The Many Adventures of MSG Walter & Shanna Spicer of Taylorsville, Utah

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Friday, Nov. 4, 2011:

Walt and Shanna enjoying Waikiki Beach. Photo courtesy of Walt Spicer.
Walt and Shanna enjoying Waikiki Beach. Photo courtesy of Walt Spicer.

We left Hill AFB,UT, about 1600 on a C-17 cargo plane, flying military Space-Available Travel heading for McChord AFB near Tacoma, WA. As we were walking toward the aircraft to board, Shanna was amazed at what she saw. We entered by walking up the rear ramp, built to carry Abram tanks and other heavy cargo. I only warned her that it might get a little cold, so she had her coat and was somewhat ready for the flight experience. Walking into the huge aircraft was like walking into the belly of a whale.

We met several retired soldiers and their wives also traveling Space-A, including one former Vietnam helicopter pilot, Ted, shot down three times. On one occasion he said his body was placed in a body bag and presumed dead. The medics, upon seeing the bag moving, concluded he was alive. He was transferred to a hospital where he recovered. They put a steel plate in his head and sent him back to Vietnam.

Boarding at Hill AFB into "the belly of a whale". Photo courtesy of Walt Spicer.
Boarding at Hill AFB into “the belly of a whale”. Photo courtesy of Walt Spicer.

We arrived at Tacoma’s McChord AFB Passenger terminal around 1800. We carried our baggage into the Joint Base Lewis-McChord Field Passenger Terminal. Together, with another couple we befriended, we called an Ace Taxi who took us to Americas Best Value Inn in Lakewood, WA, where we all spent the night. The couple is from Ogden, UT. They have family living in Washington.

Saturday, Nov. 5:

This morning we rented a Hertz Toyota and drove around the Seattle-Tacoma area, took pictures of the beautiful fall-colored trees on the west side of the city, across the bay, with Shanna’s new iPhone®. We drove around downtown Seattle and to the Space Needle. We then continued driving southwest thru Olympia and on toward Aberdeen, WA, where we spent the night in another Americas Best Value Inn. We ate dinner at a Mexican restaurant in Aberdeen where, no thanks to Shanna, their staff sang “Happy Birthday” and placed a sombrero on my head. I

Walt's birthday celebration at a local Mexican restaurant. Photo courtesy of Walt Spicer.
Walt’s birthday celebration at a local Mexican restaurant in Washington. Photo courtesy of Walt Spicer.

shared my birthday dessert with the children in a family sitting across from us. They looked like they wanted it more than I.

Sunday, Nov. 6:

This morning, we attended our church in Aberdeen, WA. We then continued up the coast to the Naval Pacific Coast Resort, at Pacific Beach, WA, where we spent four days and three nights. Had a surprise cellphone call from my sister, Geri, wishing me happy birthday, just as we reached the Naval Resort. We had a wonderful visit and talked about Aberdeen, Moclips, and the fish hatchery. I remember coming to Aberdeen with the family, (when I was about 10) going deep sea fishing, catching a small shark, going clam digging, and cooking them for dinner that evening.

Monday to Wednesday, Nov. 7 to 9:

The weather along the coast was around 45 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit and very humid and misty. The forecast is always rain – but it’s not really rain like you think of rain. People here rarely use umbrellas even though you can see the rain coming down.

Shanna at Pacific Beach Resort in California. Photo courtesy of Walt Spicer.
Shanna at Pacific Beach Resort in California. Photo courtesy of Walt Spicer.

The ocean is beautiful. We had a nice view from our guest room. We spent hours walking along the beach dodging the waves, watching the birds, and admiring the beautiful coastline. We also visited the Quinault Indian Reservation and the Quinault National Fish Hatchery. A young man from Twin Falls, ID, gave us an hour private tour of the hatchery. He served eight years in the military including Desert Storm. He was thrilled to talk about our mutual military experiences. He has a young family a few miles from the salmon fish hatchery in Nelson, WA.

We also walked around the town of Moclips. There are a lot of summer cottages for rent along the coast. People visit here to get away from the extreme heat and cold as the weather stays very mild all year long.

Wednesday, we drove back to McChord AFB to catch a flight to Hickham AFB on the island of Oahu. Arriving at McChord once again, I dropped off Shanna and the luggage at the air terminal and returned the rental car to Hertz, which we prearranged with Salt Lake City’s AAA at a great price. One of the employees drove me back to the air terminal where Shanna and I waited for our plane to depart.

Around 1400 we flew out over the ocean toward Oahu. Arriving around 1800, after we landed, the plane had trouble shutting down one of its turbine jet engines so we were an hour sitting on the plane waiting to exit. I visited with a young soldier in the 25th Infantry (my former unit in Vietnam) who was heading for Afghanistan to serve. His young wife and two children were with him going to Hawaii where she has relatives. The 25th Infantry is headquartered at Scofield Army Barracks in Oahu but his unit is now in Alaska, where he will ship out of soon. Concerning the turbine jet engine not shutting down, his very bright five-year old son asked his dad, “Why don’t they just turn off the key?” I think we all had that same thought.

Departing the plane, the weather was tropically cool, and not as hot and humid as at other times I’ve arrived here. This is my sixth trip to Hawaii and Shanna’s third.

