THIS WEEK'S JOHNNY JET 9/25/2002
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HAWAII FOR DINNER
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Who says you can't go to Hawaii for dinner? Certainly not me! Listen to last week's trip: It was 9am on Saturday and I felt the ol' travel itch coming on. I woke up Amber Airplane and said, "How about we go somewhere nice and far for dinner?" She opened one eye and said with a tired but excited voice, "I am not going anywhere further than 5 hours so get the Europe or Asia thing out of your head RIGHT NOW". I smiled and said, "Dang! Well then how about either Mexico City for taco's or Kona for some fresh seafood?" Without hesitation she said, "Kona would be good." Amber literally packed as fast as she could, while I made some quick travel arrangements on Johnny Jet (Sat night stay!). We drove like a bat out of hell to LAX and parked. Luckily there was no security line and we just made it to the gate before the cutoff. While waiting to see if our upgrade was going to go through, I remembered I had a phone interview with a radio station in Alaska. So, instead of rescheduling I had the interview from Terminal 7 at LAX and it went better then ever, even with the background PA noise. You gotta love FREE press!
Our upgrade went through! Which meant we had a nice phat seat and a tasty first class meal : Ka'u orange-glazed grilled breast of chicken and Kapakahi mashed potatoes, baby bok choy, and red bell peppers. MMm! MMm! The bad news is the flight went over five hours by twenty minutes, which meant I was in BIG trouble with Amber.
We landed in Kona after the 2,505 mile journey. As we walked down the open air stairs, I felt the warm breeze heated by the black rocky lava terrain. The heat and humidity made me want to jump back inside the plane for that nice cool stale AC (just kidding). It really made me want to jump in a car and drive as fast I could to the hotel so I could throw on my bathing suit and take dip in the refreshing 77 degree Pacific Ocean .
Kona is located on Big Island of Hawaii. The Big Island is the largest island in the Pacific, (4,038 sq. miles, which is about the size of my native state of Connecticut), and the least populated, (with 30 people per sq. mile). It has the nation's wettest city, (Hilo), the southernmost point in the United States, and the most volcanoes of any Hawaiian island. The BIG Island really has it all: from the fiery volcanoes, to the sparkling waterfalls, to the black-lava deserts, to the snowcapped mountain peaks, (Yes, it is true you can Heli ski in the winter), to tropical rain forests, and miles of beaches, (But not as many as you would think). The Big Island has 13 of the 14 possible climates and a 50-mile drive can take you from snowy winter to steamy summer, not to mention you will pass through spring or fall along the way. The best description I read about the Big Island was: "The island looks like the inside of a barbecue pit on one side, (Kona side), and a lush jungle on the other, (Hilo side).
We rented from Alamo and luckily we didn't check bags because
we beat the mad rush at the rental car office. (Don't
you just hate waiting in line especially in Hawaii after a
long flight?) The agent tried to hard sell me for insurance,
gas, and an upgrade, but I said NO, NO, and NO! Then Amber
Airplane over heard the lady say how about a Jeep Wrangler, I was
like N....and Amber Airplane butts in and says, "That's my favorite!
How much more for that?" The lady says, "It's only $35 more",
and I said, "Sorry that's way too much!" We talked some more
and ended up making friends with the agent and I said, "We will only get
the jeep if you hook us up BIG time". Our new found Hawaiian
friend says, "How about if I give you my discount which is only $12 more
per day." I looked at Amber's face which had that we-flew-over-5-hours-look,
so I said what the heck....Sold.
Since we were only there for one night we weren't going to break the bank and stay at a 4 or 5-star resort. It would've been nice believe me, but a waste. Instead we stayed at an inexpensive 3-star hotel with a lot of local history, The King Kamehameha . King Kam , what the locals call it, is not the greatest hotel but when you're on a budget and want to be close to town, it does the trick.
