Previously: On Top of the World (Part 2)

At last, it was our last day on the Big Island. Our flight wasn’t scheduled to leave until 10:59 PM that night, though, so we still had a full day ahead of us. Unfortunately, we needed to check out of the hut in the morning, since there was another group of people coming in to stay there, so we packed up the car and headed out to explore the island some more.

We didn’t have much of a plan of action. We considered driving all the way around the island one more time (after all, we did have the time to do that), but I wasn’t really in the mood to sit in the car for 8 hours. I did express some interest in seeing a waterfall on the east side of the island, and we were told we had to go to to Tex Drive-In for their famous malasadas, which was in that direction, so we drove east for some breakfast.

We had gotten a fairly early start, so by the time we had driven through Waimea to Honokaa on the northeastern shore, it was only 10:00 or so. The Drive-In did have a drive-thru window, but we wanted to sit down and eat, so we parked and went in the front door. The guy behind the counter had an uncanny resemblance to Judge Rheinhold’s character in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, both in his mannerisms and a little bit in looks.

The malasadas were good, but they were not spectacular. I suppose it was one of those experiences one “must” have while in Hawaii, much like having a beignet in at Cafe du Monde in New Orleans: they are both fried concoctions made of sugar and flour, little more than donuts without the hole, but if you don’t do it, you somehow are missing out on the local experience.

After breakfast, Ray started to not feel so well. We decided a long drive halfway around the island would not be so good, so we nixed the waterfall idea and made our way through the middle of the island (for once, we were not driving along the coast!) to Kailua-Kona.

We ended up at the only Seahorse Farm in the U.S., and signed up for a tour that would start at 1:00. The “farm” was located in an industrial park called NELHA (National Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority). We were interested in touring the energy labs, too (I had heard about some interesting alternative energy systems they were developing there), but apparently there was only one tour per day, and that had been at 10:30 in the morning.

The tour of the seahorse farm had all the makings of a Busch Gardens/Seaworld presentation, complete with wireless microphones and portable amps. All that was missing was a bunch of 20-somethings singing and dancing on a stage (I would have offered my services, only I’m not 20-something anymore and I was on vacation).

Although the tour itself was ostensibly to raise awareness about reef conservation and environmental stewardship, the money from these tours were being used to raise funds for research on these bizarre little creatures. It was a good cause, so I didn’t feel so bad about the overpriced tickets; I just chafed a little bit at the sterile show/presentation.

Oh, and there were children there. Lots of hot, cranky, pushy children. And I love kids, but their parents were just as hot and cranky, and they didn’t really police the kids when they pushed to the front of the line or knocked people out of the way.

Even so, I did enjoy myself. Seahorses are fascinating creatures, and this was the closest I had ever been to one, not to mention thousands! At the end of the tour, they let people hold the seahorses…okay, actually, they have you put your hands in the water, and then they get a seahorse to wrap its tail around your finger.

I was stuck behind a horde of whiny kids, so by the time it came for my turn, the seahorse in question would have none of me. Unfazed, the biologist plucked up another seahorse and coaxed it around my finger.

I barely felt anything at all: it was very light and smooth, and the seahorse delicately held onto my finger until the biologist decided it was time for the next person to go. He gently coaxed it off my finger onto his, and I went to dry my hands.

After the seahorse farm, we wandered back to the main part of Kailua-Kona, for one last trip to Kona Bay Books. I traded all my books (which I had finished in the previous day and a half) for enough books to last me the plane trip and then some. It turned out to be an even trade, and I didn’t have to spend any money, which was a bonus.

Apparently, there was an “international market” somewhere close to the book store, so we wandered over to where it was marked on the map. We expected something more akin to what we had experienced in Waikiki on Oahu on previous trips: dozens of small stalls selling t-shirts and tikis and silly Hawaiian collectibles for bargain prices (most of which were negotiable). This marketplace was more of an outdoor mall. They still sold kitsch, but not for bargain prices, and it didn’t really seem like anything was negotiable.

We ate dinner at the Kona Brewing Company again, and we got there right before the dinner rush. Ray still wasn’t feeling very well, and although he had napped a little bit in the car while we were at the marketplace, he ate dinner listlessly. I was hoping that whatever he had would pass before we got on the plane. The skies started to threaten rain (which would have been very bad for us, since we were eating outside), but luckily, the clouds passed by without comment.

Finally, it was time to return the rental car and check in to our flight at the airport. But as we got up to the check-in counter, the woman told us that our flight was overbooked, and would we like to stay here in Hawaii a few days longer? They would put us up in a hotel and give us a free flight back to Hawaii. The only catch: they couldn’t get us on another flight until Thursday.

I looked at Ray. We were both exhausted, and not thinking right. I had rehearsal on Tuesday evening and another one on Thursday, and Ray had to go back to work on Thursday. Could we really afford to stay longer? Probably not. I told her thanks but no thanks.

Stupidest thing I’d done the whole trip. Stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid.

Next: Leaving on a Jet Plane

Seahorses
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