February 28, 1996

Hawaii Feb 1996

Filed under: — pohodo @ 2:16 pm

A letter home while stationed in S. Korea during the Air Force days.

I have safely returned from the trip I’ve waited my whole life to take — the trip to Hawaii. Now that I’m back in lovely Korea, I can’t wait to go back. Hawaii was everything I ever expected and more. If you haven’t been to Hawaii start making plans now. I still can’t believe that Hawaii is part of the United States. Had I known how beautiful Hawaii truly is I would have made an effort to get there many years ago. Anyway, I finally made it and my trip went more or less like this:

After having my leave canceled once already, I wasn’t holding my breath until I was actually on leave. This time no obstacles prevented me from leaving this tiny, cold peninsula on the other side of the world. My leave actually began on 29 Feb 96, but the first flight going my way didn’t leave until the 1st of March — at least I wasn’t at work anymore.

Not having the funds to travel like a rich man, I opted for Space A travel using the large and diversified aircraft inventory of the USAF. The first thing you learn traveling Space A is that nothing is for sure — or so “they” say. So here it is 01 Mar 96 and there is a C-5(the largest cargo plane flying today) heading for Hawaii. The only catch is that it stops at Kadena AB in Okinawa Japan for a night, then goes to Andersen AFB in Guam for another night, and finally reaches Hickam AFB on the island of Oahu in Hawaii after that. There were 73 seats open and you don’t pass up things like that. Besides, as long as I’m heading toward some tropical island there is NO problem. So off I go.

Flying in a C-5 is a very interesting thing. We get bused out to the plane sitting on the flight line and walk up the usual plane staircase. However, when I got inside I was suddenly in this huge warehouse and I’m thinking to myself “can this thing really get off the ground?” It’s hard to convey how much room this chunk of metal has. Anyway, we had to climb up this ladder type thing to get up to this platform hanging from the ceiling over the cargo. On the platform is a bunch of seats no different from a commercial plane, only, these were facing to the rear of the plane. There were only 10 of us on the plane as passengers, so I quickly claimed my several rows to ensure my comfort. I found it odd that the crew started handing out ear plugs until, of course, the 4 enormous jet engines started up. It’s a very strange feeling taking off facing to the rear, especially when there are no windows to see where you are. Aside from the noise it was a very smooth ride. I almost had a heart attack when we landed though. Remember that there are no windows. The crew tells us to buckle up, we’re going in for a landing. A few minutes later we HIT the runway — I thought we were still up at about 10 or 15 thousand feet, so you can imagine my surprise. Because the plane is so large it doesn’t angle down when it lands, it’s more like a controlled fall.

After a short 2 hour flight I was standing on Japanese soil(well, actually concrete on top of the soil). I arrived at about 7:00pm and headed straight for billeting to see if I could get a room. What luck, I got the last room they had(so they said) and I was one happy camper(or non-camper in this case). If I wouldn’t have gotten that room I would have had to sleep behind a bush or something, because there are no 24 hour establishments on base and hotels in Japan are about $200 per night.

Since I wasn’t homeless and being the ladies man that I am(yeah, right), I was off to see a bit of the base with a few of the female passengers on the same flight. First there is Betty, who was going to Hawaii as well and just happens to be about 5’6″, 120lbs, blonde hair, blue eyes, golden tan, works out 5 days a week, and single(not that I took much notice). The other girl, Lindsey, was on her way to see some guy friend in Guam. Being on Okinawa, we decided that it would be a good idea to stay away from down town(for those of you who are a little behind the headlines, because of the rape by the Marines tensions downtown were a little high). It was getting late and not much else was open except the club so, of course, we had to go there. We had some dinner and maybe one or two drinks(at the most). We talked a little bit and after a while turned in for the night(yes, by myself). All I saw of Kadena AB in Okinawa was a few buildings on the way to the club, the club, and some palm trees — a welcome sight — the palm trees, that is.

