Saturday, July 17—Manila to Palau
We awoke at 5:30 AM for a 6:30 ride to the airport and we were in the air by 7:55. The flight was smooth with clouds here and there. We didn’t have rain until we were on final approach in Palau. It was sprinkling a little and the sky was ominous looking when we taxied in but the rain had stopped completely by the time we climbed out of the airplane. We’re lucky that way!
Well, our flight handling agent really fell down on the job and the airport authority didn’t have our landing permit. Larry assured them that it must have been filed. He told them that in flying around the world, this was the first time our landing permit wasn’t there when we arrived. However, we always had a copy of the permit in our possession in the past but didn’t have it this time. We had to fill out some extra paper work and we were told they would have to have our landing permit before we could leave. Actually, this island country had a 7 day requirement for landing permits to be issued before a flight arrived. We didn’t think our agent had complied with this requirement and we didn’t know what would happen.
The next table after the airport authority was that of immigrations. They looked at our papers for maybe 2 minutes and produced a bill for $90 overtime. $10 per hour for 3 agents with a minimum of 3 hours each. There were 3 signatures on the invoice so we paid it. Then we proceeded to customs and, after barely looking at our luggage, we were given a similar invoice--$90 overtime, the same as with immigrations. The funny thing was that there is only one commercial flight in and out each day and it had left while we were getting out of our plane. There should not have been any overtime charge. But we paid both invoices, regardless.
When we walked out of the terminal, the sun was out and it looked like a beautiful day. We must have looked lost because one of the security guards came up and asked if he could help. We told him we needed a taxi to take us to our hotel. He told us that the plane had landed before we arrived and all the taxis had left with customers. However, he had a friend who lived nearby and he was sure he wouldn’t mind picking us up and driving us to our hotel.
After a few minutes, a car pulled up that was to be our ride. The drivers name was Amos. As we were loading the luggage in the trunk, Larry noticed a keyboard. After we were in the car, Larry asked the driver if he played in a rock band. Amos said that he used to play in nightclubs but now played only in church. My ears perked up and I asked him what church it was. He said an Evangelical church and he asked us if we were Christians. When we said we were, he told us his story.
Up until about 7 years ago, he played the keyboard in a band and lived a life of heavy drinking and not very good living. Then his body started to go numb and he started to re-evaluate his life. His grandmother had taken him to church when he was a young boy and he decided to turn his life over to God. Soon afterward, his health improved. We told him we would like to go to his church in the morning, as the following day was Sunday. When we arrived at the hotel, he wrote the name, address and time of service on a piece of paper.
Our hotel, the Pan Pacific Resort was very tropical and really nice. It is probably the best hotel in Palau. We had an excellent view of the sea right from our room. We settled in and later, went out for a short walk. We did a little shopping and Larry bought a new swim suit. We had a delicious seafood dinner on the patio of the hotel overlooking the sea.
The restaurant became quite busy. There were many oriental people, probably Japanese. Some of them had the worst table manners I had ever seen, especially two teenagers. They sat not only with their elbows on the table but their whole arm and their faces right in the plate, pushing the food in their mouths with a fork, almost like a dog would eat but at least they used a fork--amazing.
Sunday, July 18--A day in Palau
We got up at what we thought was 5:50 AM but later we discovered we hadn’t changed the time on our alarm clock. We had lost an hour the previous day so it was an hour later than we thought. Fortunately, we still had time to get ready for church. We had a small loaf of banana bread we had bought in Manila so we skipped the restaurant and had that for a quick breakfast.
We called for a taxi and arrived at the church around 8:50. It was an attractive building, open on all 4 sides. They were singing praise songs and there was Amos on the keyboard, sitting in the front row. During the service they welcomed visitors and asked them to stand and introduce themselves, so we did. We explained we were flying around the world and were invited by Amos. He sat there with a big grin.
They then had a time of greeting one another. The pastor came down and shook our hands and asked Larry if he was 3199Juliet. Larry was rather surprised and said yes. The pastor said that our request for the landing permit had come into his office very late on the previous Friday afternoon, which was very unusual for it to be so late. The request was probably still on someone’s desk. He then handed Larry his business card which indicated he was the Chief of Staff to the President of Palau! We didn’t talk about it any further but when we wanted to depart Palau a few days later, there was no problem with our landing permit.
Someone said that coincidences are miracles where God remains anonymous. Larry was very much relieved to know that we wouldn’t have a problem with the landing permit. We could now enjoy the rest of that day and the next without thinking about it. Amazing!!!
We enjoyed the service very much. The choir sang and their “robes” were very colorful muumuus. There were only 2 men but we could hear their bass voices blending with about 30 women’s voices. They sang “How Great Thou Art” and “Thou Art Worthy”. It was beautiful.
The pastor spoke on Psalm 122:1. An added bonus was that he spoke in English. Usually he gave the message in the language of the island but because there was a large gathering of artists on the island, he thought he would give the sermon in English as well as the native language so everyone could understand.
We had just enough time to speak to a few people and talk to Amos before we had to go out to meet our taxi. We had asked the taxi driver to come back at 10:30 and the service lasted almost that long (an hour and a half).
When we returned to our hotel room, Larry called the fueler at the airport and received some grim news. It seems that Avgas was very difficult to obtain in the Pacific. We also received an e-mail from Fred Sorensen, our flight handler, advising us to fill our tanks completely before we left Manila. Unfortunately, we received it too late to do anything in Manila.
Larry contacted the Mobil-Exxon representative and was told that Mobil-Exxon no longer dealt in Avgas in the South Pacific Islands, only jet fuel which would be of no help to us. The agent gave Larry some phone numbers of users in Palau and Guam. We were hopeful we would be able to buy fuel from one of them in both islands. We only absolutely needed one drum (52 gallons) in Palau. When combined with the fuel on board when we landed, it would just be enough to reach Guam.
This was quite a predicament but we would have to wait until the next day to call anyone. Hopefully, someone would sell us one drum of fuel.
We tried to send some e-mail from our room but, for some reason, it wasn’t working. Things were getting somewhat frustrating. We had lunch and then sat out by the ocean. That cheered us up a bit. It was very lovely until it started to rain. We then came back and sat out on our terrace and read for a while.
We had our usual Sunday night pizza and then sent e-mail via the hotel’s computer. It was the only way we could get onto the Internet.
Monday, July 19--Our last day in Palau
We awoke at 6 AM and wondered if we would be able to buy some Avgas to fly out the next day. After breakfast, Larry started calling the numbers he had been given the previous day. There were only 2 possibilities. The first place he called was out of the aviation business and didn’t have any Avgas at all. He called the other company and, they said no, they couldn’t sell us any Avgas. They had only 8 drums to keep 2 planes flying for 2 to 3 weeks and they needed all they had. They were the only company on the entire island that had airplanes so we didn’t quite know what to do next.
This was a tropical paradise. I should have been enjoying the beauty, peace and serenity but everything was too unsettled to completely enjoy it. We said a prayer that we would get enough fuel from somewhere to continue our journey.
Larry decided to call back and try to get an appointment with the owner of the company and beg for the fuel. It was our only chance. He made an appointment for 3:00 that same afternoon. Later, while Larry was gone, I read for a while and then went for a walk out to Rock Island, about a half mile away. It was a historical site where the Japanese had built a large bunker during World War II. There was a concrete building still standing. The view was beautiful from up on the cliff, maybe 100’ above the Pacific.
Larry returned around 5:30 all smiles. He said when he went into the owner’s office, he crawled in on his knees with his hands in the begging position. That got the man’s attention (and his sympathy). They talked for about 20 minutes about how difficult it is to make any money in the aviation business. Larry finally said, “It seems to me that you could make more money selling me a drum of Avgas than you could by flying”. That did it! The man agreed with that logic and we were promised one drum. That plus what we had on the plane would to get us to Guam. Larry was optimistic that in Guam we would be able to purchase enough drums to continue to the next island.
Larry paid the man on the spot. When Larry mentioned that the company could make twice as much by selling him 2 drums, the man put up his hands and said, “There is no way I could do that. I really can’t afford to let you have even the one drum.” Larry then took another taxi out to the airport where the company’s pilot met him. They pumped the fuel into the Baron and he also filed his flight plan while he was there. It didn’t take long to pump in only one drum.
We had dinner at the hotel again. The resort was quite a few miles from town which would have meant a long taxi ride. Not knowing where to go, the hotel was our best bet. There was a spectacular view from the dining room and it was probably also had the best food on the island. Plus, we needed to rest up for the next day’s flight.
Tuesday, July 20—Palau to Guam
We awoke at 5 AM and we were in a taxi by 5:45. The road was fairly quiet at that time of morning (not that it was very busy any other time). What a difference from the large cities we had visited!
We were at the airport at 6:15. They knew we were leaving because Larry filed a flight plan the day before so there was a customs agent waiting for us. We paid our airport fees and cleared customs. Of course, they now had our landing permit and they gave us a copy when we left. At no other airport did we get a copy of our landing permit. I wondered why they gave it to us but I think it was so we would remember Amos and how we met the pastor who was also the chief of staff to the president. It was a miracle we will never forget!
We were airborne at 7:47. The flight was smooth but with a headwind--one time up to 20 knots! We didn’t need that. We landed in Guam at 12:30 (lost another hour) and were met by customs and someone from our handling company. They taxied us in to park at a huge jetway. Larry reminded them that we were just a small twin and not a 747. They said that we first had to go inside to clear customs and then would go back out park the plane somewhere else. Julie sure looked small next to that jetway.
Dressed as usual in our airline uniforms, we breezed through customs. However, there was an oriental jetliner crew ahead of us and the little flight attendants kept staring at us. We were the oldest pilot and co-pilot they had ever seen. Soon, we were out on the ramp again and we followed a truck to the parking area. After buttoning up the plane, we put our luggage on the truck. The driver was very nice and took us directly to the arrivals area where we called the Hilton for a room. We didn’t have a reservation in Guam as it had not been on our itinerary. While we were on the phone, the driver came back and said it looked like we had left the beacon light on. He drove Larry back to the plane and the light was on. It was really good that he had seen that and came back for Larry or the battery would have been dead in no time and starting would have been very difficult a few days later.
The hotel van picked us up and we were soon at the hotel. This Hilton was rather old and tired. It probably was the worst one we stayed in on the trip. Oh well, we were a little further into the trip and, at least, we had a place to stay.
Guam looks a lot like Palau--very tropical but a much larger island. It is also much more commercialized. There are many high rise hotels set all around the bay.
We had dinner at the hotel. Would you believe it was another buffet and Italian night. I don’t know how many times that, the first night we would arrive at a hotel, they had a buffet and Italian night. It’s a good thing we like Italian food!
Wednesday, July 21--A day in Guam
The radio came on very loud at 5:00 AM! Wow, what an awakening! We didn’t set it but a previous occupant must have set it for that time. We finally got up at 5:45. Larry updated our website and we were now caught up through Palau. We also sent some e-mail.
After breakfast, we came back to the room. Larry had 6 phone numbers to call for fuel in Guam. Two were disconnected, one had no answer and one call was forwarded to another island. We were down to 2 numbers. The first was a small airline and the owner, although a longtime friend of Fred Sorenson, our flight handler, said he was already short and could not possibly sell any.
