Dear Mayor Arakawa – One lane bridge on the Haleakala Highway

[Posted to AskTheMayor@mauicounty.gov]

Dear Mr. Arakawa,

The Haleakalā highway winds past Pukalani High School and, before starting up the mountain, passes through a one-lane bridge. There are yield signs for approaching traffic in both directions, but I’ve seen several near-head-on-collisions as someone sails onto the bridge without paying any attention to the yield sign, frequently without slowing down at all. This highway sees a lot of traffic between tourists and those of us who live up the mountain; sooner or later there’s going to be a major wreck on that bridge, which may lead to injuries and will most likely close that road for some amount of time.

Are there any plans to make this part of the road more safe? Perhaps add flashing yellow lights to the yield signs, or better yet widen the bridge to provide for two-way traffic?

Respectfully,

David Phillips
Kula

Dear Mayor Arakawa – Bike Tours on Haleakala

[Posted to AskTheMayor@mauicounty.gov]

Dear Mr. Arakawa,

I’ve managed to find very little documentation of any policy addressing the vendors that run bike tours down Haleakala. There was some mention of requiring a 10-minute spacing between groups, and I found one article that indicated Maui Police had declined to enforce any policies concerning these tours.

The vendors running the bike tours have taken advantage of the lack of regulation, and in doing so they are becoming somewhat of a nuisance on the highway:

  • I’ve encountered, more than a few times, up to five groups forming a near-continuous hazard all the way down the mountain. People become frustrated and pass the bikes, and the vans, at dangerous points in the road. I’ve witnessed this many times.
  • I’ve followed company vans driving down the center line, nearly causing head-on accidents with oncoming traffic.
  • I’ve followed company vans pulling trailers without working tails lights or brake lights.
  • I’ve had to avoid bicyclists riding against traffic in the wrong lane, or weaving all over the road while the company staff ignores them.
  • I’ve come around a corner to find a dozen people, off their bikes, standing in the middle of the highway watching a rainbow as the vendor sits in his van and looks on.

It seems to me some common-sense regulation, and enforcement, would be appropriate here. We’re going to see more tourists rather than fewer. More people will be living upcountry. It’s only a matter of time before we have a major incident with injuries. This shouldn’t be too complicated:

  • Vans and trailers must have current vehicle inspections and be in proper working order.
  • Vans and trailers must be clearly marked with company information on the sides and on the rear, including telephone numbers for reporting complaints.
  • Lead riders must wear clothing and helmets that clearly identify them as the company’s guide.
  • All riders must ride between the leading guide and the following van. No stragglers or racers.
  • A maximum of 5 riders per guide. If the group is larger, more guides must be riding spaced throughout the middle of the group.
  • Tours must allow 15 minutes between departures from the top of the route. 10 minutes is not sufficient, as the groups stack up lower on the mountain. Maui Police should occasionally audit this behavior.
  • There should be a central hotline for reporting incidents, or perhaps a website where people can provide photos of the vendor being reported. Maui Police should review both of these.
  • There should be real penalties for violating regulations – fines, suspension or revocation of tour operator’s license.

I don’t think any of these suggestions would be unreasonable to responsible tour vendors, and it would certainly make things safer for the people on bikes, and less frustrating for those of us who drive that highway every day.

Of course, an alternative solution would be to restrict all such tours to a single company to control the usage, similar to what they did on the Big Island in Kealakekua Bay. This would put other tour companies out of business, but would also provide a more consistent, safer experience for those who take those tours. If the current abuse continues, and traffic increases, I could see us getting to that point.

Respectfully,

David Phillips
Kula

Island Bound 5: Relocated!

[continued from Island Bound 4: I Love it When a Plan Comes Together]

It’s now the end of May. I arrived here in Kula two months ago, to address some repairs and additions to the house, get an electrician in, get a plumber in. My car arrived a day early, and our shipping pod arrived a week early – so that both arrived on the same day, which was a circus. Getting my car registered was an all-day exercise, but I learned a lot that helped Sarah get the same done for her car in half the time (although DMV at first refused to believe that a VW Golf could be a diesel). Our dog Beast didn’t make the trip, as we had to put him down a few weeks before his quarantine period was up. We miss him.

The major and minor construction projects are pretty much finished, and it’s time to get down to living the island dream. I plan to keep posting as I learn things about this beautiful place. I must say that both Sarah and I feel blessed in that pretty much everyone we’ve interacted with here on the island has positively exuded aloha.

Now it’s time for us to find some ocean to jump into…

Island Bound 4: I Love it When a Plan Comes Together

[continued from Island Bound 3: Plan A]

off Maalaea
off Maalaea

Plan A suggested that the only thing we needed to do immediately was get the Kula house rented. That assumption is pretty much where Plan A began to fall apart. We needed some repairs done before we could rent the place out, and getting construction work done on Maui isn’t exactly predictable. Even on the mainland, contractors have multiple jobs, distractions, budgeting issues and crew changes. That can be more pronounced in a place where people, both employers and contractors, embrace the concept of Island Time. It can be frustrating – but you have to remember you’re entitled to embrace that concept too!

