Lahaina, Maui.

Locals call it the “Maui Merge.”

It’s enough to take a blissfully mellow tourist and perhaps get them as heated as their freshly acquired crimson sunburn.

It’s a merge that doesn’t take place within the lines of an ending lane, as one would imagine. Somehow that merge extends onto the shoulder and beyond. Watch out for the cyclist and the stray dog!

It’s almost like a game, I’m told, to see how far ahead of all the other cars you can get.

As I observe this type of manouevre in action from a Ford Escape rental vehicle, I can’t help but chuckle to myself. I guess some things stay the same no matter what kind of paradise you’re driving in.

But it’s not all bad, right?

If you’re not stuck in traffic on Maui’s west island’s main highway – which doesn’t always move at a highway-like speed – then you’re in luck. You’ll have a warm, tropical breeze flowing through the cabin, unless you’re in need of an air conditioning overdose to counteract the humidity.

Hawaii Route 30, also known as the Honoapi’ilani Highway, is a 56-kilometre stretch of road that you end up on when traveling to Lahaina or close to it.

A “family” reunion just happened to be taking place on one of Hawaii’s eight islands, which gave me a perfect excuse to beat the fall blah’s and grey skies that this time of year blesses us with. I use family in bunny ears since my BFF since childhood, Nikki, and I have been sister-like since grade three. Her family is my family. And vice versa.

And as families do, they try to figure out logistics and transportation; who will be going in whose car when it came to outings. A total of nine of us were vacationing together.

Luckily, my other sister, Minti lives on the island and had her Honda Odyssey to shuttle some adults, and her three daughters. Good thing. The Escape is roomy, though not that roomy. But when a chronic noise came from the brakes, the minivan was out of commission. Luckily for only a few hours, chaos could have ensued.

Being the car person, I accompanied her to a local shop.

Not only did her car get fixed very quickly, it gave insight into the local racing scene. Yes, there’s one on Maui and it’s probably not what you would have expected.

Owner of Kaanapali Car Care, Bill Throckmorton had his 1981 Chevrolet Camaro Z28 on the hoist. With a small block Chevy inside that produces upwards of 400 horsepower, this vehicle meant business. Dirty business.

From March to October, those looking for some wholesome family fun (and maybe some tailgating, whatever you interpret that to be!) are invited to the dirt track to watch him, along with fellow sprint car racers and demolition derby participants.

It takes place at the appropriately named “Paradise Speedway Maui.” (The website’s in the link, in case you’re as curious as I am.)

Regardless, I thanked him for his invite to the end-of-season event but our schedule was packed to the brim. Lahaina was a quick commute (sometimes) from the Honua Kai resort where all of us gathered.

It was a breath of fresh air. Not only because we got off the resort, but it borders along a picturesque coastline. It’s the kind of coastline that postcards are made of: full of palm trees shimmying to the music of the wind.

There you encounter scooters buzzing by, happy couples hand-in-hand and many modes of transportation intermingling.

Front Street in Lahaina has a little bit of magic to it, too. In 2011, it was named by the American Planning Association as one of the “Great Streets.”

Not every street can be great. They have guidelines.

The visit was all too short and then traffic met us on the other end. What happens when you want to escape the drawbacks of paradise driving and you’re stuck in in the back seat of a car?

Perhaps this is the answer. Envision yourself on a beach, holding a (virgin) piña colada. You’re lying on your towel with your eyes closed, let the crashing waves penetrate your ears. Then picture yourself driving your fastest lap at the Nürburgring.

Now that’s paradise.

Until the driver behind you honks and you get to crawl forward a metre or so.

“You’ll be at the beach soon,” you repeat to yourself.

Contact: alexandra [dot] straub [at] drivewaybc [dot] ca

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