Shell of a Good Time

Sun down on our trip

Our last day was a slow start. We grilled some eggs and sausage, and made coffee. Sasha slept in. We weren’t in a rush to get anything special done today. We just lounged about the condo. Yulia went for a swim. I listened to an audiobook.

Eventually, we got moving.

We headed down to Whaler’s Village in Ka’anapali. We were looking for a few souvenirs for friends, and also remembered to trade in our ABC store receipts (we had enough for a free coffee mug). I grabbed a small travel duffel from Tommy Bahama (I wanted to balance the weight of our stuff, we were a little overloaded on the way here.) We checked out a few shops,  then headed down to the beach to swim. Compared to our condo, Ka’anapali beach is crowded. We found some space and swam out. The sand burned my feet on the way across the beach, and the water was warm, almost hot. There still wasn’t much wind, and the sky was clear.

As good as the beach was, it really made me appreciate the condo, we had a much smaller beach, but no crowds, nothing for sale. Kiosks for sunglasses, parasailing, surf lessons and timeshare information were all across the sidewalk along the beach. Hotels had their tables and umbrellas brought out in front of their beach, and little transfer boats were scuttling in and out to ferry people out to their events. It was cool, but I liked our turtles better. That’s my level of action.

We though Sushi for lunch would be fun, and had heard of a really nice place up in Kapalua called Sansei, back near Fleming Beach. This place was getting rave reviews , and with the quality of seafood locally, sushi sounded like a plan.  It was a short drive up, so we dropped the top and headed up. It was easy to find, but once we got there we found the place was dinner only. Nuts. We hunted for other local sushi, and found a 4.5 star place back towards our condo. This was Miso Phat. All the reviews raved about the place, so we thought we’d try it out. It was a short drive, and we knew the little strip mall as we had passed it all week long.

We walked in and it was small. maybe five tables total, but it had a gift shop. That was a good sign. We got the last table, and asked the waitress what she recommended. We basically had her order our food, we got the two house rolls (Miso Phat roll and TNT Roll), the freshly caught Sashimi, and a roasted Hamachi collar (Hamachi Kama). It was stunning. Everything was absolutely perfect. This was some of the best sushi that I have had, getting fish caught that day makes all the difference.

We headed back to the condo after that. It was hot, we needed to cool down so we didn’t overheat. We rested and swam. our turtles didn’t come back, but it was relaxing in any case. You really appreciate the difference in our beach vs the big one. It just takes a few seconds to run down the stairs into the water, as opposed to walking the beach, going through the hotel, waiting for the elevator, etc. We rested and did a little more reading, and a lot of nothing. Once we started getting hungry again we headed back into town.

We went along the waterfront and had dinner at Mala Tavern. Which is a “Tavern” in name only. It’s a really nice upscale fusion place on the water. Great food and beautiful views, but not super “Hawaiian”. It was so good that we didn’t really care. They made an ahi bruschetta that was amazing, and I had a Kobe Burger sans bun that was also great. The place was pretty seriously crowded, even the beach outside had crowds there to watch the sunset.  It was nice to have some great food and drinks as the sun went down behind us.

After dinner we walked around Front Street in Lahaina, and Sasha found some gifts for her friends. The street was packed with people, it was so hot during the day that nighttime is really the better option for enjoying the town. Seeing the crowds all day really made us appreciate the quality of where we stayed. We had quiet and privacy, and were within walking distance of everything we needed and wanted.

Back at the condo, we found our favorite sea turtle napping on the beach. Yulia was so excited to get to say goodbye, and we just sat for a bit, watching the turtle sleep. I had to pull Yulia away so she didn’t crawl down on the beach and fall asleep hugging the turtle down in the sand.

The turtle was not available for comment.

We had an afternoon flight, so we didn’t have to get up at some god awful hour to catch our flight. We made the last of the coffee, cooked the last of the eggs and sausage, and ate the remaining Pineapple. We figured to leave around 10:30 or 10:45 to catch our flight. Our flight was at 2:45, Personally, I prefer to be at the airport six or so hours ahead, just in case of a long security line or particularly slow staff at the bar. You have to plan ahead  for these things.

I bought an extra duffel bag as a carry on, but even with that, and tossing out a bunch of disposable items, our bags just seemed way too heavy. I have to assume that we have about five pounds of sand in our stuff, because no matter how many times I wash or shake things out, more sand keeps shaking out. I think it breeds. I checked the traffic heading out, and it was a little heavier than normal, so I managed to talk the crew into leaving at 10. This felt better to me, as I knew we had to fill the car with gas before turning it in, and also use some rental vouches, which always confuse the hell out of people.

The traffic was not too bad. It was the standard slow drive out of West Maui, down the shore and through he tunnel.  The water looked calm, much better than our Zodiac ride from hell. The fire damage was still very apparent. Especially by the smell as we rounded the curve to the marina. Funny that that was almost two weeks ago.

