To celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary in December 2019, we took a trip to Hawaii, specifically to Honolulu. As we crossed the ocean having taken off from Seattle, I couldn’t help but think about this great book that I read in January that described the 1927 Dole Air Derby to Hawaii, a race to be first to fly from mainland US to Honolulu. With our modern aviation technology, I knew we had none of the worries those early pilots had—an error in their navigation by just a fraction of a degree soon after take-off would cause the pilot to miss the islands by hundreds of miles—but it was still amazing to think how small the islands were in relation to the expansive Pacific Ocean. Never did I imagine while reading that book that I would be making a similar ocean crossing later that year.
Upon arrival, we were greeted at the airport with traditional Hawaiian leis by the organization through which we booked our trip before heading off to get our rental car. Turns out, our reserved car was a Jeep, a vehicle I had never driven before but one we soon found was almost ubiquitous to the island as we saw them everywhere. Before traveling, we had debated about getting a rental car but over the week, we found that we would not have been able to do and see all the things we did had we not.
By the time we arrived and checked into our hotel, we found that we had just missed the gorgeous sunset.
But the next morning, we found that we had an incredible view from our 10th floor hotel room of the sunrise over Diamond Head.
On our first full day there, we took it a bit easy while still getting acclimated to the additional 2-hour time change (on top of the 2-hour time change we experienced traveling to Seattle). We needed to do some shopping since neither of us had packed very much having to fit both winter and summer clothes in our carry-on luggage (we never check a bag). Also, we needed more “formal-wear” for renewing our wedding vows later in the week. Then we managed to walk along our beach for the first time to get a feel for the ocean and surf.
That night we caught our first of many fabulous sunsets.
The next day, we planned to visit the historic sites of Pearl Harbor, just four days after the 78thanniversary of December 7th, 1941. We purchased tickets in advance online for the four paid venues but admission to the Arizona Memorial is free and timed tickets are given out by the National Park Service on a first-come, first-served basis starting when they open at 7 AM. Speaking with a representative of the ticket company, we learned that we needed to be there 30 minutes early to ensure we got two of the limited number of tickets passed out. Since we were still waking up early given the four-hour time difference, it was not too much of a big deal to leave the hotel before 6 AM.
With tickets in hand, the first step was to view an informative 30-minute film about what led up to the attack. Then it was off to board a Navy-manned vessel for the short ride to the Memorial.
The memorial itself is not attached to the ship but rests on pilings above it. And yes, even after 78 years, fuel is still slowly leaking from below.
Since we were visiting just four days after the anniversary, there were still many funeral wreaths arranged throughout the memorial.
And if the floral arrangements didn’t serve as a reminder that you were visiting a gravesite, the massive wall of names of the nearly 1,200 lives lost that day silenced you with the solemnness of the occasion.
To grasp the scale of the enormous explosion that sunk the ship in just a matter of minutes, one only has to gaze at her starboard-side 20,000-pound anchor that was propelled 50 feet from the ship by the blast.
In addition to the Memorial, there are a series of museums that chronicle different aspects of the attack, including stories of some who survived.
We spent several hours at the different Arizona exhibits, a most sobering experience.
Our ticket also included admission to the Bowfin submarine, the Battleship Missouri, and the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum. We made our way fairly quickly through the sub but due to its immense size spent much longer touring the “Mighty Mo.”
These 16-inch guns can blast a shell weighing as much a 2,000-pound VW beetle 20 nautical miles with amazing accuracy. Though this battleship wasn’t launched until 1944, its significance at Pearl Harbor is that it was upon its deck, that the Japanese formally surrendered on September 2, 1945. Thus, the exhibits at Pearl harbor can boast both the beginning and the end of the United States’ involvement in World War II.
By this time, we were both physically and emotionally drained and decided to skip the last museum and get a late lunch.
On our next day, we decided to drive to Banzai Pipeline on the North Shore where some of the best surfing is. Neither my wife nor I have ever surfed so we had no intention of trying on such massive waves but just wanted to see some of the famous pipelines. As it turns out, we couldn’t have anyway as the annual Billabong Pipeline Masters competition was going on.
We were able to walk along the beach and get to watch some real professional surfers (zoom in to the surfer just inside the pipeline wave below).
On our way back, we stopped off at the Dole Pineapple Plantation for a quick tour. We didn’t take in the paid tour, but we did find a very young pineapple growing in their gardens. Across the street, you could see vast pineapple fields being harvested as always by hand.
To be continued…