March 9, 2002 – Saturday – Day 5
Miles Today – 29 Total Miles – 172
Hilo,HI to Volcano,HI
– Volcano Bed & Breakfast –
(Is there a thin line between unnecessary whining, and the telling it
like it is? Would it be giving the reader the wrong impression to omit the
problems and headaches and complications of the day? When people think of
bike riding, they almost always say me (while probably remembering back to
those carefree days of youth on a bike), “Have fun!” A bike tour, as
opposed from just going out and biking around the block, is NOT always fun. I
forever wrestle with how I’ll respond to the folks who say, “Have fun!” It
is well meaning after all. Well, it’s always fun for me at the end of the
day looking back. It’s at least a little fun for me even on those hard days.
I’ve tried to be at least balanced about my reporting of things. But today,
except for the ‘looking back’ part, was surely NOT a particularly good
It was really a late start. Not sure why – was up around 8am, diddled
around with the computer, had a good run. (Saw a sign reading, CAUTION:
BEWARE OF FALLING COCONUTS AND FRONDS.) I was up waaaay too late last night
on the computer answering e-mails, checking out websites. It was very
enjoyable. In tours past I’ve gotten stuck in front of the motel room tv’s,
but the computer is infinitely better. And a lot of fun for me. Love this
And now Coz, a friend from home, has put these journal pages up on [this website.]
I am most appreciative of
Coz, and it was wonderful of him to do this. He has a business of making
websites, and I would heartily recommend him.
Finally got out the door at 11am and then headed around the corner to
Ken’s Pancake House and had a little oatmeal breakfast. I was in a pretty
grumpy mood for some reason. I was also pretty darned nervous about the day
ahead, and about the late start, and with wondering how the climb would be.
The sign outside the eatery announced 29 miles to volcano, and Josh (with
whom I’m staying tomorrow night) said it would be 85% uphill.
As I said, I was pretty darned nervous, and the morning hustley-bustley
of the restaurant didn’t do much to make me feel any more at ease. I didn’t
feel much like eating, but forced myself because I was sure I’d need it for
the ride ahead.
You’ll remember the ride through the Kohala Mountain Range back on day
three. Well that went up to what? 3,000-some feet. To get to Volcano, I’d be
traveling up to 4,500 some!
It was a very different kind of climb. Not a lot of shadow from
overhanging trees. It was an 85 or so degree day, with bright sun for almost
all day – so it was hotter than the Kohala climbing. The highway wasn’t the
two-lane winding through woods variety of the Kohala ride, but this was big
highway all the way. Two or three lanes for the whole 29 miles with 55mph car
and truck traffic beside me. During the Kohala ride there was always a summit
to clear, a little victory here, a little jubilant occasion there…. but
this ride was one looooooong enormous uphill. An uphill so slight at most
points I couldn’t even tell I was going up. It reminded me of Alaska in that
manner. The scale was so huge that I was baffled sometimes that I couldn’t
move faster! And then when the three or four big hills came, it was like a
snail moving through molasses for me.
If I had it to do over again I would have sent my tent home at a Mailbox
place that I passed on the way out of Hilo. It just doesn’t look like this is
the trip for it. Part of the problem (I begrudgingly admit to myself) is that
having more money on this trip than my earlier ones, I feel a little less
inclined to deal with the camping. Also, the campsites are a little less
available. There are NO private campgrounds – the state owns them all. I
explained to someone how you need to get a permit to camp, but whenever I’ve
wanted to get that permit, the offices were closed. The guy said in a
disparaging tone, well, that’s Hawaii. I would say, it’s probably more
bureaucracy than Hawaii, but still…. I guess the state just wants to keep
And another reason that the motel/hotel thing was more appealing was
because of the ease of keeping in touch with home via this e-mail stuff. I
miss the camping, and perhaps on a future trip I’ll be able to get back to
Passed a mailbox with the name “Ah Sing” on it. Across the street was a
ukelele sales office.
At 2pm I was at 2,500 miles. From the very beginning I was dragging, but
by now I was pretty bushed down to my bottom. Not too good since I only had a
puny amount of miles in.
One of the crazy things about the day: I had been really looking forward
to seeing a volcano today. Well, I passed a town named Mountain View. No big
mountains looming anywhere. No volcano rising dramatically in the distance.
Nothing but the damn road, the sky, the clouds, and the trees. NO VOLCANOES!!
And not even an mountains to speak of. I asked some folks jokingly whether
there WERE any, or whether it was just a pr guy’s ploy to get people here. I
was assured that I would see one tomorrow!
At around 2:30 I was making it guardrail to guardrail. It was kind of
pathetic actually, But I had no energy. At one particular guardrail I took
off my sunglasses to wipe the sweat off them, and one of the detachable
plastic arms came off. I heard it fall. And searched methodically on the
ground for it for about fifteen minutes. (It was reminiscent of when a
contact lens fell on my cross-country trip. I searched then, too, and shortly
saw it laying in some mud. The dramatic picture of that lens in the mud on a
windy day is one of my favorites of the 1980 slide show. But the plastic arm
just wasn’t to be found among the little branches and worms and dirt. But
eventually I did find the plastic arm – it had stuck onto the bike frame as
An old Hawaiian guy walking his dog called over from the other side of
the highway and asked if everything was okay. I said it was. About 100 yards
up the highway I came upon Chuck and his dog, and was happy to stop and chat
with him. Actually, I was happy to stop and rest again.
But he was a very interesting fellow. He began a long interesting
reminiscence of how when he was out of high school, he and a buddy set out on
a bike trip around the island. He told me of some of his adventures in
finding places to stay. And how they didn’t get to travel on 10-speeds in
those days. (He smiled when I said how bikes were now 21-speeds!) Chuck was
85 he said, and worked with the Hawaiian Special Olympics. He was a runner,
too, and he said he’s in the Senior Olympics, and that he’s signed up until
he’s 95 – and then with a twinkle in his eye, he allowed that that gave him
special insurance (to live that long!).
