The Phantom (Ghost who walks, man who cannot die)
Well, a man doesn’t have a horse called Hero, a dog called Devil, nor does he know any pygmies, …but it’s all action!
Tuesday 28th was Holter Monitor Day. That’s a little box that one wears for 24Hrs with 5 or 6 pick-ups to track the heart action for a day.
I get to the 1430 appointment early and voila, it’s all fitted up by 1438, however, nursey seems concerned and wants to give me an ECG! (I’m thinking, FFS, I had an Echo the other day and all that other stuff a month or so ago,) …but I go with the flow.
It’s complete within a few minutes, but now nursey is more concerned and wants to talk to doctor and for doctor t talk to me, ….so I take a seat. She waffled about a slow heart rate and possible inconsistency in the pattern, but mainly too slow. (I’m thinking, FFS, it’s always been low as in my late teens and early 20’s (when I was sort of fit) my resting rate was 45,) …but I take a seat and wait.
Nursey comes back and advises that I need to go to ED to see a doctor! (I’m thinking, whaaat, FFS, all the experts are here so what can ED do,) …..but I stroll down to Emergency, (where all the sick people are, and go through the hoops as if I was in Texas and Covid-19 was rampant) ….then I take a seat and wait.
By about 1530 I get called up to be interrogated by the Triage Nurse, answer all 20+ questions, mentioning that no, I’m not tired, run-down, in pain, blacking-out etc, etc. That I’ve been working out daily, feeling somewhat fitter than I have for awhile, that heartrate has always been slow (but it should be closer to 60 than 40) and I feel fine. She mentions that she’ll get one of the Cardio Doctors to come and see me!! (I bet you can’t guess what I thought??!!)
By 1630 a man is getting a little frustrated, so he strolls up to the desk and casually mentions that he needs to go. That didn’t really go down that well and nursey explains how ED is full and there are no rooms available for a consult ….so the man mentions, “Oh well since I need to see a Cardio Doctor, I’m happy to go back to Cardiology and see him there!”, Nursey responds that no, that won’t do because Cardio will be shut and no-one there! To which the man counters, “Oh, so if there’s no one about to visit him, then he might as well go then?! Nursey appeared to be getting a little testy at this point and there was mention of recording if a man left the ED “Against Medical Advice”, so the man mentioned that he would wait 10 more minutes!! …and resumed his post amidst the sick people.
He actually waited 20 minutes, then went back and gave a nod to Nursey, she nodded back and he gapped it to hook-up with Ann and head home.
As they were meandering, the man gets a call, …it’s Andrew (a Cardio Dr) and they chat about this unusual turn of events, with mentions of things like a heart block and the likelihood of a heart just stopping, how the man has had no symptoms, has not felt sick and in fact that he is somewhat fitter and in better condition than he has been for some time …and that in fact, he’s had no problems at all getting the heart rate up to 145 on recent visits to the gym, although generally he operates under 110 on fat-burn days and generally between 125-135 on cardio days, when he’s pushing a little harder. Andrew mentions that he will ring the head of dept and call back with a time for the man to visit.
Before the pair get home, Andrew rings again and says the man should present to the hospital “tonight” to get fitted with a pacemaker within the next day or so!!! (I thought FFS!!!! ….but I’m not even sick!)
The couple go home, have dinner, pack a few things and head back to the hospital …..only to get sent back to ED!!! (FFS). That’s back through the Covid screening and into the waiting room, where the man identifies several individuals, on both sides of the counter, that were there during the afternoon. He eventually (it only took an hour) gets picked-up by Andrew, taken to the Heart & Lung Ward, checked-in, gowned-up, bedded-down and tucked in for the night.
I should mention here that discussions revealed that this circumstance would be unrelated and is unlikely to have contributed in any way to the three TIA’s that the man has suffered ….although I suppose suffered isn’t really the right word to use since the man barely knew that anything had ever happened!!?? ..in fact, he even asked if they were just doing this because they wanted some practice.
Not much happened. The night was spent in a pod of 6 beds ……but all the other people sounded like they were quite unwell. It seemed like I’d wakened several times through the night, but had a reasonable nights sleep, although a couple of times (midnight & 0445) my eyes shot open to see the grim reaper hovering over me ……but it just turned out to be the night nurse coming to check blood pressure and temp.
I got moved to a Duplex at about 0900, Doctors came about 10’ish, Ann turned up about 11, I couldn’t get into the Wi-Fi and it was a fairly bland day. There was a reasonable chance that the procedure might get done that day but that was not to be the case, however, I was advised in the evening that I was scheduled for 1100 the next day.
After watching a movie, I settled down about 11, only awakened for the checks, slipping straight back into the coma until 0730.
I was up and scrubbed by 0800, came back to find food had been delivered, settled back into the bed and prepared the porridge to be consumed, had 3 or 4 spoons when Lynn (the specialist Pacemaker Nurse) came in and advised ‘no Kava for Johnnie’, which was a bit off really as I’m sure the bowl off fruit salad was screaming for me to consume it …and there was a serving of jam to go on the toast! (even if I didn’t buy the bread, I wasn’t going to be rude and not consume it).
Ann arrived shortly after and in no time at all, I was being prepped with feeds of antibiotics into the line, a sponge down with alcohol wipes around the left chest, shoulder and arm, then a cluster
of doctors arrived …and that dropped another clanger!!
Apparently, further study of the various tests revealed that I was born with a hole in my heart and that could well be the cause of the strokes! …So, …
And then we were off and I was taken down to Surgical.
A lay about down there for a bit then was taken into the theatre at about 1045, I shuffled across onto the slab, then got wired-up etc etc. The surgeon came in, introduced himself, didn’t fart around and before you knew it I was done, getting unwired, stripped of dressings etc …without really knowing what the hell had just happened because one of the precautionary features is a shield under my face so I’m not breathing germs on the area being cut. I was wheeled back up to the ward, fed, Ann rewarded me with a piece of chocolate and now I’m just waiting on a chest x-ray to check placement, a test of the device, another ECG …..and an expected release to go home at 1630!
So, it dragged out a bit and the day finished with the scan to check the unit, then X-ray to check the placement, a quick run down and briefing with Andrew from Cardio and finally getting released at 1900.
At this stage Long-John-Phantom-Walker-Silver is feeling a bit confused and somewhat blessed. He’s had three strokes with sod all symptoms or after effects, he’s fitted with a pacemaker without ever feeling sick and has managed to perform quite well as an athlete in my younger days with a hole in my heart.
I haven’t been doing any updates as there hasn’t been anything happening!
Basically, the last month has just been a big struggle with getting any weight off, which has drifted between 91 & 90kg. It did dip to 90 at one stage, then back up a bit, thanks to having visitors, then Carmelita’s birthday and other things, but today I hit 88.8kg, so that was a big milestone.
I’ve ridden the pushbike to work a couple of times but the weather has been so crappy that that has been rare. I’ve been to the gym a few times, but that’s only been on weekends and I’ve found that if I don’t get the exercise, the weight drifts back up, so the last couple of weeks has seen a minimum of 30 minutes on the spin-bike each day. I include weights at the gym but at home I’m limited to a couple of light hand weights ….and some press-ups! I eventually upped the count to 25 and have done that a few times …but being careful not to burn out, I try not to do it too frequently!
Today I had another session at the hospital and this time it was for an Echo Cardiagram. That’s done with an ultrasound and took an hour.
It started on my back with my left arm raised to open up the ribs so the thingy can get an unobscured view of the heart, then on my side but still looking in from the front, then she dropped a section of the bed out so she could look in from the side, then from under the solar plexus to look up, then from the bottom of my neck to look down.
At times I would have to breath in, then breath out and hold it and although I could see the screen, I didn’t really know what I was looking at so soon tired of that. At times though, she would be measuring distances on between peaks on the heart rate, or the height of the pulses, then at other times she appeared to be measuring sections of the heart chambers etc.
Finally, a doctor came in to insert a line into my arm, then I had to get back on my side and they did their thing again, then injected some stuff which caused the blood to bubble as it went though the heart and apparently, this was see if any blood was leaking from the right chamber into the left.
The nurse later explained that the left atrium feeds the body and right feeds the lungs and brain and as foetus, the lungs are one of the last things to develop and therefore very stiff, so there’s a flap between them that provides blood to the baby’s heart and brain. Then once it’s born and starts to breath, that pressurises the flap shut and it seals up. This test was to see if that was damaged and potential clots caused by the likes of DVT could be making their way into the right and on to the brain.
As part of this test I had to breath in and push, as if I was constipated and trying to have a crap, as that helps identify if there’s a weakness …I was just worried I’d pooh my pants so I pushed …but not too hard!!
I’m back in on Tuesday to get a Holter Heart Monitor fitted and I have to wear that for 24hrs and I suppose after that the experts might have a better idea of what’s caused the strokes and now I’m hoping like hell that it’s more cholesterol related than this type of heart issue because I want a clearance to drive again and I imagine that if it’s heart related, that just ain’t gonna happen …and I’ve got a 1600km ride to do in October!!
Week 4 was a bit of a shambles with respect to adhering to the plan because I was dragged off on leave and that meant no scales to monitor progress, or lack of, and all the newly established routines went out the door with being taken away from home and having all manner of other changes of environment.
