March 11, 2002 – Monday – Day 7
Miles Today – 31 Total Miles – 219
Volcano,HI to Naalehu,HI
– At Josh’s A-frame Beach Place –
FROM THE TOP OF THE MOUNTAIN TO THE SEASIDE –
– A LITTLE PIECE OF PARADISE –
This is the way most tour days are begun: after I’m sure I’ve got
everything, that I haven’t left a thing behind, the bike is wheeled to the
roadside, the odometer is reset, and a new day begins.
One of the favorite things I’ve done while biking along through all the
states is notice license plates. Here though, every single plate is an
Hawaiian plate! That’s not surprising once you think about it I guess. And
I’ve not seen one vanity plate – wonder if they allow that here? Oh, and
also, it seems that almost every plate begins with an “H”…..
Have gotten a lot of nice notes about the journals I’ve been sending out.
But then again, I don’t suppose those that I’ve put to sleep are still here
anyway… But it’s been a big part of this trip for me to share it with you
who are still along for the ride. One guy wrote me that it’s like being on a
back seat riding along. Hope the journey hasn’t been too bumpy for you….
As I wheeled out onto one of the main roads this morning I noticed that
the local eatery was named “JP’s Volcano Cafe”. Makes me wish I had stopped
there for dinner last night….
After a stop at the General Store for another one of those superb giant
macadamia nut cookies, I went to the post office, boxed up my tent and ground
mat, and sent them home. It put me in a grumpier mood doing so. I wrestled
with those grumpy thoughts for quite awhile after. It was a little lessening
of independence sending that tent back. It was the final admitting there was
going to be no camping this trip. It was the hoping against hope that I would
not be sorry for doing it. But a bike tour is all about making those kind of
decisions I guess – even more so than daily life. And one just has to live
with the consequences of those decisions…. It would be a good 12-15 pounds
off the back of my bike.
(click here for a picture of the loaded tour bike)
I thought about that, and figured even though I was
in pretty good shape, I still weighed 12-15 pounds more than at most times in
my biking career. I wished I could shed that weight as easily as I did the
I was looking forward to the 28-mile downhill today. One of my original
thoughts was to go to that mountain on Maui which has a loooong downhill.
They truck you up there at 3 in the morning to see the sunrise, and then you
ride down. Sounds pretty romantic and terrific, but I did some investigating,
and it seems you HAVE to ride with the group, that you HAVE to ride on one of
their bikes, and you also have to wait for everyone in the group before going
on which is in stages. Now that didn’t sound very appealing to me, and so I
was happy to have elected not to do it.
The crest was 4,024 feet and reached it at 12:09pm at my 4th mile of the
day. I was expecting that after that all would be gravy. It wasn’t quite, but
A bunch of bikers were passing me the other way. I engaged in
conversation with some of them. Seems they were with Wheeling Hawaii and were
circling the island the opposite way I was doing it. It was a good van
supported group. At least they weren’t the REAL wussy types that take people
to the top of a hill and pick them up at the bottom. I was on the way down
with the wind at my back, so I had the luxury of stopping and chatting with a
number of riders – a couple 60ish women, one from Evergreen,CO, – were riding
and pretty near the back of the pack. I said they could use their
conversation with me as an excuse for being late up the hill. For a $1000 the
company sets up the campsites and provides a couple meals for the day, and
makes sure there is van support on the roads. I’ve done one van supported
ride (550 miles across Pennsylvania in ‘99), and so I’ve been on both sides.
Both have advantages, but as I said to the women, it was tough for me
watching senior citizens and obese people passing me on the ride… There’s
also that loss of being able to make ones own decisions about things. Still,
there’s that security which is missing on a solo tour… Of course, that
excitement of not having the security is gone, too….
After about ten minutes the women, who referred to themselves as “genuine
ly old people” started off up the mountain. They said their nickname was the
There were quite a number of bigger tour busses and also smaller coach
companies that trucked people up to the craters. I’d give a friendly wave to
the driver as they’d pass. I can only imagine the comments in the comfy
busses at seeing the sweaty biker. (Actually, I DON’T have to imagine. After
one of my western trips, my wife at the time wanted to take a bus tour out
that way. I enjoyed seeing some of the sights but it was torture for me in
the stinky cramped bus. And when we’d pass the bikers on the road, I was
drawn to them and wanted to be out there. It was very difficult for me.)
At 12:20, at the mile marker 31, it seemed to be the true beginning of
the hill, I paused for quite awhile, ready to savor the coming descent.
For a good bit of the downhill ride I was moving along at 25-30 miles per
hour. The wind was screaming me in the face, having had turned for a time
against me, but still I streaked down pretty swiftly. At times though it
appeared to me that I was coming to a halt, but a look at the odometer still
Almost magically, as I crossed over 22 miles, the seashore appeared ahead
and to the left. It was a grand shoreline.
