And Home

I finished biking yesterday, arriving back where I started from: a hostel in Captain Cook. True to their word, they had kept the cardboard box that I needed to ship the bike home.

Flying: I detest flying. And my return to the mainland didn’t change my mind. The Internet at the Kona airport “went down” (meaning that someone didn’t do their job!) and the flight information had to be transferred by radio – an apparently archaic method that takes much, much longer – 90 minutes to be exact. The airline tried to make it up to me by not charging me for my in-flight beer.

Being a savvy shopper, I bought a 5″ pepperoni pizza at the airport “restaurant” (which was really two vending machines, a surly lady selling $3.50 coffee, and a half dozen items that they could toss in their microwave). I figured I could have something edible for less than the $10 fruit cup that is available in-flight. Two hours into the flight I ripped the aluminum foil from my pizza and…it was a piece of bread, some tomato sauce, and a slice of American cheese – with not a single piece of pepperoni! I had been hoodwinked! At least the beer was good (Kona Brewing Co. – take the tour, enjoy the samples).

People frequently ask how many miles I pedaled during my trip. I don’t keep track; probably between 300-400 miles; certainly not more. My riding is more about meeting interesting people and seeing the island than seeing how much asphalt I can cover. And I will say this again, there is no better way to see America (or the world) than at 12 mph (actually I saw a lot of the island at speeds much slower than this!)

I want to thank the many wonderful hosts that I met along the way: Shanon, Ronja, Jack, Yvonne, Laura, Paul, Rico, and Dana. They willingly gave me a place to sleep, showed me around, feed me, did my laundry, pointed me toward interesting places, as well as shared their interests and a few days of their lives with me.

People are what interest me and I met many who had interesting stories to share – of which a few made it into my blog – but all of them made it into my memory.

And speaking of people, I want to especially thank my wife, Shirley, who allows me to ride where I want and when I want. She is a very supportive lady and she is also the lure that brings me back home

Until next time, aloha…

Dave

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This and That

Mosquitoes. You might think that in a rain forest with an annual rainfall between 70″-140″ that mosquitoes would be everywhere. Until the Europeans brought the mosquito to the island there were none. Even today there are very few mosquitoes and one reason is that this whole place is volcanic lava, a very porous material that does not allow water to pool and become a breeding ground for the mosquito. Hawaii has PSAs that encourage residents to keep everything from buckets to boats turned upside down so standing water is eliminated.

I mentioned the other day that the best food on the island was some Thai food truck. It turns out that a few other agree with this: Tuk-Tuk Thai food was rated #1 among food truck vendors and #12 among the 730 eateries on the Big Island. The chef, William, a Thailand native, was trained at the Culinary Arts Institute in Hilo. So the next time you want good food, stop by.

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Wild pigs and grasslands: Pigs, now feral, were brought to the island by the Portuguese. They are very destructive and are to blame for the destruction of native grasslands. Where the wild pig has been eradicated, the grasslands have come back (after also eradicating the noxious weeds that took the place of the original grasses). Apparently the island was indeed a Garden of Eden until us foreigners came along.

Kal hails from Australia. He has one more semester of schooling before he can start teaching elementary classes. He has spent the last two months (their summer, remember) working three days a week selling t-shirts on Oahu. He said his working in Oahu is not about the money. With an outlook like that, teaching K12 should be perfect.

Life after the plastic bag: Back home there are various initiatives that have – or are trying – to ban the plastic bag. Hawaii banned them some time ago and people seem to have adjusted. Armageddon didn’t happen.

Tom is a geologist from Durham in Great Britain spending three weeks at Hawaii Volcanos National Park (HVNP). He is studying some minor lava flow (his words, not my trivialization of his life’s work) that happened twenty years ago. I didn’t ask him what ‘studying a minor lava flow’ entails or what one might learn from such a study. And since I didn’t ask, it appears that I will never know (pretty stupid of me, I could have possibly learned a thing or two). Actually, he was a nice guy and once he completes his work will go back to Durham where he teaches at the University.

My new Austrian friend, Nico wants to be a world class photographer. I wonder about people and their dreams and how this sets with reality. Nico is in his 60s and is seeing the island dragging his camera gear in one of those roller cases while hitchhiking around the island. I figured he was just another eccentric person that I meet but actually some of his work looks quite good.

