Aloha You All And A Happy New
Millennium From The Southernmost Tip Of The USA!
by Jack Sanders
Yesterday as I sat on my pristine 1969
Triumph TR6 motorcycle watching an exceptional sunset close out the last day of 1999, the
end of the millennium, and the end of the U. S. operated Panama Canal, I decided to bring
in the New Year and the new millennium by doing something truly memorable. I decided that
I would drive around the entire island (the Big Island of Hawaii). By making such a
ride I could accomplish three things: I could bring in the new era with something I would
always remember, I could establish in my mind that even Jimmy "the Jerk " Carter
could not kill this Canal Zone Boy's spirit, and I could establish another success
for the British motorcycles in America and the world. I cranked up the machine and drove
home to Naalehu, the cock fighting capitol of the world, to further contemplate the event
at hand. That night, as the Hawaiians in Naalehu, the metropolis below my
house where 2,000 people, 3,000 barking dogs, and 4,000 crowing roosters live (I call the
place Cativa), tried to blow up the community with the biggest personal fireworks display
I have ever seen, I discussed the idea on Ham radio. I probably should have taken
advantage of the millions of firecracker and bomb explosions by creeping down the
hill with a 22 rifle and eliminating the barking dog and rooster population, but I
resisted the temptation and stuck to my Hamming like a good boy! Besides, the Hawaiians
were shooting guns down there and it didn't seem like a place I wanted to be near! On the
air, I couldn't get through to England, but I did manage to discuss the motorcycle ride
with several British transplants in New Zealand and Australia. One chap from New Zealand
(an old Matchless rider- ZL2BAQ -Peter) really got excited about the idea. I believe that
if I had a spare English machine and time would have permitted, he probably would have
booked a flight over here. Anyway, that pretty well cemented the plan.
Bright and early New Year's morning, I rolled out the big English parallel twin, tied on a change of clothes and a swimming suit, engaged the strangler, gave the starting lever a single vigorous kick, and the machine came to life with that familiar English motorcycle roar. I was off! As I drove through the streets of Naalehu I was astounded to see that the streets were covered with about an inch of red firecracker remnants. These people must have spent their life savings on firecrackers, bombs, rockets, and bullets! I pointed the machine south on Highway 11 and soon Naalehu was behind me with roughly 250 miles of island road ahead of me. A few miles from my house I passed the turn-off to South Point, the southern most point in
the USA. I headed across the bottom of
the island towards the west coast of the island passing macadamia nut farms and old lava
flows from times gone by, all the time with a breathtaking view of the Pacific Ocean on
the left side of the road. The road along this part of the island is a little high in
elevation and it is a little cool in the morning so I was happy that I had brought along a
light jacket. I stopped here and there to take in the view and congratulate myself on
making the decision to make the ride. I thought about some of the great rides I had been
on over the years and how my long time CZ scooter riding friends were missing out on a
great and truly historic ride. In no time I was across the bottom of the island and
heading north passing Papa, Honaunau, Captain Cook, and finally Kailua Kona. As one drives
north from the bottom of the island nearing Kailua Kona one notices the increase of
nicely developed property. Kailua Kona is a favorite place for North American immigrants
with jingle in their pockets. The view from Highway 11 along this coastline is wonderful
as it is quite high up and is filled with panoramic views of the beautiful coastline.
Arriving in Kailua Kona, I diverted from Highway 11 and drove down to the touristy area at sea level to grab a bite to eat and show off the immaculate Triumph TR6. For those of you that aren't motorcycle enthusiast you should know that the Triumph motorcycle works in England sold more motorcycles in the USA in the 1950s and 1960s than any other motorcycle manufacturer with the exception of perhaps Harley Davidson. I am not a Harley Rider (I don't like walking and pushing) so I don't know their sales figures. Anyway, the TR6 got lots of attention from lots of motorcycle has-beens in Kona with the same similar exclamation "Wow, I had one just like that back in ...!" I looked around for a healthy young lady that might be talked into wearing a lei and getting her photo taken astride the TR6, but as luck would have it the yl's were nowhere to be found early on the morning of New Year's Day. They were all probably home with ice packs on their heads! The clock was ticking and I was only about one quarter of the way around the island, so I climbed back on the machine and headed north on highway 19 for Hawi, a small town at the extreme north end of the island.
