The run across upper Kula was a little eerie. Intractable jerks in Washington, D.C., had shut down all but essential federal services across the country. On Maui, in Kula, that meant closing down Haleakala National Park.
After an early-morning errand to Pukalani, Baby Dancer was pointed back toward Waiakoa. Cruising up to the Five Trees intersection, a playful thought popped up. Two choices: Straight across the face of Haleakala on the Kula Highway or up the hill.
It was a beautiful morning. Not much wind. Bright sunshine. A clear sky. Baby Dancer hadn't been put through her paces for a week or so. Basic transportation is basically boring. The section of Haleakala Highway from King Kekaulike High School to Kimo Road is one of the most delightful motorcycle rides on the island - never humdrum.
Sitting at the intersection decorated by a pocket park at the base of jacaranda trees, slip the bike into neutral, wondering if the light will change. Pressure plates telling the lights there's waiting vehicles don't always respond to motorcycles. When they don't, riders can sit until a car comes up behind or jump the red light.
OK. The light changed quickly. Green is go. Accelerate. Lights weren't flashing on the school zone signs. No need to keep the bike under 25 mph. Even so, twist the go-grip gently. There are two traffic minefields up ahead.
Swing around the gentle curves. Ease off while approaching the one-lane bridge just this side of the Manduke Baldwin cowboy polo field. There's plenty of room on the bridge for a bike and a car, but there's no telling what an oncoming driver will do. It's always a good idea to mind the "yield" sign. Nothing on the other side. Slip across and get ready for the intersection Kealaloa Avenue leading down to Makawao. No one there. Let loose Baby Dancer.
A staccato string of exhaust notes trail the bike into the first of many turns. There's one car coming down. Pass each other in the curve. A short straight encourages a little more throttle and shifting to a higher gear. Baby Dancer's small engine requires a considerable amount of left-foot tap dancing to compensate for the lack of horsepower. What she has is ponypower.
Two uphill cars keep the speed down on the long straightaway bordered on one side by a eucalyptus forest and a Haleakala Ranch horse pasture on the other. The trees shroud concrete ammunition bunkers built during World War II. Two of the handsome cowboy mounts are near the roadside fence. A tourist car is parked on the shoulder. He looks upward. She has her camera aimed at the horses. Maybe they are making the most of a disappointing drive to the summit.
The straight ends with a high-speed turn to the right and another, shorter straightaway. Of the two cars ahead, the lead one appears to be driven by a flatland tourist. His brake lights wink at every turn. Oh, well, settle in for a sightseeing run.
Down into a gulch cutting through more eucalyptus trees. This is the start of a series of entertaining curves. Close up on the convoy in each curve, back off on the straights. There's a couple of places where passing a single car is possible. State law forbids strafing two or more cars at a time. Think about pulling off to the side, to let the slower folks get far enough ahead to make cornering more entertaining.
There are two notable curves. One leads sharply into a bridge. The other is a hairpin, shift-down-two-gears curve into an uphill grade. When the jacarandas carpet the asphalt with blossoms, the turn can result in an unsettling slither. Close up on car No. 2. Back off.
So far, there has been just one car heading down. Normally, at this time of day, there are strings of tourist cars, punctuated by lines of cyclists coming down from a visit to the summit. There were two uphill cyclists pumping their way to cramped thighs, sweat and lean physiques - part of the Upcountry riders addicted to pedal power.
On the other side of Kula Lodge there are four tourist bicycle riders coasting downhill. They are independents. No van follows them. They could have started at the park entrance. The parking lots at the lodge and Kula Market are emptier than usual.
At the intersection with Crater Road there's a white-on-brown sign that says "Haleakala National Park." The arrow pointing the way up Crater Road is covered with a notice: "Park Is Closed." There's a car making a U-turn.
Hey, Congressional obstructionists, thanks, eh.
* Ron Youngblood is a retired editor and staff writer for The Maui News. His email address is email@example.com.