Once again, Larry said a prayer before calling the last number. The last number was for Hansen Helicopters. Larry explained our plight to the man who answered and asked if they could sell us 7 drums. After a long wait, the man said that the owner was busy but he would sell us the 7 drums. However, they were very tired and we would have to wait until the next morning for them to work out the price. We thank God because that was what we really needed. With that amount of fuel, we could fly all the way to Pohnpei and through to one last island before going to Honolulu. The island would depend on wherever we could find fuel.
Fred emailed us that he had heard of a missionary organization in Bonriki, Kiribati (Bon-ree’-kee, Keer-a-bah’-tee) that had fuel they might be able to sell us. We would have to wait on the island of Pohnpei and see if the missionaries would sell us 7 drums. If not, we would have to fly to Majuro, Marshall Islands and wait there for Fred to come through with fuel. He had to transport a 727 to Australia and could stop off at Majuro to deliver the fuel to us. However, the transport was going to be at least 3 weeks late and there could have been even further delays. In that event, we would be stuck on Majuro for who knew how long.
Larry spent the morning going over the charts for the upcoming legs. He also was calculating the amounts of fuel we need for the various scenarios. We absolutely needed 7 drums of Avgas to make it to Honolulu. Nothing less would work.
This was Liberation day in Guam. It had been exactly 60 years ago that Guam had been liberated from the Japanese. A lot happened there during World War II and, toward the end, Guam played a major role in the dropping of the Atomic Bombs on Japan. There are many war memorials on the island. The Japanese had a concentration camp where they placed many people. Some of the survivors still live there.
There is an abundance of history in that geographical area. What is most ironic is the number of Japanese who now live in Guam or travel there for business or vacation. All is forgiven!
Larry left for the airport. He went to meet the men with the fuel and to pump it into the plane. He wasn’t gone too long, however. When he returned, he said they didn’t have a pump with them. They thought he would have one. At least, they dropped off the drums and left them right out on the ramp next to the airplane. They would have to fuel the plane in the morning. He hoped the airport authority would not mind the drums sitting there overnight.
We changed clothes, Larry worked on the website a little and then we went out to dinner. We had rented a car earlier on the afternoon. I had read about Chuck’s Steak House and it wasn’t too far from the hotel. There once was a Chuck’s in Melbourne Beach which we really liked so we thought we would check out this one. It was a nice place. The building had a helicopter on the roof. We had a wonderful steak dinner.
Thursday, July 22--Last day in Guam
Wake up was at 6 AM. Larry got dressed and called the company with the Avgas. He left to meet the guys at 7:30. I got up, dressed and went down for breakfast around 7:45. I ate my croissant and coffee out by the pool, overlooking the large lagoon. I came back to the room and wrote some e-mail. I waited waiting for Larry. It had been 2 1/2 hours since he left.
Larry returned a little after 10:00 looking very hot and dirty. I had to wash his clothes as soon as he took them off as they smelled like gas. He rested a little and then took a shower. Around 11:00, we left and went for a drive around the island. We started south and took the coastal road all around the island. We stopped at the south end of the island for lunch at a little restaurant called Annie’s. It was a very pleasant place right on the water. There was an island in the distance. There is a coral reef around Guam so the waves break way out and the water near the shore is quite calm. Also, the water is a gorgeous azure in color. There are mountains on the south end. It is a beautiful island. We enjoyed our drive and arrived back at the hotel around 2:30 in time to return the car.
Guam is a US territory so Larry received a good weather briefing and filed his flight plan over 1-800-wxbrief. We packed and got ready for our flight to Pohnpei in the morning.
Friday, July 23—Guam to Pohnpei
We awoke at 5 AM and were off to the airport around 5:45. Upon arriving at the airport, we went to the gate and the guard called for a truck to take us to our plane. We waited about 20 minutes. Finally a pick up truck from airport security showed up and we were through the gate and out to Julie. Take off was 6:45. It was a nice flight, even with running into a little rain here and there. The flight took about 5 ½ hours and we landed around 1:20 PM local time (lost another hour). There was a Continental jet at the gate with people boarding when we taxied in and parked. They took off about 10 minutes after we landed. They called themselves Air Micronesia, or Air Mike.
About 10 minutes after landing, a man walked up and asked us to fill out a form about the plane and said he needed some additional information from Larry. Other than that, we were cleared to go. We pulled our luggage, which is on wheels to make moving easy, into the terminal and were met by someone from customs. Another form to fill out and then we preceded though immigration. That only cost us only $20 combined, much less than in Palau. Every country had different charges for immigration and customs plus other fees. Fortunately, all of the airports accepted US dollars for their fees.
Again, with the jetliner having just left, there were no cabs. Someone called the Village Hotel for us and a van came to pick us up. It was about a 15-20 minute ride to the hotel.
The Village Hotel is very different from what one would expect. Each unit is a little thatched bungalow with no phones, no TV and no air conditioning. There are ceiling fans and on 3 sides, the windows have no glass, only screens. Draped over the 2 beds is mosquito netting. Our bungalow was on stilts on a small cliff overlooking the ocean. There was a small island in the short distance and the view was unbelievable!
We unpacked, changed out of our airline uniforms and Larry did some paper work while I got the hand washing out of the way. We stood and admired everything for a while then went to the “Long House”, their main restaurant/bar, for an iced tea. We sat under the gazebo and watched the sky and ocean. Then, with this being a tropical island, we thought a Rum Punch would be appropriate and we gazed at the view some more.
Soon it was time for dinner. During dinner there was an amazingly beautiful sunset! Also, our dinner of local seafood was one of the most delicious so far on our trip.
After dinner, we sat in the office of the hotel and used their computer. After about 15 minutes we finally connected to AOL. Larry got a note off to Vince asking him to put a notice on our website that we had made it to Pohnpei. It took a while to get that much info out. Finally, we spent about 40 minutes on their computer, read maybe 3 messages and got off 2. It was a gorgeous place but the Internet capability was in the dark ages. Most importantly, there wasn’t any joyous news from Fred in regard to the Avgas situation.
We went to bed a little early, crawling under the mosquito netting with the fan on low. Sometime during the night, there was a thunderstorm. Wow, did it ever rain. But then again, we were staying in a rain forest. I wondered about roof leaks but it was one very tight thatched roof.
Saturday, July 24--A day in Pohnpei
We awoke around 6:15 and it actually felt cool in the room. During the night, we had also pulled the blanket over us. Breakfast that morning was cereal and bananas in the Long House. Although that is our usual breakfast back home, we hadn’t had it for quite a while.
At 9:30 AM, we caught a ride into the town of Kolonia with the hotel van. The van went into town every morning except Sunday to buy supplies and anyone who wanted could ride along. The driver dropped us off in an area where people from another island settled many years ago. They were carving fish, turtles, etc. out of mangrove tree wood. In Florida, Mangrove trees are protected. If someone would cut a mangrove tree, there would be a heavy fine. We were quite surprised that they use the wood here for carving. However, later we understood why they could use that wood as there is an abundance of mangroves all around the island.
We walked around town. At times it would rain really hard. Unfortunately, we had brought only one umbrella with us but at least we had that one. We found a nice little restaurant for lunch and then caught a taxi back to the hotel. The taxi system was quite interesting. There were 2 passengers already in the taxi when it stopped for us. We told the driver where we were going. He said he would drop off the other two people and then take us to the hotel. We agreed and hopped in. He drove around dropping off the other two and even picked up someone else (and it wasn’t necessarily on the way to the hotel). We finally arrived at the hotel and when we told the owners, they laughed and said that happened a lot around there. The drivers stop for their friends and other fares and take them here or there.
We decided to take a walk down to the beach so we changed into our swim suits. The beach was about 200’ below the bungalow and down a long, winding path. The beach did have a little sand, which we thought they had brought in, and all around there was an abundance of Mangroves. Actually, the entire island was almost surrounded by them.
The water looked a little dirty by the shore which surprised us as most islands have crystal clear water. It was probably due to the Mangroves. We didn’t go in the water as planned and instead sat on a log and enjoyed the serenity. While we were sitting there, a couple of guys came down to the beach. They had machetes and cut coconuts out of the trees as we watched. On the menu at the hotel, they had coconut milk. We tried some and it was quite sweet. We were surprised how much milk was in a coconut. By the time we were halfway through, it became too sweet to finish.
Dinner that night was again at the hotel. Only one party could dine in the gazebo and tonight was our night. Of course, there was another beautiful sunset! Ponape Pepper Crab was the specialty. We asked the waiter if the crab was served out of the shell. After checking, he came back and said that, yes, they pulled it out of the shell. We both ordered it. Well, it came in the shell and it was very, very messy as it was prepared with a pepper sauce. Of course, we had to pick it up with our hands and crack the shell. The claw was very large and what a messy business! But it was delicious! Before we finished, it got quite dark so they brought out a lantern and we finished eating by lantern light. It was a very romantic setting.
There must have been a little critter of some kind in the thatched roof of the gazebo. Just as the waiter was serving the salad, something green and wet plopped onto my hand. Fortunately, it landed on my hand and not in my salad or head! Oh, the joys of eating outdoors.
We went to the office after dinner and logged onto the computer. It was agonizingly slow but we managed to read and write a few notes. There was still no word from Fred as to the Avgas situation.
Sunday, July 25--Another great day in Pohnpei
We awoke around 6:30. That morning for breakfast, I had the Sunshine Special, which was half a papaya, yogurt and granola. Larry had Ponape pancakes which were pancakes covered in fruit syrup with pineapple, bananas and peaches with some whipped cream and nuts on top. What a yummy breakfast! Incidentally, Ponape was the former name for Pohnpei so the airport and a few other thing still have that name.
After breakfast, we asked Patti, the owner, what time the Baptist church service started. She checked and the English service was at 9 AM. It was around 8:20 so we called a taxi and went back to the room to get ready. We waited and waited and waited for that taxi. Island time is much different from regular time. We decided that if he didn’t show at a certain time, we would have to forget about going to church that morning. He finally showed about 30 minutes late. On the way, he stopped for a friend and fortunately, didn’t have to go too far out of the way to drop him off.
We arrived at church about 30-35 minutes late. The pastor was just starting his sermon. The sermon was on Jonah about when God wants us to do something, we should obey. Also, God is always with us. He read some verses from Psalm 139 which I found interesting because I had made them our theme verses for the trip. No matter where we may go, God will always be with us.
After church, we met the pastor’s wife and some other people. They were all very friendly and they invited us to come back the next Sunday. We would have liked to but we were hoping we would be off of the island before the next Sunday.
We stopped at the Joy Hotel for a coke and also bought a small sculpture of two dolphins, carved out of Ivory seed. It is an amazing seed that looks just like ivory. We also bought a map of Pohnpei so we could better find our way around the island. We got a taxi and went back to the hotel for lunch and a very relaxing afternoon.
We logged onto to the computer again and caught up on some more e-mail. Still no word from Fred!
Monday, July 26--A delightful day in Pohnpei
On this day, we went on a boat trip to Nan Modal (Mod-all’). Our guides name was Elton. He picked us up at The Village Hotel and it was a 45 minute boat ride. Shortly into the ride it started to rain and it rained the rest of the way there. We were soaked by the time we arrived, but the water was warm.
Nan Modal is a very interesting place. It is a series of at least 90 man made islands. The experts believe it was a thriving community in the 11th century. No one knows about the people who lived there. To make it even more intriguing, the basalt rock they used to build the structures came from the opposite side of the island, more than 15 miles away. Some of the stones weigh as much as 50-60 tons. Some islanders (even today) believe that the stones were levitated and flew across the island. The more popular belief, though, is that they were somehow floated around the island on bamboo rafts. Some of the walls are as high as 40 feet and it was a major feat to put them into place. No one knows why the people built their “city” from those stones, who the people were or what happened to them. There is nothing in writing about the people who lived there. Only bones and very few artifacts been found.
