The Big Island

Last Modified: January 24, 1999

Birthday Flowers

Tuesday, January 12, 1999 -- We flew from Maui to the Big Island.

Once we checked in, the flowers Tom had ordered for Cathy's birthday were delivered.

Cathy quickly arranged for Internet service, this time for $5.21 for a week; Hawaii Aloha Internet is your friend, much better than the other Big Island service we emailed from Seattle, which never bothered to reply.

Dinner at Roy's. "Happy Birthday Cathy!!" on the chocolate soufflé plate. The soufflés were a big hit with the three chocaholics in the group.

We entered the lottery for DolphinQuest's "dolphin doubles" and were drawn as the fifth and sixth alternates for the eight winning slots.

Wednesday, January 13 -- The hotel was supplying free breakfasts, but the lounge was open and lots of little birds had figured out that there was food to be had. We learned quickly why there were covers over all of the food and not to leave any food unattended for even a few seconds unless you wanted to share, or worse.


We decided to hang out to see if we could get into dolphin doubles as alternates, and amazingly we did.

Dad seemed nearly as pleased with kissing a dolphin as he was with the soufflé at Roy's. Mom, too.

While wandering the grounds, Tom found another giant water slide and tried it out, several times.

Dinner at Kamuela Provision Company (KPC). After a good meal, and a look at the dessert menu, Tom correctly predicted that Cathy would order nothing. How can you follow up the soufflé at Roy's? But, upon hearing Tom order vanilla ice cream, Cathy got an interesting idea. She asked "Can I get vanilla ice cream with hot fudge sauce? Whipped cream & a cherry?" It was the best "nothing" ever! For the rest of the trip Cathy was mercilessly harassed for managing to turn "nothing" into a hot fudge sundae.

Thursday, January 14 -- We got up early to snorkel at A Bay. Snorkeling was not as good as in Olowalu Bay, but Mom had fun anyway. We walked back to the hotel since the shuttle ride seemed ridiculously short. The trail turned out to be lots of loose rock, and required the consumption of Lava Flows once we made it back to the hotel.

At 4:00 p.m. we piled into the Blazer and Cathy drove us up to the Visitor Information Station at the Onizuka Center for International Astronomy on Mauna Kea. Tom tracked the route with a GPS receiver. At 9,300 feet, with clear dark skies, the night promised a great view of the stars. When the Stargazing Program started at 6:00 pm, we were the only ones there and it looked like we were going to have our own guided star party. But then literally bus loads of tourists showed up. Some were totally clueless: what's the difference between a star and a planet, taking flash photos in the eyes of viewers who have been doing everything by red light for two hours, one clown who was convinced Betelgeuse is pronounced "bet-el'-gus" because that's the way he's always pronounced it (it's pronounced "beetle juice"), three trips back to Saturn for the clowns that didn't manage to take a look the first time we spent 45 minutes looking at it. The skies were great, but the wind was strong enough that the telescope seldom settled down enough for a good look. Venus was too bright to see any detail, and despite several attempts, Saturn never got a steady scope. Still, we got good views of the Orion Nebula and the Andromeda Galaxy. There was a moon doing a transit in front of Jupiter, and we could see its shadow.

For the ride back in the dark, the GPS might actually be useful, so once again Cathy drove. However, just before reaching the first turn, the batteries for the GPS died.

Friday, January 15 -- We fought the birds for breakfast and then headed out for the volcano, stopping for lunch at Ken's Pancake House in Hilo.

Kilauea has been erupting continuously since January 3rd, 1983. The lava has taken slightly different paths to the ocean during that period. One of those paths devastated a small community at Kalapana. At the time of our trip, the lava was flowing from Pu'u 'O'o Crater to Kamokuna, which is a bit west of Kalapana.

Plume from Lava

Our quest for the day was to drive as close to the current lava flow as we safely could and see what we could see, preferably as the sun was setting in hopes of seeing things in sunlight and in early darkness. Cathy had in mind a place where we could drive four miles along a 4WD road across the old lava flows to see where the lava flow was currently pouring into the ocean. As instructed by the guidebook, we ignored the sign that says "residents and owners only" and headed out across the lava. The "road" turned out to be a one-lane path plowed across the lava field and made somewhat level with mostly fist-sized lava rocks. After about 1.5 miles of very bumpy going and one round of bottom-scraping-rocks, we hit a stretch that we all decided was impassable. So, we walked another mile in, over mostly fist-sized lava rocks. We could see the plume quite well and watched it until the sun set, hoping that the twilight period would be long enough for us all to walk the mile back to the truck along the road of fist-sized lava rocks. In case it's not clear, the road was not very good.

Driving back across the lava road in the dark it would have been handy to have the GPS, but Tom had decided to leave it in the room.

Volcano House for dinner. Cathy asked "do you have a dress code." Response: "If you're dressed, we'll let you in!"

Painted Church

Saturday, January 16 -- We stopped by the "Painted Church" and City of Refuge on the way back to Waikoloa.


We had all been to the City of Refuge before, so we made a quick trip through the site. Mom observed that some of the totems which had previously been anatomically correct in an exaggerated sort of way had been edited for family viewing. The site was built next to the ocean and is partly surrounded by lava rock tide pools. While traipsing over the rocks, Mom and Dad discovered a couple of sea turtles picking lunch off the rocks in the pools.

Dolphins Playing Dolphin

Once back at the Hilton, Cathy headed over to the dolphin lagoon to watch the dolphins frolic and brought a Lava Flow back to the room for Tom.

Dinner at Donatoni's. Mom called it the best meal of the trip. The waiter seemed nonplused at the compliment.

Turtle photo Copyright © 1999, Barbara Joyce. All other photos Copyright © 1999, Cathy Saxton & Tom Saxton. All rights reserved.

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