The next day we headed to Guam on a 4 hour flight with about twice as many passengers as before. We got to Andersen AFB, Guam with no problems at all. We arrived around 7:00pm and again got the last room at billeting(see a pattern?). Since Guam was Lindsey’s final destination, and being the lovable guy that I am, I was invited out with her, her guy friend, and BETTY. Her guy friend(I forgot his name — imagine that, a Holder forget someone’s name) took us around on a small tour of the island. It was dark out, but from what I saw it looked like a pretty cool place to be stationed. There were lots of palm trees, the temperature was warm, and there was a very pleasant breeze blowing in from the ocean. The highlight though, was going to the mall and eating at Taco Bell. It’s funny how when you don’t have fast food for a long period of time you REALLY look forward to eating it — so the next time you’re in the drive-through somewhere think of me. After seeing some of the sights we headed back to billeting for another short nights sleep.

The next day we were on our way to Hawaii. Can you believe it? I couldn’t believe that I was finally going to Hawaii — the place I’ve waited so many years to go. It was about an 8 hour flight from Guam, but we finally landed around 10:00pm the same day as yesterday(we crossed the international dateline). Off to billeting one more time, only, this time there are no rooms at the Inn. So there I am sitting in the terminal(thank goodness it was open 24 hours), It’s storming outside, it’s cold, there are no rooms, and then the power goes out — WELCOME to Hawaii. I must admit that I was a little discouraged.

The following morning, Betty and I decided that we had spent enough time in the terminal, so we rented a car and found a Navy base about 15 minutes away that had rooms available for only $4.00 per night. Imagine staying a night in Hawaii in a brand new room for only $4.00 per night. That afternoon it cleared up and the Sun came out. So here I am Cruising around in Paradise with BETTY.

The DukeThe first day was great, we went down to Waikiki and checked out all of the little shops and hung out at the beach. Then we went up to the North Shore and I finally got to see all of the famous surfing beaches(of course, it wasn’t very big) that I had only been able to see in the magazines. Later that night Betty just had to get her navel pierced and, of course, I couldn’t let her go all alone. The piercing place was very interesting to say the least. The owner had more than enough body piercing to be considered a human pin cushion. He also had lots of pictures showing off(in DETAIL) his fine piercingmanship(cool word, huh). There was this one picture that involved a very large chain(the kind you tow trucks with), a large ring, and a certain part of the male anatomy. When I painfully asked, to no one in particular, “who would do something like that?” I was informed by one of the other customers that it was the man himself — who just happened to be standing next to me at the time. I’ve been having very bad dreams lately — kind of a combination of that guy and Bobbit. What could it mean? Anyway, as an understatement it was a very interesting experience. I also got to see him do a pair a tongues. It all looked pretty darn painful. It felt even more painful!(naw, just kidding).

By the second day Betty began to get on my nerves. She was always complaining about something and she was just plain “high maintenance.” I needed to contact Sandy and get over to Kauai as soon as possible. The only problem is that I had been trying to reach him the moment I arrived in Hawaii, but he is a pretty hard person to track down. The number he gave me was his old girlfriends, and she hadn’t seen him for about a week or so. Finally, I decided to go ahead and get a plane ticket to the neighboring island with a rental car for one day. I figured that I could track him down within a day — it being an island and all.

By noon the next day I was on a plane(with windows) heading north toward Kauai. I phoned Sandy’s ex(Julie) before I left and still no word but she told me to call back when I arrived. The plane ride was only about 35 minutes and soon I was at the Lihue Airport on the island of Kauai. I called Julie again and she happened to have the day off from work so she met me to help find him. We spent all afternoon driving around the island and never did find him. Everyone we ran into said they hadn’t seen him for several days. Julie turned out to be a very nice person and she offered me a place to stay for the night — thank goodness.

When morning came around Julie had to work so it was all up to me now. I had to turn the car in at 4:00pm so I had most of the day to find him. I looked at some of the places we had checked the day before, but he was nowhere to be found. By lunch time I had pretty much given up and was more or less just sight seeing. I figured if I was going to be walking around shortly I’d better see as much as I could while I still had transportation. At about 3:00pm I decided to check one of the beaches where Sandy hangs out. Would you believe I found him just hanging around like he had been there for days. Needless to say I was very happy to find him. He was more than surprised to see me at one of his normal hang outs. After all, he thought I was still in Korea.

