Thursday, March 30, 2017

Pie Ride Week 1 Recap

Pie Ride 2017! Recap
Riding from Bluff to Cape Reinga. How hard can it be? Its only roughly 3,000 km across 2 islands that are nothing alike. There will be paved & gravel roads as well as off road trails that will transport me across plains, mountains, National Parks, beaches, and a couple ferry rides just for good measure.
Excitement is definitely creeping into my last few days of work. People seem shocked that I don't have a job lined up and that I'll be setting out next week to cycle the country. It has been funny to tell people and watch their reactions when I tell them I'll be cycling the length of NZ when they ask me what I'll be doing next. You have to do these things when you have the means either physical, mental, or financial. As you never know when the opportunity will come again. Who knows maybe I'll start organizing, ok Beth would organize, and leading back road tours around this amazing country filled with quite back roads and stunning views.

Pie Count: 1
Caramel Slice: 1
Cycle Tourists: 4

The flight from Auckland to Invercargill was fine even though I had to rearrange my bags and bike box. Too much weight in one. Should have been a sign. I've been thinking of naming the disc trucker "Chubby Side Action." She has a wide backside and takes a lot to get up the hills. Nothing close to any of my other bikes. Putting the bike together was straight forward, as I only removed seat post, pedals, handlebars, and front wheel. Getting the bags weighted and set up too longer. I ended up riding around town getting supplies: food, gas, money, and used a pump from local bike shop. Then set out on a harrowing 30km filled with poor visibility, cold rain, and a ton of logging trucks that didn't want to give you any space. I got to Bluff a little shaken. I think that this was the worst section of road I've ever ridden.

I cruised down to the campground. It looked fairly meh. Wide open space on a slant and a not any tents on site. I continued past to Sterling Point and talked to 2 kids from the US on a working holiday visa. I then found a backpackers for the same cost as camping. So I had a roof over my head instead of nylon. Met some interesting fellows: 1 from Germany, who just completed the Te Araroa, and 2 guys from Canada, but 1 is a dual citizen. The other being Kiwi. They are doing a farewell circuit as he is moving to Brisbane to work and be close to his boy.

This morning I was up around 6 and expected some sun to pop up around 7. Nope, it was 8. So I packed the bike and headed back to Sterling Point. I then stopped for pancakes before leaving town. Highway 1 wasn't bad and only about 10 trucks passed me. Then I turned off and the GPS told me to take some gravel roads that ended with fences. All in all I think I rode 30km of gravel today. Thankfully my tires have a little squish to them. Good old Chubby Side Action! The road meanders through several farms and the animals typically answered my calls. (As Beth can attest to, I talk to all sorts of animals) There were definitely some cool locations like Lignite Pit Cafe. They had a walking garden that looked cool, but it would take hours and cost money. So I opted for their Steak, Onion, and Guiness Pie. Which was very tasty and a particularly flaky crust. However the cow puff pastry put it over the top. The roasted potatoes were very good as well.

Slope Point is lots of gravel and some climbing. The backpackers is nice and the dorm slept 4, but is located off the kitchen and lounge. I may ride some of the day with an 18 year old German kid, Constantine, tomorrow. I have passed him twice already. Slope Point is scenic and today was very cold as there was a windchill. However, sitting at the table the sun is now out in earnest, something I've not seen in days. Tomorrow's plan is to head toward Balclutha, but may pull up short to do some exploring in the Catlins if we see some accessible trails.

FYI: if you stay at the backpackers, which is changing its type of accommodation in April, don't pet the cat unless you like getting swatted once you stop. The cat thinks it owns you afterwards. You've been warned.

