Day 9


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

her insistence.

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

the world.


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

never know.


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.

Until later…


Picture of The Snail (a.k.a.= Joel)



Author: Joel Perlish

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