While we were there, it rained really hard. Elton cut 2 Taro plant leaves and gave them to us to use as umbrellas. The leaves are very large and did make good umbrellas. Elton told us when he was a boy and went to school, he had a 20 minute walk. When it rained, he would use one of the leaves for an umbrella to try to stay somewhat dry.
He then took us to a waterfall, the Kepirohi Falls. We got out of the boat and walked about 5 minutes up to the falls. We could have gone swimming but we didn’t need to cool off on such a rainy, overcast day. If the sun had been out, I’m sure it would have felt good to get into the water.
After visiting the waterfall, he took us to a small island for a picnic lunch. We did some exploring on the island and arrived back at the hotel around 2 PM. After showers, I did some reading. Larry downloaded our photos into the notebook and edited them. Later, we went to the “Long House” for some iced tea. We called for a rental car to be delivered the following morning. We thought it would be interesting to drive around the island.
That night the sunset was especially gorgeous. Larry took lots of pictures of its beauty. We kept thinking we would hear from Fred but there was still no word on the fuel. Larry thought that there must be a problem. Every day that passed made it much less likely that the people in Bonriki would release any fuel to us. The only other option would be to fly to Majuro and wait for the 727 to arrive but that would be at least a 3 week delay, and maybe even 2 or 3 months, for all we knew.
Tuesday, July 27--A drive around the island
After breakfast, we picked up our lunch (we had ordered it the previous day) and climbed into our rental car for our drive around the island. Guess what, it was raining again. We drove out through the town of Kolonia and after a few wrong turns, we were finally on the right road. The road was started in 1966. It was made from coral, dug from coral beds around the island. It was all paved except for about 10 miles, which was strill gravel and dirt.
We were on the road for about an hour when we encountered some very deep water. Because of the rain, the rivers and creeks were overflowing. The water was cascading down and causing some pretty strong currents across the road. The children (like children anywhere in the world) were out playing in the water. They were laughing and having a great time. We came to an area where the water was quite deep. The farther in we drove, the deeper it became. We finally decided we had better back up and turn around. We certainly didn’t want to get stranded in the flood in the middle of nowhere.
It seemed to me, that if the rain continued as heavy as it was, some homes would be flooded. At one time, when we crossed a bridge, I looked down and saw a few homes where the water was rising and a man was sitting in a row boat. I guess he had witnessed it in the past and he had decided the best place to be was in a boat.
We made a turn up to Sokehs Rock. This rock rises to 692 feet. It had been the obstacle to avoid on our approach to the airport. We could also see it from our hotel. The road became a little trail before we reached the top, so we turned around and drove back down.
The countryside was quite interesting. There were people walking, even though it was a torrential downpour. I guess they were so used to the rain that they went wherever they had to go even when it was raining. We saw very few umbrellas but did see a few Taro leafs used as umbrellas. Lots of children were playing in the water and also, dogs and a few pigs were by the road. Some dogs on the road barely moved when we went by but the chickens scattered as we drove past. The homes were made of corrugated metal, concrete and a few had the traditional bamboo and thatched roofs. Most of the openings in the walls where we would put glass were open or had only screen.
There were beautiful bushes along the road with flowers of all colors. There were Palm trees everywhere and also many banana plants. People were very friendly and most would wave as we drove by. We enjoyed waving back and, quite often, initiated the waving.
We drove to Palikir, the capital of the island. The buildings were the nicest we had seen in all of Pohnpei. There were 422 people employed by their federal government, the largest employer on the island.
As we were driving around, Larry saw a sign that said “Salvation Army.” He said he wanted to stop there and make a donation. He had wanted to make a donation when we attended the church on Sunday but because we were late, we missed the offering. By the time people had greeted us, he had forgotten about it.
We pulled into what looked like a small driveway (it was very rutted). There were a few houses but we didn’t know which one was the Salvation Army building. A young woman came out of one of the houses and asked us if she could help us. Larry explained that some good things had happened to us and we wanted to do something in return—to make a donation to the Salvation Army. She seemed surprised but pleased and said she was a helper there and could take the donation to them. As Larry was writing out the check, a boy about 7 years of age came walking out carrying a baby around 6 months old. I wished that I had something in the car to give them, but all I had was a hello and a big smile. Even though the people don’t seem to have much as far as material things, they all have big smiles. We could learn an important lesson from them. We have so many material blessings so how can we ever frown or complain?
We gave the woman the check and with smiles and waves, drove back to the road.
When we returned to the hotel, guess what! There was a fax for us from Fred. It was another amazing miracle! We had a promise of Avgas in Bonriki. We could fly out on Thursday, the 29th, the day we had planned to leave. However, we would fly to Bonriki instead of Majuro.
The problem had been that both of the officers of the mission were out of the country. The head was in the Australian outback and impossible to reach. The assistant was in Oregon and also very difficult to reach. Although they had some fuel available, no one else could approve the sale. Someone had finally gotten through to the assistant in Oregon and he approved the sale.
We decided to celebrate by going to see the movie “Spiderman II” at the local theatre. It was good light entertainment. We also had a wonderful celebration dinner back at the hotel.
Wednesday, July 28--Our last day on Pohnpei
We awoke to rain again. But we were living in a rain forest so what can we expect! It was very refreshing! After breakfast, we ordered two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for our next morning’s flight.
Back in the room, Larry worked on our Pohnpei story for our website. I read about the history of Pohnpei from a book borrowed from the front desk. The birth of a child is greatly anticipated in Pohnpei. Children are considered a wonderful blessing and, although some are born out of wedlock, very few are unwanted. There is adoption but usually the child is kept within the clan. They are a very social people with a nuclear, extended family and clan.
Nuclear families are all under one roof, usually with 2 parents and children, and sometimes grandparents as well. Extended families are aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. who may all live very close to each other in different houses. They are paternal--the father rules the household. Children obey their father as long as the father lives.
The clan is maternal. The clan could be scattered all over the island but mostly it is within the municipality. Ninety-five percent of the people hold some sort of title. Royalty comes from being born into the royal family. People are also given certain titles if they have performed some sort of community service.
Funerals are attended by all the people in a community. The deceased are buried the day after they die with permission from the king. Permission must be granted by the king before a person can be buried because the king owns most of the land. The king is always invited but seldom attends. The women bring food and also there is a lot of crying, mostly by the women. The day after the funeral, a feast is held. The family provides a pig which may put them into debt. Also, the mourning may go on for a month.
Later, we took a ride into town. We wanted to go to a museum we had seen previously. Unfortunately, it was locked even though it should have been open according to the times on the door. From there, we went to the weather station so Larry could get information on the weather for our flight. They had only local weather and nothing useful for our flight.
We had lunch at the Ocean View Hotel. It was a decent place with a good view but we decided The Village Hotel was definitely the best place on the entire island.
After lunch, we drove to the airport where Larry filed his flight plan, checked with the weather office there and also made sure there would be someone at the airport early in the morning to let us through the gate. All was set for an early morning takeoff for Bonriki.
On the way back through town, we decided to stop at the museum again. It was still locked but someone told us where to find the person to let us in. He was in a building across the driveway from the museum. Sure enough, there was a man there. He unlocked the museum for us and showed us around. The artifacts were mostly different kinds of boats. The museum contained an interesting history of Pohnpei but it was very small. That was fine with us, however, as we were soon out and on our way back to the hotel.
Before we left home, a friend of mine, Connie Rosequist, had given me a very small Bible to take with us. She asked me to give it to someone special along the way. One morning, I met the granddaughter of the Village Hotel proprietors Patti and Bob Arthur. She was a very sweet girl and I thought that she would be the person to give the Bible. I walked to the front desk and told Patti about the Bible and said I wanted to give it to someone special and her granddaughter, Charlene, (Charlie) seemed to be that person. Patti seemed quite pleased and thought Charlie would be delighted with it. I gave Patti the bible, my name and our website address.
After dinner, we paid our hotel bill so there would be no delay in leaving in the morning. As we were doing so, Patti and Bob walked in. Patti said she had given the Bible to Charlie and I could not have picked a better person to give it to. Charlie was just delighted and thankful for it. I was pleased that it worked out so well.
The Village Hotel is a very peaceful and restful place. It is also incredibly beautiful! We had a much needed rest in Pohnpei. Actually, we had initially planned to stay only 3 days but, early on, extended it to 6 because of our love for the island. We would have stayed longer if we had not received the promise of fuel in Bonriki.
We also received another fax. This one was from the director of aviation in Bonriki. It contained our landing permit number. However, on the bottom of the letter it said to be advised that the Search for One Mission was the only source of Avgas on the island, that the two main people were out of the country, that they held the keys to the fuel container and that we could anticipate a delay. Larry said, “We’re going!” Hopefully, one of the wives would have a key or we would deal with it when we arrived.
Thursday, July 29—Pohnpei to Bonriki, Kiribati (Tarawa)
We awoke at 5 AM--actually, I woke up around 4:15 to the sound of rain. I prayed it would not be raining when we wanted to take off. At 5:00 the rain stopped. When we showed up at the lobby, it was dark and no one was around. Patti had said someone is always there and could take us to the airport. Also, we had ordered 2 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to eat on our flight and wondered about them.
About 10 minutes or so later, Patti’s son, Jamie, showed up. He apologized but thought we were leaving later. We told him about the sandwiches and he went to find them but ended up making them himself. Jamie drove us to the airport and we arrived around 6:15.
On the way, Jamie told us about the superstitions of the islanders and the difficulty in running any kind of business. When his parents built their hotel, the rumor among the islanders was that there was a vein of gold that ran up under the main restaurant building. And that the true reason it was built was so they could mine that gold.
Also, a mission organization had run a charitable emergency medical air service in Pohnpei. The government thought they had to be making money somehow so they kept adding and raising fees. It was finally impossible to continue so they decided to leave. They flew one of their planes out but had to take off the wings and pack the other plane into a shipping container. When it was nearly all packed, there was a serious medical emergency in one of the out islands and the government asked them if they could make one more flight. So they unpacked the plane, put it back together, made the flight and saved the person’s life. Then, as they were putting the plane back into the container, the government agent came out and handed them a bill for takeoff and landing fees for the flight.
When we reached the airport, someone let us through the main gate with no problem but we couldn’t find the person Larry had spoken with the previous day. He said he would be there to give us a weather briefing and to let us into ramp area so we could get to our plane. We waited for maybe 10-15 minutes and finally he showed up and Jamie drove us out to the plane. We said our good-byes and also a sincere thank you to Jamie.
After packing the Baron, Larry did the preflight and we were off around 6:50. It was a smooth trip all the way except for a little turbulence out of the blue (CAT--clear air turbulence). Of course, there was a headwind--what is a tail wind?
After 6 hours we landed and we seemed to be bombarded with guys coming out for paper work. It seems every airport is different in what they require on landing. But the best part was when we taxied in and parked, a woman came over and introduced herself. Her name was Ketia Scott and it was her husband, Craig, who had promised us 7 drums of Avgas. Ketia and her brother had opened the container where the gas was kept and they were rolling out the drums of gas. She wanted to know if we would like to have the gas put in the plane right then. I was so overjoyed that I gave her a big hug!
