The Hastings Sideswipe – One Year Later

About a year ago we experienced one of the few hiccups during our global entire trip: a car accident.  I hesitated to post while we were traveling, but now that all the bills are paid and we’re back to the routine of home, I thought you might all want to hear this tale. So, as the Brits would say, sit back, grab a spot of tea and some biscuits, and I’ll describe the event and its humor. It seems long, but is worth it.

In mid-November of 2016 we arrived in Gatwick (London) airport late in the evening after a great visit to Finland. We successfully retrieved our rental car from Europcar and I paid with my Chase card, declining the expensive extra insurance, as usual, and began the drive to Hastings, England. Jody was not at all excited about riding on the left side of the car, on the narrow roads, in a foreign country. The dark and gentle English rain just made the trip even more exciting for her…the stress level from the passenger seat was high, but Google maps got us to our rental house, no problem. The next day I went and got some groceries and then we explored Hastings by car and by foot, just as Storm Angus began to ravage the English coast.

So,now you have the setting. On Friday, our second full day in Hastings, we spent a day by the sea, watching and running from the ever-growing waves, hanging out in the driving rain at Hastings Pier, enjoying some treats, playing on a playground, etc. We headed back to the house around 4 to make some dinner. I was driving up the hill from the town and beach area on Elphinstone Road, which is a main road but is narrow. steep, and a bit winding, like most roads in coastal U.K. towns. As we began the three mile drive, a small truck (aka small lorry) was bearing down the hill toward us (on my right) but was well across the center line.  Now, even in bright sunshine with no traffic there is barely enough room for 2 compact cars to pass on the road, between the parked cars.  These roads were made for horses, not lorries.
I slowed down to give the other driver time to move over on to his/her side of the center line. He/she didn’t.  I hit the breaks a bit more.

Then time slowed down for me.

I saw the headlight from the oncoming truck coming at my right front fender and several cars parked on our left.
That split second seemed like 30 and I assessed the situation and that I decided it was better to veer farther left than to take the head-on collision.  Essentially I decided to control our destiny with swerve instead of just hoping the other driver would move.
As I veered, the truck narrowly missed hitting the fender in front of me. WHEW!
However, on my left there was a scraping noise and a big crashing BANG as our left side mirror shattered when it smacked the parked car’s driver-side mirror!

The oncoming truck, I can only assume, just continued on its merry way on my side of the center line with nary a care in the world.

Meanwhile, in my world, there was much well-deserved consternation from both the front and back seat passengers. They were a bit shaken.  I, on the other hand, had some combination of relief and sweet, sweet adrenaline rushing through me.  In the big picture, all was well.

I found a rare parking spot about 100 yards from the point of impact and stopped to regroup. After making sure everybody was OK and taking a quick look at our car to make sure it was still safe to drive, I walked back to check out the other car. I retrieved its shorn-off mirror from the middle of street and walked up to the small business nearby, assuming the car belonged to somebody there. I asked the people in the front lobby if they knew whose car it was. One very friendly lady said, “Oh, that’s Bonnie’s car. Thank you so much for stopping, most people just drive off.” WHAT?!?!?!

Note: The car owner’s name is not really Bonnie, I changed it to protect her from further ridicule and embarrassment at her workplace…keep reading.

The nice lady in the lobby said the car’s owner, here known as Bonnie, was on a phone call. So I set what was left of the dented mirror on the counter and went out to our car tell Jody and the kids what was happening.

The kids and Jody were still a bit shaken, but clearly fine.  Leo decided to come back to the business with me while Jody and Grace stayed in the car.  Bonnie came outside with us and was very friendly about the accident, also THANKING ME FOR STOPPING!!!  There was no sense of “woe is me” or even “you stupid bloody American”, just very friendly and seemingly happy.  We checked our her car damage – lots of minor scrapes, and some ugly dents, and missing one mirror of course.  We figured we’d better call my rental agency, Europcar, right away so I could report the damage and figure out what to do next.  Leo, Bonnie, and I walked up to our car to get the rental information and Grace and Jody. We chatted about our trip and found out Bonnie had just returned from a trip to the US. She couldn’t have been any  nicer, especially in lieu of the situation.

