MAREK: And Hawaii actually 50 | Opinion
In my life, travel has been very important. With a junior year in Europe, this desire to travel has been taken to a higher level. I wanted to see the world. With my law firm and expert witnesses everywhere, as well as my personal travels, I had seen 49 of the 50 states. My friends were amazed when I reported that the 50th was in Hawaii. Most people have this on their radar fairly early in their travel plans.
When we included Alaska on the list of completions my wife and I were only missing Hawaii and felt it was a relaxed state for our later years. Well, the last few years are here now. We had planned to go in 2020 but a certain virus quickly reversed that decision. Once we got our shots, we started booking this destination this spring. We had to make pretty specific plans because the world had started to travel and reservations were filling up. We wanted Maui and Oahu. Maui would coincide with my sister’s family plan and we could hook up for a few days. Oahu had to be included as I wanted to see Pearl Harbor and the Arizona Memorial.
The pressures soon mounted. The hotels wanted all the money up front. Restaurants had little seating and as a result the main reservation times were filling up quickly. A famous place, a fish specialty restaurant, replied to my sister in June that their reservations were full until November.
Then the third wave of the pandemic began. The governor of Hawaii was telling people to stay home, but we were determined. On our way out we decided to stop in Sacramento, CA for two nights to interrupt the trip a bit when we saw my son. Then the airlines started modifying our flights. We would have a five hour layover in Midway on our way out, barely arriving for dinner. Then the flight to Maui was changed, and we were supposed to be at the airport by 4 a.m.
The flight went well with masks all the way. No meals, only snacks and water or soda were served. But we survived. We rented a car from the airport and drove to our rented condo. We had an ocean view and the rooms were great. We ate, snorkeled, took a sunset cruise, climbed to the base of a volcano, and spent time on the beach. Then we decided to take the Hana Road, a famous road, even though we had been warned that it was totally overcrowded. We left at 5 am and had a great ride. Rather than going back, we continued along the southern edge of the island. We had one way bridges, broken rocky roads, but little traffic with waterfalls and vegetation which was a wonder.
Then it was Oahu and the capital Honolulu. We saw things that we did not expect. As we watched incredible surf through our hotel window on Waikiki Beach, we noticed that this famous neighborhood was overrun with homeless people. The mix of the elite and the poor was certainly sad. I understand a lot of cities have the same problem, and Hawaii has a nice warm weather, but seriously, with all the money tourism brings in, can’t the city come up with a solution?
We hiked Diamond Head Crater and booked a tour of the Arizona Memorial. For those who may not be familiar with the USS Arizona, this is the second and last Pennsylvania-class super-dreadnought battleship built in 1910. It is named after the last of the 48 states to be admitted to the Union. It was also the largest ship sunk at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, when the Japanese struck the island with their infamous raid that dragged the United States into World War II. I want to save this visit and its story for later, because this December will be the 80th anniversary of that terrible day.
Along the way, we were able to contemplate the very beach where, in 1953, Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr filmed their famous scene in “From Here to Eternity”.
We then went to the north coast of Oahu for two days. The coast was sparsely populated, with the exception of a few very nice seaside resorts. It was so different from Honolulu with its hustle and bustle. We needed these two days to relax before the long journey home.
We decided to go home via San Diego and visit my other sister on the way home. Once again, the airlines played with our flight schedules. While we arrived late in the evening for our two day stay, our return flight was changed to 6am. When we arrived I needed my coffee. No chance. The cafe only opened at 6am and there was a line of over 40 people before it even opened. I took a pass and waited for a cup on the flight.
In truth, it was a relaxing and beautiful trip. We, as tourists, were mostly in the beautiful areas of Oahu. The accommodations were the best. Unforgettable beaches. Quite different food with a Hawaiian twist. But it just didn’t look like America.
All in all, we have seen our last state, but we are so ready for a quiet and lonely time. Getting on a plane had never been so complicated with the crowds, proof of vaccination to enter Hawaii, changing our flights, not to mention the non-refundable money we had incurred if the state was closed. As I was leaving the last hotel, a man asked me if I was leaving. I replied, somewhat humorously, “Yes, I have no more money.” I know people love Hawaii, but for me, it’s more than a trip to the Grand Canyon, the back roads of Maine, or the landmarks of South Dakota. I guess I prefer the quieter, more majestic beaches to the crowded ones. I never said I was normal.