Island explorers Dee and Stan Ink at the Fern Grotto on Kauai, Hawaii. Photo courtesy of Stan and Dee Ink.
About mid-January 2012, we decided we would try another Space-A trip to a warmer climate since Florida is not that warm in the winter. Our friends, Chuck and Mary Marquis, were game to go with us so we settled on Hawaii and beyond.
After a last-hour Space-A cancellation at NAS Jacksonville (JAX), Fla., and then some bad information we received from the wrong website listed agent (always verify where and who you are calling), we ended up driving all the way to Robbins AFB, Ga., only to discover there were no flights going to the West Coast. Base lodging by phone claimed they were full but once we met face-to-face in the office, they found us a two-bedroom suite (always go in, don’t rely on telephone, if possible). After 540 miles and two days on the road we were still flightless. So we had a nice dinner at the Robbins Officers’ Club while we reorganized and checked our next options.
Since no Space-A flights were going to the West Coast, we checked commercial and found and booked an Alaska Air flight from Orlando to Honolulu for $359 on Monday. We would have spent near that much even if we had taken Space-A flights and it would have taken longer. Chuck then went to work on finding and reserving rooms for us in Hawaii.
Saturday, January 21
We left Robins this morning down the back roads, stopping at the Jefferson Davis Memorial Historic Site just outside of Fitzgerald, Ga., on the exact spot he was arrested. We saw a good video and a re-enactment group camped out there and then went on to Moody AFB, Ga., for the night. We had lunch on the way at a café in the small town of Ocilla.
Sunday, January 22
Today was another short day to a La Qunita Inn motel in Orlando near the airport. We bought parking for 19 days, thinking we would get back by then. Our flight was one-way as we plan to take Space-A back after spending a week at Barking Sands Beach Cottages, on the Barking Sands Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai, Hawaii. We watched some of the NFL championship games before going to bed early for the early flight the next morning.
Monday, January 23
We left at 0530, parked the car, shuttled to the airport and had breakfast before boarding Alaska Air. After a stop in Seattle, we landed in Honolulu about 0800 local time. We picked up our Hertz rental car and drove to Hickam AFB to check into our two bed-room home for the next two days. We had a fairly good sleep to get over the five-hour time difference.
We were in a two-story DV quarters that Chuck rented for us. It had two equal-sized bedrooms with queen beds and TVs and one bathroom on the second floor and living, dining, kitchen and laundry rooms on the first floor, as well as a nice porch. It was a large build-ing with about 10 other similar units. We drove to Sand Island, near Waikiki Beach, where U.S. Coast Guard Sector Honolulu is based. Chuck had made the reservations for our Kauai flights thru Debbie at the USCG MWR, and he wanted to meet her. She was a very nice lady and her aide, USCG sailor Steven Levy, was from Cape Coral, Fla. It’s a small world.
We then drove to Waikiki to the U.S. Army’s Hale Koa Hotel to meet some retiree friends of Chuck and Mary. Many military retirees rent condos in Honolulu and then hang out in the Hale Koa grounds during the day, enjoying their facilities without paying the hotel’s room rates. Their friends, Marvin and Judy, had spent several months every year there for several years. Marvin is a retired E8 and served in four services. He is our age, though not quite as agile as we are lucky to be. We had lunch before going back to Hickam where we stopped at the BX for some dinner to take back to our room.
Wednesday, January 25
At 0830, we drove to the airport to turn in the rental car and catch the shuttle to Hawaiian Airlines. It was only a 30-minute flight to Kauai on a Boeing 717, where we rented a car from Alamo. We had about an hour drive to our destination even though the island is only about 35 miles wide. We stopped for lunch in Hanapepe at a quaint café with expensive food. In fact, everything is expensive here. Gas, for example, is $4.85 a gallon. Even at the NEX and Commissary the prices were high – lettuce at more than $4.00 a head, celery more than $4 a stalk, bananas at 75 cents each, milk $8 gallon, etc.
Cottages at Barking Sands. Photo courtesy of Stan and Dee Ink.
We checked in at Barking Sands at about 1500. Each of our units are large rooms with a bathroom, microwave, TV, refrigerator, plenty of closet space, drawers and a queen bed. There are four units that share a common room with sofas and a large dining table.
The galley is across the lawn, where we can eat three times a day if we want. The NEX is nearby as is a club, fitness center, pool and other sports facilities. The beach is about a quarter of a mile away. They also show movies outdoors some nights. It is a very nice relaxing area. There are also beachfront cabins but they were not available. We heard from the staff that they are usually 96 percent prebooked.
We bought some TV dinners for tonight and ate in the room. Chuck and Mary went to the galley and were not impressed with the menu of grilled cheese sandwiches and a few other things.
Thursday, January 26
Today was off and on rain. We all went to the galley for a big breakfast and then Dee and I decided to walk the half mile to the cottages on the beach. The mist then became rain and a man stopped and gave us a ride. We decided to go to the fitness center for our usual exercise. They have many machines so we did our usual 75-90 minutes before heading back. It is nice where we are staying with all the buildings within 200-300 feet. We later checked out the pool, but I decided it was Yankee water (cold!). Chuck however did his lap swimming.
After lunch in the room, we watched Florida beat Mississippi in basketball and, after our usual happy hour with Chuck and Mary, we went to the local base club, Shenanigans, for dinner. It is right on the beach where we watched the surf and sunset. In the distance we could see the rocky island, Niihau. We were told it is a private island where they import animals for hunters’ sport. By law only people with Hawaiian blood can live on Niihau. About 100 still do but it is now owned by a single family. Nice day even though it rained most of it.
Friday, January 27
Left to right: Stan Ink, U.S. Air Force, retired; his wife, Dee; Mary and Chuck Marquis, U.S. Coast Guard, retired. The four jet-setters often travel together. Photo courtesy of Stan and Dee Ink.
We left the base and stopped at Waimea; the monument that marks where Captain Cook first landed in 1778; and the ruins of the Russian Fort Elizabeth built in the early 1800’s. The four of us and a pilot then boarded a Hughes 500 helicopter for a one-hour tour of the island. There were no doors so we wore sleeves and long pants for the 55 degree wind chill. It was an exciting trip. We saw rugged mountain ranges, coffee plantations, beaches and the missile base at Barking Sands. The west third of the island is rugged with no roads and has many waterfalls, including one that was used in the movie “Jurassic Park” (1993). Our pilot also pointed out the large estates owned by actors Julia Roberts and Pierce Bronson. The helicopter trip was to celebrate Mary’s birthday today and our 59th wedding anniversary tomorrow.
After we landed, we drove up a winding road through the rugged terrain we had just observed from above, to an overlook at the top of a ridge in Waimea Canyon. We stopped in Waimea for a BBQ lunch before going back to the base. On base there is a large complex of buildings and antennas and a runway. We were told they launch and track test missiles from here; Vandenberg AFB, Calif.; and from submarines.
Saturday, January 28
View of the island Kauai on the North Shore by helicopter. Photo courtesy of Stan and Dee Ink.
Before breakfast we walked to the beach to watch large waves crash down; some must have been 15-feet high. On the way to the beach we saw many of the wild chickens that are everywhe