March 13, 2002 – Wednesday – Day 9
Miles Today – 70 Total Miles – 290
Panaluu,HI to Kona,HI
– Completion of Biking Trip –
When I went out to run, there were two cute big snails at the bottom of
Josh’s back stairway. They were sloooowwwwlllly making their way across the
cement pad there. Reminded me of my biking speed. While jogging I noticed
some snails that didn’t quite make it across the road. Ugh.
I left right at 8am! I was glad that I could parallel the ocean for
awhile before making my way up to the big road, Route 11. Nice views, and
also in this way I could avoid that steep incline on which I came down to the
beach area. I passed one of the few condominiums in that area, Sea Mountain
at Panaluu. The golf course was lush. (Did you know, by-the-way, that though
they are green, golf courses are the very WORST ecological offenders? All the
chemicals that they put into the ground to make the course leeches into the
soil and does a real bad number on old mother earth.)
About 6 miles out, the views to the left for me are full Pacific Ocean.
Much of the day I am cheated of any pictures because of the haze. But I have
some good shots in the morning from high up on the bluffs and overlooks. A
road crew guy is there moving traffic to one side, and I say to him, “Man,
you look out there and you can see San Francisco!” He did a cute jump-around
mock doubletake that gave me a laugh.
And believe it or not, at 6.5 miles out there, hanging from a cliff on
the right side of the road was a big cactus! It was the first I’d seen since
the Kohala Mountain
Range so many days ago.
I wound along roadsides etched in the coastline for awhile. Many of the
roads followed up huge hills and left me gasping in the hot morning air. I
did the best job of the trip hydrating today. I bought water, and bought into
the myth of the sports drinks today purchasing a bottle of that, too, at
every stop. I drank a lot throughout the day. And though it was in the
mid-80’s I was never thirsty.
Some days on this tour I took the little successes in the mileage. But
today I elected to keep track of each hour. I knew it would be a long day,
and it helped me to keep things in perspective.
The 9 o’clock watch beep found me at 7 miles out for the first hour.
There were many hills in this hour, and the views were grand of the deep blue
ocean from left horizon to right horizon. At times, little inlets could be
seen, snuggling against the coastline. I felt pretty energetic and good, what
with the off day, and the lighter load.
And as I reached onto ten miles I had a pretty darn frisky tailwind
pushing me along. It was tough going with the hills, even with less to carry
and the rest day behind me. But I couldn’t imagine WHAT it would have been
like if a big headwind had been puffing me in the face. Of course, it WOULD
have been cooler. As it was, I had great gobs, and globs, and buckets of
sweat pouring off me.
The 10 o’clock watch chime (two hours) found me at only 10.8 miles as I
continued to snail up the mountainsides. Got a nice thumbs up from a couple
in their car going the other way. That kind of thing really does help get the
adrenalin pumping. Especially on these hills where I’m climbing and climbing
and climbing. During the day, I attacked the hills as much as I could until I
couldn’t attack them any longer – hey, it was the last day, what had I to
lose? But after awhile I just had to sink the gears into the granny gear and
slowly grind my way to the top. (For those who don’t know: a “granny gear”
is the huge back gear that some bikes have to help make hill climbing
easier. It’s a lot slower, but it’s easier to crank the pedals.)
The hills today weren’t as long as in Volcano by any means, and there
weren’t as many as back on the Kohala Mountain Range, but they were surely
steeper than any encountered so far. And they were twistier, so I had to pay
a LOT more attention to the traffic coming and going.
At the 11 o’clock beep (the third hour) I had covered a total of only 16
miles. I was hoping against hope that I had finally reached the top. I had
some down hills and some level stretches, but basically I continued to rise
from sea level. It didn’t bother me particularly because I knew that I would
be coming back down to sea level when I reached Kona, and so I kept expecting
good payback for these heavily perspiring ascents.
Almost abruptly at my 18th mile up along the coast, the landscape turned
to lava-rock moonscape again. This lasted for quite a number of miles until
the green returned.
