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.

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.

Monday, 29 June 2015

Would I have done anything differently?

 Before I say anything else, I want to thank all those people who gave me words of encouragement and goodwill while I was attempting the Trans Am bike race. I couldn’t respond at the time as Microsoft had stopped me accessing my email account- thinking I was a security risk as I was trying to get into it from a different location than home. I tried to amend this but to no avail, so thank you for your lovely thoughts and wishes.
I have no regrets about pulling out and it was definitely the right decision at the time.

How come my bike weighed 1 and1/2 kilos more on coming home from the USA  than going there? Surely I had the same load? I had to pay $70(US) for being over my weight allowance. I unloaded everything and pulled out 8 lithium batteries that I  bought to keep my spot tracker going across The States. They were expensive and I wasn’t going to throw them out, so was my tube of sunscreen, UV protection face cream and container of Anti Chaff. Then there was the extra summer clothes I wore on the plane going there, but had to be packed away in favour of some winter trousers and jacket I bought to come home in, for the middle of winter temperatures. OK I can see where the 1 and ½ kilos came from now.
Well it is lovely being home, even though it is the middle of winter. It is not too cold to ride my bike though. I have thought a lot about the last month and asked myself if I would have done anything differently to have finished the Trans Am, apart from the obvious: not sticking to my original game plane - if I had done that I would have finished.
I had too much stuff.

Yes, I should have taken less stuff for a start. I thought I had perfected my load but once a cycle tourist – always a cycle tourist and I took things I thought were indispensable but proved to be the opposite. I shouldn’t have taken a tent and sleeping bag – they may have been light weight but motels were the accommodation of choice, and a bivy bag would have done the trick for those occasional times of wilderness. I took far too much first aid stuff – that  could have been reduced by 2/3rds and I didn’t need insect repellent – I wasn’t still long enough for insects to bite me. I didn’t need a knife and fork but I did use the spoon and plastic cup I took - a lot, as motels have coffee making facilities but no cups or spoons and it was useful for eating cereal and yogurt out of. I don’t regret taking 3 drink bottles as you can always leave them empty when in an area of plenty of shops, but when you need a third drink bottle it is indispensable.
I should have been more flexible with my riding; I should have ridden through the evening, night and morning until the motels opened for the day and slept through the heat of the day. If I had kept cooler I wouldn’t have got so saddle sore and the creams wouldn’t have melted straight off like they did.
I should have had a Garmin or loaded the route onto my phone instead of using 12 heavy maps that needed to be constantly checked for directions and needing turning over to the next map. I wasted such a lot of time with my maps and if I had the route downloaded – I wouldn’t have got lost as it would have told me I had gone  the wrong way.
I was fit enough – my training was great,  but I needed to ride more through the night and to constantly push the distance as you get caught up in the hype of the event and your original ideas of daily distance gets abandoned in favour of keeping up with everyone else.
But what I have learnt – I can pass on to Niel who is still keen to do it next year.
Next year…… I have given it a lot of thought, and decided I want to be a ‘credit card’ tourist- doing big mileage but taking very little gear and using motels / hotels. Being away cycling for 3 weeks this way would cost the same as being away for 6 weeks and doing 100kms a day and camping the whole time. I am thinking about riding from Bangkok to Singapore.
Planning for next year already.

I met some lovely people while I was away, and I am very grateful to my lovely friends Jan and Reed from Olympic Peninsula near Seattle, who ‘rescued’ me and put me up for a week. It is often the people who make a trip not the scenery or physical achievement. Having said that though , I am very proud of myself for how I rode – not many middle aged women could ride 200kms a day carrying the weight of a child on their bike, in 40 degree heat  barely eating and in constant discomfort from saddle sores and  surviving on an average of 5 hours sleep a day.

Friday, 19 June 2015

Life after the TransAm

I've been trying to work out in my head what my cycling niche is now. This trip has sorted some things out for me and I realize that what I really enjoyed before, isn't what I enjoy now. Maybe it's a progression of aging, maybe it's that nothing in life ever stays the same. Maybe I am sick of hardship and hurting, or maybe I've changed. What ever it is I still love riding my bike.

