What is Paradise?
In most of my columns, I would respond to an opening question like this with a Webster’s definition, but what’s the point?
If you could find an absolute paradise, that would be scary reality to face.
Life needs those imperfections to function otherwise you wouldn’t value what you have.
To me, Kauai is closest thing to being a paradise.
Impeccable beauty. Predictable warm weather. Gorgeous beaches. Laid back island attitude.
The only setback may be few periods of rain a day, especially if you’re on the north side, but wait five minutes and you’ll be fine.
This past week, I returned for my third time ironically because of cycling.
At LACBC’s 2015 Firefly Ball, my wife bid the minimum for a week’s stay at a Princeville condo in the silent auction.
We won, but had 18 months to use it, so guess what happened 17 months and three weeks later?
Normally on any trip, a portion of my brain secretly plots a number of side cycling excursions, but this vacation was different.
I needed a mental time out and a place to reacquaint myself with my family after a super busy period.
Cycling was going to take a back seat and I was perfectly fine with that.
Kauai helps in that regard because it doesn’t reach the level of being a cycling paradise.
The island is small and there aren’t many roads.
Waimea Canyon is on my wish list, but is a 2 ½ hour drive from where we were staying.
If you were going to do any riding, mountain biking would be the thing, but since I don’t know the trails, phone reception is shoddy and this type of riding isn’t my milieu, I was content to just let the week roll by.
Trust me. I know how to put the top down.
This was my third trip to the island and fourth to Hawaii, and one rule I’ve always lived by was to rent a convertible to take it all in (Pro Tip: rent the cheapest car you can find on Hotwire, then when you show up, ask if they have any convertibles to rent. You should save at least half).
Since it was a week long stay, our first stop was Costco of course!
You wouldn’t think a island with just 77,000 people on it would have one, but it has a real sense of community as most of the locals seem to know each other.
First time I’ve been to a Costco that sells Kayaks and Surfboards.
We then headed straight to Princeville, which is like a tropical version of Palm Springs.
High end lodgings, premiere golf courses and a modern contrast to the laid back feel the come from most of the island’s other towns.
Fortunately, it is only a couple miles away from Hanalei which is more of our vibe.
Urban life in Hanalei.
Yes, you’ll find some pricey restaurants and shave ice, but it’s also a spot where many surfers and campers frequent.
On the second day of our trip, we were in Hanalei waiting for a table at a restaurant when I decided to run down the block to a bike shop I saw on the way in.
The Bike Doktor is run by John Sargent who has been mountain biking on Kauai for over 30 years.
The Bike Doktor is in!
Of course, there’s something about island living that doesn’t make locals look their age.
John knows the island like the back of his hand, but with me being a mountain bike novice, I asked if there were any rides I could join during the week.
It’s a bit touch and go since rain can make the trails too muddy to ride, so we exchanged numbers in case our schedules would align.
For the CV family, our days consisted of a routine of me waking up at 6am (that’s 9am LA time) and going for a short run before Mrs. CV & CV Jr. would wake two hours later.
We’d then grab breakfast, hit the beach for a few hours, find a light lunch, drive around exploring, grab dinner, then spending some bonding time at the condo before going to bed around 10pm.
There were some variations to the plan.
We did do a luau because it was CV Jr.’s first time.
This luau is on fire.
It wasn’t the most expensive or showy one on the island, but she was captivated and we even ended the evening dancing together.
During the week, John texted me a couple of times about afternoon rides, but I was in the middle of family fun.
One of the times I received his text, we were grabbing Shave Ice Kapaa at the Ono Family Restaurant.
While we were in the middle of giving ourselves brain freezes, I noticed my car was blocking the restaurant’s loading spot while someone was bringing goods in.
I apologized to the man and asked if he wanted me to move, but he yelled at me and pulled out a knife!
Luckily, I packed a switchblade and….. of course this didn’t happen!
This is Kauai, not LA, so there’s no chance of that actually happening.
Kenny is the owner of the restaurant and was so excited just to talk.
He asked about where we were from and how we were enjoying our trip, but then when I told him about my work with cycling, his eyes lit up even more.
He started telling me of all the other biking people I should be talking to not only on Kauai, but the Hawaiian Islands.
