Mahina is a seductress. In addition to the silvery light, she exudes a kind of energy. At least, for some of us. Time for a ride over to Haiku for some food and music. Make that music and food.
Head out to the garage to suit up and trundle Baby Dancer out next to the truck. It's been cold in Kula, more like February or March than December. Kauai and Oahu have been getting rain. The south and west sides of Maui have been dry. At this time of year, at 2,000 feet altitude, no clouds equals low temperatures. Even the most ardent motorcyclists turn to their four-wheel cages for night rides.
Long sleeves. A heavy leather jacket. Snap shut the neck flap. The motorcycle fires right up. Modern electronic fuel injection compensates the way no carburetor can. Mahina is just cresting the northwest slope of Haleakala. Underway, it doesn't seem that cold. Burble across Kula. Arrrgh. Every time the highway dips into a gulch, it's make anu, literally, not warm. The sleeves and jacket feel good. Face gets pinked.
There's no reason to hurry. Time enough to enjoy the Christmas lights adorning houses up the hill. Most of the decorations - at least from a distance - are mostly a string of lights marking the roofline. Left thumb gets a workout, flipping from low to high beam.
The low beam does a good job of lighting the road when it's straight. It does little or nothing for showing the way around curves. On a bike, it's necessary to look down the road in order to set up for the swoop. Flip up for a curve but not when there's oncoming traffic. Blinded drivers are not the safest motorists to approach.
There's a solid line of headlights heading the other way. Drivers hurrying home, no doubt. Maybe coming from a Christmas shopping expedition in town. Watch for cars turning left. Rely, sort of, on turn signals. Often, modern cars have amber blinkers right next to the headlight, making them hard to see in the glare.
Wonder just where the thermometer has landed. Probably not that far, but decades of living in the tropics turns blood to water and penetrates bones. Iwi makule complain about anything below 65. Never mind the wind chill created by a self-generated 45-mph breeze. Maui is a long way in years and miles from a childhood in the Midwest where the cold can actually hurt. The deep-freeze memory is warming on Maui.
It'll be colder later. By the time the thermometer bottoms out an hour or two before sunrise, I should be safely ensconced under warm covers with a "heater cat." Thanks to Minnesota broadcaster Garrison Keillor for that description. Cyrano, the house cat, likes to curl up inside bent knees. On cold nights, the outside fur dudes tend to come into the garage, sleeping in the warmest corners they can find.
Gear down for the turn on Makawao Avenue, watching for traffic off Haleakala Highway, aka the Pukalani Bypass. Nothing coming. Maximum speed up to and beyond Kalama Hill is 30 mph - slowed by a stream of traffic that often comes to a courteous halt to let side-street drivers onto the road.
Come to the four-way stop at the Makawao-Baldwin-Olinda intersection. For once everyone seems to understand four-way etiquette. The first to arrive is the first to go. When two arrive simultaneously, the one on the right is first.
Down to the Bill Balthazar bridge and over to Maliko Gulch, left thumb is busy. Turn left at the Makawao-Kapakalua-Kailiili-Kokomo intersection. It probably confuses tourists and newcomers, but Maui's roads are usually named for their destination. Lots of oncoming traffic. Take the road's right-left wiggles on low beam and memory.
It seems warmer in the dry night. Haiku is known for wet, not cold. Hit Haiku Road and turn in at Fukushima Store. The young clerk breaks into a smile at a wisecrack about "da 'riginals," unfiltered Camels, the smallest and most expensive cigarettes in the rack. Old habits and tastes die hard.
At the Haiku Marketplace, Mahina flirts with clouds and the branches of old mango trees. Pull up next to the Hana Hou. Turn off Baby Dancer. Ah, the sweet sounds of the Hula Honeys and the aroma of carefully prepared food eaten on this night in the company of a Hawaiian music legend, the elegant Emma Veary.
It's warmer here at a favorite spot, under the Mahealani moon, the 16th day of the lunar month, night of Mahina piha, the last full moon of the year.
* Ron Youngblood is a retired editor and staff writer for The Maui News. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.