I don’t know where Chuck lived. The route today was fairly the same all
the way. Nothing but trees, and an occasional open field. No buildings to
speak of. Only one or two little towns with a school perhaps. A general
store, maybe. But all the rest of the miles were pretty much the same. There
could have been whole worlds and communities behind the trees, and I suspect
there were some little knots of homes, but I never saw them. Not that I’d
have noticed much – my head was down most all the way, just watching the
road, and trying with all my (sometimes grunting) effort to keep going.
I wondered if perhaps on a more energetic day, it would have been a much
more enjoyable climb?? In the Appalachians in ‘82 and ‘83 I remember seeing
the fearful Grandfather Mountain. Now, THAT’S a mountain! It rises way more
than 3,000 feet in much less distance. It was very steep, but with a good
wind, and a good night’s sleep I scaled it both times with surprising ease.
2000 feet elevation at 3pm at 17 miles. I still had 12 miles to go, and
not only didn’t I have my customary second wind, I never had the FIRST wind.
Most of the way though I DID have a gentle breeze blowing at my back. When
I’d stop, that breeze would remind me to keep going. It would give me a
not-so-subtle tap on the back as a reminder to move on.
And the grind was relentless, continual, ceaseless, and unforgiving.
Ever up, Ever up. One of the things I thought about was the eventual writing
about this day in the journal, and that I was so sorry I had used all the
descriptives for being so tired on that Kohala ride – because now I was even
more exhausted, but just didn’t want to sound as repetitively whiny…
Love those mile markers. I sort of grab on to them and count down the
miles. That started back on the cross-country trip in New Mexico, as I was
coming out of the desert late one day hobbling along with three broken
spokes. I had to get to Buckeye if I had any hopes of getting them fixed. It
was just a little town, but I was hopeful there would be someone there with a
tool to get the rear chairing off. I piled my rear bags onto the handlebar,
and began the mantra, “Come on, Buckeye, come on, Buckeye!” And I counted
down those thirty miles into town as I raced daylight to get there.
2,500 feet elevation at 4pm at 21.5 miles.
Well, I counted down these markers, too. And by the end I was saying
stuff like, “Four miles, there’s NO freakin’ way I’m not going to be able
to make four miles by dark!!” “Three miles, there’s NO freakin’ way I’m
not going to be able to make three miles by dark!!” But in the end it a WAS
a close race.
Stopped at one of the maybe two little convenience stores on the way, and
got some juice and some water. (Who would have thought I’d have to buy water
on a tour! Back in ‘80 in Santa Barbara, I had a picture of me taken with a
machine that dispensed water for a quarter. Man, I laughed. Buying water like
that! I couldn’t believe it. Only in California, I thought, would such a
crazy thing occur. Who would imagine such a thing would catch on?
At the one convenience store the young kid checkout guy had a scraggly
Manson-ish beard and haircut around a friendly face. Oh, there was a
piercing between his lower lip and chin, too. His black t-shirt read,
“Pissing Off The Whole Planet – One Person at a Time!” I remarked on the
shirt, and got a digital of it, and he said that it was his weekend shirt.
At around the 25-mile marker the incline got much more intense, and I was
reduced to rolling from sign to sign for rest periods. To make matters worse,
for the only time I can remember (other than last summer’s trip when I had a
new seat – which was a really bad one), my butt was hurting on the saddle.
This is something I’m just not used to, and have always been so proud to have
had no trouble in this area. I only admit it here because I want to present a
fair picture of things for you. Because hard butts are a badge of sorts among
cyclists, I probably won’t admit it when I get home….
3,000 feet elevation at 4:35 at 24 miles. I was looking at the scorecard
this way: no wind against me, no mechanical problems, no downhill, and no
3,500 feet elevation at 5:11 at 26 miles. Still 3 miles of ascent to go.
And finally I came to the end. I inquired in an expensive looking lodge,
but they were all filled, or didn’t want to deal with me – I was looking
pretty raggedly bad at this point, but the friendly guy in the Hawaiian shirt
called to a B&B nearby…. That became a little adventure, too.
I went to have a little dinner first at a cyber cafe nearby in Volcano
Village…. then went to the B&B (had to make a “left on Wright Street”. I
repeated this little bit of funny sounding wording a couple times to the guy,
but he just didn’t see anything funny about. I was too tired to explain
it.)… No problem finding it. It was now about 6:30 and getting dark. There
was one of those over-effecient fellows there with a big moustache. He took
my information, knew about the bike, etc. Then told me that my room wasn’t
there, but around the corner. My eyes went up about that, because now it was
pretty dusky. I made sure I had the directions right, but by the time I got
there it was dark and I couldn’t find the place. I grabbed my trusty
flashlight, but the batteries had just died. I trudged up and down the dark
road a few times, then got out my spare batteries, and found the place. I had
a whole house to myself – but I did have to lug my bike up TWO flights of
Mr. Efficiency had told me that it was Hawaiian style at the house, and I
should take my shoes off before entering. But it seemed kinda ludicrous to
have lugged the bike up all that way, wheel it in, and then have to take off
The shower was crappy – finally hot, but low pressure. And that’s the
last of my complaints for the day. The place was comfy, spacious, quiet, and
friendly. I was deliciously exhausted and achy, but somewhat in a better mood
than this morning. After the shower, I gave a call to Josh, eagerly typed up
these notes, and then headed for dreamland – early. By 10:30!!!!!.
Tomorrow: Volcanoes for sure.