Best vacation ever!

Discussion in 'Non Disney Photos / Mobile Phone Photos' started by ddindy, Sep 13, 2017.

  1. ddindy

    ddindy Member Staff Member

    Sorry for the delay. I'm having a little trouble linking to Flickr videos. Stay tuned!
  2. ddindy

    ddindy Member Staff Member

    Trip report part 6

    Things Get Hot!

    We're up to Friday, August 25, 2017. We had booked an early-morning lava hike with Epic Lava. That meant getting up at 2 am and driving for an hour to the town of Kea'au where we were to meet our guide at 4 am. On the way, we passed near Kilauea where the red glow from Halema'uma'u crater was clearly visible. I wanted to stop for a photo, but decided it would be better to wait until later in the trip.

    Our guide, Yvonne Baur, met us at the designated location. Yvonne is originally from Germany and spent many years in Utah before moving to Hawai'i. She's also quite a good photographer. (More on that in part 8.) We were the only people on the morning tour, which meant we would get all of the attention. We followed Yvonne on the 30-minute drive to Kalapana, where the public road ends and the emergency access road begins. Kalapana was covered by lava in 1990. In the wake of that, there is a parking area and many temporary bicycle rental businesses (for people who don't want to hike to the end of the access road). As we neared the town, we could see what looked like street lights on top of a hill. But those weren't street lights. What we were seeing was lava pouring over the edge of Pulama pali. (Pali is the Hawai'ian word for a steep slope or cliff.) I took that as a good sign.

    We parked our car in the Kalapana parking area (really just a wide spot in the road) and transferred to Yvonne's car to drive another mile up the road. The tour company pays a homeowner a small fee to park at the end of their driveway, a much-appreciated saving of two miles of hiking.

    The tour company provides all hikers with a small backpack with water, snacks, gloves, a rain poncho and a flashlight. The gloves were for protection in case of a fall in the lava field. Lava can be sharp, thanks to a high silica content, so a fall could be mean a painful hike back. On this day I made a few slips, but fortunately no falls.

    We started the hike around 5 am. Why hike in the morning? The lava field is basically a black surface. Imagine an asphalt parking lot on a sunny day. Would you rather walk on that in the morning, before the sun heats it up, or in the afternoon, after it has been baking in the sun all day? That's why a morning hike is better. Plus, if you do it soon after arriving in Hawai'i, your body hasn't had a chance to shift to Hawai'ian time. In the summer, Hawai'i is six hours behind Eastern time. (It's only five hours different in the winter, since Hawai'i does not observe Daylight Saving Time.) I kept telling myself that even though it's 5 am in Hawai'i, it's 11 am back home. It didn't help.

    Enough trivia. We hiked two miles along the gravel access road in the dark. For the first half mile, we were instructed to stay quiet, as we were passing several houses and we didn't want to disturb the residents. On the return hike, in daylight, we saw that the "houses" were several very small (one might even say tiny) buildings sitting on the lava. Not anything like what I had imagined in the dark. It's probably the perfect place for someone who wants to get away from it all.

    Along the way we passed a couple of locked gates that prevent people from driving down the road. Hikers and bicycles are free to pass. The second gate marked the entrance to Volcano National Park, and is the site of the only comfort facilities (porta-potties) on the hike.

    Park Back Entrance

    After two miles we reached the "end" of the gravel road. It was blocked at this point due to the current path of the 61G flow from Pu'u O'o to the ocean. At this point, my sister, who had a cataract in one eye that greatly hampered her depth perception, realized that hiking over the lava was going to be difficult, if not impossible. She reluctantly decided to stay put while Yvonne and I headed off in search of lava. Fortunately, it was going to be a cloudy day, so she wouldn't have to worry about the heat.

    We turned inland and hiked across the lava field for another two miles. Thanks to many layers of lava over the past 35 years, the hike is far from easy. There's as much up-and-down as there is horizontal progress.

    Challenging Terrain

    I could see Pulama pali in the near distance with several plumes of smoke indicating lava movement.

    Smoke on the Pali

    Surprisingly, there were a few areas which had still not been covered with lava.

