In Mormon-ville for the last supper

When I think of northeastern Oahu, if I think of it at all,  a sense of isolation along a desolate seashore of coral reefs is evoked.  This area of the island seems even more removed from “the Waikiki mentality” than where we are staying a short distance away to the north at Turtle Bay.

The Laie Mormon Temple on north end of town.

The Laie Mormon Temple on north end of town.

It was to Laie for supper in the real backcountry of Oahu that we drove on our last night in Hawaii.  The drive from our condo rental is only six miles in physical distance.  But, to me, it is much farther in mileage of mind and spirit, much like traversing Oahu’s backwater towns on the west coast.

Most guests leaving Turtle Bay for a night on the town, make a right turn out of the resort and steer west 12 miles to the North Shore’s bustling epicenter of Hale’iwa.

Taking a right to the east and going to Laie, then, was akin to going back in time, to the 1950s in rural America where I grew up.

It was dark by the time Nebra piloted our rented Elantra into town, past the village of Kahuku, the tires squishing on the pavement under a burst of rain.

I had driven through here three or four times before on the Kamehameha Highway, that narrow two-lane road that arcs around the eastern part of the island to Kailua and on down to Honolulu.   The Kam, as it is called, can drive the impatient  visitor to insanity with its 35 mph speed limits and double-yellow, no-passing center lines.  Get stuck behind an old smoker of a vehicle and it may take hours to reach the big town of Kane’ohe just 20 miles south.  That 20 miles, by the way, is what I have called “the hidden Oahu.”  One good thing about the Kam.   I have yet to see a semi-truck on this stretch.

I pronounced Laie as “lah-ee-aye,” but have since learned that is not quite right.  It is, I read, “LAH-ee-yeh.”  Whatever, it is a lot more exotic than saying “Ter-tle Bay.”

Most visitors know Laie as home to the large tourist attraction on the south end called the Polynesian Cultural Center.  Some days you find almost as many tour buses in the parking lot as cars.

But the first thing you realize about this town when coming in from the north is the presence of the Church of Latter Day Saints, or the Mormon Church.  The large Temple rests a few blocks west of the Kam.  It is lit up this night like a star, more gaudy than godly.

The Mormon presence has been here for many years now.  The church purchased this former plantation land in 1865.  The Temple itself was the first ever built outside the continental U.S. and dedicated in 1919.  About 60 years ago, the church constructed a college campus here too, Brigham Young University-Hawaii.  The school’s enrollment is said to be 2,800.  Their athletic teams, appropriately, are known as the Seasiders.  The Pacific rolls in a half-mile east.

In town, I had Nebra pull into the first shopping center I saw.  I was hungry, and even though it is a small place with only 6,138 residents at the last census, I did not want to spend the rest of the evening looking for the perfect restaurant.  My eye caught  familiar signs from corporate America.   Pizza Hut, Subway and Starbucks.  They mixed in with several local businesses.  An ice cream parlor, a burger grill et al.   We opted for Chinese at “Liae Chop Suey.”  A sign painted on the glass door said, “Serving the Community Since 1983.”

Liae Chop Suey was humming.  We took the last available table, by the door.  As I looked around the room, I discovered we were the only Caucasians in the place.  The others looked Hawaiian.  And they all seemed to know each other.  As a new male patron entered, he would go around the room clasping hands with friends.  A family of six sat at the big center table.  A hefty older woman seated nearby with two men, eyed us curiously, I thought.  It was like she could not believe two haoles would dare venture in to a local  ethnic environment.  But on second thought, I wondered if she resented us taking up space that other locals waiting to be seated had more right to.  I let the thought drift and concentrated on the meal.

I made the mistake of ordering the “Dinnerplate,” a sumptuous serving of just about everything the restaurant offered.  My first choice of “Shrimp Chow Mein” would have been more sensible with a lot less food for the same $8 price.  Nebra and I shared a pot of hot tea.  In all, it was an evening well spent, our only rubbing of elbows with the people who actually live here year-round, and they the very ones who, in varying degrees, resent mainland tourists who threaten their fragile environment and way of life.

