Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Cross training: Biking down Haleakala

Since I'm still not running, due to my bruised ribs and consequent wimpiness, I thought I'd add some "cross-training" posts.  I don't bike much, but if I could go on bike trips like this more often, I would!

For Elliot and me, one of the highlights of our Hawaiian vacation was the bike ride down Haleakala, the dormant volcano on Maui. The day started early; we had to meet at the bike shop at 3AM So Elliot and I -- along with my brother, Mark, his wife, Regina, and son, Evan -- left the hotel at 2AM for the drive to Haiku.

At Haiku we were fitted for bikes, helmets, and rain gear, then hopped on a van for the ride to the top of Haleakala. We stopped near the visitor center of Haleakala National Park at 9745 feet above sea level, where we watched an awesome sunrise. We could see all of Maui and the surrounding islands, as well as the Big Island. We were happy to have the rain gear; wind chills were in the 30s or lower, and we were freezing our tails off. The boys kept asking to go back to the bus, but Mark and I insisted that they wait until we could see the sun. The view was incredible!
After another scenic overlook and a bathroom stop, we got the bikes and hit the road. Elliot's bike at home has coaster brakes (where you turn the pedals backwards to stop), so he had to get used to the hand grip brakes. At first he got the front and rear brakes confused and immediately flipped over, but he got it figured out soon after that.
Then the fun began! The road down Haleakala is steep and winding! We got on the bikes at 6500 feet (the National Park Service doesn't allow the bike tour companies to ride inside the park). In the first 10 miles, we dropped 3000 feet! That's steep! We did not want to get out of control and run into oncoming tour buses, so we stopped from time to time and kept a moderate speed, but at times we went over 30 miles per hour. At one point Elliot's rear brake malfunctioned, and when he tried to stop with the rest of the group, he flipped over the handlebars in a dramatic wreck. Thankfully he was unharmed. Also thankfully some of the bike shop guys were nearby and were able to come fix Elliot's brakes.

We decided that watching the sunrise at 9745 feet was the highest elevation Elliot has ever topped. It was also the longest bike ride for him--about 22 miles. He's probably not yet ready to try riding up the mountain--but maybe next time.

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