I have only been to Kona a half a dozen times and haven't been for a couple of years so we weren't going to play the "walk around town blind game" like we did last week. So we spent a good portion of our flight speaking with a cool flight attendant named Jan. Jan lives in Kona and gave us some great tips. By The Way: You think I fly a lot? Jan commutes to LAX to work the Kona flights. She works six trips a month which means she flies six trips to get to and from work. That means she crosses the pacific 24 times a month, (24!), and that's when she's lucky, that's right lucky! Because if the KOA flights are overbooked, which they usually are in high season, she sometimes has to fly LAX-NRT (Tokyo) to catch a HNL (Honolulu) flight, then jump on an Aloha Airlines flight to KOA. Now that is crazy, so going to Hawaii for dinner is not! Right? Right!
Jan's recommendations were great! She said for a nice dinner go to Huggo's (not Huggo's on the Rocks which is right next door). We did and it was awesome! I'll add my own tip which is get there at 5:25pm for an early dinner. The reason is because they don't start seating until 5:30 and you will be sure to get a prime time table along the water. Order some lava flows , (Pina Colada & Strawberry Margarita mixed), or a Mai Tai and watch the sunset at 6:30 . It's incredible and when the sun does set don't be surprised when everyone, including the help start clapping. It's their way of thanking God or Mother Nature. Make sure to keep a close eye out on the water because you will most certainly see sea turtles and puffer fish come in for some bread that the waiters, (and diners like me), throw over. Don't be scared, just give a good hook-shot over your shoulder, the waiter's won't care, trust me, it's Hawaii.
The next morning we really wanted to go to the Volcano which is 98 miles away and about 2 1/2 drive, but my lower back started killing me and I did not want to hike the volcano miserable. Besides, now we have a good reason to go back! Instead we took Jan's advice and went to Dirty Jakes for eggs benedict, which were made to perfection. Then we walked around town and the local shops. We bought some chocolates with macadamia nuts, (That's right Dad, I got them for you!), and other local gifts. Then we stopped by one of the best snowcone shops on the planet that had every flavor in the world, (I had a guava, passion fruit, and Mai Tai one). Then we stumbled upon a little farmers market which sold incredible lei's for only $5 and passion fruits for 50cents. You can't beat it! We could've saved some money and gone to the Walmart which was a few blocks away and stocked up on Hawaiian gifts that all the tourist stores sold for twice the price, but I have a hard time going to Walmart in Hawaii. Besides, the locals need the money more than the Walton, (Walmart), family.
Instead of renting snorkels from Snorkel Bob for $8 a day, we bought some cheap ones for $6 from the ABC Store, (which are practically on every corner on all the major islands). We decided to put the Jeep to good use and we took a right out of the King Kam and drove 6 miles to Kahaluu Beach . This beach is known by the locals for it's amazing snorkeling. Amber Airplane really wanted to go snorkeling which surprised me because she's afraid of squirrels, pigeons , crickets..... you name it. We walked out about 50 yards without incident before putting our masks on. We put on our masks and I see this puffer fish right smack in front of us. I looked over at Amber and she's freaking out. We stand up and she starts yelling, "He's staring at me!" I said, "Don't be silly, go back down." So she goes back under. While I am above the water I can hear her breathing so loud and fast through her snorkel that I couldn't stop laughing. While Amber was still down there, I reached into my pocket and pulled out the $2 fish food I bought from the ABC Store without Amber's knowledge. I thought it would be funny to get a few more fish around Amber so I started sprinkling the pellets around her. BIG MISTAKE! Within three seconds there were fifty or so of the most colorful fish all around us and that even made me uneasy. In fact, Amber really started to freak out. She jumped out of the water into my arms and started to cry. Then her foot accidentally touched the puffer fish and she ran hip deep to shore screaming and crying. It was one of the funniest scenes ever. She was carrying on like a shark was in the water. All the other beach goers were looking at her her like she was crazy. I laughed so hard I made the water a little warmer by accident.
Once Amber got safely to shore, she laughed about it. Unfortunately, it was time to go back to the mainland, so we jumped in the jeep and drove to the hotel then on to the airport. The Kona Airport is one of my favorite airports in America because everything is open air with just grass huts to keep you dry. It's a very relaxed atmosphere with no one running from gate to gate and rarely are the lines long and they even have a double security check point.
We flew home some 25 hours later and guess who was working our
? That's right, Jan.
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