Yeah …..well that was good!!
I had entered and gone through the motions of plotting a route, (that looked quite doable in one hit), then it was looking a bit marginal that I would be riding, however when my long-standing riding buddy, Steve, confirmed he had entered …. that was that …. I couldn’t let Steve down could I!
That resulted in some correspondence with Geoff, ( http://geoffjames.blogspot.co.nz/ ) to check out road options, potential fuel and the prospect of riding the Coromandel Peninsular, this turned out to be invaluable), then tweeking the route to split it over three days, working out fuel stops for Steve’s 300-350Km range, where to stop for the nights and book accommodation, then make sure I was up to date at work.
The bike was serviced between Christmas and New Year with a new rear fitted, but when I did my first fuel stop on the way to Ashhurst, I noted that the last fill was in December, so the service might just as well have been earlier in the week. I cleaned the bike on the weekend, ensured the usual bits and bobs were packed and hit the road at 0740 on Friday morning to meet up at Steve’s, where we had a coffee, chatted for a bit and commenced our adventure at 0929.
It was an uneventful ride with me having to fill at GAS Eketahuna, while Steve filled at Caltex Woodville, because that meant he was within range of the first fuelstop on route and we arrived at the Ashhurst Pub at 1142, with not much spare time before the briefing and midday start.
I thought we had fluffed around a bit, collecting our T-Shirts (which are required to be on the bike for the checkpoint photos), then preparing to leave, but the Tracklog shows we departed at 1202, so perhaps we were briefed early ….or maybe I was so hyped up that time was dragging ….or perhaps it’s an age thing and I’m losing it!
Anyway, we started the weekend with a scoot over the Saddle and via Dannevirke, where we bypassed the CBD and must have passed several riders, then completed 98.8Km up to the first CP at Waipuk’, which was the back of the Angkor Wat Café (since it was deemed unsafe for us to be parking and snapping on the main street). We managed an average of 89kph then only spent a minute taking our pix, got back on the job and Steve having advised that he was having issues with his jacket zip, (which wasn’t staying zipped), so on the next leg, which took us through Napier on the Expressway, we paused at the Honda shop in Bayview. Fortunately they had one jacket in his size.
It took Steve 11 minutes to walk in the shop, pick his new jacket, arrange to have his old one and the thermal liner from the new one couriered home, pay for it, transfer his wallet and bits from one to the other, put it on along with his helmet and gloves and start moving again! ….and that’s what I like about distance riding with Steve, he values minimising stops!
The next section took us through to Wairoa, then out to Frasertown and this would rate as one of the North Island’s premier motorcycling roads and our first peach for the weekend. We managed to average 95kph for the 114Km and we loved every minute and every Km of it, took two minutes on the photo this time, scooted back to Wairoa Mobil for fuel and took 14 minutes to also enjoy a snack and chat to a few other riders as well.
The next CP was the jetty at Tologa Bay and this meant another 151Km of sweet riding as the road through to Gisborne is just more of the Napier-Wairoa road and the 50Km each way to Tologa is a really nice stretch of rolling sweepers with a good surface ….so more enjoyment was enjoyed and at 1802 we were pulling into a BP back in Gisborne for the 2nd fill, 640Km done.
A casual 10 minute fuelstop, snack and swig this time, then we had to embark on the Waioeka Gorge. *Sigh* ….we are certainly endowed with splendid rides in this country and thus our adventure continued on more peachy-keen curvy riding, however, when we arrived at Matawai, it was drizzling and getting worse, so we had to pause to don our wets before the short skip out to the next CP at Motu.
That done, we were back on the Waioeka Gorge, but a now rather wet and slippery road, so the spirited pace we had been enjoying up until Matawai, was now more a tame and sedate limp. We had one more CP for the day and that was the Tauranga Bridge, but as well as the rain and wet roads, more problems stacked up by way of my Sena intercom batteries going flat! This in itself wasn’t a problem, but because the Sena had gone offline, my Garmin 595 GPS had a big warning banner covering 95% of the screen …..telling me what I already knew! That shouldn’t have been an issue either but I couldn’t get rid of it and therefore see when we would be approaching the CP, so I waved Steve though (thinking that he had the route in his 660 and it wouldn’t be a problem!!!)
Yeah right! We had passed a couple of trucks, then the rain ceased and we were back on dry roads, then I spotted a sign alerting of our approach to the CP, so I put on my indicator, realised Steve wasn’t stopping, started tooting my horn and pulled over as I watched Steve disappear! Feck! It wasn’t the first time this sort of thing has happened but I figured he would realise I wasn’t there in the next Km or so, then turn around, so I took my photo, plugged a power pack onto the Sena then tried to ring Steve …..hmmm, no mobile coverage! ….bloody typical! Oh well, I cleaned up my glasses and visor, changed to dry gloves and generally farted around getting my shit sorted until Steve finally did arrive. I was off the road in a carpark, so I had left the engine running and lights on to alert Steve when he did return ….and 15 minutes later we were pulling out to head for our overnight stop.