We exchanged numbers, but shared with us some other great local tips before saying goodbye.
I saw crap like this everyday.
The days passed and time without cycling was suiting me fine, but I still kept a look out.
One of the things I noticed was the number of beach cruisers I would see.
Some were provided by hotels, but I could tell by the number of heavily weathered ones that locals were using them as well.
Every bike rack had a rust contest.
It was amazing to see how many bikes had rust on every part imaginable.
People were using them for short trips, so why not run them into the ground?
I also noticed not one expensive bike lock.
It might be a rust issue, but really, if someone steals your bike on Kauai, they are going to find you.
***** ***** ***** ***** *****
The vacation was coming to a close and while I was well rested, I still kept waking up about 2-3 hours before the rest of the CV clan.
Seeing how that left an opportunity to get a ride in, I rented a mountain bike from John for an early morning excursion.
I heeded to his suggestion to not do trails locally since it had been pretty wet.
Still, there were a number of side roads nearby he said I could ride.
Most of them were off Highways 50 & 560, but he suggested to go no further east than the Kalihiwai Bridge since it’s narrow and drivers speed at over 50 mph.
I had never ridden a 29er before and once I got it moving, it sure felt like a lot of fun.
After I started hopping over bumps, I even started entertaining the idea of adding a mountain bike to my stock when I realized that would not be a popular family decision.
Kapaka Road leading to the Powerline Trail.
It wasn’t too much of an adjustment riding a hardtail, but when I kicked it up a notch on climbs, I didn’t get that same boost I would get on my road bike.
Most of my ride took place along the main highway which had enough of a shoulder that I didn’t feel threatened as cars zipped by at about 45 mph.
I turned off onto Kapaka St. for a two mile climb which leads to the Powerline Trail.
This road was lined with large properties and multi-million dollar homes, but there was a decent number of people out walking which surprised me since I was thinking these were part-time residences for the rich and famous.
What I got to the top, I wasn’t interested in going off-road since it was too muddy for my mountain bike skills, so I turned back to the main highway.
My next diversion was another short jaunt down to the Anini Beach area.
Rolling along Anini Beach.
First, I went a little north to look at the area where the highway originally continued until the 1957 Tsunami took out the bridge.
The roads were mostly dirt in this section giving me and idea of how cars travelled 60 years ago.
I then doubled back to ride the flat beach fronting section.
There’s a large population of campers at the county park who get this priceless view for pennies on the dollar.
Campsites were never underutilized.
Even at this early hour there were a number of people on their porches enjoying the dawn of a new day.
It was a relaxing ride and at the at that point I didn’t want to push myself any harder so I headed back to our place.
I arrived back as the family was already awake and reading books.
We went for breakfast, swam in Hanalei Bay for a few hours and came back for a nap.
The evening was capped with dinner at the St. Regis (pro tip: save $$ by eating at the lounge).
Sunset from the St. Regis.
This hotel has a Hollywood framed view of the sunset as you get a stretched out view at this elevation.
Even CV Jr. could appreciate this setting which was a perfect way to end our final evening in Kauai.
***** ***** ***** ***** *****
On our very last day, we had time to kill after checking out, so we stopped at a miniature golf course in Kilauea on the way out.
CV Jr. has was little knowledge of the sport, but that doesn’t hold back her fun.
The green fees were pricey for a 45 minute outing, but the superb landscaping takes a small bite out of that.
Ironically, for about the same price, you can rent a mountain bike for six hours at the pro shop.
This property is also start of the Wai Koa Loop Trail.
It’s just 4.5 miles, has a gorgeous variety of scenery along the way and even John had recommended me to have a look.
Wai Koa Loop.
I could easily cover this ground while the two hacked away and still see them finish up on the 18th hole.
But no, not today.
This week was the longest period where it was just the three of us.
People age and these opportunities will only narrow, so I cherish these moments while I still can.
I was smiling the whole time with CV Jr. directing us how to play while making the rules up as we went along.
She even got her first hole in one, but she was even more excited when I matched her feat on the same hole.
This trip was exactly what I needed because I didn’t have much to focus on other than each other.
Sure, there were some difficulties dealing with a four year old that would continue to tire herself out, but this is family.
It was truly a paradise.