2007 Volvo C70 Convertible

Sam Smith

That's not to say that Makawao is in any danger of becoming another New York City, or even another Honolulu. On the busiest street corner in town, it's still possible to stop traffic-literally-by raising or lowering a folding steel hard top. And while Volvos might not upset intersections in the rest of the world, if the C70's Makawao visit is any barometer, they now at least have a fighting chance at garnering second looks.

That's a good thing, because Volvo's new convertible deserves a second look. Yes, the C70 has its shortcomings, and if you ask too much of it, you'll most likely be disappointed. In normal driving, however, the car keeps its inadequacies well hidden. Most of the time, the C70 is quieter, more comfortable, and as fast as the sport coupe you may think you need. It's just too bad it offers no real sense of excitement.

Leaving Makawao's main thoroughfares, traffic tapers off, and it becomes easier to avoid the congestion and stay headed in the right direction. Naturally, if you're aiming for Haleakala, that direction soon ceases to be left or right and starts simply to be up. Once you pass the park's entrance and main ranger station, the road's winding ascent grows steeper. Well-paved, nicely graded, and nothing more than an endless series of 180-degree, 40-mph switchbacks connected with zigzaggy little straights, the two-lane road up Mount Haleakala resembles something from a dream. It reminds you of all those pictures you've seen of accordionlike passes in the Swiss Alps, only with more "turn on headlights in clouds" signs and twice as many opportunities to drive straight off the edge of the planet.

The best part, though, comes when you reach five or six thousand feet and realize that those signs are there for a reason. The ever-thickening fog you're ripping through isn't really fog-it's the volcano's perpetual cloud deck. After five or ten minutes, the road begins to disappear and then gradually reappears. At that point, it's obvious you're driving above the clouds.

The only thing that trumps the feeling of looking down onto an island-sized dance floor of cumulus is seeing that same dance floor violently explode into pinks, reds, yellows, and even blues as the sun burns a hole through the middle of it. Watching the sun set into a fiery heap, standing on top of a 10,000-foot volcano with a crater nearly big enough to hold the island of Manhattan, you look down on what little you can see of the island below, and you're hit with the inescapable notion that you're the only person on the face of the earth. Somewhere, deep off in the semiconscious recesses of your brain, the thought strikes you that, had there been a little less in the way of rain today, there would have been a little less cloud cover, and the sunset would have been just a tad less spectacular.

It rains all the time in Hawaii.


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