Thursday, December 30, 2021

Leaving On a Jet Plane, Part 2

It’s just about an hour until our dinner time on the Emerald Princess. We made it to the ship, but it was certainly not an easy trip.

Our flight to Fort Lauderdale was cancelled at 1030 pm the night before our trip. We didn't know, so we got up around 2am for the 5am flight. At least we knew before heading to the airport, so we chilled in the hotel for a couple extra hours.

Turns out our seats were downgraded to main cabin, and our 2nd flight out of Atlanta we were stand-by passengers. I wasn’t feeling particularly optimistic.

We originally were scheduled to arrive in Fort Lauderdale around 4pm. We finally landed after 10pm.

We had a rough time with Uber, when the first one showed up it was a small car (who picks up at the airport and can't handle two people two bags and two carry-ons?)

The second one didn't show (waited around 5 or ten minutes, he never moved on the app, I called, and they didn't pick up).

The third didn't move for a long time, I finally called, he said he was on the way. I let him know we were at the ride share pick up platform waiting at station 6, he pulls up to station 2 and makes us walk to him.

We get to the hotel and are both starving. When we got up, we had leftovers from dinner the night before for breakfast. We have had nothing to eat since, but two small packs of almonds and two packs of cookies.

The bar at the hotel had closed, they didn’t have room service, so we tried our luck with Uber Eats. “Food” finally showed up about 1:30 am. It was Denny’s, not my favorite, but it was all we had.

After a couple hours sleep, we were off to the cruise port.

Saturday, December 25, 2021

Merry Christmas, You’re Not Going Anywhere.

Me on my first cruise, leaving Venice

We’ve been planning a New Year’s cruise. We are supposed to leave next week from Fort Lauderdale on Princess Cruise line for a 10-day partial Panama Canal cruise.

A little over a week ago, our son-in-law came down with Covid. He had a bad headache, chills, and a fever for a couple of days.

We haven’t been around him for several days prior to his getting sick, and it’s been over 10 days since he got sick. I figured we were in the clear.

But on Christmas day, before the family got together, we took home Covid tests. I went first and came up clear.

My wife went second, and we waited the required ten minutes.

When she pulled the test strip, she said, oh no. I thought she was joking, but sure enough, it was a positive test.

She retested about an hour and a half later, but still came up positive.

She’s not showing any symptoms, but I guess we’re grounded for a couple of weeks.

Oh yeah, this is the second time we canceled a Panama Canal cruise. We were scheduled to take a 15-day full passage from Fort Lauderdale to Los Angeles when the pandemic hit.

Hope I can get all my money back (but I did buy insurance, so should be good).

UPDATE - My wife went for a "real" test today, we're good to go! Looks like the home kit gave a false positive. 

I should have waited before cancelling hotel and flights.

Rebooked with Marriott, now I get to wait for two hours to get someone on the phone to stop Delta from cancelling our flight. 

UPDATE2 - After about 3 hours got a call back from Delta, got the flights rescheduled. It's now just after 4am on the day of our flight. We got up at 2:30 to get ready for a 5am flight, only to find out it was cancelled overnight. 

They rescheduled us for about 1pm today arriving after 10pm, however, they don't have seats for us on the connecting flight. So, waiting again for hours to speak to someone at Delta. 

Thursday, December 23, 2021


In the 1980’s, we were stationed at Barbers Point Naval Air Station, west of Honolulu.

At the time, it was a small base, surrounded by sugar cane fields on two sides and the ocean on one and an industrial park on the other.

We had a small PX, an even smaller commissary, and a couple of places to get something to eat, most walk-up windows as I recall.

There was sit-down dining in the clubs, but I only remember eating there a few times (mostly on Mongolian Barbeque nights. And the enlisted club tended to be a bit rowdy.

Which is why we spent so much time in Waikiki.

Before I met my wife, several of us would get together, rent a hotel room, and spend the weekends on the beach during the day, and in the clubs at night.

Once I started dating my wife, we would head into Waikiki for a late lunch of dinner, maybe watch the sunset on the beach, then head back home. She wasn’t much of a “beach” person, and neither of us was that into the clubs.

We have good memories of Hawaii, our house on Barbers Point, and our condo in Makaha (where we lived before getting married and qualifying for base housing), and dinners and a movie in Waikiki.

Now after 38 years, we find ourselves back in Waikiki.

We checked into the Hotel and went in search of lunch (the food service on the plane was almost nonexistent). We grabbed a bite at the quick service stand at the hotel and pretty much called it a night.

The next morning, we spent a little time walking around the beach at Waikiki, then headed off on a road trip to see what still existed of our old base.

We really didn’t have too much planned, we just played it by ear. One day we took a trip up to Nu‘Uanu Pali (Pali Lookout), the site of a major battle fought by King Kamehameha I, in his efforts to unite Oahu under his rule.

The View from Nu‘Uanu Pali 

According to the Hawaii Tourism Website:

“The Pali Lookout is a site of deep historical significance. Named “Pali” meaning "cliff" in Hawaiian, the Pali Lookout is the site of the Battle of Nuuanu, where in 1795 King Kamehameha I won the struggle that finally united Oahu under his rule. This fierce battle claimed hundreds of soldiers’ lives, many of which were forced off of the Pali’s sheer cliffs.”

We spent some time wandering around Waikiki, I have to say it was much different than it was 38 years ago.

