When this run was advertised in Feb/March 07, I, like many, thought it would be a good way to kill a few K’s, however, I did nothing at the time and although my intentions to participate fluctuated, my interest in the event never faltered and I keenly kept an eye on any info about it…..That is until Malcolm (Jantar), posted on KiwiBiker that he needed to sell his entry due to health problems. Well, being a ‘Good Samaritan’ and all, I now had all the justification I needed and promptly set about organizing sailings, accommodation and the OK from Lee to transfer the entry to myself.
Once I had made the decision, I was impatient to go, so it was probably good that I delayed for so long. I soon organized a set of handlebar strops and tiedowns for the ferry sailings, planned and printed my route options to and from the event and printed off the route for the four legs. I keep the ST current on all its’ servicings so it was good to go but as the 36,000Km service would come due half-way through, I pre-empted that along with a new Avon Storm for the rear. The Storm on the front only had 2,000Km on it but the Pilot Road on the rear had 8,000 and although it looked like it would be OK, for the sake of a bit of ‘peace of mind’, I decided to replace but keep it, to go back on at a later date.
By Saturday 15 March, I was all set and rearing to go!!
DAY 1 - 16/03/08 - Picton to Motueka:
I had booked on the 0825 Interislander and arrived by 0720 to board. It was a dreary day and only 14˚, but that changed and by the time we were out in the Strait the cloud had cleared but the wind was up. It wasn’t too rough and I spent the time going over my route notes again, watching a bit of league on TV, wandering about impatiently and finally settled down to chat with Lloyd Rusty and his wife. We arrived late in Picton as we had to wait outside Mabel Island for the Bluebridge to dock and I was finally let off the leash at about 1200 and promptly set-off for Nelson along Queen Charlotte Drive. It was now 19˚, beautifully sunny and the ride was generally sheltered from the wind except for the odd gust. That road is a bit tight and I had to contend with a few big Campers (or maggots – as they are white and crawl everywhere) but I made good time and when I arrived in Havelock about 35 minutes later the temp was up to 23˚. From there it was over the hill to Nelson and the road had a few spots of new seal but as always, was a great ride. I had planned a few visits to friends in Nelson, but ended up heading straight for Woodstock/Dovedale to visit a cousy, arriving at 1400 and departing about 1620 for Motueka where I was to spend the first night with my son, Lance. The Woodstock Hiway and Motueka Valley Roads were good rides and I filled in Mot’ ready for a quick getaway in the morning.
207.7 Kms for the day Total Kms: 207.7
DAY 2 – 17/03/08 – Motueka to Christchurch:
I was up early and on the road by 0830. It was another great day but the temp varied a bit between 11˚ & 14˚ before finally settling at a very comfortable 20˚ once I was in Canterbury.
My wee moment for the day occurred quite early as I made my way back along the Mot’ Valley Hiway with my screen and visor up and was splatted by a bug between my helmet and right temple. Next thing I new there was a sharp burning sensation and when I tried to dislodge it, I only managed to dislodge my glasses, nearly losing them, and then had fun doing a one handed emergency stop as I tried to retain my spec’s. I soon had the helmet off and managed to discharge the rest of the venom into my face as I removed the sting, which was all that was left of whatever little beasty it was that had caused all this discomfort. (This was to get a bit puffy the next morning and was visible in my peripheral vision, which was quite funny because riding with the visor up it would jiggle and shake in the wind).
Back on the road and I was soon enjoying the thrills and scenery of the Lewis Pass, except for when I had to stop for the odd lights or lollipop at roadworks and the comfy 20˚ wasn’t so comfy when you’re in Corduras and not moving.
I arrived in St Albans (426Km done) to visit an old school mate at 1255 and chewed-the-fat with him until after 1700, when I headed for an ex-Air Force mate near Lincoln, where I would stay the night. I filled up on the way and all in all had another magnificent day on the road and with good friends.
