Maui: Beginnings

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By the time this post goes live, we’ll be home, or almost home. On most trips, I start out declaring that I’m going to blog often and keep up to date, and then I fall off after about 2 days and never post Part II or whatever.

Mostly this is because we get busier the later it gets in the trip, and partly it’s because David doesn’t think it’s a good idea to blog about not being home, because burglars or something (as if they read my blog, everyone knows my only readers are me, my sister, and a bunch of spambots).

We got to Maui late, on Saturday February 15. For some reason (probably due to a higher fare) I had booked us on a connection via Los Angeles instead of the usual nonstop flight to Maui or connection via Honolulu. David had said back in November when we decided to book the trip that he didn’t mind if we connected in Los Angeles; in retrospect it would have been better if we’d had a longer layover in LAX, as our 1:40 connection time shrank to 0:40 real fast what with delays.

My work life lately has been NOTHING BUT REBOOKING SAD PEOPLE WHOSE FLIGHTS HAVE BEEN CANCELLED DUE TO BAD WEATHER so I was quite apprehensive that Karma would be her usual bitchy self, but we managed to hustle to our connecting flight (fortunately, both United flights were in the same terminal). Not only that, but David spotted all three of our bags being loaded. All looked rosy as we took off.

There was quite a bit of turbulence on the way to LAX and a whole lot more on the way to Maui – in fact, for most of the second flight the crew kept us seated and seatbelts fastened, while they remained strapped in to their jumpseats. It wasn’t until later that I discovered the recent news of injuries due to turbulence on United flights to Beijing and Billings (two cities that couldn’t be more unlike each other, actually). Anyway, we finally landed just as the sun was setting behind a curtain of grey clouds.

After some disarray at the airport in the getting the rental car and driving away department (I say no more, but at least Enterprise Rental Car came up aces), we drove on in to our condo at the Royal Kahana. We’re in unit 915, which is a very basic 1 bedroom that smells of camphor, feet, and old people… the rest of the property is VERY NICE, but I suspect the people that own this one have more than one condo property, and thus this unit doesn’t get much love or display much personality. It’s fine, although the kitchen is tiny and the utensils are the absolute bare minimum. We’re tucked behind the Kahana Gateway shopping center, on Lower Honoapiilani, and within stumbling distance of the Maui Brewing Company.

After a long flight, and the delay in getting our wheels sorted, we finally got to the condo by about 9pm. We stopped at the Safeway’s in Lahaina, where we were happy to find that our old Dominick’s ID still worked in getting us a discount, even though Dominicks’ closed all their stores in the Chicago area. We bought 4 containers of various kinds of poke and pupus, and really, we could have done it with just 1 big one and 1 small one, but that’s okay, we had the rest the next day for a snack.

On the way in to Lahaina and beyond to Kahana, David suddenly laughed while we were still on the Pali (the cliffs near McGregor Point and the tunnel before the road drops to sea level).

“Ha! I’m anticipating the turns… driven this road so many times I just realized that I know what’s coming up even though it’s really dark.”

This is not a bad thing at all, being so familiar with a vacation spot like Maui. We started chatting idly about how nice it would be to spend more time here – more on that later.

So Saturday night we got settled, stowed our minimal groceries (besides the pupus, some Maui-grown ground coffee, milk, cereal, bread, and snacks) and finally konked out about 1030pm Maui time, 330am Chicago time.

Sunday morning, we quickly bagged the idea of driving up to the top of Haleakala as we didn’t wake up as early as usual (4am instead of 3am) and so we lazed about, had some breakfast, and walked down the beach south toward Honokowai. It’s been cloudy and somewhat inclined to sprinkle every day and isn’t slated to get sunny until Thursday.

As we walked down the beach, we could see a group of sea kayakers starting to put their plastic shells in the water down by a little pocket-sized short access park. They raised their arms and shouted “WHEEEE YEEEHAAA” or something as they ran the shells in, and then quickly got knocked a bit sideways because they were inexperienced lubbers. So as we came up, I asked the guy with the most tattoos what kayaking company they were with, because I figured that Chinese character tattoos all over his back and arms = experienced local kayak guy or something.

“No, we’re not a company, just a group of friends.”

They set off – about 10 or 12 people all told, and headed off southwest toward Tahiti (more likely setting a bearing on Lanai and then expecting to come back after spending some time out in the sea lanes where the whales hang out).

After that, we dawdled some more and decided to head into Lahaina to see if we could sort out some gear problems: when we were packing, I still could not find the battery charger for my Canon 40D, which I think may be plugged in someplace stupid like church or left in a hotel back in August.

Frustration: we stopped at several electronicsy places that might have it, and called the local camera store, only to be told that the original charger has been discontinued, and the replacement charger was out of stock. However, there was a “universal” charger available for a fairly nose-stingingly high price. We even checked at Radio Shack and at a very weird little discount computer repair place, where a nice man brought out a big box of different battery chargers, none of which was a match for my Canon. I considered buying one via Amazon and may still do, but after checking out the “universal” charger at the camera store, and thinking it over after lunch, decided to go back and get it so that I’d at least be able to take some decent pictures.

Lunch was at the Pioneer Inn, a favorite of ours. We were a few minutes early for lunch so we put our name in and dawdled over at the courtyard under the famous banyan tree, where the weekly art and crafts fair was taking place. Two guys played acoustic guitar and sang, very well, as we browsed. Then it was back to the PI to order.

