Christmas 2021: My wife is stronger than me

My wife, the Commander Supreme, is stronger than me.

Let me explain why.

Before we departed for Hawaii on November 30, our home was completely decorated for Christmas. True, she did receive an assist from our youngest daughter, Elizabeth, but I had nothing to do with this decorating.

There was one exception.

Upon our return from Hawaii on December 18, the Commander was insistent that I do all of the exterior holiday lighting for our front door entrance.

This prodding did make me silently curse like a foul-mouthed coach who had just been assessed a technical foul. However, after ninety minutes of bungling lights, cords, outlets, and a timer, the lights are up and working. I’m sure her non-existent ego is smiling knowing she can still manipulate the knucklehead she married forty six years ago.

Another reason the Commander is stronger than me is that without her planning and logistical insights there would not have been a trip to Hawaii. At some point near the end of our paradise journey, my sister-in-law, Abby, her husband, Art, and I toasted the brilliance of this conquest by the Commander.

But, here is the real reason the Commander Supreme is stronger than me—she has stubborn endurance.

Let me explain further.

Despite her children and I telling her not to undertake her usual Christmas baking, on Monday, December 20 thru Thursday, December 23, the Commander Supreme became the Baker Supreme. Dozens of mini pumpkin bread loaves and round after round of cookies on baking sheets became gifts for family, neighbors, and friends.

The Commander bakes in stages, and when baking takes a break, she is running all kinds of errands to make sure that Christmas will be enjoyable. And when you ask her why she immerses herself in all the madness related to baking, there is a simple response—“Because I want to.”

Yet, I sense there is another reason too.

On Thursday morning at 9, helpers arrived to decorate sugar cookies—two of her granddaughters, Josie and Ellie. And then a bit later, her niece Sarah, a junior at Clemson, joined the fun.

Maybe, just maybe in the coordinated chaos in the kitchen, future baker seeds were being planted. Knowing how much the Commander Baker cherishes family, I believe years from now if our children, grandchildren and nieces were hunkered down in their kitchens baking sugar cookies at Christmas, the Commander’s heart would smile.

Currently, I’m reading 41 A Portrait Of My Father, a book about George H.W. Bush, written by his son, George W. Bush. I have learned that the elder Bush was quite a letter/note writer.

Back in 1983, he wrote this note to his children: “I’m getting a little older. I’m not sure what the future holds. I don’t worry about that. Win or lose, older or younger, we have our family.”( Page 150 from 41)

Those last four words—“we have our family” are powerful.

No matter the ups and downs, I have put my wife through, and the ups and downs experienced by our children, and the ups and downs of the Commander’s siblings, I think she has always valued the words— “we have our family.”

Clearly, we would not be a family without the steady, stubborn endurance of the Commander Supreme.

Quite simply, we would be lost without her.

Yes, my wife is stronger than me.

And in truth, she is our strength, our pulse, not just at Christmas, but everyday of the year.

Thanks, Merry Christmas, we love you.

Commander Supreme preparing for baking December 23, 2021 photo by Bill Pike

Days Seven and Eight: rain and a luau

During the early morning hours on Monday, December 6, the wind howled and rain pattered around the beach house where we were staying in Waialua.

At some point during that night, we lost power for a few hours.
Monday was a wash out for us. The rain coming from the Kona low pressure system was to be relentless into early Tuesday morning.

At times on Tuesday night, the rain came down so hard that I could not hear the waves crashing on the beach. These were long, sustained torrents of rain. In my 68 years of living, I’ve never heard such rain. I wondered how much rainwater could this Hawaiian land hold?

In terms of inconvenience— we were lucky.

Betsy’s sister Abby had booked all of us to attend a luau at the Waimea Valley Visitor Center. Wisely, the organizers of the luau notified Abby that Monday evening’s performance was postponed.
So, on Monday afternoon, we gathered at Abby and Art’s house.

Betsy’s nephew, Brad, his wife Lawratu, and their daughter, Suzy, had made the trip from London to Hawaii for the wedding. Yes, that’s correct London, England. This was to be our last chance to say goodbye them.