Thursday to Saturday, Nov. 10 to 12:

Enjoying the Waikiki views. Photo courtesy of Walt Spicer.
Enjoying the Waikiki views. Photo courtesy of Walt Spicer.

Spent three days on Oahu where we waded in the beaches of Waikiki, and shopped in the large shopping mall of the famous Ala Moana Shopping Center. President Obama was to visit Saturday with the APEC Hawaii Meeting with 21 leaders from around the world. The main boulevards were shut down to traffic, and we left Honolulu for the island Molokai at a perfect time.

We were able to arrange a week at the beautiful Molokai Hotel, Hula Shores Resort. We flew out of Honolulu on Saturday on a Pacific Wing commercial flight and arrived in Molokai a half hour later, around 1000. From high above we could see four of the Hawaiian Islands. Flying into the Molokai’s small airport we were facing strong winds which gave us a scare as the wings started rocking back and forth and high into the air. We looked at each other wondering if we’d make it down alive. We did make it safely. Two weeks ago a sight-seeing helicopter from Maui crashed on a hillside a few miles east of here killing all five passengers. A very sad event as one of the couples, from Pennsylvania, had been married for only one week.

Accommodations at the Hotel Molokai. Photo courtesy of Walt Spicer.
Accommodations at the Hotel Molokai. Photo courtesy of Walt Spicer.

We were the only ones on the small plane which seemed unique. We then took a cab to the Hotel which consists of several cottages, an outside restaurant and swimming pool, all next to the beach. Each night they have a different Hawaiian group performing.

Sunday to Thursday, Nov. 13 to 17:

A young girl, Sharoli, working at the motel offered to take us to church the next morning. Molokai has a beautiful new Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints chapel and we met many wonderful people. We met one Hawaiian family, Kirk and Ada. He he is pure Hawaiian and went to the mainland U.S. on a football scholarship 30 years ago. He and his lovely wife invited us to their home, for what we call in our church, Family Home

Relaxing on the Island of Molakai. Photo courtesy of Walt Spicer.
Relaxing on the Island of Molakai. Photo courtesy of Walt Spicer.

Evening. We had a delicious roast, cooked on an outdoor fire-pit . One gentleman, Yuma, who cooked the roast, is 74 years old, has a boat, loves to fish, is as fit as a fiddle, and can still dive 100 feet underwater without diving equipment. We had a wonderful meal and a great visit.

Molokai is famous for its solitude, a quiet, humble island. There are no chain stores, only Mom and Pop stores, no traffic lights, and no parking meters. Many people here grow their own produce and raise their own pigs, chickens, and cattle. (The roosters wake us up every morning.) The people here desire to keep Molokai like it was a hundred years ago. They are friendly to tourists, but do not want them staying, buying land, and living here. They want Molokai spared from the effects of the Haole way of life. Who can blame them?

Yesterday we walked what is said to be the longest straight beach in Hawaii – three miles long. We made it about half way down the beautiful deep sandy beach at the west end of the island.  I did some swimming and body surfing but it wasn’t a pretty sight – like a whale in water. The water felt warm and it was fun being in the warm emerald blue, pure Hawaiian Pacific. Shanna didn’t swim but she enjoyed getting wet and getting some sun. I had a little too much and was slightly burned at the end of the day. White skin burns quickly in Hawaii. Shanna put apple cider vinegar on me last night which helped cool the burn.

We’re enjoying our trip, the people, the nightly entertainment, the pool, and we’re getting used to the cockroaches that come out at night. (We’ve killed five so far.) Don’t know when we’ll be home – depends on when the birds are flying. Probably won’t make it by Thanksgiving, and with any luck we’ll miss Christmas … ho, ho, ho, just kidding…?

Shanna is more anxious than I about getting home. I wouldn’t mind traveling the islands of the world for several more weeks. Next time we won’t take so much luggage. Luggage has sometimes been a pain to get around. Military transportation seldom includes shuttles. I hate renting taxis but sometimes it’s a necessity.

I wish our family were all here. We miss you all. Don’t forget to take out the garbage cans, keep the house locked up, and the lights turned out and the dishes washed.

Friday, Nov 18:

This evening we invited Kirk and his lovely wife Ada and their daughter, Jaide, for dinner at our Motel Molokai apartment. Shanna fixed a wonderful pot of stew with potatoes, carrots, beef, mushroom soup, raisins, nuts, cranberries, and whatever leftovers we could find to throw in.  We also had a delicious salad of lettuce, celery, coconut, dried fruits and nuts, and lemon juice; rolls and butter and pure bottled water. We also had mustard flavored Macedonia nuts. Everyone seemed to love the meal and we had a good visit after.

Kirk told of a night fishing trip where they narrowly escaped being swamped by a whale. He saw the whale just before running atop. It snorted, splashed his tail, and nearly swamped the boat. There were many other fish stories he told, which I had difficulty hearing because I’m hard of hearing. But we laughed and enjoyed his humorous stories.

Tomorrow morning we head back to Honolulu. Shanna cried today, as we walked the two-mile walk into town to buy some groceries, thinking of how she will miss Moloki and the adorable people we’ve met. Shanna talks with everyone, makes friends easily, and loves to befriend people.

Saturday, Nov. 19:

Bob, a friendly bus driver we met, agreed to take us to the airport for $20 in his personal truck. (That’s $12 less than cab fare). He picked us up at 1000 and gave us a personal tour in the northwest end of the island where we were able to look down from what are called ‘the world’s highest sea cliffs.’ Far below we could see the Leper Colony Father Damien, the Catholic Priest, helped make famous.

