Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Cycle to the Sun

It is my firm belief that anniversaries, birthdays, and special occasions should be celebrated doing something memorable. Receiving of gifts and consuming an overpriced meal do not rate in my book as memorable. Marking a date with an epic ride or adventure is a sure fire way to forever brand one's memory bank.

Every December, my birthday rolls around and every December the weather is less than desirable. Rarely do I spend that day doing anything memorable. Raja always marks his good day with exciting adventures like cycling up Whilster's Blackcomb Mtn, Marin County's Mt. Tamalpais, the Stelvio Pass in Italy, or up the Swiss Alps. The last birthday I recall was my 30th. Imagine my surprise when I ran into Harry's Farmers Market only to find the bread department filled with all my friends dressed up in various chocolate outfits. Suffice it to say, it's hard to surprise me, and that one did.

This time the surprise was on Raja. I had no intentions of spending my birthday in cold dreary Georgia, so I pestered Raja until he relented to my scheming. Two tickets to Hawaii were purchased, and we were on a jet plane Thanksgiving day.

I had accomplished one goal of being somewhere warm for my birthday, but now for the 2nd goal. What to do on the actual day that would be memorable? Lying on the beach hardly counts as special. It would have to be a bike ride, but there aren't any super epic rides we wanted to do on Oahu.

I know!!! Let's go to Maui and climb Haleakala, the 10,000' high mountain! Dozens of tour companies drive eager tourists up the mountain and suit them to ride down the mountain. We would do it the opposite way. We'll ride up it. We did 12,000' climbing one day in Switzerland, how much harder could this be?

There is a race up Haleakala each year called Cycle to the Sun. Checking out the results, I saw the times ranged from 2:51 to 6:45 with the average looking to be 4 1/2 hrs. Judging from this, I wasn't too daunted or worried over the degree of difficulty. Besides, we are graduates of THE Camp Hillseeker, the hardest Swiss cycling camp of all times. I can handle anything. Bring it on. I'm the birthday girl.

We were scheduled to fly to Maui at 6:30 Tuesday morning with the return at 8:55 that evening. I had it all figured out. We'd slowly work our way over to the bike shop to pick up the bikes, head out for the ride by 8:30, finish by 2 or 3, grab a bite to eat, enjoy the sunset, and roam around just in time to catch our flight back. What was that I've posted about before? The best laid plans of mice and men........?

If you're ever in Hawaii and want to fly between islands, don't go with a compulsive obsessive early bird. Our 6:30 flight did not necessitate a 4 am wake up call, but we still managed to rally at 0:darkhundred, no thanks to Raja's new Touch Ipod that went off with an ungodly Defcon red alert alarm at 1:00am. I resisted the urge to throw that thing across the room, and went back to a deep sleep. Fortunately, Raja woke up at 4:15, and we had more than enough time to make our flight.

I've been to Maui a number of times, and wanted to make a stop by Ho'okipa Beach on our way to the bike shop. At 7:45 a.m. the parking lot there was full and all the surfers were already out in the ocean waiting for the perfect wave.

"I thought this was windsurfer territory," I commented to Raja. Being in the know, he told me that surfers have priority until 11:00 am, after which the windsurfers get to do their thing. We watched in awe as the surfers rode the monster waves. I'll never comprehend the amount of courage, strength and agility that sport requires. They have my utmost respect.

As we rolled into the bike shop just before 9:00, a couple from Canada were already suited up and preparing for a guided ride with the shop owner, Donnie. I was envious since the girl was being set up with a Litespeed. Something told me I was not going to get the same nice rig.

Kay assisted us in getting bikes and such, and could not have been more helpful. She was very patient, informative, and full of energy and I appreciated her attitude. She even insisted Raja use her personal lightweight backpack for carrying the extra clothes we'd need on the downhill. I usually dread dealing with bike shops when renting bikes. I don't know if it's because I'm short and a female, but they tend to treat me like I'm a moron and act as though they'd rather be at home doing laundry instead of helping me.

