Grandpa’s (1932) Bike Ride Around the Big Island

I posted a couple other stories by the late Gabriel Manning before.  One on his Survival Story of the 1946 Tsunami and the other was his Memories of the Hilo Massacre of 1938.

Gabriel Manning

Gabriel Manning

I got an email the other day from his grandson, Lance, telling me that the newspapers weren’t interested in his grandfathers story of his 1932 bike ride around the islands so I thought I would post it for you folks.

Lance and Grandpa Manning the night before the race

Lance and Grandpa Manning the night before the race

This was written by Lance Manning (Gabriel’s grandson).

Grandpa’s Bike Ride around the Big Island

During spring break in March 1932, Grandpa Manning, a native of Hilo, Hawaii,  embarked on a memorable bike ride. In preparation for a 1 mile and 3 mile community bike race on the 4th of July, he, just 16 years old, and a friend decided the best way to train was to ride around the Big Island.

Apparently, his daily 300-customer paper route was not enough cycling for him to feel confident about winning on race day. Today, at 92 years old, he looks back and describes himself as, very competitive.

So, on day one of the practice ride, he and Tommy Jewett started along the old road and headed north from Hilo. They dressed in the best biking attire of the day: shorts, t-shirt, and since biking shoes weren’t invented yet, they rode barefoot. In fact, at 14 years old, it was the first time he wore shoes though only to church.

The bike he rode had only one speed, so that required walking uphill in tough spots. Just in case of a flat, he carried a spare tire and pump. Knowing how to fix his bike brought necessary confidence to the journey.

Sufficient hydration did not come from a triathlon, aerobar water bottle. They found water wherever they could. Coming through Lapahuehue, spring water from the side of a cliff provided cooling sustenance. Staying fueled came by way of buying food when riding through towns.

Later that evening, friends in Honokaa welcomed the riders from a long day on the road. They slept well and, after an early 5 a.m. breakfast, continued westward toward Kona. The 320 mile loop became easier when, in Waimea, a tailwind pushed at their backs allowing them to coast for 10 miles. That came at a price though, as temperatures dipped into the 60s and the absence of raincoats left them soaked from the precipitation.

Having made good progress through Kona, day two’s stopping point was in the Kealakekua area. Grandpa knew a minister who lived here. So invoking the Hawaiian way of ìdropping inî, they just showed up at the doorstep. The Reverend Moses Moku happily welcomed his visitors for the evening. He killed a chicken, fixed dinner, and made them feel at home. They later bathed, slept, and after being treated like kings headed south to begin day 3 on the road. Reverend Moku would later officiate Grandpaís wedding to Grandma.

On the volcano side, the heat of the lava fields proved unforgiving. A 3 mile uphill climb walking the bikes pushed their limits. That night, they rested at the Kilauea military camp.

Then it was all downhill through Mountain View, followed by a quick 15 miles to Hilo.  3 days it took from start to finish: leg muscles worn out, lungs burning, and a multitude of views to remember for a lifetime.

The 80 hour workout certainly required some recovery time, but not until the paper route was done on the day of return. In reminiscing to tell this story, Grandpa proclaims that he was in top shape and recovered right away. Basketball, football, rowing, plus biking everywhere made him feel like he was made of iron.

But, was the workout worth it? Only race day results could justify. The 3 mile race amongst teens, Grandpa won by 15 lengths. He also took 1st in the 1 mile race. The medals placed around his neck were the first he ever won.

Seventy-six years later, with a smile on his face and still feeling the pride of victory, he proclaims the grandfatherly advice, “remember, you fight like you train!” Before the Big Island welcomed multi-speed bikes and Ironman World Championships, Grandpa conquered the roads of Hawaii.

2 Responses

  1. That’s a great story about an impressive ride.

    But…even in those days, I don’t think it was 320 miles around the Big Island!

  2. Again Damon, please thank the Manning family for sharing these wonderful stories of “old” Hawaii. It amazes me that this man was able to bike the island in three days. The belt road wasn’t even built.

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