There’s a steep trail, three miles long with 26 switchbacks, going down a near vertical mountain to the colony; equivalent to walking down a 150-story building, 1,600-feet high. Once you get down you pay $60 for a tour. You can also pay $150 to ride the mules down. We had neither the time nor the money to do either.

View of Hawaii coastline from atop. Photo courtesy of Walt Spicer.
View of Hawaii coastline from atop. Photo courtesy of Walt Spicer.

The view from the cliff tops was quite spectacular, and the wind was blowing hard. They used to deliver the lepers by boat, throw them overboard, and make them swim to shore. There’s only a half dozen left. Hansen’s or Leprosy can now be cured with medication. Those who stay, do so because they want to. Once they die, they’ll close the leper colony and turn it into a state park.

Our plane was full – eight people. We left at 1300 and arrived in Honolulu about 1330. The view looking down on Honolulu and Pearl Harbor was also quite spectacular. It was similar to view the Japanese Zeros had just before they fired and bombed away on our planes and battleships 70 years ago, this Dec 7th (2011).

We took a taxi back to Hickam AFB where we may spend another week. Much of Hickam is exactly as it was 70 years ago when the Japanese attack brought us into WWII. In fact the buildings are still in remarkably good condition. All the structures were made of cement as the termites destroy the wood structures. (They even have flying termites here.) We stood by the old Post flag pole last week where there is a picture showing the smoke from the explosions.  You can see the same buildings in the picture that exist today.

Lodging here at Hickam is very comfortable, clean, and nice. We have a TV, microwave and a refrigerator for $45 a night. The BX and Commissary are only two blocks away and bus comes every half hour. Senior citizens can ride for $1. Renting a car would cost about $400 for the week. When I was here for R&R from Vietnam in 1970, I rented a new Toyota for the week for $100.

Sunday, Nov. 20:

We called our church and arranged for a ride. They picked us up at 1345. David and Amber, a beautiful young newlywed couple that live on the base were happy to give us a ride. He’s an young officer responsible for writing up all the combat missions for the Pacific Command. He said it’s a stressful job and he always looks forward to weekends.

Church of the Latter Day Saints above Pearl Harbor. Photo courtesy of Walt Spicer.
Church of the Latter Day Saints above Pearl Harbor. Photo courtesy of Walt Spicer.

The church is located in Halawa, an area on the hillside overlooking Pearl Harbor and Aloha Stadium. It is a beautiful white building. The congregation consists of mostly military personnel and their families. We met several from Utah and Idaho. They announced the nursery now had 30 babies as another one was blessed today. Everyone was friendly and we thought how different each of the three churches were that we had visited the last three weeks. Yet we all shared the same belief in Christ, loved one another, and were fun to be around.

This evening we walked over to the BX and bought a tuna Subway sandwich. We ordered the same one last night. It’s our favorite sandwich here.

Monday, Nov. 21:

We mailed home our largest suitcase to make it easier to travel. $117 to mail it home. A great relief. We then rode the bus into town. The bus driver was a very friendly Hawaiian. In 1974 he proudly went through basic training in Ft Riley, KS, home of General Custer. He loved talking about the old ‘C-rations’

The USS Pearl Harbor getting underway at Hickam AFB. Photo courtesy of Walt Spicer.
The USS Pearl Harbor getting underway at Hickam AFB. Photo courtesy of Walt Spicer.

of the Vietnam era. They were in cans, not dehydrated or freeze-dried as the MRE’s are today. He still carried his P-38 can opener and proudly showed it to me from his key ring. They called him ‘Pineapple’ in the Army.

When we got off the bus he gave us extra transfer tickets, just in case we needed them. Shanna told me later she was afraid he would crash the bus because he spent most of the time looking at me, talking and laughing. I told him he had a good personality for being a bus driver, friendly, happy, etc. He said, “There’s no sense getting all stressed out. Some drivers are always yelling at their passengers, etc. Not me, I have a good time and I’ll probably live longer.”

While on the bus, a large group, who I mistakenly thought were Japanese tourists, got on at one point. The bus was stuffed, and the driver had to turn on his “not in service” lights. I asked one gentleman if he was from Japan. He ignored me twice, then firmly said, “NO!” It turns out they were all Chinese, getting off in Honolulu’s Chinatown. He was obviously very offended when I asked if he was from Japan.

We exited the bus along King St. where the old Hawaiian palaces are still located. These beautiful homes and government buildings, built at the turn of the century, are now museums. We walked most of the way to Waikiki beach, then caught a bus the last few blocks. We enjoyed the beautiful sunset, and walked along the street by Waikiki.

The Hawaiian Royal Hotel. Photo courtesy of Walt Spicer.
The Hawaiian Royal Hotel. Photo courtesy of Walt Spicer.

We went into the International Market Center and the famous Royal Hawaiian Hotel. Built in 1926, it is still a beautiful hotel with many high archways in a magnificent foyer. We watched some Hawaiian dancers entertain and talked with an elderly hotel staff member. During WW II, she informed us, the Army took over the Hotel. Rooms were $0.25 for NCO’s and $1 for officers. A room there today is around $350.

