Friday, June 6, 2008

Big Island - Part 1

I took some leave and we've flown over to the Big Island for five days of exploring and vacation. Before I start, let me first say that we are using the Hawaii The Big Island Revealed book. I've written before about how much we have valued the recommendations in the other books in this series like Oahu Revealed and Maui Revealed. So as you read along, any references I make to our "guide book" are referring to this book.

Go Airlines

We took Go! airlines this time since they were the cheapest, but let me tell ya - you get what you pay for. I wasn't very thrilled with their service (or lack thereof). I mean, common now, am I the only guy who would get the heebie-jeebies about their operation when your flight doesn't even appear anywhere on the departure status board? This is a digital status board for the whole airport and all the inter-island airplanes, not just Go. I looked up and down the board for a flight with my flight number leaving Honolulu at 4:40 and headed to Hilo, and there weren't any. There was a 3:30 flight to Hilo that was boarding right as we got there, and there was a 7:40 flight to Hilo way down on the list, but nothing that matched our flight number and departure time. I had just printed the boarding passes that morning, and it didn't tell me anything about the flight being cancelled. So I went to the counter to ask, and the guy looked at me like I had three heads and said, "Oh yeah, brah, that plane will be boarding in just a minute." Thaaaaanks, that's REALLY reassuring. No explanation was given for why our flight didn't exist on the digital display for the airport. In any case, we eventually got on our plane and got moving.

Quick funny story: When we started to make our descent into Hilo, the pilot nosed the plane over, and you know how you get that funny feeling in your groin area when you have that moment of waitlessness as the plane changes direction downward? All of a sudden, YB giggled and said really loud, "Whoa! That hurted my penis!" The attractive twenty-something girl in the seat in front of YB whipped her head around and looked back between the seats at LW. LW half-laughed and said, "Sorry!" with a sheepish grin. The girl smiled back and said, "Oh, that was priceless!"

Rental Car

After landing and getting our bags, we headed over to the Budget car rental counter. Since we signed up for their FastBreak frequent-renter program, we received a coupon in the mail for a free two-level upgrade on our next rental. She didn't have any cars to upgrade me two levels, but she gave me the choice between the Pontiac Grand Prix and the Jeep Compass.

I had never heard of nor seen a Jeep Compass before. The lady let me take the keys and check out the two cars to decide which one to take. The Grand Prix had 30k plus miles on it and smelled like a typical rental car. The Jeep was brand-spanking new and had new car smell. Based on the smell and on the fact that our guide book recommended getting a vehicle capable of handling some dirt roads, I opted for the Jeep.

The first time I regretted taking the Jeep was when we tried to load our suitcases in the car. We almost couldn't get them to fit in the back. The "trunk" space is non-existent in the compass. I suppose we could have strapped them to the roof rack, but then our clothes and stuff would be all wet from the rain, so that wasn't gonna do either. We managed to squeeze them in at just the right angle that we could slam the hatchback shut. Aside: Mind you, these are the SAME suitcases / same loadout we took to Maui, and they fit fine in the Chevy Impala we rented there.

The second time I regretted taking the Jeep was when we got toward the 3,000 foot elevation sign, passed a gas station with gas for MORE than $5 per gallon, looked at the gas gauge and GASPED to see we had already burned a QUARTER tank just in driving 30 minutes from the airport.

They say bad things happen in threes, so I am knocking on wood and praying that the third time I regret taking the Jeep won't be anything catastrophic. Stay tuned...

FABULOUS Dinner: Hilo Bay Cafe

Before we left Hilo to head up to the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, we had an awesome dinner at Hilo Bay Cafe. We went here based on the recommendation in the Hawaii Revealed book, and it's a good thing, too. We NEVER would have found that place if we hadn't read about it in the guide book. It's a little store front in the middle of a strip mall wedged between Walmart and some other big name stores. Once again, looks can be deceiving...

Who knew such a fabulous restaurant could be hidden in there? The service was superb. The atmosphere was very warm and comfortable and artsy. The food was just absolutely fantastic. The bread is excellent and the honey-butter they bring with the bread is so good I wanted to pick up a spoon and eat it like ice cream. LW and I shared a spinach salad with sliced strawberries and candied macadamia nuts with some sort of sweet cream cheese and vinaigrette dressing. For dinner I had the fresh catch Ahi medium rare with a wasabi sauce. Then for dessert, I couldn't resist the blueberry bread pudding with blueberry ice cream.

I'm telling you, this was a contender for the best meal I've had in the state of Hawaii. It was THAT good. Yes, it was expensive, but I was expecting our dinners here on the big island to be similar to our trip to Maui. I definitely felt we got what we paid for in terms of the quality of the food and the quality of the service though.

Aside: You're welcome, Uncle Jon. YB finally figured out the straw-trick you tried to teach him with his soda at dinner and was SO excited he wanted to call YOU right away to tell you the splendiferous news. We told him you were asleep, but we'd tell you later.

Kilauea Military Camp (KMC)

For our first two nights on the island, we're staying at KMC in the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. We got a very nice (not luxurious but comfortable) two bedroom one bath cabin / apartment.

