"More curves than a Hula girl,” brags the short-sleeved T-shirt.
With 617 twists, bends, switchbacks and “oh-my-god” comments covering 52 miles of road, no kidding.
“There’s no whining, no crying and no bellyaching.”
The tongue-in-cheek article of upper-body apparel makes more sense once you’ve braved the route to the oasis of Hana from the hippie, surfer-dude beach town of Paia (Pie-EE-ah) on Maui’s northeast coast. It might only be 52 miles to Hana from Paia, but it’s three hours, minimum, without stopping for any of the countless roadside attractions along the way.
“Keep arms and legs inside vehicle.”
Excuse me? Is this a ride through Jurassic Park? No, even if there is a real honest-to-goodness rainforest, but roadside objects are close enough to deliver serious injury to the careless or unwitting.
For other tourists, however, pink and parched from the Pacific heat, roaming the Crazy Shirts store in Lahaina, 60 miles from Paia on the southwest shore of Hawaii’s “Valley Island,” the “I Survived the Highway to Hana” souvenir display is hiding a secret.
The cashier busily rings in and bags the blue size-large cotton prize.
“Have you ever been on the road to Hana?” I ask.
“No, but I’ll have to do that one of these days,” says the clerk. “I’ve only lived here for two years.”
“It says right here on the T-shirt, ‘The Ultimate Road Trip’”, I jab back.
The clerk simply shrugs and smiles.
Little does he know that I’ve already been there, done that, bought the T-shirt.
Let’s go back 24 hours.
Just to put things in perspective, there are spectacular driving routes everywhere, but few will challenge your ability to control a motor vehicle while looking at everything else but the road, trust that other distracted and green tourists know what they’re doing, too, and teach you to pull over when the locals ride your bumper and honk for you to get out of the way.
Few roads will completely and utterly physically wear you out. And few are honored by T-shirts — the great American tribute — that remind you of the experience with sage advice well after the fact.
“Persons with back, neck, knee and heart problems should not experience this attraction.”
The T-shirt reads like a warning for an amusement-park ride, but the danger is no joke.
One wrong move and it’s head-on into an oncoming vehicle, or worse, if the charred minivan remains at the bottom of a nearby ravine are any indication.
The speed limit is less than 30 m.p.h. in most places and grinds down to 10 when entering a corner. There are 56 one-lane bridges, seemingly strategically placed on blind curves, each with nothing but a rock wall on one side, a steep cliff on the other and falling stones just in case there’s not enough danger to make you wonder if it’s not too late to turn back . . . if only there was someplace to turn around.
Still, for anyone who loves a great road trip, the road to Hana is pure heaven, especially when a couple of thousand feet of elevation change is randomly dialed in for good measure.
“Safety harness required at all times.”
Thanks for the tip.
The T-shirt should read “convertible required at all times.”
Our faithful road companion was a Jeep Wrangler with the assorted flaps, plastic windows and collapsible tent-like garb tucked away to reveal the sky above filled with amazing scenery. There were strange orange-swirl tree trunks with absolutely no bark, waterfalls cascading from 100 feet above and rock cuts that seemed so close as to scrape the mirrors.
And after all this, the quiet town of Hana located on Maui’s eastern shore is tucked away like an undiscovered but highly polished jewel. Where, 52 miles away at the beginning of the trip, Paia is jammed with tourists, coffee shops and one of the best pizza joints to ever grace a main drag, Hana is so rural it’s difficult to tell where the town begins and where it ends. A small, quiet beach with vacant picnic tables and huge shade trees is a place to turn off the brain for a while and serves to recharge you, both physically and mentally, for the return trip, unless you plan to stay in Hana for the night . . . or forever, which would be my choice.
In between the two towns, it’s 617 turns, 56 bridges, 52 miles and one wild ride.
“The ultimate road trip.”