What don't I like? Pain, going to bed dirty, being away from creature comforts for too long, repeating the same roads instead of seeing new stuff. And getting up at 2/3am every morning.
What do I like? Feeling free, fit and being part of the environment around me. I enjoy long rides - I find them physically satisfying. I enjoy the feeling of accomplishment from the comfort of a motel room or your own comfy archair after a hot shower.
I'm starting to wonder if I've got soft.

Niel ' s Idea of Creature Comforts

Option 1) cycle touring long distance but over the short time of a week staying in motels.
Option 2) vehicle assisted touring with a bit of comfort, no load and the versatility that gives you.
Option 3) do Randonneur events from home or a motel.
Option 5) doing organized tours where you don't have to carry anything and everything is done for you - although you may have to put up with annoying people.
There is no reason to carry on doing things the way you always have in the past. Just because you can do something doesn't mean you should do it, and I need to do things a bit differently now.

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

10 days was enough.

After 1600kms my body has said enough. My saddle sores are so bad that I can barely sit on the saddle at all despite all the cream I am putting on them, and the lack of sleep is wearing me out so much that I am simply not enjoying this. When I got on my bike and started vomiting I knew it was time to pull the plug. If I could get one more day to Missoula In Montana where there was an airport and or train, then I could get to Seattle to where my friends live and try to get a flight home.

So one last day of struggling with my complaining stomach and saddle sores over Lolo Pass, I actually had to walk up some of the Pass.
I have seen some great scenery and some lovely people. I've seen Squirrels, Chipmunks, Deer. Birds of all sorts, and on my last day I have finally seen a mother and baby Moose right next to the road.

It has been a great experience and I exceeded my own expectations of my riding ability.
But right now I am going to recover with my lovely friends and enjoy the summer temperatures while I sort out getting home.

Thursday, 11 June 2015

I wouldn't want to repeat today.

Day 5 : 200kms and 920kms from Astoria.
It started out as a good day until I took the wrong road and did 110kms off trail. I had no drink left that for the first time in my life I was just guzzling drink from Discarded bottles on the side of the road. I was stumbling with fatigue and dehydration so I was imagining that God put it there for me. My tongue was swollen and my mouth felt glued shut, but I eventually summited the monstrous hill and I crawled the last 21kms in a headwind to Baker City.

 The motel was a god send as well and I just made it to a restaurant before closing. I considered quitting - I really did, but the kind words of Niel and friends encouraged me to carry on and with a whole 8 hours sleep I'm in a better head space.

After staring at the map ' I realize that I can be back on schedule in 2 days and then start making up time again. I will try and keep an eye on Fran so that I don't overtake her.
In the meantime I will be doing a few chores today, rest my body and go to bed early for an early start. I'd like to do 215km tomorrow to a town called Council, and there are no big hills only 2 medium sized ones.
What ever I drank from the discarded drink bottles upset my insides!!! Enough said already.

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

The first four days.

Hello my followers, this the second time i have written this - as I lost the first draft to the ether somewhere. I've just finished day four and have done 720kms so far .

It's been incredibly hot and therefore tiring, but others are in a worse state than me and I am actually now the first female but I'm sure that won't last.

My worst problems are bad saddle sores from chaffing in the heat (yes I'm using Savlon cream at night and anti chaff during the day. The extreme heat is just melting it off). And a burnt tongue and lips which makes me incredibly thirsty to cool them off. Never the less I am pretty proud of myself so far.

.Oh well it's 4 in the morning and time to get on the road.

Friday, 5 June 2015

Astoria or bust.

I had the strangest feelings leaving Niel at the airport and flying away. I felt nervous for a minute and then suddenly really empowered. I felt oddly like I had gained a sense of independence and self confidence. I don't know if that makes any sense, but I felt liberated. I know what Niel meant when he rode across South America and said he was scared at times, but also felt like he could do anything. Now don't get me wrong - I love Niel and all the trips we have done together, maybe it's simply that this trip came at the right time in my life.
In all my travels over seas I have always struggled to get my bike and gear within the 23kg weight allowance on the plane. Even wearing practically all my clothes and making my carry on bag as heavy as I can get away with, I have achieved the impossible today and my bike and gear weighed in at 22.8kg - awesome.

