A Modern Trip Report...

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A Modern Trip Report...

Postby Paul in NZ » Thu Aug 01, 2013 3:22 am

Well wwe were all ready for the ride to Christchurch to the TOMCC 20th anniversary weekend (and to catch up with family). http://tomcc.co.nz/20th-anniversary-...ns-invitation/

The panniers were packed (not near enough room) and the oil/filters done, hot grips work, tyres inflated and tank topped off… Miss Vicki is snug in a new jacket and pants plus 2 piece rain suit while I have some bargain priced new boots and a startling 1 piece rain suit to cover my still warm but barely water resistant gear. The weather report looked suitably beyond dire but what’s the point of a life of comfort without adventure? Adventures will always require some adversity or else they would not be adventures. (oh how I was to regret this)

Anyway - packed up as reported and clicked the Givi bags onto the frames about 9pm just as the skies opened and it literally poured rain onto Kapiti… We waited out the worst of it (so we thought) but Mother Nature has not looked kindly on this trip from the moment we left until the moment we got back. Either that or God really does ride a Moto Guzzi and is punishing me for selling the Mk2. I may have to start wearing an Albatross around my neck.

Anyway - snug inside our rainsuits and with the handgrips set to nuclear fallout (steam coming off the gloves) we headed out onto the motorway south and the spray coming from the front tyre was like a hose onto my boots and water was streaming off the fairing and rear-view mirrors like some kind of jet trail – to get that much rain in the first 50km should have told us what was in store and frankly we should have taken the car! But no said the child bride - we needed an adventure....

We arrived as instructed at the Wellington terminal at 10pm. No we couldn’t board and grab a cabin as the boat wasn’t even there yet… Hmm – the lady on the phone definitely told me we could board between 10 and 11 but really the office opens at 10 and we boarded more like 11:30… Anyway after being told “I’d put an extra rope on that tonight’ we snuggled down for a sleep… It didn’t last long… The poor old boat crashed out through the heads and we were awake! But we stayed in bed and dozed fitfully listening to the anticyclone winding up over the straight until 5am when we dashed down for a quick coffee and bacon and eggs to set us up for what was going to be a quick dash to Christchurch…

Well the ramp on these boats is usually a bit scary but this time the scary bit was at the bottom of the ramp. The weather had ‘deteriorated’ a tad… Sigh… Now as well as streaming rain we had a pretty brisk gale. Picton to Bleniem was ‘tense’. The ST does not have the greatest lights in the world despite having lots of them and it was dark, raining and windy. Charming… The trucks never stop though and the dazzle on the visor with the dirty highway markers and indifferent lights made things interesting. However from Blenhiem on it got worse and was truly scary. We were getting a gale force winds on the front three quarter angle and it was plain nasty. The trucks coming towards us provided a wind enhanced bow wave of almost solid water that smacked us so hard it hurt. On 3 occasions we caught it on right hand bends and were actually pushed a meter or so across the road which was beyond scary. At times we were down to 50kph or worse but found around 80 (when we could see) was the optimal speed. It was some of the hardest riding I have ever done. We pulled off the road just past Grassmere to consider our options but there weren’t many. We couldn’t stay there as it was hard to keep the bike upright and we didn’t want to go on yet we couldn’t go back. With a mental map of the anticyclone in my head (thanks to Jim Hicky) we realised that we would be better off getting to the coast asap so we boxed on in increasing light which helped as we could actually see where we were going through our visors and lifted our morale if nothing else.

Once we got to the coast – the wind lessened and was more constant without the gusting in the valleys and cuttings on the hills and the fear of instant death diminished yet we were still moving at less than 100kph most of the time and it was getting colder. Into the head wind the bike was drinking fuel at an alarming rate. $36 to cover the same distance as $21 on the way back - yes thats how strong the wind was! Kaikoura for second breakfast was a secure haven but we were already exhausted and had a ways to go.

Kaikoura to Christchurch was pretty ordinary winter riding or would have been if we weren’t sleep deprived and shattered by our Picton to Kaikoura leg. It was still very windy and cold but not too bad. The only tricky bit was the downhill bends into the Huderlees (you know the ones) as they were thick with grit and very slick. Still we managed without too much drama. It stopped raining around Amberly somewhere and got quite nice in a slightly sub antartic tundra kind of fashion. We stopped at a cafe in Amberly for a coffee and lunch only to find no power. The staff at the Nor Wester were GREAT and rustled up some tea from the water in the zip and some yummy food.

