The highway to hello

Last updated 05:00 06/09/2013
Harley Landscape

ROAD TO HELL: Owning a Harley isn't a prerequisite for membership. You just have to have a cruiser.

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Maui on a Saturday night probably has its lively spots but Wailea - a carefully planned resort filled with swanky hotels and happy honeymooners - isn't one of them.

I head to the neighbouring town of Kihei in search of food and fun. In fact, I find both in the same shopping centre.

As I devour some fish tacos at a table outside Coconut's Fish Cafe, plenty of action is unfolding a few storefronts along at a bar called Diamonds.

A pride of Harley-Davidsons is propped outside. Their owners aren't hard to discern: leather and denim, vests and bandanas spill onto the footpath. These guys and gals don't know it yet but they're about to meet me.

Of course, I'm nervous about doing this - I wouldn't try this back home.

But being in a strange place can make you do strange things.

I sidle inside the bar: a band's playing, which makes me feel less conspicuous. Bikers are dancing and giving each other high-fives, others are playing pool.

I stand at a high table holding a few drinks and their owners eventually turn up, their vests all featuring the same distinctive logo: Kanaka Hekili. Hello, conversation starter.

A vest parks itself next to me - its owner a marine from Oahu. His club meets at this bar on the same holiday weekend every year. Joining the club, it turns out, isn't exactly easy.

After hanging around meetings for maybe six months, a sponsor transforms you into a prospect, he tells me.

What does that mean? "Prospect, bring me a coffee. Prospect, my bike's broken - come help me fix it," he says.

Maybe another six months go by before the prospect graduates from wearing a plain black vest to one embroidered with a masked and muscled figure holding a thunderbolt.

Kanaka Hekili translates as "Hawaiian Thunder". "But there's no thunder in Hawaii - only the sound of our bikes," he says. Ah, it's poetry.

Some guys have regular names stitched onto their vests; others have nicknames such as Hambone, Ransom and Turbo. Owning a Harley, however, isn't a prerequisite for membership.

"You just have to have a cruiser," one says.

With many club members being military or ex-military, the manners are exquisite. Anyone who swings by is introduced - the brotherhood's camaraderie is enviable.

Before long, though, they start to disperse. Someone's girlfriend needs to be fetched from the airport early. The rest kick their cruisers into life - they're heading to another bar down the street and want me to join them.

Springsteen's Born to Run pops into my head: could I wrap my legs around those velvet rims and strap my hands across those engines?

Not tonight, it turns out. It's time for this non-biker chick to buckle up safely, give her four wheels a rev and point them towards home.

The writer travelled to Hawaii courtesy of Holiday Specialists, Hawaiian Airlines and Hawaii Tourism Oceania.

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- Sydney Morning Herald


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