I've always heard that LA is the busiest and most unappealing of international airports. It certainly is busy but then so is Hong Kong or Bangkok, but LA seems to have endless queues that are very trying. And exiting my flight into the terminal someone had put the heater on! ! It was definitely Summer again and all those extra layers had to come off.
I got my bike together and took it for a test ride and firstly the computer wasn't going because I had put the wheel in back to front - duh. Then the handle bars started to turn around because I hadn't tightened it enough - back to the motel fixed everything and tried another test run this time my bike felt great and I felt less jet lagged and more alive. I'm looking forward to a decent ride to Astoria tomorrow.

Leaving Portland - I was surprised at what a big city it was. My very kind friend - Jan took me to Tillamook - just over 100kms down the Oregon Coast from Astoria and I rode against a strong headwind to Astoria. That coast would have to be the most scenic in the world it is a stunning combination of trees, beaches, rocky islets and estuaries. After getting lost at one point - I finally pulled into Astoria at 8pm.

Saturday, 30 May 2015

As ready as I can be.

I attempted one last training ride- the day dawned fine but very cold at 1° Celsius. I had so many clothes on that I didn't know where I was going to put the extra layers when the day warmed up. But the day only warmed up to 12°, so  I had the extra layers on for most of the day, it was only my warm hat I had to deal with, and I tied that to a loop on my handle bar bag. One very difficult part of riding in the freezing cold is that your sweat never dries off (yes I still sweat in the cold), so you are damp when the chill settles in at sunset. 3° with a with a wind chill on damp skin and hair is awful - Needless to say I had to call it quits then and only got in 160kms.
My god it was cold.

So training is completed, I've cleaned my bike ready for dismantling and boxing up. I've added one last thing to my bike of a thermometer. We had one for our trip across Canada and it added another fun aspect to the trip . When it was scorching hot we marvelled at high the temperature got and it helped to understand why we might be really tired. Also when it was a frigid 4° on Allison Pass - I realized it was hypothermia that I was feeling.
My 'coffee milk frothing' thermometer - notice it is only 9 degrees C.

Even though I have endeavored to keep my gear to a minimum, my panniers are full and I'm crossing my fingers that everything comes under my 23 kilo weight allowance for the plane.
Ready for boxing up.
Wish me luck.

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Why aren't I nervous?

Two weeks to go till I leave for the States. Niel can't understand why I'm not nervous. I am not at all nervous about the cycling, but I am worried about having to do everything on my own. I fully confess to being old fashioned or old school when it comes to booking things - for example: I would rather look for accommodation when I get there, but these days everything is done online. So that will be hard for me. Also I'm concerned about coping with mechanical problems, although Niel has replaced and checked everything that was likely to cause me any grief. Again if I have a problem I'll have to deal with it with the help of my smartphone. I'm actually more worried about Bears, gun toting hill billes, and tornadoes than I am about the race itself.
Niel getting my bike ready for the Trans Am.

So thanks to my own personal bike mechanic, I now have new: tyres, and tubes, cluster and chain, brake pads, brake and gear cables, Jockey wheels for my rear derailleur, carbon fiber seat post and all bearings checked and regreased. I have a few spokes just in case and a rear drop out because if I broke one then that would be the end of the race as I wouldn't get another one in the States. I have a multi tool that should cover most eventualities.
The weather forecast for the weekend looks good, so I'll be out test riding my bike. It might be the last training I get before I go.
These new bits and pieces get the thumbs up.

Wow it's like riding a new bike except better it is molded and adapted especially for me. The new tyres are heavier but bomb proof and good on patches of gravel where the road was being repaired- but still narrow and responsive. The gears change like a hot knife through butter. With new brake blocks and brake cables - they felt great. The squeak I've had for months is gone with a new seat post. In fact my bike was so quiet - all I could hear was my puffing with effort. All that is left to do is change the batteries in the computer and sensor.
If you want to follow me on the TransAm I have entered under my blog name of Vespa Chick.

Sunday, 26 April 2015

I hate grocery shopping.

