This weekend was the 4th NI1600 and the 2nd NI800 at Turangi, so at around 0820 on Friday morning I was getting on the road. Brett had commented on the weekend before that the forecast predicted a massive high that would linger over the country for days, with the bonus of a full moon, ...by Thursday we were looking at a clear first third of the ride, ...by Friday we were looking at the pits and Saturday dawned a dismal, dreary affair.
I arrived just on midday, we setup the hall, checked in, got scrutineered, then settled down to business while the poor scrutineers toiled in the rain.
Brett and I strolled down to the tavern at 1700 and I enjoyed a nice steak before returning to setup for unveiling the route at 1900 and with that done, spent the rest of the night assisting riders to get to grips with the route.
As predicted, Saturday dawned another dismal day and was the first time since I started doing Rusty rides that a pre-ride briefing has ever been held in the hall because no matter how bad the weather got on the rides, the Saturday mornings always seemed beautiful. It seemed no time at all before the 800 riders were departing, then in no time we were being briefed and departing ourselves and the NI800 has certainly broken up the hurry-up-and-wait syndrome that used to be the case.
In the weeks before the ride I had arranged to ride with Dreds, a rider who nearly (inadvertanly) led me to my doom on the Takaka hill ( https://longjohnbiker.weebly.com/old-blog/tt2000a-fangers-delight ) and on subsequent rides, although I never actually rode with him (at least not for any real duration because we couldn't keep up) he always impressed me as a very smooth operator on his steed of choice, the Africa Twin. On Friday night I tried to share the route via our Garmin 595's, but that didn't work so he had to manually input it, then Saturday morning, we paired up our Senas and about a minute or so after the others, we rolled out of the camp as part of Group 1 with me in the lead.
We started relatively sedately on the wet roads and gradually ramped up the pace as we rolled up SH32, especially once I remembered that the fleet on Goldwings were in group 2 and I didn't fancy following them through the tight stuff between Waipapa Rd and Te Kuiti. Also the rain had cleared and the roads were drying!
Another thing that happened was that once I started riding, I noted the GPS hadn't activated and with having oversized gloves on, I couldn't seem to activate the route, but in the end I managed to load to the first checkpoint. We had a good scoot past Waipapa Dam, and as we approached the turnoff, I was expecting the GPS to try to send us along the gravel road, but I would take the second turn. Well ...bloody GPS knew which road to send us down so I flew past, only to find the next road was gravel and we had to turn back ....and then the fun started.
Wairehi Rd is a single lane track but it's in pretty good condition so we made good time and were soon at the CP, clicked the photo, got the cards signed and were on our way again ...but guess who forgot to initiate the route into the unit! Bugger me and the bloody thing still didn't want to take it (thanks to the dodgy gloves). Shortly after CP1 I spotted JohnG parked up and apparently fiddling with his GPS so I paused long enough to give him a nod to join us and on-on we went, with me still fiddling!
We negotiated some fantastic corners through here and in between I continued fiddling with the GPS and that led to a minor pucker, when that moment of inattention had me offline into a right hand corner and next thing I knew, I was in through the loose stuff and onto some horrid spongy crap, but remained upright and bounced back on to the road with Mark in the lead.
By the time we had cleared checkpoints 2 & 3 through to Te Kuiti, we had had such a jolly good fang that there was no way I would make the 460Km for the leg back to Turangi and I wasn't even sure if I would make Taumarunui, so I joined Mark to fill before continuing in a much more sedate manor for Awakino.
At this stage the temp hit 17° so riding was rather pleasant and the Awakino gorge is always a treat and 15Km out from Awakino, we passed Gary coming the other way, putting him about 20 mins ahead (wow). We had soon taken our pic, returned on our path and were taking the turn onto Totoro Rd to head across through Aria. There was a couple of Km of roadworks to negotiate here and although it wasn't gnarly, by the time we had gone about half a Km, the Sena started peeping to me, indicating that Mark was already out of range because he doesn't linger when it comes to the dark side!!
I eventually caught him though and the scoot through Aria to SH4 is usually more good riding before finishing the first loop on SH41 and arriving back in Turangi at 1805, so we had taken just over 5 hours for the first 460Km, then had a relaxed 15 minute break before heading out on the second leg to Kai Iwi and back. I led on this leg and between the dusk and the rain, I struggled to get into the groove and ride at a decent pace.
We had averaged 92kph to get to Kai Iwi at 2022, it was pitch black and I was relieved to pause at Z Dublin St on the return and while Mark was topping up, I was able to give my specs and visor a good clean, so when we got back on the road I felt much more comfortable. Oddly enough, although the weather seemed to improve a bit on the way back to Turangi, we still only averaged the same pace, arriving at 2235, then getting back on the road for the third leg at 2255, Mark back in the lead.