Pie Count: 1
Caramel Slice: 0
Cycle Tourist: 0

Constantine and I left Slope Point around 8:30 after a pretty good sleep. The French guy in the dorm was fascinated with the TV Series Arrow and watched it into the night. He left well after us as he was just getting up when we hit the gravel. We worked our way back up the gravel hill to be passed by a tourist bus. We then went to Curio Baywhere we caught our first glimpse of the sun. It wouldn't make an appearance again until the cycle day was basically over. We stopped at Niagra Cafe and had a warm drink to take the chill off but the sweat got cold. The blueberry muffin was awesome though. The frosting was just like Toaster Strudles. We continued on the windy scenic road and were treated with some steep climbs and blind corner descents. The highlight of the day would have to be seeing 2 ladies at 4 Square, a supermarket chain, who said they passed us 3 times today and they kept wondering how we were keeping ahead of them. Simple we didn't go to every lookout point. The SPOT Tracker is fun because Beth keeps texting when I stop or if there is a big hill we are working on. Tomorrow I'm heading to Lawrence in order to break up the travel to Middlemarch. I've reached out to 2 Warmshowers hosts. One for tomorrow and one for 4 days from now at the end of the Otago Rail Trail. How does Sofiane travel so light? I know I could dump the computer, cook set, possibly a layer or 2. Then there is the tent and sleeping gear. Maybe travel in warmer times of year. Autumn in New Zealand is chilly. Wind all day and maybe cracking 12 degrees by 4pm. Then it drops right off at dusk. Will be interesting camping tonight.

Pie Count: 0
Caramel Slice: 0
Cycle Tourist: 0

We left the camp ground fairly early and made our way to Kaka Point. The sun was peeking out and the coast looked pretty spectacular. We opted for this route as it was a little less climbing, but a couple of km longer. Constatine was making a solid push to Dunedin. My plans changed as well as adding 30km to the ride to Middlemarch would have been crazy, since a good portion is steep, steep gravel. So I went to Lawrence instead and was treated to 40km of gravel grinding. The views from up top were pretty but you get to see how the land is used. Lots of farming and logging. I ran into a lady by Greenfield who asked if I needed help. I was just taking a picture of a random monument. I said nope. I'm heading to Lawrence down this way. She said I must be pretty keen then as its all gravel. I said I knew. I saw a few cars on the gravel, but it reminded me of the gravel ride Bri and I did a few years back. I almost got stung by a bee too! I made sure to zip up my jersey all the way after that. I made a stupid mistake and didn't fill my water bottles when I had the chance. I rationed my last bottle until 30 minutes before I was back in a town. Wouldn't have been an issue, bu the sun came out this afternoon and I was sweating pretty good. However, the wind still cut through your layers. So I kept my vest on and would open it up during the many climbs and zip up for descents and flats.

I'm at a little holiday park in Lawrence for $14 a night. I grabbed a hot shower and hand washed my bibs. Hopefully they are dry in the morning. If I wanted to piss people off there is a fire going in the kitchen that would possibly dry them right quick (I ended up drying them over the fireplace). There is a Warmshowers host in town, but was unable to host on short notice. I did contact another at the other end of the ORT, but still haven't heard back. The plan for tomorrow is to wake up early and do some gravel grinding. The nice lady at the i-site (on my 2nd visit) told me to watch out on the gravel road during the week because of logging trucks. Tomorrow being Sunday I should be golden. Then I grab the highway and meander into Middlemarch. Then I decide 1 or 2 days on the ORT. It depends a bit on the host really. Otherwise, there is a campsite just outside Clyde, where Constantine used to live. He recommends the seared beef at Paulina's, where he used to work. We'll see how that goes.

Oh the GoPro mount broke this morning and the lens on the case got scratched pretty good.

Pie Count: 1
Caramel Slice: 0
Cycle Tourists: 3 (albiet in Middlemarch)

Talked to an interesting guy last night at the holiday park. It is leaps and bounds better than Middlemarch's Holiday Park. He and his wife bring their caravan over for 6 months out of the year. They are thinking of relocating to Lawrence from Gore. It is a little town with lots of quirks. Statues of people all over the place that look like Fisher Price toys. He happens to do interiors. So he has worked on almost all the buildings in town. I would have to say that the amount of hills, tramping, and other things in the area it would be a cool place to visit for longer. Had a nice little breakfast at the only open cafe. I opted for banana french toast with bacon and a mince pie. Constantine had asked about the pie ride and how I rate pies. It comes down to portability: does your crust handle well, i.e. not break apart. The taste of the pastry and is it flaky, but will sufficient body to hold the contents. Does the top stay on? Filling: No gaps between filling and crust. Tasty as? Thinking of a 5 pie rating that will be flushed out over the coming weeks. Something similar for caramel slices.