They were scheduled to fly back to Los Angeles on Tuesday. Before flying home to London, Brad and his family would be staying with his Dad who lives in southern California through Christmas.

There was lots of family energy in that room. If my math was correct, I think 27 of us were present. It was quite a sight to look around at those happy faces. Laughter dominated at times with a mixture of old and new stories. I know this trip to Hawaii will eventually become an unforgettable chapter in our lives, especially for the bride and groom, Parker and Brandy.

At some point, Brad stood up and gathered Lawratu and Suzy. We each had a goodbye moment with them, and then they were off to pack up in Honolulu.

That gathering made me think how lucky I have been to have a family. Family has grounded me from my first crying gulp for air. Family has sustained me in so many ways in my life. And, family will sustain my loved ones when I take my last breath.

During my career, I have seen first hand the challenges individuals face in our society when there is no family. One of the biggest challenges America faces is the unceasing erosion of families. That erosion is no different from the waves of the ocean constantly pounding our coastlines.

No community is immune from this loss of societal structure, not even in the beauty of Hawaii.

Family photo minus the grand kids who were playing Photo Rachel Olson

Day Eight: Luau

On the morning of Tuesday, December 7, we were greeted by the unmistakeable sound of a crowing rooster.

Yes, he was perched on the back of a neighbor’s pickup truck doing his best to wake up this quiet cul-de-sac.

Crowing rooster on the pickup Photo Bill Pike

At our house, he did a good job. His screechy call blew through the open windows and screened doors.

Thanks to the rooster, we moved more briskly, and eventually some of us took a long walk past where the bike trail ends.

We were on a narrow road that toured us through an extended neighborhood. Some homes faced the ocean, others were on large parcels, on the opposite side of the road with the mountains as a backdrop.

The architectural style of the homes caught my eyes as did how the homes with the acreage used their land.

And even though, the clouds were broken, they still looked like they held rain, but no shower found us.

On the return, we took a left turn that hooked us toward another section of homes on the ocean side. A small park next to the beach gave us a clear view of the Pacific.

Tuesday’s weather was better, and as we pushed into the afternoon, the focus was on getting ready for the luau.

By some miracle of the Hawaiian gods, we were all ready at the appointed departure time for the drive over to the Waimea Valley Visitor Center where the luau was to be held.

When we arrived on the grounds of the Visitor Center, it was clear to see that the rain had an impact. We were not able to take any extended walks on the grounds. But, there was still plenty stunning plant life to be seen.

It wasn’t long before the staff had our attention and organized us for the first phase of the evening. Out on the patio were five stations that tested our skills in learning about Hawaiian traditions with coconuts, cocoa beans, weaving headbands/crowns, and whirling poi balls on strings.

From there we moved inside the open air Pavillon where we would be entertained with a combination of humor, cultural traditions, a delicious meal, and an ending that featured the skills of the performers twirling fire batons. No matter your age, the luau had something for everyone.

But interestingly, there was a recurring theme—family. That point was made a number of times during the dialogue with the audience as we learned about the importance of family in the Hawaiian culture.

After the show, cast members were available to interact and take photos. As you can imagine that had a big impact on the children.

As we walked toward the parking lot, a head count was taken before the cars were reloaded. On the ride back to the houses, the performance we had just seen dominated the conversation.

Even on the following day, positive comments continued to surface about the luau. Clearly, the performance made a lasting impression on our family. If the organization can sustain the quality and heritage of the luau, then I feel certain families will continue to attend.

But perhaps, the luau’s best attribute was its size. This was not hundreds of people crammed into a massive hotel assembly line production. The open air pavilion was just right for an intimate audience, with clear sight lines, and a comfortable setting.

Smiling luau faces Photo Bill Pike

*Time is passing, so protect what you love

This piece was submitted to the Honolulu Star Advertiser newspaper for publication consideration on Monday, December 13, 2021. The piece was published in the newspaper’s views and voices section on Wednesday, December 15, 2021.

