March 10, 2002 – Sunday – Day 6
Miles Today – 16 Total Miles – 188
Around the Kilauea Caldera
– Volcano, HI –
PLANS CHANGE – AROUND THE RIM OF A VOLCANO –
NEW FRIENDS – THE LITTLE BERRIES BY THE BIG CRATER –
MY 500th(!) DAY OF BICYCLE TOURING
Had a great night’s sleep, and awoke fairly refreshed at 6ish in the
comfy plush bed.
The bed and breakfast lady came by around 7:15am and brought out a big
plate of eye-appealing and delicious tasting fruits and breads.
It was cooler than at anytime on the trip, and I put on my long sleeved
The day began innocently enough, but big changes were in store for my
After some rewriting of yesterday’s notes, and preparing them for sending
I put in some computer time with new e-mails to read and answer. Then I was
on my way out the door for a morning run through Volcano.
Hmmm…. had I elected to go left, I’m guessing I’d be writing this in
Naalehu now – some 28 miles away – for that was the day’s plan. I was going
to circle the Kilauea Caldera and then head to Josh’s place. But it was not
to be, for I turned right out the driveway of the B&B and headed up the
narrow road. Before I clicked by a quarter-of-a-mile I saw two local folks
working on the roadside. A middle-aged man and a woman. They were cleaning
out the weeds or something from the roadside. I cheeried a “good-morning” in
my usual friendly way, but as I was going by the woman, I noticed she had a
white cast on her arm. Well, I was a little reluctant after my episode with
Joel the bike store fellow, but I went ahead anyway, and gave my usual,
“Yikes, what happened to you? Skateboarding?” She laughed, and began to tell
me the story of her carpel tunnel problem, that they had to cut the tendons,
and so on… I stopped and listened, and the twinkle in her eye told me she
was a friendly person who I’d like to get to know. I said that I was in the
B&B just down the lane, and she said, “Well, you could have stayed here for
nothing.” She asked where I was from and I told her Philadelphia. Realizing
I was so far from home, this warm-hearted lady instinctively gave me a good
hug. (Well, as good a hug as she could muster with an arm in a cast!) I told
her about my trip, and that this was my 50th state and all. She wanted me to
run FOR her, since she couldn’t because of her arm.
I told the two how I had ridden all this way and I hadn’t seen any
volcano yet. “Is this some kind of ad man’s trick?” I asked with a joking
manner. Lei laughed, and then looked me right in the eye, and said, “We’re
ON the volcano!!!”
Thinking about that later, I felt like the blind man feeling parts of the
elephant – at no one part can he tell what he’s really touching. I had much
more respect for the ground and the area around me after Lei said that.
We chatted some more, I got their picture and promised to e-mail them,
and then she invited me to come back after I was done running – and I agreed.
The run was a little longer than most – and I was feeling pretty darn
good. It was a circle, and that could have caused problems since I didn’t
know the area. Usually the runs are out-and-backs… I was just getting
worried about being lost when the right street appeared.
I cleaned up pretty good around the great B&B house, put the finishing
touches on yesterday’s notes, e-mailed them, gathered all my stuff together,
took some of the bags down the long outside stairway, did a double check of
all the rooms, then left the tip, and went out and locked the door. And then
took the bike down those many steps.
I wheeled the bike to Dennis and Lei’s place around 11am, and she had a
big spread of lunch ready for me. It was in her spacious garden. She showed
me all around the garden, and it was impressive. Even a ginkgo tree! (In the
register of the town she said.)
Seems they let people stay at the house for free. A pretty friendly
gesture I’d say. I thought to myself and then said aloud, ‘Well, this yard
looks like a perfect spot for my tent….’ Lei said, “Oh, no, you could
just stay in the house.” But then I explained how I’d been wanting to camp
out and this would be the perfect opportunity. I could circle the crater and
then just come back here. She seemed delighted at the prospect, and embraced
Dennis went to get some peanut butter, and then we settled in for a nice
lunch and chat about things in general, things specific, and our lives. Seems
Lei works as a line splicer for the phone company and they were picking up
the tab for her operation totally. She has one year and 7 months to
retirement. She has a couple of daughters, one who travels Hawaii and the
mainland selling Rubbermaid products. She loves to garden and work around
this house – they have another in Hilo – and she’s trying to bring the
grounds back to it’s natural state. One of her foes in the garden was the
purple-flowered peekochino plant from Australia. It was really overrunning
the other plants. There were orchids of various types, and all kinds of other
floral types that would make a gardener drool. A big rooster kept walking
around and Lei or Dennis would call it’s name. Had it for quite awhile they
said – too big to worry about the Hawaiian hawks now.
