Showing posts with label Oahu. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Oahu. Show all posts

Monday, February 5, 2018

Ballistic missiles, tsunamis and other Tropical Tales. . .

We arrived in Hawaii the day after its now-infamous missile warning was issued – a false alarm that reverberated around the world.

A few days after we arrived we missed the tsunami warning for the island of O’ahu. It had been real but issued during the night and withdrawn before we woke.

Last week we missed – again, by a day -- a high speed shoot-em-up freeway chase on O’ahu’s west side near our Ko Olina resort  in which the suspect was shooting at pursuing police and later held them at bay for 17 hours in the small town just north of us.

It seems that even a tropical island paradise has both 'wonders' and 'warts'.  Regulars here know I usually focus on the ‘wonders’ because I want to inspire you to pack up and head out on your own adventures or to entertain you armchair travelers. But sometimes the ‘warts’ are as interesting as the wonders and are worthy of focus . . . for example:

The Missile Alert

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The emergency alert showing on some cell phones in Hawaii
In case you’ve been off the planet or away from the news in recent weeks, here's the gist of what happened: On Saturday, Jan. 13th the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency (HI-EMA) issued the alert shown in the photo above. It appeared on some cell phones and the state’s warning systems.

(Intercontinental ballistic missiles are designed primarily to carry nuclear warheads so with the war of words going on between North Korea and the U.S. you can imagine the way the message was interpreted).

Sunday, Jan. 14, 2018 headline in the Honolulu paper
Within two minutes officials knew the warning was sent in error - there was no missile -- yet it took 38 minutes to issue a corrected message. Now that might not sound like a very long time, but from the stories we’ve heard and read, it was for many an eternity and a horrifying one at that:

*families huddled together in interior closets and called loved ones elsewhere in the world to say goodbye. Then cell phone systems jammed and phones didn’t work.

*at least one man on the island of O’ahu had a heart attack,

* some hotels evacuated tourists, others had them shelter in place some issued emergency directives, others didn't.

* a local man told us he grabbed a bottle of Jack Daniels and headed to his roof to watch it end – he knew there would be no place to safely shelter, he said.

* a long-married couple visiting the island told each other ‘it had been a great run’, made themselves MaiTais and went to the beach to sip them while waiting for the end.

Remember, many residents of the island of O’ahu are only a generation away from - and can still tell personal stories of -- the World War II Pearl Harbor attack by the Japanese. So alerts for any type of imminent attack are taken seriously.

The Missile’s Fallout

The day we arrived on O’ahu; the day after the false alarm, the investigations were already underway. The employee in charge of pushing that button had done so in error, and was horrified about it, it was reported. News stories over the days following said the employee was placed on a leave of absence and death threats were being received at the agency.  . .

Headline Honolulu newspaper Jan. 31, 2018
Two and a half weeks later, the missile's fallout continues. On Jan. 31st headlines were still in mega-point type face and more information was being released about the investigation’s findings and conclusions:

*The employee who sent the false alert had been a ‘source of concern’ for more than 10 years. And had at least two times before this incident had confused drills with real events and had been ‘counseled’.

* 'HI-EMA had not anticipated the possibility of issuing a false alert and wasn’t prepared to issue a correction” and officials also mistakenly believed  they had to consult with the Federal Emergency Management Agency before  issuing an official notice of the alert being false.

* The Governor ‘was delayed in sending out social media notification because he forgot his Twitter password'.

* The employee was fired and the head of the agency resigned. (The employee has hired an attorney and been giving interviews to news media that counter some of the report conclusions.)

Then Came the Tsunami Alert. . .

Wind and rain often are part of an island visit
We first learned of the tsunami from an ex pat British friend back home in our Greek Mani who wrote a note saying, “Bloody Hell. . .now a tsunami?!”  I wrote back assuring him that the alert had been for the West Coast of the United States after an earthquake in the Pacific Ocean near Alaska. “No where near us,” I assured him.

Well, later in the day we learned that there had been an alert issued for our island as a second earthquake had occurred nearer Hawaii – several night owls here were up late enough to receive it on their cell phones.

