Sunday, July 29, 2012

Bike Tour Planning and Gear List

Faithful steed.


I don’t know how long to go, but I’m looking at 5+ months and even that may be on the overly optimistic side.  As once I get on the road, I may not stop.  I know there is a lot to see and do and I don’t want to just have to keep my head down and pedal for the next target.  I want to be able to appreciate my surroundings and if I feel compelled spend extra time in a place and possibly forgo another.  My tentative plan is to start from Tauranga after my contract ends.  I will travel down the East Coast of the North Island and then turn inland to bike to Rotorua, Taupo, and make it over to the west coast to visit Mt Taranaki before turning south towards Wellington.  I would be looking to camp along the way and taking a rest day once or twice a week for the first couple weeks until I see how my body handles the new demands, but aim at 100+ km a day.
Mid-January ride in MN, couldn't have been better.

On the South Island, I would like to do hit Milford Sound and then ride down the West coast and end in Invercargill.  I understand that the mountains down on the South Island are longer and more gradual than their steeper, but shorter cousins on the North Island.  It is also a less populated area and I would want to spend more time there as it looked awesome when I was down there earlier.  I would probably fly out of Invercargill to Auckland before I start the Australian leg.  I plan to bike from Sydney to Cairns along the coast to see the Great Barrier Reef.  I would also want to eat a kangaroo if that is acceptable.  From there I would catch a ride/flight bound for Nagasaki.  In the land of the rising sun, I would then bike from Nagasaki over Honshu to Aomori, with as many bowls of ramen that I could slurp down.  Beth is talking about visiting for a week over this leg of the journey.  I would plan on going through Hiroshima, Kyoto, and Nagano.  I would like to hit their mountain range and almost do a version of the continental divide there.  I have some friends there I would like to see along the way.  Then I would catch a flight to the West Coast of the US.  I am thinking San Francisco would be a good place to land and then travel East through Nevada, Wyoming, South Dakota (to see my family), and back to Minneapolis to the life I put on hold when I started A Backpack and a Fistful of Cash.

Rough estimate would be about 10,000 kilometers.
New Zealand: 2,400 km
Australia: 2,800 km
Japan: 1,800 km
US: 2000 miles

Cost: Priceless
This shortly after my 2nd ACL surgery.  Left is smaller.


What do I expect to get out of this?  An amazing set of calves and the ability to eat whatever I want.  There will also be the photographs and stories that will most likely come out of this bike ride.


·         Surly Cross Check: 56 cm
o   It needs some love before getting sent to me as its back in MN.  I would want a triple put on and possibly a new cassette as well as platforms with cages instead of my clip-less pedals.  Then just a general tune-up.  I have done all my multi-day touring on this bike and to put it frankly I love this bike.  Now only if I could convince Surly about a deal on a Pugsley for touring.  I could be on to something here.  Comfort and a slow, but reasonable pace on steel.
·         Lights
o   I have front and rear LED lights, but I could always slap some more on.  I want to be seen.
·         Bell
o   Will I want one?
·         Front and Rear Racks
o   Have rear rack that has seen a fair amount of use, but is sturdy.  It could use some duct tape love where there has been rubbing.
·         Front and Rear Panniers over trailer
o   I have a set of rear Ortlieb panniers that I love for their water-proof properties and a set of Jandd for their size and compartments.  If I had to choose today, I would pick the smaller Ortlieb as I don’t want to take a bunch of needless things.  Like a 13” flat screen and my Xbox for those rainy days.
·         Water Bottles
o   Have plenty
·         Fenders
o   Need to acquire some
·         Bike Computer
o   Have one as I want to track my daily distances and log them on
·         Tools and spares
o   Tubes x 2
o   Batteries for lights
o   Replacement Bulbs?
o   Healthy Patch kit
o   Frame Pump
o   Spare Folding Tire
o   Nuts & Bolts
o   Lock tight
o   Zip ties
o   Duct tape
o Repair book
o   Brake Pads
o   Spoke Wrench
o   Spokes
o   Wrenches
o   Chain
o   Master Link
o   Lube
o   Chain breaker
o   Pedal wrench
o   Derailleur hanger


·         Sleeping bag
o   Mountain Hardware Cloudburst 32 (synthetic) or other
·         Tarp
o   Looking at using a tarp and bivy bag over a tent
·         Bivy Bag
o   US Military Surplus
·         Closed-Cell Foam Sleeping Pad
·         Pillow?
o   Could always fill a dry sack with clothes or sleep on my folded up soft shell.
·         Para-cord
·         Tent Steaks
o   Pin down the tarp