For the lovely price of $60 each we were handed Scott Speedster S30 road bikes. Raja noticed the rear cassette looked to only be a 12x25, but was slightly relieved to see the front had a triple ring. If we're going to climb 1o,ooo', we needed all the help we could get. I was a bit worried with the ride the aluminum frame would deliver, but was pleasantly surprised when it rode more like carbon. Hawaii road surfaces are horrible at best, and a harsh riding bike can shake your teeth loose. Believe me, we've been there, done that, don't want to experience it again.

Kay handed us a casually drawn map and went over the directions pointing out landmarks for which to look. There was about a 10 mile climb to get us to the start of the 22 mile climb, and time was a wastin'. Finally, around 9:20, we rolled out of the parking lot.

Within 1/2 mile we had already missed a turn. We were off to a roaring start. Backtracking, we found our turn and got back on course. I had absolutely no idea what this ride had in store, other than we would be climbing the entire time. Looking ahead, all I could see were clouds. For all I knew, Mt Kilimanjaro was looming before me. What you can't see, can't hurt you....at least that was my theory for the ride. Carry on and upward.

The roads led us up through lush beautiful upcountry fields with grazing cows and sheep, flower farms, lavender farms, fruit trees, and big giant majestic trees lining the way. We would get to an intersection and scratch our heads while taking a wild guess as to how to interpret the map.

After a few miles we began to see groups of cyclists coming down the road. Ah ha! These must be the Maui Downhillers. These suckers got up at 4am just like we did, so they could make the 0:darkhundred shuttle ride to the top for the sunrise. Now, they were enjoying over an hour of cruising down, down, down.

With full face helmets, windbreakers, and hefty bikes, some of the participants gave us the shaka sign as they zipped on by. Some looked happy, others didn't look so enthralled. I hoped I too would be a happy camper once I made my descent.

We turned on Olinda Road and faced a wall to climb. Kay had warned us, and assured us that it was short and would be the steepest thing we'd face all day. Still the downhillers would trickle by as we continued up. Two here, 3 there, a big group, then a straggler or two. We passed by the van where cyclists were finished with their downhill run and were loading up the bikes.

They stood there gawking as we rode by, and we heard them saying, "they're going up the hard way!"

The clouds stayed put and I began to lose hope that the sun would break out. We decided this was a blessing, since the lack of shade would cause us to roast if the sun were to shine. Convincing myself that it was okay, I came to terms with the clouds. As long as it's not raining, I can handle it.

After climbing for days, we finally reached the official turn for the Haleakala climb. Only 22 more miles to go. Sounds so benign, so doable, so easy. What's the big deal? Never mind it has taken us an hour and a half to get this far. I told myself it was because we had stopped to consult the map and take a picture or two. The grade wasn't steep and once we got cranking I figured we'd be at the top in 3 hrs.

At various strategic points along the course, the elevation was painted on the road. I ignored the 2,000, & 3,000' markers. That's just too depressing. But once the 4,500' popped up, I started the mental games. "Almost halfway there, that's 4,500' closer than you were a few hrs ago, this is a piece of cake."

A rather bold sign announced the entering of cow territory. Watch for cows in the road, it said. Yea, yea, whatever. Like I'm sure cows are going to be ambling around in the road when there's zillions of green acres around for them to graze.

Whoa! 1/2 a mile later I came to understand they were not kidding. This big ole cow was staring me down as I came up on him. I'd move, he'd move. I'd stop, he'd stop. Um, what do I here? We played chicken for a little while and finally he crossed the road, but not without checking me out first. It was a bit nerve racking. I made a mental note to watch out for him on the way down.

We passed loads of cows, many right on the side of the road, but none were as interested in me as the first one I encountered, thank goodness. After I recovered from the shock of that experience, I realized the fog was getting thicker and thicker. That's okay, I thought. It's just fog and the effort we were putting out was keeping us warm despite the falling temps.

For every 1,000' rise in elevation, I think the temp drops by 2 degrees. I couldn't help but wonder how I was going to deal with things in another 5,000'. I'll cross that bridge when I get to it. Right now my work was cut out for me and I needed to stay on task.

The road had turned to long stretches connected with switchback after switchback. The clouds concealed the path ahead, and I imagine it would be a daunting scene to look up and see eternal switchbacks. Even with all the fog, you could sense the wide expanse and how spectacular the scenery would be if one could see it. Pretending I could see the beautiful view below, I'd say "Wow, that's incredible, that is so cool!" In reality it was just Raja against a not so stunning backdrop of clouds.

