We had a HUGE day planned and had to wake up early to cram everything in:
We started by making the hourlong drive to the mountainous town of Waimea:
Our first destination was this place — the Hawaiian Style Cafe:
My half-sister Martha (pictured above in the black t-shirt) had heard about its legendary breakfast. Here’s an order of “coconut pudding pancakes,” photographed with my hand on the side to show you how big they were:
We also got the “banana macadamia pancakes” plus an order of scrambled eggs with sausage, biscuits, and gravy.
On our way out, Martha and my mom posed in the main dining area:
Here’s a closer look at two of the people in the photo above:
As we walked toward our jeep, I photographed this charming field next to the restaurant . . .
. . . and then got a shot of my mom climbing into the back seat:
Martha did most of the driving. My mom and I took turns sitting in the back. I offered to be back there all the time, but she insisted (in part because she wanted to flaunt her agility).
Our next stop was a scenic area overlooking Waipio Valley, and I should mention that the drive itself just to get there was beautiful. Here’s what the road looked like at one point . . .
. . . and this was our view to the side several minutes later:
In case you can’t tell, that’s not fog in the photo above. It’s a cloud.
Here’s a photo of me on the walkway to the scenic lookout . . .
. . . and here’s a better view of the valley:
On the way to our next destination, we stopped at a gift shoppe . . .
. . . where Martha finally found a damn tiki mask. Her relentless quest to buy the perfect one had dominated the trip, but that’s okay because she made up for it by taking us to the Tex Drive In. Here’s a painfully awkward photo of us standing outside the place . . .
. . . and here’s what we ended up getting:
They’re called malasadas (you can see that word on the storefront two photos above), and yes, they were amazing. The three flavors we got were cherry, Bavarian cream, and chocolate.
Our next destination was Honoli’i Beach Park, but (a) we couldn’t find it and (b) we didn’t know how to roll down the windows of our jeep. The result was this funny photo of Martha asking someone for directions:
It turned out that we were less than a mile away, so we got there pretty quickly. Here’s what it looked like from the road above the beach:
See those waves out in the distance? They appear to be tiny . . . yes? Well, here’s a closer look:
I was feelin’ it, but this was the best I could do:
That said, I did better than this guy . . .
. . . though I’ll give him credit for actually being *in* the water.
We then drove to a small, nearby city called Hilo . . .
. . . and walked around for a while. Here what the streets and stores looked like:
We ended up at a farmers’ market, which was shaded by a spectacular tree:
Here’s the most unusual thing I ate all day:
That popsicle might not look like much, but consider the flavor: avocado/lime.
Despite the fact that Martha had purchased every possible trinket in all of Hawaii, she still felt the need to wander and look for more:
Here’s the best thing I saw at the market, and it wasn’t even for sale:
At around 3pm, we made our way to the Hilo airport . . .
. . . for a helicopter tour over an active volcano!
Here’s a photo of my mom getting weighed:
The quickest way for me to be disowned would be to reveal her weight. I don’t want that to happen, so all I’ll say is that we all had to get weighed. The helicopter was so small — six passengers and a pilot — that we were assigned seats so that it would be properly balanced. Or maybe that’s just a bunch of B.S. that we were told so we wouldn’t end up fighting over who got to sit in front and/or next to the windows.
There was a safety briefing for several helicopters’ worth of passengers . . .
. . . during which I photographed the folks sitting in the back row:
I love people.
We weren’t allowed to bring any bags on board the flight, and we were told to remove all hats and large earrings. After leaving our stuff at the check-in counter, we each received a small, yellow, flotation device. Here I am with mine:
Finally, after standing around for a while, we headed out to the tarmac . . .
. . . and walked toward the helicopter:
I had been assigned the middle seat in front, right next to the pilot, so I got in first. The passenger who ended up sitting next to me (on the right side in the front row) had crutches and needed assistance getting on board, so Martha and my mom had to wait on the tarmac. Here’s a photo of them that I took from inside the helicopter:
Here’s Martha in the back seat . . .
. . . and here’s my mom getting her first look at the interior:
Is that a great facial expression or what? I know that she’d been in a helicopter at least once before because we flew in one over the Grand Canyon in (I think) 1993. That was the only other time I’d ever been in a helicopter, although for what it’s worth, I did catch a softball and three baseballs last summer that were dropped from one.
Anyway, it wasn’t long before we were airborne. This was the view as we flew over some farmland:
The biggest thing that made me nervous (beyond the whole “active volcano” factor) was that there was only ONE pilot. What if he had a heart attack or got hiccups? I don’t really worry about death, but I’m not exactly looking forward to it either, so during the first few minutes of the flight, I paid close attention to the control panel . . .
. . . and to what he was doing with the joystick. That way, I figured I could take over in the event of an emergency — you know, at least keep the helicopter in the air long enough to get instructions from the ground. Does that make me paranoid or smart? Or both?
In the following photo, do you see the trail of smoke in the distance:
It’s right where the land meets the water. More on that in a bit. For now, I’ll just mention that we were flying over a rain forest.
Now, about that volcano, here’s what the lava did to the forest . . .
. . . and here’s the volcano itself:
That volcano has been active since 1983, mostly in the form of a few trickles here and there, but according to the pilot, it once spewed lava 1,200 feet into the air — without warning. I asked him if that made him nervous, to which he replied, “Nope, I’ve been doing this for twelve years.”
Here’s a peek directly into the crater of the volcano:
That entire side of the island is covered with lava:
You need to know that the top of the helicopter’s “dashboard” (for lack of a better term) was level, meaning, like, flat . . . like, when the helicopter was sitting on the tarmac, the dashboard was parallel to the ground. Got that? I’m mentioning this now because . . . well, just look how much we were tilting to the side:
In the photo above, do you see the small patches of trees? Somehow, when the lava was flowing down the mountain, it missed those areas, including this one, which still has a road cutting through:
At this point, there’s not much lava flowing above ground. Instead it travels through underground ducts and spills out into the ocean. Check it out:
The pilot flew us close enough (and my dinky camera’s zoom was strong enough) that I could actually see the red-hot lava pouring out:
After several minutes, we flew away from that area . . .
. . . and toward this portion of the coastline, where people have built houses on the lava:
Why the hell would anyone choose to live there, you ask? Because the Hawaiian government offers 99-year leases on that land for $1 per year. (Still overpriced, in my opinion.)
Not surprisingly, Martha and my mom were enjoying themselves:
Here’s a photo that Martha took, which shows part of my head on the right:
Can you spot the waterfalls in the following photo?
Those falls are in Hilo, which, by the way, has more rainy days per year (275 on average) than any city in the northern hemisphere. It’s also the only city that (a) sits on an active volcano AND (b) has earthquakes AND (c) has endured two major tsunamis. Thanks, but no thanks. I’ll continue inhaling two buses a day in New York City.
I got a nice look at some cruise ships . . .
. . . as we came in for a landing:
Thank you, Mister Pilot, for not making me die!
Here I am dehelicoptering:
On the way to our next destination, we stopped at a drive-thru for ice cream:
That destination was Rainbow Falls:
We got a nice look at the 80-foot waterfall . . .
. . . and then climbed these stairs . . .
. . . into the forest. Here I am in front of a big-ass tree:
By the time we drove back to Waimea, it was dark. Here’s where we had dinner:
Here we are inside the restaurant:
Ahh, New York. My true love. I’m home now as I sit here typing this. Day 9 was the final full day of our trip and by far the most memorable. Stay tuned for a brief Day 10 entry, and then I’ll get back to some baseball stuff.