Hawaii Volcano and a terrifying drive across the Big Island...

My family loves Hawaii. Like really, REALLY, loves Hawaii. When my sister received her PhD in Art History, my mom brought her there for the first time. It was love at first landing. For months all my mom and sister would talk about was how wonderful Hawaii was... I was pretty jealous!

My mom promised me a trip to Hawaii when I finished my DMA - she always wants everything equal between my sister and I, and since she had brought my sister there after her PhD, she felt she had to take me too! I have to say here....it MAY have been what gotten me through studying for my exams…

But, as fate would have it, it took me FOREVER to get my DMA. By the time I was done, I was busy trying to have a baby... and then after that, busy having a newborn.

As I remember, our first trip to Hawaii was AMAZING. It was in January. So wonderful. The beaches (Polihale Beach!), the hiking, the food. My husband and I even learned to surf! 


But my mom was less than happy with this trip. In her opinion, it rained too much. So she promised to take us again - at a time that would be less rainy. So we went again WHAT? Again? OK by us! So we went the following November.

After the second trip (well, actually the first) we were hooked. After the birth of our second child, and our daughter's diagnosis with Epilepsy (something you can read about here....) my mom decided that we all needed to get away. From everything. So she began planning another trip to Hawaii. (Seriously, my mom does ALL the planning for these trips - she's amazing!)

At the time, Alena was totally OBSESSED with volcanoes. She was a volcano for Halloween - and I wrapped her brother in tinfoil so that he could be the volcanologist.

She had dozens of books about volcanoes. I even painted a mural of a volcano on the wall of her bedroom.

When people asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up she would say “I’m going to be a volcanologist” - try explaining that one! No one knew what the heck she was talking about. I spent a lot of time explaining to people that no, a volcanologist was NOT someone who studied Vulcans from Star Trek, but rather someone who studied VOLCANOES… But I digress.. It was a CRAZY obsession of hers.… Have I mentioned that she was FOUR at the time??

Anyway, because of her obsession with volcanoes, we decided that we HAD to take her to the Big Island when we went to Hawaii (something we had not originally planned). We didn’t know much about the Big Island - my mom had only been there once.. We only had ONE day to explore. Actually, less than one day. Really only about 6 hours.

We boarded a plane for a short 20 minute flight from Kauai to the Big Island. After de-boarding the plane, we rented a car and drove to the Kilauea visitor center. Alena could not have been more thrilled!

She was going to see an actual volcano! She was fascinated the ENTIRE time. We only had about 6 hours to see everything, so we practically RAN down to see the volcano, the lava tube, etc.

Time passed quickly but then, all of a sudden, we HAD to leave or we’d miss our flight back to Kauai... And here is where the drama begins. Alena didn’t want to go. She wanted to see the LAVA! Much crying and carrying on ensued. But we HAD to go. We were VERY worried we would not have enough time to get to the airport.

We had rented a car to get to the Kilauea visitor center. My husband was driving. When it was time to go, we raced into the car and onto the highway (in reality, a small two lane road across the hills of the Big Island).

The road was VERY curvy and hard to navigate. I have never seen my husband concentrate so hard on anything. He kept saying “the brakes on this car don’t work quite right, but I think we’re ok”... SUPER reassuring. He was driving really fast - probably faster than was legal or safe. I should probably add here that we weren't at ALL sure that rental cars were actually ALLOWED on this road - which added to the stress...

I was busy trying to calm the kids down, who were tired after a long day of hiking. My mom sat in the back seat. She was in a total PANIC. She was convinced we would miss the flight and be stranded on the Big Island with no place to stay. We joke about it now, but she totally had “Fear Breath” - something that happens to all of us when we are in a state of total panic. My poor mom!

I seriously thought we were going to miss this flight. So did my husband. So did my mom. Which is why we drove at insanely high speeds (I vaguely remember the speedometer reaching speeds above 85 MPH...), on unfamiliar roads, with possibly faulty brakes. I can’t say that looking back on it that it wasn’t just the TINIEST bit thrilling…

When we finally arrived at the airport (if you can even call it that - it was more a “landing strip”) the plane wasn’t even there! (typical Island time!!!) We checked the rental car in, and waited for 30 minutes to leave. Some random person made my kids balloon animals. Both of which popped - and Alena is still, to this day, upset about her balloon animal popping. I’m not sure she remembers the volcano, but she remembers this stupid balloon animal! But hey, at least she doesn’t remember the panic!

Then we boarded the most TERRIFYING flight I have ever been on. This plane was TINY.

Like 6 passenger tiny. Tiny planes have HUGE amounts of turbulence… I sat there holding my 6 month old son. All the people I loved most in the world were on that plane. I was terrified we would crash into the ocean! Thank goodness it was only a 20 minute flight. 20 minutes in which I was in a total PANIC - and may have even had “Fear Breath”.

But we made it… And I can’t wait to go back in June of this year, for my moms Birthday!!!