On Monday morning I woke up at the ungodly hour of 2:20 AM in order to catch a van that would take me to the top of a volcano 10,000 feet above sea level. Anyone who knows me, knows that I don’t do very well on zero sleep or for that matter, one meager hour of sleep never mind going up to an altitude my body has never experienced and then riding a bike down the volcano.
So we are in the van, all 13 of us and the driver tell us that we are going to “base camp” to pick up “Pops” the tour guide who will lead us down the mountain. Here I am expecting we are going to pick up some 88 year old man when we get there and instead it is some guy who looks like he is 50 and has found the fountain of youth. Maybe being outside all day and living in Hawaii isn’t all that bad for the stress levels? So here we are at base camp and Pops puts on a VHS tape of safety instructions on how to ride the bike and not kill yourself. Of course, my favorite part of the tape is…..it is being narrated, not be some safety instructor or certified mountain biker. Nope, Miss Hawaii 1999. You can see why I got myself a cup of coffee and simply asked if we would be provided with bike helmets. The video ends and Pops throws all of us a windbreaker jacket and pants. I’m thinking, “This is Hawaii, I brought a hooded sweatshirt and my own Under Armour heat protection windbreaker, what’s the problem with that?
We all board a new bus, a bigger bus that has all of the bikes hitched behind in a trailer. Here is where Pops starts trying to get loud and friendly with everyone at 4 AM. At one point Pops says, “You know if it weren’t for you people I would still be in bed so get excited for this.” To which I deadpan under my breath, “Yeah, you would also be in the unemployment line.” Which got quite the chuckle from those around me. For the next hour we are driving and see a sugar can field on fire (which was pretty cool to see in the dark) and drove up this windy volcano road. At 6,700 feet they left the bike trailer because that is where the bike portion begins…apparently it is too “dangerous” to bike from too high up because they had too many “fatalities”. Call me old fashioned, but if you are too dumb to keep your bike on the road you deserve to fall off a cliff. It is called natural selection. While positioning the bus to leave the trailer our driver (who clearly had a bowl of Budweiser for breakfast) hits three poles separating the bus (and its occupants) from a thousand foot fall. You can see where I began to get skiddish.
So finally we reach the top of the mountain and I was a little light headed from the altitude. I get off the bus with my shorts on, hooded sweatshirt and I’m ready to watch the sunrise! It was cold. Oh so very cold. I immediately ran back to the bus and put on the shell they gave us and was still cold. The wind was biting. So I get up to the crater of the volcano and I’m looking out over the vast expanse of it. The slopes of red rock, the ashy volcanic sand. Not something you see everyday. Yet I am freezing. I am in shock at how cold it is. To my right is a group from Southern California all wearing shorts, flip flops, and huddling together for warmth under towels they got from their car. Silly, silly people. The kids wisely retreated to the car as soon as the sun rose while two women stayed. I can’t imagine how cold they were. It looked unpleasant. Hell, I was wrapped up like a mummy and I was cold.
So the sun comes up. Colors. Bright. Pretty. It wasn’t life altering or anything. Some Jewish guy sang a Hawaiian song welcoming the sun, which I didn’t understand because I thought maybe a Hawaiian might do that, but I guess Hawaiians are tough to find here in Hawaii. Sure it was cool and I’m glad I was there, got some pictures. Done. Get me back to the bus. I go back to the bus. It is gone. No bus. I’m cold. I want to get on the bus. It is not there. I am wandering around. Where did that bat rastard Pops go? I keep thinking how long of a walk it is going to be down that stupid volcano. Finally the bus pulls around with all the other tourists on it. I guess they all got cold and went back early (I felt slightly more manly after that). So I get on the bus we go back down to 6,700 ft where our bikes are located.
We get on our bikes, listen to Pops give instructions and line up in order of weight to which Pops says, “Andrew, you are a big guy, how about you take up the rear.” (Note to self – Andrew is fattest person on Hawaiian bike tour) So I get on this bike and I have this hardcore wrap around helmet that motocross people wear and we are on our way. Now we are cruising down the volcano. AWESOME. We are above the clouds. It is all rock. Slowly we wind down the twisting roads and find ourselves near grass and trees. We stop, everyone takes pictures. I am the only person alone on the trip, which I sort of like. So we continue and it was just fun. It took zero effort (other than using the hand brakes) and all you had to do is coast. And then BAM…this older woman on the tour wiped out, over the handle bar, somersault right on her head. The husband is all concerned, Pops wants her to go to the bus and ride down in it for the rest of the trip, but no her superduper helmet protected her and we were back on our way. The tour stopped for a half hour at a small farm that had chickens running around or cocks or whatever they were. I ate a breakfast burrito with caution as I had no clue what that might do to my stomach. Then I talked to Pops for awhile. Good dude, knew everything there is to know about Maui. Enjoyed his job (who wouldn’t?)
That was the trip really, we biked down awhile longer, the old woman fell one more time, but was again no worse for wear. Took some more pictures. Ended the trip on a beach. Tipped the guys and was back at the apartment by 11 AM.
I promptly took a nap.