Monday, May 24, 1999

Family Hawaii Trip

I am unsure of the original date of this report, captured on my Newton. When I research it further, it's official date will be corrected.

- Dawn on the Windward Side of Oahu:
- It has been hard to get all the crew awake, even though it is nearly noon Texas time. Yesterday was a long day, getting up early to catch a plane at the new airport. Everyone makes fun of my paranoia, but I would much rather be too early to catch a flight than too late.
- We hopped 70 Dallas and then boarded a 777 for Honolulu. I don't think there is muck to be said for long trans-oceanic flights except to say that they allow you to do things otherwise impossible.
- Mary Ann made our room reservation at a little resort condo on the other side of The island of Oahu from the airport and the big hotel towers of Waikiki beach so we spent the afternoon hours from our arrival driving around the edge of the island looking at she various beaches
- We stopped a Hanauma Bay beach and unloaded our snorkeling gear. It was a fun couple of hours watching the brightly colored fish and the eels and giant sea turtles.
- After a little fumbling with the maps we made it to Schrader 's Windward Resort. the condo was a 3 bedroom bungalow with the back porch right at the high tide line with a couple of full sized palm trees coming up through holes in the floor and ceiling. None of us were sufficiently energetic to even call for pizza delivery So I just sat out on the porch (they are called lanai here) and watched the catamaran and the outrigger canoe tied up just after feet away. The mountains across the Koolua Bay were a quiet peaceful contrast to the stress of Debra's broken contact lense and the fact that we were 5 people with 5 different agenda's for tomorrow.
- Waiting in the lanai at the Arizona Memorial
- This morning has been pleasant. Of course I woke before dawn, but that just gave me time to listen to the first bird of the morning give its crisp tea-cuacua calls as the first hint of light arrived I went out to sit on the wicker chair under the lanai and was surprised that the low tide had arrived and the boats were all resting on a mud flat. It was fun to sit with Mary Ann and watch the birds and the crabs and the two men in their little fishing boat run the net and collect their catch.
- The breakfast was typical complimentary style other than the guava and pineapple juice and then we were off to obtain eyesight for my daughter. Windward Mall Lenscrafters called back to Austin, confirmed her perscription and gave her a couple of pairs, all for no charge. Friendly place.
- Killing time in Nanakuli
- The day was spent at the Arizona Memorial and flew hitting the big Swap meet at the stadium where everyone but me spent more than their budget. I bought a Pepsi.
- We then had to kill a couple of hours before the Paradise Cove Luau, so we drove over to Nanakuli and The more adventurous of the party went swimming while I relaxed in the shade.
- Morning with the birds
- Last night's Paradise Cove luau was enjoyed by all. The two hours before the food and the main show had something to keep most people busy. I enjoyed the crashing surf on the rocks and general people-watching. Mary Ann and Debra took advantage of the shops. Thomas spent quite a bit of time (and money) in the drink line trying out concoctions of tropical fruits with little umbrellas in them. I certainly hope he never takes up alcohol. There were also craft booths and faux tattoos and skill games. The events built up to the unearthing of the pig and the meal, with variations on hula as entertainment while we ate.
- We packed this morning and drove counter clockwise around the island in search of good beaches. Near the north part of the island we stopped and snorkeled for a while spotting lots of sea life and getting a nice sunburn. We had a small scare when it appeared that Thomas had lost his wallet, a problem these days when they won't let you on the airplane without a picture id, but it was finally located.
- We continued our quest, now looking for a good beach wich breakers for swimming. Thomas wanted to find the Bonsai pipeline he had seen in the movies, and we tried, but the road we thought circled the island turned into a private road and with three maps that didn't quite match up with reality, we ended up on the west side of the island with not much time before our flight out. Everyone but me got wet at Makaha beach where they really enjoyed the big waves.
- A quick beach shower and we headed to the airport to catch an inter island hop over to Kona on the Big Island. We arrived in time, but in the confusion Stephanie lost her expensive sunglasses, an emotional tragedy.
- But, we caught the plane and arrived in Kona. Our accomodations were at Volcano, about 100 miles away, but we stopped for supper and replacement sunglasses at Wal-mart. Then Thomas realized that he had lost his wallet at the Wendy's and we raced back there. It had been found, and they had put it in the safe.