The guy I’d asked to do the repairs wasn’t going to be available until about April. This being January, we were talking about two or three months of double mortgage payments without rental relief. Also in January, we flew out to visit our house, live in it for a week, and get the feel of things. During that week, we fell more in love with the house, the neighborhood, the island. I also met my contractor face-to-face, and we really hit it off. All of these things contributed to the beginning of the Downfall of Plan A.

We also felt like we should get our Issaquah house on the market – we’d heard too many stories about how many months it took, realistically, to sell a home. So we engaged an agent and started the process. We didn’t hear it at the time, but another piece of Plan A crumbled and crashed into the sea.

The Collapse of Plan A

Fast forward a few weeks. We’ve been preparing for an open house to launch our home on the market. Cleaning, repairs, staging the place. The weekend arrives, and we have to take the dog and make ourselves scarce for both days as strangers tromp through our house. Also during that week, lots of calls from agents who want to show the house – many of whom either (a) can’t figure out how to disarm the alarm and set it off or (b) can’t seem to remember to arm the alarm when they’re done. An uncomfortable time, strangers in the house and the unknown ahead.

The week after the open house, I had to travel east for work. That week, a number of things piled up: first, some aspects of my mother’s estate resolved themselves, and the entire thing was closed. Then on Wednesday, I talked with our realtor, who informed me that we had four offers. After six days on the market. The best offer, from a lot of perspectives, had two downsides: we had to decide by 9pm PT that evening (declining not really an option as the offer was well above our asking price), and if we accepted the offer, we had to be out of the place by March 27th. It’s February 19th. A few other planets aligned during the week, Sarah and I had a few very long talks, took some deep breaths. Then we accepted the offer. We now had about six weeks to stitch all the details together to pack and leave our home of the last seven years to live… somewhere: Enter the beginning of Plan B.

Plan A is dead, long live Plan B

More decisions. One direction was renting a house in Issaquah for a year or so while we rented the Kula house. The more we thought about it, this option just wasn’t that attractive. And after spending a week in the Kula house, getting to know people and places, we were now highly motivated to become island people. On Friday the 21st, while I was still traveling, we both gave notice at our jobs, and Plan B, the process of immediate relocation, began in earnest.

Now for the logistics. Plan B means an incredible set of interlocking to-do lists, calls, emails, forms filled out, etc. Thank you OmniFocus. Moving so soon means that Beast can’t go right away – he’s not eligible to arrive on Maui until May 9th because of his Rabies quarantine, while I have some things on Maui I need to start pursuing (things like jobs) as soon as possible. So Plan B resolves into two separate migrations: the first at the end of March, shipping my car, all of our stuff getting shipped in a “ReloCube” (our entire life into a 6’x7’x8′ container), our house cleaned and vacated. Then I rejoin our stuff and my car on Maui, set up housekeeping, get all the utilities and construction resolved, and look for work. Sarah takes Beast and spends some time with her family since we won’t be able to drive there from now on. The second migration happens when I fly back to Seattle, rejoin Sarah and Beast, see Beast off at Air Cargo, ship Sarah’s car, hop on our own flight, and then we all end up in our new home together. Easy!

First cut of Things to Think About looks like this (without any of the really detailed stuff):

  • plan my migration
    • book my flights there and back
    • shipped stuff I want to have there on arrival (tools, etc.)
    • assemble docs and materials that should not be sent, shipped or checked in baggage
      • passports
      • SS cards
      • originals of car registrations
      • bank documents
      • cash
      • camera gear
      • laptops, servers, RAIDs
  • plan our joint trip in May
    • book one-way flights for both of us
  • downsize
    • living space: going from a 2 floor, 5 bedroom, 2800 sq. ft. house to 1 floor, 2 bedroom, 690 sq. ft.
    • garage: no more 2-car garage, only carport – downsize there too!
    • climate: no more long wool coats (they rot), down vests (they rot), leather bags (you get the picture)
  • get rid of extra stuff
    • sell all unneeded stuff on Craig’s List
    • schedule a garage sale to get rid of what’s left
    • donate stuff that didn’t sell
  • ship our stuff
    • identify a shipper
    • schedule container drop off at Issaquah house
    • schedule container pickup at Issaquah house
    • get an estimated date for arrival of container at Kula house
  • schedule my car for shipment
    • identify a shipper for our cars
    • research the rules for shipping a car to Maui
    • book an interim rental car on Maui for until my car arrives
    • research the rules of registration transfer from the mainland to Maui
      • figure out how to deal with the car having to be registered within 30 days, but Sarah not arriving until day 35, and we’re both on the registration
    • start the process of changing insurance
    • start the process of title transfer
    • get written permission from our lender to ship our cars
  • schedule Sarah’s car for shipment
    • [all the same stuff as for my car except no interim rental]
    • figure out what to do when her current registration expires during shipment (of course)
  • figure out how to get Beast to Maui
    • identify a pet relocation service
    • get the paperwork done:
      • AQS-278 form, filled out, signed and notarized, original delivered to Hawai’i Dept. of Agriculture
      • Neighbor Island Permit received from Hawai’i Dept. of Agriculture
      • Health Certificate issued less than 5 days before Beast’s departure
      • additional stuff to go with Beast and his carrier taped to top of carrier
    • book a pet-friendly hotel for the time between when we vacate the house and when I fly out
    • schedule the vet for Health Certificate exam
    • book a hotel between Beast’s departure and ours, pet-friendly should he not make his flight
    • book a rental van because we’ll need it to get Beast and his carrier to Air Cargo, and Sarah’s car will already have been shipped
    • schedule the vet to meet Beast at Kahului on arrival
    • book a kennel in Kahului for Beast until we get there the day after he arrives
  • after all the dust has settled
    • Hawai’i drivers’ licenses (Kama’aina rates are really helpful!)
    • change mobile phone numbers to 808
    • open accounts at a local bank
    • jobs!

