The past year has been a series of amazing events for The Intergalactic Nemesis. From coverage by NPR and Conan O’Brien to the premiere of Book Two: Robot Planet Rising to touring to places like the Wexner Center and returning to venues like the Lied Center of Kansas, each moment has been incredible. But the past 10 days have topped everything. We toured to Hawaii.
For me, the trip actually started on January 8 in Philadelphia, where I had just finished attending the International Performing Arts for Youth conference. It was 28 degrees when I left. I wore my green turtleneck and jeans and my overcoat, scarf and gloves. Brrrr. I met up with the cast in Denver (they had flown from Austin) and, after frantically trying to do some post-conference organizing, boarded the plane to Maui. Yes. Maui.
Unfortunately, the airline had changed the type of plane we were supposed to fly and they didn’t have enough fuel to make it to Hawaii! So, after waiting on the runway for two hours (with us in the plane) they decided to land in Los Angeles for refueling, which took a whole other hour. So instead of taking 8 hours to fly to Maui, it took 11! But after 11 hours, who cared?? We were in Maui! Off came my turtleneck, on came my shorts. Hawaii advenutre was at hand.
A shuttle took us from the airport to our hotel. And what a hotel! The Maui Arts and Cultural Center put us up in the Marriott resort. We got in at night, so the view had to wait until morning. But I could tell from the sound that my room was very close to the ocean. I left the patio door open (screen door closed) so I could fall asleep to the sound of the waves. In the morning, to my amazement, I discovered that my room literally overlooked the Pacific. As you can see from the photo, which was taken from my balcony, we really were in Hawaii. I mean. Holy. Mackerel!
Jessie and Augie loaded into the theatre that morning, but the rest of us had time to play a little. I took a run up the shoreline. The rest of the crew hung out at the resort. It was heaven. From the infinity pool to the beach to the ocean. We kept looking at each other with goggly eyes, amazed at our surroundings. For all of us, this was a dream-come-true.
That afternoon we arrived at the theatre for sound check, which went flawlessly. That night the house was fantastic. Unbelievable enthusiasm from the folks who came. And, best of all, my wife Sarah was able to get away from her work and fly in that night (and helped me sell merchandise).
The next day we had the whole morning to hang out. Because of the time change, everyone woke up around 7. Chris, Buzz, Danu, and Higgins all went snorkeling. Sarah and I had a leisurely breakfast. We all met up by the pool and then caught the shuttle to the airport for our flight to Hilo, on the Big Island.
Immediately when we landed in Hilo, the fabulous Lee Dombroski picked us up at the airport, helped us get our rental cars, led us to the venue to drop off our gear, and then escorted us to the hotel. Immediately after checking in, we searched out a black sand beach and found one: Richardson’s Beach. Not only was the setting beautiful and the sand really black (!) but we actually saw a half-dozen sea turtles. These suckers are enormous! Easily as long as I am tall.
That night we ate at a local favorite: Ken’s House of Pancakes. It was really our first taste of Hawaiian food and we loved it so much, we ended up eating every meal in Hilo there! At Ken’s, they feature portions they call “Sumo”. Anytime someone orders a Sumo, they smash a gong on the counter and the entire restaurant shouts “Sumo!” So Higgins decided to order a breakfast Sumo that consisted of a mountain of pancakes, blueberries, whipped cream, and coconut syrup, plus a plate of three eggs, ham, and bacon. Sumo, indeed!
From Ken’s it was off to the only active volcano in Hawaii, the one at the center of the Big Island. And holy cow! It was a real volcano. The drive was pretty neat because we started in the rain and then it stopped raining. It was dark out, so hard to see exactly what was going on. At first, we thought it had cleared up, but then realized we had actually driven up past the clouds!
The volcano crater glowed red with smoke or water vapor rising from it. We couldn’t get that close (which was too bad because it was really, really cold up there).
The next day we woke up to a fantastic feature story in the Hawaii Tribune-Herald. A fantastically well-written story by John Burnett. After that, we were all in great spirits and we loaded into the theatre and, again, it went without a hitch. The audience that night was fantastic. A full house and literally one of the most enthusiastic crowds we’ve ever had. I started to get the feeling that maybe, just maybe, we’d come back next year with the sequel.
But first we had to make it through the next 24 hours.
At 7 AM, we had to return the cars at the airport and fly to Honolulu for a show that night! Normally, when we have back-to-back shows like this, we drive to the next city immediately following that night’s performance. But obviously there was no way to drive because Honolulu is on a different island and no flights were leaving that night. It would have been exhausting but fine, if the electricity hadn’t gone out at the airport. That would have been okay if the backup generators were working. But they weren’t. So we waited. And waited. And waited. For 30 minutes, then an hour, then two. Our boarding passes were handwritten. Security wouldn’t let us through. We started to make a backup plan if we weren’t able to get the show loaded in on time.