At one of the little convenience stores along the way I was refilling my
supply of sports drink. A big boned blond woman was behind me in line. I
asked her if the hills would ever end. She smiled, and I told her this was
the last day of the trip around the island. She congratulated me, and gave me
a big hug. She then said, “There’s a lot of he-man in there.” I told her I
didn’t really think of it that way, but she insisted. I was embarrassed by
I met a guy outside the store from Vegas who was on vacation. He enjoyed
hearing about the trip. He wanted to know if I’d gotten any press about it
here in Hawaii. I said, no, it was a pretty common thing for a serious
bicyclist to do here. Upon hearing that my total mileage was over 22,500
miles for all the trips, he asked if I had any blisters. My reply was, “Not
At 22.5 miles at 11:50am I sat down for about five minutes and drank and
ate some of the nuts I had along. My thinking now was that it wouldn’t take a
rocket scientist with a calculator to figure that at this pace (about 5mph) i
would be getting in way after dark!!!!
Just north of Oceanview I got some digitals of street and area names
“Leilani.” I thought Lei would enjoy them.
At 1 o’clock I rolled over my 34th mile. I suspected that this would pan
out to be about halfway. It was the fifth hour of biking. Which made for a
pathetic 6mph average.
There was a familiar face at an out-of-the-way macadamia nut stand. It
was Tom and his wife Sheila (who was the the geologist from Montana) who I
had met at the Volcano Center. It was great seeing them again. He was the guy
wearing the “Make Coffee, Not War” t-shirt. An affable guy with a great
laugh, we chatted about the coincidence of seeing each other again. Tom had a
expression he would use that I wasn’t familiar with – if something was
“cool” or “nifty” he would say it was “really uptown”. We talked about a
few things including the need for sunblock on the head (he had forgotten to
put some on after getting out of the water the other day, and was hurting
there….)… We traded some more images!
When I told Tom about the tough biking day, he mentioned that I had come
up 1,500 feet since the Black Sand Beach, and would be headed back down to
sea level again when I reached Kona.
A lot of folks who came by on the highway, where cars passed about every
5-10 minutes or so, would sample the nuts, possibly make a purchase, and then
want to take the friendly salesguy’s photo. Seemed odd to me, but I guess
they wanted a picture of a genuine Hawaiian sales person. I asked if he was
on-line so I could send him a picture. He said, no, but his son was, and so I
got a nice portrait of the bushy bearded guy.
We talked about the fact he wasn’t on-line. I chided him good naturedly
about it. And he understood that it was the way of the world now. And as I
rolled away I got to thinking how many more sales he could be making on the
internet to places all around the whole big world, instead of just at that
little corner of highway…. Then again, maybe he just likes meeting people.
After about twenty minutes of lingering there, I headed back up the
coast. It’s not coastline like much of the California coast where the ocean
is only a few feet away, but it was mostly always in view now albeit
generally a mile or so from the road. Occasionally I’d get a grand panorama.
Toward the end was the best view – a little town and the ocean beyond. But
as I said, the haze cheated me out of practically any photos at all today…
The 2pm watch beep (after 6 hours of biking) found me at 31.2 miles.
I startled a really scrawny little white cat that was picking it’s way
along the side of the road. He high-tailed it into the thicket there.
At 3pm, after 7 hours of biking, I had gone 48miles. The average had
picked up a bit, and I was enjoying some nice downhill spurts occasionally
now in the afternoon heat. I was also stopping a bit more to rest, and I was
stopping more at little stores to re-up my water and sports drink supply.
Crossed over the 50th mile at 3:15pm with a nice swooping downhill. I was
thinking that there would be 15-20miles left, and I was hoping mightily that
it would be the long-awaited huge downhill that I had been expecting. In fact
for much of the afternoon I went through the “I-hope-this-is-the-last-hill”
There is always that wonder what is around the next curve, what is over
that next hill. But when tired, it becomes even more of a push to keep
The 4 o’clock hour watch chime took me by surprise. I was working a big
hill when it went off at 64.3 miles. At eight hours into the day, I had upped
the average to 8mph. It was near the sign that advertised a botanist with the
unlikely name of “A.Greenfield.”
And one of the few pictures that I was sorry I didn’t stop for was the
place of business named the “Dodo Mortuary.”
