June 09, 2003
Travel Diary Day 8: Leaving Hawaii

20.23 Hawaii-Aleutian Time, 8 June 2003
I don't like last days. My theory is that we evolved with twin impulses: to explore, but also to settle down in that village near a clean water source, good yak hunting/betel nut gathering/breadfruit growing, and the smiling girl you got for a dowry of a long-haired yak. Modern travel is capable of such rapid and complete dislocations, the prehistoric villager in me often finds it hard to adjust. Since there isn't much in the nature of exploration going home, no tension there.

The fact that I was actually leaving did not even register until after I'd seen the express checkout under my door. Habitually, I'd awoken thinking about what I might do with the day--I'd entirely forgotten that I would once more willfully embark on a pressurized steel tube and find myself 2500 miles away in 24 hours.

Now that my departure was made tangible in crisp hotel stationery, my mood darkened. Rationally, eight days traveling on my own is about as many as I can go before wearying of my own company, but that old inertial reel in my brain was happy for me to remain. Naturally, it's more than inertia, the weather's great, the natives are friendly (and aren't eyeing your iliopsoas muscle for steaks), the landscape is stunning.

The last day is a useless day because you can't be too adventurous if you have a plane to catch. No road to Hana or upcountry exploration for me with the 23.40 Maui-SF redeye in my future.

First I called the rental agency to extend my rental into the evening. The thought of otherwise spending nine hours in the airport was too monstrous to contemplate. Of course they charge me another $41 for the privilege

Once packed, I regretfully filled out the information for the express check-out form, made a last inspection of my room.

My plan was to find coffee and/or lunch in Kaanapali and then explore Lahaina. For lack of reliable choices, I found myself back at Whaler's Village. The guidebooks suggested that the Hula Grill would make a passable choice for their Tahitian Ceviche, so there I went.

Driving through Kahana/Kaanapali reinforced it's bland condominium atmosphere. Dozens of indistinct complexes whose only claim to personality lay in the design of their signs with names like "Kaanapali Sands", or "Kahana Whaler"--replace those names with "Palmetto", and you have Hilton Head, or Seabrook Island, "Sea Oats", and you a have Duck or Corolla.

The Hula Grill is right on Kaanapali beach, under woven umbrellas. Swarming before you is the America's upper middle class: good looking children, shepherded by attractive mothers, dragging their boogie boards behind them, younger folk, tattooed and attired self-consciously, using all of their disposable income. "Wassaaabe, Dude!" In the strait separating Maui from Lanai and Molokai are parasailers. The waitstaff are all Mainlanders, inevitably working here for the privilege of living in paradise.

It's a generic, but serviceable experience, and I later find a cup of coffee in the Waldenbooks.

Once I bore of this, I set off for Lahaina, hoping that it will provide me a few hours of diversion. Five minutes down 30, I pull off into the Lahaina Cannery Mall. Knowing that parking is an impossibility in the center of town, I leave my Town & Country there and walk across the concrete flood control ditch that used to be the Paupau river.

The outskirts of Lahaina, are humble residences among bougainvillea with rooms inevitably rented out to surfers and driveways filled with their beat up pickup trucks. I wander across the Japanese Shingon Mission (built in 1902) and the town's sand dune cemetery. The first picture is the north end of Front Street in Lahaina, just after crossing the Paupau flood control ditch. Following are two shots from a little evangelical church on Front--odd reassurance since I thought I was in paradise already! The fourth shot is Front Street coming into the center of town and Lahaina Harbor. I couldn't bring myself to take pictures of mobs of tourists, so no pictures of the town itself. But here is a picture of some bricks--I know there is a story here, I just don't know what it is. Finally, some flowers as I'm leaving town.
North end of Front Street, Lahaina.Evangelical church on Front Street.Evangelical church on Front Street.
Front Street, coming into the center of town and the harbor.Bricks.Front Street, coming into the center of town and the harbor.
I follow Front Street into the town center. By location alone, Lahaina is an idyllic spot. A stone sea wall separates it from its harbor in which sailboats and charters bob in the tradewind. Front is lined with palms as you come to the falsefront shops that look so picturesque from a distance. The first establishment you encounter is, disconcertingly, a Ruth's Chris Steakhouse, then there's a Hard Rock Cafe, and finally the onslaught of what I call T & T stores (T-shirts and Tchotchkes). The streets are mobbed. A bus disgorges a Korean tour group. Sweat-soaked, I leapfrog from air-conditioned store to air-conditioned store. There are two Haagen-Dazs and two Ritz Cameras.

I begin longing for the cool comfort of my Town & Country.

In less time than I expect, I find the turn north off of 30 onto 380 towards Kalahui. The ride across Maui's flat ismuth takes no more than 15 minutes, I spend much of it behind a blonde with two surfboards strapped to her Volvo.

With 9 hours left to kill, in the least interesting town on Maui, I'm left with one choice: A shopping center. I end up at Queen Ka'ahumanu Shopping Mall. There's not much worth mentioning about this place. It's a open air mall, it's got a Gap, a food court, and a movie theater. After wandering about for an hour, I decide that I may as well watch a movie which will keep me occupied and cool for two hours. The Italian Job serves this purpose.

I can look at Charlize Theron forever.

Exiting the mall, the fortresses of clouds obscuring the West Maui Mountains are limned in indigo and crimson. After watching Mini Coopers speeding about LA, I peel out of the mall parking lot in the Town & Country, fill it up, and return it (happily) to Dollar. And 3.5 hours later. I'm on my way back to the Mainland.

Missing details and photos later (since I'm home now and must unpack and do laundry).

Posted by erich at June 09, 2003 09:10 AM
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