Finally, the electricity came back on. Seating on the airplane became open seating. Buzz and I tried to fenagle our way into first class, but no go. So we sat in random seats in last class and finally took off for Honolulu.
Unlike the other parts of Hawaii we had seen, Honolulu was a real city. The 12th largest in the country, actually. It was a complete departure from everything else we had seen. Beautiful, but different.
There wasn’t time to go to our hotel, so we went straight to the Kennedy Theatre at the University of Hawaii, that night’s venue. It is an incredible structure and it turns out that it was designed by I.M. Pei. Cool!
Not so cool was the fact that our host, Tim Slaughter, had just had a family emergency and couldn’t make it to the show. This was disappointing not only because personal tragedy sucks, but also because I really wanted to thank him in person for organizing our trip. If it weren’t for him, we wouldn’t have been in Hawaii at all. At the moment of typing this blog post, I still don’t know if that emergency has been resolved for him, but my heart goes out to him and I hope that the next time we see each other it’s under better circumstances.
To say we were wiped out at this point would be a gross understatement. At this point, the four-hour time change had caught up with all of us. Without a chance to nap, with a late start to the workday, we were exhausted. Miraculously, Aughy was able to get us back on track schedule-wise. The folks at the venue made sure we had hot food to eat before the show. And, after all that, we had one of the best performances of Target Earth ever. The audience was unbelievable, the performers pulled out all the stops, we signed merchandise and programs for more than an hour after the performance. It was incredible. What a way to end the work part of the trip.
And to top it off, we had another day-and-a-half on Oahu and two days on Maui left!
The next day, the group split up. Most everyone hung out on the beach in Waikiki all day and watched the sun set over the Pacific. Sarah and I drove to the North Shore, with a stop at Pearl Harbor. For me, that was the highlight of Honolulu. I couldn’t help but think of how desperate the Japanese must have been to attack to the US Navy there all those years ago. They actually knew that they would probably lose the war.
The North Shore was beautiful. We had dinner in a restaurant on the beach.
The next morning we flew back to Maui where everyone relaxed either at the beach or at the pool. All of us were gearing up for the highlight adventure of the trip: the road to Hana.
The Hana Highway is a 51-mile stretch of road that weaves its way clockwise around the island of Maui. It takes at least three hours to drive it. With more than 50 one-lane bridges, hundreds of hairpin turns, and views that boggle the mind, it’s best to plan a full day to drive there and back. And that’s what we planned.
The next morning we met up at 6:30 in the hotel lobby. Me, Sarah, Buzz, Danu, and Jessie formed a carload. And it was off to the town of Paia and a famous restaurant, Charley’s, for breakfast at the very moment the restaurant opened. The eggs were delicious. The pancakes larger than the plate. The waitress still needed coffee, though. When the credit card machine wasn’t working, she just returned our bills to us with our cards, announcing that the credit card machine wasn’t working. No directions to the ATM, no suggestion of a payment Plan B. We all looked at each other, confused. But then the credit card machine started working again, so we paid and hit the road.
Our first stop was a famous surf beach. The waves were at least 12 feet tall and there were more than a dozen surfers in the water, even at this early hour. From there, it was to the bamboo forest with a hike to a waterfall. On the way we stopped at a coconut stand, where the woman at the counter cut open one with a machete and we drank the water inside and at the fruit. Delicious!
The next stop was the bamboo forest. This place was amazing. We were told to park by the side of the road and push our way in through the bamboo. At first, it didn’t seem like there was even a path in, but within a few feet we found a path and that path led us to a waterfall. These photos below tell the story. Just amazing.
After the bamboo forest, we picnicked in the car, but just after we were done eating, we came upon a grilled chicken stand by the side of the road. So we ordered ourselves a half-chicken and ate that too. Possibly the best grilled chicken I’ve ever had.
Along the way we saw at least half-a-dozen waterfalls, some incredible views, black sand beaches, and finally we made it to the national park at the end of the road, with the world-famous Seven Pools. We swam in one of those pools which was fed by a waterfall and fed into the ocean. It was pristine. Just incredible. We left there at about 5:30 or 6 PM for the drive back, in the dark. Scary!
Our last day in Hawaii (with a flight that left at 10:30 PM and arrived back in Austin at 4 PM yesterday) was spend whale watching (we saw about a dozen of humpback whales) and dinner at Mama’s Fish House, which is one of the best meals I’ve ever had. A perfect way to end this dream-like trip.
So, a huge “thank you” to the venues for bringing us out and the hundreds of people who came out to the three shows. You were all fantastic hosts. We had an incredible time. And we most certainly hope to come back next year with Book Two!