Unfortunately, the previous posted link does not allow a reader to read the piece unless you have a subscription to the Star Advertiser. If you are interested, here is the original submission:

Protect What You Love by Bill Pike draft started 12/13/21

On Tuesday, November 30, I was excited when our plane touched down on the runway at the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport in Honolulu. For my wife and me, this was our first visit to Hawaii. We made the trip to attend the wedding of her nephew.

During our stay, we would be based in Waialua. My wife’s sister and her husband have a home in a quiet neighborhood.

As we eased ourselves off of the interstate, my eyes were quickly captivated by the landscape— shades of green, mixed with colorful blooms, the indescribable color of farmland soil, and fading sunlight slowly sinking behind the hills. Hawaii, you had me even without a peek at the ocean.

Over the next two days family members arrived, and on Friday, December 3, I could not believe the weather forecast map from the National Weather Service for the Hawaiian Islands—especially the blizzard warning.

Not a drop of rain fell during the backyard wedding ceremony on Saturday afternoon. We adapted to rain showers for a visit to Turtle Bay on Sunday. Monday was a washout. By Wednesday, the weather was better.
Back home in Richmond, Virginia, my family and I have ridden out remnants of hurricanes and strong summer thunderstorms. But, I have never heard such torrents of rain as created by the Kona low. It rained so hard Monday night into Tuesday morning that I could barely hear the crashing of waves on the beach. I wondered how much water could the land hold?

I read with great interest how the storm impacted Honolulu. Friends back in Richmond, emailed or texted us wondering how we had fared with the weather.

As the week progressed, we could see the impact of this powerful rain event on the beach. Nearby rivers, creeks, and inlets spewed into the Pacific blue. Gradually, the wind and tides changed the water color to a murky brown, and the shoreline was filled with debris like items that couldn’t be sold at tired yard sale.

Plastics, lumber, flip-flops, mammoth tree limbs, chainsawed trunks, tires, irrigation piping, styrofoam, aluminum cans, and rusted cans were among our findings.

A year ago last fall, my wife and I spent a Saturday morning volunteering for a local conservation group. Our assignment was removing debris from an urban stream that runs through Bryan Park. Regrettably, most of the items I found on your beautiful Hawaiian beach were also in our pretty stream.

I wonder when you, me, we, us are going to wake up and responsibly care for our environment?

Just as the Star Advertiser was reporting about contaminated water from the Red Hill bulk fuel storage facility, our paper back home reported about two environmental groups suing our county over a “series of pollution violations” into the James River.

Again, when are we going to wake up?

On Saturday morning, December 11, we took a hike out to the albatross nesting grounds at Ka’ena Point. As long as I live, I will never forget this trek.

No matter where my eyes scanned, I was treated to majestic views. I could not stop taking photos. However, one sign really grabbed by attention:—Marine Debris Drop-off Station—Protect What You Love.

I wonder why we are so challenged to protect and love our land, water, and air?

Perhaps, our senses have been obscured by a selfish, self-denial that make us oblivious to the urgency of protecting what we ought to love.

Time is rushing by us.

Not protecting what we ought to love isn’t an option.

Photo by Bill Pike

Day Six: Turtle Bay

On the morning of Sunday, December 5, I took my second run on the bike bath in Waialua. I extended the route a bit further this time. Again, the run was pleasant, and I encountered a few bike riders, walkers, and runners along the way.

When I returned to the house, there was no post-wedding sluggishness. Adults can’t be sluggish with grandchildren in the house.

At our house, we had two grandchildren. Over at the Babcocks were their three. Plus at our house, we had Betsy’s nephew from London, his wife, Lawratu, and their daughter, Suzy. They had stayed over night after the wedding rather than making the drive back to Honolulu. Both houses were buzzing with energy that only children have.

The plan was to get packed up and drive to Turtle Bay. There we would meet Betsy’s brother and his family, and we would all converge on the beach at the Turtle Bay Resort.

Gradually, the cars were loaded and the caravan pulled out.