·         Cooking equipment
o   MSR Pocket Rocket Stove and possibly a repair kit?
o   Gas canisters
o   BioLite Stove?  It is a cool little stove that turns heat into energy via an USB charger
·         GSI Dualist (Cooking and dishes)
o   Own a dualist and it is with me already and I can have company for a meal
·         Utensils
o   Have a Light my fire and titanium sporks as well as polycarbonate cutlery set
·         Knife & sharpener
o   Have a couple with me of varying weights and purposes
·         Means for water purification
o   Probably iodine or tablets no bulky filter for me.  I'll deal with the taste.
·         Water bladders or plastic jugs for long dry areas like Australia and Nevada.
·         Spices (Cajun, pepper, salt, nutmeg)
·         Scrapper and detergent


·         Rain gear
o   Jacket
o   Pants
o   Gloves?
§  Saw some eVent mittens
o   Water-proof socks
·         Soft Shell x 1
·         Fleece x 1
·         Wool LS tops x 2
o   Heavy LS
o   Lite LS
·         Wool or synthetic SS x 2
·         Convertible pants x 1
·         Board Shorts x 1
·         Thermals
o   Top
o   Bottom
·         Underwear x 2
·         Wool Socks x 2
·         Cycling shorts x 2
·         Biking Gloves
·         Helmet
·         Bandana
·         Sun glasses
·         Shoes
o   Sandals
o   Salomon XA Ultra 2


·         First Aid
o   Ibuprofen
o   Blister care
o   Asprin
o   Bandages
o   Sun screen
o   Aloe
·         Passport
·         Visas
·         Glasses &  Contacts
·         Soap & Towel
·         Tooth brush & paste, floss
·         Sewing kit
·         Bike lock
·         Dry sack
·         Credit Card(s)
·         Airline Tickets/Reservations
o   See my itinerary
o   New Zealand to Australia to Japan to US
·         Maps & Compass
o   GPS?
·         Camera
o   Spare SD cards
o   Spare battery
·         Phone
·         Headlamp
o   Spare bulb and batteries
·         Netbook
o   Would need to pick one up
·         Batteries/Chargers/misc.
·         Watch: Heart rate monitor and calorie tracker!
·         Music
o   MP3 player
o   Radio?
·         Journal
·         SPOT Messenger
This list is subject to change as it is my first attempt at writing it down.  It is a much more comprehensive list as my other tours were basically 3-4 days of riding with a bed at the end of each night.  I'll be camping almost every night and carrying my food or hitting up a cheap eat.  So there is a different dynamic and it will be a lot longer than I have ever gone before.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Planning the next year: A Rough Estimate

Unique thoughts happen when riding
So Beth is leaving in about a month, well we are going over to Australia and the South Island for the last bit.  Originally the plan was for Skog to visit from the August 25th till Sept 11th and for Beth to return on the 9th and me to return on the 12th.  Those plans have now blown up.  Beth is still going home on time and so is Skog, but we'll be jumping around like Mexican Jumping Beans up until that time.  Beth is going over to Australia for a couple of weeks and will be departing before Skog gets here.  I'll be heading up North of Auckland for a couple days for some adventure.  Once Skog gets here, we'll be looking to play on mountain bikes in Rotorua and summit either Mt Taranaki or Mt Ruapehu.  Depending on the time, we might try to fit something else in before heading over to Australia ourselves.  We'll have about a week over there before we head down to Queenstown.  We'll be trying to hook up with my friend Michelle for some snowboarding even though she has been working 12 hour days, 6-6.  From there we have no set plans.  We may get to several other spots, but we'll let our plans be flexible.  I wont be returning home for some time as I have gotten a contract until January.

The kicker is I really want to bike back.  I understand that to most people this concept is either beyond them or they think I'm a nutter.  Yes, this is a long and some what crazy sounding task.  It will test my resolve and may hurt the bank, but I've been tossing some quick figures together and well here they are.  I have not estimated what it would cost other than when I looked at a plane ticket for multiple locations it would be under $3000, which didn't include my existing flight that needs to be changed.

New Zealand: Tauranga to Invercargill to see New Zealand at a slower pace: approximately 2400 km.
Australia: Sydney to Cairns to see the Great Barrier Reef and eat a roo: approximately 2800 km.
Japan: Nagasaki to Aomori to sample as many different varieties of ramen as I can: approximately 1800 km.
US: San Francisco to Minneapolis to get back home: approximately  2000 miles.

