Like an astronaut re-entering the atmosphere or a kid just home from summer camp, I’m not quite adjusted yet. It’s still too soon (and painful) to admit the great adventure is over. Rick and I are home in Crescent City after 24 days and over 10,000 miles of pure joy.
Clockwise left to right: Grgas cousins Gerry, Johnny, me, Jelena, Vesela and Mark. With spouses and my cousin from my mother's side we had 13 for lunch.
It all began a couple of months ago when we received a brochure promoting a 14-day cruise to four Hawaiian islands. Rick used to vacation on Kauai and I lived on Oahu for seven years. That was 30 years ago. Was it time to go back?
Conveniently, the cruise began in Los Angeles just three days after my scheduled girlfriends’ weekend in Santa Barbara. Once we committed to going, we focused on one goal: simple relaxation. Instead of flying, we reserved a sleeper car on Amtrak’s Coast Starlight for the overnight ride from Eugene, Ore., to Santa Barbara. My girlfriends met us at the station and Rick took a cab to a small motel near the beach for two nights.
The five girls and I stayed in a wood and stone “cabin” bordering Los Padres National Forest. We shopped, cooked, ate, drank, laughed. On our last night we threw ourselves a 60th birthday party. Over breakfast Sunday we planned next year’s reunion. I left with Roseann, picked up Rick and headed south to Ante’s, a legendary Croatian restaurant in San Pedro. There was another reunion waiting.
Lunch with my Grgas cousins (and one from my mother’s side) was emotional. Some of us had not been together in 35 years or more. The traditional meal was served family style – platters of all the best of memories of my mother’s and grandmother’s Sunday dinners.
On the hottest day in LA’s history, Rick and I headed to an oceanfront condo on Catalina Island to wait out the 72 hours until our cruise began. We boarded the last boat out of San Pedro that took only an hour to get to Avalon. When I was a kid it took four hours to cross those 26 miles. On this trip that would have been OK. We traveled light, just one small roll-on and one shoulder bag each. We wanted to keep it simple.
On Catalina we were guests of Roseann’s mother whom I’ve known since first grade. Rose, a generous and loving Italian mother, gave us the key to her vacation home saying “just enjoy.” And we did. We had morning coffee al fresco, drove the golf cart (cars are restricted on Catalina) to town for lunch, picked up snacks at the grocery store for dinner, then went back for more deck time.
The Wednesday we left Catalina, our boat arrived in San Pedro around 1 p.m. My aunt (Mom’s baby sister), uncle and cousin met us with hugs and kisses then drove us about two blocks over to Terminal 93 where Rick and I boarded the Golden Princess. At 4 p.m. the ship left the dock and headed toward the open ocean and for the next four days we sailed in dark blue water, under light blue skies with only white clouds on the horizon. No cell or Internet service. The plan was working.