Saturday, September 30, 2017

Volcano by bike--down the mountain

In my previous post, Volcano by Bike, Getting There, I described how my husband and I left our hotel at 2:00 a.m. to drive up Haleakala volcano on Maui, Hawaii, to watch the sun rise and then ride bicycles 38 miles down the mountain to the coast.

Watch sunrise at Haleakala National Park.
Back to business

Each person in our group was observed biking around the parking lot to determine riding position.  The entire group could only go as fast as the slowest rider, who would be at the front of our single-file line (not me, thankfully).

Our guide showed us hand signals to indicate such things as “move off the road” and “stop,” necessary because we were riding down Hwy. 37, the same road we had used to ascend the mountain in the van.  I never saw these signals, however, because of my intense concentration on the treacherous (at least to me) road itself. 
The yellow rain suits helped keep us warm and dry.
There are no guardrails on the rim; miss a curve or skid, and you disappear down the rocky mountainside. Fear of embarrassment, should this happen to me, was more a deterrent for carelessness than any possible fear of injuries.

The code of the mountain for bike tours is “first up, first down.” Groups leave at 20-minute intervals to prevent overcrowding on the road.  Since we were the second van up, we left soon after sunrise.  (Later arrivals sometimes don’t get off the summit until almost noon.)  Breakfast at the historic cowboy town of Makawao was planned for approximately 8:30 a.m., and we didn’t want to be late.

According to our guide, riding speeds would reach 34 miles per hour, but I thought, Not me! I couldn’t imagine pedaling at that speed, especially on a curving mountain road. What I didn’t realize was that because it’s all downhill you never have to pedal, and you still pick up speed. Men, generally heavier than women, were in the rear, and many literally rode the super heavy-duty brakes on their Schwinns the entire trip. 

Being a lightweight, I had trouble keeping the pace, since the only way to gain speed should a break occur between myself and the person ahead was to lean forward in a racing stance and hope the aerodynamics would provide a sufficient boost to close the gap. Often it didn’t. I missed some gorgeous scenery while hunched over the handlebars of my bike, viewing only the upper edge of my helmet resting on my sunglasses.
A little crazy posing for Larry and me
Morning mist shrouded the early ride, as our bikes careened along the zig-zagging road. Negotiating tight turns, we swooshed along, passing through moist clouds, and again appreciated the cumbersome rain suits. 

After riding about 14 miles, we took a rest stop, a welcome opportunity to shed the bulky helmet temporarily and look beyond my eyebrows to the gorgeous scenery I was missing. Sunshine glimmered on the billowy sea beyond Haleakala’s rim.  Distant islands danced on undulating ocean waters. I breathed deeply of the clean, crisp air that grazed my face and sighed with relief. Half way there, and I haven’t tumbled off the path.  Realizing that the hardest part of the journey was now behind us, I was ready to continue riding.
Rainbows are a common sight as you come down the mountain.
The road became more level with fewer sharp turns as we continued our descent.  Despite warmer air, intermittent rain showers convinced us to keep wearing rain suits.  Eucalyptus forests, pineapple fields, and plantation towns passed as we made our way towards the sea.

Nine hours after leaving, we were returned to our resort at Kaanapali, weary but ecstatic.  I had done what I set out to do: complete the challenging journey and enjoy this once-in-a-lifetime adventure.  It’s an accomplishment that I still recall when obstacles threaten my path. 

Note: Newer regulations at Haleakala National Park do not allow riders to start from the same elevation that we did—it’s more like 9700 feet. But the thrills are the same!
Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier




Friday, September 22, 2017

Volcano by bike--getting there

Our day began in the middle of a nighttime yawn.  The van was due at our resort at 2:00 a.m. to take my husband, me, and 12 other questionably sane visitors on Maui, Hawaii, to the top of Mt. Haleakala to watch the sunrise and then bike 38 miles back to the sea.

Startled out of sleep by my subconscious alarm at 1:50 a.m. (in his excitement my husband inadvertently set the clock alarm for 2:00 p.m.), we jumped into prearranged layers of clothing and sped out to meet the van. 

Ready to roll

After loading all its passengers, the van headed for the town of Paia where we picked up a guide and trailer full of bicycles, helmets, and other necessary equipment for our sojourn down the mountain.  While our group rode bicycles, the van would follow in case of accident or mechanical problems.
The large crater of Haleakala  before sunrise
Rising above 10,000 feet, Haleakala (meaning “House of the Sun”) is the highest peak on Maui and the world’s largest dormant volcano.  It features a crater seven miles long and two miles wide that was formed when eruptions filled two existing valleys carved by erosion from the summit.  I felt safe from lava flows since the last eruption was 400 years ago. 

