It's a morning ritual designed to clear a night's worth of mental cobwebs. There's no particular destination. Pick a route, any route. Baby, the newest and most agile motorcycle in the garage, habitually sings siren songs of twisty roads.
Up the one mile to the highway, Baby stutters across pockmarks of hot mix. Every so often, a county flatbed truck lumbers down from Kula Highway. Here and there, the 3-ton stops and one of the crew jumps out to shovel a spray of grainy goo into a hole.
Lawyers may be ready to sue if road conditions contribute to an accident, but the real motivation comes from residents concerned about their cars' underpinnings. Lately, asphalt abuse has become more intense. Traffic is literally heavier these days due to development at the dead end of the road. Ready-mix trucks and semitrailer trucks hauling fill growl up and down, crumpling the thin road surface.
No problem for Baby, and the rough going keeps speeds somewhere near reasonable. The top half mile or so is relatively new asphalt punctuated by speed bumps, giving drivers and riders the choice between obeying the 20-mph speed limit or torturing their vehicles.
Coming out on Kula Highway can be tricky. A high earthen bank blocks the view to the left and drivers think the 45-mph speed limit is a suggestion. Out toward Keokea, Kula Highway is smooth and mostly straight. Beyond Kula San, the narrow serpentine road is smooth all the way through Ulupalakua to Keoneoio. There has to be a good story behind naming that coastline area with no beaches "sandy place with bonefish." Nice ride if you want to spend an hour so perfecting low-speed corner carving.
Baby whizzes past Rice Park and the end of Lower Kula Road to the intersection with Kekaulike Avenue, which was once called Upper Kula Road. Gear down for the turn. Her 250cc engine requires a lot of shifting. Rapid transit requires keeping the engine humming at around 7,000 rpm. That's a lot of revs. Most auto engines are all through at 6,000, but Baby can be pushed to 10,500 revolutions per minute with no damage.
Heading up Kekaulike creates a face-chilling breeze. Not much bite in the temperature but more than enough to be noticed. The cold season, normally over in early April, has extended deep into May. In and out of shadows. Splashes of sunlight are welcomed warmth. Living on Maui creates weather wimps.
The motorcycle is light and agile. She sips gasoline, with mileage ranging from 75 to 80 per gallon. She takes very little maintenance. Her only downside could result in an emergency room visit or worse. On her, it's easy to slip into Ricky Racer mode. The British call it "ear 'oling."
Survival requires scanning for cars and truck emerging from side roads and driveways. Keep checking the speedometer. More often than it should, the digital readout demands slowing down.
Kekaulike is a county road. It's in good shape. The state takes over at the turn to the summit. Built by the territory in the 1930s, Haleakala from Hana Highway to the border of the national park is a state responsibility.
Back way off and cover the brakes at the intersection. Tourists heading for the summit have a tendency to fixate on the turn. Motorcycle-car collisions are most often due to a driver turning left in front of the bike.
Nothing at the intersection this morning. Twist the throttle back to brisk and listen to Baby's muffler music. Pay attention, dummy! Familiar road, too much quick and inattention is a recipe for disaster. Five of this year's 13 traffic fatalities on Maui have been motorcyclists.
The pavement down to Pukalani is new or expertly patched. The state has been paying for a crew to come along with an asphalt-eating machine followed by laying down a 4-inch thickness of Macadam's invention.
It's not the only new pavement going down in Kula. The county has widened and is repaving Pulehu Road. Reconstructing the traffic-squeezing byway isn't finished but, according the signs, it should be by the end of the month.
It's not at all strange that so much roadwork gets done during an election year. A voter bribe? Baby doesn't care. She eats the rough as well as the smooth, and nothing - including coffee and cigarettes - starts the day as well as blowing wind up my nose.
* Ron Youngblood is a former staff writer for The Maui News. His e-mail address is email@example.com.