Friday, December 28, 2012

Vacation Time

This is a just a quick post to let you know I'm out on vacation for 2 weeks and my father came over on Christmas day.  We are busy hitting up the country and I'll be posting about it later.

Things we are doing:
orphan xmas bbq with other expats.
hauraki rail trail (2 days around 90km total)
mt maunganui hot pools
Hobbiton Tour
Hello Bilbo? Frodo? Are you home?

Bag's End

Tongariro Alpine Crossing (well part of it, as some of it is closed because of the last eruption).  It is open till just before Emerald Lakes.
Wellington visit cousin, Te Papa Museum, and possibly Weta Cave?

Monday, December 10, 2012

Gutted by their decision

Summer means cruise ships which means tourists
There will be much rejoicing and lamenting.  Why?  I'll be in the States in about 6 weeks.  I'll be moving back from New Zealand.  I had been in talks with my employer about staying on as a full-time employee as an IT Manager.  Last week I was told that they don't have the budget for the position, but with the PGP application there might be funding in the future and to keep in touch.  Instead, I'll be doing my bike tour as I planned earlier this year.  I'll be unemployed living off the money I've been saving. 

So just like that I'm back in bike planning mode.  What started as an off the cuff remark by Phil spiraled into Beth and I putting ourselves out there and wanting to stay in New Zealand.  Yes, I'm disappointed about the decision as well as Beth.  She was really looking forward to moving back.  After the snow that got dumped on her today even more so.  For all those that I talked to and gave advice it was noted and I'll see you in January.  I'm planning to start my bike tour in March allowing me to spend some time at home and helping out at my niece and nephew's school fund raiser.  I'll also be enjoying some ice climbing with Kyle and Bethany from Eden Guides as well as some ribs and ramen.
My food supply has moved closer again.

I spared you guys the several long pages recapping what I've done over the past several months as far as my job is concerned.  Lets just say I did more than be a data analyst and that I learned a lot and implemented a lot of new things.  

I may have been contacted by a recruiter for a Business Systems Analyst position and I may have sent in my cv.  I'll hear back by the end of the week if I am to interview next week.  Its in a cool area, even though the town is really small.  I've biked through it a few times on the K1 and K2 rides.  Its a small town of Thames.  

Monday, November 26, 2012

Challenge yourself daily

Summer means cruises and lots of tour buses.
 I've not posted lately as I've been very busy.  My body is feeling good since the accident.  My bike has a new set of wheels on it and it runs fine.  Actually I had a little issue with it this past weekend, but I'll get to that.  The weather is starting to feel like summer as it was 23 (~73F) degrees today.  I've also received my Road ID and the title of the post is my new mantra.  In order to grow you have to push your limits.  My US version is "Only count on yourself".  Nobody is going to make you do anything and if you want something you have to work for it.  Just my point of view and what drives me to do what I do.  Enjoy reading and getting tired from my past week.
Welcome Bay, side hill.

So last weekend I did my first real ride since getting hit.  We did a casual ride of ~80km leaving at 7:30 on Saturday morning.  We rode down Welcome Bay Road and did a couple of the hills for good measure.  I stopped and took some photos of us going up.  It ended up pissing down (raining) once we got to Papamoa and I was pretty chilled by the time I got home.  Overall it wasn't a bad ride, but I was nervous in traffic.  We got buzzed a couple times pretty close, but I kept on straight line.  We had a lone puncture, but it took 3 people to change it.  It looked like a pit crew. 

The following day, we went out to the Redwoods for some mountain biking.  We spent over 3 hours going up and down the various trails.  We hit some of our favorites and hit some trails we hadn't ever been on as well.  Tim introduced me to a guy from Virginia, who happens to work at a rival outdoor store.  We had a good time and as is custom I put the bike down and got a little scrapped up.  I was going to slow and my tire slid out on some roots.  Oh well.  I'm really enjoying riding the trails and decided to make my old mountain bike back in the States a single speed.  Why?  Its old and the cost to fix the worn components would be more than the bike is worth.  I can convert it pretty cheap and there isn't all that much elevation change in MN so I could just get the gear ratio right and power through anything that might challenge the chose ratio.
Climbing at the Mount

On Monday, I met up with the guys from Koop's for a gym session.  These things can be brutal, but I can feel my fitness getting better.  Every workout is different, but you can be guaranteed to sweat a lot.  In the afternoon, I went out for a run around the Mount.  It was a relaxing run and not too many other runners.  Unlike yesterday when a cruise boat was in the harbor and the Mount was packed with tourists.  Ugh.  They can't decide which side to walk on.  I decided to do the Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge and secured a ride and accommodation.  The race is on Saturday and consists of 160km around New Zealand's largest lake.
One last climb before dusk.
Tuesday, we got together and did some climbing at the Mount.  For as many times as I've gone to the summit, I've never noticed the bolts.  Tim and I were out there a couple weeks ago and since then I can spot the many routes from the trail.  There were 4 of us doing this night and we had enough light to do 4 ascents apiece.  We did 2 short and 2 medium length climbs.  With practice my grip strength will improve so I can last longer as it didn't seem to last that long.  The others didn't even get pumped but my forearms were giant.  I also need to read the routes a little better before ascending as I got myself stuck at a dead end when I should have branched to the right about a meter below I got stuck.  Down climbing wasn't really an option as I kept trying to navigate to the hand holds to the right, but it would have been a crazy dyno.  Oh well, next time I will get it.  I've got the time to climb, just need to find more partners that are also as open with their time.
Port of Tauranga, wonder how much for a container.
Wednesday, I went to the gym again in the morning and Beth had informed me from across the World the previous day that there was a splash and dash event going on.  It was for a team of 3 to do a relay of ~400m swim and ~1.5k run.  I quickly emailed around to some friends and found out that the teams were randomly assigned and you just had to show up.  I was incredibly sore from my latest activities, but I decided to give it a whirl anyway.  I walked down the beach to the start and ran into Matt and Sarah.  Sarah ended up doing a long ride while Matt did the "race".  I was partnered up with Sam and Sara (different one).  Sam and I were rocking awesome facial hair and Sara unfortunately didn't get the memo about the team uniform.  We gave her a pass this time.  Sam was rocking a lemmy.  The event ended up being closer to 300m of swimming and 2k of running and it was a good test for me as I haven't swam in my wetsuit for a race.  My transition wasn't the greatest as I struggled to get it off my wet feet.  Things to practice I guess.
Crushing small bikes since 2012.
Thursday would have been Thanksgiving if I was in the States.  Instead I took it easy and just did some yoga and stretching.  I also started to get my gear organized for the weekend.  With all the rides I've been doing, I wished I had brought more cycling gear.  I brought 1 jersey and 1 pair of shorts.  I bought 2 more jerseys and 2 more pairs of bottoms, but it doesn't seem like enough.  I just ended up doing a lot of laundry during the week.  Nothing like lots of sweaty clothes in my laundry basket between working out, running, and biking.
Massive chain

Friday (Thanksgiving back home), I called family and wrote emails to friends.  I'm trying to convince my dad on coming out and visiting during Christmas vacation.  I get about 2 weeks off.  There is a list of things I would love to do.  Right now I've been invited to an Orphan's Christmas with other ex-pats and then Matt invited me to Taupo with his friends and family to enjoy the bounty that Taupo has to offer.  I did a little stretching and Rob stopped by to pick up my gear for the Taupo ride.  When I talked to my family, they got tired just listening to what I have been doing and what I planned on the weekend.

Saturday was an early morning, 4:00 to be exact.  I took a quick shower, ate breakfast, and then rode down to the intersection of Totara and Hwy 2 to wait for my ride.  Colin swung by shortly before 5 and we then met up with Rob.  I hadn't met either of these guys before Friday and Saturday, but they were willing to give me a fair shake as I'm a mate of Martin's.  I wrote about Martin from my K2 trip.  We had to be down in Taupo shortly after 7 to get organized for our 8am start.  I met up with Matt and a couple of his mates and started the race with them, but quickly separated myself as I was riding at a faster pace than them.  There were a bunch of inexperienced riders and heaps of people on the side of the road changing flats.  I felt like I did much of the ride solo even though I was in the "lead" of a pace line.  I say this because nobody wanted to share the burden of riding in the front.  I tried to slow my pace to force someone to take the lead, but it didn't work.  I just kept to my pace and took in the scenery.  It was a pretty scenic ride.  You got to see a snow capped Mt Ruapehu and Mt Doom in the distance and a beautiful blue Lake Taupo as you descended Waihi Hill.  I finished in 5:25 which is what I was aiming for a sub 5:30.  Martin thought I should be doing a sub-5 with the size of my legs.  I'm sure if I had been doing intensity training rides, I could have ridden harder, but my rides consist of commuting at about 30 km/h and then a long ride here and there at the same pace.  So to keep pace of 33+ for ~5hrs isn't something I've trained for at all since moving here.  If I'm here next year I would toss in several of those sessions to improve both my K2 and LTCC times.  Here is a cool time lapse video of the course
My food is wandering about.
Sunday we came back midday with  a stop at the Waiotapu Mud Pools.  Pretty cool to look at, but I was more interested in the tramping behind the pools as there looked to be some cool bush tracks.  We left later than planned from Taupo as getting breakfast turned almost into lunch as all the places were packed with cyclists.  How could I tell?  Guys with shaved legs of course!  Once we got back to Tauranga, I felt like a cat nap (Kiwis call them nana naps).  I didn't though and instead decided to tackle the summit of the Mount.  My legs were a little tight from the ride, but I decided I would take the steep fire road to the top.  I came across a lot of tourists and we played the game of what side do I walk on?  I figure that you mimic car traffic.  If you drive on the left, walk on the left and vice versa. 