The mokos, Amo & Whai, came to us on Sunday so we could get away around 8’ish on Monday, but I had a bit of work stuff to do first, so that delayed our departure, but we eventually got away to meet with Lou and her three mokos in Bulls …with a stop for tissues in Mana, cos the grumpy nanny had issues with the noises emanating from the back seat!
On-on from there and lunch stop for the kids in Turangi, which included a short walk for the geriatric, then eventual arrival in Rotorua at around 4’ish and settle into the digs. I suppose that I should mention here that we were booked into chalets by Kuirau Park, but on Saturday, Ann received a call to say that the park was taking in a heap of homeless people compliments of Winz. At that point we were a bit perplexed because why did they tell us that? Was it because they were informing us that we (with our five 5-9 year olds) were about to share the facilities with a bunch of meth-heads, or was it because they wanted us to move on so they could fill our discounted rate accommodation with premium paying Winz clients? Either way, bugger them!! We found a very nice home in Lynmorevia book-a-batch.
So we settled in, I went for a 30 minute walk and later on, we took the kids back to the Waikite Valley Thermal Park and that was nice and relaxing before getting some supplies and getting some kip.
Tuesday was down to the info centre, booked sessions on the Duck and at Skyline, embarking on the Amphibious Duck tour to the Blue Lake and Lake Okareka, then had lunch and a walk. My walk was accompanied by 4 scooterists, who depending on whether we were going up or down hills, they might be following or leading, but as we got back to the lakefront, there was a mention of last one and rotten eggs. At that point I mentioned that we weren’t finishing at the car, but once we had passed that, then circled the round-about, I looked over and checked that my mate was ‘still-on’ then we lit out, me lumbering and him scootering, somewhat casually I might add. I had one eye on the finish and one on him and I detected a change-up ….damn ….and be buggered, I had to step it up a notch, then the little bastard had a huge grin on his face and kicked another gear, so fat bastard had to flip to 4th to match his pace. All I can say is, that the rest of the 50’ish metres was a blur, but it was the accepted opinion that me, the fat guy with the tin hip wasn’t the rotten egg! Once we were back at the house, we had mates around for a session that evening (I was allowed one red wine).
Wednesday I went for another 30 minute walk, then we made our way to the Skyline centre ….and some fun. Unfortunately it was a little damp so the Advance track was closed, but we (4 small and 1 big kids) had three trips to take, then big kid was informed that he had to take 5th smallest kid for one ride. So, first ride was down the scenic route and big kid left last. I suppose I should mention that approaching the launch point there was a big sign that listed all sorts of conditions, suggesting that those afflicted shouldn’t participate ….I tried not to look too closely at that, did notice it mentioned heart issues but luckily I didn’t see anything about brain-fades. So, we were off, with the fat bastard (who I would have thought might have had an advantage on a gravity powered event) bringing up the rear (having given his victims a good 15-20 second start. (I should also note that I have never participated in luging prior to this, so I was a veritable novice, ….albeit a novice with a lifetime of accumulated dirty-tricks and animal cunning, so within a couple corners I had the feel of my craft and was gathering pace.)
By ¾ the way down I had picked off the 4 victims and multiple other unknown losers (who obviously didn’t know it was a race) but the last man, or I suppose that should be the first man, and last of the four, was a real joy! Ethious (the rotten egg man) has a somewhat competitive nature and on this occasion, I caught him with a bit of speed on as he was drifting from centre to right of track as I swooped through with no room to spare. That elicited a rather loud Hoyy! Followed by what would probably be described as a string of expletives and the reading of my pedigree (although a very tame 8 year old version) and one could almost hear the grinding of gears as he was demanding more pace from his ride ….and his vocal tirade continued the rest of the way down. Needless to say, there were no fist pumps but I’m sure I carried a mild smirk all the way to the top of the chairlift for the next run ….and I could hear Ethious all the way to the top!
Run two and we lined up but I took the slipway to the intermediate run, enjoyed a spirited run down and chatted to one of the young ladies working on the ride, for what seemed like several minutes until my mates arrived. We rode back to the top then I asked Ethious, “didn’t you see me when I passed you this time?” He stopped in his tracks as his brain computed that I left last and was waiting at the bottom, then I followed with, “that’s because I was going sooo faaast!” ….and the best part was that he seemed to accept that as the only possible explanation!! Yess! I’ve still got it! (even if I am down to competing with 8 yr olds!)
Run 3 and I had to take the munchkin, we were delayed as the good lady ensured my mate was tucked in properly and I was still able to enjoy a spirited ride but when I caught Whai, he had obviously been expecting us and when his head-checks revealed we were closing, he stepped up a couple of cogs and there was no way he was letting us pass! At this point I noticed that he was gaining momentum out of the sharper corners quicker than me and my mate, so my weight advantage theory obviously didn't hold water. Anyway I relaxed, content that my job had been done!
After that, I went off to visit an old Air Force mate, then watched a couple of movies.
Thursday was pissing with rain, so the morning walk, which was scheduled as a group event through the redwoods was called off. That then became a trip to chipmunks followed by the programmed jaunt to the Poly Spa and Friday was back to the Capital.
As far as being a head-case goes, I was called by an Occupational Therapist during the week and had a chat, but she didn’t have much to offer so I suppose I’m sort of on the right track. I also received another appointment letter, so I now have the ECG on 24/07/20, the follow-up with the Neuro-team on the 27th and the 24hr Heart Monitor goes on on the 28th. It was a crap week as far as exercise and diet goes as all the walks were on the short side, maxing at about 30 minutes, with no weights at all. I managed to limit the intake volumes, but a few carbs and sweets found their way into the temple, so it’s great to back where it’s easier to control the input, but it was great to get away and spend some time with the young ones.
*Sigh* …..A Friday night post spin bike ride was 92.4Kg ..... I guess that means no cava for Johnie!! ....But, to my relief, weighed in at 91.8 for the morning sample, so my bad week wasn't too bad. I was able to go to the gym though, so I made the most of it with 30 mins on the bike followed by a casual 30 mins on the cross trainer, then weights. I must say that I function much better when I can monitor the work out with readings on pulse rate, intensity level, cadence, speed, distance and Calorie burn ....but then, not knowing one's pulse rate can also prove to be more comforting.
Going through this stuff has resulted in frequent thoughts of the olds….
We referred to my mum (who died a couple of years ago) as ‘the Holy Roller’ because she was always praying for someone. I should mention though, that on occasions, she would be praying for an outcome and the total opposite would happen, which to be fair, and as it would turn out, the opposite appeared to actually be the optimal outcome!!?? Yes well, me being an attitudinous arsehole of the highest order, when she offered to pray for me, I would generally comment to the effect of “no thanks, I want this to happen!” Fortunately she never listened and now I get the feeling she is working overtime.
As for the old fella (who died 13 yrs ago), he managed to experience a few ailments in his time starting in the mid-70’s when he was paralysed from the neck-down for 8 weeks after a swimming accident in rough surf at Tairua. After he came right (he was about 50 at the time and never regained full strength and agility) he explained that he could feel the brush of a feather on his leg, but not the prick of a pin (hence my recollection when I got the pin test). He also said he could feel the water, hopping into a bath, but not whether it was hot or cold. In later years he had heart stuff, prostate stuff, the odd bit of gout and died of a massive stoke …and I guess I thought it would have been really nice and enlightening to have another chat ….or perhaps read his blog if he’d had one …and hence my decision to document this wee episode.
This week has been pretty average with no particular highlights or lowlights. Saturday I was able to hop on the pushbike and ride to J’ville and back. The purpose of that was to check out pumps at the bike shop there, both one for the pushbike because the current one I have doesn’t take the car type Schroder valves, plus a standup type hand-pump that I can use on the motorbike as well, for topping up the pressures at home prior to riding. This time I was getting the hang of it, was more stable and I was more adept with the gear changes and gear selection.
Sunday we has a casual 3-4Km walk along Oriental Parade, then more solo higher rate walks on Monday to Wednesday, with the Tuesday walk being about 5Km in 50 minutes, but Thursday & Friday were pissing down so I had to settle for 20 & 25 minutes on the spin bike with some minor weights. As mentioned previously, I don’t like to attack these things with religious fervour, but the push-up count is now up to 16.
Food & Weight wise….
I’ve stuck to the plan with little sugar, minimal carbs, plenty of fruit and veg, minimal chicken and some fish ….until Friday night and an old Air Force mate was in town, so we dined at Whitbys in the James Cook …..I was good though!! ….Honest!! ……well compared to last time anyway. Now look, I can categorically state that I did not fill that bowl with ice cream! I settled for a small serving of pumpkin soup (that tasted like it had pumpkin in it), a moderate plate of steamed and baked veges. A piece of baked fish, a small piece of baked chicken, a little delicious lean beef ….and a really fatty piece of pork belly!! OK, I did finish with a small desert of fresh fruit …and the tiniest piece of cheese cake ….OK, and three scoops of ice cream ….but one of them was sorbet so that doesn’t count! …..and there were at least eight flavours on offer and I only had two ….and one was sorbet!!! ….I tried to be good ….and it was a special occasion because I havn’t seen the Hamster for 20 years!! Sheesh….get over it!!
I had a follow-up call from the hospital this week, received my booking in July for an ECG and yet to be advised when I get the 24hr heart monitor. …so not much happening there.
