Hilo, HI to Laupahoehoe, HI

22.1 mi / 11.2 mph / 1373 ft. climbing
Home: Laupahoehoe County Beach Park

We’re roughly going to be doing a counterclockwise loop of the Big Island, mainly following the “Ring Road” (which is the only real option). Due to that return to Bob and Paloma’s, we’re lucky to be able to travel slightly lighter, leaving some of our warmest clothing and various random extras behind. We said our goodbyes-for-now and rolled the 200 feet down their access road, needing to squeeze our brakes a bit more tightly than our previous unloaded day rides.

Heading down from Bob & Paloma’s to the gray Pacific Ocean.

It was dry when we started out, but we only made it a few miles before the drizzle started and then became real rain, necessitating a stop to put on our rain covers. On the main highway, there were wide smooth shoulders the entire way, except for bridges, but those were also no problem, since the drivers remained chill and safe and respectful.

Every bridge on this wet side of the island traverses a stream/waterfall-filled gulch, but Hakalau Stream was deeper (200 feet!) and wider than most. Some cars even stopped in the middle of the bridge to take a look too.
A cliffside full of jungle.
In Hawaii, a highway cut quickly turns into the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.

We were able to veer up onto another still-existing section of the Old Highway for a section, and while the in-and-out curves it used to cross each gulch turned three miles into four, it was completely worth it in exchange for another intimate forest-enclosed roadway (though we also saw our first Hawaiian moo-cows, spreading upslope across a huge area of cleared pastureland).

A tree that has grown its own roadside cliff-wall.
On the Old Highway, the road curves inland at each stream so that it can cross with low bridges close to their level, rather than the high bridges of the new highway.
Rett riding through Hawaiian jungle.
A world-class bike path (that isn’t actually a bike path).
Back on the main Mamalahoa HIghway, the gorge at Weloka operated at a larger scale than anything before it, and included this waterfall running down into the ocean.
Heading inland to cross the Weloka gulch meant heading down (and then back up on the way out, though not as high as that mountainous ridge!)

By lunch it was dry(ish) again and we stopped at the Papa’aloa Country Market and Cafe, a great small-town  “everything” place. You walk through the grocery aisles and order lunch at the counter in the back, pay for it (and any grocery items) up front, the walk outside (past the PO Boxes) to a separate dining room where your (delicious) food is served.

Just as we set off, rain began again, getting us the wettest that we’d been so far. But it was not entirely-unwelcome; when the skies were clear and dry, it was a bit warmer than ideal, but under gray and rainy skies, it was comfortable.

In short order we hit the offshoot that winds down 400 feet from the highway to Laupahoehoe Beach Park. Watching our computers on the way down, we were relieved to see the grades max out around 7%, though then close to the bottom we hit a section of 13% that will beat our muscles awake tomorrow morning.

Camping in New Zealand prepared us for the unusual-in-America no-designated-site setup of the campground. Well, I shouldn’t even call it a campground, it’s really just a county park that has bathrooms (and exposed outdoor showers) where camping is allowed (by reservation). We initially pulled under one of the pavilions to get dried out, and despite the signs telling you not to camp under them, a local we talked with (as well as Bob & Paloma) indicated no one would come to roust us out. And especially not if we just set the tent up right next to the pavilion.

The “beach park” was pretty awesome, even though (or maybe because!) there was no real “beach”. Instead, a chaotic mass of black volcanic rocks filled the border between land and sea, and the sea really enjoyed beating the hell out of itself on those rocks.

The sea trying to reach Rett at Laupahoehoe Beach Park.
Churning blue upon the black.
The steady easterly trade winds continually set the sea upon the rocks at this point that sticks out a bit into the water.

Setting up the tent right next to the pavilion wasn’t especially scenic, but the steady strong wind and lack of windbreaks made it difficult for me to decide on a better spot. After a while, with rain still coming on-and-off, we just moved to a more central pavilion to do dinner (the pavilions all have walls on their windward sides). The temperature was in the low 70s, but the wind actually made it cool enough for Rett to put pants on. Once we finished eating, the rain appeared to be cleared out for the evening, so I rolled the dice and set the tent up in a crazy spot less than 20 feet from where the waves were exploding 20 feet into the air. We set up our chairs and watched and watched and laughed as the water continually tried (and failed) to get us wet. The encroaching night did nothing to settle the sea, and in fact the regular wave-explosions made it one of the loudest places we’ve ever slept. And totally worth it!

Although there were a dozen other parties camping, it felt safe enough after dark to put our bikes back under the pavilion so that we wouldn’t have to worry about them getting rained on overnight.

Our tent is shockingly close to the exploding waves, but the same rocks that cause the waves to explode also prevent them from carrying their energy further inland.



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