This week I have a holiday dinner with the folks from macpac and we are doing a little secret santa gift.  Then this weekend I might volunteer at the Tinman Triathlon.  The triathlon group said they were short on volunteers during the splash and dash.  Later that day work is having a holiday BBQ at Jen's house.  I'll have to find a ride out there or ride my bike up the Kaimai Range.  I've driven up that way once and its steep, but manageable if you pace yourself.  I don't think traffic would like it too much though.  So that is what I've been doing.  I'll be back in the States in about 8 weeks and we'll start a new adventure shortly after that.


Thursday, November 8, 2012

Why I ordered and use Road ID

I'm not getting paid to say this, but if I was I would probably only get a free Road ID.  I'm no stranger to the Road ID as I have one back in the States.  It doesn't do me a whole lot of good here in New Zealand as all the number are for US contacts.  At the same time I bought mine I got one for my brother as well.  Why the sudden post and promoting of this product? 

My tale starts this past Monday when I was on their site contemplating buying another one.  I've been in New Zealand for a fair spell and my riding has increased dramatically.  I am also aware that drivers don't like cyclists all that much as well.  So I was looking at getting one with my New Zealand contacts on it, but I didn't purchase one.  On Tuesday morning while commuting to work, I was hit by a car.  I had several thoughts going through my head ranging from 'don't hit my leg' to 'who would be contacted about my injuries'.  The simple answer would have been nobody.  If I would have been seriously injured, it would have taken a while to track down a person who knew me.

In my phone, I have Beth as my ICE contact but that doesn't much matter as her number is down as she left the country.  Then in my phone I have lots of US numbers and a handful of Kiwi contacts but not an easy to sort them.  It wouldn't have been easy to track someone down if I was seriously hurt.  So I came back to the flat after my ordeal and ordered my 2nd Road ID. 

I could have gone and ordered the interactive one, but I would rather the person have contact info at their finger tips and not rely on having internet access.  So I've opted for the Elite band again, which allows for 3 contacts to be engraved in the ID.  So as being a repeat customer and the guys and girls at Road ID having awesome customer service they are going to pass on a little savings to you if you use the code below when you order yours within the next 30 days.

When in the States, I don't run or bike without it.  It is like floatation devices in planes, you hope you never have to use them.  If you do, you know its serious.  So if you or a loved one takes to the street for any activity that gets in close proximity of cars be awesome and buy a Road ID.  They make various IDs and it gives you peace of mind that if something happens your family and friends will be notified.

Coupon Number: ThanksKaleb19200756

The coupon is good for $1 off any Road ID order placed by 12/09/2012. To order, simply go to or click the link below:

If you prefer, you can call them at 800-345-6336.

Oh by the way, their website is awesome, the customer service is outstanding, and the owners are very smart and good looking.  The same is said about me except for my customer service. 

End Promotional Unpaid Ad.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Bad news, I was hit by a car. Good news, I walked away.

 I'm nursing a sore body and a building headache.  It could have been that I watched some of Soul Plane or all the the DaVinci Code.  Neither one would I recommend.  I also don't recommend getting hit by a car.  Got word from the shop that the frame is good and only the wheel needs to be replaced.  I'm thankful for that, but I probably wont be riding for a few days to allow my body to unwind itself.

Still in shock, but I should buy a lottery ticket today as luck is on my side after being able to walk away from my bike/car accident.  Some minor scrapes and a sore back are the extent of my injuries.  I don't know how my bike fared though.  The back wheel looks like a pringle and I didn't bother inspecting the frame.  Too worried about my own well being.  I was hit turning through a round-a-bout by a car going straight.  I was almost out of the round-a-bout when my back wheel was hit and I slide off my bike across the ground.  I brought my right arm up to protect my head and tried to relax my body as much as possible. 

I should be fine as I stopped by a clinic and got examined right away.  Convienently there was one about a block away.  It was my first time going to a clinic here in New Zealand.  Not very different from the States.  Anyway.  Just last night, I was looking at to update my identification/alert tag as it has all my US contact information.  This little bracelet goes on my wrist almost everyday when I'm back in the States as I'm either running or biking and I want my loved ones to know if something happens to me on an outing.  After my accident this morning, I'll be placing my order tonight.  I just have to figure out who I want as my contacts as Beth is not here.  It wasn't my first time being smacked by a car, but it is no less jarring.  I'm feeling lucky as it could have been worse.  So don't count on tomorrow as you never know what will happen when you step out your door.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

K2 Ride Review

First off so you don't waste anytime wondering if I rode the entire thing.  Achievement Unlocked.  We rode K2 this past weekend and it lived up to their claim of "the toughest one day cycle challenge in the Southern Hemisphere."  Or at least it did in my mind.  So how did I get to the starting line?  Well I thought it would be a good idea to do some of the iconic races while I was down here and so I entered K2.  I am currently toying with entering Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge and Port of Tauranga Half Ironman (relay team, where I am the swimmer).  Then there are the non-event, but fun things to do that I've been slowly ticking off.
Scenic lookout on Pumpkin Hill
Back to how I got to K2.  So last month I decided to go with the guys from Koop's and do the K1 course.  This consisted of going from Coromandel to Tairua which was approximately 106 km.  I finished the training ride, but was hurting as my longest road ride was about 40 miles since moving here and I ran out of food and water on Kopu-Hikuai (see Webster for long ascent).  I also put in an extra 20 km on the day by biking to and from the shop.  Gotta love not having a car to drive to a ride.  Then again, getting groceries and to far off places kind of sucks.  Not to mention the crappy winter rain season of drenching proportions.  So I did a few more long rides with the guys I ended up going to the race with.  This consisted of Martin (South African), Clive (Kiwi), Matt (British), and Willie (Kiwi of Dutch Descent).  We were like the United Nations of Biking this past weekend!  We rode to Rotorua, did the 5 Angels, and the Welcome Bay loop together.  I also did my daily commuting and some other short stints on the bike by myself and once with Faye.
Water-side of the bach

We left early Friday morning to get to registration by 1 pm.  We all met up at the Tairua Rugby Club and got our packets.  Since I didn't know how fit I would be I said it might take over 8 hours to do the ride.  So I got put in Group 10.  Everyone else but Clive were in 9, with Clive being in 8.  The groups were assigned by anticipated completion times.  Lets say some people over-estimated their fitness and under-estimated the course as many people didn't finish in their anticipated time.  However, they did finish and that in itself is an accomplishment on this tough course.  We then went and did some recon of the first ascent, Pumpkin Hill, which is right outside Tairua.  The view is pretty stunning at the top of Pumpkin, but that can pretty much be said about the entire race course.  I had my head on a swivel the entire ride as it was so stunning.  I'm pretty sure if I was paying more attention to riding, I might have gone faster.  Oh well.  Everyone who visits, should drive around the Coromandel Peninsula and if you're adventurous bike around it.  We did see many loaded touring bikes as we raced.  Martin had organized a bach for us to stay at in Pauanui and this place was ridiculous.  4 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms with a deck that stretched around half of the building and a patio on the half.  Then there was a dock and his own boat ramp.  We were definitely in the nice part of Pauanui as we were on the  waterways.  We had a big spread of lasagna and salad for our evening meal and retired early as it was bound to be a long day.
View from the bach

Race day:
We woke up early and got kitted up, but Martin took it a step further.  We could hear him prancing around the kitchen in his cleats.  All we could hear was tap tap tap as he was making his breakfast.  We had to be at the starting line at 7:30 and it was about a 20 minute drive to Tairua from where we were staying so we packed up and headed out at 7.  However, as we were starting in the later groups, we didn't end up starting for some time and had to wait around in our groups as the lower wave got to leave ahead of us.  There were 4 minutes between each group.  Finally it is time for group 9 to go and the announcer just decided to lump in group 10 as well. It wouldn't have mattered much as I was going to jump groups at the beginning to ride with the guys.  We quickly leave Tairu and within the first 5 minutes we are tasked to take Pumpkin Hill in all of its 240m of switchback glory.  I spun comfortably up the first climb with 3 cogs to spare.  However, not everyone found it easy.  This was unfortunately where we dropped Matt.  He went on to ride mainly solo for the rest of the day.  His biggest pack would be 3 people.  I quickly ascended to the top and spun easy waiting to regroup with Martin and Willie.  I had set some mental goals for this ride.  1st was not to run out of food and water.  Mission Accomplished. I ran out of solid food, but didn't go hungry as there were bananas, oranges, and jelly beans.  I also had a half a bottle of Accelerade left to drink and powder for another serving.  Water and Electrolite mix were readily available at the water stops.  Many of which were located 2/3 of the way up a steep climb.  Strange location.  It could have been worse and been on the opposite side of the summit.  My 2nd goal was not to exceed 140's bpm on the flats and then stick in the 160's on the climbs to try to conserve my energy.  I averaged 144 bpm with 176 bpm max.  Martin took a different approach and was keeping at 155 bpm for a long time.  A decision he regretted later when we cramped unexpectedly and his cadence went to almost nil.  He even wrote last night that he is still finding it hard to walk.
Spent our afternoons here drinking tea and telling tales