439 Kms for the day at 17.4 K/Ltr Total Kms: 646.7
DAY 3 – 18/03/08 –Christchurch to Invercargill:
I was up early again and ready to depart by 0755 and after dressing for another 20+˚ day, this day dawned with fog and was only 13˚. I had arranged the night before to meet-up with Jym (Highlander) in Geraldine between 0900 & 0930 and after going through Lincoln and heading for SH1 the temp bottomed at 10˚….not very comfortable but about 5Km south of Burnham, I rode out of the fog and things started to improve. This section of road is one of the most boring straight bits in the country, so I made it interesting by drafting cars to conserve fuel (as well as to help keep the speed down to avoid tickets). I was ambling along at around 110Kph until I latched onto a Ford Focus that was in a bit of a hurry, cruising at 120 but his speeds in the passing lanes got up a bit more until I turned off onto SH79, arriving in Geraldine at 0915 with the economy at 18.5K/Ltr.
I soon spotted Jym and his CB750, we introduced ourselves, I enjoyed a natural break after the early ‘cold-squeeze’ and we were soon on the road for Fairlie, Lake Tekapo and Twizel. Some years ago, I actually lived in Blenheim and Christchurch for a total of 12 years, but the roads from here on in were totally new to me as I never got around to traveling much in those days. What a dumbarse!….These roads were great and I guess I should have stopped for a few more photos but we only stopped as Lake Twizel and the top of the Crown Range, looking down on Queenstown for Photo Op’s.
We filled at Wanaka and Jym left me at Lumsden to head for Gore as I continued straight for Invercargill. I spent most of the day rubber-necking at the scenery as we pootled along, generally within the allowable limit and only occasionally letting the speed gather up a bit. This leg of the trip was extremely economical as we seemed to spend most of our time going downwind &/or downhill and the temp just kept rising as we headed south, the bike gauge peaking at 32˚ around Winton, although talking to Brett (Hitcher) and Jane later, they reported 38˚ on an electronic display in Winton shortly after I had passed through. Once again, we were treated to some magnificent riding roads, the highlights being the Lindis Pass and the Crown Range (except for having to stop for road works coming down the Devils Steps and in about 25˚, it was worse than the day before. Apart from the odd road works, the only other negative was, I found in places, the roads were sealed with a mottled chip and it was difficult to discern whether it was wet or dry and if there was any ‘loose bits’ on it. But no worries, I had a great time!
I arrived at the Top Ten Holiday Park at about 1650 and it was still 27˚. I checked in, cleaned up, briefly chatted wit the Hitchers and Bandit Riders, then headed off to visit another ex-Air Force mate that I hadn’t seen for 15years before attending the Rusty Club Night at the Eagle Tavern in Bluff. I never arrived there until about 2100 and soon met with several other Grand Challenge riders. I enjoyed a beer and a chat, bought my club night badge and a run T-shirt, then went back to Invercargill, filled up for the morning and settled in for a hot night of nervous anticipation, sleeping with just a sheet and the windows and door to my studio unit open.
744.1 Kms for the day at 19.1 K/Ltr Total Kms: 1390.8
DAY 4 / Leg 1 – 19/03/08 – Invercargill to Greymouth:
After a crap nights sleep I was finally able to get ready for the big day and left the camp with the Hitchers, only to witness Mrs H nearly get taken out by a cage. There was only about 10cm in it when she pulled out from the curb, as the car came out of nowhere from behind me (on what was a clear, straight road moments earlier) but we managed to get to the Invercargill Cemetery safely just before 0800 to sign in and get briefed. My strategy for the week was to hook-up with a different group each day and for this leg I decided to ride with Andrew and Mark (Bandit Rider & Blue Bandito) who had departed before I was ready. It was 14˚ when I got away at 0810 and soon reeled them in along with three other riders, tacking on the back of the group. We were soon caught by another group of 16 or so and our wee convoy turned off at Mataura to wind through Clinton, Balclutha and Milton before stopping to collect our first pennant at the Octogon in Dunedin at 1020, by which time the day had started to warm-up with the temp now at 19˚and the first 226Kms under our belts. After signing in and taking a couple of photos, the three of us headed back to Mosgiel, then on to Middlemarch for our first fuel stop. Andrew led through this rolling section at a crisp pace and by the time we had completed the 308Kms to Middlemarch, it was 1120, we were cutting through a strong westerly crosswind and it was getting hot at 25˚.
We carried on with Mark leading, and Andrew and I both trying to shelter in his draft, but that would have left me in the middle of the oncoming lane so I had to settle in behind. The temp started hovering over 30˚ by the time we went through Ranfurly and the Bandits' both got a little excited as we passed the Chatto Creek Tavern, then carried on through Alexandra, past the Clyde Dam and rode along the banks of Lake Dunstan to our second pennant at Cromwell. We got there just before 1320 when the temp peaked at 32˚, we had a quick snack then headed for our second fuel stop in Wanaka, which was also a brief lunch stop.