Sandy's TruckSo here we are driving around in Sandy’s Toyota 4×4 pickup(which ended up being my home — along with the beach) going anywhere and everywhere. I must say, Sandy is most definitely the best tour guide one can have when visiting Kauai. Once I got used to ignoring ALL of those pesky “NO TRESPASSING” signs, I began to finally relax and really start enjoying all Hawaii has to offer. No Trespassing Most of the island is owned by sugar cane companies(largest industry) and they, according to Sandy, “just put those signs up to keep the hoales out.” I’m thinking to myself “who are we?” At any rate nobody shot at us or even said anything.

My first objective was to find a surfboard — fast. Sandy convinced one of his friends to let me borrow a board for a day or two. By the time we found a board and met a few of his friends the sun had long since set and it was beginning to get late. Since we planned to surf the west side of the island in the morning what better place to sleep, but on the beach we planned on surfing(like there was much choice). We drive out to the west side of the island and reach the beach and then, after activating the 4 wheel drive, we continued down the beach for several miles. Camping on the beach on Kauai is unlike camping anywhere else in the world. We just drove down the beach until we were close to the surf spot and then started looking for a large pile of driftwood. That didn’t take long since there was driftwood all over the place. So we park next to this big pile of wood and, of course, build a big fire(I’m sure your having a hard time picturing me playing with fire). Even though we were in Hawaii, it did get a bit chilly at night. I was grateful that I purchased a sleeping bag at the base exchange while I was at Hickam. I’m not sure, but I believe that was the first time I have ever slept out in the open without a tent or any shelter. It was really a very good experience. The sand was very thick and soft and the view was incredible. I have seen the sky from many parts of the world, but nothing has ever come close to the night sky over Kauai. It was so vivid that it was almost like looking through a telescope — everything was so crisp and clear. I saw probably ten times more stars than I have ever seen before — it’s hard to explain.

The next morning I awoke to see one of the most beautiful sunrises ever. I was lying on this wide beach with the mountains in the distance and the Sun rising above them. The best part though was that the waves were breaking in near perfection and there was nobody around for miles. The waves looked to be just a little over head high with an off shore wind and just peeling around this point. I couldn’t wait to get out there, so I didn’t. Once we got out there I realized that looks can be deceiving. The waves were at least double over head and breaking HARD. High SurfRemember that it had almost been a year since the last time I surfed. The paddle out just about took all the energy I had, but I wasn’t about to quit with such perfect surf. The first wave I took off on was great and I had no problems at all. Now that my confidence was up I moved closer to the peak and decided to go for the big one, only, this time wasn’t so great. I got pitched out and slammed hard at the bottom. Being in such great aerobic condition from sitting around all Winter in Korea, I had forgotten how hard it was to hold my breath for a very long time. Good ole Mother Nature was refreshing my memory all to well. After about the fourth wave of the set without getting a breath I was lucky to find my board and get to shore. I was always told that Hawaii had more powerful surf, and I’m here to tell you it’s true. The first surf session was a bit humbling so we went down the beach a few miles where it wasn’t quite so big and had a great time. That’s the cool thing about an island — the surf conditions vary so greatly on different parts of the island because the swell is only coming from one direction.

Polihale State ParkLater that day we went to a place called Polihale State Park, which is on the NW side of the island and WAY out there. We had to drive down this extremely bumpy cane road for about 5 miles after the “normal” road ended before we finally reached the beach. It was obvious that the swell was coming more from the North since the waves there were at least 20 feet high. The park is on the edge of the Na Pali Coast, which is impassable by road and has some of the most breath taking views in the world. This is where Jurassic Park was filmed — it truly is unbelievable. It was so awesome I insisted we camp there 3 nights in a row and it quickly became my favorite part of the island.