The next stage is reportedly the hardest.  I would have to agree that the final hill before Coromandel was the hardest.  Having to relieve myself, I worked hard to outpace the group I was with so that when I pulled over, I wouldn't have to work that hard to catch back up.  In practice, this didn't work as well as I planned as I pushed close to 40 km/h to catch up.  Just in time for a steep .8 km hill.  This took a lot out of my legs.  A hard solo effort with a short break off the bike and then another hard effort.  The name of the stage includes the maori word for 'to inspire fear'.  In a way I'm glad I had no idea what was coming up as I was busy chatting with other riders who had done the ride.  They kept saying that this was the worst hill between their huffing and puffing.  It was long and it was steep.  This stage follows with a climb up the Kuaotunu Hill rising to 170m and back down again to sea level and the township of Kuaotunu. The ride continues on towards Coromandel with three shorter steep climbs before reaching the big one, the Whangapoa Hill. On the ascent there was an aid station and even some comic relief.  2 signs pretty close together read "Drafting Permitted" and a couple meters away was "Cardiac Corner".  I think I took the corner at 10 kmph.  It was slow going as it was a drastic switchback and steep.  It was also towards the end of the 5.9km ascent.  You were treated to a fantastic view of both coastlines, but the blue water out from Coromandel stole the show. There is a steep downhill with a wicked hairpin bend at the bottom known as Devils Elbow (so be extremely careful).  This turn was toward the bottom of Whangapoa and it is posted to take at 15 kmph.  It almost doubles back on itself and the roads weren't closed.  I had a couple people shout get off the road, but for the most part we had a lot of cheering spectators and a lot of volunteers.
Trusty steeds
After descending Whangapoa, we arrived in Coromandel so I knew the rest of the race course.  I was only worried about Kopu-Hikuai.  I once again had to go to the bathroom, but since both Martin and Willie had stopped for water, I assumed I was safe in doing so.  Wrong.  I was dropped by my mates.  I got on my bike and downed the rest of my granola bar (google bumper bars, they are super tasty) and a bottle of water.  I tried to catch them, but they always seemed to be 20m ahead of me on the first hill out of Coromandel.  It was at this point that the K1 racers started.  So I had to deal with large packs of fresh legs darting past me.  Group 1 was past before I realized, but Group 2 wasn't so lucky.  I managed to jump on a bunch of about 30 riders and we clipped to Thames at roughly 40 km/h.  I was in rough shape at Thames as I cramped and needed to eat and drink.  It was hard to eat and drink in a fast pace line as we were also passing slower people on the right.  I happened to see Willie and Martin on the side of the road.  Evidently Martin had had a bad cramp and needed to get off the bike.  Willie was the diligent domestique and waited.  I also road past Clive and shouted to grab a wheel if he could.  He had some mechanical issues with his front derailuer, but managed to finish the race.
We got mighty hungry post ride

The final stage is from Thames to Tairua and it is a ball buster.  This stage is named after the highest point on the course with a steady rise from sea level up to 425m. The hill starts about 10km into the stage and is a steady 14km climb through sub-tropical rain forest to reach the top. The final kick of the hill is 5.4km with your last chance at an aid station.  Afterwards is an exciting downhill section with a few turns to begin with followed by a 100 km/h straight. I was reserved and only hit 76 km/h.  Willie hit 94 according to his Garmin.  It was at the aid station where I was busy making a bottle of Accelerade and chowing on some food that Clive and Willie caught up.  I didn't get to see Martin until the end of the race.  Clive and I left together, but his chain dropped twice and I caught the wheel of a bunch pacing at 30 km/h.  I decided that 7 hours on my bike was long enough and kept on their wheel. I was joking with a group of K1 riders that if a K2 rider had enough energy to sprint at the end of the ride that they didn't ride hard enough.  There was a girl from group 6 that decided to sprint to the finish.  I finished in 7:18 and burned 7500 calories.  As I was checking my watch I saw English Pete, who rode the K1 training ride with Koop's, finish along with Clive, Willie, and Martin.  We then changed and waited around for the awards and spot prizes (door prizes).  We were still missing Matt.  He ended up finishing in 8+ hours, but his goal was just to finish. 
My room for the weekend.  Bunk beds!
That night we had bobotie and tumeric rice for dinner and basically polished off the rest of my caramel oatmeal cookies.  My monster cookies crumbled apart, but went over well.  We also stood in the waterway in our boxers and briefs to cool our legs.  We must have been quite a sight.  There are some pictures of us toasting to a well fought day.  People said that once is probably enough.  I'm thinking that I could knock off a bunch of time and could probably do it in 6:30.  It would be one of those races, that I would travel back for.  It is very scenic and the area has a lot of nature to offer.  The race was only part of the fun we had over the weekend.  The stories and tales we told and the welcoming spirit were what defined the weekend for me.  Listening to Martin weave tales of his adventurous past or those of the others, it seems that every country has some jokers and I just happen to find them.

Then on Sunday we had a short recovery ride and breakfast in the happening city center of Pauanui.  Willie had a cousin in town, so she stopped by and chatted for a bit.  After that we cleaned up the bach and headed back to Tauranga.  I fell asleep on the way back and woke up in Katikati.  After getting dropped off, I had to bike to the store for some groceries as I needed fresh veggies and fruit as I missed the Sunday Farmer's Market.  There will always be next week to get to the Farmer's Market.

Now I'm looking at Cycle the Lake, which is 2 laps (42km each) around Lake Rotorua this coming weekend.  Then the Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge, 160km, on November 24 and possibly swimming 1.2 miles on Jan 5th.  I guess I better start training.  Before you know it, I'll be back in MN for my brief appearance.  You can admire my awesome biker tan then!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Almost feels like summer

The Mount from the harbor bridge
Don't want to jinx it but it is getting up in the 20s and feeling a bit like how summer should feel.  I haven't had summer in over 12 months.  We left MN in April to come to New Zealand to experience their winter (aka lots of rain) and were supposed to be back in September for fall back in MN.  Change of plans and I get to experience summer instead of 3 winters without a summer, sorry Beth. 

The days are getting longer and the temp is increasing.  Unfortunately so in the wind.  We are getting pounded with crazy winds all the time.  However this past weekend was awesome.  I have a separate post for it, but lets just say the weather was stunning.  Today I got the paddle board out for 30 minutes on Pilot Bay before my quads and feet couldn't take any more.  So I paddled in, but I did do 1 full lap of the boats and then half.  So next time, I'll increase either the distance or speed at which I do it.
Slipped off the pedal while going up my driveway. 

We got our first cruise ship in as well.  I was biking into work this morning and the road I live on was busier than normal.  It was lined with taxis and bike hire vans and there was a giant cruise ship docked at the dairy at the end of the Mall next to the police station.  My boss went out for a walk today at lunch and said she heard a lot of different accents coming from the old people today.  So she knew they weren't the typical old people around Tauranga.

I'm getting spotted more and more by people I know.  Its a weird sensation to start fit in.  I get honked and waved at by friends who see me walking or biking around.  I get flagged down while riding to join up with the bunch ride.  A guy I rode with this past weekend was working at my boss's house and he mentioned he was doing K2 and she commented that I was doing K2 and if he knew me.  Of course he did.  Its a small place this Tauranga, but its big enough that not everyone knows me. 
Can you notice the large gouge in my old tire?

I'm in the process of writing a recap of K2 and I have plans on doing several other rides in the next month.  There is the ride around the lake, which is is 2 laps (42km each) around Lake Rotorua and then the 160km ride around Lake Taupo.  After that I might have to find some other rides to do.  The areas I've been riding are nothing like home.  There is elevation and crappy roads.  Its not to say our roads are awesome back home year round, but after construction season the asphalt is amazing.  Here they put down what they affectionately call 'big chip' on top of fresh asphalt.  Why?  I have no idea, but I'm sure it has something to do with pissing off bikers.  On an awesome note and I hope I don't jinx myself, but I haven't had a flat in over 1300km!  I can't praise my Gatorskin tires enough.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Impromptu trip to see ITU World Championships

ITU Flyer

So on this past Friday, I decided to spend the long Labor Day weekend in Auckland watching the ITU World Championships.  For those that don't know or care, I like to do various distance triathlons.  I'm working my way up to an Ironman in the next couple years.  The ITU is keen on the Olympic Distance (1500m swim, 40k bike, and 10k run), but this weekend had sprint as well.  How did this come about?  Well, I was reading the paper during morning tea and saw a good article on the weekend's events.  I thought to myself, when am I going to be near this type of opportunity again.  So I darted back to my desk and looked at buses to Auckland.  Yes, I know I don't like buses, but they are cheap.  I look at my options and it wouldn't get me there until after the elite women have already gone and most of the U23 men's race would have been completed.  So I contacted the last rental agency that we used and got a car for the long weekend.  They were even kind enough to pick me up from work.  I then booked a dorm style room on  Seemed like I went from doing a little biking over the weekend to darting up to Auckland in about 10 minutes. 

Andrea from the New Zealand National Team.