We arrived in Whakatane at 2113 and looked for a Chinese Takeaway or the likes, but alas, all that seemed to be open was the fast food outlets, but then we spotted a Subway, …but although the lights were on and staff were there it was locked, so we resorted to Pizza Hutt, ate on site and finally arrived at the motel at 2158, scrubbed and slipped into a coma!! Day one finished, 730Km done.
Day 2 commenced at 0500, we cleaned up, packed, I tried a piece of leftover pizza but that wasn’t great, when checking the bikes discovered it had pissed down during the night, then we departed at 0551 in cool dark conditions. The first leg was a sprint up the coast to Bethlehem for the first fuel stop 93 Km along at an average of 97kph and we even found ourselves riding within the allowable limits (along the Expressway).
We lingered at the stop for 8 minutes before embarking on that horrid 54Km stretch that is littered with double-yellows from Tauranga to Waihi …but then things changed again and we had to endure riding the Coromandel. *Sigh* …..life can be so rough sometimes …..with so many twists and turns …I guess you could say we were in biker-heaven!
We had arrived in Waihi at 0737 and it took us until 0853 to complete the next 105Km to the first CP for the day at Whitianga, but we were feeling a bit generous with our time as we were ahead of our schedule so before stopping for a photo, we treated ourselves to some goodies at a bakery, although I just settled for a breakfast-like bacon and egg sandwich before going around the corner to get the photo.
After 20 minutes all up, we continued up the coast to Kuaotunu, across to Coromandel and up to Colville and all was good until about 10-15Km North of Coromandel, when my GPS shit itself and decided I needed to do a U-turn. Fortunately we knew where we were going so after a bit of a fiddle on the fly, I just selected the CP from the favourites. We arrived at Colville at 1018, spent a couple of minutes farting around then headed back to Coromandel with thoughts that we might need to shift the programmed Thames fuel stop to Coromandel because we were both down on our usual economy for some reason. This wasn’t a problem though because we could still make the next fuel stop in Te Kuiti from either place, but we would assess the situation once we got close to Coromandel.
We did fuel in Coromandel, then had a very sedate ride down to Thames due to the roadworks and traffic. We had been exceptionally lucky with traffic to that point because most seemed to be going to the other way and we only had to pass a few cars. Through this section there still wasn’t that much traffic in our direction but it was difficult to get past due to oncoming traffic, or cones etc…but it was only 50Km.
Once we were across the Kopu Bridge we got back in the groove and had a quick scoot down through Matamata, out to SH1 at Tirau and off again at Putaruru. The plan was to go over the Arapuni Dam to Waipapa Rd and take that down to the next CP at Mangakino, however, that is not what transpired!
Once we were over the dam, I noticed that the GPS wanted me to turn right onto Mangere Rd rather than Waipapa Rd and I didn’t have a great feel about this but Steve and I both have the faintest of shadows of Mike Hyde in us, so since we hadn’t tried this road, we took it anyway. Well! It turned out to be a narrow, unmarked lane and at one stage we had to avoid a bloody great tractor barrelling along the other way …and that wasn’t the worst of it. It turns out that this option was about 1Km longer than going straight to Waipapa Rd, ie. It took us 22Km before we joined Waipapa Rd, but the last 6 Km was bloody gravel!! ….but that’s not the worst of it either! …this gravel road wasn’t any wider than a driveway! ….what the hell was I going to do on the ST if someone came at us??
Well, we would have taken twice, or maybe even three times longer on Mangere and Huirimu Rds, but now we’ve been there and done that ….and most unlikely that I’ll ever do it again …but then it’s most unlikely that I’ll ever go to Motu or Kiwi Rd (yet to get to that part of the story) again!!
Now we were finally on Waipapa Rd we got to enjoy the curvy lane through the bush beside Waipapa Dam and were soon stopping at the bustling metropolis that met us on the shores of the Mangakino Dam. We’re still not sure if it was speed boats or skiing as they were on a break while we were there, but the place was packed.
The next leg was across SH30 to Te Kuiti ,then out to the coast at Marokopa, via Waitomo. I haven’t been on 30 for some years and it’s quite a nice amble through rolling country. We then fuelled and stopped for a 30minute late lunch at BP Te Kuiti before attacking the last 339Km for the day.
The road out to the coast past Waitomo is another of the North Island’s dream biking roads, but on this occasion, some care was required because the temp was up and what would be a slippery road in the wet was now a potentially oozy road on a nice summery day. Damn shame that so much care had to be taken picking one’s lines, but a nice ride all the same, then after the CP at Marokopa, the 55Km road down to Awakino starts as a nice road, has about 10Km of nasty, corrugated gravelses along the way, then finishes with one of the best signs a bike rider could wish to see, a yellow diamond shaped sign with a squiggly black line down the centre of it and arrow at the top, and the best part ….wait for it, ….below that is a little rectangular yellow sign with black line around the perimeter and in the centre it says, “Next 27 Km”!!! Sweeeeeet!! And this road really is sweet. If one wasn’t buzzing with excitement, the motion would rock you to sleep! (Long Jahn says – Highly Recommended)
From here we continued down SH3, over Mt Messenger to Uruti, where we had to take Uruti Rd out to a tunnel labelled on the CP data sheet as “Kiwi Rd”. I hadn’t taken much notice of this prior to the ride because I just didn’t have time, but when we got to the tunnel, we decided to go through it and take a pic from the other side, but at that point the GPS was telling me to turn right on Kaka Rd and keep going, so I pulled out my trusty NZ Nth Is Road Atlas and thought, this isn’t really Kiwi Rd, but it looks like there’s another tunnel up the road and that might be on Kiwi Rd, so we continued for a bit to check it out ….but we were soon on a dirt track so returned to the tunnel. It was really interesting to ride through the tunnel because it was a dirt track and the sides were carved into the clay and you could still see the scouring from the digger bucket. The bloody thing was effectively just a hole scraped through the clay.
