The Greater San Fransisco Area

Continuing my quest to travel the world.

It has been my quest to cycle around the world for a very long time, although I have ticked off 16 countries to date, I still haven't achieved the ultimate goal of cycling the world. I cannot wait any longer for the conditions to be perfect, age is catching up with me, so it is now or never.

picture drawn by Jim my Step - Father on our trip across Australia

picture drawn by Jim my Step - Father on our trip across Australia
After our trip to Vietnam in 2012.

Saturday 27 February 2016

Trans Am pair.

 latest update. Mini tour number three completed. What went well? I accomplished my goal of 1000 kms in 6 days in a range of conditions from non stop rain to very hot to strong headwind and cross winds. What didn't go so well was breaking in a new saddle that caused saddle sores, but that is one of the reasons for training - discovering potential problems and sorting them.
I really enjoyed the Kiakora coastline, and the views of the mountains and lakes in the central high country. I also enjoyed the drive up the stunning west coast on my trip back home to Nelson. We live in such a lovely part of the world.
After Niel met me at the 1000 km mark, we then we swapped - I drove home and Niel got on his bike. He didn't have a good time and as a consequence we have made the decision to enter the Trans Am as a pair. We ride well together - as we have been riding around the world together for 30 years, and know exactly each others strengths and weaknesses.
Riding together as a pair has advantages and disadvantages but we still ride the whole distance each.
The advantages is that we can take turns breaking the wind in the front and can share some of the load and consequently lighten our loads just a fraction.
The disadvantages are that you don't get so much kudos for finishing, and there is the possibility that one or other of you may get frustrated with the other at some times.
However it should be more enjoyable having someone to talk to and share the experience with.
This will be my last blog post, I will be changing to a 'like page' on Facebook. It is much easier for me to use and to add photos to. I invite you to join my like page when I set it up. I know not everyone uses Facebook, but I had to make the decision for ease of use.
I hope you will enjoy reading Vespa Chick - diary of a word cyclist.

Tuesday 26 January 2016

Resurrection of my blog and the TransAm.

I was about to give up on writing my blog. I really want my life to be more private and less open to public scrutiny. Following a suggestion from a fellow TransAm buddly (thanks Jodi) - I have decided to make it only a diary of my cycling endeavors. If you are not interested in my cycling adventures then I sadly bid you farewell.
To clear a few things up from my last post months ago - I am postponing my proposed trips to finish cycling the world, in favor of redoing the TransAm bike race.
While riding the TransAm last year - I couldn't understand why anyone would do it a second time, so what bought this decision on? Mostly I hate not finishing something that I know I can finish, but I learned a lot and realized that I made a lot of mistakes. The TransAm takes a lot of training and dedication, I cannot frit away money on trips of fancy when I need to put in months of long rides and mini tours from home to get to the stage of riding 1,100kms or more with a load on my bike in a week and it being easy.

There are a lot more women entered in this years event. Having had some experience last year is definitely an advantage as I know what to expect and how to cope with the things that caused me problems last year, especially as a woman and not just another rider. I have had my Carpel Tunnel in my hands repaired so I can hold the handle bars better although I still have a struggle squeezing on the brakes - however I am sure that will improve. I have reduced my load from last year by a third and have a wider saddle to control the saddle sores and bruising I suffered last year, and found other ways of coping with the pain and discomfort - Niel is even using these remedies too in anticipation of getting some chaffing. I am also training my mind to be happy riding at night instead of always during the day - if it is unbearably hot or windy during the day.
Niel is also doing the TransAm this year, but we are not riding it together. I will be starting on the east coast, and he is starting on the west coast. We both have reasons for these choices. So we will see each other briefly somewhere near the middle.
My training is going well. I have only been able to ride distances of over 150km in the last month since recovering from the surgery on my hands. But in that time I have ridden at least one 200km ride every week and added other rides to try and increase my distance to 1100kms a week. It is not my body stopping me achieving this, but rather boredom with riding the same roads all the time, that is why I need to get away on mini tours. The next one is the length of the South Island( 1,000kms) in 6 days sometime in February.
I will let you know how it goes.

Wednesday 23 September 2015

Temperature issues.

