Monday, December 14, 2009

Day 7 & 8. Christchurch - Nelson - home.

The rain has stopped for the moment and the ride over Arthurs Pass is a visual delight. I’ve been over this pass a number of times but this is the first time it has looked like this so indulge me as I snap off a few shots to share.

I think this is why we like B-trains in NZ. The corner before this was very sharp but by the time I got my camera sorted out I missed it.

This sign had me worried for a moment wondering what might be lurking in the mist ahead.

A classic Canterbury braided river.

There is no getting past this guy in a hurry.

We are over the top of the pass here and heading for the West Coast which is renowned for its wet weather. I was not to be disappointed – I spent the rest of the day riding in the pouring rain.

Some of us are old enough to remember when trains once looked like this. I gather the rest of us must have grown up with Thomas the tank engine.

Chock full of salmon I follow my brother on his XT600 out of Nelson and back over the mountains to catch the ferry to Wellington. And yes it was raining in the hills.

Boarding the ferry at Picton with the other remnants from the rally. Today the sea will not be so calm.

If you think these decks look slippery, try the off ramp in Wellington. I made it home from here – 1,600 miles in total, 8 days and the end of another ‘Bert’.
Day 6 - Invercargill to Omarama

Rally over and with improved weather I head north past the great lake associated with the tourist town of Queenstown. I am heading to Omarama in the McKenzie country famous for its perfect gliding conditions. It is also to be a reunion with the riders from the South American Patagonian tour.

This is my food shot just so as Sherm and VSP don’t feel left out. Fresh salmon steaks, whitebait fritters, new season potatoes and all for breakfast.

Heading up through the McKenzie country you cross a number of aqueducts feeding snow melt water to hydro schemes. Behind me this one supports a salmon farm. At today’s rates salmon is $4.88 US a pound so I buy a couple of chunks to take to my brother and supper tomorrow night.

Lupines have taken over and by now must be classed as a weed but for the traveler in spring they add much welcome colour to an otherwise colourless environment of tussock grass. Today I ride for 6 hours in the rain so stop early at a country hotel. Tomorrow I will tackle the pass through the Southern Alps to the West Coast.
The Rally - days 4 & 5

Home for the next two nights. It was raining and windy and the beach races were cancelled. Drat – the beach races are one of the highlights of the weekend.

An aerial view of the rally site taken from a previous year. The sites for three events can be seen from this picture - the beach, the ¼ miles speedway oval (centre) and on the left the track circuit (teretonga). The street races are held in a town nearby.

The beach race from last year - note the guy on an HP2. She’s a grey old climate down here. Invercargill in northern hemisphere terms is up around Vancouver in Canada.

The speedway is a well organized event and attracts a capacity crowd. The bikes follow the European format so there are no Yamaha’s, Suzuki’s etc as you would see at US short track meets.

Sidecar racers are the hoons of speedway and are hugely popular with the crowd. They look to be hugely dangerous and certainly crashes are spectacular but the sound of a ZX10 or Firestorm engine on the rev limiter adds a new dimension to the spectacle.

Bert is buried in this family plot at the local cemetery.

This is 105 Bainfield Road and is the house Bert bought in 1951 and from which he did the development work on his Indian. It bares no visual resemblence to the house shown in the movie and I suspect is has no lemon tree either. Me thinks it is to far south for citrus trees to grow. The house in the movie incidentally was a standard 1950's 'state' house. These were houses built by the government to house low income families.

Sunday morning and not much stirs in Invercargill. The rain has stopped but most of the campers will go home with wet tents. The weather in Invercargill is so unpredictable that most of the rally goers stay in motels and as such the town is fully booked for the weekend. The cafes just down the street from this view were full of bikers tucking into the great Kiwi breakfast of bacon, eggs, tomatos and hash browns with a side of toast as it comes. No choice of wheat, rye or sour dough here, it’s white bread or nothin’.

Wyndham is a village north of Invercargill and each year they surrender their streets to be filled with hay bails and motorbikes. The local garage lends itself as a ‘hat check’ for riders gear, the PTA sell hot dogs and the moms from the pre-school sell BBQ lamb in pita pockets and have a line 10 deep.

Bert’s original bike on display in the pits. It is crude in the extreme and a far cry from the Ducati based replicas made for the film. One of the film replicas does the rounds on a trailer nearby.

This guy has taken a old 1942 30 cu in ‘Army’ Indian out to 45 inches and races it both here at Wyndham and also on the beach. I like his new take on warmers, most of his fellow competitors use the warmers on their tires.
Day 2 & 3. Christchurch to Invercargill.

Just North of Dunedin the road introduces you to the Pacific Ocean again.