After filling out the paper work for customs and immigration, Larry changed his clothes and went out to see about the gas. He had them pump some into his jar so he could look at it and smell it. It was a little higher octane than Julie requires but that was OK. Gas acceptable for use in the Baron is either light blue (100 octane), green (100-130) or purple (115-145). We use 100 octane in the US. This fuel was green, which Larry wasn’t used to seeing. It looked a little strange to him but he thought it would be OK. He decided to have 6 of the drums pumped in during the day and do the last one at 7 PM the following evening when the temperatures had cooled a little. Gasoline expands in the heat and more of it can fit into the tanks when it is cooler. With the next leg being 2,104 nautical miles (2,420 statute miles), we needed to fit in all of the fuel we could.
I waited in the terminal while Larry, Ketia, her brother and another helper pumped in that precious stuff. There was a nice breeze blowing in the door but it must have been very hot out on the tarmac pumping the gas.
Flying in, we could see that the water was a gorgeous color--aqua marine and turquoise. There were rows and rows of palm trees. It looked like an island paradise from the air.
They finished pumping the gas in about 45 minutes. I was surprised as it had taken much longer in Guam. Larry said they had a much better pump and Ketia could really crank. Ketia and her brother drove us to the hotel. The name of the hotel is Otin Tai which means sunrise. It was rather primitive but it at least it had air conditioning. It is the best hotel on the island and was probably nice about 40 or 50 years ago. At least we had a bed to sleep in and the bath was in the room and not down the hall.
We sat at one of the tables in the outdoor restaurant and Larry paid Ketia for the gas. As he was counting out the hundred dollar bills, one of the waitresses walked by and stopped at the table. She probably had never seen so much money. Larry explained to her that he was purchasing gasoline for our airplane so she wouldn’t get some other idea of what was transpiring.
In the shower was a small pail and I asked Larry what he thought that was for. He thought it was to put over the drain to keep little critters from crawling through the drain holes. We found out later, however, that it was to fill with water to flush the toilet whenever the hotel water was periodically turned off. Some people on the island would be very happy to have a toilet at all. We found out later that most don’t have plumbing in their homes and unfortunately, they use the ocean instead.
When we sat down for dinner, we noticed a man sitting by himself so we invited him to join us. His name was Paul and he was from New Zealand. He was working in Bonriki for the New Zealand government.
The economy in Bonriki is not good at all. The island is really a coral reef so there isn’t any soil. Nothing much can grow there. There are a few breadfruit trees for the islanders’ own consumption. There are also coconut palms from which they make copra and they do export some of the copra, which is used to make rope. Fishing could be a major industry but years ago, Japan and Australia came in with major fishing companies. The government sold off many of the fishing rights and it now receives money from them. The companies employ about 1500 men but do not pay very well. The fees for licensing are not nearly as much as the government could make if they had retained the fishing rights for themselves.
They would like to have manufacturing companies there, like clothing, furniture, shoes, etc., but there are few management personnel and running a business is very difficult. They have started a few cottage industries so, hopefully, they will grow. The government is also trying to encourage manufacturing companies from Australia and New Zealand to set up subsidiaries there and hire locals.
One wonders why anyone would settle there in the first place, being it is so difficult to make a living. However, there are about 25,000 people on that little island which makes it the most heavily populated island per square mile in the South Pacific.
With some reluctance, we ordered lobster and fish for dinner. Paul said it was safe because it was caught well offshore. He had ordered it the night before and didn’t have any problems.
Paul told us he had a rental car and that, if we would like, we could drive him to work in the morning and then use his car to tour the island. That very generous of him. We accepted his offer, said good night and said we would see him in the morning.
Saturday, July 30--A day in Kiribati
We awoke at 6 AM and went to breakfast around 7:15. Breakfast was corn flakes and boxed milk. We thought that was safe. We could have ordered eggs, etc., but we are not into that kind of breakfast anyway.
We met Paul in the lobby and he drove us to his office. There is only one main road in Bonriki with houses and small stores along both sides of the roadway. It is actually a series of small, narrow islands connected by causeways. Most of the time, you can see the water on both sides of the road. A Japanese company owns the longest causeway that connects to the last island. It costs 20 cents (in Australian coins). Paul even gave change for us for the toll because we did not have the proper currency.
We were soon off on our drive. The houses were not much more than shacks, although, once in a while we saw a nicer one built with concrete blocks. Some of the homes had corrugated metal roofs and the people could collect rain water runoff in buckets. Others had wells but those had a high salt content. Most of the people were very poor but they didn’t consider themselves to be. They seemed to be very happy.
There is a high percentage of people who leave the island for higher education and become technicians, doctors, nurses, etc. Most of those who get a degree don’t return to the island, so there is a shortage of doctors and nurses on the island. There is a hospital with only about 8 doctors working in it. The people have to go to the hospital to see a doctor as they are the only doctors on the entire island. 8 Doctors for 25,000 people!
We drove to the end of the island and then turned around and went back the opposite way until we came to the end of the road. It ended shortly after passing the airport which is on the only wide part of the island.
The airport was quite busy so there must have been a plane landing. We were surprised to see so many people. When we had arrived the previous day, no passengers were around at all. Talk about security, it was a joke there. There was a fence around the airport but it had many large gaps in it. Some people lived on the other side of the airport and instead of driving around it, they took a short cut through the openings in the fence and drove right across the runway. We saw trucks and motorcycles driving and even people walking across the runway. Of course, anyone could walk right up to where Julie is parked but there was a security guard to keep watch. Larry said that Fred had warned him to be careful when we took off as there might be people or vehicles crossing the runway. Larry had wondered what he meant by that--but now we certainly knew.
On our drive, we saw naked children in the street, people hopping on and off vans which are the local busses, dogs in the street, pigs in yards, children in school uniforms waiting for a ride and mothers out with the children. It was all very noisy and busy but we gained an appreciation for the island and its people.
We stopped at a couple of small food stores and bought some food for our next day’s flight-- peanut butter, jam, crackers, candy bars, cookies and potato chips (for healthy? meals). We were set for breakfast, lunch and dinner on the plane. Almost everything the islanders eat is imported from New Zealand as they can grow very little on the island.
After lunch, we drove the car back to pick up Paul. It turned out, however, he had to go to the far end of the island and he gave us the option of taking a bus back. We had thought it would be fun to ride the local busses so we decided to do that. We stood out by the road and soon one stopped. A couple of people got off and we hopped on. Although it had looked like we were the only ones waiting, suddenly several others materialized from nowhere and got on as well. The busses are vans that normally seat around 10-12 people but they had extra bench seating on the sides to hold about 15-20. We sat on the side on a board which was located over the boom box speaker. The driver had some island music playing so we swayed along with the bus and the music.
When we got on the bus, a woman with a box of about 3 fish also got on behind us. Who knows how long those fish had been in that box already but hopefully, she had just purchased them from the local fish company. Wouldn’t you know it! She sat right next to me. Along with the fish, there were a lot of flies in the box as well. Everyone opened the windows and, as we picked up speed, the flies were soon out of the bus. Along the way, people would shout out their intent when they wanted to get off. A woman sitting by the door collected the money as the person would exit. It was a fun experience and we got to see some of the local color.
One problem was that the bus stopped for gas. As soon as it stopped, the flies were back on that box of fish. Fortunately, she had moved away from me somewhere along the way so it was not too bad. However, the flies also flew around and tried to land on us. A few stops later, she got off the bus and the problem was gone.
In the afternoon, we spent some time in our room. I sat out on our little balcony overlooking the lagoon. Larry worked on programming the hand held GPS and then on our website story. This island did have telephones but few of them worked. And computer service--forget it! I wondered if many of the people had ever seen a computer. We would wait to publish our website when we reached Honolulu. I was anxious to leave Bonriki but not looking forward to spending 13 hours in the plane!
Larry left around 6:30 to wait for Ketia and her brother. They were going to take Larry to top off the tanks with the last drum of Avgas. As quickly as the fueling had gone the previous day, we didn’t think it would take very long.
While I was waiting, I was walking around the room when I noticed something lying on the floor by the door. It was Paul’s business card. On the back, he had written his good wishes and a bon voyage for a good flight and slipped it under the door. Too bad he had not knocked on the door. I would like to have said goodbye personally.
Larry thought he would be back around 8:00 or 8:15. I started wondering about him at 8:30 and he knocked at the door at 8:45. Ketia was 10 minutes late picking him up and then they couldn’t find the guard at the airport to let them in. Of course, they could have simply driven around to the side and easily entered through one of the gaps in the fence but that would be illegal. After filling one wing, the pump broke and they had to crank it very slowly and prime it often for it to work at all.
We hurried to dinner before they closed the dining room. We were the only ones there as everyone else had already eaten. Dinner was lobster soup, chicken chop suey (me), tuna (Larry) and, of course, ice cream for dessert. Just as with airline pilots, we thought it would be best if we had different entrees.
Ketia had tried to call me when they arrived at the hotel but our phone wasn’t working and she couldn’t reach me. She had made a blouse for me. It was a typical top that I noticed a lot of the island women wearing. She also gave me a woven purse and a shell necklace to both of us. I am sorry that I couldn’t have thanked her personally but I later sent her thank you note.
We finally went to bed around 10:00 but it was Friday night and there was very loud music coming from a night club across the street. We could hear the strong bass beat very loudly in our room. At 12:15, the music was still going strong. Around 1:50 it was still going. About 10 minutes later, however, it stopped. I didn’t get much sleep that night.
Saturday, July 31—Bonriki to Honolulu
Our alarm went off at 4 AM. We were in the lobby checking out by 4:30. Hotels usually use computers but when our bill was prepared, it was written out with carbon paper. I didn’t think anyone used carbon paper anymore.
When we walked into the lobby, a young man was slumped in a chair sound asleep. The night security guard tried to wake him and send him on his way but he was really gone
and hardly moved. I’m sure he was left over from the party and that is as far as he got. I thought he added to the local color.
Larry thought he had made arrangements for a taxi to pick us up for the airport but no one was there. He asked the girl behind the desk if she could call for a taxi. I don’t know if she misunderstood or what but there was still no taxi in sight. Larry finally got through to the girl that we needed someone to take us to the airport because a government official was going to arrive at precisely 5:00 and we needed to be there. Within a few minutes a car pulled up with the manager of the hotel behind the wheel.
Just as he was pulling up, the lights went out. We were told that the electric company performs maintenance occasionally and they do it early in the morning when not many people are up. They probably pick Saturday morning because most people are still asleep from partying on Friday night. It was really dark. We put our luggage in the trunk by flashlight. It was rather eerie driving down the road as the car headlights were the only lights we could see anywhere.
When we arrived at the airport, it took a few minutes to find the security guard. Finally they found the guard and he let us in. The agent for immigration was there and ready for us to sign his form. We had to sign it and pay our fee by flashlight. He asked about the customs agent (who wasn’t there) and we said that maybe we had already filled everything out for him. Although we thought that was unlikely, we didn’t want to have to wait around for him.
It was still very dark when we walked out to the plane. We put our luggage aboard and Larry did the preflight by flashlight. We waited about 10-15 minutes for it to get a little light before taking off. Just before we climbed into the plane, I saw a light coming across the tarmac moving at a pretty good clip. We soon saw that it was a motorcycle and on it was the customs agent. He was in civilian clothes with bare feet. Maybe his alarm clock didn’t go off because of the power outage. Anyway, he said we had to go back to the terminal and sign some papers. So back we went. We not only had to sign a form but also pay him a fee of $47.50. He gave us a copy and it was a good thing we had that form. When we landed in Honolulu it was one of the forms they required.