Today's ride was bound to be wet. The weather forecast didn't look pretty and it didn't disappoint. It started hard about 6km into the 80km ride and didn't let up. Just so happened to rain when my Garmin ran out of juice and I ran out of sealed road. Thankfully it was Sunday and no logging trucks were zipping around. I think you could put a point to point gravel grinder and it would go gang busters as its a challenging area. The area was a blend of forestry, farming, and a big lake. I was rather excited to ride over the lake as I saw it from the plane the other day. Then once I got back to paved road, I was able to ride a little faster, but I did end up pushing my bike up another steep hill. The texts from Beth said things like character building, but I was not amused at the time with the weather and steep roads. A total of 4 times I had to push my bike. It was slow going while riding around Lake Mahinerangi. I did manage to spot a small fishing village that hired out lodges. Perfect for Peter. I went from Clutha to Dunedin Region and the colors on the trees changed to Autumn. I stopped at Clark's Junction for a bite to eat. I had been in the saddle for 6 hours and chilled to the bone. I had managed to drink only 1 bottle, nibble 2 squares of chocolate, and 2 mouthfuls of scroggin. So I was hungry and cold. I ended up sitting next to the fire and placing my rain gear next to it to dry out as well. I had a massive steak sandwich, hot chocolate, and a ginger beer. After that it was 30m to Middlemarch. Only 597m of descent and 273m of climbing left for the day. Would be fun not fully loaded and on dry roads. However, the scenery changed once again and I was busy pulling over snapping photos. The landscape is dotted with rock formations and the clouds were low while I was descending into Otago. Beth saved the day by booking me accommodation as I didn't want to tent in the rain when I've been wet all day. The place is what they describe as rustic. That is an understatement to say the least. Room doesn't have a heater, but I had 4 blankets and it was dry. I'm washing and drying my clothes so they'll be fresh for the next couple days. Tomorrow I'm staying in Lauder (108km) in an old school. They have a spa which will feel nice. Then on Tuesday, I'm actually using Warmshowers as a guest. Then its on to Wanaka where I have to look at VodaFone in getting my number back. Well that is about it. Body is feeling a little sore, but I've been stretching at night and massaging my legs. Most kms I've done in awhile but enjoying all of it as its just part of the experience. You know riding New Zealand by bike, back roads, and I'm challenging myself. As Beth said "Character Building. The tough days just make you stronger."

Pie Count: 1
Caramel Slice: 0
Cycle Tourists: Too many. It being an awesome time of year.

Woke up last night to my motion detector light and noises outside. Does someone want my clean clothes? Well have fun getting over my bike which is in front of the door. I'm pretty sure some animal ran past the sensor and then the horses next door were making noises. Either way I was up for 30 minutes listening to nothing happening. The holiday park was dry, but the 'cabin' slept 4 which would be pushing it unless you were really close. There wasn't a heater, but with 4 blankets I didn't get cold. Beth booked this on my ride and the owner had to run to Dunedin. So I never saw anyone or paid. Beth just did a bank transfer to them, which works for me. I was out early as I knew I had a longer day in the saddle ahead of me. It the winds played up a really long day. I ate at Kissing Gate Cafe again, the last time being in January, and had a large breakfast. Most days I'm only really eating twice. Something small on the ride, but haven't been that hungry. Too cold typically to stop.

The morning started out with some mist and a slight breeze. I thought to myself to snap some photos to ask Irish Rachel if this reminds her of home. The km's flew by and I passed a couple who were eating at the cafe when I arrived. He commented 'I wondered when you would pass.' It was maybe an hour into the ride. Starting in February, there has been an Arts on the Rail Trail happening. This means that it wasn't the exact same ride as January. Which was nice! There is a new permanent sculpture of the planetary system along the trail. Before half way the sun came out and I got to remove my layers. Yeah for warm sun! I pulled into Waipiata for a quick snack of Ginger Beer and 2 lamb kebab skewers while refilling my bottles. I really only wanted fluids but thought I should have some food as well. Beth and I texted at the stop. She told me only 28km then down hill. Sometimes it is nice to have someone relaying logistics to you. I'm typically a play it by ear kind of guy. Like the last 2 days I was pretty sure there were gravel roads as Google didn't list them for car directions. It all worked out. Even at the Lauder School B&B, which is awesome by the way, the host was amazed that I went over the hill from Lawrence. Time to capitalize on back road riding!