    Surviving Pele

    Eventually, I started to feel some heat coming up from the ground. I asked "Is it just me or is it getting warmer?" Sure enough, as we crested the next hill, there it was: actual hot, glowing, moving lava.

    Lava Hike 1, 6:45 am

    Yvonne uses her phone to make time-lapse videos of the lava. Since she sets it up so close, the video ends when the phone overheats and shuts down. She has to take it away to cool off before shooting another.

    Lava Hike 1, 6:44 am

    The terrain in the area was relatively flat, so the lava moved very slowly. Actually, ooze is probably the correct word to describe the motion. There was no threat of being overrun by onrushing lava. It was relatively quiet, but the hot lava made a sort of sizzling sound, like meat cooking on a grill. (Click the photo below to view the video.)

    Lava hike 1 video, 6:58 am

    Lava Hike 1, 6:49 am

    Lava Hike 1, 6:50 am

    Lava Hike 1, 6:52 am

    Lava Hike 1, 6:53 am

    Here I am taking the photo above. How hot was it? Lava like this is over 1000 degrees. My forearms felt like they were next to a hot fire. (I'm sure @gary can relate to that.) This was about as close as I could get for any length of time. On the plus side, after this, taking food out of a hot oven doesn't phase me any more.

    Getting Toasted

    Lava Hike 1, 6:56 am
  3. ddindy

    ddindy Member Staff Member

    It was relatively quiet out here in the middle of nowhere, but the hot lava made a sort of sizzling sound, like meat cooking on a grill.

    Lava Hike 1, 6:57 am

    Lava Hike 1, 7:00 am

    I was wandering around the perimeter of the flow and took this shot looking down into a crack. Leaving the spot, I noticed loose flakes of lava sticking to my boot soles. The ground was a little warmer than I thought.

    Lava Hike 1, 7:08 am

    Here's what my boots looked like as a result.

    The Aftermath

    Even though the surface looks cool and solid, danger lurks beneath.

    Lava Hike 1, 7:18 am

    This video shows an interesting phenomenon: As the lava moved forward, small flakes of lava from the underlying surface are flicked into the air. (Click the photo below to view the video.)

    Lava hike 1 video, 7:19 am

    Another tour group, from Kalapana cultural tours, found our secret lava spot. They were the only other people we saw on the lava that day.

    Lava Hike 1, 7:22 am

    (Click the photo below to view the video.)

    Lava hike 1 video, 7:23 am

    Another sign of the ground's flatness is the width of flow.

    Lava Hike 1, 7:27 am

    About this time, a light shower passed through. It was interesting to hear the rain drops hiss as they hit the hot lava and instantly evaporated (you can hear it at the 1:00 point in the video). (Click the photo below to view the video.)

    Lava hike 1 video, 7:34 am

    Lava Hike 1, 7:37 am

    The first wave of tourist helicopters showed up, buzzing around like angry hornets. Yvonne said it was time to head back. Once back at the access road, the three of us took a short walk over to where we could see the point where the lava flows into the ocean. We couldn't see any actual lava from here as it was flowing underground. The rope in the foreground is all that prevents people from walking into dangerous areas. The fresh lava is not very stable, and frequently slides into the ocean. A big chunk of land along here disappeared at the end of 2016.

    Growing Island
  4. ddindy

    ddindy Member Staff Member

    Five hours and eight miles later, we returned to the car. It was hard work, and thanks to my melted boot soles, the hike back was fairly uncomfortable. Yvonne thoughtfully had a cooler of cold juice in her car, and as we chatted she mentioned that on Sunday she would be making an even earlier hike to photograph the lava before dawn. Would I like to come along? You bet! All I need to do is find a new pair of hiking boots.

    Here's a map showing the route of our hike. Yvonne sent me a copy of the data from her GPS tracker and I imported it into Google Maps. The numbers on the map are mile markers. The lava was at mile 4, and the little loop at mile 6 was our side trip to the ocean entry.

    Lava hike 1 route

    Google's satellite photo must be a few years old, because the plume of steam in their photo is nowhere near where it is today. It's an ever-changing landscape.