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Hawaii Volcanos National Park

Want to see a cool place? The couple I stayed with in Hilo Town suggested Devil’s Throat (within Hawaii Volcanos National Park). It’s not on the map, but you can find it using the following GPS coordinates: N 19° 22.650, W 155° 14.216. You will have to go and see what I’m talking about…sorry, no spoiler.

Hostels are known to have a good supply of reading material; typically paperbacks and guidebooks left or swapped by travelers before you. Holoholo Hostel has hundreds of National Geographic magazines, some dating back to 1953 (but most from the 1970s through 2014). I was surprised that this august magazine is still in print (as opposed to moving to digital).

Food is insanely expensive on the island – except for fruits and vegetables from farmers markets. I am frugal – my kids say “cheap” but I prefer “frugal”. I hate paying $10 for French toast or $11 for some sushi that has not even been cooked. Pizza and beer just about blows the budget completely (and therefore I have had to give up the pizza). Best food on the island? Has to lunch from the Thai food truck in Volcano, HI.

I had an enjoyable conversation with Chris from Concord CA while engulfed in mist from a volcanic steam vent. I find it interesting the number of conversations that I have had with people while traveling that live within 10 miles of home. Even my host in Hilo was from the East Bay. So much for traveling to far off exotic lands. And isn’t it also interesting that we strike up these conversations, have coffee, and take photos of each other here but won’t even say hello to the same person when we are standing in line with them at Safeway or pass them on the street back home?

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People

You know you might have been on the road too long when every beautiful waterfall looks just like the last one; where today’s black sand beach is indifferent from the last one, where last night’s sunset looks just like, well, like the one the night before. I start turning cynical, seeing only the rust and the mildew, the long-ignored For Rent signs, and the parade of tour buses at every roadside attraction. But wait, this is Hawaii and damn it, I’m going to love it even if it means getting sunburnt, having sand under my swimsuit,being impaled by sea urchins, and being feasted upon by mosquitoes while trekking through rain forests.

So let’s talk about the interesting things: people. It really does come down to people. The sites are usually summed up quite well in your guidebook and Google has far better pictures that you will ever take. It is the people that make a place memorable – in both good ways and not so good ways. This is why I enjoy organizations such as Warmshowers and Couchsurfing; organizations where people host travelers out of the kindness (or interest) of their hearts. And it’s not about money – it always costs the host something (a meal, a load of laundry, a couple of cold beers, a short sightseeing trip that they have probably done at least a couple of times before). With these organizations, I get to meet interesting people that enrich my not only my travels, but my life.

But I’m getting off track; let’s get back to people. I had coffee with Jim yesterday. Jim moved to the island 40 years ago (now 70 years old) and has pretty much made a living since then doing odd jobs – usually having to do with marijuana cultivation. Without being too unfair to Jim, he has probably spent most of those years consuming his share of the crop. Swell guy. We would have talked longer but he had to leave for a 10:00 court hearing; something about being sued because one of his huge pitt bulls attempted to chew off someone’s leg. Jim wasn’t too concerned since he felt he was judgement proof. There you go Jim, keep your expectation high.

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Have you ever seen papayas harvested? I watched this guy with this long pole with a hook taped to the end. With one hand he would snag a papaya and cut it loose, catching it with his free hand. He had a bag hung over each shoulder, dropping the just caught papaya into one of the bags. He repeats the process until each bag weighs about 25 pounds. He was kind enough to give me a papaya (which I found out was a too green to eat since they ripen on their way to market). That’s okay, I am not a big papaya fan.

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Soaking Away My Troubles

Met this 20 years old ukulele player hitchhiking to Cinderpark. No, you don’t know where Cinderpark is – or for that matter what it is. Think of it as a transient village (as in a village for transients) in a long-abandoned sugar cane field more than five miles from any civilization. Lives in a tent with his partner and 18 month old son. Really?

A tide pool is a shallow pool that is filled with water during high tide and is a calm pool of water during low tide. Now, locate this tide pool over a recent lava flow and you end up with hot water. Hot stuff, huh? This is what the Natural Lava swimming pool is; nice little tide pool located about a mile from the most eastern point of Hawaii. Water temperature is about 90°.

