I have just completed my third Grand Challenge (GC or 1000miles in 24hours) and this was to be my first ‘normal’ one because my first was the 20th anniversary of the event, so it had a bit more hype with a film crew videotaping the whole affair and my second was the 21st anniversary so that had a 500Km extension added to mark the occasion with 2100Kms. So, hopes of doing ‘Just Another GC’ were put to rest this weekend as I believe, there is no such beast!
I registered early in the year putting me at #16 and in the 2nd group to depart at 1503. That done I forgot about it (sort of) while I enjoyed the Mini’s Return and whatever followed, until a few weeks ago when I made arrangements for a new set of Avon Storm tyres and the usual pre-GC check-up for the bike. Then, a week out, I got a new Nth Island map and started to collect the necessary bits and pieces I would need for the ride, including a new Shoei Raid II helmet as my HJC is 3 years old, needed a new visor and the Shoei was reputedly quieter.
I picked the new lid up a couple of days before the ride, only wore it once and couldn’t believe the roar when I first tried it. It was very snug and fortunately I also bought some noise reducing earplugs for the MP3, which meant I could still hear my music because my first reaction was….this helmet is crap!! It wasn’t until about 300Km into the trip up to Turangi that I had closed the visor and was fiddling with the vents when I was suddenly plunged into a ‘cone of silence’! It turns out that the roar was coming from the vents atop the helmet, but in order to draw air through the visor vents, you really need the top vents open….poor form Mr Shoei!
Anyway, I planned to ride up with Steve again and we thought we would take a scenic route so I was packed and away from home by 0915 on Friday, picked up Steve, fueled at Caltex Rimutaka where we departed at 1000. We had a loose plan for the ride but that was flexible to bypass any inclement weather, so we ended up going to Masterton where we stopped for a cup of tea with my mum before continuing via Mauriceville, Eketahuna, and over the Pahiatua Track to Ashhurst for lunch at the Fusion Café. The Pohangina valley looked very gloomy so after lunch we continued through Colyton, Vinegar Hill, more fuel for Steve in Taihape, then diverted at Waiouru to sample the Whangaehu Valley Road and Fields Track These roads were in great condition, providing a magnificent appetizer, followed by the northern section of the Paraparas, National Park and SH47 as the entrée to the weekend’s big ride. We had ridden up rather sedately, but the pace did pick up as we got closer to our destination and the Te Ponangana Saddle Road was a real blast, leaving us on a bit of a high as we arrived in Turangi to check-in at 1710, having done 515Kms for the day.expect the unexpected.
We put the bikes straight through scrutineering, checked into our cabins, then headed off to the truck stop for dinner at 1800 getting back to the camp about 1915 to find the route up and a copy of the ride instructions available. It looked like the ride was planned by tracing the route where a fly had wandered about the page……it was all over the place, but looked reasonably familiar, except for an early section between Piopio and Mangakino, so I headed off to the cabin for my map book, pen and paper to prepare my route notes. I soon made sense of it all, planning for 3 fuel stops at Taupo, Masterton and Rotorua, chatted with some familiar faces from previous rides and finally hit the sack at about 2300 for a good 4 hours sleep……….yes, as usual, the excitement/worry of the occasion, tight sleeping bag and unfamiliar bed all worked to keep me from sleeping, so I lay there, trying to relax, enjoying fitful dozes until 0600.
The weather for the weekend predicted rain everywhere, but Saturday dawned with clear skies, as per my previous two GC’s (on which the weather turned to absolute crap), so I got my ‘wets’ ready to put on, had breakfast, then had to kill time until 1500 by chatting, dozing, fueling the bike and buying water and a lotto ($30M Powerball), reviewing my route notes to memorise the turns, and taking a few photos until it was finally time for briefing at 1430. Then it was into the gear, on the bike and ready to leave when the group 2 beige card went up on the fence.
