Friday, January 11, 2013

A Taste for Adventure

So...I've lived in my town for 15 years...had kids at the same school for that time.  My town isn't big and I've explored a lot of it.  Of course there are always new nooks and crannies to find but I know most of it very well.  I've scouted out the local "big" city...visited some other favorite parts of my state and even ventured out of state several times...but I admit it.  I'm ready for more.  I need some adventure, people.  I need new faces, new places and maybe even some wide open spaces as The Dixie Chicks liked to sing about.  I don't have a death wish or even need an adrenaline rush...I just want to explore.

When my family went to Hawaii a few weeks ago, I asked out loud who would want to visit Haleakala with me.  Haleakala is the highest point in Maui.  It is over 10,000 feet high, a dormant volcano, and an amazing place to see the sun rise.  I had wanted to go for years but no one wanted to come with me.  This time, Jack was up for it.  We decided to bike down from Haleakala with a group...28 miles, all downhill, ending up at the beach.

It sounded like just the adventure I needed.  It included a 2am wake up call and a very long van ride up a huge mountain in the dark.  I left warm and tropical Maui and entered mountain cold.  Jack popped up, we gathered our things and went looking for our shuttle.  We found him in the dark and for the first time I wondered, "What have I agreed to?"  It wouldn't be the last time I asked this question.

After we picked up other people and made our way to the main town of Kahului, we were given coffee and a video explaining the risks of riding a bike downhill with a group.  We were told it could be raining and slippery making for a treacherous ride. (Insert above question to myself here.)  It was still very dark and misty so I wasn't sure what our weather was going to be like.  They passed out nylon waterproof shells that we could put over our clothes and showed us their winter gloves that we could use as well.  I felt like a computer that just couldn't process the information.  How could tropical, balmy Maui be Canada cold?  

   Turns out 10,000 feet makes a big difference.

We drove our shuttle up the winding road to the top of a dormant crater, Haleakala.  We all were quiet and sleepy...nobody knew what to expect.  We arrived at the summit in total darkness...the first shuttle in the parking lot.  We put on our shell and headed outside.  The cold air outside shocked us awake and Jack and I made our way to the one warm room at the top of this mountain: the gift shop. After warming up and getting our bearings we ventured outside for the view.

We couldn't see much of anything...but it wasn't raining. :)

We had a flicker of light, 
a soft stripe of an orangesicle, 
a promise.  
We might get a real sunrise.

Boy, were we given a sunrise!
Non-stop performance is more accurate.

Mother nature went for it big time.

No, that is not the ocean...that is fog filling the crater with whipped cream waves.

The dance of light, mist and mountain...truly stunning.

Now imagine a traditional Hawaiian chant greeting the new day.  Imagine looking with hundreds of others at the world below.  Imagine silence and camera clicks.  Imagine so many sharing in such a sacred beginning.
We were ice cold...but we were smiling.

Our guides told us that we were the first sunrise that you could see since Christmas...10 days prior.  We felt lucky.
But we also felt nervous.  How were we going to get down this mountain on a bike?

We got back in the shuttle and made our way to the entrance of the national park.  We kept our shell on and tried to warm up.  When we got out of the shuttle just a few miles down the mountain, the mist was running over the mountain and straight on top of us.  I started shivering.  My toes got that numb feeling so well known from ice skating. I looked at Jack and he gave me a smile.  We weren't completely crazy...just a bit.

I got on my bike and got in line on the side of the road. We had a family of 6 people with us from Toronto, Canada; we had a pair of honeymooners from Santa Cruz, California; we had one lone adventurer, Amanda, from Sydney, Australia (if you think it's hard riding down a huge mountain, try doing it on the wrong side of the road, like Amanda!); Jack and me.  Owen would be our fearless guide.  He could ride the bike practically side saddle so that he could see behind and check on his ducklings.

In the cold mist, on a wet road, we began to ride -- straight down.  We had 29 hairpin turns in 8 miles.  Needless to say, I took my time and tried not to get too distracted by the indescribable view.  We all made our way down the mountain.  Owen gave us hand signals of when to get to the side, when to slow down, when to notice something.  After a very short time, we got to stop and admire the view.
Yes, that is the faintest of rainbows guiding the way to a eucalyptus forest.

Adventure rocks!

The first 8 miles are the most treacherous and dangerous.  Since we made our way through the hardest part, we had to celebrate with an early breakfast at a lavender farm.  
Life does not get any more tranquil or peaceful than celebrating your survival on a crazy mountain with a cup of hot chocolate, a breakfast burrito and your son. Wow!

After our breakfast we rolled through the upcountry town of Kula -- where Tom Selleck and Randy Travis make their homes.  We meandered by sugar cane fields.  We coasted into the cowboy town of Makawao.  We rode on empty roads and enjoyed the sounds of bike tires spinning.  We could smell plumeria and see the beauty of hibiscus in its natural setting.  We were seeing the rural part of Maui, the secret part.  I felt daring and privileged to see and know something that I had never taken the time to notice. We rolled into the hippie town of Paia, with its cute shops, gelato ice cream and surf shops.  We were slowly weaving our way back to the touristy Maui we knew and loved.  

Last stop: the beach.  Owen had us stop at a surf beach...giant waves, native Hawaiians surfing and a whole bunch of mainlanders trying their hand at the impossible.  We just watched the three and four layers of waves break on the beach, hypnotized by the surf and the sound of crashing waves.  Jack and I weren't even tired -- we're not used to riding only downhill -- but we sure felt accomplished.  We did it.
We survived a sunrise at 10,000 feet, a crazy bike ride downhill and hairpin turns and mist that acted like the natural obstacles of a video game.  Best of all, we did it together.

I'm on the lookout for more adventure in 2013.
How about you?
I might have to stay a bit more local but I'm up for anything...roller derby, a hot air balloon ride, a hike to some unknown spot. 
Do you have any good ideas for me??
Better yet, what adventures are you hoping to take?

"Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all."
-- Helen Keller

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