General Non-Fiction posted March 13, 2017

This work has reached the exceptional level
What is black and blue all over and sports a concussion?

MarBear Versus the Volcano Part 2

by Mary Wakeford

The author has placed a warning on this post for language.


Brunhilda is my snarky inner voice. She often inserts herself into my writing. Bruni can be a real crank, but she never disappoints with her straightforward opinions or hilarious take on situations that arise. Bruni demanded a lead voice in this story, and wants to start it with a riddle-What's black and blue and flies a two-wheeler airborne?
Recap:  Before arriving in Maui a few years ago, we signed our youngest daughter UP to ride a bike DOWN the Haleakala volcano to the tune of $150.00 assuming she would love the experience.  We assumed incorrectly. We also forget to mention her being the #5 rider until the night before the launch of the two-wheelie expedition as we sat poolside sipping wine. 
Our daughter made it clear she had no intention of participating. The thought of losing the $150 bucks on a no-show makes me squeak more than rusty bike brakes, so I volunteered to ride the banana seat 26 miles downhill on a 6% grade with lots of 180 degree turns over the course of four hours. 
Brunhilda, my snarky inner voice, was pissed her plans for beach lounging with a good book and 'round the clock Mai-Tai’s had been sabotaged, and bitched the entire walk back to our room and throughout the waking moments of restless slumber due to an innate sense of doom lurking in my bones as I tried to sleep. She couldn't let it go that while imbibing on a $70 bottle of wine, I was fraught to lose $150 on a no-show seemed conflicted.

What can I say, we're three-quarters Irish and therefore expect the worst. I hoped for a result that wouldn’t require IV’s and overnight hospitalization from participating in this downhill venture.  I should mention I’m the least athletic in my family of superstars.  I'm also a mediocre cyclist.  On vacation in San Diego a few years back, I was lured into riding a bike from Mission Beach to Old Town.  I was promised a beer and a quesadilla for my participation. I'm a cheap cyclist.

On the return pedal, a confused/drunk pedestrian near a bus stop got in my way as I was building up speed to take the rise the bridge incline on Mission Bay Drive required.  I had three choices:

A) Continue my path of dead on, and I'd run over the drunk.  
B) Veer to the right, my drunk ass might end up in traffic.  
C) Veer to the left and crash my beer-buzzed ass in the soft grass near the entrance to the Sport Fishing Rentals.  

I chose C.  Then I laughed my head off, along with everyone else who witnessed my crash from the first "Oh shit!" as lookey-lou's idling in carloads and one city bus stuck at a light witnessed my wobble crash moment.  My husband, witnessing my soft crash from behind, cut me off from the beer I was promised upon returning from our adventure. 

Thanks to the oblivious pedestrian, I lost all momentum and had to walk my bike over the bridge out of breath and on wobbly legs. Brunhilda was quick to throw up the universal 'Loser' sign with my thumb and index finger that time, too.  My Maui crash was way more epic, and painful...

The morning wake-up call jarred me from a half-assed slumber. BREEEEEENG, BREEEEEENG.  I immediately regretted my wine-enhanced volunteerism to save the $150 non-refundable banana seat rental. Brunhilda was quick to chime in the average funeral in America costs 12K, and that didn’t include airfare transporting our cadaver back to the mainland.  Brunhilda was not doing much for my confidence level in descending a volcano. In sobering retrospect, she was right--$150 dollars was a mere drop in the bucket of all things mortuary. 
I rolled out of bed and waddled toward the bathroom, snarling like a pissed-off badger as I glanced at the comfortable bed holding my sleeping daughter—you know--the one we originally signed up to ride. She was curled up under the covers sound asleep, likely dreaming about not cycling down a foooooooking volcano.  I envied her day already.
I stumbled into the bathroom pondering if I should even attempt mascara.  My Google searches in the dark of night indicated downhill speeds can get up to 15mph. It’s been my experience no brand of mascara stays intact during brisk walks on a windy day without running all over my face and burning my eyes. I couldn’t imagine it holding up under the kind of endurance that would be required cycling down a volcano.  My snarling badger face would look like a weeping raccoon by mile 5.  
I brushed my teeth, applied underarm deodorant, spritzed White Shoulders cologne on my white shoulders, then reached for my travel cache of essential oils. The lavender oil had failed me for sleep the night before, but I remained optimistic.  Brunhilda quipped I'm an easy mark for pyramid schemes. 
I scanned the vials looking for the oil that would get me through the volcano downhill. I settled on VALOR. It claimed to align physical, mental and emotional energies, and brings courage to the mind. Mazel Tov!
I closed my left nostril and inhaled the essence of the oil deep into my soul, and repeated with the right nose hole.  Brunhilda began laughing hysterically. Apparently minus mascara and adding my 4:00 a.m. bedhead to the scene, I reminded her of the Lion from The Wizard of Oz movie looking for courage.  

