EPISODE 9 - REVERSE DEPORTATION
With all our worldly goods despatched via the high seas or as air freight we spent the last few, unencumbered days in The Waverley Hotel before catching a crack-of-sparrows flight to Honolulu, conveniently extending our holiday by arriving the night before we left, courtesy of the international date line. I had been quietly dreading Waikiki, expecting it to be like the Gold Coast or worse. It had the same high-rise hotels stealing the sun from the beaches but wasn’t quite so brash and commercial, and at least formed a good base for visiting the rest of the island. We rented a snazzy little bright turquoise convertible and spent a day zooming around the island of Oahu. We stopped at a pleasant little cove for a swim, Peter and I leaving Christine in charge of the convertible, naughtily parked on the grass. When we returned there was a Hawaii 5-O swat squad clamping down on illegal parkers, with Christine circulating the car park in a holding pattern, having done some fast sweet talking to the cops to avoid a “souvenir-of-Hawaii” parking ticket. Another day was spent at Pearl Harbour, peering down into the wreck of the USS Arizona, which is now a monument to those who died at America’s inauspicious start to WW2, enduring some mawkish American reminiscence and reflecting on the penalties of ignoring radar early warning data.
A 20-minute scenic flight got us to Maui, where we picked up a car more sensibly suited to the four large suitcases. Next day this took us up the 10,000 ft volcano Haleakala which, the guides were at pains to point out, was dormant, rather than extinct. From the blasted, cinder-cone summit could be seen the volcano on the “Big Island” of Hawaii which was enjoying a period of activity. That afternoon took us along the beautiful, lushly tropical and winding North coast road as far as our resistance to narrow roads with continuous hairpin bends would allow. For our last day we took a cruise to the little volcanic atoll of Molokini, where Peter and I snorkeled and we all saw numerous humpback whales and big, green turtles.
The “champagne powder” of the Colorado Rockies was reached after a rather tiring Maui/Honolulu/Los Angeles/Denver journey, with an overnight in the LAX Hilton. After the moist, tropical warmth of Hawaii the crisp frost of Aspen was a refreshing change. We had a week of blue skies, incredible scenery and marvellous snow, living in a small but comfortable and well-equipped basement flat. We all skied Buttermilk Mountain, Aspen Highlands and Snowmass. Aspen Mountain had more precipitous slopes, which loomed tantalisingly over the charming village of Aspen - Peter and I decided to tackle it on our fourth day. At the top we asked a kindly little old lady the easiest way down; she turned out to be a guide who had lived in Aspen all her life and acted as a voluntary ski guide in return for free lift passes. So she disappeared rapidly down the mountain in a succession of stylish and sinuous parallel turns, closely followed by a much-improved Peter, with poor old Grandpa struggling to keep up! But we made it all the way down, some 4km of steep runs we wouldn’t have attempted on our own - a day to remember! However the family’s favourite mountain turned out to be Aspen Highlands, where we spent our final day.
The Last Lap
An early, frosty trip to Aspen airfield on Friday morning saw us back in Blighty on Saturday morning, via Denver and Chicago; the last leg being on good old British Airways for a change. England put on her best bright and sunny spring-like weather to greet us and the drive round London’s Orbital Car Park, the M25, could have been a lot worse in our Avis Peugeot 406 Diesel. The door keys fitted and we were back on the 15th of February in a grubby house which smelled of five years occupation by other people but which had not suffered any major structural damage. What’s more, my Triumph Bonneville ‘bike, locked in the concrete shed at the bottom of the garden, was still virgo intacta in its coat of waxoil, grease and WD40!