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.

Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Eating Habits.

My Brother, teenage Nephew, and his friend, have been staying to compete in the National Mountain Bike Championships held here. You would think that 1] they being males, 2] they are doing plenty of exercise, and 3] that teenagers usually have 'hollow legs' needing to be filled with constant eating, that they would devour any food put in front of them.

I smugly thought I had that covered with a vege patch groaning with the weight of mature vegetables, and my boss had given me a bag full of meat that hadn't sold, to be used up. But I had to wipe that smile off my face pretty quickly. My Brother only ate meat and potatoes [ and maybe carrots], my nephew ate met and a few more simple vegetables like peas and corn, and his friend doesn't like meat, but will eat vegetables. I gave up trying to cook a meal on the 3rd night, and we all had takeaways. Even that wasn't good enough, because the burger had onion in it!!

My brothers idea of the perfect meal.

I have no idea how they stay healthy, let alone strong enough to compete at a pretty demanding sport. Incidentally my nephew got a silver medal in his age group - well done.

My nephew David with the microphone after getting a silver medal.

The rest of my family are no better. My sister is a recovering M.E. sufferer. What is M.E.? It is like a chronic fatigue illness, where you have problems sleeping and eating - your digestion system is so out of sync, your body won't tolerate much at all. She exists on fish and vegetables, and on a good day will treat herself to a few dates and walnuts as a reward.

My Mother is allergic to practically everything....except vegetables. We all have foods we tend to avoid for one reason or another, but honestly my family really do take it to extremes. You know sometimes I'd like to see what they would do if they were deposited by 'warp drive' to the middle of nowhere and had to go without food for days. Be rescued and offered food of meat and veges, would they still be so fussy?

Wouldn't 'warp drive' be awesome, no planes, no waiting and queueing, no sitting in small seats with your knees squashed into the seat in front of you for 36 hours non stop, and food that tastes like nothing much. Just the thought of long distance flights make me feel sick!

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Only a month to go.

I think we have kept all the health professionals in work this week. Niel needed the Dentist, and boy did he need the dentist, 2 appointments down and another 2 to  go. How do they justify their prices I don’t know. Today he had a 15 min appointment and that cost $125 – all they did was look around and found themselves more work that must be done before he goes away. It is no wonder that people let their dental hygiene lapse.

I went to the doctor for stronger painkillers for my knee and feet. If I can control the pain better I’ll be more mobile. It’s so frustrating when you are a physical person, to be limited by pain, I know you get niggles as you get older, but there is no reason to give in to it. My motto is: know your limitations, but push yourself to exceed them as much as possible.

It is only a month till Niel departs on his epic adventure. He is nervous and apprehensive, but knows it is something he must do. He was born to do this, and he knows he can’t pull out, due to nerves. He’s done such a lot of touring that he knows exactly what he’s in for. It is a good example of the saying: “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing”. A lot of people who are not experienced cycle tourists have cycled around the world and have had the experience of a life time. Niel will too, he just has to forget about the negative things that can happen, and enjoy the experience.
About to head overseas.

There are lists littering the dining room table. My list is starting with the: what to do if this happens. Flow charts about where all the pipes go in and around the water pump. How to change a Fuse, what to do if we get a leak. You get the picture.
Todays harvest.

The garden is very productive at the moment, and along with the bantam eggs, we have a bountiful harvest every day. It is very satisfying, to see what you can produce with a little bit of effort.

Plum tree groaning with fruit.

Tomorrow we visit the travel doctor to talk about vaccinations. The Visas are starting to be accepted and sent back to us. The Airline tickets need to be paid for, and travel insurance paid for. Niel has finished perfecting his bike, and he has to make sure mine is just right before he goes. I’ve almost finished his first aid kit, just a couple of items left to buy. We really need to update our Wills in the next week or so.

 You may think that we are mad cyclists, [and you are probably right] but my brother, is visiting this week with his son [my nephew], they are here for the Mountain bike nationals. Frankly they are a bit obsessed with bike events. You couldn’t accuse him of not giving his son every opportunity in his chosen sport. Needless to say we have a lot in common, and a lot to talk about. Bikes, bikes and more bikes.

