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WARNING:  The following article has NOTHING to do
with the Great Northern Railway. It's just a fun trip
Baolu and your intrepid webmaster Lindsay took to the
Aloha State.

The Great Northern in Maui

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Our trip on Hawaiian Air two years ago went so well, we decided to try it again. HA 29 (Boeing 767-300ER) six hour flight to Maui. We're going first class, round trip.

Taxi out to Sea-Tac and checked in at First Class line. Tall girl and short girl (bacon and eggs) ahead of us at the counter and the agent is taking an extraordinary long time with them. Manager gets called over. Both employees are shaking their heads as they stare at the screen. Airport security even wanders over to have a look, but it turns out he's just saying "Good Morning" to the manager. FINALLY, they assign another agent to do the rest of us in F.C.

Then it's on to TSA (Take Scissors Away...or Tear Suitcase Apart). I set off the damn metal detector despite not having any metal on my body or clothes. "Empty your pockets" she drones. So I put my ticket and Kleenex in a tray THROUGH THE X-RAY and walk through without setting it off. Honestly, those x-ray machines are just set to beep on a random setting. Frikken ridiculous.

Finally through the security theatre and Baolu heads straight for a Starbucks. It is a very slow line, but we have lots of time to kill. We take a couple silly pictures for posterity and soon they begin boarding.



This time they're doing that "families with small children board first" thing. Half the plane boards and THEN they let First Class board. Hmpf. They've got it backwards, if you ask me. Shouldn't they board them last? Asking any kid to sit still for six hours is asking a lot. I know, I know. I'm sounding like an old grump. Well, I am.

First Class.  Ahhh.... They get us settled in and start right in on the champagne. Baolu gets hers with a splash of guava juice. We settle back in and enjoy the ride. It quickly becomes obvious as we start to taxi out to the runway that we have a screamer on board. Yep, back in coach, a little hellion is screaming his lungs out as we climb out of Seattle. He keeps this up for a good 90 minutes into the flight. Really quite impressive, his stamina. I think his voice box gave out after they served lunch. I had wanted to go back there and take a picture of him as his parents weren't making any effort to calm him...and it was quite the sideshow.

Seats 1H and 1J.  Oh that band aid?  REALLY hacked myself shaving this morning.  Doesn't it make me look rakish? ;p

Baolu is really digging the DVD player they give us, but I'm happy with my book this time (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance). They come and take our lunch order (select 3 out of 5 entrees) along with drink orders. Hawaiian Air just makes the most SUPERB spicy bloody marys. On the way home, I'm going to have to ask them what mix they use. Baolu is switching between Guava Mimosas and white wine.



Soon lunch arrives and it is top notch. It's followed by a dish of ice cream with a marshmallow cap and some sort of raspberry puree. Heavenly.



Almost before we realize it, they're announcing our decent into Kahului (with the entertaining airport code of "OGG"). I grab some more shots of the Maui coast as junior back in coach starts screaming bloody murder.



When we left Seattle, the temperature was 45. Here it is over 90 and humid. It is wonderful.

It's really not that bad because the trade winds are really blowing strong today which keeps it cooler. We collect our baggage and pick up our red Mustang convertible at Hertz. I try to "buy the shirt off the back" of the Hertz guy for my brother. (Long story short - My brother owns a Hertz Shelby Mustang. He wants a Hertz Aloha Shirt like they wear at the counter.) About all the guy says is he may bring one in next Saturday when we fly back. We'll see. I'm not holding my breath.

We hop in the 'tang and the thermometer reads 94F. I decide to take the "scenic" route through Kahului in the hopes of finding a grocery store to buy water, but all I manage to find is the Maui County JAIL. And you've never seen so many cop cars in your LIFE driving along that road. Baolu is asking, "Where are you taking me?", when I manage to wind my way down out of the felon-filled neighborhood foothills and onto the main road to Lahaina. It is a beautiful drive along the coast. It is a Saturday, so all the locals are out pulled off the side of the road barbequing and surfing.

The main highway bypasses Lahaina, but I see the station for the Sugar Cane Train, which we hope to ride (you know I had to work a train into this vacation SOMEHOW). Finally we find a Shell station with a store and pick up a few gallons of water. Later we pass a Safeway and Longs Drugs which we can use as a water stop. Just out of Lahaina, is Kaanapali and our Kaanapali Beach Hotel. This is "The most Hawaiian hotel in Hawaii". The staff is very sweet checking us in.

View from Room 241.  Those trees are white plumeria, with very fragrant blossoms.  We brought back a cutting to plant at home.  Now THAT'S a Tiki God! (and THAT'S a Haole).