Work wise I’ve been doing around 6hr days and topped-up with a day’s leave. That’s been quite good as the brain seems to have had enough by then and next week I have the whole week off to take some of our surrogate moko’s to Rotorua. That should be relaxing….???!!
The weight hit 91Kg last week, but bounced back to 91.7 and has been a real dog to get back down. It has been trending down all week but only in very small increments to 91.1Kg on Friday morning. This has led me to the conclusion that I need more exercise and particularly more weights. The problem is not driving, so if I pushbike to the gym, by the time I get there I have to ride home, so a workout is pointless (or rather would be overdoing it)…so I have a conundrum. Also the weather hasn’t been very friendly and I’ve been told not to get the heart rate too high, so I need to exercise for longer time at a lower rate. So that’s all a work in progress ….but!! ….this morning I had real WTF moment …..
Usual routine, get up, purge the system, weigh myself (expecting 92 or maybe 92+) …..and I was 90.6Kg. FFS, it must have been the pork belly, or perhaps the steamed broccoli?? Go figure!! So I upped the session on the spin bike to 30 minutes. Now that’s not optimal because one can’t adjust the pressure on this thing so it’s a bit like pushing a really high gear on the flat and even though we replaced the display, it doesn’t work so I can’t monitor the heart rate and I’m pretty sure it would have getting into the 120-135 bpm area. Ok, so I cool down, go upstairs and strip off for a shower, then weigh myself again ….oh, and I removed the hair-tie so I could wash my hair ….and so it wouldn’t corrupt the reading and halleluah ….I was 89.9Kg
Maybe it’s because I forgot to take my statin pill last night??
Week two started (even though week one wasn’t a full week, but my undiagnosed OCD tendencies require me to operate on a Monday to Sunday format) …anyway, week two started and I was quite concerned because, already, my weight was indicating that I had started dipping into my reserves of stored energy …and who knows when you might need those? On the other hand, I was also quite elated because my weight showed that I had started dipping into my reserves of stored energy because I had slipped under 92Kg for the first time in many months and all it had taken to achieve that was:
The Monday morning walk was 50 minute doozey, taking a circuitous route to Khandallah Village then back over the mountain that is Satara Rd again, which actually took me from a pleasant glow to the point of producing the slightest dribble from my temples and when I got home I did a few press-ups. I suppose I should mention here that during lockdown, I witnessed some wallys doing press-ups on fb and I thought, “Shit, when was the last time I did one of those? Bugger me you fat bastard, you probably can’t even do one!?” ….so I tried. Yep, yep, yep, yep yep ….naahh, Do you realise how hard it is do a press-up when one is too busy laughing at oneself, but anyway, I could do one…..and shit it was an effort, so I decided that I better start doing some press-ups and increase the count by one each time. Now I try NOT to attack these things with religious fervour, so today I was up to 10.
That was followed by a visit from my business partners and now I have to give James a hug when I see him because he brought flowers! He reckoned they were for Ann for putting up with me, ….but he brought me flowers!
Tuesday and it was off to the hospital to see the neuro people. We arrived just after 0730, parked up and went in to wait as the appointment wasn’t until 0830. We got seen by one of the experts, plus agreed for a final year student to sit-in and that was the start of the next stage in the saga….
It turns out that this was my third stroke and this one had happened within the two weeks up to that time, but the others most likely sometime in the past one to two years!!
Tests started with lights off and checking pupil dilation and the back of my eyes, then the stethoscope came out to check how the ticker and flow was sounding, next some tapping to test reflexes, followed by resistance checks to prevent-movement and cause-movement in limbs, hands, feet, fingers and toes. That was followed by eye peripheral vision and eye-tracking, then off the bed to test balance & co-ordination by walking toe to heel, then on toes, then on heels. I was caught off guard a little on this one and Ann picked-up that I had to focus to keep my balance, so I suppose they did too. Finally the pin came out to check the nerve sensitivity.
Next came an ECG, then bloods, then ultra-sound of the carotids and finally another chat with the doc …sounds like all was good and I could hear the flow rate on the ultrasound, identifying that the pulse rate at rest is still pretty slow. The chat included a prescription of Statins to reduce the cholesterol, the fact that I’d be wired up with a monitor in a few weeks so they could get more data for a better idea of what was happening and that was hard case because afterwards I mention to Ann, “You know what ran through my mind when she mentioned about wiring me up with the monitor,?” … “No, what?” …. “That I should get on the bike and go for a 1000 miler and see what that does!!” …..Hehe, the response to that was something along the lines of “Friggin idiot!” ….OK, OK, she actually said, “That won’t be happening!!” (gosh some people are narrow minded.)
We left with a better understanding at about 1245, but also, not really any better off, because it would seem that we are all individuals and different. Therefore there’s no set criteria or guidelines as to what is needed get through this. I mentioned that I’ll take antibiotics etc, but generally I’m loathe to even take a painkiller, so what’s the target weight and position for taking the statins. That led to discussing BMI and a target of 25 ….which equates to about 81Kg!!! OK, not to far off my 85Kg target but the fat headed, fat bastard is now on statins for the next month!!
Great start to Wednesday at 91.0Kg on the scales, had some muesli, went to the salon with Ann and had a 30 minute stroll around the waterfront and town, then we went to Porirua to look at desks, chairs and monitors to set the office up properly at home, had another 20 minute stroll and came home to do a bit of work. (Ann was just doing the one client as a favour for the day).
Rest of the week was pretty uneventful because I was basically on sick-leave, but doing little bits from home. On Thursday though, I needed to get the pushbike sorted and tested. Yes well!! The fat bastard put a backpack on, wheeled the bike out, gingerly and wobbily hopped on it ….then got about 15mtrs and remembered he should have a helmet on (to be expected though I suppose ….the poor bastard has had a stroke!!) I turned around and decided the tyres needed more air as well.
What a bloody saga that was! Started pumping with a dodgy stand-up type hand-pump but that seemed to be letting air out faster than in. *Sigh* ….I knew I had an old bike pump somewhere but couldn’t find it so in the end, used the compressor off the bike. Put the lid on, hopped on the bike ….and forgot to take the backpack!!!
First stop the bike shop down the road to check out pumps….they were closed! Next stop Mitre 10 to check out what they had ….nothing but the cheap-shit crap that fails after a few uses (I know because I’ve destroyed several) ……next stop ….I might as well go to the office to sort some printing and get the feel of the bike!
It’s a pretty flat ride from Ngaio to Khandallah …..in the car! The bloody pushbike was a different story. It felt unstable (I don’t know why because my recollection is that I’m a competent rider) and the gears didn’t know which was was up….or down. No worries though, I don’t think I got out of 2nd, got to the office and collapsed in a heap!! Shit it’s funny being a fat old bastard!
I spent a couple of hours there then took a circuitous, but relatively flat and generally slightly downhill route home. That was good because I got the hang of those gear changing thingys, which is a bit of a waste of time because a day later and I’ve forgotten which way is up again, but the bike will let me know next time I get on it!
Ann’s working over the weekend so I guess that’ll be more quiet time at home with some exercise thrown in. Will he be a Johnnie Walker? ….or will he be a Rider on the Storm?
I got a bit of unwelcome news yesterday!
Last week (Friday) I got to work and had difficulty distinguishing the numbers in my spreadsheet and I guess the only way I can describe it would be to say it was a bit like having a migraine.
Now I’ve never known the pain of a migraine, but I experienced my first ‘No-Pain Migraine’ in my mid-teens when I was on the rugby field ….playing at the time I might add! It was the most weird experience as, all of a sudden it was looking down a tube where I couldn’t really focus properly on the centre of my visual field and all around that was these swirling strips of light. Every now an then I get these things, they last 5 or 10 minutes and that’s it ….but in this case I didn’t have the swirly bits and it didn’t go away.
I went back into work on Saturday to paint one of rooms as we were converting it to be the new boardroom, but before I started, I logged in and dropped the banking, only to find I was still having the problems with my vision and that prompted one of those WTF responses.
Also, I guess you could say I had a gay old time trying to cut-in on the painting around the covings, skirtings and windows!!
Come Tuesday, things felt a little better with the vision but I had made up my mind to contact the optician to get it checked, she had a slot available at 1030, so I took that, tested OK except for a minor black spot ….and she referred me to the Eye Clinic at the Hospital, where they had a slot available at 1500. Bloody marvelous, I said I’d take it.
I ended up spending 1430 to 1930 at the hospital doing some of the same tests and some different ones, then saw one of the ophthalmologists, she said vision was OK, rang her boss, then rang the neuro team and said I was good to go. I must say though that at the time, I was thinking, “what the hell are you ringing the neuro team for because I already know I’m a psycho!!”
I went back to work and on Thursday morning I got a call from the nice Asian Doctor (but I can’t even remember her name), and she advised that the Neuro Team would like me to have an MRI and there was a slot free at 1500, so I took that, called Ann and she came with me. …Friggin’ noisy things those MRI machines, but I’m pretty sure I managed a couple of wee naps during the half hour I was in the thing!
Anyway, the week went in a flash and on Friday at about 1700 (yes I was still at work), Asian Doctor Lady rings again, she asked if I was OK to talk and dropped a clanger! “You’ve had a bit of a stroke!” she said!
