Sunday, October 11, 2009

Leaving, but it won't be on a jet plane.

It's been a while since we've been on a full-fledged vacation. We did steal away to Great Wolf Lodge for a couple of days in May, but we've been wanting to visit Big D's family in Indiana since Baby Lu's impending arrival spoiled our plans for last October.
As the title of my post suggests, we're going on a road trip. Flying is certainly cost prohibitive for a large family, but more importantly several of us developed a distaste for flying after a little mishap on our last vacation. In fact, it was THE vacation in the history of our family. Big D and I celebrated our 10 year wedding anniversary in Hawaii with our kids in the summer of 2008. It took lots of planning and saving and collecting and managing points from various credit cards to be able to make that trip. Our kids were perfectly behaved on the 8 hr flight from Houston to Honolulu. We arrived at Hilton Hawaiian Village, weary travelers, to discover they had dropped the ball on our reservation and somehow lost it between the hotel branch of reservations and the vacation club branch (where big families stay). They felt terrible and saw how long we had had the reservations, so they gave us the penthouse suite that first night then switched us the next day to the room type we had reserved. Oh, and they didn't charge us one cent for our entire 4 night stay. We were feeling pretty good about our vacation at this point.

We took in the sites on Oahu: Pearl Harbor, the Dole pineapple plantation, dinner cruise out to Diamond Head, and the boys had fun snorkeling. The kids loved Oahu and Hilton Hawaiian Village, but all good things must come to an end and Big D, who had vacationed in Hawaii as a kid, said that we couldn't go all that way without seeing Maui. So off to Maui we went on a tiny little puddle jumper of an airplane (Iflygo). The plane seated maybe 10-12 people max. It was only one seat deep on each side of the aisle, so our kids all had to sit alone. The seat belts were a joke. The shoulder harnass didn't tighten or retract, so only the lap portion fit around them with the shoulder harnass hanging loosely. Oh well, what do you need seat belts on an airplane for, right? I mean, if your plane crashes, it's not like a seat belt is going to save your life, right? It was a turbulent flight and I found myself praying more than I normally do on a plane, which is to say a lot. We were surprised that the airport was more like a dirt road (why don't travel books mention little details like this that some might deem important?) with a couple of steel buildings acting as the terminal. We exited our plane with our luggage (they handed it to us as we got off) wheeled it out past "security" where a man was sitting reading a novel and waited for our rental bus to pick us up. Of course, Big D and I are the only people on the face of the earth without a cell phone, so after 15 minutes I asked the security officer, who was engrossed in his novel, when the rental car bus came by and he said that we'd have to call them. (I had given them our flight number, but maybe things don't always go according to schedule around there.)
We finally made it to our hotel, which was very nice. We saw the big tree, ate at a sea food place on the ocean, and even went on a boat out to Molokini where there's great snorkeling. The boys decided to snuba dive, which is a lot like scuba, but your tank is in a raft on the surface instead of on your back. Mr. Monk didn't have to be certified, and at not quite 9 was able to enjoy the adventure and excitement of scuba diving with a little less personal responsibility. Then on Mr. Monk's 9th birthday we made the drive to Hana.
Let's just say that if I had seen the "I survived the road to Hana." t-shirts sold around the island before we started off on our ignorant way that day, we might have had some clue as to what lay before us. Maybe it's us. We always seem to be have a hard time away from home. If you've read about any of our adventures in Kazakhstan you know what I'm talking about. We make the Griswalds look almost normal. It was raining that day, as I guess it does a lot there. We had a map and guide of all the falls by mile marker. The mile markers were few and far between, however, and none of the guidebooks told us it would be such a narrow road which often turned into one lane just as you're rounding a blind corner. Is it just me, or wouldn't it make more sense to make it one lane on the straight parts and two lanes when you can't see what's on the other side of the bend? I've decided Hawaiians really don't want tourists messing up the good thing they have going. So its raining, we're missing most of the falls because of the poor visibility, trying to avoid accidents when it turns to one lane, and whenever we did spot a fall there were already so many cars pulled over that there was no room for us. On the rare occasion we were able to pull over to the side of the road, we had to get out and hike to get to the water fall. Remember we had a 9, 7, 5, and 2 year old with us and I was pregnant. The terrain was very rough with large rocks and muddy in between the large rocks. The straw that broke the camel's back was when we finally made it to the black sand beach and the tide came in while were exploring a little grotto. It almost swept several of the children away and my $95 Jobst support hose were ruined!
When we made it back to the hotel 8 hours after we had embarked on our little adventure that morning, we were beat and carsick and poor Mr. Monk was lamenting that it was his worst birthday ever. It's become a kind of reference point. Last summer on his birthday his friend Cole was out of town and couldn't spend the night. There went his plans, but he was like, "Oh well, it could be worse. We could be on that endless road to Hana again." So, exhausted and ready to go home we arose early the next morning excited to take the puddle jumper back to Oahu where we'd board a real plane and fly all the way back to Texas, greatest state in the world.
Customer service in the Oahu airport is not what it is on the mainland. In fact, they really don't want to mess with you at all. They want you to check yourselves in and print your boarding passes from a computer terminal. We had purchased two sets of tickets (some were points purchases and a different class) and we had to make sure we could sit with our kids. This always makes me smile. They act all tough like it's just too bad we're too late and we're not all going to be able to sit together. Big D and I are like, "Ok, that's fine with us. We'll let you explain it to the people you seat our 2 and 5 year olds next to." But, by then nothing was going to phase us. We had just survived the airplane hatch door on our puddle jumper flying open mid-flight from Maui back to Oahu and we were all in a kind of post-traumatic daze.
Remember the flimsy seat belts I told you about? We diligently had them around all our kids. Mr. Monk was in the jump seat in the tail of the plane. Because Measle and I were the white knuckle fliers (after the bumpy ride over to Maui) we decided to sit across the aisle from one another and hold hands. It's a short flight, 20-30 minutes, I think. About 15 minutes into it the hatch door adjacent to Measle's seat blew open. I don't mean it opened a crack. I mean there was a rattling sound that all of a sudden turned into a loud whooshing sound as the door opened all the way up and poor Measle no longer had any airplane next to her seat. She had been leaning into the aisle holding my hand and I didn't know if I should reach over and unbuckle her or what I should do. Of course, I had seen the tv movie about that Aloha flight that lost part of the aircraft in flight and sucked out several rows of seats. We weren't high enough to be in a pressurized cabin, but I wasn't really processing all of that. I was just freaking out. Big D was in the seat in front of her and turned around in his seat to try to close the door, but it took the co-pilot crawling back from the cockpit to get it pulled to. It wouldn't latch, though. She had to hold it in place until we landed.
The seat pictured was where Big D was sitting.