It is this edginess between the old world of the Hawiian culture and the constant pressure of new development that makes Oahu such an appealing destination.  Tranquil this island may seem.  But poke under the surface a bit and it is quite different.  And then too there is the sad history of the U.S. military here at the start of WWII.

Leaving town in a tropical shower that obscured the Kam a bit, we turned into road that led up to the Temple, and stopped at the now-idle traffic circle.

Two young kids, a male and female, sat talking softly in the darkness nearby and paid us no attention.  I pulled out my Canon and took a long distance photo of the Temple shining so brightly 100 yards  away.  I wanted to get closer but the gate was closed and, I assumed, locked.  A fence of iron ran around the property.  Strange, I thought, that a church would lock out the world for even a night.

As we drove off, I checked the photo taken in the dark just to be assured it did not have a blurry image.  It was OK.  But one thing.  The Temple glowed in a more brilliant white than what I saw with the eye.  I stared at the surreal image for a while and soon came to feeling that the photo was a symbolic rendering of what I felt.  That on this night, in some small way, I had been illuminated about the Hawaiian culture and not been intimidated by it.

I hoped the patrons in Laie Chop Suey did not see us as arrogant mainlanders, the “ugly Americans” of a 1958 bestseller.  To that end, I made one silly yet sincere gesture.

The “Dinnerplate” had proven more food than I could eat in one serving, or maybe in two.  Rather than seem wasteful, I asked for a container and pushed my left-overs into it with the chop-sticks I had used to eat.  I knew I would not eat the food later.  We were leaving Turtle Bay early in the morning to catch a flight back to Phoenix.  Yet I wanted to make a statement of some kind.

That was the best I could think of.  Aloha.

Looking for turtles at Turtle Bay

Turtle Bay:  No place for turtles apparently.

Turtle Bay: No place for turtles apparently.

You have to assume there are turtles at Turtle Bay on the North Shore of Oahu.  That’s what I did.  Assume.  But what you find at Turtle Bay is an empty dream.  There are no turtles there on the west side of the resort hotel.  Nor, for that matter, are there any  swimmers, surfers or snorkelers.  It is just one big bay with lots of coral reef and too little beach.  If it’s turtles you want, they say, go farther west, to Kawela Bay.

So that’s what we did.

There was jungle . . .

There was jungle . . .

These are not your garden-variety turtles we sought.   The Green Sea turtles of Hawaii are huge.  Some, I read, reach 200 pounds or more.  We saw them several years ago when we visited Kona on the Big Island.  From our condo rental’s lanai at seaside on the south end of Kona, we could look down on a tidal pool and at a certain time of day, the one or two Green Sea turtles would cavort there.  Now, I wanted to see the turtles again.

The hike up to Kawela Bay from our condo rental at Turtle Bay is probably a mile.   Unless you’re into hopping the sharp-edged coral reef,  you take a flat and sandy jeep trail through a jungle that in places is so thick it is impenetrable.  Even with a machete, it would take hours to cut through 50 yards of it.

The state of Hawaii is trying to buy three miles of pristine seashore from resort owners.  The state wants to save the land from development and is now haggling over the price.  One of the tracts is Kahuku Point, the northernmost spot on Oahu.  The other is Kawela Bay.

And there were mysterious pillars.

And there were mysterious pillars.

Kawela is a serene place.  The big waves that blast elsewhere along the North Shore do not come in here.  The bay is as calm as any Minnesota lake on a windless day.  And the beach is used mostly by a handful of locals.  The fussy resort crowd stays closer home.  Kawela in fact is so tame, instructors feel at ease to give surfing lessons here for beginners.

Coming in to Kawela from around the old military bunker at Protection Point, my eyes are trained on the sea.  I am looking for a dark object in the water, one that moves when it ought not —  and hope it does not have a dorsal fin.  And then you wait, I’m told, for the Green Sea turtle to poke up its head for a breath of air.  Maybe there will even be one on shore.

But there is nothing.  Not on land or sea.