Bugger Me! I sat there and a few moments later it hit me! My Great-Aunt Dolly was a stroke victim who was cared for by my Grandmother and I only remember her as requiring a stick and had difficulty talking. …and my dad died of a massive stroke at 83 in 2007!! That resulted in a couple of quiet tears, I packed up and gapped it to pick-up Ann.
As I drove from Khandallah into town to get Ann I went through a flood of thoughts and emotions….Poor Me, an effing stroke! ….Lucky Me, a minor effing stroke and I’m OK …serves you right you fat bastard! ….an effing stroke!! …poor me, tears ….lucky me ….more tears and by the time I got to Capital Gateway I was somewhere between numb and a mess. (PS. I think the tears were because I knew I wouldn’t be allowed to ride!!!) (Also, I should mention that I’ve been driving all week with no problems because I was blissfully unaware there was one!!)
Ann hopped in, I blurted it out, we swapped seats, went home, had a feed, I checked out a couple of things online, settled down, had a good night’s sleep and now, like always, I thank my lucky stars, my guardian angels (because I know there has always needed to be a team of them), my ancestors (although they’re the bastards that passed on the dodgy genes) for looking after me and letting me off with a wake-up call.
Blood pressure is good but I need to lose at least 7Kgs …ok, maybe 10 or more but 7 is about a stone and with that, the cholesterol should drop a notch or two and I should be OK?
I suppose I’ll know in a week or a month or a few months ….but in the meantime, feel free to call me Johnnie Walker!! …and depending on what stage of the cycle you catch me ….and how long I’ve been off the bike, I might laugh ….or I might punch you!!
The TT2000 was this weekend, which was a ride incepted in 2009 by Mike Hyde, who wrote the Twisting Throttle Books and hence TT. The 2000 is because it is 2000 Km in 48 hours …or at least, it is for most. The ride concept / details are usually released around July for the February ride and in the current format (it has morphed through a few variants over the years) riders are given a cluster of compulsory checkpoints which they can collect in any order, plus there are 4 ‘Mystery’ checkpoints (one is given a photo to work out what and where), then there are optional ‘Flyers’ in the general location of the checkpoints, plus ‘Adventure Flyers’ (ie gravel road access for those who like to lurk on the darkside!) I should mention that Mike died a few years ago and fortunately Wayne Poll and a few others have kept the ride going ….and I might add that the organization of this ride way exceeds what we have to do for the NZ Distance Riders rides.
When I saw this year’s options I was quite interested because the ride was in the North Island (in the past it has had optional sections in the North, or in 2018 one could opt for a North or South total route). I should also mention that just getting the compulsory CP’s doesn’t accumulate enough points, or enough km to qualify for the ‘badge’. Anyway, it struck me that this ride could probably be done in 24 hrs: a) because it was in the North Island and I was sort of familiar with most of the roads and b) because I knew where three of the Mysteries were and they were on the route, so all I would need to do was run up a few extra km on an unmonitored quick road.
From there I did nothing as I was a bit preoccupied with other things but the concept and a plan was lurking in the back of my mind, then after Christmas I had a good look, formulated a route, changed it, then invited one or two like-minded souls to join me. ….well I thought they were like-minded but all I got in response was, “You’re mad!!” So much for thinking people are friends! Although to be fair, the main reason the invites went out was because someone who has a bit of a say in what I do ‘demanded’ that I be accompanied! FFS, when I responded that I was and there were another 160 riders doing it, apparently that wasn’t good enough!! *Sigh* … It took some convincing, but in the end, I was granted leave!
I should mention here that on past TT2000 rides I have done, I could put in up to 40 hours of prep work, fine tuning the route and CP options, identifying CP’s that could be dropped if we were slipping behind schedule and trying to allow for all sorts of contingencies. This year there was very little of that …..because I’m just a dickhead!!!
The extent of provisioning and prep was: 1) to see if the organisers would allow my plan, (it certainly wasn’t encouraged, but you could sort of sense the sigh and the thoughts of “oh bloody hell, one of those” running though their minds, 2) get the bike serviced for it’s 132,000km check, 3) print a booklet of the CP’s, scale the route schedule to the requirements of a 24 hour tie frame and drop the route to the GPS …oh yes and liaise with Chris Wiltshire to work through some issues I was having with Spotwalla and this was important as it would mean I could apply for an IBA 2000 Km in 24 Hrs Saddlesore.
During the ride I recalled an old saying that went, “Fail to Plan – Plan to Fail!” Yes well more on that as we go.
Thursday night rolled up and the forecast was generally good, the bike was prepped and clean, a bag was packed (on the pretense that I could then stop if I needed to). I had a supply of water, nut bars and bobby-bananas, wets, which I wouldn’t need, and all the other crap that one carries when they get into this type of riding.
Friday morning and I was on the road by 0800, headed up to Ashhurst, filled at the Mobil there at 0945, then went to the start/finish at the pub to register. I then remembered to reset the odo’s on the bike and GPS, take a photo of the bike mileage, then loiter about meeting riders I knew etc until the briefing at 1145, then grabbed my T-Shirt (CP photos need to have the T-Shirt in them as this means they can only be recorded after the start), then I was one of the first riders away, which was a good thing as I was opting for an anti-clockwise route which meant my start would take me over the Saddle and it’s bad enough passing cars over there but nothing worse than trying to pass bikes …that aren’t passing cars. So I was off to a cracking start!
I guess I forgot to mention that this ride involved 20 photo stops and 5 fuel stops, with my plan allowing for a generous 2 minutes per photo and 10 minutes for fuel, which equates to 1½ hours of stopped time. Now I have managed to get photo stops down to 45 seconds and fuel down to 4 minutes, so there is potential to save up to 45 minutes in the stops, ….however, it is easier to take longer than the provisioned times, or need extra unplanned-for stops that chew time on the road,. Another thing I did for this ride was tape the ride schedule to the tank so I could easily identify the CP’s as well as check my distance, fuel and compare my progress to the schedule So I needed the cracking start.
Anyway, I scooted over the Saddle (sometimes within the limit) bypassed Woodville, flicked off at Mangatainoka (the home of Tui Beer), skipped across to Kaitawa Rd …only to find it was closed (Roadworks) (FFS?). There are certain roads in this area that I know very well and quite a few that I’ve never, ever been on and Mangaramarama Rd was one of these, but I took a punt that it might link across to Hamua Rd, but alas, this is Tui country so that was a big “Yeah Right!, it was a dead-end and I just wasted 5Km! ….(double FFS!!!). There were bikes stopped at the closure when I got back and sprinted in to Pahiatua to head South to Hamua Rd and I found it odd that a couple of the Masterton boys were on SH2 (but they must have known about the closure, I passed them with several other bikes in tow and took Hamua-Rongomai Rd to get to the other end of Mangaone Rd, which would have me back on track to Alfredton, via Pa Valley Rd, then I was surprised to see the others continue straight ahead on Tawatai Rd! That’s Gravel! …but they were on adventure bikes ….bloody darksiders just saved themselves 6.5Km! Meanwhile I galloped through to Alfredton and on to the CP, pulling in from the North as the dirty dogs pulled in from the south ….must have been slow gravel?? Oh yes, and Pa Valley Rd had a section with a good sprinkling of dust and grit. I came onto it at pace, misread the dusty surface and experienced a massive slide on the front wheel as the whole bike started to drop to the right. I had corrected on the front as the back wheel started to slide, then it stopped sliding and turned into a high-side …but fortunately the correction to the front wheel had started to correct and it had just enough momentum to bring it back upright and back on track! Biker Hail Mary’s were uttered!
I pulled my T-Shirt and camera out, stuck the T on the tank stepped back, the T blew off the tank, I picked it up, positioned it again, took the pic, then had to pull the phone to force a point on the Spotwalla track as it only samples every five minutes and this was an out-&-return point, then finally got back on the road …using all of my 2 minutes!!
My plan originally had me collecting this pic, then going out the same way to SH2 to go to Dannevirke, then into Weber for the next CP. This was because I needed extra Km on the ride and knew that I could collect extra Km whilst making better average time (even within the limits), so whilst taking the diversion I had considered whether to now take Route 52 via Pongaroa instead and that is what I did. The other thing that happened at this time is that the GPS had fixated on some phantom, missed via point, so I had to stop the route and reset it, only to find that the Weber CP had fallen off the route!! Bugger Me! I added it and got on with the job …all on the fly.
I caught three other riders through here considered that we were hammering along at a good pace, but shit it was hard work and I didn’t really need that with another 23 hours to ride. Initially I was riding the rut to avoid the abundance of loose grit, then as the temp got up to 29º, I found myself riding the hump to avoid the glistening ruts. I passed the other riders before Pongaroa then lost them after that, thinking they must have stopped there, but then I encountered them again when they caught me at a stop-go for Road Works!
We scooted through to Weber to find the Renshaw boys already there, I fumbled around three times with the T this time, did the phone thing again, then was surprised to see all the other riders had opted to head back out to Dannevirke rather than opt for Route 52. Damn that would have been hard work to make good progress in this heat and I was operating to a strict time frame.
I caught the other three, we passed the Renshaw boys and mate, then I lost the others as we approached Dannevirke and I took Tipapakuku Rd to bypass Dannevirke. From there I was extremely happy with my choice to come back to SH2 because I was clipping along at a little over the allowable limits, but it was very relaxed and easy riding. …and then I discovered that the Waipawa CP wasn’t on the GPS route either!! …so I added it. (Fortunately I had downloaded the whole GBD file including every CP, so these CP’s were coming up at the top of the list, being the closest to my current position, in the ‘favourites’).