    Due to road construction, there was a massive traffic backup on the road from Kalapana to Kea'au. It was especially bad because there are no alternate routes in the area. Once we finally made it to Kea'au (around 11:30 am), we stopped for lunch. On the way back to the condo, stopped at the Volcano Winery to sample their wares. The rest of the day was spent resting up from the day's activities and making plans for Saturday. We were exhausted!

    Yvonne likes to post photos of her hikes on Facebook. Here are the photos from my Friday hike. (You may be required to log on to Facebook to view them.)

    You don't need log on to see her compilation of time-lapse videos from that day:

    In part 7, we take a break from the bleak volcanic landscape.
    Joanie Eddis-Koch likes this.
  5. ddindy

    ddindy Member Staff Member

    To give you something to look at while I'm working on part 7 of my trip report, here are some links for Yvonne Baur:

    Yvonne has gone into business for herself, offering lava photography tours in both English and German. Her web site,, is the place to go to book a tour, buy her 2018 lava calendar (highly recommended) or prints of her outstanding photos. Pro tip: If you go to Hawai'i and want to do a lava hike, wait until you're there to book your tour. Lava flows change every day, and there's a chance that there won't be a viewing opportunity during your visit. There's no point in spending money to see nothing.

    Yvonne is very active on Facebook and Instagram, and frequently posts videos to her Youtube channel.

    You can see some of her current and older photos on Smugmug.
  6. ddindy

    ddindy Member Staff Member

    Trip report part 7

    Time to stop and smell the flowers

    First off, a big apology for the big gap between parts 6 and 7. In the two months that have passed, I made two trips to Disney World, lost a hard drive in one PC and the power supply in another. Plus I wasted a lot of time simply trying to identify the subjects of the photos in this report before giving up.

    Saturday, August 26 was another day to sleep in since there were no early morning appointments. The first order of business was to find a pair of hiking shoes or boots to replace the pair that were terminally melted by hot ground the day before. The nearest city was Hilo, on the east side of the big island.

    On the way into town, we passed the Mauna Loa macadamia nut plant. We would have stopped at the visitor center for a tour and some free samples had we seen the entrance in time. So we added that to the list for the next trip, whenever that may be.

    The first stop was at the Prince Kuhio Plaza mall, which bore a striking resemblance to every other mall that I've been in. After a thorough search of all shoe stores in the place, I found nothing acceptable. So we went next door to a discount clothing store (Ross) and within minutes found a pair of hiking sneakers in my size for the bargain price of $18! I guess Pele wanted me to come back for another visit.

    One of the must-do places to visit for my sister was the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden. I pretended that I was taking her there just to make her stop carrying on about it, but in truth I was looking forward to visiting it myself. I guess the work of the Disney World botanical department had given me a desire to see interesting greenery in other places. (Take a look at the web site. It has a description of the garden, a map of the trails and a plant database with an entry for every type of plant that they have.)

    The garden is several miles north of Hilo on a road that was once the main highway. After driving over it, I'm glad they built a much nicer road. Sure, it's narrow, has many blind corners and several one-lane bridges, but it's a route worth exploring. Sadly, we didn't have the time to do so as we were focused on visiting the Garden.

    Welcome to the Jungle

    After parking and purchasing tickets, we went across the road to the garden entrance. The first trail you encounter is a lengthy boardwalk that goes down a hill to the garden area near the ocean. There are several interesting plants along the boardwalk, like this Borneo Red Beehive Ginger.

    Borneo Red Beehive Ginger

    At the bottom of the boardwalk, there are several trails, each of which highlights a specific type of plant or scenic location. Some examples are the Palm Jungle, Onomea Waterfalls, Orchid Garden, Anthurium Corner and Torch Ginger Trail.

    It was a beautiful day with lots of interesting plants. I'll just post a sampling here. If you want to see more, look at my Flickr Hawai'i album where I've posted several more photos.

    Pauahi Bishop Hibiscus

    Cat's Whiskers

    Tahitian Double Ginger

    Torch Ginger

    The Orchid Garden, as you would guess, contains an astounding variety of orchids. I always thought they were kind of creepy looking, like some sort of alien life form, but seeing so many gave me a new appreciation for their beauty.

