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A boy grows up watching Magnum PI and dreaming of being a helicopter pilot. His wish came true when he became a helicopter tour guide at the Grand Canyon. He loved his job for the first few weeks. After a while it felt like he was “orbiting a ditch.”

He was fired after 9/11 when tourism ground to a halt. Now what? He sent his resume out hoping for the best. The best responded. He was hired to give helicopter tours over Hawaii’s island of Oahu. After all these years he still thrills at his amazing life.

The cherry on top is the helicopters have been painted to look like the Magnum PI helicopter. Josh happily points out where Magnum PI was filmed and jokes, “I don’t see the red convertible today.”

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Several TV shows and movies were filmed in Oahu. We saw where the cast of Gilligan’s Island boarded the boat for their three hour tour. The above island is the famous Gilligan’s Island. It is close enough to the main shore that the cast could have swam to safety. Amazing what cinematography can do for the perspective in a story.

Other well known stories filmed on Oahu include Jurassic Park (“If you look down you might see a dinosaur. Or maybe those are just cows.”), 50 First Dates, Lost, and Hawaii 5-0.

Helicopter tours in Hawaii are amazing. There are also several types of tours to choose from including sunset tours. We chose to do a tour of the island and paid a little extra for the doors to be taken off.

A kind stranger from Texas, with a southern drawl, joined our tour. He came alone because he couldn’t talk his wife into joining him. It was hard enough to convince her to fly to Hawaii. Then she saw the video of the recent helicopter crash. That was it. He was on his own.

I had my doubts about going on this adventure. I’m still a little surprised that certain family members didn’t think I would do it! Even though I was a little nervous I knew I would regret not going. I made my peace with it and was grateful the excessive wind didn’t cancel our reservations. All tours had been canceled the day before because the torrential rain made visibility virtually impossible. That’s why you pay after you get back from the tour.

My nerves felt steady as we sat in the office waiting to get started. We had arrived early. I was apprehensive but not feeling any physical manifestation of it. It was a thrilling ride at an amusement park. I may be nervous but I was still going through with it.

Heath joked with the receptionist about me being nervous. She tried to put things in perspective by saying that the pilot wants to get home too. He wants to see his family again and not die. That helped. Not that I thought the guy would purposefully let the helicopter fall out of the sky. Reminding me that he was motivated to stay safe put me more at ease.

Just before we went outside the lady went through the safety procedures. She tried to keep it light and funny like some airlines often do. I tried to pay attention because some procedures were different from airplanes. And the doors would be off. If we were to fall out of the sky all consequences would come sooner.

Then she handed us each a life vest to be strapped around our waists. In the event of an emergency we would pull the rest of the vest up and around our heads then blow to inflate them. Airlines will tell you where to find flotation devices but they don’t make you where them before you buckle up.

Me: We have to put it on now?
Lady: Well, you will be flying over open water.

That was probably the most nervous I felt. I strapped the yellow fanny pack on and walked out to the helicopter. Another girl explained how to climb in, buckle up, and put my headset on. When I got to the headset I watched Heath so I may have been wearing my microphone on the wrong side.

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Space was not a luxury on that aircraft. My feet were tucked underneath the pilot’s seat ahead of me. It kept my feet warmer that way. There was no bar to hold onto and no handholds of any kind. I felt safer giving my free hand something to do other than sitting in my lap. It was slightly uncomfortable but I grabbed the strap I used to climb into the helicopter. I kind of wished I had left the GoPro strapped to my right hand but sitting on the left of the aircraft threw me off. With the GoPro on my left wrist and the helicopter lifting I had to make the best of it.

Airplanes steadily gain altitude. You can feel when the wheels come off the ground and then fold underneath the plane. Helicopters just move straight up. No dramatics. The propeller comes on and it just lifts up. And there you are in the air. It’s not worth worrying that you haven’t thought it through. You’re there. Enjoy the peaceful aerial views because the helicopter is touring the island whether you want to or not.

