January 2007

Well, we spent another day working pretty hard and then came home.  When the planes flew, everything aboard worked the way it was supposed to and so the next day we flew out.  That’s always disorienting for me but less so this time since I took an over the counter “sleep aid” and actually got some rest on the plane last night.

DFW airport is pretty nice at 6:00 in the morning – not nearly so many people.


Today was a work day so I have nothing much of interest to report on.  I didn’t want to get distracted or tired since I’m going to be up most of the night so I just watched movies in my room until show-time.  But one guy and I did stop by a guitar store on the way to work.

We almost never found it.  It was in this narrow alley between a large hardware store and a small Nissan dealership.  All up this lane was welding shops, car painting shops, and all that sort of thing except for this teeny, narrow guitar store.  And they had some really nice guitars in there too.  This place wasn’t too uptight about playing the instruments so I did.

But that was it.  Nothing but work today.

Today was supposedly another day off but I got roped into a conference call and a few other things. But I did get out around sunrise (one of the consequences of waking up so darned early) and sign myself up for a short cruise on a small submarine. Regarding the early thing, my body seems to want to stay on a Tulsa schedule and so I wake up at these ungodly hours and get sleepy around 9:00pm. I can’t see any reason not to just go with it so I’ve been keeping to that. At least I can get where I need to be really early. Anyway, on to the submarine.

I had seen pictures of this thing and was convinced that it was simply a boat with windows below the waterline where you could look out but I was wrong – it was indeed a submersible with big picture windows. We took a large boat from the shore out to where the sub was waiting for us over the reefs. There were two actually – one for Japanese speakers and one for English speakers.

It’s pretty cool but I must say, there’s not as much to see as I had figured. I have learned since being here that another bay east of here is really the place to see fish (Hanauma Bay) but apparently the sub can’t go there. Plus, a few years ago there was a big typhoon that really ruined a lot of the interesting things in Waikiki bay so they sank some artificial reefs down there to provide someplace for the fish to hang out (and something for us to see). And so it was a bit more interesting as a result – at least it was interesting to me to see a sunken airplane and a sunken fishing ship. With fish. And sharks. Turtles too. Oh, and a couple of Moray eels.

It only lasted about an hour underwater but sure enough, when we surfaced, my stupid cell phone went off with a missed call sound. I had a voice mail from TheMan. So with the PA system blaring stuff in Japanese, I tried to see what was up. It turns out he just wanted to see if I wanted to go to lunch. While there, the conference call thing came up so I ended up wrapping my lunch up in the paper that was lining the basket and heading back to the hotel. Hobbling actually since my feet are still recovering. With this sort of thing going on, I was afraid to take the car and go anywhere else without one of them with me so I just walked around town this afternoon. If you’re into shopping, Waikiki is the place to be. There’s everything from really expensive stores to stores full of cheap crap. Take your pick.

I definitely overdid it yesterday; my feet had numerous blisters today and when I woke up this morning, I could barely walk.  So I decided to take it easy.  We had today off but it turned out rainy all over the island.  I got the car at sunup and headed to the Pali lookout and when I got there, it turned out to be totally socked in with clouds and raining.  I was working on a plan B when one of my coworkers called to talk about our project and that blew an hour.  Of course, it was raining so what else did I have to do?

After that, I drove on down to the other side of the island and turned left to visit the north shore.  It’s pretty rural over there; I saw several old cars on blocks.  I made it around to Waimea which is where the famous “Bonzai Pipeline” is.  It was pretty cloudy and raining and nobody was out trying to surf.  I’m not sure why but it may have had something to do with the big red flags and the signs that said “No Swimming!”.  There were other signs warning of rip currents and other bad things.  There were many other tourists wandering around; most of us going down to the water like anybody does at a beach.  The beach there is pretty narrow and slopes down quite a bit.  After getting down there we heard a loud announcement from large bullhorns on the lifeguard stand to get back from the water and behind the signs – some large swells were coming in.  I don’t know how they knew that but sure enough, right after that some gigantic waves crashed in and would have soaked us all.  They happen so fast, the camera wouldn’t focus and fire in time but I got some pics anyway.  Lots of strangers in the foreground too but around here if you want a photo without a tourist in it, you’ve got a long wait.  I went across the street to have lunch at a Starbucks where I almost bought a special North Shore coffee mug.  There’s not much on that part of the island but that so I drove on around back to Honolulu.

I’d been told by the conceirge that I’d better head for Pearl Harbor at 6:00 am if I wanted to get to see the Arizona memorial in a timely manner so I passed that by and went back to the hotel.  As I said earlier, my feet were in bad shape plus I have some sunburn on my face and neck so I decided to take it easy.  No sooner than I had laid down, another coworker called with a work question which caused me to blow another couple of hours thinking and writing.  Then an idea from earlier manifested itself in a need to buy a thermometer and some bubble wrap so I spent the next few hours finding a Radio Shack and a WalMart and buying the required items.  So I guess it was a work day after all which is OK; after all, they are paying me to be here and work not to party.  Still, I know of another group of about six that spent the day on a fishing boat.

Perhaps tomorrow I can go someplace and not get rained on.

After that Diamondhead hike yesterday, my feet were killing me. I had to work but not until later so I went for a walk over to the beach via the Hilton Hawaiian Village which is a city unto itself.  I walked in the water for awhile (which was way colder than I expected) when the phone rang.  It was my program director asking me if I wanted to go to a guitar store he had heard about.  Well, that sounded interesting so off I went to meet him.  He knew where it was and warned me that it was about 10 blocks.  Hey, I felt up to it; maybe, sort-of.  I figured it would be short downtown blocks but after about three of those they became long mall-type blocks and it turned out (according to google maps) 2.2 miles.  Each way.