I decided to wake up early and head up to Auckland before 7am.  The drive was very peaceful and I was graced with some awesome driving weather.  No rain and the wind was almost non-existent.  The sun was out for most of the drive as well.  Driving through the Kaimais is always fun and then looking off the road at various tramping tracks and little reserves.  I put a mental check next to each one to pursue at a later date.  For right now, I'm a man on a mission.  I'm about to see if the Kiwis can defend off some stellar competition on their home turf.  I get to Auckland and locate the parking ramp behind the hostel ($40 for 2+ days of parking btw).  Its early so you can't check in until after 1pm.  Saturday I watched the U23 women and men as well as the elite women.  The course was laid out in the CBD so it was very spectator friendly.  I used it to my advantage to wander to different vantage points throughout the race to get a better feel for the choke points.  The swim was uneventful in the sense that it was 2 laps next to Queen's Wharf.  Not much to see other than splashing and swim caps.  The bike course consisted of 8 laps of a hills and sharp turns.  It reminded me of the Stillwater Crit course for Nature Valley Grand Prix.  The run course doubled up over part of the bike course and the athletes had to do 4 laps. 
Kris Gemmell broke away for 3 laps on the bike ride.  Epic

The weather on Saturday was warm with a chilly wind, but Sunday was cold and at times rain was pouring down.  So the elite women lucked out with their weather and the men got drenched and I believe the bike was slowed because of it.  For both days, I was particularly interested in seeing how the riders would cope with the corner of Victoria and Queens after coming down from Albert Park.  It is a pretty honest descent with lots of generated speed into a 90 degree turn.  I saw a couple people get close to smacking the barrier and a couple shouts for riders to slow down.  I personally didn't see anyone go down, but I saw the missing flesh on more than a few of the junior girls and stains on shorts of both the elite and junior men.  I also so the aftermath of what I suspect to be a mechanical issue for a Russian athlete as he slammed his bike to the pavement.  He then put it over the guard rail and claimed his DNF.  I have to give mad props to the junior athlete from Mexico that was pushing very hard.  I could tell she was noxious and just wanted to puke as she laid crumpled on the ground with 2 fingers down her gullet but nothing would come out.  She was trying to wretch and was shaking a bit, but she was not going to get any relief.  An official came over and I suspect asked if she wanted to withdraw.  Her answer was an emphatic no.  She pushed him away and tried to regain her feet.  She managed to get up only to stumble to the barrier where she leaned for a couple of seconds before willing herself the final 300 meters or so to the finish.  

A flash of Gwen as she passed by.  She went on to claim 2nd.    

I met a couple interesting people this weekend.  The first were Kevin and Lilia from Seattle.  She was an age-grouper racing on Monday in the Olympic distance and qualified in Vermont.  She has also done the 70.3 Championships in Clearwater and Las Vegas.  She also recently made the jump in the age categories to the dreaded 30-34.  Good luck to her.  Next was Mike from Saucony New Zealand.  To say I met him this weekend, would be a lie.  I met him a couple weeks ago at a product training session with Macpac, but we did talk for a little bit.  Next is the woman, I forgot her name, who imports Hammer Nutrition products.  Since my favorite gel in the market is Hammer, I'll be placing an order with her.  We talked supplements for a bit and she asked what I was going to be using for the race this weekend. I told her I was just up to watch as it was basically happening in my backyard.  She also let me sample a product similar to Accelerade, which I can't find here.  It has a combination of protein and carbs, but also includes some fat.  It tasted like a dream-cicle.  If my order of Accelerade doesn't get here by Wed, I'm going for a jug of Perpetuem for my K2 ride this coming weekend.  There were a couple other Americans that I chatted with and I didn't get their names, but they all assumed I was there to race.  I wish I was as it was an amazing course and very well organized.  Its not often that I'm a spectator at these events.  Maybe I'll volunteer in the future if I'm not racing.  Finally, I talked to a gentleman name Bill Vann from Michigan.  He told me about his daughter Kate, who took up triathlons in college after being a competitive swimmer all her life.  Told me about their trip to Hungry and other ITU events and that there are 2 younger gifted siblings as well.  Kate, hope you did well.
The outside of my newish place.
Anyway, I'm back in Tauranga now after a whirlwind of clapping, cheering, and shivering in the rain.  I have to say, I've gotten a lot of use out of my rain jacket.  It has a permanent spot in my bag where ever I go.  It looks like the ITU season is kicking off in Auckland in April and then a race in Japan in May.  Would be interesting to be an ITU volunteer groupie.  I wander if they subsidize travel and of course my fooding bill. 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Great Walker Entry

Lets tramp this.

Here is my Pinterest Board for my entry into the Great Walker Contest.  This is a chance to do the 9 Great Walks in New Zealand over 9 weeks.  The contest is being put on by Air New Zealand and the DOC.  The walks vary in length and are located across the country.
  1. Abel Tasman is 54.4km
  2. Heaphy Track is 78.4 km and the longest
  3. Kepler Track is 60km
  4. Lake Waikaremoana is 46 km
  5. Milford Track is 53.5 km
  6. Tongariro Northern Circuit no distance provided
  7. Whanganui Journey looks to be tramping and canoe
  8. Rakiura Track is 32 km 
  9. Routeburn Track is 32 km 
Each  walk is expected to take at least a couple days and individuals selected will have to blog about their adventure.  It would almost be like a sponsored version of this site!  I would take pictures and document my tramping.  I have only done part of the Tongariro Northern Circuit when Beth and I did the Tongariro Crossing back in early Winter.  It would be exciting to win this, but I don't know the odds.  It is a world wide contest.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The little things

CR-V Slap
So this afternoon after getting off the bus at the Hot Pools and starting to limp back to the flat, I came across not 1, not 2, but 3 CR-Vs and there was no one around to slap.  What gives?

Limping?  I tweaked my cadaver knee a couple weeks ago and it was feeling fine on Monday until I tweaked it again. 

What is this CR-V slap you mention?  It's the International game sweeping the World, where you get to lightly back-hand the person you are with while saying 'CR-V Slap'.  There aren't that many rules and most everyone can play.   


  1. One slap per CR-V.
    1. Slap the upper arm to shoulder with a back hand motion
  2. Can only hit once per 24 hour period if the vehicle doesn't move
  3. A miss-slap is punished with a slap from the person on the receiving end of the miss-slap.
    1. Miss-slap is slapping someone while misidentifying a CR-V.
  4. Honda Dealerships are off limits
    1. Used Car Dealerships are free game
  5. Don't hit the person so hard that they can't continue to drive


  1. Don't be the driver
  2. Look in parking lots
  3. Look down side roads
  4. Driver's use the rear-view and side mirror to your advantage

Sunday, October 14, 2012

I saw 5 Angels today

Fitting title of the shelter, this was our stopping point on the 5th climb
So I'm busy getting ready for K2.  I've done several long rides in the past month.  I've also been doing some structured interval workouts.  My legs are feeling better and better each day.  I've also been going to the gym 3 times a week.  The workouts are challenging and typically use only your body weight, but we do get our kettle bell on from time to time.  Toss in some climbing and my days are pretty well full.  Who has time to work 1 let alone 2 jobs?  Well yesterday was my last day at Macpac.  I will miss the job as it was always fun to talk about the outdoors with people and try to instill my love of them into others. 
Doesn't do it justice
So today we did a ride called the 5 Angels that goes up 5 different ascents off of Welcome Bay.  I logged in just shy of 122km and Andy from group said we did just under 2100m of elevation gain over the day.  Based on that, I don't think I would name the ride the 5 Angels.  Instead it should be called legs burning, heart pumping, vomit inducing, sweat drenched hours of punishment, but I don't think it would fly.  Regardless I loved the ride.  The views you got from riding down Welcome Bay Road of the Mount and out into the country side were amazing.  This being New Zealand the weather was weird as.  There was a  chilly wind and rain at the top of every climb that I could have done without.  However once we descended back toward Welcome Bay Road, the weather would fine up and I would want to take off my vest.  I made an impulse buy at Macpac as we got some new adventure gear in right before I worked for the last time.  Its a windproof nylon vest with a mesh back that has been treated with DWR and it performed well today.  I would have preferred the medium, but the arm holes were too tight and the large just had some flapping in the wind that I had to contend with.

We started the day with 11 riders leaving from Martin's house.  We rode down Cameron Road and turned on 15th and headed toward Maungatapu (where I have spin) and Welcome Bay.  We went down the length of Welcome Bay Road and turned up our first climb.  This also happens to be the location of the local Mtb track, Summer Hill.  After this climb we lost 3 riders, who happened to have had enough for the day.  I was told on the 2nd hill that the first was supposedly the easiest hill.  We seemed to lounge around at the top of each hill waiting to regroup and to chat for a bit before heading back down.  This occurred at every summit, except for the last.  I would get a chill waiting around and just wanted to get a move on, but having never ridden this ride, I wasn't going to take the lead.  Once again, my nutrition or lack there of hurt me.  I was out of bars and left the house without eating.  I did stop for a mad Mexican pie on my way over to Tauranga.  It was a little spicy this morning compared to the other times I have gotten it.  Then after 3 climbs, we stopped at a gas station and I got a Nut Roll type of thing and some Powerade.  We had done roughly 75km at this point and I was starving.  On the last climb a few people didn't come up and instead hit the coffee shop.  2 others got most of the way up and turned around.  3 of us waited at the predetermined end point for roughly 10 minutes before we turned around toward town.  I used the last of my energy to do some sprinting up a couple inclines, but these efforts were really short.  We joined up with the rest of the group and had a little meal.  Ok I had a good amount of food, peach iced tea, a BBQ Chicken and Bacon toastie, and a carrot cake muffin.  From there we parted ways as some bad weather was rolling in and the people who didn't do the entire ride were done eating.  I got back home and took a much needed shower and now I get to ride my bike over to the grocery store for some much needed supplies.
This boat shouldn't be leaning like that.

