A Photo and a Story
Sean Howard

The road to Kahului from Lahaina, leaving Maui

The Road Past Hāna

Or, the time we could’ve died, but didn’t…

I remember my honeymoon very fondly. We decided where we would go by tacking the names of a couple places we wanted to see to our dart board, and throwing darts at it. After we had each speared a location, we played a round of cricket, drank a bit, talked it over, and decided on which of the two places we most wanted to see. A few days later after much more arguing and case-making, we picked a completely different place.

We saved all of our pennies and used most of what was given to us at our wedding to fund our trip to Hawaii. Maui, specifically. Neither one of us had ever been there, but my parents had been the year before and their pictures were breathtaking. There was one in particular that had me intrigued. It was a picture of my mom on a boat with some Hawaiian beefcake named Sugar. When I saw the photo I said to myself, YES PLEASE, and set about lobbying for Hawaii as our honeymoon destination spot.

“You just want to go lounge on a boat with Sugar, don’t you”

“Noooo, not at all baby, you’re my boo for life. I just want to see what Sugar’s up to is all. Ask him how he is… see how he’s doing. Just friendly concern.”

“Grump grump grump harrrumph.”

“I love you.”

“I luh you too.”

“So Maui?”

“I guess….”

I won.

I can tell you, in pictures, Maui is beautiful; in person, Maui is majestic as fuck. I wish everyone could experience this place at least once in their life. It’s insanely diverse. There are tropical forests, a gorgeous volcanic mountain (Haleakalā, which is also attached to a National Park), waterfalls, beaches, ranch land — everything you can imagine is cram-packed into this little tiny island that’s only about 727 square miles. For reference, I’m from Texas. Texas is 268,820 square miles. So Maui, to a Texan, is extremely small.

You can drive the whole thing in a day — and we did. That’s this story.

The first thing you have to understand about my husband and me, is that we are not planners. We are the antithesis of planners; we are just winging it most of the …er… all of the time. We’re the kind of people who show up at a luau in Maui without realizing that they require reservations.

Being a non-planner is good for exploring a place free of an itinerary, but bad for seeing a pig get buried in the ground while some pretty ladies do the hula and a man in a loin cloth twirls a flaming baton around.

One of the days we were there, we decided to go exploring and drive to Hāna. Hāna is on the east side of the island, and we were staying in Honokowai on the west side of the island. We hopped in the Jeep Wrangler we had rented and took off. (If you go to Maui, rent a Jeep. In the immortal words of Ferris Bueller: it is SO choice.) When we got to Hāna highway, we had to cruise much much slower. This wiki entry isn’t lying, there are a lot of curves on that there road.

Although Hāna is only about 52 miles (84 km) from Kahului, it takes about 2.5 hours to drive when no stops are made as the highway is very winding and narrow and passes over 59 bridges, 46 of which are only one lane wide.[5] There are approximately 620 curves along Route 360 from just east of Kahului to Hāna, virtually all of it through lush, tropical rainforest.

That part actually wasn’t so bad — the driving to Hāna part. It was the way back that sucked.

On the way to Hāna, we stopped at a place called ‘The Garden of Eden’, and walked through a variety of tropical gardens. Lee (my husband) bought me a necklace. And while we were there, he filmed a duck that was walking around by the outhouses for much, much longer than anyone really needs to film a duck.

Our main splurge (aside from even taking a trip to Maui in the first place) was a hot stone massage on a hilltop overlooking Hāna Bay, and I must say, being naked outside is easier when you’re in Maui and you have someone rubbing hot stones all over your back. It’s quite pleasant. It is SO choice.

We had the best pad thai I’ve ever eaten at an open-air shack down below the massage place. Then, with our bellies full of delicious noodles, we shoved on to go hike around waterfalls and see the seven sacred pools.

When the sun started to dim the lights on us, we decided to head back to basecamp.

Here is where we went wrong.

We thought that taking the road back the way we came would be more treacherous at night, than if we kept going around the island. We were fools. FOOLS, I say.

For a while, the scenery was beautiful. The road was still narrow but less curvy than the road leading to Hāna had been. We passed farms and ranches and idly tossed out ideas about moving there and farming and ranching for a living — romantic stuff.

Then the road got a little narrower. It turned from nice, smooth, paved stretches to dirt and gravel, and back again. Somewhere in there we switched seats, and I started driving.

When we rounded the southeast tip of the island, shit got real.

Imagine, if you will, it’s dusk, and you’re on a narrow one-lane road that dangerously snakes around a hairpin turn. There is nothing but sheer cliff-face on your right and a steep drop to the ocean on your left sans any sort of guardrail. Does it make little beads of sweat pop out on your upper lip? Are your armpits damp from perspiration? Have you peed yourself a little bit? Have all your joints locked up? No?

Well, I definitely was…n’t dealing with any of that in the driver’s seat either. *cough*

I took the turn at a crawl, uncomfortably aware of how large the Jeep was and how small the road was, honking for a really long time before going around the corner in case anyone was coming ‘round the other way. When the car reached the apex, I looked ahead, and saw another, and another, of these same types of winding curves—a comically small road sandwiched inbetween a cliff and an ocean, terminating in craggy jagged rock. We made it around that corner intact. Thankfully, it seemed that no one else was crazy enough to be driving on this particular part of the road.

We were both scared shitless, we were stuck, and we couldn’t turn back. The road wasn’t wide enough for anything but narrowly escaping with your life. The only way to go was forward, so, on we went. At one of the turns, we had to wait on a truck coming in the other direction before we could go around it. It was one of those really small pickups, but still, outside of using some sort of Harry Potter wizardry to make his car or ours smaller, I don’t know how he got around us — he did though.

Eventually, we managed to make it past the really dangerous bends in the road, and into more of an open area with shoulder and land on both sides. It was still a dirt-and-gravel pothole-ridden piece of road, but at least the possibility of dying wasn’t quite as imminent as it had been earlier.

On the southeast side of the island there were a few houses scattered here and there marked with the occasional mailbox, but there was almost nothing except nature. There were no lights out there, and it was getting darker.

This was where I felt like I excelled in my role as driver. I threw that som’bitch into four-wheel drive and gunned it.

My brand-new husband was looking at me from the passenger seat with probably some mix of admiration and panic. My four-wheelin’ skills are intense. I had a singular focus — to get us back to the two-laned road part of the island.

We reached Lahaina around the time the sun decided to quit us for good, and by then we had both grown super cocky about our little death-defying stunt on the road past Hāna. Recounting our adventure to each other turned into an exercise in hyperbole. It was more like who could say the most ridiculous thing without the other noticing.

“And do you remember when that mountain duck attacked you and tried to chase the Jeep and you decked it like you were Fabio’s face?”

“Oh yeah, totally, I’m totally like Fabio’s face.”

This story though, is 100% cold hard truth. I promise.