To get to Turtle Bay meant meandering along the coastline with all kinds of views. We drove through the Waimea Valley home of the famous waterfall, and also saw Waimea Bay, a favorite surfing spot for surfers. Around the bay area, onlookers and serious photographers lined the beach side watching the waves and the surfers.

On the drive, you see spectacular oceanside homes, frail looking shacks, houses tucked up in the hills, and a diverse mix of local businesses and national brands.

Thanks to our son-in-law Doug, we make the drive without any challenges. He drops us off at the entrance to the beach, and patiently waits for us to unload all of the gear needed for surviving a few hours of surf and sand.

Now, the sun worshippers on this excursion are disappointed. Gray clouds hover overhead, and a couple of times during the morning, light rain showers intruded. Those showers forced us to find some temporary cover. But, none of us melted.

The sandy beach was perfect for the kids, and with a bit more exploring down the beach, we found a tidal pool that worked well for them too.

We took a walk around the Turtle Bay resort with its many amenities, spectacular views, and manicured grounds. And we even managed to dodge the raindrops for a nice lunch on a quiet poolside patio overlooking the always restless—Pacific Ocean.

After lunch, we walked through the lobby of the hotel. Christmas decorations are up. Caroline and Hudson enjoyed seeing these. I’m still adjusting to Christmas decorations in this tropical climate. But, anytime we are driving in the car, Hudson wants to hear Christmas music with “Jingle Bells” being his favorite.

Working our way back to the beach, we start to gather up our belongings. It is a cumbersome trudge to the parking lot, but we survive.

On the way back to the house, we follow the same route. But, we do make a stop at one of the oceanside overlook areas. Lots of people are making similar breaks too.

No matter, where I look the landscape is irresistible. The designer, creator made good choices in weaving the ocean and the coastline together.

Too bad we humans don’t respect this grandeur like we should. I imagine the good Lord is disappointed in our care, but that’s another story for another day.

Sharks Cove in Hawaii Photo by Bill Pike

Day Four: This Forecast Can’t Be Correct

As we prepared for our trip to Hawaii, I will admit, I did very little research. I was more focused on how to pack, how to endure the long flight, and hoped that the rest of our family would arrive safely.

So, you can imagine my surprise when I checked out the National Weather Service’s forecast for Hawaii on the morning of Friday, December 3, and at the top of the list was a blizzard warning.

Screen shot courtesy of NWS

Wait a second, a blizzard warning in Hawaii, no way, I must be suffering from jet lag and sleep deprivation. But, that was the forecast for the high mountain summits on the Big Island. Additionally, the forecasters included an assortment of advisories, watches, and warnings for the rest of Hawaii.

Forecasts aside, for the family gathered here, the focus was on Saturday afternoon at 4 p.m. That’s when Parker and Brandy would be married in a beautiful backyard overlooking the Pacific Ocean. We wanted no raindrops that afternoon.

I took my first Hawaiian run on Friday morning in a light rain. I enjoyed every step as I followed a bike trail that paralleled the main road in this Waialua neighborhood.

At noon on Friday, we attended a rehearsal luncheon at Haleiwa Joe’s. This was inside, no raindrops bothered us. The food, service, and atmosphere were perfect.

On Saturday morning, we drove the short distance to Haleiwa Beach Park to watch a surfing competition. This was a big deal— TV coverage, lots of spectators, and of course rain. The rain started lightly, but then it picked up and ran us back to the car.

Rain moving on shore Photo by Bill Pike

Despite the rain, we decided to drive into Haleiwa to check out some local shops. As we drove, the rain intensified.

Once parked, we made a dash for a store with an awning. Gradually, the rain let up. With no raindrops, we moved around more freely to the shops. In those splashy walks were some teases from the sun.

For whatever reason, the rain held off for the 4 p.m. ceremony. Not a drop fell until late into the evening, when by that time no one was feeling raindrops.
Over the years, I’ve attended quite a few weddings. Each wedding was special in its own unique way. But, I think my old brain will hold on to this one for a long time.

