Sunday, December 16, 2012

Maui: Going Down

There are things that older tourists can do that are passive, even sedentary. Sometimes it seems ridiculous, riding on a bus to a destination, getting out, taking a picture, getting back in, rinse and repeat. If that’s what you want in this day and age, all you need is a big TV, a comfortable chair and a good internet connection.

We’re not like that.


We arranged for a company to drive us up the side of Haleakala volcano, to a height of 6,300 feet. The road is a dizzying series of switchbacks with long, steep straightaways.


We were given mountain bikes with no gears and disc handbrakes. If the bikes had typical clamp-style handbrakes, the driver informed us that “You’d burn through them before you were halfway down.”

Before we started to ride, we took a moment to admire the view, which was spectacular.


But once on the road, turning your attention away for even a fraction of a second would have meant spending the rest of your life on a respirator. I had no speedometer, but at times I felt as though I was going 50 miles an hour.

About halfway down, we stopped in the quaint little town of Makawao. It’s all shops and restaurants, but reminded my wife of the Old West. The thing that amused me was that this isolated little town halfway up a volcano in Hawaii had an absurdly disproportionate number of therapists, spiritual healers and alternative medicine practitioners.


A bit further down, we began encountering lavish private estates. This guy had a bronze horse adorning his front yard.


Our driver told us that Oprah Winfrey, Woody Harrelson and Owen Wilson all own homes on Haleakala, but I suspect that they were all at their spiritual healers that day, because we didn’t see them.

The trip ended in the cool little town of Paia, where we had a delicious fresh fish lunch and a beer, which completely healed my spirit.

Here’s a video of the ride, just under 7 minutes. We lost some of the best footage because the cold mountain air fogged up the camera lens. But it still gives you a sense of speed.

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