There were too many groups of cyclists today to count, but it is proof that the seasons don't stop people from riding the trail. I actually preferred this time. Not very hot. Leaves changing colors. Autumn smells and apples in the trees/on the ground. I also got to the high point of the trail without much effort. I had just passed the lodge that I recalled being by the high point. Then I cam across 2 Aussies snapping photos at the marker. I snapped a few for them and proceeded to bomb down the hill. I stopped in a cafe in Lauder for a drink and a quick snack while asking for directions to tonight's accommodations. Turns out the Warmshowers host is a teacher who taught Esme's kids years ago. Small world New Zealand strikes again.

My room is the play hut. It sleeps 2 and the spa is right around the corner. It was a welcomed treat after the beating I've been giving my body. The plan for tomorrow is to ride to Alexandra and to stay with Kevin and Jenny from Warmshowrers. It will be my first time staying with a host. Esme said that Jenny is a fountain of knowledge when it comes to cycling. I may want to ride further on a different trail if their schedule doesn't work out and I need to show up later. Then it is on to Wanaka to sort out VodaFone and possibly some body work over the 2 nights I plan on staying before heading over to the West Coast.

I'm debating sending some stuff back home as I've not used it yet. I figured if I've not used it next week, it is either getting sent back or removed when I go through Wellington. I know for sure I can remove the 3rd water bottle mount unless I start carrying stubby bottles. My adventure tires rub the bottle top. The bike is handling better but I've had to repack the bags more evenly. In the left, I have books, cook gear and food, and warm/rain gear. In the right I have my clothes, toiletries, and electronics. Then sleeping gear minus the bag in a dry sack across the top of the rack. The sleeping bag and daily essentials are on the handlebars. I've taken to stashing 2 filled water bottles on the top of the panniers as I ran out the other day. Then for emergencies, I have 2 liters in the tent dry bag.

The key to riding daily is nightly stretching and adjusting body position throughout the day. Today I even stopped for 10 minutes to stretch out my hamstrings, hip flexors, back, and glutes. At night I put my legs up in the air for a spell and do rotational stretches as well as calf and quad stretches.

So Kiwi: A bloke opens the door to the pub and states "So there are 20-30 sheep on the main road." The owner grabs the phone book, "we'll get it sorted". He mutters to himself "who lives down there? His name is Steven? James? What is his surname? Oh Ross." The cook calls the number as the owner manages the bar. She explains the situation about the sheep on the loose and ends the call with "If they aren't yours can you call further down the road?"

Pie Count: 0
Caramel Slice: 1
Cycle Tourists: Too many

Woke up and talked to Bruce, the other half of the Lauder School B&B. Talked more about the area and what to expect for the day's ride. The ride to Alexandra was fairly quick. Views were a little different than January and  Bruce said that April/May is the best time to ride and stop by vineyards for Autumn colors. I did a little shopping in Alexandra before heading out on the 1st 3rd of the Roxburgh Gorge Trail. It follows the Clutha River and has massive steep walls almost as soon as you leave town. The 2nd 3rd is a boat ride down the river to the last section that then joins the Clutha Gold Trail to Lawrence. It would be fun to come do these as a circuit of trail rides. My legs were ready for more tomorrow, but my bum has finally started getting sore. So it will be good to take a day off in Wanaka. I'll get a massage, sort my phone, and do some laundry. I also road parts of the River Trail, which is a different path from Alexandra to Clyde, which is more technical than the flat rail trail.