Already I was getting a bit too mental, but it was the only way I could think of to keep myself going. Talking myself through this was the best plan I could formulate. Otherwise I'd be mad that I'd come this far just to ride up some road for ever and ever and not see a thing. What are you going to do? Regularjoe would tell me to pitch a hissy fit. That would fix everything. But not today. I was going to be the victor today.

Climb, climb, climb. For hours now, all I've been doing is climbing. No relief, no letting up, no rolling hills, no views, nothing to tame the senses, no conversation. Just a gradual grind up up up. At least there were the sounds of exotic sounding birds to entertain me, but as we climbed higher, their sounds faded.

It's hard to pace yourself when you have no idea exactly what your facing, so I did the best I could to be conservative without crawling on all fours.

Raja had the unfortunate luck of being sickly the previous few days. A lowgrade fever and serious congestion had left him with no energy at all. I kept trying to talk him out of doing the ride, but he insisted he might as well do it since we'd come all this way. Riding at a slightly quicker pace, I'd ride ahead into the fog trying to find my own rhythm while stopping every once in a while to spot him on a switchback.

"Are you sure you should be doing this, honey,"
I'd stop and plead with him to turn around. But he was as stubborn as I, and insisted I go ahead and ride my own pace while he did his own thing. "Okay, be careful," I said and rode off.
We had reached the 5,000' mark and I was ready to make some time. No longer stopping to check on my sherpa, I got into a zone and worked at clicking away the feet. Mile markers started at the bottom of the 22 mile climb, and it seemed to take hours to pass between miles. Mile 7, aaaaaggghhhhhh, that means 15 to go. Time for a new strategy. I decided to cut the mileage in half and shoot for the 10 mile marker as my goal. Then I'd start over again at mile 11. Kay had said something about a park entry gate at 7,000'. That would be my other goal.

The fog had now developed into a light drizzle. Still coping rather well with the dismal conditions, I continued with my pace in short sleeves and shorts. I would not put on any more clothes unless absolutely necessary. The arm warmers, jackets, and such would better serve me for the descent if they started out dry. As long as I was working up a sweat, my body stayed warm enough and the cold did not effect me. Who was this person, and what had they done with the real chocolate girl, I wondered?

The closer I got to the park station the more driven I became. But then I had a sinking feeling. The park gate meant I would need $5 to enter and my sherpaman, who was trailing behind me, was my money man. The smart thing to do would be to stop and wait or turn around, but instead I kept driving onward as if possessed. Surely Raja wouldn't be too far behind, and surely he wouldn't have decided to abandon and turned around. Like a mindless droid, I turned the pedals over and over methodically, watching for the elusive mile marker to appear.

I must be hallucinating, because I could see a mirage in front of me. Two riders were standing on the side of the road. I had not seen another cyclist, other than the Maui Downhillers, since we started. It didn't even occur to me that someone else would be doing this. Resisting the urge to get off and hug them, I passed them by while saying hello. Riding along for hours in the same rhythm, up up up had put me into a type of trance. Seeing other humans shook me out of my solitude and sense of being the only person left on the planet. A planet I could not see, just a sea of fog, rain, and an endless paved road forever extending before my wheel.

This jolt made me realize it was actually raining, not just drizzling. I decided to stop and put my extra clothes in a plastic bag within my backpack and to put on my vest to slow down the drenching effect. As I stood on the side of the road, my 2 compatriots rode by and we greeted each other again.

This was fantastic. A carrot to follow! Two carrots to follow. I hurried and got back on the bike to pursue my new found rabbits. Slowly, very slowly, I caught up to one and passed him by. It wasn't about proving anything or trying to look stronger. I was feeding off their energy and using that to motivate me to continue onward. It took a little longer to catch carrot #2, but eventually I did. Actually, the facts are blurry now, I cannot recall what transpired. I don't think we rode together, because if we did I would have chatted with him. I guess I rode on ahead, in the rain.

