and I started cycling together a few years
ago, during a vacation in Whistler, B.C.
The owner of the bed and breakfast
where we stayed had a handcycle that I
could try. She also had a regular bike for
Sandra. We went off together along the
mountain paths, and it wasn’t long before
we were hooked, not only on the great
outdoors, but on an activity we could
enjoy together that would also help me
stay active. We decided that when we
returned to our home in Toronto, I’d buy
a handcycle. Since then, we’ve cycled
more and more each summer, including
a trip to the beautiful Confederation Trail
on Prince Edward Island. It was after this
trip that we knew we were ready for a
more challenging bicycle tour.
We had never been to Hawaii before.
Sandra picked a tour company, Bicycle
Adventures, out of the back of a cycling
magazine and sent them an e-mail asking if they had ever had a participant
who had a disability and used a handcycle. We were pleased to find out that the
owner had a daughter with a disability
and was somewhat familiar with accessibility issues and handcycles.
We left Toronto on a grey day in February and, for just under four weeks,
enjoyed visits to beautiful O‘ahu, Maui
and the Big Island of Hawaii. Hawaii is a
chain of islands, home to a very diverse
population of 1.25 million. It’s also an
amazing place for exploring, dining,
nature-watching and, of course, cycling.
I brought my handcycle from home.
We spent the week before the cycling tour
on O‘ahu. The stores and hotels in Waikiki, especially along Kalakaua Avenue, are
very accessible. We hung out in the surfer
town of Hale‘iwa and ate pineapple ice
cream at the Dole Pineapple Pavilion,
which is accessible except for the little train
that takes visitors through the pineapple
fields. We also visited Diamond Head, a
crater formed by a steam explosion
beneath the earth’s crust (the hike to the
top of the crater is not accessible). Sandra
learned to surf at Makaha Beach, and the
Handcycling in Beautiful Hawaii
From left: Tom and Sandra Proszowski enjoy the sunshine and scenery on Hawaii’s Big Island.
surf instructor, a wizened Hawaiian named
Walter, took us snorkelling with gigantic
green turtles. Hawaii is home to an incredible variety of wildlife, including whales
and spinner dolphins.
We flew to the Big Island, where we
met up with the Bicycle Adventure tour
staff and the other members of our sevenday tour, 14 people in all. Together, we
would ride approximately 400 kilometres,
almost the circumference of the island.
The organized tour was absolutely
great for Sandra and me. Doing the trip
on our own would have meant lugging
all our equipment, including a huge box
for the handcycle, tools, gear and suit-
cases. The tour company did all the work
and helped with technical problems.
The price per person for the tour was
about $2,600 (all prices in U.S. dollars),
which included hotels and most meals. The
hotels met ADA requirements, but were
not necessarily completely accessible. For
example, one hotel had accessible rooms,
but they were located at the end of hallways laid with thick carpeting that was
very difficult to roll over. Another hotel,
the Kilauea Lodge, was very accessible—
it even had a stair-glide into its restaurant.
We looked forward to riding with
people who knew the Hawaiian terrain
and where to go. Bicycle Adventures had
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Waterfalls can be found all over the islands.
done extensive research on the routes and
provided info sheets with odometer
markings. Sandra and I were able to
sightsee and take in all of the historical
elements of the island at our own pace,
knowing that if we got tired or hungry,
a van would bring water and snacks.
The tour began at Waikoloa Beach.
We cycled through rolling countryside to
a lookout over Waipio Valley and its
22 abilities / fall 2006
stunning cliffs. We saw waterfalls, papaya
plantations and the coast before arriving
at our hotel in Hilo Bay. And that was
just day one! Over the next few days, we
also marveled at a black sand beach, lava
flows, thermal pools, forests and lush
farmland (Hawaii has its own cowboys,
known as paniolo). We cycled 45 to 75
kilometres a day, with stops to rest and
take in the scenery. The diversity of landscape in Hawaii is astonishing – within
an hour, you can go from pristine beaches to lush jungles or the desolate top of a
volcano, where the terrain looks like the
surface of the moon. The air was perfumed with eucalyptus trees, sea salt and
tropical flowers, such as tuberose, plumeria and hibiscus, everywhere we went.