So Grand Total:  ~10,000km at first glance at Google Maps

I figure about a month or just over for each leg other than the domestic one where it will take as long as it needs to take.  I wouldn't be getting back until it was Summer time in the US.  I know that it would be a long time away from Beth.  About 10 months, but I'm sure we can handle it.  I just hope my bike and bum can handle the daily riding as I have never done anything like this before.  Sure, I have done a few multi-day trips back home, but never sustained riding.  The plan would be to do 100+ km a day with a rest day here and there.  On riding days I would bike about an hour then get off the bike for 5-10 minutes of stretching before resuming.  Then breaking at mid-day for some off the bike fun.  The days would be longer as it would be summer in the Southern Hemisphere, I could bike for a longer time in the sun and not do any night riding.  I would also try to camp as much as possible to keep the trip as cost effective as possible and allowing my budget to go to my already bottomless pit of a stomach.  I'm busy typing up a list of gear and planning what I think I would need.  I've already talked to Gabe, our friend/bike mechanic/beer brewer/tenant/dessert eater, about getting my Surly Cross Check up to the task.  Its time to make a decision as my ticket already needs to be changed ASAP.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Decidedly Kiwi

So I've had some interesting things happen the past couple days.  We'll start with my attending the Mid-Winter Christmas Festival.  It was Saturday night and I had gotten off of work early, which was good as I totally forgot clothes for the evening.  I was going to get picked up by Tim and Div for some Christmas carols and small town fun.  I decided to pick up my rain jacket and my bike lock and raced across town to meet up with them.  It was raining and the festival was very close to where I bought my bike from, so I know all about the hill to the hospital.

The festival was surprisingly packed given the weather.  I was lucky that I was the only biker so I got the lone parking spot right by the entrance.  Tim and Div met me at the door.  I'm assuming it is because I was easy to spot with my hi-viz jacket.  We were greeted by the sound of Christmas Carols and swirling snow flakes.  They had set up a snow machine to liven up the atmosphere, but I didn't find it very amusing to see snow even though its Winter.  We wondered around looking at the various crafts and goods before I decided to snack on a caramel crepe topped with powdered sugar.  There were vendors selling Christmas ornaments, roasted chestnuts, custom t-shirts, wood fire pizza, cupcakes, popcorn, and even BBQ!  My next stop was for a cookies and cream cupcake.  It was pretty interesting as there was a small oreo like cookie on top that was rolled in granulated sugar.  Then a very sugary frosting and an oreo hidden on the bottom.  I was debating the main course as there was a mobile wood fire pizza oven and it smelled amazing and then there was the BBQ smoker I see riding around town from time to time.  It smelled nice and smokey.  I decided to get both a pork and beef sandwich.  The pork was topped with apple sauce and the beef was topped with a hot sauce.  I wont really review the sandwiches as I was really expecting something else and didn't receive it.  I might just give up my BBQ hunt while I'm abroad.  We ran into Faye and Elaine, who I work with, at the festival and its a good thing.  When we were leaving the I realized that I had forgotten my bike lock key at home.  That morning I had gone out for a run and took only my house keys.  I quickly ran after the girls to ask for a lift home, which was a pain as I was in my cycling shoes.  They were awesome and gave me a ride home and then dropped me back off at my bike.  I grabbed my rain pants when I was at home as it was pissing out.

The next morning I'm riding in the rain into work along the 80 kph highway when I hit some glass.  I heard it crunch, but couldn't see it on the ground because of the rain.  It was a loud whoosh as all the air left my front tire.  I road another 5m until there was a side walk.  I pulled off and texted work saying I might be a little late as I had a flat.  I swapped out my tube and pumped up tire just enough not to hit my rim.  I really hate small pocket/frame pumps as they take forever to get your tire remotely close to full.  I did get to work about 5 minutes before 10.  Work was interesting as I got to talking to a guy who lives here permanently but is from California.  We were both joking around about central heating and a couple of other things that the Kiwis should invest in.  I also chatted up a couple that were going to the US and Canada for their sons 30th birthday.  We were talking about traveling down the Pacific Coast and that it is possible to do it in 24 hrs if you pushed it and did not sight seeing.  The couple did something unexpected and offered to have me over for lunch that evening.  I found it kinda weird that a stranger would invite a shop worker to their house after talking to them for about 20 minutes.  Since I had nothing going on, I took them up on their offer.  They were also kind enough to pick me up as their house is over in Welcome Bay which is a good 40 minute ride from my place and with the rain and not knowing where they live, it would have taken me much longer.  I did inform Beth of what I doing as well as my co-workers.  My co-workers said that was decidedly Kiwi to offer strangers over for a meal.