For sure having the Pacific Ocean as a backdrop was pleasing to the eyes. But, what I loved more was the simple, uncluttered charm of the ceremony—there was no fluff.

It is my hope, my prayer that the heartfelt exchange of the vows from Parker and Brandy will last them a lifetime.

The bride Photo by Bill Pike

Day Three: Pearl Harbor

No doubt, the number one objective for our trip to Hawaii was to attend the wedding of Betsy’s nephew. While in Hawaii, there are many options to consider for sight seeing. However, only one place was on my must see list for a visit—Pearl Harbor.

So on Thursday, December 2, our third day in Hawaii, we had a 1 p.m. slot to take the short boat ride over to the USS Arizona Memorial. With our son-in-law, Doug, driving us, we left Waialua early enough so that we could tour the grounds and exhibits at the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center.

Photo by Bill Pike

Thursday was a beautiful, sunny, warm day in Honolulu. The sky was a stunning shade of deep blue.

The Visitor’s Center has been nicely developed with wide sidewalks, manicured grounds, and quality exhibits that tell the story of Pearl Harbor with words, photographs, real artifacts, and filmed interviews.

Visitors quickly learn about the importance of time as they take in the exhibits and displays. The destruction that occurred on that fateful Sunday morning had been timed out to perfection by the Japanese leaders.

Throughout our visit, I found guests to be interested, engaged in absorbing the information presented, and respectful with a quiet dignity as they moved about the grounds.

National Park Service employees are friendly and willing to take questions. The shuttle boat ride to the Arizona Memorial is well organized and communication is effective.

And for me, the visit to the USS Arizona Memorial served as a sad reminder—war is horrible. The wall that lists the names of all who died on the Arizona from the attack is all the confirmation I needed.

Today, Tuesday, December 7, 2021 marks the 80th anniversary of the attack.

I think to myself what have we learned about ourselves during those eighty years?

Personally, I know we must always confront evil intruders. World War II and 911 affirm this.

But, I wonder why can’t we exist in peace with each other?

Why is this so hard for us to achieve?

Maybe, our hearts are not fully committed to do the hard work required to achieve peace.

My old heart tells me that our stubbornness and our inability to trust prevents us from making peace.

At assorted points along the Pearl Harbor Visitors Center are several beautifully displayed quotes.

My favorite is from Radioman Third Class Warren Verhoff from the USS Keosangua: “I will never forget.”

Sailor Verhoff was correct.

We should never forget.

Yet somehow, we must find in our hearts the pursuit to build a framework for peace—a lasting peace.

Failing to pursue peace will only lead us to more heartbreaking memorials.

Flag at the USS Arizona Memorial Photo by Bill Pike

The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute At The University Of Richmond: Taking Risks

On the afternoon of Monday, November 15, Osher Lifelong Learning Institute instructors, Joe Vanderford and Bill Pike, were a bit nervous. Their months of content preparation for their two part class was coming down to the critical technology check.

The lecture hall where the documentary The Last Waltz was to be shown worked flawlessly.

But, the technology where their class would be presented on Tuesday morning was not cooperating. Slide images and content were appearing on the projection screen, but sound was absent. For Joe and Bill, sound was critical to their lecture—you can’t offer a class on the legendary rock group, The Band, without sound.

That’s when Osher Program Coordinator, Nell Smith, placed a phone call for help. Within minutes, a technician arrived who quickly assessed the situation. A carefully orchestrated rebooting of the system cleared out the troublesome technology gremlins, and like magic The Band’s music charged through the speakers.

With that hurdle cleared, Joe and Bill quickly tested each slide that contained a video or song selection. Luckily, there were no more hiccups.

Joe Vanderford and Bill Pike are childhood friends who grew up in Burlington, North Carolina. While Joe resides in Chapel Hill, Bill took the road to Richmond, and one of their teenage loves listening to records has kept their friendship going.

