Potential Peril at every Turn – Traveling the Road to Hana

A few years ago, my husband and I spent a glorious week in Maui. We had many adventures while there, both on the land and on and in the sea. I am sharing an excerpt from my 50 Life Stories collection about our Maui trip. This excerpt, from Story #32, is about traveling the (treacherous) Road to Hana. If you’ve never been, the sixty plus mile Hana Highway takes its passengers around 620 mountain curves and across 59 bridges (most are old and one-lane). 😨

Some paths are supposed to be walked on, even encouraged, and others come with a warning. Our Road to Hana tour guide, Alex, considered the, “Warning – Stay off the Path” sign a suggestion, not anything to be taken seriously. We followed Alex, passed the sign that warned us to turn around.

“Oh, that’s just there to keep tourists safe,” Alex said, as he forged ahead.

“Wait!” “What are we?”

Alex didn’t hear or chose not to respond to my question. He was either going to lead us into the adventure of a lifetime or to our deaths. As I walked past the small wooden sign, my body, like a magnet, wanted to cling to the sign, before peeling myself away from the group, and running back to the safety of the van. I am not comfortable breaking the rules when those rules come with a DANGER warning. I did not want to be the dumb tourist who makes the evening news for, well, being a dumb tourist. The type of news that is tragic for a second, then the tone quickly turning to a “they deserved it” attitude after the newscaster explains how the area was clearly marked with a warning sign. I began to search my mind for proof that Alex was a credible driver who would not lead us into harm. He had brought us this far on the “death road,” as it is often called, he was incredibly knowledgeable about the island’s history and politics, and he was hired by a tour company. Surely, some vetting took place. I assumed. But … he was extremely late picking us up. So late, he was, that we thought our Road to Hana dreams had vanished.

Alex told us that most group tours start on the north side of the island and make their way south. He, on the other hand, preferred to go against the flow and start on the southern tip of the island and then spend the day traveling north. He planned on taking us through an area that rental cars were not allowed to travel across. For those who choose ignore the signs, they were traveling at their own peril.

“See,” I whispered to John. “If you drove, we wouldn’t get to see that section.”

My husband had wanted to drive our rental Jeep, but I insisted that we go with a tour guide – someone who knew the road. Then John would be able to relax and enjoy the ride. I am not sure how relaxing it is, ever, when you are the one usually in control of the wheels. But, my husband agreed, and I was making sure he heard a convincing argument for giving up the keys that morning.

Alex began talking as soon as we entered the van and did not stop talking for the next 13 hours. I suspect Alex, was talking before we got on the bus and probably kept talking long after we exited. Alex told us about the agriculture in the area, the politics, the local history, including his own. He also told us about fatalities that occurred on the road, even detailing one high profile plunge over the side of a steep cliff, as we were driving by the exact location. The deadly location came near the end of our journey, but the information revealed was no less terrifying. He told us the story of the popular Yoga reality stars, twin sisters, who plunged over the cliff after fighting in the car. The incident left one sister dead and the other charged with second-degree murder. I did not know who he was talking about and frankly, I could have lived without learning of the tragic history of that steep cliff just beyond the curve in the road. Even though we were nearing the end of our day together, we were still traveling across a dangerous one-lane road, where at any turn, we could have faced an oncoming vehicle and our own mortality. Every time we made it safely around a blind curve, I could breathe a little easier and my praying could pause, at least momentarily.

Despite Alex’s inability to stop talking, for even five minutes, he was a wealth of information, and our day would not have been the same, or as experiential, if just the two of us had ventured out on our own. He told us about the history of the old wooden bridges that connected the curvy road fifty-nine times, and he shared the location of a hidden church, a famous burial site, movie locations, waterfalls that fed into cool swimming pools, hidden beaches, and he enticed us to try strange fruit in the yard next to the church. He had safely and calmly maneuvered us past a potentially volatile situation when we had encountered a smaller vehicle head-on when rounding one of the many blind curves.

We were several hours into our Road to Hana venture, when Alex led the way down the trail to an unmarked destination. The only mishap that had happened by that point, was a falling plate and glass. Alex had skirted a little too close to the edge of the road, when the van caught a protruding tree branch. The unforgiving road did not allow for much room on either side of the van, including room for another vehicle. The shattering plate that followed the jolting thud caused each passenger to gasp.

“It was just a plate,” a nervous and relieved voice said.

We let out a collective exhale.

Credibility and knowledge proven, why not follow Alex, the local, down the forbidden path? Alex led us into a dark cave. Magnificent. The cave was full of water. Interesting. Immediately, Alex laid his sunglasses, shoes, and keys on a rock and jumped in. He invited others to join him. Not surprising, no females from our group accepted his request, but three men did, including my husband.

“Wait! Are you serious? What are you doing?” My words floated across the musty air and trailed off, making no impact on the intended audience.  