I was picked up by Emma and Wayne, the daughter and son-in-law, of Dave and Avril who I had met at macpac.  I was treated to a nice meal of chicken and beef curry, rice, steamed carrots, and pickled beets.  After dinner, we played cards and talked.  I learned a new game called "Nervous" and another that I don't recall the name of.  We played for a couple hours and then had a dessert of apple and ginger crumble.  Around 10 at night, I was driven home and went to promptly to bed.  The next morning, I woke up to head to my data gig only to find that I had a flat tire in the rear.  I waited until after work to fix it.  It wasn't so much as a flat as the glue around the stem had dissolved and the stem had fallen off.  So I spent the evening patching all the tubes I've popped since I bought this bike.  There were 4 of them.  I also cleaned my bike as its been raining pretty good for the past several days and my chain was starting to hate me.  I've gone and ordered a couple items from ground effect.  I've got a pair of short and 3/4 length rain pants.  My rain pants that I have now have proven to kinda suck.  They are also very long and I have to roll the legs up so I don't walk on or pull the leg through the chain.  I'll be rocking what I call man-pris here shortly!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

South Island Tales

Nite time view of Auckland.
Today Beth's parents landed in Auckland and we took a really long ride on Naked Bus to meet up with them.  I think I would rather just rent a car and actually drive then take the bus.  As much as I hate to drive in the US and haven't driven in NZ I don't like cold and uncomfortable rides in which I have no control of.  Then there is the time and distance difference.  If driven like a rational person would be about 2.5 hrs and the route taken for the company pushed it to about 4.5 hrs.  I wonder how much longer it is going to take to bus from Christchurch to Dunedin.  I think we are scheduled for 5.5 hrs.  I just hope I'll be able to either enjoy the ride or just sleep. 
Scared of heights?
Today, 09/07/2012, we wandered over to the Auckland Museum in the Parnell area.  Entry was a requested donation of $10.  The lower levels reminded me a lot of Te Papa in Wellington, but they did have a huge amount of space dedicated to military affairs on the 2nd level.  Here we got to see some gnarly early guns.  This included some early anti-tank guns that Conan might have trouble wielding.  These things were just massive.  This afternoon we checked into our swanky 2 bedroom hotel room at the Auckland Harbor Oaks.  We have a room on the 26th floor and we actually have a deck with no protection from jumping.  This is something that would not fly back in the US as the rate of jumpers would be too great.  On our way home we stopped and ate at Poderi Crisci Vineyard.  This was a much larger place than the store front would lead you to believe.  I felt like I was back in Argentina visiting Peter and Leanne.  The small entry way gave way to a large court yard and then a bar and enclosed restaurant.  We all settled in for pasta even though they had a wood fire pizza oven named Vesuvivo.  I ordered a pumpkin gnocchi with a blue cheese sauce topped with rocket and parmesan.  It was very tasty, but Beth and I had to have some dessert from a cafe down the street as they had a caramel slice topped with a chocolate chip cookie instead of the traditional chocolate layer.
That is right that is my single log bench.
It is 6:30pm and they are about to go down for the count.  I have to applaud their ability to stay up for most of the day.  We are watching the sport news and the announcers are just having a field day with the Andrew Murray and the finals.  The stuff they are able to say about people is just amazing.  I don't remember the exact quote about Mrs Federer, but it was something on the lines of that is the clap of the cold hearted bitch who knows that her husband just broke his opponent.  Tomorrow we are flying to Christchurch and then taking a long bus ride on to Dunedin.  We hit up JetStar for our flight to Christchurch.  I got to dine on Spicy Tonkotsu Pork Ramen in the airport as well.  Not as good as Tokyo, but damn tasty.
Spicy Tonkotsu Pork Ramen.
Couldn't cross the Bridge of Remembrance.