Continuing on with Mark in the lead, we slipped past Lake Hawea which was really beautiful, (the hills really do look painted on) then stopped for a photo op' by Lake Wanaka. I led out from here and had a moment past the top of Lake Wanaka as I cruised round a left sweeper which had the mottled seal and the bike started to drift sideways on ice grit. It was totally invisible and the bandits only warning of it was by observing it spray off my rear.
With the heartrate up and the temp dropping, we motored on to Haast where we had to stop to don our wets before crossing to the West Coast and finishing the day on wet roads in drizzle. The Bandits stopped in Fox for gas but I figured I'd go close to getting to Greymouth on the tank, so continued on alone over a mixture of curly and rolling roads that completed a long but satisfying day. I decided if I went on the last bar before Hokitika, I would fill there but if it came on after that, I would continue to Greymouth and as it turned out, the last bar started to flash as I entered the hoki' town limits, so I filled there before finishing the last 40 Kms at a sedate pace. Checked into the Top Ten Holiday Park and settled in for a good night's sleep.
1020.1 Kms for the day at 17.3 K/Ltr Total Kms: 2410.9
DAY 5 / Leg 2 – 20/03/08 – Greymouth to Wellington:
Another early grey morning and down to the train station just after 0730 to chat prior to setting out for the day. It was at this time I heard the quote of the week when IanF asked the Bandits and myself, “Which is the more scenic route?” Classic, as I wondered when Ian ever had time to look at any scenery!! (He's led in about 4 of the last 5 GC's). Anyway, today I decided to ride with the Brett on his FJR and Jane on her Hornet and we departed with Jym just before 0800, heading for Stillwater and Lake Brunner. Brett led out and would stretch a small lead from Jane, which she would close-up on the straights then open up on the next curvy section, so I passed her to ride at the more consistent and economic pace. We made brief stops as Brett took out a Pukeko and decided to check his radiator was clear of feathers, then we paused to don our wets around Kaimata. I slowed to check on Jane and Jym, when it turned out he stopped for a photo op' by Temple Basin, then had a blast climbing to Arthurs Pass and catch Hitcher before stopping there to remove our wets again as we could see the clear skies ahead, over Canterbury.
Brett led out again as we headed down, until I passed him and two cars near the bottom. The front one was quite slow and the second was following, right up his chuff and I found the pace frustrating. We stopped again in Springfield to remove more gear as the 17'ish˚ started getting over 20˚. I led out again, leading the group into the Christchurch Square via Russley road, Memorial Ave and down Colombo St. We had to rush through there after getting our pennant and taking a quick pic as there's no parking on the square, so we were soon back on SH1 for fuel and lunch at Amberly. We got there before 1220, it was 24˚ and we had completed 356Kms for the day, enjoyed a great lunch and continued on at 1325. We were encountering more traffic now which spread us out a little and when I got to the Hunderlees, I decided to blow the cobwebs out. I hadn't ridden over this road for over 20 years went a little crazy, enjoying the shit out of it, but was a little perplexed to find the coast had an 80Kph restriction on it. Based on the fact that the traffic had been travelling at up to 120Kph, I figured that it would be OK to pootle along at the limit +20, then waited for Brett and Jane just before Kaikoura, where we were to stop for a coffee break. We were very relaxed when we continued on for the ferry and were soon to witness a wee moment for Brett as he shuffled out to pass a car as Cam came up and started to pass Brett, who hadn't seen him coming. That was as close as you want to get but no problem except for the heart rate and it was on-on through more heavy Easter traffic through Ward, Seddon and Blenheim (where we came to a standstill), finally arriving in Picton at 1740. boarded the Blue Bridge with the Bandits and headed for a good nights sleep in my own bed, arriving home at 2245
659.6 Kms for the day at 17.9 K/Ltr Total Kms: 3070.5
DAY 6 / Leg 3 – 21/03/08 – Wellington to Wanganui:
This was a cruisy day to allow everyone to get to Wanganui over a wide range of ferry sailings and I took advantage of the break to do my washing, charge the MP3 which cut-out just before Koromiko the day before (50'ish hours of play/road time), and clean-up the bike which had a very liberal coating of bugs and road crap. After doing all that, I filled up at Caltex Kaiwhara' and got on the road at 1225. Traffic was quite heavy and I lost about 20 minutes filtering through it to Levin, where it thinned out and I was able to sit at a comfortable pace, arriving in Wanganui at 1445, the temp up from 17˚ to 27˚ and after filling up, I spent the rest of the day with whanau. Most pleasant and relaxing
196.9 Kms for the day at 18.2 K/Ltr Total Kms: 3267.4
DAY 7 / Leg 4 – 22/03/08 – Wanganui to Kaitaia:
This was to be a mixed bag day, spending much of it on SH1 and my strategy for this day was to head out early for a clear run through the Parapara's, then pootle along until I could latch on the back of a new group to ride out the day.