I had no watch and no computer for keeping time. How long have I been riding? Have I missed our flight back to Oahu? After what felt like days, the Haleakala park sign came into view with a little shack in the road marking our entry fee point. I would have to stop at this point and wait for Raja, in the rain, in the cold rain.

My godsend friends appeared and stopped to evaluate their plan. I kept coming up with new conditions on whether I would continue. At first I had said "if it rains" I'm not going, and now it was raining. So I said, "if it downpours" I would turn around. Yong Sik and Ivan were seriously debating continuing on past the gate. "Oh, come on, please, you've got to try it, you've come this far," I pleaded with them to go for the summit. Ivan was already cramping and did not feel he had it in him, but they decided to go on anyway.

We said our "goodbye, see ya shortly", and I waited for Raja to appear. There was no way in H-E-double hockey sticks that I was going to ride down how ever far to find him. No siree, not today. Once I've climbed a foot, I'm not descending it until I'm at the tippy top. Right as I watched my 2 new friends ride off in the fog, I looked back to see Raja's jersey appear around the bend. Shew.

He was a bit dismayed that I had ridden off and not gotten some money from him. "You could be way ahead by now," he said, "you need to keep going. I don't know if I am going to continue." He assured me it was okay to go for the summit without him. At this rate, I knew I didn't have enough food, so Raja gave me the rest of his supplies. "Can I have your Sunto too?" Raja equipped me for time keeping and bid me on my way.

Paying my $5 to the guy at the gate, I asked him if he thought it would clear up at the top. He had eaten his ill pills for the day, and said gloomily, "I doubt it, from the looks of things here it's probably worse up there." Gee, thanks Mr. Sunshine, I felt like saying. Then he smugly said, "We all make our choices, you could be lying on the beach right now." To which I replied in the happiest perky voice I could find, "What would be the fun in that? I'd much rather be doing this!"

I left cranky pants to his gloomy day, and rode up another 1/4 mile to the information center to fill up my water bottles. As I got back on my bike, I saw Raja coming up through the fog. Wha????? Figures, he's going to try his best. I felt so guilty, so bad for him as we exchanged smiles across the distance and I carried on with my personal quest. I am a lucky girl.

Choosing to ignore the rain and colder temps, I set my sights on catching up with Yong Sik and Ivan. There had been a sign at the info center showing the remaining route ahead, and I had made note of the number of switchbacks to give myself something to count down. The road appeared to go in long stretches with only about 7 switchbacks. 11 miles to go and 3,000' more climbing.

The terrain was turning rockier, almost Moab looking with short desert bushes and little yellow flowers dotting the roadside. I thought it odd that these delicate little flowers could survive in such wretched conditions. If they could do it, then so could I. Seeing the colors gave me hope in this sea of dirt, rocks, pavement, and rain.

I passed by my 2 friends stopped on the side of the road. They said they were just stopping for a bit, so I encouraged them on and said I'd see them soon. Somehow I felt that that would be the last time we'd see each other. (Post Note: Yong Sik attempted the climb 3 days later and successfully made it to the summit. Now that's impressive!)

Whenever the road headed east (I think, or lets just say going across the leftside of the mtn) the air would be drier and warmer. I began talking outloud to myself. "Whoohoo, this feels great, that's what I'm talking about!" As I looked up towards the next switchback, the fog and clouds were thick, so I knew this would not last. I enjoyed it while it lasted, and then the road turned back into the rain.

By now I could not believe what I was doing. I was doing everything I hate doing on a bike. Riding in the Cold and Rain up a Climb with No View whatsoever. I was laughing inside, like a possessed deranged person. It was as though the worse the conditions became, the more driven I became at overcoming them. That summit was up there, and I was going to get to it on these 2 wheels.

I hate to belabor the whole "been riding 20 yrs+ thing", but it really has paid off in some ways. Ten years ago I don't think I would have had the mental endurance to stick with this. All those decades of experience have taught me a thing or two, and I felt a slight sense of satisfaction at getting to draw from that.

My legs were started to twinge and fatigue from the countless of hours of climbing. With no computer to see my speed, no fellow cyclists off which to pace, I had no concept of how I was doing. I was going forward, that's all I knew. At least I now had a watch, but I tried not to look at it too often. The time seemed to pass faster than my wheels were carrying me forward. How many hours is this going to take me? It was a mental challenge not to dwell on it, thus risking the onset of discouragement and defeat.