Since we didn’t yet have cell phone SIMs for the UK, Bonnie offered to have us come back to the office and use their phone and have Jody and the kids sit in the building instead of the car. Then, as we crossed the street, Bonnie’s heel got caught on the curb and she fell straight down without even getting her hands in front of her.  She smacked her face on the pavement really hard.  When she sat up her face was bloodied as she’d cut the bridge of her nose!!!

OH MY GOSH!  So, now I’ve sideswiped this woman’s car AND she’s got a bloody cut-up face too!  However, as we walked in, she was LAUGHING at herself and the situation.  Bonnie jokingly blamed her own jet lag on the spill.

So, now the five of us walked together back into her office (some sort of children’s social services office), and her co-workers couldn’t figure out what had happened!! To them I’m sure it seemed like some American hit her car and then brought her back all bloody!  Bonnie quickly explained what happened and then, while still bleeding, asked if one of her co-workers would get the kids and Jody a cup of tea while we tried to get the rental company on the line.

Jody, Grace, and Leo all reported having delicious cups of tea with milk and one lump each, served by another very sweet lady.  Bonnie got cleaned up and she and I called Europcar and I told them I should have full coverage through my Chase credit card.  I did!  After about 30 minutes Bonnie and I had given all the info (multiple times) to the nice Europcar rep and got a case number, etc.  Since the car was still drive-able, I was told to just keep the car and return it in a couple weeks as planned.  Here are a few photos…nothing some packing tape couldn’t solve.

As for Bonnie, she got a rental car from Europcar to drive while hers was being fixed.  In addition, her co-workers got a great laugh out of the whole situation.

So, we said goodbye and thanked Bonnie and her co-workers for the tea and biscuits (cookies), and we were on our way. As soon as we got into the car, I told Jody it reminded me of this scene:


Just in case you think the movie snippet above is ridiculous and a bit over-the-top, here are some emails we got from Bonnie during the rest of our travels.  This is from 11/22/16, right after the accident:

“Hi Mike and family, hope you are all well. Just a quick note to say thank you so much for last week. I really appreciate that you took the time to find out whose car it was and waited to get it all reported. Only for me to then hurl myself on the road (I am still blaming jet lag!). My face is healing well; not so sure about my pride!
Just to let you know that I am taking the car in on Thursday to start the process for repairs so it’s all working out. I hope your kids were not too upset by what happened and that they are reassured that it has all been sorted.

Happy travels.

So yes, we bashed her car, cost her time and effort to get it fixed, bloodied her nose, and she THANKED US!!
Here’s another after we sent her the URL for our blog (12/12/16):

“Hi Mike and family, thank you for the link – I was wondering how your trip was going only this morning. Face has healed fine – I still dine out on the story though obviously!
My car is now in for repairs and in its place, I have a brand new VW Golf. It is an absolute dream and I’m so happy!! I am trying to think of different places to drive just to get full use! I will let you know (and send pictures) when my car is back.
What a great trip – I have never been to Scotland but it’s on my list. I’m going to enjoy reading the blog.
Have a fabulous Christmas and I hope Santa is kind to you all.”

See, I wasn’t joking.  She’s one happy lady!
Finally, we see that all is well (12/21/16):

“I hope this photo comes out – car is all fixed as if nothing ever happened. They wrestled the courtesy car keys from my hand so I have been reunited with my car. They even washed and vacuumed it for me – win, win I say.

Wishing you and your family a peaceful and happy Christmas and New Year.”

Storm Angus hit England hard so we had to make a few changes in plans due to some coastal flooding, but it was still grand.  Jody never did really get comfortable in the left passenger seat for the rest of our UK adventure…or for the several weeks in Australia…or while we were in New Zealand…or probably ever.  But we managed.