I was up before 0600 to get ready and meet by the Victoria Ave Bridge for departure at 0700.We signed in and received our pennants and I was second on the road, heading down Taupo Quay and across the Dublin St Bridge then out of town. I was pootling along here, letting the tyres warm and slowly building up the pace until I hit the windies North of Upuk' and let the ST have her head. What a blast! ¾ of the way up, my econonomy had dipped to 13.5K/Ltr and I managed to get to Raetihi in 45 minutes then followed Simon into National Park for our next pennant at 0805, only to find my water bottle had leaked and everything in my top box was saturated, including camera, maps and papers....bugger!
From here I eased back within the allowable limits and dawdled on through Taumaranui, pausing in Te Kuiti for a natural break, (thanks to the 11˚ cold squeeze experienced through the Central Plateau) before continuing on via Otorohanga and SH31 to Ngaruawahia, then up SH1 for fuel and the next pennant at Pokeno. I arrived there at 1055 with the temp climbing through 20˚ then hopped on the Motorway for the last pennant at Fort Street. I wasn't hurrying but still no groups passed, so I headed on through Orewa, Whangarei and the finish, striking huge traffic jams heading into Orewa and Warkworth. I can't believe that people are happy to sit for hours in queues like that, but I didn't lose too much time, finishing off the ride with another blast when I got to the Mangamuka Gorge, which must be the last remaining fantastic ride on SH1. It was great to dispell the very bad first impression of this road I received in the atrocious conditions on the GC in October and I finally pulled into Kaitaia and Collards tavern at 1520, temp still at 25˚.
After receiving my badge and T-shirt I went back into town to check-in, only to find I wasn’t booked in…!!??@#*&. They had booked me from 21-23/03 in error and when I didn’t turn up the day before, my room was let and there were no vacancies…..I was steaming…..nearly 800Kms and no shower for Johnny, but fortunately a phone call across the road got me a ‘just cancelled’, last vacant room at the Northerner….whew!!
I got cleaned-up and laid out all my papers etc to dry before getting the courtesy van back to Collards for a few beers, a great feed and good company, finally hitting the sack between 2300 and midnight to sleep like a baby…..But that’s not all!….I still had to get home.
792.3 Kms for the day at 17.2 K/Ltr Total Kms: 4059.7
DAY 8 – 23/03/08 – Kaitaia to Rotorua:
As had become par for the course on this ride, I awoke early, cleaned and packed and was on the road again by 0540 in a very cool 13˚, filling-up at the local Mobil station, before my return attack on the Mangamuka Gorge, but this time in the dark. It was a great start to the day but I had barely gone 50Km before the cold squeeze required I stop for relief and to grab a skivvy and heavier gloves. That was enough to get me through to Whangarei where I needed another natural break and took the opportunity to warm up with a Mrs Macs mince and cheese pie and hot chocolate before swapping back to the light gloves, but with liners on as well. After this, the sun came up and took the chill off the day…..except where the road dipped into the gullies and my screen, visor and glasses would all fog-up until rising back out to the warmer air. No problems though and with no traffic I made good time through to Bombay for a fill-up, before heading down SH27 to Tirau and Rotorua, arriving at 1140 in a nice 24˚, to spend the rest of the day with my other son Frank, my daughter and mokopuna. Then stay the night with Nanny Ann in a motel as she was there for a national tennis event. Life is great!
578.9 Kms for the day at 17.2 K/Ltr Total Kms: 4638.6
These blogs were posted on the KiwiBiker forum but I decided it was time for a change.