This week’s positive and negative factors for retiring in Hawai’i both concern housing. If you’re retiring and plan on buying a house, in spite of extremely high prices there is some good news; if you need specialized housing, the news is not so good.
PRO: Houses in Hawai’i are an extremely costly proposition these days. However, Hawaii property taxes are still fairly low (we are frankly amazed by how low they are in Hawaii compared to other states), and senior homeowners receive additional exemptions on their taxes. Back when we were considering buying, because our ages our annual property taxes would have only been around $150! Currently, all Hawaiian homeowners receive a $160,000 tax exemption on their home but seniors 60 and over receive the following exemptions.
$180,000 for ages 60 to 79.
$200,000 for age 80 and above
Every little bit helps!
CON: Inexpensive elderly housing and assisted living can be difficult to find in Hawaii, especially if you need it sooner rather than later. Housing for seniors, government subsidized or otherwise, exists on most of the islands and as might be expected, most of it is in Honolulu. However, space in these places is limited, they can be costly, and it can take years to gain a spot in a government-subsidized housing facility. We know of three retirement/senior living facilities on Kauai, although there may be more. One is a full-scale retirement and assisted living center in Lihue. It is fairly new and is also very expensive. Another housing option for low-income retirees is the old Lihue theater, which has been remodeled and turned into subsidized one-bedroom apartments for seniors, a very clever way to save and utilize a historic building. There are income limits to qualify for one of these apartments, and our income is too high. Another senior housing complex exists in Kalaheo, near where we live, but we again have too high an income to qualify. I’ve recently seen openings advertised on Craigslist – when we lived here before I never once saw an ad – the only notice I ever saw was an announcement on the theater marquis.
In Hawaii, it’s very common for extended family to live together and manage care for elderly family members, possibly with help from the community. Continuing home health care is a frequently used option for seniors here, and Kapuna Care (kapuna = grandparent, ancestor, or honored elderly), funded by the State of Hawaii, allows seniors to stay in their homes and provides assistance with daily living activities. Other private companies and services exist as well to help elders remain in their homes or with family.
While not the only reason, current housing costs play a major role in our decision not to remain in Hawaii, as does the lack of options on Kaua’i for senior care, which may be needed in the future.
Lucky to live Kaua’i!(all the above photos come from Unsplash/Kauai)
I almost don’t know where to begin with how different living on Kaua’i has been for us this time. We spent our four previous years discovering the island, enjoying the weather, beaches, and the people, and getting two of our three daughters through high school and on to college. We had lots to learn and adapt to, like figuring out how and where to shop for everything and what things cost here (the real cost) but the laid-back and friendly lifestyle fit us well. It wasn’t perfect though: after living in a low-humidity location for nearly 25 years the humidity on Kaua’i about drove me mad. Still, the island grew on us, and when we left on our Big Adventure in 2018 big parts of our hearts were left behind.
At that time, we honestly didn’t think we’d be back for a variety of reasons. We felt somewhat discouraged with our life here when we left, but realize now that was mostly restlessness after 40 years of raising children. Brett and I wanted to do something big and different with our life as empty nesters, and with YaYu heading to college we grabbed our chance. We were honestly (and pleasantly) surprised when our daughters suggested we move back when we finished traveling, and also surprised by how homesick we felt for the island when we visited again in early 2020.
Brett and I love living on Kaua’i again, and are so grateful now that we were encouraged to return. We’ve been safe here from the COVID pandemic, although with the return of tourists and increased inter-island travel the number of cases is rising again, so we’re starting to get a little anxious about how this turns out. However, with the changes we’ve made this time, aspects of island living that were discouraging before are no longer an issue:
The five points listed below were the things that wore us down during our first four years on Kaua’i. For a variety of reasons, all of these have been turned around this time, and we couldn’t be happier and more satisfied with our current life. I’ve highlighted the changes in blue.
Our daughters’ schedules: Brett’s and my lives were completely organized around WenYu’s and YaYu’s schedules before, and all the activities they were involved in from sports to clubs to community service to their social lives. It was extremely difficult for us to put together a quick trip to the beach because of their packed schedules, let alone go shopping or out to have lunch, or even take a walk or enjoy other aspects of island life. We understood the need for their involvement and supported all they did, but we still felt very constrained and very frustrated at times, and it clouded our entire island experience. While we miss our girls,being able to live on our own schedule has made a HUGE difference. The pandemic has kept us close to home for the most part, but it’s wonderful knowing that each day is our own to unfold how ever we like. We feel relaxed these days, and enjoy operating on “island time.”