Nebra and I eventually work our way down to the best part of the beach where about 20 others are stretched out in the sand.  Some go into the ocean for a dip or to paddle on surfboards.  Nebra dons rented snorkel gear — the mask, breathing tube and flippers — and slips into the water.

But no turtles at peaceful Kawela Bay.

But no turtles at peaceful Kawela Bay.

Within 20 minutes, a disappointed Nebra returns to the sand.  No fish and of course no turtles.   The water is so clouded with sediment, she says, that she could barely see her hands.   The recent high winds have stirred up the North Shore beaches so much that the surf appears brown in places.

A heavy young woman on a towel next to us has had Achilles surgery on both feet.  She is as helpless on land as a sea turtle.  And nearly as large.  Helped from the sea by a woman friend, she begins to sketch the bay with a colored pencil.  No turtle can do that.

As late afternoon approaches, we head back toward the condo.  It is still on our minds to see turtles, and there is one other beach down the highway about 10 miles that supposedly gets the Green Sea turtle.   I can’t remember its official name, but some call it Turtle Beach.

Mostly paddle-boarders at Kawela Bay.

Mostly paddle-boarders at Kawela Bay.

But, again, disappointment.  By the time we reach Turtle Beach it is dark and, like a lot of minor beaches on North Shore, there appears no access from the Kamehameha Highway, the busy, two-lane artery that runs along North Shore.  But we gave it a try.

In the end, we saw only “the little sea turtles,” as I called them.

There were five of them out at the northeast corner of Kawela where modest 5-foot waves occasionally roll in, kids, beginning surfers, that would not dare  stick a toe in the violent thrashings to the west at fabled Waimea Bay.  Many of the North Shore beaches are sealed off this week by yellow crime tape with signs saying the surf is too dangerous.

We layed down on beach towels and watched them for a while, a few adults nearby shouting out encouragement.   Whether you are a world-class surfer that competes for the Triple Crown at Waimea, Banzai and Sunset beaches or an amateur,  the technique is always the same.

You paddle away from shore, the stomach flat on the board, and at a mysterious point,  probably dictated by instinct, you stop and sit up and stare out at the sea, waiting for the next good wave, for not all waves are created equal.  Finding the good one, you push off, quickly rise to your feet and try to ride the wave toward shore.

Our little turtles, though, did not ride far, some of them only a few feet before crashing into the foam beneath their tanned feet.  Some admit failure, and leap into the water, no hesitation.   But they try again.  You have to admire that.

. . . and one of my "little turtles" heading to shore.

. . . and one of my “little turtles” heading to shore.

Sadly, the only big turtle we saw all day was the one painted on the outlooking wing of the Turtle Bay Resort hotel.

So, no turtles at Turtle Bay.  It doesn’t seem right.

For the real thing, I guess, we’ll have to try again on our next visit to Oahu.

All of this has led me to at least one conclusion.  Call something “turtle” up here on North Shore, be it beach or bay, and you will find no real-life turtles at all.

In the President’s footsteps

The first Pillbox on the trail:  A fun hangout for locals.
The first Pillbox on the trail: A fun hangout for locals.

The trail was steep and the Oahu sun beat down on us like oven heat as we approached the first Pillbox.  Wasn’t much to it.  A mass of World War II concrete on a high hill overlooking the Pacific on the south end of Kialua.  The bunker with its long and narrow peep-hole of a lookout is disgraced by neglect and colorful graffiti which adorns every available pore of surface, inside and out.

It was up to this long-abandoned pillbox that the President of the United States, Barack Obama, hiked two years ago to the date, December 27.  I saw the photo.  There was Obama, the cool dude, decked out in tan shorts and a stylish forest-green button-down shirt, hiking along on a flat spot in the trail.  Michelle, the First Lady, is just in front, her head down in black leotards and a blue shirt with eldest daughter, Sasha, in the lead.  Behind this trio is a man in dark sunglasses.  Secret Service, obviously.

As Nebra and I trudged uphill, taking in large gasps of ocean air, you had to wonder:  What is so special about this place?