This is the city of Dunedin city spread out below and I never tire of this view. Dunedin is a lovely city of Scottish heritage with a charm all of its own. I was stationed here many years ago with the military and also did my undergrad degree at the local university. Prejudiced? – you bet.

The Catlins, a remote part of the East coast between Dunedin and Invercargill. They have sealed the road now so the traffic density has increased – motor homes and tour buses mainly. The fine weather of the past two days has gone as a southerly front reaches the coast bringing with it cold, wind and rain. It does not bode well for the rally this weekend.

The South Island is a high tourist area and these arrows are on many of the roads to remind drivers to drive on the left. Despite this my sister-in-law and her partner were run down by an Italian in a motor home driving on the wrong side of the road.
25 Nov - still the first day. The idea was to make it to Christchurch for the night.

Not sure where all the people have gone but this is Kaikoura on the East coast of the South Island. The coast is famous for its cooked lobster and whale watching tours. Not far from here is a seal colony that has taken up residency on the rocks next to the main road. They stink real bad but the tourists love them.
Highway 72 west of Christchurch. This route is more scenic and less monotonous than State Highway 1 to the east. This road also avoids the need to transit through Christchurch. Stayed the night in a forest just north of here and had a lovely Thai meal, the chef of which also acted as waiter.

Sheep – what more can you say, this is New Zealand after all.

Day 2 - 25 Nov
Before the humans came, New Zealand had no mammals so bird life flourished. The Moa (sounds like lawn ‘mower’) was the largest of the birds. Guess what? – they are extinct. I started the day of with a breakfast of smoked salmon eggs Benedict at Seagers cafĂ© and cooking school, expensive but a real treat.
Bert Munro Rally 2009
This ride report is for my American friends who have showed such interest in the Bert Munro 'thing'. Bert lived in Invercargill, New Zealand's most southern city, and the event is in its fourth year. It's not really a rally but more of an event spectacular over four days. There is a hill climb on Thursday, beach races Friday evening, circuit racing at Teretonga Park Saturday, Speedway Saturday evening and on Sunday there are street races in a small village north of Invercargill.

Wed 25 Nov. Waiting to load at Wellington for the 10.30 sailing to Picton in the South Island. The sailing time is approx 3 hours.

This is one for the truckers. The curtain side B-Train, New Zealand’s answer to the 18-wheeler. Standard US 18-wheelers are too long to negotiate our tight roads. Single trailer units in NZ are shorter than US 18-wheelers and have 22 wheels.

Today’s sailing is on smooth seas so riders tie their bikes down more out of habit than necessity. When the sea is rough, as it often is, tying your bike to the deck is necessary. There are as many ideas on how best to do this as there are bikes and riders.

Looking over the stern at the gap in the rocks that the ship needed to negotiate in order to enter the Marlborough Sounds. When the sea is rough it is a great relief to arrive at these calmer waters. We have an hour steaming through the sounds before docking at Picton. As for scenery; think of British Colombia’s inside passage.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

4 Sep – Holbrook, AZ

Today was quite a long day in the saddle – over 6 hours – and it was all just transit. The ride along hwy 89A through the high forest was quite nice despite many of the trees being scarred from fire. But the real highlight was seeing the Vermilion Cliffs. Around this area in northern Arizona the red sedimentary rock is soft and easily sculptured by wind and rain leaving the various lays of sediment exposed. The result in one case are the Vermilion Cliffs and in another the Painted Desert. Both formations are quite striking, more for their grand size than anything else. When it rains here it buckets down and the runoff carves out channels so the desert floor is littered with these minor canyons. The largest of them all is the Grand Canyon and is nearby.

Once past these highlights there is not much of interest. A lot of the ride was through an Indian reservation so you get a small insight into their world but it is only fleeting. There are clusters of houses here and there in much the same way as we see Pa. They must still refer to these settlements as 'camps' because many of them had public notice signs promoting a camp meeting.

I arrived at Holbrook around 5 pm to find TC here so tonight it is steak and beer. TC is a 40 year veteran of the guitar so we have entertainment include.

Tomorrow I fly out.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

3 Sep – Cedar City, Utah

There were even fewer cars on the road today so I can see how hwy 50 (officially called the Lincoln Highway and famous in its own right) could be construed as the loneliest highway in America. But boring it is not – well at least the first time you ride through the area. The topographical map show a number of valleys roughly linked together that appear to stretch from the Sierra Nevada to way out here in Utah. Turns out that it is indeed “The Great Basin” and it is very easy to identify areas that in the wet would form lakes. At the height of summer some are dried up and dusty whilst others have green pastures for live stock. Fascinating if you are into that sort of thing. If not then you have the geological structure to ponder over. This area was clearly once a great sea bed and today the sedimentary rock has been thrust up to expose the layers of sediment. You can identify the various fault lines as you ride along. No surprise then that last night I met a chap from a company looking for spots to drill for geothermal water.

