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 I’m 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 I’ll be forty years old. In seven, I’ll 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 Xb—a 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. It’s a far cry from the Hog that’s sitting behind me: A 1,200cc Harley-Davidson Sportster, rented this morning in Kailua-Kona. It’s been parked for awhile now, but the engine’s 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. It’s 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 there’s not much time to hang around: A late afternoon fog is building on the upper slopes, and there’s still a serpentine, ten-mile run down into Waimea. After that, it’s another forty-five miles on the narrow Mamalahoa Highway between Waimea and upcountry Kona, where I’ll be staying tonight. Best hit the road ... but before firing up the beast, I feel compelled to assure you that, regardless of the evidence—rented Harley, pushing forty, impending fatherhood, exhibition of speed—I am not in fact having a mid-life crisis.