OK, so the next part of the day was probably the one thing I was most looking forward to about our entire trip: a leisurely driving tour around the island with the Roots! I love exploring new places with no timetable, and having my trusty Oahu Revealed guide in my lap meant we could just look up the sights as we came across them or a little in advance to decide where we wanted to stop. I’m sure this day didn’t look at all relaxing to the Roots when they saw my plans in Tripit, since I had pasted in about 15 different places we could eat along the way, just in case. Good food is the one thing I won’t leave to chance!
As we pulled away from Kualoa Ranch and headed north, the highway drew right up to the edge of the Pacific Ocean. I could hear Patrick whimpering from the drivers’ seat, and I think he may even have pressed his nose up against the glass a couple times as we whizzed by pristine beach after pristine beach. Finally I gave a combination eye-roll-loud-sigh and acquiesced. “FINE! Even though we have an immaculate white sand beach of our very own that we PAID FOR back at Aulani, I GUESS we can put our feet in the water by the side of the road like common criminals…!”
Patrick and Nate tumbled out of the car and bounded straight for the water, shoes and socks flying in all directions as Jensey and I straggled behind, picking up them all up.
With an impish grin, Patrick began miming like he was gonna take a dive right into the drink…
Back at the car, Jensey and I waited patiently as our fellas wrung seawater outta their pants and unwrapped the odd starfish from around their ankles. Then we were back on the road north, this time in search of some food.
Everything I’d read told me we needed to stop at Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck. I think if I hadn’t read about it, we would have slowed down, surveyed the abandoned-looking, graffiti-covered short bus, and then stomped on the gas. In LA, we like our food trucks polished, snappily painted, and preferably in the form of a gleaming vintage Airstream trailer or a twee little cart hitched to a turquoise Vespa. In Hawaii, they apparently like their food trucks to look like post-apocalyptic dwellings for tattooed street urchins.
There are only four choices on the menu, and thank goodness one of them was a hot dog, cuz Jensey doesn’t eat seafood! I couldn’t figure out the difference between the Shrimp Scampi (“marinated in olive oil, fresh garlic and lemon butter”) and the Lemon Butter Shrimp (“sauteed in butter, lemon sauce”), so Patrick and I split one of each. The Roots split a Jumbo Garlic Hot Dog slathered in the garlic scampi sauce and then dashed back to get another while their plate was still spinning. At $13 a plate, the shrimp is not cheap, but the $3.50 hot dog and $1.50 drinks are!
I sure hope the Roots took more pictures than we did, cuz those are all we got! The setup is actually really well thought-out and one I wish we had in LA: Giovanni’s and a few other trucks ring a covered patio with picnic tables. Out back, there is a sink with soap and paper towels for you to clean off the inevitable mess that results from eating at Giovanni’s. Because these are real, tail-on AND legs-on shrimp that have to be ripped outta their oil-slicked shells. I’m the kind of person who would eat EVERYTHING with a fork if she could (French fries, cupcakes, sandwiches…), so I was not super-crazy about having to reach into a greasy pile and pluck the legs off my food before eating it. That said, I *devoured* our meal in record time, sopping up the extra sauce with the two giant scoops of rice.
Both kinds of shrimp were garlicky, and although they tasted slightly different, overall the main flavor of each was SALT, and plenty of it! They were good in a comfort-food kind of way but not the life-altering experience that they’ve been hyped up to be. If I lived there, I’d probably eat at Giovanni’s once or twice a year. But maybe I’d feel differently if I’d had the hot dog, which the Roots adored.
After we’d all hit each other with the hose, the four of us hoisted ourselves back into the car and continued around the North Shore. Patrick drove; I rode shotgun, reading aloud descriptions of landmarks and potentials stops from my Hawaii bible; and the Roots played with their smartphones in the backseat—it was the quintessential family car trip (except that I never had to fling The Arm back there to break up any fights)!
And then we came across something that wasn’t in any guidebook….
