Saturday, July 4, 2009
Haleakala Sunrise Tour
With the temperature in the 100’s or hovering close by, we thought it would be nice to tell of a COOL ride for recreational riders. Cool as in temperature and cool as in memorable ride. Think of your perfect ride and multiply it by two and you will have the Haleakala Sunrise Tour. The ride was so great we have to drag it out into minute details.
In the spring we went to Hawaii and stayed at the military resort Hale Koa (House of the Warrior) located on Waikiki Beach.
During the second week we had lined up a bike ride tour with Mountain Riders for the Haleakala Sunrise Tour. So on Tuesday we boarded Hawaiian Air for the trip over to Maui, checked into the hotel, ate in a quaint restaurant downtown, and made it an early night as Mountain Riders was to pick us up at 3 A.M.!
We were transported over to their establishment where we met the other bikers for the tour. Besides us there were three couples playing hooky from a Xerox conference on the tour. Mountain Riders was thoughtful enough to provide coffee and doughnuts. Nothing like waking up with caffine and a sugar high. While we sipped and munched, they showed us an orientation and safety film. "Is there anyone who isn't real secure about riding?" Silence. Then we all signed that we would not get mad at them should we get injured or killed. We were to start at the 6,500 foot elevation instead of the 10,023 summit in the Haleakala National Park. The Park had recently banned biking down the steep switchbacks in the park as there had been too many bikers getting killed going down that part of the mountain, so we had to start outside the park at the 6,500 foot level.
After the briefing, we piled into a van with a trailer of bikes and equipment. The van would be our rear protector and SAG vehicle if needed. The guide in the front seat kept turning around to address us four couples, Chris and I being the oldest. "Now, if you're not sure about how well you can ride, it's OK; just let me know." Chris got the distict feeling that he was looking straight at us. At one of our stops she assured him that we were experienced. It was two other youngsters who were the inexperienced brake-riders.
The van hauled us up the mountain thru the National Park to the summit of Haleakala Crater.
Hale (house), akala (sun), Crater (because at the present it’s an inactive volcano). As soon as we got there we were given Columbia Sportswear windbreaker pants and jackets along with heavy gloves.
Why? It was COLD up that high, night time still, and early April. This is one of our COOL ride parts. We were to make our way to the rim to await the sunrise. We waited, froze, broke icicles off our noses for entertainment, and then FINALLY, the sun came up, and the show began. Hope some of the pictures convey the sight.At first light, we left the Park and at the 6,500 ft. start point, we were given our helmets and state of the art volcano chrome cruiser bikes. Man, those things were heavy and had front and rear disc brakes which were neat and necessary.
The ride is 28 miles DOWNHILL with switchbacks along the edge of the cliffs, some had no guardrails. Going off the cliffs and rounding corners into the other lane meeting a vehicle head on were the causes of most deaths mentioned, so having disc brakes was very reassuring.
Downhill, relatively little wind, still cool but getting warmer as the elevation dropped, beautiful scenery, exotic fragrances, not much traffic, good roads, the heavy bikes gained so much momentum that if there were an incline you rolled up it so fast it felt like you were gaining speed uphill. Perfect…cool…ride.
Riders were in a single line with the least experienced, slowest person in front behind our guide. The ride was self-paced and that meant we went as fast as the slowest person. But there was no real hurry to get to the bottom, so there were frequent stops either to let any traffic get around us or stops to take pictures.
Slowly we would shed some layer of clothing until about half way down we all took off the windbreaker/rain gear.
Outside the small community of Makawao we stopped to eat at a roadside inn.
After lunch, we visited the Holy Rosary Church built in 1926.
Really pretty building, monuments, and grounds.
We went through Halilimalle and ended at Pala. Time to go home (back to Oahu, Waikiki Beach, more tours, snorkeling, and even another downhill bike tour on Oahu—but that is another story).