story by Stu Dawrs
photos by Kirk Lee Aeder
8/10. Route 250.
It takes a rare breed of numbskull to leave a beautiful, kind and extremely pregnant woman alone for a week. I am just such a man, but that only goes so far in explaining why Iím stretched out in the grass on the shoulder of the Kohala Mountain Road, halfway between Waimea and Hawi and not too far from the northern tip of the Big Island.
These then are the facts: In five weeks Iíll be forty years old. In seven, Iíll be a first-time father. My love and I live in Honolulu, where we share a rented home with another family and commute to work each day in a Scion Xbóa cute little box of a car that gets superb gas mileage and would run neck-and-neck in a drag race with a shopping cart. Itís a far cry from the Hog thatís sitting behind me: A 1,200cc Harley-Davidson Sportster, rented this morning in Kailua-Kona. Itís been parked for awhile now, but the engineís still giving off the small pings and clicks that all motorcycles make after running hard for more than an hour at speeds we shouldn't discuss in print. Itís the sound of metal changing shape, minutely contracting as it cools.
Anyway, here I sit. Ka makani Kohala, the famously persistent wind of Kohala, is blowing along my sightline: Down the long expanses of hillside pasture, flattening the grass and buffeting an occasional ironwood or cactus as it runs off toward coastal Kawaihae and on out to sea. Far below, the sloping grasslands give way to the old lava fields of South Kohala, a blackened expanse that runs all the way out to Kailua.
This is one of my favorite spots on earth: a beautiful, wide-open space perfect to sit and empty the mind. But thereís not much time to hang around: A late afternoon fog is building on the upper slopes, and thereís still a serpentine, ten-mile run down into Waimea. After that, itís another forty-five miles on the narrow Mamalahoa Highway between Waimea and upcountry Kona, where Iíll be staying tonight. Best hit the road ... but before firing up the beast, I feel compelled to assure you that, regardless of the evidenceórented Harley, pushing forty, impending fatherhood, exhibition of speedóI am not in fact having a mid-life crisis.