At the Black Sand Beach Community (that is what it is called) is an area a mile or two wide where lava flowed to the sea during 1984. What I found interesting is that people place coconuts on the lava. The coconuts sprout, and are one of the few plants whose roots will penetrate the lava and grow. Few plants can grow in this hash environment given that there are few nutrients – at least until centuries after the lava has been broken down into rich volcanic soil.

I ci sited a farmers market; pretty much what you would expect. Well, except for the music being a mix of rock and Hawaii luau music. And there were fruits and vegetables that I have never seen before nor a clue of how to eat. And then there were the Hawaiian shirts vendors. In retrospect, it was a pretty cool market.

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Honoka’a and the Waipi’o Valley

I had breakfast with Fred and his wife Momi. They are Hawaiian and farm about 100 acres up on the mountain. While his cash crop was cattle, they basically ate what they raised. And while life continues to change, he is happy with his life. We talked about a variety of economic and social issues and he shared with me that when he took his daughters to Disneyland that he came face to face with discrimination. People kept speaking Spanish to him – and as a Hawaiian he speaks English. Hawaiian are a mix of Polynesian, Hawaiian, Chinese, Portuguese, German, and who knows what else, the local culture is very diversified and little emphasis is placed on a person’s blood linage.

When Fred took his daughters to Venice Beach, the beach was beautiful but one of his daughters asked him what was wrong with the water. When he went toward the water he was appalled (perplexed?) that the water was like sewage. There would be no swimming.

Hawaiians seem to take care of their land. I do not see the pervasive litter that I see along our sidewalks and streets back home. Last night was First Friday which is a street fair in Honoka’a with great music, dancing, and ethnic food. While walking along the street this morning I noticed almost no litter. This compares favorably to having street cleaning crews descend on our local streets after similar events. No, I am not saying that I want to relocate to Hawaii, rather it makes me appreciate those that care about their surroundings. There was this fellow that was emptying the trash cans this morning. As he removed the plastic liner, a small cup fell and rolled several feet away. The worker took his time to retrieve the single cup as well as a plastic fork that was also on the ground. Let’s just say it was nice to see people with a bit of community pride.

The Waipi’o Valley is a big deal on the island. Its history is one of sacred lands, meeting places for the various chiefs, and a rich farming community. In 1946 a tsunami destroyed life as was known in the valley. In the 1960s and 1970s, people started to return the the valley – mainly counter-culture types. Today the valley is off the grid with no electricity and only a handful of phone lines. Land ownership is up in the air and police are hesitant to get involved with matters in the valley. But it is a beautiful place. It’s mile wide black sand beach and vistas of steep 1,200′ high walls with the occasional waterfall makes it one of the most beautiful sites on the island. (Okay, full disclosure: most of this information. I got from a guide book. While I did hike into the valley – and it is beautiful – I was suffering from the flu and felt like crap and really didn’t care if I was in the most beautiful place on Earth. For more on this valley, just Google it.)

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Slogging

I usually stay away from writing about biking because, let’s face it, nobody cares. But today needs to be mentioned: today’s ride can be broke into a morning ride and an afternoon ride. This morning’s ride was brutal and consisted of a 13 mile hill – no breaks – that gained some 3,600 vertical feet. Given that my bike weighs about 55 pounds (loaded) and I am pathetically out of shape, this was hell. The afternoon’s ride was much easier with a nice tailwind. At the half way point I stopped at McDonald’s (free WiFi and inexpensive coffee). I was hoping that they would not enforce their ‘no loitering’ policy; I don’t think I could have moved if I had wanted to.

Honoka‘a is the oldest wood-framed town (main street) on the island. The town is pursuing historical status. I hope they succeed before the whole town burns to the ground.

In Honoka’a there is The People’s Theater that is still in operation. Too bad tonight’s movie starts so late, the ambience of the old place may have been worth the eight bucks.

I visited the NHERC (North Hawai’i Educational & Research Center) in Honoka’a. Turns out their floating exhibits were between sets and their permanent exhibit space was being renovated. I asked the person manning the facility, Professor Momi something or other (from UH) if she would discuss a couple of areas that I was interested in. I think she was excited to have someone to talk with. She discussed the rise and fall of the sugar industry and the paniolo (the Hawaiian cowboy). We had an interesting hour together (see guys, I have an intellectual side, too).

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