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…Aloha Hawaii. It’s rare for my family to veto me when it comes to travel locations but half way into my Tour of France planning, I got the word that neither my husband nor my daughter wanted to spend their vacation on an extended road trip. They both preferred two weeks on a beach in Hawaii. It’s been six years since I’ve seen my Big Island family and friends so I immediately changed my focus to Hawaii.

I’ve booked my first AirBnB! I was very apprehensive due to several horror stories I’ve read but, even though it’s called the “Big” Island of Hawaii, it’s really a close-knit community. Once I found the “perfect” place to rent, I contacted a friend who lives in the same town & wasn’t surprised that he knows the owner. I feel much better about prepaying the entire stay when it’s the friend of a friend.

A few photos from our previous visit to Hawaii to get us into the Aloha-Spirit…

 

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Being from Hawaii, I don’t worry much about natural disasters. Whether it be earthquakes, tsunamis, lava flows or the every few decades hurricane. Lately, it seems every time I call my brother or cousin who live on the Big Island (Hawaii), it’s to ask them about a natural disaster. Last month there were two hurricanes heading their way and now it’s a change in the lava flow which is heading directly for the area of Puna (specifically the town of Pahoa) where my brother’s family lives. Kilauea volcano has been erupting since 1983 so the islanders will no doubt take it in stride and know everything will work out as it should.

Volcano Lava Flow river
Lava River

Caution sign at the Volcanoes National Park
Not for the faint of heart or health

Volcano Lava flow 1994
Lava Flow

Overlapping lava flows
Overlapping Lava flows

Crater at Kilauea
Lava Crater

Lava reaching the ocean
Lava Reaching the Ocean

Lava walking
Walking on the Lava

Offerings for Pele
Offerings to the goddess of fire, Pele

Beautiful drive coming from Kalapna area
Beautiful drive in the Pahoa area ~ hope it’s not affected by the current lava flow

Rock at Puako
Puako Beach, Big Island, Hawaii

Another gorgeous sunset at the Mauna Kea
Another gorgeous sunset at the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel

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Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, Big Island Hawaii

Throw Back Thursday on Kauna’oa Bay, Hawaii in 1994. Good times, great memories.

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After a vacation, it’s tradition that we list our top 5 things about the trip. We went to Oahu for a quick three-day trip and here’s our Oahu top five:

1) Snorkeling at Shark’s Cove on the North Shore. The ocean is calm in the summer and we got to the cove early enough to get a prime spot on the beach. The snorkeling was fun and being back in the pacific ocean felt fabulous.

2) Spending time with our friends, The Karamaths and The Petersons. Always great to see Army family again.

   Heather, CJ and Hayden

 Jake, Shelley and Hoss

3) Parasailing with Hawaiian Parasail Inc ($62 per person and $30 for their photos) in Waikiki:

4) Paddleboarding in Haleiwa, lots of turtles in the river/bay:

5) Driving along the North Shore ~ checking out all the beaches such as Sunset and Waimea Bay. For a few days, I was no longer a Displaced Beachbum. I will never tire of being on a beautiful beach!

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Space Available

During our current PCS (permanent change of station), John had more leave time than we had money so we decided to attempt a Space A vacation.  For those of you not familiar with Space A, The United States Air Force offers Space-Available (Space A) travel as a benefit to all active duty, dependents (with restrictions) and retired Uniformed Services members. There are different categories during travel depending on the circumstances.  For example, Cat 1 (highest category) would be for those on Emergency leave ~ they get picked first.  Rank does NOT factor into  category or selection.  To find your category, check the link below.

Space Available travel is a great benefit for Military families if you have a lot of leave time (something like block leave), are flexible, are willing to be patient while waiting for flights and would like to save a lot of money on airline tickets. It’s not for the faint of heart.  Ideally, you’ll have a place to stay with friends or family because making hotel reservations in advance is not an option.

In the 17 years I’ve been an Army wife, I’ve used Space A twice.  The first time, it was just Logan and I taking a hop from Germany to the states to visit with my mom.  It was in January 2002 and so easy to get on the flights because most kids were in school. The aircraft was a charter so it was just like flying commercial.  It’s much harder to catch a flight when schools are out whether it be for summer vacation,Christmas, New Years or Spring break.

A lot of the passenger terminals are on Facebook and update their flight status at least twice daily.  It’s also important to CALL and speak with an actual person at the desk for the absolute most updated info.  For example: we were planning to travel from Hickam AFB, Hawaii to Travis AFB, California. Unfortunately, even though there were four flights scheduled and we were very optimistic we would make it to Travis that day,  all four flights were cancelled and we ended up spending the day on the North Shore at the beach, paddle boarding.

