An Odd Confluence

I just returned from a delightful and all too brief vacation to Kaua`i, Hawai`i.

Russian Fort Elizabeth BeachI’ll ramble on about the trip in a bit, but I wanted first to mention one of the pleasant surprises I experienced there: a real, listenable, terrestrial radio!

I arrived at Lihu`e Airport late in the evening and quickly shuttled to the rental car lot.  There I was told that my economy class car was not available and so I was being upgraded to a four-wheel drive Jeep.  Nice!

When I had a chance to begin my forays around the island (I drove some 600 miles in five days around an island that is only 552 square miles, and 80% of that is inaccessible by vehicle!) I started scanning the radio dial. I expected to find the usual claptrap and tripe that makes up FM these days, and was not disappointed. That is, until I landed on the 103.1 frequency. This is the home of “Shaka 103,” which bills itself as “Kauai’s Rock Station” playing “three generations of the iconic music that changed the world.”

From that moment on, I never changed the dial. In fact, I brought with me one of my iPod Shuffles (the postage stamp-sized one) and used the built-in radio to listen during my runs. Not only did I hear well-known “standard” rock tunes, but also cuts that I haven’t heard in ages, such as Taj Mahal doing “Take A Giant Step” (from his album of the same name), live tracks of rare concert recordings, and deep track cuts from artists such as solo Mick Jagger, John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers, vintage Steve Miller Band (from Sailor and Number 5), The Band, and more.  Wow.

There isn’t a lot of talk, either.  Two DJs man the mics during the day: Ron Middag hosts the 6:00 a.m. – noon slot, and Tony Kilbert the noon – 6:00 p.m.  Nights are given over to the syndicated “Nights With Alice Cooper,” which airs a similarly-themed playlist interspersed with one of the originators of “shock-rock” make-up artists insights and inside stories.

Given the island’s geography, Shaka 103 is heard mainly on the eastern side. The signal fades when traversing through the Waimea Canyon Photo of Waimea Canyonor driving on the west side of the island past Waimea, Kekaha and up to Polihale Beach.

Ah, Polihale Beach. When I came to the park entrance I was greeted by a sign that read “Four Wheel Drive Only.” Now I knew why fate had been kind to me and blessed me with a Jeep. Off I went.

Five miles down a washboard, rock-strewn “road” lands one at a remote beach. There were some people bathing, picnicking and enjoying themselves, but for the most part, it was as remote as one could wish. I had to deflate the tires to 20 psi to ensure that even a Jeep wouldn’t get bogged down in the sand. Fun!Polihale BeachThere were times when I couldn’t listen, such as during the helicopter tour I took, or during my excursions to waterfalls, beaches, restaurants and the Kaua`i Coffee Company, but when I was in the Jeep and within range, Shaka 103 was on the radio.

The station publishes an ongoing playlist. A quick glimpse at it will show the great diversity and range of music in their library. For one who grew up listening to the exploding world of rock-n-roll in the Sixties, Shaka 103 made my trip to a heavenly place seem like heaven!

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