Michele Grgas Thomas The Triplicate

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.

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 andndash; platters of all the best of

memories of my mother's and grandmother's Sunday dinners.

When it was time for Roseann to take us to the Catalina

Express terminal, I asked her to drive by my grandmother's house first.

It looked like it did when Nona died in 1972. Whoever lives there now

keeps it up well. Nona's roses were in full bloom.

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


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.

Reach Michele Thomas, The Daily Triplicate's publisher, at

mthomas@triplicate.com, 464-2141, or stop by 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.