Sunday, March 27, 2011

Introducing Santa Cruz Sam

I got a new bike!  My 2-year old Santa Cruz Blur XC, "Magma", served me very well last year. I raced the heck out of it, but sometimes he felt a little small for me and I wanted to try bigger wheels.  So a month ago I started acquiring parts. First a fork.

Then the frame.
Then Drew helped me take off most of the components from Magma to put onto the new bike.
Magma was sad not to be trail ready anymore, but I think he was OK after he sat the new boy down and told him about our favorite trails over a Fat Tire.

I sold Magma's frame and fork on the online classifieds to a local dude, so I have high hopes that he'll get to ride his favorite local trails again this summer under someone shorter than me. 

I thought I had all the parts necessary for the boys at Revolution Bicycles to put the new bike (who by this time had begun to feel like "Sam") together but the headset they ordered wasn't right.  I ended up getting one from another local shop, Guthrie's, which only half worked.  Another trip back to Guthrie's and they let me have a bottom from a different bike.  Nice guys, especially considering I didn't buy the frame from them.  After 5 days of the new guy hanging like this at the shop

I finally took delivery on Wednesday.   
Santa Cruz Sam Tallboy weighs 24 lbs 8 oz and has 29-inch diameter wheels. He is my new carbon baby. 

The weather was horrible until today when we got out for our maiden voyage on the Shoreline trail.
Shoreline is an easy trail, so I couldn't get a real feel for how the bike will handle on technical and steep trails.  The geometry is very similar to the Blur, but since this frame is a size bigger than the Blur, I am sitting on it differently. Combined with the larger wheels, it feels like a very different bike. 

He sure is pretty though.

Hawaii Day 5: Sunrise to sunset

Day 5 started badly.  For some unknown reason, I could not sleep the night before our planned 4 AM wake up and drive to the top of Haleakala to experience the sunrise.  But damn it, we’re on vacation and we’re going to have fun, so I took the wheel and drove us the 50 miles to the summit.  The last 23 miles of the drive was up about 5000 vertical feet on an insanly narrow two-lane paved road with about a hundred hairpin turns.  We arrived just as the horizon was starting to turn orange.

  We had about 40 minutes to stand in the cold wind before sunrise.

It was almost pitch dark as we walked up the trail to find somewhere to watch, so we didn’t see the many warning signs reminding us to stay on the trail.  At 6 AM in the dark, everything looked like barren lava to us.  At 6:30, an angry ranger came walking up the trail and barked at a group of us to get back on the trail.  Two others who had strayed even farther got a “THAT IS A DIRECT ORDER” from Mr. Angry Ranger.

The sky kept getting brighter
 And brighter until finally the golden rays broke free of the clouds, blinding us with light, but not warmth.

The sunrise on the top of Haleakala was astoundingly beautiful.  The area from which we were viewing it put us at the junction of two large valleys incorrectly referred to the crater. As we looked down and across the crater, numerous cinder cones and lava fields colored wild shades of orange, black, green, purple, and gray burst into color as the sunlight spilled onto them.  Was it worth the nasty drive and bone-chilling cold? You bet.

It was bugger-cold; after all, the summit is at 10,023 feet. I had jeans, two shirts, a fleece jacket, a rain jacket, fleece hat, and wool mittens on and I was still freezing.  What kind of attire is that for a Hawaiian vacation?

There was no snow, although we could see lots of snow on Mauna Loa across the ocean channel to the Big Island, but there was proof of freezing temperatures in the frost on the trail.

As the world grew lighter, we could see why Angry Ranger had yelled at us.  When we hiked off trail, we found ourselves in a small roundish low shelter surrounded by lava boulders.  We thought it was just a modern assortment for watching the sunrise, but no, it was a pa, a shelter built by native Hawaiians and a protected archeological resource.  Big oops.  There was also endangered species habitat.

We took a quick nap in the warm car and ate a few snacks before we set out on a hike on the Sliding Sands Trail down into the crater.

The landscape in the crater/valleys was lunar-like. On the older lava, tiny plants have established, but everywhere else is a sea of porous, abrasive lava.

Although it was very cold and very windy, Drew flushed out what we think was the Hawaiin state bird or nene. It looked like a Canadian goose. Incredible that any creature that big could be living here.

The nine individual cinder cones were even more visible as we descended into the crater.  All the lava in the photos is between 900 and 5000 years old, which is pretty young as far as rocks go, but it amazes me that there is so little soil development on it.

After our hike, we drove over to the nearby peak where several observatories and a short interpretive trail are located.  We saw lots of these native plants called ‘ahinahina or silversword.

Biologists believe the plant came to Hawaii about a million years ago on the feathers of a bird. Since then it developed into a hairy little mound of thick leaves to retain moisture and ward off the intense sun at this altitude.  The plants may live 50 years but only bloom once.

Drew drove down the mountain while I barely hung on to my stomach and achy head. We stopped for some Tums and potato chips, which was a recipe for tummy happiness.  Feeling better, but still very tired, we napped again at the condo, ate some pineapple bacon sausages again at the pool, and napped a bit longer.