That done - we cranked up and zombie fashion rode to ChCh. I don’t think I have ever been so glad to step off a bike as I was when we arrived at Vickis sisters place and her shower was like heaven….


Christchurch was great. The weather was OK if a bit chilly at times. We got lost a hundred times and wondered how the hell the locals put up with the super intelligent ‘detours’ that usually detour you into another detour or a no exit street. Its frigging horrendous…

It was great to catch up with friends and family and we ate and drank our fill – just like the old days…

Friday night was a meet and greet at the sideline sports bar. I rode over as it was a bike thing but only a few others did the same. I needed to get away smartly though to catch up with yet another family member and I noticed that it was only when I put my helmet on that yes – it started raining again. The dirty streets were now slimy dirty streets – sigh…

After a quick backing off of the suspension to pillion / no luggage we went riding a bit most days despite having a car to use. A motocross bike would have been a better idea!

Saturday lunchtime we went to the dealers for open house and a ride. It was a sunny day so rather than wait for the official ride we decided to bugger off for a tour of ChCh, old haunts and to visit my Dad in his resthome. However before that we decided to buy Vicki some better gloves. Now we specifically told them about our trip and the possibility of more crap on the way home and after inspecting the gloves I was ASSURED twice that these were in fact fine waterproof winter riding gloves. They did fit Vickis small hands nicely, are triumph branded and look swish BUT they proved to be the most non waterproof gloves we have ever seen. At $150 they are a complete rip off and we felt utterly cheated. I’ve emailed them via their website but of course no answer as you would expect. This is the last branded thing I will ever buy from these pricks and if this is an example of the quality of the brand they are doomed. For half that a 1 Tonne pair would be 3 times as good. Customer service eh? I mean we asked repeatedly and were very clear on our expectations and selling crap gear to riders in the winter is very dangerous….. Very disappointed so be warned..

Saturday evening was a great chance to reconnect with people I have not seen for a very long time... We had fun BUT left early as it was now obvious the ride home was going to be interesting and we needed to be at Picton by 1pm.

All things come to an end – even if its just a trip to Christchurch…. It was pretty obvious on Saturday that the ride home on Sunday was going to be ‘interesting’. After discussions with some braver souls from Auckland (good job lads) we realised that it was likely the ferry would be cancelled but as we had not heard we decided to make a run for Picton as planned on Sunday. This turned out to be yet another bad decision and we were feeling a bit victimised by the weather at this point. It seemed definitely out to get us.

We left the Saturday night party early so that we could get a decent nights sleep. It was almost a rerun of our trip south because while we went to bed with the promise of clear skies – during the night the wind and rain fired in (170kph to 210kph this time - charming) and woke us up. Sigh…. So - after getting up early and desperately trying not to rouse the house we actually managed to be on the bike and ready to rock at 7:45am to make the 1pm check in. As I mentioned it was already raining and very brisk outdoors but armed with steely resolve and Vickis new gloves we set out. We turned out to be well undergunned..

The trip on the northern motorway was one of weary resignation to the elements. It was nice to have the wind from behind for a change but if anything it was stronger than on the trip down. We splashed past Amberly and Cheviot without much drama but it was getting colder and colder as we climbed into the hills. Well into the ChCh side of the Hunderlees we noticed a small car stopped in a layby… As we approached some alarm bells went off and I slowed down. Sure enough it just plain pulled out right in front of us and I hauled the poor overladen ST up as hard as I dared in the conditions until our copious headlamps were at eyelevel no more than 5m from the driver who still never turned or gave any indication they had seen us. Said car then proceeded up SH1 at a heady 25 to 30kph…. Now that was scary. The next bit was the same up hill heavily gritted bends we worried over on the trip south and I was praying this idiot wouldn’t actually stop as I’d have no chance of holding the bike on the hill like that. Thankfully we got past OK but it had some real potential to get ugly for a bit.

Kaikoura again and the same café / same parking spot… Weather was worse… Now it was hailing… then it snowed a bit before settling back into gales and tipping rain.

Coffee never tasted soooo sweet. But time was running out and the weather was worsening so after check Vicki was Ok to continue we tightened up our trousers, changed out Vickis pile of crap Triumph gloves and carried on… It was a stupid decision… A motel would have been a better one...

