Thursday, June 18, 2009

Bike shorts, then boardshorts.

Cycling in Maui is no easy undertaking; it takes a fair amount of heart to cycle here on a regular basis. First of all, if you look up "wind" in the dictionary, I would bet you'll see a picture of the Valley Isle. In fact, Maui is much like Chicago in that it always seems the wind is in your face no matter what direction you are headed. (Yes, I do realize that when riding a bike, there always WILL be wind in your face.) Secondly, the roads are generally ultra-narrow and about as smooth as a straight shot of ethanol. Thirdly, though it's stunningly gorgeous here, it's also really hot and humid during the midday hours. Finally, let's just say that drivers here are often not as concerned with cyclists' existence on the roads as they are with gazing at the gorgeous ocean or getting pissed off at the assholes that are driving while gazing at the ocean. So, the math is easy. Add it all up and what you get is me waking up at 5 a.m. to ride, before the trade winds, the heat, and the aloof/angry drivers roll out of bed.

Yes, you heard right. I get up at 5 a.m. to ride. Yes, even on weekends. Not every day, mind you, but every day I ride it's been early thus far. I know. I agree. Who the hell is this cycling fool and what did he do with Dennis?!

All that being said, as you can gather from some of the photos above, I have seen some amazing scenery while cycling here on Maui. It's fully been worth the going to bed early and the waking up before dawn, just to get out on the quiet, beautiful pavement to exercise my sleepy body as the day awakens.

I rode from the beach in Paia, halfway up Haleakala volcano a few days ago. That ride, 18 miles straight uphill from 0-5000' elevation, took 2 hours and 45 minutes. The ride straight back down took only 42 minutes!! That was a real rush, both from the energy expended while climbing for nearly 3 straight hours and the rocket trip back down. And, you'd have seen a HUGE smile on my face on that downhill ride if it weren't for my wanting to keep my mouth shut so I didn't get bugs splattered on my teeth.

I also rode halfway to Hana one day. The road to Hana is one of the most beautiful drives anywhere, twisting, turning, and rolling right along the ocean, through lush rainforest and black lava rock. Though a million people a day (exaggeration??) drive that road, I went so early in the morning that I was already on my way back when I began passing the trains of tourist cars.

Though I do most of my riding alone, I did recently meet a few people that I likely will ride with again on Maui. In fact, a couple of them are also signed up to do Cycle Oregon this year in September so it's exciting to know I will have a little "aloha" on that ride. I may end up riding for "Team Maui" in my home state's ride. Crazy, eh brah?!

I have, however, had a couple of mishaps.

One mishap was fully controllable, but somehow in my 5 a.m. stupor, I lost control and became a mathematical equation. What I can tell you is this: if you clip into your pedals and begin slowly coasting out of your driveway at dawn, do NOT turn around to catch a glimpse of the astoundingly beautiful Maui sunrise behind you until you have gained enough momentum to remain rolling forward. Though the sun will be illuminating you, it will not be your brightest moment when you turn around to realize that a) you are going so slowly that you're starting to fall over, and b) while turned around to see the sun you inadvertently steered directly toward the curb in front of the next-door neighbor's house. And, since A + B = C, in this case, C will find you half-toppled over already when you then hit the curb and finish the job, going ass over teakettle, while still clipped into your pedals, onto the neighbor's soft, squishy lawn.

The other mishap was so not my fault and it just serves as a reminder of how alert a cyclist must be at all times, regardless of how alert we assume drivers are. I was riding on a narrow country road, with very little traffic on it. A semi-truck and trailer hauling cattle came up on me as I neared a curve. I could already see it was clear around the curve so I waved the driver by; he saw my wave and passed me, giving me a wide berth and throwing out both a shaka ("hang loose" hand gesture) and a friendly thank-you honk for helping him navigate the curve safely. Not far behind him was another truck I could hear approaching (this truck was smaller, a Ford F-350 as I soon found out). While smack dab in the middle of the curve, even though I waved him around because the other lane was clear, this guy passed me without giving me any extra room at all.

At first, it seemed like not a huge deal; however, as the F-350 passed me, I realized that he was pulling a trailer full of cattle and I knew things were about to get really, really tight. See, on this particular road at this particular spot, there was literally no shoulder so I was riding my bike ON the painted white line and had only about 2" of asphalt escape on the other side. On the other side of the 2" asphalt escape was only a 6" strip of dirt and rocks separating me from a near-vertical rock cliff with some bushes growing out of it (read, I had NOWHERE TO GO). So, as the truck passed me without making an effort to give me any extra room, his trailer crept closer and closer to me...and then it crossed the white line. I had nowhere to go but voluntarily straight into that near-vertical rockface. I literally rode my bike off the pavement, into the 6"-wide strip of dirt, and threw my arms out wide while thrusting my pelvis into the rock, hanging on like a spider in a windstorm, my head turned to watch as the trailer squeaked past me. I didn't even have the time or the room to unclip from my pedals! I kid you not, that trailer did not miss me by more than an inch, and had it grazed me, I shudder to think of how I'd have been pancaked. I definitely got off easy with just a bloody knee and a galloping heartbeat. Thankfully I was riding UPHILL and was only going about 5 mph, which was slow enough to allow me to just leap into the rockface; had I been cruising on a fast downhill, I'd be shredded beef right about now. It may've even been worse than that one time back when I was 15 years old, riding my skateboard while holding onto the back bumper of Shawna Sparlin's car, when I got the speed wobbles, fell, and was dragged behind the car for about 100 feet before letting go. Yeah. I know.

But, the cycling continues on Maui anyway, both in gaudy yellow attire and with a renewed and heightened appreciation for making SURE drivers see me. And I really dig it. After all, what better reward is there for getting up early than exercising while surrounded by beautiful beaches, forests, mountains, rainbows, and palm trees, and then finishing with a swim in the warm ocean before going to work? Like the Godfather of Soul James Brown says:

I feel na na na na na na...I knew that I would na na na na na na.
I feeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeel good...