For a tour driver who could not stop talking, he failed to talk about where they were headed, what to expect, or any other important safety tips before he led the brave, albeit dumb, group of loyal followers into the dark waters of the cave. As the men disappeared out of sight, the rest of us stood speechless and unsure of what to do next. We decided it best to scoop the many personal belongings that had been left behind in the unprotected cave, including our keys for safe passage home. Hopefully, Alex would make it out alive. I doubted an Uber driver would come to our rescue in that situation. Traveling the Road to Hana is for the adventurous thrill-seekers and not for those needing the conveniences of city life. With the belongings of others in our hands, those of us who chose not to submerge in the dark waters made our way out of the cave and down a tree-lined trail that led to a sparkling light-colored sandy beach. Paradise, except for this gnawing feeling that I might never see my husband alive again. I found a large piece of driftwood to perch myself on and waited. For how long, was yet be revealed. I sat in a spot that would give me a visual of the edge of what appeared to be where one might exit after swimming through the opening of the drowned cave, but I had no idea where they might resurface, so I sat waiting and watching. I found a credit card near my feet, with no apparent owner or bags nearby. No one came by looking for the card, while I sat vigilantly watching a possible cave exit.

Eventually the cave dwellers descended the path toward us. One of them, my husband, was not as happy to see me as I was him. He was angry that I took his flip flops, causing him to walk barefoot from the cave to the beach. I told him, we took their things, because we didn’t want to leave everything behind, and Alex was short on the specifics about their mysterious cave adventure.

Our group did some beach exploring, which included walking through a hollowed-out rock that revealed a perfectly framed ocean at the opening of the tunnel. We swam and enjoyed the sun until it was time to continue with our Road to Hana adventure.

After we were safely back in the van, Alex felt it the opportune time to tell us, “If anyone gets sick in the next couple of days, it might be from bacteria in the water, in the cave.”

“Nice of you to tell us, NOW, Alex” I said.

No one else responded or acknowledged Alex’s comment. Strange, but it wasn’t the first time my question was carried away in the tropical wind. If we survive the remainder of this ridiculous road, the adventurous trip might still get John through a tiny microbial that just entered a paper cut on his finger, while he was following fearless Alex into a dark and dank cave in Maui.

… Fortunately, their cave adventure is remembered as a highlight of the day (for my husband) instead of a news headline of the night (for the rest of us). We ended our memorable day at Ho’okipa Beach Park, watching sea turtles sleep and the sun set.

Thank you for stopping by and reading an excerpt from my Story #32. I am not sure I will travel the Road to Hana again, but I am so glad I didn’t let fear stop me. I am also grateful for our driver and tour guide, Alex. 🤟 😀 If you are facing a treacherous road, don’t quit, just find the right guide. 😏 Have an inspired weekend! Michele

Copyright © 2020 Michele Lee Sefton. All Rights Reserved.

Take Fifteen, then Tackle that Mountain

Tackle that mountain, I will,
but first let me rest.
Fifteen quiet clicks are all I need,
because I can’t climb feeling like this.
Exhausted thoughts and limbs
just need a brief escape,
and then those shoes with extra grip,
I will lace.
Lights off and eyes closed before
I begin my late afternoon ascent.
My body instantly melts into the mattress
and my mind, into the mysterious abyss.

Fifteen stretched into thirty.
Still too brief –
this siesta needs an encore.
A peaceful room records
automatic and rhythmic echoes –
inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale …
My body sinking deeper and deeper,
releasing all tension, increased
by this nonstop 21st century.
My mind floating freely,
far removed from this
earthly existence.
A screaming alarm,
I wanted to ignore
but I chose to respond –
uniting my mind and body
once more.
My heavy eyes I opened
and my heavy feet,
I placed on the floor.

My mind and body shaky and unsure;
I took one step, then another,
then another,
then another …
Breathtaking splendor in all directions
soon made me forget
about my weighty hesitation.
My mind now alert,
grateful to be walking this path.
Thankful, it was, to have abandoned sleep
and to have settled back in
to a body that likes to resist.

Walking alone for stretches at a time.
I completely lost sight of you.
Isolation, except for the tiny figures I see
in a boat or a canoe.

We started our walk together,
but you quickly disappeared.
Slow steps –
too much to capture
through my lens.
Quick steps-
Eager you were
to keep up your pace.

Maybe I should keep up,
maybe the sun will set
and alone at the top I will be,
maybe there is a mountain lion
tracking my speed,
maybe, waiting and watching,
she crouches behind me.
Maybe I should just breathe
and enjoy the crunching of the rocks
beneath my feet
and the sound of the solo flyer,
flying higher than any peak.

I am so glad I didn’t let rest
steal my afternoon,
because if I had kept sleeping,
look at all my mind and body
would have missed.

Thank you for stopping by and reading my poem about hiking on what would have otherwise been a lazy afternoon. I am so glad I laced up my shoes and made it to the top! I caught up with my husband, who took this shot. 😏 I hope you have tackled your own mountains this week and that your climb has energized you. ❤️ Have an inspired weekend! Michele

50 Life Stories Update: I am working on Story 46. When I complete this one, only four more to go. I am so close! 😊 50LifeStories.com

Pictures 1-9: Taken while hiking Yavapai Point Trail, Lake Pleasant, Peoria, Arizona

Copyright © 2020 Michele Lee Sefton. All Rights Reserved.

