Tuesday, March 9, 2010

daily yarly

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.

Monday, March 8, 2010

daily yarly

I Made It

Having been a cyclist in San Francisco for almost ten years now, I'm finally feeling brave enough to tackle new cycling adventures. Last year's tour from Seattle to Joseph was my first time riding extensively outside of California as well as my first multi-day, fully loaded bike trip. But for all of the thousands of miles ridden, I've got only a handful here on the island of O`ahu where I grew up. I brought my bicycle with me on a trip here in 2004, but stuck to the bike path from Aiea to Waipahu and never really attempted any of the routes you'd need to ride if you wanted to commute to downtown Honolulu.

Since I'm here for almost a month, I decided it was time to ride O`ahu in earnest, something I've feared (or been too lazy to do), coming up with a bevy of excuses to rationalize not riding here. The first of which is the ridiculous fee for traveling with a bicycle. The recently started Facebook group, United Airlines is Ridiculous to Charge $175 Each Way to Travel With a Bike says it all. As a corporate partner of USA Cycling, it's a hypocritical move baring its shameless PR efforts. Unfortunately, I'm flying United.

Well, for $350 I'll just rent one. There aren't many places to rent a ride here, The Bike Shop seems to be the only act in town and rentals are a reasonable $200 a week for a Specialized Allez Sport with your choice of pedals. I found a nearby shop started by Brazilian triathlete, Raul "Boca" Torres, who came to compete in the Ironman and never left. You can get a road bike with a road-kit; tube, CO2, and multi-tool for $150 a week with your choice of pedals. The bikes are a little beat up, but I suppose so is mine.

Of course there's also a matter of dealing Hawaii motorists. People in Hawaii think of the bicycle as something for kids, motorists think of them as something in their way. Most of them have probably never ridden a bike or haven't ridden one since they were kids. You only ride a bicycle if you're a triathlete in training, or if you can't afford a car. As such, the bikes available on craigslist are either carbon-fiber race machines or Christmas presents come bum-beaters replete with DIY racks for your recyclables. Like most cultures that don't recognize the bicycle as a legitimate form of transportation (read: The United States of America), motorists tend to lack the sensitivity and patience to deal with cyclists unless they are behind or under them.

Finally, the infrastructure for bicycles is woefully missing. The system of bike lanes are sparse and have more gaps than a hockey players grill. There are no signs for cyclists, or for motorists to be aware of them, and many of the bike lanes require that you RIDE ON THE SIDEWALK.

But enough with the excuses. I went to Boca Hawaii and got a 2006 Trek 1000. It's a little long in tooth, but it'll do, and for a $150 a week, I can get it for two weeks and still be spending less than bringing my own (mostly I won't be giving United any more cash for their hypocrisy). I decided that I'd start by trying to ride back to my parents house in Aiea. I studied the routes on the Hawaii Bicycle League website, and asked questions at the shop, but no matter which way you slice it, you have to deal with this:

Four lanes of traffic merging three major arteries with no shoulder. To understand the true gravity of this merge you should also realize that driving in Hawaii is also a circus, specifically the part with clowns. To that end I decided that I'd try to make my crossing during non-commute hours and it wasn't actually terrible. After a few miles ON THE SIDEWALK, I finally reached the last of the scariest parts of the ride, crossing four lanes to make a left to get to the water-side bike path. From there it was smooth sailing past the park with City and County workers smoking pakalolo in their trucks marked with the state seal, a camp of homeless people with more stuff than me, and finally a moderate 700 ft. climb up to the house.

All in all it wasn't all that bad, I was pleasantly surprised by the motorists who, for the most part, gave me a comfortable berth as they passed, didn't cut me off, and never a single honk, finger, or angry word. It was a stark contrast to the entitled bmw/audi drivers and the half-blind, deaf, and dumb, cabbies who couldn't find their way out of a plastic bag in SF. My ride totaled a short 15 miles, but all in all wasn't as bad as I had manufactured it to be.

Tomorrow I will attempt to go ride Tantalus/Round Top Drive and back a ride I've long wanted to do. Looks like riding my home town isn't so bad after all.