Earlier in the week we had some crazy high, ok Gale Force, winds and one of the boats in Pilot's Bay broke free and was beached on the shallow shore.  I happened to be out walking and took some pictures of it.  This past week the weather was crazy.  It was chilly in the morning and fine during the day, and then super windy at night.  I go to the gym at 6am and then sit at work thinking about paddle boarding or even going for a swim as the water temp seems to have warmed up, but then when I get home I'm almost blown off my bike.  I don't really like biking at a 45 degree angle much less paddling head first into some really strong wind.  This week the weather is looking better so hopefully I get to add some color to my non-tan upper body.  My arms are dark up to my jersey line and then its a drastic change and then a subtle change to my shoulder blades as I still haven't lost my tan lines from last summer.  I have less than 2 weeks until K2 and I'm going to be doing a couple medium distance rides, but first my bike needs a shop visit and I need to replace my cleats.  Ugh, I spent $25 on a pair of brake pads the other day.  I'm glad I have them, but that price just hurts.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Recap of what I've been doing.

New tan line
So its been about 3 weeks since Beth has left New Zealand and I'm missing a lot of the little things.    Like being able to talk about the little daily things and being able to unwind with her.  We do talk on Skype a fair amount but its either a quick blurb before work or if it is something pressing, I may wake her after I get done with my shift.   Not to say that I'm sitting at home twiddling my thumbs.  For instance, I have gotten this awesome tan line from 2 rides.  Ok, there might be a little burn, but it will be a dark tan soon enough.
Meeting up at the Tect Park on Pyes Pa.

I haven't been idle since she has left and here is a quick recap of the things I have been doing.
Taking off layers in Pyes Pa.
  1. I put in my notice at macpac
    1. I want to experience NZ more than my 1 day a week off allows me.
    2. I do enjoy the people and the fun that the job has brought me, but my sanity will need it.
  2. I've been logging some good miles on my bike.
  3. Martin, Cliff, Clive, Julie, Andy, Me, and a guy who looks like Sweat Man.
    1. Did a training ride with the guys from Koop's for the K2 ride on Oct 27th.  Happens to be the K1 course, which I'm trying to convince Faye into doing.
    2. Did a training ride with some of the same guys this past weekend doing the Rotorua Loop.  
      1. Its an absolutely stunning loop that is a bunch of gradual climbing with some sharp peaks and then an awesome downhill ride.  I was constantly swiveling my head to admire the views.  We went around the backside of Lake Rotorua and I really wanted to go for a dip.
    3. Signed up for the K2 ride and thinking of signing up for the Taupo Cycle Challenge.
  4. Indoor rock climbing.  I've been trying to get there a couple times a week and work on my footwork and strengthening my technique.  I'm going to migrate outside soon as it is starting to feel like summer.
  5. I've started going to gym101 with the guys from Koop's as well.  I will be going there 3 times a week at 6:15.  It is about 2km down the road.  I went and did a workout last Wed with them and buggered my knee (yes the one that has been repaired twice).  I just tweaked it and it swelled up later in the day.  It was feeling good today (Monday) so I went in for another workout.  Still a little sore, but I'm managing to walk without drastic pain.
    1. Finding an ice pack took a lot of time and they are $15.  
    2. I've not been working out other than biking and some running and doing these sessions reminds me of the Brick house workouts.  Oh do I have some pain to bring when I come back.  Well if I come back.
  6. Phil might be joining me for a part of the planned cycle tour.  He is very jealous of what I am planning and I extended an offer for him to ride part of it with me if he wishes.  He sounded pretty keen on the idea.  Started rambling off places that he had contacts that we could stay with.
  7. Phil from Koop's last Tuesday night while dropping me off after spin, stated manner of factly that I should move to New Zealand permanently.  He gave a bunch of reasons, but the one that stuck with me is that I'm a good guy that gets on with the Kiwi spirit.  No worries.
  8. Sunset from in-front of my flat.
    1. My boss also likes this idea.  I happened to tell my co-worker and boss about the conversation I had with Phil and this kicked Nici's imagination into high gear.  She has told me she was looking at the immigration site.  
    2. Beth and I are talking about what this move would me.  There would be a lot of things to cover off on in order to make this a reality.
  9. Running around the Mount and enjoying the weather.  Sorry Beth, but the weather has gotten nicer since you left.  Only 2 days of rain so far.
  10. Enjoying the hot pools as well to recover from my many activities.

So I've been kind of busy, but I've also been looking at flights, bikes, and touring gear.  I'm also looking at other bike tourers on Twitter and starting to make some contacts.  I've found a series of flights back for a pretty good price and I'm researching how much the checked bike is going to cost.  I'm scoping out a Disc Trucker for my touring bike.  Why the change?  After the couple rides in various conditions and over various steep hills, I think I would prefer having disc brakes.  I'm willing to sell my Cross Check in order to partially finance my purchase.  Who wants to buy a 56cm Surly Cross Check?  I don't have the same components as stock as I pulled the group set off my old Jake the Snake.  The frame itself is only a couple years old.  For touring gear, I'm looking at a bunch of things, but I'm not positive on anything yet.  I have had people asking what I want for my birthday and Christmas, but I don't know yet.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

What does solo, pain cave, and wheel sucker have in common?

They could all be used to describe me today.  Read the post to find out how.

So today was the training ride for the K2, which is a 192km ride, that takes place on Oct 27th.  So I spent yesterday after work tuning up my bike.  I adjusted the brakes, derailleurs, cleaned the chain, and wiped it down.  It almost looked like a new bike.  It felt like one this morning when I left the flat at 4:50 am.  I had to be at the bike shop by 5:30 and wanted to be able to take a leisurely pace.  Koop's is just over 10km from my flat and yes I did bike home after the ride today!  Phil offered a ride home, but I wanted to spin on my legs.

The highlighted town of Coromandel is where we started our training ride today.  But before we get there, we had to depart Tauranga.  We departed the shop close to 6am instead of the 5:45am that was quoted in the emails.  Not an issue as we only made one stop on the way up in Paeroa, home of L&P!  I slept the first bit of the drive as it was early, but once we got to Thames I was up and watching the road.  I was looking at the awesome scenery and the road.  I would soon be biking on it.  If Coromandel sounds familiar, it would if you have been reading my blog.  Phil, the owner of Koop's, offered Beth and I the use of this batch up there, but for weird reason we never did.  Now that Beth is home, I wish we would have made it happen as it was a very beautiful spot.  Sorry sweetie.  Guess you have to come back.  Anyway the logistics of today were this: 2 vans of people and a van of bikes.  2 of the vans would be leaping frogging to strategic points to offer food and beverages (this was a critical error on my part) while the other was playing SAG from behind.  The last vehicle went to the last town of Tairua (my bag was on this).

There were several riders today, but I'm pretty sure I was the youngest.  We departed Coromandel riding down Hwy 25, also known as the Pacific Coast Highway.  We were greeted with Manaia Hill, 181m, shortly outside of town.  The pack got separated right there.  Several people were having issues early on.  I started off feeling really good as I was passing people while talking up the hill.  Then after the descent I spun waiting for others as I had no idea where I was going.  I also wasn't carrying my cell.  Shortly later, we say Craig taking photos at the top of Kereta Hill, 228m, and then it was a fairly level shot into Thames.  I was riding solo by now and I just wanted to get to Thames without being caught, but that didn't happen.  I was caught about 4km outside of Thames.  I can't say I was surprised as I haven't been logging long distances.  I have basically done a couple 40km rides since getting in NZ.  For a recap: 2 sizable hills, 50+km, a strong head wind, and there were showers on and off during the first leg.
2nd hill of the day and feeling fine. 
In Thames, I was down 1 bottle of water and 1 bumper bar.  I still had a bar and a bottle for the 2nd leg.  I was warm so I dropped off my jacket and socks with Craig.  If the van that I took to Coromandel, I would have topped off my water and grabbed my spare bumper bar, but it wasn't to be.  The riders I was with were supposed to be riding slowly, but I didn't see them ahead of us as there was a couple of quick turns and then a very long and tedious ascent of Kopu-Hikuai Hill, 425m.  I have no idea how long the hill was, but I drank my other bottle and had to get off my bike to stretch my legs and lower back on the hill.  It was at this point the guy I was riding with kept going.  As I was on the side of the road, a heap of motorcycles roared past.  I got back on the saddle after about 5 minutes of stretching and trying to dry off.  On this ascent the water kept coming and the wind turned to continue blast me in the face.  The temp also dropped considerably as I was getting goose bumps and I could see my every breath.  This ascent just hurt, it wasn't steep, but very long and drawn out.  I ran out of water and food on this ascent.  I hit the wall as well, but kept my cadence and just thought that I want to do 6 months of riding.  Granted I was going for time and not leisure, but still the hills can be unforgiving.

