If a good neighbor is one who watches out for your home while you are gone, and a great neighbor takes care of your mail and pets (even if there are 10,000 of them), what can you say about a neighbor who will take you to the airport at 4:30 in the morning?  That was the first leg of our trip to Hawaii.  (Technically, “Hawai‘i,” with the left single quote, but I’m going with the simplified spelling.)

Hawaii?  What were we doing there?  That’s what I asked myself.

Ever since my class in elementary school debated the relative merits of our new states, Alaska and Hawaii, I’d preferred the former.  What a pernicious influence our early experiences can have!  My mind later realized that outside of the debate context, this is not a choice—one can, and should, like both—but my prejudices from that forced decision remained.

Thus I was not as excited as some might be when Porter announced that he had made a commitment to go to Hawaii.  I wasn’t upset; I knew he wanted to get there sometime, and I find vacations a lot more fun if someone else makes the arrangements.  Not upset, but surprised, because we usually debate such plans for months before acting.

As it turned out, he had debated for months, until he was worn down by a Hilton Vacation Club salesman at the hotel where he had stayed while working in New York City.  So our great deal came at the cost of a 2 ½-hour timeshare presentation.  (It was well worth the price, but more on that in a later post.)  The deal included three days at the Hilton Waikoloa Village resort on the Big Island, a rental car, a luau, and a $200 voucher to use sometime in the next six months at another Hilton property of our choice.  We added a fair amount of our own money to extend the stay to six days, but used frequent flier points for our plane tickets, so I guess Porter earned this dream trip in several ways!


We travelled relatively light—it’s easier when you don’t have friends and family on the other end—but still ended up with one checked bag and  three small carry-ons.  It didn’t seem as if we were bringing that much, but snorkelling equipment, a video camera, extra shoes, and clothes for both hot and cold weather do take up space.  Not to mention a computer, though we only brought one this time.

The flight from Orlando to Atlanta was fine, although we were disappointed to learn that apparently flying on points disqualifies you for upgrades, which we had been looking forward to thanks to Porter’s super-elite status.  Ah, well.  First class doesn’t get to the runway any sooner than coach.  Later, actually!

It was in Atlanta that things appeared to go wrong.  I missed the part where we had signed up for the Delta Fitness Plan, but the inevitable gate change didn’t surprise me.  We began to suspect more than a simple gate change when boarding time came and went.  Then we were told there was an equipment problem, but Maintenance was working on it.  And working on it.  “You don’t want to fly all the way to Los Angeles with non-functional bathrooms, do you?”  Given that we had a connection to make, I would have been willing to take my chances, but Delta wasn’t.

Finally, we decided to investigate other options, as the odds of making our Kona flight were diminishing rapidly.  As it happened, we were right at the entrance to the Delta Customer Service area when the cancellation of our Atlanta – L.A. flight was announced; thus we found ourselves at the head of what soon became a very. long. line.

Platinum status may not have gained us a first class upgrade, but it did shove us to the front of the next line, inside Customer Service itself.  There, the kind and very efficient agent booked us on a flight directly from Atlanta to Honolulu, and a puddle jumper thence to Kona.  Level II of the fitness program:  this gate change required racing to the most distant wing of the airport.  We made it—but if we had not been where we were when the cancellation was made, or if we had had to wait in the non-status line, we would have had plenty of time to use the generous $16 worth of food vouchers we had been given.

The new arrangements turned out to be much nicer than the originals.  We skipped L.A., added an additional island to our tour (albeit for less than an hour), and landed in Kona not much later than originally scheduled.  The hardest part was believing we were still in America after having flown so far.  Door-to-door travel time was about 19 hours; after all that, shouldn’t we have been in Switzerland?

The Kona airport is tiny.  About a dozen gates, and none of those enclosed jetways:  You walk down the stairs from the plane, and through the weather.  Fortunately, Kona is on the dry side of the island.

First impression:  Hawaii is bilingual.  Much as Florida’s signs are in English and Spanish, the signs at the airport, rental car agency, and resort are in English and Japanese.  Seventy years after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Japanese invasion of Hawaii is going strong—in the form of tourists, dropping yen instead of bombs.  It was great to hear Japanese once again, and brush up on important skills, like recognizing the Japanese characters for “exit.”  (As it turns out, we saw more Hawaiian than Japanese once we left the resort area.  More on the Hawaiian language later.)

After check-in, we took an evening walk around the huge resort, and ate what turned out to be our one-and-only resort restaurant meal.  I had a moderately outrageously priced teriyaki chicken sandwich that was quite good, and Porter had a $25 “lobster burger” that was not.

The view from our window

The night was breezy and not too hot, the sunset-and-ocean view was soothing, and dolphins were playing in the nearby lagoon.  We were in Hawaii!

We were in Hawaii:  jet-lagged, and with a busy day scheduled for tomorrow.  Grateful for the day’s many blessings, we collapsed into bed.

Waikoloa sunset

Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, May 8, 2011 at 12:30 pm | Edit
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Looking forward to reading about the rest of the trip!

Posted by joyful on Sunday, May 08, 2011 at 4:09 pm