Tuesday, Nov. 22:

Spent the morning making phone calls – making plans for when and where we’re going next. It appears we’ll head for Guam Sunday afternoon if the plane isn’t rerouted. I’ve heard a lot of good things about Guam and I’ve always wanted to travel there. Shanna seems willing, and I’m looking forward to it. Guam is situated in a near straight line west of San Diego with Hawaii in between. It is about 4,000 miles from Hawaii and 7,000 miles from San Diego.

Scenic walking trail at Hickam AFB. Photo courtesy of Walt Spicer.
Scenic walking trail at Hickam AFB. Photo courtesy of Walt Spicer.

We took an evening walk along the Hickam AFB side of Pearl Harbor. Here it has a jogging trail on a pristine part of the base. Once called Pearl River, it is now part of Pearl Harbor.

Hickam AFB is purported to be the most beautiful military base in the world. From what we saw this evening I would agree. Each of its many streets are lined with palm trees, with many parks and well-designed officers and NCO quarters in the northwest part of the base. At the center of the Air Force base is a circular street with the flag pole in the middle with several streets radiating in different directions with many streets crossing in between. There are many types of tropical trees, foliage, grass, parks, a golf course, tennis courts, swimming pool, gymnasium, and other recreational areas for adults and children.  It makes this base very functional and family friendly. There’s even a huge skate board facility for kids in an unused airplane hangar across the street from our lodging.

The many large airplane hangars and the flight runway is located in the southern end. It has a large passenger terminal with a very comfortable USO lounge, a dining area, BX and gift shop. They have planes going to major bases all over the world on a regular basis with flights heading for Travis AFB several times a week. Hill AFB, UT, (like most Air Force bases in the US) unfortunately, isn’t considered a major air base, and doesn’t have a passenger terminal, to speak of. But I’m glad we have something close to Salt Lake City even if there only one or two flights a month that allow passengers.

Hickam AFB. Photo courtesy of Walt Spicer.
Hickam AFB. Photo courtesy of Walt Spicer.

Shanna and I may soon start to feel a little like the guy in the song, riding the underground rail in Boston …“Well did he ever return, no he’ll never return and his fate is still unlearned. He may ride forever ‘neath the streets of Boston, he’s the man who never returned.”

Wednesday, Nov. 23:

Today we got up and walked over to the famous Wilbur & Orville Wright Brothers Breakfast Café next to the Officers Club situated next to Pearl Harbor. We ordered breakfast and sat outside along the waterway and watched the jet planes come in and take off and a battleship sail out to sea. The sailors all stood at parade rest encircling the main deck as it sailed out of the harbor. Dressed in white, frozen at parade rest, it was a proud sight to see. It was here, on Dec 7, 1941, when what was left of our Pacific fleet, limped out to sea.

We then visited the Headquarters of the Pacific Command, which was a former barracks containing

Pathway to the Wright Brothers Cafe at Hickam AFB. Photo courtesy of Walt Spicer.
Pathway to the Wright Brothers Cafe at Hickam AFB. Photo courtesy of Walt Spicer.

3,200 men when the Japanese bombed and strafed it in the early Sunday morning hours. The pock marks from the rounds from the Japanese Zeros are still scattered all over the outside of the building as a reminder of what happened that fateful Sunday morning at 0755. Inside the building there is a monument with an eternal flame dedicated to the American soldiers who died in WWII, Korea, and Vietnam, fighting in the Pacific Command.

We caught a bus into Honolulu’s Chinatown which has several blocks of shops and markets and cafés. I’ve never seen so many bananas – all hanging outside in front of their shops. They are Hawaiian bananas, of course, and other native fruits. We then took the bus to Bellows AFS resort located
at the southwest end of the island. The bus dropped us off at gate which is a three-mile walk into the resort. We hitch-hiked into the resort area. Bellows is strictly a military playground for military families, much like the Navy’s Pacific Coast resort on the Washington beaches. Here there are several cabins on the beachfront, a par three golf course, mini-golf course, paint-ball games, a small BX and a Subway Sandwich shop. It has beautiful scenic beaches where families of military personnel were enjoying the warm water and staying in the cabins along the beachfront. The wind was blowing and it was a little cold for pansies like us.

Bellows AFS Recreation Area Beach. Photo courtesy of Walt Spicer.
Bellows AFS Recreation Area Beach. Photo courtesy of Walt Spicer.

We again hitch-hiked, before dark, back to the gate and caught a bus returning to Honolulu. The bus driver was Hawaiian and rarely saw American tourists riding the bus that far from Honolulu. (They usually rent cars.) He wouldn’t let me give him any bus fare, as we were such a rarity. He just wanted to talk to us! He looked like he weighed about 300 lb. and was pure Hawaiian and once played safety for the Hawaii Rainbows from ’77-79, when he weighed 160 lbs and could run and intercept passes. It was dark by the time we got to Diamond Head and Honolulu. We transferred buses and continued in to Hickam, an hour drive by bus. We caught every bus today perfectly. A first for us.

Shanna struck up a conversation with an elderly, light- blond, beautiful lady (77 years old) who left Manhattan, NY and came to Honolulu when she was only 16. She’s never been back or seen her family since. I doubt she has family living. Her roommate recently died, she lives alone. She seemed somewhat lonely as she looked at us and reminisced about her life. But I think we brought a little joy into her life as she loved talking with us. If we had rented a car, like most people do, we would never have been able to meet so many interesting and amazing people.

