Paradise in the perfect form: Paths, Plunges, and Pilsners…and just one or two Mai Tais OR How I Spent my Summer Vacation (Because I’ve never actually had to write an essay on that)

sDuring my 20+ year career in the Army, I have been to a lot of really nasty spots (trust me there’s a long list)…so you won’t hear me complain about 2 weeks in Hawaii supporting an exercise. Now I had done a lot of the touristy stuff on the islands on previous trips. I wanted this trip to be about work, but also relaxing. The last year was hard. I didn’t need to come back from another work trip exhausted—especially one to Hawaii. So I planned accordingly. It would be all about me. How does one do that? Well, I didn’t make some unrealistic list of sights to see. I was only going to do the things I enjoyed most: ocean sunsets, mai tais, open water swims, runs, and of course a brewery or two. Is that asking too much? Staying down in Waikiki I opted for a Holiday Inn Express with a fridge and microwave instead of a more lush resort where you’re nickled and dimed for every small thing. I’d rather have a free breakfast or make my own, than spend $19 for a continental breakfast complete with room temperature milk, Rice Krispies, and a piece of fruit— and maybe a cup of coffee. Thus I went to Hawaii for two weeks to observe a military exercise in June 2021, during a lull in the COVID pandemic. This is the story of my pseudo-summer vacation.

At this point, I’ll spare you all the details of the exercise. That’s probably a research paper all unto itself. Needless to say it didn’t quite work out as planned and I had a lot more time to myself. It was– as we say in the military– “a boondoggle.” The real point here is to talk about the paths, the plunges, and of course the pilsners and pale ales I tried while visiting in Oahu this time around. First, the plunges.

As somewhat of a triathlete, open water swimming has always been a form of training I’ve come up short on. Sure it’s easy to find a pool and go back and forth all day with laps, but an open water swim? Oooooh, those are money. In Monterey I was fortunate enough to take on the cold Pacific waters in my wetsuit. Hawaii offered a whole new opportunity. Thus it became part of my daily rhythm to stop off at a small beach at Hickam Air Force Base, adjacent to Daniel K. Inouye International Airport, to take a dive into the water and swim back and forth along the buoyed swim area. I think each length was roughly 150 yards. I would swim somewhere between 1200-1500 yards each visit, then dry off laying on the beach. Finally, I would often grab a beer and reflect on the day at the local beach bar, the Lanai, and watch the waves come in. It was all it could be and more. I was in a sheer state of bliss.

Added to the plunges, were the paths. Staying down in Waikiki I was in a concrete jungle of trails. I took full advantage of them. Most days I would run along the Ala Wai canal, a 1.5 mile stretch of water which serves as a northern boundary for Waikiki. Most days I used it as a launching point into eastern Waikiki and the base of the iconic Diamond Head. On one occasion I even ran around Diamond Head, compiling over seven miles in the process. Most days it was runs between 4-5 miles, temperatures in the upper 70s or low 80s. It doesn’t get much better than that. All told, I ran close to 50 miles during my visit, smiling the entire way.

Over one weekend in paradise, I was fortunate enough to meet up with my friend and Air Force Academy classmate, Erynn Tait for a morning hike on Oahu’s North Shore, just up from Sunset Beach. While only three miles roundtrip, it was STRAIGHT UP to a series of pillboxes (bunkers) built for the defense of the islands during World War 2. These are a popular hike on the island and local artists routinely make the trek up to decorate the concrete walls with their artwork. The views from the top speak for themselves. I was going to do a subsequent hike the next day with Erynn and her husband, but that whole work thing intervened. Next time though, we are crushing Koko Head!

Then there were the pale ales and pilsners…and of course Mai Tais.

Within a few short hours of arriving back on Oahu I completed a run around the Ala Wai canal, and walked across the street from my hotel to the Hale Koa hotel’s Barefoot Bar, where I indulged in two of my favorite things on the islands: sunsets and mai tais. And in that order too. I strolled along the shore as the sun slowly slipped behind the horizon, catching it’s sweet salutation with mai tai in hand. It was nothing less than perfect. This became my routine most days: I’d work, get my swim on at Hickam, back to my hotel for the sunset, surf and mai tai at the Barefoot bar. But wait—there was more!

Hawaii does have breweries and I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to check some of them out. On the Windward side of the island in Kailua, meeting old army buddies, I checked out Maui Brewing Company (my old time favorite) for their Bikini Blonde Lager (see my last post for more on that). I also went to Honolulu Beerworks for an afternoon, checking out several of their beers. Finally, being in Wakiki, I couldn’t pass up the Waikiki Brewing Company (about 200m from my hotel) to sample several of theirs including Aloha Spirit Blonde Ale, Skinny Jeans IPA, and Hana Hou Hefeweizen—which was my personal favorite. Then there were other times where just about any form of liquid aloha would do including Golden Road’s Mango Cart (in a liquid Aloha glass coincidentally) which paired beautifully with my afternoon swim and Hawaii Air National Guard F-22 fighters flying overhead.

And just like that, the two weeks were over and it was time to head home. It was amazing & relaxing! I enjoyed those things which I wanted to most. Between the paths, the pilsners, pale ales, and plunges, my two weeks in Hawaii were nothing short of amazing. Before I left, however, I had one more adventure to complete, to honor some of the bravest Soldiers the US Army has ever known, many of whom were Hawaiian born and bred. With this last adventure, my last Hawaiian odyssey would be complete…for now.

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