It was only last year that one could zip over to Oahu or Molokai for around 30 bucks each way. Those who wanted to party or see family on other islands over Labor Day weekend could do so at a cost that now seems decades removed from the current price tag. Even Superferry rates have nearly doubled in recent weeks. While a tight economy, high fuel prices, etc. make long-distance travel unfeasible for many, relief may come in the form of a cumbersome buzz word: the stay-cation.
Were this Ohio or Kansas, the concept would be a tad insulting: ditch those plans for a Florida beach vacation, screw the Grand Canyon and head instead to see the birthplace of Millard Fillmore or the tri-state area’s largest mashed potato Jesus. Why? Because you’re broke and/or you can’t get the time off. Good Morning America types push the idea of the stay-cation as a low-budget replacement for the traditional summer vacay. We get it—times are tough. But do we really need to sugarcoat the grim status of our economy with a perky euphemism?
Well, fortunately for us, even the most mundane activity on Maui still looks more or less like a tropical island getaway to someone from, say, Milwaukee. Think about those unbeatable mountain views you get when heading out for a sixer.
Even if you think you’ve repeatedly seen everything this island has to offer, some offbeat local destinations and activities may provide a means of escape (estaype?) for you this Labor Day weekend.
While this planet (and this article) could do without another mashed-together, pun-laden franken-word, it can sure use a few able-bodied individuals to help clean it up a bit. Environmental organizations have seized upon the concept of volunteering on vacation for some time, but the idea has really caught on in the past year or two.
“We have collected a phenomenal amount of litter,” said Pacific Whale Foundation communications director Anne Rillero.
So far this year 592 people have spent at least three hours each picking up litter, pulling invasive plants and even planting native species.
Volunteers keep a tally on what they pick up. During the first three months of this year alone they collected 13, 509 cigarette butts, 4,710 plastic bits, 338 light bulbs (light bulbs? Really?), 1,096 aluminum cans, 773 glass bottles, 844 plastic beverage containers, 933 plastic bags and thousands of other discarded remnants of consumerism.
“When you add it all up it really has a huge impact,” Rillero said.
Through PWF volunteers can sign up to pull weeds and clear brush as part of a Maui Coastal Land Trust inland fishpond restoration project every Friday. This is pretty much what President Bush does at the ranch on his many R&Rs, but you’ll have better views and a clearer conscience.
Saturdays feature similar work through Malama Honokawai. The restoration takes place in the remote Honokawai Valley, which is not accessible to the public; hence, this a real chance to escape the well-traveled trails that will no doubt receive a trampling or two this long weekend.
Then there’s Ho Aloha Aina, which does its work along a new Oceanside trail each Monday in Kihei.
Volunteer opportunities are scattered throughout the week, and locations include Kanaha Beach and Haleakala.
Participants need to bring sunscreen, food, water and proper clothing, but even so the price tag for a few days of volunteer work runs well short of roundtrip ticket to Oahu. You even get a free T-shirt for volunteering, and given the weird things I have seen people do for T-shirts, this may attract a few unlikely voluntourists.
EDU-STAY-TION: LABOR DAY REVEALED
Fellow Chicago transplants may recall Casimir Pulaski Day. We may not have been entirely aware of Mr. Pulaski’s accomplishments, but what we did know was that we got a three-day weekend because of them. The same went, frankly, for Labor Day. Yet given our current epoch, and indeed the conditions that created the need for stay-cations, we may want to look at the idea behind Labor Day a little more closely this time around.
“It plays a bigger role this year because of what’s happening with our economic situation,” said William Kennison, Director of the International Longshoremen and Warehouse Union’s Maui County Chapter, referring to ailing industries and the resultant mass layoffs the islands have recently been seeing with unsettling frequency.
To coincide with elections, the ILWU and the Hawaii AFL-CIO jointly sponsor a Labor Day celebration every other year, Kennison said. The celebration will take place 10am Sunday at the Wailuku Community Center. Slated to show up this year are US Representatives Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and Neil Abercrombie (D-HI).
Yet Kennison said the real purpose of the event is, much like the Labor Day holiday itself, to recognize and celebrate Maui’s workers. Live entertainment will include Napua Grieg, Unified Soul and Mondo Kane.
On island, the ILWU represents workers from industries that include sugar, pineapple, trucking, tourism and health care. Countywide, ILWU membership exceeds 8,000.