Once I crested the hill, the downhill was scary as hell.  I kept feathering my brakes as I had no idea the condition of the road, the curviness, and I was expecting to see some crazy Kiwi drivers as well.  I did manage to hit 65kph, but there were others hitting 75+.  On this descent, my water bottle was almost rattled out.  I pulled over to push it back down and I was caught by 3 other riders.  These were the guys who were supposed to be spinning slowly for us in Thames.  Evidently they went to the loo back in Thames and were working hard to catch us.  I managed to become a wheel sucker at this point as my legs were shot and I just wanted some food and water.  We had roughly 30km left at this point and the 3 guys took turns pulling the train.  I didn't want to say  anything, but there was a lot of wasted energy as the leaders would sprint to the the front instead of having the leader pull off and then join the back of the train.  I just sucked their wheels as best as I could, but with all the spray from the rain I was concerned about my contacts.  My sunglasses had long been put away as they were just blurred my vision.  About 2km from the end, I was spent and dropped from the group and stretched out my back and legs.

I rolled up to the vans only a couple minutes after the others.  We all congratulated each other.  We then went and grabbed some food.  I had a pb&j sandwich, a banana, yogurt, pizza, and a hot chocolate.  We all talked about the up coming ride and what level each of us are going to sign up for.  I told them that I hadn't been training at all for the ride, let alone the training ride and that a 40k ride this last week was one of my longest since I moved here.  They are planning on the K2 and I just got confirmation that I don't have to work that day, so I'm going to see if can't get a ride up there and do the K2 as well.  I'll spend the next several weeks riding as much as I can so I can make the first half of the ride without an issue, but its the half that I haven't ridden.  That half has Pumpkin Hill, 240m, right outside of the starting point of Tairua followed by 3 hills after Whitianga; Kuaotunu Hill, 170m, Myundermans Hill, 145m, and Whangapoua Hill, 380m.  That last one is right before Coromandel, then it follows the write up I posted above.  I think I could be ready to finish the ride, but not race it.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Looking for races

So I missed the entire triathlon season in MN and now its time to start thinking about races that I can do here.  I'm doing a training ride for K2 this weekend of 100+ km in the Coromandel Peninsula.  The K2 race/ride is in October and the full race is 200km.  I may try to get off from work to do it, but I'll see how I feel after doing the training ride.  I may have a set back as I think I may have either bruised or cracked a rib with my Queenstown bike accident.  As I'm no stranger to broken bones, I know that it is pretty likely.  It hurts to breath deeply and to cough.  Pretty localized pain, but I'm still biking, running, and climbing.  Not going to let it slow me down.  There is a brutal sounding trail run call The Goat, which is a 21k (half marathon) around the ski fields of Mt Ruapehu.  This race is early December.  I know I can run a half, but with 1000m of ascent, I might be out of my league.  Upon closer inspection, the race is closed.  There is a waiting list much like several of the triathlons in my town.  I'm also looking for an adventure race to do as I'm really looking forward to testing my limits in a different fashion than just a triathlon.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Some. thing is a foot in Sydney and flipping in Queens