Update 6/12/2008: Someone came to my blog after doing a Google search if KMC had internet access. They have a very good wireless network at broadband speeds. Unfortunately, you have to pay extra for it. I think it was like $9 per day. They also had a weekly rate, but I only paid for one day. They give you a little card with a user name and password on it, and as soon as you log in, it starts the clock on your 24 hours of access. Signal strength was great and I didn't have any problems with the connection once I had the user name and password from the recreation center.

ES in front of our cabin at KMC

This is the first time in OVER a YEAR that I've worn either long sleeves or blue jeans. Up here at 4,000 feet, it's actually a bit chilly. We actually had to dig through our closets to find some long pants and shirts to wear up here before we packed.

After grabbing some breakfast at the snack bar this morning, we headed out to explore the national park.

We've figured out to use the timer feature on ES's new camera and grabbed this family photo at the Volcano House across the street from the park service's welcome center.

We went to the steam vents. This is where rain water has collected, then gets heated by the volcanic activity and turns into steam.

Next we headed over to the Kilauea Iki Lookout.

Then down to the Thurston Lava Tube. This is the entrance to the lava tube. The hike is easy and short with some stairs involved. This lava tube has installed lighting, so you don't have to bring a flashlight with you (although it is recommended).

This is inside the lava tube.

Next we went to see the Devastation Trail. Now, take a look at that hill of volcanic ash and sand above, then scroll down.

It used to be forest just like this before an eruption shot all that ash up 1900 feet in the air and the tradewinds blew it into the pile you see in the previous picture above, hence the name of the trail. (Aside: The boys were trying to create a road-block.) This picture is on the path from the parking lot leading out to the Devastation Trail.

Finally, we drove down the Chain of Craters Road. There was some pretty spectacular scenery along that road. We drove all the way to the end of the road down by the water's edge.

First we stopped to see the arch.

Then we walked out to the "end of the road." This photo is looking back toward where we parked by the arch.

We all got a kick out of the road sign poking up out of the middle of the lava flow.

In the distance, you can see the steam plume from the currently active lava flow pouring into the ocean.

The Joys of Traveling with Small Children

Throughout the day today, there was a recurring pattern in the boys' behavior. Each time we stopped the car and got out at a new location, we went through this same routine...

Step 1) Whine. "Are we going home now?"
Step 2) Insist on getting geared up - sunglasses, camera, stuffed animal, etc.
Step 3) 5 minutes down the trail / after leaving the car, declare you're tired of carrying the gear you insisted on bringing and hand it to LW or me to carry the rest of the way.
Step 4) Whine. "Are we going home now?"
Step 5) REPEAT Steps 1-4

We finally drove back to KMC and had a late lunch at the snack bar around 2 p.m. and went back to our cabin. The boys had fun playing for a little while, but then they started a new routine of whining about how hungry they were (less than an hour after eating lunch) and how bored they were and they wanted to eat and they wanted to go to dinner. When ES asked how much longer until dinner at 4:40 and I told him we had dinner reservations for 6, I thought he was gonna die. "You mean I have to wait an HOUR and TWENTY MINUTES before we go to dinner?!?!"

LW got us up and moving again to go for a walk around the camp, and we went down the road to do a wine tasting at the local winery. Then we went to dinner at the Kilauea Lodge. It was okay. Not spectacular. It was the #1 rated restaurant (out of five restaurants) in Volcano, HI, on TripAdvisor.

ES didn't like the bread because it had sunflower seeds in it. Then ES decided he wanted to try a salad (he NEVER eats ANY cold, salad-type vegetables, so this was TOTALLY out of character for him). He took one bite and proceeded to very noisily spit it out with a "BLAH!" that echoed through the restaurant (it was lovely).

Then the entrees came. ES didn't like his spaghetti. YB didn't like his chicken. First YB said he didn't like it because it was served on a bed of shredded red cabbage. I tried explaining to him that it was fine and if he just stabbed the chicken with his fork, the red stuff would stay on his plate. He didn't go for it. I transferred the chicken to an empty bread plate. He tried it and immediately spit it out as too hot. I tried it - it was lukewarm at best. So then he declared that he "wasn't hungry." YB sat there coloring and playing and refused to eat his chicken... until we told him he couldn't have dessert. Then he decided to try his chicken again, but this time he spit it out and said it was "too cold." Gimme a break!!!

Neither son drank his $10 sprite in a 6 ounce cup. Although they were delighted that it came with a cool plastic sword holding a cherry in their straw. As you would expect, they proceeded to have a sword fight at the table - ching, ching, ching.

Anyway, tomorrow we are checking out of KMC and doing the long scenic drive around the island (Lord help us) and staying the next three nights over in Waikoloa.


E.P. said...

Like your pictures. They bring back good memories of the place.

Caffienated Cowgirl said...'s been 10 years since we were there...getting engaged :) Have fun!

divrchk said...

When we go on a hilly road, Andrew says that his bum tickles.