Several days later we Drove up to the top of the cliffs to where the road ends and one of the foot “trails” begins. We did about a seven hour hike into the coast which began along one of the trails, but we ended up traveling up a stream that the trail crossed. After about 2 miles of rough terrain, we ended up at one of the prettiest places I have ever encountered. There was this waterfall in the middle of nowhere and the coolest thing was that probably very few other people have ever been there before. It certainly was well off the beaten path. I’ll show you all the pictures when you see me next. I’m just glad that there are no snakes on the island, because we were in all kinds of snake type territory. You could spend a lifetime in the Na Pali Coast and probably still never get to see it all. In fact, many people do live out in the wilderness there. It’s not legal, but there is no way for authorities to find anyone — if you wanted to disappear from the face of the Earth, this is the place to do it.

Yet another water sourceOn the way to and from different surf breaks on various sides of the island, it seems like Sandy would always take me to some new waterfall to check out. Since Kauai receives more rainfall than any other place on Earth(between 400 and 600 inches annually), you can imagine that there are more than just a few waterfalls. Some of the waterfalls up in the mountains rivaled North Carolina as far as temperature is concerned. Being on a Hawaiian island, I couldn’t believe how cold the water was — it was a numbing type cold. At any rate it was always a welcome sight to see yet another waterfall.

One day, Sandy took me to this place called “the blue room.” We had to walk up a short trail on the northeast side of the island to this large cave. At the bottom of the cave was a big pool of water. Sandy said we had to go in and I said “no problem,” until I touched the water and realized that there must be an iceberg down there somewhere. Finally, after a lot of coaxing, I was able to jump in. Once in the water I had to follow Sandy under the rock wall for about 10 yards or so. This is one of those things that you would never know about if you weren’t with a local type person. We came up on the other side of the wall into this small room which was only lit by the sun shining through the water(which just happened to be blue) and thus we have “the blue room.” The water below us seemed to be bottomless and it went WAY under the rock that we were under and it was a bit “spooky,” so we didn’t stay too long.

Another time Sandy took me to the place where the opening scene of Indiana Jones was filmed. The only thing is that he took me there at night. We had to walk down this very narrow trail through some pretty thick bush to get there. All we had was one very small flashlight with us and it didn’t do a whole lot. When we arrived at the cave I noted how small the opening was compared to the one in the movie. Once we entered the small opening, the cave became rather large and was quite deep with little tunnels running in various directions. Sandy waited until we were pretty far into the cave to tell me that often homeless people sleep in here and that the ancient Hawaiians used to bury their dead here. People have actually found bones from the graves in there. Then he tells me to be real quite, as to not wake the several thousand bats lining the ceiling of the cave which was confirmed with a brief flash of the light. We didn’t spend much more time in there after that.

The island of Kauai is not all that big, but the landscape is very diversified. The northeast side of the island is the windward side and rains quite a bit which supports a very lush and green environment. The Jungle The northwest side of the island is the leeward side and is in the rain shadow so it gets substantially less rainfall than the other side. The south side of the island is somewhere in between and provides a pleasant place to live. Almost no one lives in the center of the island because of the mountains and difficulty in road building. In fact, there are no roads through the mountains at all except the one road which takes you up to the foot paths entering the Na Pali coast. The only way to drive from the northwest side to the northeast side is to drive all the way around the southern part of the island. It’s no big deal though, because the drive still only takes about forty minutes. There are no expressways or such so it takes a bit getting through traffic.

Sandy, of course, knows just about everyone on the island. His good friends lived on the south side of the island in a town called koloa. They all lived in about 5 little apartments which shared one drive way and was coined Melrose Place by some of the locals. Most of the tenants were part of a reggae band and were pretty good at it. They had a few CDs selling on some of the other islands in Hawaii. One thing was guaranteed, if you went by this place in the evening there would be lots of people just hanging out playing music, talking, etc. Everybody who lived there surfed as well and we would all meet up at one of the breaks, hang out, and surf. It was pretty cool hanging out at the beach with them. Between surf sessions, they would get out the ukulele and bongo drums and just have at it. It was a very unique bunch of people.