So, while I certainly wish I didn’t have to choose between hitting a moving truck head-on or sideswiping Bonnie’s car, nobody got hurt and it really turned into a very cool afternoon.  In the end Europcar and Chase paid for everything, we got to meet Bonnie, she got a repaired and CLEAN car, and the kids got to see how a potentially trip-ruining event was really just one of many great experiences we had, and will continue to have.

Big Island: Hilo

We drove to Hilo by way of Waikolo Village, Waimea, and Honokaa and stopped at Gramma’s Kitchen (a homey Portuguese restaurant) for lunch, which was excellent!  We ended up sitting next to a French couple from Paris on holiday. 🙂  


We spent the next day at the Hawaiian Tropical Botanical Garden, which were gorgeous!  Note: There are lots and lots of photos below!! 🙂

The history of how the garden came to be was fascinating!


On our way back to the house, we stopped at What’s Shakin’ Smoothies for a coconut water, a smoothie, and a stunning view!  It turns out the business, house, and land are (were?) for sale for just over $2 million…in case anyone’s interested! 🙂 

G and L found a gecko near one of the pots, and we got some cool pictures of it!

After a super tasty late lunch/early dinner at the Pahoa Fresh Fish and Chips (which was recommended by our French friend, Nastia, at the Mariott in Kona), we headed back to the house, where we worked on our hackey sack skills! 🙂

The next day, we had a lower-key day as L had a nasty cold brewing.  We drove through kitschy Pahoa Village, stopped by the nearby transfer station that only a few years ago had lava running right up to its fences, and then headed into Hilo.  We ended up having lunch at the Hilo Burger Joint AND watching playoff hockey!  (Mike’s Note: The hockey game was about as exciting as the botanical gardens, but still hockey.)  On the way back to the house, we stopped at the Lava Tree State Monument. There’s a loop trail where we saw lava molds of tree trunks that were formed when a lava flow swept this forested area in 1790!  It was an easy, quick and interesting stop.

One of the lava mold tree trunks!
A huge monkeypod tree!
This one looks like a Dr. Suess tree!
You don’t see this type of warning very often!

On our way back to Kona for our last three nights, we took the Saddle Road, which allowed us to stop at the Onizuka Center for International Astronomy Visitor Information Station (Mauna Kea Visitor Center) at 9,200 feet!

According to its web site, “Mauna Kea is the world’s home of astronomy.  The clarity, stability, and darkness of our skies make us the premier location for astronomical research, and is why we are home to thirteen of the world’s largest, most powerful, and most productive telescopes.”

The summit, where the telescopes are located, is one of the only places in the world where you can drive from sea level to 14,000 feet in about 2 hours, so altitude sickness is a high possibility (there is 40% less oxygen at the summit than at sea level!).  For that reason, it’s recommended that children under the age of 16 (as well as others with various health issues) not go any further than the visitor center.

It is possible to hike to the summit, if you are so inclined.  However, reading through the information about what it entails (and the dangers/riskes involved) makes me have absolutely no interest in adding it to my bucket list. 😉  I was happy and content to read and enjoy the information at the visitor center.  We even got to look at the sun (!) through a special telescope and saw solar flares and sunspots!  Cool!

It was a bit chilly, so G and L enjoyed some Lipton Cup-A-Soup! 🙂
This is the facility at the visitor center that is available for astronomers and technicians working at the summit.
A misty view of the scenery along the Saddle Road.

Next stop, we return to Kona for our last 3 nights/4 days on the Big Island before we head home!

Big Island: Kalaoa

Our first full day in Kalaoa was Mother’s Day, so we called both Nana and Grandma to wish them a Happy Mother’s Day, and then I asked if anyone was interested in going to the Hulihe’e Palace (which historically served as a summer residence for Hawaiian royalty) with me.  I didn’t have any takers, so (as a Mother’s Day treat!) Mike and the kids dropped me off at the palace, and they went to check out a beach/playground on the grounds of an old airport! 