It was some kind of burned-out, abandoned old… hotel? Retirement home? Creepy hospital? Haunted insane asylum? At any rate, I can’t tell you what a stroke of luck it was to find this, considering the countless times on our adventures that Patrick and I stumble on some cool abandoned place and say to each other, “I wish the Roots were here to shoot this!”
In unison, Nate and Patrick leapt out of the car, cameras cocked and ready.
While Patrick trotted behind Nate as he disappeared around a corner, Jensey and I sat in the car and got to have our one traditional girl talk of the trip. We’re both so fond of spending time with our husbands that we usually only get about one chance on any trip to just chat like chicks do. Picture us sealed in the car, blithely gabbing about whatever it is women are supposed to talk about (Cupcakes? Yoga? Skinnygirl-tinis?) while Nate and Patrick parkour through the ruins, dodging a pack of zombie hospital orderlies.
The fact that this rotting hulk stands yards away from an operating convalescent home just makes the whole thing even creepier. I’ll tell you one thing—if I were convalescing there, I would NEVER look out my window after dark!
OK, so I looked it up, and the real-life story behind this building is just about as spooky as my wild conjecture. It was a reform school called Waialeʻe Industrial School For Boys from 1903 to 1950, but it didn’t burn down until 2002. However, this story notes that an article written by a superintendent in the ’30s said the facility housed “dark cells” built below street level and described the use of ghastly forms of corporal punishment including cat-o-nine tails and straps soaked in vinegar and salt—gah!
As we pulled back onto the highway, we noticed another derelict structure across the street, one of the school’s outbuildings. We asked Nate if he wanted to stop for more photos, but when he spotted a group inside doing one of those ever-popular Abandoned Reform School Fashion Shoots, we decided to keep going.
Our next stop was one I’d flagged in Oahu Revealed, the ruins of a Hawaiian temple known as Pu-u o Mahuka Heiau. It was a short drive uphill from the main road and promised an expansive view from Mt. Ka’ala. I guess I was spoiled by the Industrial School For Boys (first time THAT’s ever happened ever!) because I was kinda disappointed to find only the temple’s lava stone foundation remaining.
The site felt kind of like a Civil War battlefield to me with all the low walls, although that’s silly cuz how could anyone living on Island Time ever be grumpy enough to start a civil war?
However, the guide book talks about how this particular temple was used for human sacrifice, which made it a place of oppression and fear for the common man.
Nate and his Mini-Me went tromping off into the bushes to shoot this view out over the highway below.
When we emerged, an ashen Jensey directed our attention toward a woman kneeling in the distance who had spread what appeared to be sacrifices all over a section of the wall: fruit, flowers, food, papers and leaves wrapped around rocks—and a real, dead pig’s head. Nate got a shot of it I hope one day to show you; Patrick was busy shooting this:
Suddenly, a battered minivan pulled into the parking lot, a man got out, and the woman began packing up the sacrifices. Within moments they’d cleared the whole wall of all but a few items, and the minivan was kicking up a cloud of dust as they drove off. Fascinating!
Continuing on along the North Shore, we came to a place Oahu Revealed calls Not To Be Missed! and dutifully pulled over. Who am I to argue with bold AND italics? Laniakea Beach, a.k.a., Turtle Beach, gets it nickname from the fact that you are almost guaranteed to see a turtle here. Given their longevity, I’d like to think you could potentially see the very turtle for whom the beach was nicknamed! We parked in a wide spot at the edge of the road and clambered down some rocks. The guide book made it sound like there’d be turtles paddling around in the surf, playfully nudging swimmers and letting toddlers ride them like paddleboards, while other turtles cavorted on the beach building sandcastles and having picnics. Instead we saw…
It was almost like the back cover of a Highlights Magazine, where you’re supposed to find the hidden objects in the scene. Finally we spotted an official-looking person standing over a particularly large rock… or WAS it?!!
