Kauai. From the Birds’ Eye

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Things have settled down here in this iceberg we call Minnesota. The bags are unpacked and put away. The laundry finally waded through. The last bit of sand knocked out of my sandals and back in to the ‘winter storage’ bins. It makes for a melancholy feeling.

So, to perk me up, I thought I would share one of the highlights from the island of Kauai: A helicopter tour.

When we got to Kauai, I gave my family an ultimatum, either we spend a day driving around the island, seeing some of its’ unique island beauty, or do a 1 hour helicopter tour. Faced with the decision to give up nearly a whole day laying on the beach getting tan, or a total of 2 hours to see the entire island (and appease MOM), they chose the latter.

I waited with childish anticipation. To see this gorgeous island from the eye of a bird had me standing on the helicopter pad, literally hopping on my toes with anticipation and excitement. I can’t recall any recent event  where I felt so much excitement! For my family however, there was more than just a little hesitation and actual trepidation. You see, my dear sweet MANLY hubby is just more than a little terrified of heights. (I can be sympathetic as I have a bad case of arachnophobia myself. I am lucky to have my valiant prince to ‘rescue’ me when those terrifying moments present themselves) Secondly, my youngest daughter was diagnosed in the late fall with inner ear damage. How? We have no idea. A fall from her horse, a hit on the head from a LaCrosse stick? Who knows. What we do know is that it makes her dizzy and she has been going through therapy to re-train her brain to ignore it. Since there was real queasiness and distress from the Catamaran ride to Molokini, she had good reason to be a little anxious. My oldest offspring was just pacifying mom so she could get back to her tanning regimen. With all three of them having trouble with the motion sickness on the boat, I insisted that everyone take a non-drowsy motion sickness pill, two for them, one for me.  Just in case.

We arrived at Safari Helicopters, which is located very close to the airport in Lihue. We were guided to this particular company by a very sweet and very helpful car rental agent at the airport when we arrived. She recommended this company because the craft had floor to ceiling glass which allowed for the best viewing, they accomplished the entire island in 55 minutes (which she felt was MORE than enough time), and it was the best value out there. The office was clean, the personnel and pilot were friendly, helpful, safety conscious, and made us feel like guests rather than tourists. They had a goofy, knowledgable, and sweet ‘ice-breaker’ guide who took us to the ‘copter and back, instructing us on safety, minus the freakout factor. He was entertaining and you could tell he LOVED what he did, as did all those we met there.

Here’s the meat and potatoes: DO THIS! If you have the spirit of adventure, it is absolutely worth every single penny.

I saw the ‘copters from the other companies, and ours had the BEST viewing of them all. Literally floor to ceiling viewing, which allows you to see things as if you were in a glass cube. The ‘copter holds 6 and another couple was included in our tour. Take the advice they give you, one of which: Don’t sweat it taking pictures, enjoy the ride. They tape your flight and you can buy the DVD. Everything you see, they record. TRUST ME…..you will want to do this, because if you spend any, and I mean ANY time looking through your camera viewfinder, YOU-WILL-GET-NAUSEOUS. The pilot warned the woman in the back, she didn’t listen, and I didn’t think she would make it back in time. She made a bee-line to the port-a-potty upon landing. I started off taking a couple pics with hubby’s iPhone, and even I got a little disoriented. Take my advice, don’t bother with your camera, just enjoy.

The pilot will give you a history of the island along with fun facts, such as movies that were filmed on the island. One valley we went through was where South Pacific was filmed. He turned to my daughter next to me and said “I don’t suppose you know what I’m talking about”.

She turned to him and said : “Oh yes, I’ve seen South Pacific”.

He replied “Really?”

“Yeah, when I was young, my mom had us watch a lot of old black and whites”

I followed up with “Oh yes I did, at least I could trust they weren’t full of garbage!”

He got a chuckle out of that!

