Family Road Tripping in Paradise

4 years ago

Living on a relatively small island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, I don't get a lot of opportunities to road trip. I mean, where am I going to go? It's an island. All roads LITERALLY lead back home.

Some days, I experience pangs of nostalgia for my former road warrior self. I pine for the freedom of a highway stretching out before me, where I might, perhaps, be able to drive fast enough to need 5th gear. Find a college radio station, put a cup of coffee in my cup holder, light a cigarette, dig out my sunglasses from the glove box, and hit the road.

Oh, 1992. How I miss you.

Car rides these days don't involve smoking, and most roads on island have a speed limit under 35. No matter where I go, I am usually stuck behind a tourist who is simultaneously driving and recording the action on a video camera stuck out the window. My car is filled with kids and dogs and car seats, and cup holders are taken up with baby bottles and cellphones. There is a constant stream of questions and complaints coming from the back seat, drowning out NPR on the radio.

I have tried to recreate the 1992 road trips of my dreams from time to time. It never ends well. A few years ago I drove two kids and my grandmother from Rhode Island to Virginia. A drive that should have taken eight hours at the most, took 14. The bumper fell off of the rental car on I-95, and then we got stuck in a tornado.

A tornado.

A few days later we had to drive back to Rhode Island. By the end of the trip, my grandmother and I were no longer speaking in loving tones. We sat in silence - she staring out the window as I clutched the steering wheel with white knuckles - while the GPS directed us through a variety of unsavory urban areas and down long, winding gravel roads that ultimately led nowhere.

The road trip dream died a little that day, but I couldn't give up. I was willing to try again, though perhaps without my grandmother riding shotgun. So my husband and I set out on a romantic road trip, just the two of us.

Probably would have been more romantic if I hadn't dropped an entire box of Chinese food upside down in my lap almost immediately after leaving the house.

These days I just try to relax and enjoy the ride, even if it is just around the corner. After all, I live on Maui. The views along the way to almost everywhere are breathtaking. The problem is, when you see the same view every day on your commute, somewhere along the way to the bank or the grocery store you forget how beautiful it is.

I think that is why when people come to visit us here in Hawaii I am always up for a road trip. It helps me to see my beautiful island home through a fresh pair of eyes, and to be reminded to slow down and enjoy the scenery. Until someone suggests driving The Road to Hana, that is.

There are t-shirts all over this island that say "I Survived the Road to Hana" and as far as I am concerned it should add "....without leaving my family on the side of the road or throwing up on myself," because these things have been known to happen on that drive. Newlyweds set off in the morning, and come back haggard and silent. Families return bickering and hungry. They are unanimously frustrated because there is no cell or radio or satellite reception over there. Yes, the views are gorgeous. Yes, there are waterfalls. Yes, it is full of twists and turns. And yes, you do deserve a t-shirt at the end of it. Far be it from me to ruin someone else's idea of a good time. If a visitor wants to drive to Hana, I pack them a lunch, hand them a few CDs, and send them on their way. I have been there and done that, and don't need to do it again, thanks, especially with two surly and nauseated kids in the back seat. No thank you.

However, there is another legendary road trip on Maui that I haven't tackled yet: the pre-dawn drive up Haleakala for a spectacular sunrise. I am not (to put it mildly) a morning person. With my parents coming from the East Coast to stay with us this week, and jet lag being what it is, I knew they would be up nice and early (ahem) so I planned to make the most of it . Plus, with Mom and Dad around, it meant someone else could do the actual driving. I bundled the kids into the back of the car with blankets and pillows, made a thermos of hot cocoa, and we hit the road at about 4:30 a.m.

I even wore pants for the occasion. I'm glad I did. It was below 40 degrees when we got out of the car up there. Luckily I had a great view from the heated driver's seat.

Haleakala is a National Park. The views were spectacular, and there were plenty of places to stop along the way, plus short hikes, gorgeous overlooks, and information ranger stations. Bathrooms. And hiking into a dormant volcano is certainly a unique experience.

This was a road trip worth taking, my friends. Pick your battles, and always choose the one that involves hot cocoa, and letting someone else drive.

This post is part of BlogHer's Family Fun on Four Wheels editorial series, made possible by Mazda CX-9.

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