We had about 1 week left in Havasu before our work contracts were set to end. We were both excited and ready for our planned 2-week vacation to Kauai, Hawaii.
I was on my way to Kingman for work one morning, barely out of Havasu city limits, when smoke started coming out of the exhaust pipe. I started to pull over, and then the truck shuttered and shut off completely. I tried restarting the truck and nothing happened. It wasn’t even trying to turn over. Then I saw a message on the dash display that read “Stop safety now”. The whole time I’m thinking how is this happening again? We’ve had so many vehicle issues since we started traveling. We half-way expected our 1979 Class A and our 1996 Ford F350 to have their issues since they were older vehicles, but this is a 2009 F250 heavy-duty diesel truck with 50,000 miles on it. Why are we having these major issues?? I called Mike for help so he could come down to inspect the truck. Mike found several drips under the truck and a leak coming out of the exhaust. The truck still wouldn’t start after multiple attempts, so Mike called his friend who was able to come down with his flatbed trailer to load it up.
We immediately hauled it back to the dealership we bought it from just 2 months prior. They remembered us pretty well because within those 2 months, the dealership already had it in their possession for 3 weeks for other major repairs, luckily still under warranty. When we got there they told us they would pay for diagnostics if we hauled it to the Ford dealer down the road. We left the truck with them, and we rode our motorcycles the rest of the week.
We were planning on checking out of the campground by the following Friday. We wanted to take our camper/trailer to our friends’ house to save money on the campground rent while we were in Hawaii. Well the next week went by and we were getting ready for our move. We called the dealership to see if the truck was ready, but they told us it wouldn’t be fixed for another few weeks. So with no other choice, we hustled to make other plans. We asked Mike’s friend to move our camper/trailer for us and thankfully he said yes. While they worked on moving, I got a rental car to get us to the Vegas airport. We got everything moved with the help from great friends, and we were finally ready for our much needed vacation.
Our plane left Vegas at 2am on Oct 1 heading toward Honolulu. We landed in Honolulu and had 1 more short flight to Kauai. We arrived in Kauai early in the morning on Sunday. We had just booked an Airbnb on the north shore, so we picked up our rental car and headed up the main highway.
We checked into the Wyndham Ka’eo Kai hotel and received leis with the message “In Hawaii, we don’t lei ourselves. We lei each other”. So with that, Mike and I had our lei ceremony.
Our Airbnb ended up being a timeshare so the front desk scheduled us to meet with a representative to talk about deals, things to do in the area, and timeshare ownership. We really weren’t interested, but they offered $150 American Express card, so we spent 30 minutes talking to them and walked away with a loaded credit card. Bonus!
The resort was beautiful. We could see the ocean from our room. The hotel had a pool and spa. They also had chickens and roosters running around everywhere, reminding us of Key West. We immediately started exploring the north shore. The landscape was lush with beautiful plants and mountains on one side and the ocean on the other.
We found Hanalei Bay, which was a perfect beach for body surfing and sun tanning. While sitting on the beach, I just stared at the sailboats in the bay daydreaming about the days that we’d be the ones seeing the world by boat.
Later that evening, we were hanging out in our room. That’s when we heard about the Vegas shooting. Like everyone else, we were shocked. It was especially shocking since we were just in Vegas earlier that morning. The next few days, we just waited for more information and kept an eye on the news.
The second day we drove north to Tunnels Beach. We learned the north shore is famous for heavy rains, but that didn’t stop us from having a good time. We swam in the ocean despite the downpour, the lifeguard suggesting not to, and the “no swimming” signs on the beach. The riptide was pretty strong, so we didn’t go any deeper than waist level, but we had a blast anyway.
The third day, we heard about a tide pool called Queen’s Bath. We walked about a mile down a steep, muddy path. After passing a waterfall, a memorial of people who had died there, and a huge boulder blocking most of the crashing waves, we saw the famous tide pool. Mike immediately jumped in while I climbed down the rocky slope. After I worked up my courage, I eventually jumped in a little later. Some of the waves were big enough to come over the rocks to create an undercurrent, forcing us hold onto any rock we could get our grasp on before we got swept off the side into the ocean.
The fourth day we explored the rest of the north shore, hitting up Anini Beach, Lumahei Beach, Haena Beach, and the Maniniholo Dry Cave. We tried snorkeling, found one lonesome coconut, and witnessed some surfing.