- After a two hour drive,( Chorus:"...,A two hour drive." to the tune of Gilligans Island), we arrived at our nice two storey house with a fireplace ( it did get cool) and room for everybody.
-
- We slept late, and then took the loop around the Kilauea volcano caldera in Volcano National Park. The smells were very familiar from our Yellowstone trips, but this was lava country.
- After a late lunch at the Volcano House overlooking the caldera, we took a break for afternoon tea at the place we stayed. This was an event loved by the females of our party, but I stayed out in the minivan reading a fascinating book I had picked up about Tsunamis.
- We healed back into the park and after a short hike through the rainforest and an old lava tube, we healed down the Chain of Craters road.
- The volcanoes have many craters. This road roughly follows a string of them from the main Kilauea Caldera to the ocean. Over its 20 mile length, it dropped 4000 feet. About 4 miles from the lava flow, the road was cut off by an older lava flow and we had to park there.
- The enormous steam plume created where the lava flows into the ocean was the main attraction. Thomas was out of the van before I had it parked. and ignoring all the warning signs, was nearly running off onto the lava flow. When the rest of us followed, reaching a little past the marked trail, he finally came back to join us.
- The length of the hike and the approaching sunset could not put a brake on his desire to go see the lava, so in spite of sage advise from his elders, Thomas and Stephanie took one of our two flashlights and headed out. Momma called out as they left, "Only 15 minutes out then come back." The rest of us tried to find a comfortable place to sit on the jagged lava rock to wait.
- We waited.
- We waited some more.
- The sun went down. It got dark. The lava path down the mountain and the base of the plume started to glow red with their own heat. From our position 3 miles away, it was an awe inspiring sight.
- Two hours later, we were still waiting, shining our little AA battery flash light at all returning parties, hoping that the next one would be our prodigals. Some of them were irritated at me for shining a light in their eyes. Others were oh so grateful for finding a light to steer by on the confusing black terrain.
- I soon started to worry about the three of us and our ability to make it back with our little flashlight Once we started moving from our waiting spot, I realized just how difficult it was to navigate on the flow at night. I lost all of my bearings after travelling 50 feet.
- The park service had placed a blinking light near the parking lot for lost hikers and that was useful. We finally noticed another party watching the steam plume from the end of the marked trail and once we reached them it was a simple matter of following from one cone to the next all the way back to the parking lot and a walking surface where you didn't have to watch where you placed every step.
- Once in the car I grabbed the other cell phone and tried to call Thomas. There was no signal. The phones were useless out here. They couldn't call for help if they were in trouble. And there was nothing I could do but wait.
- Several more parties returned from the plume as Mary Ann relocated the minivan to shine the head lights in the right direction and Debra used the little flashlight to be a light house up at the end of the lava. I had my GPS and made navigation marks with the intent of taking it, fresh batteries for the flashlight, and water to go out to look for them if they didn't show.
- Waiting with Debra, we watched and listened as another party came over the hill. They had one weak flash light. The voices sounded right and it was soon clear that it was them. Thomas called out, "I'm sorry." I yelled back, "You'd better be!"
- Stephanie was exhausted and dehydrated. Debra made a dash to the car and quickly returned with water bottles.
- Everyone was safe and uninjured except for sore feet and a couple of minor scrapes. There had been quite a few sincere prayers from them and us and nothing was damaged except perhaps some youthful over confidence. There was a general agreement that with water, good flashlights for everyone and my GPS, we would like to try it again.
- Tuesday
- After sleeping late, we went over to Chateau Kilauea for a formal breakfast. This is Slow food, with the emphasis on fine china and the dining experience. The food was light but good, in several courses.
- The next stop was the Black Sand Beach for snorkeling. This was also the home of the Hawksbill Sea Turtle and one large specimen was sunning himself on the beach.
- After several missed phone calls, Mary Ann arranged for a helicopter tour of the volcano, so off to Hilo we went.
- With five of us, it took two flights. It was a narrated view of Hilo and the farms and the lava flows, with progressively more destruction as we approached the active lava flow.