Traffic: Living on the east side of the island, in Kapaa, meant that we had to deal with standstill traffic every time we went out to shop for food, or go to the dentist or any other appointment south of us. When we arrived on Kaua’i in 2014, it took us approximately 15 minutes to reach Lihue but by the time we left we had to give ourselves a cushion of about 45 minutes. It was miserable. While traffic was not an issue during the pandemic restrictions, it’s returned right along with the visitors. Relocating to the south side of the island versus back to the east side has been one of the best choices we made this time. We live further away from Costco and Lihue, but can get there in less than half the time it took us to drive from Kapaa, even with the return of visitors.We otherwise have everything we need right in our area. We also love being so close to the west side of the island and the Barking Sands base, which use to be nearly a two-hour drive from our home in Kapaa.We always thought of the south side as being sort of dry, and full of tourists, but it’s actually quite lush where we are, and it’s easy to avoid the heavily trafficked tourist areas.With lovely breezes nearly year-round and good airflow through our apartment, humidity has been much less of an issue as well.
Dust: Dusting was already my least favorite chore when we moved here in 2014, and on the east side, every day we dealt with heavy amounts of dust and dirt, from who knows where. We had no idea that such a small island in the middle of the ocean could produce so much dirt! I hated it. I don’t know if it’s because our little apartment now is located at the back of the building away from the street or if it’s something else, but we get very, very little dust back here other than the “regular” stuff.
Noise: We lived in two different neighborhoods during our previous four years (both in Kapaa) and the noise was awful. Dogs barked around the clock, roosters and chickens were a constant presence in our yards and crowed or squawked all day and all night as well. We had noisy neighbors that yelled, drove loud cars, threw noisy parties, or were always running their noisy lawnmowers, leaf blowers, or saws at all hours of the day. We knew about the potential noise issue before we moved over here but even though we are pretty patient people it beat us down over time. Our current location is extremely quiet. Our neighbors are quiet. I think we’ve seen less than five chickens in our yard since we moved here and I can’t think of the last time I heard a dog bark although there are plenty in the neighborhood. I can be up in the middle of the night for a couple of hours and not hear a rooster crowing somewhere which I still find amazing.The quiet has made a huge difference in our sleep and mental well-being.
Crazy landlords: Probably the most discouraging part of our previous stay was our landlords. We discovered we liked renting, but struck out twice in this part of the deal. The first wasn’t as bad as the second, but that’s because I don’t think anyone could have been. The houses we lived in worked for us, although both were very uncomfortable when it turned hot and humid due to design issues and a lack of airflow through the houses. The landlords, especially the second one, made living in each one a nightmare at times, especially when it was time to move out and on. We have a dream landlord this time – we never hear from him or see him unless absolutely necessary, but he makes sure the property is kept up and things work like they’re supposed to. The rent is reasonable, and we don’t feel like we’re being gouged like we did before. J is an all-around nice guy, born and raised on the island, and absolutely night and day different from the landlord from hell we had to deal with last time.
No place is truly ever perfect, but Kaua’i seems to be for us this time around. Although we feel very isolated from our family, housing costs are astronomical, and food and gas prices are climbing, Kaua’i is still the right place for us to be now, and we have a hard time imagining living anywhere else (and we’ve tried). The island remains incredibly beautiful, and the locals, weekly farmers’ markets, and (mostly) good weather make life here worthwhile. The humidity still has the potential to drive me crazy, but we now live in a place that gets cooling breezes and that has made a huge difference. Leaving before, even though we felt discouraged and were looking forward to traveling the world, was still difficult, and we already know this time is going to be a whole lot harder.
Brett and I celebrated our 42nd anniversary this past Monday. In the past we’ve usually gone out to dinner to celebrate, but this year we ended up doing something different that gave us more for the same amount of spending.
We had originally thought we’d have dinner at a nearby Italian restaurant, but we turned out to be nervous about dining in, especially with the return of visitors to the island and cases of the virus already starting to climb again. Also, we knew the restaurant would be expensive, and we just weren’t as keen as we thought on spending so much for one meal.
However, the idea of someone else doing the meal prep and cleanup continued to appeal to us and we came up with the idea of giving ourselves a Day of No Cooking. We wanted to challenge ourselves to keep the cost of a full day of restaurant meals the same or less than what we would have spent for one meal at a fancy restaurant. We knew there were plenty of affordable restaurants offering good food, outdoor dining or socially distanced seating, and enhanced cleaning in our area that could make our plan work.