Beth about to go diving

The following is an incomplete re-telling of the adventures of Beth, Skog, and Kaleb as they tore through Sydney.  Beth has some blogs that goes into her solo adventures from Cairns (where the picture to the left was taken) to the point when she joined up with us.  I say that is an incomplete re-telling as we packed a bunch of things in a very short time.  I tend to write like I think which means that there may be some side stories as I typically have an internal monologue going on during the day.  It is not uncommon for me to laugh randomly throughout the day and its generally because I’m remembering something.  Most of the time its like an inside joke.  It just happens that Beth understands most of them so the joke isn’t wasted by having to explain it in great detail.  Now dear reader, the story resumes after our brief stint running around the North Island.
We are bound for some time across the ditch.  Our destination is Sydney.  I don’t really plan when it comes to vacation.  That is more Beth.  I generally just show up and try things out.  Granted this may not always be the best approach, but its guaranteed to be an experience!  I tend to remember with greater clarity and emotion when you have to scramble as something doesn’t go right.  I have images of not getting our tickets for World Cup 2006 and having to run around trying to find them.  To say that we were in a panic and Beth was in a murderous rage would have been an understatement.  Everything worked out and we saw the game, granted not in the right zone.  I can recall how DHL screwed us like it was yesterday.  I can recall last year searching in vain for a capsule hotel in Hiroshima. There was supposed to be one according to the map, but it wasn’t to be found.  Instead we fell back on the Kaleb tested and approved method of sleeping at the internet café.  
Beth made it here.  We did not.
So going to Australia, I had booked flights and a night at a hostel and nothing else.  Like the premise of the blog, just a backpack and a fistful of cash, I go in with an open and a flexible agenda.  You never know when inspiration is going to find you.  So getting to Australia wasn’t all that difficult.  I booked a flight for us via House of Travel and Beth got us electronic visas.  Yes you need a visitor visa to go to Australia.  We flew LAN, which is based out of Chile, so all the announcements are in Spanish first and then English, and even got food on our flight with metal silverware.  I was told to put my bag under the seat in front of me, in Spanish.  Well I assume that is what she said, because my high school Spanish is more than a little rusty.  Getting through immigration and customs could have been worse as I did get placed in the “things to declare” line.  The reason for this was that on my declaration form, I marked that I had sporting gear (trail running shoes) and have been in the wild in the past 30 days.  I know that both New Zealand and Australia are paranoid about foreign contaminants, as Beth and I watched enough of the Australian Border Guard shows to know that you don’t screw with these people.  I had to show them my shoes, which I had scrubbed the night before and I was waved through without a second glance.  The rest of my pack was not searched. 
ANZAC Bridge
Skog and I opted to take the train to get into Sydney and then walked a short distance to our hostel, the crap-tastic City Resort Hostel.  I will not in good faith recommend this place to anyone, a place that rivals MosEisley.  This place was a complete dive, but cheap (one of the reasons it was selected).  Yet, we stayed there for 2 nights, mainly as we were too tired from our explorations to look for a new place to sleep.  It appeared that the staff hated their lives and probably wished that the building would be purged from the ground.  Any attempt at a conversation was like pulling teeth, except you are usually under sedation when that happens. 
I should put this sign in front of that hostel.
When we arrived in Sydney, Beth was on her own adventure up in Queensland.  She was heading south from Cairns to Sydney.  We would meet up on the 31st of August.  You can read her tales here.  It is because of her diving tale, I want to get scuba certified.  
Beth's hostel on Maggie.
Now I return to our tale that was interrupted by my plug for Beth’s blog.  We started our Australian adventure like usual, wandering with our stomachs.  They lead us to a flash food court located around the high end designers’ shops in the CBD.  We had our choice of so many options, but we settled for various pies, Wagyu Beef Reuben and Pastrami Burgers, and heaps of gelato.  The woman at the pie place told me her friend said she had to cheer on the Pittsburgh Steelers.  I really wanted to use the Half-Ass Morning Shows name for their Quarterback, but I’m sure it would have been lost on anyone who doesn’t listen to 93X in the morning.  All of our food was super tasty.  In particular, I enjoyed my Wagyu pastrami sandwich.  We also saw a sign for that evening we could have been treated to a $30 set-meal by a local award winning chef in a Thai restaurant, but as the menu was very small we opted to wander elsewhere for our evening meal.  We wandered down to The Rocks to look for a café we had spotted earlier, only to realize it was closed.  Instead we had to settle for Pie Face.  This is a local chain for what I would classify as having only adequate pies.  In NZ terms it would be akin to Jester Pies.  We did happen to find the place we were destined to eat at the next night.  It was a grill your own place similar to Shorebird in Honolulu, except their buffet wasn’t as good.  My bacon wrapped fillet was huge and for only $31, a steal.  I do miss my grills back home.  I’m glad my new flat has a grill.  I’ll be putting it to good use while I’m there for the next several months.
Steak and Mashed Potato Pie from Hamlet's in Manly.
I don’t know what it is, but when I’m with Skog, I seem to flip a switch and can’t get full.  I did a fair amount of eating and will be looking forward to getting back to my normal diet.  We did do a lot of walking over the entire 3 weeks, but I’m missing my bike and runs on the beach. 
After our lunch, we started out by walking the rest of the CBD and found a little workout station next to the on ramp to the Harbor Bridge.  There were places for pull-ups, push-ups, abdominal work, dips, and stretching.  We did a quick workout with some folks on their lunch break before heading across the bridge to North Sydney where we spent the bulk of our afternoon wondering down residential streets.  We were treated to some awesome views of the Sydney Opera House and if we wanted to pay, we could have walked up the steps on the bridge’s infrastructure.  Have I mentioned I have a thing for heights?  I hate them.  As with every town I visit, I try to classify their neighborhoods with the closest equivalent neighborhood back home.  I found that Sydney has equivalents to Frog Town, Northeast, Uptown, Seward, Warehouse, and many others.  The similarities were uncanny and if you happen to wander through you would probably see them as well.  We did wander much of the city branching out in a different direction each day.  The same can be said for Auckland.  I had to laugh at a local zine we got from Base describing each of Auckland’s popular neighborhoods, which talked about hipsters and foodies.  Having walked through the neighborhoods before seeing these descriptions, I had already drawn the same conclusions.  Speaking of which: How much does a hipster weight?  An instagram.  Saw that joke on a sign in front of a café.
Fish Tacos
Our adventure for the 2nd day was a bus ride out to Bondi Beach to do the Bondi to Coogee Walk.  Along the way we were treated to another impromptu workout session on the provided workout stations.  It will be nice to get back into my routine that was disrupted long before the 3 week vacation as we had been getting non-stop rain for weeks before hand.  After our impromptu sessions, I was sore the next day but well worth it.  We saw a pretty cool natural rock lap pool that was reported 15 degrees.  We saw a few brave souls that were swimming in the bay without wetsuits.  I put my feet in the water and I don’t think I would have ventured further without the aid of my wetsuit.  Talked to a local doing a wetsuit swim and he told me the water was crystal and very calm.  It was probably the best conditions he has seen in months.  We found this cool little Mexican place and ate a couple tacos and nachos, but they were not even close to El Taco Reindo.  I’m missing some of my local haunts and I can’t wait to sink my teeth into a lengua taco and some ribs.  We had a little mishap on the bus going back to the downtown.  We hopped on to the same bus number on the opposite side of the station and it took us back out to Bondi Beach and dropped us off at its final stop a couple blocks from taco place we were at only a little while earlier.  The night had cooled off considerably and was windy.  I was happy to have carried my rain shell.  This was basically a staple along with my headlamp and hand sanitizer.  We stopped in to a local dairy, convenience store, and bought a bus ticket and hopped on a local bus this time heading in the right direction.  This bus ride took about 45 minutes and was a lot different than the express bus we took earlier.  Oh well, you got to make mistakes on public transportation to learn.  
Outdoor salt water lap pool.
The next day, we checked into the Big Hostel.  Upon walking in we were greeted warmly and I quickly started chatting up the receptionists.  One is from the UK and had has been in Sydney for the past 4 months.  The other is a born-Kiwi with Australian and South African heritage.  We talked about a variety of topics and finally Skog caught my eye and I quickly ended the conversation or it probably would have gone on a lot longer.  We dropped our bags off in the room and then proceeded to wander over to China Town.  Here we greeted with heaps of choices for tonkotsu ramen.  I am a little obsessed with finding a local bowl of tonkotsu where ever I go that rivals the ramen I ate on a weekly basis while being a student in Japan.  We would eat the tonkotsu at a small shop inTsudanuma.  Every time I have been back to Japan, this is a mandatory stop where I usually have a couple bowls before returning to the states.  Since I hadn’t been back to Japan since 2005, I did my happy dance when I saw the familiar red lanterns during last years snowboard/food-cation.  Back on point.  We ate some BBQ pork buns that were not a good as the ones at Keefer Court Bakery across the street from MidwestMountaineering.  I had a bahn mi that was pretty tasty and at $3.50 a steal.  Our first bowl of ramen was found on the 2nd floor after riding a small elevator that’s only indication that a restaurant was to be found was a small piece of paper taped next to the floor button that said ramen-kan.  We proudly walked through the door in search for our porky goodness for the afternoon meal.  We were quickly turned away by 3 Japanese girls saying that they don’t until 11;30.  We look at our watches, it reads 11am.  What are we going to do for 30 minutes?  The rendered broth is mere meters from our consumption, but we are being told to go.  With heads hung low we retreat to the elevator and dejectedly press the ground floor.  We wander down the street a couple meters, before I start to talk about the glories of yesteryear when I was eating at Pepper Lunch.  Here was a chain that I ate at during my study abroad experience.  The concept is simple.   A smoking hot cast iron plate, think fajitas, topped with raw meat, eggs, rice, veggies, etc and you get to stir/cook the food to your liking before eating it off the cooling, but still scorching hot plate.  Ah the simple joys.  We wander down to Darling Harbor and see a giant Imax theater that is playing all 3 recent Batman movies.  I’m not about to waste vital time on a movie nor am I going to drop $30+ on a ticket per film.  
Free WiFi!!!
FYI there is free WiFi in Darling Harbor!  Very rare do you find this except around a McDonald's. 
So what have we been doing for internet?  We have a mobile stick from our mobile provider 2 Degrees.  It plugs into a USB port and as along as you have mobile service, you are set.  There is no need to have wireless turned on and it installs a small program to connect to their data service.  The stick is an initial investment of $99 and it can be recharged.  We got a deal for 12GB of data for $99.  Once that is gone, I will see what it will cost per GB, but I as get WiFi in my new apartment this will be used while traveling and biking only.  In Australia, we went with Vodofone with a similar price for initial set-up, but we had 3GB for 30 days, even though we were only there for a total of 14.  I will be using the stick on my bike adventure so I can keep in contact with friends and family.  I will recharge it as needed.  As I plan on camping a fair amount, I won’t be coughing up money on hostels and their WiFi costs.  I would probably recommend this method over a single hostel carrier as then you are tied to a specific location.  I used the stick in cafes, buses, and hostels.  I even pulled it out in the airport and watched Moro Bar commercials. 
Special ramen with fried chicken, rib meat, and pork.
The ramen adventure was back in full swing, we muscled our way back in the elevator and through the front door trying to ensure that we would be the first to get in.  We had read reviews that a queue could form quite quickly.  We begrudgedly had to share the lift with another gent getting off on the 2nd floor.  We jockeyed our way around him and said a table for 2 as we strutted into the shop.  The other guy didn’t put up a fight and just turned back around and rode the elevator away in shame.  Really, I don’t know what happened to him.  He stepped off the elevator and then got back in.  By the time we got our ramen, they started filling up.  It seemed to be a running occurrence with us.  We walk in and the place isn’t exactly hopping and then as we start to eat, the places are packed.  They must have come in to see the legends eat!
