Friday, January 16, 2009

Wind and waves

Date: Jan. 14, 15 and 16
Mileage: 30.5, 55.1 and 34.2
January mileage: 429.5
Temperature upon departure: Low 80s

My Hawaii trip so far has been a comedy of errors, but I'm starting to settle into the flow. I feel perpetually lethargic because of all of the heat and sun and the Benadryl I'm sucking down (I seem to be allergic to a lot of different things down here.) But this island is nothing if not beautiful and an adventure in itself. True to my vacation record, even Hawaii managed to throw exciting weather my way.

The first thing we did after the car rental place opened for the morning Wednesday is drive around looking for the start of the Hurt 100. We ended up on a high bluff at sunrise, where I caught my first glimpse of downtown Honolulu. From a distance, it's breathtaking.

I rented a road bike from this place called The Bike Shop. It's light and fast and holds its own on gravel, but the traffic on this island takes some getting used to. It's been really windy, which has been great for my training in the limited time I have to ride. It helps me get my heartrate up without gaining too much speed, which can be scary and hard to control in tight traffic on a strange bike when you're used to none of it.

We camped the first two nights at a private campground on the edge of the North Shore. It was a beautiful spot and crawling with feral cats and chickens. We of course adopted one of the cats, feeding it pieces of ahi tuna and leftover cereal milk. While walking on the beach, Geoff randomly bumped into friends of his, Kelly and Adrian from Smithers, B.C. Neither had any idea the other would be in Oahu. Really, what are the chances?

The day we arrived, the National Weather Service issued a high surf warning, forecasting 25-35 foot waves on the North Shore. The beaches were all closed and I could see few people even braving walks on the shoreline as I rode by, hoping to catch a glimpse of monster wave surfers. I did see one windsurfer out in the roiling mass. His kite jolted wildly back and forth until it dipped low and I lost sight of it. I never did see it come back up.

On Thursday night, we were handed an voluntary evacuation notice with instructions for a nearby shelter that we could go to. We were a little confused about that, especially because our camp site was many hundreds of yards off the shore, so the high surf didn't threaten us. We're in a strange place and inclined to take weather warnings seriously, but there was nothing on the notice that raised any red flags. They were calling for 40 mph sustained winds with 50-60 mph gusts and heavy rain. Similar weather in Juneau is called "autumn." We reinforced our little backpacking tent and hunkered down.

On Friday, the island of Oahu closed all schools and told all non-essential government workers to stay home. I went for a bike ride. It was a little hurricaney, but hardly the kind of weather I think of as "extreme." It was still 75 degrees outside. The drenching felt good.

We headed back down to Honolulu today so Geoff can prepare to run that crazy hard 100-miler tomorrow. We decided to rent a hotel room because it's so much less of a headache than trying to camp close to the race start, which is right in town. A last-minute booking for a $60 room netted us an ocean-view setting on the 43rd floor of one of Waikiki's myriad high-rise hotels. I get a little light-headed if I spend too much time looking out the window, especially with the wind rattling the glass. But I'm excited for Geoff's race tomorrow, and certainly glad I don't have to run it.