Here’s how the Day of No Cooking went:
The first stop of the day was for breakfast at the nearby Kalaheo Cafe. They offer both socially-distanced indoor or outdoor dining, and we chose an semi-isolated indoor table by an open window. We each had a cup of coffee, and shared an order of kalua pork Eggs Benedict. I am not sure how anyone finishes a full order of this – one half of it (and no hash browns – Brett got those) and I was stuffed! It was very, very delicious though and a wonderful start to our day. The pastries on offer were very tempting as well but we managed to leave without eating or buying one.
We had planned to head to Hanapepe after breakfast to explore the Habitat for Humanity thrift & rebuilding store as well as drop off some clothes, but we sadly discovered it was closed on Mondays. We don’t need or want anything but have always wanted to check out this big store. Our upstairs neighbor furnished over half of his apartment with some very nice things from this place, and we’ve heard other good things about it from others. We ended up going back home for a while with a decision to visit later this week.
It was pouring rain by the time we started down to Hanapepe Old Town for our lunch at Japanese Grandma’s Cafe. We had heard good things about this restaurant, and had wanted to eat there since before we left the island in 2018. We figured lunch would be less expensive than dinner, and we were not disappointed. I had originally planned to order tenzaru (tempura shrimp and vegetables with cold soba noodles) but the calorie load for that meal is outrageous, so instead ordered hayayako (chilled tofu) and vegetable futamaki (sushi). Brett ordered a tonkatsu (breaded pork cutlet) bowl topped with a soy-ginger sauce and a nice salad. Even though it was raining it was still warm enough to eat outside (under cover). Our waitress surprised us with a very tasty slice of house made matcha cheesecake to help celebrate our anniversary!
Plans for the day had included a late afternoon walk at Kukuiolono and then picking up takeout for dinner from Paco’s Tacos up at the park clubhouse. A continuing downpour kept us from walking, but we still wanted those tacos! Brett somehow also included beans and rice when he placed the order so he had those as well, and we enjoyed our delicious tacos with some added cilantro, onion, and a few tomatoes and along with a couple of celebratory gin & tonics.
The day was supposed to end with scoops of Lappert’s ice cream, but when it was time for dessert neither of us wanted to go back out in the rain, and we also really didn’t want another dessert. We had eaten enough.
The total cost for our three meals ($88, including tips) was slightly less than we would have spent for dinner and drinks at the restaurant, and our time together was priceless. The total number of dishes that had to be washed in the evening was six: morning coffee cups, glasses for the G&Ts, and the plates for our tacos. We had such a good time that we decided to make a Day of No Cooking our annual anniversary event, no matter where we are in the world at the end of every March!
Although we walk almost daily, we only hike about once a month, and I have not enjoyed a strenuous hike since before the pandemic restrictions were invoked. Throughout the previous six years on Kauai, I have only hiked one trail along the Waimea Canyon Road, and that was over two-and-a-half years ago. So a few weeks ago I started researching the trails on the official website Na Ala Hele Trail and Access, the official website for state maintained trails, to verify which trails were open and to find one suitable for an afternoon hike.
Many of the trails are over four miles each way, and some of the shorter trails include an elevation gain of more than one half mile. Awa‘awapuhi (ginger valley) Trail appeared to fit the bill at 3.1 miles each way with an elevation change of 1,180 feet. Our experience however proved that looks may be cruelly deceiving.
Even so the trailhead is approximately 1,200 feet above the end of the trail, and our hike begins with a gentle half-mile ascent to the highest point at 4,160 feet above sea level. From the summit, a gradual descent leads to a little plateau featuring a plank crossing over the intermittent head of Awa‘awapuhi Stream, and yet another plank crossing lies beyond the next hill. The ocean itself only made a brief appearance through the trees just beyond the 0.5 Mile marker, and then was not seen again for a further mile.
“I’d Go Back, If I Were You”—L. Frank Baum
Plank Pathway through Intermittent Stream
First Glimpse of the Pacific Ocean
Somewhat steeper and bigger S-curves commence from near trailhead level, approximately 3,600 feet above sea level, marking the beginning of the long descent which is only interrupted by a few narrow ridges that connect the lower peaks of the trail. At one point YaYu remarked, “Mom could probably hike this,” and I recall thinking that this trail wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be, in fact, I started running as our turnaround time neared, and only slowed down when we reached the switchbacks.
