Monday, May 21, 2012

Big Island Bike Tour

When my wife asked a few months ago what I wanted to do for my upcoming 40th birthday, naturally I answered, "13,000 plus feet of climbing on a heavy bicycle."  Okay, since that would never fly as an answer, I suggested going to Hawaii for some cycling, camping, hiking, swimming and relaxing on the beach.  Last week, my wish came true.
After a flight into Kona, we spent the afternoon at our hotel in Waikoloa Beach assembling our bikes and packing our gear.  We set off the next morning on Day 1 of our adventure by bike.  The front half of this leg took us south over the rolling lava fields on highway 19 to Kona.  Coincidently, this portion of the ride covers part of the bike route for the Ironman Triathlon.  After a few stops in Kona (thanks to John at Bike Works for all of the route tips!), we were on our way to Ho'okena Beach Park for a swim, rest, and camp.

Day 2 started with a steep climb out of the beach park, 900 ft. in 3 miles, which I think is a great way to start the day.  Ellie disagrees and would just prefer to have more coffee...  must be all of the coffee farms.  The climbing didn't stop there:  another 1200 plus feet of climbing over 28 miles took us to the south end of the island.  To keep the team motivated, we had pizza for lunch in the town of Ocean View, and with full bellies headed 11 miles downhill towards our next camping spot at Punalu'u County Beach Park.  It should be noted that even with full bellies we still managed to snack a couple of malasadas in Na’alehu.  The descent was fast, but we took a few breaks to enjoy the fantastic views of the coastline and ocean… a truly amazing and wild place.

After a windy evening camping at Punalu'u park, day 3 started early and calm.  It was one of our shorter mileage days, packed with a big punch.  We started at sea level heading towards Volcanoes National Park (Namakanipaio Campground, 4,000' elevation).  We arrived at the campground in the early afternoon.  This gave us a chance to set up camp, make the short hike to the Jaggar Museum, and view the crater. 

Another good night of sleep in the Mira II and we set off in the morning for breakfast in the town of Volcano.  Again, well fed, it was time for a long downhill; this time, 30 miles down to Hilo.  A steady rain accompanied us for most of the ride to Hilo.  Good time for a laundry stop!  Clothes and people cleaned up, we headed to our next camp at Laupahoehoe Point Beach Park.  

Our final big day on the bikes took us from Laupahoehoe Point Beach Park across the island to Spencer Beach Park.  We made sure to thoroughly enjoy the final big day on the bikes...  although indulging maybe a better description.  The first stop out of camp was in Honoka’a for more malasadas at Tex Drive Inn.  From there, it was a big climb up to the meadow and ranch land. Next stop, Village Burger in Waimea!  By now you get the picture. With bellies full, it was a nice downhill to the beach park.  

We arrived at Spencer Beach Park early thanks to the fast downhill from Waimea.  The afternoon was spent swimming and then enjoying the beautiful sunset from our camp.  Awaking the next morning I found myself 1 year older in paradise.  We spent most of the day relaxing and swimming at Hapuna Beach State Beach.  From there, it was 8 short miles back to our hotel.

This was a great tour and highly recommended.  The variety of climate and landscape changes over the 260 miles is something to experience.  Below is a look at the gear we used on the trip.  We'll come back later with more details about the gear and how we used it.  

A special thanks to my wife Ellie for making this all happen and for the surprise birthday cake!



Exped Gear used:
Mira II tent, Dreamwalker Duo 400 L sleeping bag,Synmat UL 7 M (2), Chair Kits M (2), Air Pillow M,  Air Pillow UL M, Cloudburst 15, Bivy Bag Duo, Fold Dry Bag CS (sizes S & M), Fold Dry Bag BS bags (sizes S & M), Packsacks S (2), Zip Sacks S (2), Zip Sack L & XL, Crush Dry Bag XXS, Shrink Bag Pro 2 liter and Schnozzel Pumpbag