This time last year we were on Maui, visiting the summit of Haleakala. Haleakala means House of the Sun. It is a volcano rising 10,023 feet above sea level. It forms most of east Maui. Haleakala is considered still active, with it’s last eruption occurring in 1790 AD. It’s a sacred place to native Hawaiians. Several species, including the silversword are endemic and endangered. It is also the place where Apollo astronauts trained for the moon and where Reagan located his Star Wars missile defense program. Because of that, the road to the crater is well-built and maintained.
The best times to visit Haleakala are sunrise and sunset. In recent years, Haleakala has become so popular that visits are restricted. Individuals need to make reservations well in advance. The number of available reservations is limited. The alternative is to visit as part of a tour group, which we did.
We went with an outfit called Mountain Riders. They picked us up at our condo at 2:00 am and took us to Paia, about an hour away, where they fitted us with cold weather gear—jackets, pants, gloves—and bike helmets. Then we made the 2.5 hour ride to the summit.
The temperature at the summit was in the mid- to high-thirties, but the wind chill was a lot lower. Even in our cold weather gear, we were shivering. Down at sea level, the temperature was in the mid-seventies. Some people who had come on their own, were not prepared for the cold. The mountain was shrouded in clouds, but the visitor’s center was just above the clouds. From there we looked into the crater, which was filled with clouds.
The sunrise at 6:05 was spectacular—a red fireball rising above the clouds. Our group waited until most of the visitors had cleared out. Then we drove to the park gates at the 6,500 ft level where we mounted fat-tire coaster bikes for the 26 mile ride to Paia Beach Park.
The ride was incredible. The road is great, well-paved and smooth, but, as you can imagine, descending 6,500 feet meant there were a lot of hairpins that really whipped you around. Our group consisted of 15 riders and a guide. We rode single file with the guide in front watching for problems, and the van and sag wagon behind to keep traffic behind us from entering into our file. Now and then we pulled over to let vehicles pass us. The weather was perfect—sunny and clear. At several points we stopped to remove some of the cold weather gear as the temperature warmed nearing the bottom. All downhill. The bikes were outfitted with heavy duty coaster brakes. No gears. No need to pedal except to get going from a stop.
From the park entrance to Makawao, the site of the Makawao rodeo, was about four hours. We stopped there for lunch. Makawao is the setting for one of my Val Lyon stories, Horns, published in The Thrilling Detective, 2009, and republished in Game Face. Oskie Rice Arena, where Val had the encounter with a bull, is still there. The cowboy bar where she had the encounter with the bull rider is not, to my disappointment. Another disappointment is that we made the ride on a Monday, which is the only day Komoda’s Bakery closes. Komoda’s is famous for their cream puffs, which you want to get hot. Makawao to Paia Beach took about another hour.
Needless to say, the scenery coming down was spectacular, with vistas of ocean and mountains and most of Maui in view. Alas, we saw only a few silverswords and they were in protected areas. Silverswords live about 80 years. They only flower once, but when they do, it is spectacular. When Mark Twain visited, he said the silverswords were so abundant that when he first saw them he thought he was seeing snow on the mountains. Now the plant is endangered and Hawaiians are doing their best to recover it. I would definitely do this ride again if I ever return to Maui.
Go For Broke
At this time in April, 1945, The 100th/442 RCT we’re engaging the Germans for control of the Gothic Line. The Germans were desperate to hold the line, as it was the last defense before Germany, itself. They were ordered to hold it at all costs. The fighting was fierce because the Germans had built the line through the ragged Appenine Mountains and fortified it with steel, concrete, and overlapping machine gun fire.
On April 21, the 442nd, 3rd Battalion, K Company fought to seize the town of Tendola, Italy. Private Joe Hayashi single-handedly wiped out three machine gun nests before being killed by machine pistol fire while pursuing more Germans. You can read Private Hayashi’s Medal Of Honor citation here:
On the same day, Lieutenant Daniel Inouye (who later became senator from Hawai’i) of 2nd Battalion, E Company, took out two machine gun nests on a ridge called Colle Musatello. While taking the second one, he was shot in the stomach. Bleeding and in pain, he crawled to the third nest. Rising up to throw a grenade, he was hit near the elbow by a rifle grenade, which nearly severed his arm. He ordered his men to keep their distance because his now dead right hand clutched a live grenade. He pried the grenade free and threw it left-handed at the nest, taking it out. He then charged the nest, firing his Thompson left-handed, killing the remaining Germans. He continued to lead his men onward until a German bullet hit him in the leg and ended his fight. Lieutenant Inouye’s Medal Of Honor Citation is here.
For four more days, the battle of the Gothic Line raged until, on April 25, the 442nd 2nd battalion and a task force of B and F Companies engaged in a pincer attack on the town of Aulla.
Two weeks later, Germany surrendered.
The Tiki Bar Is Open
Today’s cocktail is The Maui Breeze.
This is a refreshing drink made with vodka, pineapple juice, and cranberry juice. It is very simple to make, which is good, because you will want more than just one. Or two.
In a shaker,
- 2 oz. vodka
- 6 oz. pineapple juice
- Splash of cranberry juice
Shake until chilled. Pour the mix and the ice into a glass. Garnish with pineapple and a cherry. If the drink is too sweet, add more vodka.