I am sitting, standing actually, in traffic on Piikoi, sandwiched between the rising heat of the asphalt and the cascading sun. A light rain falls upon me from a cloudless sky and freckles my khaki cowboy shirt. Having journeyed twenty yards in twenty minutes, I signal by electronic taillight and wide arm motion and then I make my move. It takes another eight minutes to reach the corner. There are many ways to travel on the Hawai'i islands. After a toss of the pros and cons, I believe the most appropriate and experiential is on two wheels.
The hippie, the triathlete and the environmentalist will always win the argument between manpower over fossil fuel. In every way, aesthetically, environmentally and artistically, natural, non-polluting human energy remains superior. Unfortunately, the lung and limb-powered bicycle does not satisfy the overwhelming desire for comfort and speed. As lazy Americans, we want to get there faster and sweat less.
Aiming for extra curricular class credit, this abbreviated dissertation shall detail the economic, philosophical, lifestyle and mindful attributes and concerns of the motorized vehicle in the Hawai'i environment. In short, we shall ask, "Are two wheels better than four?"
Nothing ever happens too fast on a Hawai'i island. The traffic on O'ahu just won't allow it. On Maui, meandering roosters with day-glow feathers and slow-living locals keep the speed limit to a leisurely 25. On the Big Island, speed is a constant choice. The long road from Naalehu through Kona to Waikoloa is decorated with unending roadside shrines to the departed. [Author's Note: Are these deaths by car accident or is triathlon training hazardous to your health?] No one drives faster than a golf cart on the Garden Isle, and on Ni'ihau, the residents have yet to be informed of the invention of the automobile. In short, the American need for speed is irrelevant to Hawai'i living.
Further, automotive luxury is pointless in Hawai'i where function far outweighs form. The sand of the shore, salt-watered shorts and the red mud of the hiking trail are incompatible with the refined interior of a Mercedes. On a truck, surf racks are most assuredly a statement that implies vigor and a lust for living. On an Audi, racks are laughable and counter-intuitive. Is it even possible to attach a camper shell to a Jag? To buy a luxury car for the short drive from Nu'uanu to the Pacific Club is preposterous and a gross misuse of funds. In short, a luxury automobile has a value and purpose on the marble streets of Beverly Hills, Las Vegas and Manhattan, but not on the red, rough-hewn roadways of Hawai'i.
The bridges of economic inequality have rusted far faster in our tropical climate. In this American state, where food stamps are the most prevalent currency, a luxury automobile is a grotesquerie, a hollow statement and a piece of Antoinette cake. In short, the humble motorbike presents a more balanced transportation reality for all citizens, nature and social justice.
Practicality trumps luxury. To further refine the argument for vehicular superiority, the pressing question remains, "Four wheels or two?" Economics issue a clarion call. In the question of Point A to Point B, a full fuel tank of an SUV can equal the cost of a lover's engagement ring. The full tank of a motorbike is always as carefree and cost-effective as a half price Happy Hour. Natch.
Powered by man, woman or expensive gasoline, the two wheeled vehicle is the smart consumer's choice. Sure, a moped or Schwinn won't take you to the North Shore when the winter surf is high, but the local bus, Uber or a thumb in the air will.
Much has been written about the many freedoms of the motorbike. The wind in your hair, the heightened sounds and hyper-aware senses top a long list. Just ask any Kanaka Hekili, Koa Puna or moped salesman. Two wheels are exhilarating.
Ten years ago or more, literally within one hours time as I clocked it, I landed in Honolulu, bussed to my hotel, checked in, changed clothes, rented a moped and was flying down Kalakaua on the way to meet friends for cocktails, lunch and cocktails at the Outrigger Canoe Club. I was so happy. I was so excited. Back in Hawai'i. The blue Pacific on my right. The wide green park on my left. The tradewinds mixed a perfume of salt air and fresh flowers. At thirty-two miles per hour, I was on a roll. And then, the massive, horizon-obscuring SUV in front of me slammed on its brakes. According to the witnesses, it was a spectacular accident. After collecting all of the flying plastic parts, I stumbled into the OCC with a bloodied shirt ripped at the shoulder and raw asphalt burns. I ordered a double.
In upcoming Part II of this Hula Moon Exclusive, we will examine the visceral, philosophical and thrill seeking aspects of the Mad, Mindful Meditation of the Hawai'i Motorbike.
Aloha says Hello and Goodbye.