A lot has been happening lately, but nothing I can really tell you about. It seems there is so many people around me that seem to be suffering in one way or another. If it's not illness, frailty, stress or just plain home sickness. Sometimes you feel quilty for your health and fitness even though I have been sick at times. Perhaps it's the age I am, I don't know, but having just had another birthday - it makes you look at your life and those around you. I know I have made the right decision in my quest to travel the world, before I can't for whatever reason. I have to follow my dream.

I said in my last post that I was about to buy my ticket to HongKong, but the day before payment was due, I had the offer of company for the SE Asia part of the trip, if I could change the date.
I definitely wanted the company but it was a blow losing that special airfare. The only way the change in dates worked for me was to do my trip in reverse - and that means cycling Australia in the heat of autumn. It is just too hot then for the route I had planned, so I am trying to work out a new route that will still finish up at Darwin, but not crossing the outback in the high temperatures. At the moment I am considering starting in Brisbane and riding through the Mt Isa road to Tennant Creek and then north to Darwin. I don't know much about that area or the possible temperatures in late March early April. If someone is reading this and can advise me then I would appreciate it. I've searched wind currents and temperatures for that time of year, but nothing is mentioned of that particular area.

Niel is still cycling in Scandinavia and has crossed into Denmark now.He has had a great deal of rain to contend with. He is well ahead of his schedule so he has had to slow down. He needs to have some days off and be a tourist for a while. I am looking forward to his returning home and I think that he is looking forward to coming home too. 9 weeks is a long time on your own.
I wish the spring rain would turn into sunshine.

Well I am enjoying the warm spring days when we get them, It has been a very wet spring so far. But the warm days have been interspersed with the odd winter day just so that we don't get too comfortable. I even got a hint of sunburn on my lily white legs. The awkward thing about starting out early on a long ride, is where to put all your warm layers when the temperature rises. It's a juggling act of stuffing pockets with small items from the handle bar bag to make room for tights and vest and rolling your wool gloves into a ball and stuffing them into the spare drink bottle cage. Only to reverse the process at the end of the day.
Longest picket fence in the world? what you don't see is the bit that turns the corner and carries on.

While Niel has been away, I set myself the task of getting our picket fence painted. It may not be the longest picket fence in the world, but it feels like it is. It has taken 5 weeks to get the first coat on - It's only 3 weeks until Niel gets home and I've got to get the 2nd coat finished by then. I think I'll just do it, if it would just stop raining.

Friday 28 August 2015

Happy non Father's Day Niel.

It is almost Father’s Day. Niel and my Fathers’ have both unfortunately died.  Niel may not be a Father, although he is a surrogate father to our cats, but he is the most important male in my life. And with him being on the other side of the world at the moment, I have noticed a few things related to his absence.

First of all is that the house is so quiet. I have never realised how much noise he made, and the house seems so big without him. How can the lack of one person’s presence make such a difference to the feel of the house?
Secondly – the bathroom stays remarkably clean, especially the mirror. What do men do in the bathroom to make it so dirty? Especially as I'm sure women spend more time in there than men do.
Thirdly – I keep forgetting to do things that he normally does, like cleaning out the ash from the fire, shifting the furniture when vacuuming the floor, and sweeping the decks. Hmm – come to think of it – he was remarkably useful around the house.
Fourth – one bonus of Niel being away is that I don’t have to cook a meal every night. That is such a treat, I don’t know if men who don’t cook, realise how much we get sick of cooking for them.
Fifth – I can save more money than when he is at home, even though I go to the doctor more than him. Actually everyone goes to the doctor more than him, as he hates them and refuses to ever go to one. He is pretty good at not spending needlessly, but there are those little things that keep coming home from the bike shop – like pressure gauges, and colour coordinated tidbits for his beloved bike (drink bottles, valve caps and cable outers that match his transfers on his bike etc.) – No they are not free to the staff. Then there is his favourite bike shop of E-Bay, where he gets all those ‘essentials’ like caps, how many caps does a man need?
Just some of Niel's Caps.