Quick little recap of Christchurch as we spent almost no time in the city.  There are a fair number of bike commuters in the city.  I saw several kitted out riders on their 29s and even a few brave souls on SS.  I say brave as I saw a few hills in the distance that would test even the best to ride up on a single gear.  We stayed in an interesting place that had 3 beds in a single room.  We stayed on a fairly busy street so the traffic could be heard all night long.  Glad I can sleep to music.  We did get out and wander the streets for the evening and even found an interesting place to geek out to.  But alas it was not to be as it was closed.  The place had dishes named after fantasy and sci-fi characters.  I was so going to eat me some Yoda or Dalek.  We did get to see the unfortunate destruction caused by the severe earthquake from last year.  The city will probably take a really long time to get back in order.  We wandered through outdoor art exhibits and even did a little grocery shopping at Countdown.  Every time I see the store, I start to sing "its the final countdown" and that is the only line I know of the song.  We ended up eating at Spagalimis Pizza as most things in the CBD are closed.  I did send out a tweet about places to eat and I got one back about Honeypot Cafe (which is only a couple blocks from the Countdown), but we were trying to eat at Astro Lounge, which unfortunately was closed.  We boarded the extremely well heated and screwed shut bathroom door Naked bus at 8am which meant an early morning as we had a 30 minute walk to the pick-up.  What happened for the next 5+ hours I can't really tell you.  I must have been rocked to sleep within a couple minutes and only woken up by Beth for bathroom breaks and lunch.  I did get to see some of the coast line and the mountains inland.  Everything around us seemed to be sheep or cattle.  I felt like I was in the Midwest minus the ocean and mountains.
Always take care when riding down tracks, getting off is tricky.
Dunedin: Do-knee-din not to be confused with dune-din.  We are staying at a backpackers just out of the inner octagon.  If you look at a map you'll understand.  We did a little wandering of the city today before becoming tourists.  Beth did not think my idea of crafting a tale of how we posted on for a tour guide was a good idea.  We were sold a tour of the area by the young chap, Richard, at the reception desk.  It just so happens that the person who gave us the tour was his father, Russell.  We started at 12:30 with a quick little jaunt around the CBD where he showed us the churches (June, I took some pictures for you!) and the railway station.  He also pointed out the Cadbury Factory, which we are attempting to take a tour of.  It being the Cadbury Chocolate Carnival, the town is seeing a lot of action. 
I'm Russell and I like to take drive ms daisy.
We were giving a good commentary of the area and Russell is very knowledgeable.  I said to Beth more than once, that this spot or that spot would be good for dumping a body.  I think we are on tour with a serial killer.  Once again she says that isn't very nice to say.  I have to agree, but we are out in the middle of nowhere with a guy we don't know on a gravel road at a place unfamiliar to us.  Your imagination may get the better of you.  Russell is a very friendly and like able fellow and nothing like my crazy imagination makes him out to be.  I would totally recommend you do the tour with him, if you like to be driven around and conversed with.  It must be some sort of record, because I did not sleep in the van.  I don't recall the last time I was a passenger in any vehicle on a trip and didn't fall asleep.  Any way I digress.  We were taken to many scenic outlooks and told the cultural significance of this and that.  If you want to find out what they are, take the tour.  I'm not going to be giving away his information for free.  It is the Internet and most of it can probably be found on Wikipedia.  You wouldn't get the accent though.  Speaking of accent, Bill and Betsy were having a hard time understanding Richard last night.  He was talking about a Scottish girl who asked for something.  He turned and handed here a pin and pepper.  She had asked for pen and paper.  Ok, it might have been funnier in person.
Batman exists even in Dunedin playgrounds.
 Back on tour we went to an albatross reserve, where we loitered in the gift shop/welcome center as you had to pay more money to walk up another 50m to another building.  If they were flying you would be able to spot them from the road.  They have a 3m wingspan.  Its not something you have to sneak up on to see.  We did get the privilege to see one soaring right above our heads though.  Next we left the company of Russell for the company of a gentleman that neither Beth nor I could place his accent.  Daniel works for the penguin sanctuary.  We were on the hunt for the yellow-eyed penguin.  We got to see several coming in to the beach, but only 2 up close.  After the 1+ tour, we met back up with Russell who drove us back to town along a flat, but very narrow and windy road.  There was a very small bike lane along side the road that Beth didn't think would be safe to ride on, but I disagree.
Paying their respects to us. 