Lei confirmed for me what a reader e-mailed to me, that the rooster
houses and roosters I had seen earlier on the ride were fighting roosters,
raised and brought over by the Filipino folks who are into that awful stuff.
During lunch I mentioned about my poetry memorization, and asked if Lei
had any favorite poems. Sure enough Casey at the Bat was one, and I gave them
a great rendition. I like doing that entertaining for a meal bit! And by
their smiles I could tell they surely enjoyed it.
Shortly a friend of theirs came by. A tall guy with a great grin. He was
saying good-bye for the week as he was taking his 6-year old grand-daughter
to Vegas. “To teach her all about gambling?” I asked with a laugh. And that
brought laughter around the table, and then he asked how I happened by….
And I got some chuckles from everyone when I recounted, with a twinkle in my
eye, and somewhat apocryphally how I jogged by, saw a man and a woman
working, and the man was making the woman in the cast do all the heavy work,
and I was going to speak to him about that…..”
I got on my way to the rim at around 2pm. It was only a mile or so away.
I paid the $5 bicyclist’s entry fee into the National Park, and made my way
to the visitor’s center. Poked around there a bit, and had to put my bike
OUTSIDE the doorway. Man, were they fussy there! (The lady said, ‘What if
everyone wanted to bring a bike inside?’ I really hate that kind of argument
in general, but now specifically when when there are no other bikes around
for miles! I interjected, before she could say anything else, “Well, that
would be great!”) But, in the end, I put it by the front door. I asked if
she’d be there to watch it, she said, “Yes, but NO guarantees!” I chuckled,
and went into the little theater to watch the slick 20-minute presentation
about the Hawaiian volcanoes. Pretty darn amazing stuff!! I didn’t know a
new island was forming to the east of the Big Island! Or that lava can flow
at 35 miles per hour! There was a lot of other stuff I learned, too.
Outside on the Visitor Center porch I made conversation with a number of
folks. I got a photo of one guys cute t-shirt, “Make Coffee – Not War!” The
couple was from Montana, and the wife was a geologist. You must be in heaven
here, I said, and she concurred with a huge smile.
Ever since I was a kid and saw a movie where a big dinosaur came tromping
out of a volcano, I’ve always thought that those cone mountains and the lava
and all were pretty nifty. So it was with great excitement I came out of the
visitor center collected my bike and then rode to the right to begin an
11-mile ride around the circumference of the Kilauea Caldera. A number of
times Josh had described this 11-miles as a “mellow” ride, and I was hoping
he was meaning level and easy. I began around at 2:30pm. In fact, there were
a few up and downs, but it was “mellow”.
After about a mile or two I came to the first of the steam vents. Some
were larger and closer to the road and had metal fences around them. As I
rode up I deadpanned to some other tourists there, “What? is there a subway
down there?” Well, they must have been from somewhere where they don’t know
what the hell a subway is, because I got no reaction whatsoever!
I continued on around the loop. I noted the sky off to my right. Man, was
it dramatic! The white clouds in that half of the sky had given way to rain
clouds – heading my way. I could see the showers coming down as the billowy
grey giants ebbed across the plain to the mountain where I was standing. Just
to the right of the storm, it was clear blue with cotton-like puffy clouds. A
very dramatic division in the weather pattern.
Shortly I came to the Jagger Museum and a great view of the crater. There
were many tourists there taking pictures and gaping at the hole in the
ground. The muddy-like HUGE hole in the ground – steam rising in various
parts of the area. I mutteringly joked with quite a number of people, “All
I’m thinking is ‘DON’T BLOW NOW’…. It always got a (perhaps somewhat
Truth to tell, I was a little nervous. What awesome forces beneath! TV
images from recent volcano blasts, and the stories here on the museum walls,
were enough to give one pause. I mean one giant POOF! And the area is an ash.
One belch of the Goddess Pele, and everyone within miles is a cinder. One
burp or hiccup under the crust of the planet and…. well, you get the
idea… Believe you me, I walked as lightly as I could….
Continuing around the loop were various sections of the caldera which
comprised a number of craters….. some areas looked like moonscapes of black
rock tortured and twisted into maniacal shapes. Some areas had markings of
the lava flows that noted their various years of eruption. For about 100
yards in one section the smell of sulfur wafted over to me and made me gag.