Back out to the plane and by this time it was getting a lighter. We were finally airborne around 6:10. Larry called for clearance but no one answered. When we landed, the air traffic controller had told us she would be there. Maybe her alarm clock didn’t go off, either, or possibly there was no electricity in the tower. Larry figured he would call San Francisco on the HF radio and get the clearance after we were airborne.
Shortly after take off, we saw some red in the sky from the sun. That was pretty much all of what we saw of the sunrise because we were in a dense cloud cover. Soon we were at 11,000 feet and flying smooth and level. Larry tried over and over to reach San Francisco, the controlling authority of Pacific airspace, but because there was a heavy overcast, he couldn’t reach them. He also tried to call another plane, hoping that they could relay our position, but there wasn’t any answer. There probably was not even another plane in our area. It is a very lonely feeling when talking on the radio and there is no answer.
Flying without a clearance is a very serious matter anywhere in the world, but it is even more of a problem when entering US airspace. There are very specific regulations requiring radio communication and estimates for each checkpoint.
About an hour after takeoff, Larry got out our satellite phone and called Fred in N. Las Vegas. Fred was out of his office and we got his answering machine. Larry left a message telling our position and problem about not being able to reach San Francisco. Somewhat jokingly, he asked Fred for advice to keep us out of jail. With that, he thought there wasn’t anything else he could do and concentrated on other things. One was having breakfast. I looked in my food bag and found some coconut cookies. That was our breakfast.
For some reason, I usually became very sleepy on the plane. Quite often it seemed that, as soon as we were airborne, my eyes would want to close (maybe having to get up so early had something to do with that). This time was no exception but, with all the apprehension of not reaching anyone on the radio, I stayed awake. However, after eating a few cookies, I relaxed and fell asleep.
After about another hour, I heard Larry talking on the satellite phone to Fred. Fred had received our message and had passed it along to San Francisco by phone. They had activated our clearance so at least we were now legal. They told Fred that they were having difficulty in that area of the Pacific and that we should keep trying to contact them. What a great relief!
The sky was so beautiful with different shades of blue and white puffy clouds. The first 4 or 5 hours seemed to fly by (pun intended). It may have been because of the communication problems but Larry thought it was that I had slept through them. For lunch, we had peanut butter and jam on crackers. We had tried to buy bread in Bonriki but I think everyone must bake their own because none of the little stores carried it. The crackers we bought were about 3” in length, oval shaped and about a quarter inch thick. They tasted something like shortbread and weren’t too bad.
There wasn’t an island to be seen all day. It was water, water everywhere!!! Of course, we had to use the auxiliary tanks and every time one would empty and the engine would flutter, I would gasp. I told myself I wouldn’t do that the next time but it was an automatic reaction, just like it was an automatic reaction for Larry to turn on the fuel boost pumps and turn the main valves on. By that time, the engines would be back to normal and he could reach around to the back of his seat and turn off the auxiliary tank valve. He assured me that, if the engines totally quit at 11,000’, we would have at least 11 minutes to get them started again before we would hit the water. But I couldn’t help it.
If we didn’t need all of the fuel from the tanks, we could have turned them off before they were empty. However, that would have left several gallons of gas in each tank. There are too many stories of planes running out of gas when there was still gas in their tanks for us to do that. There was no alternative.
Later in the day, we had a candy bar for a snack and then peanut butter and jam on crackers for dinner. Hardly gourmet food! I would check the GPS and the moving map on the Multi Function Display once in a while and look at our estimated time of arrival. I tried not to look too often, however, as I thought if I were to keep looking, it wouldn’t change. Also, the moving map showed only blue (water) and that did not move at all. When we were about 3 hours out of Honolulu, I was getting very anxious to get there. A little later I looked at the ETA again and it read 3 1/2 hours. Oh wow, we were going backward. Actually, the headwind had increased. It slowed the plane somewhat and extended our arrival time. There wasn’t anything we could do about it but to keep on flying.
Around 7:30, a full moon came up on the right side of the plane. It was gorgeous. It made a bright path on the ocean and lit up the clouds. On the left side of the plane, the sun was setting. The sunset caused the clouds on our left to glow and a streak of red appeared. We saw both the sunrise and sunset on this flight. That was a looong flight!
I think that maybe the lights of Honolulu were an even more magnificent sight. We could see them from about 90 miles out. They were certainly a very welcome sight after looking at nothing but water for 13 hours. There are two runways, a longer one with an ILS approach and a shorter one with only a visual approach. Larry was all set up for the instrument approach to the long runway. When we were within range of landing, the approach controller directed us to land on the runway without the ILS approach as he also had a jetliner coming in. Larry told him that we had been flying for 13 1/2 hours and he would sure appreciate the other runway. With that, we were instructed to land on the long runway and he gave the jetliner another heading. Larry kept the power up, however, so the jetliner wouldn’t have to go out too far. Also, we were ready to get on the ground. It was another most wonderful landing! Larry said he would rather be lucky than good—but he could not have been that lucky!
Every time we landed, several government agents and ground handlers would come out to meet our plane and Honolulu was no exception. There were custom agents, immigration agents, agriculture agents and our ground handlers (maybe around 7 or 8 total). We had some of the forms already filled out and one of the forms asked what foreign countries had we visited. On the back, I had listed all 17 countries. When I showed them the list and that we had traveled nearly around the world, they all were very surprised. It seemed as if things went much faster after that. Being back in the states, we had to fill out a declaration form with the amount of what we had spent on souvenirs, etc., on our trip. The customs agent looked at it and never asked to see our luggage or anything else.
One thing that was very strange was that we had left Bonriki on Saturday, the 31st of July and when we landed, it was Friday, the 30th. On this leg we flew over a waypoint called Neils and, in doing so, we crossed the International Date Line. We didn’t know what date to put on the forms but finally decided on the 30th.
Our handling agent called a taxi for us and, when all the government officials were finished, our taxi pulled right up to our airplane. They quickly put our luggage in the trunk and we were soon on our way to our hotel. When we were about 2 blocks from our hotel, the driver pointed out a Haagan Dazs ice cream store. I knew right then where we were going after we checked in.
Sure enough, when we got to our room, we changed clothes and were out on the street headed for the Haagan Dazs. By that time, it was 10:00 at night but you wouldn’t know it by all the people on the streets. The ice cream tasted extra good because it was nice to be finished with that long flight. The darkness, the communication problems and all that water were all behind us. There would be only one more long one to go.
It was so good to be on the ground and back in the states (even though we weren’t on the mainland yet.) Our regular cell phone even worked and we could call home to Florida without an extra charge.
We finally crawled into bed around midnight. What a day! And the next day, we would get to live Saturday all over again.
Saturday, July 31--Saturday again! A day in Honolulu
We slept well and got up around 7:45 AM. After breakfast, Larry had some paper work to attend to and then we headed out to the beach and the shops. The water was a gorgeous aqua color near shore and became a much deeper blue farther out as the water became deeper. We sat and watched the water and all of the activity for a while. The number of people who were out in the water swimming, surfing or just playing was amazing. There were also many small boats in the middle of all that. It’s a wonder there weren’t any collisions.
Later, we had lunch at a Sheraton Hotel out by the pool. About 20 years ago, Larry, Sandi and I stayed at this Sheraton for about a week. I recalled Larry and Sandi swimming in the surf on the beach there. The hotel looked about the same as I had remembered it but I was sure it had been updated it since then.
We did some more walking after lunch and then went back to our room. Larry worked on our website and I read some tourist information about Honolulu. I also read about a restaurant that sounded like a great place for dinner. We made a reservation for 6:30.
Sometimes when you read about a place and see the pictures, it looks and sounds great. Then, when you actually see it, you are disappointed. Well, this restaurant was actually better than advertised. It was totally open on the ocean side and had a wonderful ambiance. The ocean came to within 50 feet of the restaurant. We asked the waiter if the water had ever come right up to the building but he said that he had never seen it that close.
We sat in a cozy little corner but still had a spectacular view. The dinner was excellent. Seafood, of course. It was so great not to be concerned if the food was bad. That had been a major concern on this trip but we enjoyed this meal immensely.
When we returned to the hotel, we looked in the phone book to see if we could find a church to attend the next day. We found a church called Kaimuki Christian Church and the service started at 10:30.
Sunday, August 1--Last day in Honolulu
We awoke earlier--around 6:30 AM and got ready and went down to breakfast. At 10:00, we took a taxi to the church. The service was a more contemporary one with the words of the praise songs projected on the front wall of the sanctuary. The pastor spoke on James 1:12-18 “Yield not to temptation” or “Don’t go ridin’ on that Long Black Train.” He was an interesting speaker and we enjoyed the service.
The woman who sat in front of us was originally from Dallas. Her husband was a pilot for Japan Airlines. She had a brother living in Port St. John, Florida, just up the road from where we live. Holiday Builders has built many homes there and we thought it would be interesting if her brother lived in one of our homes. She gave each of us a lei. Some of the women in the church had made them for the visitors to wear. It was a nice touch. She was very friendly and we talked for quite a while after the service.
The taxi driver was waiting for us when we came out of the church and he drove us back to the hotel. After changing our clothes, we went to lunch and then took Little Red and Ms Ellie to the beach. They wanted to try their hands (or feet) at surfing. We “borrowed” a surf board and took pictures of them sitting on it. They decided that was enough surfing for them because they realized you could actually get wet doing that type of thing. We also took some pictures of them sitting on a wall with the ocean in the background. They looked so cute in their Hawaiian Leis. We then walked around the area and bought a few souvenirs. Back in the room, we published Little Red and Ms Ellie’s photo on the website.
We had planned to have our usual Sunday night pizza dinner but just before we got to the pizza place that had been recommended, we saw Chuck’s Cellar. This was the original Chuck’s Steak House that was started in 1959. Ever since we had eaten at the one in Guam, and knowing Chuck had started the chain in Honolulu, Larry had been wondering, if there was still a Chuck’s in Honolulu. I said it was fate. Forget the pizza. We could do that anytime.
The restaurant was downstairs so down we went. We were not disappointed. The walls were paneled in a dark wood and there were booths all around that looked cozy and inviting. A jazz pianist was playing soft music in the background. The dinner was yummy with a salad bar and thick juicy steaks. The place certainly had a lot of atmosphere and character. It made us miss that Chuck’s in Melbourne Beach all the more.
After dinner, we walked along a sidewalk next to the beach. Honolulu is a busy place. Many people cruise the streets and stroll along the sidewalk at all hours of the day or night. It was another beautiful night and we sat on a bench to enjoy all of it.
Monday, August 2—Honolulu to Hilo
We didn’t have to wake up early but we did anyway at 6 AM. We left for the airport around 9:00 and went to Air Service Hawaii, our FBO. We refueled, loaded the plane and were off for Hilo at 10:34. It was just a hop, skip and jump over there, our shortest leg yet.
It was rather cloudy over the Big Island but not bad over the airport. We landed at 11:40. We taxied in and parked by Air Service Hawaii’s Hilo office and were met by 2 of their agents and also a US agricultural agent. We didn’t have any food with us as it was such a short flight but that was their interest. Pineapples are OK but everything else is taboo.
Larry made arrangements to have the oil changed while we were there. He planned to go back to refuel the day before departure. That would be the last time we would need to use the auxiliary tanks. Only one more long leg!
