2017 Travel Log: Day 1, Hawaii on Vacation
Tuesday, February 14, 2017 10:40 AM
Don't think you need a vacation? You will after packing for the trip and getting the house ready before you to leave. There is everything from bill paying to house cleaning. This is just in case you get hit by a tour bus and never come back; you don't want your next of kin who have to go through all your stuff thinking that you were a slob.
The Bus to Boston loads passengers as the worst part of the winter of 2017 begins. (Photos by Tom Sadowski)
6 a.m. It's snowing and dark. We jump out of bed because there are still things to do. We need to be ready by 7:45 when my buddy Tim comes to pick us up for a ride to the bus. The plan is to take the bus to Boston and then fly to Hawaii. We are flying because my wife says that it's impractical for us to drive. I grumble.
7:45 a.m. Tim and his wife Joyce show up. They are always willing to do us a favor especially one that will get us out of their hair for a week or more. We load our luggage and stinky garbage into their car and head for the dumpster. We can't leave fresh garbage in the house now can we?
We start toward Camden but no vacation is complete without turning around, coming back, unlocking the house and retrieving something we forgot. Sometimes it's passports, tickets or a family member but this time it's my wife's cell phone. We head again for the bus.
We each have a bag and a carry-on suitcase that is 2 inches bigger than what the airlines allows. Not to worry my wife assures me. She is a seasoned traveler and has all kinds of airline experience. The plan is to “gate check” the carry on baggage so it doesn't get in people's way and it doesn't cost us as airlines charge for checked baggage now. I grumble.
We also have a suitcase which we plan to check. So that's five bags from small to large between the two of us. At the bus stop my wife purchases tickets to Boston and two cups of coffee. That is great because we've slept four hours and have not had our morning coffee. The only difficulty now is that I have to use one hand to hold the coffee, one for the ticket and my other three hands to tote the baggage.
The bus departed on time and is definitely the way to go, not to spoil the story, but the bus to Boston is the best part of our journey to Hawaii. We have reclining seat with ample leg room. Snow intensifies and snow plows pass, cars spin out and gas stations and doughnut shops go by that we can ignore. After a short time TV screens are activated and a movie starts to play. I figure no one will want to watch Roman Polanski's film “Oliver Twist” at 9 in the morning but I look over at my wife who is sitting there with her headphones on, already entranced.
Snow falls heavily. Driving becomes treacherous but the bus merrily passes all the cars that are inching along. Contrary to her normal tendency under these conditions, my wife makes no move to tell the driver that he is going too fast and had better watch out for this or that hazard or to slow down. This in spite of the fact that from high up in the bus seats you can plainly see that the puny highway guardrail could never stop a bus from riding over it: a minor speed bump on the way down some steep, deep ravine. This tendency not to engage the driver is indeed interesting and warrants further study.
9:54 a.m. Coincidentally, we pass by the Snow Squall Inn and Bar in Wiscasset, Maine, and we stop at Huber's Market to pick up two passengers so bundled up that they may as well ride as packages in the cargo compartment.
Arriving in Portland, Maine, half-way to Boston we must transfer to a different bus. When this express bus gets on its way you get the choice of watching the traffic or Disney's “Jungle Book.” I choose the traffic. I figure the visibility is 100 to 200 feet. Again we pass all slower vehicles. The only car that manages to pass us has some kind of surf board tied to the roof rack. There is something desperate about his driving.
12:24 p.m. We pass over the bridge into New Hampshire while Jungle Boy deals with honey bees. The storm intensifies even more as we pass the New Hampshire Liquor Outlet without so much as slowing down. Could it be we are behind schedule?
I am starting to doubt if we will make it to our flight — as if any responsible person would even consider flying in this storm. But as we approach the airport in Boston conditions improve to a severely miserable slushy rain with sleet and dense fog. We are very surprised to be delivered on time to the airport. The only possible explanation is that this is the “Magic Bus” referred to by The Who on their 1968 psychedelic rock album of the same name.
Check-in is a breeze but then there is security. Before we are even allowed to get in line to be screened, we are stopped by TSA agents for having carry-on luggage that is two inches too big for their liking. We are sent back to the ticket counter to check those bags at $25 each, where I suspect without any credible evidence, that 50% of the fees go back to the TSA agents working the entrance to the security line. There is a strongly worded conversation here between my wife and me, details of which can not be released to this publication. Use your imagination.
On the way to our gate we run into Tom Brady or maybe just a generic Patriots team member portrayed as a large football-throwing balloon man. We stop for a quick photo. Eventually we board the crowded plane.
Crouching down to look out my widow that is about as big as the glass on a diving mask, I notice that the end of the wing is bent upwards; not just a little part of it but the last 4 feet and it's not bent just a little but a full 45 degrees. It's graceful but it's like one of the food service trucks backed into the wing and the driver never told the pilot. I try to see if the wing on the other side of the plane has an identical bend but that is impossible.
We undergo a de-icy-ing procedure where a crew on cherry pickers sprays the plane down with high pressure washers that you can get at Home Depot. De-icy-ing is a tremendous confidence builder for passengers let me tell you. What they apply is anybody's guess but I though I saw the crew sucking on the end of the nozzles in between spraying the plane.
Los Angeles, California
We manage to get to a restaurant on the way to our gate where we split a cheeseburger that we are able to secure for 2075 prices. We hurry onto the plane which takes off toward a mere speck in the middle of a vast ocean in the dark.
Things are cramped. The inside of the plane is so smooth that there is no place to get a hand hold or friction point where you can jam your hand to rest your head against. Since the TV is built into the back of each seat, you can't put your head against that either. I end up sleeping in fits upright, like a bobble head waking each time my head falls. We experience moderately severe turbulence at 32,000 feet for at least an hour. This is the altitude that is pretty much always smooth and quiet.
The islands of Hawaii come into view and I think I hear the crew high-fiving each other in the cockpit. We land without incident at 20 past midnight.
We hurry down the concourse toward baggage claim through doors which open onto another long walkway. You can see palm trees announcing that you have made it to the tropics. Continuing, you are struck by that fresh, warm, fragrant and perfectly moist Hawaiian air. There are no windows on either side of the walkway. They don't need any windows. This is Hawaii.
The trick is to get the rental car before the rental car office closes at 1 a.m. Miraculously, everything goes smoothly. We drive through virtually deserted highways and streets into Honolulu. We are tired and rummy and hungry even though we have had a half-hamburger and two 0.75-ounce bags of pretzels each. Good thing the airlines did not offer an option on the plane to purchase a meal or we may have over-eaten.
The advantage of arriving after midnight is that there is no traffic. The disadvantage is that after you find your hotel and find a way to contact someone to come to the front desk, there is a $28 late check-in fee.
We get into our room at 2:15 a.m. Considering the five-hour time difference, that is nearly 24 hours of tortuous, beat-your-head-against-the-wall travel time. We decide to hit the late night Waikiki bar scene. By accident we sit down on the bed and are unable to get up. All we can do is lay there in the fresh, warm, fragrant and perfectly moist Hawaiian air.