Biking Through Hawaii



Notes: I sure enjoy hearing from those of you who write me. But would you
kindly not include the journal page when you write - it takes a long time to
filter through on my modem........ before you look at today’s picture, try
to think of the plant that you’d be LEAST likely to see in hawaii. i was
amazed. in my experience anyway, i just would never have guess this plant to
be here.... and finally, i really tried to tone down today’s entry. hope i
wasn’t too too melodramatic. it was quite a day!

March 7, 2002 - Thursday - Day 3
Miles Today - 24 Total Miles - 81
Kapaau,HI to Weimea (Kamuela),HI
- Kamuela Inn -
It wasn’t the best of night’s sleep. Don’t know why.
But I was up at 7:15am, and hurriedly went to knock on Bobi’s door. She
had asked me to do so to make sure she was up for her substitute teaching
job. She was dreading the 5th graders who she was to teach Spanish. Anyway,
she had a big bowl of oatmeal ready for me, and it was much better than
yesterday’s. We chatted a bit, I got a picture of her, and then she left.
Outside my room one of the big fan trees had a palace of spider webs - at
least 75 of the arachnid galaxies spiraled out in amazing array, glistening
in the morning sunlight.
On my mile run down the lane I noticed that the big toad was still there.
Still dead, too. Being a feast for the flies.
Got on the way at 9:30am..... Down at the end of the lane I glanced to
the right - toward that spur that I didn’t take to the end of the island. I
thought, hmmm, The Road Not Taken....
Then I proceeded in the other direction toward Hawi again and after about
2 miles made the left onto Route 250! I immediately ran into the foothills of
the Kohala Mountain range. It was 500 feet elevation before starting to
climb. If I knew then, what I know now as I write this at the end of the day,
I’m not sure I would have been so cheery at the start....
Right from the beginning I was turtle-ing along at about 3mph. It was
very slow going. Again, if I knew then what I knew later in the day, I would
have been DELIGHTED with 3mph!! I had the pack back on again, and I could
sure tell the difference with the 40 extra pounds or so....
A string of little homes extended on either side up the mountain road.
Saw a lady carrying a baby on a porch, and shouted out to her, “Ya got a hill
here!” The sky was a gorgeous blue with puffy clouds. It was very warm all
day - probably in the 80’s. When I turned to look behind me, the descent was
amazing, but even more amazing was my new view of the Pacific! It spread out
forever there just beyond the coast. It looked totally different from the
angle of the mountains as opposed to my angle from the coastline.
I took each little plateau slowly. Occasionally I’d have to stop to wipe
sweat off my brow. A few little gardens lay on the margin of the lane, and
I’m sure they were there just for me. Daisies, some pink things I don’t know
the name of, and various other flowers wild and tame. In one garden there was
a little cement circle, and embedded in the circle-pie, probably by some
little kid, were marbles in a star design. (You get to notice a LOT of things
when you’re going 3mph!!!) Beyond the houses was farmland, green and brown.
But mostly green - and some of the fields were dotted with horses and cows
and a couple roosters here and there.
At my five-mile mark I read the bright yellow and huge highway sign:
Caution, Winding Road, Narrow Shoulders Next 17 miles!
At 10:55 I was at 1,500 feet! And still climbing. Now I have gone all
through the Rockies many times, and I have biked the full length of the
Appalachians twice. But there were always ups and downs - here was all up, an
occasional somewhat-up plateau, then more up, never-ending.
Following are some of my mileages and times. You’ll notice the snail’s
pace. I wasn’t a happy camper with the progress I was making. By the end I
was happy to be surviving....
It was 11am when I hit the 5.6 mile mark.
It was 11:14 when I hit 6.6 mile mark.
It was 11:29 when I hit 7.6 mile mark. Here I could look off to a huge
broad expanse from left to right horizons. Green grass and a few trees. Again
cow dotted. And ahead in the haze below, the blue Pacific spreading away into
the future.
For much of today’s ride, aside from the Pacific and the cactus - yes,
you read that right! - I could have been biking near home in fertile Chester
County. Well, except that the downhills are more frequent there....
I was very fortunate with the wind. There was some tailwind, and when the
wind came wafting onto my face it was cool, dissipating the gallons of
perspiration that hadn’t already dripped off me.
It was 11:47 when I hit 8.6 miles. (Almost a 20-minute mile! Out of the
foothills now, buckos!
At 12:08pm I passed 2,500 feet elevation.
It was 12:09 when I hit.... well, as you know I listen to my little tape
recorder for these and many other notes from the day. But I was breathing,
and grunting and sighing and yawning so hard at this entry, that I just
couldn’t make it out.....
It was just past here that I thought I was at the top... I saw a weather
tower or something and I knew that usually meant the summit. And I kept
thinking, hoping, hoping against hope that the next ridge would be the last
climb. I had been told that after 11 miles it would be all down hill. But
clearly those people never rode bikes along here. I continued to climb and
continued to go slower and slower, stopping much more frequently then I ever
recall. Not only that water was becoming a concern now. I only had drops in
the bottle left. No stores, no houses to speak of, except for a few
farmhouses miles down long dirt driveways....
I don’t want to be overly dramatic here, but I went right to the edge of
myself. I was beyond any kind of humor now, and barely had enough strength to
give my customary friendly wave to the infrequent on-coming cars or trucks.
My legs were pumping away more from memory reflex than from any kind of
muscle energy.
At 12:30 the informative sign read that the elevation was 3,000 feet. I
felt just about ready to roll over the to the side of the road, fall into a
