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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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The sun was shining so we decided to go on a Paniolo Ride yesterday. And am I ever sore today. It’s been many, many years since I trotted on a horse but it was the canter that did me in. Ouch. Other than the pain involved, it was WONDERFUL. We went on the Sunset Ride and got an added bonus of a full moon and a rainbow. Breathtaking.

That’s the joy of the Big Island of Hawaii ~ there’s such a variety of things to do.

Logan is ready to go riding again but I’m headed to the beach to swim with the sea turtles.

Life is good!

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It’s very exciting (and a little scary) flying directly over the Kilauea Volcano and watching the lava flow to the ocean.  In spite of the woman with motion sickness on our flight, it was wonderful! My daughter and I got to sit in the front seat with the pilot.


Lift off


The Caldera


Steam as the lava enters the ocean


Try to get insurance on this property 🙂


Back on land…

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The Big Island of Hawaii is, well… BIG!

That’s what I love about it ~ it’s so diverse.  We began our visit in the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. It’s located on the Southeast side of the island which is usually damp and chilly.  We’re stayed at the Kilauea Military Camp (KMC) which rents out cottages to military members and their Families.  We splurged and rented the “Eisenhower House.”  President Eisenhower stayed in this cottage in 1946 when he was General Eisenhower. It’s a beautiful house with two bedrooms, dining room, living room, full kitchen and two bathrooms. I could easily live here!

As lovely as the cottage is, the best part is the proximity to Kilauea Volcano and all the sights to see in the Park. There is a lot to see in the Park and I highly recommend the hikes. Makes you feel like you’re on another planet sometimes ~ the vast, empty spaces that have been covered by lava.  Well worth the trip to see it.

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Best of the Islands

Once we finish a trip, we like to recap our favorite things or most memorable times. Hawaii gets its own list.

John and I agree, we will most remember:
* The friendly locals on both Pohnpei and Kosrae and how little they have yet seem happy.
* Our simple room with the breathtaking oceanview at The Village in Pohnpei.
* Swimming with the Mantas in Pohnpei.
* The pepper in Pohnpei as well as the green tangarines and limes in Kosrae.
* The tour car in Kosrae with no brakes ~ he had to use the parking brake to stop.
* Touring the Copra Factory in Majuro.

Once we got to Hawaii, our favorites had a lot to do with resettling after the island hopping:
* Visiting with good friends: Perry, Sally and Mindy
* Sitting under the stars, listening to the Brothers Cazimero
* Dinner at “Spices” restaurant ~ everything was so yummy!
* Build-a-Bear
* Doing our laundry after our island-hopping ~ it felt like everything was wet and sandy.
* The Hawaii papayas and mangoes ~ no other comes close to the Hawaii grown taste!

Next stop: Long Beach, California

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The Sweet Sounds of the Islands

Enjoying the Brothers Cazimero concert on the lawn

A visit to Oahu wouldn’t be complete without seeing one of my favorite couples, P & S. They were originally friends of my parents when we lived in Puerto Rico in the seventies. I was just a kid and their babysitter back then but now I consider them friends. They are really exceptional people ~ so smart, well-traveled and super nice. They, along with my other favorite couple W & S, have always been a good influence on me. And they continue to be today.

S. got tickets for all of us to go to the Brothers Cazimero concert on the lawn of the Bishop Museum in Honolulu. The Cazimeros have been around a long time and I’m familiar with their music but it was all new to FG. The concert included both a woman hula dancer and male dancers. Male dancers are a rarity but I know the Cazimeros are encouraging more men to take an interest in Hula. The music and all the dancers were fabulous. The Brothers have such wonderful harmony and just the sound brings back lots of island memories. Thanks again, P&S for such a lovely Hawaiian evening.

There was one foul-up on my part during the visit which FG and FM are not going to let me live down for a long, LONG time. Before bed on our second night, P. asked if it was OK if he turned on the house security alarm. No problem, I said immediately. I was already in bed having taken some benadryl for allergies, which always knocks me out. I was awoken about 45 minutes later when I heard FG walking around. She could hear the neighbors talking next door. In my half-sleep/half drugged state, I decided to close the window in the room she was staying in. Big opps…AS SOON AS I touched it, I had that sinking feeling and it was a split-second before the alarm sounded that I thought “Oh, no ~ the alarm.” Of course, I woke up the entire house and most of the neighbors. The good news is the alarm does work and it’s just like on the commercials ~ the company calls to see if they need to send the police.

We were very sad to leave, not only because we love being in Hawaii, but because once we got on the plane for Los Angeles, we had to face the realities of the move. But, then again, everything is an adventure so here we go.

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A Beach a Day

Beaching it

We went to a different beach each day we were on Oahu ~ there are so many to choose from but, for our first day, we settled on Waimea Bay, on the North Shore, where it’s unswimable for us mere mortals, in the winter months. Waimea Bay is famous for its winter surfing. The day we were there, the ocean was as calm and refreshing.

The other two beaches included the Kapiolani Beach Park down past the Aquarium and the Ala Moana Beach park where you can’t beat the wonderful view of Diamond Head. Surf was up outside the protected reef area and it was fun to watch the surfers. We tried to get a surfing lesson for FG but it was too rough with strong currents. Yet another reason to return soon.

At Ala Moana Park

After being in Guam for a year and being spoiled by the WARM ocean waters, we had to laugh at ourselves at fussing over the “cold” water in Hawaii. FG started referring to Hawaii as the ice island. It doesn’t bode well for our swimming in Lake Ontario when we get to New York. 😉

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