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Travels With An Airhead


— by Notch Miyake

I went to Hawaii in March to check out the motorcycling scene for you. Yeah, I know it is a long flight and potentially worse because of the weather. But I'll do almost anything for the club. I even went to a monthly meeting once.

When you get off the plane in Honolulu, the first thing you notice is the soft fragrance of plumeria. The tradewinds, washed by 2000 miles of ocean, blow past the colorful lei stands in the open airport. It is warm and tropical. Wonderful, you think. Perfect for riding. And no helmet law. (Of course, we always wear our helmet, so it doesn't matter.)

I didn't ship my BMW out as checked baggage so I tried to borrow a bike from one of the guys I used to ride with in high school. Unfortunately, none of them ride anymore. They have taken up other leisure activities like going to hostess bars.

A hostess bar is a place where one buys drinks for the hostesses, who serve complimentary pupus (appetizers) and talk story (make conversation). In Hawaii, gasoline costs more than beer, so going to a hostess bar might actually be cheaper than riding a motorcycle. (Of course, it is never as much fun.)

Most of the girls in the hostess bars are Korean. In fact, locals call this type of bar a ?Korean? bar. Before the Korean takeover, the girls used to be mostly Vietnamese. Before that they were Japanese.

Anyway, I checked out motorcycle rentals. They are expensive:

One-passenger scooters that are illegal on the freeway rent for about the cost of an economy sub-compact. Two-passenger scooters that should be illegal on the freeway rent for the cost of a mid-size sedan.

A 650cc Honda can be rented for the cost of a Cadillac convertible. A Harley for a day goes for the cost of a week of Korean bars. No BMWs for rent.

Since I have ridden a motorcycle on every road on the island hundreds of times, I decided not to rent. Instead, I will take you on a virtual motorcycle tour of the island.

The first thing you need to know is that if every car registered on the island tried to get on the road at the same time, there would not be enough room. There are either too many cars or too few roads or both.

In any case, riding in Honolulu is mostly waiting in traffic, breathing exhaust fumes and cooking inside your helmet. (Remember, we always wear our helmets.) Lane splitting is illegal in Hawaii. Don't try.

After you finally work your way through the traffic, the road clears and a dazzling blue seascape appears on the right. All sea and sky. Surfers. Cool green mountains on the left. Hang gliders. Some nifty curves. Coral sand beaches.

Keep the ocean on the right and you are soon around the island and back in Honolulu traffic. That's right, that's all there is. No more road. Your choices are to go around again or take a taxi.

Just ask the driver to take you to a Korean bar.

— Copyright © 2000 by Notch Miyake.

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