For the second year running, we returned to the Aussy tennis Open this week. Plenty of hot days (40° on the Tues), lots of walking, lots of tennis and lots of food. Qantas, on the other hand, left much to be desired!
We booked awhile back on a direct flight from Wellington to Melbourne and thought nothing more of it, until a mate mentioned to check our flights as Qantas had changed some flights. Sure enough, they tried to put us off from the morning flight to a night flight and when Ann requested a refund to go elsewhere, they compromised to have us fly via Sydney and get there a few hours later. That would have been OK except for their crap system (or lack of one) in Sydney which meant we missed our connection due to the volume of transferring passengers, then the next one and finally left Sydney after we should have already arrived in Melbourne.....bastards!!
It wasn't a very good start to the week but we were soon in our apartment, fetched some supplies for the week and relaxed for the rest of the day.
On Saturday we went to the market and did a bit of shopping, then Sunday we took a stroll through the Botanical Gardens and visited the War Memorial. On the way there, we passed a festival which turned out to be some kind of gay celebration and most appeared to be enjoying themselves but as always with any large group, a few of them were a bit over the top and I didn't appreciate the way they flaunted their sexuality to ensure all and sundry knew exactly how bent they were. The War memorial was worth the effort to visit though.
The next four days were full on tennis days and with record temperatures and record crowds in attendance, we appreciated having seats in the shade in the Rod Laver arena. That meant we could look around but if things got too hectic, or hot, we could retreat back to our seats in the shade and we got to see a good range of players and games, including Roddick, Serena Williams, Rafa, Safin, Jankovitch, Hewitt, Wosniaki, the Bryan Brothers and lots more.
In the evenings we dined out (but missed our booking on the Tramcar Restaurant), went to Draculas, ate Gelato from Lygon Street and generally had a great time and the week seemed much more relaxing than last year.
Shortly after Grub died in November, Nasty mentioned she planned to get a road cross made up, so Steve and I were both more than happy to escort her up to the crash site when it was made and that came about this weekend. The cross was ready over a week ago but Steve has been pretty busy so it was decided that Saturday would be the day, even though the forecast didn't look too great.
Fortunately, as the day drew nearer, the weather wasn't looking too bad so Nasty headed up to Wanganui on Friday to shorten the ride to a more manageable distance for her and Steve and I planned to meet at Mana for an 0600 departure. I had replaced the Storm on the rear, packed my wets and a few other bits on Friday night, set the alarm for 0500 and hit the sack at about 2200 for a crap nights sleep (I'd eaten too much Friday night and it was a warm night) then got away from home about 0530 , picking up some water and snack bars on the way.
The BP at Mana were still opening, so I nipped down to the Shell to fill-up then returned to find Steve was there by the time I got back. It was a pleasant 17° and we were away at about 0610 with little traffic on an overcast but dry day so we made good time up to Sanson, then on to Wanganui and only had a couple of moments requirering scanning the mirrors for pursuit vehicles doing u-turns, but fortunately we weren't of interest to any any of them and we pulled into Shell Dublin St at 0755 to find Nasty waiting.
Steve grabbed himself a coffee and after a chat we moved on at a nice sedate pace, going up the Paraparas with Steve leading and me bringing up the rear, which suited me as I could drift back a bit then endeavour to ride at the most economic pace, with minimal acceleration and breaking, although I would occassionally start to daydream a bit and find myself well adrift of the other two. Apart from a bit of loose stuff close to Wanganui, it was a most pleasant ride but as we approached Kakatahi, the weather turned and we stopped to don our wets. We then proceeded with a little more caution, particularly around the new diversion roadworks, where there were bits of slippery clay in places, but the rain didn't last too long and when we paused for a break in Raetihi, I decided to take my jacket off. My economy had been up to 19.2k/ltr around Levin dropped to 18.9 by Wanganui and was now back up to 19.2, so that was the first time I've been up the Para's and improved my economy.
After texting to advise Elle that we were departing Raetihi, the pace was stepped up a notch as we continued on to Taumaranui, enjoying the easy, rolling road and arriving at 1035 for a gas-up and morning tea. We were now 360 km into the trip, the temp was up to 20° and the economy to 19.3 as we joined Elle at a cafe and had a feed. From here it was 50Km to the crash site and as the weather was looking quite settled, we had stripped off the rest of our wets.
We were now onto the Forgotten Highway and once again, we travelled at a really comfortable pace that allowed one to enjoy the scenery as we pootled through, like the Lavendar farm that presented a spectacular blaze of colour, or the vistas from the top of the saddles, but before long we rode up the final series of bends and had arrived at the scene. I didn't know the area and as I expected, I didn't recognise we were there until we were actually right at the scene and I was surprised that, at the time of the accident, our entry into the corner was probably slower than we had stated, as the corners preceding it were quite tight. We parked up and Steve walked Nasty through the area then we attached the cross to the nearest fence post to where Grub had ended up. That done and with more discussion about the fateful day, we were just about to leave for Whangamomona, when a couple on a Beemer passed for the third time and stopped to ask where the nearest garage was as their friends had a puncture coming out of the Tangarakau Gorge.
No problems, we had the gear so we followed them a few Kms up the road and had another stop while we assisted them with a temporary plug, then continued on for the next compulsory stop at the Whangamomona pub. A ginger beer and more chatting with some Taranaki Ulyssians and we were back on the road for Stratford, but the weather closed in again so it was back out with the wets, then more uneventful Highway cruising to Wanganui.
Kari and Steve filled here but still being on half a tank I didn't bother and we contacted Elle to advise her where to meet us, only to find she was already at Turakina. We decided another cafe stop was required anyway and went downtown, then made a call to check the Wairarapa weather before leaving. That decided SH1 was to be the option so wets were pulled out again and we hit the road for the last stretch with another brief stop in Levin and I got home just before 2100, 830Kms done for the day at 19.3k/ltr in a range of 15° to 23°. 58,998Kms on the bike now in 2 years In fact, today is the bike's birthday).
It was a great day and quite a relaxing ride with lots of stops, which was a change from the norm for Steve and I as we usually try to pack the Kms into a shorter day and I am often content to ride out the ST tank with minimal stops, maybe spending 4 to 5 hours in the saddle between stops (even just short of 6hrs on a couple of occasions when doing extended economy runs). It was certainly worthwhile as I believe it provided some closure to the event for Steve and I and probably helped Kari get to grips with the events that led to Grub's demise. We will never know what caused Grub to 'miss' the corner, but we carried the cross up there and it now marks the event and serves to warn other motorists that care is required.
These blogs were posted on the KiwiBiker forum but I decided it was time for a change.