And the list grows daily.  Plan B is happening!

[next: Island Bound 5: Relocated!]

Island Time

The Persistence of Memory
The Persistence of Memory

I remember long ago, as a grad student flying from Denver to Honolulu, reading about island time in an in-flight magazine:

“Hawaiian Time is very much like the concept of mañana – but without anywhere near the sense of urgency”.

It’s a much-maligned concept, and yet so much a part of to life in the islands that I thought it deserved some of its own space in this blog.

Having lived on O’ahu for a couple of years, and spent a fair amount of time on Maui, I’ve witnessed, and contributed to, both sides of the island time equation. It’s a concept that drives visitors and new residents crazy, and considering the culture they’re coming from, that may be understandable. In my experience, there are two prevailing points of view about island time:

Island Time is an excuse for lazy and unreliable people who show up only if it is convenient

On the mainland, you have millions of people who have to learn to get along in some sense of, if not harmony, then at least coordination. Those numbers of people impose a certain pressure on the rules people need in place to avoid what I’ve heard of as “the rat effect”, or too many people together with not enough goodwill or rules to keep them from biting each other. People perceive time as a rigidly-advancing ticking clock (what will we do when everything is digital and silent? Children are already having trouble with concepts like “clockwise”. But I digress.) and with a large body of people, small perturbations of schedule can cascade downstream into a total mess.

With the exception of parts of of the coasts, effects of tide and surf are irrelevant. The only sort of nature-related effects that legitimately impact schedules and commitments tend to be sufficiently extreme to make national news, like tornadoes or blizzards. There are no “surf’s up” excuses, and anyone who places something like an especially beautiful sunset ahead of a business appointment is considered an asshole.

Island Time is the result of people embracing priorities beyond “civilized” or “mainland” expectations

I used to do a lot of sea kayaking. And in the Pacific Northwest, especially up in the San Juan Islands, you lived by the tide tables – or more specifically, the current tables. Paddling routes could be easy or impossible depending on whether you followed nature’s schedule. Crossings could be trivial or highly risky if you didn’t read the tides and the winds correctly. Where you pitched your tent or when you made dinner largely depended on things greater than yourself. For a lot of people I paddled with, that aspect was one of the main reasons they loved the sport – having to give in, flex and adapt to what the planet had to say about their schedules.

Even before that, as a bar manager in Boulder, we stumbled upon a brilliant idea: since we had plenty of bartenders looking for shifts, we instigated “Bad Attitude Day”: the rule that, once a month, if a barkeep gave us at least one-hour’s notice, they could get out of their shift – they could literally say “I’m not coming in tonight because, well, I just don’t feel like it” and we’d cheerfully let them off. Being empowered to do that once a month helped morale to soar.

I use these examples to suggest that island time exists in a lot of forms in a lot of places. In a culture like the one found on Maui, the community is small by comparison, and interactions, at least in my experience, tend to have a more personal nature. Social networking existed here just fine, thank you, long before Mark Zuckerberg decided to productize it. People appreciate the influences family, friends, weather and yes, surf may have one one’s original plans.

And nature is a big deal here. Believe it or not, a lot of people actually move to Maui to live next to the ocean. They come here so that they can go kiteboarding after a long day of work. They come here to savor sunset after sunset with their love-ones. They come here to slow down, perhaps experience a certain amount of grace, placing relationships with people and with their environment at the center of their world ahead of clocks and organizers and email.

At least, that’s a part of why I’m relocating. I won’t say I don’t get frustrated sometimes if a person misses an appointment or leaves me without an answer. I will say that, as I anticipate landing in Kahului, driving up to Kula and starting a new life, I am determined to embrace the human and the cultural and the natural aspects of a situation before I decide to get pissed off because someone went surfing.