We had been in the air close to five hours. After having left Atlanta around mid-morning; we were in hot pursuit of the sun, chasing it on its westerly journey. We caught and passed it before our arrival in Los Angeles. However with a four hour layover in that airport, the chase for the sun was on again, this time across the great Pacific Ocean.
Nearly five hours later, daylight clung precariously over the tropical isle. We were just under half an hour from “paradise.” As the pilot began his descent, the lights of the beautiful island winked at the load of travel weary passengers, beckoning us to come on down. Awaiting our arrival was Norman and Margie Kay with the traditional Hawaiian lei to drape around our necks, followed by a kiss of welcome.
Early the next morning, thunder awakened me with a start. Rubbing my eyes, I could see the pink numbers of the clock informing me that it was only ten minutes past four, nine o’clock in our hometown of Hawkinsville. Sheila lay quietly beside me, her breathing barely discernible. Again and again the thunder roared, but seemingly too much in rhythm. Without rising, I suddenly realized the thunder boomers were not accompanied by bright flashes of lightning. It was only then, I realized the “thunder” was not from the heavens above; rather it was the incessant pounding of the Pacific surf against the sea wall, only a few feet from the condominium where we were sleeping.
Gazing from the building’s glass enclosed front, which faced the ocean, two coconut palm trees stood guard over the small lush-green lawn. Bent slightly, twisted with time, and perhaps even groaning a little against the constant onslaught of the unforgiving trade winds, they, nonetheless, stood strong, never yielding their hallowed ground. With each gust of wind the long palm fronds danced in the breeze, alternating between waving and merely hanging, dripping the salty mist of the sea.
A short time later, on the lanai, Sheila and I dined on fresh pineapple, papaya, bananas in cream, soft scrambled eggs and toast; though our island hosts deny any complicity, there was a beautiful “end to end” rainbow which appeared during our meal as if to emphasize that we were indeed in “paradise.”
Our dream vacation began with an invitation one day that fall from Norm and Margie in Hawkinsville. As we enjoyed lunch with them, Margie said. “We want y’all to come visit us in Maui,”
“That’s very nice.” I replied. “Maybe we will someday.”
“Sheila and I will work out all the details,” she said.
That was in September, and quite frankly, I had not thought about it any further until the bitter cold weather hit Hawkinsville in January. Sheila said, “We have a letter from Margie Kay in Maui.”
In the letter was information about their island paradise, and an invitation to visit them and to be their guest in their ocean front condo. The rest, as they say, is history.
The next day after our arrival, our wonderful hosts began to show us their magical paradise with a trip to the Maui Ocean Center, the Hawaiian Aquarium. Already mesmerized by the humpback whales swimming and jumping off shore, within plain sight of our ocean front condo, we were about to enter into a journey of discovery through the extraordinary underwater world that lies beyond Hawaii’s surf-ringed shores.
All of the marine life including some of the most unusual fish, coral and plants was a replica of what can be found around Hawaii. This writer saw fish which were previously seen by me only on computer screensavers. All kinds of fish from something named the Orangeband Surgeonfish, eels, and Milletseed Butterflyfish to huge Brown Stingray and Tiger Sharks. One could easily spend several hours in one of the world’s greatest aquariums. Our hosts were more than patient with us as we oooh’d and ahhh’d our way through the fantastic experience. It is a “must see” experience for anyone going to Maui on a vacation.
On our second day in paradise, we did a very American thing with a very Hawaiian flavor. We attended the College All Star Hula Bowl football game which was an all day affair that wound up full of excitement. Arriving at the stadium around noon, we stood in line for a short while talking to visitors from Nebraska and once the gates opened we did our version of a “tailgate party” while watching a pre-game show that was only the beginning of more to come. Having gotten away Saturday morning without turning on the television, we were saddened at the announcement of the crash of the Columbia space shuttle which claimed the lives of all those aboard. The officials of the Hula Bowl arranged for a “missing man” fly over by some helicopters to pay tribute to the astronauts.
Once the teams took the field, the excitement of seeing so many talented players on one field got the crowd into it. Unlike mainland contests where the teams would be named North and South, they instead were named KAI which means sea and AINA which means land. This was very appropriate since that is what one sees in Maui. Land and sea! Both teams were coached by big-time mentors. Larry Coker of the Miami Hurricanes guided the KAI team while Mack Brown, of the Texas Longhorns coached the AINA team. Although it was led throughout most of the game by the KIA team, the last five minutes of the last quarter was extremely exciting with the AINA team capturing two on side kickoffs which they quickly converted to touchdowns. With only a few seconds left in the game they managed a field goal to win the game. During the half-time show a special treat was presented by over 300 cheerleaders doing a hula dance followed by a stirring rendition of Lee Greenwood singing his famous tune of “God Bless the USA” Following the game was a sensational fireworks display. Thus far only two days of our vacation had taken place.
The two-lane Hana Highway parallels the tortuous lava-formed coastline, passing through forests and over streams and past waterfalls. After more than six hundred hard turns and fifty-six single-lane bridges, palm-bordered ranches, pineapple and sugarcane fields, red- and black-sand beaches, jungle and volcanic craters all converge at Hana. It is some of the most beautiful land on earth and well worth the effort to see it.
Not far from there are the gravesides of Charles Lindbergh, the famous aviator and his friend, Sam Pryor, author of “All God’s Creatures.” Pryor and his wife and Lindbergh are all three buried in a small church cemetery.