Tropical Sun in February: Watkins & Hoppers go to Hawaii

Joe and Ginger Watkins in Maui
Joe and Ginger Watkins in Maui
Ron and Rita Hopper in Maui
Ron and Rita Hopper in Maui

Our trip to Hawaii in February 2014 was fantastic, but it started off as a comedy of errors.  You can’t make this sh….t up!  And like all crazy things in life, you don’t laugh at the time, but you say “We’ll laugh about this later.”  So here’s my attempt to share the laugh.  NOTE: Time Zones *EST: Eastern Time (KY) *CST: Central Time (KY -1 hr)  *PST: Pacific Time (KY -3 hr)  *HST: Hawaii Time (KY -5 hr)   

Thursday Feb 5th
4:30 AM EST*: Up early at Hoppers. Bowl of instant oatmeal and coffee then off to CVG – Greater Cincinnati Airport. We stayed the night with Ron and Rita since they live much closer to the airport and the day before the roads were ice covered. We did not want to take a chance and miss our flight due to road conditions. Our flight is scheduled to depart at 8 am, arrive at Dallas Ft. Worth 10:00 am CST (11:00 Ky time), depart Dallas at 12:15 pm – arrive at Maui 4:35 pm HST (9:35 pm Ky time).
This is the plan. Total travel time 13 and half hours.

9:00 AM EST*: Due to de-icing and a mechanical problem with the equipment used to check the tires on the plane we get off the ground an hour late. But we should still make it to Dallas for our connecting flight. We touch down at DFW around 10:30 Dallas time (11:30 Ky time). Cold and windy. A light snow falling. We have to line up and wait for a gate to de-board. We are told there are over 24 planes waiting to depart – delays due to the long queue at the de-icing stations. Long delays and no gates available, so we sit in the plane on the tarmac.
Two hours later we are still waiting on the tarmac. Hungry, miserable and pissy because we might not make our connecting flight to Maui.
Joe gets on my smart phone and starts reading about our rights as passengers under the FAA guidelines. He learns we are not allowed to be on the tarmac over 3 hours and after 2 hours they have to feed us. At the two hour mark, the Flight Attendants pass out granola bars and then tell us not to use the restroom as it is full. Also they can not give us anything to drink, unless we really need “just a sip to get our granola bar down.” Suddenly I have to pee like a race horse.
Our misery is finally ended when we are able to de-board after 2 plus hours of waiting. No time for lunch, gotta get to our next flight to Maui – it has been delayed also, so we hope to make it in time for boarding.

12:35 PM CST*: We miss our connecting flight to Maui which left just 5 minutes prior to our arrival at the gate. If we had not stopped to pee, we would have made it.
No problem. We are put on stand-by for the next flight to Honolulu, which departs at 1:10 pm. Still no time to eat lunch, gotta race to the next gate. Hopefully we’ll get a seat and be on our way to Honolulu where we will connect to an Hawaiian Airline Flight to the island of Maui, our final destination. We’ll be in Lahaina, Maui tonight, sleeping in a clean comfortable bed.

