If it Rains on the Westside, two rides to try
There is a saying here on Maui. "If you don't like the weather, wait five minutes or drive five miles". Well if it is raining on the westside of Maui (Olowalu to Kapalua) some of us will head Upcountry. Now where is that you say? If the weather is streaming in from the north or northeast (normal tradewind day) we head to an area that lies on the Kula to Kaupo side of Haleakala. If it is raining from the south, find a good warm place and a book. Or in some cases, a dry bar to belly up to. Our Kona driven storms get pretty raucus.
Now where to ride?
Here are some of my favorites. None of these are without lots of climbing. Some of the roads are NOT for the faint of heart. They are narrow and without shoulders.
Pukalani to the Windmills
A huge favorite is Pukalani to the windmills on Piilani hwy out towards Kaupo on the southeast side of Haleakala. (Grab a map)
I like to park at the CVS/Longs pharmacy that is just off the Kula hwy next to Aapueo pkwy. Just up the Kula hwy from King Kaulike High school is the intersection Of Aapueo pkwy. This is about one mile up from the left turn to Haleakala crater on Haleakala hwy. Check a map to be sure. I like to park here for several reasons. Lots of open parking in the area, restrooms at the park right next door and a straight downhill run to the car from about 7 miles out.
Ride back out to Kula hwy and head left down the hill about one mile to Haleakala hwy and take a right. Just like you would be headed to the crater.
You will be on Haleakala hwy. The next five miles will wind you through some of Maui's most lush ranch land. The shoulder along this stretch of roadway varies from 1-5ft. Just short of the 6 mile mark you will have climbed about 1500ft. The Kula lodge area is on the right with restrooms , food and water. About a mile past the lodge is the left turn to head to the Crater. Keep going straight past that left. You will climb for about two more miles topping out at about 3750ft.
Yippie, I get to coast! For the next two plus miles is one of the sweetest descents on Maui. Winding past houses, farms and a few botanical gardens; this road is fairly wide with a generous shoulder.There are plenty of blind driveways that intersect the roadway, so be careful. You can reach speeds in excess of 40mph without pedaling. At the end of this road (named Kekaulike) you will be at a T intersection with Kula hwy. Be careful, it's around a sharp right turn. It can surprise you and there is a STOP sign.
Take a left on Kula hwy. Now why didn't you just ride straight up Kula hwy you say? Yes it is shorter, but not as beautiful. My way is well worth the climbing. You will be at 3000ft. Did I mention climbing?They don't call me the Hamster at WMC for no reason; I do like to climb! You will be headed south on Kula hwy and for the next few miles you will be descending steadily. On your left will be Keokea Park where you'll find restrooms and water.
About a mile down from the park is the Famous Grandma's Coffee house. Remember this. I almost always stop there for a cup on my way back. Their pastries are Ono(good).
The road narrows with no shoulder and continues for what seems like forever. Continue with caution as there are many blind turns and sometimes dust in the road. Speeds above 30mph are easily obtained. There are not many vehicles are on this stretch of road, but they can surprise you at any time.
To the right is the island of Koolawe and Molokini. The views are as spectacular as the road you're riding. It's hard to decide to carve the road at speed or take in the view. If you are a mile marker watcher as I have become over the years, You will notice the markers get up to mm21 then drop abruptly back to mm15, the gap between the two is 1.6 miles. This is because you just changed highways. Kula hwy ends and Piilani picks up. Piilani hwy begins in North Kihei and ends at mm10 in Wailea. If it did continue it would pick up just short of the Tedeschy winery starting with mm15. Great food and snacks are to be had at the Ulapalakua Store and diagonally across the street is the winery. Wine tasting is not advised unless you have a Sag Vehicle.
Keep on Piilani hwy and you will encounter lots of rollers. BIG rollers. At this point you will be heading straight east. Usually into a headwind. But for the most part, downhill(with a few short up sections).
Not much in the way of facilities for quite a while with the exception of restroom facilities (aka bushes) along the way. The landscape is really pretty sparse but beautiful and really very different to anywhere else on the island.
I usually turn around just above the new Wind Farm(white windmills). You are now subjected to all those hills you just ripped down. Yep, all the way back to Grandma's Coffee house. The good news is it's downwind, not much consolation but it is better than a headwind!
If you're feeling really adventurous you can continue for 10 more miles until the road turns really crappy. At mm 31 the road turns into a maze of pot holes and continues for 3.5 miles.
At that point the road turns to dirt and is not recommended for our bikes. Along this ten miles the landscape is very baron and beautiful; there are plenty of steep climbs and it's often windy. Is it worth it though? You might ask. Hell YES!
At the time of writing this there is a 100yrd road washout located at mm 29.5.
It's a rough area , but still negotiable. The road narrows to one lane about a mile past the windmills. Remember, the ride back is uphill and downwind! The vies dramatically change on the ride back. Look for the lava rock arch on the Oceanside (you can't see it on your way east-outbound from Grandmas)
If you do this section, you will gain an extra 1800ft of climbing on the way back. There are no facilities past Ulapalkua so be prepared!