Tomorrow we’re going into town for Thanksgiving. Things on base are too expensive for us – $27/plate. There are several restaurants downtown so we’ll find something that fits our budget.

Thursday, Nov. 24:

Walter at Thanksgiving Dinner at the Blakesdale Convention Center downtown Honolulu. Photo courtesy of Shanna Spicer.
Walter at Thanksgiving Dinner at the Blakesdale Convention Center downtown Honolulu. Photo courtesy of Shanna Spicer.

Yesterday, the lady we met on the bus told us of a free Thanksgiving Dinner at the Blakesdale Convention Center in downtown Honolulu. I asked her if it was mainly for homeless people. She said it was for anyone who wanted to come. We decided to check it out, took the bus downtown, found the convention center with 2,000 people being served. We were enthusiastically welcomed and happy to join them. Had a wonderful meal with turkey, rice, gravy, pineapple, string beans, punch, and pumpkin pie. It was delicious and well organized, with servers and hula dancers.

The Salvation Army earned my respect for all they did for the people of Oahu who needed a Thanksgiving Dinner today. I doubt I’ll ever walk by another bell ringer at Christmas time without making a donation. What they accomplished in two hours was phenomenal. We gave them a $20 donation.

I sat next to a fellow named Bobby who was very friendly and talkative. He pretty well told us his life story. He’s from San Francisco, a comedian by profession, lived in Guam for six years and has lived in Honolulu most of his life. He gave us the phone number of a friend in Guam in case we needed any help with anything.

Walked to the Hale Koa, a military resort hotel where Shanna and I stayed 15 years ago. The Virginia

Hale Koa Hotel in Waikiki. Photo courtesy of Walt Spicer.
Hale Koa Hotel in Honolulu. Photo courtesy of Walt Spicer.

Military Institute Band happened to be performing a free Thanksgiving Day concert in the garden area by the ocean. The band has about 50 members plus a 25 member bagpipe group that, together, played several numbers. They were excellent.

Watched the sun go down over the South Pacific. Took a bus home. Met a lady from the Philippines. Her American husband died four years ago. She was lonely and loved Shanna’s friendliness. When we changed buses, she changed with us, choosing not to go her usual route so she could spend more time talking with Shanna. They exchanged phone numbers and, when she got off the bus, she gave Shanna a big hug. Also met a 22 year young man from Germany. He was on vacation in Honolulu after graduating in engineering. He spoke very good English, and with a British accent. The bus dropped him off at the airport and, as he got off the bus, he seemed very appreciative that Shanna took the time to talk with him. I sensed he was starving for someone to talk to, like many people living alone.

One interesting note: in the middle of downtown Honolulu, we discovered, quite by accident, an old

Hale Koa Hotel Banyon Trees. Photo courtesy of Walt Spicer.
Hale Koa Hotel Banyon Trees. Photo courtesy of Walt Spicer.

building on King Street where early Protestant missionaries in 1822 built a church and a large home with a printing press. Also on the grounds are tombstones of many of the early missionary families that served in Honolulu in the 1820’s. There is a plaque quoting a letter from Abraham Lincoln thanking the missionaries for saving the life of an American seaman, captured by the cannibalistic natives on one of the other islands.

I told Shanna I felt a special kinship for that hallowed piece of ground and for the Protestant missionaries who paved the way for Christianity in this remote part of the world.

Friday, Nov. 25:

Spent two to three hours today calling hotels in Guam. Anderson AFB in Guam is filled through the middle of December. I was surprised to find there are a multitude of motels on the beach front close to Anderson AFB. We’ll be staying at the Santa-Fe Hotel. $52 a night (booked Online) for three nights. How long we stay will depend on when we can catch a flight out of Guam. Because of roaming charges and other charges that may apply we will not be using our cell phones much in Guam.

Saturday, Nov. 26:

We caught a #55 bus to drive us around the island. It’s been a stormy day so we stayed on the bus throughout the island drive. Saw the Polynesian Cultural Center which I’ve been to three times and Shanna twice. The wind was blowing and the rain was falling and the waves were crashing on the North Shore and I didn’t see the usual surfers braving the surf. There may have been “No Surfing” signs up.

We made it back after about a three and a half hour bus ride. Though I’ve seen it all before, the grandeur of the steep green volcanic mountains is still breathtaking. Met a fellow on the bus who’s been here for six years. He was raised in Florida but didn’t like the weather in Florida but loves it here. He has his own window-cleaning business. I asked him if he cleans the windows of the skyrises. He said, yes, but only the insides. Smart. He told us where to get off the bus to catch a #19 bus to Hickam. It turned out to be the wrong bus stop, but close enough. The people and bus drivers are very willing to help you find where you’re going. Even if you don’t need the assistance, if someone sees you in a quandary, they’ll probably volunteer to help. Tomorrow evening we leave for Guam, unless the flight falls thru.

Sunday, Nov. 27:
Checked out of our room today and bought two pieces of luggage to replace our backpacks. We spent the day in the foyer of our lodging Building 1172 instead of the passenger terminal. An older gentleman named, Chuck, saw us waiting with our luggage and offered to give us a ride wherever we needed to go. We ended up talking about his WWII experiences. He’s 92 years old and from Santa Rosa, CA. He and his wife, Pat, are here on vacation. During WWII he flew B-17’s over Germany. On his 5th mission his plane was shot down. Most of his crew died in the plane or were shot as they parachuted out. He waited until the last second to pull his rip cord to avoid being an easy target. He hit the ground hard, injuring his back, hip, and leg, but he survived and became a POW for 26 months. He said becoming a POW probably saved his life as few bomber crews lasted the 25 missions needed to retire from action.