thicket of those nice soft-looking ferns, cover myself up with them, and
forget the whole thing....
It was 1:03 when I rolled over 9.6 miles. (Yep, more than an hour for
that mile! Ugh.)
Toward the top of one crest there was a real ruckus of cow mooing. Loud
and annoying. I noted through my sweat and sunscreen blurriness that there
were some cowboy types over to the left lassoing and perhaps branding. There
were hundreds of cows. I normally would shout over to such a herd, “Hey,
it’s not MY fault you’re there. I’m a vegetarian!” But I just didn’t have
the strength.
It was 1:30 when I reached 11 miles. And it’s at this point that the sky
was getting a little darker. Huge grey clouds behind me....
I stopped once and got off the bike - the first time all day. I leaned it
against a thick tree and walked around a bit. I considered sitting there by
that comfy looking tree, leaning back, and falling asleep... but I just knew
that would not be a particularly good idea. I was just not sure that I’d be
able to get up again. Seriously.
It was 1:48 when I reached 14.7 miles. At this point a couple in a green
car, pulled up beside me as I stood resting on my bike by the roadside - “Are
you ok?” the nice lady asked. I looked at her, barely managed a smile, and
responded, “Tired!” She understood, smiled, and they drove off. I’m glad
they stopped. It was a nice lift for me. Helped me get about another 500
It was 2pm when I reached 15 miles. And for the first time in the whole
day, I had a little roll. I was reaching, reaching, and hoping that the
downhill was upon me, but it wasn’t to be.
It was 2:04 when I reached 15.7 miles.
It was 2:06 when I reached 15.8 miles. And at that point the elevation
sign read 3,564 feet.
It was near here that I came upon a guard house for a gigantic ranch. I
was totally out of water now, and I rolled up, got off the bike and asked the
pleasant and plump lady if there was any water I could have. In the back of
the guardhouse was a sink, toilet, and shower even. She was quite bemused by
me I’m sure. I asked if I could sit on the easy chair. Then if I could put my
feet up on the table. I was really bottomed out, moving soooooo slowly. Soon,
I regained some energy to look around, and saw some horse folk training. A
young blond woman was on a horse. The sparkling day beyond, and the 10-miles
- or more - of ranch was as a backdrop extraordinare.
There was a nice cool breeze at 2:08 when at 16 miles into the day, I
convinced myself that I had finally reached the top. (Well, it would be
actually another 15 minutes or so away.) But what a view! On my right was a
long, broad and green plain. The occasional tree. A huge pond by which a
couple horses are standing in bold relief in front of the water. And beyond
all that magnificent scene, the Pacific sprawled out omni-directional
bedecked in gorgeous haze. On the left huge mountains reach toward the clouds
punctuated with the ever-present telephone poles, green wild grass, and some
out-croppings of rock.
And cactus! You could have knocked me over - who in their right mind
would have expected to see cactus in Hawaii???? The first time I saw it I
thought it was a statue of cactus. But then it was all over the place -
thousands of cactus bushes. Who would have thought???
The saving grace for the day was the delicious sweet air. Believe me, I
pumped it into my lungs, enjoying the fresh clean fragrance. It gave me
The road didn’t seem much different, but now I shot along at 26mph for a
little stretch, then came another hill. But the main thing now was the
mountainside on the left - from the top to midway - rain was spreading
ominously toward me. It was like a moving curtain, a wall of grey falling
earthward. But it wouldn’t catch me - now, finally, I was able to whiz along
at speeds of 30-35mph - and could outrace Mr. Slow Poke storm.
It was 2:23 when I hit 17.7 miles.
It was 2:26 when I hit 18.7 miles. (If you’re still with me here, you can
tell I had finally found a decent downgrade - a 3 minute mile. I was sailing
here, and I kept saying to myself, “I deserve THIS, and I’m going to enjoy
A late model convertible is ahead of me at one point. A little girl - say
about 6 years old - she pops up from the backseat with pink-framed sunglasses
on - and looks back at me quizzically.
I deserved MORE downhill. It was only a few miles worth compared to what
I had endured on the climb. I came out to the main highway to Weimea and then
there were more hills and a bunch of traffic now, too. I was really bushed.
As I entered Weimea, I saw a hospice sign and a hospital sign. I felt
ready for either. (Well, at least my sense of humor returned....)
I couldn’t believe it would be only a 24 mile day. I tried to compare
this with other days on tours past. I tried to compare myself with those
other rides. And I just suppose I came up short. Maybe. Maybe not - there
were rides 15 years ago that I stopped short, too. So I just wasn’t sure....
I came upon the Kamuela Inn around 3:30 or so. It sure looked inviting
with wonderful palm trees and a well kept lawn with two big white chairs
there that were beckoning me. Judy, behind the counter, was friendly. I’m
sure I looked a sight!
I had really wanted to go to the coast today, another 13 miles. But I
decided that everything considered, I would settle for the crappy mileage
day, and settle in here. The room was breezy, and I did something I don’t
often do - I lay on the bed shirtless, and didn’t do ANYTHING! Just
reflected on the ride and all the feelings of success and failure and travel
that blew around inside me.
Shortly, I showered and washed my clothes. I checked in for email - what
a fun thing to do! Then I took the wet clothes over, and Judy said that she
would dry them for me - and I especially appreciated that since there was
clearly a sign there that read, “Not for Customer Use!”
I walked around the town just a little, and found a Mexican Restaurant
and had a couple bean tacos, a big chocolate chip cookie, and a delicious
lime drink of some kind. I poked around a couple other places, and then
headed back to type up today’s notes.

Picture of Cactus


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