Tag Archives: vacation

Maui Trip: All the Rest

After Friday’s trip up the volcano, the focus of our trip shifted to Kara’s sister’s wedding. Kara and I were both in the wedding, so there was a rehearsal on Saturday afternoon. While we were staying in Kapalua on the northwestern end of the island, Lindsey was staying at the Grand Waileia resort on the southern tip of of the island and that was where the wedding was going to take place. So about an hour’s drive.

So Saturday we grabbed lunch with Kara’s parents and Kara’s other sister (Courtney) plus her husband and five month old again at the Cool Cat Cafe. This time I had a burger and it was a pretty good burger — I see why they are highly rated. We then headed to Waileia for the rehearsal. The rehearsal was quick and basically there was little information really to be shared.

Then, Saturday evening there was a rehearsal dinner / welcome dinner (some of Kara’s family that wasn’t in the wedding came out as well and they came to this dinner as well) at the Hard Rock Cafe in Lahaina. And the dinner really was what you expect at a Hard Rock Cafe. That’s not to say it was bad, but the food was predictable. We did have a nice outdoor table to sit at with a good view of the setting sun over the ocean.

After dinner, Kara really wanted some shave ice again so we went back to Ulalani’s Shave Ice. We shared a large this time and it was very sufficient for the two of us and again very good. Then, it was late so we headed back and went to sleep.

Sunday was the wedding and we were up fairly early. I drove Kara and Courtney to Waileia for their hair, etc appointments. Kara and I grabbed lunch at Longhi’s and I had a pretty good pasta dish — the Fettucini Lombardi. It was a fetticuini alfredo with the nice addition of proscutto and English peas. Very tasty and by going for lunch, the prices were a lot more reasonable than their dinner prices.

Then I dropped Kara off for her hair appointment and just read for a while. Then it was time for the wedding. This was actually kind of cool. Lindsey had decided to have various bits of native Hawaiian weddings in the ceremony including a precessional where she was carried in on a chair and accompanied by hula dancers. Very very cool to watch. The rest of the ceremony was nice as well, but it’s hard to beat being carried in on a chair :-)

After the ceremony, there was a dinner/reception at the Bistro Molokini in the Grand Waileia. Dinner was good, but the service was very very very slow. While they started off getting things fast, they slowed down quite a bit and it was probably about two hours before our food came out. Oh well, we were in no rush. We eventually headed back (late) to the condo and crashed hard into bed. Of course, after I had driven the hour back, I was wide awake and so I read for a while longer and eventually fell asleep.

Monday came and it was raining a little so I decided against going for a ride. But after an hour or so, it cleared up and so we went out to hang out by the pool for a while. I read and swam a little bit. Then, the plan for the evening was to go to the Old Lahaina Luau with everyone.

Rain threatened, but held off for the entirety of the luau. It was pretty well done. They did a good job of not just having a mob scene at the buffet for food by sending up a table at a time. The performance afterwards was very very good. The food was a little underwhelming, although when you consider how many people it was feeding buffet style, it was pretty good. But certainly not the best meal that I had on the island by any stretch of the imagination. We had a good time overall, though.

Tuesday I awoke to more rain and so again didn’t ride. Plus, Tuesday was to be the day that the remains of Hurricane/Tropical Storm Felicia were to hit the hardest. So we got up and grabbed some breakfast and took it easy for a while. Then, we headed to Lahaina to do some souveneir, etc shopping. We had lunch at Cilantro which had the best reviews in terms of Mexican places and I was wanting a burrito. Sadly, I was disappointed in my burrito. It was just a bland blend of meat, rice and beans inside a kind of soggy tortilla. Kara had the flautas and liked them a bit better. We walked up and down the length of Front St while getting our stuff and then headed back to rest and relax and try to get in a swim since it wasn’t really raining hard. Unfortunately, as we headed towards Kapalua, the rain really picked up to the point that it was raining hard in Kapalua even though it was (at most) misting in Lahaina. So, we instead did the fun of some laundry so that we could go home and have clean rather than dirty laundry

Wednesday was our last day and we had to be out of the condo by 11. So we woke up and started packing up our suitcases and the car. We said our goodbyes to Kara’s family and then were on our way. We returned the rental bike to West Maui Cycles, grabbed lunch at Penne Cafe and then continued on to the airport. Leaving Hawaii is an interesting airport experience as in addition to the usual of checking in, a separate baggage check and the TSA security standpoints, there are also two separate times that you have to go through USDA checkpoints to ensure you aren’t bringing back anything you shouldn’t. The first of these is for checked bags, the second is for carry-on. And then as we sat at the gate, a USDA agent came around with a dog still looking for things. It was somewhat impressive.