    Orchid 13:51

    Orchid 14:03b

    Orchid 14:56

    Orchid 13:55

    Orchid 14:08b
    Last edited: Dec 23, 2017
  7. ddindy

    ddindy Member Staff Member

    They also have a wide variety of Anthuriums, which feature obscene-looking flowers sprouting from pretty leaves.

    Anthurium Corner

    Anthurium 13:12

    Anthurium 14:15b

    Anthurium 14:15a

    Eventually we found our way down to the ocean. This area was the site of a village protected by these rocks. Click the photo to read the legend of the twin rocks.

    Twin Rocks of Kalahii

    Later, the bay became an important port for trade. Eventually the need for the port dropped off, and later the land was purchased by the founders of the Garden.

    This flower, the Beach Naupaka, also has a legend associated with it. Click the photo read the further adventures of the volcano goddess.

    Beach Naupaka

    We spent the better part of the afternoon exploring the garden, so it was dinner time when we left. After consulting our guide book, we decided to dine at the Hilo Burger Joint. It was a hole-in-the-wall bar in a questionable neighborhood, but the food was very good. They had a variety of burgers (and other dishes) that reflect the fusion of western and eastern cultures that is modern Hawai'i.

    Full and satisfied, we headed back to the condo. I went to bed early to get a little sleep before rising in the wee hours for my second lava hike.

    Stay tuned for part 8! (With luck, it will appear after a reasonably short wait.)
    Scottwdw, Joanie Eddis-Koch and gary like this.
  8. gary

    gary Member

    if you had not given me some orchids i would have demanded a refund
    Joanie Eddis-Koch likes this.
  9. ddindy

    ddindy Member Staff Member

    There's a bunch more on Flickr.
  10. gary

    gary Member

    just came back from the flicker, look at you go, you have some very nice flower shots on there
  11. ddindy

    ddindy Member Staff Member

    Trip report part 8

    Return to lava

    Sunday, August 27 was, in retrospect, one of the best days of a trip full of great days. As you may recall from part 6, guide and photographer Yvonne Baur invited me to join her on a second hike with the goal of taking pre-dawn photos of lava. Since sunrise was at 6 am and we would have to hike up to four miles to reach the flow, I was up at 1 am and on the road just after 2.

    Approaching the entrance to Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park, the distant glow of Halema'uma'u crater was too much to resist. I pulled off of the road, set up my tripod and took a few quick shots. The sky was incredibly clear (other than the smoke coming from the crater), so you can see a few stars in this shot.

    Pele's Cooking Something Up

    I was scheduled to meet Yvonne at the end of the public road in Kalapana in 3:30 am. The photo stop en route only delayed me by five minutes. As before, I transferred my gear to her car and we drove another mile down the road to her special parking spot. We grabbed our backpacks and headed down the access road in complete darkness - we didn't even use flashlights. Again, the sky was very clear and there were no street or house lights visible, so I marvelled at seeing the Milky Way for the first time in years. I would have loved to try to get a photo of it, but we had to press on to be at the lava flow before the sky got too light.

    We headed onto the lava field around 4:15 am. There was still a glow of lava dropping over the edge of Pulama pali in the distance, but it didn't seem to be as bright as it has two days earlier. It felt like we hiked for a longer time than on Friday, but that may just have been my imagination. We could see haze in the distance which marked the location of the lava tube where the bulk of the lava flows underground to the sea, but there was no obvious sign of any surface flows.

    Finally, we topped one of the many hills and saw what we came for.

    Lava Hike 2 5:44 am

    We dropped our backpacks in what we thought would be a safe place (we later had to move them a little farther away from the flowing lava), set up our tripods and went to town capturing the ever-changing scene.

    Lava Hike 2 5:37 am

    Lava Hike 2 5:38 am

    Lava Hike 2 5:40 am

    Lava Hike 2 5:45 am

    Lava Hike 2 5:46 am

    Lava Hike 2 5:50 am

    It was interesting to see the various patterns on the cooling surface of the lava. In this photo, the dark ripples have swirled around as the left side moves more slowly than the right.

