Hawaii - Day 3 // Pearl Harbor

We woke up early yet again on the third day. And again, watched a breathtaking sun rise from the break wall in front of Matt and Lauren's house. This was one of the days I was most looking forward to. We were to visit Pearl Harbor. A place I have always wanted to see.

I have had a strange fascination with war ever since high school. Not necessarily in the sense of "GO AMERICA! KILL EVERYONE THAT DOESN'T LIKE DEMOCRACY!!" but more so just in that the politics and tactics of war and the military are infinitely fascinating. Especially WWII. An entire nation's stance on The United States involvement in a war that did not concern us - swayed in a matter of a couple of hours. How the government used the anger and hate towards our enemies to build the ultimate war machine out of a rag-tag outdated and under trained military force... Oh how history repeats...

December 7th, 1941 was indeed a day that has lived in infamy. It was a day that changed America's view on war forever.

We dropped the Wheatons off at a resort beach and Michelle, Randy, Cathy (Michelle's parents) and I headed towards the harbor. I was looking forward to spending some quality time with them and having the chance to get to know them better. We stopped at a little Schooner restaurant that overlooked the harbor for lunch before we headed in.

I knew this experience would be heavy. I have spent far more time than I care to admit studying war so I knew that actually seeing this place with my own eyes would be a heavy emotional punch... But I was not expecting it to hit me as hard as it did.

We walked through the security stand at the entrance and I was expecting a zoo of tourists, but being that It was a weekday in the middle of winter we pretty much had the place to ourselves.

We walked up to the ticket booth to see if we could get a few tickets to board the USS Arizona Memorial and the girl behind the counter told us there were a few tickets left and that the movie we had to watch before heading over was going to start in about 20 minutes. This gave us some time to roam around.

  Expired 35mm Kodak ColorMax 400 // Canon AE-1

Expired 35mm Kodak ColorMax 400 // Canon AE-1

I had a weird sense of excitement walking in. I felt like I was a kid at my favorite museum. I quickly walked to a display of torpedoes and missiles to the right and made my way to the submarine that was sitting idle in the water. If you wanted you could pay money to board and explore. Being claustrophobic - no thanks. I've been on a submarine before... Not for me. It was cool to look at though. There were plaques along the shore that told the heroic battles that this sub had endured.

  Expired 35mm Kodak ColorMax 400 // Canon AE-1

Expired 35mm Kodak ColorMax 400 // Canon AE-1

  Expired 35mm Kodak ColorMax 400 // Canon AE-1

Expired 35mm Kodak ColorMax 400 // Canon AE-1

As I looked around trying to take everything in, I noticed the famous anchor that was on display. The anchor that was recovered from the USS Arizona after it had sank. When I walked up to it there was a family of about 6 (4 young children) climbing all over the anchor and laughing and posing for pictures. It infuriated me. I'm standing there - reading the plaques and waiting to take my own picture and they are treating this iconic memorial of the deaths of hundreds of people as a playground. I don't know why it bothered me so much but it did. Mom and dad got a stern glare or two from me before they finally went on their way.

  Expired 35mm Kodak ColorMax 400 // Canon AE-1

Expired 35mm Kodak ColorMax 400 // Canon AE-1

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Expired 35mm Kodak ColorMax 400 // Canon AE-1

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Expired 35mm Kodak ColorMax 400 // Canon AE-1

After I had gotten my fill at the anchor I walked down the shore line that overlooked the water. I was littered with different informational and memorial plaques. Most of them telling me things I already knew - but for some reason I still read every word I could find. Taking in the information in the exact place where it happened is a different feeling.

 Expired 35mm Kodak ColorMax 400 // Canon AE-1

Expired 35mm Kodak ColorMax 400 // Canon AE-1

  Expired 35mm Kodak ColorMax 400 // Canon AE-1

Expired 35mm Kodak ColorMax 400 // Canon AE-1

I sat down on a bench near by to change my film and when I looked up I saw in front of me a plaque bolted to a concrete retainer. It read - "Few islanders slept that night... Outdoors there was silence... Shortly before midnight, the moon began to rise, and a vivid lunar rainbow, the old Hawaiian omen for victory arched over the dark city."