A steep descent was in front of me then…. and I closed my eyes (not for
too long), and drew in deep breaths of cool sea/forest air into my nostrils
and my mouth, and I smiled with the delight of the free-fall…. And as I
streaked downward, downward on this particular run, gaggles of birds at
occasional random locations spring out of the roadside and scattered into the
I got to the bottom eventually, of course, and then there was pedaling
stuff again. What’s THAT all about???
Then I came to the appointed left off the main road, and for the first
time on the ride, I swooped down to the shoreline – and at a blistering speed.
And here I abruptly came to perhaps the most picturesque little cove in
the entire world. Picture postcard perfect. THIS is the stuff the travel
agents pander on about! It was a black sand beach with blue waves lapping the
shore. It curved around gently to the right from the moderately high
tree-capped cliffs on the left. Even I, not a water person by any means, was
left practically drop-jawed and drooling at the sight. It was the kind of
sight that evokes thoughts of paradise – with the squawking birds flying by,
and the palm trees in clusters smoothly towering toward the puffed clouds set
in the azure blue sky. And the warmth of the sun – and the bluest of blue
Pacific Ocean stretching out toward the misty horizon. A dog barking in the
background, the occasional couple strolling hand-in-hand on the black beach.
A little shack selling candy and postcards. Little kids trolloping on the
sand, smiles abundant and free.
To my right and back a bit was a huge A-frame home. It looked like the
home of some millionaire – who else could have a place set-back so perfectly,
and a beach home so gorgeously set into the shoreline? But it was the only
one around, and that’s where Josh had said his rented place would be. I asked
at the little stand, and sure enough that was his place. It was about 3, and
I walked my bike over to the place. (Reluctantly leaving the beach, afraid
perhaps, that if I blinked, the little piece of paradise would disappear.)
A sliding glass door was open at the top. I walked up calling out. No
answer. I didn’t expect Josh there, but because of the open door I thought
someone would be there. But only the big gentle giant of a dog Josh said to
expect was there. And then I found a note in the kitchen, affirming that I
was, indeed, in the right place.
I brought my bike up to long stairway to the house-long balcony that
faced the shoreline, and then took stuff into the appointed bedroom. And
marveled at the place, the kind breezes, the now eye-level palms and coconuts.
I went out and sat on a little chair on the lawn and typed some notes –
eying the hammock which I was sure to try out (and perhaps nap on) at another
Josh came back from his doctor duties at the little hospital nearby
around 5ish. He is a 32 year-old-guy with a little ponytail who is a runner.
A friend back home, who’s dad was a wonderful doctor, knew Josh’s family,
and had kept in touch. That’s how I came to be here.)
He’s a relatively laid back guy – and he has written a book, he said, and
hopes that it will hit big on the market so he can retire in a few years.
Until then he is busy being the only doctor at the little hospital and having
to deal with being constantly on call. But it’s helping to pay back his huge
medical education loans, and there are certain perks to being the doctor in
town. He has other aspirations perhaps, though, and so he’s not sure how long
he’ll stay here. But he admitted that it was sure a grand place to be.
I’ll say! He has a lot of parties at the house, he said. And a lot of
friends who stay over. Despite his other yearnings, and some complaints about
being on call so much, he seemed very happy here, and knew he was into a good
thing. Josh told me how Hawaii is one of only four places in the
United States considered Frontier – meaning by definition that there is less
than four people per square mile. He said that although there is no work
here, and that the food is expensive, it’s very cheap to buy really good
location land and build here. I was amazed when he said how his rent for this
place was only $500/month.
Whiskey is Josh’s pal – a 130 pound Rhodesian ridgeback dog. The breed is
know as lionhunters. It’s a mammothly big dog. Not being a dog person, I was
put off each time he came up and rubbed his nose against me, my little
protestations notwithstanding. But basically he left me alone. I got some
nice shots of Whiskey as he propped himself up in the big easy chair by the
main window to the sea – alternately enjoying the view and looking
disdainfully at me.
I WAS a bit annoyed about the tent being gone, by-the-way, because this
would have been a perfect spot for it.
Josh made a delicious pasta dinner for us, and we chatted about things
near and far. We had a lot in common. And he was really into scrabble. I took
my Palm Pilot out and challenged him to play the Scrabble version on it. He
lost the first game (a program glitch he said, not accepting one of his
words), but he beat it handily the second time. Perhaps that was a program
glitch, too, he allowed.
The idea hatched in my head to stay here an extra day, and then make it
all the way back to Kona on Thursday. It would be about 70 miles with only a
few hard spots. Josh was amenable to the idea. It’s touring good sense to
take a true rest day every seven days or so, and so it worked out perfectly.
And besides, I could just see myself on that hammock under the palms tomorrow
typing in the iBook, reflecting on the adventures past, and dreaming of the
ones still to come. The sweet ocean breezes wafting over me so gently. So
Black Sands and a Turtle