Our resort  manager explained later that with a tsunami – unlike an incoming missile – there’s usually a four to six hour window before it hits so they were aware of the warning but opted to make sure it was going to stay valid  before rousting several thousand guests in the middle of the night. The alert was called off a few hours after being issued.

Ignorance is bliss, I’ve decided.

Shoot outs and other day-to-day realities

Beaches on O'ahu's west side
With a population estimate of 1.4 million people this island state ranks 13th in the US for population density.

The island of O’ahu (best known for its Honolulu and Waikiki Beach) has some 950,000 of the state’s residents. Crime shouldn’t be a surprise here but still it seems incongruous with the island’s beauty. We visitors find ourselves so enchanted with our surroundings we wonder how residents could possibly abuse this paradise with crime.

The shootout I referenced in the opening of this post took place on the Main Road on this end of the island, a few miles northwest of the resort. It involved a high speed chase with the fleeing suspect shooting at pursuing officers and ended with a 17-hour stand-off at a residence in the town of Waianae.. The alleged ‘shooter’ was reportedly under the influence of crystal methamphetamine, or ‘ice’ as it is called.  No one was injured and the suspect is being held on $3 million bail.
(Sounds more like an episode of Hawaii-5-0 than reality, doesn’t it?)

Junk card along one of the Waianae country roads
I’ve been working on a freelance travel article while we are here which has taken us to new territory on the island – beautiful places tucked away in the shadows of the Waianae Mountain range.  One of the most startling things about this new area was that locals are dumping cars along side the roadways.

We asked a local resident about the unsightly dumping and she said, “The Mayor came out and made them clean it up. They were all gone – they hauled them away but then they were all back again.”  'Really??', we asked ourselves. Sadly, that section of roadway looks worse than some third world countries we’ve visited. Warts, to be sure.

So . . .Warts or Wonders?

Lanikai Beach - windward side O'ahu
We’ve been asked a dozen times by people we’ve met this trip, “Why are you living in Greece?” but no one asks, “Why did you come to Hawaii?”   No one questions this tropical paradise as a destination. The parade of wide-bodies jets begin arriving early each morning from Asia and Australia and by early afternoon the parade is coming from the United States and Canada. The number of visitors here topped 9.4 million last year.

Ewa Beach area looking back at Honolulu and Diamond Head
Hawaii and our island of O’ahu haven't lost their magic despite bungled emergency alerts, irresponsible dumping, crime and other ‘warts’.

Sunset from our timeshare home at KoOlina - O'ahu
Bottom line is: no place is perfect – despite what the tourist organizations tell you.    And Hawaii’s welcome and its wonders continue to overshadow its warts. We are thankful the missile alert wasn’t real – what a shame it would be to destroy this tropical paradise . . .

That’s it for this week from the island of O’ahu. Our time in Hawaii has gone rapidly. Won’t be long before we are heading back to The Stone House on the Hill. Thanks for the time you spend with us and we wish you a safe and happy week until we are back together again.

Linking up this week with:

Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Travel Photo Thursday – 
Photo Friday
Weekend Travel Inspiration
Best of Weekend

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Wet and Wild in Hawaii

That would be the weather to which this title refers, not Hula Babe and Beach Boy.

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Our time here began 10 days ago in a picture-postcard setting; the type for which Hawaii is known. . .

. . . Mai Tai weather . . . . with tropical breezes, blue sky and plenty of sun.  These shots were taken during an outing we took along the coast to Ka’ena Beach Park at the tip of the western side of O’ahu.

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Within a couple days of our arrival came the first ‘weather front’ – a storm strong enough to close the beaches on the island because of the dangerous high waves. A tourist was killed while golfing when a tree branch was blown down. A half dozen homes lost their roofs.

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That tropical sunshine went into hiding behind heavy dark clouds; being fickle and peeking out  for a brief ‘sunset’ one day. So this week’s photos show you O’ahu when it isn’t postcard perfect – on the other hand, when it sure is interesting:
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Our second outing was a Sunday drive under gray skies –  the kind of skies we  have in the Pacific Northwest . We passed Aloha Stadium an hour before kickoff for the Pro Bowl – I snapped the photo above between swipes of the windshield wipers. 

