Day 6


March 10, 2002 – Sunday – Day 6

Miles Today – 16 Total Miles – 188

Around the Kilauea Caldera

– Volcano, HI –




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

nervous) laugh…

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

exclamation mark!

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

laying there…..

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

from California.

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. (

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 Berries


Picture of The Crater at Kilauea

Author: Joel Perlish

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