This was Measle's seat with the door closed.

Do you know they had the audacity to ask me if she had opened that door? I was like, "First of all, no she didn't. Second of all, if a 5 year old can open the hatch from the inside the plane in mid-flight, don't you think there's something wrong with that picture?" I'm sure they were just worried about a law suit. Big D took pictures and he was mad enough to sue. I reminded him that thankfully we had no damages!

We ended up missing a connection in Houston, so our homecoming was delayed even more. When we finally landed at home we were all ready to get off the plane and kiss terra firma. We have not flown since then. I could go the rest of my life without flying again.

So, that's why we're driving to Indiana. Aren't you glad I explained?


  1. ohhh your killing me! First off, I have been to Oahu,and Maui. I have done the drive to Hana, and yes its horrible! But me, my brother and sister got out and hiked to the falls, and that made it sort of worth it. I am ALSO a terrified flyer, but I think you have a wayyyyyyyy better reason than I. You never need to explain driving to me girl, I make my family drive 1600 miles to California every year to visit family. To each their own :)

  2. OH. MY. GOSH! That is the best story I have ever heard. I was laughing so hard. Except for the door flying open part. So scary.

  3. "Texas. The best state in the world." Amen to that one.

    I haven't flown since 1995, when I was flying over New Mexico mountains and experienced such terrible turbulence that drinks were flying in the air and people were screaming. My husband and I were supposed to changed flights in Albequerque and fly on to Dallas. Instead, we got off the plane in Albequerque and threw our tickets in the trash, rented a car, and drove all night back to Dallas, trembling all the way.

  4. can you send me the title for those two books and ISBM #? I lost them. thanks. I sent you email, you didn't REPLY AGAIN.:)




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I'm an on-the-run mom to 6 kids who studied and taught exercise science in a previous life. I love all things running, nutrition, and health-related. I usually run at zero dark thirty in the morning and am often quite hungry before, during, and after my run, but I live a rich, full, blessed life with my children, family, and friends. My faith in God is my anchor, and looking to Him and His promises allows me to live fully even when life circumstances are difficult. While running gives me an appetite, my desire is to hunger and thirst for righteousness more than for physical food.