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I liked that the helicopters were basically on site at the Turtle Bay Resort where we were staying. Paradise Helicopters were on the other side of the parking lot. So the first thing we saw was our hotel. The beach was where we had our long romantic sunrise walk. Heath got a lot of great sunrise pictures at that beach. It was always too windy and cold to want to be out for a sunset picture.

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The building wing in the middle was where we stayed. Our room was on the far corner of the building nearest the ocean on the fifth floor, so the second window down from the top. Our lanai overlooked the pools.

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As we looked down on the island, Josh would tell us what we were looking at and give us some history about the area. It was so beautiful.

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This is Haleiwa where the Dole Plantation is. If you look in the middle of the picture you can see the pineapple maze where “you can easily spend half an hour to half a day, depending on your navigation skills.”

We went to the Dole Plantation on Friday and decided not to test our skills in the maze. We did find some great souvenirs for the kids. A monkey wearing a Dole shirt for Parker, a Hawaiian print Barbie dress for Gwen (Ken’s matching outfit was also $20 so we only outfitted Barbie), and a personalized leather bracelet for Gavin. It says Io-Lani on it which is his name in Hawaiian. It means warrior hawk so the lady also put a stick figure warrior on holding a spear above his head.

Fresh pineapple is food of the gods in my opinion. Actually pineapple started out as food for the Hawaiian royalty. We saw a demonstration on how to pick ripe pineapple and cut it open. You’re supposed to rinse the pineapple meat in water to get off the extra acid. Otherwise your mouth might feel itchy and you will think you’re allergic when really you’re not! I get an itchy mouth with a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables.

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This is Pearl Harbor. Being born on Pearl Harbor Day has always made me fascinated with World War II.

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The helicopter stops at the Honolulu Airport for a brief intermission.

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Actually it’s so the pilot can get proper clearance to fly low over Honolulu and Waikiki. It was strange to be back where we started our journey only two days earlier. I did enjoy the break at the airport because we got a break from the wild winds and the air was much warmer on the ground.

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It is recommended that helicopter passengers take a jacket with them. I wondered if my leather jacket was too much until we got to Hawaii and a week of unseasonably cold temperatures with constant 40+ mph winds. In the helicopter the jacket was perfect. My hands were cold but I was warm enough.

My ponytail was flipping so hard. Heath says he wishes he had tightened his camera strap because it was whipping the back of his head. He swore he had bruises. Heath could see the temperature gauge from where he was sitting. Near the falls Josh pointed out that it was a cold 50 degrees at our altitude. With plenty of abusive wind.

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We would have been warmer with the doors on but the pictures would not have been as spectacular. Even my video would have been lame with doors on.

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The best part about the helicopter tour was seeing from the air how much we didn’t need to visit Honolulu or Waikiki. The dots on the sand are people. Lots and lots of people.

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I heard that if you face away from the ocean you would think you were in Chicago instead of Waikiki. That’s why Heath booked us a room on the North Shore. He knows I hate crowds and all the cool stuff was on the North Shore of the island anyway. People take tour buses from Waikiki just to see all the sights the North Shore has to offer. The South Shore only offers city life and lots of people. The disparity on Oahu is referred to as town and country.

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I love this picture because the water looks like wrinkled fabric. Diamond Head is in the background.

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Here is a closer picture of Diamond Head. It’s a big rimmed crater that used to be a volcano.

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This is Chinaman’s Hat. It looks like a hat that Chinese workers used to wear. The island is also known as Mokoli’i which means little lizard in Hawaiian. It is the remains of the dragon’s tail cut off by a goddess and tossed into the ocean.

Eventually we had toured the entire island of Oahu from the air. When we landed the pilot took pictures of us in front of the helicopter. For some reason I can’t find the rest of the pictures. The pictures go from an aerial view of Chinaman’s Hat to the botanical gardens of Waimea Falls that we visited on Friday. I’m thinking of making a video with the GoPro video I took and the video and photos Heath took.

It was so much fun flying over the island and enjoying the beautiful scenery from up high. I’m so glad I did it. But I also hope to never have that experience again. It was literally a once in a lifetime experience.

 

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