The handcycle performed well on the
terrain, which included asphalt roads,
gravelly paths and sand-covered roadways. I even did the 65-kilometre segment that took us from the top of a volcano down to sea level and back up
again. Due to lack of accessibility, I wasn’t able to take part in a couple of hikes
in Volcano National Park and Kilauea
Crater, but otherwise, I could get just
about everywhere on the bike. (There are
accessible trails in many parks, which are
marked on provided maps and within the
park.) Bicycle Adventures’ tour van was
not accessible, so I used my own strength
to get in and out of it.
As part of the tour, we visited a coffee
plantation and sampled the world-famous
Kona coffee. The site was not fully accessible, and Sandra pushed me across some
of the grassy areas. The tour also included an exciting whale watching and
snorkelling adventure on a catamaran. To
get on board, I swam out to the catamaran and the staff helped me aboard – my
wheelchair came out on a dinghy.
Sandra and I were both thrilled to
complete the entire 400-kilometre route.
Both of us challenged our physical limits on this trip, cycling distances and
heights not previously attempted. I felt
an incredible sense of adventure, freedom
and physical strength throughout the
tour, each day better than the last. Completing this adventure together certainly
made this leg of our journey a memorable one for us.
At the end of the tour, we bade farewell
to our new friends, then packed up and
flew to Maui. The condo we had rented
turned out to be inaccessible despite the
owner’s assurances, so we moved to The
Westin Maui Resort & Spa, which is very
accessible – and very pricey ($440 and up
per night). While on Maui, we drove the
famous Road to Hana, with its hundreds
of hair-raising switchbacks and 54 singlelane bridges, shopped at the very accessible Whalers Village beside the resort, and
strolled around the lively town of Lahaina,
which has curb cuts and accessible stores
and restaurants. One of the trip’s best parts
was scuba diving with Lahaina Dive Shop.
Their dive masters have the appropriate
certification to assist people with disabilities on dives. I appreciated how they listened to me, and together we were able to
come up with solutions for issues like
putting on and taking off my wetsuit and
getting off and back on the boat.
We spent the last three days of our
vacation back at Waikiki. Already, we
knew we’d love to return to the islands
some day. Not only are they beautiful,
but we were also enchanted by their residents. People in Hawaii are very friendly, and the population is wonderfully
diverse. Hawaii is a real melting pot of
ethnicities, cultures and religions, and it
seems that most people accept one
another. We can’t wait to go back and
enjoy the aloha spirit again.
Planning your own Hawaiian getaway? Check out these sites. (All prices are in U.S. dollars.)
(www.kilauealodge.com) on the Big Island (you
may need someone to help you with transfers
Hawaii’s Official Tourism Site:
to the restaurant stair-glide; staff can’t assist).
For a splurge, stay at the Westin Maui Resort
Tips from Hawaii’s Disability and Communica- & Spa (www.westinmaui.com).
tion Access Board: www.hawaii.gov/health/
dcab (choose “Community Resources”)
Transportation: Handicabs of the Pacific
(www.handicabs.com) provides paratransit.
Flights to Hawaii depart from Vancouver,
Edmonton, Calgary and Toronto and range from Dining: Skip the overpriced luaus – the food
$500 to $1,100 round-trip.
isn’t worth the $80 ticket, and there are plenty
of free hula shows. Instead, indulge at
Inter-island flights, $80 to $115, are offered Cheeseburger in Paradise (www.cheeseburger
by Hawaiian Airlines (www.hawaiianair.com), inparadise.com).
Aloha Airlines (www.alohaairlines.com) and
Island Air (www.islandair.com). Booking Diving: On Maui, go with Lahaina Dive Shop,
online is often cheaper.
www.lahainadivers.com. Boat bathroom is
accessible. You can hire a diving partner.
Accommodations: When renting a property,
get exact door widths, which way doors open, Cycling Tours: Bicycle Adventures, www.
info about stairs and ramps, etc. Have your bicycleadventures.com. You must be in fairly
contract say that if the property turns out to be good shape.
inaccessible, you will get a full refund and the
owner will pay the difference for an accessible Handcycles: For info, try Bikeface (www.bike
hotel room. We liked the Kilauea Lodge face.com) in Durham, Ont.
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