- We circled the plume where the glowing lava was being washed by the surf. The pilot was careful to keep clear of the plume because in addition to the steam, the explosive combination of sea water and lava produced hydrochloric acid and other nasties in the cloud.
- We circled low over the lava tube, looking down into the underground lava flow where the roof of the tube had collapsed. The rock had a sullen orange glow. The lava itself was brighter, almost cheery in its heat.
- Following the smoke vents up the mountain, the white smoke showing steam, the grey smoke, other gasses cooked out of the rock, we reached the crater. It was a cinder cone with its mouth filled with steam and gasses, its floor totally obscured.
- Heading back to Hilo, we looked down at the chain of wafer falls that made a black stair step from the shoulder of the mountain down to the bay.
- We ate at Hennessey's on the water's edge and headed home. Everyone was happy with the ride, but in what seems to be the theme of this trip, all the lost sleep ended up in lost tempers, always a peril in group vacations.
- Wednesday
- In spite of our intent to get up early, we all slept late. The day went lazy. Thomas lost his sunglasses. Stephanie lost her film, but found it again.
- We circled the island, stopping at scenic vistas of the blue, blue ocean and hiking over to see some spectacular long water falls.
- We stopped at the beach at Waikola for our last minute swim before catching the plane. True to form, Debra lost her prized rose ring in the sand and was not able to find it before we had to leave.
- Arriving at Maui, we took Highway 340 around to Honokeana Cove Condos near Lahaina. While this looked like the most direct route on the map, it was actually 20+ miles of twisty cliff-hugging one-lane road. While I enjoy steering wheel wrestling, I'm not sure my passengers were happy.
- Once we reached the area it proved to be well developed and our place had a wonderful view over the cove and snorkeling beach just a few steps from the door.
- Thursday
- Mutany day--nobody really wanted to do any of our pre-planned activities so we didn't. The kids rented boogie boards and played on a big-wave beach down the road. Mary Ann snorkeled the Cove. I picked up a Mitchner novel from the condo's bookshelf and read that. It was a relaxing day.
- Friday
- Up at dawn, to drive down to the harbor and catch an excursion boat to Molacini atoll. On the way out, the water was perfect, but we were beset by Maui snow--the well-carbonized chaff from the sugar cane processing plant on the island. At the atoll, the water was exceptionally clear, over a hundred feet, and the fish and the Moray eel and the octopus were there to be chased by the tour photographer. We left a few minutes early due to the increasing waves and wind, but we stopped over a different reef on the way in and watched sea turtles, huge ones, come to the surface for air.
- We headed back to the condo to change clothes, but every one of us promptly fell asleep.
- Supper time, we headed over into Lahaina to eat at Bubba Gumps and to buy the required Hard Rock Cafe/Maui shirts as gifts.
- Saturday
- Leaving day. Mary Ann and I got up early to snorkel the cove for a little while. I saw another moray eel and a variety of other fish. The coral were very colorful.
- After breakfast, pancakes with coconut syrup, it was time to load up and check out.
- That duty done, we headed across the island to take the Hana road. This was the rain-forest side of the island, and the road was another, cliff-hugger. While easier than the first road we took coming to Maui, this was still a road replete with 1912 vintage one lane bridges and numerous places where yield signs dictated where the road was too narrow for traffic to pass each other. This was a good place for waterfalls, but as driver, I spent most of the time watching the often Picasso-inspired center lines on the road.
- Hana has an intresting fine-grained black sand beach. Thomas called it a brown sand beach, because it was indeed a mix. Off on one end, we saw a man build an interesting sand castle with tall sharp spires purely by dribbling the sandy water to build up the peaks.
- We retraced back along the same twisty route, stopping to take pictures of waterfalls and beautiful valleys. Near Wailuka, there was a windy point that appeared to the local surfer and wind-surfer spot. Off to the right, surfers paddled and rode the big waves. Off to the left, the wind-surfers were racing at what appeared to be 40 miles per hour directly at the rocky beach, only to pivot at the last minute and tack back out into the ocean for another run.
- With time to spare, we turned in the rental minivan and boarded for LA. Only on board did I discover what was lost. The Avis people lost the key to their minivan.
- Sunday
- LAX, at least the part we are trapped in, is a very boring place.

