It’s a strange concept to many, but even bigislandtikiadventurers go on vacation, which is exactly what we did for 10 glorious days. Our itinerary consisted of a short three-day stopover in PDX followed by a week in Jackson Hole, WY. My sister JA calls Jackson home, and our parents also made the trip so it was a real family jamboree. Admittedly this is a belated post, we actually got home 8/28.
We were very interested and somewhat anxious to see how this trip would play out, in terms of what it would be like to leave Hawaii, how we would feel back in PDX, how the mainland would be for us, and what it would be like to return home once again. Would we miss Hawaii? Would things be exactly the same on the mainland, or would they seem different to us? Would we just forget everything and move back? We were about to find out.
The biggest concern of course was the cats. We didn’t have our good friends to watch them anymore, and it was a reminder of how great it was to have help from our mainland buddies and how little we had to worry about on past vacations. But our good neighbor Linda agreed to help, and it turns out she did a wonderful job and all was very well indeed upon our return.
We decided to take the red-eye option to PDX through LAX to maximize our time there with our friends. So we set out for the airport around 8:30 PM, thankful that the cats weren’t joining us on this trip. The Hilo airport is awesome, it feels like 1975 in there, the furniture is all lanai style couches your grandma might have had, complete with plastic cushion covers. We bid farewell to the tropicality of our island home and took off into the night.
We were able to sleep away most of the trip thankfully, even during our layover in LAX, so we arrived in PDX around 10 AM only a little bit tired. Nothing a Coffee People mocha couldn’t fix… mmmm miss those for sure. Of course it was raining and chilly when we arrived, even though it had been 94 and 100 degrees the two days prior. It was strange to actually rent a car in the Portland airport, and stranger still to not head to our former home in St. John’s. Instead we cruised down in Southeast to stay with our good friends John and Jules (and Sadie of course).
And did we ever receive the royal red carpet welcome… what a blast! Many of our best friends showed up that afternoon for a real Portland style throwdown in the sanctuary that is John and Jules’ backyard. Shawn K smoked up some amazing Memphis style ribs, Lori brought all manner of desserts and my favorite beers, John and Jules grilled up some broke-da-mouth honey wings and strawberry rhubarb pie, and Matt and Jen busted out some excellent berry cobbler. I love Oregon in late August and September, that was always my favorite time to be there. No humidity, every day is perfect, the brown and blasted yards with colorful roses and flowers, clear, comfortable nights of stars. All in all it was everything I could have hoped for in a return visit. Thankfully, we somehow we managed to see almost everyone on our list during the three-day whirlwind trip.
We also did a walk by of our house in St. Johns, and I was happy to find that everything looked great, almost better than I remember because the landscape company had the plants looking awesome and the grass clipped to golf course length. So far the rental arrangement has been as about as hassle free as I could have imagined, let’s hope that continues.
On Monday we headed out to the Gorge to visit Jen’s folks and have dinner. I was happy to see her parents were doing well, as were her sister and husband and the doggies too. Dan cooked up some tasty lentil and sausage stew, and Mom made my favorite, vanilla ice cream with wild blackberry sauce. To me that dessert is the essence of summertime in the Gorge, and I was delighted to enjoy it again.
Tuesday we were up at the crack for our 6 AM flight to the Hole. My folks were held up in Salt Lake, so we went with my sister JA and had a beer and some lunch at a great spot at the base of the Tetons. It was an amazing view that I was to thankfully see a lot of over the coming week. I didn’t take this picture, but I love this replica of a sign from the 30s:
The cabin we stayed in was perfect. It was located in the nearby town of Wilson, just a 10 minute drive from Jackson, and much cheaper to rent than a lot of places in town. It was a guest house on a large property that looked straight up at the Tetons. We spent a lot of time sitting on the porch out front just watching the puffy clouds roll by and checking out each Teton individually, giving it the attention it deserves. You could see the tram at the nearby Jackson Hole ski area lazily going up and down. Dad and I had some inspired bluegrass pickin’ sessions, we did a lot more singing than usual, I chalk that up to the surroundings.
I really got the cowboy spirit on this trip. Not that I bought a hat or anything, but being there in the wide open spaces really opens up the imagination to all things frontier. I guess the Louis Lamour books didn’t hurt either. I felt like I wanted to eat a steak there the entire time, and finally on the last night I got some 1” ribeyes and grilled ’em up with some Vidalia onions. These were the small variety of ribeye, normally they are 2″ thick at the natural grocery we frequented. I was also introduced to the Spicy Strawberry Margarita, which I had at Calico’s down the road. The first sip burns intensely, but I think the sweetness, alcohol and resulting capsaicin endorphins make it all worthwhile.
We did some driving around Grand Teton National park, and Yellowstone too. My dad and I got in an early morning hike up Death Canyon straight to the base of the Grand Teton, past Phelps Lake and the Rockefeller Reserve. We were a little concerned about bear attacks, as the road to the trailhead had just been reopened after heavy bear traffic prompted its closure. Should we get the bear spray or not? We decided that if the ranger told us we needed it, we would get it, but she didn’t so we just made a lot of noise on the trail and it all worked out fine.