The turtle didn’t seem to mind that she’d encircled his nap spot with little rope like the ones that don’t keep kids from crawling up to the stage at library puppet shows. In fact, Patrick theorized that the turtle had actually shuffled off this mortal coil some time earlier, and that the wildlife foundation just kept it around for the benefit of rubes like us. I let him run til he launched into an impression of a garbage truck backing up onto the beach under cover of night, complete with beeping. Our exchange looked something like this, minus the ice cream bars (if only there had been ice cream bars!)
Now, you can tell we were having fun because I forgot to nag Patrick to take any photos of our drive to Hale’iwa, the biggest town on the North Shore, or the cute storefronts on its main drag, or the world(?)-famous Matsumoto’s, where we were headed to get some world-famous Hawaiian shave ice. However, if you are wondering what the stray cat out back of Matsumoto’s looks like, you are in for a treat!
Shave ice is definitely A Thing in Hawaii, and it’s a bit different than the sno-cones we’re used to on the Mainland. For one thing, it’s shaved so fine and powdery that it makes ours look like ice cubes. They also have a lot more flavors than you’ll find at the state fair, and they have variations served over ice cream and/or azuki beans.
There are two shave ice stands practically next door to each other in Hale’iwa, Matsumoto’s and Aoki’s. We went to Matsumoto’s because, well, I dunno… they have the same PR team as Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck? According to the guidebook, there’s really no difference. Actually, Matsumoto’s isn’t even a shave ice stand, it’s supposed to be a general store, but I hear the last time anybody bought something there besides shave ice it was a Big Johnson T-shirt…
Here is Matsumoto’s flavor list:
- Root Beer
- Lilikoi (passion fruit)
- Cotton Candy
- Piña Colada
- Banana Cream
- Lihing Mui
You can get up to three flavors per (huge) serving. The shave ice comes in a paper cone at the base price, but you can pay a little more to get a fancy plastic holder that catches the drips. Oh, and they take credit cards!
They funnel you out the back to keep the (often long) line moving. That’s where we found this guy!
There really wasn’t any place to sit down with our shave ice, so we walked back across street to the church we’d parked at and stood around at the edge of their graveyard eating shave ice. Sorry, dead people!
I admit I was not expecting to like shave ice cuz I’m not a fruit-flavor fan, and the combo of ice and ice cream sounds weird. But I thought I’d hit the jackpot with my hot pink coconut cream shave ice and ice cream… til I tasted it. WowiEEEEE, was that flavor fake! I could almost feel the chemicals disintegrating my tongue. Everybody else liked theirs (I’m sorry, I don’t remember what flavors anyone got), maybe because they picked more of the regular fruity flavors. I ended up scooping most of my ice into the trash and then, when Patrick saw what I was doing, his mouth. My ice cream wasn’t bad, though!
On our way out of town, Nate said he wanted to go someplace to see the sunset (photographers, sheesh!), so we backtracked a bit and followed the sun to Haleiwa Ali’i Beach Park. It felt like it was sinking really fast, so we kinda almost ran to the water’s edge!
As Patrick and Nate fired away, I thought about how neat it was that we’d been able to see the sunrise that morning in Hanauma Bay and now the sunset in Hale’iwa.
So, if you don’t like sunsets (or long walks on the beach, for that matter), better get yer scrollin’ finger ready…. NOW!
(Sorry… I’m really bad at culling photos… Almost done!)
When the sun finally slipped all the way into the ocean with a little wisp of steam, Jensey and I pried the cameras from our husbands’ hands and led them back to the car, still murmuring, “One more… just one more….” I’m pretty sure everybody fell asleep at some point during the hour-long ride back to Aulani in the dark, even Patrick, but luckily he can sleep with his eyes open!
Nathensey needed to pick up some things for their trip, so Patrick and I had the honor of accompanying them on one of their patented Target Dates. Fun! Then we stopped at Quiznos for their favorite meal (although the two of us abstained because, let’s face it, Quiznos is no Zippy’s…). Our own dinner ended up coming from Aulani’s room service and turned out to be surprisingly tasty, if not particularly photogenic or cost-effective.
We ended the day ironing our duds and writing our vows for our big renewal the next day. And I really should have paid more attention to how long Patrick spent on his…