Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Tantalus Conquered

Yesterday's successful test ride bolstered my confidence to finally try a ride I've been wanting to do in a while. So today I decided I'd make a summit bid for the top of Tantalus Drive. The morning started with heavy mauka (mountain) showers at my parents house and delayed my start which would be all the difference in my interaction with motorists today.

I started my ride with this old haole guy, Dave, riding a beater mountain bike on Kamehameha Hwy. I asked him the best route to town and rode with him past the dreaded 92, Queen Liliuokalani, Dillingham merge before parting ways. The eastbound ride is a little less daunting than the westbound ride, no shoulder here either, but sticking as close to the right as possible allows drivers to get by, and there are no lane crossings to navigate. A bike lane starts up a couple miles past the merge and it's smooth sailing to Ala Moana Blvd.

After a brief stop at Boca Hawaii for water bottles and a derailleur adjustment (Thanks Ray!), I headed for the climb. Fortunately I've been on the climb in a car dozens of times so I was somewhat familiar with it. After a little bit of a rough start at the bottom, I settled down for the long climb. Having spent most of February climbing Twin Peaks I thought I'd be prepared, but the climb is twice as tall, and for some stupid reason I'm carrying my camera (in camera bag), a bike lock and cable, all inside my large backpack. At about 1,100 feet, I'm regretting my choice of cargo.

I finally reach the summit and I'm rewarded with a less than spectacular view of the surrounding foliage. On the flip side, the wind gusts of 40 mph today provide a jet-liner-esque sound as ride through the tree covered climb. I see a couple other cyclists who give me big smiles, all the cars slow down and wave, probably thinking that there's an institution that I probably belong in. At 1,680 feet I'm beginning to think the same. Since I'm up here I make a stop at Pu'u Ualaka'a State Park to get the view deserving of the climb:

At The Top Today

The decent is a treat well-earned but it's soon spoiled by a slow pickup truck; probably didn't want to spill his big gulp on his nachos. Once at the bottom I make my way through downtown back onto to Ala Moana Blvd where I find every traffic light has been extinguished by today's gusty winds. Here's where leaving late makes all the difference, rush hour has started and there are a lot of cars on the road. Which means there are a lot of polite motorists driving home from work.

Well, I'm going to take everything I said yesterday about Hawaii motorists and RETRACT ALL OF IT. Today I not only had close passes at speed and tailgaters, I had a woman drive up beside me to scream at me as I tried to get to the BIKE PATH. Of course I replied with the requisite diplomacy. Needless to say, commuting by bicycle here is less than enjoyable.

I finally reach the last part of the ride, and while the view from my parents house is magnificent,

Brings Me Back Again

it also means that it's 710 ft to get home at the end of 40+ miles. 43 miles was the total mileage on today's ride, and it should be noted that before yesterday I really had no concept of distances in Hawaii. I've always had a car and it's difficult to understand how far you're going, especially since most of the driving here is in bumper to bumper traffic (everyone here drives their own car, carpool does not exist in the vocabulary here, and the bus is only for those who can't afford a car, or have an outstanding DUI). Riding a bike has brought these distances into clearer focus, perhaps everyone could benefit from a little reality check.

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