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Trip 26 -- Oahu Walk

Day 2: Kapolei to Waianae
Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Today: 32323 steps/25.06 km/15.57 mi/4h 40m
Total: 64599 steps/50.71 km/31.51 mi/9h 14m

I walked Kapolei Parkway to its western end, a pleasant suburban route with a good sidewalk. Kapolei High School hung a photo of each member of the 2021 graduating class, at least a couple hundred, festooning the fence along the parkway all the way around the corner to Fort Barrette Road. One had a given name of 26 letters, piquing my curiosity about the language even more. I wondered whether she had trouble booking airline tickets.

To the south of Kapolei Parkway a few roads were closed off, the land beyond taken over by forest. Here were upturned shopping carts and tents, a reminder that on Oahu one is never far from the unhoused. They did not bother me, however, and occasionally someone flashed a shaka sign -- an outstretched pinky and thumb, with the other fingers curled inward -- and I returned the gesture, grateful for the friendly greeting.

For a brief moment in April the Transportation Security Administration had announced it would start letting passengers bring full-sized bottles of sunscreen through its airport checkpoints, but then it reversed its decision, preferring to continue to promote the illusion of safety over actual safety. The Target at the end of Kapolei Parkway was my first chance to pick some up along my route, and it was about time; the tan lines on my ankles already brought to mind the striped Beltie cows I encountered on my New Jersey walk.

A 236-milliliter bottle of SPF 50 Banana Boat seemed the most reasonable, at either $7.79, $8.29, or $8.89, depending on which aisle and shelf I consulted. Of course it scanned at the highest price, but a staff member adjusted it down to the lowest and helped me apply the $1 coupon I'd found hanging like a lei around one of the bottles.

Google Maps had me going up the old start of Farrington Highway with the caveat that "This route has restricted usage or private roads." Sure enough, I came to a closed gate and a sign saying "Private property -- No trespassing" with a bunch of other no-nos, so I retraced my steps back to the entrance to the new Farrington Highway -- really the end of Interstate H1 -- and walked in the scruffy grass beside traffic going a mile a minute. After ten minutes I realized that a safer place to walk was the median, itself the equivalent of three lanes wide. I probably looked awfully strange there, but I didn't have to worry about a rogue truck breaching the lane boundary.

Eventually the median narrowed, so I crossed over to the shoulder facing traffic. There was plenty of space to walk, but it was uncomfortable, with gravel and grass. Sensing a tedious hour ahead, I turned on National Public Radio just in time to hear an interview with an opponent of the light-rail project. The cost for the 20 miles has gone from $1 billion to $12 billion, and the westernmost 16 miles could be ready to open in two years (not this year as I had read earlier). Construction challenges with the remaining segment could cause a decade's delay, however, and there may be legal obstacles to opening a partial line.

There's also the question of whom the line would benefit. It'll be great for those living next to a station, the spokesperson said, but others will have to walk greater distances than they currently do to catch a bus. And the plan to eliminate 30 bus routes means that what's now a one-seat ride could in the future require two transfers, bus to light rail to bus. All in all, he said, the light rail is a white-collar type of development that won't help most of the working class.

Finally I came to the Oahu view I was expecting, brilliant blue sea lapping against a sharp lava wall. This was Electric Beach, so named because of the power plant across the road. Divers were strapping on oxygen tanks. Farther up was Tracks Beach; the narrow-gauge railway from Honolulu was built in the 1890s to serve the sugar mills up north. It served passengers until World War II but then quickly went into decline; the Navy continued to use this coastal stretch in the Korean and Vietnam wars but abandoned the line in 1970. Now the track is overgrown and broken.

Boyd's Fish Market is an almost impossible-to-find tiny shop just off Farrington; I was standing in front of it and still didn't see it for a couple of minutes. After sampling a couple of items, I picked up a two-poke lunch: raw squid with kimchi and sesame tuna with purple cabbage. I added a quintessential Hawaiian snack: Spam musubi, a slice of Spam wrapped in rice and seaweed. The long shelf life of Spam made it practical military food during World War II, and it has remained in the Hawaiian diet ever since.

One of the staff gave me some helpful advice: that the sidewalk continued on the inland side of Farrington and that there was a beach park at the next light where I could sit and eat. I found the beach, but I could tell people were living there in tents or in cars parked next to the beach wall, and I'd have felt self-conscious spreading out my goods. So I walked a half-hour to another beach park, better-appointed with picnic tables.

I had only an hour to go before reaching my house rental at Waianae, but it was a tough hour. It's been two months since my last long walk, and I didn't retrain my feet as well as I might have. I popped into a convenience store for fruit punch (my body wanted water, my mind wanted flavor) and at last reached the house on Army Street, where the electric keypad lock refused to accept the code I was given but I was able to get in with a regular key through the side door.

Army Street ends on Army property -- a military resort -- and one must show identification to access the beach and the Beach House by 604 restaurant, where the throbbing in my feet dulled after a couple of frozen rosé-and-vodka drinks. I'm betting they'll feel even better after a shower and an early transition of my body to the supine position.

Go on to day 3