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Those gentle Hawaiian tropical breezes have gusted throughout the week, sending sand and leaves flying. Grounds crews at Ko Olina, where we are,  have been kept busy cleaning up fallen leaves and blowing sand that has covered the grassy areas.
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And the sea gods really threw a hissy fit this past week, tossing enormous waves at the shore– some the largest they’ve seen in 20 - 30 years.

PicMonkey Collage

These photos were taken on the day after ‘the front’s’ arrival – yet the waves still pounded the shore with a deafening rhythm.

PicMonkey Collage

We are reminded that while you can control many things about travel, Mother Nature still calls the shots on the weather. The photo on the left was taken a week ago, the photo on the right this Tuesday. Admittedly we aren’t suffering freezing temperatures like the mid-western United States nor fighting snow in Atlanta, but we are having a rather unusual, wet and wild time in Hawaii.

Gotta run. . .the sun’s finally out and the surf is finally down. . .just sprinkles and some wind. Time to get some rays. . .Hope you’ll return here soon. . .

Linking up this week:

Travel Photo Thursday at Budget Travelers Sandbox
Travel Photo Discovery on Monday

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Hawaii: Tales from the Hale. . .

Hale ~ ‘home’ in Hawaiian.

A week has passed already and we are settled in to our Hawaiian lifestyle. We went from replacing a driveway and tree trimming at our Pacific Northwest home two weeks ago, to our carefree (no home improvement projects) lifestyle in a high-rise condo where our view of the Pacific Ocean reaches the far horizon.

I’ve written several times about our timeshares – or as we think of them, 'second homes' – in Arizona and Hawaii. I've told you how we’ve extended our stays by purchasing and using  two-bedroom ‘lock-off’ units. Lock-off, as the name implies, means we lock off one side, and use each of the two sides consecutively: two weeks for the price of one!
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I’ve written about living in ‘the big house’ side before, so this time I wanted to give you a tour of our first week 'hale' at Ko Olina in ‘the lock-off’ or small side --  an over-sized  hotel room with small balcony and kitchenette.

KO2014 005I’ve jokingly called it a ‘glamping’ (glorified camping) because you need to be a bit imaginative when menu planning and shopping to stock up a tiny kitchen; although it probably is as big as many in Paris apartments. It is definitely small compared to the big side.

The week in the small side is always a good excuse, . . .ahem. . ., reason, to visit the many Happy Hours that are within an easy walk of home. 

But we also eat most of our meals in; dining on that table in our nest-like balcony. The small in-room microwave and  the communal barbeques simplify the task.

In fact, gathering at the bank of bbq’s is one of our favorite features of this lifestyle.  We’ve met  fellow owners as well as those who’ve just come for a visit -- and they come from all over the world.

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The Scout, aka Beach Boy, in the photo above is visiting with a friend from Gig Harbor and fellow Ko Olina owner while the two sip wine and cook our dinners.

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The room is 360-square-feet with the balcony adding another 18-square-feet. In reality, it’s plenty of room for two people who spend most of their waking hours outdoors at the beach, pool, gym or off exploring.

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You do need to improvise at times. . .for instance that is my beach bag, shoes and a box of papayas (from Costco!) sharing a bit of storage space.  I photographed the door because it is the link to the full-side condominium --  had we booked the whole unit for a single week it would have been open. 

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Marriott Vacation Club - KoOlina, O'ahu
Yesterday we moved into the large side -- ‘the Big House’ as we owners call them --which is home for the next three weeks. . .I am in the real den, The Scout’s in the living room, we’ve been to the gym, I’ve done laundry, and tonight we are dining at home – we’ve got a couple big steaks to grill.

Last night, a woman clad in a swimsuit, and riding the elevator as we headed back to the room with our grilled Mahi Mahi and roasted corn on the cob exclaimed, “Oh! You actually cook on vacation??!!” I almost replied, “No we are cooking  at home tonight.”

That’s it for this weekend.  I know I promised some ‘novel destinations’ but those will come soon.  We’ve had to get settled into our island lifestyle first.  Mahalo, or thanks, for visiting today. Hope you’ll be back often!