Lihue Airport, KauaiAfter spending around 13 days on Kauai, it was that time to head back. Flying Space-A you always have to give yourself ample time to get back. So off to the island of Oahu and the Hickam AFB passenger terminal.

It just so happened that there was a flight going back to Osan AB Korea following the same order that I got to Hawaii. Unfortunately, the flight didn’t leave for another 2 days. Darn, I would have to stay in paradise for another 2 days — what a bummer. Granted, Oahu is not nearly as pretty as kauai, but it wasn’t exactly ugly either.

The main problem with Oahu is that there are just too many people living there. The south side of the island is like any other large city(except the sun shines a little more). It has big wide expressways and all of the stuff that goes along with that. The Honolulu/Waikiki area is way over crowded with buildings and people. Just like many other big cities, there were quite a few homeless people(Hawaii would be a nice place to be homeless) and the crime rate is a bit higher than it should be. Don’t get me wrong, if I had to take a job in Honolulu I wouldn’t complain. The good thing though was that it had all the conveniences of any other state in the Union, and it even had a better public transit system than many cities back on the mainland.

Well, I toughed it out for a few more days in Hawaii, but like all good things it had to come to an end. I headed back to the terminal at Hickam AFB to catch that flight going toward Korea in a round about way. It was another C-5 that was scheduled to depart at about 0800 in the morning. When I arrived at the terminal to check on the flight I ran into some guy who left from Osan the same day I did on his way to the states. Then a few minutes later Betty showed up too. I must say, Betty was sporting a pretty fine tan and SHOWING off her newly acquired body piercing. Before too long there were about 5 or 6 people who I recognized from Osan.

We hurried up and waited(the military “norm”) for quite a while and finally got booked on the flight and herded into the holding area awaiting boarding. It turns out that the plane had some kind of malfunction and was delayed 14 hours(how convenient breaking down in Hawaii — from what I hear it happens quite a bit). So there we are stuck yet another day in Hawaii! We made the best of it and did some last minute touring in Waikiki and before long it was time to get back. This time the plane actually took off — about time. Off to Guam we go!

It was a little more than an 8 hour flight, but we had to cross the international date line so we had the great fortune of losing a day of our lives(again). Flying all night, we made it to Guam early in the morning and just hung around the terminal until the sun came up to see what was going on. Guam wasn’t quite the same on the way back. We didn’t have an escort like we did on the way over. The base didn’t have taxi service, a base shuttle bus, or anything that looked like transportation(other than my thumb). I don’t know who designed the base, but there had to be at least 200 yards between all the buildings. That base was so spread out it was unbelievable and as a result we didn’t venture out very far. I was just glad that we only had a 17 hour layover.

Our 17 hours were up and it was time to press on(and not a moment too soon). We get ready to board the plane and AGAIN they delay the plane, but this time its 24 hours. There were quite a few unhappy campers(including me), and I do mean campers. There were no rooms in billeting and everyone had to stay in the terminal. There must have been 60 people who were stranded because of that — families and all sleeping in the terminal. After spending many, many hours in the terminal several of us decided that the club was not all that far away — I don’t need to explain any further. After a few drinks(water, of course) I returned to the terminal to sleep, which seemed much more easy than it should have been on the tile floor(once again grateful for my sleeping bag).

The next day didn’t bring in any better news. The plane was no longer delayed 24 hours, but was instead delayed indefinitely! Not good news to a bunch of cranky people. It turns out that a few hours later we got word of a C-141 leaving for Kadena AB on Okinawa and then to Yokota AB on the mainland Japan near Tokyo. You didn’t have to tell me twice. There weren’t many seats available on this plane, but I was number 2 on the list and had no problem getting on. So, off to Japan.