And now, I write this while we’re 37000 feet in the air and somewhere between Maui and Dallas. My laptop’s clock says it’s 4:30 am but my body thinks it’s more like 10:30 pm. Thursday we’ll get in and probably sleep for a little while. Then I have some school work to take care of, actually posting this and a few other posts and starting the email catch up process. Then Friday, it’s back to work!

And of course, then a week to get around to posting it. But hey, it’s posted now!

Jeremy vs the Volcano (Haleakala)

The Setup

After looking a bit, one of the things that I really wanted to do while in Maui was a climb up Haleakala by bike. Haleakala is the volcanic mountain which towers over the eastern portion of the island rising to a height of over 10000 feet above sea level. One of the bigger “touristy” things to do while on the island is to actually pay for a van to take you up to the top of the mountain where they set you up with some sort of bike (a cruiser, a mountain bike, or something similarly simple) and let you ride down the mountain. But the thing for a real cyclist to do is instead to start at sea level with a bike and ride up to the top.

The first thing to do was to figure out a route. As it turns out, this is pretty straight-forward. There are a few accounts online including a really good one here. Routes are also on all the usual sites so I loaded one onto my Garmin. Most of the routes are right around 35 miles starting in the beach town of Paia and finishing at the summit. 35 miles, 10000 feet. This is starting to sound like a ride.

Getting a Bike

The second thing to do was figuring out a bike to ride. Option one would be to fly with my bike. The airlines have worked quite hard to make this a pretty infeasible option as they’ve increased the costs of flying with a bike. It’s really pretty sad and unfortunate as (from what I’ve read; this predates my serious riding) you used to be able to box a bike and fly with it pretty easily. Oh well. So it goes. A second option tends to be shipping the bike via UPS or FedEx. But being that we’re talking Hawaii, that’s really not much cheaper as you have to do air shipment rather than ground. That basically left renting a bike

Now renting a bike in a place where you’ve never been before can be a dicey concept. You’re never quite sure what you’re going to end up getting. When I was on the Outer Banks a couple of years ago for my sister’s wedding, I rented a bike and while it ended up being something I could ride, it wasn’t really that nice. A lower-end off-brand aluminum frame with a 105/Tiagra mix. From some looking around, though, it looked like West Maui Cycles rented pretty reasonable bikes. So I called them up and arranged to rent a bike for the week. In terms of road bikes, they rent Cannondales and I was told I’d either get a Six Thirteen or a Synapse depending on which had been returned by the time I got there for the pick up. And the price seemed reasonable too ($200 for the week).

So when we got to Maui, I headed to the bike shop to pick up the bike. I took my own helmet, pedals, shoes and saddle to help ensure I was as comfortable as possible. I also remembered to throw in one of the stem mounts for the Garmin so that I could follow routes. When I got there, the bike they had was the Synapse with an Ultegra/Dura-Ace mix and a compact crank. Not a shabby bike at all. The guys were even nice enough to go ahead and swap the saddle for mine and put on my pedals for me. I did a couple of test rides in the area closer to Kapalua to get to know the bike and until there was a day I had enough time to make the ride up the volcano.

When to Ride

Basically everyone’s account of the ride is that the weather can be a bit of a mixed bag on the island and especially on the way up the mountain so to try to give yourself as many days of a window for doing it as possible. I really didn’t want to go before Kara’s family arrived (Thursday) since I knew it would be an all-day trip and Saturday to Monday were likely to be taken with wedding stuff. So I really only had two possible days — Friday and Tuesday. I had decided to try for Friday. Then, on Thursday I began to track the progress of the hurricane heading for the islands… okay, so Friday is really my only bet now.

Day of the Ride

This of course meant that Thursday night, I slept terribly. Couldn’t fall asleep until later as my body adjusted to Hawaii time. Then, I got one of the random telemarketer + hang-up calls at 4 am. So I missed my alarm going off. I woke up at like 6:30 and had intended to be out of the condo by 5:30 at the latest. Oops. Some quick thinking and packing and I decided that even though it’d be a later start, I’d be okay and that I should still make a go for it if I was really going to have the chance to make the climb.

