All of us have Christmas stories…many of them involve travel. There’s a special magnetic field that surrounds the holidays…and pulls us together. Instead of “travel,” I think it’s more of a migration.
Some stories are better than others: Think about Mary and Joseph. This was more of a forced march, eh? Hardly a festive event…it was all about a “census” which was a code word for “taxes.” What a mess: no, there wasn’t a bus from Nazareth to Bethlehem. It was foot traffic only, unless you were a Roman occupier with a horse. Oh, there were a few donkeys for hauling freight. And Joseph was resourceful enough to get one to help ever-so-pregnant Mary on the difficult journey. And forget about clicking through for a last-minute hotel room. Hmph…off to the stable for the young couple in sold-out Bethlehem. And there…she had a baby. Then, nonstop visitors…some bearing gifts. Then, Joseph has a dream telling him to RUN with Mary and the baby to Egypt. On foot. Whoa.
Modern-day holiday travel is easier. Still, when there’s a hitch in the come-along, well, someone’s gonna spend the night at the airport. That’s what happened to me.
This was back when I was about 25—when anything was possible. Christmas in Hawaii? No problem. In fact—hang out and go diving for awhile with friends? S-u-r-e. What could go wrong?
Oh, the first flight to Portland from Anchorage was simple enough…just a quick plane-change in Seattle for the short hop to Portland. I got there in time to sing in the choir on Christmas Eve. “O Holy Night,” “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” ….and more of the old favorites. Then, catching up with friends and Christmas with the family. Lovely.
Early on the day after Christmas, I went to the airport for my flight to Hawaii. The plane to Seattle left right on time. At that time, Northwest’s flights left from the “North Terminal” or “N Gates.” This was a bad sign…reinforcing my belief that nothing good ever happens at the “N Gates.”
I got bumped off my flight to Honolulu.
The gate agents were still wearing their red Santa hats—and were feeling festive. So, they rebooked me through San Francisco to Honolulu. But, since I was traveling on the cheapskate airline, Mid-Pacific, the last plane departed about 30 minutes before I landed.
After walking around the entire Honolulu airport with my bags in tow, I finally found a quiet corner to curl up for 40 winks.
“Excuse me, sir, you’ll need to move along,” said the security guard. Right. What was I supposed to do? Sleep sitting up? That wasn’t working very well. I shuffled over abour 50 feet and ducked behind another pillar. But sleep was fleeting. So, I walked over to the Pan Am gate, where I found a high school classmate who was on her way to Australia!
Heidi and I chatted away until about 4:00 a.m., when her flight started to board. After that, I slowly made my way over to Honolulu’s inter-island terminal for the flight over to Kona.
At 6:00 a.m., I was up in the air in a twin-prop YS-11 for the one-hour flight to Kona. Since I was a day late, nobody was there to pick me up. I hitch-hiked into town and had a cup of coffee. Eventually, my friends picked me up so I could help load the boat out for a dive trip! On our way to Kealakekua Bay in the Zodiak, a giant humpback whale breached about 40 feet away from us. Mele Kalikimaka.
Everything in the boat was soaked. But we didn’t care. What a fun time we had.
I think back on that slice of Heaven. Both of my parents were there at Christmas—and I saw some of my precious friends from Oregon. The journey was a little rough—but it wasn’t that bad. And I had landed in paradise a little later—but just in time to catch up with a high school friend. I had started on a new adventure with new friends. There was a surprise around every corner—starting with a big fat WHALE!
That surprise was the first of many in Hawaii. In fact, the next surprise was that I lost my return ticket. But that’s another story. DISCLOSURE: The top shot is me on the golf course in Makena…just south of Wailea in Maui. The two shots above are actually from Kauai. I couldn’t find the “perfect” shots from my early years in Kona. But I think you get the idea. #ArtisticLicense
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