Kailua to Na`alehu – 58.9 mi, 5,039’ elevation gain
We had planned on getting an early start today to beat the heat. But overnight a HUGE tropical storm system hit the Big Island. It rained torrentially from midnight on. It rained so hard they had to announce school closures for 6 public schools between Kailua and Na`alehu. They closed the only highway, too. Needless to say, we didn’t get off to an early start.
The rain finally stopped around 9:30. The Mamalahoa Highway reopened about then so we packed up, closed the condo and hit the road about 11. We were FULLY loaded. Two huge panniers, our rear and front trunks both stuffed (front trunk courtesy Cate & Dave) and our shirt pockets bulging with Clif Shots & Bars and soy drinks for the next morning. We quickly discovered that all the extra 50 pounds really slowed us down! Plus we gained about 1000 feet in the first 6 miles. But, it wasn’t raining and we were happy.
We got some nice downhills as payback for our climb out of Kailua. They inevitably resulted in more climbing. Funny how that works.
At 18 miles we stopped at the Furikawa store, last stop for 30 miles. We ate lunch, filled bottles, bought some Gatorade, then headed out for a 25 mile climb through open lava fields.
By now the sun was full out. It was hot, sticky, and hilly. We soldiered on, passing gardenia trees, macadamia nut farms, rubber trees as tall as my school and lots of lava fields. There was no place to get water or leave any behind. We utilized scrub trees for rest stops twice on that climb.
Finally, with water running low, we arrived at Bell’s Restaurant. They let us fill our bottles. We bought a macadamia nut fudge brownie to enjoy at the end of our day.
We also saw a bike tour group from Backroads. They’d just ridden in from Volcano, going the reverse direction we were. We chatted, then set off on our last 12 miles.
The 4 o’clock headwinds were stronger than any we had in Arizona last year. Riding along a ridge of a`a lava didn’t leave anything to slow down the wind. On the plus side we were greeted with the rainbow which marked the downhill to Na’alehu.
The day’s main ride ended with a 6 mile downhill into Na`alehu. We hit 42 on that stretch. We just took the lane and were ready to let cars deal with it. Fortunately, there were none going as fast as we were.
Arrived at Shirakawa Motel at 55 miles and 5 pm. James Taylor had once stayed at this spartan motel. We averaged an astonishing 13 mph for the day. But we had to ride another 3 miles to get to the nearest restaurant and back. Enjoyed a nice veggie stir fry at Shaka’s, the southernmost restaurant in the United States. It started spitting on us as we climbed back up the hill to our motel.