Pacific Ocean from 1.5 Mile Marker
Sweeping S-Curve through Wetland Forest
Toward the end of the trail there’s a great sweeping loop through the dryland vegetation (most of the upper trail is conspicuously wetland) and then we saw the safety railing at the end of the trail—less than two hours from the start and right at our turnaround time. At trail’s end there are two vistas, both guarded by railings, and one of them bears a 3.25 MI marker. We could both see and hear the ocean from here, and it was then I realized that I had not taken a single drink since we started. I quickly opened the first bottle of water and wet my dry, salted lips, and took several photos while we rested and chatted about all that we had seen and not seen.
First Vista across the Valley
Second Vista—Trail’s End
We only saw two other hikers who reached trail’s end ahead of us, and checking the elevation at trail’s end, 2,560 feet above sea level, before trekking back to the trailhead reaffirmed the warning from the description on website.
“DANGER: Do not venture beyond the safety railing at the end of the trail! Footing is extremely unstable, and the drop to the valley floor below is [well] over 2,000 feet.”
Heading & Elevation at Trail’s End
Oops! Third Hiker at Trail’s End
Thus, the actual elevation change then is 1,600 feet rather than 1,180 feet (which was derived from the difference between the starting and ending elevations; not peak to end). Granted, that’s only a 420 foot difference, but that is quite significant when translating that from a horizontal line of text to vertical distance. Also significant is the fact that the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) placed a mileage marker at trail’s end indicating that the true roundtrip hike would be 6.5 rather than 6.2 miles. Also, the return is uphill almost the entire way, which tends to slow down one’s pace.
This was a great hike overall, and YaYu and I made such good time on the hike out and down to the vistas that we were astonished when our best efforts on the return to the trailhead took over three hours (5 hours roundtrip), and we missed our self-imposed deadline by more than an hour—
Laura: Will you be back in time for our walk?
Me: Sure, it′s ‘only’ six miles!
Although it happened slightly later than usual, Laura and I did get in our daily walk. That made it over 10 miles for me that day, and over 21,000 steps. It was a very good day!
I am happy these days. It’s not just a things are going well kind of happy either, but a deeply contented happiness that comes from realizing I’m living in the right place, right now.
I loved traveling and living on the road, and was happy then too. I loved not owning or wanting things other than the clothes in my suitcase, and waking up each day knowing there was going to be something new out there for Brett and I to discover and/or learn. I was crushed when it all suddenly had to come to an end.
Contented and happy was not what I was feeling when we left Kaua’i in 2018, and neither of us was sure then whether we wanted to come back or not. When I reflect on that time though I now can see the reasons for our unhappiness. We were miserable in the place we were living. Our landlord was a jerk and getting weirder by the day; the house was nice but very difficult to maintain; and it was nearly always hot and humid inside with no breeze and nothing to look at from the windows but the house next door. Getting through the constant bumper-to-bumper traffic in the Kapaa area was miserable as well, as were the drives to and from Lihue and down to Costco. Any trip in the car involved sitting in traffic, or adding mileage and time to get around congested spots (and even the bypasses could be heavily congested at times). The humidity on the east side could be brutal at times, and for me was compounded by a lack of air circulation in the house. Finally, Brett’s and my lives back during our four years were completely constrained by YaYu’s and WenYu’s busy lives and schedules with school-related activities, sports, or work, YaYu’s in particular. There was a purpose in all that they did, we supported their efforts, and it paid off in community recognition and scholarships for both girls, but Brett and I often felt like we had no life of our own outside of wherever they needed to be or what they needed to do. It was often difficult for us to find the time to see and do the things we wanted.
It was with some trepidation that we came back to Kaua’i this past March. Our girls had told us last December that they all thought we should return, and we loved being back when we visited in January, but we still weren’t so sure it was the best place for us to settle. However, once we did decide to come back we made a second decision: no repeats of the things that had bothered us before, and to start again from scratch. That decision was the smartest thing we did, as our second time around has turned out to be a very different experience in every way, with the result that both of us feel deeply happy to be back on the island. After nearly six months here I cannot think of even one thing I don’t like about where we live (and I have tried). Our landlord is definitely not weird, and a genuinely nice guy, born and raised on the island. We love our apartment’s location out of the tourist bubbles. We love the layout of the rooms, the amount of storage we have, the massive bathroom, the big, beautiful private yard with its flowers and fruit trees. Most especially we love the steady flow of air through the rooms that keeps the apartment feeling cool and mostly humidity free. We’ve had absolutely no need of an air-conditioner here. We’re very happy with the furniture we chose and how it fits into the space. The apartment’s size is perfect for us although we easily accommodated YaYu this past summer, and we have nice neighbors. It’s a less than 10-minute drive each week to a great farmer’s market, and although Costco and Lihue are actually further away from us than they were before, the drive to those places is easier and faster these days as we don’t have to deal with Kapaa’s stop and go traffic like before. We have a great walking venue nearby and our south shore location is also an easy distance from several nice beaches. Salt Pond Beach Park is just 15 minutes away, and the base at Barking Sands with its long beautiful beach is just a 30-minute drive. We can go the other direction to the Poipu beaches and be there in under 15 minutes. Finally, and maybe best of all, Brett and I make our own schedule these days, and mostly go with what we feel like doing at the moment rather than make plans in advance. Our time is fully our own. (Note:Currently the traffic moves nicely through Kapaa because of the lack of visitors to the island. When they return, so will the traffic.)