If You Go:

Ko Olina is a planned  development on O’ahu’s West (Ewa) Coast, about 20 minutes from Honolulu International Airport; the nearest city is Kapolei.

Map picture

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Traveling the Road Not. . ., well. . ., less Taken in 2013

Pelop2013 020I’ve chosen to put a new twist on Robert Frost’s poem, “The Road Not Taken”, as we reflect on our travels this last year.

Sadly, with limited amounts of time we will always have roads not taken, but we’ve also had some great travel by choosing roads, less taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

O’ahu, Hawaii – January – February

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KoOlina2013 013If you drive west from Honolulu, past the town of Kapolei, past Ko Olina, a planned unit development, past Waipahu town, you come to the end of the road, where waves crash against the shore and the real beauty of O’ahu is found at every turn. . .even on days when clouds cloak the Waianae Mountains.

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

Greece – Mani, Peloponnese – April

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Pelop2013 019We set out in our rented car from Nafplio, Greece to explore a section of the Peloponnese – a taster sized sample of a rugged, but beautiful part of this country with which we are so taken. Often times we found ourselves alone for hours on a narrow roadway that looped up and down, over and around the stunning countryside. (GPS hasn’t discovered this part of the world yet.)

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

Vancouver Island, British Columbia – September

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VancouverIs2013 072The narrow roadway that cuts across Vancouver Island, British Columbia was a new route for us and one that cut through magnificent old growth forests leading us to Tofino, the small fishing (and tourist) village at the end of the road.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Mo’orea – French Polynesia – South Pacific – November


DSCF1299Never ones to favor those group tours organized by cruise ships, we prefer to set out on our own.

Lucky for us, Avis had an ‘office’ at the dock when we arrived in Mo’orea!  And some of the sights we saw were simply amazing to our American-safety-first way of thinking.

That’s it for this Travel Photo Thursday! Drop by Budget Travelers Sandbox where we are linking up today for some more armchair travel!

Our wishes to each of you for a Happy New Year – full of travel whether it be by car, bike, ship, plane or armchair.  And try putting away that GPS once or twice and set out on the road less traveled. We recommend it!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Birthday Bangle: Weaving Heritage and History

The tale of this birthday bangle begins more than a century ago in the time when Kings and Queens ruled this tropical  Kingdom. . .


It was in 1887 during a visit to London by Hawaii’s Queen Kapiolani and Princess Liliuokalani to help celebrate Queen Victoria’s Jubilee, that they were given gold bracelets on which their names were engraved in Old English lettering and filled with black enamel.

KoOlina2013 003(Another version of the story says King Kalakaua was the guest of Queen Victoria in 1883 and she sent the  bracelet with him for Princess Liliuokalani.) 

Whoever had the bracelet liked it so much that once they got back to the Hawaiian Palace they had other jewelry made in a similar style to give as gifts. Thus began the tradition of Hawaii Heritage Jewelry.

Just last year during our visit here I complimented a store clerk on the several Heritage bracelets she wore, saying I’d considered buying one at Costco but that it was stamped, “Kuuipo” (Sweetheart) - and I hadn't liked it.

She quickly cautioned, “Don’t buy one of those! You must put a name on it yourself.” Which made no sense to me at the time.

VegasHawaii2012 119In the year that passed since that conversation I’ve learned that Heritage jewelry has been given over the decades by many Hawaiians to commemorate a life milestone: births, deaths, anniversaries, weddings, graduations, birthdays. 

A name is imprinted on the jewelry which is believed to carry the ‘mana’, the supernatural power that resides in a person, animal or object.

Basically Heritage jewelry becomes more than just a piece of silver or gold because it carries the spirit of the name imprinted on it and the wearer keeps that spirit close to them by wearing the piece of jewelry.

The Birthday Bangle

KoOlina2013 036Readers of Travelnwrite know that this is one of those birthday milestone years for me.   It’s one significant enough to warrant a Heritage bangle. . .

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In Hawaii, it is believed that the spirit of a place
is carried in the spirit of its name.

