Heaven on Earth - Fall 2006 travel blog

ATV drive

ATV herd

ATV line up

ATV with horses

Parker Ranch

Parker Ranch

Parker Ranch

Parker Ranch

The weather was bright and sunny in Kona. From our experience it always is. Although this area is rather arid and covered with rough, jagged lava, the reliable sunshine has caused it to grow like crazy. You name a star or a business mogul- they probably own a home here or are in the midst of building one. The Ironman Triathalon is scheduled to take place here in about two weeks. These loony athletes are already here, swimming alongside our lifeboat as we tender in from our anchorage and madly peddling down the long, hot highways.

Back home when we met with our fellow companions and planned our shore excursions, I was hoping that someone would like to go on a horseback ride with me at Parker Ranch. Parker Ranch is the second largest cattle ranch in the US - the first being in Texas, of course. Who would guess a ranch on a relatively small island would generate 40% of the ranch raised beef in the US. The ready availability of fresh grass and water and the lack of predators explain why the ranch was begun long before Hawaii was a state. The fact that US law prohibits building a slaughterhouse less than 80 miles from the coast and the fact that nowhere in Hawaii is more than 80 miles from the coast means that the cattle must be shipped live to the US. Since another arcane law prevents the shipping from US port to US port unless it is on a US built ship (the US hasn't built ships in years) this means that the cattle cruise from Hawaii to Vancouver, stay in quarantine for months, and then are shipped to mainland US slaughterhouses for their final disposition. How the Parker Ranch can make a profit from this convoluted route to market is a mystery to me, but it's been working for over a century.

But I digress. No one wanted to go horseback riding with me, but Don wanted to ride an ATV at the ranch. Ken thought this would be fun and while I had my misgivings, I signed up as well. A few days ago Don had a bike accident on Haleakala so he canceled the ATV trip. Ken and I found ourselves on ATV's, even though this mode of transport had never really attracted us.

The ranch is beautiful. It's at almost 4,000 foot elevation and is one green hill after another. The cattle have a great view of the ocean as they chew their cud. As we got our ATV lesson, my heart began to sink. I hated the noise, I hated the fumes, I hated the dust and after two blocks of slow driving I didn't like how the vehicle handled. I couldn't make it steer where I wanted to go and my eyes were glued to the ruts I was supposed to follow rather than on the beautiful countryside. One of the guides noted my distress and offered to let me ride with the support team. I gladly took him up on his offer. I was the only one in a group of about thirty to chicken out, but I had a much better time than I would have on the ATV. When a woman of about my vintage flew over her handle bars and rolled her ATV twice, I was sure that I had made the right decision.

Ken never met a machine that he didn't like so he did just fine, of course. But even he admitted that some of the route which included very steep and rutted hills, kept his attention on the track rather than on the scenery. Next time I'll stick to the horse.

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