It seems you can go home again, maybe as long as you bring a different set of expectations along with you the second time around. I know that things can change for the worse on a dime (been there, done that) but I’m so happy we decided to give Kaua’i a second chance, and that we’re now, as Oprah says, getting to live our best lives here. The only thing that could make me any happier than I am now would be to have it easier for our children to get here or for us to get to them. Until that happens though, I am going to enjoy this happy place we’re in to the fullest.
What do you do when you love to travel but can’t, and live on a remote tropical island where the distance from end to end is just 54 miles? How do you arrange a staycation when hotels are closed and road trips are not an option?
For the most part, Brett and I are quite content for now with keeping ourselves socially isolated. As an introvert, it’s a dream come true for me in many ways, but I do like to get out here to see and do things beyond shopping for groceries, visiting the farmers’ market or walking in the park. We certainly don’t feel trapped nor are we suffering from “rock fever,” but now that it’s just the two of us again we’ve been talking about things we can do to keep busy and more involved with island life, not only finding new things to do but revisiting places around us and seeing them with new eyes.
We’ve come up with an initial list of mostly nearby things we can do. Most are things we’ve done before, but all would be fun to do again (and again and again).
Re-visit Waimea Canyon and Kokee State Park:We now live just 30 or so minutes away from the road leading up into Waimea Canyon and Kokee, and without a lot of visitors currently on the island this should be a great time to visit this natural wonder.
Stroll through Hanapepe Old Town: We also now live very close to one of our favorite places on the island, the small town of Hanapepe on the south side. We enjoy walking through and exploring Old Town, and want to go see what’s opened back up. I did read that the wonderful Midnight Bear bakery is open – it would be fun to stop for coffee and to share a pastry. And the Talk Story Bookstore is also a wonderful place to spend a chunk of time.
Explore Waimea: We always drive right through this little town on the west side on our way to Barking Sands, or turn off and head up to Waimea Canyon, but think it would now be a good time for us to stop and walk around for a while. We’ve seen a few places from the car windows we’d like to check out, but know there’s more to discover and learn about.
Go on breakfast date once in a while:The Kalaheo Cafe is just a couple of miles down the road from us, and serves a really good breakfast, even if it’s only take-out. We went a couple of times when we were here before but the drive was a long one, but now we don’t have that excuse any more. And, it’s actually quicker to drive to the Tip Top Cafe from our apartment now than from where we lived before. Both the Kalaheo Cafe and Tip Top serve a more local clientele and practice social distancing.
Visit some new beaches as well as old favorites: Once we find a beach or two we like, that’s where we tend to go. We’re just not that adventurous when it comes to beaches. While the beach at Barking Sands is our current favorite, there are others nearby that we haven’t visited, such at Salt Pond. There’s no time like the present to get to know them and see how we like them. Although it’s a long drive, this is also a good time to revisit other beaches on the Eastside, like Kealia, and ones up on the north shore as well.
Do some longer walks on the Eastside beach path: We really, really don’t care for the long drive up to Kapaa these days, but as Brett and I increase our walking distance, this is as good a time as any for us to go for longer distances on the beach path. It’s not flat, but it is smooth making it a great walking venue for me. And then there are those views!
Socially distant visit with friends: Choosing to live down on the south side of the island, we knew we wouldn’t see our friends much as they live up on the east side and up north, and for Kaua’i those are long drives away. We’re planning to go visit our friend Joy up in Princeville next week though, and want to set up a visit (and maybe a trip to the beach) with friends Alan and Cheryl. Both times will also give us a chance to stop by other island locations we enjoy on the way up or back (like the Kilauea Bakery, or Java Kai in Kapaa).
A couple of other nearby places and activities we want to revisit are the Kauai Coffee Plantation and the Koloa Rum store. We enjoy doing tastings at both places, but those opportunities are closed off for now. Koloa Rum hopes to reopen after October 1, and hopefully tastings will resume at Kauai Coffee as well, although perhaps in a more controlled manner. We’ll see. But otherwise I think we have a nice list of things to revisit and look forward to during the next few months!