An interesting situation arose when Larry tried to pay the airport fee. Usually, there are no fees for landing or staying overnight at US airports but Hilo was an exception. The ground handling agent drove him across the field to the commercial terminal to find the amount of the fee and then to pay it. They entered the office from the airport side. After inquiring at 3 different offices, the fee was set and they went back to the first office to pay it. The head of airport security told the agent that Larry would not be allowed to walk back through the door by which they had entered without an airport security badge. When the security officer was informed that they had just entered by that door, he said that it didn’t matter. The agent would be permitted to leave by that door but, if Larry did, he would have to arrest both of them.
Neither of them wanted to be arrested so the agent drove around to the public side of the terminal, picked up Larry and they drove back to the hangar around the outside the field. After all that, one of the men drove us to our hotel.
We had a dandy room (a suite, actually) with a bedroom, living room and bath. It was on a corner and had large sliding glass doors to a wrap-around balcony on two sides. It was right on the water with outstanding views.
We settled in and went out looking for a place for lunch. It was around 2:00 by this time and the dining room at the hotel was closed. We were told of a good place next door. It was an unusual little general store with food service. We each had a good American meal--hot dog, potato chips and a Coke. We picked up brochures and booklets on things to do in Hilo. I looked through them back at the hotel while Larry caught up on paper work.
It started to rain around 5 PM. It rains more than half of the days on that side of the island and it is dry and desert-like on the other side. Hilo is an island of many contrasts.
We had dinner at the hotel because we did not yet have a car to go into town--and wouldn’t know where to go if we had one. The restaurant had sliding glass doors to completely open it to the outdoors but that night they where closed due to the rain. By the time we finished dinner, however, the rain had stopped so we took a walk around the resort grounds before going back to the room.
Tuesday, August 3--A day in Hilo
We awoke around 6:30. After breakfast, we called the rental car agency. While we were waiting for them to pick us up, we heard a man playing the piano in the lobby. He played an assortment of old and new songs. He was very talented and his music sounded very good. When he was finished, he walked by us and Larry asked him if he played at the hotel. He said he was between gigs and was just trying to keep in practice. As well as he could play, we are sure someone hired him soon.
The rental car company sent someone to our hotel to drive us to their agency. We picked up our car and the first thing we did was go to a Laundromat. I washed just about every one of our clothes. We had them washed in Manila and then I did a lot of hand washing along the way but it was so nice to have all of our clothes totally clean again.
After doing the laundry, we drove north out of town along a very scenic drive. When we started, we were in a rain forest with trees and very thick bushes on both sides of the road. There was every shade of green you can think of and then some. Also, there were flame trees occasionally to add brilliant color to the mix. The orange flowers in the trees were gorgeous. We stopped at a scenic overlook and could see the surf below crashing on the rocks. What a spectacular sight! Unfortunately, that portion of the drive was only 4 miles long and it was over much too soon.
The road led away from the ocean after that so, about a half an hour later, we decided to turn around. We went back and took the scenic drive again in the opposite direction. We had seen a restaurant along the way and decided to go back there for lunch. The restaurant was called “What’s Shakin’?” They had very good food and wonderful smoothies. When we left, it started to rain. We stopped at a waterfall but it was raining quite hard by this time so we drove to the next point of interest called The Boiling Pots. Unfortunately, it was still raining and we had only one umbrella with us (the other one was back in the room). We decided to take turns walking to a spot where we could see the Wailuku River and Rainbow Falls. The waterfalls were spectacular so it was worth walking through the rain and getting a little wet!
When we arrived back at the hotel, there were 2 FedEx packages for Larry. One from Vince and the other from a chart supply company. Vince sent Larry, among other things, a DVD of the German Grand Prix race in Hockenheim. He also sent the update cards for the GPS and MFD. The charts were for navigation in the western US. We would need them to fly to Santa Barbara. Later, we went to downtown Hilo to a restaurant called Café Pesto for pizza. It was a really nice place and the pizza was delicious. We walked around town some and then drove back to the hotel. Larry finished watching the German Grand Prix on the computer. I sat there and looked at the lights on the hillside across the water.
Wednesday, August 4--Another great day in Hilo
The morning was beautiful and clear and we could see the mountain top across the bay from our balcony. It had always been under clouds before. What a gorgeous sight! The mountain is called Mauna Kea (White Mountain). They do get snow on top of that mountain occasionally and people can ski on it but I think the name comes from the clouds that are usually around it.
Around 10 AM, we left and our first stop was the airport. Larry paid the bill for the oil change and then we were off to the Volcano National Park. It was a different mountain than the one we could see from our room and it was extremely interesting. Mount Kilauea had a major eruption in 1983 and lava has been flowing from it ever since. 560 acres have been added to the island since 1983.
We first went to the visitor’s center and read about the area. From there, we drove around the Rim Road. We were amazed that we could drive around the rim of an active volcano. You could stop along the way and walk right up to an area where volcanic smoke was coming out of the ground. It has a high sulfuric content so you had to be careful you didn’t inhale it. There were signs around warning people with breathing problems not to get too close.
Later, we drove down Craters Road, built in the 60’s. In April of 2003, lava flowed over the road closing it to traffic. However, you can climb right over the hardened lava and walk out to where it is still flowing. The view of the ocean was amazing when we walked down to the edge of a volcanic cliff. There was a lava wall built right on the edge, about a hundred feet above the Pacific. We stood and looked over the edge. It was breathtaking!
We left the park around 6 PM and headed back to Hilo. Dinner was at a restaurant in a building that was originally a bank in the early 20’s. The vault is now the wine cellar. It was a delightful place.
Thursday, August 5--Last day in Hilo
After breakfast, Larry had some phone calls to make about our next flight. Around 10 AM, we left for town to see the Tsunami Museum. A tsunami is a gigantic wave or series of waves caused by an earthquake, volcanic eruption or similar phenomenon. Hawaii has been hit by several of them throughout history. A really bad one hit in 1946 and the last one was in 1960. There are people still living who remember the one in 1946. We saw a video with some of their stories.
Tsunamis can travel at up to 500 MPH and come from thousands of miles away. They travel completely under the water’s surface until they reach land. Boats on the surface along the way are not affected in any way and are not aware of the problem. The first wave comes in and when it retreats, it takes a lot of the sea back with it, leaving a large empty beach with fish flopping around. That happened in 1946. People were not educated about tsunamis and kids ran down to the beach to catch the fish, not aware of the coming danger. Many people perished because they were on the beach when the next wave hit. The buildings on Hilo’s waterfront were wiped out along with many of the houses. One interesting story was that a teacher from Iowa was rescued by a guy with whom she was to have a date with that night. They later married.
Lunch was at Canoe’s Café--a cute little place. We bought some rolls, peanut butter, jelly and apple turnovers for our next day’s flight.
Larry left the hotel around 3:00 to refuel the plane. I thought there would be no problem this time. There was a truck to pump the fuel so they would not have to hand pump it from drums. I thought he would be back around 4:30 or 5:00 at the latest. Well, it was 5:45 and still no Lar. When he finally returned around 6:15, his story this time was that they simply waited until it was cooler to fit the most fuel possible into the tanks. This would be our longest leg of the trip so we would need all we could get. However, he also had enjoyed talking aviation with the guys at the airport.
It was a good steak dinner at the hotel and then off to bed.
Friday, August 6—Hilo to Santa Barbara, CA
It was an early wake up at 4:00 AM and a drive to the airport by 4:30. We arrived at the gate and an agent from agriculture was there. He opened the gate for us. We signed his papers by flashlight as it was still very dark. Two men from security drove up to the gate and said something about us being in already. Larry said that the agent had let us in and were they going to arrest him? They laughed and said he was their boss.
The Agricultural agent mentioned that there used to be a lot of pilots flying to and from California but many had crashed at some point in time. He concluded that they had become complacent after making the trip several times and neglected some detail which did them in. We promised that our preparation had been very thorough so he need not be concerned about us.
We walked to the plane, packed our stuff and, after preflight, we were off at 5:20 AM. The sky was just getting a little light when we lifted off so the timing was perfect. Larry called for our flight clearance and we were soon on the HF radio. This time the sky was clear with no overcast and we were able to get through to San Francisco all along the way with no problem at all. There are many commercial flights between California and Hawaii so it would have been very easy to have someone relay our reports if we had any problem.
When we took off, we had to detour around one cloud but from then on, the sky was clear. There were clouds below but none at our altitude the entire rest of the way. About every hour, Larry had to call in our position. It was my job to change the HF to the correct frequency whenever it was required. It is a pretty complicated procedure. You first have to dial in thousands, then press a button to change to hundreds and then finally, for single numbers. To make it more difficult, the dial is extremely sensitive. Once the correct frequency is dialed in, you have to press another button to lock it in or it will wander. On top of all that, half of the time we couldn’t reach anyone and we had to do that all over again for another frequency—or two—or three, and sometimes even go back to the first one before we could get through.
The flight was smooth but loooong. Twelve and a half hours later, we were landing in Santa Barbara. We saw the sunset from the air but it was still dusk when we landed. In California, quite often the clouds are over the ocean and not the land. That is the opposite of most places. It is due to the ocean being much colder than the land. Fog also forms over the ocean and moves inland. The fog already had crossed the shore and was headed for the airport as we approached. We raced it in—and won. The FBO had just closed so there was no one to park us. We taxied to right in front of the office and parked ourselves.
We climbed out of the plane and no one was there to inspect our plane or examine our luggage or have us fill out forms or pay any fees. How different from all the other countries we visited. The difference was that we had flown from one US airport to another, even though they were nearly 2,500 Statute miles apart. The door to the office was unlocked so we walked in. We were filling out the fuel request when the night attendant walked in. Larry had called ahead to let them know we would be arriving a little late so they were expecting us. The attendant said several other airplanes would be arriving in the morning so they would relocate our Baron. That was not a problem because we always locked the plane and left the brakes off for that possible event.
When Larry had called, the person at the FBO had mentioned The Pilot’s Motel which was right next door. They said we could walk to it. We found it without any trouble but the sign said, “No Vacancy.” We rang the bell anyway and when the girl came to the window, she said we were in luck because they had just received a cancellation. However, when we saw the room, we wondered if we were “in luck”. It may have been a nice place 50 or more years ago but I don’t think they had done anything to it since. Oh well, it was a bed and the sheets were clean—and we were tired!
We were hungry so we walked over to the airport terminal. Unfortunately, the restaurant had already closed. We asked a security guard if there were any other restaurants close by. He said the nearest one was about 5 miles away. The rental car agency was still open so we decided to rent a car and drove into town. The first place we saw was a McDonald’s. It was around 10 PM by this time so anything would do. We had a quick bite and then drove back to the motel without getting lost.
Saturday, August 7--A day in Santa Barbara
We walked to the airport restaurant for breakfast. The terminal resembled a Spanish Mission. The restaurant was upstairs and they gave us a table looking out on the runway. How appropriate! It was a busy little airport with American and Delta planes arriving and departing very frequently.
After breakfast, we went back to the room and, while Larry worked on our Honolulu-Hilo story for the website, I called other hotels in town to see if we could get a room somewhere else. One of the places I called said they would have to check and would call me back. When she called back of course, she got the Pilot’s Motel. She asked how we ever ended up there. She said we must have been “desperado”. I laughed and said it was a long story, thanked her for calling and that in the meantime I had been able to find another room. That was good because she had called to tell me they were full.
