The 41 Adventure: A Gift from Wendy’s

“I’m going to take you somewhere real nice. Real nice, like Wendy’s,” he told me a few times about my birthday, doing his best to sound like a leading man from any one of Reese Witherspoon’s country movies.

“Then I’m going to wear something real nice,” I would say back, doing my best to echo that down-home accent.

And then, with two days remaining on my 40th year, he handed me a cup. It had Wendy’s cute face on it, and above it, it read “Wai’anapanapa.”

wendys cup


I think I looked at him, and the cup, and the frying pan (I was making rice for starving kids at the time) and back to the cup and him and…just not able to put it all together. Then he handed me another cup from Wendy’s – and inside it was a permit to camp at Wai’anapanapa State Park, an off-the-grid alcove that overlooks a black sand beach along the famed Road to Hana on Maui.

Our tent, one of only about six in the campground, would be just feet from this cliff. 

And the permit was dated for my birthday. We were going to Maui in less than 48 hours for an adventure that I couldn’t even begin to dream about.

hana sign
45 miles, sure. But the speed limit is 20, if that.

I could be artistic and try to compare the Road to Hana, with its 56 bridges and its 617 squiggly curves, to life. I could try and do that, but that would be dumb. And irresponsible. Because no one’s life is like the Road to Hana, unless you’re the main character on a Spanish-language soap opera. Life might be like a couple miles on that famed road, and if you’ve had one heck of a draw, maybe even 10 miles, but that’s really it.

That road is indescribable. We did it at night, which sounds stupid, but Ron realized when we traveled back during the day, that handling those hairpin turns with the luxury of oncoming headlights helped. Driving out, in the rain and fog, was like one of the most intense video games ever. And I’m glad I was in the passenger seat.

hana at night
The Road to Hana, at night, under rain and fog. One of the kinder curves.

Besides the curves you’re required to hug, we looked up at one point and saw a huge, black bull just snacking right on the “shoulder” of the road – because there really is no shoulder.  It’s rainforest or cliff with the skinniest of windiest roads between them. And at least every mile, there is a one-lane bridge, old and most times covered with a layer of lime moss (in the most romantic way), that requires courtesy for oncoming drivers and a quick trigger finger to photograph the waterfalls those bridges are taking you past.

There’s really nothing like it.

It’s romantic. And beautiful. And, I bet nauseating a little, if you’re in the backseat. And it must have been challenging to drive.

Because when we pulled into our campsite, windshield wipers working as hard as they could, we both reclined our seats.

Ron needed a minute to sleep. I did, too. And it was raining, anyways. And dark. And we’d traveled all day.

We just needed a minute, we thought. Until morning woke us up, eight hours later.


And the adventure continues, tomorrow….