And an awesome car. 99% of Hawaii’s tourists rent a car. So everybody in the business spares little to bring the best into Hawaiian rental car lots. When I showed up as expected, there would be a magical, jet-lagged world waiting for me. I usually passed out by 6 PM and starved for breakfast by 3 AM. I skipped the luaus.
One day I was in Maui, and I got handed the keys to a brand new red 1991 red Mazda RX 7 convertible. It just came off the boat waiting for me. I was pretty excited because I’ve had my share of Corvettes, Miatas and Porsches, but I hadn’t had the second generation RX yet. I hadn’t driven a rotary engined vehicle and couldn’t wait. And I always liked Maui better than all the other islands. Not crowded like Oahu. Whenever I was in Maui, I would stay in Makena. Trying out a new RX in Maui would be especially nice.
Maui is filled with great places to see and experience, and one of them is the road to Hana. It is a one way ride that takes you 68 miles to get to a small Hawaiian town 52 miles away. Most of the time it goes through the Maui rain forest and the road does some pretty crazy stuff. It has blind curves, amazing panoramic views, vans full of Japanese tourists, cliffs, waterfalls and black beaches. It is a big deal on an island that is, by itself, a pretty big deal. Best of all, the road to Hana is filled with curves, and I happily discovered that nothing I have ever driven before, does a curve like an RX. There are supposedly 600 curves on the road which means that in the right car, the road to Hana is more fun than any roller coaster.
They ensured that the RX was parked near the front entrance, under the canopy, to my resort. It was polished with the top down. We had a satellite concierge desk on the property, so there were usually couple staffers waiting for me whenever I wanted the car, or needed anything. I had finished my work in Maui the day before and had time to take the car out to play.
First of all, while the RX was small, it used interior space far more wisely than other cars in its class. While I always struggled getting my size 12 feet around a Corvette, the RX gave me a lot of room to get comfortable. I love how this car’s stick shift rests at a perfect angle right in the palm of my right hand, and at a perfect height. The interior of this car not only fit like a fine calf skin glove, it was better than that because it was bigger in all the right places, like the difference between a regular Trojan and a Magnum XL.
The RX had a 1.3 rotary engine, Mazda’s most produced rotary. With the size of the car, weighing in at 2500 pounds, the engine turned the little red convertible into a terrific sports car. While Corvettes are easily more powerful, what the RX had over the Corvette – besides quality of materials, quality of build and ease of use – the RX cornered like no Corvette. It had a very low center of gravity with a perfect 50/50 weight distribution, so I had never experienced such handling.
Driving around the 600 curves on the road to Hana had me flat out laughing, and in more ecstasy than any newlyweds joining the Mile High Club. I pushed the RX ever faster into blind curves without once feeling that I reached its limits. I discovered that the suspension, handling and perfect transmission gearing allowed me to experience “g” forces like a carnival ride! Without the sticky floors or carnies! I never felt anything like it. As soon as I felt my skinny guts shift across the lumbar, I’d only need to take my foot off the accelerator to glide around the curves using the tranny.
I flew right up to the back of cars ahead of me, but since the car was so quick, I easily sped around Impalas, Sunbirds, Miatas and Sprinter vans puttering along at 20 mph, making me a pest for only a moment or two. The RX gave me a rush with how beautifully it slipped around anything that got in our way. Along the road are many beautiful waterfalls, overlooks, beaches and jungle scenes, so traffic would always get slow and heavy as tourists enjoyed the Hawaiian afternoon. It took a lot of will power for me to stop experiencing the driving thrills and take in the sights too. After flying by a cache of cars, knowing I could once again be stuck behind them, motivated me to keep smiling and pushing the little rotary hard around every bend and over every single lane bridge. The sharp Hawaiian sun, coupled with the fragrances of the rain forest and ocean, filled the cockpit. The rotary engine seductively sang, while the twin pipes did perfect percussion.
The car was so much fun, I had to force myself to get out of it and experience the black beaches at Wai’anapanapa. I’ve never seen black sand before. I carefully parked the RX and trotted down onto the asphalt colored beach. I quickly discovered a powerful need to walked as fast as I could to the waves because black sand is hotter than hell. Where the water was evaporating upon the sand was a wall of steamy heat. The water feels cold after roasting your toes to get to it. I snapped a dozen photos of my first black beach, then scrambled back sweating and burning. I then enjoyed the scene on the beach when other visitors discover the burning sands and watched as they performed an impromptu Watusi dance. The Pacific waters are impossibly blue and seeing paradise in black, blue and green, instead of tan, blue and green is really neat.
I reached Hana way too soon. It was a dinky little old Hawaiian town that it seemed everyone, except the guy in the new RX, was happy to be at. Since I had reached the end of the road, I decided to take a look around to see my destination for that day.
What I discovered was the grave of Charles Lindbergh. The air mail flyer, who after landing in Paris in 1927, endured global fame the rest of his life. After fortune, marriage, his son’s kidnapping, America First politics, having a popular dance named after him and constant unwanted celebrity, Lucky Lindy finally found peace at the end his life, at the end of this road, in this most isolated Hawaiian village. Damn, the dude deserved it!
Also I found what is called the seven sacred pools. There were lots of people taking lots of photos and trespassing over lots of private property. Hana presents a conundrum for folks who actually live there. Everyday you get outnumbered 1000 to 1 and most of the tourists want to get naked, leap into your sacred pools and pretend they have discovered the Garden of Eden. Your Eden – your land that you probably paid more than seven sacred digits to buy a piece of. There are NO TRESPASSING signs all over the place, but it seems that in paradise, people can’t or won’t, read English. Daily, an emergency helicopter has to fly an injured tourist out of Hana. With all the crush of half naked crowds, I doubt Lucky Lindy would have live in Hana today.
Riding back in the RX from Hana, was as fun as riding there. The difference was knowing that there is a limit to perfection. The excitement of the perfect car, on the perfect road, to the perfect rain forest paradise was tempered by knowing that you had to return to a place that wasn’t picture perfect. I hated giving up the RX later that week, but I had to. I had to fly to the Big Island, where they were waiting for me to do my job and give me the keys to a new Frosted Banana Yellow Nissan Z.