With the New Zealand endurance riding scene down to just two real rides, (The Chatto Creek 1,000 miler and the TT2000 – 2000Km in 48 hours) since I haven't sampled the CC, it's pretty easy for me to say I've just completed the best endurance ride on the NZ riding calendar!!
That's not to say that it was the best ride I've been on and definitely not the best TT I've done, but as always with this type of riding, it was different, it was challenging, I rode a shitload of new roads for me, we got shone on, we got cooked, we got pissed on, we hit the verge of hypothermia, we got delayed, we pissed around, we pissed each other off, we had a good laugh, we looked after each other, we got lost, ….and we found ourselves!!!.....oh yes, and as I was riding lead pretty much all weekend, I had some wicked fangs!!
As with all walks of life, endurance riders are a funny breed and there's no one 'type' of rider that does this stuff. In talking to other punters at the event, there were those that just wing-it and see what happens, those that do a moderate amount of planning, and then there's anal pricks like me that plan down to the minutest details and try to organise their ride to the minute...but we all get there in the end. Well, almost all!
My ride started back in August when the TT website went live with the Checkpoints and I quickly came up with a raw concept, then sat on it until after the C1KC (Capital 1,000Km Cruise) was done and dusted. At that point I tweeked and refined the plan, identifying the accommodation stops, booking them and ferry sailings for my riding buddy Steve and myself, and registered for the ride. Then I spent many more hours drilling into MapSource and Google Maps removing any nasty gravel sections, estimating minimum and maximum ride times minimising time and maximising Km's, identifying CP's based on Points per Km and Points per Minute to then identify the best potential drops with cutoff times. By this time Steve and I had been joined by Woody and Ken, I prepared and printed CP booklets with spreadsheet printouts and we were on the plan to do 280Km Friday, 1200Km Saturday and 800+Km Sunday, collecting 44,200 points along the way.
I must say that I felt this ride was going to be more challenging than the 2011 ride when I did gold with Jantar, completing 1550Km Saturday and 1350Km Sunday …. but I had planned well......but the best laid plans!
As the countdown rolled into the last week I kept watch on the rain forecasts (which were all at odds with each other) and things weren't looking great, but I have new cordura pants and jacket, with all the other trusty gear and it wouldn't be too much of a problem. Then Friday rolled around, I was down at the Bluebridge but 0645, met up with others as they boarded shortly after me and we settled down for an extremely smooth crossing, arriving at Picton to have a sidewalk lunch in a balmy 26º, before checking into our cabin, settling in and killing time before kitting up to head over to Woodbourne, arriving at about 1615....by then the temp had cracked 31º.
We mingled until 1745, got briefed, picked up our T-shirts (which I clipped by the shoulders on to the trouser hanger duct taped into the lid of my topbox), then hit the road for Onamalutu and Top Valley on the Northern side of the Wairau River before heading back through Renwick and to the Waihopai Dam and Netherwood on the South side. From there it was back to Picton, over to Oyster Bay, back through Picton, around to Momorangi Bay on Queen Charlotte Dve, then back to Picton for fuel, a beer then bed.
When Steve and I do this type of riding we switch into GC-mode (Grand Challenge) whereby we dial up a steady pace around 110’ish kph, minimise stops and although we don't go fast as such, we don't slow down much either to ride as efficiently and economically as our pace will allow. By the 2nd stop, I figured we had problems because we were on a 'light' pace but Ken mentioned he was struggling with the glare and sunscreen in his eyes, plus the stops were way over the allotted 2 minutes. *sigh* ...she'll be right but! I hadn't been up the North side of the river or over to Oyster Bay since the mid 80's, I'd never been out to Waihopai and, having found the road was clean on the way out, I enjoyed a wicked fang on the return from Momorangi. I'd opted to do that CP on Friday night as the out and return added 28Km to the night, then the scoot around Spring Creek on Saturday morning added another 50Km to the tally for no extra time.
We hit the sack at about midnight and arose at 0430 to get on the road before 0510.
The weather on Saturday was supposed to close in so we bought the 0600 start forward to make up predicted lost time and elected to drop Elaine Bay to generate a time buffer and depending on how things went, we could pick up the points and Km's by adding in the faster Kohaihai CP if things went well....but the best laid plans!!