It was a relatively short plane ride of about 2 hours. On this flight we sat on “jump seats” along the wall of the plane so take off and landing were a bit awkward. We were told to get ready for landing and this time the plane had the nose angled down pretty far. That’s what surprised me when the nose was still way down we hit the runway and I almost fell out of my seat(literally). The military crews must try to mess with people on purpose or something. Thank goodness for seat belts. Well, after all 2 hours of flying the crew decided that they needed “crew rest,” which is loosely translated into making a high rate of per diem pay in Japan so the more nights they stay the more $$$ they make. As a result they decided not to press on to Yokota AB.

Luckily, there was another C-141 leaving in about 15 minutes to Yokota, so we jumped off that plane and RAN to the other(looking for our luggage at the same time) and made it just in time. Finally, we were on our way to Yokota AB, Japan, also known as “the gateway to the Pacific” because of the large volume of air traffic traveling through it. They have flights between Japan and Korea 5 days a week at a minimum. So we’re home free, right? Wrong!!! Guess what 2 days they don’t fly to Korea? Let me give you a hint, it wasn’t either of the next 2 following days and there weren’t any flights for the remainder of the evening. Oh yeah, they didn’t have any rooms available either! At least the terminal was open for 24 hours and provided showers. I’ve gotta tell you, I don’t think I’ve ever been more proud to say that I own a sleeping bag!

The cool thing about the whole situation was that I had plenty of time to check out Japan. The bad thing was that it was the end of my trip and I was scraping up change for food and didn’t have enough money to get anywhere. I did get to walk around downtown for a ways. It is definitely a cleaner place than Korea! The food they were making in Japan actually smelled inviting. The food the Koreans make is enough to make the strongest American stomach gurgle. The Japanese do NOT take US $$ and that was kind of a shock. It made me realize how pompous we Americans are. We don’t take anyone’s money but our own, yet just about every country will take our money from us. It was still interesting to see part of the Japanese culture. The base is less than an hour away from Tokyo, but the train was way too expensive. The Yen doesn’t exchange very well at all with the US dollar. I was pretty disappointed that I didn’t get to see Godzilla.

A few LONG days later I finally caught a C-130, which is a small prop job transport plane. C-130 Again I had the pleasure of sitting in the jump seats. This plane is well known for its lack of a smooth ride as I soon found out. I didn’t really care much because I was going to finally end up back here at Osan with a bed of my very own(at least for the year). The crew on this flight were very customer service oriented and gave us a tour of the cockpit. At the time I went up to see, we were flying over a large mountain range that was covered with snow and I thought that was pretty cool until I began to think about possible emergency landing spots. This plane is much slower than its jet engine counterparts, so the flight took nearly 3.5 hours.

I never thought that I would be happy about landing at this place again, but I must admit it was nice to know that I had a place to stay and felt a sense(small one) of belonging. After being virtually homeless for almost a month just about any place can look welcoming. I was definitely happy that my long journey home was over, but was sad to leave such a beautiful place behind in the 50th state. I am sure that this will not be my last trip to Hawaii!!!!! I just hope the next time I go is a little more direct. Thanks for hanging on until the end.

I was able to expand my vocabulary along the journey. Here are some new words to pass on:

Aloha: Hello in Hawaiian.
Mahalo: Thank you in Hawaiian.
Moshi Moshi: Hello in Japanese.
Hafa Adai: Hello in Chomorro(Guam).
Yobo Se Yo: Hello in Hungul(Korean).
Tired: Referring to an older lady. “Man, that chick is tired.”
Mental: Really cool. “Dude, that barrel was Men-tal.”
Grind(grindage): To eat. “Where are we going to get some grinds?”
Chickies: Girls. “Look at those chickies.”
Hotties: Fine girl. “Check out all those hotties!”
Mega: Very fine girl. “She is so mega!!”
Hey Brah: Hi. “Hey brah, what’s happening?”
Hoale: White man from mainland. “Go home you $#@&ing hoale.”
Shoots: Sure. “Hey, do you want to go catch some waves? Shoots”
Right On: I agree. “The waves sure are great today aren’t they? Right on.”
Irie: Kind of like a pleasant response. “That sunset is so irie.”

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