As I write, we are somewhere over the Pacific on our way to Hawaii’s Garden Isle once more.
The trip was up in the air last week, but now we are jetting away from the Southwest corner thanks to our friends, Pete and Nancy Toennies. Fortunately, Pete needs a golfing partner for the days Nancy doesn’t play, and their time share condominium has a second bedroom. So voila: we are headed west.
The trip has been scheduled for some time, but our younger daughter in Austin got hit with a nasty bug a week ago, and we were about to head east instead of west. But Sarah was belligerent when she found out we had cancelled the Hawaii trip, demanded we not cancel, and began a quick recovery. The cancelled flights were restored. Now, we are past the point of no return.
The condominium is next to Poipu Beach, one of the best snorkeling sites in the islands, although it lost a great deal of its luster when Hurricane Iniki hit the island head on in 1992. About five years before, we came to Poipu on our first Kauai trip. Then, we had a double anniversary trip with our Southwest corner friends, Jim and Sharon Hileman: their 20th and our tenth. That second trip was a year after that devastating smash of nature almost brought the island to its knees.
When we ventured there initially, Poipu was a prime place to visit. The surf was spectacular, and the tropical fish were prolific. Hotels lined the coast to the west, and sitting just off the beach was Brenneke’s, a restaurant on the second floor of a surf shop. The restaurant had wooden shutters open to the ocean with flowers blooming in wooden boxes hanging outside. Our first lunch there, we sat in a corner with a panoramic view of the scene. It was idyllic.
When we went to Poipu Beach the second time, it was like a Tennessee twister had hit a fifty-mile swath. Brenneke’s was leveled. Hotels looked like relics of World War II bombings of German cities. Devastation reigned everywhere. A stretch of a two-lane road in the center of the island that had a canopy of majestic eucalyptus trees for on our first trip was mostly shredded tree trunks.
It was on that trip, we found Bubba’s in the town of Kapaa in the middle of the eastern shoreline. Bubba’s was a tiny restaurant with a couple of metal tables outside and a covered window to order with two bar stools. The ladies were shopping when Jim and I stopped for lunch.
The two owners worked the joint. They served burgers with or without cheese, Caesar salad, and cold drinks. That was it. I ordered a beer. “No beer,” the owner said, “But you can get some across the street at the ‘ABC’ store. I went and bought the beer. We shared it with the owners.
Jim wanted ice cream. “No ice cream,” they said, but you can get it at the drugstore next door.” Jim got the ice cream. We shared it with the owners.
They told us how, after Iniki struck, they had fed many of the islanders for free with a grill and coolers in a field near the leveled shopping area where their restaurant had been located.
We went back three more times that week. The burgers were that good. The atmosphere was better.
Our next trip was in 2008, our first with the Toennies. Kauai had rebounded from Iniki with splendor. The tree-lined promenade had returned to its original glory. Brenneke’s had been rebuilt. A tourist shop and travel bureau had replaced the surf shop downstairs. The hotels had returned, prolific and with more majesty than before. The snorkeling, although good, was not as thrilling as we remembered from our first trip.
Bubba’s had moved into a big place across the street from the hole in the wall. There was another franchise near Princeville, and some more on other islands. We didn’t find the owners. It wasn’t the same.
As we wing toward Honolulu and our connecting flight to Lihue, Kauai, I wonder what changes we will find this time. Undoubtedly, there will be some things we like better and some things we will miss. Seems like that is true wherever I go, even back home and even in the Southwest corner.
Jim Jewell is a writer and retired Navy commander living in San Diego and working for Pacific Tugboat Service. He was the director Navy’s West Coast leadership training and has been an consultant in executive coaching, teambuilding and organizational development. Jim still calls Lebanon his home.