Most of the really kitschy tourist shops that I remember have been replaced by new shopping malls featuring some of the big names in fashion. It looks more like Rodeo Drive than the Hawaii of my youth.

My granddaughter checking out one of the Koi Ponds in the Waikiki shopping district.

I even managed to get in touch with one of my former co-workers, who had retired and returned home to Hawaii. We had a nice breakfast and spent some time catching up on things.

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Third Time’s the Charm, We Finally Made It

As we waited for the day of our flight, Hawaii finally dropped the 14-day quarantine requirement. We just needed to get all three of us a Covid test before we got on the plane.

My wife and I had both had Covid tests done before, so we thought we knew what we were getting ourselves into. The hospital had drive-up testing, so my wife was in the rear seat with our granddaughter. We knew she wouldn’t handle the test well, so having someone in the back seat to literally hold her hand seemed like a good idea.

It’s been said that “no plan survives contact with the enemy,” and this plan was no different.

We hoped that they would test the adults first, so we could show the little one that it was no big deal.

 We arrived at the test site and gave the nurse our names. She went into a tent and came out with another nurse, each armed with a test kit.

The approached the car from both sides and asked my wife and granddaughter to put their heads back for the test. They were so fast; we didn’t have time to try to get them to do the adults first.

Now before this, my wife and I had each had several tests. They were no big deal. Just a quick swab on the rear of the throat, then a quick swab up the nose.

This time they did a different test, one that required them to stick a probe so far up your nose, I thought they were trying to get a sample of my brain tissue.

When they stuck the probe in my granddaughter nose, she screamed and started to cry hysterically. She grabbed the probe with both hands and managed to shove it further up her nose then necessary.

 The nurse somehow managed to get the sample and apologized to the poor kid who was left sobbing in the back seat.

Thankfully, everyone’s test came back negative. The next day we headed into LA to spend the night at a hotel next to LAX.

Early the next morning, we took the hotel shuttle to the airport.

Over the years, I’ve flown out of Los Angeles International Airport so many times I’ve lost count. The first time at the tender age of 18, leaving the comforts of home for a life in the US Army. In all those years, one word I would never use to describe LAX was “empty.” Until now.

While not completely empty, I've never seen so few passengers at LAX

Now, it wasn’t completely deserted, but I was amazed in how few people were there. Unfortunately, also missing were most of the shops. We did manage to find a store that we were able to buy some drink and snacks for the flight.

The flight wasn’t bad, they were still leaving empty seats to promote distancing, so not too crowded. No food service and worst of all – no beer. Other than that first flight to basic training, I don’t think I’ve ever flown without having at least one beer. This time I was in for a five-hour trek in a tiny tube and entertaining an eight-year-old, all of this without the benefit of a cold beer. It’s inhumane!

The flight wasn’t bad, in fact the granddaughter was better than some of the adults on the plane.

When we got to Hawaii, we were herded into a concourse to show proof of our covid test.

I’m never amazed at the lack of attention some people pay when traveling. Before we left home, I checked several times on the requirements for travel to Hawaii. We both signed up on the Safe Travels Hawaii website and had both filled out all the forms we needed to be allowed into Hawaii.

As we waited in what I felt was a way too packed causeway, we heard several people asking about the paperwork everyone else was holding. I guess some people thought you could ignore the State travel mandates and just show up. Those without proper paperwork were whisked away and we didn’t see them again. I’m sure they’re fine.

The view from our room

Thursday, December 2, 2021


 About 43 years ago, I was heading into the final stretch of my high school years. Since age 12, I had dreamed of attending the US Military Academy at West Point. Now as I approached college age, I knew that there was very little chance of getting the necessary congressional appointment letter.

But I learned that there was another way to get into one of the most prestigious college in the country. Every year a small number of US Army Soldiers are allowed to enter the US Military Academy Preparatory School. Which is how I found myself in the Army and stationed at Barbers Point Naval Air Station in Hawaii.

The old headquarters building at Barbers Point

I had trained as a helicopter repairman and had moved my way up to flight engineer. One day, a young, attractive sergeant came out to fix one of the rotor blades on my aircraft. I asked her to lunch, and one thing led to another, now 38 years later, we are still together.

We left Hawaii in the early 1980’s and never looked back. I had been there for four years and didn’t have any desire to return (I know, most people think that’s crazy).

When covid hit, we had several trips lined up. We were headed to Vancouver for our anniversary, then going on a Panama Canal cruise, and finally traveling to London and Paris late the year.

So I moved the Europe trip, and decided that maybe it was time to go back to Hawaii. After a couple of months, I cancelled the reservations and rescheduled for later in the year. As the date got closer, it became obvious that Hawaii would still not be open without the two-week quarantine.

I figured that they couldn’t prevent us from driving, so we took a road trip to Zion National Park.

We enjoyed the trip, even though there was a lot of smoke from fires in California. We did some hiking, ate at some really good restaurants and even did a day trip to the North rim of the Grand Canyon.

View from the Upper Emerald Pools in Zion

But I Really wanted to take a trip to someplace we couldn’t drive. I made new reservations for Hawaii. After talking it over with the kids, we decided to take our granddaughter along.

We would spend the first part of the trip in Waikiki, then head up to the North Shore for the remainder of the trip.

Now all we had to do was wait.