She Weaves Color with Stardust

I am fortunate to have two visual artists in my life who lose themselves in their art and help others see where the expected ends and the imagination begins. One is my daughter, an art and technology major, and the other, is a former coworker and cherished friend. Both inspire me, every week if not every day, by their devotion to creation and their expressive ways.

Creating art is a translation of experiences and a way of communicating, in ways that spoken language isn’t able to. It’s a way of exploring feeling through color and a way of bringing in other realms and realities into our own.” – Sammi Lee

A Poem for visual creators~

She dances through my dreams

barely touching the invisible ground

before moving on to the next scene.

She weaves color with stardust as she floats –

transforming the gray images into technicolor

and the silent movie with heavenly notes.

The brush, her scepter, she wields with purpose and poise,

as her mind transcends, turning the chatter

and chaos in and around her into calming white noise.

The blank canvas charmed by her regal hand;

it waits ready as she captures captivating subjects

and recreates their otherworldly lands.

To the present and corporeal,

these scenes she brings forth,

giving others a chance to see

what can exist beyond static thoughts –  

beyond our limits of perceived reality.

In a form with countless variations,

lives a universe scattered with

fragmented and far-reaching lines,

faint and oppressive shadows,  

bold and dim hues,

sharp angles and soft curves,

and an abundant palette of colors,

that can be brushed together

into endless combinations –

that we simply define as art.

These free-spirited artists who ornament

my world and my walls,

have their individual reasons for doing so.

One is painting toward an extraordinary vocation,

guided by inspiration and higher education,

and One is painting a colorful path back to herself,

after dedicating her life to selfless service.

Different styles, pieces, and mediums they explore,

but, both create to release their expressive souls.

Diette, my friend and One expressive soul.

To view more art by Sammi Lee, visit https://www.instagram.com/hazeluminous.art/ or http://www.sammilee.com

Thank you for stopping by and reading my poem written with two free-spirited artists in mind. My poem is dedicated to all creators who quiet the noise and let their brilliance soar. I hope your week has been full of color and imagination. ❤️ Have an inspired weekend! Michele

Image 1: Sammi Lee painting Mechammonite (acrylic on canvas) Image 2: Sammi Lee, Seshat (acrylic on canvas) Image 3: Sammi Lee, Paro Drip (digital) Image 4, 5, 6: Diette, (acrylic pour) Image 7: Diette @ DBG Image 8: Sammi Lee, Orchid Queen

Copyright © 2020 Michele Lee Sefton. All Rights Reserved.

Love Can Scatter the Clouds

The veil that blew away in

the autumn wind

is blowing toward me again.

Just rest, close your eyes, sleep –  

it is there you will find some peace,

the floating shroud whispers its appeal.

Enticing and inviting, are these thoughts of repose.

More comforting than scabs being exposed –

forcing me to relive pain and sorrow.

Don’t resist, just collapse, give in

an escape is where you should begin,

the hovering cloth murmurs its deception.

I listened once, and that was just fine

because a rest is what was needed at that time,

but I am stronger now and ready to fight –

for my self, for my voice, for my life.

I stand firm, ready to face that enveloping cloud,

that hovers above, ready to enshroud.

After a hiatus, nourishment, and rest,

I am stronger, but I need more than strength

to face this approaching cloud and scatter it to shreds.

I need what we all need, a vital supplement –  

of which we don’t always get enough.

I need an infusion of love from dawn to dusk.

To fill my space with joy and drive the sadness away,

starting today, and lasting until the 29th of February,

I will begin a twenty-nine-day Love campaign.

Every odd day I will take a moment (or two)

to comfort myself with extra Love.

Whatever brings me joy, I will make the time to do.

Every even day I will wrap others with the Love,

that from my expanding heart will flow.

The more Love I give away, the more it will grow.

Turning these approaching clouds and their gloomy ways

into scattered fragments that enhance, not retract, Love’s far-reaching rays.

I know I am not alone in feeling this way.

That a month devoted to hearts and candy,

can sometimes betray.

Focusing on Love, when I want to retreat,

won’t be easy; I want to quit

before I even begin.

To stay accountable to my goal,

my Love shares I will post.

Spreading more Love with each scroll.

On this Love quest, I invite you to join,

turning my dream of an infused Love month,

into your own.

Thank you for stopping by and reading my introspective poem that addresses moving through sadness and helping others do the same. I hope your January gave you many moments of joy and your February delivers lots of love. ❤️ Have an inspired weekend! Michele

Picture 1: Crescent City, California Picture 2: View from hotel in Oakland, California Picture 3: Crescent City, California Picture 4: Lake Pleasant, Arizona Picture 5: Walking on the beach in California

Copyright © 2020 Michele Lee Sefton. All Rights Reserved.