Monday, 16 January 2012

What storm?

What started off as a pleasant ride south out of Queenstown a week ago, turned into a battle titanic against extreme winds no matter which direction you were pointed. The dreadful trucks didn't help matters. I had to ride the whole way up the east coast on the verge, as the trucks were so unrelenting and impatient. The winds made it hard not to weave into the hated rumble strip on the side of the road, and I had a pretty unpleasant time of it. little did I know that it was just a taste of what was to come.

Looking back at Queenstown heading south.

At our southern most point, the winds were very strong,and 20 kms from Invercargill, we decided to head east towards the Caitlins - a picturesque corner of little civilisation, on the south east corner of the south island. Guess what? the wind turned with us, and got even stronger.

Closer to the south pole than the equator.

Niel has had everything thrown at him in this training ride around the south island. But the one thing we didn't expect was gravel, deep gravel that went on for 40 kms. He had road shoes, so couldn't walk in it when the camber on the road dipped into a low point, and the high point on your side of the road was unrideable with ankle deep gravel.It was also very hard on the scooter. We were very relieved when it finally ended and neither one of us had crashed in it. But by now the wind was even stronger. Trees bent in half and the sea churned into a froth of white caps and muddy in colour.

40 kms of thick gravel.

Finally we got a break in the wind for a couple of days, and Niel managed to make up some time with 210 kms rides. It meant he had no time for anything but riding riding riding, and he was up till midnight blogging, so I'm sorry folks but I never got a chance to use the computer and my blog got relegated to - "when we get home".

Vespa Chick on the wild and untamed east coast of the south island.

We had seen my family, and heading north towards home and the wind had died and we were feeling pretty good again. We'll be home in a few days, with everything sorted - great training for Niel, Vespa going well, and the sun was shining. Famous lasts words as the saying goes. The weather was just saving up for one last and violent bash at us.

The calm before the storm.

That night there was non stop lightening and thunder and wind and rain. It was hard to sleep, but our old tent stood up to it, and the day dawned with some blue sky, so off we went. 10 kms down the road, the wind was the strongest I've ever experienced, trees bent in half, and made the gales of the Caitlin's look like a breeze. Throw in the rain, and temperatures low enough to see your breath. Then add steep uphill roads with road works laying gravel on the road, and the non stop traffic, not giving me the least bit of consideration. I was sodden down to my under clothes, and thrown across the road like a toy. I finally made it to a cafe at Springs Junction - the only food stop in 200kms and changed into my only dry clothes. I was hypothermic and shivering uncontrollably. The cafe was filled with happy tourists oblivious to the weather and taking up every table. I braved the conditions and went on. It was not a pleasant day but I made it home.

Wet through - trying to thaw out with a cup of tea.

What's happened to our summer. This is winter weather.

What has happened to our summer? Snow in January and storms like this? Niel had to sit out this storm for 3 boring and frustrating days on the other side of the pass. One thing he can be proud of is that no matter what was thrown at him he triumphed over it. That was one hell of a training trip.

Monday, 9 January 2012

Deep South

We are in the deep south. It's a funny expression when you think about it. The North isn't called the shallow  north. Hmm that is begging for a sarcastic jibe, but I won't take the bait.Invercargill is the closest city to Antarctica. It definitely has a certain feel to it. Sort of like " I'm from the back of beyond and I'm proud of it".

Closer to the south pole than the equator.

It's been very windy, so windy I have been blown off the road several times today. I had to ride in 3rd gear instead of 4th, as I couldn't get enough power fighting into the wind. poor Niel, had to ride his bike into this wind and it completely wore him out.The locals say that this is typical for this area, hopefully tomorrow will be better.

A much needed picnic on the side of the road.

Well we are heading North again. If we start early we may just get some distance before the wind gets too strong again. Here's hoping.

Friday, 6 January 2012

From Wet and Cold to Hot and Dry.