After visiting the palace (and getting an impromptu tour because there were only 3 of us there), I went across and had a quick look at the first Christian church in Hawaii, which is made of lava stone and mortar.


From there, I walked down Ali’i Road in Kailua Village and popped into a couple of the shops along the way.

As I was heading back toward the main street, a young sales woman in a pineapple skirt convinced me to stop into her shop to try some magical potion to make my wrinkles disappear. (Yes, it was Mother’s Day, and she was talking to me about eye wrinkles!)

The stuff really seemed to work…it should have!  Online, the between eyes serum was $350 and the corners of eyes serum was $750 (or vice versa…doesn’t really matter!)  If I would have been interested in buying it in the store (which I wasn’t!), I could get both for $250!

Just so she didn’t get the idea that I was at all interested in purchasing her magic potion, I told her that I wasn’t going to buy anything without talking to my husband first. 🙂 I think she almost fell off her chair, but recovered quickly enough to ask if I check before buying shoes or a new shirt…I said, “Yes, I do.”  At that point, I think she was wondering what century I lived in, but I nicely explained that’s just how it works — he works; I stay at home, so we discuss purchases. (Mike’s Note: That doesn’t seem SOOO wrong, now does it?)

She gave me her card with information about the product (which it turns out is some sort of caviar from Beverly Hills), wished me a Happy Mother’s Day, and I continued walking down the marketplace.

Just around the corner, a nicely dressed guy was handing out samples.  I tried to say thanks and keep walking, but he asked where I was from and wanted me to come in so he could take a look at the wrinkles around my eyes…!  I said someone just did!  He said, “I can’t tell…” At that point, I smiled and said that I needed to catch my ride and asked if he wanted his sample back.  He said, “No you keep it.  You’re too cute, Miss Minnesota.” 🙂  Too cute but with wrinkles around my eyes. 🙂  Ugh!  Happy Mother’s Day! 🙂

By the time Mike and the kids picked me up, the stuff the woman at the first shop applied had dried up around my eye, so it looked like I had concrete stuck to my face.  Pretty! 🙂 The kids weren’t big fans. 🙂

The day was saved, however, with a lovely Mother’s Day dinner of grilled meatballs and pineapple, a tasty cupcake, and some lovely drawings from the kids. 🙂


While staying in Kalaoa, we spent a day snorkeling at Kahalu’u Beach.  It was GREAT!  The water was calm, and we were able to see lots and lots of different fish!        

The next day, we headed out to check out various beaches for swimming/snorkeling, starting at Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Park. At the visitor center, G got another Junior Ranger booklet and started to fill it out after walking around a bit and reading and looking at the displays.  Not too far from the visitor center area, was a harbor where we walked down to the see the beach and historical/culturally important ruins, as well as found some more info for G’s booklet.

On the way to the beach, G found this thorn stuck on the bottom of her flip flop! Ouch!!

There was a sea turtle on the beach, so Leo drew a line around it to keep people the preferred 15 to 20 feet away, and one of the park volunteers thanked him. 🙂

A picture and information about the green sea turtles that was posted at the park.

Back at the visitor center, G answered questions and was sworn in as a junior ranger using Hawaiian words this time! 🙂

After a quick lunch at Costco (!!), we headed for another beach Mahai’ula Beach, which is part of Kekaha Kai State Park.  This one required us to drive was over a seriously, ridiculously rocky lava field!  It was worth it, though, as there was a beautiful bay and lovely beach area to explore.

It started to rain a bit, but it didn’t last too long.  By the time it stopped, however, we were back in the jeep, so we decided to check out another beach just down the road —Manini’owali Beach at Kua Bay.  There was a lovely paved road almost right to the beach!   

