Hawai'i 2.0, Day 2: Sweets, Surf, Samoans, and Celebrities

Our first full day on Oahu, and a busy one at that. We head out of Waikiki up through the middle of the island toward North Shore. What starts out as a slow and nerve-wracking drive through Honolulu (something I'm starting to realize is the norm in this area of the island) quickly thins out, and we have a much more relaxing drive from then on.

We make a quick detour when we see a sign for a technology park, just to see what is considered a technology park here... an AT&T building, a cable company, and several logos we don't recognize. How cute!

From there, we wind our way around the streets for a while, trying to find our way back onto the highway; this proves fruitless, so we use Lucie's iPhone's GPS and take city streets to where we think we should be, and eventually find our way to the Dole plantation. We shop, and shop hard. We also share a pineapple soft serve sundae, drink an obligatory huge and fresh pineapple juice, I have a tasty coffee smoothie, and Lucie buys a loaf of Hawaiian sweet bread with Kona coffee baked into it, which looks and smells fantastic.

From there, we continue on up to North Shore. There are supposed to be a huge number of shrimp trucks along North Shore, and we've been looking forward to trying them for ourselves. However, the small snacks we had at the Dole plantation only served to increase our hunger, so before we actually come across any of the shrimp trucks we end up stopping in Sunset Beach at Ted's Bakery, one of the more popular eateries along the way. Lucie has their garlic shrimp plate (consistently voted one of the best out here), and I opt for the mahi mahi plate lunch. Both are equal parts expensive and tasty, and Lucie's plate comes with a free slice of their famous chocolate haupia cream pie. The gray skies finally open up and it starts to rain as we eat lunch, but we just move in a little closer under the table's umbrella and continue to enjoy our meal.

We get back into the car, and five minutes later we hit what I can only refer to as Shrimp Truck Row, where shrimp trucks sit along the sides of the road like hippies in Berkeley, and hordes of cats stalk the streets looking for leftovers and handouts (come to think of it, also like hippies in Berkeley.) We're still too full from Ted's so we decide to come back later, and continue on to the Polynesian Cultural Center just as the rain slows, and then stops.

The PCC is everything we expect it to be; educational, stereotypical, entertaining, and (of course) expensive. We catch the Pageant of Canoes, or the Parade of Floats, or the Boatloads of Natives, or the Rainbows of Paradise, or whatever it's called, where each of the different cultures shows off their clothing, greetings, and dancing. In the case of Samoa, the dancing is so energetic, and it rocks the float so much, that the poor guy steering the float also ends up giving a swimming demonstration as he falls off the pontoon into the water. My first thought is that it's staged just to give us ignorant tourists something to talk about; but the guy looks legitimately irritated, the dancers look embarrassed, and a closer look at the cleanliness of the water leads us to conclude that this isn't something they'd planned on. Good thing I got pictures!

We wander through the surprisingly huge grounds, going from culture to culture and checking out the different buildings, war boats, and gift shops that the cultures are known for. For example, I had no idea at all that the Maori were able to produce such intricate refrigerator magnets using their primitive tools, but I suppose that's what the PCC is here to teach. After several hours of walking through the various villages, sweating profusely in the cloudy and extremely muggy weather, we head back to the shrimp trucks for an early dinner.

Giovanni's is listed on Yelp and other online review sites as one of the better shrimp trucks in the area, so we stop by there and get a garlic shrimp plate and a spicy shrimp plate to share, and sit under the provided tarp to eat. The shrimp are huge and well-seasoned, the drinks are cold, and the tent under which we're sitting is sturdy, which is very fortunate indeed: a sudden downpour ensues as we're eating. This isn't one of your usual rainstorms that you see in California; this is very nearly a full-on tropical monsoon, with the rain coming down so hard on the tarp we can't hear each other speak, and everyone sitting near the sides of the tent suddenly feeling much more friendly with neighboring tables, and with our shoes suddenly wet as water pours in from outside. This has us very happy we'd decided to stop and eat rather than be caught out driving in this downpour.

And then, fifteen minutes and what seems like six inches of rainfall later, the water just... stops. We wash our hands (using rain runoff from the tent, which works surprisingly well) and head off back toward our hotel on Waikiki. What follows still comes back to me in my nightmares: dark, narrow, windy mountain roads with inadequate lighting. Sudden torrential downpours, with the windshield wipers unable to cope with the amount of rain. Badly cleaned windshield (both interior and exterior) that's alternately smearing, fogging, streaking, and mocking me. Towns with names like Ka'a'awa. And my underwear bunching up... but maybe I'm saying too much.

Suffice it to say, the ride home is not as relaxing as I'd like it to be, but by the time we hit Honolulu (and its traffic jams) the weather has cleared up, the roads have straightened and widened, the windshield has been defrosted into submission, and we make it back to our hotel safely.

And, as we sit in the bar having some alcohol to calm our nerves (I have an incredibly minty mojito and a "mangotani", while Lucie tries out drinks called a Lava Flow and a Honolulu), we notice that Bruce Vilanch is sitting at a table nearby, with a crowd of attentive people flitting about attending to his needs. It takes a while for us to recognize him, as he's apparently recently shaved off his Muppet beard, but a quick search on Google shows that he's performing in Oahu, so it's definitely him.

So, since we've been married we've met Penn & Teller, Bruce Campbell, Alton Brown, and now we've run across Bruce Vilanch. Maybe someday we'll even meet someone famous!

Coffee consumption for the day: a coffee smoothie from Waialua Roasters at the Dole plantation, 1 can of Royal Kona vanilla macadamia flavored coffee.


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