Outstanding views of Maui’s neighboring islands can be seen from the rim together with its rust and purple interior of sliding sands and meadows. That’s good reason Haleakala National Park has become one of Maui’s most popular destinations.

After an hour and a half of winding uphill on Haleakala Hwy. 37, the only road to the summit and one reputed for climbing the most altitude in the shortest distance (thank goodness it was dark), we arrived at the summit.  Although we had been forewarned of temperature drops and strong winds on top of Haleakala, the wind chill factor below freezing was still unexpected. After all, this was Hawaii in June.
The sun begins to peek over clouds and mountain peaks.
Our driver offered everyone muffins and juice and questioned each of us on our expertise with bicycles. In other words, how long since we had last ridden a bike? My answer was somewhat misleading about my skill as I rode frequently but on the flat prairie land of coastal Texas, very different from the terrain we were about to tackle.  I’m totally unprepared for this, I thought as butterflies fluttered in my stomach.

Each rider was issued a rubber rain suit, heavy and bulky but definitely capable of keeping out wind and water. Looking like a gaggle of blue and yellow aliens, we ambled outside to await the sunrise.

Bright, full sun at daybreak!
What a spectacular moment that is.  As 5:20 a.m. approached, locals joined visitors in trying to secure the perfect picture spot. Folks from sixteen bike tours and others who had driven to the top of the volcano just for this sight crowded together.  Wrapped in coats and blankets as protection from the chill, all were there to witness the miracle of light rising over the clouds.

Day arrives.

A faint glow draped the edge of distant mountains, gleaming through the foggy mist and resembling reflections on water more than the beginnings of a sunrise. Suddenly the sun burst over the mountaintops, shattering night in an explosion of light and warmth. 

In minutes the temperature rose 20 degrees. Only the clicking of cameras broke hushed “oohs” and “aahs” as spectators attempted to record a scene impossible to convey by mechanical means.
The crater is bathed in a red glow after sunrise.
With the sunrise still gleaming in our brains it was time to shift focus and get ready to ride down the mountain. I’ll describe that experience in my next post.

Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier



Saturday, September 16, 2017

New ways to celebrate winter ski season in Colorado

Colorado is heading into a winter filled with new offerings, and visitors who love the excitement of soaring down mountains in the state’s many ski areas will enjoy exploring these fun opportunities.

Colorado Welcomes Winter Olympic Experiences: Colorado welcomes the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics with several Olympic experiences. Attend ski and snowboard Olympic qualifiers at the Dew Tour in Breckenridge (December 14-17, 2017) and the Toyota U.S. Grand Prix at Copper Mountain (December 6-10, 2017) and Aspen (January 10-14, 2018), visit the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, train where Olympians train at Woodward at Copper, experience Steamboat's 2018 Olympic Send-Off Celebration (January 27, 2018) and more.

Snowmass Ski Area Celebrates 50 Years: This winter season marks the 50th anniversary of the Snowmass Ski Area. The season-long celebration includes vintage, 1967 lift ticket pricing of $6.50 on Friday, December 15 as well as a festive weekend of anniversary activities December 15-17 such as a retro party at Elk Camp restaurant, fireworks display, the return of Banana Days, an on-mountain celebration at Spider Sabich Picnic arena and more. Additionally, throughout the season, the celebration continues with new gold signs that mark the original ski trails, monthly fireworks displays over Fanny Hill, a new mural in Base Village commemorating the history of Snowmass, and more.

Arapahoe Basin Expands Terrain: For the 2017-18 season, Arapahoe Basin will add 468 acres to its inbounds skiable terrain, bringing its total acreage to over 1,400 acres. Construction on the new terrain began this summer, with patrolled and maintained hike-back skiing available starting in the 2017-18 season. There will be 339 acres of lift-served skiing in The Beavers, including intermediate and advanced open bowl and tree skiing. The Steep Gullies will remain hike-back terrain and will be some of the most technical and challenging in-bounds terrain at Arapahoe Basin.

Powderhorn Mountain Resort’s New Ski Patrol Ski Along: Get the ultimate insider's guide to Powderhorn with the new Ski Patrol Ski Along. Ski with a professional Ski Patroller and learn some of the tools of the trade such as safety, transporting and caring for guests on the mountain. The ski along is open to all ages and starts at $75 per person.