For the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, Bill and Joe have developed five presentations that have showcased the works of Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys, George Harrison, and now The Band. Additionally, Bill on his own has created presentations about cowboy music, the Andy Griffith Show, and writing.

That is a lot of risk taking from the Director of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, Peggy Watson. But in truth, learning is about taking some risks. In the case of Peggy Watson’s leadership, these are risks worth taking because these classes help meet a goal of continuing to develop lifelong learners.

Peggy and her staff put together a year round calendar of classes that cover a wide range of topics delivered by a talented group of individuals. Like a well oiled machine, the Osher staff accepts proposals for classes. These proposals are reviewed and selections are made based upon a number of criteria.

Once proposals have been accepted, the really challenging work begins—coordinating within the university’s schedule to find time slots and meeting locations. Building the Osher schedule is no easy task. Not only does the staff need to consider the instructional needs of Osher instructors, but they must be sensitive to schedule the classes without creating interruptions for the university’s professors and facilities.

While I can’t speak for other Osher instructors, our locations and the technology available for presenting have matched our needs. A comfortable room and cooperative technology are two of the keys for a good presentation.

Additionally, the Osher staff coordinates feedback on each class from students who attend. This feedback is very valuable to the instructors. These ratings/comments help instructors to learn what worked and didn’t work during the presentation.

There are a couple of other supportive pieces from the Osher team. Instructors are given the opportunity to provide feedback to the Osher staff. With this feedback, the Osher staff develops a class for instructors that provides essential components for instructors to weave into their presentations.

And there is one more critical piece of support for Osher instructors—technology. For our class on The Band, I had difficulty loading videos into the presentation slides.

To correct this problem, I simply made an appointment with the IT Help Desk/the Technology Learning Center. A very competent young lady, a junior student from Bosnia, was able to teach me how to load in the videos with a new application.

On Monday evening, our screening of The Last Waltz went well. Peggy Watson introduced us, and this was followed by Joe’s superb overview of the documentary, including a plug for the class on Tuesday morning.

On the day of our class, Joe and I have learned to arrive early. Again, we want to recheck the technology. For some unknown reason, on Tuesday morning, the technology gremlins reappeared.

Luckily, the same technician came to our rescue. His magical skills had us ready for our ten o’clock start. That would not have happened without support from Osher Program Staff, Catherine Taylor and Nell Smith.

Even though the university’s policy required us to wear masks during our presentation, Joe and I felt good to be in front of an audience. We enjoyed seeing some familiar faces who had participated in our previous classes.

We had lots of material to cover in two hours. Maybe, it was pandemic rust, but we made a few time constraint edits as we worked through the prepared script. Before we knew it, we were taking final questions and providing our summaries.

In truth, I think Joe and I feel a sense of relief when a class is completed. Additionally, in our post-presentation analysis, we are always quick to critique our work. Our shared self-talk finds fault with missed opportunities on a few points we overlooked, but overall, we are pleased with our work.

The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute is present on 125 campuses in all 50 states. If you are the least bit curious about classes available in your community, I would encourage you to checkout the offerings. My hunch is you will find a class of interest, and more than likely, you will make some new friends.

In the Richmond area, Peggy Watson would be happy to orient you to Osher. Peggy can be reached via e-mail:

As for Joe and me, we have some ideas for our next class. Right now, Ray Davies and The Kinks are at the top of the list. Who knows maybe we’ll see you in a “Waterloo Sunset.”

And that might just happen, with more insightful risk taking from Peggy Watson.

Bill Pike and Joe Vanderford in the wash of the projector light Photo by Mike Cross

Out over the Pacific

On May 11, 2021, my wife, the Commander Supreme, booked the flight and reserved two seats on American Airlines. We would be heading to a COVID-19 postponed wedding for one of her nephews, who just happens to live and work in Hawaii. On Saturday, December 4, we would gather for a wedding ceremony on the beach.

Of course, in its highest level of efficiency, on Monday, November 29, the day before our departure, American Airlines, sent an e-mail to the Commander Supreme notifying her that she no longer has the seat she reserved back on May 11. She has been moved several rows away.

