Hawai'i 2.0, Day 7: "We Have a Little Problem With our Engine Sequence, So We May Experience Some Slight Turbulence and Then...Explode."

Our seventh day in Hawai'i; our sixth full day; our third full day on the Big Island... and still no cruise ship.  That's just weird.

We run a bit late for our scheduled activity for today -- another ATV tour along the rim of Waipio Valley with Les & Renee -- but because this is the Big Island it's not really a problem.  And that's a good thing, because as we leave Kona and head across the island through Waimea to Honoka'a, our driving speed slows as it starts to get cloudy... then drizzly... then rainy... then downright stormy.  After two and a half years, Les & Renee still remember us ("weren't you also wearing tie dye the last time, but yellow?" they ask me) and we're suddenly close friends again.  We laugh, we reminisce about the last time, we fall back into friendly chatter, and I remember why I like these guys so much.  They're ohana.

We get our ATVs, put on our helmets, and start off along the rim of the valley, rain switching between mere downpour and outright deluge as we ride.  Our last time here, the sun was shining and there were only one or two small puddles along the path; this time we're splashing through some fairly wide and deep puddles every hundred feet, mud flying from the wheels as we race along the rocky mountain paths.  I start off wearing my sunglasses even though it's raining buckets, more as protection against water in the eyes than for light sensitivity (it is overcast, after all), but I start wondering if they're a hindrance or a help, as the water spots and streaking make it a little difficult to see the fine details of the path; after our first pause I take them off and tuck them away inside my shirt.  No way to keep them dry (at least our wallets and the car remote are in a plastic bag protected from the rain) but if I figure if I end up crashing at least they'll be a little protected.

After a while of riding through the downpour, my hands start getting a little bit numb due to the constant vibration of the handlebars and the rain, but I'm still able to keep the thumb lever pushed forward to keep the ATV moving as I follow Les along the path.  Behind me is Lucie, and Renee takes up the rear of the caravan.  At the first of the amazing lookout points, Les pulls close to the edge of the dropoff, then slowly turns to his left and stops so we can get off the vehicles and look out over the valley.  I try to follow him, but as I try to turn slowly to my left I accidentally keep my right thumb -- now thoroughly numbed -- on the throttle lever.  Instead of slowing and turning to the left (away from the dropoff), my ATV jumps forward and to the right, off the cleared path and into the high grass.  I see the dropoff getting far too close far too quickly, and in one of those moments where you react before you even realize you're doing so, I leap off my ATV and go tumbling through the grass and rocks.  Without my thumb on the throttle, the ATV suddenly stops; without the ATV under my butt, my movement also suddenly stops.  I lie there for a second, trying to see if anything's broken or missing -- or if I'm sliding down the mountainside to my doom -- and after a brief moment of introspection and inspection I stick my arm up into the air  with a "thumbs up" to let everyone else know I'm okay.

Once we all realize I'm still alive, my near death becomes the most hysterical thing we've ever known:

Me: "Oh my God, I almost died!"

Les: "I know!"


Renee: "I thought you were going to drive off the cliff!"


Lucie: "Don't you DARE do that ever again!"

All four of us: "HAHAHAHAHAAHAHAHA!!!"

Me: "Seriously, though, have any of you seen my left shoulder blade?  I can't find it, and I'm losing a lot of blood..."


Oh, man... good times.

Anyway, we continue on our ride, with me being much more careful whenever we're making turns.  We stop by another vantage point just as it clears up briefly enough to where I can snap a few quick pictures of the valley below; mist hangs in the air and makes the distant farmhouses below us hazy and nebulous.  A small flock of white seabirds slowly flies below us, reminding me of just how far up we are (or how far down the floor of the valley is, or a combination of both.)  Renee points out the white-roofed house they own down there, where they have their taro plants growing (they live primarily in a house in the small town of Waipio where we met this afternoon, since they like things like electricity and phone service and those other small comforts, but they do stay down in the valley at times when they're harvesting.)  We chat about our jobs, and when I mention I work in the semiconductor industry at an LED company, Les and Renee perk right up; seems they're friends with a guy who started an LED company, and who recently moved into town.  We decide to stop by after our ATV ride and say hello.  Wow; small world, isn't it?

We circle around and finally end up back at the beginning of the trail, with Les pointing out and picking some fruit from the guava trees we ride past.  Lucie panics momentarily when she actually loses sight of my pink heart tie-dyed shirt and red helmet among the trees after I turn at a fork in the path ("I never actually thought I'd lose sight of those clothes," she later says) but no further mishaps occur, and we clamber back into the all-terrain van to head back into town.  It's been raining almost constantly; our clothes are literally dripping wet, we don't have a clean or dry spot anywhere on us (especially me, after my near death), and Lucie and I are both grinning like fools because we've had the time of our lives.

The guy Les & Renee mentioned is a friendly person by the name of David Allen, co-founder of Laughing Rabbit Inc., a flashlight company using LEDs in their products.  Heck of a nice guy, thinks my almost dying is pretty darn funny (all five of us: "HAHAHAAAhHAHAha HAAHAA!!"), loves living near Waipio Valley, and apparently gives gifts to people who almost die, since he hands a nifty mini LED flashlight to both Lucie and myself as we say our goodbyes.  I tip Les & Renee the money we planned to (which I of course kept in my shorts pocket during the trip, and which now consists of several bills basically fused together into one mega-thick and very wet bill) and we sog our way back toward Kona.

We make a quick stop in Kona for gas and to get takeout food from Kamuela Deli, get back to our hotel room (still soaking wet), change into dry clothes, and spend the evening in our hotel room eating dinner, drying out, and still laughing every once in a while about me almost dying.  I'm still not sure why it's so darn funny, but it is.

(Oh, and my sunglasses? Completely unharmed. Turns out tucking them into my shirt worked perfectly.)

Coffee consumption: no coffee, no alcohol.  How weird is that?!


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