We just had to walk a few steps down a lava hill, where there was a long stretch of beautiful soft, white sand!  Gorgeous!!  There were lots of people in the water, splashing, snorkeling, boogie boarding, etc.  The kids weren’t in suits but had a great time getting wet and “riding” the waves, which were really big (to us at least)! 🙂  


The next morning, we headed to Hilo.  While we had planned to stop at Kua Bay again to snorkel, the road there was closed and being rerouted due to an accident, unfortunately.  We decided instead of snorkeling, the next best thing was shaved ice at Scandinavian Shaved Ice. (Mike’s Note: I was hoping for lutefisk flavored ice, but had no luck.)

As we walked along, I snapped this picture of a yellow hibiscus (the state flower of Hawaii) and called it “Beauty and the Beast.” Can you figure out why… 🙂


Big Island: Kona

From the south part of the Big Island, we headed to Kailua-Kona. Our first stop was at Snorkel Bob’s to pick up snorkel gear for all of us, including the super cool moflo snorkels, which are amazing!  As the kids hadn’t ever snorkeled, eliminating the unpleasant experience of water getting into their snorkels was definitely a plus!

The gal there recommended Foster’s Kitchen for lunch, so we walked down the street a block or so and had a great lunch upstairs on their lanai overlooking the bay — beautiful!  Mike and L split rack of BBQ ribs and G and I split a chicken pesto avocado sandwich.  Super tasty!

We didn’t tell the kids that we were staying at a hotel right on the beach, so they were super excited and then we told them we were going to the luau, too! 😉  FUN!


(Mike’s Note: Marriott Reward points are THE BEST!!  Very worth it to spend the points on a place like this.  One of the greatest customer service experiences at a hotel I’ve had.)
After getting checked in, the kids put on their snorkel gear and headed for the pool to try it out!  They both got the hang of them right away and had fun using them in the pool.  

That evening was the luau out on the lawn.  We each got a shell lei as we followed the line outside.  It was a really interactive evening, which was fun — not just dinner and a show. It felt like a party with Hawaiian games to play, tatoos, fire baton twirling (without the fire), hula dancing lessons, and Mai Tais and other drinks on the lawn.


Before dinner was served, we got to watch the imu ceremony, which is the uncovering of the imu (underground oven), where the kalua pig was cooked.  (An imu uses hot coals, stones and layers of leaves and cloth or mats to steam food.)  

Following that, the Royal Court (performers dressed as King Kamehameha and his court) arrived via an outrigger canoe and a rainbow!

The dinner was a fabulous buffet that the MC described, so we knew what we were going to find at the buffet before we were excused by table to the buffet line.   

As we were eating the actual luau show began.  It was called He Ohana Kakou and was focused on family and sharing cultural traditions and practices of both Hawaii and its “cousins,” the other Polynesian islands of Samoa, Tahiti, New Zealand, Easter Island, and Fiji.  It was a really fun evening!  


Afterward, G and I got a picture with some of the performers, and L got a fire baton to take with him!  As we were walking, a little voice started talking to L.  “Hey, hey guy.  I got one of those, too.”  He was a super cute little 3 ½ year old who thought L was a pretty cool big kid. 🙂

The next day at the pool, the little boy from the luau (Daniel) spotted G and L, so he was super excited to play with the kids and decided quickly that G was his best friend! 🙂  

We spent the next two days snorkeling in the ocean, swimming in the pool, and hanging out with Daniel and his parents (Bernadette and Tomasch), who were from Hungary but live in Dubai.  

On the last day, G was playing with a loose tooth when it suddenly fell out.  Daniel kept asking, “But, G, why did your tooth fall out?”  It was a little confusing for someone who hasn’t experienced losing a tooth! 🙂

One more picture and then time to say goodbye…Daniel wasn’t too happy about it, though.

On our way out, we stopped by the front desk to say goodbye to Nastia (who was the primary reason for the aforementioned customer service experiences).  She is a French woman we met when we checked into the hotel.  She’s from Paris and used to teach French.  She was so sweet and had several conversations with G and L in French, which was fun. 🙂  

Next stop, an AirBnB place in Kalaoa, just up the hill from the beach.