As I’m driving from Kapalua to Paia I start to realize the things I had left in the condo due to my very hurried packing. The first I realized was the heart rate monitor strap. Oh well, no big loss; I can just go on effort. More about finishing than pacing perfectly anyway. The second is sunscreen. This one’s a bit more important but I decide I’ll find some in Paia before I get started. So I keep driving and get to Paia a little after 8. I look for the best parking place and decide that the municipal lot off of Rt 36 right as you come into town is my best bet. I park and find some crappy sunscreen at a gas station so that I can be on my way. I’ve got the bike, spare tube and pump, GPS, two bottles (one electrolytes, one water), a tube of electrolyte drink tablets (these things are nice if you think you can only find water on your route), lots of Clif Shot bloks, a few clif bars, arm warmers and my knee warmers.

Off I Go!

At 8:15 (rather than 6:30 or so), I’m finally on my way on the route I had loaded onto the GPS. Right away I realize that this is no picnic as the road immediately slopes upward with a pretty steady 5% grade. No warm-up, no stretching… just climbing the hill.

At two miles in, I’m beginning to wonder “what the hell was I thinking?” as I slowly grind along. But at the same time, I’m starting to get into some sort of rhythm of spinning along. Seeing the first group of the downhill riders gives me a little bit of a push and I get even more into a rhythm. But it’s still definitely a rhythm of pain as I can’t quite get to an entirely comfortable position on the bike. Not to mention that it’s quite humid and the wind has picked up a bit. I keep going, just telling myself that I need to keep going until the Sunrise Market — regularly pointed out as the last place to get food before things begin in earnest.

At around mile seven, a couple of cyclists turn off of a side road onto the road ahead of me. They were maybe a quarter of a mile ahead, but it gives me some amount of drive and I begin to pedal faster and close in on them. I speak briefly with them as I reach them, but I continue on feeling strengthened by having seen some others on the road. I considered the idea of trying to stick with them so that I’d have some company, but I know that at this point, I’m better off keeping my own pace than trying to tie myself to anyone else.

But passing the two of them is enough to keep me moving for quite a while. The next section actually has tiny little sections of a brief downhill or flatness which helps me a lot as I can rest even briefly on them. The number of downhilll riders is also increasing. The leaders of those groups as well as the drivers of the vans following them frequently wave or give an encouraging word. So I make it pretty easily to the Sunrise Market at about mile 12 and around 3000 feet of elevation

Given that this is one of the three total places to stop for water, I figure it’s worth refilling my bottle and hit the restroom. By now, it’s hot out so I want to be sure I keep drinking. I’m not stopped that long, but long enough. As I get back on the road, I see a rider down the road a little bit behind me. I make the turn onto the road up to the national park itself and the guy behind me eventually catches up to me. We talk briefly and then he’s off. Again I consider trying to ride with him, but realize my own pace is better to keep.

I keep him in my sight for a little while, but the path of very sharp switchbacks takes him away from my sight after a while. I keep pedaling, looking to just notch off every 500 feet of elevation gain. As I pass the 5000 ft marker, I realize that I’m having to breathe a lot harder — the air really does get quite a bit thinner as you go up in altitude. I grit my teeth and keep going. At this point, I see an occasional car going down or get passed by an occasional car going up, but it’s mostly just me and the mountain. As I reach 6000 feet, it’s kind of cold as I’m now into the clouds (!). I pull out my arm warmers and put them on as I keep riding along knowing that the next stop of the lower ranger station isn’t that far away.
Entering Haleakala National Park

Finally, when I don’t know how much more I can go, the sight of the sign for entering the real area of the national park and the lower ranger station appears. I stop to take a quick picture and then pay my $5 park entry fee and ask the ranger if there’s somewhere I can get some water. He points me to the spigot on the side of the station where I gratefully refill my nearly empty at this point bottles. He also asks if I’m training for the Cycle to the Sun race in two weeks. I’m not, but the thought of that suffering helps to push me on again. Well, that plus the fact that I now paid $5 to enter the park :-)

If the previous leg was hard, this one is mentally mind-breaking. The physical hardship is, at this point, mostly a dull throb. The real pain at this point is the mental effort required to keep pushing forward. I know that I have only about eleven miles to go, but I also know that I still have over 3000 feet of climbing in cloudy/misty/cool conditions while in the clouds. But I’m not going to let the mountain beat me. And so I continue on. My mind concentrates on very few things during this time. Pedaling in small circles. Keeping my eyes on the road ahead of me, but trying not to look up the slope much. That I want to beat the mountain.
Summit Road

As I continue to make my way up, there are now no trees lining the way and the hillside is scattered with just small bushes. In addition, you’re really starting to be able to tell that this is a volcanic mountain. The side is covered in the sort of rocky look that you just associate in your mind with a volcano. Or Mars. I think I zoned out a little and was delerious for a bit of this chunk of the ride. The guy who had passed me eventually passes me going down when I’m about 4 miles from the top and he gives an encouraging word as he passes.

