My stomach cringes as our van navigates the wavy road that leads up the volcano. “Aging sucks,” I think to myself, doing my best to hide behind my generic sunglasses.
A decade ago I could have stayed up all night and been ready at dawn to charge this volcano like a Rolling Stone. But now, at 34, my body can’t handle late nights anymore and my mind deals more in mortality than it used to. Thinking about riding down a 10,000 foot volcano already makes me nervous, adding on a slight headache and nausea only lodges the fear deeper into my gut.
Staring out the van window on our ascent with Maui Easy Riders, I watch as bikers cloaked in rain gear stream down the two lane highway. The sunny mist at the beach where our party of five was picked up is now a memory as the clouds and fog grow more malicious the closer we get to our final destination near the peak.
In situations like this I do my best to to blend into the group, preferably near a window, where I can passively listen while mentally preparing for the challenge at hand. I smile, nod my head, throw out an occasional “oh wow, man” or “really, that’s crazy” but that’s about it. It takes a lot to shake me from my introvert routine, especially on a damp morning like this.
But when the words “Jimi Hendrix…Rainbow Bridge” stream into the bus, my senses tighten and I snap to attention, listening intently to the guides–Billy and Kyle–and sharing in the conversation as we connect over the strangeness and brilliance of the film Rainbow Bridge, in particular Hendrix’s cameo and blistering 20 minute set in the film, which sadly would be the guitarist’s last U.S. concert before his death in 1970. According to our guides, the little community we just passed is where the film took place (the movie was centered around Seabury Hall in Makawao), and the ocean view hillside where Hendrix played to three dozen or so hippies is just over yonder–still, after all these years, just a green, upcountry field.
By the time we reach our starting point inside Haleakala Ranch, clouds hover all around as mist spits down on us. One by one the chrome Worksman Cycles are bought down from the van, each one named after a Phish song–I got the Horse, which just so happens to be one of my favorite tunes. Sitting on my bike, with some light rain gear on and my helmet, I’m feeling alright. My morning nausea is just about gone and I’m feeling good about the 25 mile downhill ahead of us.
Sunken switchbacks and a rapid descent in elevation–3,000 feet in 10 miles to be exact–make the first section an absolute joy. Leading our caravan of bikes is owner/guide Billy. He is our big toe for most of the journey and does a fantastic job of encouraging Beth (who was initially a bit slower) to have faith in her own abilities as well as the bike, which is equipped with custom made drum brakes. Behind our group, Kyle follows in the van acting as a buffer between us and traffic. As we slither down the mountainside both guides are in constant contact, enabling us (the riders) to focus on the views and descent and not on passing cars or bully drivers.
As we come off the curvy volcano rode, we hit longer downhill stretches of highway through upcountry pastures where our group hits speeds of more than 30 mph. This shift reminds me of the long afternoon bike rides I used to take with my friends to 7-11 as kid, when the journey was far more important than the destination. With the Pacific Ocean laid out on the horizon in front of us, we come into and out of a number different weather conditions as we pass through the different climates and small upcountry towns–Makawao and Paia (the tour stops in the former for a bit)– before reaching our final destination, the beach just outside of Paia where the tour began a few hours earlier.
If you want to take you own volcano bike ride be sure to check out the Maui Easy Riders website. In the sea of Maui bike tours, we can’t recommend them enough.
Here are some more photos from our journey with Maui Easy Riders:
*While our time in Maui was sponsored by the Maui Visitor’s Bureau, our thoughts, opinions and adrenaline that we left on the road, are our own.
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*Please remember all photos on this website, unless otherwise noted, are copyrighted and property of Beers and Beans Travel Website, Nariko’ s Nest Weddings & Bethany Salvon. Please do not use them without my permission. If you do want to use one of them please contact me first because I do love to share and I would be flattered. Thanks!
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