We enjoyed an easy ride around to Canvastown, the Pelorus Bridge, then out to Penzance, which turned out to be a sweet one. Another new road for me, which claimed two TT'ers...and nearly claimed me! We pootled out there, took our pics then headed back but I had one of those brain fades...? or perhaps more correctly, a rush off blood to the head and I took off like a scolded cat, pushing towards my limits through the forest, then out onto the dairy flats. As I came onto the flats, three TT'ers were heading out and I was a little distracted as I waved....then just about shit myself! As soon as the 3rd biker shot past me, a bloody great dairy cow, or three, immediately strolled from a gate and across the road in front of me, about 50 metres ahead and from my right! Holy shit! I hit the picks with all the best linked ABS stopping power an ST has to offer, the front dipped and the dreamy front cow must have caught a glimpse of the lights as I closed to within 20 metres, rapidly transitioning from warp to impulse speed, but still on a perfectly timed collision course with no viable escape routes on offer. You could say I was toast, but with 15 metres to go the old girl swung her head away from me, jumped her front around to the right and tried to break into a stumbling run along the side of the road, although only managing two or three steps before I was past and out of danger. At that point I thanked my lucky stars, felt sorry for the poor prick that ended up with that adrenalin loaded, curdled syrup on their cornies and promptly started to analyse the situation. These cows were stragglers from a herd that were crossing (but controlled by the farmer) on our way out. I hadn't noticed any movement due to the other bikes, the soothing whine of an ST isn't exactly going to scare the bejeezers out of any beast and the cows timing was perfect.....and I guess it just wasn't my time!?
I pulled up at the junction and started to don my wets for the anticipated and approaching weather ahead as I waited for the others. Pity about that because they decided to do the same, but we ended up not needing them and just wasted more time. In fact, we were losing time to a couple two-up on another ST!
I settled back down and we pootled on to Peppin Island, Rabbit Island, then on to Upper Moutere on our way to our 1st fuel stop at Motueka. I still had half a tank but took the top up just to be sociable and not make Woody feel bad about riding his Kermidly Z1000, and by the time we pulled out it was 0940 and we had spent 20 minutes on our 10 minute fuel stop! Aww, she'll be right, I hear you say...we've got plenty of time since we dumped Elaine Bay!
More delightful new roads for me as we scooted over to Marahau (actually, I really had a bloody great fang and had already taken my pic before the others got there), then pootled out to Riwaka Resurgence, (??), before embarking on the statutory rip roaring fang that is required whenever heading over the Takaka Hill! Or at least it was a rip snorter until hitting the Pea Souper fog just before the summit the most of the way down the other side. Another short wait then it was on more new roads to the Anatoki Salmon farm, through Takaka to Farewell Spit, back to a cemetery in the back of beyond at some place called Bainham, then back to Mot' for a snack and more fuel, …...but we only wasted 35 minutes on lunch and 17 minutes on the 10 minute fuel stop this time!....it's really good to have the best laid plans!!!
We were into easy cruising now as we slipped back down the Mot' Valley to Orinoco, then on to St Arnaud. By this time we had been on the road for 11 hours, but had only managed 675Km (which should have been 750 if we had done Elaine Bay) .....and we had blown the hour and a half buffer that had given us! At this point Ken was starting to feel the effects and considering pulling the plug, so another quick modification was required. We had huge excesses of points so we decided to dump Lake Rotoroa, Seddonville and Tauranga Bay, then if we got to Greymouth early enough, we could take out the first three CP's for Sunday morning to create a bit more buffer there......but the best laid plans!!!!
Our dithering and replanning only took 6 minutes on that 2 minute stop before we were scooting out to Kawatiri and on to Murchison where I thought it prudent to take an unscheduled 20 minute drink stop before pushing on to Hawks Crag, then more fuel at Westport, which only took 9 of the allocated 10 minutes, so we were obviously starting to crack on and make up time!! Then we only had a short scoot to pick up Denniston, Grand Canyon and Stockton Mine before getting onto the home straight......but the best laid plans!!!!!
We were soon turning off at Waimangaroa and taking it easy up the hill to Denniston, I had Ken behind me but was quite focused on the road ahead, because the last time Steve & I had gone up there, there was loose crap all over the road, so I was taking care. I pulled up at the junction at the top to regroup, then Ken pulled up beside me and said, “I lost the other two right at the bottom and I tried flashing you, but you didn't see.” Bugger!! We waited 4 minutes, then I said, we're here now, we'll take our pic then go look.