The scene of the execution of 50,000 Jaffas.

The next day we packed up our day bags for a little jaunt over to the steepest residential street in the world.  It was to be the scene of the execution of 50,000 over-sized jaffas later that afternoon.  We were about 2 hours early and just wanted to run up the 350m street, but were turned away.  This was just a minor inconvenience as both Beth and I did run up some steep steps in the neighborhood.  We also were going to hike up Mt Cargill (680m) and then circle back to the city.  The hike wasn't very difficult as it doubled in many spots as a mountain bike track as well.  There were some sections that were dicey, but you just took it slow at that point.  We were treated to some spectacular views at the summit before the rain and fog came sweeping in.  We waited at the top for Betsy and Bill who crested about 15 minutes behind us.  We then had about a 7 mile descent back into town via a long road.  I was starving and decided to have a pie from the bakery and the rest just wanted to relax for a couple hours.  It wasn't long until hunger got the better of everyone else and we wandered over to "Minami" for some tasty Japanese goodness.  I was delighted when I ordered the house special and received nigiri, sashimi, udon, tempura, and miso.  It didn't stand a chance nor did Beth's left overs.  A 14 mile hike will do that to you. 
Meter long pizza anyone?
Want to get massive?

The next day was our last in Dunedin and we thought we would take in the Cadbury Factory Tour, albeit the abridged version as it was a weekend.  We were treated to some chocolate and a very informative 7 minute history lesson via DVD.  Next we were herded outside where we had to deposit all electronics and jewelry in a secure locker.  Then we were hurried past some of the early milk and delivery trucks as it was raining.  Next we entered the factory where the temperature was drastically higher and there was an overwhelming smell of melted chocolate.  It was at this point that my stomach became very upset and I had to leave the tour.  I was escorted back to the main lobby.  I arrived just in time to see Beth's arm, as she was wearing a bright green fleece, behind the chocolate waterfall.  After that I sat with my head in my hands until I was collected after the tour along with our electronics.  We had just enough time to grab some lunch before having to catch the 5+ hour bus back to Christchurch.  We went to a place called Angus Cafe & Desserts where I got a soup to try to get my stomach to behave.  On our way to the bus station, I happened to see a protein powder bag that rivals all others.  It was 10 pounds of powder.  If I needed any here, I would probably saw how much it costs.  Once again, I found myself uncomfortable on a Naked Bus.  The bathroom was once again locked.  I believe they are just for show and that the first bus was a fluke as it was open for use.  This bus ride was pretty chilly, but I just wore my soft shell and beanie and tried to sleep.  I also made frequent pit stops on the bus ride and the driver kept asking if I couldn't make it to another stop.  Open the bathroom up and this wouldn't be an issue.  Cleaning a toilet is pretty easy.  I should know as I've pumped out several in my day at the airline.
Love me some happy.
Our cell for the evening.
We got into Christchurch later than expected as the driver took his sweet time re-fueling the bus before departure.  We had  short 20 minute walk to our accommodations for the evening, jail.  I'm serious.  We stayed in a hostel that was the old jailhouse.  We were treated to a nice cell that was pretty spartan.  There was a plastic bunk that almost fell over when I ascended to the top bunk.  There was a small dresser that was home to 2 thick blankets as the beds were made up with a flimsy blanket and sheet.  I didn't get to explore any as I had to get to bed for my early departure.  I had a shuttle pick-up at 6:30am.  I had to get back to Tauranga to start my data analyst gig on Monday morning.  Somehow I managed to sleep through 2 different alarms and quickly through my gear in my pack and headed out to meet my shuttle.  The guy was 15 minutes late and said they both texted and left a voice mail for me.  My phone has no record of either.  I could have probably gotten in a quick shower.  Oh well, the people on the plane and my next naked bus leg would have to suffer.  From pick-up to through security was about 25 minutes.  I remember when it was easy back in the US.  Oh the price we pay for that warm fuzzy feeling when we board a plane.  Its like TSA foreplay.  I wont bore any readers with the rest of my uneventful trip back except to say that I met a nice Japanese girl in Manukau when I was buying some bottles of green tea.  She was from Yokohama and we chatted for about 10 minutes before I boarded yet another Naked Bus with a locked bathroom.  I think I'm going to start a facebook page called just for show and take pictures of all the locked or screwed shut doors that I find and ask that others post their images as well.  It was nice to get back to my now very familiar town and sit down for a home cooked meal instead of eating out.  I had rice and smoked tuna.

TransAlpine shot

Their elaborate hostel.
Beth and her parents stayed another hour in Christchurch before hoping on the TranzAlpine train ride.  They stayed in the town of Greymouth last night and are flying back to Tauranga before they wander the North Island for the next week.  I will not be able to join in any of the reindeer games as I will be settling in to my new gig.  I'm one of 14 people in a small office on the 5th floor of a beige building.  I did get a slew of keys and an access card today.  I can turn the lift on and off.  Get into the parking garage, and lock/unlock our office.  What responsibilities I was given after only a couple hours.  The gig looks like it will be a good fit.  I will be able to utilize what I know and also grow in the mean time.  It will probably be a blend of development (coding) and data work.  The data work may be creating custom reports or doing ETL work.  Either way it looks like it will be a good way to spend the next 6 months.  If I can only talk the CEO in to taking me with her on some of the oversea trips.  She is in Western Australia right now with trips to Asia and US in the future.  Just have to prove that I'm useful to have around.  Kind a like MacGyver.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Just a quickie, but more to come

If the SD card, the culprit will probably utter this.
We are back on the North Island and I have a long post that just needs the images to be uploaded and inserted before I post it.  It will take a little longer as Beth left the camera on the bus and has to get it shipped up to us from Nelson.  If some ass monkey took the SD card I will go spider monkey on someone.  I also had to get dressed up more than I wanted to for my second day of work as Beth's luggage was misplaced on their flight from Westport due to having hand written baggage tags and boarding passes.  Who needs technology when you got paper and pen?