Located in the hills to the west of Kapaa, off Olohena Road, the Moalepe Trail winds up through protected pastureland and into the forest until it connects with the Kuilau Trail. From the trailhead to the junction with the Kuilau the total distance is 2.5 miles.
On Monday we pretty much had the trail to ourselves. We hiked up approximately 1.5 miles, then turned around and hiked back down for a total of three miles. Brett and YaYu could have easily gone to the end, but I had to call it quits because my legs grew wobbly and I became quite dizzy. I still had a good time and got a good workout, but upon reflection I’ve realized that several factors were working against me to keep me from reaching the end, some of them my own fault.
Below are some of the things I figured out for the next time we hike.
Although the trail is not steep, it is a steady incline all the way up to the end – we gained 370 feet during our 1.5 miles. I am a quick walker, and pushed myself too quickly up the trail which in turn quickly got me tired. I need to learn to slow down when I’m climbing.
I did not eat anywhere near enough for lunch before we hiked, just a half of a sausage and a small papaya. I had brought along two Japanese rice crackers though, and ate those on the way down, and felt fine by the time we got back to the trailhead. That was the biggest tip off that my empty stomach was a strong reason for my lightheadedness and the weakness in my legs.
It was also quite hot and humid once we got to the trail. We had been expecting a nice breeze, but instead not a leaf was stirring along the way and for most of the hike the sun was beating down on us. I wore a wet tenugui (Japanese cotton hand towel) wrapped around my neck, and that helped immensely, but I still felt overheated. For any other hike in similar weather I am going to need something wet on my head as well to help keep me cool(er). I also didn’t hydrate enough on the way up, which probably also contributed to how awful I felt at the 1.5 mile point.
Although the trail may look smooth in the pictures, it was anything but, and we spent the entire hike, both up and down, moving from side to side to avoid rocks and branches, mud, deep ruts, and other hazards which required extra effort. The trail functions as a utility road for part of the way (tire tracks were visible), and is also used for horseback riding, and to say it is not well maintained would be an understatement. I reminded myself on the way back down that walking paths in England are, for the most part, maintained footpaths and usually much easier to walk on.
I had no trouble from my bursitis on the ascent, but it flared up on the way down, painful to the point I had to stop a couple of times and stretch in order to keep going. The unevenness of the trail caused the bursitis to flare up, just as it used to when I walked on cobblestones, as my hips never bother me these days on our usual daily walks which are on flat, even terrain. I’m going to have to do more frequent stretching to keep the bursitis in check as otherwise the only alternative will be cortisone shots. Interestingly, my knee did not hurt at all, but again, it was a fairly gently slope down.
Although we did not make it to the top of the trail because of the issues I experienced, I was happy with our effort. I gained a lot from the experience, especially figuring out things I can do better. We still got in a three-mile hike and enjoyed some of Kauai’s beautiful countryside. Brett and I plan to try the hike again in another three weeks or so.
If I had to choose one word to describe our experience with Hurricane Douglas it would be anticlimactic. At least that’s how it was here on the south side of Kaua’i.
And, having gone through the force of three hurricanes and typhoons, that was a good thing.
The whole experience though was very, very weird for us. Douglas came right along the north side of the islands, as predicted and on schedule, and brushed along the north shores of Oahu and Kaua’i. At times here though it was very difficult to believe that we were so close to a major storm as for most of the day all we experienced were blue skies, fluffy clouds, light breezes, and minimal humidity. We had a beautiful sunset, even though less than a hour later the eye of the hurricane was less than 65 miles away as it roared past the north shore.
We wondered all day what was happening and why we weren’t feeling the storm when it was so close, but finally discovered a live radar feed of the wind patterns and could see that the winds from Douglas had been bearing down from the north all day and splitting into two bands as they hit the top of Kaua’i and flowing down the east and west sides. The mountains in the center of the island blocked the rest of the wind and rain which left the south side of the island sitting in a wedge of calm weather.
It was still a tense day. Based on our former storm experience, where we started feeling strong winds a day or two before a storm’s arrival, Sunday’s calm weather was somewhat unnerving, to say the least. Every time a gust blew through we stiffened and wondered if the storm had finally arrived. It was the same for every cloud we saw off in the distance. In hindsight we could have gone out for our regular afternoon walk, but at the time we were afraid to tempt fate. With a hurricane things can change very rapidly.