    Lava Hike 2 5:47 am

    Setting the exposure was tricky. There was glowing lava on top of the old dark lava under a brightening sky with some clouds. And since some of the lava was moving, long exposures could end up blurry in spots. Bracketing was the order of the morning.

    The front of the lava flow ended up going in two directions. The main part was following the natural path towards the ocean.

    Lava Hike 2 5:54 am

    Lava Hike 2 6:04 am

    Lava Hike 2 6:15 am

    Lava Hike 2 6:49 am

    Lava Hike 2 6:54 am
    jbwolffiv and Joanie Eddis-Koch like this.
  12. ddindy

    ddindy Member Staff Member

    Off to one side was a hollow that somehow had not been completely filled by previous flows, so quite a bit of lava flowed down into that. In the first photo, you can see how the falling stream of lava moves back and forth on the bottom, much like thick cake batter. You can also see strings of "Pele's hair," threads of hardened lava formed by small drips.

    Lava Hike 2 6:31 am

    Lava Hike 2 6:33:05 am (1 of 3 in sequence)

    Lava Hike 2 6:34:33 am (3 of 3 in sequence)

    Lava Hike 2 6:47 am

    One very unusual phenomenon was this tubular stream of lava that grew slowly along the ground.

    Lava Snake 1

    It rose up above the ground and appeared to grow a snout.

    Lava Snake 2

    It finally came to a halt, frozen in place until it's buried by another flow. It reminded me of that water tentacle thing from The Abyss.

    Lava Snake 3

    The tourist helicopters started buzzing around, signaling us that it was time to leave. I posed for the obligatory tourist photo as the skin on my right elbow started to sizzle from the heat.

    Lava Hike 2 7:21 am

    In order to save some time, Yvonne suggested that we take a more direct route to the park entrance. It meant a longer hike over lava, but saved about a mile of hiking. That's Yvonne leading me across years of accumulated lava.

    Hiking Off Into the Sunrise

    Here's the route of the day's 6.5 mile hike, created using GPS data from Yvonne. If you compare it to the map at the end of part 6c, you can see that the lava we found on the second hike could very well be downstream from what we saw on the first.

    Lava Hike 2 Route

    We returned to my car at 9:30 am, six hours after I parked there. I left my cell phone in the car, so I don't have any videos to post. However, I did take quite a few multi-shot sequences, so if I can ever figure out how to combine them into short videos, I'll post them here.

    Here are some of Yvonne's photos from Facebook and her time-lapse video.

    It was a wonderful way to spend a morning. We didn't see another soul while we were on the lava.

    I thanked Yvonne for the hike, bought a calendar featuring her lava photos, and headed back to the condo. Once there, I took a short nap, did laundry and packed for the next day's travel.

    My sister and I strolled down the road to Punalu'u Black Sand Beach. The beach is lava ground down to sand by the constant pounding of waves from the Pacific. Sea turtles are often seen here, but since this was a busy Sunday, they stayed in the water.

    Punalu'u Black Sand Beach

    In case you're curious, here's the view from the upstairs balcony of our condo. It was fun to just stand there and watch the swaying palm trees and the waves breaking over the rocks in the distance.

    View from Sea Mountain condo

    That evening, we drove back to Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park. One of the things we booked in advance was dinner in the restaurant at the Volcano House hotel. Our plan was to have a sunset dinner at a window table overlooking Kilauea crater, enjoying the glow of lava in the bottom of Halema'uma'u. Unfortunately, some clouds rolled in, completely blocking the view. I finally asked our server if they would please turn the volcano back on for us. :D At least the food was good.

    After dinner, the clouds thinned and we went to the observation area on the other side of the crater. The view was much better than what we had at dinner.

    Steaming Halema'uma'u

    Looking through my sister's Nikon P900 superzoom with its 24-2000 mm equivalent lens, it was possible to see lava splashing on the side of the crater as gas bubbles burst on the surface of the lava lake that is just out of view.

    That pretty much wrapped up our activities on the island of Hawai'i. As always, there are more photos from this day in my Hawai'i album on Flickr.