 I’ve got to that crazy stage before going overseas. Basically I’ve got too much to do and not enough time to do it.  Last week was too early to start all my tasks, but this week I’m stressing that there isn’t enough hours in the day. It would be a piece of cake if I didn’t have to be super fit on top of everything else, but that is essential to the whole trip.
Here’s a sample of my list of jobs: Mammogram to have, visit the doctor to renew prescriptions and get cortisone injections in my feet to ward of pain for at least a few weeks, I have a court hearing about my ACC claim, a load of winter firewood is arriving to  stack in the shed, I have to get all my last  minute stuff for the bike  i.e. tires and tubes, chain and cluster and brake and gear cables – these need to be fitted and test ridden, at least one more mini tour, and lots of 200 km rides for training, the garden needs to be winterised, pruned, sprayed and new vegetables in for spring eating, I’ve just been told that I have to tell the newspaper what I am doing, and then there is the last minute stuff like a haircut, and dismantling and packing up my bike. That is just what I can think of off the top of my head. It doesn’t help that I am working full time. And when I do get a day off - it rains grrrr.
Very tempting goodies at work.

I have managed to keep the weight off that I lost over summer doing my mini - tours; it’s a miracle really when I am surrounded by such yummy food at work every day. Most of the weight loss has been from my backside and legs, which isn’t surprising considering the millions of pedal revolutions I have done in the last few months. I worked out that I turn those pedals about 10,000 times on a ride of 200kms. How many times in a year I wonder? I have no idea, the numbers would be amazing.
Niel helping me with the weekly nightmare of grocery shopping.

My biggest problem I have when working full time is finding time to do the weekly grocery shopping. Most people have a car and can slot the shopping in after work, when you don’t have a car it takes twice as long by bicycle. I simply don’t have the 3 to 4 hours to devote to do the shopping, and I can’t leave it at work all day and ride it home after work – it is such a curse. I have to ride in to the supermarket on my Vespa scooter early in the morning, because the Vespa is faster than my bike, do the shopping and meet Niel outside with his bike and trailer, load his trailer bags, throw down some food and rush off to work. Then on finally getting home – I have to put the groceries away. Yes Niel does attempt to put them away, he has lots of skills – but putting away groceries isn’t one of them. That is my weekly nightmare called grocery shopping.

3 more weeks of full time and then 2 weeks of part time, and then Trans Am here I come.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Night is not the enemy.

Mini tour number 5 completed. I must have virtually crossed America in training kilometres by now. Actually my odometer on my bike computer has just clicked over to 12,000 kilometres in the year that I changed the battery in it. Considering in winter time I struggled to do 150 to 200 kms a week then most of that distance was done this summer. Also bearing in mind that I also have another bike I use mostly for commuting, so that is a lot of mileage clocked up in 12 months.
I'm off again on another mini tour.
This mini tour was only 3 days as I'm working now and that is all the days I could scrape together, and I felt great. After 6 weeks of feeling jaded, I finally felt like I'd got my 'mojo' back . I know the weather was favourable but it was more than that. I felt like I could just keep going and going.
Just a hint of Autumn colours in the willows.
I am happy and enjoying the early morning riding.

Talking of keeping on going, I recently helped out with a week of extreme long distance cyclists all endeavouring to do all the qualifiers for the Paris / Brest / Paris in one week. Credit to them - they all achieved it. It was an eye opener to see how these riders achieve such long distances. They seem to enjoy riding at night.

I can see the positives of riding at night:
- it's calm and peaceful.
- there's very little traffic.
- the wind dies away to nothing.
- it's cool and you don't suffer from hot foot.
But I like to see the scenery, and it's definitely an advantage when the shops are open. But I totally admire the dedication of these riders, and I did learn that night is not the enemy.

Yes I have a new job - and I really enjoy it. But the best bit of all is that they are going to keep my job open  for me while I am away doing the Trans Am. Most of my training is completed now, I might get one more 3 day mini tour in at the end of next week and possibly a small trip away at the end of May before departing for the States. I'm guessing that the northern hemisphere folks are just getting started on their training. I hope I  don't loose what I have gained in the 6 weeks I have to work full time in April and May, I will have to be really dedicated on my days off to go for really long rides.

Not a bad photo from outside the public restroom in the Marlborough Sounds.

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Bike and Bee's.