The mile markers were much more encouraging at this point. They came more frequently than the elevation signs, so I started a new game. When the marker would appear, I would holler outloud, "Yahoo, Yea!" Then I would say whatever number it was, "Fourteen!" Then I would say it in German, "vierzehn!" Then in Italian, "quattordici!" Of course, between the fatigue and diminishing supply of oxygen, my mind was not working so fast anymore. It would take me a while to process the words and language in my brain, but it helped to pass the time. I would refuse to say the next mile number or even think of the next number until it appeared.

I sang the Camp Hillseeker song, "happy happy happy, climb climb climb". But I couldn't overdo it with the verbal action, because it would use up too much of my precious valuable energy. Just a few verses were sung outloud, and the rest in my head.

Amazingly enough, this strategy worked well, and the miles moved along with my legs. Any sign that appeared would bring great excitement since there was not much at which to look. Some signs were not so encouraging.

Others were intriguing.

I guess I would have missed the signs had the clouds not been obstructing the fabulous view that I could almost feel, it was so real to me.

Then I saw it. I patch of blue in the sky! I had not seen that color since 9:00 this morning. By now, it was closing in on 3:00. Would I actually be able to see the sun today? Would it be up there at the summit waiting on me!??

Watching the clock, it was taking me about 8 minutes per mile. I had to up my pace if I wanted to make it to the top by 3:00. With at least an hour and a half descent still ahead after the summit, I could not waste any time.

Even though my altitude was climbing higher and higher, my breathing did not seem to change as it usually would at higher elevation. My legs were more than making up for it though. The muscles were screaming, and I remembered reading about someone elses same experience. Does the higher humidity make you react differently to altitude? I don't know. All I knew was I was glad to not be panting anymore than necessary. My mind went back to last year when we climbed the Stelvio in Italy. I could hardly breathe those last few miles from 7,000 to 9,000'. Interesting. Whatever the phenomena was, I'll take it.

The clouds were still thick as a blanket when I looked down below me. Unable to get the satisfaction of seeing the switchbacks I had already conquered, I squinted to see what was glistening ahead. Oh my, oh my! I bet that's the observatory! I started to giggle. I'm going to see that sucker! Oh yea, baby! I'm doing this thing. For the first time today, I saw a most unusual sight, my shadow! I was ecstatic, so much so though that I had to take my picture. Never has something so simple made me so happy.

That revelation did not make it any easier, but the excitement made me click it down a gear and push a little harder. My effort lasted all of 30 seconds as the searing pain ripped through my quads and down my calves. Shift, shift!! You've got to make it to the top in one piece. Just calm down and keep it going.

The rain had stopped and I was going in and out of the clouds. The thought of actually making it to the top was slowly starting to register in my brain. All I could think of was, "take it all in, this is probably only going to happen once." And I did take it all in. The moonlike terrain, the big puffy tops of the clouds, the bright reflection of the sun bouncing off the glass observatory, the beautiful summit sign pointing me on my way, it was all so beautiful.

I turned a corner and saw the information center knowing that this was the last push. As if laughing in my face, the road pitch got steeper and tried to bring me down. But I just weaved the bike and pushed the pedals over as slow as I could without seizing up my legs. Too tired to laugh outloud, I was hysterical on the inside. The top of the world was laid out before me, and it was spectacular!!! I slowly inched by the 10,000' sign and rolled into the parking lot. A small pathway went up to the very top and I continued on my bike up it not stopping until I was all the way at the Summit.

Barely able to get off the bike, I gingerly lifted my left leg over the top tube while trying not to fall over. A feeling of disbelief washed over me. I had been pushing for this moment for so long, and it was finally here. I had no vision of what to expect, which made it all the more exhilarating and fresh to behold. There were just a couple other people at the top, and the solitude was appreciated. It was so quiet and majestic, and a group of jabbering tourists would have ruined the moment for me.