The road north of Kilua Kona is through some pretty dry and baron lava covered land. Along the road here and there, tourists from years gone by have left their marks with white rock on the black lava, spelling their names and other things. The road here is still elevated enough to see some nice views of the coast line, but it is often set back from the coast quite some distance. From this northwest coast part of the highway I could now see the snow capped Mauna Kea, the site of the University of Hawaii's world famous 13,000 foot observatory. The ride today would not take me to Mauna Kea as it is inland. That ride will have to wait for another day and besides the Mauna Kea trip should be done on a crystal clear day to take advantage of the view. The 30 year old TR6 was running great so far. I thought of the years in the past when I had ridden my BSA Rocket Goldstar and Matchless G12 motorcycles through Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, and the USA with John Hawthorne on his B34 Goldstar in 1963, and Phil Sanders on his Matchless G80 in 1966. When you are on these kinds of rides you try to put out of your mind notorious people like Joseph Lucas, known in English riding circles as the Prince of Darkness, the British bike electrical system designer, manufacturer and supplier for most British machines. Merely mentioning Lucas electrical systems to any British bike rider is always good for a stranded in Timbuktu story. So here I was on a 30 year old English machine, riding alone, with nobody to back me up if a problem developed! I guess too much brainpower leaked out in the street when I had my last crash! At any rate, the machine was running so good I actually forgot that it was 30 years old and British. As I approached the north end of the island I could see the island of Maui some 15 miles across the water. Visibility was excellent! A few months earlier I had camped with one of my daughters and a grandson at one of the state parks here (Spencer Beach Park) and I recommend it to anyone coming here for a vacation. Beaches in this area of the island are white sandy beaches unlike many other beaches on the big island which are what Hawaiians call black sand beaches (coarse lava, not the fine Panamanian black sand). I arrived in Hawi with no problems where I hooked up with a lonely Hogley Dogelson rider that was visiting the island from Omaha, Nebraska. He was riding a Hog, but it was all he could borrow so I excused his folly! Besides, he said that he owned a Triumph Bonneville back in Omaha so he had to be ok! The north end of the island is truly a place of beauty and my new found friend Dave and I swapped tall tales there for a while before motoring inland together on highway 250 to Wiamea. The road cuts inland from Hawi because there is no road that follows the cliffs of the north-northwest coastline.
The road to Wiamea is beautiful horse and cattle land that rises in elevation to about 4,000 feet with spectacular views of the western Kialua Kona coastline, Mauna Kea, and the high country ranch land. The TR6 scrambled right up the mountain side and soon we reached the 4,000 foot high point and began descending to about the 3,000 foot elevation community of Waimea, another very popular Big Island North American community. The day was absolutely beautiful and Dave and I were tempted to hang out there for a while, but the clock was still ticking and I was little more than half way around the island. Besides, Dave was eager to get back to his sister's place, so after a short stop off, we motored on down Highway 19 to Honokaa on the north-northwest coast where Dave and I parted ways. Alone again I headed south for Hilo now only 40 miles down the road. The coast here is also high, overlooking the tropical palms, coconut trees, and the fabulously blue Pacific Ocean. The view of this coast is similar to others on the trip but pleasingly different. Enhancing the ride and the great views is the weather! Unlike Panama, the temperature and humidity here seem to have been adjusted for optimum pleasure. I would guess that most of the ride was 65 to 70 degree F. Out of sight!!! Why this place is not bulging with Canal Zone people is beyond me! Jimmy "the Jerk" is out of office so there isn't much chance of him giving it away; and Clinton is too busy fooling around in the Oval Office with the help to be thinking about such a thing.
I arrived in Hilo about 3:00 PM and headed down to the local Harley hang out, a costal coconut grove the locals call Four Mile. When I arrived at Four Mile, Uncle Joe, one of my Hawaiian Harley "riding" friends was cooling off under a coconut tree with a tub full of beer doing what Harley riders do best! Uncle Joe heard the distinct sound of the TR6 coming down the road (I have the only one on the Island of Hawaii that I know of) and handed me a cold beer before I could get off the machine! He knew I was making the historical January 1st, 2000 around the island ride and had been waiting for me to show up. The Harley gang was having a great time, and at this point in the ride, drinking beer and telling lies was looking very tempting, but I still had another 60 miles to go before the ride was complete and I would be home in Naalehu. I drank one beer as I didn't want to spend the first day of the new millennium in a Hawaiian jail! We talked for a while and planned a ride up to the observatory on Mauna Kea as I watched the surf break over the lava and the breeze blow through the coconut trees. It was like the good old days on the gold coast of Panama! Pacific siders (Silver Siders) probably can't relate to this as the effects of the trade winds and surf on the mud flats of Panama Bay just are not the same!! I still needed a photo of a Hawaiian beauty sitting on the TR6 so I tried to snap a photo of the future of Hawaii, Uncle Joe's six year old daughter, but she wasn't having any of it, so once again I struck out. It was approaching 4:00 PM and I wanted to get home before dark so I thanked Uncle Joe for the beer and headed off through Hilo on the last leg of the trip back down Highway 11.
From Hilo, Highway 11 took me over the volcano which has been dumping hot lava into the ocean everyday for the last 20 years or so in the continuous process of island building. Here the road reaches about 4,000 feet in elevation, vegetation is quite dense, and it is often cold and damp. On the way up the volcano I stopped in Kurtistown to get gas only to find out that they were closed for New years Day, so I had to backtrack to Hilo for a last gas stop before reaching my final destination. I expected that problem earlier in less developed places and had been buying gas every 50 miles or so, but never thought it would be a problem in the Hilo area. I gassed up and I motored up to the top of the volcano only to see dark clouds hanging over the whole south of the island. Rats! It looked like my perfect day ride was going to end up real wet! I twisted it on down the back side of the volcano at about 80 mph hoping to get home to Naalehu before getting an early unscheduled Saturday night shower. The TR6 thought 80 mph was just fine! I guess it was my lucky day as I managed to make it home dry by 5:00 pm. I even stopped to snap a few last photos for the history book. All total, the ride had taken about 9 hours and covered roughly 250 miles of outstanding coastline.
What a ride! I had done it! The Hawaiian Big Island New Millennium Day CZ Boy Motorcycle Classic around the island was a phenomenal success! The TR6 had successfully achieved yet another historic British motorcycling feat.
The day ended with another great sunset over South Point and the Pacific Ocean.
January 12, 2000
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