The Many Adventures of MSG Walter & Shanna Spicer of Taylorsville, Utah

Friday, Nov. 4, 2011:

Walt and Shanna enjoying Waikiki Beach. Photo courtesy of Walt Spicer.

Walt and Shanna enjoying Waikiki Beach. Photo courtesy of Walt Spicer.

We left Hill AFB,UT, about 1600 on a C-17 cargo plane, flying military Space-Available Travel heading for McChord AFB near Tacoma, WA. As we were walking toward the aircraft to board, Shanna was amazed at what she saw. We entered by walking up the rear ramp, built to carry Abram tanks and other heavy cargo. I only warned her that it might get a little cold, so she had her coat and was somewhat ready for the flight experience. Walking into the huge aircraft was like walking into the belly of a whale.

We met several retired soldiers and their wives also traveling Space-A, including one former Vietnam helicopter pilot, Ted, shot down three times. On one occasion he said his body was placed in a body bag and presumed dead. The medics, upon seeing the bag moving, concluded he was alive. He was transferred to a hospital where he recovered. They put a steel plate in his head and sent him back to Vietnam.

Boarding at Hill AFB into "the belly of a whale". Photo courtesy of Walt Spicer.

Boarding at Hill AFB into “the belly of a whale”. Photo courtesy of Walt Spicer.

We arrived at Tacoma’s McChord AFB Passenger terminal around 1800. We carried our baggage into the Joint Base Lewis-McChord Field Passenger Terminal. Together, with another couple we befriended, we called an Ace Taxi who took us to Americas Best Value Inn in Lakewood, WA, where we all spent the night. The couple is from Ogden, UT. They have family living in Washington.

Saturday, Nov. 5:

This morning we rented a Hertz Toyota and drove around the Seattle-Tacoma area, took pictures of the beautiful fall-colored trees on the west side of the city, across the bay, with Shanna’s new iPhone®. We drove around downtown Seattle and to the Space Needle. We then continued driving southwest thru Olympia and on toward Aberdeen, WA, where we spent the night in another Americas Best Value Inn. We ate dinner at a Mexican restaurant in Aberdeen where, no thanks to Shanna, their staff sang “Happy Birthday” and placed a sombrero on my head. I

Walt's birthday celebration at a local Mexican restaurant. Photo courtesy of Walt Spicer.

Walt’s birthday celebration at a local Mexican restaurant in Washington. Photo courtesy of Walt Spicer.

shared my birthday dessert with the children in a family sitting across from us. They looked like they wanted it more than I.

Sunday, Nov. 6:

This morning, we attended our church in Aberdeen, WA. We then continued up the coast to the Naval Pacific Coast Resort, at Pacific Beach, WA, where we spent four days and three nights. Had a surprise cellphone call from my sister, Geri, wishing me happy birthday, just as we reached the Naval Resort. We had a wonderful visit and talked about Aberdeen, Moclips, and the fish hatchery. I remember coming to Aberdeen with the family, (when I was about 10) going deep sea fishing, catching a small shark, going clam digging, and cooking them for dinner that evening.

Monday to Wednesday, Nov. 7 to 9:

The weather along the coast was around 45 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit and very humid and misty. The forecast is always rain – but it’s not really rain like you think of rain. People here rarely use umbrellas even though you can see the rain coming down.

Shanna at Pacific Beach Resort in California. Photo courtesy of Walt Spicer.

Shanna at Pacific Beach Resort in California. Photo courtesy of Walt Spicer.

The ocean is beautiful. We had a nice view from our guest room. We spent hours walking along the beach dodging the waves, watching the birds, and admiring the beautiful coastline. We also visited the Quinault Indian Reservation and the Quinault National Fish Hatchery. A young man from Twin Falls, ID, gave us an hour private tour of the hatchery. He served eight years in the military including Desert Storm. He was thrilled to talk about our mutual military experiences. He has a young family a few miles from the salmon fish hatchery in Nelson, WA.

We also walked around the town of Moclips. There are a lot of summer cottages for rent along the coast. People visit here to get away from the extreme heat and cold as the weather stays very mild all year long.

Wednesday, we drove back to McChord AFB to catch a flight to Hickham AFB on the island of Oahu. Arriving at McChord once again, I dropped off Shanna and the luggage at the air terminal and returned the rental car to Hertz, which we prearranged with Salt Lake City’s AAA at a great price. One of the employees drove me back to the air terminal where Shanna and I waited for our plane to depart.