I was hoping my courage would come from sniffing the 1.5-ounce travel size vial of profoundly offensive oil, which is why I chose to sniff rather than lather liberally. Her parting shot, “I'm pretty sure Burt Lahr never biked down a volcano even after finding his courage wearing a lion costume, I doubt you're going to find it in your Scratch 'n Sniff collection of bullshit.”  I considered a lion costume would have saved me from road rash in a worst case scenario, and immediately regretted not packing one.
I received my husband's five-minute warning prompt from the other side of the bathroom door, and rushed a silent prayer to Saint Christopher to keep us all safe. I keep his medallion on my car’s dashboard to protect me from accidents. I hoped his protection extended to bicycles.  Brunhilda suggested I throw another prayer toward Pele the Fire Goddess since we were about to descend a FOOOOOOKING VOLCANO atop a banana seat, no less.  So I did.
We met up with the three other members of traveling family in the hotel hallway, and headed to the car.  Forty-minutes later, we pulled into an industrial park with a shanty for the business office. We checked-in, and were given a clipboard with a two-sided RELEASE with paragraph upon paragraph of fine print.  Each biker was required to sign and date the form after watching a short safety video on a tiny dusty television situated on the rickety front porch of the establishment.  
I assessed the riders in our cycling group. Two Europeans who spoke French; a mother/daughter Duo-Italian; a couple from California who created the Cuties tiny orange industry; two guys from Chicago; brothers-in-law; and the five of us--our two daughters, son-in-law and his dad.
I assessed body types. They all looked like Tour de France participants—muscular and firm. Clad in sporty, colorful, PADDED biking shorts with matching skintight shirts and vests in comparison to my soft and pudgy, zero muscle-toned physique.  Bruni shamed me for choosing an oversized men’s fleece pullover and loose stretch pants as she sized up the competition. I reminded her it wasn’t a competition, and I get cold easily.  She reminded me big and oversized does nothing for my short, pear-shaped body style.  I told her to fooooook-off and reminded her she’d be the first to start bitching when the temperature dropped on the downhill.  

Brunhilda mentioned none of them appeared to be doctors in the event of...I cut her off and reminded her our son-in-law was an Army medic in the event of...
After viewing the short film about safety & road protocol, I signed the required legal forms releasing the bike company from being sued in the event of injury or ----D.E.A.T.H.  
That’s when Brunhilda suggested we about-face, save face, and steer the rental car back to the hotel, solo. We’d be welcomed back to sanity with open arms by Janet Evanovich, Stephanie Plum and Mr. Mai Tai, Mr. Tai-Mai, Mr. High Tide…Bruni was mixing her words again and I hadn’t even been drinking. Nerves have that effect on her, as well as alcohol.
I quickly read and signed the legal document before Brunhilda changed my mind.
We boarded the two passenger vans assigned our group. One had a trailer hitched to the back.  It contained the two-wheelers with disc brakes the size of Texas, and helmets to protect our brains, you know, the ones agreeing to the insanity. Brunhilda hoped they had a helmet small enough to fit my pinhead.  I was the only one in our party of family five not giddy about the experience. Daughter #1 could hardly be contained. She is a freak of nature.
A few minutes later, we pulled out of the industrial parking lot and headed for Haleakala, the Volcano.
Bruni insisted I pull up Google and read more about the ride on the way to the summit, since in my haste to fill the vacant $150 banana seat the night before, she didn’t have time to fully research…
The first article I came across read something like this:
“On a busy day, 300 of these riders come around the bend, tempted by a simple powerful, double-barreled idea:  to see sunrise from the lip of Haleakala, a 10,000-foot Hawaiian volcano, then glide down the slope to the sea.  Yet this ride can hurt or even kill you. “
Another reviewer wrote:

“The first part of the ride is fairly safe despite a series of hairpin turns, because one is riding through open country.  Once you reach the populated area, it becomes significantly more dangerous.  Many stretches of road have no bike lane or shoulder.  Local residents who do not like the bike industry are aggressive toward bicyclists; one motorist even hit one of us with a full bottle of water. “

Then another from an article titled:  10 Bizarre Ways a Volcano Can Kill You. 

“#4 DOWNHILL BIKE RIDES.  It seems like a pretty fun idea-take a bus trip up the the rim of a volcano, then ride a bike down a paved road back to the bottom.  Roaring downhill on a bike with a volcano as the backdrop sounds awesome, but it’s also really dangerous.  Tourists who did this (few of whom were experienced bicyclists) wiped out, crashed into rocks, or went into oncoming traffic when this practice was allowed.  The problem got so bad that after multiple accidents and fatalities the National Park Service banned commercial bike tours in Haleakala National Park.”
I put the phone away.  Brunhilda’s head was spinning--she even threatened shitting my pants for the experience, but went with her usual--fainting. 

I was relieved the bitch would not be messing with my head for at least a few minutes so I could enjoy some peace and solitude before assuming position on the banana seat.  

Hold the smelling salts, please!
~To Be Continued


Story of the Month contest entry


The photo attachment was created using a free phone app called MomentCam

Google references:


Source: Review from a customer from San Francisco on a competing bike tour company, titled Disastrous outing - save your time and money assigning 1 of 5 bubbles and Reviewed January 3, 2011

Source: Ed Grabianowski - 10 Bizarre Ways A Volcano Can Kill You, dated 4/12/12:
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