I pulled into the Waipawa CP to find Roger & Bee Allen taking a snack stop in the shade, so I took my pic (without issues) then had a short chat (using all of my allotted 2 minutes), then carried on. Next stop was the first Mystery CP, being allotted the nomenclature of Mystery #4. Obviously the producers of the route were ‘Clockwisers’ and I was going the wrong way. Interesting that I was asked before the start which way I was going, to which I replied, “Anti” and the response to that was, “That figures!” Now what the hell does that mean?
Anyways, Christ Church appeared to be hosting a wedding or the likes at the time so that was almost convenient and I didn’t even cross the road to get close, just hopped off, placed the T, snapped the pic and lit out for Bay View.
Once again (this is looking bad isn’t it) BP Bay View was scheduled as my first fuel stop (to get the 98 octane and AA fuel discount) while Mobil Bay View was the CP ….but it wasn’t coming up on the GPS!! No worries, I pretty much knew them off by heart…and I had the list on the tank …but it would get dark later and the list wouldn’t do me much good then, would it?
So, bike fueled, my third or forth wee banana snacked, with a gooey nut bar this time (do you realise it’s almost impossible to buy a decent nut bar without chocolate on these days?), a natural break taken and probably well and truly past the 10 minute allocation, then it was 200 metres down the road for the CP pic, then it was on-on to the next Mystery, being the Lighthouse by the river in Wairoa.
It’s always nice riding through there so I continued to make good time and arrived to see Topher & Goose enjoying a snack, they departed as I was doing my thing with the T and another banana, and then I was surprised to catch them on the road. I say surprised because Topher is not a rider I’d like to try to keep up with when he is ‘on a mission’. As it was, I was happy to slot in behind them as they were almost on the same pace as I had been, however, he was more relaxed with the passing and in the end I felt I needed to keep on track to stay ahead of the schedule, so I passed them. Well, I passed Goose and I’m sure at that point Topher lifted the pace ever so slightly?? …now I couldn’t attest to that in court, but to support my claim, a quick check in the mirrors indicated that Goose had dropped back a tad!? Of course, perhaps he just forgot to speed up again after letting me pass?!
Anyway I lifted again, failing to keep those beautiful lines that topher does, …but managing to make good progress in my own poor form!
As I entered Gisborne I happened to notice that I had just ridden past the turnoff to the Te Araroa (East Cape) road and thought, “Hmmm, I’m sure I should have taken that road?” and a quick check revealed that sure enough, the GPS was taking me into town, for no particular reason, then onto Opotiki??? Another sigh sighed, a quick addition to the route and I had to ride through the Main St of Gisborne to get to Wainu Beach! It wouldn’t have been much, but more time lost!
This time I had to have a quick check of the booklet to ensure I was photographing the right thing, then Topher & Goose turned up as I was ready to leave. At this point I was about 550Km into the ride and about an hour ahead of schedule as it was closer to 1730 than the calculated 1830, and I was about to embark on the Waioeka Gorge and the temp was dropping from the 32º peak experienced earlier.
Now heading for Opotiki, I wasn’t passing much traffic, but there was a bit coming the other way and it wasn’t until he was right on me that I noticed a big white ute had some natty squares painted on it. Whew, he either didn’t have a device, or it wasn’t on, (probably didn’t have), then another 5 or 10Km down the road I spotted a car with similar markings. Now I did have the sun in my eyes at this point, but I’m sure he was giving me the evil-eye and possibly a finger shake, but he didn’t turn and pursue so I was obviously operating within the allowable limits aye?
The ride through there was quite good (thankfully with a dry road as lots of potential slick spots) and I had soon fueled at Caltex Opotiki, then taken the CP pic as I left town. On this occasion I had to check the booklet again as I pulled up beside a sign, then discovered I needed to take the ‘50Km Opotiki’ sign, but I was able to do that from where I had stopped. Next stop Maketu and my plan had taken me via Taneatua as this adds 5Km to the distance for about 2 minutes extra on the time.
Now prior to the ride, I had had discussion with other riders about the merits of the Taupo Turangi road (which has major roadworks) versus the Western Lake road and at this point I realised that Wai-o-Tapu (Sth of Rotorua) isn’t that far from Awakeri, and that perhaps this would be a better option as I could then drop straight to Turangi from Tirau. Problem at this point is how that would affect my fuel plan and timings and since I’d known about the road conditions prior to the event …I’d failed to plan for contingencies, so stuck to the plan I had!
The 116km trip from Opotiki to Maketu saw it transition from dusk to dark and with just a sliver of moon, it was to be a very dark night. (this section was scheduled as approx 2100 to 2200, but I was still about an hour ahead).
The Maketu CP was new territory for me and it had dunnys, so was rather convenient. I did my thing, put on a skivvy as I was starting to feel cold, in the ever so balmy 17º, and got back on the road to find the GPS was trying to get me to decide whether or not to take the toll road, so I selected yes to take it, but turned out I had selected yes to not take it. I wasn’t too fussed either way, but it probably would have been better to get straight on the Expressway. Tauranga didn’t pose any problems and then I had the 60’ish Km of double-yellows to Waihi and a bit more traffic than I was expecting, but that was probably partly due to me being ahead of schedule.
I enjoyed a good fang up to the next CP at Whangamata, then down 25A to the Mystery #2, the Bugger Café Tractor (I thought it was Bugger-It Café) on SH25 at Pipiroa.
From there it was on to my next fuel stop at BP Bombay and that was really odd because I was thinking it was a manned 24Hr jobby? Well it is, but via a window slot for fuel only, which was a bloody nuisance and at this point I did put the wet jacket on as the temp had dipped further.
The next CP was just down the road at Pukekohe and once again, I got to the CP ok, but then had issues getting out. I was supposed to do a loop, coming out on a different road, but the turn didn’t come up and I found myself heading off to NeverNever Land. I thought I should have been heading towards SH1, But I had no idea, so I turned around and headed back into Pukekohe, then I missed the turn to take me back to Bombay so went around the block, chewed up a bit more of my bonus time and eventually got back to the motorway and onto my next CP at Whatawhata.
I thought the Huntly Bypass had opened a few weeks ago but not so, and I was stuck in traffic due to lots of lane closures, so when I got through Huntly, I stayed on the (familiar) road to Ngaruawahia, through to te Kowhai and on to SH39. I was soon at the Whatawhata Rugby Club, then off to Tirau …the next right royal pain in my arse!
Nice easy riding through Hamilton, onto SH1, around Cambridge, through Karapiro and got to Tirau …only to find the Main Rd (ie SH1) was closed!! FFS you Double-Die Kiwi Bastards!! I didn’t have time for this so I slipped onto SH27 and headed East, with half an idea of where I was going?! What really pisses me off though is now that I have had time to look, I’m not totally sure but I did about 10Km up to Okaroire and back, whereas now I see that there was a street 200mtrs up the road that would have taken me across to the CP at the Fire Station! I don’t know if that was just another problem with the GPS, or perhaps that it hadn’t re-calculated the route after turning off and I was passed the turn, however, it should still have suggested a back track?! …or perhaps it was and just got lost I the blur of my mind?
I now needed to get to SH5 to get across to Rotorua, then down to Wai-o-tapu. Before the ride I had had a discussion with Topher, about the Taupo-Turangi Rd and made the decision to take the Western Lake, as that would buffer up my total Km mid-ride, rather than at the end, but it occurred to me whilst on the road that this could upset my fuel programme as I wasn’t totally sure how many Km I was adding (even though I was on a very conservative programme). I made a decision to pause by the BP on Fairy Springs Rd, where I was on about half a tank and thought, “I should have heaps” then carried on, but after grabbing the CP pic at Wai-o-tapu and as I approached Wairakei, I noted I was down to three bars, but hadn’t been monitoring the level close enough to know how far into the third bar I was, so I gave in and headed straight to Turangi.
The road wasn’t bad at all, with a a few sections of gravel, but there were two sets of stop-go lights and the first set was several minutes. Not what you want when you’re on a mission. Another issue that manifested at the first stop was for me to notice fumes rising out of the front of the bike and a bit of an odour that I didn’t recognise …but I wasn’t in a position to check it out so I continued, took the CP pic at the rest area as I entered Turangi, then headed to the Z for fuel. This is another 24 hr fuel stop that in the past has been open all hours, but now isn’t even manned!
Next stop, Awakino, so I was off over SH41 to Taumarunui, SH4 to Eight Mile Junction, then down SH3 to the Waitomo Garage at Awakino. I had now been up for over 20 hrs, this leg was taking me between 1400 and 1600km into a ‘spirited’ ride (not to mention the 150Km to get to the start) and I was starting to feel the affects of fatigue. Not what one wants so as I came into Pio Pio, I made the sensible decision to have an extended unscheduled stop.
I pulled into the dunnys which had a nice disabled/mothers restroom in the middle. I was therefore able to take the helmet and jacket off in order to put a 2nd skivvy on, as the temp had come down to 11º. It was also raining, though not very bad, which the forecasters had predicted, but I thought it was just local so I left the wet pants off and just changed to the winter gloves. I took the time to have a daily constitutional, then took a multi-vitamin tablet with water and a nut bar, jumped around a bit, which the trucky sitting across the road must have thought a bit strange and eventually felt pretty refreshed and continued on my way, feeling much better and prepared to attack the Awakino Gorge.