We get settled in and go down to the Tiki Bar and I have a Blue Hawaii (vodka, pineapple juice and blue Curacao whilst B has a pina colada (the walk in the rain would happen tomorrow). It's still early afternoon, but we have some snacks and finally toddle back to the room for a nap. It is about 5:30pm local time and we are exhausted. We start our "nap" which turns out to be sleeping all night long.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Next morning, we're both up before dawn. Hawaii is not on Daylight Savings Time, so there's a 3 hour time difference from Redmond. We walk along the paved beach path and come across the Whaler Mall about one block away. McDonalds! And they serve SPAM for breakfast, YES! We are SO coming here tomorrow. This morning, we are killing time (nothing is open yet, except the ABC store). We buy three bottles of Lychee Vodka at the ABC for Baolu - we even brought bubble pack in our suitcase to wrap it up in, to ship home in the suitcases. We stagger back to the room with our hooch.



Baolu got us hooked up with the uber-expensive "continually-flowing" champagne brunch at our hotel which starts at 9am. Now to a couple of alcoholics like ourselves, this sounds wonderful. The trouble is, this is noon on our clocks and we are both hungry. Never arrive hungry at a Hawaiian restaurant. We are standing in a long line for the brunch. The staff looks confused and they piddle around and finally we are seated. The brunch is spectacular with prime rib, sushi, oysters on the half shell as well as the ubiquitous omelet station. Across the room is more exotic fare including octopus and shoya chicken which is superb (the chicken, not the octopus).

Whoa! Roll me out the door! We are totally gutted and sort of stagger back to the room. It hurts, mummy. La Bonza, she's full.

After giving our overworked digestive systems a jolly good workout, we drive over to Lahaina, park, and walk around. It is very hot today, so we have some of the local shaved ice which tastes superb.

Next mission: Baolu wants to buy a pair of black pearl earrings to match the necklace from our 2008 trip. We find the same chain store: Maui Pearl Divers along the way. After a spirited search through their wares, the sales gal finds a near exact match. B happily buys them on the spot.  On the way back to Kaanapali, we stop at Long's to buy 3 more gallons of water. It turns out we would go through all 5 gallons on this trip. It's still early in the afternoon, so we decide to drive completely around the hills of West Maui. Very boonie road - just like the "Road to Hana" (TM), but without the traffic. That evening, it was time for our first sunset.



Monday, May 24, 2010

Spam at McDonalds! Afterwards, Baolu cleans out the nearby ABC store of taro chips. I buy some macadamia nut chocolates for the folks back home. Later, we walk around Lahaina and I see a fellow carving these really neat Tiki Gods. One of those would look really nice for the front yard! Ward away evil spirits and all. I want a Tiki!

Just another beautiful day in paradise. Baolu wants to check out Aloha Mixed Plate for lunch, so we toddle over there a little after noon. The place, right by the ocean, is packed and I have this gigantic loco-moco. I am stuffed like a pimento olive. Seeking a little nap, we come back to our room and discover the central air conditioning is not working. Front desk says our entire wing of the hotel is out and "they are sending for a part". Oi. That could be days. Ask to be moved to another room. They are very nice about it and we quickly change keys and move our stuff over. Room 125 comes with a lizard outside.

In fact a whole family of them - big ones, small ones, spotted ones.  B spots 3 more chasing each other in the grass outside. Discover THIS room's A/C isn't working either. Call front desk. Turns out you have to SLAM the outside sliding door shut. That does the trick and the a/c comes on. Much better. Shaved ice for dinner, although not as good as the first time. Shaved ice much better in the blazing heat of midday. We watch the sunset from Lahaina.

The sun definitely sets earlier here than Seattle - about 7pm - and sunsets here are spectacular. It is still early for us (although dark), so we drive up a local road along the west shore through Honokowai and Kahana to the Ritz Carlton in Kapalua and back. Have to stop and put up the convertible top during a shower. Back at the hotel, we head to the Tiki Bar. Baolu has white wine and I have a couple more Blue Hawaii's. We listen to nearby Hawaiian band playing old favorites (including a tongue-in-cheek version of Hawaii 5-0).

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

I notice a big Polynesian fella carving tiki gods in the outdoor lobby of our hotel. He's got them all set up and is carving one as we talk to him. He carves them out of monkey pod wood -- big hardwood trees that grow beside the road here. He says the highway department offers chunks of wood for local artists to use for free - when they're trimming the trees. Very cool. We talk price and I decide to pick up some cash at the ATM near Mickey D's. Oh, yes. We're having Spam for breakfast again, you betcha.

