Plans and Travel Don't Always Merge. Even in Hawaii

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Plans and Travel Don't Always Merge. Even in Hawaii

Posted by: Kim Steutermann Rogers
Destination: Maui
Jun 26, 2010

You know what they say about making plans, right?

Take my itinerary:

1. Depart Lihue Airport, Kauai, at 9:20 a.m.
2. Arrive Kahului Airpor, Maui, at 10:03 a.m.
3. Rent car from Dollar Rent-a-Car.
4. Drive to Kapalua in West Maui.
5. Check in at 12:30 p.m. for Upper Mountain Zipline tour with Kapalua Adventures.

It was a simple plan, albeit a tad tight on time if any delays would occur at the airport. But Hawaiian Airlines is the number one airline for on-time arrivals—not in the top three, not number one of major international carriers—so I felt comfortable with my schedule.

You know where this is headed, don’t you?

At security, I was selected to go through the new—first in the state—full-body scan. I assumed the position—hands up like I was under arrest. I stood like that, frozen, for a full five seconds while a dozen or so people behind me watched. Five seconds is a long time when you feel like you’re under suspicion of The Law.

“Will this tell me if I have a torn meniscus in my knee?” I asked. At this point, I had no idea how my day would unfold.

Answer: No.

Next, I was frisked. FRISKED. “Do you have any tender places?” the TSA woman asked. What did that mean?

Of course, this happened after I had removed my shoes. After I had removed my hat. After I had removed my one car key from my pocket. After I had removed the clear, plastic, quart bag of liquids from my suitcase. And after I had removed my laptop from my backpack.

Familiarize yourself with these new procedures. They are coming soon to an airport near you.

Once I was cleared through the body scan, another TSA person approached. “Is this your computer?” he asked.

“Yes,” I said and waited.

By now I was beginning to wonder about my flight. Was it boarding? Would I have enough time for my usual pre-flight stop at Starbucks for my grande-soy-extra-pump-no-water-chai?

I re-laced my shoes. I re-packed my liquids and computer. I put on my hat. I hefted my backpack onto my back, and I waited while my laptop got frisked, too.

“Here you go,” the TSA man said.

“Did you check my email for me?” I asked and he laughed. I was still smiling then.

There was just enough time for my chai, a spicy, Indian-style tea.

“May I help you?” the cashier asked.

“Yes, please,” I said.

She pulled a cardboard cup made with 10% post-consumer recycled fiber from below the counter like she was snatching a six-shooter from her holster. She held a marker aloft.

“Grande soy chai, extra pump, no water,” I said.

She dropped her pen to her side. The barista to her left paused, holding a vente size something in her hand. Time stood still. Both young women looked at me.

“We’re out of chai," one squeaked.

“You’re out of chai?” I asked. Maybe my voice rose a little too much at that end of that question.

They looked at each other, back at me and nodded like Bobblehead dolls.


The bobbing continued.

That was when I started to feel my day slipping away from me like a dream upon awakening.

I slumped to my gate.

It was no surprise, then, when I landed at Kahului airport on Maui and turned on my phone to a voice-mail message that said my zipline tour was canceled due to high winds.

Ah, the plight of a traveler. Surrender to the unexpected. Learn this at my expense.

I rented my car and drove straight to a nearby Starbucks on Dairy Avenue. I purchased the new Jack Johnson CD as a pick-me-up with my chai. Since I now had plenty of time, I decided to check my email. But, first, my wireless card wouldn’t connect to the Internet, and, then, my air card wouldn’t connect either. Drats.

Of late, my laptop’s battery has decided not to hold a charge. It goes from 85% full to 3% in a blink. Literally, a second. And I get a critical save message.

You know, that happened, right?

When it did, I reached for my AC adapter cord. And that’s when I remembered it was still sitting on my desk. On Kauai. Some 250 miles away.

Now, I can be stubborn, but I know when I am beat.

Plan B:

1. Slip Jack Johnson in the CD player.
2. Order a second grande-soy-extra-pump-no-water-chai.
3. Drive.
4. Drive.
5. Drive.

I pointed the car for Haleakala National Park.

Jack sang, You and your heart shouldn’t feel so far apart.

As I switchbacked my way up the mountain, I felt my heart return to me. I turned off the a/c and rolled down my windows as strains of Jack Johnson’s To the Sea trailed down the mountain behind me.

Let me tell you about Hosmer Grove. In the 1800s, ranchers cleared the area’s native trees, ‘ohia and koa, for cattle grazing. In 1910, Ralph S. Hosmer planted a forest reserve of trees from around the world here. Many of the species remain, however, Hosmer’s plans for establishing a timber industry failed. At the other end of the grove, native plants are making a comeback.

Those are facts. So are these:

The smell of a whole forest of eucalyptus trees. The sound of 100-foot whining pines. The flash of stop-sign-red 'i’iwi. The chirp of apapane. The feel of chilled air on sun-warmed skin.

I walked under Norfolk pines. I leaned into the shade of an Eastern Red Cedar. I peered through my viewfinder at an amakihi. At least, I think it was one of these native honeycreepers, but I hadn’t packed my binoculars, so who really knows. At 7,000-foot elevation, Hosmer Grove is one of the best places for birdwatching in the state. You park and look up and there are birds you won’t see anywhere else in the world. It’s believed that 52 species of Hawaiian honeycreepers owe their existence to a single finch-like ancestor through the process of “adaptive radiation.” Take the ‘i’iwi. Its crazy long, curved bill adapted over generations to sip nectar from long-necked lobelias.

The pamphlet that the National Park Service hands you with your receipt for the $10 you pay to enter Haleakala states 85 species of Hawaiian birds have become extinct and 32 are on the Federal Endangered Species List, with seven of these possibly already extinct or on the brink. That’s why Hawaii is known as the “Endangered Species Capital of the World.”

I found my breathing changed in Hosmer Grove in Haleakala National Park on Maui. It was like the air was a vitamin, and I swallowed it whole. Maybe it was the place. Maybe it was the day. Whatever it was, the air sure tasted good.

As I write this first draft—by hand—in my room at Outrigger Napili Shores in West Maui, my window is open, and the sounds of ocean rush in. Another kind of vitamin. Another kind of music.

Sometimes, I guess you have to forego plans, forego lists, and forego desire. You just have to throw up your hands and sails and let the wind take you where it will.

I hope I remember this next time.


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