    Part 9 should be along pretty soon because it will be fairly short. Stay tuned!
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2018
  13. ddindy

    ddindy Member Staff Member

    Trip report part 9

    Travel Break

    Monday, August 29 was spent changing islands. We left Sea Mountain around 9 am for the two-hour drive over winding roads back to Kona. As we got to Kona I missed the turn onto the bypass, so we ended up going up Ali'i Drive along the ocean and past the site of our 2006 visit, Sea Village Condos, a sister resort to this trip's Sea Mountain lodging. Neither has air conditioning, which is apparently normal in Hawai'i. Braving the slow tourist traffic in downtown Kona, we eventually made it to the airport with time to spare.

    The Kona airport is rather unique in that there are no closed buildings - it's a collection of open-air huts. You go to the check-in hut to get your bags tagged, then drop them off at the TSA X-ray machine. The security hut is rather closed-in and hot. Everyone uses the single metal detector, but if you're Pre-Check they give you a yellow card that's like a FastPass to let you through ahead of the rabble. Then you go wait for your flight in the open-air waiting hut. At boarding time, you walk out onto the tarmac and up a ramp onto your plane. (No more stairs up to the plane; too many roller bags, I guess.)

    Inter-island flights are very short - so short that your serving of lilikoi juice comes pre-packaged in a small plastic cup so the flight crew doesn't have to waste time filling them.

    Once we landed in Honolulu, it seemed like we taxied for a period of time equal to the flight from Kona. Too bad we were taxiing west but our lodging was to the east.

    We picked up our rental car and headed for Waikiki. I missed the ramp onto the freeway (I hesitate to call it an Interstate since it stays entirely on the island of Oahu), so we took the Nimitz Highway, a long drive with lots of traffic through the big city.

    After fighting the poor layout of one-way streets in Waikiki that made it seem almost impossible to get from where you were to where you wanted to be, we finally got to our destination, the Fairway Villa condos at the corner of Walina Street and Ala Wai Blvd. They didn't have a two-bedroom unit so we ended up in two studios, my sister on the 12th floor and me on the 16th. The rooms were slightly bigger than a Disney moderate room. They had a compact washer and dryer next to the bathroom, a kitchen area, a Murphy bed and a small pull-out couch. There was also a small air conditioner, though not a very good one. Not a great arrangement, but it was good enough for the two nights we would be there.

    I stepped out onto the narrow balcony and took a 180-degree panorama of the view. (Click the photo for a larger image.)

    Waikiki Panorama

    North is to the left, Diamond head is just visible behind the buildings left of center and Waikiki Beach is behind the buildings on the right. Lovely, isn't it?

    Here's a full image looking to the north. If you look closely at the highrise on the left, you can just barely make out a rainbow in the hills behind it. It was the second rainbow of the trip and not the last.

    Oahu Rainbow

    We tried to decide where to eat and finally just headed toward the beach to see what we could find. We stopped at the International Marketplace, which in the past was a big open-air market. Now it's just another multi-story shopping mall. My sister stopped at one of the fancy shops to buy some special shampoo and asked the folks there for a dining recommendation. One of the places they mentioned was a beer-and-pizza place called Flour & Barley. Since beer and pizza cover all of the necessary food groups, we decided to try it out. It was pretty good.

    After dinner we walked through the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, the most famous hotel in Waikiki. It was pretty impressive. We finally reached the beach just after sunset and took in the view as the sky darkened. We also watched a bit of the Royal Hawaiian Luau; the stage is right next to the beach, so we had a good view of the Samoan fire dancers and the twitchy-hipped Tahitian girls.

    We decided to call it a night and took the public access route from the beach. This turned out to be an alley with hundreds of surfboards stored against the walls of the buildings on either side. It was an impressive sight to this boy from the Midwestern flatlands.

    Stay tuned for part 10: The bowels of Mighty Mo.
    mSummers and Joanie Eddis-Koch like this.
  14. ddindy

    ddindy Member Staff Member

    Trip report part 10

    The Bowels of Mighty Mo

    It's Tuesday, August 29, and we're on Oahu in the cityscape that is Waikiki. Our sole purpose for visiting Oahu is to take in all the sights of the Pearl Harbor historic sites.