Sure enough, 1-2 Km up, Woody had managed to lose the back end on some loose crap in a tight left hander, the back spun out and it had gone down, breaking the clutch lever. By this time Steve was part way to jury rigging a repair with tie-wraps (or zip ties if you prefer), but the 2nd one couldn't handle the pressure and was slipping through the locking mechanism, so I grabbed a couple of mine, which were a little better, but not quite up to it. Throughout the time we were there, Woody was trying to make contact with some of his local compadres, but to no avail, and meantime, Steve had given the clutch situation more thought and figured that a bit of classic No8 wire might do the trick, so while he and Ken went in search of a scrap of wire around a fence or pylon, I went back to Waimangaroa in search of a coat hanger.
I cruised back to the junction because I had noted some kind of garage there, but the prospects didn't look good, and although there were a few cars parked up at various houses, there was no sign of life and it was like riding through a ghost town, until I spotted two young chaps chatting in the front garden, so I pulled over and strode in.
They looked a bit baffled to be receiving a visitor, but after a quick outline of the situation, they were soon shuffling through the garage, but with no luck, then into the house, soon returning with the wire coathanger that we were to be hanging our dreams on (not to mention our badges). I got back to discover that Steve & Ken had also been lucky enough to find an ideal length of wire by a pylon....but there was just no bending it, so the hanger was soon unraveled, pruned, shaped, slipped into place, twisted tight, tested......and voila, Woody was back in action, but I packed the rest of the wire.... just in case.
Another scoot was made to the summit for more pics and we were back on the road to Grand Canyon and Stockton mine having only lost an hour and a half and lucky to be on the road again at all....it was 2015 but! …And getting on for dusk.
More pics taken and as we started to head back through Westport, it was starting to drizzle and I had to pull over to sort out the visor as I couldn't see too well. The others kitted up with wets but I just put my winter weight Spidi gloves on and relied on the new DirRider jacket to do its thing. *sigh*
We hit the road again at 2128 in the pitch blackness and within a few Km’s I knew this leg was going to be tough. The road was wet, the drizzle came and went and was just enough to be a nuisance, but occasionally it would be interspersed with a jolly good dump, I’m not the happiest of campers when having to pick clean lines through the proliferation of slick patches in the wet these days, and then there was Woody to think about with his jury-rigged clutch, so I didn’t want him to be having to use that more than necessary….and of course, by this time we were all starting to feel the effects of a long day.
Well! The first thing I discovered was that my new jacket is actually a Not-So-DriRider Jacket!? It has zipped vents right up each sleeve, down the centre section on each side at the back and a couple of large sections that can tuck away on the front. It was described to me as, “Waterproof, plus it has a separate waterproof liner, plus the padded thermal liner.” And of course, I didn’t bring the thermal liner, but I did bring the waterproof liner….but I hadn’t put it in!! I figured the zips must have been really high tech jobbies to be waterproof, but of course the outer jacket is just shower proof. Fortunately though, ST riders don’t need a lot of protection because the bike takes most of the sting out of any weather, so on the really heavy downpours, I just managed to feel a few dribbles coming in around my shoulders…..and I could live with that until Punakaiki!?
Punakaiki was a long time coming with a lot of effort and concentration required though. I generally struggled to achieve more than 80kph thanks to the dismal conditions and poor vision, which was a bit sad because I love that road, but we finally made it to the CP and I was able to take a marginal pic, then put my trusty Warehouse over-jacket and RainOff gloves on, so that fixed both the damp and thermal issues I was starting to have to deal with. We got back on the road and just to finish things off for the day, we had about 5Km of very gritty, loose new seal to contend with before Runanga, before finally getting to the Greymouth 24Hr Z at 1109, where we gassed up for the morning, then looked for a feed, which we had to settle for a pie at the Caltex down the road, made it to the Top 10 and by this time I was so shattered, I just collapsed onto the bunk.
That was a bloody nuisance because I didn’t have the energy to download the data from the GPS and clean it out for the next day or download the video footage from the GoPro to free up space on the card, and charge the camera and remote batteries….so Sunday would be videoless. The other damn nuisance was that earlier in the day a casual chat had me setting the phone alarm for 0430, and we finally decided on 0530!!!....doh!!
I ended up arising around 0500 in order to give myself plenty of time to repack my panniers and set up for the day. It had really pissed down during the night but was back to an intermittent drizzly, dismal day with the temp at about 16º (when it would finally become day), ….and a few more hours kip would have been very nice thank you.
