Monday - September 25th, 2017

I’d like to start by saying that I’m writing this on the third plane home, so I’m not in a good mood at all. I’ll try to leave it for the appropriate post, but I’d really like to call Delta when I get home and explain to them how they’ve made this the worst series of flights I’ve ever had and I’m never flying with them again—but, I digress.

Monday morning, I left the house with my in-laws—who are phenomenal people in case I didn’t mention that before now. I arrived at the airport at 7:30 am, and I boarded the plane at 9:30 am. There really wasn’t much to remark on in that time, other than I hate airports in general (except Kailua-Kona international airport, but I’ll get to that in a while).

The flight from Indianapolis to Minneapolis wasn’t long, but the airport made me want to hurl sharp objects at people. The odds and ends stores are all out in the open walkways; I mean to say that if you build one of these stores—complete with shelving units like any other store—right in the middle of where you walk, and then stripped away the walls, that’s the entire airport there. It made traversing the terminal next to impossible. I can’t see how they have any loss prevention. It felt like I was searching for a plane in the middle of Costco.

Minneapolis to LA was also a more or less agreeable flight until it came time to get off of the plane. I sat waiting to get out of the plane for twenty minutes after they had opened the door. This would be the case for the first two flights home as well—I’ll let you know later if it applies to the last, and I expect it will. The airport wasn’t too bad because my gates were close to not only each other, but a short walk from a security checkpoint that was a few yards from the roof of a parking deck that I had about six illegal cigarettes on.

The flight to Kailua-Kona did start to really get long and monotonous, but when I landed I was in love with the airport there. They rolled a staircase up to the plane, everything was open like a big gazebo, the people were actually helpful, the shuttle was simple, the rental place was even easy to get in and out of on both the arrival and return trips. It wasn’t super busy and it all just sort of flowed. Maui, I would discover later, was the exact opposite. Maui feels like Kona trying to be LA with junk cluttering the walkways like Minneapolis—it’s just checkpoints and people and signage; oh god, the signage.

After the minute and a half it took me to familiarize myself with the airport at Kona, I simply walked across the street, had a cigarette, took the shuttle that kindly waited empty for me to have my smoke, and not even twenty minutes later I was driving out of the lot of Alamo rentals. I got a Nissan Versa.

The guy gave me the choice for no extra charge of getting a sedan, and I wish I had to some degree, but I thought the gas mileage would be nice to have. What I didn’t count on was that with my foot on the floor completely—no exaggeration—I could not climb the saddle any faster than forty-five miles an hour at some points. The saddle is the road that runs between Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea so you can go between Kona and Hilo without having to drive the beltway around the island—although I did that as well a couple of times.

Despite the Versa’s absolute lack of real power, it was wonderful on gas, and the creature comforts like Bluetooth, backup camera, and cruise control were great (I once rented a Yaris in the Mojave desert that had no cruise control and it pissed me off on the two-hundred-mile straightaways with nothing around to see or hit).

There are little to no street lights in Hawai’i. I’ve heard some locals complain about this, but I think most understand that one reason they don’t have them is the incredible array of observatories they have there, including one of two Genesis Observatories housing an 8.1-meter reflecting telescope. This observatory has a twin in Chile and between the two they are able to observe the entire sky around our planet.

Having little to no street lights, when I got over the saddle and started down the other side of the mountain, the sudden ninety-degree turns really started to catch me off guard at seventy miles an hour. I got used to it though because you don’t really have a whole lot of traffic, and the markings on the road are perfect, as well as the signage.

Once I arrived at the hotel, check-in was easy. I got a real key like you’d have to your house as opposed to the cards most bigger hotels have. This was not really new to me, though. When I stayed in Death Valley I stayed at a motel that had regular door locks, and truthfully, I prefer them. They just feel more home-ish. The room had a huge bed, a nifty table that unfolded and made a perfect desk, two standing fans, no A/C, a kitchenette with a nearly full-sized fridge I didn’t really use, and a balcony overlooking Hilo Bay. For what I paid, it was perfect—even if the roaches could steal my car. I found the cure for that—I let the geckos in. The geckos were cooler company, too.

I set up my little desk, checked out the shower that made me wish I’d brought stainless steal sandals and some disinfectant. I sat on the edge of the bed I was afraid of looking at with a black light, flipped the television on the local news for the gecko on the dresser, and proceeded to research where everything was that I needed.

That first day, I ate a Cliff bar and a stale pop-tart from the vending machine in the main area of the hotel. I figured I’d wander around the next day and maybe find a café or something to have a sandwich, but the first day was mostly just getting set up, working, and familiarizing myself with the long drives I’d need to take later on. These drives would be great because you can get to almost anywhere on the big island in three turns or less. 

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