I knew that just below those clouds was the most spectacular thing I could have seen, but today I would only be left to my imagination. The Haleakala crater was at my fingertips, and I wanted so so badly for those clouds to vanish and reveal the volcano's glory. It didn't happen.

My disappointment never had a chance to surface because the euphoria and awe over what I had done took over completely leaving no room for anything other than excitement. My watch said 2:55. I had made it with time to spare. Time to gawk and stare and stumble around saying, "I can't believe I made it, I can't believe it, I did it, I'm here." Five hours, five continuous hours of climbing, over 32 miles. That's a first for me.

After officially documenting that my bike had brought me to the top of the summit, it was time to begin layering up in preparation for the downhill.

My hamstrings were tight as a tick, making it difficult for me to move about swiftly. Thankfully, not many people were around to wonder why I was hobbling like a 99 yr old woman, and I slowly put on some clothes. Arm warmers, knee warmers, shoe toe covers, long finger gloves, vest (already on) and wind breaker. The sun was shining so brightly that I questioned whether I would really need all this stuff. It felt so good standing there in its warmth, that I did not want to leave. But I knew I had to get going, so I took one last shot of the infamous Silversword plant that is only found here in the crater.

A group of foreign speaking guys were suiting up with body armor in preparation for some type of mtn bike descent. I wanted badly to inquire if they were going to go down the Skyline Trail, but was too focused on my task at hand....getting down. The second I started down I realized just how frigid it was. Instantly, the cold air pierced through my helmet vents, inducing brain freeze. Holy smoke! It's Cooooold!
Thank goodness I have on these clothes!!!

As I rounded the first switchback, all of a sudden everything went dark. What's going on? I started to panic as I gingerly tapped the brakes trying to avoid skidding while I slowed to a stop. Oh, duh. The clouds and light rain had instantly covered my glasses making it impossible to see. Putting them away in the safety of my pocket, I continued down into a thick wall of clouds.

It only got colder and darker. Was it this thick when I was climbing? No, the conditions had worsened considerably in that small amount of time, and by now I could hardly see 20' in front of me. I had 2 choices, I could lock up, panic, and stand there crying, or I could focus, block out the bad thoughts, and keep going.

Not being a big fan of downhilling on wet roads, the zero visibility and zero temperature made things downright unbearable. "Just keep it going, the faster you go, the more stable you'll be, relax, just tap the brakes, keep your speed down in these tight turns, don't go off the edge, stay in control, you can do this." I talked my way through it with intermittent breaks in focus, "crap, it's so stinkin' cold, I'm freezing, aghhhhh, No, stop it, don't think about it."

With no warning, 2 car lights would appear in the opposite lane right before me. I could only hope that they didn't swerve in my lane and take me out. I almost careened into a van stopped in the middle of my lane. What the......? They decided to stop and take a picture of a Nene bird on the side of the road. Brilliant. Thank you very much for taking a few years off my life.

Under normal conditions, I would be enjoying a stunning view of The Valley Isle below me. Not today, still the same ole scenery I had on the way up. Nothing. For an hour. When I got near the cow zone I was extra careful. That's all I need is to plow into a cow! Crossing over the cattle guards was nerve wracking since they were slick as glass.

I passed by the Hawaiian version of the North Georgia Gaps Sunrise Market. The sign was so inviting, but I whizzed on by in pursuit of the bottom.

The air was finally feeling warmer and I had broken out of the thick rainy clouds. My core was still frozen and my wet clothes were not helping to warm my body. It would take a while for me to reap the benefits of the rise in temperature.

This bike was surprisingly comfortable for me and my hands were not cramping or uncomfy at all as they were during my descents in Switzerland. At the end of the 22 mile road, I took a right and looked for the blue arrows to guide me on the rest of the way down.

I was so fatigued at this point that I couldn't figure out how to stop the bike and take a break. All I wanted to do was get back to that bike shop and get OFF the bike. Riding for so long in the clouds was messing with my senses. The rushing of wind in my ears during the long descent was deafening and filled my head with a constant buzz. It felt like an ancient form of torture and I wanted to make it stop, but the constant drone was always there. No interaction with other humans to speak of, no normal scenery to see, and the buzz in my head had lulled me into another trance.