The upper visitor’s center is a mile from the summit and 600 feet down. I pull over slightly and consider for a second stopping there. But I know that if I do, I will never let myself live it down and so I climb back upon my bike and slowly pedal my way upwards. It helps that at this point I’m above the clouds and can see the sun again. As I approach the parking lot at the summit, I get a burst of energy and stand to do some sort of victory yell as I enter the parking lotand I stand to dance on the pedals, unleashing my suitcase of courage with a scream as I enter the parking lot in victory

Four hours and thirty-four minutes. 35 miles. 10000 feet of vertical gain. The single hardest thing I think I’ve ever done on a bike, both in terms of physical effort required but even more from the amount of mental effort. It was like being dropped off the back of the field at a race but orders of magnitude more difficult.

The summit has a fair number of people and some of them look on with disbelief that I did the entire ride up. Some of the others had passed me multiple times as they stopped at scenic lookouts on the way and congratulated me. I pulled out my phone as I sat on the top of the world for some pictures and a brief rest before making my way back down the mountain.
10023 Feet
Holding the bike aloft
View from the summitAnother view from the summit

And then, it was time to make my way down. I stopped at the upper visitor’s center to again refill my bottles and use the restroom. I also pull on my knee warmers as I realize it’s a lot cooler on the way down given the fact that I basically am coasting in a high wind. As I make my way down, I also notice the third thing I had forgotten for the day — my long fingered gloves. Oh well. I start down and also sort of wish I had a wind jacket or a rain jacket as the misting picks up as I hit the cloud layer.
View from 5000 feet

The way down is pretty boring. It’s a mix between coasting, braking for the sharp turns that aren’t banked and feeling the fact that I’d been sitting on the bike for 5+ hours. Also, trying to pedal a little to keep from cramping badly after the difficulty of the ride up. I honestly don’t know at this point why anyone would want to do that much less pay to do it. But it’s definitely still a lot faster. Less than two hours for the entirety of the ride down, even when you include the stops I made including for pictures at 5000 feet.
Another view at 5000 feet

I make it back to Paia and navigate the now significant traffic in town to get back to the car. I gladly dismount and am glad. In the battle of Jeremy vs Haleakala, I beat the volcano.

After doing it and having a little bit of time to reflect on it, I’m even more glad that I did the ride. It was definitely the hardest thing I’ve ever done on the bike. I think it even can count for the use of the word epic. After looking at the times of the finishers in the race which the ranger had mentioned to me, I’m even more glad as I think that my time was quite respectable given that I was doing it solo and not as a race. I might have to do some of the New England hill climbing races as it was a lot of fun.

Equipment-wise, I think I was pretty well prepared. A compact crank was definitely good to have. I can see where a triple could help. Arm warmers and knee warmers was okay for August. I wish I had remembered my long fingered gloves for the way down. A jacket might have been nice, but having to carry it up probably negates the value of it. Leg warmers vs knee warmers is probably a matter of personal preference — it’s six of one, half dozen of the other for me until it’s quite a bit cooler.

Last of all, the route I used is below as well as a link to Garmin Connect where you can export the route to follow yourself if you find yourself in Maui and wanting to ride the volcano.
Haleakala Route Map

Maui, Days 0-3

Kara’s sister is getting married on Maui so we had a good excuse to head to Hawai’i. Even though the timing wasn’t perfect with my class schedule, we decided to take a little bit of extra time for a real vacation. Because if you’re going to fly twelve hours each way, you really should.

