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By Marissa Baecker
LAHAINA, MAUI, HI – Helmet, boots, gloves, armoured leather jacket and jeans – the basics for any ride. On the island of Maui, HI, however, helmet – optional, boots – if you feel like it, armoured leather – too hot – replace with sun block and jeans – will label you as a visitor.
The most common attire for riders on the island is a shirt, shorts and sandals. “If we go down, we go down,” is the moto of the locals and as far as the law goes, helmets are not mandatory.
Lahaina Harley-Davidson manager, Dwain Inaha who was born and raised on Maui, runs the store and manages the fleet of rental bikes. All brand new 2013 models from a Sportster to an Ultra Glide Classic and everything in between. If you aren’t staying in West Maui, no problem, there is another location in Kahului (other side of the island) with an entire fleet of new rentals as well including other manufacturer models.
I had looked forward to riding a 2013 HD Seventy-Two that I booked two months prior but to my disappointment, damage to the bike had removed it from the fleet prior to my arrival. A 2013 Heritage Softail Classic would be my replacement ride while my husband marvelled over his Softail DeLuxe.
There is paperwork involved so don’t expect to show up, grab a key and hit the road. Rentals are affordable, $99 for a 24 hour period, however a $1,000 authorization on your credit card is required and insurance will cost about $40 – and they don’t take cash or debit card.
If you prefer to wear a helmet, one is included in your rental. I packed my shorty, which, to me, feels like I am not wearing a helmet. My husband, on the other hand, despite bringing his lid, chose to take advantage of the law and ride free.
After 20 minutes down the island highway, my husband pulled up beside me at a traffic light and one look at his brand new, free-flowing, Einstein hairdo sent me into uncontrollable laughter that continued on to the next light but hey – the smile on his suntanned face was priceless.
“Where else can you ride without a helmet and see the whales jumping?”
The humpback whales are plentiful in the waters until the end of April and they put on quite a show. From the beach or boat this is a spectacular display but from behind the bars of a motorcycle, it is one of the biggest hazards on the road. I recommend leaving twice the distance (if not more) between you and the car in front while riding ocean-side on the island. There are no foreign plates on the island so distinguishing between the locals and the tourists is next to impossible, until, a tourist sees a breaching whale off in the distance and hammers on their brakes causing a traffic snarl. A regular occurrence.
Highway 30 from Lahaina runs along the coast with slight twists and turns over rolling hills. When you turn in toward the mainland, you ride between fields lined with sugar cane but after hearing about the Kane Spider, I admired the crops while still moving heading for the ultimate rider’s road – the road to Hana.
Celebrated as one of the must do items when visiting Maui, the 50 mile, three hour journey from Lahaina boasts 600 hairpin turns which, while fabulous to experience, is exhausting – especially on a motorcycle.
As we headed for East Maui for our epic journey, the old sugar town of Paia was first to greet us. Aside from the cute boutiques, old architecture, surf board lined fences and ocean side graveyard, Ho’okipa Beach is the main attraction.
As we stood cliff side watching the incredible surf, what seemed like three storey high waves swallowed up swimmers and littered surf boards in its wake. Riders floating around waiting for the next perfect crest would dive into the wave not to be pulled in a direction they didn’t want to go. You can’t help but watch these guys as they jump to their feet and pray. Surfers from around the world, come to Maui for these waves.
As we looked on we noticed a lone surfboard missing a rider and not far off was a lifeguard madly paddling in the direction of the riderless board. It was at this time we realized that standing on black lava rock, wearing long sleeved t-shirts, jeans and riding boots required us to get some wind flowing no matter how spectacular the view.
Getting back on the bikes we decided to make a detour for higher elevation to cool down before tackling the infamous Hana. Ascending up country, you can feel the shift in temperature and at 1,400 feet, the two street town of Makawao is full of art, and culture. At the top of the main road, above a tiny restaurant, hung a bold sign, “Stop and Eat here or we will both starve”.
After lunch you have two options, continue up country and check out the island’s crater at Haleakala at an elevation of 10,000 feet or take a side road down and disect the road to Hana just before Twin Falls. We chose option B. The road down presented some challenges with its own hairpins but unlike home, the side roads are not maintained and navigating the pot holes and hairpins littered with beautiful Hawaiian red sand makes the descent a cautionary one.
At Twin Falls stood Hawaii’s version of the street vendor – “The Pineapple Express – where pineapple fly free” and where you could get a fresh coconut with a straw after your 1.5 mile round trip journey to the falls through lush tropical forest and bamboo that stands about 30 feet tall. Pack swim attire and a towel because that afternoon heat would have been more bearable had we afforded ourselves the opportunity to jump in and cool down.
Keanae is half way and the road past that shows off some of the steepest cliffs to the ocean on one side and some of the most beautiful lush green foilage on the other. There are 54 bridges between Paia and Hana some allowing only one vehicle at a time. When you complete your journey, stick around and enjoy what Hana offers. It is recommended that you spend the night and really check out the town – you may even run into a celebrity or two.
As we made our way back to Lahaina, the glow felt on our sun kissed faces reminded us that we had an appointment with pals Jose Cuervo and Sam Adams on the patio of the condo. At the end of our 150 mile adventure, we sat ocean side, rubbing some more lotion of some sort onto our bodies to cool down and feeling a sense of accomplishment as we had now earned our bumper sticker “I survived the Road to Hana.”