Douglas’s rain and wind finally arrived a little after 1:00 a.m. Monday morning. Things were quite wet and blustery when we woke up, and stayed that way for most of the morning and into the afternoon as we caught the effects of Douglas’s tail as it moved on. By the late afternoon it was clear enough that we could head to the park for our afternoon walk, although it was very windy and still is today.
Many Kaua’i residents are still around who remember the surprise arrival of Hurricane Iniki in 1992 and the massive destruction it caused all over the island. No one was taking chances with Douglas, and the island prepared for the worst once again this time. Douglas thankfully didn’t come to visit or hang around, but it was a close call.
If nothing else, traveling for the past couple of years taught me I do not need a lot of things to be happy and comfortable. That includes clothes.
Before we left, I worried that I would become bored rather quickly with the clothes I was taking along. That didn’t happen, but what I discovered instead was that some pieces I had packed didn’t work well for life on the road. They either took up too much room in my suitcase or weren’t comfortable for getting around or I just didn’t like the way they looked on me. Last summer, while we were in Portland, I redid things, adding a few new pieces and subtracting a few others. Some things went into storage, others got packed up and taken to Goodwill. I enjoyed the second wardrobe iteration much more and everything was happily worn again and again.
All of our cold weather travel clothes are now in storage in their own closet, where we keep a shop light burning around the clock in order to keep any mildew and/or mold from growing. Tea bags are scattered throughout the closet and placed in our shoes in order to keep things smelling fresh, an trick we learned back in our navy days during our many moves. These clothing items probably won’t get used again until the spring of 2023, when we plan to return to Japan for a few weeks and know the weather will still be cold. Hopefully I will discover by then that a few things are too big to take along!
I packed less warm weather clothes than those for cold weather because we spent less time in warm weather locations, but the few pieces I do own have turned out to be more than enough for our return to island life. My wardrobe these days consists of seven tops, one lightweight sweater, two sleeveless dresses, two t-shirts, and five pairs of capris and cropped pants. Besides underwear and socks, I also have one bathing suit, a pareo, two pairs of lightweight pajamas, one pair of sandals, two pairs of flip flops (one a cheap pair to wear down to the beach), and one pair of the Sketchers walking shoes I started out with back in 2018. Other than a breezy blue linen dress I spotted in a catalog, I haven’t been even tempted to purchase anything new (and haven’t bought the dress either). I also know there are a couple more summer tops that will arrive this week in our stored items, and maybe a pair of linen pants. With the addition of those I will be more than set for the next couple of years at the least.
I am more than satisfied with the few things I have now as they’re lightweight, comfortable, and easy to care for. I have also honestly been surprised about my lack of interest in adding to my wardrobe. However, as life on Kaua’i has shown over and over, less here really is more, and I have enough.
Our last few days in Japan were a whirlwind, and it’s almost hard to remember now all that was going on because everything seemed to be happening so fast. We spent our last weekend packing, cleaning up our apartment, and then moving over to our son’s to spend our last night in Japan. We left on time on Monday and had an easy if a bit surreal trip back to Kaua’i. But, we’re here now, dancing with the jetlag, and getting ourselves settled in under very different circumstances than those when we left. if we couldn’t stay in Japan, this is where we wanted to be.
Our landlord in Japan was very understanding about the circumstances of our abrupt departure even though she would be losing a month’s rent. We met with her for the last time on Saturday morning, and paid for the four days we stayed there (she didn’t want to take it but we insisted). She assured us we were welcome back any time, and we know her apartments will always be our first choice for lodging in Tokyo as it’s in a great location at an affordable price (for Tokyo). We enjoyed this year’s apartment, with its big kitchen window and an oven.
Early birthday present shopping for the grandkids
The entrance to the shabu shabu restaurant
C sits enthralled with his Lego set
Brett and I each had this tray of delights for an appetizer
Brett swishes the beef and cabbage through the broth in the hotpot – “shabu, shabu” it says
We spent most of Saturday morning packing, and then went with the family out to nearby shop to get the grandkids their birthday presents. Both of them wanted Legos and we were happy to oblige. Afterward, we all walked over to a small restaurant and had shabu shabu, a Japanese-style hot pot, for an early anniversary dinner (the dish is named for the sound the beef makes when it’s swirled through the hot broth). The food was delicious, and we received a lovely gift from our son and daughter-in-law: a check to help cover the cost of our first-class upgrade on our flight back to the U.S.
Peeking through the main gate at Tokoji Temple on our way.
Last walk through Tokyo
Cherry blossom viewing on our last evening in Tokyo
Almost at their peak!