Four Seasons Resort and Residences Vail Offers Back Bowls Ski Tour Program: Vail’s seven legendary back bowls span 3,000 acres of Vail Mountain’s backside. Vast and open, the bowls provide advanced skiers some of the most breathtaking views around. Enjoy an exclusive tour of these bowls with a local celebrity such as Pete Seibert, the son of one of the founders of Vail, as he weaves in and around the back bowls and tells stories about the founding days of Vail. To complement this full-day experience, take a break to refuel with a chef-curated picnic lunch at Blue Sky Basin.
Groomed trails in Telluride
Hotel Telluride’s 'Sled & Soak, Ski & Sip' Winter Alpine Package: This 3-night package includes champagne upon arrival at The Hotel Telluride, a full day backcountry snowmobiling trip to Dunton Hot Springs, gourmet lunch at Dunton Hot Springs, soak in the hot springs in Dunton and, upon return to The Hotel Telluride, enjoy wine and charcuterie by the fireplace. The package also includes a full day lift ticket for two to Telluride Ski Resort and a champagne pairing dinner upon return to The Hotel Telluride. This package is available from November  23, 2017 to April 8,  2018.

Information courtesy of Carly Holbrook, Colorado Tourism Office
All photos courtesy of Colorado Tourism Office, credit to Matt Inden/Miles

Monday, September 11, 2017

Ephesus, Turkey, features Biblical and historical sites

Kusadasi, a lovely port town on the coast of Turkey that many cruise ships dock at, is the gateway for visitors to Ephesus, largest city in ancient Asia Minor. Located 3.6 miles from the Aegean Sea, the governor of Rome resided in Ephesus. Geography was as important to its history as were politics and religion.
Temple ruins in Ephesus, Turkey
For more than 3,000 years, people have been making pilgrimages to the Temple of Artemis, Greek goddess of motherhood and protector of flora and fauna. Other sacred sites included Cave of the Seven Sleepers and House of the Virgin.

The stadium where sporting events were held and where St, Paul preached.
For Christians, touring Ephesus is an important adventure. As Christians, our walk through Ephesus, with a guide identifying specific landmarks, was almost surreal. It was mind-boggling to think about all the Biblical activities that had transpired at the very place and in the same streets as we were walking centuries later.
Visitors entering Mary's house near Ephesus.
Saint Paul, the Apostle, lived and preached here. The disciple John brought Jesus’ mother Mary here to live in peace after the crucifixion. We visited her home on a hill near the city, sipped holy water from a nearby spring, and added our wishes to the prayer wall.

Sipping holy water
Ephesus is also where John wrote his gospel, now part of the New Testament. During the Roman era, Christianity was legalized, and a beautiful church, Basilica of St. John, was eventually built over John’s tomb.
Ephesus was an important archeological site since it contains the largest collection of Roman ruins, many quite identifiable. These have been pieced together to provide a good picture of life in ancient times. About 250,000 people lived in Ephesus during its heyday. It was a gathering place for skilled artisans and rich merchants.

Some statues are very well preserved.
The city was destroyed in 263 A.D. and later rebuilt. But over several centuries the harbor filled with silt, which halted trade and eventually led to abandonment of the city.
More ruins the have been restored in Ephesus.
Excavation began a century ago, and restoration has been under way for almost two decades. Walking the dusty streets of ancient Ephesus, we admired this historical treasure and marveled at the well-preserved remains from the city.

Entrance to stadium at Ephesus.

Among the most notable were the stadium where sporting events were held, the baths and pool on well-delineated Harbour Street, the marble road leading away from the great theater of the city (where Paul preached to thousands of people), Temple of Hadrian, public toilets and brothel, Church of St. Mary, and numerous fountains statues, columns, gates, and houses.
Library of Celsus is one of the best preserved sites in Ephesus.
The Library of Celsus is one of the most beautiful structures in Ephesus. Built in 117 A.D., it was a monumental tomb for Julius Celsus Polemaeanus, governor of the province of Asia. The grave of Celsus was under the ground floor, and a statue of Athena, goddess of wisdom, was near the entrance.
Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier

Friday, September 8, 2017

Turks and Caicos--great place if you love beaches and water

Note: I wrote this post before Hurricane Irma slashed through the Caribbean.  I sincerely hope all the islands affected are able to recover quickly and again welcome tourists. If you are planning a winter or spring trip in the Caribbean, please consider these islands. Tourism dollars till go a long way towards helping in recovery.
Snorkeling is fun at Turks and Caicos Islands
If you love being in, on, or near the ocean, you’ll love Turks and Caicos Islands in the Caribbean. Beautiful water, splendid beaches, and historic sites make this a world-class destination for tourists and especially for cruise ships, which is how we arrived there.