For lunch we hit up Happy Talk Bar and Restaurant for happy hour, known for 29 beers on tap and surprisingly beautiful views!
We ended up running into the same guy who met with us about the timeshares. We met his girlfriend and they invited us back to their car for some impromptu guitar playing.
Day 5 we prepped for our planned 3-day hike, which was supposed to start the following day. The Napali Coast hike was an 11-mile hike in and 11-mile hike out, with no amenities, leading to the Kalalau Beach. I love hiking and had read about this trail when planning for Kauai. The trail permits typically sell out a year in advance, but I was lucky enough to stumble upon 2 permits online that had been returned. It was rated as one of the best hikes in the Pacific. So we got our dehydrated food, camping supplies, and other gear ready to go and took it easy in the hot tub the rest of the day.
That night we both woke up to thunderstorms and heavy rainfall. The next morning, it was still raining. Not sure what the trail would look like, we went ahead and checked out of the hotel and drove to the Ke’e Beach trailhead. It was the coldest day it had been on the island. Being wet, cold, and windy, the conditions for an 11-mile hike were not ideal. We were also thinking about Mike’s recently sprained ankle that happened on our last hike in Zion National Park a few weeks prior. We decided to wait it out to see if the weather would calm down. After waiting a few hours of constant rain, we unfortunately decided give up on our hike. We headed to the west shore, where it was known for warm, sunny days. Later on in the day, I re-checked the Napali Coast website and it turned out to be a good idea to give up on the hike because of trail closures from flash floods. So now knowing that, it made me feel a little better that we made the right decision.
So heading toward the west shore, we bought permits to camp at Salt Pond Park for the weekend. We set up our pop up tent and were sitting on the beach in our lightweight chairs within minutes.
We watched the sun set and headed back to the tent to hang out the rest of the night. We were inside the tent just talking when all of a sudden we hear music close by. We peek out of the tent and discover a lot of people under the main pavilion in the park. It sounded like a small concert so we went to check it out. We walked up to a man playing guitar, several people at the picnic tables, lots of food, and people playing cornhole. We decided just to sit in the back and listen to the guitar, but before we knew it people started coming up to us and introducing themselves. Come to find out this party was a bunch of family and friends who come together every night at this park. They were so welcoming that we ended up hanging out with them Friday and Saturday night. They were all native Hawaiians and we learned a lot about them and their culture. They displayed a very tight-knit community, each contributing to the night in their own way. There was a group who each took turns playing the ukulele while the others sang songs in harmony. There was a group setting up and playing cornhole. And there were the older women making sure the kids stayed in line. I’m used to large family get-togethers every once in awhile or on holidays, but they did this every night! We also learned some lessons about their culture, like don’t sit on top of their picnic tables or you’ll get treated like one of the kids out of line. Haha. Wherever we go, we try to learn about the culture and value what we learn. We just learn as we go.
On Saturday we headed up to Waimea Canyon, which is considered the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, and it did not disappoint!
We continued up the mountain and drove through Koke’e State Park, which had the Kalalau lookout, overlooking the beach we were supposed to hike to the day before. I still wished we would have had the weather to hike to it, but at least we got to see it from above.
Our next adventure was Polihale State Park. One of the ladies at Salt Pond suggested we go there. We always take the locals suggestions, and for good reason. I think I can speak for Mike too when I say the next few days at Polihale were some of our favorite days on the island. Polihale was a secluded beach with several miles of white, soft sand, no cell phone service, very few people in sight, and with the most beautiful night skies so clear we could see the Milky Way. It was a perfect few days just to spend time together, without distractions and no stress. We simply got to have fun on the beach.
To get there, we took our Chevy Spark and drove 5 miles on a dirt road away from the busy city. We drove as far as we could before the sand got too soft. This is where we popped our tent, walked down the massive sandy beach and jumped straight into the ocean with 6-foot swells, perfect for body surfing. We relaxed, walked the beach, watched crabs pop out of the sand, and sat in our blue beach chairs. These days were so long and perfect. The clear, blue sky turned into a long, beautiful sunset that eventually turned into a night so clear that the stars actually looked like they were flickering.
After 3 days of camping and only a few days left on the island, we decided to explore the only part of the coast we hadn’t seen yet. Poipu. So the last few days we spent visiting Shipwreck’s Beach, Spouting Horn, and attending our first luau.
