My husband’s family loves to travel together. It’s how they like to bond, connect and make memories. It’s a lot of fun and we’ve been able to see a lot of fun places and share stories from our trips. So, when we found out earlier this year that everyone was heading to Maui for the 4th of July, we were disappointed to miss out. You see, I was newly pregnant with a history of pregnancy complications and the threat of Zika was widespread. We just didn’t want to risk traveling to a tropical area.
Fast-forward to mid-June. The pregnancy is going extremely smoothly and Zika hasn’t spread to Maui via mosquitos. My husband Darren and I go back and forth debating if we should try to make this family trip work and in the end we decide that if we can get airline tickets and lodging that we’ll make it happen. Low and behold, we not only find a condo at the same location as the rest of the family (in a nearly-sold out week anywhere on Maui) but we also find seats on the same flight as most of his family! This trip is shaping up nicely!
We have a really smooth flight from Seattle to Maui and we’re feeling pretty good about heading to the condo and enjoying some pool time. So, we send Darren and his brothers to fetch the rental cars while we gather the luggage and wait at the airport with all 6 kids. We then hear that the rental car place is slammed and it will be a 45 minute wait. Staying positive, we think that it’s great that we stayed at the airport because at least there’s a Starbucks and the kids can run around. The positive thinking waned a bit 10 minutes later when we found out that there was a brush fire causing delays on the highway to get to our condo in Ka`anapali.
Trying not to worry, we figure that we will grab some lunch/dinner at a nearby Hawaiian restaurant, Da Kitchen, that was just featured on Food Network’s Drive-in’s, Diners and Dives. I had eaten here before with Owen and I was excited to bring the rest of the crew to try. This was such a silver lining because most of us were ready to eat and it was nice to chat and catch up. At this point, we hear from Darren’s brother (who had attempted to drive to the condo) that the highway was completely closed and people were parking their cars. Not a good sign. So, they attempt to drive an alternate way and promised to keep us posted.
We think that this is a set-back, but we were planning on hitting Costco anyway, which would eat up some time. And surely the brushfire would be contained by the time we were done shopping. So we grabbed our cart and stocked up on supplies for the week, including fresh seafood and dairy products. We decided that we’d also take the alternate route, so we shopped quickly so we could head out before traffic got crazy.
By the time we got to the car, we found out that the alternate route was now also closed and they were turning people away. We weren’t sure what to do at this point, so we opted to all meet in a parking lot to decide our next move. This was a good idea because the kids all needed to get out of the car and run around a bit. I took this opportunity to head inside the store to grab sand toys and snacks. I never miss an opportunity to shop!
A plan is decided to head down to Kihei because that road was open and it would get us a bit closer to Ka`anapali. At this point, we are getting text updates from my Mom (who lives on Kauai) and my Mother-in-law’s friend who lives on Maui about traffic conditions and speculation on when roads might open. We also are using a traffic app that’s linked to social media where people post traffic updates. We’re hearing that roads may open in an hour, a few hours, or not tonight. Not very promising, so we decide that getting ice cream is probably the best use of our time.
While stopping at the store for ice cream, we hear that the roads might be opening soon, so we get more dairy products and snacks and head back to the car. Then we hear that the fire has spread and no one is moving. So, making lemonade from lemons, we head to a nearby beach so we could watch the sunset. It has been 6 hours since we landed and it’s now 2 hours past our toddler’s bedtime.
We figure that we can either wait at the beach or just get in line on the highway. We might as well be in line so we will know what’s going on. We start to caravan toward the highway but quickly get separated, with our car leading and the two other cars behind us. Thankfully we all have cell phones and could constantly update each other. By the time we made it to the highway, we could see a burning bush on the side of the road and we were able to talk to a police officer who told us it would be several hours, but we’d be able to get to Ka`anapali that night. We took that as a good sign and slowly made our way onto the highway.
We found out a few moments later that the last car in our caravan was now stopped by the police officer because the fire spread again. At this point, we could see huge flames on the side of the road and the air was thick with smoke. But our car was at least moving, so that was a good sign for us. And our toddler was asleep (just 3 hours past his bedtime.) Then we were detoured off the highway.
At this point, people turned off their engines and got out of their cars. We knew we were going to be here awhile. Thankfully, we were parked right next to a public bathroom and Owen was still sound asleep. We tried to take naps while Darren roamed around trying to get status updates. It was a few hours before we saw cars starting up again and things were moving!
They opened the highway and cars were moving! It took about an hour before our car made it to the highway and then it was a slow go on the highway. When we got through the brush fire area, the rain started to come down. We took this as a good sign because the fire had to be contained. As we drove further on the highway, we saw lots of abandoned cars and couldn’t believe how long the line was to get out of Lahaina. We thought about how lucky we were that we were able to stretch our legs and get food and have a bit more freedom that the folks stuck on the West side.
After almost 12 hours of trying to get from the airport to our Condo, we finally made it at midnight (3am Seattle time!) That’s when we discovered that the Condo was locked and we didn’t have keys. Oh, and that there was no cell service or wifi due to the highway closure (they shut it down because it was an emergency.) Thankfully, we were able to locate one of the staff members who was able to open the door and we all crashed.
This wasn’t how we expected to spend our first day in Maui, but I was really proud of Owen for keeping his cool (which is difficult when you’re 2.5 years old) and that our family didn’t complain or get upset.