(And I did do that. The stuff the entertainment industry puts out now makes ME blush, let alone what I would want to expose young kids to)

I was beyond overjoyed that I got the front window seat (my oldest was between me and the pilot, hubby to the inside back left and youngest on the back left window) and I loved the panoramic view I had. We flew the island in a clockwise circle, so as we passed, the pilot would accommodate the passengers on the left by ‘spinning’ the helicopter around on its nose, with it ‘tipping’ so that they could get a full view of the hundreds of waterfalls, canyons, circular rainbows, beaches, reefs, cliff, volcano crater, ect. While I was grinning ear to ear, the look on the faces of my husband and youngest were far less ‘enthusiastic’. I think she would have preferred the pilot not be QUITE so accommodating with the desire to let her see how far up from the ground we were!

Wear comfortable clothing and be aware they do not allow anything on the craft. You will be given a locker to lock up your purse, backpack or camera case. You are allowed a camera, but they recommend against it. No phones, or they have to be on ‘flight’ mode. They do not want anything rolling around that cabin, so leave it behind. The aircraft is perfectly comfortable. It wasn’t too cold, nor hot. Bring your enthusiasm, and be prepared to be awed by the beauty of this island.

When we landed, my husband turned to me and smiled. “That was really awesome”, he said with a rather whitish tone to his otherwise tan skin.

“Really? You really liked it? I thought you’d hate it because of the heights.”

“Oh, I was scared speechless” he said smiling, “But I’m glad I did it. That was really beautiful”.

So, even if you are a little hesitant about being in a whirly bird, take the leap of faith. Do it. You live one life, and this is something you will NOT want to miss.

Add another check mark on the bucket list.


Gluten Free Travel: Introduction

I’m no spring chicken as I have 2 girls (now 17 & 19) who I had in my 30’s. Therefore, I was blessed with the opportunity to do some traveling before settling down after marriage. As memories come forth, inspired by current life, I’ll share some of those great adventures, but the ones that come to mind right now are from my childhood growing up on the west coast and visiting the Hawaiian Islands. 

My friends in the mid-west can understand the context of Hawaii, in that they ‘do’ Mexico. On the west coast, you ‘do’ Hawaii if you are able. Acapulco has gotten rather unsavory for families and Cabo San Lucas is expensive. Disneyland is not for everyone, Arizona is freakishly hot and dry. So, if you are able, you go to Hawaii. 

In the mid-west, the popular destination is Mexico, primarily Le Rivera Maya. Having lived in the mid-west now for over a dozen years, we have had fun planning Disney Cruises out of Florida to the Virgin Islands (when the kids were very little), Mexico multiple times in various locations, and the inevitable family visits to relatives in Arizona.(I swear, all old people retire in AZ) 

So, time came to plan our yearly winter get-a-way. You see, I have to get away from the frozen tundra mid-winter or I would perish, or be committed. Winters in the northern Mid-West are not only brutal, but obscenely long. Cabin crazy long. 

Hawaii was not my first thought, but I have a couple of friends on Facebook who live on the islands. Their constant posting of photos, the food they shared and the culture all reminded me of my trips as a youth and inspired me to seriously chat with hubby about a trip to the islands. You see, while as a native from the West Coast, I had grown up going to the islands, none of my family has ever been. So beginning back in the early summer negotiation talks went on with the family and hubby. Hawaii is no breeze to get to from the Mid-West. It’s expensive to fly, it’s a brutally long trip, and it’s expensive once you are there.  However, we had a secret card to play. My hubby has been flying extensively for going on 16+ years, and fortunately a majority has been with one airline. So accrued miles were plentiful enough to get us 4 first class tickets to Hawaii. Oh yes, we burned them ALL up baby!

I have a friend who is a travel agent, and she foubnd us up with some very reasonable (and CLEAN) condos and the plans were set. This however, is the first time since my daughter was diagnosed as gluten intolerant (and we have discovered recently dairy protein or dairy fat sensitive). I can think of worse issues to have, but I will confess, the islands are a challenge. You see, soy and breading are a big part of the food culture here. Many things that are not breaded have soy. Fish dishes you’d expect to be ok, have soy or contain flour.

So this is the introduction to our families journey, gluten free traveling. I hope others can benefit from it. 

 (part 1: coming shortly)