Apparently the answer for Obama lays in nostalgia.  This trail, officially the Lanakai Pillboxes, was a favorite of Obama’s as a kid growing up in Honolulu.

So we, like many others, hiked this trail, wanting to trace Obama’s footsteps.  History of a faint sort.  The faintest sort, you might say.

Once we reached the first pillbox we found another.  This one even higher up on the trail.  The trail and the pillboxes are inhabited largely by young kids, mostly in their teens.  They lounge around on the pillboxes, boys showing off to their not so easily impressed girlfriends. Just having a good time.

I can’t imagine Michelle or Sasha enjoying this trail for juveniles.   I’m no snob, but this trek seemed two or three levels below a First Family hike.  Views are nice, yet you can find nicer ones elsewhere.  Honestly, it’s not worth the cardio needed to get up there.

The Pillbox Trail was another thing you do in life because you feel you have to do it at least once.

The Obamas are staying on the island again for Christmas.  Right up the road.  Big upscale house overlooking Kane’ohe Bay, I read.  We also read yesterday the President did another hike on the 27th this year, to Manoa Falls.  It’s just north of Kialua and its sister city Kane’ohe.  The Falls trail apparently crosses through the film locations of “Jurassic Park” and “Lost.”  Crap.

Suppose well just have to do that one the next time we visit the island.

Inside the crater, among the masses

My first obligatory photo, this of downtown Honolulu and Waikiki.

My first obligatory photo, this of downtown Honolulu and Waikiki.

We hiked to the highest point on Diamond Head yesterday, its stunning views all but ruined by swarms of other visitors armed with cameras and camcorders and ushering along noisy and sometimes unhappy children, up the short but steep trail of slick tuff that includes three sets of metal stairs, two tunnels and a final spiral staircase to the top.

At the Fire Control Tower on the Le’ahi Summit, it was elbow to elbow, so much togetherness in fact that I sat down a couple of times with my camera and trekking pole and just looked at the simplest thing I could find.  My feet.   It was not surprising to see so many Asian faces.  After all, Hawaii is truly, and thankfully, America’s foreign country.  I shot my obligatory photos, downtown Honolulu, Waikiki and the Diamond Head lighthouse, then descended with Nebra on the now less busy trail as the 6 o’clock closing time loomed.

Looking down on another obligatory photo, the lighthouse

Looking down on another obligatory photo, the lighthouse

The hike had started with a pleasant surprise as the Elantra emerged inside the crater from the narrow Kahala Tunnel and paid the $5 admission fee per vehicle.

Unlike Haleakala, Diamond Head’s  smoky, arid big-brother on Maui, we found the inside of dwarfish Diamond Head lush with trees and tropical plants.  And birds.  I added two avian creatures to my life list here by the trailhead.  One was the Brazilian Cardinal, a dazzling red-head with a white border for a neck, the other a black-crested Red-Vented Bulbil, an invasive that gobbles up orchids like pie, causing growers havoc to the tune of $800,000 annually.

The right idea:  Getting away from the masses.

The right idea: Getting away from the masses.

Inside the crater it is idllyic.  A hush of the outside world.  The cacophony of Honolulu and the residential areas that snuggle up to the sides of Diamond Head, vanish.  You think for a moment you are in another world.  Another world, anyway, until you hit the cement walkway that starts the 560-foot rise to the summit over 8/10 of a mile.

If nothing else, we chose the right time of day for the hike.  When we left the parking lot and trailhead, it was 4 o’clock.  The trail was mostly in shadow, and we missed baking in the sun of morning and early afternoon.

A proud Nebra on the descent.

A proud Nebra on the descent.

Diamond Head, I found, is not a hike I would want to repeat.  Good physical exercise, but mentally aggravating.   Tourists ae loving this place to death.  Statistics show 800,000 visitors annually.  That’s an average of 2,192 a day.  I think we passed every one of them today.

On vacations, though, there are some thing you have to do.  And reaching the summit of one of the world’s most-recognized landmarks was one of them.

Inside the crater:  Tranquility.