Sixth – even though I am the gardening enthusiast, I do miss his muscles when trying to prune trees, or do things that the ‘Carpel Tunnel syndrome’ in my wrists find hard to do.
I have had to limit my cycling in the last few weeks due to injury and sickness – the first and hopefully last winter ill I will get. I am jealous of the amount of cycling Niel is doing right now, but it is finally Spring time, and I am over the tummy bug that laid me low last week, I’m still hindered by my injury, but it should come right too.
I’m not exactly lonely, but with my birthday coming up, I have decided that I’m not going to sit it out and do nothing, so I’ve decided to do something special and buy my flights to Hong Kong. Tickets to Hong Kong are on special at the moment, and why not make the most of that as a birthday treat.

In the meantime – Happy Father’s Day from the cats Niel.

Wednesday 12 August 2015

Is it Spring yet?

Well Niel has left on his big cycling adventure of Scandinavia. As per usual the airlines have left his bike behind. He must be absolutely sick of this happening. Every single international flight he has taken in the last 3 years - the airlines have lost his bike. Don’t the airlines realize that a cyclist deprived of his bike is like a bird unable to fly? Anyway while Niel is gone I am starting to organize my first section of my ‘round the world adventure’.
I have sorted out an estimate of where I would like to get to each day. I need to know this to apply for visas for China, Vietnam and Laos. I don’t need visas for Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore or Australia.
I have a friend in Darwin Australia, where I can send my camping stuff that I won’t need in SE Asia, and where I can send my tropical clothes home from. They have also invited me to stay, which will be awesome.
My brother has expressed interest in cycling some of SE Asia with me, but hasn’t committed yet. My friends near Seattle in Washington State of the US will join me for some of the Pacific Coastline in the US. Niel and I will do a bit of the last stage from Russia to Hong Kong together. I am still hoping some of my friends will be interested in accompanying me in Australia even if it is by car and not bike. The invite is still out there if anyone wants to join me.
Obviously I am saving every cent, although I have expenses such as renewing my passport and paying for visas, when I have finally bought my ticket to Hong Kong and have dates. I have even started to sell some of my possessions to try and raise funds. It doesn’t help matters when My Vespa scooter got a parking ticket for exceeding the time limit in a car park, when I wasn’t parked in a car park (as if I would do such a thing); I was parked in with the bicycles. $65 fine for depriving another car of my spot in the car park – how ludicrous is that! I refuse to pay it – that is one over- zealous parking warden.
Does it look like my Vespa is in a car park? No? why did a get a ticket then?

While I have time to myself with Niel away, I have got a Spanish CD and booklet out of the library in attempt to learn some Spanish. I am a typical New Zealander in my lack of knowledge of another language. I know phones have a translate app, but the more you actually understand – the better. I will be in Spanish speaking Mexico and South America, so I thought it would be worth at least getting a basic grasp of the language.
I am almost desperate for this seemingly unending winter to finish. It was winter before I left for the Trans Am and winter when I returned, and it is STILL is officially Spring in 3 weeks’ time; I wish it would hurry up.

Wednesday 29 July 2015

I have made the commitment - I am going around the world.

As you all may have guessed from the title of my blog – I have always wanted to go around the world. I have wanted to do it as a whimsical dream since I began cycle touring when I met Niel in 1983. My desire to achieve this goal became serious in 2007 when meeting someone in Ireland who was about to embark on this challenge. But up until now the time hasn’t been right, or I was constrained by lack of money or operations on my troublesome feet and knees. I am now 55 year old and I have almost run out of time for this dream to become a reality. I cannot wait for the perfect time anymore, and I cannot wait for Niel to agree to do it with me. So I have finally bitten the bullet and decided I am going to do it, on my own if need be.
I know I said after the Trans Am that I wasn’t interested in long tours anymore, but Niel is about to leave on his trip to Scandinavia and I am jealous – yes I still have the touring bug. I can finally answer those questions of When, Where, and How? Of course I have to work around Niel’s commitment to 2016’s Trans Am race and the seasons around the world. Bearing this in mind I have decided to break the trip around the world into 3 sections, and if anyone wants to join me for some or all of it, then I would love some company.
When: I intend to start stage 1 in early February 2016 in Hong Kong, and riding down the coast of China into Northern Vietnam and across the border into Laos and then Thailand, ride down the Thai and Malay Peninsula to Singapore, fly to Darwin Australia and ride through the centre of the country to Adelaide and then Melbourne, and then be home by May in time for Niel to leave for the States to do the Trans Am.
I have all the maps already for section one.

