figure-out how to solve our lock-out problem, my bleeder sits at a park bench, and I administer roadside medical care, as best I can. 
     During which, a young, Hawaiian gal inquires about all the hub-bub. Upon explanation, my middle tells her this is the second time she has seriously cut herself on lava (first time was our first trip to Makalawena beach 5 years ago, permanent scar in the shape of the Hawaiian Archipelago). This young mom says to her: "That is Pele, she is calling you, she takes your blood to make you a part of this Island." Pele is the Hawaiian Goddess of Lava & Fire. I can't tell you how eerily happy this made my daughter feel.
So, how did we solve the key problem? I highly recommended not believing your belongings are safely locked in a 2017 Corolla trunk, thanks to Russian hackers on YouTube and my 17yos mad google skills, we found a video on how to pop the trunk from underneath the car. And we are pretty sure you can then shimmy into the main passenger area, although we didn't try. 
After all this, we decided to eat at a Japanese restaurant, started by a female coffee immigrant, who was forced to give up all her Japanese culture to avoid internment camp in WWII. Teshima's Restaurant thankfully did not give up all her recipes and has an excellent Hawaiian-flare Japanese food menu. The interior could use a little updating, and I am beginning to believe that most Hawaiians don't drink frou-frou drinks, mai-tais were few and far between. But yet, this is when the real storm of the century took hold of this mighty Island. Lightening literally splashed the Ocean. So much for our boat trip tomorrow.

People think it's very strange because I love whale watching - you don't see whales a lot where I'm from. ~Yuna

Day 5: Our sunniest day! Our second attempt to see whales with Capt Dan (McSweeney's) Whale Watch. 5 years ago, we took a guaranteed whale watching boat trip. No whales, no problem, keep the certificates and come again, next time you're in Hawaii. Guess what, I did, we did and they honored the certificates, despite the fact that he does not seem to offer the guarantee any more (or maybe he just doesn't publish the policy) and only runs trips Jan, Feb, and March (our first trip was in April). I did have to pay the difference for now having young adults, not children, but this time we saw several whales, spouts, tails and fairly up-close. We also had a pod of bottle-nosed dolphins play in our wake. 

A nice, non-beach day that lead to our 9pm flight departure, nose-bleed seats again. Due to our cheap-seats, we got shifted and separated due to many disgruntled stand-bys from last nights rain-cancelled flights (but our sunny boat day!) Our road-weary and tan-bodies arrived to -2 degree snowy Colorado.  Not to speak in absolutes, but snow-birding in HI might be in my future. 

Eventually, I want to move to Hawaii and chill forever. ~ Riley Keough