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Kona

Started: 2018-05-04 14:50:48

Submitted: 2018-05-04 18:24:05

Visibility: World-readable

In which the intrepid narrator returns home from the Big Island of Hawaii

On our last day on the Big Island of Hawaii, we had to drive back across Saddle Road to the airport in Kona to catch our flight home. we left our Airbnb, drove down the one-lane road cut through the jungle leading to the Hawaii Belt Road, and headed towards Hilo and onward across the middle of the island, onto the scrub between Hawaii's two highest mountains, the volcanos Manua Kea and Manua Loa.

We took a detour at the top of Saddle Road to the visitor's center halfway up Manua Kea. The visitor's center didn't open until noon, at which point I wanted to be in Kona in order to catch our flight home, but I did at least want to drive up as far as I could (on the paved road -- my rental contract specifically forbade me from driving on any unpaved roads). At 8000 feet, this was the highest I've been (on the ground) for months, and the air felt thin. There was a small parking lot, and a small monument dedicated to Ellison Onizuka, a Challenger astronaut who grew up in Kona (and also went to CU Boulder).

Ellison Onizuka memorial on Manua Kea
Ellison Onizuka memorial on Manua Kea

We descended back to Saddle Road, in low gear, as the dry scrub on Manua Kea transitioned to the slightly-greener grasslands on the saddle. we drove west, descending onto the western side of the island, seeing again the terain we drove through at the beginning of the week.

We stopped for lunch at Loko Wraps, a small shop in a strip mall on the edge of Kona. The cashier spotted my Mount Hood t-shirt (a Christmas gift from Willy memoralizing our successful summit last year) and remarked that he came from Sandy (which I recogonized as being in Oregon but did not want to admit that I didn't quite remember where). Kiesa and I ordered burritos with BBQ jackfruit, which was good (and did in fact have a texture that I presumed must be like some meat).

Kailua Bay
Kailua Bay

We got gas and still had a half-hour before we needed to be at the airport, so we drove to the Old Kona Airport Beach Park, where the runway on the old airport had been turned over to a parking lot, and the tiny terminal had been converted into a community center. There was a thin strip of sand on a steep beach nestled between volcanic rocks descending to the brilliant blue of the Pacific Ocean fading away into the haze on the horizon. I could see the city of Kona on the bay to my left, palm trees on the beach to my right, and open ocean in front of me as far as they eye could see. It was a good trip, and I would come again.

Runway at Old Kona Airport
Runway at Old Kona Airport

We drove to the airport, dropped off the rental car, took the shuttle to the airport, found the check-in line (hidden behind the massive line for the TSA checkpoint, dropped our checked bags at the agricultural inspection station, and noticed that there was a very short Precheck line next to the very long regular line. All of us had been given Precheck (which, we thought, was especially convenient for Sasa; she must have been given Precheck since she was on the same reservation as Kiesa and I, and we both have Global Entry), so we took advantage of our status and cut to the front of the line.

Open-air terminal at Kona Airport
Open-air terminal at Kona Airport

That gave us more than an hour inside the open-air terminal before our flight boarded. We poked around the terminal, amused ourselves not buying things in the gift shop, noticed that the leis and pineapples in the gift shop were labeled as USDA approved for transport to the mainland, and eventually went through the personal agricultural inspection checkpoint before waiting in our open-air boarding area for our 737 to board.

767 at open-air boarding area at Kona Airport
767 at open-air boarding area at Kona Airport

Our five-hour flight back to San Francisco was uneventful. I wrote a few blog posts while Calvin watched movies on the in-flight entertainment (and I watched most of Coco several times, without sound, in the crack between the seats in front of me).

We landed in San Francisco at 23:00 local time, and by the time we made our way out of the concourse and picked up our bags it was midnight (local time) and BART was no longer running. I got a Lyft with enough seats to fit our party (three adults and two kids -- with the weird caveat that Julian took up more space than an adult because of his large toddler car seat).

We arrived home well after midnight (local time) -- but with the three-hour time change from Hawaii it felt like the middle of the evening. I posted my blog posts, checked that the world still existed, and finally went to bed myself -- after a great week on the Big Island of Hawaii.

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