I encouraged him to write up his war experiences. They are most remarkable. It was a privilege to meet him and talk with him as there are few WWII veterans still living to tell their tale. Chuck’s old injuries have turned to arthritis pain but he still rides a stationary bicycle and, for his age, looks trim and slim and gets around fine with a cane and still drives a car.

Walter at Hickam AFB Passenger Terminal. Photo courtesy of Shanna Spicer.
Walter at Hickam AFB Passenger Terminal. Photo courtesy of Shanna Spicer.

Chuck and Pat drove us over to the passenger terminal where we’re waiting now to catch the plane to Guam.

Monday, Nov. 28th:

Monday disappeared somewhere over the Pacific in the magical International Date Line.

Tuesday, Nov. 29th:

The C-17 left on time, 1000. Seven and a half hours later we landed at Anderson AFB in Guam. (0230 Guam time) We left on a Sunday and arrived here on a Tuesday. A 17-hour difference as we pass thru the International Date Line.

Everyone sleeps in the belly of the cargo plane with their blankets and air mattresses. I like the military flight because you can walk around all you want and stretch your legs. It is much more comfortable than being cooped up on a commercial jet, confined to a seat. I got smart and bought an air mattress and pump at the BX. Slept for five hours straight and Shanna slept for seven of the eight hour flight. For $4 each we had a box lunch – juice, water, turkey or ham sandwich, cookie, Cheetos, and an apple.

A couple from Guam riding back from Honolulu where their children live, offered us a ride to our Guam hotel. We were very fortunate as the ride down Marine Drive to the hotel was a lot longer than I anticipated, and being the rainy season, it was drizzling last night.

Marine Drive is named in honor of the US Marines who liberated Guam from the Japanese. Now, another generation, and the once hated Japanese are loved as they are a big part of the tourist economy. Many Japanese couples come here to get married. The US, of course, is the mainstay of the economy, with three military bases on the island. There are sky-rise hotels everywhere and American chain stores dot the landscape.

Walt enjoying beautiful Guam. Photo courtesy of Shanna Spicer.
Walt enjoying beautiful Guam. Photo courtesy of Shanna Spicer.

We woke up this morning to blue skies and the beautiful blue Pacific out of our 4th-floor balcony. It’s now Tuesday and we completely lost Monday.

We walked out to the beach to check out the water. Water temperature must have been my own body temperature, as I could barely feel the water. We walked out about 400 yards to a small island. Only in a few spots were over my head, with the average depth being four to five feet. I didn’t walk out to the breakers as they looked rough and dangerous. I made it to the tiny island, about 100 yards in circumference, surrounded by cliffs and had a small beach facing the main island.

There were a group of about five canoes each containing two Japanese tourists who paddled out to the island. The wind was blowing toward the island which made it difficult or impossible for one elderly couple to paddle back against the wind. They finally gave up and began waving and yelling to me. I began pulling their canoe back to the main island. Somehow it seemed ironic – a retired U.S. Army Sergeant helping two stranded elderly Japanese get back safely to the island of Guam and their hotel.

This afternoon Shanna’s sister’s friend, Jackie, picked us up at 1400 and drove us around the island to show us the sights. Most impressive was the landing beach where the Marines landed on July 21, 1944 and captured Guam from the Japanese. It was quite emotional to stand on the very beach where the Marines landed. Shanna’s father was part of the invasion force during WWII. This experience was very meaningful to her. Pictures on plaques depict the actual event. We also drove down to the Guam Naval Base and drove around it. Consequently, July 21st is Guam’s “4th of July” when they celebrate independence from Japan. They have a parade down Marine Drive each year.

Sunset on the Pacific. Photo courtesy of Walt Spicer.
Sunset on the Pacific. Photo courtesy of Walt Spicer.

We then took Jackie and her two sons, Jeremiah and Jonathan, out to eat at the Lone Star Restaurant. We went to the supermarket close by and bought some fruit, then she dropped us off at the hotel. This evening we took a walk along the beach, laid down under the palm trees, and watched the stars as the clouds moved across the sky, under the light of the moon.

Wednesday, Nov. 30:

This morning I was proud of Shanna for braving the waters. We walked about 200 yards out into the bay and swam. The waters were calm, pure, clean, and blue. It’s like a huge swimming pool with no waves. We swam in the deeper waters and Shanna braved the water. We then walked back to shore and relaxed in the hotel pool. Met a man from Germany. His wife is from Guam. We talked about the volatile world situation.

Jackie picked us up around 1300. Drove around the island observing the many homes of the rich and poor – from grass huts to beautiful mansions. We drove to the west side of the island and hiked about half a mile thru the jungle to a cave called Marbo Cave. We hiked down into the cave where there was a spring with pure cold water at the bottom, deep enough to swim in. The Americans and Japanese used it as a water supply during and after the war.

Shanna admiring the crashing waves of Guam. Photo courtesy Walt Spicer.
Shanna admiring the crashing waves of Guam. Photo courtesy Walt Spicer.

