Monday, January 7, 2008

Adventures in Phobia Part 1

My husband is always scheming and plotting travels. So much so that he has instructed me, in the case of his sudden death or coma to immediately go to the Marriot resorts website and cancel the multiple dream reservations he has made.

Currently we have reservations for 2008 in Bali, Turks & Caicos, Ireland and a Celebrity Cruise to Alaska, and these are only the ones I know about. I'm sure there are many more. The man likes to plan trips in the way that other people like to spend imaginary lottery winnings.

I'm not certain that any of our 2008 dream travel plans will come to fruition. Maybe one or two of them, but who can say? We usually go on one big vacation and several smaller, long weekend trips every year. We aren't rich, except in love, and our income has been cut by a third since I haven't been working.

Anyhoo... In the short time that we have known each other I've been to more places than I ever dreamed possible.

This time last year I was getting the house in order and the laundry ready for 8 days in Maui. It was our second time to Hawaii together and his third (he took his mother several years ago before we met). The vacation was fantastic. We hiked and snorkeled, we watched every sunrise and sunset together, laid on the beach when we were tired, and went on two whale watches. We had learned a lot on our first trip to Hawaii about what not to do.

Our first time to Hawaii together in 2005, we went on a cruise and made two huge mistakes. First of all, we went on a cruise. Hello? What the hell were we thinking? Cruises are teeming with annoyances - like e-coli and thousands of other people you are forced to wait in line behind. We also tried to squeeze in as much adventure shore excursions as possible, forgetting that we are both middle-aged and quite fat, and also that I am afraid of heights, deep water and don't like to get dirty.

The brochures the cruise company kept sending us, in the months leading up to our big adventure, displayed dazzling color photos of tanned, athletic and ecstatic looking older people, zip lining across forest canopies, surfing, sea kayaking, cliff diving and riding a mountain bikes down mountainous volcanos. These brochures made it seem like we'd be crazy not to try these things.

We couldn't afford to do them all so we settled on four, two of which were activities that we considered to be "once in a lifetime" opportunities (to maim and/or kill ourselves in painful and frightening ways).

Maui Downhill Cycle Adventure (from the NCL Shore Excusion Catalog):
Take the downhill bicycle ride of your life as you bike down Haleakala Volcano. Enjoy your beautiful surroundings as you travel at speeds up to 20 miles per hour through some of the most unique parts of Maui. Your adventure begins with a van ride to the summit and will end at the Sunrise Market and Protea Farm. You'll be escorted by an expert volcano guide, and followed by an escort van.
Note: Participants must be at least 12 years of age, at least 5 feet tall and weigh no more than 250 lbs. Pregnant women are prohibited from this excursion. Bring a sweatshirt as temperatures can be cool at the summit and wear closed-toe shoes. This tour is not for beginners.

We rode to the summit via the narrow and twisting volcano road in one of those 15 passenger church-type vans that always seem to be crashing, while filled to capacity with student athletes, church choirs, or marching bands, on the way to important competitions, tragically killing everyone on board. It was the one exception I have made to my rule of never riding in one of these vans.

Along the way our guide, who called everyone "Bra" or "Cousin", entertained us with not so hilarious stories of downhill cycling adventures gone wrong as he pointed out the various spots where previous idiots had been seriously injured or killed on long ride down. I'm sure he meant this as a way to pass the time, give us safety tips and teach us about what not to do. It did nothing but scare the bejeezus of me and about halfway up I began to panic and as the air became thinner and thinner I also became light headed and lost my ability to breathe.

I laughed it off as the motion sickness I sometimes get if I'm not able to see out the window of moving vehicles. But when I looked out the window of the van, all I could see was the edge of volcanic insanity and it was a very long way down. Better to be nauseous I thought, so I kept my eyes in the van.

In for a penny, in for a pound. There was no turning back. There was nowhere to go but down. On a bike. In the rain. Toward oncoming traffic on a narrow, twisting, 2-lane volcano road with very few guardrails.

I kept reassuring MDH that I was fine and this was a great idea and that we were going to have so much fun and that I was really more excited than frightened.

I lied.

Did I mention that it was raining to beat the band and the air was choked with fog?

When we got to the drop off point at the top I hopped unsteadily off the van and put on the helmet, goggles and giant yellow rubber pancho and matching pants we had been given to wear for the ride down. The clear plastic goggles fogged up immediately and I couldn't see a thing. It was like wearing a body bag with metal trash can for a hat.

All my discomfort, dizziness and lack of oxygen melted away temporarily when I took a deep breath, walked few steps to join the rest of our group and fainted for the first time in my entire life. It was the most relaxed I had been all morning.