    There are four historic sites to visit. The World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument (including the USS Arizona Memorial) and the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park are right next to the parking lot. The other two sites, the Battleship Missouri Memorial and the Pacific Aviation Museum, are on Ford Island and require a short shuttle bus ride.

    As part of our advance planning, we decided to pre-purchase tickets to the three sites that required them (the national monument is free) and visit Ford Island on the first of the two remaining days we had in Oahu. We upgraded our Missouri experience by booking the Heart of the Missouri tour, which promised to take us into parts of the ship that the are off limits to those with regular admission.

    Our tour started at 9 am with a recommended check-in at 8:30, so we left plenty early to travel the 12 miles from our condo to Pearl Harbor. If you don't know about Honolulu traffic, I'll just say that most of the people living in that part of Oahu must have moved there from Los Angeles, because they seem to love sitting in slowly-moving freeway traffic. Our journey started by taking what seemed like forever just to wind through some back streets to get on the freeway. Once there, traffic crawled most of the trip with only occasional chances to move at speeds over 40 mph. And to top it all off, since we arrived at the memorial around 8 am, there was a final traffic jam of commuters heading to Ford Island. I don't recall what our travel time was, but it was waaaaay too long.

    Since we arrived so early, parking was not a problem. We checked in and picked up our Missouri tickets, then walked a short distance to board the luxurious shuttle bus. (Seriously, it was one of those really nice tour buses, similar to the those used by Disney Magical Express.) Since we were the only people crazy enough to be there that early, we were the only passengers on the bus and had plenty of time to chat with the driver as we sat in the traffic heading to Ford Island.

    Once at the Missouri, we took a quick pass through the gift shop then boarded the ship and checked in for our tour. Once again we were the only people on the tour. Our guide, Andy, took us into the Officers' wardroom to introduce himself and give us some background. He served in the Navy, and while he didn't serve on the Missouri, he was on the USS Bunker Hill in the late 80s which sailed alongside the Missouri as part of Battle Group Echo.

    The Missouri was commissioned in June, 1944, decommissioned in February, 1955, recommissioned in May, 1986 and finally decommissioned in March, 1992. It served in WWII, the Korean war and the Gulf war. On September 2, 1945, Japan signed the instrument of surrender on the Missouri's deck. The ship was docked at its current location in Pearl Harbor on June 22, 1998 and has been open to the public for nearly 20 years.

    Permanent Mooring

    Unfortunately, the ship's upper decks were surrounded by scaffolding as they were getting a fresh coat of paint. As a result, they were off limits to visitors.

    You can read the ship's vital statistics for yourself, but one item that stood out to me was hearing that the ship's width of 108 feet was limited by the 110-foot width of the Panama Canal locks of the 40s. Kind of a tight fit!

    We went back out on deck and climbed up into the turret officer's booth at the back of the front gun turret. I've always been fascinated with the mechanism and manpower required to fire these 16-inch guns every thirty seconds, so it was a treat to get to look inside at what makes it all tick.

    Big Guns (forward)

    On the deck there is a display showing one of the 16-inch shells alongside a powder can with the side cut open, showing one of the three 110-pound bags of black powder held by each can. It took six bags to fire each shell.

    Big Bullet for a Big Gun

    Sadly, my photos from inside the turret were less than satisfactory. In place of that, here are links to some YouTube videos: A 1955 training film, a video from 1988 showing one of the guns being fired and reloaded, and a recent video tour showing an identical turret on the USS Iowa (on display in Los Angeles). The latter video starts at the bottom of the turret and at minute 11 has finally worked its way up to the booth that we were allowed into.

    Leaving the turret, we went down to the third deck. This is two decks below the main deck. We entered between turrets 1 and 2, walked around the cylindrical base of turret 2 and took a stroll down "Broadway," a passage that runs the length of the ship between turrets 2 and 3.