Now it was getting entirely too warm for me to be wearing the jacket so I slowly came to a stop and took it off. Trying not to take too much time, lest I never get back on the bike, I cleaned off my glasses so I could put them back on and see for the rest of the way.

As I blasted down down down, I heard a car blowing its horn. Huh? Oh! Oh, thank goodness! It was Raja coming back up to find me. It didn't even occur to me that he would do that, but boy was I happy to see his face! Normally I would never surrender and cut a ride short, but today I didn't hesitate to answer when Raja asked if I was done. "Yes! I'm done, load the bike up please." With only 5 more downhill miles remaining, I didn't really care. All I wanted was to be off my bike and celebrate making it to the top.

Thinking I would be famished and ready to eat a buffet, my appetite was rather suppressed. This is the reaction I used to have after super hard races. It would take me a couple of days before I could eat, and then I couldn't stop eating. My original plan was to have a nice meal and drive to the west side of Maui to watch the sunset. Obviously we weren't going to have time for that since sunset was less than an hour away. But that was okay, I had accomplished what I had set out to do for my birthday.

We headed to Pa'ia, the ultimate hippie town. You've never seen so many affected people in your life. Very entertaining. Our first encounter with Pa'ia was in 1998 and there wasn't much to it. The main street only had one store worth going into and it did not even offer full meals. It was the perfect picture of a sleepy town. Yesteryear's Pa'ia is gone and has been transformed into a green loving, hippie fashion, homegrown, organic, homeschooled, surfers mecca.

Walking down the street, we passed by a grungy looking grocery, Mana Foods, and decided to pop in and take a look-see. Raja was thrilled as this appeared to be the motherload of all grocery stores. It was the store of his dreams.

After cruising the town for somewhere to eat, we both decided we'd rather go back to Mana Foods and eat from the food bar there. Fresh baked bread, homemade brownies, and lots of yummy healthy foods, and we were good to go. That's my idea of a birthday meal! And all for $12. You can't beat that.

Seeing a gelato store on the corner intrigued me. Since nothing says Maui like gelato (?) I was impressed with the selection and taste. It was almost like being in Italy.

I've ridden over 6 hrs today, I think I deserve an extra treat. Mmmm, happy birthday to me!

While I didn't climb Mt. Everest or change a life for an orphan, it was still a momentous occasion for me and a great way to celebrate my birthday. I don't know why I feel the need to do such feats. No one else really cares and it won't change anyone's life. But overcoming personal odds and difficult circumstances are the challenges that keep us going and give us a reason to get up in the morning.

The older I get, the more I realize how precious memories will be to me, and I want to make all the memories I can. With all the money we spent to do this, Raja could have bought me a pretty ring or even a nice bike part. But in the end, these items will eventually fade away and become dated or useless. I don't ultimately care about acquiring things. Things don't bring me happiness or give meaning to my life. It's the memories.

I hold on to all these memories for the humdrum of day to day life. Everyday is not a party. We have routines, boring routines. You may see me going through my monotonous daily routine, but I will also be smiling on the inside as I relive these classic moments and epic trips over and over, dreaming about the next one. There may not ever be a next one, so that's why I cherish the memories I have. That's why I do it.

I cycled to the sun. One cloudy rainy day, I rode my bike 10,000' up to see the glorious sun. It was on my birthday. I remember, because the sun was shining that day, at the top.


regularjoe said...

I cussed like a sailor just reading about that ride.

Indeed, life is not about the things. it's about the experiences, the memories. Awesome...

jmilliron said...

Great writeup and photos!

I'm going to have to put that ride on my list. :/

O. said...

We do these things because they are there to be done and otherwise it might feel like we are taking life for granted. Plus, sometimes the part of the brain that complains "you can't do this" needs to be taught a lesson or two...

Happy birthday and many more years full of adventure.

Anonymous said...

I always appreciate you allowing us tag along on your vacations and rides. The reality is that I will never be able to do 1% of what you and Raja do but it's a nice to be able to say "I've been there".

Happy Birthday!

Becky said...

Wow, if it is true that "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger", this birthday ride must have made you indestructible. We will have a hard time finding rides that challenge you here in Switzerland after that! Way to go pushing thru it all... You are a true inspiration.