Inside the crater: Tranquility.

But on vacations like this, you have to do some of the obvious stuff. And reaching the summit on Diamond Head was one of them.

An Oahu Christmas after all

After all the limping and zig-zagging, cursing and agony to get here two days late, we had our Christmas on Oahu.   I don’t know what I expected, but I now know this.  Christmas on Oahu is not like Christmas on the mainland, USA.   It is almost like having no Christmas at all.

"Merry Christmas" in Hawaiian.

“Merry Christmas” in Hawaiian.

You see almost no Christmas trees lit up in house windows.  Shopping malls string a few lights around a tree or two, maybe, but that’s it.   Certainly there is no music, no sounds of “A White Christmas,” no Santa Clauses with kids on their laps, nary a single “ho-ho-ho.”   And if you walk into any retail store, it is like going there on any other day of the year.  Even on Christmas Eve.  No big rush, no last-minute panic shopping.   It’s all very layed back.

There were some token efforts.  At Hale’iwa Joe’s restaurant in Hale’iwa we found surfboards decorated with colorful wreaths.  And along the Kamehameha Highway west of Honolulu the local electric company had made a large tinsel sign of gold, wishing everyone Merry Christmas in Hawaiian:  “Mele Kalikimaka.”

The spiritual side of Christmas is ignored completely.  There is no mention of God or Jesus.  And I did not see a single Nativity Scene.  Not even in front of a church, not at St. Peter and Paul, a Catholic Church above Waimea Beach on North Shore.  Nor by a Lutheran Church near Wai’anae along the western shore.   Nowhere.

At Honolulu Hale, the seat of city and county government, there is an annual display called Honolulu City Lights.  It was a grand disappointment to at least one Christian who wrote the local newspaper, the Star-Adverister.  He enjoyed the lights, but penned, “The major flaw every year, however, is the fact there is no trace, no reference to Christ.”

A cashier at the busy Foodland grocery in Pupukea told us, that elsewhere in the U.S. they know it’s Christmas when it snows, but on North Shore they know it’s Christmas when the waves are high.   It was Christmas Eve and the store was staying open until 11 p.m.  It didn’t seem to matter to our cashier or any of the other employees.

As for Nebra and I, we awoke late on Christmas Day at a place called Turtle Bay.  It’s on the opposite end of the island from Honolulu and Waikiki.  North Shore, they call it.   Up here they dislike tourism and despise land developers.   “Nuff hotels,” reads a sign along the highway.  This is a land of big waves, the biggest on Oahu.  The largest town in the area, Hale’iwa, proclaims it is “The Surfing Capital of The World.”   The Triple Crown of Surfing finished up a few weeks ago on three beaches west of us.

At our small condo, we slipped from the bedroom loft into a living room with no Christmas tree, no lights, no ornaments, no presents.   It was almost like any other day in the year.  Except it was 77 F. outside and mostly sunny here at the top of Oahu.  We opened up the large windows in front and the kitchen door in back and allowed a balmy almost sweet breeze to waft through the condo.  Beautiful puffs of cumulus dotted a deep-blue sky.

The northernmost point on Oahu is a rough corral reef.

The northernmost point on Oahu is a rough corral reef.

After a homemade breakfast of oatmeal, toast and jelly, coffee, tea, and some OJ, we set out on a hike out to Kahuku Point, the northernmost spot on Oahu.  It was a little over a mile out there and it was magical walking on the sandy trail under a dense canopy of palms and a zillion other trees and plants I’d never seen before.

Kahuku Point’s history was engaging.  It was the site of an old World War II military air base, 1942 until the late Forties.  The place was protected by ground troops who built bunkers , or pillboxes, along the shore.  Two of the runways lay below the lush fairways of the resort’s two golf courses, I read.

The point itself is nothing but an extremely rough coral reef, gray with sharp edges and little pools of rainwater.  We got out to within about 20 yards of the very tip of Kahuku Point and turned back.  The reef was too dangerous.  Breakers rolled in from the northern Pacific 10-20 feet hight and beat on the reef.