Pie Count: 1
Caramel Slice: 1
Cycle Tourists: 1 (@ camp ground none on the road)

Woke up early at Jenny and Kevin's as they were going to be out the door by 8. However, their plans changed and they kept feeding me more food. Its not often that I turn down food, but I was stuffed at dinner and at breakfast. This wasn't as bad as Ravi, but was more than I was comfortable with. They snapped a quick photo for their guest book and I was off. Speaking of their guest book, they ask for recommendations from their guests. Something I'll add to ours. I took the back roads to Clyde and went past a cemetery, which looked cool in the fog. So I took a couple pictures. The road to Cromwell was really foggy. I say visibility was about 10m, so I opted to stay off the highway for a bit. I stopped at a cafe and had a forgettable slice, but their carrot cake muffin was tasty. The road to Cromwell cleared up so I left. The road travels past the dam and Lake Dunestan and gently climbs before arriving at Cromwell. It was rather picturesque today with the fall colors, remaining mist, and still lake. A professional photographer was going up and down the road taking photos even.

I asked in Cromwell at the i-site which was the best route to Wanaka. Google said that 8a was a little longer, but less elevation. She said 6 as the shoulder and road were very nice and didn't have confusing turns. So I went down 6 and I was able to stop in Luggate for a late lunch. It was a small pub only about 15km away from Wanaka. The views from Cromwell to Wanaka were a mix of orchards, vineyards, and mountains. It was easy to get distracted. Luckily there was very little traffic. The pictures I grabbed don't do it justice. Wanaka still makes me angry though. Upon entering the Holiday Park, I heard an out of tune ukelele right where I'm supposed to pitch my tent. Don't push your crappy music on us bro. It didn't help that I spent most of the afternoon getting my phone sorted. I still wasn't authorized to take my number back even though the SIM card I gave them as now active with my number. A quick email got them to call support, which only put it in the notes field. I then had to sign up to a plan, only to cancel it, to go to prepay. Ugh. I hate phones. However, it been a good week of riding, but its time to push a bit, not that I'm on the road.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Update from the pie ride

I'm in Lawrence which wasn't planned nor was riding with Constantine, a German guy, I passed twice.  So on day 2 and the morning of 3 we rode together.  Meant my pace was slower and his faster. It also meant I didn't get to Balclutha until this morning.  Then the long ride to middlemarch didn't seem feasible on new touring legs.  So I went for a stunning gravel ride to Lawrence leaving me about 80km to Middlemarch. Then onto the Otago Rail Trail.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Destination Unknown

I'm sitting in the Christchurch airport waiting for my connecting flight.  Then it's time to assemble the bike and head through town getting the last few supplies and then off to Bluff.

Then it's time to get comfortable with the unknown and embrace the adventure as it unfolds. Hope those following will get a little sense of the adventure as I am able to share it.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Logistics of Pie Ride 2017

The logistics of Pie Ride 2017 are coming along with just a few final details to iron out over the next week. How am I doing this? Well, I've been pouring over books (Pedallers' Paradise, Classic New Zealand Cycle trails, and Lonely Planet Cycling New Zealand) and maps, researching trails, and making sure to include places that I've wanted to ride. So I'll be heading from South to North and  I've now mapped out the majority of my course. Why? Well this will allow me to chase the fleeting Autumn weather instead of running face first into Winter on the South Island. This will also allow me to meet up with my brother in Taupo and ride through 3 of the places that we've lived in so far. This being Kinloch, Thames, and Auckland. We'll be missing Mt Maunganui and Wellington. However, he'll get to experience some great places that have a lot to offer​. We'll be able to tackle things at a little slower pace and I'll play tour guide for an area that I know pretty well. We are planning on doing some hiking, sailing, bonding, and of course lots of cycling. As one of my of cycling friends said 'You are mad and should be locked up'. So lots of cycling is to be had. Not to mention pies!

I'll be adding the planned route on the bottom of the post. Just so you know I've not added up the distances of the planned course as it is based off the road distances and I'll be on some trails that deviate from the road and will cause the total distance to be longer. The journey should take roughly 2 months, but I do have to be back in Auckland for an obstacle race at the end of May. Who knows, maybe I'll ride back from Cape Reinga to Wellington instead of hopping a flight or ride. This won't be strictly riding every day. There will be days off the bike to explore the amazing countryside. As well as my eldest brother coming over to join in on some of the adventure. It will be his first time over to New Zealand and I'm sure he won't soon forget the experience. Hopefully, we'll get to see some sheep roaming the road or possibly a sunset over Lake Taupo.

