As I sit here writing, in February in Washington, DC, I can glance down at my two-tone triceps and still feel the Hawaiian sun that was hitting my arms and neck just a few days ago as I pedaled across the Big Island. Since my return to DC earlier this week, I’ve been delighted by every person that has asked me where I went on vacation (or if I’ve started frequenting a tanning salon), as then I have had the opportunity to tell them that I had the pleasure of riding bikes in Hawaii for eight days. Oh- and it was a business trip.
For the second consecutive January, Revolution Cycles took a group of its managers on a Hawaiian riding retreat, during which we discussed everything from goals for the year to management strategies to best malasada filling (which, by the way, is chocolate). This year, we were also joined by many of the leaders of Wheel & Sprocket, a fantastic bicycle retailer based in Wisconsin, which presented us all with the unique chance to relax, share best practices, and ride bikes with some very insightful peers. The last piece of the puzzle- the gear- was provided by our very generous vendors, including bicycles from Felt, tech support from Shimano, clothing from Pearl Izumi, shoes from Bontrager, compression socks from Louis Garneau, and fuel from GU Energy and Nuun hydration.
Each and every day of the trip was packed with resplendent adventure, and when we weren’t exploring different areas of the island on two wheels, we were hiking or snorkeling through it. Mike, our expert tour guide, somehow packed approximately eight weeks of activity into eight days, although we still found time to enjoy a Mai Tai or two. We also enjoyed world class SAG support provided by Pinkey, who chased us up and down mountains in his van full of tubes and water. For Pinkey’s sake, we did take an afternoon away from the bikes so that he could enjoy a delicious fruity beverage inside of a whole pineapple (yes, he ate the pineapple, too).
On our first full day on the ground, we shook off our jet lag with a ride beginning in Hawi, the turnaround point for the Ironman World Championship, up and around some steep yet short hills through tropical rain forest to Pololu Valley Lookout. From the Lookout, I caught my first view of the northeastern coastline and the black sand beaches in the valley below. The stark juxtaposition of the brilliant green foliage and the shockingly clear blue waters of the Pololu Valley to the dry, barren land that comprises portions of Kailua-Kona rendered me speechless. This was the first of many scenes in Hawaii that simply looked too perfect to be real.
The next day, we did what all good cyclists do on vacation- we descended and then we stuffed our faces. We rode from Waimea via the Old Mamalohoa Highway and screamed down some monstrous curves. We made a quick stop at Tex Drive In to pick up several dozen world famous malasadas, and my mouth watered thinking about these Hawaiian donuts until we arrived at the Waipio Valley Lookout. As we stood overlooking another ridiculously picturesque view of the ocean and the mountains, licking the still warm sugar off of our fingers after consuming two or three malasadas each, we breathed a collective sigh of complete satisfaction.
Although we came close, we didn’t spend the entire trip in our saddles. We spent a fair amount of time touring the island in our vans, and in the competitive and creative spirit of Revolution Cycles, we partook in classic road trip word games (although the game that stuck was one that Caleb made up on the spot) that had us laughing until we cried and still competing even after we exited the van. A bicycle-centric trip also would not be complete without copious amounts of caffeine, and we ventured over to Kona Joe’s one morning to drink coffee brewed from freshly harvested beans and to take in more of the spectacular Big Island scenery.
There were many more miles of riding, including our epic climb from Hilo to Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park (twenty plus miles of incline that nearly killed me). There were delectable dinners shared with each other and some of our amazing friends from Raleigh Bicycles. And there were sunsets. For our final evening together, before we joined the Wheel & Sprocket and Raleigh teams for our second annual dinner at Roy’s, we took a quick detour. With sand in our toes, we stood together, Mike, Pinkey, Jakob, Jim, Katie, Angela, Caleb and I, to watch the sun disappear into the water one more time.
During my final morning on the Big Island, as I sat on the lanai with my laptop, drinking coffee, doing some work and looking out at the ocean, I began crafting my speech in my head that I would give to Mike about why it was necessary for me to stay in Hawaii, forever. I never delivered that speech, and I’m happy to be back in hectic, bike-loving DC, but I’ve already started counting the days until our next retreat.