Mar 28, 2006

Mud, mud, mud.

Well, yesterday was quite fantastic. Any day involving getting wet and playing in the mud usually is.

In the morning, I was woken up by a rainstorm that hit with squall-like intensity. It wasn't the noise that shook me from the embrace of sleep, but rather, the fact that I was getting wet. The wind was carrying the rain right in through the windows, dampening whatever happened to be sitting beneath them, and even reaching my bed. I shut them quickly and wandered off to a different part of the house to watch the action. Let's just say quite a few things got knocked over by the wind gusts, and the driving rain flooded the deck.

This storm simply set the stage for my late afternoon experience. The weather was just beginning to clear about an hour before sunset, and, feeling antsy, I decided to venture off for a bike ride. I ended up jumping in my car and coasting down to a local haunt, Upolu Point, a mere 7-10 minutes away from home.

On the surface, there isn't too much to the place. A paved one-lane road leads almost straight toward the sea, through sweeping grassy plains and past a newly installed wind farm, before ending at a private commuter terminal and airstrip running parallel to the shore. Publically accessible dirt roads branch off in either direction along the outer fence surrounding the airstrip. It's possible to drive around the entire perimeter. There are a handful of houses visible farther up the hill, but absolutely no one lives in the immediate area. Its barrenness and isolation is part of the reason I find the region so attractive. It is a relatively dry corner of the peninsula (though not quite as dry as the leeward side) with wide open fields of windswept grass and trees in which one can romp and roam without a care in the world. One can walk along the sea cliffs for a great distance before running into any kind of civilised structure. There's something about the locale I find very spiritually invigorating.

Besides grass, there is also a lot of dirt down there. During normal weather, it usually stays fairly dry, but when storms hit, as happened yesterday, things get interesting. It got muddy. Very muddy.

Upolu mud is no ordinary mud. It is slightly reddish in hue and is very soft, thick and sticky. When saturated enough, as it was yesterday, it is also remarkably slippery. Consequently, the mud can play hell with cars and bikes. Even with the increased traction four-wheel drive provides, it's nearly impossible to drive on it without slip-sliding back and forth or fishtailing. Of course, that's what makes it entertaining. There are a few wide, grassy areas where doing donuts simply comes naturally. Yesterday, I slipped and slid into one of these clearings with my SUV, cranked the wheels all the way to the right, hit the accelerator, and slid around in circles as if I was on a merry go-round, kicking up mud everywhere. It was fun, and I realised that's it really just another form of marking my territory. For that matter, some could even consider it art.

Even more enjoyable was taking out my mountain bike and off-road riding along the sea cliffs. There is a certain place not far beyond the fence that seems like a naturally formed riding course. Even when the dirt is dry, the various mounds, steep slopes, dips, and ramps make it a fun place to ride. But when it all becomes mud... the enjoyment factor multiplies several times. I rode around like this until so much mud clogged my brakes that my bike became nearly inoperable. When this happened, I took a break to watch a rather impressive sunset from a grassy knoll. The view of Maui across the channel was even more impressive than usual. Only embellishing the majesty of the view were whales in several different pods shooting out of the water and making large splashes surprisingly close to shore... it just reminded that we actually are still in the heart of whale season.

I also glanced up toward the mountains, which now included windmills as part of the view, much to the dismay of many local residents. I personally viewed the conspicuous towers as not a "blight upon the landscape," but a sign of hope, promise, and necessary progress. If anything, I'm proud to have a wind farm in my backyard (not that we can see the wind mills from the backyard we own), for renewable energy is the future, and if there is one place that could use change, it's here.

As the sky grew dark, I decided to do something I hadn't done in a long, long time. After scooping a sufficient amount of squishy mud out of my bike's brake mechanisms, I rode back to the airstrip, hoisted my bike over the dark green chest-high chain link fence, and started to ride along the freshly resurfaced runway. Yes, it was quite a contrast from mud and rock, but I found the whining and growling of my tires against the asphalt to be almost soothing as I gradually picked up speed. It was actually a magnificent experience, careening toward the deep orange hues of the twilit sky to the west, surrounded by flocks of birds, with the wind mussing my hair. I actually closed my eyes for a few moments as I rode, allowing my aural and olfactory senses to experience it all. I reached the opposite end of the airstrip all too soon, but to my delight, found a couple large puddles several inches deep on the pavement. I sped through them several times over, washing several ounces of mud off my bike and getting myself rather wet in the process.

What an extremely fulfilling and satisfying day. I had to wash all the mud off my bike as soon as I got home, for if it allowed to dry, it becomes a nightmare to remove. But I must declare, 15 minutes of clean-up is worth several hours of getting messy. 15 minutes of getting messy is worth several hours of clean-up, for that matter.

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shawnbencon27547037 said...
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