More pics taken at the front end and it was On-On for home. At this point we checked the schedule and even with all our stops and farting around, we were still operating on what had been scheduled as our optimum ‘fast’ time, which had us arriving in Hawera at 1900, so we decided to add a scoot around the mountain on the Surf Highway and that would chop 50 Km off Sunday’s ride. That meant Steve would need some fuel in New Plymouth and were now on the home run.
The last hundred Km for the day was done in slightly less than an hour and we finally arrived at a restaurant at 1946, enjoyed a leisurely meal and drink, got to the motel around 2100, scrubbed, sat on the bed to watch a little TV, but nodded of and was well and truly in a full-blown coma by 2200. Day 2 done and dusted, 1,013Km for the day & 1,743Km for the trip.
I awoke about 0415, then fell in and out of consciousness but we had earned a sleep-in for Day 3 and didn’t get up until after 0630 and got on the road at 0736, however, in those waking moments route options for the day kept swirling around in my little brain. In planning this ride I had strayed from my normal anal, pedantic, OCD tendancies and just connected the dots, accepted the results and did a little tidying up. Normally I would rename and load all the all the checkpoints, then load each day’s route, and now I was regretting my slack attitude. When the GPS started playing up on the way to Collville, the CP’s were all in the Favourites, but who was to know whether we were supposed to be heading for Chapter 11 or Chapter 4. Well, of course I would normally but not on this occasion. The other thing was that separate daily routes have several benefits, especially when it comes to tweeking the route if needs be.
Anyway, I had loaded the route with a ride up the Para’s on Sunday and after adding the Surf Highway on Saturday, now I had difficulty working out exactly how many Km we needed for Sunday because I couldn’t remember how many Km we were short if we went direct to the Vinegar Hill CP, then straight to the finish. The other problem was that I hadn’t reset the GPS trip meters at the start, so I didn’t know exactly how many Km we had done.
I had been mulling over all this and decided we should go around Santoft, out to Parewanui Beach, then up to the Vinegar Hill CP, out to Cheltenham, up to Rangiwahia then check how many more Km we needed after that and once we got up, I manually loaded that into the unit, then it dawned on me to enter the direct route in and at that point, realised we were only about 30Km short!! Bloody hell, that was easy so we decided to see how we were at the CP and just add what we needed.
We had finished Saturday at a relatively spirited pace and started Sunday on the edge of the allowable limits (or thereabouts) and it was pretty straightforward. We zipped into Whanganui to the BP on the bypass for me to have my first proper fill for the weekend, then carried on through Turakina and took Makirikiri Rd across to SH1. Once we had turned onto Makirikiri, I note that the GPS wanted us to turn right onto SH1 and I though ….”WTF!!” So I zoomed out and noticed that it wanted to take us via Halcombe and up to the CP from the bottom! So Cooool! I had noticed the day before that some roads in the unit had a green tinge to them and wondered if the unit had stolen old route data from the PC and this sort of confirmed it because it was even taking our usual bypasses. The old 660 never ever did that.
I advised Steve of the change and was pleased to be avoiding SH1….and our canter became more of a gallop to the finish. We got to the CP at the same time as another rider coming in from the North, checked our Km status and decided to take SH54 out to SH1 and enjoyed a jolly good fang there and back to Cheltenham, then turned up Kimbolton Road to burn a few more Km before turning for Ashhurst. Some more math was carried out on the way through Colyton and we ended also doing a few Km up the Pohangina Valley and finally arrived at the finish at 1023, having done 2,002 Km and collecting our 50,000 points. Wacko Blue you bloody beaut!
We parked up, chatted with the other riders that were there, checked in our photos, had a coffee and chatted some more before departing at 1150. We opted to head for Aokoutere and over the Track, where we struck some light drizzle, then down the Wai’rapa. It was pretty windy and care was needed on “the hill”, but fortunately, we had no cars in front of us when we encountered the usual areas that cause concern, so we were able to keep enough pace on to keep the bikes stable.
I finally got home just after 1400 and had to go to the office for a couple of hours, but shit we had a great weekend!!
Many thanks to the organisers and cheers to Mike Hyde. This ride was themed around Mike’s NZ book and we particularly enjoyed the reduced number of CP’s and at times were reminded of Mike’s knowledge of obscure roads and places.
This blog is pretty much just about motorcycling ...but every now and then I might rant or dribble on about other things.