We finally got on the road at 0607 and within a few minutes, my trusty GPS was telling me that I had arrived at Boddytown…..but alas there was no Doc sign to photograph and I hadn’t noticed one over the preceding 200metres, so I went a little further up the road before turning back and was about to turn around again, when I noticed a ‘Town Sign’ stating Boddytown, and it was reflective so it made a much better camera target in the pitch black morn’.
Pic taken and we shuffled along Marsden Rd to Rutherglen Rd, turned left for Dunganville and I was soon leading us astray!! Well to be absolutely correct, that dastardly rotten Mike Hyde (reknowned author of the Twisting Throttle series of books) was really to blame and my culpability was only in my knowledge that I knew he was a dastardly devil who couldn’t be trusted with GPS co-ordinates….but I obviously hadn’t checked thoroughly enough when comparing his GPS position on google maps and streetview. If we had been scooting along in the daylight, it wouldn’t have been a problem because one couldn’t miss the checkpoint that was really 5-6Km earlier than what my GPS said….and I might add, 5-6 gravelly Km’s!! Oh well, we only lost half an hour, or maybe a little bit more….but the best laid plans!!!!!!
Anyway, speaking of losing time, with everyone kitted up in their wets (except me just riding with my Spidi Gloves again) I saw the writing on the wall, that my 2 minute CP photo stops were about to become very extended sociable affairs between Ken’s very chatty nature and Woody’s very particular, careful and precise actions and with not a lot of fat left in the barrel, I couldn’t afford to have that if I didn’t want an asterix beside my name. (that would indicate on the result sheet that we were overstayers, or overtimers, or something like that), so at Dungeon-ville, I said, “stay on your bikes, I’ll take the photos for all of us!” But when Woody relayed that message to Ken, when we got to Shantytown, he responded with, “Oh no, I’ll take my photos.” To which I think my eyes probably just rolled back into my head somewhere as I was probably thinking to myself, “Ooohhh F….F….S….s!!” as I was waiting, tapping some unmusical tune on my tank while he put his gloves, etc back on and wasted yet another minute of two… Hehehe… !
On-on and coming onto 0700 we were just getting back through Greymouth and onto Dobson, but the time gods hadn’t finished with me yet! As we were exiting town, the GPS was wanting me to keep left, but I knew where I was going and that I needed to stay right, take the 2nd exit from the roundabout and head along the south bank of the river….easy! Yeah right, I confused poor Kate, then she was telling me to go across the river…or somewhere to get back on track so I tentatively went onto the bridge, got a wee way out, paused, then hung a u-ee and scooted back to the desired track. Kate caught up and got back on track eventually and we only lost a few more of those very precious seconds.
Dobson done, we crossed the river, did Blackball, then had a slightly extended stop at the Pike River memorial as we checked out all the effort that had gone into it before rolling on to Waiuta.
This next stop was a hoot and one could only get this in the south island. We flicked off the main road onto a very narrow lane (which was still open and easy going), but then there was 6Km of hardpack gravel. Not a problem I thought when I planned the route, hardpack is easy, even on an ST. Yes well, it had been pissing down all night and the hardpack was some sort of greasy clay so very soon I was feeling the front going one way and the rear the other, so much care and restraint was needed, but we got there in the end. (The end was a hundred year old deserted mining settlement in the back of beyond). While there, I had to remove the pinlock from my visor because it was giving me all sorts of grief with fogging and getting water on the inside.
From here on we were onto the Lewis Pass and flowy roads through Reefton to Italian Creek, back through Reefton to Blacks Point, then down to GAS Lewis Pass at Springs Juncton. Through this stretch the temp dropped to 6º, which after the 28-31 we had been enjoying on Friday, then 23-26 on Saturday, it was bloody cold. Prior to leaving in the morning, I had reluctantly put on a scivvy, plus I was wearing my wets, but I still had to squirm about in my jacket to try to brush off the cold. I wasn't wearing the RainOffs because of having to get on and off the bike and use the camera so they were wet and I had been using the heated grips...and cranked them up to 2nd, but as soon as we got to Springs Junction I had to throw on another scivvy and wets trousers before gassing up. We'd been humming and Hahing whether to keep or drop Hanmer and at this point, we'd lost a bit of time so I decided to drop it.