So, politely and diplomatically, the Commander calls a friendly representative at American Airlines. She explains the concern to the representative. The representative puts the Commander on hold pending research.

Shortly, the rep returns to confirm that everything the Commander did in initiating the seat reservation was perfection. However, the rep has no explanation as to why this seat change was done. She tells the Commander that the matter will need to be addressed with the gate agent at the Raleigh/Durham airport (RDU) on Tuesday morning.

On Monday afternoon, November 29, we drive to Raleigh. We will spend the night with our youngest daughter, Elizabeth. She will drive us to RDU on Tuesday morning.

Once in Raleigh, with Elizabeth’s expertise, we fine tune the packing of our carry on luggage, and recheck our technology, with American, TSA, and the state of Hawaii. At bit after 5 on Tuesday morning, we are all piled into our normally reliable car. Elizabeth is the designated driver, and of course, our car says I’m not starting.

With lots of internal bad language, on this frosty morning, we toss everything into Elizabeth’s car, and barrel off. The usual 19 minute ride to RDU is done at supersonic speeds, and in a blink we are in the chaos of unloading, and heading into the American terminal.

In every direction of the American terminal, we find already weary travelers who are trying to determine the line they should be in while attempting to take in shouted instructions from American personnel, and prerecorded messages from RDU management.

Thanks to Commander, we find the correct line, locate the proper kiosk, print out the baggage tags, and head to the counter to drop off the bags. The American rep at the counter was very good.

Next, our fast paced steps took us to TSA. Recently, we completed the pre-check requirements. This check-in was hassle free.

Now, we were headed to the American gate to resolve the seat glitch.

The Commander gave the American rep the background, and the rep requested a few minutes to figure it out. We departed for a potty break, and that’s when the Commander realized that we didn’t have our snack bag. That was the one thing we didn’t grab from our car.

In one of the bandit priced shops, we picked up water and a few nibbles to tide us over.

Back at the gate, the rep found us a couple of seats together. We would be at one of the emergency exits, and yes, when asked, we stated we would be willing to help if God forbid there was an emergency.

Now, just to add to the boarding fun, TSA decided to show up with six agents to conduct another check of all passengers just before we boarded. There was some indication they were training new personnel, but our minds raced into fiction suspicion—we wondered— who they were trying to find?

We cleared this two step check and boarded the plane. Boarding and departing airplanes is not enjoyable. Airlines should consider hiring retired teachers to improve this process. What might airlines learn from elementary school teachers who routinely empty and fill school buses each day of the school year?

It is nice that airlines allow the elderly, young families, passengers with physical disabilities, and active military personnel to pre-board. But, once the plane lands—no one should be allowed to move until parents and their young children have left the plane. That parent and child who has been miserable for an over two hour flight should be able to depart first—no exceptions.

It appeared that the interior of the 737 that we flew to Dallas/Ft. Worth had been improved.The information card stated 737 09/21 revision.

A stewardess came by to swear in those of us seated by the exit. We each had to affirm we were willing to help with a—yes.

Since it was a frosty morning in the Piedmont triad, the captain informed us that the plane would need to be deiced before departure.

We finally pushed away from the gate. The loaded jet lumbered out to its designated spot. There a truck with the proper chemical solution to melt frost sprayed the cold aluminum.

From that shower, the plane sluggishly taxied to the assigned runway. Finally, the pilot pushed those jet turbines to full power and within a few seconds the plane was lifting off the runway. I continue to be amazed at what Orville and Wilbur created for us.

A few deliberate dips of the wings gradually turned the plane, and the pilot positioned the 737 toward the southwest bound for Texas.

On the ride down, I finished reading Sonia Purnell’s excellent book—A Woman Of No Importance. The book is about an American spy who had an impact in World War II.

The approach into Dallas/Ft. Worth was like always turtle slow. The landscape caught my eye—flat with shades of dryness.