Shopping and dining are convenient.
Grand Turk is the largest and political capital of the islands. The cruise center there is a world-class beachfront facility of 14 landscaped acres. Opened in 2006, the $50 million center consists of a pier, recreational area that includes one of the largest swimming pools in the Caribbean, and 1100 feet of beachfront for sunbathing and snorkeling at the foot of the cruise pier. There’s also plenty of shopping, restaurants, and bars, so cruise passengers can enjoy the island without taking an additional excursion.
Lots of fish around The Wall at Cotton Bay.
We chose to go a half mile offshore on a catamaran to Cotton Bay. After sailing across crystal clear turquoise water we arrived at an area known as The Wall, a favorite place for scuba divers as well as snorkelers since the water drops off to 7,000 feet deep. We snorkeled at an underwater coral reef which hosted many varieties of colorful tropical fish including plentiful white and yellow striped fish and a small barracuda.

After snorkeling we headed to the soft, champagne-colored sand of the beach.  We waded ashore from the catamaran (after sampling the crew’s rum punch) and spent a lovely time basking on the pristine beach and soaking up the warm Caribbean sun.
This is the life! Beautiful beach and a drink in hand
Turks and Caicos is part of the Lesser Antiles—smaller islands that are actually tops of undersea mountains. Vikings discovered the islands 200 years before Columbus. History was made there 500 years later as John Glen landed on Grand Turk when returning from his landmark space adventure. There is a statue and museum commemorating that event, which is of interest to Americans, too.

Larry posed beside the statue of John Glen.
Whether Turks and Caicos is a cruise port stop or you decide to spend more time there, you’ll find relaxing easy and water activities among the best in the Caribbean.
Photos by Larry and Beverly  Burmeier

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Good news if you love America's national parks

Majestic mountains of Grand Teton National Park
Visit national parks for free

You probably remember that the National Park Service turned 100 years old in 2016 and many parks hosted special events and celebrations. But every year there are several designated days when fees to visit national parks that have a charge (many national park sites are always free) are waived.

Hiking to Delicate Arch in Arches National Park
The next fee-free day is September 30, and the last one for 2017 is Veterans Day Weekend on November 11-12. There’s no better time to enjoy our country’s history and natural beauty.

National parks have been called America’s Best Idea for good reason. Fee-free days make parks accessible to more people and provide a great opportunity to visit a new place or return to an old favorite, especially if your favorite park is one that normally charges an entrance fee. It’s good to note that only 118 of 417 National Park Service sites have an entrance fee.
Glorious colors of Grand Canyon National Park
In addition, any fourth grade student can get a free annual pass through the Every Kid in a Park program, and active duty military and citizens with a permanent disability can also get free passes. For more information about discounted passes, visit America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass.

Yellowstone National Park geysers
The noted fee waivers in September and November include entrance fees (which normally range from $3 to $30), commercial tour fees, and transportation entrance fees. Other fees such as reservation, camping, tours, concession and fees collected by third parties are not included unless stated otherwise.

Senior passes are golden

If you are age 62 or older, the best travel bargain you can find is the lifetime national park senior pass, even though the cost increased in August 2017 from $10 to $80. That’s for a lifetime pass, or you can purchase an annual senior pass, good for all national park sites, for $20.

While that may seem like a large increase, your traveling companions can also enter parks for free, up to four adults (Children under age 16 are always admitted free). Many sites also offer discounts on amenities like camping, swimming, boating, tours, or shopping with the senior pass.
Hoodoos in Bryce Canyon National Park
If you already have a lifetime pass, it is still valid; but if you lose it and have to replace it, you’ll pay the higher fee. 

Hiking in Zion National Park
The price increase is a result of Centennial Legislation passed by the U.S. Congress in December 2016. If you love our national parks as much as I do, you’ll be happy to know that funds from all Senior Passes purchased in a national park will go to a National Park Foundation Endowment and a National Park Centennial Challenge Fund.
You can also purchase Senior Passes online or through the mail with an added $10 processing fee. Contact

What are you waiting for? Buy that Senior Pass or go on fee-free days--just take time to explore your national parks!
Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier