The Northeast horizon was ominous - a solid bank of gray aoku promising a wet Paniolo Parade in Makawao. James at his Sandalwoods Cafe and Inn in sunny Upper Kula warned me.
"What's your plan for the day," he asked after seeing me staring off into space. "Going to the parade?"
It was the furthest thing from my mind until he mentioned the annual event. This year's rodeo above Makawao was the 57th to pull top cowboy athletes from around the state. The parade has a 10-year shorter history and during the years was hit or miss before organizer Theresa Thompson made it a must-see event.
Most of the time, the parade went off under sunny skies that encouraged the wearing of cowboy hats and sunblock. However, if there is any rain around, Makawao is wet.
"Yeah. I planned to go but it just slipped though one of the holes in my memory."
"Have you checked the sky?" James asked. "Looks like it will be a wet one."
It was something like 8:30. There was plenty of time to get to Makawao before the parade stepped off at 9 a.m. Baby swept down one of the fastest roads on Maui - the section of Haleakala Highway below Kula Lodge. It's a familiar run with most of the curves and short straights firmly committed to memory along with the need for a certain caution. Morning brings strings of wobbly bicycle riders heading downhill and flatland tourists slowing to a crawl on the other side of blind curves. Settled the motorcycle into a brisk cruise.
Thought about ways of getting to the parade route. Makawao and Baldwin avenues were closed to traffic at 8 a.m. What the heck. Park at Oskie Rice Arena and take one of the shuttle vans into town. I'd completely forgotten about the possibility of taking Olinda Road into what Honolulu Advertiser columnist Bob Krause called Hawaii's last cowboy town. He wrote that in the 1960s.
A few miles down Haleakala, drops of rain spotted my goggles. I've always been charmed by being in bright sunlight and getting hit with a misty a'ulalena, a rain specific to Maui. Hawaiian poets gave many different names to rain.
Do I want to do this? Of course. Never cancel plans because of any rain short of a torrential downpour. Ua, the source of all the island's water, is a blessing, particularly during the ongoing Upcountry drought.
"Any place you'd like me to park?" There were three long lines of cars and trucks in the flat pasture below the rodeo arena.
The kid taking the two bucks for parking stood next to a muddy track. "Put your bike over by the fence."
The leather jacket covering a sweatshirt felt good in the chilly rain. Gusty wind blew the kili hau across the pasture. A small group of people, more than one van load, stood in a clump. Some had rain gear. Others had umbrellas. When given a chance, the wind turned the bumbershoots wrong-side out. One guy wore just a tank top and jeans. His knee-high daughter was wrapped in a beach towel in the lee of daddy. He politely refused the offer of a jacket. Had to be an Upcountry guy.
The shuttle van showed up and took most of the waiting riders. It took the driver less than 20 minutes to make the run and return. The route was down Olinda Road, left on Malu Place and down Ai Street to Makawao Avenue across from the library. The rain came and went. The wind came and went.
The parade stuttered past the one-deep line of spectators. Big gaps appeared, probably due to entrants slowing down for the turn off Baldwin Avenue in front of the parade judges, who were out of the rain on the front lanai of the old Matsui Building.
* A rain bedraggled Mufi Hanneman marching with the Gladys Baisa contingent, almost invisible except for his height and trademark aloha shirt. He managed a smile and a wave when someone shouted "Mufi."
* A pint-sized Maui Humane Society dog moving cautiously over to a towering Russian Wolfhound. They touched noses. Tails wagged. The wolfhound was named "Wings." No wolves on Maui, but, according to his owner, the waist-high dog had "pulled down a couple of deer."
* Walter Ritte riding with an OHA sign on a companion rider. "Aloha kakahiaka," someone yelled. Walter turned in his saddle with a big grin and replied with his own "good morning" and more in 'olelo o Hawai'i.
* A parade participant thanking spectators for "coming out in the rain."
'A'ole pilikia. Rain is blessing. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves and the sun came out in time for the rodeo.
* Ron Youngblood is a former staff writer for The Maui News. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.