It had been a wonderful two weeks. We had a dream vacation, but it was coming to an end. We were scheduled to fly out of Kauai leaving Friday night and arriving in Vegas Saturday morning. On Thursday, I finally got a call from the dealership with news about our truck. I was told it needed a whole new motor. What?! I was expecting the truck to be fixed in time to drive it to California for our next work assignment. We were supposed to leave on Saturday when we got back from Hawaii! They said the EGR cooler cracked and leaked fluid through the entire engine and out of the exhaust, causing the smoke. Wondering how we were going to handle this, they gave us 2 options: 1) they would pay to have the truck fixed, which would take a few more weeks to find and install a new engine; or 2) they would buy the truck back, giving us all of our money back, and close the original deal completely. We took about 0 seconds to decide what option we wanted. Number 2!! We decided to get rid of the truck before we had even more problems! The steering, the transmission, the 4×4, and now the engine has either had to be replaced or repaired since we got the truck 2 months ago! We just completely lost faith in the reliability in this truck. So we got the process started for the buy back.
This left us with our camper and trailer stuck at our friends’ house without a way to move everything to California. So our original game plan when we got back to Vegas consisted of: 1) Mike and I splitting up, 2) Mike would rent a car to drive back to Havasu, 3) empty and sell our camper, 4) have one of our friends haul our trailer back to the long term storage at the campground and leave it there until we drive back east, 5) I would have to get another flight out of Vegas and fly to Sacramento, which was the closest airport to Fort Bragg, outside of the wildfire zone, 6) get a rental car and drive the 4 hours from Sacramento to Fort Bragg to get to work by Monday, 7) get a long-term stay hotel room or short-term apartment somewhere, 8) then once Mike gets everything together in Havasu, he can fly out of Vegas to Sacramento and I could pick him up at the airport and drive back to Fort Bragg. Such…a…pain! But we had a plan.
Friday night arrived and we got to the Kauai airport in plenty of time for our flight leaving at 9pm. We were in the terminal and waited…and waited…and waited. The rainstorm had turned into really bad thunder and lightening storm, which had caused our incoming plane to turn around and go back to Honolulu. After hours of waiting, our plane finally arrived at midnight. This meant we missed our original connecting flight out of Honolulu at 11pm. We asked if there were other options to get back to Vegas, but the next flight out of Honolulu wasn’t until 3pm the following day. THIS meant that I would miss my flight out of Vegas to Sacramento. It was a mess. Hawaiian Airlines ended up putting us up in a hotel for the night in Honolulu and paid for our taxi service to and from the hotel. We got some lunch in Honolulu at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. the next day before heading back to the airport. We left Honolulu at 3pm Saturday and arrived in Vegas by midnight Sunday morning.
After arriving back to Vegas, I got my plane ticket to Sacramento, which was not until 7am. So Mike went ahead and got the rental car to head back to Havasu while I slept in the airport until my 7am flight.
The next morning, I made it to Sacramento to pick up my rental car and finally made it to Fort Bragg by the evening. I found a hotel that gave me rates for being a traveling therapist at the hospital and got settled in for the week. Mike made it back to Havasu and showed our camper to a few interested people. On my time off, I searched all over the city to find cheap housing. That apparently doesn’t exist in California, even in small towns.
While I was looking at housing, Mike was looking at trucks. We finally decided our next vehicle would be brand new. I have never bought a brand new vehicle, but we needed a reliable truck so bad and I was tired of getting lemons. We were both mentally exhausted dealing with break down after break down. Because we travel full-time, our vehicle is the heart of our operation. We can’t plan or get anywhere without a vehicle, and all of our previous vehicles were literally ruining our plans one by one. So within the first few days of searching, he found one that would work well for us at a dealership in Vegas. The dealership also offered a perk of flying me in for free to buy the truck. So Mike and I decided to meet in Vegas to buy the truck we wanted: a 2017 Ram 2500 diesel with a 6.7L Cummins, mega cab, and standard transmission. With that, Mike and I decided to keep the camper, take everything with us, and make it to work by Monday.
Our new plan worked. We bought the truck in Vegas, drove 2 1/2 hours to Havasu, moved our stuff back in the camper, installed the camper brackets and suspension airbags, loaded the camper on the bed, hooked the trailer up, found an available campground, and drove 12 hours to Fort Bragg…all in 2 days. We were exhausted, but we made it. We got our campsite all set up and started exploring our new city of Fort Bragg, CA.
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