Day 5: Uncle Norman, Active Volcanoes, Rain, and a Half-Day Sprint

Day 5 began right where day 4 left off - still hanging out and vacationing with Uncle Norman! I had another fantastic breakfast, packed up my things, loaded it all into Norman's truck and tied it down, and took off on another sightseeing journey.

Breakfast on Norman's porch.

I have to admit to you, readers, that at this point I did something only vacation-Mike would do. We drove up the 4000ft incline spread over 25 miles at Volcanoes National Park - the climb I had been dreading since I first charted out my route's elevation. I regret nothing! It essentially saved my legs, back, easygoing vacation disposition, and one half day of my trip. Additionally, I got to keep Norman as a tour guide on the way. We stopped at a few scenic points and historic lodges, including:

Scenic overlook of Kilauea, an active crater on Mauna Loa, with a small plume of steam and volcanic gas visible! This was taken from the back of a really neat historic lodge. Photos of that are on my camera (to be uploaded later).

The "lava tube", where molten lava once flowed and created a tunnel about 100 yards long. I was fortunate not to have encountered any lava in said tube, but instead got some really cool photos.

From here, we grabbed delicious Thai lunch from a food truck a few miles from the park entrance and pulled in to eat it at Namakanipaio Campground, where I probably would've stayed had I missed Norman. Awesome site! Its Hawaii-ness was replaced with a Pacific Northwest feeling - a big open clearing among tall trees up on a mountain. After our Thai picnic, sadly, it was time to leave Norman's truck / hospitality. He'd been an enormous help, a ton of fun, and one of the more interesting people I'd ever met. Thanks again, Uncle Norman! Check out Norman's work at www.normandavidcarby.com.

Fresh, rested, and full from spectacular meals, I exited towards the southwest part of the island... Directly into a storm. I wasn't 5 minutes from the lunch / campsite by the time I was in a full-on downpour. No matter! I was headed downhill and most certainly could not have expected to get through a week in Hawaii without rain. Volcanoes was a barren wasteland of lava rock and sulfur smells, absolutely nowhere to stop for shelter, so I powered through it at 25-30 mph until I had ridden out of the storm. Near the bottom, I ran into the first other unsupported (carrying their own gear) cyclists I'd seen on the island! A Canadian couple, they were super nice and traversing the island in the other direction. We exchanged info about the roads ahead and parted ways.

I made it back down to sea level at a town called Naalehu in record time! I did a little research on campgrounds and hotels coming up - it's a little sparse around the southern point of the island - and found a B&B a reasonable distance away in Ocean View that would take me. I had to get back up to 2000ft but the sun was out and I was feeling great. I had a beautiful ride as the day closed out, riding along above the coast with the sunset. This was the latest in the day I had ridden, pulling into the B&B around 7:15, but I found it very refreshing! It's usually been either a little too hot and sunny or raining, so a clear evening offered a rare situation in which it was neither. The B&B was ok. The couple running it had lived in Seattle, go figure! They were a bit old and crotchety, but ultimately meant well (I think). The couple in the room next to mine fought all night, but that's a different story. At least I had a place to stay.

Photo time!


Dist: 47.97 mi
Time: 3 hours 9 minutes
Avg speed: 15.22mph
Max speed: 35.0 mph


Day 4: Uncle Norman Saves the Day!

Thursday started out a little rough (trouble in paradise, AM I RIGHT?!) but turned around pretty fast and became amazing! I started at my dumpy hostel in Hilo, waking up to a flat tire. It must've been a slow leak so I opted just to fill it, get away from the hostel and its distractions (mostly talking to people) and see how far the leaky tube would get me. When I was bent down refilling it, I pulled some muscle, approximately in the lower old man back region. The tube didn't make it too far and I opted to try to patch it outside an orchid farm 6 miles down the road.

I couldn't find the leak, so I patched two spots that looked like they could've been tiny little holes. Apparently neither was it (or the patches didn't stick) because it was flat again after another few miles.

At this point I talked to, believe it or not, my uncle's uncle, Norman. Norman is an artist living in Keaau, 5-10 miles South of Hilo. He offered lunch, a hot shower, and even a car ride with my bike. Having had a tough morning, not really feeling up for climbing 4000ft with a pulled back, and reminding myself that I actually AM on vacation, I opted for the detour to Uncle Norman's.

I made my way another few miles, refilling the stubborn tube every once in awhile, to Norman's home set back in the trees outside Keaau and into what turned out to be an absolutely fantastic day! His house was a really neat two-story home with great balconies on both the front and back, ocean and volcano views (when clear), and full of artwork, collectibles, and relics that should probably be in museums. He grilled me a pork tenderloin and broccoli lunch, we both had much-needed naps, a driving tour, dinner out, and I heard more amazing stories than I could ever relay in this blog post. On the driving tour, we saw the southeastern end of the island. It included the warpath of a recently-active volcano (primarily 1980s) that took out 8 miles of road on the southern coast and all the houses that went with it. Also on the tour: a black sand beach, a designer friend's beautiful modern home (with a lava field backyard!), and many educational asides on vegetation. At dinner I had a delicious coconut-encrusted ahi - and a LOT of it. Back at the home, we relaxed and I had the privilege of playing an acoustic guitar from the 1940s! That's pretty old for a guitar! Still sounded wonderful.

Here's some of pictures!

Rough road to Norman's

Front yard

Giant turtles! (Not the kind I expected to see, but more delicious and less endangered)

The beautiful, the illusive: Moji

Lava lava lava

What's your backyard look like?

Overall, a disappointing morning turned into an amazing day! A thousand thanks to Norman. More details on our adventures to follow.

Dist: 13.47 miles
Time: 1 hour 13 minutes
Avg speed: 10.95 mph
Max speed: 24.71 mph