The air was super smoky, it seemed like the entire state of Idaho was on fire and blowing smoke our way. Fortunately it cleared up for the last few days and the weather was gorgeous. The near zero humidity was a sharp contrast to moist Hawaii, as were the cooler nights where a fleece was actually required.
We took a cable car up to the veranda lounge at the Jackson Hole ski area. My sister said the only bears she had seen were from the tram, and right after telling us that we spotted what I believed to be wolverines sunning themselves on the still-warm rocks at sundown. The veranda was a fantastic place for cocktails. I really want to come back in the wintertime and hit the slopes, even though I hear it is a difficult mountain to ski.
Fortunately we were able to be there for JA’s birthday on our last Sunday in town, and what a good time that was. JA’s beau Robert threw a Mexican fiesta for her, complete with a purple donkey pinata and awesome comida.
Robert Randolph, the king of the sacred steel guitar, and his band were playing that evening at the park up the street that sits right at the base of Snow King mountain. Basically the whole thing turned into a huge party. Some of JA’s friends had a house on the corner where everyone was hanging out on the roof. I enjoyed meeting all of my sister’s friends, she has a great life there in the Hole. Some really great people, all super chill.
JA bought some pink mustaches which were a lot of fun. I wore mine like a big pink unibrow, so attractive.
One of the highlights for me was the donkey, or more specifically the head of said donkey. During a trip back to the house during the concert I got the idea to put the donkey head on as a mask, and so my sister wore it on up to the show. Robert thought this was interesting too, so we went into the crowd wearing the donkey head. We ended up giving it away, and watched with amusement as the donkey was passed from head to head during the show, disappearing for a while, but always reappearing again. We even got it back at the end of the concert somehow, although its eyes were gone and the teeth were hanging off. Fun fun fun! It was the last concert in the park for the year, and it was a blow out.
We also had some fun adventures in Yellowstone. The scenery was wonderful, but honestly my favorite part of the trip was visiting the Old Faithful Inn. This place is old and incredibly spooky, I really want to stay there. There’s several floors winding up that are visible from the ground floor in the great room. It ends with a crow’s nest at the top that was closed in the 1950s due to earthquake damage.
A couple got married there that day, you can see them on the top of the Inn:
In the picture above you can see the veranda over the main entry with old wooden chairs, a bar, and a view of Old Faithful. We elected to see it the old-fashioned way from the visitor’s center. You have to do it, right??
Wildlife viewing opportunities were scarce, at least compared to the last visit Jen and I made to the area. But we were able to see a moose or two on a tour my sister took us on north of Jackson on the way to Mormon Row. If you look closely there’s actually a young moose in the photo:
Just kidding that was in the town square. Here’s the real moose photo, although you can barely see it to our right:
On our second to last night we drove up to the Granary restaurant, which had a spectacular view of the Spring Creek ranch down in the valley as well as the Tetons. Much eating, wine drinking and merriment was enjoyed by all.
All in all the Mainland Revisited was a wonderful experience, everything I could have hoped for, and I was genuinely sorry to see it end. We only get to see my family for a couple of weeks a year, and it seemed like we were just really getting into a groove when we had to head back home.
We had a godawful 6 AM flight out of Jackson Hole, but the beautiful night sky, stars and subsequent sunrise that morning were spectacular. The only hitch was during security there was a bit of alarm as the TSA agent discovered a poisonous brown recluse spider in Jen’s backpack! She asked if we had been in the back country, I responded that I did use the pack on the trail. But we’re not really sure where it came from, only glad that nobody got hurt.
The gate to our flight brought us out on to the tarmac, where we had to wait to board the plane. I almost froze to death in my shorts. But the view of the Tetons at sunrise was amazing.
We headed back through Denver, which is a strange airport, there are conspiracy theories that it is the HQ of the new world order, google it sometime, very strange.
There was one point when I was walking through the concourse to get some food, and I saw a departing flight to Portland. I immediately got a strange feeling, a pang of regret, mixed with a little sadness that I no longer thought of it as home. A wonderful place filled with people I love, yes, but not home anymore. Hawaii is home now, and we were ready to get back to the tropicality. But we know hardly anyone there, we have yet to establish firm roots, so at that moment I felt a bit like a ship adrift at sea. I guess you can say that to me the mainland felt very different, and I felt differently about it. It’s hard to put into words, but something has definitely changed for me. I didn’t get the urge to drop everything and return, but was more appreciative than ever for the people and places on the mainland.
So now we’re back in our little Quiet Village, all is well, fall is coming and with it a little cooler weather and less sun. However September and October statistically are fairly dry, so we’re looking forward to that. Plus we got word that our first mainland visitors are confirmed for December! Yay Shawn Jack and Lori! We can’t wait to entertain and share da Big Island with friends.
Aloha for now!