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“Haiku Hillbillys @ Bully’s Burgers” by Rick Chatenever

A very different set of Maui values were on view the following afternoon, four miles past Tedeschi Winery in Kanaio, where the road to Kaupo turns into a ribbon that looks like a heat mirage and the landscape looks like Montana with an ocean coast.

The Haiku Hillbillys were playing at Bully’s Burgers, a unique, only-on-Maui experience that gives new meaning to the term “roadside attraction.”

Named for rodeo champion Louis Bully DePonte, Bully’s is a latter-day chuck wagon run by his wife, Paige DePonte, and their kids. They serve burgers from the free-range cattle on their working ranch. Out here, where the occasional car or pickup shares the road with cowboys on horseback or ATVs, the ocean horizon frames windswept, craggy vistas unlike anything on Maui tourist brochures.

photo: jack grace

And who better than to make music here than irrepressible Randall Rospond, finger-picking master Rand Coon and the rest of the Hillbillys. With a repertoire heavy on road songs by folks like Dylan, Jackson Browne, the Grateful Dead and others, it’s fitting that they can claim this stretch of road – unlike any other in the American songbook – as their own.

Everything’s an outbuilding at Bully’s – the kitchen, the stage, the covered picnic tables down the hill. The road does double duty as the dance floor. It’s mostly free, except when the occasional Harley, or horse trailer, or parade of pastel hot rods passes by.

It’s surreal and sublime, beauty and danger in perfect balance. The burgers are great, too -in a spot like this, how could they be anything else?

With harmonica, fiddle, banjo and roadhouse vocals providing just the right soundtrack for this Western movie overlooking the Pacific Ocean, reluctantly I had to cut my Kanaio revery short.

They were celebrating Buddha’s birthday at the Maui Dharma Center in Paia later that afternoon, and I didn’t want to miss it.

Buddha had a lot to say on the subject of “samsara.” And Maui does a pretty good job filling in the gaps when it comes to interconnectedness.

* Contact Rick Chatenever at

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