The next sections were good though because soon after getting back on the road, the clouds cleared, the roads dried, the temp started to climb back into double figures and we were skipping along at a better pace. We collected Marble Hill and Glynn Wye first before a pause in Waiau, then over Leader Rd to SH1 and over the Hunderlees to Goose Bay, before returning over the Hunderlees and down to Cheviot for fuel and a snack. I had a ball through here because once again, being in the front, I caught a break through the traffic, then seemed to time it right each time I caught the next car or truck and just flew through to Goose Bay, getting my wets off....well almost all off, just as the others arrived.
Lunch was quick and easy, then it was straight out to Gore Bay, coming back in at Dommet before heading on to Greta Valley for the out and return to Motunau Beach. At this point I knew we were getting tight for time so I announced to the others that I was bailing on the rest of the CP's (ie Scargill, Balcairn, Lyttleton, Charteris Bay and Charring Cross) to just focus on the 3000 points on offer at Port Levy. They agreed so we hit the road on our final mission....but the best laid plans!!!!!!!
My plan was that Woody would need more gas before the finish, so while he (and the others) were topping up at Z Belfast, I would nip down the road to check-in at 219 On Johns so we could return whenever we wanted and wouldn't have to rush away after the finish. That would have been a good plan if anyone was in attendance at the office so I left empty handed! Then I hadn't really accounted for the roadworks and really slow traffic through Christchurch and on to Lyttleton, and figured we had time to take that CP because we were there. And most of all I hadn't accounted for the heavens to open up, initially with some spectacular forked lightning....right where we needed to crest over the hills between Charteris Bay and Port Levy!! That slowed me down somewhat and it was with great concern, reservations and trepidation that I continued ...putting life and limb on the line for the cause.....and the badge of course!! Steve & I got separated from Ken & Woody through the last bit, then I got down to the monument at Port Levy to find I was alone, then Ken & Woody showed up but no Steve???
We were on the ropes for time by now and couldn't wait so we shot back up the hill to find Steve waiting at the top with two other riders, so I told him to join them and we'd meet him back at Hamptons. Then as we climbed the hill for Charteris Bay, I paused to look back to ensure that Steve was with the other chaps climbing out of Port Levy, but I could only see two headlights, so I told Ken & Woody (who both had GPS's) to carry on and I'd wait for Steve to ensure he didn't get lost. Fortunately though, as they got a bit closer, I could see there were three bikes so I bolted….over a road awash with riverlets of water and more slick patches than you could shake a stick at!
It was depressing to have to ride right past the Charteris Bay CP (twice) without picking it up and then I couldn't remember if it would be quicker to take Gebbies Pass or Dyers Pass, as it's been over 20 years since I lived in Christchurch and closer to 40 since this area was my playground.....so I foolishly opted for Dyers!? What a bugger because it might have been a close call but the traffic coming in was thick and slow.
We made it in the end though, a smidgen late, a little worse for wear, a lot frustrated with some poor decision making on my part, and even more frustrating on my part for some poor planning because I was so knackered the night before that I hadn't even reviewed our position, I had no idea of what our points talley was or what we needed and as it turned out, if we hadn't gone for Port Levy, we would have been short! Well short!
Another thing I did wrong was that I had programmed the ride around the way Steve and I ride then took on two endurance-riding novices but didn't change the plan thinking that, “She'll be right, there's plenty of fat so we can drop this and this and that and still be OK!” But I got more depressed every time I had to let one slip away and in hindsight, I should have reprogrammed the ride to a bare basics with add-ons, because then it would have been OK to ride to the plan, or a boost to pick-up any extras.
We made it though, dumped our photos, scoffed a sizzled sausage or two, mingled and traded lies with the other punters. Then slipped away for some pizza and a few reds...and a well deserved kip.
Monday dawned another beautiful day where Ken was up and away early for a southern tour while the rest of us relaxed and slowly prepped to head north. At this point I found the Sunday GPS Tracklog had gone to archive in the unit….but didn’t quite make it!! (and that’s why I tend to clear the unit each day). Bother! We got away around 1100 on a cruisy ride, stopped for a casual lunch in Kaikoura, a nice cuppa in Picton then an easy cruise across the straits to get home at around 2300.
Once back, I went to retrieve Saturday’s Video footage from my 500Gb portable drive, only to find it had crashed, wanted to be formatted and all the data on it was lost!!
That’s alright though. Let’s face it, I had the best laid plans!
These blogs were posted on the KiwiBiker forum but I decided it was time for a change.