After my stop at Grandma's, I just cruise back to Rice park. This is just north of where you came down Kaulike dr and intersected Kula hwy. You will see Kula Country farm on the left and Rice park on the right . If I'm feeling fit(not often) I will make the 800ft climb up Kaulike rd and descend on Haleakala hwy to Kula and then left to the car. If I'm feeling weak and worthless, I just head north DOWN Kula hwy to the car. This is a long straight descent. There are many blind driveways and roads that enter Kula hwy from the right. Be cautious here, they can't see you without pulling into the "bike lane" and not many drivers are expecting a bicyclist to be flying down the hill at speeds up to 50mph.
Depending on your turnaround point(windmill area) you can expect 55-60 miles of length and 4500-5500ft of climbing. Enjoy this "Hiding from the Rain Ride".
SHORT AND SWEET
This is my next favorite "If it's raining on the West side" ride. This is NOT for those who dislike climbing. There are not a lot of warm-ups and it's-definitely not a wide road. If you like a challenge, this ride's for you!
I like to park in front of the Home Depot in Kahului. I park as far away as possible. Out near the Akamai Coffee hut. If you read all of my blogs, they ALL involve coffee.
Head out the south side of the Home Depot . You will be at Ho'okele st and will see a stop light. Take the left on Ho'okele st and head North. This will usually be into a headwind. The road is new and winds through an industrial park with several new Big ox stores either completed or in the works. There are two full lanes, but they forgot the "BIKE Lane". Nice planning for a NEW road. Just under a mile on Ho'okele you will come to Pulehu rd.
Take a right. You will be looking at mt. Haleakala. Yes , you will be headed up the mountain. How far you decide to go is up to you. I do many variations of this ride which mostly depends on the weather. You can watch the weather patterns develop as you do this ride.
Once on Pulehu rd, you will think you were transported to the cobbles of the Paris to Roubaix race course. One half mile of the most broken up pavement you have ever seen.
But well worth the pain to get to the 11 mile climb up to Lower Kula. Just bear with this section; it will get better. Just wait till you hit the first 17% grade pitch. Yes, I did say first! Depending on which route you choose, there could be a lot of them. Once you get past the cobbles the road rises gently. There is absolutely no shoulder. About a mile up Pulehu rd you will encounter the Central Maui Landfill(aka dump). Don't let that deter you, the next ten miles are spectacular. You will be winding up through Lush Sugar Cane fields and then farmland. I used that word UP again.
After 6 miles of gentle UP you will arrive at a fork in the road.
Omaopio rd to the left and Pulehu rd to the right. Omaopio is 5.5 miles long and ends at Kula hwy. Pulehu rd is 5 miles long and also ends at Kula hwy. Omaopio rises to 2200ft and Pulehu rises to 2500ft. Hmmm, one is longer and rises less and one is shorter and rises more. Which one is Scot going to take? Shorter is always better in my book. Yeah right!!! The fork in the road is about 680ft in elevation. I will let you kids do the math.
Pulehu rd is pretty benign for the next 3.5 plus miles. You gain 1200ft in this section for a total of 1800ft from your start. You will come to an intersection at this mileage. About 10.9 miles from when you started those lovely cobbles. Decision time. Pulehu actually takes a 90 degree right turn. I choose to go straight most of the time. Both roads end at the Kula hwy. Going straight is short. The road changes names to Holopuni rd.
Did I previously mention 17% grade pitches? Well if I didn't then, I will now. The next long mile is not easy. Rewarding yes, easy, no. You will think the short steep pitches will never end; but they do. 12 miles of pure climbing fun. Remember all of the beautiful Cane fields and farmland.
Take a right onto Kula hwy. Oh yeah, it is still up hill for a while. You are at mm11 of the Kula hwy. You are headed south. I like to climb up to Rice park (mm13.5): for some reason google maps has it at mm12. I go by the little green signs on the side of the road that the county put into place. I can remember where they are. With that in mind, Kula hwy tops out at 3000ft (mm14) just past Rice park (restrooms and water available)on the left. Just after Rice park you will come to Kekaulike rd on the left. On the right will be Kula Country Farms. If the weather is nice, I will make the left and head up Kaulike dr. I will be again climbing past lush farmlands, botanical gardens and beautiful home sites. This pitch rises about 900ft, so that's 3900ft at the top. I love riding on these country roads.
Now for the fun part... 900ft of descending. In two miles from this 3900ft summit you will encounter the right turn to head up Crater road. If I am really feeling spry, I will ride up to the Lavender Coffee House (food, restrooms and Coffee). Again with the coffee. This is at about 3800ft. and 3 miles up Crater rd.
A quick U-turn and the rest of the ride is DOWNHILL, but not fully.Yep, with me there is always a catch. To my friends I am "Just one more climb to go, Scot". Head back downhill to the intersection where you made your right turn to head up crater rd. Make the right and head down Haleakala Hwy. One mile on the left is Kula lodge. More food, restrooms and coffee, 5 more miles down Haleakala hwy yo will intersect Haleakala hwy to the Right and Kula hwy to the left. depending on my mood and fitness I can either climb up to Omaopio and descend back to Home depot in reverse order of my climb or brave the usual crosswinds of Haleakala hwy.
Weather and fitness plays heavily on the routes I take. Get out a map of Maui and go for it. Usually drier riding south from Kula and around the south side of Haleakala.
Good luck, stay safe, and always obey the traffic laws while riding our roadways. Be courteous to our local drivers. They have regular lives as you have in your area. Mahalo and Aloha