So another long hike for me.  Now, at the end of the day my feet are really hurting.  It was indeed a nice guitar store but all their stuff was way to upscale for me.  There were signs everywhere warning you not to touch.  I don’t really like that sort of store but some of these were over $5000 so I guess they had a good reason.  One special edition Martin was $50,000.  Needless to say, I didn’t play any of them.

After that we got a quick bite and headed off to work at Kaneohe Bay.  Not much to report there.  After finishing up there, I walked (walking again!  sheesh!) over to the Hard Rock to pick up some more gifts.  I think I need to shop for a better pair of shoes.

I awoke early today and called home to talk to Mel for awhile. I just love cell phones with plenty of minutes. Then I went downstairs to the conceirge to ask how to get to Diamondhead crater. I could have gotten the car from my coworker but I figured I’d let a bus driver take on that job. It would turn out to be the best 2 dollars I’ve spent so far.

Of course, the bus takes longer but it’s way easier. In Honolulu, it’s called simply “The Bus” which is just how I like it – short and to the point. He dropped us off at the entrance to the park which, it turned out, is not nearly to the crater. And it’s uphill. Right away I was glad that I’d brought my backpack and put water and a snack in it. I trudged up the hill to the tunnel. OK so a crater is pretty hard to get into so they blasted a tunnel into the side years ago. Inside, you pick up the trailhead for your hike up to the rim.

It started off easily enough with a nice slightly sloped concrete sidewalk. It very quickly turned from flat concrete into rock and it got steeper. Then it got steeper again. I started to sweat. The trail began to switchback and get steeper still and I started puffing pretty hard. I stopped to rest a few times. When I figured I was nearing the top of the rim, I came to a long set of stairs which ended up in a tunnel. Upon exiting the curving tunnel, I found myself at yet another long set of very steep stairs. By this time, I had rested several times and was getting pretty stinky. At the top of this set of stairs I almost cried when I saw another stairway – this one a spiral one with steel steps that went up into the dark for who knows how far? It turned out not to be far. That let me out into an old gun emplacement with narrow slit-like windows which I had to crawl out of in order to climb the remaining few feet of trail out onto the top. From there is one of the best views ever. I stayed up there a long time taking in the view (and resting up).

When I started down, my legs were already pretty tired and I was a bit worried about tripping on the way down or turning my ankle but that didn’t happen. It was a pretty easy trip back down but it was a long way to that bus stop. I made the mistake of getting back on the bus at the same spot I got on instead of walking across the street and catching it on its way back into town. By staying on it, I got an hour long (or so it seemed) tour of that end of the island which was kind of cool. If only the windows hadn’t been so dirty, I could have gotten some good pics. I was too tired to bother with getting off. It finally got back into town and I got off in the shopping district.

I explored a great many shops but not nearly all of them. I bought some touristy gifts for the kids, got a smoothie, ate at KFC and headed back to the hotel for a shower and an NFL playoff game.

Around 6:00, the two guys I’m sharing a car with called and wanted to go to Roy’s which is one of those uber-expensive seafood restaurants with a genuine chef, unique dishes, presentation, texture, and all that Food Channel stuff.  It was very good; there was a  man playing guitar and a little girl at one of the tables who took it upon herself to dance.  She had apparently taken hula lessons earlier in the day and had taken them very much to heart.

After that I was whipped.  More tomorrow.

Naturally, since my body still thinks it’s in Tulsa, I woke up at around 4:00am and simply got up.  I messed around on the computer for awhile and walked around the block to “Eggs and Things” which I had scoped out the night before.  It was, not surprisingly, full of other middle-aged people who had unwillingly woken up at 4:00 am just like me.

I had to go to work today.  The plane is at the marine base at Kaneohe Bay, a place called simply “Kaneohe MCBH”.  After doing my thing, the guy I was riding with and I headed back to the hotels.  We’re not all staying at the same one but they’re fairly close.  I had to hang around to see if I was needed later when the plane was due to take off on a test flight so I didn’t go far.

The rest of the day I was at a bit of a loss because of that restriction so I walked around the local area.  I made it as far as the Hard Rock Cafe in one direction (no shirts like Evan likes) and the yacht harbor in the other direction.  If I had been really energetic I could have walked over to the shopping district where all the fancy shops are but that didn’t interest me too much.  I found a little grocery store and stocked up on stuff like oatmeal for breakfast, etc.  Anything to keep from having to spend all my per-diem money on food.

The view out my window isn’t the best but I guess that’s what they give to people who are travelling on government business.  All I can see is palm trees in the distance at the beach and some crummy apartments down below which always seem to have some guy in a wife-beater leaning on the railing smoking.  Maybe they’re not crummy – perhaps all apartments look lousy when you’re looking down on their rooftops.

I’ve just about had it with the Japanese restaurants.  I haven’t found anything but that yet.   Except the eggs and things place; I suppose I could just have breakfast all the time.

Finally, last night I went back to the base with one of my coworkers to pick up another guy who had been on a test flight and we headed back for dinner.  Unfortunately, they had closed one of the tunnels for maintenance and we had to take an alternate route which, for us, ended up taking over an hour due to missed turns and other snafus.  I napped in the back seat for most of it.  We finally ended up at a nice restaurant with some live music and good seafood.  I had a Hawaiian style cobb salad which meant it had bits of seafood thrown into it for good measure.  It had a little bit of everything including calamari which, around here, is not fried like back on the mainland.  So I had a salad with tentacles in it.  Adults are susceptible to peer pressure like anyone else so I ate it.  Not bad.  I didn’t care for the mussels though.

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