This caused everyone to freak out, especially my darling. Apparently I wasn't the only one with reservations about this shore excursion who had been hiding light headedness and panic. The driver and guide gathered the group and we all voted unanimously to retreat and all hopped eagerly back onto the church van and headed back down the mountain to safety and sanity. They even refunded our money.

MDH and I counted it as a free day and went back to the ship and celebrated our new found appreciation of a life well-lived in spite of not facing danger in the eye, with a few fruity cocktails at the bar followed by the good kind of "nap" back in our cabin.

When we went back to Maui last year we would occasionally see van loads of hopeful bikers riding to the top of the mountain and thanked our lucky stars that it rained and I had passed out. It's good to be old, fat, alive and unharmed.

See you at the bottom, suckers!


Anonymous said...

I always enjoy the travel brochure logic of "look at them doing it..if they can you can"..."spend your money".

The Guv'ner said...

Good Lord! Somehow I have no difficulty imagining you having calamity follow you around on vacation! Fainting is the classic get-out clause. Well done! :)

I have yet to make it to Hawaii. My sister went in the '90s and while she was there there was a tidal wave emergency and another day she was trapped on a mountain top by a brush fire and had to be helicoptered off. She made the news both times. People were like "Ban the crazy tourist woman from our island please!"

One day I hope to go wreak my own havoc.

I think you need to take all your 2008 trips just to entertain ME.

WendyB said...

"I am afraid of heights, deep water and don't like to get dirty."
You and I should go on a clean, ground-level vacation together. We'd totally get along!

Coaster Punchman said...

Whoa, that was hilarious. Thank God they let you turn back; that sounded like hell. And you are correct; Hawaii is certainly no place you need to be taking a cruise. For God's sake, even Waikiki Beach is good enough for me even though Hawaiians and frequent visitor poo-poo it.

Anonymous said...

You are a truly great storyteller!

The Lady Who Doesn't Lunch: said...

Evil - we fell for it too. I'll post about the other disastrous shore excursion tomorrow or Weds, but at least on this one we got our money back.

Guv - so glad to have you back! Normally things go pretty smoothly on our vacations, but we usually don't try to fool ourselves into thinking we're in a Mountain Dew commerical either. Things go much better when we lie still.

I hope that we get to do some fun stuff in 2008 and that I get a job with a decent amount of paid vacation time. This country sucks donkey dongs in the paid vacation department.

Wendy - I'm partial to Paris and London, but a big fan of beach vacations too. If you won't be embarrassed to be seen with me in my giant floppy hats, and loud sloppy ways (after a few frozen cocktails) we'll get along fine.

Coaster P - Howdy! Glad you liked it. I LOVE Waikiki and many of the surrounding hoods - like Chinatown for dim sum. But we like to get off the beaten path too because there are so many beautiful things to see.

Suze - Gosh, thank you! I enjoy telling them.

paperback reader said...

I've never been so happy to not know how to ride a bike in my life.

- said...

i'd just like to say that i am touched that i was the inspiration for your previous post :)

Quiet one said...

You two always seem to have fun together. I'll go to Hawaii when I lose a few pounds! I will not be biking anywhere!

Del-V said...

If I go to Hawaii I'm going to have some guy named TC fly me around in a helicopter. Then I’ll solve a crime or two in my Farrari. Then it’s off to chum it up with that stuffy Higgins guy. It’ll be the highest rated vacation of 1981.

Claire said...

I'm with you, adventure is way overrated. Life has enough thrills. I don't even ski, but zip-lining? Who the hell would do that? Great story.

Boldly Serving Up Wheat Grass said...

My wife would've passed out, too. Anytime I want to engage in adrenaline-inducing activities, I have to call my brother-in-law. The ride sounds like a fine relaxing day to me. I'll check it out if I'm ever in Hawaii.

Tara said...

Um, I'm not too afraid of heights, but I wouldn't have been able to do that either. I'm glad they refunded your money! When my friends and I went on a cruise, two of them were very unhappy with the whole thing, and my other friend and I just enjoyed ourselves because we were both easily amused by people and just the whole excitement of our first cruise. I would do things a little differently though for my next cruise.

Anonymous said...

HAHAHAHH, this post made me laugh so much. Thank you! you are so funny and I am glad you are safe, fat and old so you can post these stories :) xx

Anonymous said...

As soon as I read the part about riding downhill at 20mph I thought to myself "Are you crazy?!"

Do you realize that your fainting probably saved lives that day? Call yourself a HERO!

As for those extended passenger vans, they should not be allowed to be made and schools and churches should never use them. ESPN did a very informative article on the dangers of those vans and many heartbreaking tragedies were part of that article.

No more extended passenger vans for me and never a downhill bike ride is my motto!

Donna said...

Very funny!