The trip started on Monday with a very reasonable flight time (11 am) out of Logan. Traffic wasn’t too bad heading to the airport and we checked in and had plenty of time. We also grabbed a sandwich to have on the flight since we figured food options would be scarce and we’d be hungry. We were right. The first leg from BOS to LAX was pretty uneventful. I read a fair bit without getting motion sick (yay!) and the time went by pretty quick. We landed at LAX and had a few hours until the next leg of flying. So we wandered around the terminal to stretch our legs and then got some “dinner”. Not great options, but the Chili’s was as expected. We then boarded the next plane a little late and were on our way to Maui (OGG). This flight was a little bit less tranquil — lots of early elementary school aged kids running around and yelling. I never quite realized that Maui was a popular destination for families, but apparently it is (now?). We landed a little later than intended, picked up our bags and headed to get the rental car. Not too long later, we were on our way to Kapalua and our condo. We made a quick pit stop for another meal and finally got to the condo at 10 pm local time. 4 am Eastern. After being up at 7. Long day. We quickly looked around the (nicely set up) condo and wasted no time in falling asleep.

Tuesday morning, I woke up at just before 6 am local time and caught the sunrise out our bedroom window. Was quite nice. Then I relaxed a bit, had a little bit of breakfast and waited for Kara to get up. Then we showered and headed out to pick up some supplies. We hit the grocery store and headed back to go down and check out the beach. While we can see the ocean from our condo, the beach is a short walk but it was nice. We sat there for a little bit and then headed out to find some lunch. For lunch, we ended up at the Cool Cat Cafe in Lahaina Center. Kind of cool with basically an open air covered deck for most of the seating with typical sort of diner-y fare. I had a Hula Chicken sandwich — grilled chicken with Hawaiian sauce, bacon, pineapple slices and cheese. Food was pretty good, the service left a little to be desired. Then we wandered around Lahaina a little bit.

For dinner, we went to Whaler’s Village and ended up eating at the Hula Grill for what has so far been our best meal. It’s really sort of two restaurants in one — one being outdoors and on the beach and the other being a more normal dining room. We ate at the outdoors portion and I had a spicy roasted fish which was delicious. Perfectly prepared and the fish was clearly very fresh. We also had much better luck in terms of the service we received. Atmosphere was also kind of cool with lots of tiki torches, a little band playing Hawaiian music and just being beachside (even though it was dark by then). While we waited to be seated, we also got to see the sunset over the water which was pretty nice. After that, it was back to the condo and another night of turning in early.
Sunset in Maui from the Hula Grill

Wednesday morning I again woke up at around six. Spent a little bit of time prodding the wireless router in the condo and finally sort of got it cooperating. Makes uploading pictures and writing blog posts a lot easier! Then, we decided to set up and go on a tour of a Maui Gold pineapple plantation. This was awesome. The driver/tour guide (Carlos) is an employee of the company but basically is in charge of the tours. He either knew a lot of Hawaii and pineapple history or he was really good at making it up :-) Out in the fields, we got to taste pineapple straight off the bush at various levels of sweetness/ripeness. Usually you’d wonder if your tour guide got off the bus with a machete, but in this case it was a very very good thing. We also got to pick pineapples of our own (two each to take back plus one to take back to eat while we’re here). All in all a very good time.

In the afternoon, I went out for a quick little ride on the bike I’m renting. I rented from West Maui Cycles and ended up getting a Cannondale Synapse with an Ultegra/Dura-Ace component mix. Maybe a year or so old? In any case, a pretty nice bike. I headed out west on highway 30 and into the West Maui mountains. Got in a good 26 mile ride with a significant amount of climbing — there’s certainly not climbing like that at home!

Then for dinner, we headed back to Front St. This time, we ended up at BJ’s Chicago Pizzeria as it had pretty good reviews as far as pizza in Maui. I only later realized it was a chain. Was pretty good though. We then grabbed some shave ice and headed back to the condo after walking around a fair bit.

On Thursday, I again woke up pretty early and this time went out on a ride when I woke up. Headed out the same way trying to see how far I could make it before needing to turn around but hit a pretty weird storm with heavy rain and wind not that far out. Rather than ride through it and end up soaked, I figured I’d turn around and ride east/south towards Lahaina in the more “urban” area. Was fine, but nothing to really speak of.

The afternoon was pretty low-key and then Kara’s parents and one of her sisters + husband + six month old got in. So we went over and talked with them for a bit. Then we went to dinner at Kobe — a teppanyaki place. It was your pretty typical teppanyaki place. But a good time and the food was definitely good. Then it was an early night to turn in as I was planning to get up extra early to head out and ride up Haleakala on Friday. But that post will have to wait for later.