Yes, well, I had been advised about roadworks at the start of the gorge, but once again there were two lots of lights and more wasted time. I did end up behind a big truck but took an assertive approach and he didn’t bother me for long and I soon had the Awakino pic in the camera. It was now lightening up and next stop was Okato!
I was surprised to find that Mt Messenger has finally been resealed and has a good surface, I made my way through New Plymouth and in no time all had the Okato pic, but where I had expected to be coming out of the rain now, it was just getting worse. This was a real problem for me as I was relying on opening up the taps as I made my way around the Surf Highway, but now I had to take real care …you could say I was torn?!
In the end I decided that I was too close to the goal and I needed to throw caution to the wind. This did too things. It meant I was able to stay on track and preserve my time buffer, but probably more importantly, it required heightened focus that really did get rid of any more symptoms of the fatigue that was starting to creep back.
I took huge care to ride the hump to maintain the best traction possible and let the speed roll off if I thought it needed to and ….well I guess I’m still here to tell the tale, so all was good …and I made it to Manaia to get Mystery #1.
When I got to Hawera for my last fuel stop, I used the pay-at-pump option and couldn’t get a receipt, but figured I didn’t really need it anyway. I also finally put on the wet pants and changed back to the Summer gloves with Rain-Offs then continued the battle with the conditions and a bit more traffic to the last CP at Kowhai Park in Whanganui.
That done I was still only on 1900Km so I needed to burn some Km and started to think about the best option as I headed for Ashhurst. In actual fact, considering I had added a few Km in a couple of spots, I was actually close to target, so I must have been cutting a few corners, although Route 52 via Pongaroa would have slashed a few K off the total. In the end I opted to take Whanganui rd into Marton (rather than Makirikiri Rd to bypass it), then headed up to SH1 North of Marton before heading down to take the halcombe – Feilding – Colyton roads to Ashhurst.
When I got to Ashhurst the odo was reading 1990Km and the GPS was showing 1984Km, so I decided to head up the Pohangina Valley for 10Km to give me enough buffer to cover both readings, plus I’d forgotten to send a forced point on the out-&-return to Wainui Beach, so I went about 1Km past Pohangina Valley East Rd and stopped to plant a message/point on the phone …only to find the phone was dead! FFS! It was pissing down so I just hopped on the bike and headed back to the pub.
I got back to the pub at 1122, took the gloves off and grabbed a towel to dry the dash and the GPS, pulled the camera and photographed the odo and GPS Tripmeter, then went inside for some relief, after which I realised I needed to contact Ann to let her know all was well (in case she had been trying to contact me) and Wayne to advise I had finished and hadn’t just gone Awol.
The phone had been plugged into the bike power, in the topbox, for the whole ride and as it transpired, it had decided it didn’t want to be charged any more and (fortunately) it was dead flat rather than cooked (it had felt a bit warm). I then grabbed a power pack and went back into the pub to make the text and call. I was going to have a feed, but as I was dripping I decided to just get back on the bike and putter home!
I was back home by 1330, having done 2306Km all up and feeling a little shattered! I figured I was OK for the TT, but had lost my track for the Iron Butt, so I downloaded the photos and dropped them in the TT dropbox, then went to download my GPS tracklog ….only to find there wasn’t one!! That pissed me off more than anything as I usually refer to that for the blog and check stuff and hence a blog with now ride stats at all. …and that really finished the thoughts of qualifying for the Iron Butt saddlesore.
This would have to be the worst ride I’ve ever been on for issues, especially with the GPS combined with the most inconvenient road closures, but along with the lack of options due to lack of planning was just dumb!
I nodded off on the couch a few times before finally going to bed and now my wife is telling me I should have listened, not gone on the ride alone and although I can say, “I knocked the bastard off!” there’s certainly some merit in enjoying doing it over two days, at a comfortable pace, with stops and meals, and drinks, and telling lies over a beer with like-minded mates at the end, but hey, although maybe I shouldn’t have got out of bed for this one, “I did knock the Bastard off!” That’s three 2,000+Km rides I’ve done now and takes my 1600km ride tally to 14. I’m still anti, an arsehole and certifiable!
Some fool came up with the idea of riding both the 800Km & 1600Km rides this year and calling it a Double-Badger! …and some other fools bought into it!! For myself, someone known to be a bit psychotic at the best times, someone who tends to enjoy operating on the fringe, someone blessed to have several ‘internal’ friends …..yes well …this idea sparked a bit of a discussion along the lines of …. Oooh mate, that’s great, you can turn up and flip one way or the other depending on the weather!…bloody great idea! ….ride most of the 1600 in daylight! …pick a nice day and start when you want!! Yeah, yeah, yeah! (Perhaps I should mention here that this idea played into my hands because although I had all these secret thoughts and discussions between me and my internal mates, in the end I had the perfect excuse, “I had to ride the 800 so I could do CP Marshal duty for the 1600). ….*Sigh* …..yes well, some people never learn.
I suppose I should also mention that, as it turned out, this year’s 1600 riders enjoyed a pleasant start to the ride, then rode though a God-Damned-Awful wet front as it slowly worked it’s way up the island through the night and all turned up at our Taihape checkpoint looking like drowned cats …. and did that put a smile on my face?? …you bet (‘cos as well as being marginally psychotic, I’m a fully fledged arsehole!)
As I mentioned, all these great ideas kept being passed around in my mind with the reassurances, longest day, warm summer weather, and yesterday I did the Double-Bloody-Badger 1600 component with my (real) mate and riding buddy Steve.
Since we live in Wellington, that meant our plan was to join the ride at Shannon, so that would add about 130-200km to the distance, depending on where we started and finished, so the start was set at BP Mana and finish would be Brown Owl, since it made more sense to return through the Wairarapa and over the Rimutakas, since that was more-funner riding than back down SH1 …and of course, Steve lives in that Brown Owl area (so I would have another 30’ish km on top of that.
There was no fixed plan as to when we would ride, but probably on the Saturday between Christmas and New Year, (or some nice day in that period), but as the fates would have it, Saturday the 21st was scheduled to fall at the end of a wet week, whereby a massive high would sit over the country and it would be just perfec’ …and it just so happened that Sunday the 22nd was schedule to be the Longest Day ….and a few other things happened that meant I needed to get it done and dusted before Christmas! …so 1am at BP Mana it was!
Friday I knocked off a little early, checked the tyres and packed, eventually getting to bed at 2030, with the alarm slamming me at 0001 (midnight would have been too early), then after dithering about I was away late at 0050, arrived at BP Mana at 0105 …it was shut and Steve was waiting at the curb!! (you’re not seeing a trend here already are you?) So we popped down the road to Z Mana (Steve had already filled), arrived there at 0106, took 7 minutes to fill at a pay-at-pump bowser, because on the 20Km from home I had realized that a T-Shirt and unlined jacket with summer gloves, just didn’t cut it, so the wet jacket and mid-weight gloves went on!
0113 we were on the road and on our adventure, with the first scheduled stop at Shannon, but we had to stop at Paekak’, 14.7km at 0124, because some dickhead couldn’t drive! (I think I already mentioned that I was an arsehole) but on this instance, a car was upside down on the other side of the road, in an 80kph zone and on a straight section of road!!?? …FFS …there may have been extenuating circumstances, but at face value, the cynic in me doesn’t have a lot of sympathy at this stage ….and because the dickhead cost us 10 minutes!
So at 0134 it was on-on and at 0218 we had travelled 83.5km to Shannon where we joined the prescribed NI1600 route by taking a photo of the old Post Office …and did I mention it was a bit cold at 8º? Well it was, because the heated grips were on, but I still had to change to my winter-weight gloves …so the photo-stop took 2 minutes!
Next stop was BP Taihape, so SH1 bland riding and at 0341 and we had 218km done at an overall avg of 89kph. This was just another photo stop, but as we approached I asked Steve if he wanted a coffee because at that point, the temperature had dropped to 4º and I was freezing ….and severely feeling the affects of the cold squeeze, so we pulled in for a 25 minute extended stop where I had to strip off the jackets and put on two skivvies and I woofed down a banana, bar and some water.
The next leg of our adventure took us up to Taumarunui for fuel, then we had a CP at the junction of River, Ohura and Mangaparo Roads, then another CP by the junction of Ohura Rd and SH4. The scoot to Taumarunui saw us transition from a very cold black night to a lightening sky as we transitioned up SH4 to the west of the mountains and it almost got properly light as we entered Taumarunui. We arrived there at 0527, 352km into the ride and we had another relaxed 11 minute stop, then it was time to visit the Ohura Loop, from the Forgotten Highway end.
I’ve been through this road several times over the years, with the last visit being on the 2015 NI1600, however it must be about 13 years since I’ve been through in this direction. I thought the road seemed rougher than my last visit, with more care required, then, a few km after passing through Matiere, I was a bit distracted, saw a road sign indicating the direction to Taumarunui and next minute the GPS was telling me to make a u-turn. Whaaat!! Being a dingbat from way back, I stopped, then thought, “stupid GPS, this is a great road (a vast improvement from what we had been riding on), so we continued, but my vague recollections were casting doubts ….but we still continued to continue ….and emerged on SH4 to find that the dillbrain leading had taken us over the Okahukura Saddle!! ….Bloody dickhead, 25km later we had nipped up SH4 to the CP on Ohura Rd and back!! ….and it was still a cold 8º!