We then walked about a quarter mile to the cliffs overlooking the ocean. The waves were crashing against the rocks below us. We could see sea turtles swimming in the water below. We also learned about the last survivor of WWII. A Japanese soldier who stayed hidden in jungles of Guam for 26 years after the war. I remember the news story years ago when he was found living in a cave in 1971.

Met a young man, Steve. He will PCS from the Army shortly to finish his physical therapy schooling. On leave for two months. Enjoying himself scuba diving in Guam.

This evening we all went to the Chamorro Village celebration held every Wednesday night. They have local native food and gifts and trinkets to sell. During Christmas time they celebrate Santa and his water buffalo (carabels) instead of the reindeer. Kids take rides on them for $3. We also held a pet 45-year-old crab, still seeming to enjoy life. The Chamorro language is the native language of the people of Guam. They are an extremely friendly people by nature and we have enjoyed getting to meet many of the native people.

Tomorrow we’re headed back to Honolulu. Shanna wasn’t too excited about flying over here, but now she’s sad she has to leave. We both have had some great experiences learning about Guam, enjoying the hospitality, and swimming in its beautiful waters.

Eatery in Guam. Photo courtesy of Walt Spicer.
Eatery in Guam. Photo courtesy of Walt Spicer.

Thursday, Dec. 1:
We spent the day at Anderson AFB passenger terminal. The 0935 flight to Hickam never materialized. The next flight out was to be a 0935 flight. We decided to wait an hour longer and catch a later 2300 flight. The 2300 flight would guarantee us a seat on the same plane going to McChord AFB and then a rare direct flight to Hill AFB the next day (which only occurs once a month). The gamble proved to be a mistake. The hydraulics in the C-017 were leaking and required major repair. That left us with no scheduled flights to Hickam for three days. The only other quick alternative is a flight to Alaska, tomorrow, Dec. 2, and from there maybe catching a flight to McChord or Travis.

A military couple, stationed in Guam, were also scheduled to take the same flight to Hickam. She was hoping to eventually get to Fargo, ND, for their son’s college graduation. They offered us their extra bedroom. We were tired from sitting around the terminal all day so we were glad to take them up on their offer. He works here at the air base and said the flight crew probably just wanted to stay a few extra days in Guam, as they get paid whether they’re flying or not. I would too. This is an exotic paradise compared to a winter in Alaska, where they were based.

Flights pop up regularly here as Anderson is a major hub for military flights throughout Japan, the Philippines, the Mariana Islands, Australia, Alaska, and of course, Hawaii. Guam, Tinian and Saipan were the major staging locations for bombing raids on Japan during WWII and Vietnam. B-29’s were

Japanese suicide submarine at Guam. Photo courtesy of Shanna Spicer.
Japanese suicide submarine at Guam. Photo courtesy of Shanna Spicer.

used extensively. The U.S. Air Force general who did much of the designing and planning this beautiful Air Force base, (after we took it back from Japan), General Anderson, sadly died at sea on his return flight from Guam to Hawaii, where he was commander of the Pacific Fleet. The Guam air base was named in his honor.

Friday, Dec. 2:

This morning Paula and Dennis gave us a ride to the passenger terminal where we checked on flights. Paula’s trying to get to Fargo, ND for her son’s graduation. We decided to take a flight this evening to Elmendorf AFB in Alaska, anticipating another flight to Travis or McChord from there. It’s cold in Alaska but it might be fun to visit in the winter. The last time I was there was to refuel on my way to Vietnam. All I remember are the beautiful fall leaves.

We could wait until tomorrow and catch our original flight to Hawaii, but who knows if the plane will be repaired. Alaska could be a great experience.

After a long wait in the terminal we loaded the C-017 and left at midnight for Anchorage. We arrived eight hours later at Elmendorf AFB around 1400 Friday. We had about nine hours added on to our lives. I think that if we keep traveling around the world like this we’ll get younger.

We were able to get a room on the base. A very nice three-room apartment with a living room, two couches and two TV’s. I was able to talk with my nephew, Gene, who lives one hour from here and is a neighbor (within two miles) to Sarah Palin. He’s the Assistant Superintendent of Schools and Sarah Palin’s sister is his dental hygienist.

We will try to get the flight to Travis AFB tomorrow, show time is 1550. The sun goes down here around 1600. I can see Anchorage from a distance but we have no car to get there and Shanna is anxious to get home. The mountains are beautiful. The snow is two feet deep, and they’re having a warming trend – 33 degrees Fahrenheit today. The past two weeks were 20 below. That’s a 105 degree temperature shift from Guam’s 85 degree weather yesterday. Talking to those who live or are stationed here, most of them like it here. Nice facilities plus great scenery and wildlife.

Here they build fences to keep the moose and wildlife off the runway. I think they should just issue them ID cards.

We met a young man who gave us a ride to the BX today. He and his wife are ministers stationed here. When we told him about our Space-A travels he wanted to retire and do the same. I told him I’d send him a copy of our travels.

Friday has been a long day, as we gained a day traveling across the International Date Line from Guam. We left Guam Friday evening and arrived in Anchorage Friday afternoon.

