We've traveled to the Big Island of Hawaii more than half a dozen times in the last ten years. But I'll remember yesterday.
We live about 12 miles north of Seattle, and Sea-Tac is south of the city. If there’s no traffic it takes 35 minutes to get from our house to the airport. Yesterday was Sunday. We decided to leave home at 8 a.m. to have time to catch our 10:05 flight.
It’s sometimes a challenge to find a ride to the airport if our time away is long enough that we don’t want to leave our car in a lot nearby. Usually we can find a friend or an offspring to drop us off for $20. Once in a great while we resort to the airport shuttle.
Yesterday my brother-in-law Virgil was our ride. He and my sister Alyx live in their RV behind our house, and Virgil is often blessedly helpful. He dropped us off at the Alaska curb and carried our luggage to the sidewalk. For free.
We checked our bags in five minutes. This year we’re MVPs on Alaska Airlines (last year we flew 25,000 miles on Alaska or its partner airlines, so we get a special check-in line until the end of this year). The agent was friendly and envious of our Hawaii destination.
The security line was short.The TSA security person who checked my identification and ticket was friendly, even as he told me that my driver’s license expired on September 20, my last birthday – seven weeks ago. But it was still valid as a personal identification.
The TSA-Pre line was even shorter (a couple of years ago we paid $100 each for five years of preferred security. We no longer have to take off our coats or shoes, and recently we no longer had to remove our CPAP machines from their case. Now that Art has a pacemaker (in addition to an artificial hip and an artificial knee) he gets a special machine for his pieces-of-metal check. He was through security as quickly as I was. We had an hour before our plane left, so we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast.
By the time we finished our meal, used our respective restrooms and walked to gate C-15, nearly everyone had boarded the plane. I noticed a man and three young boys standing near the desk. As we approached the gate, one of the women murmured “Myers”. She said to us, “Would you mind trading your seats (7-D and 7-F) for seats further back that aren’t together? Three boys are traveling alone, and they’re nervous flyers, and they’d like to be seated together.” I said, “That’s fine.” Then I added, “Can we get a bonus of some kind?” We followed the lady over to the desk and received two new boarding passes and the promise of 2,500 frequent flyer miles each. Art’s new seat was 12-A (a window seat) and mine was 21-D (an aisle).
We made our way onto the plane. The man just ahead of us said, “Do you have an aisle seat?” I said yes. He said, “Would you be willing to trade it for a window seat?” I said okay. So my final seat was 17-A – in an exit row with about a foot of extra legroom. Score! I’m flying to Tucson on December 3 with Larisa, our Designer Cat, and she’ll be in a soft-sided Sherpa carrier that fits beneath the seat. In the next few days I’m going to change to 17-A on that flight. The two of us will have ample room - as long as the airline allows a pet carrier in the exit row.
I chatted with my seatmates, telling them I was happy for the extra legroom and explaining my travel plans. The man said he was a veterinarian, and he recommended Feliway as a product that you spray into the carrier. It is a synthesized version of the pheromes produced by cats that tells them they’re in a safe place. He said it should work well to maintain Larisa’s peace of mind rather than the Happy Traveler which I tried out last week and which got her loaded.
The six-hour flight was routine except for 25 minutes of the worst turbulence we’ve ever experienced. Fortunately, I remembered that no plane has ever fallen out of the sky from rough air. I looked out at the wing on my side only once. It was bending and shaking. I reminded myself that these airplanes are built and tested for extreme conditions.
Our luggage arrived quickly at the carousel. We crossed the street just as the Thrifty shuttle bus pulled up, and we were the first ones on – as opposed to the 45 minutes we waited last September in Boston. At our destination, Art handled the luggage while I disembarked. I was the first person in line at the Thrifty counter. The agent was friendly as he informed me that my driver’s license had expired. “I’ll need your husband’s license.” I went outside and got his license. A few minutes later, “I’ll need the credit card with your husband’s name on it. I got his credit card. “Your husband will need to sign the contract.”
I always drive when we’re out of town. Art has never signed the contract. I told the agent. He said, “Well, you can go into Kona to the police station. I hear that sometimes they’ll give a waiver that allows a person to drive while they’re here on an expired license.” I thanked him and went outside, replacing Art as the keeper of the luggage.
(I went to the police station the next day. The agent was incorrect. Driving with an expired license in Hawaii is a crime. I would be required to come back for a court and potentially a $500 fine. The police were friendly and sympathetic, but no. I considered the car I backed into last year in Hawaii and could not justify saying to myself that I’m a really good driver and willing to take the risk.)
We retrieved our car, a Ford Focus, and drove south eight miles to Costco to pick up the basics. Then drove north 30 miles and upslope another six to Paniolo Greens at Waikoloa, where we always stay. Checked into our condo and shortly thereafter welcomed our guests Danielle and Philip. They live on the other side of the island and were staying the night with us. Danielle and our daughter Laura are friends from their Navy days. We’d met Danielle only once, and Phil never, but we had a great dinner and conversation. The perfect end to our travel day!