Final Days in Hawaii

As the coronavirus pandemic gets worse and worse around the world, especially in the United States where Governors of states have had to step up to manage the crisis when leadership at the Federal level is insanely a month behind, being on vacation in Hawaii was surreal.

As of the weekend of March 21/22, essentially most of the State…

…was closed. Restaurants that had drive-through capabilities were open, as well as grocery and drug stores. But other than that, the weekend saw “open for business, fun and frolic” turn into, “visitors, kindly go home.”

I understand that. The state had to look after its own who may need health care and doesn’t need (or have capacity) to deal with potentially thousands of non-residents who may need medical attention.

And with irresponsible Spring Break kids running around in groups, going to beaches, etc., that behavior only increased the significant chances of the virus being spread because someone can have it, be contagious, yet not have symptoms for the first few days.

By Saturday, we saw yellow caution tape and “closed” signs at entrances to public beaches and parks. We also observed that most stores, shops, and public activities that were once open were closing. For example, I stopped by the Harley dealer on Saturday morning to get a t-shirt, and while they were open (and encouraging me to rent a bike), the next day they were closed.

Not wanting to contribute to any problems, but being there for another few days, Spouse and I took a drive to the north end of the island where I rode a rented motorcycle with a friend three years ago (to the day).

Little towns we drove through were closed up tight and looked like ghost towns. But the weather was still sunny, bright, warm, and beautiful. Weather doesn’t pay attention to pandemics.

We returned to our rented condo and just hung out together. Same for Sunday.

Considering how closures were progressing and increased number of news items about the Governor and other responsible leaders asking visitors to leave (as well as making any new arrival have to stay in their hotel or rental property for two weeks of isolation) — we got the message and made arrangements to leave on Monday, a day earlier than we had expected.

Sunday morning, it took about two hours, but I rebooked our return flights to go to the mainland directly from the Big Island on Monday, instead of having to fly from Kona to Honolulu, then to the mainland on Tuesday as we had originally planned. All was looking good and we informed our host that we would be leaving a day early.

Then on Monday, things got really really weird. I received a message from the airline that our flights had been automatically rebooked because a flight we were on was canceled. They rebooked us to fly from Honolulu to Los Angeles, and then from there to JFK Airport in New York. Huh?

Holy banana cakes, Batman! Fly us from an island we were not on to the epicenter of coronavirus on the mainland?

I learned that our airline had canceled all flights to the mainland effective Tuesday, and also canceled all flights to the mainland from Kona (Big Island.)

I finally got through to the airline on the phone and rearranged our rebooked flights. The agent couldn’t explain how the automatic rebooking sent us from the wrong originating airport to the wrong destination, but got us on flights that were workable.

However, the rebooked flights to home also left from Honolulu. We were on our own to get there using a different interisland carrier. After a mad scramble of packing up, eating our last meal at the condo (not knowing if we would be able to find food at airports), we skedaddled to return the rental car and get to the airport.

Turned out, anxiety about flights to Honolulu was unfounded. Many interisland flights were still available. We got on the next plane out. That left us 3 hours layover at HNL.

I was grateful that I had the long layover. With my experience with flying during stressful times (like being among the first to fly again after September 11, 2001), I decided to check with the ticket agent at the airport to reconfirm the flights we had been booked on.

Very grateful I did that, because the flight departing HNL to the mainland that we got booked on was canceled. Again.

We got rebooked again to flights that the airline was using to reposition airline employees. We were among very few regular passengers on flights reserved for airline staff “return to home station” flights.

And with all that, we were upgraded to first class, too. Maybe due to my status with the airline as a 2M miler, but also because the flights were mostly empty. For such a long period of travel (21 hours in all), the first class upgrade was very appreciated.

Flights were on time; layovers in Los Angeles and Charlotte were brief. Airports were empty — again, like ghost towns. Frightening times!

We are now home. While we feel healthy (other than jet lag), we are self-isolating for two weeks just to be safe.

Man, what a crazy experience!

Life is short: be patient, and be safe!

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About BHD

I am an average middle-aged biker who lives in the greater suburban sprawl of the Maryland suburbs north and west of Washington, DC, USA.

1 thought on “Final Days in Hawaii

  1. Here’s hoping you two aren’t at all infected with the virus and that you’ll be fine.

    Glad to know you got home OK.

    Best.

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