Saturday, May 15, 1999

Galveston Seaweed Landfall

May 15, 4pm , high tide on he shore of Galveston Island. This was the seawall area, with families and couples and ambitious surfers taking advantage of the beach and the sun and the water. I was up on the fifth floor of the San Luis looking out over the water between sessions of plot work on a new novel, when off in the distance, I saw three odd-colored brown patches in the gulf. I watched from time to time, and abruptly, I realized that the closest patch was close. It was huge, about 3 acres in size, and it was going to come ashore right here.

I grabbed the binoculars and took a closer look at the brown patch and the people watching it. It just missed the breakwater to the left. The patch was oval, enlongated as the waves started breaking up the edge closest to the shore. The wind and the tides were moving the patch to the right, and inwards towards shore.

People were watching it, but most continued whatever they were doing. The surfers did take a look at it as it limited how far back they could swim before catching the next wave.

The texture of the patch was interesting, like a patch of grass, only rippling from the waves beneath it. All through the patch, there was evidence that many items, such as 4X4 timbers, were trapped in the patch.

As the patch moved on, finally making landfall, people started paying much more attention to it. Children quit playing with the sand and water and started picking clumps of the seaweed out of the water, the more experienced of them checking for the creatures that lived in and among the floating mass. One mother was hauling in a 4X4 to shore so that she wouldn't have to worry about it hitting her two small children.

By the time it was half in, it was clear that the whole patch was going to hit between these two breakwaters. The other two patches out to sea moved on south out of the picture.

I abandoned binoculars and plot outline and headed down to the water for a closer look.

Up close, the seaweed was composed of little clumps, from fist-sized to large enough to fill a salad bowl. Together, they covered the water's surface with hardly a break between them. The waves were pushing a long pile of the things up onto the sand. In turn, the pile of foliage was providing a barrier to the waves.

Just in shore of the mat of brownish foilage was a line of beads, the air-bladders that had come loose in the action of the waves. They were each about half pea sized and they popped as you walked on them.

It was fascinating, walking along the beach, looking at all the debris that the mat had captured over time. In addition to the timbers, there were coconuts, long abandoned shoes, glass and plastic bottles. There were a more than the expected number of chemical light tubes caught up in the weed. Had this mat of seaweed been marked by some passing boat, or had the seaweed caught up the results of some nighttime scuba expedition?

It was something of a game for me to take a look at some of the items, like a coconut or a shoe or a piece of timber and see just how many barnacles had attached to it. At a guess, it could tell me something of the age of the debris, but it also made a difference how rough the item was.

The kids and the hundreds of seagulls were after something else entirely. The seaweed mat had been an ecosystem that contained its own set of animal life. In addition to the barnacles that rode the driftwood and old shoes, the weed had been the protective home of crabs, shrimp and something I had never seen before. The boy with his plastic pail full of them called them mermaid purses.

By the time I had walked from one breakwater to the other, there was no clear beach to swim from, and the beach chair rental people were packing up. The shaved-ice concession was driving up the ramp and you could tell that this beach was done for the day. Even the man with the kite was reeling in.

But maybe it was all premature. I headed back up to my 5 story lookout perch to write this all down before it faded in memory and from where I can see, things have changed again.

The tide is going out, and there is now something of a beach in between the beached mat of weeds and the surf. In the middle of the beach, there is still a floating mass of the seaweed, maybe hopeful of riding the tide back out into the open water, maybe not. The gulls are still working hard, browsing the salad bar, but the kids are gone, perhaps tired of the novelty, perhaps because of the fading day.