Just before pedaling away to cover 60 miles on Saturday, Paul Perry was all smiles as he chatted with a friend and waited for the official start of Paradise Ride Kauai.
He was ready.
“I just love to ride. If I can make the riding count for something, that’s even better,” he said.
With that, following a blessing, a message from Mayor Bernard Carvalho, Jr., and to the honk of a horn and enthusiastic shouts, Perry and about 75 other bicyclists were off. They headed out from Island School in a light rain to cover the first leg of a two-day bike ride to benefit Malama Pono Health Services.
Their destination would take them north on Ke Ala Hele Makalae coastal path, pass through rolling hills of Eastside neighborhoods, and take a lunch break at Na Aina Kai gardens before heading back.
Today, they’ll head south to the Tree Tunnel and Spouting Horn, historic Hanapepe Town main street, loop back for lunch at the Kauai Coffee Company visitor center, and then return to Island School to celebrate cycling more than 100 miles over two days with a luau.
The event is a supported bicycle ride, not a race, through some of Kauai’s most beautiful areas. Less experienced cyclists had the option to ride only one day and ride fewer miles.
No matter how many miles each rider planned to go, Mistee Bailey- Myrick, executive director at Malama Pono, credited them with being awesome.
She said their efforts were important for the nonprofit, whose mission is to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS, viral hepatitis and sexually transmitted diseases on Kauai and to serve those infected with or affect by these diseases.
“That’s why this is possible. I just cannot express how grateful I am,” she said.
Paradise Ride Kauai launched in 1998, and became Malama Pono’s biggest annual fundraiser. This year, residents were joined by riders from the Mainland, Japan and Canada.
“It’s one of our best and most community based events that we have,” said Malama Pono board member Paul Kraselsky.
Among the riders was Tom Biehn, treasurer of the board for Malama Pono. He planned to cover 60 miles on his black mountain bike, unlike the colorful, lighter road bikes many others had.
“Most people have skinny tires. I’m a fat tire guy,” he said. “I am not a professional. I’m just out for fun.”
Biehn was confident it was going to be a beautiful day — though he admitted there might be some pain involved.
“I’m a runner and a swimmer, not necessarily a biker,” he said, smiling. “So we’ll see. You might want to talk to me a little later today.”
Karl Miyake of Kapaa was excited about being part of the Paradise Ride. He put in some solid training to prepare for it.
“I think it’s for a good cause,” he said. “Our efforts stay on island.”
Each cyclist committed to raising at least $300. Funds raised go toward paying Malama Pono’s bills, so they can keep the doors open. The money also allows Malama Pono to continue its prevention programs for Kauai youth, and to bolster a three-year project to eliminate Hepatitis B, the main cause of liver cancer on Kauai.
“Every dime stays here on the island,” Kraselsky said.