Around 1400 we flew out over the ocean toward Oahu. Arriving around 1800, after we landed, the plane had trouble shutting down one of its turbine jet engines so we were an hour sitting on the plane waiting to exit. I visited with a young soldier in the 25th Infantry (my former unit in Vietnam) who was heading for Afghanistan to serve. His young wife and two children were with him going to Hawaii where she has relatives. The 25th Infantry is headquartered at Scofield Army Barracks in Oahu but his unit is now in Alaska, where he will ship out of soon. Concerning the turbine jet engine not shutting down, his very bright five-year old son asked his dad, “Why don’t they just turn off the key?” I think we all had that same thought.

Departing the plane, the weather was tropically cool, and not as hot and humid as at other times I’ve arrived here. This is my sixth trip to Hawaii and Shanna’s third.

Thursday to Saturday, Nov. 10 to 12:

Enjoying the Waikiki views. Photo courtesy of Walt Spicer.

Enjoying the Waikiki views. Photo courtesy of Walt Spicer.

Spent three days on Oahu where we waded in the beaches of Waikiki, and shopped in the large shopping mall of the famous Ala Moana Shopping Center. President Obama was to visit Saturday with the APEC Hawaii Meeting with 21 leaders from around the world. The main boulevards were shut down to traffic, and we left Honolulu for the island Molokai at a perfect time.

We were able to arrange a week at the beautiful Molokai Hotel, Hula Shores Resort. We flew out of Honolulu on Saturday on a Pacific Wing commercial flight and arrived in Molokai a half hour later, around 1000. From high above we could see four of the Hawaiian Islands. Flying into the Molokai’s small airport we were facing strong winds which gave us a scare as the wings started rocking back and forth and high into the air. We looked at each other wondering if we’d make it down alive. We did make it safely. Two weeks ago a sight-seeing helicopter from Maui crashed on a hillside a few miles east of here killing all five passengers. A very sad event as one of the couples, from Pennsylvania, had been married for only one week.

Accommodations at the Hotel Molokai. Photo courtesy of Walt Spicer.

Accommodations at the Hotel Molokai. Photo courtesy of Walt Spicer.

We were the only ones on the small plane which seemed unique. We then took a cab to the Hotel which consists of several cottages, an outside restaurant and swimming pool, all next to the beach. Each night they have a different Hawaiian group performing.

Sunday to Thursday, Nov. 13 to 17:

A young girl, Sharoli, working at the motel offered to take us to church the next morning. Molokai has a beautiful new Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints chapel and we met many wonderful people. We met one Hawaiian family, Kirk and Ada. He he is pure Hawaiian and went to the mainland U.S. on a football scholarship 30 years ago. He and his lovely wife invited us to their home, for what we call in our church, Family Home

Relaxing on the Island of Molakai. Photo courtesy of Walt Spicer.

Relaxing on the Island of Molakai. Photo courtesy of Walt Spicer.

Evening. We had a delicious roast, cooked on an outdoor fire-pit . One gentleman, Yuma, who cooked the roast, is 74 years old, has a boat, loves to fish, is as fit as a fiddle, and can still dive 100 feet underwater without diving equipment. We had a wonderful meal and a great visit.

Molokai is famous for its solitude, a quiet, humble island. There are no chain stores, only Mom and Pop stores, no traffic lights, and no parking meters. Many people here grow their own produce and raise their own pigs, chickens, and cattle. (The roosters wake us up every morning.) The people here desire to keep Molokai like it was a hundred years ago. They are friendly to tourists, but do not want them staying, buying land, and living here. They want Molokai spared from the effects of the Haole way of life. Who can blame them?

Yesterday we walked what is said to be the longest straight beach in Hawaii – three miles long. We made it about half way down the beautiful deep sandy beach at the west end of the island.  I did some swimming and body surfing but it wasn’t a pretty sight – like a whale in water. The water felt warm and it was fun being in the warm emerald blue, pure Hawaiian Pacific. Shanna didn’t swim but she enjoyed getting wet and getting some sun. I had a little too much and was slightly burned at the end of the day. White skin burns quickly in Hawaii. Shanna put apple cider vinegar on me last night which helped cool the burn.

We’re enjoying our trip, the people, the nightly entertainment, the pool, and we’re getting used to the cockroaches that come out at night. (We’ve killed five so far.) Don’t know when we’ll be home – depends on when the birds are flying. Probably won’t make it by Thanksgiving, and with any luck we’ll miss Christmas … ho, ho, ho, just kidding…?

Shanna is more anxious than I about getting home. I wouldn’t mind traveling the islands of the world for several more weeks. Next time we won’t take so much luggage. Luggage has sometimes been a pain to get around. Military transportation seldom includes shuttles. I hate renting taxis but sometimes it’s a necessity.

