October 13, 2019

Honolulu & Lake Tahoe

The first time I ever set foot on an airplane was for an 11 hour flight to Maui. The second time was a year later for my first trip to Tulsa. If that tells you anything about me, it's that Hawaii is (or rather, was) one of the few exciting places I've ever been that had no Hanson strings attached. I guess 13 years was long enough for that to be true before finally making my way back and firmly tying it into the "places I've traveled for Hanson" category along with just about everywhere else I've been.

When I found out my travel pal Rachel was planning to fly home and roadtrip to the Lake Tahoe show right after Honolulu, I reasoned that when you're flying cross-country, technically everything is on your way back home. And after accidentally seeing it for all of ten minutes back in 2015, I've always wanted to go back and give Lake Tahoe a proper visit (spoiler: I was supposed to be driving to Joshua Tree. Instead, my sleeping friends woke up to find us halfway up a mountain. Unexpected beautiful oops?).

Hawaii was every bit as gorgeous as I remembered, though I never left Maui my first time there, and this time I was on the island of Oahu. Hanson may have been the excuse to be there, but they definitely took a backseat to wanderlust this trip. I added a few extra days before the show and saw beaches all around the island, swam in a waterfall, visited Pearl Harbor and the capital building, attended a traditional luau, and ate a boat load of sushi along the way.

I find it hard to believe I'm a paragraph in and have no more to say about the island and my time spent there, but it was honestly beautiful in a way that words in a blog just can't do justice. This year has truly been a Back to the Island themed year for me, with first Jamaica, then beaches all over Australia, and now a tour around the shores of Oahu (and yes, I'm still as pale as the day I was born).

We booked an Air B'N'B for six instead of going the traditional hotel route and wound up with a presidential suite with a full kitchen, living room, two bathrooms, and three balconies, all for about the same price or cheaper than a hotel would have been. There was room to throw a quiet birthday dinner during our stay there and also to bake and devour about a hundred pizza rolls post-show. I'm giving all of our choices a solid A+.

The show was fun, though the fact that it didn't sell out doesn't give me high hopes that Hanson will return any time soon. I loved the opportunity to experience more of a "normal" show after a year of following Hanson with an orchestra, and I took advantage of all the chances to jump and clap and participate that I've missed. The setlist was your typical one-off/state fair combination of singles and greatest hits, but we knew that going into it so it was exactly what we hoped for.

I didn't really expect the Tahoe portion of the trip to be the highlight for me, but it definitely gave Hawaii some tough competition. By the time the 10-day-forecast was available and I was doing laundry for packing, it looked like Hawaii was going to be predictably warm (highs near 90, lows in the 70s) and Tahoe was going to be mild with highs around 75 and lows in the 50/60 range at night. Then the day before I was set to fly out, I double checked the weather only to find that that 75 high in Tahoe had dropped to a high around 43 with a 60% chance of rain and snow (further proof that my usual procrastinated packing is actually the right way to go). I dug in my closet and found a pair of waterproof fleece lined boots and a thigh-length down parka, laid them next to my bikini pile, and laughed while wondering if I was being completely extra. In the end, I Googled packing techniques, found a giant ziplock bag, turned it into a makeshift compression sack, and tossed the coat into my already crammed carry-on.

Within an hour of checking into our hotel, it started snowing. For a couple of people from South Carolina and southern California, this was actually pretty exciting, and I'm glad I was with likeminded people who understood my absurd happiness over a few snowflakes. We took full advantage of the situation and used our extra day to book a trip up a ski lift gondola to get some amazing views of all of Lake Tahoe bordered by now snow-covered mountain tops. I grinned the whole way to the top and inwardly patted myself on the back for being "extra" and packing for the worst case scenario.

When we got to the top, there was a "mountain coaster" which consisted of single bobsled-style coaster cars propelled along a track winding around the top of the mountain and reaching speeds of 20-30mph. I'll admit, I was kind of terrified to get on a coaster where I'd be responsible for pulling handbrakes and pushing a lever forward to go faster. In the end I let myself be talked into it in true Do Go Be fashion, which turned into something more like Do Go Freeze under the circumstances. It turned out to be one of the most breathtaking experiences of my life and worth the momentary worry that fingers in varying stages from numb to stabbing pain might be a first sign of frostbite (one thing I didn't pack? Gloves).

The show in Tahoe was identical to the one in Hawaii with the exception that the crowd made for an unexpectedly impressive choir during "Been There Before," but maybe my spot further back just meant I could hear better. The one thing that oddly stuck out to me was a couple of excited girls I didn't recognize against the stage on Isaac's side. There was a moment when Taylor went over and grabbed a couple of hands and I could see the utter joy and excitement on one girl's face from my seat, and Taylor, too, looked happy to have had that effect. And then, at the end of the show, Zac handed her a pair of sticks. And while I couldn't hear, I'd be willing to bet there was happy squealing to go with her giant grin. She looked so thrilled that I couldn't help but be happy for her.

I also couldn't help but realize that even on my best day, I never give Hanson that kind of obvious outward appearance of how much I'm enjoying myself, and on my worst day, I sure hope I don't look bored. It's a weird spot to be in, and I'm not sure how much of it is due to my own personality and how much is some natural tendency for any fan to shy away from showing that kind of reaction over time. I've never been one to scream or cry in exciting moments; even winding up on stage years ago when things were still pretty new for me, I mostly just smiled and looked nervous. And now, when I'm the excited girl against the stage on Isaac's side getting a smile from the band, I'll grin right back and know there's nowhere else I'd rather be. But I'm probably not going to reach for a hand if it's not reaching for mine first, and I'm definitely not going to squeal and jump if Taylor kneels down and sings three feet in front of my face, and sometimes I wonder if it would be easier for them to perceive my excitement if I did those things.

The other part of me knows that that just isn't me, and on top of that, as much as I can say nothing changes after going to so many shows, the fact remains that it would just be plain weird if I started doing that stuff now. So I guess I'll keep showing my happiness the best way I know how--by continuing to show up and forever gushing about it here afterwards, and by squealing on the inside even if I'm showcasing my best resting exhausted fan face to the world around me. Maybe writing a hundred words on why I'm not fangirling hard enough is my own version of fangirling anyway.

The one other difference between the two shows was one that none of us knew at the time, and that's that Lake Tahoe was the last show they played together before Zac got into a motorcycle accident and sidelined himself from the drums for the near future. I'm incredibly grateful that he's okay, and I don't want to sensationalize his injuries or get all dramatic, but it's moments like this that remind me why I'm always chasing that next show and that next destination. You never know when something unforeseen will slow you down and change your plans, so you might as well pack the snow boots with the bikinis and hope for the best. And sometimes, if you're lucky, that unexpected wrench in your plans will turn out to out to be a wrong turn to exactly the right place.