We found a room at the Sandpiper Lodge. We felt quite fortunate to find another place because there was a fiesta celebration (Old Spanish Days) in Santa Barbara that weekend. In Hawaii, we had tried to use the internet to book a room but they all showed full because of the fiesta. That is the reason we went to the Pilot’s Motel in the first place.
Check out time was 11 AM so after packing up, we drove out to find the Sandpiper. It was only about 10 minutes from the airport and much closer to downtown. The room wasn’t ready so we parked the car in their lot and took a bus downtown. After riding for a while on the regular bus, we jumped off and hopped on a cute little trolley. The trolley stopped at a place that looked like a good place for lunch so we hopped off. We found a nice restaurant with outside tables. Afterward, we walked the few blocks to the beach. Many booths were set up for an arts and crafts show. It was fun walking along and looking at all the items for sale, especially with everyone in such a festive mood.
About 37 years ago, after Larry came back from Viet Nam, he and I went on a 2 month trip all around the US in our little red Corvette. We stayed in Santa Barbara in a hotel across the street from the ocean. We paid $40 for a very nice suite with an ocean view and we thought we were really splurging. I called that place that morning to see if they possibly had a room available. The clerk said the only room available was an ocean view suite for $650 a night. Whew, times have certainly changed! We saw the hotel on our walk and even found the room where we had stayed (from the outside). It was a nice place but I don’t think we would pay $650 today.
After walking around and seeing all the booths, we climbed aboard the trolley to head back to the hotel. A few blocks along, Larry spotted a Stone Cold ice creamery so we hopped off and bought ice cream cones. They mixed the flavors into the ice cream while we watched. They were delicious! We walked from there to the bus depot and caught a bus back to the Sandpiper. Travel certainly was much slower than the day before.
Larry published our story on the website. We received quite a few e-mails from family and friends saying they were glad (and relieved) to hear we had made it to California and that our long leg was over. We were quite glad too. Although there still were some legs to cover, the hard parts of the trip were behind us.
We then walked across the street from the hotel to a little Mexican restaurant for dinner.
Sunday, August 8--Our last day in Santa Barbara
With it being Sunday morning, we found a local Presbyterian church to worship. The people were very friendly. The music was contemporary, played by a small band with a drummer. Afterward, two elderly ladies seated behind us asked how we enjoyed the service. Larry told them it was much like our Chapel-by-the-Sea in Melbourne Beach. One of the ladies asked proudly, “Do you have a drummer?” He admitted that we did not but we were happily surprised at her “mod” attitude.
We drove back to the hotel, changed our clothes and took a drive up the Pacific Coast. We found a Mexican restaurant for lunch in a little beach town along the way.
It was a nice drive. There were mountains along most of the way but they were mostly brown (California green). The road ran along the ocean for a while and that was very scenic. On the way back, we stopped at a grocery store to buy a few things for breakfast for an early start in the morning and then returned to the hotel for a rest.
A few blocks away was Rusty’s Pizza Parlor for our usual Sunday night pizza. It was an easy walk.
Monday, August 9, Santa Barbara, CA to N. Las Vegas, NV
We awoke at 6 AM and arrived at the airport at 6:50. After turning in the rental car, we walked to Mercury Air and Larry paid for the fuel. We packed the plane, preflighted, taxied out and we were off at 7:24. Departure Control vectored us out over water for about 15 minutes before we were back over land and headed for Las Vegas. It was quite different to see land below us instead of blue water. The land was very brown and dry. There were occasional small villages, farmland and mountains along the way.
After only about an hour and 15 minutes, we saw Las Vegas. There were houses sprawled out from the city in every direction. It was so hot and brown, I could not imagine living there. After landing and parking, I opened the door and was greeted by a blast of hot air. Whew! It was 106 degrees!
We checked in at the FBO desk, picked up a rental car and drove to the Hampton Inn.
After settling in, Larry finished the Hilo to Santa Barbara story and published it on the website. We went to lunch and while we were at the restaurant, Fred called on the cell phone. He and his wife came and joined us for lunch. Afterward, he said he would head to the airport to take out the gas tanks and put the seats back in. He called later, however, and said it was just too hot! He decided to get up early and work on it in the cooler early morning temperatures.
Larry called Steve Koontz, his old flight school buddy, to see if we could get together. His wife, Jean, was in Argentina visiting their son and his wife. We met Steve later and checked out a couple of places with live music. Steve plays the drums and wanted to start a band. We had a nice evening with Steve, good music and Mexican food.
Tuesday, August 10--Our last day in Las Vegas
We slept in until 7:30 AM. Fred called around 8:45 and said the plane would soon be ready and then Larry could come to the airport. There was a laundry room in the hotel so I did some laundry (On a trip like that, you have to do laundry whenever you have the chance). Around 11:00, we drove to a Hungarian restaurant to meet Steve Koontz for lunch. We spent about 2 1/2 hours talking with him.
We went back to the room and Larry called Fred. The plane was finished so Larry went to the airport. The tanks were out, the seats were back in and it looked like it had 3 months earlier. Larry refueled the plane for the next leg and it was ready for the next day.
That night, we had dinner at the Tenaya Creek restaurant, a modern new restaurant in the area. Although we arrived somewhat early, it was packed and we had to wait several minutes for a table. Bright and early the next day, we would fly back to California--but this time to Monterey.
Wednesday, August 11--Las Vegas, NV to Monterey, CA-San Francisco
We landed around 11:30. Our reservation at the hotel in Monterey wasn’t until the following day so we decided to drive to San Francisco and spend the rest of the day and a night there. Once in San Francisco, we checked into a hotel, changed clothes and took off to see the city. Little Red wanted to see Lombard Street, the “crookedest“ street in the world and Ms Ellie wanted to visit Fisherman’s Wharf. Rather than have them continue to argue, we decided to see them both.
It is amazing how steep the streets in San Francisco are, especially coming from Florida. We found Lombard Street and took their pictures there. Then we headed for Fisherman’s Wharf. Of course, when they first saw it, they also had to ride the trolley. We walked around the Wharf for awhile. There were many photo ops but it was quite cold and windy. What a difference from where we had been--HOT Las Vegas and now COLD San Francisco.
We had dinner at Scoma’s. It is one of our favorite restaurants in the whole world. We had Larry’s favorite, dungenous crab, sour dough bread and a little Chardonnay. It was delicious, as always.
Thursday, August 12--Back to Monterey
After a leisurely morning, we drove back to Monterey and checked into the Doubletree Hotel downtown. We would be there for 9 days for the ItaliaFest, Pebble Beach Concours, Historic Races, the National Ferrari Meet and some other events that I cannot remember. There were lots and lots of cars, I know that.
We called our friends, Tedd and Tina Harshaw, on the cell phone. They were driving their Ferrari from Boulder, Colorado and were to meet us at the event. They were running a little behind schedule and would not arrive until later that night so we “settled” for a seafood dinner on Monterey’s Fisherman’s Wharf. The Wharf was directly behind our hotel.
Friday, August 13--ItaliaFest in Monterey
We went to the ItaliaFest and hooked up with Tedd and Tina. It was nice to see them. Wow, what a lot of beautiful cars; over 500 Ferraris plus more than 1000 other cars of Italian heritage. We spent the day looking at all of the gorgeous cars neatly spread out on a large golf course lawn.
It was Fisherman’s Wharf again for dinner—but this time with Tedd and Tina and a different restaurant. It was so great to have all of those wonderful seafood restaurants within walking distance of the hotel.
Another of the featured events was an auction of some of the finest cars in America. It lasted 2 nights. Unfortunately, it took place at our hotel. We enjoyed looking at all of the cars but, when the auction started, there were loudspeakers set up at the front of the Doubletree that blasted the auctioneer’s voice over the entire area. It was right next to our room and it continued until after midnight. We thought we would never be able to sleep but shortly after our heads hit the pillow, we were out and, surprisingly, the sound was not a problem.
Saturday, August 14--A shopping day in Carmel
Tedd picked up Larry early in the morning and they went out to the Laguna Seca racetrack for the Historic Auto Races in Tedd’s Ferrari. I picked up Tina in our rental car and we went shopping in Carmel. Carmel is a really fun little town with lots of quaint shops. We had a great time looking in all the stores. I bought a blue suede jacket. We had lunch at the Hog’s Breath Inn, a colorful little bistro formerly owned by Clint Eastwood. I don’t know who had the better deal—they had the Ferrari but we went shopping. Of course, I was only kidding—I know who had the better deal.
Later that evening, we hooked up with the guys and went out for pizza.
One night was not enough. The auction was back with the speakers as loud as the previous night. The front desk clerk thought it would last until 1 or 2 AM, as long as it took to sell all of the cars. Once again, however, we were asleep with no problem. We couldn’t believe it!
Sunday, August 15--Pebble Beach Concours
This was the day for the Pebble Beach Concours. It is the foremost classic automobile show in the US. The Concours was located on the green lawn of the famous Pebble Beach Golf Course, between the ocean and the clubhouse. It was a spectacular setting! Using cell phones, we hooked up with Tedd and Tina and walked around with them in the morning. Ferrari was the featured marque but there also were spectacular Rolls Royces, Duesenbergs and several brands I had never even heard of. Jay Leno and several other celebrities had cars entered in the show. Our friends, Susan and Jonathan Ciener were showing their Ferrari F-1 race car. The Red Bearon and Ms Ellie wanted their pictures taken in the car so Jonathan placed them in various locations within the car for several photo shots.
Larry and I left around 1:30 and drove to Berkeley, which is back in the San Francisco area. We visited with our friends, Brian, Sarah and Julia Pullen. We hadn’t seen Brian in many years and had never met his wife and daughter. Julia is 3 years old and what a charmer! We went out to dinner with them and had a delightful time. Julia sat on my lap and we drew pictures between bites. Around 8 PM, we left and drove back to our hotel in Monterey.
Monday, August 16--Rally day with the Ferrari Club
It was a beautiful day when we set off on the rally. It took us along the famous 17 Mile Drive and other scenic points from the coastal area through the wine and farm country. The rally ended at the Laguna Seca race track where we had a nice lunch. Later, a pace car led us for a few laps around the track. Even in a rental car, it was still fun being on the track where so many famous racers have driven.
The evening’s dinner took place at the Monterey Aquarium. The aquarium features a live coral reef. It is connected directly to the Pacific and the Kelp moves with the ebb and flow of the ocean waves. It was a lovely setting with all the tanks and displays. The evening was beautiful so we sat outside on a bench with our dinner.
Tuesday, August 17--Ferrari Club Concours
It was a perfect day for the Concours. What a sight with the finest Ferraris in the land spread out across the lawn. Several of our friends from Florida had cars entered in the Concours in expectation of various awards. We have never entered our cars in that level of competition, only at local Florida events. There is far too much preparation work but the main reason is that our cars are “drivers” rather than for show. We (especially Larry) enjoy looking at the show cars, though.
The California Region hosts the National meet every 10 years and they draw more Ferraris than any other region. There were probably more than 1,500 or even more than 2,000 Ferraris in the Monterey area that week. It was the largest gathering of Ferraris ever in the US and second only to Ferrari’s 50 year anniversary celebration in Italy a few years ago.