2 Sep – Austin, NV

I finished off yesterdays train spotter day with a visit this morning to a train museum in Portola, about 30 miles on from where I stayed last night. The museum is entirely dedicated to diesel trains and seems to have one from every era and technological permutation. There was a lot to see and if you timed it right you could get to actually drive an engine. No today though. One train that took my interest was the original California Zephyr. In the 1950's this train was the height of luxury and sophistication and the display of promotional brochures show a splendid futuristic train indeed. Today the once glorious domed passenger cars lie abandoned and vandalised, shunted off to one side to await their future. One is being restored in the workshop and I understand the locomotive is in working order.

My route for the afternoon took me into Reno again and then on to Hwy 50 to Fallon and tonights stop. Hwy 50 is billed as the loneliest highway in America. I was preparing myself for it to be the most boring ride in America also but no it's a lovely ride with lots of varied scenery. Nor was it particularly hot. We are quite high up and it snows here in Austin in the winter. Most of the inhabitants of Austin appear to have left so the place is a little run down at the moment. For all that, the three motels in town are fully booked. Tomorrow I finish Hwy 50. Photo

1 Sep – Quincey, CA

Finally got my laundry done – no mean feat I tell you. Leaving Eureka you climb into the hills to the east that traps the sea fog in the town until eventually you look down on it. It made for quite an interesting picture. By mid day I had left the green hills and forest to enter the parched grassy flatlands around Redding and Chico. Much more interesting was entering Feather River Canyon which is the lowest pass through the Sierra Nevada. Much like the Manawatu gorge; road one side and rail line the other with a river in between. Except this one was around 70 miles long. Excellent road.

Western Pacific Rail Road built the track over a number of years prior to 1909 as their part of the Transcontinental Rail Road. It is still a working line and I was lucky enough to see a freight train winding its way round the bends. The train was quite long and I suspect very heavy (40 foot containers stacked two high) because the wheels protested loudly as they were dragged around the curves. There was an engine at the front and another at the rear belching huge amounts of smoke as they tried tto drag their load up the incline. The engine compartment of the front engine was so hot the oil and grease associated with the environment was at smoke point and me thought next step flash point. So I stopped and waited to see what would happen but the train stopped also so drama over – or so I thought. Seems it might have been the rear engine that caught fire. What ever happened it sure got the Forest Service activated – 6 trucks and a police car rushing to the scene. Just my luck -no picture.

I've sort of done a big loop and despite being on the road for the past three days and covered around 800 miles, I'm only a couple of hundred miles from where I started. Tomorrow I go through Reno again when it wasn't that long ago when Lildoc was buying Harley merchandise from the Casino HD outlet. I know because she shouted me an ice cream and I took a photo of her behind an elephants balls.

31 Aug – Eureka, CA

This is a funny old country. A couple of days ago we were melting in 30 degree days and tonight I have the heater on. The days ride has been quite cool because firstly I am riding along hwy 1 which follows the coast so is naturally cooler and secondly there is a heavy fog that rolls in from the Pacific Ocean and because this side of the Pacific is very cold (unlike the NZ/Aust side), the fog is also cold.

I followed hwy 128 then switched into hwy 1 for most of the morning then picked up hwy 101 again at Leggett. An obligatory photo of the road through the tree and then it was a detour to state route 254 which goes through Humboldt Redwoods State Park or more commonly the Avenue of the Giants. The road, which follows the old 1880's stagecoach and wagon trail, is about 30 miles long so you get to see plenty of trees and as the name suggests, some pretty big ones at that.

Tomorrow I leave the coast and head inland to the high desert.

30 Aug – Ukiah, CA

We left Stockton taking Hwy 12 to southern Napa & Sonoma wine regions before turning left onto US 101 to travel across the Golden Gate bridge. We got the bridge with its cloak of fog – something San Francisco is famous for. I thought this was a bonus because when I was here a few years ago I only ever saw the bridge in its naked form. Sadly no time to ride around downtown SF so we simply retraced our steps and headed north and out towards the coast. First stop a French cheese factory stuck out in the middle of nowhere then alongside Tomales Bay with their numerous, and busy, oyster shacks. We left hwy 1 to travel inland to the old railway town of Occidental (for lunch) then on to the Russian River wine region where at least 4 different valleys support wineries then to this town via yet more vineyards and Hwy 101. I was staggered at the vast plantings of grapes – they seemed to go on forever. Today was a delightful days ride.