May 24, 2024

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E-Bike Bliss on Maui and Lanai, Two Hawaiian Islands

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Today an old haul road still runs along the western edge of Maui and John and I found part of it just north of an intersection off the main road in Kaanapali. This road, now derelict, may one day form part of the West Maui Greenway, a proposed 25-mile-long trail from Ukumehame Beach Park to Lipoa Point on the northern tip of West Maui — a cyclist’s car-free dream.

Around mile 10 John and I turned onto a dirt road that climbed steadily for about 600 vertical feet to the Ironwood Ranch, one of the island’s last horseback-riding ranches. The owner, Kimo Harlacher, let us charge the bikes in a barn and pitch hammocks in a gazebo under a Java plum tree in exchange for helping with the horses. We used his electric mountain bikes to ride to a grassy spot overlooking the ocean where travelers will be able to camp later this year. Wild pigs rummaged around the citrus trees.

The following day, the riding was spectacular, difficult and rewarding: a 22-mile epic that would drain the batteries with 3,500 feet of climbing up and down a remote road bearing an elevation profile of a heart attack.

The Honoapiilani Highway, which becomes the Kahekili Highway, has curves tight enough to bring cars to a crawl. For three hours John and I made our way around the northern tip of West Maui, the road growing so narrow at times the cliffs and rainforest squeezed the center stripe right out of it. We cruised past the Nakalele Blowhole and slogged up “the wall,” a short, stout climb that even with an electric assist left us winded. We rounded blind corners that revealed thundering bays and craggy cliffs. There were banana bread stands, farms and timeless villages.

In a few spots, we pulled over to let cars pass and then watched as those cars met oncoming cars and a game of who will back up first began. The trade winds hammered our faces on exposed curves, then dwindled to a whisper as we rounded the corners of ravines and drainages. The battery-powered meter on my handlebars dwindled as the motor groaned up inclines. The downhills came fast and thrilling and I leaned the bike into the curves. You could fly to Maui just for this section alone.

That night, our last, we camped on the farm of George Kahumoku, Jr., a Grammy-award winning musician. For a donation — he helps feed the island’s homeless — visitors can come here on weekends for breakfast and music, but guests can’t typically stay here. He let us because he was just back from a tour that passed through my hometown in Oregon and he needed help tending his taro fields. For others, the hotels of Kahului are less than 10 miles away.

Tim Neville

2022-05-23 09:00:30

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