Mini tour number 3 was a bit messy, as I couldn't get 7 days in row to do it, I kept getting interrupted by domestic chores,appointments and rain. Actually the rain is a god send, as we have only had one other day of rain since new year. I know what you are saying - just ride in the rain anyway,  and yes I would if I was on the road,  but having just got home and lying in bed listening to it pattering on the roof you don't want to get on your bike an go out in it.
Actually this trip was memorable for the swarms of Bee's.  They were attracted to the bright colours I was wearing.  If you stop for any reason then they were all over you. Needless to say I got stung. A lady I met told me that swarming Bee's are nature's way of telling us that we are in for a cold winter.  I don't know how accurate that is, but I won't be here for most of the winter so I'm smug about not caring what the winter is like.
One thing I worked out on this trip is that even when you've got your gear down to a bare minimum it is still too much. What can I go without?even less clothes? I've already taken tent pegs out, left my hairbrush at home and weighed all my non cycling shoes to find the lightest pair and my warm non cycling top to find one is 100 grams lighter than the other. I have crossed off cold weather cycling clothes as cold weather (if we get some) will be short lived and I can live with being cold for a day or so, or if it is really bad - sit it out and have a day off. There really is nothing else I can eliminate from my list. Some things you just can't skimp on like adequate water and spare tubes for punctures, (and being female) toiletries are essential - Men might be able to wash their hair with soap but I need a bottle of shampoo and conditioner.I realise that my toiletries bag weights as much as most racing cyclists bike, but some things a girl needs.
At least I'm not as bad as this lady.

One thing I should have taken and have added to my list for the Trans Am is an adaptor to use the tire compressor pump at petrol / gas stations, and a tire pressure gauge. I had a puncture on my first day and although I used my high pressure hand pump to pump it back up, there is only so much air you can push in without needing a foot pump to finish it off. Of course there is no bike shops in the back country and I had to ride on a not fully inflated tire for 3 days until I found a support vehicle following a bike race that had one in their car.Yes I could use car valves, but I like high pressure valves.
I think my next trip will be to Christchurch and back and if rains then I'll just have to ride in it.
I met a man on the road who worked out that I was the wife of 'Niel the wheel'. He had read Niel's blog and knew everything about  him. That was amazing to met a complete stranger who knew all about you. It is reassuring actually to know that these blogs really do get read and that the effort we put into writing them isn't wasted.It is also nice to know that people enjoy hearing of Niel and my adventures.
Speaking of adventures - it is only 3 months until I leave for the Trans Am. I can't wait. I have already worked out my next adventure for 2016. Niel and I want to finish SE Asia, after which I want to ride home through Australia, but I'm not sure whether to go through the middle of Oz or around the coast. I've got plenty of time to think about it.

Saturday, 31 January 2015

Frozen drink bottles.

Mini Tour number two done and dusted.
This is such excellent training. Even though I’ve been cycle touring constantly since I met Niel in 1983, I’m still learning tricks and ways of coping with things.
Nelson on a beautiful summers day.

Where did I go? Well, nowhere actually. A big unexpected bill came last week that took the dollars I had put aside for a week’s cycling, to pay for it. So I pretended to go touring. I loaded up my bike with panniers full of old shoes, containers of fluid wrapped in towels, a tent on the top of my carrier and a full handle bar bag, and off I went every day, doing rides of varying distances. Niel joined me for most of it, so it was good riding, good weather, and good company.
Niel at the top of Spooners Range.

My last mini tour ended after 5 days with heat exhaustion, but I’ve learnt how to overcome that now. It seems that when you are dehydrated, no matter how much sun warmed water you drink from your drink bottle, it just doesn’t sate your thirst or cool you down, but an icy cold drink bought from a shop, instantly hits the spot and refreshes you. Is it the sugar in the shop bought drink, or the icy coldness of it? I put my drink bottles and a third container of sweetened juice in the freezer overnight, and voila – problem solved. As the ice slowly melts – you drink icy cold fluid that instantly cools and refreshes you. It felt like a ‘eureka’ moment. True – when you are camping – you don’t have access to a freezer (unless you are in a well-equipped campground that has a kitchen). But most petrol/ gas stations sell bags of ice, McDonald’s restaurants have ice with the drinks dispenser, and bars and cafes will have ice.
Frozen juice - Yum.

