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Sometimes vacations don’t go as planned but turn out more memorable

By Tom Blake

For Christmas, my partner Greta surprised me with an early Valentine’s gift, a vacation in Hawaii. Turns out, her daughter Tammi and son-in-law Stephen are converting their Oahu condo from a regular rental to a vacation rental and Greta wanted to be the first to rent it—she booked it for the month of February.

The property is located in the Ko Olina resort, West Oahu, about 20 minutes from Pearl Harbor, where the spectacular Disney Aulani Hotel opened in October 2011.

A few years before, Tammi and Stephen lived in the condo when he was based at Kaneohe in the Marine Corps. When they returned to the states five years ago, they shipped their furniture to the mainland.

Tammi and Stephen decided to ship the furniture back to Hawaii because it fit so perfectly; it was scheduled to arrive January 14. They arrived in mid-January to ensure everything would be ready for our February arrival. The shipping company informed them a California dock strike would delay the arrival of the furniture by a “few” days.

Greta and I flew from San Diego to Honolulu on February 5. Stephen and Tammi met us at the airport with long faces. The furniture had not arrived; it was three weeks late. Greta laughed and said, “We’ll make the best of it,” even though there was no furniture.

A view from a “secret beach” on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. Photo by Tom Blake
A view from a “secret beach” on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. Photo by Tom Blake

Well, that’s not entirely true. There were four outdoor patio chairs and a small end table acquired at a furniture liquidation sale. And there was one twin-sized mattress, which Tammi and Stephen insisted we sleep on. They slept on the floor in another bedroom. They purchased new beach towels and sheets so we had the essentials.

There was no TV, Internet, living room or dining room furniture and no plates or kitchen utensils. All of that was aboard a ship. There was, however, a refrigerator and microwave.

Adversity often turns into opportunity.

We had a blast and lots of laughs while adapting. Stephen and Tammi acquired an electric golf cart so we could get around the Ko Olina resort in open-air fashion. Near the Aulani Hotel, a new small market opened with all the necessities one could want, wine, vegetables, fruit, cheese, hot dogs and more wine.

It’s funny how things work out.

In January, I went through some of my mom’s old belongings and placed an antique paring knife and spatula in my suitcase, but had forgotten about them. Mom had rewrapped the handle of the knife with black electrical tape over and over again, instead of discarding it, circa 65 years ago. When I opened my bag in Hawaii, I discovered the two utensils. Wow, did they ever come in handy. We used them for every meal.

In nearby Kapolei—close to the former Barber’s Point Naval Air Station—there is a Costco, Home Depot, Target and most importantly a Starbucks with free Wi-Fi, which is where Stephen and I went for a couple of hours a day to conduct Internet business.

At night, we would go to the homeowners’ association swimming pool and cook on the outdoor barbeque equipment. With plastic silverware and paper plates we did just fine dining poolside. Instead of watching TV, we’d talk for hours and meet new friends. We felt compassion for the people in the Northeastern U.S. who were getting hammered by the snow and ice storm.

PHOTO: A passing train on the historic railroad of Oahu that is run by the Hawaiian Railway Society. Photo by Tom Blake
PHOTO: A passing train on the historic railroad of Oahu that is run by the Hawaiian Railway Society. Photo by Tom Blake

And, compared to the vacationing passengers on board the dead-in-the-water Carnival Triumph cruise ship, who were adrift without power in putrid sanitary conditions, we were in nirvana.

Greta and I loved taking the golf cart to a place called “The Secret Beach,” a small sandy cove, inaccessible by car, where there were never more than two or three people at a time. We swam and snorkeled there amid at least eight curious and friendly sea turtles.

On the weekend, a narrow-gauge, Oahu Railway train ran near “The Secret Beach.” We wouldn’t have seen it had we had not been for the golf cart.

February was wedding month in Ko Olina (not for us). Each day, we watched up to six weddings on the beach near the big hotels. The couples were mainly Japanese and the same photographer kept bringing them to the same photo spot.

Each morning, Tammi or Stephen would check the furniture status with the shipping company, but it was the same old excuse. Finally, on Wednesday, February 13, when I was on an airplane flying home, the furniture was delivered. But, the legs to the dining room table were missing. They arrived the next day.

It was a great relief for Tammi and Stephen to have their vacation rental condo fully equipped with all of the conveniences of home, but we all agreed, it was almost as much fun being in camping mode.

To comment: 

Tom Blake is a Dana Point business owner and San Clemente resident who has authored books on middle-aged dating. See his website at

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