1:10 PM CST*: At Dallas Ft. Worth Airport we board the plane to Honolulu, which has to get in a long line on the tarmac to be de-iced. We watch as the workers drive trucks with lifts and ladders, using hand held sprayers de-icing the jumbo jets. Guess Dallas is not equipped to handle snow. We finally get liftoff sometime after 2 pm. Flight time is 7 hours. Our flight to Maui is scheduled to leave around 5 pm Hawaiian time.
I’m seated next to a lady from Columbus and Joe is one row behind me next to a young man from Columbia, South America. The Hoppers are together across the plane with a center aisle of three seats separating us.
We are starved. We look at the menu, willing to pay $7, $8 or $9 for a sandwich or salad? At this point I’d probably sell a kidney for a piece of cheese. After an hour in the air, the food cart gets to our row.
“Can I have the Salami and cheese sandwich?” I ask.
“Sorry we are out of that.”
“What about the Cob Salad?”
“We’re out of that too. The only thing we have left is this,” she holds up a small bag of Chex Mix, “and a brownie.” She holds up a shriveled brownie in plastic wrap.
I take the bag of kibble which cost $7.98. When she gets to Joe all she has to offer him is the brownie. He goes without. I try to share my meal with him, but it is hard to get the bag handed back to him. He declines. We can see Ron and Rita two aisles away eating their sandwiches. Envy fills our bellies.
When my seat mate gets up to use the toilet, I get up and retrieve the granola bars I have packed in our over-head bag. I give 3 to Joe. He hands one to his seat mate, who has been traveling for over 24 hours. I eat the granola bar and finish my drink, knowing that I may not get anything else to eat for 6 more hours (or more). I try to get comfortable, get a nap. My kindle is dead. No more reading or games.
The movie ‘Thor’ is playing on the tiny TVs situated over the middle aisle, too far away to really watch. After the movie, the screen alternately shows the flight path of our plane and other Airline info. We are now over the Pacific.
Just as I begin to doze off, a voice from the cockpit crackles out of the speakers. “Is there a medical doctor on board?”
Many of the passengers perk up. Talking, standing. What’s going on? Joe nudges my shoulder, to wake me.
Then, “Does anyone have any Prednisone or steroid inhaler?” the voice asks. OK, we think. Not too serious. An allergy or asthma attack.
Passengers stand again, trying to see the action in the back of the plane.
“Who’s sick?” “What happened?” “What are they doing?”
Ten minutes pass. We begin to settle down. Then incredulously we watch as the toy plane on the little TV screen begins to make a U turn over the Pacific. No! It can’t be. Only silence from the cockpit. The murmur of voices begins to escalate, almost to a low roar. A mutiny is about to take place. Whoever it is that is sick, “He/She needs to suck it up. We’re going to Hawaii”, we all think, but can’t say aloud.
The disembodied voice of our pilot finally comes over the speakers, “We have had a medical emergency on board. And we are turning back and heading to Los Angeles.”
Ok. So now we know. We’re screwed.
“We should be landing at LAX in about one and a half hours,” he concludes.
At this point, we all become numb. The whole mass of passengers over 200 souls, men, women and children, all become as sheep. No sense in getting agitated, upset, angry, pissy, or worse, Bat Shit Crazy. You’ll only end up being detained by the TSA in LA and shipped off to Guantanamo Bay not Hawaii. So we shut the F— up and sit down.

9:30 PM PST*: At LA Airport I call Lahaina Shores Resort to tell them we will not be checking in that evening. (It is 4:30pm in Maui). I also tell them the Hoppers will be late. We will all be there the next day. There is no way we will make it to Honolulu in time to board the last flight to Maui at 7:45 pm.
We just landed here for reasons beyond anyone’s control. We stood in a cattle line to get food vouchers, tried to find a restaurant in the terminal, not too far away, with a line not too long, as our plane was re-boarding in 40 minutes. We end out settling for junk food at the news stand; candy, chips, nuts, trail mix and water. They would not take the meal vouchers, as this was not a ‘meal’. Still a feast as all Joe and I had to eat since our small bowls of oatmeal at 5 that morning in Kentucky (over 19 hours ago) was 2 granola bars and some Chex Mix.
The plane is called for boarding to Honolulu. Many of the passengers carry on their half eaten meals; pizza boxes, sub sandwiches, and sleeping children.

Friday Feb 6th
2:30 AM: HST* Check in at Ala Mona hotel downtown Honolulu. Hoppers went off in a different direction, in a different Taxi to the Honolulu Hilton. Got toothbrush and toothpaste from desk. Go to bed in our underwear, which at this point, are less than hygienic. We sleep like the dead.

6:00 AM: HST*: Wakeup call. We eat our breakfast, compliments of American Airlines, at restaurant downstairs. Buffet style: hash browns, bacon, eggs, omelet, muffins, juice and coffee are heaven after a day of fasting. Going to be a great day.

10:30 AM: HST*: We are flying over the Pacific ocean between Honolulu and Maui. Beautiful blue sky with fluffy white clouds and deep blue water below. Almost there. What a long trip this has been thus far.