We got the the rental company in about 40 minutes, but as expected the vouchers were confusing as hell, and we couldn’t get out of there and to the terminal until 11. A huge line snaked in front of the terminal for the Agricultural Bag inspection. This was bad. I asked a security guy what the line was, and he explained that they can’t let fruit or vegetables out to the mainland, so you have to go through the inspection line. Before I could say “Shit” he pointed to the other end of the terminal, and said, “There’s another empty line at the other end.” I had Yulia and Sasha wait, and ran to the other end of the terminal. Sure enough, there was another inspection station with two people in line. I waved my arms like a fucking idiot until they ran over, and we made it through in about 5 minutes. No one else figured this out. Tourists.

We went to the check in line to drop our bags, and it was a goat rodeo. I found a self check-in station and tried to print out bag tags. I was hoping this was faster than the main line. As I punched through, I checked out seats and found that there  were FIRST CLASS UPGRADES AVAILABLE! These were far too expensive, so we got them anyway. First Class includes all drinks, so as Yulia hates to fly, and I hate to be sober, so this was an excellent compromise.

We dropped our bags, and even though they were over weight, we were first class, so the attendant just waved them through. Nice. However, we did get stuck in the security line from hell. Sasha had TSA precheck, so she just went straight through, but Yulia and I had to stand in the big line. It went out past the actual ropes, and was moving pretty slow. We eventually made it to the scanners, just in time for a shift change. We looked back to the end of the line, and it had grown down the hall and out of sight. Had we left a bit later, and not found out about the shorter Agricultural  check line, we would have gotten caught in that massive security line. At that point it would have been a race to get to the gate, and a lot less fun. In front of us was a fairly confused woman who not only held everyone  up by being unable to get her bags on the scanner line without assistance, but it took her two tries to empty all the metal items out of her pockets.

I commented to the security guy next to us, “Sometimes the line moves so fast, you just can’t empty your pockets in time.” He looked over at me, and without saying “no fucking shit”, he smiled, and reminded the people behind us to empty out their goddamn pockets.

Once through security, we caught up with Sasha. She looked at me, and immediately said, “You are covered in sweat!” I checked, and she was right. I just hadn’t noticed. I was completely soaked after standing in that line. She and Yulia hit the gift shop for some last minute items, and I hit another to get a new shirt. I was lucky that Crazy Shirts had a little stand, and they had the green “Road to Hana” shirt I was eyeing back in Lahaina. I got it and changed, spending the rest of the day like I just had done the Jane Fonda Hanoi Workout would have been less than pleasant.

We had time to get lunch before boarding, so we ate at Sammy Hagar’s restaurant in the airport. He has some of his Cabo Wabo stuff here, but mostly this is a place promoting his Rum line. Also, they had a note that profits go to local kid’s charities, which I though was a pretty cool deal. I tried his Spam Burger, which was amazing, and three quick drinks to warm up before the flight. You never know how long you have to wait until service starts.

We worked our way through the crowds to the front of the boarding area, and once boarding started joined the first group. The A330 is a pretty big plane, and behind us the crowd was really big. It was nice to get out of that mess. We were seated in the front of the First Class section, and once we had our belts on, the Attendant asked us if we wanted a pre-flight drink. Good thing I was warmed up, that wait would have been unbearable. It was an excellent champagne and pineapple sunrise drink called a Pukana La. We felt so special.

We actually had really good seats before in the Business Class section before we upgraded. Being really tall means that I literally don’t fit into some airlines regular seats, so we try to get extra space whenever we fly. I looked back at our seats we released, and they were taken by a really tall couple who probably grabbed them as their upgrade. You’re welcome guys.

Our last trip to Maui was ten years ago. I was a bit of a mess of a trip. Two families as well as Yulia’s Mother. Sasha was 7. We were packed into a hotel (the Hyatt) and I slept on a folding bed so we could all fit into a room. It was fun, but not fun. When you have too many people and not enough space everything, even fun events, become a bit of a struggle. I have been coming to Lahaina for as long as I could remember, but that time was the end of it. It cost too much and we did too little. Even planning for this trip felt a bit risky for us. We weren’t sure this would work out as a trip.

That trip also was the first time I started writing on our vacations. It was a short comment, written on a HTC Wizard smartphone, back when I wrote to an MSN Spaces account. Since then I have tried to write every year on vacation, and also whenever I get a chance, but vacation is my real free time to write. I have a full written record of ten years worth  of family vacations. What we did, what we saw, how we felt.

Next year Sasha graduates high school, and turns 18. This was our last vacation with her as a “child”, but she isn’t a child anymore. Both Yulia and I have been privileged to watch her grow into a smart, inquisitive young woman. She has her own opinions, her own tastes, and is fascinating to talk to. Every vacation we take has had something where we tried to expose her to the world around her, even when it has just been driving south to Disneyland. We’ve always tried to make extra stops somewhere to see something new. I’ve tried to record it all. Everyone takes photos. But someone said recently “We photograph everything but see nothing.” I want to make sure that my daughter sees the world. And I want her to remember our reactions to it.

This trip was one of the best. We had more space and more time together. We saw some amazing sights and shared great time and conversations together. And best of all, she still enjoys time together with her parents, and Yulia and I enjoy our time with her. I will be very happy if instead of family reunions in the future, we can stick with family vacations.

She’s also is getting better at her Pina Coladas. So that’s a bonus too.