This is the moment that everything sank in.

I was sitting in the exact spot where the United States entered one of the most famous wars in world history. A war that has fascinated me for the majority of my intellectual life. I have read countless accounts and watched countless documentaries reliving this event and finally found myself overlooking the very waters where it all took place. A powerful sadness overwhelmed me and it took me a minute or two to shake it.

The time finally came for us to enter the theatre and watch the short documentary before we boarded the ferry that would take us to the USS Arizona. Like I said, I've seen dozens and dozens for documentaries reliving this historic day. But for some reason this one hit hard and I found myself holding back tears towards the end.

After the video was over we boarded our ferry and putted our way across the harbor to  the USS Arizona memorial that sat on top of the remains of the sunken battleship.

  Expired 35mm Kodak ColorMax 400 // Canon AE-1

Expired 35mm Kodak ColorMax 400 // Canon AE-1

  Expired 35mm Kodak ColorMax 400 // Canon AE-1

Expired 35mm Kodak ColorMax 400 // Canon AE-1

Once we got to the memorial yet another powerful sadness swept through me. I waited my turn to stand at the railing and look down at the sunken ship. Usually in these situations I am the only one in my party that is fascinated by this kind of stuff. But it was nice to have Michelle's dad there for a change - someone to share my fascination with.

  Expired 35mm Kodak ColorMax 400 // Canon AE-1

Expired 35mm Kodak ColorMax 400 // Canon AE-1

  Expired 35mm Kodak ColorMax 400 // Vintage Popout Welta

Expired 35mm Kodak ColorMax 400 // Vintage Popout Welta

It was hard to stomach. Knowing the bodies of a lot of the sailors were still down there. Trapped in the ship that took their lives.

The guide told us that some of the sailers lived up to six days trapped in the submerged ship because of air pockets. But they eventually ran out of air. She told us that every attempt to rescue them was futile because of how mangled the ship was. Divers would go down and never come back. Heartbreaking to hear while you're standing over their tomb.

At the end of the memorial was a room with a wall dedicated to the names of every sailor that died on the ship. It was a dark room and hard to stand in for very long. I took a few photos, tipped my hat and walked back out to the main area.

  Expired 35mm Kodak ColorMax 400 // Canon AE-1

Expired 35mm Kodak ColorMax 400 // Canon AE-1

  Expired 35mm Kodak ColorMax 400 // Canon AE-1

Expired 35mm Kodak ColorMax 400 // Canon AE-1

Shortly after we all got our fill of the USS Arizona it was time to board our ferry and head back.

We still had some time left before we had to go pick up The Wheaton's from their resort day so we decided to go see the USS Missouri, where the Japanese Instrument of Surrender was signed in 1945. Being that this ship was used in active duty until 1992, a lot of the stuff on this ship was a little more modern than a ship that would have been used in WWII. But it was still awesome to walk around and nerd out with Michelle's dad.

  Expired 35mm Kodak ColorMax 400 // Vintage Popout Welta

Expired 35mm Kodak ColorMax 400 // Vintage Popout Welta

  Expired 35mm Kodak ColorMax 400 // Vintage Popout Welta

Expired 35mm Kodak ColorMax 400 // Vintage Popout Welta

  Expired 35mm Kodak ColorMax 400 // Vintage Popout Welta

Expired 35mm Kodak ColorMax 400 // Vintage Popout Welta

They all but kicked us off the boat. We stayed on, walking around all the small hallways and bunk rooms until the ship closed to visitors.

It was an emotionally treacherous day. The excitement of visiting a place I had only seen in books and on TV, getting to stand in the very place where our nation entered one of the worlds most famous and deadly wars in history. And feeling an unexpected sorrow and heaviness at the same time. But being a war nerd, this was a day that I will not soon forget. Learning so much about how unprepared we were to go to war, but how the nation rose to the occasion as we have so many times in our history.