Back from breakfast, I buy my Tiki God and the artist Naki - (Funaki Tupou) signs his work and adds our names to the back of the Tiki (all carved in). Is that cool or what?



Today, our project is to ride the Sugar Cane Train between Kaanapali and back. Along the way, the right of way passes right through the middle of a golf course.  Further along, we cross a deep gulch on a curved, wooden trestle. The engineer uses this spot to clear out the boiler of impurities by letting off steam.



Soon, we're coming into Lahaina station. There is a nifty turntable here where the Porter 2-4-0 reverses direction and runs around the train to be headed the right way for our return journey.

Back up near Halawai, we pull through the station, turn Porter #3 on a wye track, and pull back down into the station where another crowd of folks are waiting to board.



Afterwards, we drive into town to Lahaina Music where I pick up a "pineapple-shaped" ukulele to plink on back home.



Lunch consists of some fish tacos at Maui Tacos. Very good! The floor show is provided by a randomly-shrieking 4 year old at a nearby table with obvious psychological problems (Mum's ignoring her). Close by, we notice the #1 BBQ Plate Lunch place (looks like a local spot) which we mentally file away for Thursday's lunch.

I saw this driving around Lahaina.  Isn't that rather blasphemous?  And what's with the football?



We still have much of the afternoon left, so it's time to do a little exploring. The first stop is Maalaea, with a highly-recommended restaurant on the waterside. It's tucked away, but we finally locate it just away from the pier area. This might be a good place for our final night (Friday) in paradise.

Now, since we're down in this neck of the woods, we tour Kihei, Wailea and Makena on the south end of Maui. Kihei is much more pedestrian with its strip malls and condos, whereas Wailea and Makena are VERY posh - the roads are lined with palm trees and vegetation is quite lush and green. In Wailea, we pass one tony resort after another on into Makena.

Just south of Makena, we cross a bridge, and you can literally see where they stopped watering. In the space of about 200 feet we go from lush green to arid desert with cactus and scrub -- what Maui really looks like without the sprinkler systems. The road narrows and becomes one lane. We turn around in someone's driveway and head back towards Kahului. Actually, we are going past Kahului to Paia, the last gas stop on the "Road to Hana" (TM) and check out tomorrow's breakfast stop.

Maui is not a very big island, and we are soon back in Lahaina. I drop Baolu off for some alone time shopping. I relax in the room and she calls me 3 hours later. I pick her up, and she's gotten a copper bracelet with a section of old Japanese kimono attached to it. Very oochie. (How about those orange/green Great Northern colors?) ;p

Dinner tonight came with a magic show - right in the hotel! Both the show and the meal was quite good and you can read about it here:

Kupanaha Magic Show Dinner Theater

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Road to Hanna (TM)

We are out the door by 7am and are gassing up at Paia shortly thereafter at 8. Breakfast is at this wonderful Mexican/US Southwestern place called Milagros Food Company. B has the "Popeye" (spinach) omelet and I'm snarfing the breakfast burrito. Both are huge. I wind up eating a good portion of Baolu's Popeye and so we're on the road by 8:45. It is quite cloudy along the way and the scenery really doesn't seem to "pop out" in this direction. Maybe on the way home. After all, there's only one way out to this place.

The road is one of the world's most scenic. Many one-lane sections where you have to wait for folks travelling in the other direction. A lot of the canyons have dry washes. Only a couple have water in them. We notice an old codger selling coconuts beside the road near Hana. Just before Hana, we turn off for the lava tube cave - about a half mile long - looks like brownie mix or hershey's kisses on the ceiling!

#1 - Baolu descends into the lava tube; #2 - An overhead opening in the tube; #3 - Upside down Hershey's kisses; #4 - Baolu warning any cave snakes to get lost or she'll BASH them with her flashlights.

On the road again, we're in Hana before we know it. Not much there except a general store, restaurant and place to buy nick-nacks. I relieve myself in a sauna-like bathroom outside the restaurant. Much better! (Isn't this exciting?) We drive a little further down the road to Oheo Gulch - they want $10 to park and walk in. I don't think so. Instead, we stop and take a picture from the highway bridge - looks good!



Back we go to Hana. The weather is clearing up nicely and we stop outside of town for a couple snaps.



Next stop is at the "coconut guy" place. He is a man of few words. He's got a little chair and table set up with a canopy to keep off the sun. He's got his little black and white TV out there. His wares consist of a handful of coconuts that have obviously fallen from the tree in his backyard. He's just chillin' and fishing the parade of rental cars on Hana Highway.