The 1st section was across SH41 to Taumaranui, then north on SH4 to Ramaroa Rd where we diverted through Mokauiti and Aria before coming out on SH3 at Piopio. I settled in behind another chap who was sitting at a nice pace but he slowed at the 1st section of tight corners, so I left him to it and continued by myself, catching the tail end of Group 1, just before Mananui, then a group of 7 riders, with Steve at the tail on the northern side of Taumaranui. Having now hooked-up with some familiar riders and my riding buddy, Steve, I settled in at the rear of this group and enjoyed a brisk pace through to Piopio where 3 pulled off (to check their directions), but I had the route fixed in my mind so I passed Steve and rode up Mairoa Rd, onto Oparure Rd, finally latching back on with the other 3 riders on Fullerton Rd before riding into Waitomo, where they paused and we headed on the first Time Check at Te Anga. (219Kms done)
We now had to head across the Kawhia Harbour to SH’s 31 & 39, turning off at Tihiroa for the first Check Point at Mobil Te Kawa. I should have studied the map more carefully for this section, because between focusing on ‘Right at 31; Right at 39 and Left at Te Kawa Rd’, as well as following the earlier 3 riders, who led us out of the Time Check, we soon found ourselves confused, at Taharoa, and had to retrace back to Te Waitere Rd, which was about 30Km and 20-30 minutes added. Once again, I took the lead with Steve right behind me over some great roads, until I hit a particularly curly section on SH31 and the ST just let rip. What a blast, but by the time I came to my senses and checked the mirrors, there was no Steve in sight (which was most odd) but I continued onto the check point and he pulled in shortly after. It turned out that his fuel light had come on and when he filled, he had to put 19.6Ltrs in his 20Ltr tank…that was close! (It was now 1845 with only 331Kms done and the ST was still a ¼ full but I topped-up too as the economy was down at 15.8k/Ltr – I had obviously been having a bit of fun!).
The next leg took us 346Kms down to Taupo, around Napier, onto SH50 to Tikokino, across to Waipawa and Check Point 2 at Waipukurau. We followed a couple of Beemers out of Te Kawa, along Wharepuhunga Rd, left on Lethbridge Rd, then took the lead when they almost overshot Seafund Rd. Along Waipapa Rd, we had to detour on 7Kms of gravel, eventually making it down to Mangakino and SH30. By this time it was getting on for dusk and Steve had still had his lights off so I determined that if he didn’t put them on before the turnoff at Whakamaru, I’d better remind him, but as we approached the intersection, he flashed me with his hazards to stop and informed me his main beam had gone and just his tail lights and fullbeam were going….Bloody marvelous with 11 hours of night riding ahead of us!! There was no one around at Whakamaru so I told him to stick close and we’d check it out in Taupo. That was interesting, or at least, it must have been for Steve, but I dropped the speed a bit and we made to the Mobil in Taupo OK, then while the owner was trying to track down a bike dealer, we found the connection to the back of the light had come off.
With that fixed. Another half hour lost, a top-up for Steve and we were off again and heading over the Napier-Taupo Road. By this time it was pitch black with intermittent drizzle and wet roads, for some reason, I was still in the lead and we were passed but latched onto another ST rider who was sitting at a more interesting pace. That was until we caught up to a couple of other riders that slowed the group down as we entered the windy bits, so once again, Steve and I pushed on alone, taking the turn-off at Glengarry Rd, to bypass Napier. Along here we came across Max who was struggling to get his V-Strom back onto the road (with a little superficial damage), assisted him and continued on via Puketitiri Rd, but as we ended up catching and following another rider, we missed the Puketapu turn and ended in Taradale. We took the opportunity here to don our wets before heading for SH50 with Steve in the lead, but when he inadvertently turned early at Omahu onto the Taihape Rd, I ended up back in front for the quick scoot down SH50, across Tikokino Rd to Waipawa, pulling into Checkpoint 2 at Mobil Waipukurau at 2330, having covered another 360Km for this leg but at a slightly more sedate pace as the economy was now up to 16K/Ltr.
After the usual activities of refuel, snack, slug of water, empty bladder and review the notes for the next section, we were off again, heading for Porongahau, Wimbledon, Pongaroa, Alfredton and the next check point in Masterton. Steve led out and as this section was well known to us as being tight and potentially treacherous, with the wet road our pace was down to very sedate. The first bit through to Porongahau is rolling country, but from there it tightens up and after we had passed the longest place name, about 10Km out of Porangahau, Steve had a wee lapse, losing his line on a corner. It was wet and off-camber so he opted to abort, straightening, breaking and squeezing it round, just making it through when his front just edged off the seal and it was all over. The bike slipped out from underneath him, sliding 5 or 6 metres into the wire fence while Steve slid headfirst alongside it, ending up on a bed of pine needles......venting his annoyance with himself. He rolled over and it was difficult to tell if he was hurt or just really pissed off and a little stunned, but it was soon evident that Steve and his bike were going no further so being out of range for cell coverage, we waited for the next bike to come along to head back and call for an ambulance. An hour later, Steve was being attended to by professionals, the local fireman and a mate were extracting the bike and I was back on the road at what I assumed was the very back of the field......I did forget to ask where they were taking him but!