By 3:30 PM I was feeling human again, so we loaded up the snorkel gear and boogie boards and drove south to the end of the road. Literally. The road goes through the island’s youngest lava flow (about 500 years old), designated the ‘Ahihi-Kina’u Natural Area Reserve.  At the end of the road is La Perouse Bay and a place called Aquarium, which is supposed to have the island’s best snorkeling. However, on this day…Goat poop!  Due to the large amounts of rainfall four days prior, a lot of runoff from the island had entered the water.  Most of the beaches on this leeward side of the island were still closed due to all the runoff from the storm.  A Friendly Ranger was parked at the beach, warning people not to attempt snorkeling.  So instead, we went for a hike on Hoapili Trail along the shore of La Perouse Bay

 Through very cool forest
 and pretty shoreline

and onto the lava field at Cape Hanamanioa.  The lava here looks almost like a freshly plowed field, only chunkier and rougher. It is a’a lava, formed from more viscous, drier lava that doesn’t really flow but lumbers along in chunks.

It was a nice dry alternative in lieu of being able to get wet.

And finally, what island vacation would be complete without fruity drinks at Moose MacGillicuddy’s. Kahlua pork quesadilla and a burger for dinner before an early bedtime.

Saturday, March 26, 2011


One of them tipped over my pencil drawer organizer.

I don't know which one it was, but it scared the other one so bad he/she up ended the food and water bowl too.  What a mess!

They are lots of help when it is time to sew.

Max doesn't let go when playing the string game.

Look how much they have grown.  This was taken January 22.

And here they are trying to fit in the same spot on March 3.

Aren't they precious?!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Hawaii Day 4: Whales!!!!!!

OK, enough playing with kittens and goofing off in the yard.  Time to get back to blogging about our Hawaii vacation. 

Day 4 was all about whales. I wanted to see whales.  That was the whole reason I begged Drew to go to Maui instead of another island.  Humpback whales hang out in Auau Channel, sheltered from the trade winds on the west side of Maui.

We had a leisurely morning drinking Kona coffee on the lanai

and feeding the birds our trail mix.

And then we were off to Lahaina to depart on a 35-foot Zodiac boat to see if we could see some whales in the sea.  There were about 20 passengers, a captain, and a marine biologist (in blue t-shirt) on the trip.

We were cool sitting up front in the boat on the pontoons.

Almost as soon as we were away from the harbor, we spotted two whales traveling along. We were thrilled.

We stopped and watched them while the biologist told us a few facts about humpback whales.  
An adult whale usually ranges between 40-50 feet long and weighs approximately 36 tons.  The deeply-notched flukes (tails) are up to 12 feet wide. Humpback whales are baleen whales that filter feed tiny crustaceans, plankton, and small fish. An average-sized humpback whale will eat 4,400-5,500 pounds of food each day during the feeding season in the cold waters off Alaska.  Then they swim to Maui (or Baja Mexico or a few other places) to calve and breed in the warm sheltered water.  They do not eat while they are wintering in Maui!

We motored farther out into the channel to see if we could get a closer view.  Our captain spotted a couple of whales traveling roughly parallel to the direction we were going, so she steered ahead of them a little and they came straight at us.  She killed the engine and we sat and waited for a minute as they drew closer.  We were all hoping to see them up close, and man did we!!!   Here is the video of our first close sighting. I apologize in advance for the sailor's language.

I was really excited!
They were just so close!

Then they started playing with us.  For about 45 minutes, the two whales twirled and dove under and around our boat!  Even though we were a mile or more off shore, the surface of the water was terribly full of floating debris.  Still, we could clearly see the whales under our boat. Here I'm looking down past the gray pontoon of the boat to the nose of one of the whales pointing to the left of the picture.

There is no mistaking this! This is the underside of a whale swimming away from the boat.

Another video of the whales under and around the boat.

The water was so calm and warm I would have loved to jump in and swim with them.

It was an amazing experience to be there on that boat.  It was an experience neither one of us been expecting or had dared hope to have.  Drew was thrilled to look a whale in the eye.

A special treat came near the end of our time with them.  Biologists think the whales pop their snouts straight up out of the water in what they call a spyhop (this is the end of one, when the whale is sinking back down into the water)

just to see what is up there.  They were clearly checking us out. 

Finally, the captain was getting antsy.  She needed to get the boat back for the next tour, so she called another vessel over to our location so the whales would go check them out and leave us alone so she could start the engine and get back. (It is illegal to run a motor when you are within 100 feet of a whale.)  So we had our whales stolen and we motored back to the harbor.

We were still on high from the whaling experience, but we tried to appreciate this one gigantic tree growing the town square of Lahaina.
It was still early in the day so we headed north to Kaanapali Beach to test out our rented snorkel gear.  We didn't take the camera down to the beach, so I don't have any pics to share, but it was fun and we saw lots of cool fish, including my favorite blue trumpet fish. (Picture not mine.) 

The beach was beautiful and warm and relaxing and we hated to go, but we heard a tropical drink somewhere with our name on it.

Which we found back in Lahaina where we watched the sunset and closed up a phenomenal day.