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Entertainment roundup: tales from Kauai

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By BEN OLSON/For The Herald  —  Aloha! I am currently on vacation at an undisclosed location. Blame it on the pandemic and 2 years of social distancing. No, really, blame it on my wife. She said we needed a real vacation, and not one to some quaint, sleepy third world Shangri-La, as we have done in the past. She knew that I had long ago visited the other 49 states, many times over on various road trips. I kept waiting for the bridge to be completed so that I could see the 50th.

 With the help of a Costco travel agent, and the money we didn’t spend on other vacations the last few years, we bought a package trip, including a rental car, to Kauai, one of the Hawaiian Islands. It was a long, long time to sit on an airplane. It was made even longer by having to wear a mask every moment except when you’re actually putting food or beverage into your mouth, re-masking to chew or swallow. (Unlike the routine that seemed prevalent in Oakridge- once you had a beer or burger in front of you, you were done with the mask).

 So far away, yet still America   

Kauai is most Americans’ dream of an exotic trip to a foreign land. Beautiful, lush, strange foliage, some right out of a Dr. Suess book. The local are all Americans, though, and of course, they speak English, thank goodness. Everything is a little pricey, but that’s not a surprise considering anything that you could also find in a store on the mainland had to be shipped here somehow. Gas was abundant, but a dollar a gallon more than in Oregon.

Just like other places I’ve been where the sun drops down into the ocean at the end of the day, all of the vacationers assemble beachside to watch the sun disappear into the Pacific. When it’s a particularly brilliant sunset, you can hear a resounding applause.

Driving in Kauai

With the freedom of having a car, we could really see all the sights. On our first full day, we drove west along the southern coast to Waimea and then headed to the highlands. Over the next 18 miles we gained almost 4,000 feet in elevation and were treated to spectacular views of canyons, waterfalls and the Pacific Ocean in the distance. There are very few main roads, and they tend to be filled with tourists out to see the sights. As bad as traffic may seem on Highway 58 at times, on the main highway between Lihue and Waimea there is a stream of cars going close to the speed limit (50mph) the entire way, with no passing lanes whatsoever.

 There are less than 75,000 residents on Kauai, but perhaps that many more vacationers are staying at the various hotels, condos and B&Bs. One thing that you notice right away is that there are NO out-of-state license plates. Everyone either lives here or is here renting a car. It makes it difficult to tell from where the bad drivers originate.  You merely speculate where that tailgater behind you learned to drive.

Boating? Not so much in Hawaii

Native Polynesian canoe on a remote beach on a small island in Vava’u, Tonga. Getty Images/iStockphoto

When I worked at a marina down in Florida, I put a trivia question up on the blackboard every day. The one question that confounded everyone was this: “Which state has the most registered boats and which state has the least?” The answer to the first question changes from year to year, the correct answer has changed from Florida to Michigan to Minnesota to California and back. The answer to the second part of the question is Hawaii. There are no lakes here, or, for that matter, navigable rivers. If you want to go boating, you have to go out into the ocean, and that takes a substantial, expensive boat. There aren’t any 14’ Lunds with 20-horse Evinrudes to be found here.

We have 6 more nights to explore this lovely island, eat the best food the locals can cook up and work on a little color for my pastie flesh that hasn’t seen any sun for a while. If you’re envious, I understand. And I’ll never bring this up again, unless you’re asking me to get information for your next exotic vacation that you don’t need to get a passport to take.

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