Apparently I'm "gnarly". That's what the guy in the convertible said.
I rented a bike in Maui a few days ago. I asked the bike shop employee whether I should attempt to ride up Haleakala. He said that if I could do the West Maui loop, I could do Haleakala no problem.
So today I attempted the west Maui loop. (Here is the hard part of the loop.) I failed to complete it on a technicality...
After a few modest climbs approaching the north shore of west Maui, I ran into some cyclists taking some photos, so I stopped to take my own photos and chat. They warned me about "The Wall", which is a hill coming up that's around a 15% gradient. But they assured me that it was the hardest hill; once you get past that, it's not bad.
I willed myself to prepare for the climb, and when I saw it coming around the bend, I pulled out every stop. I felt strong, but I could only make it up halfway and I walked the rest. At the top of the hill, an older gentleman at the side of the road held up his thumb for a ride. I told him to hop on.
The north shore of Maui is desolate and beautiful. Picture a narrow one-lane road winding through the mountainous coast, going from sea level to 1,000+ ft and back. In many places, the edge of the road drops off at an extreme angle with no guard rails. There are dozens of signs reading "falling rock", and they aren't kidding. In a few places, the road was completely blocked with dirt and rock. The views of Molokai and Haleakala were beyond description; it's something you can only experience by being there. Though I took many pictures, they come nowhere near the experience.
It was right about when I was sipping my last drop of energy drink (and realizing that I had 15 miles to go to the next big town) that I passed a sign for the "smoothie bus 1 mile". Unfortunately the smoothie bus was closed, as was the next little shop with a sign for shave ice. Luckily Lorraine Shave Ice in Kahakuloa had a "We're Open" sign. I pulled in and enjoyed a wonderful mango shave ice, sampled some toasted coconut, and chatted with some other cyclists stopped here. The shop owner (Lorraine?) was nice enough to have a gallon of ice-cold water sitting out for cyclists!
Amazingly, the man who had been hitch hiking showed up a few minutes later! He calls himself "King of the Road" and spends his days hitch hiking around the island and meeting new people. What a life!
It was after I'd started up the hill past town that the convertible passed me. The road was barely wide enough for a car, and the right side was covered in gravel that had fallen from the hill above me. To the right was a cliff going straight up, and to the left was another cliff going straight down, giving a lovely view of the little village I'd just stopped in. There were hardly any cars on the north shore, probably because the rental agency prohibits you from taking their cars here! But the one that passed me had a young guy and woman in it. I rode in the gravel to let him by and as he did, he shook his head and said, "You're gnarly, man!" I just laughed and continued cycling.
Little did I know that this hill went unrelenting up from 0 to 1,000 ft. I was nearly toast by the time I hit the top. I called Gerald and told him I'd be a few hours late and mentioned that it looked like a nice downhill coming up. That was an understatement. It was a screaming downhill section curving down the mountain that reminded me of the descents I enjoyed in France. With few cars on the road and not too much sand or gravel, I had a blast screaming around corners and enjoying the wind and views.
The rest of the trip was nondescript. I stopped in town for a donut. Back on the highway, I enjoyed a strong tailwind and slight downhill for 5 miles! I hardly had to pedal, which made it all the harder when the road finally flattened out.
For the technicality... I was 5 miles from the hotel, and the breakdown lane was closed for construction. Not wanting to risk joining the 45mph traffic in the one and only lane, I called Gerald and had him pick me up.
As far as I'm concerned, I made it. Haleakala or bust later this week!