If you ever have the opportunity to see this place with your own eyes, I highly recommend it. It truly puts modern war into perspective. It's powerful stuff.

 

Hawaii - Day 2 // Makapu'u Lighthouse

We woke up early. We were still on L.A. time and we had gone to bed unusually early the night before. Also, the rooster next door was kind enough to provide a wake up call. I looked out the window to find that the sun had not yet risen. The sky still had that dark grey tint that it gets right before the sun peaks over the horizon. I popped out of bed and threw on some shorts, grabbed a Red Bull out of the fridge and hustled down to the break wall to watch the sun come up.

I grew up on the west coast so breathtaking sunsets are nothing new to me. But I've never actually gotten the chance to watch a real sunrise. Not only am I not all that fond of being up before the sun, I've never been to a place were watching the sun come up over the horizon was worth the trouble, or even possible.

It was peaceful. Sitting on a stone break wall, the waves hitting the rocks 5 feet from me. A light mist on my bare legs and feet. The sky gradually changing from grey to pink to yellow to blue as the sun peaks up over Diamond Head and Honolulu in the distance. I sat quietly sipping my Red Bull and pondering the week ahead of me. Incredibly thankful for the chance to escape the stress of work and music and everyday monotony. Michelle eventually joined me and we gawked at the view for a few minutes before we went back inside to get ready for the day.

We were to hike to The Makapu'u Lighthouse that day with the family. I was particularly excited for this venture. I have a weird obsession with lighthouses. I blame my father.

When we arrived at the trail head I don't remember paying particularly close attention to what was going on. I just remember Matt, Lauren, Michelle and I splitting off from the rest of the family and walking to a part of the park that didn't have many people around. We hopped a short railing and started heading up a trail that didn't seem to be very popular. From the bottom it looked pretty simple. Straight up with a few twists and turns here and there. I was sadly mistaken.

Matt and Lauren explained that this way was not exactly the "right" way to go but it was much more fun of a hike with a much better view. The way the rest of the family went was the right way, but it was a paved road with a view of the ocean and that's about it.

 Expired 35mm Kodak ColorMax 400 // Canon AE-1

Expired 35mm Kodak ColorMax 400 // Canon AE-1

We stopped periodically on the way up to take pictures and so that I could catch my breath. A straight trail may be simple, but it's not necessarily easy. Especially for a smoker that spends very little time engaging in physical activity.

There were a handful of poorly graffitied abandoned pill boxes along the way. We stopped at the first one so that we could poke around and rest for a bit. These old pill boxes and bunkers have always fascinated me. As early as 50 years ago, our military inhabited these old death traps. Now they are just old claustrophobic concrete holes in the ground covered in terrible tagging.

 Expired 35mm Kodak ColorMax 400 // Canon AE-1

Expired 35mm Kodak ColorMax 400 // Canon AE-1

 Expired 35mm Kodak ColorMax 400 // Canon AE-1

Expired 35mm Kodak ColorMax 400 // Canon AE-1

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Expired 35mm Kodak ColorMax 400 // Canon AE-1

Once the lighthouse was in sight I made Michelle stop and wait for me while I moved to the edge of the cliff to get a better shot. When I got to the edge I looked down to find a beautifully terrifying sight. A jaggedly textured cliff leading 400 or so feet down to the crystal clear water with rocks that blanked the ocean floor. I'm not normally afraid of heights, but something about sitting on the edge of a cliff with the wind ripping and nothing but a wing and a prayer between me and a horrible death is a bit unsettling.

 Expired 35mm Kodak ColorMax 400 // Canon AE-1

Expired 35mm Kodak ColorMax 400 // Canon AE-1

 Expired 35mm Kodak ColorMax 400 // Canon AE-1

Expired 35mm Kodak ColorMax 400 // Canon AE-1

 Expired 35mm Kodak ColorMax 400 // Canon AE-1

Expired 35mm Kodak ColorMax 400 // Canon AE-1

 Expired 35mm Kodak ColorMax 400 // Canon AE-1

Expired 35mm Kodak ColorMax 400 // Canon AE-1

We climbed a bit more to another pill box on the very top of the mountain. We enjoyed the view all the way around us for a few minutes and passed around a water bottle before walking down a few hundred yards to meet with the rest of the family at the lookout right above the lighthouse.