From here it was on to a revised CP at Kurutau School, as I had had “one of those discussions” with the NZDR Routemeister and because of the extra km we were doing, he gave us a dispensation of not having to go all the way to Turangi and back to Kurutau (a saving of about 40km), so at 0747 we were pulling in, 520km done and 45 seconds later we were pulling out for the scoot up the western lake road, where we extended the pace from the holiday tolerance to the normal tolerance. That’s always a nice pootle and the ride up Waipapa Rd was even nicer and we had soon crossed to and were pulling into the next CP at Wharepuhunga School. Well it seemed soon as we were now 651km in and it was 0904. ….and we still had the wets on to keep warm.
A minute later we were doing the 22km across to Tihiroa Hall, changed the gloves back to the summer jobbies, then went up to the next fuel stop at GAS Whatawhata. (715km at 0947) The GAS servo didn’t have facilities for another cold squeeze induced natural break, plus the temp had finally elevated enough, so we went across the road to a café for another break, so the 10minute fuel stop morphed into a 45minute fuel and coffee stop …..ok, I tend to avoid caffeine on these rides so I settled for a hot chocolate and cheese scone, but I also removed the wets and one of the skivvies. Then as the next CP at the New Beginnings Church was only 1km down the road, within another 2 minutes we had that (and the photostop was somewhat quicker with the summer weight gloves back on), so at 1038 we were embarking on a gallop over the Raglan Rd, then up H22.
On the NI800, Highway 22 was wet, I was losing time on the ETA and it wasn’t that pleasant, but this time it was dry and we were able to maintain a better pace and start peeling back some time, so by 1156 we had travelled 830km, picking up the CP at Naike Hall and the CP at BP Bombay. I must say I rather enjoyed that leg of the trip. But next we had the tedious job of going across SH2 to Kopu.
I must say, the dorklander car drivers weren’t too bad on this occasion, because if they didn’t see me, at least they tended to move over for Steve after I had squeezed past between them and the yellow line …..(pfftt…how can someone not know they have an ST behind when it’s looming in their mirrors!!??), but we actually managed to maintain an average of 90kph across to Kopu, and then we were to embark on our treat for the day. Up SH25A to Opoutere, then down to Waihi, before encountering more tedious double-yellows to Z Bethlehem …but that was not to be!!
We were romping through traffic over 25A when we had barely made halfway and encountered a bloody great queue of stopped traffic, so as you do when you are on a bike, we started filtering to the front. We had averaged 81kph across the 20km to that point, and filtered for 1km, when we met a motorcyclist coming back the other way, who informed us that there had been a bad accident and there was no way the traffic would be moving anytime soon! We were nowhere near the front of the queue and there were busses and big boats being towed, so there was no way they would be turning back, but we flipped around, had a brief discussion of options and decided to return on 25A, go down to Paeroa, but because we had plenty of fat, by way of surplus kms and because we’d been robbed of the one of the peachiest parts of the ride, we wouldn’t go through to Waihi and endure the crappy ride through to Bethlehem, but instead we would cut across to Te Kuiti from there on the NI800 track. I suppose in hindsight, we should have gone along Old Te Aroha Rd to rejoin the route by Te Poi, but we didn’t think of that at the time because we were gutted that we’d been deprived of our fang over half of 25A, then down 25 from there to Waihi ….criminal it was, just criminal!
We encountered our first enforcer for the day shortly after Otorohanga. He was following a vehicle that was obviously aware of the cops presence and hence driving at the indicated speed of 100kph ….but his true speed was actually varying between 89 and 93 …so we passed them in a very restrained fashion and arrived at BP Te Kuiti with 1,102km done at 1515. This was a CP and our newly revised fuel stop (due to the change of route) so once again, we enjoyed another casual 40 minute fuel-up, snack and Hot Chocolate before embarking on SH30.
We now felt we were getting through the ride with only 600’ish km to go, and we made very progress across 30. In fact, one could almost say we were making up for earlier and had a jolly good fang that continued across Poihipi Rd to Taupo where we transitioned through town and embarked on the Napier-Taupo Rd within the tolerated holiday limits, but the temp had now plummeted back to 8º …and then it started to bloody rain, so we stopped to don the wets and got passed by all the cars again.
Much care was now required thanks to the marvelous condition of the NZ highways and as we descended close to Bayview, the rain was easing and we could see some blue sky ahead …but it was still friggin’ cold! Napier was dry as we made our way down the Expressway and across to the CP at the junction of School and Middle Rds, then enjoyed a nice pace over Middle Rd down to the next and last CP at the Patangata Tavern, then on to our last fuel stop at BP Waipuk’. Those occurred at 1398km / 1905; 1429km / 1927 and 1452km / 1942 …and now we really were on the scoot for home.
I should mention that there was a car upturned on it’s roof, on a straight, along the Western Access road and between Pahiatua and Eketahuna, we encountered another care in a ditch, on a straight, being attended to by Police, Fire and Ambulance personnel, so we encountered four quite bad accidents on our day out, when the lowered tolerances are in place and people should be taking more care! …and the dickhead powers-that-be are talking about lowered limits and more barriers!!...maybe I need to write a rant blog on that subject?
Anyway, longest day and it was daylight all the way down to Woodville, then various stages of twilight through to Pahiatua-Featherston …and then it got really, really dark, really, really quick, to the point that I found myself rather disoriented on the Rimutakas. Not in a way of being impaired, but more so like I didn’t recognize the road or where I was on it ….and then we were finished! 1682km done in 21hrs 05 minutes (which included a couple of hours of stopped time) and I ended up doing 1741km in 21hrs 53.
…. And it was a right royal pain in the arse!! Literally and figuratively! It was much bloody colder than when the ride was held in October and we encountered a goodly chunk of crappy rain! OK, it was mostly in daylight, which was alright, but Double-Badger idea be damned. Do it in the middle of Summer he said ….when it’s warm and the days are longer! Global Warming my arse! (I’ll accept the Climate Change argument, but warming be buggered!!) And then being much inconvenienced by dickheads that don’t appear to know how to drive. That might be a bit harsh as there are many factors that can cause strife, but upturned on a straight dry road in an 80kph zone?? …*Sigh*
It was a ride but! Quite a long ride at that, but nothing like it was supposed to be…and it was my 13th 1,000 miler. Lucky for some I guess!
After missing last year’s MDA ride due to a bike issue, I nearly missed it again this year, but in the end, things panned out and I ended joining 17 others (15 bikes, two with pillions and two more in the support sled) for an 0900 departure from Brown Owl on Friday. I first attended a Muscular Dystrophy Ride in 2005 and it continues to be a highlight of my year with the combo of a great ride and a good cause.
We actually did the local Wellington children last Sunday and where we normally buy presents for 25-30 children, this year there were a few away and another change over the last couple of years is for the new Plymouth families to join us at the marae for dinner, which has made the Sunday morning section of the ride a bit easier. It is also good as bringing the families together helps them connect and form networks.
I had planned 3 route options for Friday, 2 for Saturday and 1 for Sunday, so after a late notification that a couple of the children weren’t up to the Friday evening get-together, we embarked on option 4.
I left a minute or two early to set up and take photos of the other riders on the Rimutakas, then had to play catch-up, however, there was 5 or 6 of ‘those’ cars tripping back and forth over the hill and they appeared to be training new recruits in the vagaries of pursuit driving. Well, I caught one of these cars at the summit, then witnessed some of the worst and most inconsiderate driving I have experienced on the Hill. One could easily identify the instructor in the passenger seat, waving his arms about as he tried to explain the finer points of driving and the poor young trainee was obviously trying to blend the IAM principals with maintaining pace …which just wasn’t working at all (at least, not in my humble opinion!!) He was all over the place, erratic and not really very quick …hard to tell if he didn’t see my lights filling his mirrors, was so focused on making progress that he didn’t see the passing bays …or he was just a prick! …*sigh*
We had soon made our first stop at a school in Carterton, then diverted via Mauriceville, Alfredton, Tane, Mangatainoka, along the eastern side of the Manawatu River, onto Hopelands Rd and back out to SH2 at Oringi, then had a lunch and fuel stop at BP Dannevirke (we had a cruiser and a sprotty that were only designed for trips to the local dairy). From there we were met by the next family’s Biker-Dad, who led us to their place just north of Dannevirke, then our programmed trip from Waipawa up the eastern side of the Tuktuki River was changed to a scoot up Middle Rd, School Rd, onto the Napier Expressway to couple of visits in town before coming back to the Matahiwi Marae in Clive.
After being joined by the families and some Hawkes Bay Ulyssians, we were welcomed on, went through our Santa formalities and enjoyed a great feed, then later relaxed over a few drinks.
Saturday was another nice day and after enjoying a cooked breakfast at 0730, we were away a bit after 0800 to head to Bayview for fuel before attacking the Napier-Taupo Road, which I haven’t done for a few years. However, when one of the chaps tried to put air in his tyre, the machine sucked it out and because it was already quite hot, Steve led the team out while I stayed to help as he went over to the Mobil to get the air he now desperately needed.
