When you hear your tour guide say, “I love my job!” at 9 a.m., he’s already having a good day. He’s ready for adventure and he’s taking you along for the ride. You, my friend, just go with it.
By way of a happy accident, instead of registering us for the self-guided bike ride down Haleakala, my husband signed us up for the guided express tour with Bike Maui.
In retrospect, it was perfect. It gave my husband the freedom to enjoy his ride without having to worry about me. While I am a competent bike rider, it has been some time since I’ve ridden a bike. And I certainly have never done it going down the side of the mountain with switchbacks and hairpin turns.
It also helps to have Kimo Rice leading the way. His expertise, confidence, and passion for his job make him the ideal tour guide.
As we were fitted for our helmets we found that we were half of a four-person tour group riding down the mountain. If my nervous bladder was any indication, I was afraid that I’d fall off the side of the mountain, that I would slow down the group, and quite frankly, that I wasn’t fit enough. (Thanks cancer).
Everyone was given general rules and safety precautions. One of the other tour guides reminded us that logging miles on a spin bike are not the same as actually riding a bike. This isn’t your mama’s spin class. You are going down the side of the mountain alongside vehicles. Thank goodness I can do both…er, well I could pre-pandemic.
We split up into different groups and loaded onto our respective buses. While we made our way to the starting point, we laughed as Maui born and raised Kimo Rice regaled us with stories that were unbelievably true and with the pictures to prove it!
Kimo gave us lessons on Maui history, (ask him about Giggle Hill), the amazing fruit we can find along the side of the road (no, pineapples are not grown on trees), the gigantic avocados (did you know that avocados are grown on Maui? I didn’t), and fresh coffee cherries he picks to make his roasted coffee…true story!
Throughout the ride up Haleakala Kimo infused directions back to the bike shop with stories to help us remember all the turns we needed to make. It was genius. I’ll always remember to make the turn onto Kokomo.
When we made our way to the starting point, he and driver extraordinaire Adam Kailiehu handed out bikes, checked helmets, and gave last-minute advice and instructions, I tried my best to look confident and failed miserably.
As riders made their way down the beautiful mountainside and part of our group jumped into the van for a ride back with Adam, I tried not to bail. I seriously considered joining the group with Adam and viewing the landscape through the safety of the van.
As Kimo checked our helmets he looked me straight in the eye and asked, “Are you nervous?” Everything in me wanted to say, “No! I’m fine!”
But his friendly demeanor helped me blurt out embarrassedly, “YES!” He immediately put me right behind him and lined up the rest of our small group in order. He did everything to make me comfortable. He says, “I try to put myself in other people’s shoes.” That small gesture was enough for me to find my courage, trust him, and enjoy the ride.
As Kimo led the way more than 20 miles down Haleakala, he gave us breaks to check out the beautiful scenery, to explore the cowboy town of Makawao, to take pictures, and recover from biking up a hill. Adam helped navigate traffic at crossroads and coordinated with Kimo to allow other vehicles to pass us.
On the first leg of the ride I was wobbly, nervous, and riding my brakes. But Kimo and Adam never made me feel like I couldn’t ride.
Positioned behind him, I could see Kimo’s joy as he rode. He stretched his arms and flapped them during the downhills, did bunny hops in the dirt as he slowed for me to catch up, and said hello to familiar faces when we stopped. He loves his job and it 100 percent shows.
With Kimo and Adam watching the road for other vehicles, I was able to lean into the experience. At one point Kimo called back to me, “You good?” and I said, “Yeah. Better than good!” I smiled and laughed my way down the mountainside.
After the tour, I asked Kimo why he left his previous job 14 years ago to guide strangers down Haleakala. Doesn’t it get boring or tedious? His response, “I love my job!” True story!
When I asked him about his favorite part, he said, “All of it!” He likes taking pictures, cutting up fruit for everyone when he stops at a local stand on the way up the mountain, making people laugh, and sharing aloha and positive vibes.
With sincerity Adam says he, too, "loves his job because of the people he meets." (Mahalo, Adam).
Kimo loves people and it’s apparent in the way he interacted with each one of us. He reads people well, makes adjustments based on their comfort level, and makes the whole experience the adventure of a lifetime.
If you had asked me last year if I thought I could bike down Haleakala it would have been an adamant no. But cancer has a way of showing you what you’ve taken for granted. So I took a chance and now I can say I’ve biked down a mountain. True story. I have the picture to prove it.
In the words of Kimo Rice, “Life is short. No regrets.”
Friends, if you would like the experience of a lifetime check out Bike Maui (also doing business under Haleakala Eco Tours). I hope you are as lucky as I am to have Kimo Rice and Adam Kailiehu guide the experience.
My thanks to Kimo Rice and Adam Kailiehu for a fabulous experience. Thank you for sharing the Spirit of Aloha and positive vibes with us. It was the highlight of our trip. True story.