We landed. And it feels like it takes at least another hour to get to the jetway for parking the jet, and yes, more chaos as people work their way off the plane. Again, airlines ought to really consider using the wisdom of retired teachers in shuffling people off a plane.

Our lay over was right at three hours in Dallas/Ft.Worth. We took the SkyLink tram toward the designated terminal for departure. This elevated train system dropped us where we needed to be.

We grabbed a meal at the Flying Saucer, and decided to explore the massive terminal. Knowing that we would be sitting for almost eight hours, walking that terminal was a good idea.

More polite chaos appeared, as we heard the call to start boarding the massive 777-200. We found our seats the Commander had the aisle, I had the window, and sandwiched between us was a tiny, elderly lady from Hawaii.

Again to my amazement, this loaded to capacity jet lifted off the runway.

The captain told us we would be taking a route toward Sonoma and San Fransisco before starting to trek over the Pacific. Some smart person figured out the curve of the California coastline makes the flight distance to Hawaii from San Fransisco a tad shorter.

Out my window, I had good views of America’s southwestern landscape. At 34,000 feet up, in some places there were few signs of human existence.

Canyons cut by rivers, wide valleys bordered with scruffy looking hills, and at times acres and acres of sand in every direction. Aside from splotches of green, shades of parchment, terracotta, and assorted darker hues of charcoal and cocoa filled in the palette.

A portion of America’s southwest landscape photo by Bill Pike

Personally, I kept peeking out the window for a shade of pacific blue with a ribbon of shoreline that would quickly be lost to the contrails created by the jet’s massive engines. That shade of blue would mean we were over the Pacific Ocean. Seeing that blue, even in its vastness gave me hope. I knew Hawaii was out there.

To distract me over the next 2,500 miles, I watched two documentaries: Ruth, followed by Summer of Soul, and I started reading— 41 A Portrait of My Father.

Occasionally, I peered down into the blue to see pretty patterns of clouds lightly floating above the mighty ocean.

Cloud patterns floating over the Pacific Ocean photo by Bill Pike

I tried to block out all references to time and distance. Gradually, the hours clicked away, and I finally heard the sound I wanted to hear— the slowing of the whirling turbines—we were starting our descent toward Honolulu. I looked out my window to see two tiny specks of land with a shoreline of a larger land mass behind.

Just under the edge of the clouds two islands photo by Bill Pike

There was a flurry of activity as agriculture cards were collected, seats returned to upright positions, and we were reminded to collect our personal items.

After a series of turns, the pilot had the plane aligned with the assigned runway. The 777 continued to slowly defy gravity hovering with precision until the hard rubber tires screeched on the tough runway surface— we landed.

We worked our way down the aisles of the plane, into the jet way, and finally the terminal. Despite having the proper QR code on our phones, the line was long to clear this required COVID-19 checkout before finding the baggage area.

Betsy’s sister, Abby, and her husband, Art, picked us up. As we exited the airport, we were promptly greeted by rush hour traffic. Yes, even in Honolulu, they have packed interstates.

With patience, Art drove us toward their home in Waialua.

Once off the interstate, the landscape changed.

We were on a winding, state highway. A range of mountains was off to our left, buffered with acres of agricultural land on both sides. Freshly tilled soil caught our eyes, there was an indescribable richness in the earthly hues of burnt orange and umber.

Splotches of purple and orange blooms sprang off assorted trees and shrubs, with their deep green foliage as a backdrop.

With a few more stops, and turns, Art pulled into a quiet cul-de -sac, where they had been restoring their beautiful home. Just a few steps across the street is the house that a friendly neighbor was renting to us for our stay in Hawaii.

We unloaded our luggage, toured the house. Then, we paused to gaze admiringly into the postcard view of the Pacific from the deck on the back of the house. Just in those few seconds of gawking, I wondered how people ever get back on a plane to return home.

Abby had a delicious pasta dinner for us.

And then, the hustle of the travel finally caught us, we were ready to collapse.

Somewhere in that sleep was a prayer of thanks for the safe travels and the opportunity to be here.

View from the back deck of the rental house photo by Bill Pike