Camp Penny – Oahu

Before I left for my first cross-country bike ride in 2008, I had many moments of anxiety. Could I really ride over 3000 miles? What would it be like to travel for 8 weeks? Who were these women I would be living with across the country?

I never dreamed that those Southern Tier women would become some of my closest friends. This week (and last), I’ve had the privilege of spending time at Penny’s beautiful home in Honolulu with Judy, Sue and until yesterday, our honorary ST member, Denise. Penny has kept us on a busy schedule and it’s all good. From our delicious fresh fruit filled breakfasts in the morning to our chocolate acai berries for desert (they are full of healthy antioxidants so the calories don’t count), our days have been filled with activity.

Today, for example, we started our day snorkeling in a gorgeous horseshoe shaped bay. We could walk right into the water, put our heads down and see huge and colorful fish, right near shore. I was amazed at how many we could see with so little effort. There was a big sea turtle rescued right near our spot on the sand with 2 fish hooks and line in its mouth. The crowds gathered as the turtle was turned on his back and covered with a silver space blanket waiting for the marine rescue to arrive. We learned later that the staff had named the turtle Stupid as this was the 3rd time this year he had been rescued.

From one beach, we drove to another at the Outrigger Canoe club. Penny had arranged for Kala, a man known for his expertise on the water, to take us out in a 4 person outrigger canoe to ride the waves. We took turns paddling out into the ocean (with a whale and sea turtle just beyond). Following Kala’s instructions, we waited to catch the biggest waves and ride them back to the shore. It was a thrill to ride in with the power of the wave underneath us (and not like the 30 foot ones we saw the other day!) and just as thrilling to ride over them back out away from shore. The dips up and down were like some sort of amusement water park ride and we got just as wet from the splash.

After a long and easy ocean swim, we showered and settled ourselves at the beachfront restaurant to enjoy drinks and the sunset, complete with the “green flash” as the sun disappeared. Just another day at Camp Penny.

Yesterday was just as full. We had an early start for the drive to Pearl Harbor. I had goosebumps right from the start listening to the first person accounts of the survivors on my audio guide. The museum was full of information and artifacts and the audio guide supplemented the exhibits with interviews and background history. It was a personal experience as well as my parents had visited there several years ago. I wish I could ask my dad his memories of that fateful day as he signed up for Navy not long afterward, even before he finished high school. He crossed the Pacific in a Navy ship where I will be flying in just a few days.

We took a boat out to the Arizona memorial, a structure built over the sunken battleship where over 900 men lie underneath in their watery resting place. The crowds were respectfully quiet and many of us were moved to tears thinking of the hell that so many suffered that day and in the following years. It was an informative and moving experience there at Pearl Harbor.

From there, Penny took us to Chinatown where we poked around the markets, tried the infamous Spam/rice/seaweed combination (surprisingly good), saw piles of shrimp, and had lunch at a Dim Sum restaurant where we were some of the few white people. I’m not sure exactly what we ate, but it was all delicious.

No, the day wasn’t over yet! Off we went to a “little hour hike to a waterfall”. After an hour and a half of hiking through mud, over serious roots, over a stream and up several stairs, we still hadn’t reached the waterfall and had to head back so Denise could catch her flight home.

We made one more quick stop to watch the hang gliders soaring from the cliffs. They stayed in the air swooping with the currents as we enjoyed the amazing views of the folded mountains that reached close to the sea. Just another day at Camp Penny.

All of this wonderful time with friends is challenging me to think of crossing the Pacific myself on Monday for my visit to Bali. Last night, I suffered nightmares, waking Judy up with my moaning. Thinking about traveling in foreign countries without my friends suddenly seemed like a crazy idea. With the light of day, though, I know that part of this adventure is to stretch my comfort level. Like leaving for the Southern Tier ride, little do I know of the people I’ll meet, the places I’ll see and the experiences I will have. It’s time to keep the faith, enjoy my days here and then move on. As my dad used to say, “Every day is a gift and you have to live them all”. That’s my plan.











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  1. Connie G.

     /  February 3, 2012

    Dear Ellen, I’ll be thinking of you as you head off to Bali. We always seem to think that people who have adventures are brave; I think it’s brave to put yourself in a situation where you’re pushing your comfort level. I’m sure you’ll be whistling a happy tune (so no one will suspect . . .) and I hope you have a wonderful adventure in the next stretch of your journey.

  2. Marty Mueller

     /  February 3, 2012

    I have a long time friend in Bali, Robert Delfs. He was my roommate at Stanford in 1966-67, and I visited him in NYC about 5 years ago when he was there on biz.
    I’ll see if I can find any current contact info and see if he’s in Bali now.
    Big love from Idaho!

  3. Mary Kay

     /  February 3, 2012

    I will be here in my armchair, monitoring your adventure! Remember to breathe through your fear, give it a sound, sit with it, conquer it and you will be ready! Imagine all your friends and family standing behind you, encircling you with love and support on your journey.

  4. Candice Stein

     /  February 3, 2012


    How I enjoy reading your blog!! I hope you will be able to keep us up to date from lands far away. Best of luck with all.


  5. pam perkins

     /  February 3, 2012

    Gosh, from Camp Candice to Camp Penny, what an itinerary. I’m green with…………

  6. Marguerite Monet

     /  February 3, 2012

    Excellent! Hawaii is magical. I’m sure you will continue to have a magical time.

    Take care, Marguerite

  7. Jean

     /  February 3, 2012

    Hi Ellen, thanks for taking me along on your adventure! That turtle is so large it must be in its 70s – and not so stupid, it LEARNED how to get attention and company, and decided the pain in the neck is worth it. Can’t wait to hear about Bali. Have a restful flight. Jean

  8. It’s Saturday and I’m off to MES to get some quiet time work done. I wonder what you will be doing today? Reading this post I am reminded of that quip that goes something like, “Where ever you go, there you are”. Even in paradise we bring our dark side. And I am reminded of your warmth and open smile. That my dear Ellen is all you need where ever you go, you will always inspire new friendships, as you keep old ones.

  9. Donna Jacobs

     /  February 6, 2012

    As Jean said-thank you for taking me along on your adventures. We’ll be with you all the way!! Enjoy each day-

  10. Dawn Fogarty

     /  February 6, 2012

    Go with God amazing Ellen – it will be fabulous! Sending love and all good wishes, Dawn xoxo


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