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E-Bike Bliss on Maui and Lanai, two Hawaiian islands


Today an old haul road still runs along the western edge of Maui and John and I found part of it just north of an intersection of the main road in Kaanapali. This road, now abandoned, could one day become part of the West Maui Greenway, a proposed 25-mile long trail from Ukumehame Beach Park to Lipoa Point at the northern tip of West Maui – the dream without car of a cyclist.

Around mile 10, John and I took a dirt road that climbed steadily for about 600 vertical feet to Ironwood Ranch, one of the last horseback riding ranches on the island. Owner Kimo Harlacher let us load the bikes into a barn and pitch hammocks in a gazebo under a Java plum tree in exchange for helping with the horses. We used his e-MTBs to get to a grassy spot overlooking the ocean where travelers can camp later this year. Wild pigs rummaged around the lemon trees.

The next day’s driving was spectacular, challenging and rewarding: an epic 22-mile that would drain the batteries with 3,500 feet of ascent and descent on an isolated road bearing the elevation profile of a heart attack.

The Honoapiilani Expressway, which becomes the Kahekili Expressway, has curves tight enough to cause cars to crawl. For three hours, John and I circled the northern tip of West Maui, the road becoming so narrow at times that the cliffs and rainforest forced the central strip out of it. We passed the Nakalele Blowhole and scaled “the wall”, a short, solid climb that, even with power assistance, left us breathless. We skirted blind spots that revealed thundering bays and steep cliffs. There were banana bread stands, farms and timeless villages.

At a few spots we stopped to let cars pass, then watched those cars meet oncoming cars and a game of who would back up first began. The trade winds pounded our faces on exposed curves, then reduced to a whisper as we rounded the corners of ravines and drainages. The battery-powered meter on my handlebars dwindled as the motor whined on the inclines. The descents are fast and thrilling and I leaned the bike over in the turns. You could fly to Maui just for this section alone.

That night, our last, we camped at the farm of George Kahumoku, Jr., a Grammy Award-winning musician. For a donation — it helps feed the island’s homeless — visitors can come here on weekends for breakfast and music, but patrons usually can’t stay here. He let us do it because he had just returned from a tour through my hometown in Oregon and needed help tending his taro fields. For others, Kahului hotels are less than 10 miles away.

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