This was supposed to be the easiest riding leg up to Rotorua, across to Karapiro, then back via the Western Lake, but the weather had really closed in now and the temperature was dropping. It wasn't a 'heavy' rain but a really persistant 'light' rain coming down in huge volumes ...if that makes any sense? and in hindsight, I think this is where my problems stemmed from.
I believe I had failed to secure my outer wet jacket properly and the because the fine, light rain was sort of 'floaty' and 'drifty', it managed to come in under the helmet and around my neck, so by the time we as got to Rotorua, I was starting to feel the cold and had the perception of being a little wet. Our track to the Skyline Sign CP was a slow 87kph, there was no cover there, so after a 3 minute pause, we headed straight for Mobil Karapiro, where I had decided I would put more layers on and have a good cleanup.
We managed the 70Km at a slightly improved 90kph, arriving at 0120, so while Mark and Graeme, who had joined us from Skyline, filled, I put on two skivvies, leaving the third to keep dry for the next day, then I changed my wet gloves ....and threw them in the bag on top of the dry top!! (There's some dumb bastards out there). I then took care to ensure the gear was all in the right place before moving out .....forgot to restart the GPS (although I'm not sure why it was stopped) ....and within half a Km, my visor had fogged up, so I cracked it one notch ....and within another two Km my glasses were speckled with drops of rain!! ....and my GPS wasn't going ....and it was difficult to get the route in with my rain-off over gloves on!! In the end, Mark got sick of giving instructions and took the lead when it looked like I was going to turn the wrong way ....and then I had to tell him we were at the CP as he was accelerating past it!! What a pair. ...Oh yes, and I was so busy at the Karapiro CP that I forgot to take a photo so I had to hope I was in one of the others pix?!
Graeme had left the Mobil before us and he was leaving the Puketurua CP as we were arriving, but he was heading off down Pearsons Rd which takes one out to Putaruru, so I figured he must be opting for an SH1 return to Turangi. After had our photos and I had cleaned my specs and visor again, I asked Mark if he wanted to do the Western Lake or SH1 and Western Lake was the outcome, so we took to the roadworks, which was pretty hardpacked and easy going and made our way to Whakamaru, which is about 50Km and I had to stop in the shelter of the GAS to clean specs and visor again, at which time Graeme turned up. It turned out that his GPS was telling to depart Puketurua on three if the five roads, so he had done a loop and swung in behind us again.
My vision was buggered because the slightly damp clothes were causing the visor to fog instantly. This is compounded by the screen and lack of airflow on the ST, but the nature of the rain meant that the slightest of cracks in the visor to clear the fogging resulted in a multitude of small water droplets on my specs. Bloody marvelous! I was as good as tits on a bull so tucked in behind Mark and followed his light.
My recollection was that we were making good time down the lake, but the GPS Tracklog says otherwise, so it must have been occasional spurts as the average was just 90kph. I was operating on the edge with marginal vision and was also concerned that by the time we got to Bayview, the wet gear would also lead to getting much colder ....but I followed on relentlessly and the only time I ventured out of Mark's wheeltrack was just over the bridge out of Tokaanu, when he was in the left wheeltrack of the lane and he sent up a huge bow-wave as he scooted through a massive pool of standing water ...then did it again 20 mtrs further on, so I drifted right and may have even crossed the line to avoid doing the same.
Next thing you know, we were pulling into the Z and Mark bypassed the pumps, parked by the store, got off the bike with a sort of sheepish grin and announced, "I'm done!"
I had sort of paused by the pump, then followed him to the park and I don't really recall if I thought, "Thank God for that!" or "Aahhh FFS!" ....probably both, but the doubts that had already been festering in my mind made it an easy decision and we all pulled, noticing at that point that Graeme's rear tyre seemed to be losing air!
We packed up, went back to the cabins for a cuppa, had the bestest long hot shower and went to bed, only to be awakened by some noisy bloody biker at 0750 ...and thought, "I've got time to kit up and rejoin the fray", then rolled over, then figured I wasn't going to get any more sleep, so got up for another long, hot shower, sorted my gear to start drying it, then went around for my post-ride meal ...and spent the day relaxing, chatting, turning my gear every hour or so and finally went back to bed at about 2130 for a really good kip.
By Monday morning all the gear was dry and we hit the road for home by 0840. I rode back with James and it was dry and rather pleasant. He has asked me on the Sunday if I would redo the ride and I quickly said, "Nahh!", but the more I thought about it on the bike, the more pissed-off I got with myself. When I was sorting the gear, it became apparent that my clothes hadn't really got that wet and that it had most likely happened because I was too casual, so I had no one to blame for my failure except myself. Not my gear, not my riding buddy, just me!
Am I still pissed off with myself? ....you bet!
This blog is pretty much just about motorcycling ...but every now and then I might rant or dribble on about other things.