Shortly past there and in what I hoped were the last ten miles I was
pumping pretty hard coming up a hot hill. An older guy in a straw hat was
walking alongside the road approaching me on the busy highway. He could
surely see I was struggling. I slowed and stopped next to him, and said with
a tired twinkle in my eye, “Go ahead, just push me into the traffic! Put me
out of my misery.” He chuckled and said, “Oh don’t worry, you have a lot
left in you. You’ll make it!” He gave me a pat on the back. It helped.
I made a wrong turn off the main highway. My bike touring sense told me
that I was not on the right road anymore. And I asked a lady coming out of
her driveway where I should be going. She told me, and said with a cautioning
tone, “But it’s pretty far.” I smiled, said it wasn’t far for what I’ve
been through already. Then I took out my map, and showed her the diagram of
all I did on the island. She looked startled by it all, laughed, and said,
By 5 o’clock (nine hours after leaving this morning) I had reached the
outskirts of Kona. The odometer read 62.5 miles.
I remembered looking down the road on that first day toward where I knew
I’d be coming FROM on the last day. I had that image plastered in my mind for
most of the trip. And then when I reached that pivotal intersection, and
looked back now, it didn’t look anything like what I’d remembered.
I went right to the bike shop where I had shipped the bike. I said
proudly to the woman salesperson there, “Well, I’m back.” There was that
blank look on her face, of “Just who the hell are you?”
Well, the bike mechanic Jason recollected me, and he said the bike box
was still there waiting for the return shipment.
I went across the street to the Taco Bell and had a little meal, then
tooled around Kona a little. I went through the tourist section, and got off
the bike and walked it through the store areas. I had been looking for a
classy biking shirt that had a picture of a huge volcano on it, found it and
made the purchase. I got a big beach towel with the Hawaiian Islands on it.
Was pleased with the $9.99 price tag, until I saw it around the corner for
I made my way to the hotel by dusk, and checked in. But I was still kinda
excited about the completion of the ride, and tomorrow, and so I took a long
walk through the hotel complex of shops and for a few blocks around.
Tomorrow would be a big day. The bike had to get to the shop to be sent
home, and I had to get to the airport for the same purpose.
I was still incredibly filthy from road grit and sunblock. And the shower
felt good as the grime rolled off me and swirled down the drain.
It’s always a mixture of delight and depression when the planned
destination is reached, when goals have been met. But I was enjoying the
feeling of success.
Here are some miscellaneous items of interest regarding this Hawaii tour:
1. Not a single thing forgotten anywhere, nothing dropped on the road.
That may be a first.
2. NO FLAT TIRES or mechanical problems of any kind.
3. There were four times during this trip when disaster was narrowly
— at the Bed and Breakfast at Volcano, the stairway down from the bathroom
had a very low ceiling, and twice I banged my head against it. A little
harder, and I might not have remembered who I was….
— at Leilani and Dennis’, I had an almost misstep on the top of their front
steps, and if I hadn’t caught myself in time, it would have been curtains!
— almost stepping on the arrowhead sharp rock at the beach yesterday.
— putting my lenses in on this Day 9, walking all the way into another room,
then realizing that my left lens wasn’t in… and then seeing it on my thumb!
This internet thing is amazing, eh? It allows these travels to be shared
with people near and far – people known and complete strangers from around
And now the final part of the trip – and knowing that getting home is no
less important than the getting to the start.
Everyone wants to know, “What’s next?” Well, there’s an old Indian
Trail that slices through the south called the Natchez Trace, and I’ve had my
eye on that for awhile. Maybe Nova Scotia. I have no interest in biking in
Europe. There is a big group tour that’s leaving for a year of bicycling
around the world, but I don’t see that in the cards. However, if I’ve
learned anything about anything, it’s that one just never knows. You just
I will keep this journal going until Sunday. A few folks have wondered
how I’ll get through that looooong flight home and then the big photo
shooting schedule on Saturday. Also, for Sunday, I’ll have something special
I’ve been working on for awhile…. a rather extensive best and worst list of
these last 22 years of touring.