Moonlight motorcycle rides have been something of an obsession for as long as I've called Hawaii home. The combination of silvered light and blacker-than-black ground shadows sing a seductive song.
In the late 1960s on Oahu, moonlight rides were aimed at something other than passive pleasure. An ad hoc group of motorheads - split evenly between small-bore sports-car drivers and motorcycle maniacs - would gather every full-moon night at Diamond Head.
We'd stand around smoking and talking about our rides. Midnight was the time set for the gathering, but it usually took until 12:30 a.m. or so before the first vehicle took off in a race against time. Others left one-by-one. The course was around Koko Head to the Pali Highway and through town back to Diamond Head.
Each rider/driver would keep track of his time. Fastest guy around had bragging rights until the next full moon. Motorcycles were usually the quickest, but not always. One night, a guy showed up with a Porsche and set the all-time record. Don't remember the time. Do remember the Porsche guy drove stupidly fast.
There were three automatic speed governors at work - traffic, the cops and the fear of being snuffed. The after-midnight time cut down on the traffic. Cops, particularly those mounted on Harleys, weren't that plentiful. As for personal risk, we were all young enough to believe we were immortal. Getting stopped for speeding or crashing was sure to wreck any hope of a fast time.
The best part of the run was around Koko Head, past Sandy Beach and through Makapuu. The road is carved out of cliff faces. Guardrails were no guarantee against sailing over the edge down to ocean-side rocks. There was always the chance of jamming around a blind turn into a slowpoke's trunk.
Not much chance to pass. Otherwise, it was a perfect road for my sweet-handling Triumph 500.
The other high point of the run was on the Pali Highway. Biggest danger on this section of the route was getting tagged by radar. Otherwise, it was a flat-out dash limited only by your motor.
The freeway was the quickest route through town. Some of the best times were recorded by going around Diamond Head and down through Waialae. Very boring.
Do not, I repeat, do not attempt this sort of thing on Maui. You'd be putting too many people at risk, including yourself.
My first moonlight ride on Maui came in July 1973. It set the pattern for all of the subsequent rides - a cruise at or under the speed limit. Home was an ohana unit in Kihei. Mahina rode high above Maalaea Bay. Destination was Lahaina. In and out of the shadows through the Pali. Once on the other side, Mahina produced a highway of light from the horizon. The shore end of the silver path kept pace with the same Triumph I ran on Oahu.
The ride was easy, uneventful except for arriving home and forgetting to put down the motorcycle's sidestand. The Triumph fell over. Mahina had fogged my brain, and my legs were wobbly from the moonlight assignation.
Tuesday night, the ride began in Kula in not the best conditions, but it was time for Baby's inaugural moonlight excursion and nearly a year since I'd ventured out in the middle of the night. Up on the mountain, chill air driven by strong winds cut pleasure to near discomfort.
Got to get down off the mountain. Follow Mahina westward. The new pavement on Pulehu Road glistened in the light so much it appeared wet. The lack of side roads and traffic encouraged speed. Age and no desire to end up with a broken body on a lonely road counseled caution.
Off the mountain, pleasure began building. Down Hansen Road to Mokulele and across to Kihei Road. Mahina lit the mountains on both sides. Through the night-vision-destroying intersection with Piilani Highway to North Kihei Road.
Mahina did her silver highway thing on Maalaea Bay. Slow down to savor the sight. Consider a Lahaina run. Not tonight. Swing right on Kahekili and right again on Kuhelani. Spotty traffic except on Dairy Road. Even in the wee hours, there are Mauians out and about. A string of streetlights on Hana Highway overpowers the moonglow. Haleakala is a bright ribbon decorated with moving red and white lights. Mahina is about to drop behind the Mountains of the Moon. The night is black across Kula to home.
Not the best moonlight ride. But even so, Maui is always at her romantic best in the moonlight, and there's always next month.
* Ron Youngblood is a former staff writer for The Maui News. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.