That afternoon we walked through the neighborhood that Google kept “recommending” that we stay in.  It is neighboring the neighborhood of the City Resort Hostel.  That should be a tip off to begin with.  I’m talking about the seedy King’s Cross.  There were plenty of strip joints and nutters looking for their next fix.  It looked like junction of Chicago and Lake Street mixed with the Warehouse District minus the frat boys and sorority girls.  I can’t say anything nice about this place so I will continue with my story.  So if you are into red light districts and drugs/partying then this is your place!  Just not my scene, wait, do I even have a scene?  We found this cool asphalt trail and decided to follow it.  We were treated with a cool walk around a peninsula and even had a self-walking dog join us for a good spell.  We also saw a couple “trainers” working with their clients in the parks.  This seems to be all the rage over here.  I kept getting upset and wanted to go over and correct their form and yell at their trainer for not doing so.  I saw some horrible squats and some horrible arm pumping that I’m only guessing was supposed to be punching.  They next went to delivering knees.  I had to shake my head as having practiced martial arts for a long time, I get angry when I see people doing it wrong.  There is a reason why you go to a class to learn this and not to a trainer who thinks it looks cool.  
Barry the hunchback koala.
Yeah Beth arrives from her early morning bus ride from Port something or other.  We are changing our hostel again.  This time we are going to be staying at the GlebeYHA.  This is a short 3k from Central Station.  We are loaded down with our packs and set off to find the hostel.  I know the cross-roads, but don’t have a map that actually shows it as all my maps stop well before the actual location.  Beth is a little angry as she thought we were going to go over to the new hostel in the morning.  That was my intention, but hunger got the better of me.  We wandered Redfern and Surry Hills looking for food.  We ate at this café called Lemon and had a nice meal on the patio, which consisted of 2 small tables.  It is only a couple blocks from Robocog.  Why was she angry?  She was tired, hungry, and wanted help carrying her packs.  She got on the bus I believe at 4 for a 7 hour bus ride.  Nothing is really open that early so she only had a few snacks on her.  We checked into our triple room.  2 bunk beds and a single.  We have a cool BBQ area and patio on the roof.  Skog and I make use of this after Beth leaves!  We wander up the street for some Turkish.  After that we go on a long walk along the water front.  We see the rowing club out practicing.  We see the local Fish Market!  It is not as impressive as Tsukiji, but we do vow to come back for breakfast the following day.  We get to Darling Harbor and it starts to pour and evening is in full swing.  We eat at a Chinese Restaurant in the Plaza and then catch the tram back to the hostel.  The public transportation goes by zones and its easy to get screwed over.  We got on at the convention center and headed 4 stops, but 1 stop out from the convention center it is another zone, but the ticket guy was nice and let us on for a single zone as we would have walked the 2 blocks to get a single zone fare.  The people who sell tickets in stores don’t know the zones and don’t take their word for it.  We got yelled at when we went out to do the Spit-Manly walk via the bus.  We purchased a 2 zone ticket upon her expertise.  The driver told us that the shop owners don’t know jack and that its our responsibility to know the zone system.  I’m glad that only 3-4 days in and only our 2nd bus ride and we are being put in our place.  We got off the express, also a pre-pay, bus and hopped on a local bus to take us the rest of the way.  We found out later the girl at the hostel didn’t exactly know what she was talking about.  The stop didn’t exist and we could have taken only the express bus to get to our stop.  Oh well.  Lesson learned, don’t trust others with your navigation tasks.  
Castle Rock
Our adventure that day was the Manly to Spit Bridge Scenic Walkway, which consisted of a 13km hike from the Spit Bridge to Manly Beach was a lot of fun.  We saw a variety of people on the trail.  The lookouts were really cool and very picturesque.  We scrambled around on Castle Rock and took photos from here and there.  I guess I should also say that Skog had been sick a couple days earlier.  He was coughing and congested.  I didn’t know about the fever until after I came down with a fever and chills at the end of today’s walk.  We saw this house with an amazing pool and a sign to be cautious of penguins as they evidently come out onto the path at night.  We got to Manly and did a quick walk down the main strip and stop at Hamlet’s Pie Shop for dinner.  I’m treated to one of the best pies.  It was steak topped with mashed potatoes.  Beth’s veggie pie is also spectacular.  It is about now that I am feeling like crap.  We walk down to the beach and snap a few photos.  Next we board the ferry for the ride back to the CBD.  I basically sleep the 30 minutes back.  We grab the bus and I march up stairs to the room and fall asleep.  Tomorrow is supposed to be a big day.  We are booked to go out to Katoomba to go canyoning.
The next morning we wake up early as we have a 2 hour train ride out to Katoomba in the  Blue Mountains for an adventure with Tim from BMAC.  We left the hostel at 4:50am.  Beth stays behind as she is now feeling like the death, as I was feeling that way the previous night.  I’m not at 100%, but I don’t want to miss this opportunity.  Skog and I walk to Central Station and quickly fall asleep on the train.  We managed not to get our ticket checked the entire day.  Could have ridden for free, but risk getting caught and getting fined well more than the $15 we paid for a return ticket.  We both wake up at Woodford to see a heap of mountain bikers getting off.  I ask our guide later what is special about that stop.  He says that their guiding company use to offer a day of riding based out of there as it is the starting point for the renowned Oaks and St Helena tracks.  Mainly single track that crosses back and forth over a fire road.  Just riding the fire road alone would take 2-3 hours to get to the next train stop.  He said if I get back, that he would take me out there for a ride.  As they don’t offer this service, it would just be 2 friends out riding together.   Skog and I get a quick refresher(me)/instruction(Skog) on abseiling (aka rappelling) that we’ll be utilizing exclusively to get through our dry canyon run.  It is a dry canyon run as it is still too cold being the 1st or 2nd day of Spring.  They wont be running the wet canyons for another 3-4 weeks.  For those that don't know, but Beth and I went canyoning  back in 2002 when we were Interlaken Switzerland.  We had a blast and keep talking about it and look for the opportunity to do it again.  Tim, our guide, reminds me a lot of Kyle, one of our friends Eden Guides.  I would say he reminds me of Bethany, but he doesn’t as he is a bearded fellow and not a nice girl!  As we make our way through Jugglar Canyon, we ask a lot of questions about his job and training.  He says we aren’t his typically clients.   We take to the challenge with zest and need almost no direction after our quick 3 run tutorial.  We keep pushing on through the canyon and before you know it, we are finished.  We have finished a lot faster than was quoted for the adventure.  He asks us if we are keen on doing a 60 meter abseil at Zig Zag.  We both jump on the chance.  We walk out and get in his vehicle for a quick 20 minute drive over to the other location.  Tim is filled with a wealth of knowledge and gives a lot of regional background details.  He fills us in on the rivers and where they run to.  The southern river becomes Sydney’s water supply and the north runs to the ocean.  I joked that the population of Sydney is larger than the population of New Zealand.  We get to Zig Zag in time to see the other group walking up breathless from walking up the trail from the bottom of their descent.  I quickly get my device hooked up and before looking back or down, I walk myself over the edge.  It is at this point that I look between my legs and see the ground about a 180 feet below and there is a tree down there.  The rope is extremely heavy and it takes a lot of effort  to get going.  About 5 meters over the ledge, it gets easier and I start to push off the wall and descend at a quicker pace.  The last 10-15 meters is just an over-hang with no chance to push off.  The landing is a bit tricky as it is on a slope and there are several trees.  I basically walked my feet down some branches before touching down.  It was at this point that I noticed how hot my figure 8 device was and my glove was extremely hot.  I waited for Skog to come down.  He had a huge smile on his face.  We gave each other an energetic high-five and then set off to get to the top for a 2nd descent.  This time Skog went first and I sat on the ledge and took photos.  This was nerve racking as I hate heights.  Funny I know given what I am doing and where I am sitting.  I am a weirdo that way sometimes.  Skog is quickly down and I clip in.  This time, I take full advantage of my new found courage.  I am pushing off the wall with all my leg strength and I am trying to see how few times I can touch wall.  I don’t recall the number, but I remember hearing Tim and the other guide, talking about how far I am pushing out and that we only have about a dozen abseils a piece.  Back at Headquarters I continue to talk Tim’s ear off.  I also ask about my bike route and he says it is amazing area that I will be biking through.  He says he is extremely jealous and that we should come back in March/April to do the advanced wet canyons.  It is here that he extends the offer of the mountain bike ride.  I’m already trying to figure out how to make this happen when I return on my biking home adventure.  We had great luck as we caught the train back only a couple minutes after leaving Headquarters.  Beth was laying down when we got back and she was surprised as she was expecting us later.  She had to chuckle as she knew we would befriend the guide, much like we did with Kyle and Bethany.  
Cuff links anyone?
Some quick tourist stops can be found from the CBD are Sydney Harbor.  It was cool to see all the sail boats out and made me jealous of my brother who bought a boat this past summer and gets to sail more frequently than me.  The Rocks, I believe to be the oldest section of town, is right by the Opera House.  It didn’t take much effort to see the Opera House.  Its right on the edge of the CBD along a running trail.
Walk Sign
To get a pseudo-local's perspective of things to do in Sydney, I contacted Bri, who called Sydney home for a spell recently.  She recommended a few places to go and we did end up hitting up a few.  For starters we ate at Robocog.  It has been called the hipsters trifecta, with coffee, fixies, and robots.  We both got a plateful of meat and it was awesome!  She also recommend that we do the Bondi to Coogee Walk.  We saw several of the places she recommended to eat at, but as it was early some of them were not open.
Sydney Street Art
All in all, I want to return to Australia, but I may try to skirt the big metropolitan areas for the small towns like Katoomba.  I’ll have plenty of time to get to know the country side on my bike ride.  I will have to make Tim keep his word about biking and canyoning as well when I return early next year.  Now back to New Zealand.
View outside the airport
On our way back to Queenstown, we had another night at the Skyway Lodge in Auckland as the flights to Queenstown have a curfew.  The approach is up and over some mountains and then a quick dip down to the runway.  So the last flight in has to be there by 5pm.  Once there, the passengers deplane on the tarmac and the sights are amazing.  You are in a valley with mountains all around you and a fairly sizable lake.  I would have loved to take photos, but we were told to have all electronics off while walking across the tarmac.  Why?  I don't rightly know.  We stayed at the charming Bungi Hostel.  If we would have been around at 6pm, we could have gotten free soup!  Instead we decided to get our grub on at Fergburger.  Its a dangerous place as they are open 18 hours a day and have a bakery attached to it.  Their pies are amazing.  However, I don't recommend eating 2 in one sitting as we were very full for the rest of the day.  That was until we split a classic Fergburger before heading back up to Auckland.
Frankton Walk
So what did we do in Queenstown?  We did the Frankton Walk which goes along the shore of the lake between Queenstown and Frankton.  Its not a very challenging walk, but its scenic.  We wanted to snowboard, but because of weather Coronet was closed.  The first day was gale force winds and the 2nd day was rain.  So we did another hike and then we hired mountain bikes and rode the Queenstown Bike Park.  The hike was called Time Walk on Queenstown Hill.  It started blocks from our hostel with a quick ascent, but once you got into the woods the track was a loop with an out and back to the summit.  We were treated to some great views.  Not terribly difficult, but I could see Rohan.  We also threw 18 holes of disc golf at the Queenstown Disc Golf Course.  We got to play through the botanical gardens.  It was an interesting course as you had to tee off from a boulder and then play holes a specific way as well.  Could very easily loose a disc or two.  Then we hired bikes and took to tackling the ride up to the top.  In a couple weeks, you'll be able to ride the gondola to the top with your bike and just enjoy the downhill.  We rode all the way to the top, well I rode to the top and someone may have walked his bike.  We took an easy route to the half way point and then back up to the top.  Then took a more difficult course to the half way point and repeated the easier course all the way to the bottom.  Where about 5 minutes from the end, I flipped my bike.  I came down a steep embankment and my fork shrunk.  Stupid suspension.  I cut my knee pretty good, but otherwise I was fine.  We returned the bikes and had a crepe next door.  Banana and gnutella.  Delicious.  Queenstown has a lot of appeal, but I think visiting it better then living there as it is a very small town.  I will like to see it again in the summer to see what they offer for adventure tourism.
Where we rode

Track Map
So that is a quick recap of what we did on our vacation. I know I'm leaving out a bunch of details and I'm missing all of Skog's photos as I forgot to grab them before he departed.  I know there are a lot of good shots that I'm kicking myself for not having.  Oh well such is life.  Maybe I can get him to post them.  I'm back from Auckland where I saw Beth off, my cousin and her husband in (they are here on a working visa as well), and Skog off.  That was Tuesday and on Wednesday I was back to work.  Since then I went bouldering for a couple hours, ran close to 7km with a park bench workout, and rode the Redwoods for 4.5 hours.  I'm feeling pretty beat and need a nap.  Anyone who wants to travel with us will need to be able to keep up or push our limits.  Applicants are always welcome, but few will be chosen.
Little gash.