Markers for each section of the path, named after the former bridge located there
More blossoms . . .
A new hybrid blossom.
So happy we got to see the sakura before we left.
What’s left of our sushi feast after the first round.
On Sunday afternoon we moved over to our son’s for our last night in Tokyo. We had to be up early on Monday to help one last time with the grandkids and this made it easier than having to lug our heavy suitcases over on the subway. Besides, along with our big suitcases, carry-on bags, and a whole lot of KitKats, we also had all our leftover groceries and other supplies to give to them. We were frankly surprised by the amount of food we had on hand – all that peanut butter! – I think the only thing we would have needed to pick up at the store that week was a tomato and some more Yakult. We went once more to Hardy Barracks to stock up our son’s supply of American foods and then took everything over to their house. That evening we all went out for a short hanami (cherry blossom viewing) and walked the Nomikawa Nature Path, the former site of a cherry tree-lined canal that had passed through the area. About half of the canal was paved over, with sections of it named for the bridges that crossed the canal, but the old cherry trees remain. It was a lovely, warm evening, and the trees were almost in full bloom (peak bloom arrived about two days after we left). Back home, we enjoyed a sushi feast that our DIL had ordered for home delivery while we were out walking!
Sharing a laugh with my favorite granddaughter
C hard at work on his distance learning
We hope it’s not too long before we can see them again
Monday turned out to be cold, wet, and dreary so there was no last outing in the park with K for me (especially since my coat had been packed). Brett helped C with school one last time and then at around five p.m. we said our (tearful) goodbyes, packed up the car, and headed out to Narita airport with our son (M & M did not want us riding the train). It was a surprisingly easy drive with no rush hour traffic jams, thank goodness, and we got there about two hours before our departure. Narita airport was positively deserted and felt almost like a ghost town. It seemed at times that we were the only people there outside of employees, but some shops were open and we found five more flavors of KitKats (peach, melon, red bean sandwich, plum sake, and a regional sake, so we left Japan with 31 different flavors!). We also were able to buy a bottle of hand sanitizer! It wasn’t cheap, but at least we now have some. Because we would be served dinner on the plane all we had to eat at the airport were some appetizers and a gin and tonic at Delta’s First Class lounge. We were the only people in the vast lounge, maybe for the whole evening. Actually, we were practically the only people anywhere, which made getting through security, etc. a breeze, but it was also sort of eerie and sad. We were treated like royalty though everywhere we went – the employees seemed genuinely thrilled to have something to do and someone to help.
Narita Airport was eerily empty . . .
. . . and there was no one in security at Narita
We had a 25-minute wait to check out at this shop last year!
Cocktail and appetizers at the Delta First Class Lounge
Masked up and ready to go.
Our departure gate a few minutes before boarding.
Our flight back to Honolulu was lovely. First class was extremely comfortable (as expected), the food and service impeccable. There were only two other passengers in first (only 30 total on the whole plane), so it was like we had the place and the attendants to ourselves. We watched movies, relaxed, and got a little bit of sleep. The Honolulu airport was also practically deserted, and our flight over to Lihue had only 14 people total on the plane, including the pilots and flight attendants. We picked up our rental car in Lihue and first headed to Costco to stock up for the next two weeks as the state will be going into lockdown on Thursday. Today we picked up our old car from our friends, returned the rental car, and did one more food stop so we have everything we need when YaYu arrives on Thursday. She will be in full quarantine – no going out of the apartment – for two weeks while Brett and I will be able to go out for food, and to use the pool and take walks in the area, but not much more. I’m not sure how finding a new place to live is going to go, but there are still ads going up so we hope to find something soon and be able to move in.
We have one more step to go – getting YaYu here on Thursday. Her flight schedule has already been changed, but Delta still assures her she will be in Lihue on Thursday evening. We have backup plans just in case things go bad, but so far so good, and she is almost ready to go. She originally had a direct flight that day from Seattle to Lihue but that has now been changed to a direct flight from Los Angeles, a good thing as Hawaiian Airlines is stopping almost all flights beginning on Thursday. Brett and I are somewhat concerned about the possibility of her facing a racist attack of some kind as they seem to be on the increase against Asians, and as a young, single woman she could be a target. It’s going to be a long, long day for all of us.
Anyway, although things didn’t turn out the way we wanted, we’re home again on Kaua’i and we’re settling in and getting our body clocks adjusted to island time. We miss our son, daughter-in-law, and grandchildren terribly, but our girl will be here soon, we’ve got enough on hand to get us through the next two weeks, and all is well.