12:00 PM: HST*: I watch from the ‘Hawaiian Airlines Customer Service’ desk at the Kabuli Airport in Maui as Rita backs out of a small opening in a metal cage on her hands and knees about 50 feet away. She is pulling out my suitcase. YEAH! Joe stands by directing her.
This incident was preceded by us trying to locate our checked luggage, which had traveled to Maui on its own, controlled by computers, bar codes, conveyer belts, and baggage handlers, starting at CVG and flying to Dallas Ft. Worth, and from there possibly through LA and/or other unidentified airports.
We were just about to fill out the paper work for our lost luggage, when the Customer Service person suggested we check the holding area for Hawaiian Airlines. Joe and Rita followed a service lady to the cage of luggage. She unlocks the gate for Hawaiian Airline’s storage area where 2 pieces are retrieved. The 3rd piece, my suitcase, is behind the locked cage for American Airlines, visible but not accessible.
“I can’t unlock that side,” the lady explains. “AA is closed now and you’ll have to file a claim for lost luggage.”
Joe was adamant. “That is my bag in there. We are not leaving without our bags.” Wearing the same underwear for over 24 hours and operating on 3 hours sleep, Joe was in no mood to be passive.
But there was a chink in the security; an opening just the size for luggage to pass through, (not people) connected the Hawaiian Airline’s storage area to the AA area of the cage.
Joe said “Rita, crawl in there and get my suitcase.” And she did.
The lady said, “I can’t watch,” and she turned her head and shielded her eyes from the crime being committed.
After Rita emerges with the last bag, Joe shows the lady that the name on the suitcase matches the name on his baggage claim ticket. “See, it’s mine,” he assures her.
As Joe and Rita walk away from the scene, Ron and I join them. Rita begins telling us what just transpired. The service lady is concerned as an Airport Security person approaches in an electric golf cart. Laws have been broken barriers crossed and someone has to pay. “SHHHH” she says as we laugh and talk loudly about Rita’s criminal behavior. We hurry away, out the door, dragging our luggage, before anyone can arrest Rita for violating Home Land Security laws. We hope the Hawaiian Airlines lady will not get in trouble.

1:00 PM: HST*: Rita and I try to check in at Lahaina Shores. There seems to be a problem with our reservations, as in they can’t find us in their system. I explain to the young man at the desk how we were delayed and why we could not get here yesterday, on our original check in date. A native Hawaiian being able to understand the domino effect that bad weather reaps all across the continental US has less chance of happening than a 98 year-old man with dementia picking up a smart phone and texting his great-grand son the lyrics to a Bob Dylan song.
I tell him that I called from LA the day before to let them know of our late arrival. I even show him my cell phone with their number displayed. This does not seem to help. We are not sure if we’re even going to get a room. Rita and I turn away and mouth our silent prayers to the ‘Desk Clerk’ in the sky, JC himself. Joe and Ron are pacing. Joe is talking about going back to Cincinnati, when suddenly the clerk announces that he has one room for the Hoppers and then he says he will be able to get us in too. (“TY JC”) But we can’t check in yet, the rooms aren’t ready. We have to come back at 3.
So we leave and drive into town, park the car and get out to find a restaurant for lunch. We are a site, walking the hot tropical streets of Lahaina in our winter garb. Me in sweats, Joe and the Hoppers wearing blue jeans. Joe would be roasting, if not for his purchase of a Hawaiian shirt to replace his pullover sweater at the Honolulu airport.

3:00 PM: HST*: We check in at Lahaina Shores Resort in Maui. We meet Bill and Carmen, the proprietors of this establishment. Rita re-counts the crazy saga of our journey.

3:30 PM: HST*: Joe and I let ourselves into our room, a studio condo with a mountain view off the balcony after parking our rental car in the garage per the instructions of Carmen. We are in Room 318 and the Hoppers are three floors above in Room 614. We had previously carried up our bags and my purse and left everything in the room, locked it and went to park the car. We had not been gone ten minutes.
Joe hefts his large suitcase onto the bed, opens it and begins to unpack, putting his items in the top drawer of the small chest. I start to grab one of my bags when I notice a strange brown bag sitting in one of the chairs. I say, “Where did this come from? It’s not ours.” I pick it up, unzip it and inside is a red purse. I re-close the zipper and soon realize that there are two more strange suitcases in the room. A large and medium one with airport barcode tags hanging off their handles. I call the desk. The clerk comes to our room and takes away the luggage which had been delivered to our room by mistake.

4:30 PM: HST*: We receive a bottle of wine delivered to our room compliments of the management, signed “Aloha, glad you made it. Enjoy!”
We take a very long nap and then wake up to start our vacation.

* HST: Hawaii Time (KY -5 hr) * PST: Pacific Time (KY -3 hr) * CST: Central Time (KY -1 hr) *EST: Eastern Time (KY)

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