The celebration is free for union members past and present as well as their families. Yet even if you’re not part of ILWU or AFL-CIO, it may be worthwhile to bring the kids down so they can get a solid understanding of why they get a three-day weekend in late August/early September.
By the way, Casimir Pulaski was a Polish nobleman who immigrated to America when it was still larval and became a general in the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War.
POOR MAN’S HANA
Herein lies proof that one need not book a triple-figure tour, or even invest in a full tank of gas, in order to take in the Valley Isle’s intense history and mind-blowing beauty.
Even the clunkiest of Maui cruisers can make it to I’ao Valley State Park, which is nestled in the northeast quadrant of the West Maui Mountains, just northwest of Wailuku town.
Plus, it costs you nothing to get in.
The park houses not only a dramatic example of the geological forces at play on the Hawaiian Isles, but also the site of one the most important battles in Hawaiian history, Kepaniwai, during which Kamehameha I conquered the Maui army.
The place is cooler (temperature-wise) than most spots on-island and features a swimming hole.
Sure, you will see a fair share of tour buses chock full of pallid Mainlanders, but this should reinforce the sense of how lucky you are to reside here in spite of the ridiculous cost of living.
HOME ON THE RANGE
You by no means have to stay inside this Labor Day weekend if union gatherings and pulling weeds aren’t what you’re into. In fact, you can forget all about our current economic woes and environmental state and get jettisoned back to a simpler time, all at the foot of the West Maui Mountains.
The county-run Ukumehame Firing Range hosts a number of sporting clubs, each packing the caliber of its choice—from the kind of weaponry Rambo would sport to that which Billy the Kid likely toted around the badlands of New Mexico.
While non-club members are limited to public open days (there are four per month), and have to furnish their own weaponry and paper targets, according to Valley Isle Sports Club President Burt Swink anyone can come check out the Single Action Shooting Society shoot-out, which takes place at the range this Saturday.
Members of the SASS get “duded-out,” as Swink puts it, in Old West garb and compete using revolvers, lever action rifles and shotguns. They are judged on speed and accuracy and use only firearms dating back to Tombstone’s heyday or exact replicas thereof.
Ukumehame firing range is located off the Mauka side of Honoapiilani Highway just before Olowalu if you’re coming from the east.
If you’re interested, call 270-7232 for times and other information.
BOOZIN’ DOWN THE STREET
Maui, if you haven’t noticed, is home to a boozing monument we lovingly refer to as Bar-muda Triangle. Now, boozing is by no means an original or offbeat way to spend Labor Day weekend prima facie, but the style with which one does so can achieve comic and/or authentic heights with a little effort.
Since we are on stay-cation, let’s focus on hitting the sauce on the cheap.
Golf course-like in its layout, the triangle is home to several bars, most of which have some kind of kama’aina and/or happy hour deal. Labor Day weekend is conducive to bar crawls given its extra recovery day. Not sure where to start? The following plan of action can help you get the most of the long weekend.
A good start would be Kahale’s Beach Club since happy hour starts at 10am here. Since drinking at 10 am already puts you in a “why-not” state of mind, why not go for a $2.50 mai-tai? The next stop sits across the parking lot: Tiki Lounge. Their kama’aina specials start at 11am and get this: all food and drink is half off, granted you can furnish proof of Hawaii residency. Next: Lulu’s. They’re doing happy hour all day this week, which means you can watch your pool game disintegrate while sipping $3 mai-tais. After Lulu’s comes the obligatory dollar (!) mai-tai session at Life’s a Beach. The next leg involves zigzagging your way to Dog and Duck, whose happy hour begins at three and involves cheap domestic draughts (sick, as you must be by now, of mai-tais). If you are headed north for some pre-Little Beach shut-eye you may want to hit up Tip-Ups to see what kind of deal you can get if your designated driver hasn’t completely lost his or her patience yet. Note: Remember to take vitamin B-12 before heading out and drink copious amounts of water throughout.
E-STAY-PING THE EVERYDAY
For most inhabitants of the United States, Labor Day signifies the waning of warmth, the end of a season that can define an entire year. Combine that with economic foreboding and pundits’ suggestion that you spend summer vacation reorganizing your sock drawer and you have a potentially depressing long weekend for many. Among other things, we have sunshine, amazing physical and cultural landscapes and, if we want, cheap booze to help us weather the tough times, not to mention some of the best beaches on the planet (many of which are accessible by bus if high gas prices get you down). Indeed, if there is an ideal place to take a permanent stay-cation, it’s Maui. MTW