And some areas resembled pressure cookers unleashed… steam vapor rising to
meet the sky in a wild dance… the feathery plumes disappearing into the
I’ve biked by some fabulous places over the years. This place was most
remindful of one of my favorites, Old Faithful in Yellowstone. Although the
Grand Canyon is far and away the most spectacular spot on earth, Old Faithful
is one that I got to by bicycle. The spume from that hole in the earth, and
the morning mist swirling around it evoked power and beauty in one delightful
The volcano hole and associated scenes made for wonderful images in my
digital camera. I took over 100 pictures…. But my favorite scene of the
whole 11-mile ride around was by an edge of one of the giant craters. There
was a little teeny-weenie bush, not an inch or so tall, and on the bush were
four of the brightest of bright red and teensy-weeniest of berries! They
looked a grand contrast with the barren and bleak surroundings. They were
hope in the midst of torment. And they brightened, if even only for an inch
or two, the black and white and grey world that went on infinitely around
I concluded the loop around 4:30pm and had felt happy to have made the
trip. It seemed like more than a million years ago since I had come across
Dennis and Lei on my little jog this morning while they were gardening in the
lane in front of their house. And, in a sense, after circling the caldera,
and it’s eons of lava-bubbling history, I HAD passed through millions of
years since I had met them.
I cycled back toward Volcano Village. Well, actually coasted back as it
was mostly downhill. I saw three high schoolers chatting across the street
from the Volcano General Store. One was on a bike so I rolled over to the
trio. The two girls were in fatigues and said they lived on the island, and
the curly headed guy had just moved there three months ago from Tuscon. (Oh
yes, I remember Tuscon – I couldn’t find a place to stay back in ‘80, and
was headed out into the desert at 9pm planning to ride through the night if
need be. But a couple teenagers in a truck stopped me on the way out, saying
they had seen me back 75 miles or so ago. I told them about my problem, and
they said I could stay in their garage. Saved!)
I asked these Volcano residents if there was anything worthwhile in the
store, and one of the girls said that there were the most giant and delicious
chocolate chip macadamia nut cookies there. I said, “Uh-oh, I hope they are
almost out of them or I’m in trouble.” But I went over and got four, and a
strawberry all-fruit frozen popsicle thing that I had been looking for over
the whole island. I took three of the giant cookies over to the kids across
the way, and gave them each one, and then went back to the porch of the store
where I sat and munched happily on my superbly delicious cookie and the ice
pop. Oh, and on the second step when I went back to the store I found $15
Sitting there was reminiscent of my stop at a big hotel porch at the
beginning of my cross-country trip in 1980 – somewhere below San Francisco.
It was an old hotel, and I sat watching the people walk by while leaning back
in my red Coast-to-Coast jacket and in my dungarees eating my peanut butter
and jelly sandwiches. One couple stopped and talked to me, and said if I
could make it the 60 miles or so to their home further south in Santa Cruz I
could stay with them. The guy had a voice just like Jimmy Stewart’s, and the
woman talked about their friend Ronnie Reagan, and what a good president he’d
make. She was an artist of some renown she said…. and it wasn’t more than a
couple years later while in a McDonalds near home that I got chills when I
recognized the distinctive flower print scene hanging on the eatery’s walls.
I walked up to it, and sure enough, it was signed by my friend Dottie Saar
I made my way back to the Lei and Dennis’ place. They had gone back to
their home in Hilo, leaving me, a complete stranger, to their weekend place.
Have the run of it she said. Use the washing machine and dryer, the
television, anything you want. Amazing.
I got myself settled into the house with all my gear. I had set up the
tent earlier in the day to the amusement of my host and hostess. I got wash
done, and e-mails checked. I learned that my pal Coz had now even put images
up on the site. (joelperlish.blogspot.com).
When it was time to go into the tent though, I had discovered that it had
rained bit earlier while I was in the house. So the tent was wet as I hadn’t
put the fly on – so I disappointedly went back in the house and curled up in
my sleeping bag on one of the little beds in the back room.
Counting all 22 trips since 1980, today marked my 500th touring day.
That’s from that first day when I had put my bike together in the San
Francisco airport, and rode south, to this day, when I circled an Hawaiian
crater. It’s now way more than a year of my life on the road. It’s an
emotional thing for me to think about that as I sit here typing my little
heart out about it. It’s been an amazingly gratifying and wonderfully
uplifting way to see this part of our world and to meet the people in it.
It’s been a fun way to not only see nature at work, but also to be a part of
nature, and at times BE nature as well.
And I’ve been happy to take you along for some of the ride.
Picture of The Crater at Kilauea