Saturday, Dec. 3:

Our flight to Travis was postponed. Freezing rain has fallen for several hours. The roads and everything are covered with a thick sheet of ice. Driving is dangerous. One of the civilian workers told us the freeway going into Anchorage is littered with cars all over the road. We were finally able to get a rental car at the BX but we dare only use it to drive to our hotel room.

The crew flying the four-prop C-130 to Travis was afraid the plane would freeze up if we attempted to leave, as the C-130 can’t fly high enough to avoid the freezing rain. The C-130 is not my favorite plane anyway. I flew in one all the way from Salt Lake City to Hawaii years ago and it was like riding a jack-hammer. It was not an enjoyable 14-hour ride. I was told it depends on how well synchronized the propellers are as to how smooth the ride is. We were all ready to load when they made the decision around 2000, after waiting all day in the terminal.

Fortunately, I hadn’t cancelled our room reservation nor the rental car so we had a means of travel to our billeting several blocks away. They close the terminal at 2200 so I don’t know where some of the people spent the night who had no transportation or a place to stay. Maybe they could sleep in the lobby of the hotel.

The Air Force base here has the nicest military lodging we’ve seen on our trip, and for $39 a night, and the rental car for $33 a day.

Sunday, Dec. 4:
This morning the boys in green decided to fly the bird to Travis. Roll call was at 0950 and everyone except two made it back. By 1200 the C-130 was rollin’ down the runway and we were on our way, through the fog, wind and sleet.

Once we were two hours into our journey and over Canada the clouds cleared up and the sight below was beautiful. The rugged snow capped mountains looked like the Grand Tetons times 10,000. Tall, rugged peaks everywhere with no signs of life except for a few mountain trails. There was a beautiful sunset in the West and as we flew over Washington the lights of Seattle and the surrounding area were aglow. Also several islands were lit up, probably with Christmas lights. I tried to figure which island was San Juan, across from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. I saw two of three possibilities. I could see the Washington coast line west of Seattle where we stayed at the Pacific Beach Resort five weeks before.

We arrived at Travis. As we taxied, I tried to recall the memories of 40 years ago when I returned from Vietnam anxious to get back to the U.S.A.  As we entered the terminal, memories of that large room returned. Could this be the same building a happy group of GI’s entered, spent the night, and anxiously awaited our turn to PCS out of the Army and return to our families? I asked an Airman working there if this, indeed, was the same facility used long ago to out-process Vietnam soldiers. He assured me it was the very same building. Nostalgia.

As we were making phone calls to find a shuttle to Davis, CA, to catch an Amtrak, a gentleman waiting to catch a flight to Illinois, offered us a ride to the train station. I called and made reservations for the Hallmark Inn, across from the Amtrak station, and we loaded in his car and we were off – about a 20-mile ride. I gave him a $20 tip. We walked around the quaint college town of Davis that night, ate dinner, and had a nice rest in the motel.

We purchased Amtrak tickets Online for $125 each which include a sleeper, lunch and dinner.

Sierra Nevada Mountains view from Amtrak. Photo courtesy of Walt Spicer.
Sierra Nevada Mountains view from Amtrak. Photo courtesy of Walt Spicer.

Monday to Tuesday, Dec. 5 to 6:

Caught the Amtrak this morning at 1036. The number six, California Zypher, from San Francisco to Chicago. It leaves San Francisco daily at 0930, seven-days a week. It travels over the old Central Pacific and Union Pacific route from Sacramento, through the beautiful Sierra Nevada Mountains, through Truckee, CA, to Reno, NV, and on to Salt Lake City. The two railroads joined at Promontory, UT, in 1863. Cutting through the formidable mountains was one of the greatest achievements of mankind.

It’s been a smooth ride, quiet and restful. We had lunch and dinner served in the dining car, sat in the viewing car over the mountain range, climbed Donner’s Pass, stopped at Truckee and Reno where it started getting dark. Took an hour nap, ate dinner, and worked on a computer project.

Walt and Shanna enjoying dinner aboard the Amtrak. Photo courtesy of Walt and Shanna Spicer.
Walt and Shanna enjoying dinner aboard the Amtrak. Photo courtesy of Walt and Shanna Spicer.

The man in charge of our sleeper car, J.R., waited on us hand and foot. The whole crew is exceptionally helpful. The train keeps a tight schedule at every stop. If you step off the train, and are late getting back, you may see number two red going down the track without you.

It’s been a fun 32-day experience. We have enjoyed sharing it with you. Maybe it will give you some ideas on a trip you might want to plan. Our son, Matt, will pick us up at the Salt Lake City, UT, Amtrak station at 0306. Tomorrow Shanna and I will drive to Hill AFB and pick up our car in the long term parking lot, where this adventure started on Nov 4th.

I don’t know when we’ll be ready for an adventure like this again. Maybe never – maybe next winter. It’s been good for us to get away together. We’ve been greatly blessed all along the way. We’ve had many kindnesses extended to us and we feel fortunate being so blessed. There are indeed, many wonderful people throughout the world – of all races, religions, genders, and nationalities.

MSG Walter Spicer, USA, retired
and Shanna Spicer
Taylorsville, UT
waltspicer@gmail.com

Reprint from July-Aug 2012 • Volume 42, No. 4

Editor’s note: We thank Walter and Shanna for taking us along on their 32-day adventure by planes, trains (Amtrak), buses, trucks, and cars. Remember, you can share your travel adventures – long or short – with others by sending them to editor@militaryliving.com.