Road Trip, Hawaiian Style

By Ernie Witham   |   February 27, 2020

My wife hesitated at a puddle of unknown depth at the former Kahuku Sugar Mill parking lot, which is now a series of small restaurants and food trucks that cater mainly to the surfing crowd at North Shore on Oahu.

“This thing could cross a raging river,” I said.

“The rental company might charge us more if we get it too dirty.”

“It’s raining. It’s a free car wash day.”

Still unsure we could make it, Pat floored it and we bounced through the puddle and careened over a couple of large potholes. I almost hit the roof, which wouldn’t have been good because it might have come flying off.

Pat had reserved a compact car for our trip, so the “Advantage” car rental company at the airport gave us a full-size Jeep Wrangler. Or should I say Cheap Wrangler? It was such a basic model that you have to use the key to lock and unlock both front doors and it had hand-crank windows. I looked in the manual to see if there was a hidden auto feature. The manual showed this multi-functional key fob. Our key fob had nothing on it – not even a “Welcome to Hawaii” stamp. The instrument panel in the manual showed all these hi-tech features. Our dashboard had a large gaping hole where someone forgot to put in the features. Earlier we had searched for the mirror adjustment button, then figured out you had to crank the window down and push the edges of the mirror around.

“Lower. Too much. Not enough. Okay, now right. No, left. No…”

Did I mention it was raining?

Fortunately, being the “sport” model, it offered the option of taking off the hood, the roof and the doors. I guess some tourists stay in extra-large rooms so they can store half a Jeep exterior leaning up against the mini bar. Being a guy who loves to take things apart, but is not always completely successful putting them back together, and being in a smaller, second-floor room at a hotel with no elevator, I had pretty much decided against vehicle demolition.

The Jeep had 4-wheel drive – important for managing the streets in Waikiki Beach which, on a good day, allow for speeds up to fifteen miles per hour. It was also a tad large for one of the eight Smartcar-sized parking spaces we had to rent for thirty-five dollars a day at our 1970s era hotel, which was undergoing some minor renovations involving jack hammers.

But it was nice to have a vehicle. The previous evening, we had headed for Hawaii Kai for dinner with our Hawaiian family members. The Wrangler, surprise surprise, didn’t have a GPS, but I did have my iPhone. The street we were looking for began with a K, one of the more popular of the seven consonants in the Hawaiian alphabet. I must have missed one of the eleven vowels in the 17-letter-long street address when inputting because it took us an hour to go 12 miles and it told us we had arrived after we turned into a vacant field.

We did see a part of the island that is not included in the travel brochures including a tent city and some buildings that last saw paint during the Eisenhower administration. Pat put the directions into the phone for the trip back to the hotel.

We were getting somewhat used to driving the Beast, so today we decided to cut through the middle of the island from sunny Honolulu and go to the Dole Plantation. Halfway there it started raining and the temperature dropped fifteen degrees. We were wearing shorts.

“Can you figure out how to turn the heat and defroster on,” Pat asked.

“I think it suggested in the manual to bring along firewood.”

It was raining hard at the Dole Plantation. Plus, it was mobbed. A lot of people were wearing brand-new Dole sweatshirts and hats. One woman had Dole socks under her open-toe sandals.

So, we decided to keep going, but cold, damp, daredevil excursions can make you hungry, so we had bounced up to a small burger joint called Seven Brothers.

“Maybe they have ice cream,” I said.

Pat gave me the hang loose hand sign. At least I think that’s what it was.


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