The trip began with a drive to the Seattle airport and a quick goodbye hug with Mommy and Sophia. We had packed six one pound barrels of Kraft grated parmesan cheese in our two international-sized roll-ons. Vince had asked for as much as we could carry, and some gourmet chipotle chili pepper spice. I’m not sure if six pounds was what he had in mind, but we took it as a challenge to get it there. Later we found that the cheesy commodity goes for $64/pound in the South Pacific, about five times what we paid for it. Operation Provide Cheese (OPC) was underway. We were of course stopped for a search once the security scanner at SEATAC noticed the anomalies. We were later inspected in Fiji as well, and had concerns about Tonga; more about that later.
The first planned stop was the Alaska Airlines Board Room at SEATAC. Connor had always wanted to use it, so we had arrived early. The highlight of the visit was the discovery of a fully-automated pancake machine. We spent about 30 minutes in the room, having second breakfast and relaxing. Then we went out to get Starbucks, but found a huge line. We went to the other Starbucks – same problem. Finally we settled for Seattle’s Best (second-best at best, despite being owned by Starbucks). By the time we got a latte and got over to the gate, the entire plane was boarded and they were calling our names on the PA. We boarded without anyone checking our tickets, which was a bit unusual. We were hoping we were on the flight to Honolulu.
The MVP Gold free first class upgrades on Alaska were great for the long flight. We had third breakfast in flight. We decided to buy the $35 WiFi service, since the $19 service said it was limited to 150 miles offshore. We found that the $35 service was equally limited. We were able to have a short Skype conversation but after that were on our own. We need to remember to cancel that Gogo subscription. The flight went by quickly. Connor searched for first sight of land and eventually saw the Big Island and then Oahu.
We had only our two roll-ons and a backpack, so getting out of the airport was quick. As we were walking through the open-air causeway within the terminal a pair of F-15s took off and joined overhead in full burner, right in front of us. A nice little air show! We went to a restroom and put on shorts and sandals and headed out to get a ride. After calling the hotel we learned that they didn’t have a shuttle. And after waiting for at least 15 minutes for the airport shuttle, we opted for a cab. The cabbie was a Cambodian named Tanty. I had guessed his nationality from his last name, which surprised him. He had lived in Boston but moved to Hawaii to get as far away from his psycho ex-girlfriend as possible. He said she took all of his money and his son and that he was in court for two years. I told Connor that it was a good story, and maybe some of it was true.
We paid Tanty and asked him to wait as we checked our bags at the hotel, since we were too early to check in. We got back into his cab after about 10 minutes and set off for the Arizona Memorial at the US Naval Base at Pearl Harbor. Our plan was to make the Arizona and return in time for dinner and a swim in the pool. We had an early morning departure and a very long day coming up.
I got Tanty talking about Cambodia after a couple of tries. He was really into it at that point. He was born in 1970 and left Cambodia through Thailand in 1979. His recollection, mainly from home movies, was that Cambodia prior to the Khmer Rouge was a nice place where women in families didn’t have to work (meaning that it was a prosperous country). He lamented that the criminals of his childhood would never be prosecuted because they were largely still in power and because many of them were actually Chinese and Vietnamese, often referring to their names which had no Cambodian components. He had issues with the Thai as well, as they were apparently moving in on Cambodian land – specifically ancient monasteries near the border.
It turned out that the Arizona was closed for the afternoon because of high winds. Instead we visited the Bowfin, a World War II submarine known as the “Pearl Harbor Avenger” and the USS Missouri, an Iowa class battleship – both built during WWII after the attack on Pearl Harbor. After about 30 years in the mothball fleet, the ship was brought back into service in the 80’s and then finally decommissioned in the 90’s. It now floats where the USS Oklahoma was sunk during the attack on December 7, 1941. The ship’s 16 inch guns are quite a sight to see, with the ability to simultaneously launch nine 1,900 pound shells 27 miles. Nothing like it exists in service today. Connor enjoyed getting up in a turret entrance and the “dog” and soda machines.
We saw the famous spot on the ship where the Japanese surrendered, and the spot where a Kamikaze impacted the hull. Apparently they never did any repairs to the spot, as it was only a small dent on the scupper. The makeup of the hull and the angle of impact led to minimal damage and only one death – the Japanese pilot. He was given a military burial at sea, and eventually his name was determined and ascribed to the small memorial onboard.
After we found the city bus stop nearby we boarded without change and a woman was nice enough to break a 20 for us. Later we returned to favor to a young pregnant couple who didn’t have much English or understand the bus driver. We weren’t exactly sure how close the bus was going to get us, and the driver wasn’t too helpful. The iPhone was a big help, but the battery was almost dead and I was trying to conserve. The bus trundled along side roads, which made for a nice tour, but at rush hour it was slow going. We eventually gave up seats to an older woman and her 11 year old granddaughter. She later started up conversation and ended up giving us travel tips. She was a local and said she had lived in San Francisco for a few years. One tip she gave was the cook-your-own-food place at the Outrigger Reef Hotel in Waikiki. That was a great tip, since not only were we staying there, but probably would have missed it. It was very coincidental since it was the only restaurant in Waikiki that I had ever eaten at, about 19 years prior. I had found it by wandering the beach, and had just told Connor about it before she got on the bus. She also told us exactly the stop to get off at, which was right near the hotel.
We checked in and called home and then set out for dinner. We had to wait a bit for a table, so we walked the beach at sunset, in front of the restaurant. A man walked up to us and put natural leis on us and asked for a “donation” for some charitable cause, which I assumed was bogus. Nonetheless they were nice and we got one for Connor for $5. We saw similar ones for sale for $11 at the airport, so the price wasn’t bad. The sunset was pretty, with surfers still at it. Waikiki is interesting, with tall hotels right up on the beach. We went in for dinner, ordering a single surf and turf – steak for Connor and Mahi Mahi for me. We took it over to the grill and Connor cooked it up. His steak was one of the best I’ve ever had – loved his seasoning. He tried the Mahi Mahi and liked it. It was a harbinger of cuisine to come and a good thing he liked it!
We then did a quick change, skipping desert so that we could make the pool closing at 9pm. Connor swam for a few minutes and found that the pool was salt water. Another good preview of things to come! We took a quick dip in the freshwater hot tub, went back to our room, showered off and made it back for late desert and karaoke. Then we were off to the room and repacked for the flight and set 5am wake-up calls.