Stage 2 starts in August when Niel is home from the Trans Am and I will start in Seattle and ride the length of the American Pacific coast including the Baja Peninsula to Mexico City. Then I will fly to Lima Peru in the Southern Hemisphere Spring and ride to Santiago Chile, across a not too high pass in the Andes and East to Buenos Aires where I will fly home and wait 6 months for the Northern Hemisphere Summer to heat up again in 2017.
Stage 3: Fly to London in approximately early June, and take a ferry across the English Channel to Brussels and ride to Denmark, across to Sweden and ferry to Finland. From Helsinki I will ride to Moscow and take the Siberian Express train to Beijing and ride down to Hong Kong to complete the loop.
That is the plan at the moment subject to any improvements.
Where? As explained above, I have cheated a bit catching the train across Russia, but it’s not a race, and my course is the safest I can come up with for a woman on her own.
How? I intend to do it like Niel and I did our trip across Canada. Touring NOT racing, with days off to stay mentally and physically refreshed. There will be long and short days depending on distances between places and to be honest – the faster I do it the less time I will be away, which means it will keep the cost down.
I’ll repeat myself and say if any of my friends or family thinks they will like to join me for any or all of this – then I would love having some company. If you are interested, then I am budgeting about $50 (NZ) a day, plus airfares, and will stay in cheap motels / hotels only if there is no camping available.
 Well now that I have openly declared my intentions, I will admit that I am a bit nervous, I would prefer for Niel to join me, but one thing I did really like about doing the Trans Am is - making my own decisions whether they are right or wrong – they were MY decisions, and I found that empowering.
OH - how cute.

Spring is almost here now. Baby Lambs are appearing in the paddocks, the daffodils are in flower, some cherry and magnolia trees are also in flower, and the grass is growing again and needing mowing. There is a feeling that the seasons have turned a corner – perhaps it is the hours of daylight increasing, whatever it is, I am ready for longer bike rides, and regaining the fitness I have lost during winter.

Tuesday 14 July 2015

It was the shoes fault.

I fell off my bike this week – it’s alright – I’m fine, no need for you to fret about my well - being. Just matching lumps on both knees and whip lash in my neck – strange that – but it is all I can think of to explain why my neck is so sore and stiff this week. I thought it was sleeping on it in a funny position, but it hasn’t abated, so I know it was wrenched significantly enough to not be simply sleeping on it funny.

Actually I blame my shoes. What I hear you say? Yes you heard right, I was almost at a stop and went to twist my shoe out of the pedal and nothing happened except falling on the stony path of the cycle way. On getting back to my feet I noticed my shoe felt like a Flip Flop. The sole had all but parted company with the rest of the shoe, so when I went to untwist my cleat from my pedal the cleat stayed put and my shoe untwisted itself. Well that is a first; I have never had that happen before.
OK my shoes were pretty old. I had cycle toured, Vietnam and across Canada, and done about 20,000 kms of training on them every year for the past 3 years, but Niel reckons there is still plenty of life left in them – what? I was putting them in the bin when Niel gets them out and takes them down to his bike workshop and comes back with them glued and held together with clamps. Why am I telling you all this? Well this is a typical example of how we can afford to keep having trips away. We keep our worn out stuff going well beyond when most people throw them out. I have no hesitation in wearing cast offs from other people and mending and fixing things, all with the desire to save money that I would rather spend on a hotel when I need one in another country.
Food for thought, where shall I go next?

I have been giving a lot of thought to my trips in the next few years. I need to work around Niel’s trips as the dates of his are set in stone – being events that he wants to accomplish. So I think I would like to finish SE Asia early next year, and finish Europe at the end of the same year. Then I need to be at home for a year while Niel is away. So the following year – 2018 I want to finish going around the world by doing the main Asian continent. I am toying with ideas of how to make this happen without going anywhere near any war zones or scary places.
I think Niel and I are in for an exciting few years if everything goes to plan and nothing untoward happens. We have such a lot to achieve in a few short years.