The place we call our second ‘home’ is on the island of O’ahu and was once a fishing camp of Hawaiian aristocracy. It is said to have been a retreat for King Kamehameha. The area’s present day name was given it by a well-known religious leader, Rev. Abraham Akeka,of Honolulu’s Kawaiahoo Church, who called it:

Ko’olina ~ ‘fulfillment of joy’

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It seemed a two-fold appropriate name –or  mana - for my birthday bangle. After all, fulfillment of joy seems to sum up our travel lifestyle and I like the idea of  keeping the spirit of this special place with me all the time.

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KoOlina2013 035The bracelet’s Monarch pattern is a reminder of those Hawaiian ali’i who so long ago enjoyed these same lagoons along the island’s western coast as we do now (during at least a small portion of each year). 

The design I selected incorporates the ocean’s waves and our old friend “Honu” the sea turtle. 

As for its mana?  It’s there, that’s for sure. . . because when I look at the bracelet, this is what I see. . .


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If you were designing a bracelet to carry a special 'mana' what would it have on it?

Aloha from Hawaii. . .

That’s it for this week’s Travel Photo Thursday. For more armchair traveling check out Nancie’s Budget Travelers Sandbox!

About  Hawaiian Heritage Jewelry:  My bracelet was made by the Honolulu Jewelry Company. They have no retail outlets, their office/factory is in a light industrial area near the Honolulu Airport. Their website:, 888-889-6986, Twitter or Facebook/honolulujewelry.  (With this company, not only could I customize the bracelet, but I met the four artisans who actually created it. . . and that makes it even more special!)

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Beyond Waikiki

Waikiki is that touristy hip, happening place on the island of O’ahu, Hawaii, where tourist buses parade through its streets, camera-toting tourists jam the sidewalks and sun-seekers fill the beaches.

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Think Waikiki, think Diamond Head. Think Waikiki and think Honolulu. . . 

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Honolulu, the skyscraper filled big city of some 374,600 people; the capital of the state of Hawaii. It's that big city image people often think of when we say we are heading to O’ahu.

We do enjoy the 'big city' for a few days and then we follow the advice of one of our favorite Hawaiian songs: we head out to O’ahu’s country:

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We drive along the Leeward Coast, the drier west side of the O’ahu where sweeping vistas up the Wai’anae Mountain range in the early morning sun can nearly take your breath away.

We follow the two-lane highway through the Wai’anae Valley Makua Valley and its Kai’ena Point, the furthest most point on the western tip of the island.

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It is literally the end of the road. . .the pavement ends and the hiking begins.  There is no way around this point other than on your own two feet.  Last year we’d thought about hiking but spent the morning instead  watching the waves at the nearly empty nearby Yokohama Beach, a place popular with the locals.

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On another day we found ourselves heading out through the central valley of  this 597-square-mile island toward its North Shore.  With the Wai’anae Mountains to the west and the Koolau Mountains on the east, we traveed through miles of sugar cane and pineapple fields.

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We must stop in Hale’wa, (Ha-lay-E-va) the laid-back historic surfing town filled with eateries and artsy-craftsy stores (we’d be  remiss to miss a rainbow colored shave ice cone from Matsumoto’s Store here – even though the lines are sometimes long).
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There are any number of places along the North Shore to watch enormous waves. . .again a popular place for the locals and experienced surfers. Waves of 30-feet are not unusual here in winter months.

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And no trip to the North Shore is complete without a stop at one of the many shrimp trucks that line the highway. (Take plenty of paper towels with you – you’ll need them for the delightfully messy meal)– sit at one of the roadside tables and dig into a pile of shrimp – cooked to the spicy heat level you’ve requested.  Prepare to wear some of the sauce home on your tee-shirt .

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Continuing along the two-lane highway we travel through the  Windward side of the island  -- the wetter, greener side – where the ocean nearly brushes the roadway to one side while meadows and pasture land stretch to the Koolau Mountains on the other side of the road.

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This is the O'ahu that keeps bringing us back each year. As the song says, “Take a walk in the country, there’s a place for you there…”

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That’s it for this week’s Travel Photo Thursday. Stop by Budget Travelers Sandbox for more photos. And if these photos got your travel juices flowing, then  click this link  for a bit more Hawaiian country thanks to a You Tube version of the Makaha Sons song.

Map picture


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