“I want me some PIG,” I told the waiter, who looked like a weathered former beach bum. “Kalua pulled pork sandwich, coming right up.”

Waitstaff in the islands are like that – pretty unflappable, as they’ve seen it all from the great international traveling public. They’re usually good for joking around, within reason, and indulgent as long as they don’t have a table of arrogant assholes. They often strike me as having interesting lives outside of the workplace; they’re in Maui or Kauai to do something they love, like surfing or sailing, but they wait tables to make ends meet.

So after lunch, on the way home we fiddled with the charger and after some finagling, it was clearly charging my primary battery. After we got back to the condo, we lazed around some and I started fiddling with the backup battery. No matter what I did, it would not engage the little adjustable spring-loaded leads; after some struggle David noticed that the contacts on the second battery were just a little bit more recessed than on the original battery. This is not a big surprise as the second battery was an aftermarket replacement after Canon discontinued this particular model battery. GRRRR. So I may end up purchasing an actual Canon charger later, or perhaps just a better backup battery that can take a charge.

Dinner Sunday was at the Maui Brewing Company, previously noted as within convenient stumbling distance of the condo. We opted to squeeze in at the bar rather than wait an hour for a table, and I soon found myself chatting with an elderly lady seated on my left. There was an empty chair next to her, almost the only empty seat in the whole place, which was rocking with people enjoying the latest MBC brew, a “blood orange IPA.” I think the younger people crowding all around us weren’t willing to take a single seat next to the elderly lady or something: their loss, as she was a pistol.

We exchanged pleasantries and then she sized me up before declaring “I’m ninety-fowerr yearrs old, and I’m from Mizzoura.” I exclaimed “Oh! You and my mom are nearly the same vintage, and she used to live in Mizzoura before the war.” She decided I was o.k. to converse with after that since I knew enough to pronounce Missouri properly, or at least I chuckle at the thought. She was a lot of fun, and I learned that she’d been on Maui since December 1st, and although she didn’t miss winter, she was kind of missing home. We had one of those conversations you have with a complete stranger where the weather is always a completely safe topic, and David and I had conversations with several brews. In the end my favorite wasn’t the “blood orange IPA,” which was interesting but a little too amber-bitter for my taste. I liked the “Pau Hana Pilsner,” a really refreshing, light yet nutty tasting beer that had a nice finish and clean cold edges, kind of like some of the downhill skiers we watched on the bar TV.

We reached the stage of being just “nicely thank you, with a side of squiffy” before we decided we’d better head back to the condo and the end of our second day, Sunday.

I’d tried to contact some activities suppliers yesterday (today’s still only Monday) and so far we’ve got some things to do lined up. The weather is literally dampening some things like snorkeling and boat trips down, but we’re booked for the dinner package for the Slack Key Guitar show next Wednesday (not this Wednesday, we’ve seen the performer before) and for the magic show at Warren and Annabell’s on Friday (Warren is ill, so it’ll be one of several guest magicians). We’re booked for a whale watch on.. Friday morning so we’ll be busy that day, and also David is picking up a road bike rental Thursday. We’ve got some other stuff lined up or planned for, too.

Tomorrow (Tuesday) the vague plan is to drive up to Makawao and the Upcountry, dawdle around the galleries and check out whatever is new or different. We’ll revisit places like the glassblowing studio and that sort of thing, and maybe try someplace different for lunch. We cooked “in” tonight so will probably eat “out” tomorrow.

I noticed yesterday that Mick Fleetwood has started some kind of restaurant/music store of some kind in Lahaina, and there’s often live music, so that might be fun to try some night.

Still haven’t been in the water, probably take a dip tomorrow after we return from the Upcountry. The beach here is fairly narrow, with somewhat coarse brownish-pink sand, and constant waves. There’s no coral or snorkeling to speak of here, though it looks like there might be offshore reefs (or maybe it’s just banks of underwater seaweed).

It’s so nice to take a break from my allergies and from winter in general – I keep reading the news and Facebook and thinking “Thundersnow?? DO NOT WANT.” My poor co-workers are literally going to be snowed under for at least the next few days, yet again, with travelers who are stuck, or whose flights are cancelled, or whose connection is messed up because of delays. We’ve just about reached “island time” rhythms here, where except for those days we have some activity booked, we really don’t give much thought to day or date, let alone time. We haven’t had the TV on once, in fact, although I’ve seen bits and pieces of the Olympics via random TVs in the condo lobby or the MBC last night.

Speaking of the Olympics, my young cousin Jason Brown has done well in his first Olympics and most of his side of the family is home, or making their way home. One of our other cousins by marriage declared that on their return, the first thing he and his wife did was brush their teeth and take showers with hot water, soap, and shampoo – simultaneously! Oh, I hope they hold off on having a family party until after we get back, but it depends on Jason’s post-Olympic life, which I suspect is going to be pretty hectic.

It’s just so…. weird and interesting to see a family member in the news, and it’s hard to resist bragging “Oh, we have a family member who is an Olympic athlete” to random people. EVERYONE knows who Jason is – EVERYONE knows he’s the guy with the ponytail that has its own Twitter account.

Makes me wonder… who would win in a fight with sharp steel blades, Jason Brown’s ponytail, or Duncan McLeod’s ponytail? I’ve seen both in real life, and still own (somewhere) a pewter Celtic knot hair tie.

Anyway, on that bombshell (which makes no sense but who cares), that’s it for the beginning of our trip to Maui. Hoping there’s not actual rain tomorrow, too.

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