It would’ve taken a half hour of careful steps and balancing to get out there.  It wasn’t worth it.   The only other humans out there were two men and a woman, all fishing off the east side with long poles.  I waved at one of the men, and he waved back.  The woman caught a small fish, Nebra said.

Poor Santa, washed ashore near a coral reef.

Poor Santa, washed ashore near a coral reef.

On the way back down from Kahuku Point, we found a touch of Christmas along the shore.  A young girl was squatted by the sea in her bathing suit, a Santa’s cap of red and white pulled down casually with her pony-tail exposed.  At least there was that.

At the end of the day, Nebra cooked up a nice Christmas supper of baked ham, Okinawa red sweet potatoes and green beans.  We hit the sack too soon for the cheesecake.

It was an unusual Christmas for us.  But I’m far from complaining.  In fact it was a nearly perfect Christmas as far as I was concerned.

A zig and a zag across the Pacific

I awoke Sunday morning feeling edgy.  It was 5 o’clock and I waited there in the strange bed for the wake-up call at 6:15.  A crucial day of travel was arising with the San Francisco dawn.  I was so groggy I could barely remember our 9 o’clock flight last night from Phoenix and the late shuttle to the Holiday inn.

I was beginning to think we’d never make it to Oahu for Christmas.

Sadly, there was nothing  to do now but let U S Airways handle it, the very people who had screwed it up to begin with.  I could pray to the gods of travel of course.   But it was those fickle spirits who’d allowed the airline to cancel our Friday night flight to Honolulu.  Mechanical problems, they said.   Right.  Just think, we should’ve been picking up our rental car in Waikiki  about now.  Not languishing in a Bay-Area hotel a thoursand or so miles away.  I know.  I could be more generous.  The airline could’ve flown that “defective” plane right into the deep Pacific, and where would we be now?

Anyway, the day ahead was strewn with obstacles.  Everything had to work clickety-click.  I wasn’t optimistic.

There was a shuttle to catch in 45 minutes to the San Francisco airport.  Two plane connections to make on two different airlines after flying the previous night to San Francisco on a third.  A rental car to pick up by 5 p.m.  A key to retrieve from a mailbox at a vaguely-described shopping mall in a Hawaiian town so obscure I couldn’t pronounce its name.  Then after all that, drive another 12 miles in darkness to our condo rental following written directions that were not much clearer than lava.

As we hopped on the 7:10 shuttle, I was well into possible options should things continue to go awry.

To my relief, and surprise really, almost everything worked out as scheduled.  Almost.

Our United Airlines flight to Kona arrived right on the money, with plenty of time to catch the Hawaiian Airlines connection to Honolulu.  And, ta-dah, there we stood in the Honolulu Airport at 3 o’clock.  Clickety-click.  Until we reached Baggage Claim the Hawaiian carousel.  My bag arrived but Nebra’s didn’t.

While the clock ticked away valuable minutes, we tried to put the baggage mystery in focus.  Finally, we learned Nebra’s roller-bag missed the Kona flight from San Francisco and was sent on a nonstop United flight and arrived on the island long before my bag did.  Trouble was  the bag rested on a carousel at the other end of the airport.  And time to pickup the rental car was fleeting.  It was now 3:30 with a 10-mile ride by taxi to the Enterprise agency on Waikiki looming.  Decision time.

We had saved about $300 by renting the car off-site rather than at the airport Enterprise, and I wanted Nebra to help with the driving.  That in essence meant Nebra had to appear with me in Waikiki to sign on as a co-driver.  Her bag could wait.  We’d pick it up later.

The rental car savings made a $40 cab ride into town palatable.  And the Chinese driver who spoke broken English got us to the car agency in great time despite what I called heavy traffic on the H-1.  “It’s nothing today,” he said as he wheeled smoothly from one lane to another.  No one even honked at us in anger.  Layed-back Hawaiians, I guess.