    On Broadway

    There are a variety of rooms off of the central corridor. For the most part, we were only allowed to look into those rooms. Then things got interesting as we got to see what made the ship go. First stop was a firing room, which has nothing to do with shooting things but rather is where the fire is that heats the water in one of the eight boilers. Next, we went into a boiler room where we learned that the ship uses a closed-loop steam system: the boiler turns water into steam which passes through high and low pressure turbines and then is condensed back to water, beginning the cycle again. Our propulsion tour concluded in the turbine room, where we saw the controls that set the speed of the turbines which in turn control the speed of one of the ship's four screws.

    Turbine Throttles

    Back up on deck 3 we saw some of the sturdy analog computers used to control the 16-inch guns in the aft fire control room.

    Reliable Computer Technology

    One of the perks of the tour is the opportunity to "fire" the big guns. Nowadays, the trigger just starts a video recording that, just like in real life, fires the guns five seconds after the trigger is pressed.

    What Does This Button Do?

    Soon after this we returned to daylight on the main deck behind turret 3 and said farewell to Andy. We headed forward and joined one of the guided tours of the main deck. This highlight of this tour is the Surrender Deck where, on September 2, 1945, Japan signed the instrument of surrender to end World War II.

    We also learned about the day in 1945 when a Japanese Kamikaze pilot crashed into the side of the ship.

    Kamikaze Reminder

    The only casualty was the pilot. In what was at the time a controversial move, the ship's captain insisted on giving the enemy pilot a proper burial at sea with full military honors.

    We headed down to deck 2 to take the self-guided tour of that deck. Here are a few of the things we saw:

    The snack bar.

    Chocolate Soda, Please

    One of two cafeteria-style grab & go stations.

    Cafeteria Line

    The galley.

    Cooking for Crowds

    Some 1980s-vintage bunks.

    Modern Bunks

    Having seen as much of the Missouri as we could, we rode the shuttle bus a short distance to the Pacific Aviation Museum. The museum is housed in two hangars and has several outdoor display areas.

    Hangar 37 is the first building we visited. It contained several informative displays and dioramas such as this one simulating the deck of the USS Hornet and one of the B-25 bombers of the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo.

    Doolittle Raider

    We then moved over to Hangar 79, passing the control tower on the way. The tall red and white tower was still under construction in December, 1941. The building is not yet open to visitors, but you can see the F-105 and Sikorsky Sea Stallion on display.

    Ford Island Tower

    Speaking of December 7, 1941, these bullet holes in the windows of Hangar 79 have been preserved to remind us of the horrors of that fateful day.

    Gifts from Japan

    Hangar 79 contains a variety of aircraft on display. One of the more interesting is this B-17E that crash landed in a New Guinea swamp in 1942. It remained there until it was retrieved in 2006, gaining the nickname Swamp Ghost.

    Swamp Ghost

    Some of you may know that during World War II, artists at the Disney Studios created logos and nose art for all branches of the U.S. military. They are reviving that practice in the 21st century, creating a one-off design for the Swamp Ghost.

    New Nose Art

    (Could this be in any way related to the fact that Disney's Aulani resort is just over ten miles west of the museum?)

    Reluctantly, we boarded the shuttle bus back to the Arizona Memorial and our car. There had been light rain off and on all afternoon, and it started raining more heavily as we left the parking lot. Our plan was to attend Germaine's Luau on the southwest corner of the island. We got on the freeway and sat in the slow-moving traffic of the evening rush hour. The heavy rain and questionable wipers on our car did nothing to make the expierience any better. When we finally got to Barbers Point, we were told that the luau had been cancelled, so we turned around and headed back to Honolulu. The rain was ending, providing a nice rainbow. But as we got back to Honolulu, we found even more slow traffic! Oh, how I learned to hate driving in Oahu.

    For dinner we headed back to Flour & Barley where my sister and I both dined on some delicious Teriyaki Salmon to end the day.

    As always, you can see more photos in my Hawai'i album on Flickr. I also recommend visiting the official sites of the Battleship Missouri Memorial and the Pacific Aviation Museum. You can find a plethora of videos about the Missouri and her sister battleships Iowa, New Jersey and Wisconsin on YouTube.

    Next comes part 11, Arizona, Bowfin and Aloha.
    Joanie Eddis-Koch likes this.

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