I say, "Hello" and explain that we want to buy two coconuts to simply drink the milk contained inside. He tells us we only need one, so we buy just one (for $3). With a practiced air, he selects a large one and with his machete, hacks away at the top, inserts a straw, and hands it to Baolu.

We both try it out. It tastes more like water with a very, light coconut flavoring. Very refreshing. Once we're done, we get in the Mustang and prepare to drive off. We don't know what to do with the coconut - maybe huck it into the bushes later on? As we're debating this out loud, the coconut guy overhears us and wanders up to Baolu's window and offers to break it open for her so she can eat the meat inside. She says no, and coconut guy is clearly upset, despite his mumbled response. This is a waste of a perfectly-good coconut and he just won't have it. Baolu finally talks him into taking back the coconut. He saunters back to his table, muttering, and we make our escape.

It is much better light for pictures going back, so we stop frequently and gaze at the view.

#1 - Baolu contemplates ditching the Accountancy racket and moving here; #2 - Flowers and coastline; #3 - Surf's up; #4 - You can see the road carved into the mountainside; #5 - A ferocious tiger lurks in the bamboo forest ready to pounce!

Since we passed it on the way out this morning, B's been getting a hankering for having an early dinner at Mama's Fish House, just outside Paia. I read later in my guidebook that this is literally the most expensive seafood place on Maui. We get a little inkling of that as we drive up. Mandatory "complementary" valet parking. (no such thing). OK, the valet boys get a little scratch when we leave, I get it.

We are early for the next "sitting" at 4:15, so we plop ourselves down at the bar. The fruity concoction is delicious. For $16 a pop, it BETTER be delicious. Anyway, we get liquored up a bit and soon we are seated seaside with a great view of the Pacific through the palms.



Baolu's been on a pupu (appetizers) and poke (raw fish) kick this trip. She happily orders some poke (pronounced, "Po-KAY") for starters whilst I go for the Maui onion soup. Both are top drawer. I'm starting to call her poke bear instead of pookie bear.

Main course, we both have the mahi-mahi fish, encrusted in a macadamia nut coating. It is outstanding. You know the place is a bit more upscale than your local Taco Del Mar, because the menu not only lists the fisherman by name, but where and when it was caught! Ours was wiggling around off some reef just yesterday and it's so good, it doesn't even taste like fish. Washing it down was a nice bottle of Chardonnay.

For dessert, Baolu had the Polynesian Black Pearl, which is Chocolate mousse and Liliko’i cream in a pastry seashell.



I think we both give this place 5 stars. For the most part, I'm not a big fish lover and I enjoyed my mahi-mahi quite a bit. After a round of coffee, we retrieve our Mustang and head for Kaanapali.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Mickey D's again for breakfast (why mess with success?).

We are out of the room by 9am - Baolu to the beach to tan and me to the shade to type up these notes you read here and download pictures off my camera.

Today, the plan is to visit the Haleakala National Park - 10,000 feet up the side of Mount Crumpet (I'm channeling Seuss). First stop is a Plate lunch at #1 BBQ, then fill up with Shell, visit Safeway for snacking food as it will be dark when we come back.



Off we go - there are these really cool trees spanning the road with light purple colored blossoms. Up and up. Through the timberline, through the clouds and break out into sunlight on top. We spot a Nene (apparently, Hawaii's frikken state bird) which lands RIGHT in the middle of the road. I swerve to miss the little beast. No wonder they're almost extinct. It's $10 from Mister Ranger to get in the park and suddenly the road has no guardrails and the speed limit is down to 20 mph.

At the top are all the celestial observatories of University of Hawaii and US Gubmint. There is a huge sign stating this buildings are off limits to the taxpayers who fund them.

#1 - Taxpayers!  Keep out!; #2 & #3 - Funky little silversword bushes; #4 - Highest point on Maui.

It is sunny and 65 degrees at the top. I'm glad we wore shorts. The sun is still high in the sky. No way we will wait around 3 hours for it to set. Instead we visit the small lookout just below which has a great view of the crater. But the best performance is put in by a camera-toting, Pakistani woman (lit cigarette sticking straight out of mouth), chasing a mama nene and her two chicks. The little critters lead her a merry chase across the pavement and over the trails. Finally she gives up. Baolu and I stand still on the trail and the nene comes right up to us for these pictures.



Sunset pictures don't bode well here as there is extensive cloud cover and you can't see the land below. It looks to be a quite dull sunset, actually. Well, at least the crater and surroundings is looking fine in the afternoon light.  We snap off some shots of the volcanic wasteland.