The straights from Kaikoura to the coast were horrible. The wind was so strong we were canted over at an alarming angle while the spray from our progress was blowing away to the right and ahead of us! At least the wash from the trucks was now just spray and not the wind slamming on the trip south. Some of the bends around the bluffs were super scary and we let a lot of bigger traffic past us as we were down to the lower gears a few times. Looking at the ocean off the coast even that far south told us not to expect any ferries to be running but we had not heard from Bluebridge so we plugged on.

Again – the worst part was the Wither Hills between the coast and Blenheim again. On one ridge an incredible gust caught the rear of the bike and shoved us onto the other side of the road. Luckily I had clear vision ahead and no one was coming so I could slowly easy the ST back into line without much drama on very slippery roads. We were down to 80kph max now and leaves and small branches (twigs really) were actually overtaking us in places. (no I’m not exaggerating)… Things had gone from scary to utterly terrifying but again – no place to stop that was not at least as dangerous so we kept rolling…

When we finally hit the down hill bit into the plains around Blenheim we were mightily relieved as we knew we would get a little shelter and finally the rain was spluttering out.

Blenheim to Picton was relatively relaxed but we were so damn shattered it was taken very easily and eventually rolled into the Bluebridge terminal spot on 1pm. Of course the ferry was cancelled. The lady was apologetic but we cared not a jot. The last thing we needed was to be out there in 10M swells so we found the Jasmine Court motel with a HUGE multi jet shower and turned up the heat. The lady at the motel was a sweetheart. She let us put the bike in the garage and turned the heat up and plied us with DVD’s. We took a stroll, looked at the aquarium, we contacted our companies and told them we couldn’t get in Monday, went to the supermarket and stocked up. That night was another early one but we scoffed treats and a bottle of wine for dinner while a tree next door thrashed itself to death on the fence…

By 4am the tree stopped thrashing and the world was a brighter place. Big breakfast and yes – ferry is running so away we go. The usual hour or so waiting while the ferry gets its shit sorted and up the scary ramp to tie the bike again with 50million lashings. The trip on the boat was LONG and lumpy as you would expect but there were still more dramas..

I nearly dropped the frigging bike going down the ramp as the clot at the bottom stopped all the cars just as we started down to let a truck off the bottom. Thank god we slowed down enough to avoid a full stop and managed with a little dignity intact to exit the ship. Naturally – it was raining outside and still windy…

The ride up the motorway to home would normally be unremarkable but after the ride we had had so far we were very gun shy and flinching at every gust of wind. Vicki started singing away on the back ‘Take me Home Country Roads’ which is a sure sign she has had enough adventures and wants home. We finally rolled down the drive at 7:30pm and I was very pleased to get off the bike…

OK – what worked?

My dryrider one piece rain suit was brilliant as was Vickis 2 piece RST one. The heated grips were a godsend and made the trip doable. My Caberg Rhyno was ‘acceptable’ and the Oxford pillion grip belt I was using really added to Vickis comfort. The Givi bags leaked a tiny amount (understandable) and the Oxford strap on 18L tank bag worked a treat. My cheapo AXO waterproof boots were semi waterproof but actually help up pretty good. I doubt they are going to be a long time item though.

The bike was a brick. It got slammed and drenched and never missed a beat. Very proud of it really.

Vicki was a star. Never complained or moaned once – you couldn’t wish for a better pillion or travelling companion.

What didn’t work?

The triumph all weather gloves were an expensive joke. My anti fog visor isn’t anymore. Our decision making was terrible – we were far too destination focussed and we should have bailed earlier and allowed time either side for weather.

The new blood sugar meters us diabetics are now forced to use was utter crap and really dangerous. Most of the time it just refused to work when it was cold. That really worried me.

All in all – we said we wanted an adventure and that’s what we got… NEVER to be repeated....

Just to finish this off....

Vicki and I headed out again last sunday with the wellington classic club for a ride to Lake Ferry Hotel for lunch...

All the way down the coast and out to Kaitoke we were sitting on the bike crapping ourselves and holding on for dear life. Pathetic really.... Once we hit the Rimutakas we were starting to relax a bit and actually enjoying ourselves.

On the way back there was the usual very gusty wind conditions over the hill and you know that the bloody bike hardly shifted a mm. It certainly renewed our confidence a little in the great grey beast and presumably in our selves as well. By the time we arrived home we were getting back into the groove and zinging... But it does show just how bad the blasted storm was. Why we didnt bail earlier is anyones guess...
Paul in NZ
 
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