Not only do you need to be flexible, have a backup plan. John has a  PACE plan which stands for Primary, Alternate, Contingency and Emergency plans.  Thankfully, we only made it to alternate plans or as I call it, Plan B.  I can’t thank our friend, Heather, enough for welcoming us to her home in Oahu.  When we landed in Hawaii there was a huge military exercise going on so there were no hotel rooms or rental cars available. We finally found a rental car after a long search.

Here’s a link for the FAQs re: Space A  http://www.military.com/Travel/Content1/0%2C%2CSAF_faq%2C00.html

Lessons Learned from our Space A adventure:

  • Things change frequently ~ check the facebook updates, call directly or hang out in the terminal. Sometimes unlisted flights go out and allow space A folks to hop on.
  • All the aircrafts we were on (C5, C17 and a KC10) were COLD and loud. Be sure to wear lots of layers.  I’m talking ski hat and gloves wouldn’t be inappropriate :).  Ear plugs are a must.  On most flights, the crew will pass out ear plugs but take your own just in case.
  • You must wear close toe shoes.
  • Luggage weight can’t exceed 2 bags and 70 pounds (less on smaller planes). Pack light!
  • Buy the in flight meals for about $5.00 ~ they’re substantial. Our meals included a sandwich, chips, fruit, soda, water and granola bar.
  • Be flexible ~ we got “stuck” in Travis AFB, CA but really enjoyed visiting San Francisco, Muir Woods, Stanford and UCDavis.
  • Be prepared to rent a car one way in order to reach your final destination.
  • Make sure you understand the sign up procedures. You’re put on the list according to when you sign up so it’s important to email all the terminals you may use during your trip.
  • Don’t bother venting your frustration if a flight cancels.  You’ve got to be able to roll with the punches.  It’s all about what the mission requires not about transporting passengers.  One thing I noticed while traveling ~ people were disappointed but no one got angry.
  • Be prepared to spend money on a cab, rental car and/or lodging.
  • Enjoy where ever you end up ~ whether it be California, Alaska, Illinois, etc… Enjoy the journey!!!!

If anyone else has done Space A and has additional lessons learned, please leave a comment with your advice.  It’s such a great benefit but takes a little planning.  For those of you who have never tried it,  it’s a lot of fun and can lead to unexpected adventures.

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Hawaii: Smuggled Lava?

A Big Island legend is if you take lava off the island, Pele (the Fire Goddess) will be angry and you’ll have bad luck until you return it. There used to be a display at the Volcanoes National Park Center where letters and returned lava were displayed on a board. People wrote letters begging the park rangers to return the lava so the bad luck would go away. I’m not an overly superstitious person BUT I’ve never been tempted to take lava off the island.

John, on the other hand, always teases me that he’s going to sneak some lava back.

Since we’ve been back from Hawaii, we’ve had a strange week. On Wednesday, I overslept AND had set the alarm incorrectly so poor FG missed her bus, then my mom’s dog died, and Favorite Girl had to go to the emergency room to have x-rays taken after a cheerleading accident. There were other things happening which were just “off”.

I finally called John on Friday from work, when yet another thing went wrong, and asked “This is serious, are you sure you didn’t bring any lava back?”

He promised me he didn’t but did mention the women in front of him getting on the plane had a big chunk of lava. Hmmm…

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Hawaii: Home Again

We’re back in New York. As much as I love to travel, it always feels so good to be back in my own home. And one day, that home will be on the beach!

Even though we had a great flight without delays, I don’t do well on “red-eye” flights and this one was no exception. Thankfully, we’ve got tomorrow off and can recover.

Don’t know if I mentioned that my mom made the trip to Hawaii with us. John has always been her favorite but even more so now ~ not only was he OK with his mother in-law traveling with us but he gave her his upgrade miles so she could sit in First Class and have the extra leg room. That’s why I married the man ~ he’s a great guy!!

We like to list our top favorite things about our vacation and here’s a compilation of our combined top five things we enjoyed during our visit:
1) Horseback Riding in the South Kohala Mountains
2) Snorkeling at the following beaches: Puako, Hapuna, Lapakahi
3) Helicopter Ride over Hilo and the lava flow
4) The Eisenhower House at Kilauea Military Camp
5) THE FOOD ~ we ate a lot!

There’s so much to do on the Big Island so we’ve made a list of what we want to do the NEXT time we visit. Yes, we’re already planning a return visit:
1) Green Sand Beach
2) Black Sand Beach
3) Waipio Valley
4) We’ll stay at the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel or in a rental villa. It’s nice to have access to a kitchen
5) Play a round of golf at Mauna Kea Beach Hotel

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