Even though I'm spending a lot of time route planning, I've also been busy getting my bike and gear ready while trying to get through my last few weeks at work. That in itself is a mission. My bike is at the shop getting a tune-up. It had to make a 2nd trip as not everything was completed the first time around. I wonder how often this type of thing occurs. I've got all my planned gear strewn about my office floor. It is almost all there. I've got a couple things in the the mail. I've got a custom cycling cap from No 16 Cycle Caps out of Australia and a Chrome book. I've got to pick up some front bags from Stealth Bags, a local Wellingtonian bag maker, that I'm having made. If you are interested in what I plan on carrying let me know and I can post it up. I'll definitely not be clean everyday, but I plan on doing some laundry along the way. Or at least hand washing things at campsites or hostels.

So I'm setting off from Auckland, on the 22nd, flying to Invercargill right after my last day at work. From there I'll be assembling my bike at the airport and then riding to Bluff after getting some supplies. In Bluff, I'll camp out overnight and then officially start the ride at Stirling Point on the 23rd of March. Then the craziness of the adventure takes over. The following will be a loose template of the adventure.

Official start from Stirling Point to Slope Point (lowest point of South Island) 91km
Slope Point to Balclutha 121km
Balclutha to Middlemarch 121km
Middlemarch to Waipiata 53km
Waipiata to Champagne Gully 108km
Champagne Gully to Makaroa Tourist Center 120km
Makaroa to Haast (78km) or Paringa 131km
Paringa to Otto/McDonald's camping area 103km
Otto to Empire Hotel 116km
Empire Hotel to Ikamatua 95km via West Coast Wilderness Trail and Pioneer Heritage Trail
Ikamatua to Spring Junction (??) to St Arnaud 170km
St Arnaud to Picton 128km (NZTA recommends that non-motorized traffic take the route North through Nelson, but when we were down in St Arnaud the traffic from the earthquake wasn't bad).

Take Ferry to Wellington and spend some time at home. Do laundry. Change out any gear that I need to. Check over bike and take to shop if necessary.

Wellington to Martinborough 77km
Martinborough via Alfredton to Ashhurt 106km
Ashhurt to Mangaweka 100km
Mangaweka via Taihape to Ohakune 117km
Ohakune to Ongarue 102km
Ongarue to Pureora (Timber Trail) 85km
Pureora to Taupo 58km

Taupo via Atiamuri Dam to Whakamaru Dam 68km or Taupo via Kinloch to Whakamaru Dam 59km (go past our old place and maybe say hi to the neighbors and friends)
Whakamaru Dam to Jones Landing/Arapuni 67km
Arapuni via Piarere to Matamata 35km. There is the Hobbiton set nearby that we can bus out to. I saw it several years ago, but may interest my brother.
Matamata to Te Aroha: 44km, Wairere Falls (on the way is worth a visit on a good day) and hot pools at Te Aroha to soak weary bodies.
Te Aroha to Thames 55km: See where we used to live and meet some friends. Hike the Pinnacles Track and possibly take a ride on the MTB that I helped build.

Depending on the day:
Thames to Coromandel 54km then a 2 hr ferry to Auckland but leaves at 4:30 on Sat/Sun as far as I can tell this far out
Thames to Orere Point 66km
Orere Point to Flat Bush 48km (Going to contact Shiv about staying with him as he lives out there)
Once in Auckland, contact my friends to see we can't go sailing with them or charter a boat.
Out of Auckland, the path will follow the Tour Aotearoa path for the portion through the rest of the North Island.
Then depending on time, energy, and Beth's patience, I may ride the course in reverse back to Auckland for O Rock and possibly Wellington.

How can you follow along? Well this blog of course. As it will be updated from the road. Strava will have my ride information uploaded when I have internet. Quick photos will be on Instagram, @viewswhileriding, and photo album(s) will be found by following the link on the upper right. The SPOT tracker will be on for the trip, while I have batteries, and the link can be found on the upper right to watch real-time progress. Well that about sums up what I've been doing for the last couple weeks as this has been getting planned out. Hopefully I'll get to put a few more miles in my legs and ride the trucker loaded before I set off.