Beth's parents are going it alone for a couple days in Rotorua and other nearby areas as Beth has a back log of work.  I also just started my 7 days a week work week schedule.  If I follow my previous work ethic, I should have their current processes shaped up in a week or so.  From there it is on to new development and providing a level of support and instruction that they have never received.  Any way I got to go attack Peru.  My long recap will be coming in the next day or so

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

To Asa and June

I got this email this morning from Becky who typed up what my niece and nephew had to say.  I hope at some point they can understand the wunderlust that I feel.  Right now I bet they believe they have a crazy uncle who just wanted to run away.  I'm not getting away.  Rather I think I am discovering how resourceful I can be.  You experience a whole new set of trials when you are without your safety net of friends and family.  Its like when you try to embrace being a teen or an adult and you don't want the help, but its always there.  Here the help is a lot further away and doesn't come as often.  Letters like this make it harder to stay longer as my family is a big part of my life.  I has been almost 8 years since I first met Asa.  I did miss his birth as I was living in Japan.  My temporary stay in New Zealand is not new, but its the first time that they both have to experience it.  We don't get to spend summer evenings playing outside at the park or grilling.  We don't get to play hide and seek around the recently remodeled basement.  I don't get to experience with them their first time to Colorado and going across the canopy on zip lines.  I miss sections of their lives and they will miss sections of mine.  It doesn't make it any easier.  So when I am with them I try to make the most of it. 

Love you guys. 

From Juniper:

Come back soon and come to our house.  Have you had a good time in New Zealand?  Have you been taking pictures of churches?
I am doing good.  This summer I have been swimming.  I heart you.

To Juniper,
I'll be back as soon as I can.  I got another job out in New Zealand and I have to work longer than I was planning.  I am having a great time out here.  I have made lots of friends and we go out running in the park, bike riding, and hang out.  We have been out sailing in the harbor and playing on a snow covered mountain.  There are a lot of churches here, but I haven't taken too many pictures of them.  Do you want me to take some of them?  I'm glad you are swimming as I haven't gotten too many opportunities to swim as it is winter here.  The winter here is not like Minneapolis as they don't get snow.  Its more like fall than winter.  Beth's parents are here and we are heading down to Christchurch.  They will be here for 14 days.  Love you June.

How are you doing?  Are you doing well?  Is your job doing well?  The wedding in Colorado was really good.
Love, Juniper


From Asa:

Dear Kaleb and Beth,
How's your time been in New Zealand?   How are you doing?  I've been having a good summer.  I've gone to the water park, gone sailing, and played with my friends.  We went to the Black Hills and Mt. Rushmore.  Then we went to the Cosmos and the gravity was all weird.  That's all we've done so far this summer.  We'll write to you later.  Bye.

To Asa,
Our time in New Zealand is flying by.  Can you believe its almost your birthday?  We are doing well.  Right now in fact we are taking a little vacation to do some wandering around New Zealand.  Did you know New Zealand is 2 islands?  We live on the North, but we are going down to the South to go to a Chocolate Carnival and to see some penguins.  From the sounds of it, you are having a pretty fun summer.  I'm jealous that your pappa bought a sail boat and can take you guys out whenever you want.  I've only got to go out a couple times here.  We'll have to go for a bike ride and a sailing adventure when I get back.  Love ya Asa.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Yesterday I cried into a manky.

Faithful steed for the day.  Merida TFS.  Not Team Foundation Server.
Beth posted about the Redwoods over in Rotorua, but I will tell more of the tale of how I got destroyed by a 756m hill and a 3+ hour ride.  The day started off with me tossing some gear in my back pack and then filling up my 2L water bladder.  Tim stopped by just after 10 am to pick me up for the quick hour drive to Rotorua.  We talked about my staying longer in New Zealand.  I accepted the 6 month contract with NZ Avocado to be their data analyst.  We also talked about what other adventures we can have now that I'm staying until mid-January (contract ended 1/15/2013).  Talked about climbing, trail running, tramping, and biking. 

Once we got to Rotorua, we stopped in a pretty impressive outdoor store for a few minutes and I gawked at the sweet mountain bike gear.  I kept looking around the corner to see if they had a Surly Pugsley, but alas they did not.  I did get to see the legendary "Manky".  Not to be confused with South Park's Mr. Hankey.  The manky is a map of the mountain bike course printed on a micro fiber towel to be used to wipe snot, sweat, grime, and other stuff you rather not have on your hands or face.  For more info check here under maps.  We stopped next door at a bakery for a quick tea and sausage roll.  I also picked up 2 caramel slices thinking this is where Beth got hers the other day.  She said that I should bring some back for her if we stopped.  Beth went to the cafe on the other side of the outdoor store and these slices were like brownie, caramel, brownie, and topped with chocolate.  Not what I was expecting, but still tasty.

