Thursday, February 17, 2011

Oahu! (gesundheit) [Sunday, February 6, 2011]

Since yesterday was a beautiful “rainy” day on Kauai, we decided not to push our luck with another “rainy” day on Kauai and headed over to Oahu for the day.  We figured, we came all this way (did somebody say something about 3 plane rides lasting over 13 hours??) so we might as well try to see Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona Memorial.

And, I think it’s a good thing that we did.  Seeing as how Oahu and Kauai aren’t that far apart and pretty much whatever weather is on Oahu probably came from Kauai, I think it’s safe to say that today was not a beautiful rainy day on Kauai; it was probably just a rainy day.

We took an early Hawaiian Airlines flight over to Oahu, which is seriously the shortest flight I’ve ever taken in my life; like 25 minutes, gate-to-gate, and grabbed our rental car and were parking in the parking lot at Pearl Harbor by 7:30am.  I think it’s also a good thing that we got their early, because I’d heard that often the Parks Service hands out all the tickets to go see the Arizona Memorial early in the day.  It’s free, but you have to have a ticket to get on the ferry to go out to the Memorial and the free tickets are timed.  We strolled up and got tickets to the 8:15 film followed by a ferry ride (courtesy of the US Navy) out to the memorial.

USS Arizona Memorial

Now, since I live in DC, I will admit to being a bit jaded by landmarks and memorials.  I’m still impressed by all the memorials and statues that we have here on and around the mall, but I don’t really get goosebumps when I see them.

The Memorial for the USS Arizona was a little different.  It’s very pretty; with the white marble structure hovering in the middle of the water of Pearl Harbor.  But the first thing that struck me as I got off the ferry and walked onto the memorial was the smell.  It smelled very strongly of petroleum.  And I could see oil on the surface of the water.  I was amazed that, after all these years, there is still so much oil coming from the Arizona.  There were two white buoys on either side of the memorial, which marked the ends of the Arizona.  And, of course, you could see the rusting hull just below the surface and the top of the gun towers just above the surface.
Oil still bubbles up from the sunken Arizona today...

(And, as I just tried to google the name of something, I found this fact on the NPS website: There were 1.4 million gallons of fuel on the USS Arizona when she sank. Over 60 years later, approximately nine quarts still surfaces from the ship each day. (

As I was standing on the memorial and after seeing the short film chronicling the events of December 7, 1941, I couldn’t help but think of the similarities to September 11, 2001.  I wondered if Americans would eventually forget about the devastation this country suffered on that beautiful September day the same way they seem to have pushed the attacks on Pearl Harbor to the back of their minds; remembering it only once each year, if that.  I hope not.

After our tour of the USS Arizona Memorial was over, we headed over to the USS Missouri Battleship.  Again, living so close to Norfolk, where we can see the big battleships, aircraft carriers, cruisers and whatnot, as well as hubs growing up near Groton, Conn where he could see and tour some of the fleet’s submarines, probably jaded us a little.  Don’t get me wrong, the “Mighty Mo” is indeed mighty.
Mighty Mo's mighty big guns
Plaque marking the spot where the Japanese surrendered ending WWII

I’m just not sure it was worth the mighty $20, pp entry fee.
On the bridge of the USS Missouri looking at the USS Arizona Memorial

After we left the Pearl Harbor area, we decided to drive thru Honolulu and see the famous Waikiki beach area.  (I should mention that the fact that the Super Bowl was on tv probably mitigated the crowds that we saw, but it was still crazy crowded.)  And, if I’m being honest, I wasn’t all that impressed.  To me, it looked like Tyson’s Corner, with a beach.  So, we skedaddled.

We searched for and found the well-known statute of King Kamehameha.  We were the only non-Japanese tourists there.  (again, maybe because of the super bowl??)  I searched and searched for the mystical “Hawaii 5-0” headquarters, but I didn’t see anything. L

King Kamehameaha

"So, where are the Headquarters for the 5-0 Task Force?????"
Next, we drove up to the Punchbowl crater and saw the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.  It was very pretty and incredibly peaceful.  The landscaping is very nice and it overlooks the city of Honolulu and the ocean from the top of the Punchbowl crater.  Instead of the marble headstones, the graves are marked with a simple plaque in the ground.  I recommend going up to see it if you ever get the chance.

National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific
With the rest of the day ahead of us, we opted to just drive around the island.  We headed up the H2, one of the “interstates” (don’t know how they manage that on an island, but whatev…) through the center of Oahu.  We stopped off at the “Dole Plantation”, and, while it’s not a producing plantation anymore (meaning, they don’t grow pineapples for export) they sure had lots of pineapple-related stuff.  I wanted a t-shirt that just said “DOLE” on the front with the pineapple logo, but, after getting waylaid and spending $$$ on a pretty pearl necklace (long story; I’ll tell it later), we decided to just cut our losses and get out of there.  Moral of the story: don’t stop at a tourist trap when you are tired and hungry and have been driving most of the day…

Once we hit the north shore of Oahu, we found a place to sit and have some lunch.  It was really raining by then, so the famed “North Shore of Oahu” looked a little ‘blah.’  I’m sure it’s lovely; we just didn’t see it on a great day.  After lunch, we drove back towards Honolulu along the east side of the island.

I will admit that, after seeing Honolulu and Waikiki, I was under impressed with Oahu.  I couldn’t get out of there fast enough.  But the north and east part of the island really won me over.  I had this idea that Oahu was nothing but built up beaches and metropolitan hustle and bustle.  But there are parts (large parts, from what I saw) of Oahu that are stunningly gorgeous.  Beautiful beaches backed by gorgeous lush green mountains; nice small towns; lush foliage.  I would definitely go back to Oahu to explore the north and east parts of the island.  And, this was in the rain!  I can’t imagine how pretty it must be when the sun is shining!

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