So over the last year – I have learnt to ride 200kms with ease, solved heat exhaustion problems, I have learnt how to prevent ever getting saddle sores and chaffing (a combination of women’s hygiene pads and anti- chaff cream), and lastly but certainly not the least – the pain of oversized pinched nerves in the ball of the foot, bought on by ‘hot foot’ and excessive amounts of cycling. You use ‘Voltarin Emulgel’ cream(an anti – inflammatory pain killer) rubbed in when they first start to feel hot, wear your socks for as long as possible to prevent your feet chaffing, then dispense with the socks, use more emulgel and when the pain gets too much – use pain killers. Even in a 30 degree sunny day, pushing up huge hills for a ride of 12hours - all of the above will work. The only thing I still have trouble with is knowing what to eat when it is really hot and you have no appetite, and no saliva to chew on dry things like muesli bars. Fruit is good, but heavy and not very sustaining. Ice cream hits the spot every time, but you need a shop to obtain ice cream, and it’s not particularly good to eat it all the time. I’ve tried sandwiches with a moist filling that won’t go off in the heat of your bag or pocket, cold cooked sausages are good, and they don’t crumble as you ride along. Any suggestions are welcome. One bonus of having no appetite is a loss of 9kgs of weight in 5 weeks – I’m not complaining.
Another hot day at Marahau beach watching the tractors pick up kayaker's and boats at low tide.

Mini tour number 3 in a couple of weeks’ time. This time I might actually go somewhere!  

Monday, 12 January 2015

Writing is where your future lies.

I've never been happier since I left my job,  but part of me felt bad for not contributing financially to the household coffers - so I got a job harvesting the boysenberries.  I lasted a week.  Employers of seasonal workers need to buck up their ideas if they want to retain their workers.  10 hour days doing the same brainless job at speed with no days off at all is no way to treat people. But then what right have I got to comment,  I'm just a frustrated  person rendered brain dead with swollen wrists hankering for a day off to ride my bike.
So I left and I am happily riding my bike with a vengeance to make up for my wasted week doing the boysenberries. You know it is funny - on reflection ; why should I feel guilty for having some time off working? I have never willingly been unemployed before, I never had children that meant years off paid work to bring up kids, and I am not a burden to society as I don't qualify for a benefit, so there is absolutely no reason to feel guilty.
All loaded up.

 Actually I am on a mini bike tour.You know when you are dehydrated - you stare at discarded bottles on the road side wondering if there is anything worth drinking in them. You'd drink puddles if you didn't get a mouthful of mud in the process. River water is a god send when normally you wouldn't touch it for potential bugs, but when you are that dehydrated - you don't care. Needless to say I suffered over the last 10kms to St Arnaud and had to drink 2 litres of Powerade and 3 cups of Tea before my stomach could accept any food. And that night I had terrible cramp But then this is why we train, or we wouldn't know how to cope with it or better still prevent it happening. It is the joy of summer riding.
My only cool day in the week of riding and it was bliss. St Arnuad - Nelson Lakes.

I still ponder how I can earn a few dollars,  when a friend told me not to worry but to concentrate on writing my book as "writing was where my future lay". Well what a lovely thing to say.  I know what a real writer is like - my brother is a real writer, but it would be nice to achieve some literary prowess when my old English teacher at school encouragingly said I would never pass my exams - I did pass my exams no help from her. I wish there was performance pay for good teachers in my day and then we might have actually had good teachers that care. But I'm getting off the point.
A swim at the beach would have been heavenly but I'm not into crowds.

It was secretly my ambition this week to ride 1000kms in 7 days while carrying a load. I didn't tell anyone because I didn't know if I would achieve it -.I didn't quite make it - I did 700kms in 5 1/2 days, and had to rest and recover for a day before completing my mission a day later, why? heat exhaustion and rapid weight loss. I lost 6 kilos in 6 days in the hottest week of the year so far and carrying 20 kilos of load over countless hills unable to eat due to dehydration and loss of appetite.I haven't felt this tired since crossing the Death Valley in 2010. I learnt not only to carry more drink than I thought I'd need and have a big breakfast as I don't know when my next mouthful of food will be, and try to take something other than muesli bars that are impossible to eat when your mouth feels like sandpaper.
But now that this mission is over I have the time to go back to my writing. Although that was such excellent training I am going to do it again.
I ride past this view every week and I still love it - looking towards the Richmond ranges from Motueka.