I wish our family were all here. We miss you all. Don’t forget to take out the garbage cans, keep the house locked up, and the lights turned out and the dishes washed.

Friday, Nov 18:

This evening we invited Kirk and his lovely wife Ada and their daughter, Jaide, for dinner at our Motel Molokai apartment. Shanna fixed a wonderful pot of stew with potatoes, carrots, beef, mushroom soup, raisins, nuts, cranberries, and whatever leftovers we could find to throw in.  We also had a delicious salad of lettuce, celery, coconut, dried fruits and nuts, and lemon juice; rolls and butter and pure bottled water. We also had mustard flavored Macedonia nuts. Everyone seemed to love the meal and we had a good visit after.

Kirk told of a night fishing trip where they narrowly escaped being swamped by a whale. He saw the whale just before running atop. It snorted, splashed his tail, and nearly swamped the boat. There were many other fish stories he told, which I had difficulty hearing because I’m hard of hearing. But we laughed and enjoyed his humorous stories.

Tomorrow morning we head back to Honolulu. Shanna cried today, as we walked the two-mile walk into town to buy some groceries, thinking of how she will miss Moloki and the adorable people we’ve met. Shanna talks with everyone, makes friends easily, and loves to befriend people.

Saturday, Nov. 19:

Bob, a friendly bus driver we met, agreed to take us to the airport for $20 in his personal truck. (That’s $12 less than cab fare). He picked us up at 1000 and gave us a personal tour in the northwest end of the island where we were able to look down from what are called ‘the world’s highest sea cliffs.’ Far below we could see the Leper Colony Father Damien, the Catholic Priest, helped make famous.

There’s a steep trail, three miles long with 26 switchbacks, going down a near vertical mountain to the colony; equivalent to walking down a 150-story building, 1,600-feet high. Once you get down you pay $60 for a tour. You can also pay $150 to ride the mules down. We had neither the time nor the money to do either.

View of Hawaii coastline from atop. Photo courtesy of Walt Spicer.

View of Hawaii coastline from atop. Photo courtesy of Walt Spicer.

The view from the cliff tops was quite spectacular, and the wind was blowing hard. They used to deliver the lepers by boat, throw them overboard, and make them swim to shore. There’s only a half dozen left. Hansen’s or Leprosy can now be cured with medication. Those who stay, do so because they want to. Once they die, they’ll close the leper colony and turn it into a state park.

Our plane was full – eight people. We left at 1300 and arrived in Honolulu about 1330. The view looking down on Honolulu and Pearl Harbor was also quite spectacular. It was similar to view the Japanese Zeros had just before they fired and bombed away on our planes and battleships 70 years ago, this Dec 7th (2011).

We took a taxi back to Hickam AFB where we may spend another week. Much of Hickam is exactly as it was 70 years ago when the Japanese attack brought us into WWII. In fact the buildings are still in remarkably good condition. All the structures were made of cement as the termites destroy the wood structures. (They even have flying termites here.) We stood by the old Post flag pole last week where there is a picture showing the smoke from the explosions.  You can see the same buildings in the picture that exist today.

Lodging here at Hickam is very comfortable, clean, and nice. We have a TV, microwave and a refrigerator for $45 a night. The BX and Commissary are only two blocks away and bus comes every half hour. Senior citizens can ride for $1. Renting a car would cost about $400 for the week. When I was here for R&R from Vietnam in 1970, I rented a new Toyota for the week for $100.

Sunday, Nov. 20:

We called our church and arranged for a ride. They picked us up at 1345. David and Amber, a beautiful young newlywed couple that live on the base were happy to give us a ride. He’s an young officer responsible for writing up all the combat missions for the Pacific Command. He said it’s a stressful job and he always looks forward to weekends.

Church of the Latter Day Saints above Pearl Harbor. Photo courtesy of Walt Spicer.

Church of the Latter Day Saints above Pearl Harbor. Photo courtesy of Walt Spicer.

The church is located in Halawa, an area on the hillside overlooking Pearl Harbor and Aloha Stadium. It is a beautiful white building. The congregation consists of mostly military personnel and their families. We met several from Utah and Idaho. They announced the nursery now had 30 babies as another one was blessed today. Everyone was friendly and we thought how different each of the three churches were that we had visited the last three weeks. Yet we all shared the same belief in Christ, loved one another, and were fun to be around.

This evening we walked over to the BX and bought a tuna Subway sandwich. We ordered the same one last night. It’s our favorite sandwich here.

Monday, Nov. 21: