My sweet husband recently took me on an anniversary vacation to a property he first showed me on TripAdvisor. Before I left on this adventure, I read about the place from previous tenants. "It is a shame they can't do something about the neighbors' dogs, maybe sue the neighbors for nuisance. The dogs bark at various times throughout the night; one starts and then there are dogs barking in the front, back, and side of the house. With the dogs, roosters, and frogs, it was hard to get much sleep; we tried closing the bedroom windows but then it was hot because there is no air conditioning." Another reviewer referred to the "rednecks with the dogs" in less than glowing terms.
Other highlights: These folks eat a lot of pit-cooked pork, and when they get too overrun by chickens they hunt them down--maybe with all those hunting dogs--and smoke/grill the birds in an old oil drum. They will sell you some if you stop and ask nicely.
We are vegans but they asked us if we wanted to buy some anyway. We declined, but we did buy some tomatoes. They use the honor system. They put the tomatoes out with a money jar. You pick out some tomatoes and then put some money in the jar.
Those who know us and what we have considered our perfect vacation spots in the past will think we have probably returned to the Outer Banks. We used to rent a great old two story frame house at Rodanthe and invite all our friends to come for supper. We especially wanted them to come if they'd had any luck fishing that day.
For directions, we'd begin: "You know where that run down store is that sells bait and local backfin crabmeat?"
They always knew.
"Well slow down when you get there and start looking for some rusted out junk cars and roosters scratching in the dirt because that's where you'll turn left."
They would ask "Well what's the name of the street? Isn't there a street sign?"
Silly people. If there was a street sign, would my husband have rented the property? Hardly.
For this special anniversary trip, he used the same criteria. Loose chickens running wild, junk cars, rough and winding roads barely one lane wide, houses identified by the number on the closest electric service pole: some things just spell Home.
I was instructed to pack my hiking boots, plenty of DEET, and my mask and snorkle. Plus I was handed boarding passes for a very long plane ride. When we got off the plane in the Lihue airport, we knew we were in for a hassle renting a car because we had been through this song and dance before. The rental car people know you have just been through the Hadean realm of plane travel and with a dark sense of humor like to pull out their own versions of a cattle prod.
But there are worse fates than overcoming jet lag in a tropical paradise rain forest with your own private horseshoe beach just a short walk down the hill and the view you see from the deck and windows of every room is the 5,000 ft. tall mountains of Kaua'i. We had been up in those mountains several years ago, hiking to Mt. Waialeale, the wettest spot on earth, with its average of over 39 feet of rain every year. Now we had the perfect view of its mists and double rainbows.
And yes, the dogs sang. Every night right before sunset, the thirty or so hunting dogs we assume were visited by their owner because they set out on a wild multi-layered meet-and-greet chorus. Mainly, that was just a loud advertisement for the main event. The very first night we were there, the moon popped out after midnight, and the lead dog--a soprano!--lectured in song. What notes she hit! What stories she told! The frogs had abandoned their long jack-hammer drone long before she stepped up to the challenge. Back in Alabama, this girl would be the virtuoso of Coon Dogs. She would earn a prime spot in the Coon Dog Cemetery. A hunter would have to be deaf not to hear what this woman was telling him.
Down the road at the National Tropical Botanical Garden (The Limahuli Garden and Preserve), we learned that all those roosters that started crowing every morning about 3 AM were in fact "jungle fowl". Yes indeed, Jungle Fowl. We appreciated having that fact cleared up for us.
Here is how I know there is a direct link between outback Kaua'i and Dixie: in Lihu'e or Kapa'a, Hanalei or Wainiha, you can buy Spam in any little store you come to.
Now tell me you are a Southerner but have no idea what Spam is.
You may never have eaten Spam, but you know what it is, don't you?