I recently visited the island of Oahu in Hawaii. In my last blog entry, I wrote about several instances of when I experienced the Aloha Spirit.
This was not a typical photography trip for me. I almost always take road trips. It's been years since I boarded a plane. And, this was my first time in Hawaii.
Hawaii was not always what I expected. In many ways, it exceeded my expectations. At times, it fell short of being a paradise for me. Following are some random thoughts about things that surprised me:
- I expected everything in Hawaii to be very expensive and much higher priced than on the mainland. So, I was surprised that I could order the hotdog and soft drink at Costco for the same $1.50 that its priced here in Chicago. The two taco special at Jack in the Box was just $1.09!
- Gas was priced a bit higher than where I live in the Chicago suburbs. But, $2.95 per gallon in Honolulu wasn't nearly as expensive as I was expecting at a time when gas in Chicago was priced at $2.49.
- I didn't expect to see cars with out of state plates in Hawaii! A car parked next to me had California plates.
- While visiting the Honolulu Zoo, I was shocked to see people of all ages completely ignoring the sideways rain that was coming down (or should I say across). Families with young kids, grandparents and many others were walking through the zoo as if it wasn't even raining. Only a few people carried umbrellas. People were soaked, yet continued to leisurely view the various exhibits.
- Having worked at the global headquarters of McDonald's Corporation for many years (and several years ago), I was surprised when I entered the restroom of a McDonald's restaurant somewhere just outside of Waikiki. It was a rather large restroom without privacy barriers of any kind. Generally, the toilet is surrounded by some kind of stall. Yet, this wasn't the kind of restroom where one can lock the door for privacy.
- I was stunned by the traffic. Having lived in Chicago, I thought the reports of bad traffic in a city like Honolulu must be exaggerated. They're not. I experienced the most horrendous traffic imaginable--and that includes my trip to Los Angeles. This heavy traffic was not isolated to Honolulu. I experienced long delays while driving on the far west side of the island as well as on the North Shore. By long delays, I'm referring to 45 minutes to drive 5 or 10 miles. I think the most frustrating drive was the 2.3 mile drive from the State Capitol to the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific ("the Punchbowl"). That 2.3 mile drive took 45 minutes due to lane closures! Thankfully, I was on the island long enough to make some adjustments and eventually worked around some of the traffic and parking challenges.
- Many of the locations that I visited were overrun with crowds. At Pearl Harbor, I took the Navy tour of the USS Arizona Memorial. Every 15 minutes, a boat leaves for the memorial with about 200 people. When the boat arrives at the memorial, 200 people enter the memorial as 200 people exit to board for the return trip. That's a lot of people on a relatively small platform. And, that's not a lot of time to be out there. The USS Arizona Memorial is a national cemetery. I expected it to be a very touching experience--and to a certain extent, it was. But, experiencing it for such a short time with that many other people diminished the experience. It was disturbing to see so many people snapping selfies, laughing and generally having a great time right over the burial site of over 1,100 sailors. The ranger on site shook his head and said that most people are far more interested in getting a selfie than learning anything about the men who died there.
- During my research, some photographers recommended that I visit the small surfing town of Haleiwa. It was suggested that I enjoy the best shave ice on the island at Matsumoto Shave Ice. I envisioned taking a leisurely walk through a town with a lot of character and capturing photographs of some interesting people. As I approached the town on a Monday afternoon, the traffic came to a halt. There were so many cars heading into Haleiwa that there simply wasn't enough parking to accommodate them. I was determined to try the shave ice, so I circled a parking lot for 10 or 15 minutes until a space freed up. Then there was the long line at Matsumoto's. I didn't bother trying to get any photographs of the town. There were so many people on the sidewalks that it would have been nearly impossible to stand still for a minute to capture a picture. And, the streets were so packed with traffic that it was a challenge just crossing the street!
- Never before have I seen a parking fee for a scenic overlook on a highway. While driving northeast from Honolulu, I noticed a scenic overlook sign for the Nuuanu Pali Lookout. I decided to pull over to take a look. I parked my car and took the very short walk to the overlook. It was raining, so I didn't spend more than 30 seconds there. As I was walking back to my car, I noticed a kiosk to my left. I was surprised to see that it was a parking fee station. As it turns out, there is a $3 fee to park the car at the scenic overlook! Then, I noticed that a woman was walking by the cars and writing down license plate numbers. So, I'm expecting to get a $75 ticket any day now.
- I experienced something early in my trip that I never experienced before. While driving on the very wide H1 highway (I believe it was 14 lanes across 15 miles outside of Honolulu), I was stuck in very slow traffic. All lanes were moving at about 5 mph. To my left, I noticed a young boy of about 12 years old trying to get my attention. I wasn't sure why he was waving toward me--perhaps there was an issue with my rental car? As his car moved even with mine, the boy leaned out the window and gave me the finger (his middle finger). In the meantime, what I assume was his father (the driver) was doing the same thing. To this day, I have no idea why they would do that. There was nowhere to go in that traffic, so I couldn't possibly be driving too slow. And, I've never seen a kid at such a young age do something like that--especially along with an adult! And no, it wasn't the shaka sign!
- Parking can be a challenge in Honolulu. I discovered an inexpensive parking lot near Ala Moana Park. After parking, I attempted to make payment. Credit cards are not accepted. Fortunately, I was carrying enough cash...five singles for the $5 fee. I was surprised to see that the cash box had such a small opening for depositing the payment. The circle was a small fraction of the size of a cigarette butt. So, I started rolling my first dollar bill as tightly as possible, yet it wouldn't fit through the opening. After laying it on a flat surface and rolling it even tighter, I was able to deposit the first dollar. I only had four more to go!
- I stayed at a Hampton Inn for some nights. The facility was brand new and was very comfortable. Having stayed at well over 100 Hampton Inns over the years, this was the first one that is located inside a mall. It shares its parking lot with mall visitors. This made it challenging at times to find a suitable parking space.
- I didn't realize that there was such a high rate of vandalism on the island. I was warned by many to leave nothing in my rental car. Some suggested that I leave the windows open so that vandals wouldn't break them. I was told repeatedly that nothing should be left in the trunk. This situation was most inconvenient for photography. Typically, I keep a lot of heavy gear in my trunk. In Hawaii, I had to pick and choose which lenses to bring with me for the day and then leave the rest of them at the hotel. Most of my lenses weigh a couple of pounds each...and one weighs closer to 7 pounds. So, having to carry everything all the time isn't fun. As a result, I lost out on some good photographs because sometimes the lens that I needed was at the hotel.