Riding along the first two miles of Lower Kula Road can be a journey through history - rough but tied inextricably to the land.
The remnant of old Maui begins just beyond Kulamalu and ends at Omaopio Road. Lower Kula Road itself continues - with one major interruption - all the way to Rice Park.
Look for the second intersection, or a house with a very tall TV antenna.
The house sits on a hill. The antenna speaks to the days on Maui when watching the Honolulu stations meant erecting impressive collections of aluminum tubing to snare the signals. The house itself may have been built and occupied when Lower Kula Road was the only way to Keokea and beyond. Upper Kula Road is now called Kekaulike Avenue, beginning at Crater Road and ending at Kula Highway.
Lower Kula Road is on the right side of the highway. At the intersection, a left turn takes a driver into Kula 200 Unit II via Hoopalua Drive. At first, the asphalt is a forlorn promise. It runs smoothly along white board fences typically erected to confine horses but probably is intended to keep people out of the beginning of a gated subdivision.
What appears to be a small ranch has been developed behind those fences. The road, Anuhea Place, is blocked by a gate. Looking downhill reveals a stand of trees topped by a new house.
The ranch and house were built in a small ag subdivision. The one-time pineapple land stood empty for decades. It was laid out just before the county implemented a water moratorium on development. No meters below Kula Highway.
The undeveloped subdivision was a pleasant place to visit for picnics and ride a dirt bike through knee-high grass, Anuhea ending at a circle. The hill above the circle was a favorite spot for teenagers to park and, well, act like teenagers. It was entertaining to ride down to the circle on a full-moon night, enjoy the view, quiet and see a string of cars emerge from the darkness, apparently heading home to beat a parent-set midnight curfew.
Slow the motorcycle or risk losing teeth to the incessant jarring. Lower Kula Road has turned into a suspension-testing puka-puka road. On the left is the driveway to the antenna house. On the right is a nursery operation that has lately put in a grove of plumeria trees down in the gulch.
It's easy to imagine the road being paved originally by cinders mined from one of the volcanic vents scattered over the slopes of Haleakala. It swings this way and that, depending on the land's contours. Facing the gulch is a high bluff of basalt rock and tree roots. Cutting the road must have taken a sweat of manual labor, a steam shovel, dynamite, or all three.
At certain times of the year, the gulch is a riot of blossoms erupting from tulip trees. The other day, the gulch was a uniform mass of green leaves and a brown dirt road running up the other side.
An old concrete bridge crosses the gulch. On the Omaopio side of the bridge a large, long-standing roadside memorial is gone. Talk has it the memorial was constructed by night-visiting teenagers after the death of one of their own.
The tranquility of the old road is disrupted by a whiz of traffic on Kula Highway, finished in 1964 - 6.4 miles of straight, slice-through-the-hills pavement. According to The Maui News, the Kula Highway was called New Lower Kula Road when it was first built through pastures occupied by scattered ranch houses, cows and pineapple fields. Confusion reigned until the Lower Kula Road name was left to the parallel track lined by housing and is the Kula route for the county bus service.
Scoot across and pass a mysterious sign that says "I like you." Hmmm. Enjoy a few yards of smooth pavement and back to puka puka. In short order, there's another bridge. The area below the bridge used to be an ad hoc dump. Someone has cleaned up the worst of the junk. A hand-painted sign on the bridge says "Respect the land." Translation: Use the landfill or county refuse collection.
The first of a couple of morning walkers is encountered on the way out of the gulch. She warily eyes the motorcycle and watches her unleashed dog checking out the edge of the road with its nose. The dog ignores the slow-moving motorcycle.
On the other side of a horse-riding operation is the Cleghorn place and the return of modern Maui, road and all. It takes only minutes to run the old section of Lower Kula Road. It takes only a smidgen of imagination to believe it's a trip through history.
* Ron Youngblood is a retired editor and staff writer for The Maui News. His email address is email@example.com.