Fox Glacier was awesome as always, although the numbers of tourists on the path to the glacier was staggering.This is a beautiful country we live in.

fox Glacier

As I zoomed off in search of Niel up ahead, it started to rain. Actually that is pretty normal for the west coast, we have had great weather up till now, so we should consider ourselves lucky. I found Niel and we rode in the wet and now very cold temperatures to Haast - the last bastion of civilisation before heading over the Haast Pass to the sunny side.Niel made it 200kms to a haven called Makarora. A restaurant / cafe/ Pub/ shop, with a camp ground, chalets, and cabins. In Australia it would be called a Roadhouse. We got a cabin, - the cheaper alternative, and warmed up with two heaters going full tit, and drying everything out.

Our Cabin at Makarora.

Niel had had such a horrendous ride getting here, that it was decided that he could have a shorter 130 km day over the Crown Range, [New Zealand's highest and steepest highway] and have a bit of a sleep in. That meant I had time for my own bike ride if I got up early enough. So I was up at 6.45am and off for a couple of hours down the road and back. This is the dry side of the pass and it was looking like it was going to be a hot dry day. 

My bike ride around the shores of Lake Wanaka.

Artistic shot of the mountains.

Lake Wanaka is a tourist town, and it was chock full of people. It felt like culture shock after days of wilderness and having the road to myself. There were cars pulling out of side streets, people milling around everywhere, including jay walking into the road, there were kids riding full tit down the middle of the road on scooters, you name it and it was there. I parked outside the information kiosk and waited for Niel. I lost count of the number of people walking around my bike and taking photos of it, at one point I was talking to a guy who had a Harley Davidson shadow, and we were complimenting each other on our bikes, he said something that stuck with me and I like. "Life is too short to have dull and boring".

Lake Wanaka.

The Crown Range was scary. It was so steep the Vespa felt like to wanted to conk out, and had almost no forward momentum. I thought that was bad, the down hill was even scarier. It had 97,000 hair pin bends [ just a slight exaggeration], and I had to alternate the brakes as I thought one might fail and I'd be free falling 12,000 meters down. Good old fart bottom made it though, unlike Niel.

Top of the Crown Range looking down to Queenstown.

So much for Niel's easy 130 km day. Just out of Wanaka, his bike had a major mechanical problem. For those of you who  know a bit about bikes, his rear derailleur ripped out of the rear drop outs of his frame. Luckily he managed to salvage some chain and join it together to give himself a 3rd gear, and he had to ride 70 kms in this gear up horrendously steep roads, and then very slowly at 13 km/hr on the flat bits to Queenstown.He would 've been up the creek without a paddle if he didn't have his mechanical knowledge, or it would have been a really long walk. 

We will need to take a day off to fix Niel's bike, lets see what a new day brings.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Animals and scenery.

It seems to be a day of seeing animals. The only thing I couldn't get a photo of was a beautiful white heron in a river bed. I saw it crossing a one lane bridge and couldn't stop. Maybe I'll see one tomorrow.


vicious sand flies.

There were a lot of cycle tourists on the road, and I was feeling lazy being on the Vespa, but luckily I managed to get a couple of hours on the bike once I got to Fox Glacier. Along with my 45 kms yesterday, I am actually getting some exercise. Tomorrow we cross the Haast Pass and hopefully make it to Makarora, the first shop and camp ground for 200 kms.

One of the beautiful southern lakes.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

The beautiful West coast

Today we rode my favourite part of the coast. Crashing surf, rocky islands,blue sky, bush and the southern Rata trees in flower. World class scenery. Niel had a tough time yesterday and didn't get into camp until 9pm. Today was easier with more mild temperatures and a tail wind. I got a lot of attention with my bike on the Vespa. people were staring and pointing and taking photos of it.

The road cuts through the cliff at a place called Hawks Craig.

My bike is the centre of attention.

Tomorrow we reach the glaciers, and the last shop / petrol station for a couple of hundred kilometres. Isolated but very beautiful. Vespa chick hits the coast.

Vespa chick hits the coast.