 Expired 35mm Kodak ColorMax 400 // Canon AE-1

Expired 35mm Kodak ColorMax 400 // Canon AE-1

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Expired 35mm Kodak ColorMax 400 // Canon AE-1

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Expired 35mm Kodak ColorMax 400 // Canon AE-1

 Expired 35mm Kodak ColorMax 400 // Canon AE-1

Expired 35mm Kodak ColorMax 400 // Canon AE-1

The view was unbelievable. Michelle is well aware of my obsession with lighthouses so she let me run around like a kid at Disneyland for a bit and take photos of this magnificent scene.

 Expired 35mm Kodak ColorMax 400 // Canon AE-1

Expired 35mm Kodak ColorMax 400 // Canon AE-1

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Expired 35mm Kodak ColorMax 400 // Canon AE-1

 Expired 35mm Kodak ColorMax 400 // Canon AE-1

Expired 35mm Kodak ColorMax 400 // Canon AE-1

 Expired 35mm Kodak ColorMax 400 // Canon AE-1

Expired 35mm Kodak ColorMax 400 // Canon AE-1

After we had all gotten our fill we headed back down the mountain the easy way. I took the opportunity to enjoy the company of my better half and her family with a view that will be hard to forget.

We went to a small ramen spot in Hanalulu for lunch. Not my thing. But it was nice to experience a little Hawaiian culture and eats. After that we walked to an apparently famous Hawaiian Shave Ice spot down the street. I thought I had a experienced the best shave ice in existence at Snow-On-The-Go by Michelle's house in South County. WRONG. Real Hawaiian Shave Ice is unbelievable. I didn't even know ice could be shaved that fine. It was a beautiful thing. I took pictures but apparently I lost that roll of film.

Hawaii - Day 1 // Arrival

So before I dive into my wonderful trip to Hawaii, I'll give you a little back story:

Growing up I didn't travel much. My dad is a workaholic single father of two that owns his own business so time for vacations and travel was hard to come by. The most traveling I ever did was for hockey which consisted of a few days at a time in suburban cities in states no one cares about where the team was not allowed to leave the hotel without supervision. And we never really left the hotels except to go to the rinks, the gym, and to eat.

Every so often we would take my dad's old Benz up to Northern California to visit is girlfriend at the time but again, we very rarely left her property. Though, there wasn't much need - she lived on two acres of land deep in Simi Vally. But at the time I was too young to appreciate the view.

The longest vacation we ever went on as a family was to Daytona, Florida for NASCAR's Speed Week which was a 10 day trip. I don't know if any of you have ever been to Daytona, Florida but there is not much to do there other than hang out at the track. It was a great time... Being that I was raised on racing, but it's not much of a vacation destination.

My point is that my dad has never been one for grand vacations. He has always told me stories about hitchhiking to Canada when he was younger but he's never been to Europe (to my knowledge) and has never seen New York. He travels a lot for work but this normally consists of getting a cheap but comfortable hotel for a night or two and doing his job and going home. His idea of a vacation is taking his girlfriend to his favorite villa in San Diego or taking my grandpa to a big race in Indianapolis. We are not the conventional suburban family taking summer vacations at the river or winter vacations to Mammoth. When I was younger we would share a cabin with The Harringtons up in Big Bear for the weekend once a year but that tradition was ended around age 15 after a few major snowboarding injuries.

I have always wanted to travel. But like... really travel. Backpack through Europe. Iceland. Spend a week or two in New York. Hike and camp my way through Zion. I have had the privilege of seeing most of the west coast and a lot of our beautiful country through touring. But the problem with touring is that you seldom spend more than 24 hours in one place at a time. So while you do get to see a lot of amazing places, it is only at a glance.

A few months before Christmas Michelle told me that this year for everyones Christmas presents, her parents got everyone plane tickets to Hawaii to visit her brother and sister in law. And to my pleasant surprise they were nice enough to invite me to come along with them. And with Hawaii being one of those bucket list destinations, I decided to bring my cameras and document the trip. 