It took only about 20 minutes to make arrangements with Enterprise and check out the dark gray Elantra.   And we were back at the Airport by 4:45 to snatch Nebra’s bag and start to head north on the H-2 to Hale’iwa, where we would find the condo key with no problem at a closed realty agency.

I felt heady by then, and we walked across the shopping center for a supper at a sports bar called Breakers.  It was a beautiful evening, right there at seaside on North Shore of Oahu.  I  felt so good in fact that obnoxious drunk a table near didn’t faze me.  He went nuts watching his Eagles rout the Bears on TV.

It was dark by the time Nebra wheeled us in to the Turtle Bay Resort  near the northern-most point on Oahu.  And, thankfully, far away from that internment camp for Mainland tourists, Waikiki.  Do not like that place.  North Shore is for all practical purposes the back-country of the island.  “Keep Country Country” is a popular slogan up here.   Surfing is king.  Not much truck for whims of haole tourists.

And, after staggering around in the dark trying to decipher directions to our condo unit, we finally found it.  A gated community south of the big hotel.  We punched in the access code, the crossbar lifted and, after a right turn into a small parking lot, voila, we were home for the Holidays.  Just 42 hours later than anticipated.  But home.

Nothing to it at all.

Limping to Paradise

I did not expect the gods of travel to pave our road to Oahu in gold.  But I did not foresee the havoc they created last night.

Our plan was simple.  Fly to Honolulu, stay one night in a Waikiki hotel, pickup a rental car the next morning and drive to our destination on North Shore for Christmas.   If only . . . .

Our flight to Honolulu, third from top, delayed.

Our flight to Honolulu, third from top, delayed.

This was our Friday evening:

Expecting crowds coming and going for the Holidays, we arrived two hours early at Sky Harbor Airport here in Phoenix for a 6 o’clock direct flight to Honolulu via U.S. Airways.  We passed through the security check-point in a breeze.  Everything seemed to be going smoothly.

Within an hour, though, it was announced our flight would be delayed two hours, until 8 p.m. for “maintenance.”  Within another hour more bad news.  Our plane was “pulled out of service.”  We would have to wait for a second plane coming in at 11:11, delaying our departure until midnight.

Around 10 o’clock, the flight was scrubbed altogether.  Aborted.  No way apparently the second-plane connection was doable without crunching the entire system.  U.S. Airways officials could not tell us how, when or if we could get to Honolulu.  “Hours, days, we don’t know right now,” one clerk said.

Passengers lined up in front of two desks where airlines clerks handed out hotel assignments and vouchers for the night’s lay-over.  But since we live in Phoenix and would prefer going back home for the night, nothing could be done for us.  Not even a voucher for a taxi to take us the 8 miles to our house.  Liability problems, we were told.  Get receipts and contact Customer Service.  Didn’t sound good.

Nebra and I left for home at 11 o’clock, after spending 7 hours in the airport.  Even then, we did not know if we would even be able to get to Oahu for Christmas.  We were given an “888” telephone number to call as early as 5 a.m.  The Reservations Department would be able to tell us more then.

They hoped to create a special flight that would take the 190 stranded passengers in Phoenix to Honolulu and return to the mainland the 190 passengers stranded in Honolulu.  Or come up with a patchwork of flights that would eventually get us to our destination.

At 6 a.m, the alarm awakened Nebra.  She made the call to Reservations.  It was the patchwork plan.  No direct flight possible.

Under Plan No. 2, we will leave tonight at 9 on a U.S. Airways flight, just 27 hours later than anticipated.  This flight will take us only to San Francisco.   We can either sleep in the airport or get lodging there.  Whatever, the airlines will not pay for anything.

At 9:15 a.m. on Sunday, we are to catch a United Airlines flight to Kona, on the big island of Hawaii, and, after an hour’s layover, we will fly on to Honolulu, arriving there at 3:12 in the afternoon.  That’s the schedule anyway.  The reality is yet to unfold.

Providing everything goes well under this revised plan, our arrival in Paradise will come 42 hours later than anticipated.  One thing is for certain.  This weekend on Oahu is wiped out.   But there is still in time for Christmas in “The Islands.”  We hope.