I was a bit stunned to see a better rider go down in front of me and thought, maybe it was because he had spent to long behind me and picked-up my bad habits, but I soon got back into a rhythm and caught a couple of stragglers. I slotted in front of them to see if they'd lift their pace if they had someone to follow, but they wanted none of that so I continued on, passing a few more as the weather worsened. I soon worked my way into the middle of a group of about 8 riders when we entered Pongaroa and I needed to put my wet jacket back on, so I stopped under a street lamp to do so. The group paused then carried on but I soon caught them again and it was quite funny as each of the two or three at the front appeared to be trying to pass off the lead, so I nipped to the front then kept the pace down for them to slot in behind. I soon noted at least four lights in tow and upped the pace a bit to the point where I still needed only minimal breaking and made for the turn-off at Alfredton. Of all the times I have been over this road, I realised that this was the first time I had ever travelled it from North to South and soon tried to lead them all astray by mistaking the Tinui/Castlepoint road for the Masterton turn. Fortunately they didn't follow and I was back in the rear of at least 10 bikes as I pulled in behind another group returning from the same mistake. The pace was now on and we were soon checking in at Shell Chapel St. I was a little concerned on the time at this point as we were only 842Km into the ride and past halfway on time.
There were too many bikes here to fill-up so I just had a snack and a natural break and departed with the Bandit Riders for Palmerston North. We left Masterton at 0330 and it was an easy ride up SH2 for Pahiatua, (I was surprised at the number of bikes heading down SH2 for Masterton) then over the 'track, fueling on Rangitikei St. (It was now 0440 and the economy was up to 16.4k/Ltr) We then headed out via Newbury to Vinegar Hill and SH1 to Taupo and SH5 to Caltex Te Ngae in Rotorua for Checkpoint 4. The Bandits and their two mates stopped again in Taihape but by this time, I was getting very weary and just wanted to finish so continued over the Desert Rd alone. I called into the Camp, to update Lee Rusty on the way, and had an uneventful ride to Rotorua, arriving at 0830, had my last fill for the day then called in on my daughter and grand-daughter for a few minutes before heading out on the next leg of the journey.
This leg took us out of Rotorua on SH30 to Atiamuri, through Whakamaru, Mangakino and Bennydale for Shell Te Kuiti. These roads are OK to open it up a bit, which helped to zone in and focus to alleviate the fatigue that was setting in. At this point, being alone after my mate had gone down, the whole ride seemed pretty dumb. Riding alone, pushing oneself to the limits of endurance isn't really fun, but I was too pigheaded to give up because I had a bar and patch to collect......and only 340Km to go!? (about what you might do on a Sunday ride!!??) I was soon in Te Kuiti, check-in, snack, relief and gone...just two stages and 183Km to go)
It was back through town, down SH3 to Eight Mile Junction, then across SH4 to Taumaranui and the G.A.S. At National Park for the last Check Point. I felt I had to keep the pace within the allowable limit (or just a tad over) through here and the fatigue was getting worse. I had to start singing, so thank God I had the MP3 and good earplugs in, and I would also vary the visor and vents to keep changing the wind and noise in the helmet, pulling into National Park about 1145, stayed on the bike to get the card punched, then headed for the finish in Turangi, via Rangipo and SH1.
I finally arrived at 1220. 1677Kms racked up for the ride, which was a little over the planned 1609Km. The economy was now up to 16.8K/Ltr for the whole run so it had recovered OK after the big fang on the first leg when it was as low as 14K/ltr. I was absolutely shattered!!.....had the usual Rusty Feed, chatted for a bit then fell into a coma between 1400 & 1600, arising to have a shower and freshen-up.
The rest of the day was spent checking in with Ann, then Steve who was on his way home from Hastings, reliving parts of the ride with some of the crew and finally getting to bed at about 2300. I was up at 0615, packed, checked the weather forecast, had breakfast, fueled up and headed for home by 0830. I decided to do the Paraparas again on another 'economy run' so I was a model citizen as I travelled. By the time I got to Raetihi, I was up to 19.3K/Ltr and just on the 100kph average speed so the challenge was now to keep both up. It was a great day, with little traffic so I rode the 'pace' and did quite well, getting to Wanganui on 19.1 and only losing 18 minutes off the 100kph target (or down to about 90kph) I got home at 1230, on 19.8K/Ltr with 52,522Kms on the bike in 21 months.
I had a another great Rusty-Run weekend, experiencing some new roads and revisiting some old favourites, met up with some new faces and chewed the fat with the regulars. Apparently the stats were 104 entrants, 103 starters (40 1st Timers) and 75 finishers. Most of the 28 retirees were due to falling too far behind the time and apparently the previous record was about 15. My problem with fatigue was shared by others on the run, so although I felt like crap, at least I wasn't alone. This was to be 'Just another GC', a walk in the park, so to speak. Yeah right! I should have known to expect the unexpected.
These blogs were posted on the KiwiBiker forum but I decided it was time for a change.