We had a fairly relaxed romp over to Z Tauhara, but were a little behind schedule when we got there, so flipped from the Option 2 route (via Marokopa) back to the direct option 1 via SH30, many enjoyed a coffee break and we had to go up the Expressway to take Spa Rd into town because it was all closed off for a big Ironman Event. I wanted to go through town because I haven’t done Poihipi Rd for a few years and it was nice to re-acquaint. We then paused at Bennydale for lunch before taking the turn at Kopaki to cut across to SH4, on to Eight Mile Junction, down to another fuel stop at PioPio, then a jolly good fang through the Awakino Gorge (I couldn’t help myself) …then another relaxed refreshment stop at the Awakino Pub.
Down to the last leg for the day, we stopped to get supplies at Urunui and got to the marae at Sentry Hill at 1630 again for a repeat on Friday …ie Santa doing his thing, having another great feed, then relaxing later before hitting the pit.
Sunday’s weather was flagged as being the pits and during the night, a couple of guys had awoken and mentioned seeing quite a few lightening flashes (no thunder) and Ann sent a text first thing saying how bad the weather was in Wgtn ….and that we shouldn’t be riding. We reviewed the weather reports, then decided that it might be better to return via SH2 through the Wairarapa …then heard that SH2 was closed ….then decided to make a decision when we got to our lunch fuel stop in Whanganui.
After another cooked breakfast we got away at 0900, fueled, did our two visits, headed for Whanganui, (with next to no rain) decided to return via SH1, only struck heavy rain as we approached Wellington and I got home at 1415, relieved, a little weary, but quite satisfied that we’d done our bit to help a few children afflicted with Muscular Dystrophy. (Amd on that point, many thanks to all the riders that support the 1KC rides which raise the funds to buy the presents for this event, plus the VTNZ who provide sponsorship to help bring the families together).
Saturday saw the running of the 13th 1KC, formally the C1KC (Capital 1,000 Km Cruise), but that name was dropped after the NZ Distance Riders included the event on their calendar and commenced a separate route out of Hamilton.
The ride started in 2007 when my riding buddy Steve and I were discussing whether or not to travel to Christchurch to participate in the ‘Longest Day’ ride, which is a 1,000Km ride run by the Chch Ulysses, however, being a bit of a tight-arse, in the end it was decided that we could run a 1,000Km ride and save the cost of a ferry ride!!
And so it came to be. 2007 saw 19 riders embark out of Caltex Rimutaka, 2008 saw the numbers escalate to 50, an entry fee charged for badges which were introduced and the ride became a fundraiser for the Wgtn Ulysses Muscular Dystrophy Ride, whereby Christmas presents are purchased for children afflicted with the disorder in the Central and Lower Nth Island. That seemed like a good idea at the time because I had been going on MDA rides since 2005 and I found it disappointing that the presents up until that time were ‘very average’!
In 2007, I was awed that the Rusty Nuts had been running their Grand Challenge 1,000 miler for 21 years and never considered we would still be doing this, especially after Grub Collins died on the Forgotten Highway on the 2008 C1KC, when riding in a group with Steve and myself. That wasn’t very pleasant and could well have been seen the demise of the ride, but for encouragement from his partner Kari and the fact that we were raising funds for the MDA kids….and for some years now, the 1KC has been fronting with $1,000 per year for the 25-30 presents needed.
It’s been hard coming up with routes, but thusfar we have still managed to include new roads to the event each year and the punters seem to be enjoying it.
Fortunately I don’t have to worry about the 1KC (Nth) out of Hamilton as Topher attends to that and we just focus on the 1KC (Sth), which this year, the route included a bit of farting around in the Wairarapa before a scoot around Mt Taranaki (since the Northern route went around East Cape).
I’d packed the bike and checked the tyres the night before and my plan was to get there by 0600 to get the bike ribbons, disclosures, certs and badges to Brett, then get an early start in order to get back early to help him at the finish, but I didn’t get there until 0607 to find that there were already about a dozen eager-beavers ready to get on with the day’s event. After handing over the stuff, I had a quick chat with Steve and we decided to ride together, getting away just after 0615.
It was steady as she goes stuff over the hill and we caught a group, that didn’t seem to be interested in passing a car or two, near the bottom of the hill, so we scooted past them, then found they hooked on the back as we went up to Masterton, took the bypass, went out to Te Ore Ore, losing them temporarily on Route 52, but they arrived at the first CP just before we departed (84Km – 0712). It was surprisingly warm (20º) and I had left home with the thermal liner in my jacket and winter gloves on, so the gloves came off here and got swapped for the summer jobbies.
We continued on our steady pace to the 2nd CP at Alfredton (109Km – 0730) and more of the same over Pa Valley Rd, through Tane and across to CP2 at the junction of Mangaramarama Rd and Pahiatua-Pongaroa Rd (141Km – 0751). The Masterton starters were loitering there when we arrived and were still loitering when we embarked on leg 4 to Pongaroa.
That was quite nice with more steady-as-she-goes stuff, but by the time we got to Pongaroa, (190Km – 0825 overall average at 88kph) the thermal liner definitely had to come out and we actually took longer than a minute at that stop, which was enough time for Big Col to rock in and rock out, the Masterton Gp to turn up and the Napier starters to come in from the North.
On-on and on this leg we started discussing fuel options because, for the first time in a long time, I hadn’t planned anything as originally I was planning to ride solo and it wouldn’t be an issue on this route, but now we had to think about Steve’s range. In the end we got to CP5 just before the Dannevirke town limits (249Km – 0903 – Avg 89kph) and he had plenty so decided we would divert for a fill in Feilding.
We took Makirikiri Rd to SH2, turned left for Woodville taking Pinfolds and Oxford Rds to bypass the town and take the Saddle over to Ashhurst, then out via Colyton to Feilding. It was now 310Km into the ride at 89kph average, but the 7½ minute fuel stop had our overall average back to 85kph as we started the short scoot via Cheltenham and Kimbolton to the next CP at Pemberton Corner.
More steady as she goes and we re-caught ChrisA, MarkI and CliveB at Cheltenham, …or at least, nearly caught them because they had paused at Cheltenham to meet up with more mateys, but Chris passed us just out of there and they did a runner, then their mateys passed us with a hiss and a roar through the curly section north of Kimbolton. I was riding a bit cautiously through there as I found it difficult to read the road surface, which looked like it had grit on it, although it didn’t really feel like it did, so I was ‘riding the rut’ in the car tracks.
We soon pulled into the junction of Rangiwahia Rd and Mangamako Rd to find that group still there at 358Km – 1022 and avg back to 87kph, but our leisurely 1min 20 sec photo stop was too casual to get us out in front of them …and this last piece of nice curly road for the day saw them do a real runner as they had soon gapped-it out of sight.
Once we emerged at Ohingaiti, we took SH1 South and diverted though Marton and onto the tedious slog up SH3 from Whanganui to Hawera, where we diverted via Meremere to bypass the town and head on to Stratford. At that point it was looking really dirty ahead and Steve’s Sena had gone flat, so we stopped to puts the wets on and for him to hook up a power pack. Halfway for the ride was just before Patea and we were now at 577Km – 1243 and back to 89kph, but an 8minute stop saw that back to an 87 average. The worst thing was that less than 15 minutes down the road at Inglewood, the roads were dry again!! *Sigh*
The Sentry Hill CP7 was reached at 614Km – 1316 and back to 88 avg. Bandit rider turned up while we were there, then gapped-it, it was getting hotter but I kept the wets on as it was hard to tell what it was like on the coast and we set out for our next fuel stop in Oakura as that would see Steve get back to Wellington. That was at 640Km – 1340 and now we just had to get the last CP at Rahotu before the crappy State Highway slog back to Wellington (The route planner deserves a bullet!!) We were literally on a down wind run through here though and even though we upped the pace a little, the economy was up over 18 Km per Ltr. It was really smooth riding too …until every now and then the road would hook left and you would feel the full affects of the wind and how strong it was. The BanditRider caught us at Rahotu again and gapped-it again, but we on a bit of a bungy cord and every now and then we would reel him in …especially once he caught the Revenue Collector and followed him from Opunake to Manaia. If we had been dialed in on the comms, I would have been encouraging him to pass the prick when he slowed to 98, but Andrew obviously didn’t want to push his luck!
Consequently we followed Andrew off and on down to Sanson, where he continued straight on for home in Palmy and we turned for Wellington. This leg was tough with all the bum-numbing SH riding taking it’s toll and I seemed to be constantly dropping my right leg, or both, or standing on the pegs though the towns, or shuffling onto the back seat! Anything to relieve the stiffness that was afflicting the bum and legs and we finally pulled up outside the backbencher in Thorndon at 1,011Km – 1738 for 11 hours 22minutes and overall average of 89kph. Colin had been there for a bit and we went in to join him, Ann and Brett, for a coffee and a snack …and now I think about it, that must have been the first ride I’ve ever been on with Steve that didn’t involve caffeine and a sticky-bun somewhere along the route!!
So that’s another 100Km done, another $1,000 for the Muscular Dystrophy kids and another really lucky day (weather wise) for this ride …even if it did end up feeling more like a conditioning ride than a jolly good fang!!
This blog is pretty much just about motorcycling ...but every now and then I might rant or dribble on about other things.