That night, we met Ted and Tina and 2 other couples from the Colorado Ferrari Region for dinner. The restaurant was Bernardus, normally a half hour drive out in the wine country. There was only a small sign, which we missed, and drove an extra 15 minutes past it so it took us about an hour to find it. It was worth the trip, however, because the road meandered through the mountains. Larry had fun driving through all the turns. I think he may have missed the restaurant sign purposely. The restaurant was set in a large vineyard manor. It goes without saying that the food was scrumptious.
Wednesday, August 18—Ferrari Club Track Day
All of us (Tedd, Tina, Larry and I) went to the track. We walked around and looked at all of the beautiful Ferraris. There were cars of all different types and vintages but the most spectacular ones were the race cars. Some drove too fast and crashed. Two of them each had more than a million dollars damage.
Every National event has an elegant banquet and this was no exception. There were 600 to 800 people in the Doubletree Hotel’s largest ballroom. We sat with Ted and Tina and took in all the festivities. Afterward, we said our good-byes to T and T because they were driving back to Colorado the next day.
Thursday, August 19--Big Sur
We started the day with a drive south along the Big Sur. What gorgeous, majestic scenery! We found a little restaurant for lunch nestled in the cliffs overlooking the Pacific. It was very aptly named the Rocky Point Restaurant and it was exactly what we were looking for. The food was good but the view was spectacular!
After lunch, we drove back to the hotel to prepare for the next day’s flight. We were already accustomed to the excellent customer service in the states. Larry called for the weather briefing and filed his flight plan by phone. The plane had been fueled by the FBO without our even being there and everything would be ready for our flight in the morning.
We broke our usual “Steak at the hotel” habit with a relaxing seafood dinner on Fisherman’s Wharf in Monterey. It was nice to be back in the USA.
Friday, August 20--Monterey, CA to Aspen, CO
In the morning, we checked out of our hotel at a reasonable time and drove to the airport. It was nice not to have to rise before the Sun. We turned in our rental car to the FBO and went out to the plane. There was an overcast but we had an instrument flight plan so it was not a problem. We were soon airborne and on our way to Aspen. The mountains along the coast peaked up through the overcast and it was a beautiful day to fly.
The route into Aspen takes you over several mountain ranges. We had to climb to 15,000’ to clear them be a safe margin. That required the use of our oxygen bottle. It worked fine and finally was used up when we approached Aspen. Although we didn’t need it at the lower altitudes, Larry left it on until we landed. By then, the bottle was totally empty.
The instrument approach into Aspen is very, very steep! It is more than 3 times steeper than the one into Melbourne or most other airports. If the clouds were high enough, we could simply have flown up the valley and it would have been much easier. However, there were broken clouds in the Aspen area and that required the instrument approach.
We started our approach in the clouds, 2,000’ above a Mountain, which meant we were over 6,000’ above the airport elevation. Larry had everything set up and we dropped like a rock for a couple of thousand feet until we broke out of the clouds. The airport was straight ahead but it still required a very steep descent to get there. It wasn’t quite like a Disney ride but not far from it. Larry said that whenever they show a classroom example of a very difficult approach, they usually use Aspen. I can believe it!
Saturday, August 21--A day in Aspen
After breakfast, we caught up on some e-mail and updated the website. Then, we packed some snacks and water and drove to the head of the Rim Trail, which is across the small valley from our condo. We hiked up the Rim Trail, which is up a very windy path about 600’ of elevation. It was a good workout for our fist day and the view across to the Snowmass Ski Area was gorgeous! In the winter, we usually look across at the mountain that we were now climbing so it was a nice change. It was a little overcast and rain threatened at times, but except for a few sprinkles, it held off.
That night we went to the rodeo. The Snowmass Rodeo is the longest continuously running rodeo in the west. Our pastor and his wife from the local chapel both participate. He does calf roping and she does the barrel race. There is a Bar-B-Q dinner and the show is always good. The most hairy is the bull riding. Those cowboys must be insane to get on those big bulls. Then, in no time, they are thrown off and some even are stepped on. All of them limp off to the fence. They can have that!
Sunday, August 22,--Meeting Janet Guthrie
We attended the Snowmass Chapel in the morning. Afterward, we teased the pastor for not roping his calf the previous night. He said the calves were new and too frisky. He has fun trying, though.
A retired Eastern Airline Pilot friend of Larry’s knows Janet Guthrie and her husband Warren, who live in Aspen. He had written Janet, telling her about us and our adventure. Janet e-mailed us and said she would like to meet us while we were in Aspen. We met for lunch downtown at a very nice German restaurant. Janet earned her pilot’s license when she was 17 years old. She flew quite a bit and later instructed. Her degree is in Electrical Engineering but what she is most famous for, is that she was the first woman to drive in the Indianapolis 500 and also the Daytona 500 in the 1970’s. The male drivers weren’t too excited about having a female driver! However, after she showed them how she could drive, they respected her and didn’t cause any major problems on the track. She paved the way for other women to race professionally in later years. Warren is the Chief Pilot for Aspen Aviation. They fly Lear Jets in and out of Aspen to places all over the US. He said that the approach into Aspen was a piece of cake—but Janet looked over at him and said “Well, that’s not what you said when you first started flying it.” It was nice meeting them and we had an enjoyable lunch talking about flying and racing.
Monday, August 23--Another hike
Today we hiked up Aspen Mountain on the “Ute Trail”. It is quite steep. It goes from the side of the Aspen Village up to a place where large rocks jut out and overlook the whole area. It rises over 1200’. That may not seem like a lot but, at 8,000’ of starting elevation where the air is pretty thin, it is quite a challenge. We sat on the rocks and drank in the scenery. The panoramic view was so very beautiful!
After climbing back down, which, with the stones on the path was nearly as difficult as the climb up, we had lunch back in Aspen. Aspen is beautiful in summer with all of the flowers in bloom. When we are there in winter, it is exactly the opposite and totally white.
Tuesday, August 24--Independence Pass
In the morning, we drove out to Independence Pass, on the far side of Aspen. The scenery on both sides of the pass is so spectacular that, no matter how many times we have driven that route, we always have to stop several times along the way and marvel at its beauty. The narrow road winding up to the pass does not even have a guard rail in some spots. We have driven it so many times that we had not even noticed that. However, some friends of ours drove it and remarked how scary it was. After that, we checked and saw there could be a problem if you drove off the road. We always try not to do that.
On the far side of the pass, there is a little restaurant across the street from the Twin Lakes where we had lunch. We arrived a little early so we could drive down and park next to one of the lakes for a while to take in the serenity. It was so peaceful sitting by the lake. Time nearly stood still for that short time as nothing was moving except for a slight ripple on the water.
The drive back to our condo was equally as beautiful as the drive over. Colorado is a great place to visit in summer—or in winter. The cool mountain air just makes you want to get outdoors and do things.
Wednesday, August 25--More Aspen
We started the day with another hike. We drove our car to the top end of our street and set out into the woods on foot from there. We walked along some of the trails that we ski in winter. It is a lot easier to take the ski lift than to hike uphill. The air is pretty thin at 9,000’. We just walked uphill for about an hour and then came back down to the car.
The Pine Tree Cookhouse is a very quaint restaurant down a long and windy road about 45 minutes from our condo. We had reservations there for lunch. In summer, you can drive all the way to the Cookhouse but, in winter, you have to park about a mile away and take a sleigh ride the rest of the way. We have done that and it is very romantic.
The menu had exotic entrées like elk, caribou, venison and buffalo. They don’t hunt those animals in the wild. They grow them on ranches as they do cattle. I settled on Trout.
Thursday, August 26--Aspen, CO-Dallas, TX
After pre-flighting the aircraft, we took off for Dallas. The Baron doesn’t perform well in the thin air but the runway at Aspen is 7,000’ long so takeoff was no problem. I snapped pictures as we started to roll down the runway and climbed out between the mountains. It was beautiful, something we don’t get to do very often.
We had used up all of our oxygen coming into Aspen and we thought there would be no problem having the tank filled. Guess again! The airport told us they only had equipment to fill the tanks on the large planes but they said we would have no trouble having our small tank filled in town. The pharmacy in town and also the local hospital said that they sent the tanks out and they were returned once each week. They gave us the name of the company located about an hours drive away so we could go there and have them fill it directly. When we called that company, they told us they filled tanks only on Thursdays and Fridays. Unfortunately, we had to leave early Thursday morning. Therefore, we would have to leave with an empty oxygen bottle.
Some of the mountains around Aspen reach higher than 14,000’. ATC wanted us to fly at 16,000’ to clear them but we couldn’t fly that high without oxygen. However, Larry had a plan. We asked for a VFR (visual flight rules) climb. It was a perfectly clear day and the air was very smooth. Although the tops of the mountains were 14,000+, the pass we had to clear was only 12,300. We cleared it easily at 13,500 and when we were out of the mountains, Larry asked them to activate his regular clearance at 11,000’. We were on our way.
When we landed in Dallas, our friend Milton Hickman was there to meet us. It was nice to see him as we had not visited for a few years. He drove us to our hotel and we sat in the lobby and talked for about another hour, catching up on all the happenings of the last few years.
We updated our website and I read for a while. Around 5:30 PM, Quinn Farrell, our great nephew, and his wife Whitney arrived. They had driven all the way from Austin, about a 5 hour ride in Friday afternoon traffic, to see us. They changed their clothes and then we were off to meet Milton and Robbie at the restaurant. It was a delightful evening. Quinn and Whitney are a really cute couple.
Friday, August 27--Dallas, TX to New Orleans, LA
It was off to New Orleans. After arriving at our hotel and checking in, we walked the few blocks to the French Quarter. It is fun just to walk around New Orleans. Of course, we had to have beignets. That may not have been such a good idea because, when Little Red and Miss Ellie finished their beignets, they were covered in powdered sugar from head to toe. After that, we walked along the Mississippi River and found a bench to watch the riverboats go by. It was easy to sit there and reminisce about the old Mark Twain days.
I could hardly believe that the next day we would be back home. We had mixed feelings about that. Of course, we are always glad to be home after a trip but this had been such a special trip that it would be difficult to settle down in our own home.
Saturday, August 28--New Orleans, LA to Melbourne, FL
After 12.5 and 13.7 hour legs, it seemed to be just a hop, skip and jump from New Orleans to Melbourne. The MFD showed red storm cells in the distance in all 4 directions but our route was mostly clear all of the way to Melbourne, It was amazing!
Before we left, a friend said he would be praying for us as we traveled around the world. Larry told him that he felt somewhat guilty because, with so many people having medical problems and other hardships he thought it would be better to pray for them rather than 2 people out on a lark. The friend said, “I think God is big enough to handle both of types of requests.” Of course, He is big enough and He protected us throughout the trip. We were very thankful for that.
Our friend Vince and Jennifer from Holiday Builders had planned a welcome party and Larry told them we would land precisely at 1:30 PM. About an hour out of Melbourne, we were slightly ahead of schedule so Larry tried to slow the aircraft down a little. However, because our flight plan showed that we were completing an around the world trip, the air traffic controllers kept congratulating us and then giving us shortcuts to the next fix. We slowed as much as possible but we still touched down 3 minutes before 1:30. By the time we rolled out and taxied back to the terminal, however, we blocked in exactly at 1:30. The newspaper reporter thought that was really neat and he mentioned it in the newspaper article!
It was a very welcome sight to see about 60 family and friends cheering and applauding when we alighted from the plane. There were big smiles, hugs and well wishes all around. Both Larry and I made short speeches, there was a champagne toast--and then they cut the cake.
As the saying goes—the vacation was nice but it is great to be home again!