Photographic urges sated, we drive back towards Lahaina. I've got the Mustang in 2nd gear practically the whole way down and off the mountainside.

As we drive into Lahaina, the sun is just going down, so we pull over and get these pictures.



Friday, May 28, 2010

Absolutely nothing planned today. Have a leisurely breakfast at the hotel. Drive out to Kahului to find a plate lunch spot (to eat on the way to airport tomorrow). No dice. We try every strip mall and likely location. No plate lunch places. Baolu DOES spot Maui's lone BMW dealer and we buy THIS for her car:



Back onto the coast highway, we roll into Lahaina Town. We park in the 3 hour lot and notice the local constable writing parking tickets for all those tourists parked in the "Bus Only" slots. He's doing a booming business.

We find yet another plate lunch place in town and have more, well, plate lunches. Baolu's getting her Hawaiian cravings fixed, but good. We actually split the plate lunch and then have a shaved ice later. The gal remembers us and smiles. Tourists. Can't live with 'em. Can't live without 'em.

Back to hotel. We do a "pre-pack" as we have accumulated a tremendous pile of junk. Bottles of Lychee Vodka and 808 liquors, a dozen boxes of macadamia nut chocolates, ukuleles, you name it. Baolu handles it expertly and soon all our trinkets and baubles are packed away. Including the sweet, life-giving booze. Did I mention the booze?



Soon it's evening and we walk down to dinner at Leilani's. First we sample some libations in the bar downstairs. I'm having a "Hawaiian Punch" in a tall glass, that, actually tastes like Hawaiian punch! It is good. I can taste my childhood.



The fellow next to me receives a huge slab of baby back ribs which are just mouthwatering. As I'm contemplating the soul food beside me, two rather high strung 20-somethings sit down next to Baolu at the bar. They must have recently taken amphetamines. They are firing questions at the unhappy bartender. Let's listen in.

(the guy - rapidly) "We're-in-kind-of-a-hurry-for-dinner-and-we'd-like-a-couple-drinks-beforehand-and-bring-us-both-a-glass-of-water."

(the gal - rapidly)
"Yeah-bring-us-some-water.-What's-this-drink-mean-Hawaiian-Punch-what-is-in-that????."

The bartender starts to list the ingredients. I'm staring down at my drink...Hawaiian Punch.

(the gal - rapidly)
"Oh-that's-way-too-sweet-Don't-you-have-anything-else-that-isn't-so-sweet-and-bring-us-out-a-couple-of-menus-here..."

And on and on. These two we disliked on sight. They behaved like they were big shots back at some office and needed someone to push around. Bastards.

Fortunately, we don't have to endure the Froegers for very long. We pay off the barkeep and head upstairs to supper.

Baolu is very disappointed in her fish (very salty - and she LIKES salt). My small filet mignon is very good, but the accompanying seafood is kind of blah. I didn't realize until later that this was a steakhouse. Oops. Never have fish at a steakhouse. And vice versa. Shoulda had the ribs after all.

Dessert, on the other hand was superb. We both tried the "Hula Pie" and the waiter talked us into getting just one slice. It was massive.



After dinner, Baolu finally got me to take a walk along the beach.  In the dark.  She always did call me a vampire.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

We sleep in today, check out with the farewell ceremony and are both presented with a string of beads. The story goes if we come back and stay at the hotel, they will restring the lei's with a WHITE bead to indicate we're a return customer. I must say it's tempting. Baolu was making a lot of noise about SELLING her plane ticket home and staying in Maui.



Drive back to Hertz and actually locate the same "shirt off your back" guy. He didn't bring in a shirt, but his buddy said one might be laying around in the back. He looked, but could not find one. I put the $50 cash back in my pocket and we took the shuttle to the OGG terminal. I could say that all day long. OGG...OGG...OGG... Anyway, through TSA (Trained Shoe Analysts...) and out to the gate. Holy krep. There's that same, screaming kid we had on the flight over! His momma is thoughtfully carrying him around the entire waiting area so we can all hear him shriek.

Again, we watch half the plane board before us. Finally we're back to being pampered and it is a relatively short flight back to the mainland. Home by taxi after midnight.

Epilogue:

We had a blast. We did a lot of things. We did a lot of simply NOTHING. Baolu is already talking about going back in another two years. Kona, maybe next time, or even Kauai. Simply to make another run for Lychee Vodka. We'll see.

The Tiki god is planted prominently near the front door with sand and lava rocks to keep him company (so much more interesting than a standard garden gnome).



About a third of this trip was paid off with credit card bonus points. There's something to be said for using plastic.

ALOHA!