We headed over to the start of the tracks, which all are one way so you'll "never" encounter someone coming head-on.  I hired a bike here for $35 (2 hrs) and said I might keep it for the half day price ($45 for 4 hours).  They had helmets and back packs if you needed one, but I don't like wearing others helmets and I had my own pack.  I was given an 18" Merida hard tail.  This was definitely a step up from my Trek 830 Antelope from 1992.  This is not my bike as mine is green and purple, but the write up is just the same except my shows a lot more wear!

Tim and I start easy at a Grade 3 trail and start to let loose.  I should explain to the casual reader that I'm typically a road rider that loves to fly up and down the asphalt as fast as possible.  I do enjoy doing single track from time to time, but I only do it a handful of times a year and these is very little elevation change in MN where I typically ride, Theodore Wirth.  My Trek needs a lot of love or more likely just replaced with a more modern bike with components that work and true wheels.  We pop up and down and hit several switch backs before we find a log bridge over a little stream.  Tim and I pause here and both have the crazy idea of trying to test our resolve and balance.  I pull out the camera and Tim prepares to ride the log.  I almost didn't take a photo as I was more concerned that he got hurt.  That is right, Tim fell off the log and into the cold stream.  He was ok and just a little cold.  I didn't attempt it after seeing what just happened.  We proceed to ride a little further until we get to the fire road that will take us up to the summit of 756m. 
Post splash.  I have a photo of before, during, and after, but some are blurry.
The fire road starts off a a brutal angle and I soon find myself dripping in sweat and breathing hard.  I quickly drop out of the big ring and quickly into the granny gear.  I'm thankful that this thing has a triple and I worked the gears like a busker works the crowd.  We get up to the first little flat and take a break for some water and to calm the heart.  I so should have worn my heart rate monitor as it was beating really hard.  I'm not used to the bike pedals and my Sambas keep slipping off my muddy pedals.  I'm covered in mud and sweat.  I'm loving it.  I wonder what Beth will say when I come home with yet another bike!  I could totally ride here every chance I get not to mention there is a mtb park about 10 minutes from where we live.  The road biking is ok, but could be better if the roads were not covered in rim denting rubble.  Just invest in asphalt and commuting by bike would blow up.  We finally get to the summit after having to pull off to the side of the road to allow the losers, ahem the shuttle, to pass.  I tell Tim my philosophy that you have to earn the downhill and that I would not take the shuttle to the top.  Rather I will grunt, sweat, swear, and summit under my own power.  We enjoy some crazy technical tracks on the descent.  The only issue is that some of these have not been ridden in a while and we have had a lot of rain in the past week.  The pine needles were really slick and our back tires would slide out from under us.  I may have treated my bike like a red headed step child and beat the tar out of hit.  I know I dumped my bike a handful of times and I got tossed around a couple as well.  My right leg has a couple pedal gouges, but my legs are already scarred so it just blends in.  I start to feel more confident as the day goes on and my picking lines starts to come back, but my body is shot and I feel that if I ride any harder that I will most likely get injured.  We decide to head back to the car and drop off the rental. 

I drop my rental off and pay the extra for the half day rental.  I over hear the mechanics talking about how the US and Germany do it differently.  I chime in, "You must be talking about the brakes."  I got it on the first guess.  They joked that today must have been a sharp learning curve.  I replied, I rode a bike in Japan last year that had them flipped and that I have been riding a kiwi bike for the last 3 months.  So braking their way is second nature.  I do plan on keeping the brakes this way, even after I return.  I will have bikes with different set-ups!  So if you borrow one of my ride, be warned.

Tim and I are fairly well spent and pack up the car in record time and start to head back to the Mount.  We get back shortly after 5, but not before we talk about plans for the next couple of weeks.  I'll be getting some needed tutelage in climbing.  I want to be more comfortable at belaying and learn how to lead climb.  There is talk of going out on the weekends once the weather warms up and doing multi-pitch climbs and other gnarly stuff.

I didn't cry today, but the streams of sweat coming off my face could be compared to that of a tweens seeing Titanic for the nth time or maybe even the band One Direction in person.  The manky is a useful tool and I could see them catching on all over the world.  I show talk to their supplier and see if I can't get one for the Grand Rounds and other trails in the metro area.