Another gusty day in Paradise.

The plane home to Hawaii usually has a festive feeling, because it’s mostly tourists heading out for their vacation:  families optimistically toting toddlers for that Dream Vacation, newlyweds snacking on each other’s extremities, rotund middle-aged couples going to renew vows barefoot on the beach.

The holiday feeling ends abruptly in the last half hour before landing.

They call Maui ‘The Valley Isle’ but I’ve always maintained it should be ‘The Windy Isle.’ Circling around either one of the volcanoes that form the figure eight shape of the island, the very minute your plane heads into the narrow waist that connects them, you KNOW it’s the Windy Isle.

It’s nerve wracking, that bucking ride in a tin can dropping out of the sky, lurching as the plane struggles over the foam-flecked water at Ma`alaea Harbor (windiest harbor in the world on a daily basis, FYI) over the salt flats, the power plant, the turbines of the recently installed wind generators marring the Pali ridge off to the left, the patchworked cane fields, the decrepit sugar mill at Puunene, and when you pass Costco you’re almost there.

Still bouncing.  The engines screaming, the green of earth too close and yet way too far away. Little kids are hurling by then, old ladies gasping, everyone white knuckling. Oh yeah, I’m home, I think as the plane bumps a couple times and leaves some rubber on the runway. It’s like that every time, coming home to the Windy Isle.

The grateful and relieved passengers always clap when we finally stop. It still makes me smile even after all this time, because dammit, I get nervous too. I’m too cool to clap though.

Anyway it’s a picturesque drive home. With huge surf and high wind, we had unique weather phenomena: blowing seafoam, a weird pseudo-mist that instantly coated my car with dried salt so I hit the windshield cleaner constantly.

The palm trees gyrate like Tahitian dancers, and as I went around each curve of the road I could see the bright wings of windsurfers and horseshoe grins of kiteboarders braving the tempest.

Yeah, good to be home on the Windy Isle.

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