Here is my story... *KONG KONG*

We woke up at the ass crack of dawn to catch our flight on saturday morning. I had preloaded my iPad with the first season of Falling Skies hoping to pass the time on the plane. I hate flying. Not because I'm afraid of crashing, more-so because I don't like having to sit (without smoking) for long periods of time. I've never had to pleasure of sitting next to a pretty girl on a flight before though. Turned out to be surprisingly comforting.

We landed at Honolulu International in the late morning and walked out to the curb with all of our luggage. The rest of Michelle's family left to get their rental car while we stayed behind to wait for her brother to come pick us up.

 Expired Kodak ColorMax 400 35mm // Canon AE-1

Expired Kodak ColorMax 400 35mm // Canon AE-1

  Expired Kodak ColorMax 400 35mm // Canon AE-1

Expired Kodak ColorMax 400 35mm // Canon AE-1

  Expired Kodak ColorMax 400 35mm // Canon AE-1

Expired Kodak ColorMax 400 35mm // Canon AE-1

After a few minutes of sitting, taking in the humidity and interesting decor of the airport, her brother pulled up with his wife and we scurried to his truck to meet them. After some awkward hellos (I had only met them once before... at a bar) we hopped in and off we went. We were to settle in at their house and then meet the rest of her family at Zippy's for lunch. Zippy's was described to us as the Hawaiian Denny's.

Driving through Honolulu for the first time was breathtaking. I'm sure I looked like a little kid at Disneyland for the first time. I didn't even take any pictures because I was too busy trying to pick my jaw up off the floor. I spent many weeks before the trip looking at photos on the internet and getting excited, but just like in every other distention, theres nothing quite like seeing it with your own eyes.

I love culture shock. Going to new places and seeing how culture and life for locals is different than mine. It's so fascinating to me. This is one thing I was not expecting to find in Hawaii being that it is such a popular vacation destination within the United States. I figured it would be just like Southern California. I was VERY wrong.

First thing I noticed: You can't smoke ANYWHERE! There are no smoking signs everywhere you look. The few places you can smoke are small little areas far, far away from humanity. Unfortunate for a chain smoker like me.

We arrived at Matt and Lauren's house and much to my surprise is was a cozy little beach flat on the second story of a 2 unit building overlooking the water in Ewa Beach. We grabbed all of our crap out of his truck with their help and made our way to what we would call home for the next 8 days. 

  Expired Kodak ColorMax 400 35mm // Canon AE-1

Expired Kodak ColorMax 400 35mm // Canon AE-1

  Expired Kodak ColorMax 400 35mm // Canon AE-1

Expired Kodak ColorMax 400 35mm // Canon AE-1

  Expired Kodak ColorMax 400 35mm // Canon AE-1

Expired Kodak ColorMax 400 35mm // Canon AE-1

After we settled in and spent a little time breaking the ice with our wonderful hosts, we made our way to the Zippy's down the street to meet with the rest of her family for a late lunch.

While I grew up on high quality food and would never tell my dad that my first Hawaiian meal was at a place referred to as the Hawaiian Denny's, I was very surprised by how good my meal was. I'm sure some of that had the do with the fact that I hadn't eaten since the night before, but in any case it was still a good meal for what it was. While browsing through the menu I came across a waffle that was covered with fudge, caramel, and ice-cream... I swore to myself that I would find a way at some point in the trip to come back and devour this beautiful creation.

After we ate we went back to Matt and Lauren's to enjoy the sunset from the brake wall and swiftly passed the hell out after a long day of travel. We planned to wake up early and hike the next day so we wanted to make sure we had plenty of rest. Michelle and I both had the same feeling of urgency though. We wanted to do all the things all at once. See Pearl Harbor, hike the hikes, see the beaches, snorkel with the turtles, and we felt like we didn't have enough time to do them all. It hadn't quite sank in that we were going to be enjoying the fruits of Oahu for 8 beautiful days.