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Gremlin's Tall Stories

Returning from the TT2000 (28/02/2011)

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Monday morning, no early morning alarm, we sleep in, but my alarm does go off at 0845, as I need to start making some calls. I’ve given up on cotton wool for the nights, just using my new custom plugs, as I can wear them much longer than the normal ones.

McIver & Veitch about the tyres I now won’t be needing, as the Southern Cross is no longer an option (for the second time in a row dammit). Interislander to alter my booking and bring it forward to the same as Toto’s, and his accommodation in Picton for Tuesday night to add a second person in. Accommodation for the week is also cancelled, as I was staying down south until the start of the Southern Cross.

Then we roll over and go back to bed. We surface mid-morning, and raid the café next door for another fantastic feed. I wasn’t feeling too hungry when I got up, but walking into the communal area to get on the internet I smelt bacon, and breakfast was decided. When mentioning this to Toto, his mind was also made up

He orders a massive breakfast, with the works, including extra eggs, and we also take an extra table, as the two people tables aren’t big enough for the food. I also get the works breakfast, but ask for more bacon instead of egg, which they oblige.

We don’t have a clue what to do now, so Toto says he has heard about penguins and a hidden bridge, so we set off to find them. We find the bridge, which was apparently the widest in the southern hemisphere until the Sydney harbour bridge was built. This could be one of a couple of bridges… as we saw two, and its hidden because there are no signs announcing the symbolic nature of it.

We presume we do find the source of some odd art around the town, Steampunk HQ or something. The train on the main street, diggers, large motorbikes, with quite realistic looking skeletons made from metal in each one.

We then find the coast, and the penguin sanctuary, except the penguins obviously don’t like Oamaru, as there are none in sight (locals say we have to look at dusk). We wander through an old part of town, not on the main street, and I enjoy the plethora of ancient services you rarely see any more. Book binding (Toto needed an explanation), crucibles shop, stone carving and seconds store to name just a few. The buildings were old, and undergoing a re-vamp, looking mighty fine post-revamp.

We admire the stone carver’s work, and laugh at the board of pre-answered messages. We reckon he forgot a couple, but we suddenly gained some intelligence, and decided not to ask him…

Back to the motel, and we’re bored. Toto has decided Oamaru is going on his crappy city list. Christchurch is on there as he got lost for two hours in it last year (no troubles this trip actually) and Motueka for the number of cars that pulled out on him over 3 days. He reckons there isn’t much to do in Oamaru, and feels somewhat dead, with the vibrancy lacking.

We find Oamaru has a movie theatre… they aren’t open on a Monday In the absence of entertainment inside Oamaru, Toto declares he wants to ride, but doesn’t know where. We toss a couple of ideas around, then I suggest Benmore Dam, one of the flyers (18) I was yet to do. Toto agrees, so we fuel up and head off. My GPS is playing up, not charging on the cradle, so there could be issues there, so Toto leads, with a working GPS.

Heading out it’s reasonably boring, but without a front brake lever a lot of my braking is gone, so I’m content to trundle along at GN pace. We stop once, early, Toto not sure if its Benmore dam, but I say no. At Aviemore dam we stop again, then go around the northern side of the Lake, which is quite beautiful, and I spot the first photo point for the flyer. At Benmore, we explore a couple of little trains on the side of the road, I think Toto has a pic of descending one hill… I had already turned off the traction control, and chickened out of a very steep descent, because of no front brake. Descending the second hill I realised the ABS was still turned on, and lacking brakes I stopped near the top to turn that off as well.

Playing over, a tour coach arrived, and we buggered off again. Toto couldn’t manage it all the way back to Oamaru without another fill (only 200km ish), so he stopped for some more gas. Back in Oamaru, it was time for another meal, so I said I’d seen another place we could try, so we strolled along, found it, but didn’t like the options and pricing.

Toto fancied a bit of Lewinsky (the pizza flavour) after an Obama the previous evening. I had a meat lovers, we both had more smoothies, and I gave in to a tasty mud cake for dessert. The evening was taken up with chatting, then bed.


Our alarms went off at 7am as we had agreed, I didn’t feel like getting up, Toto wasn’t moving, so I silenced it, and rolled over. His went off, he thought, oh, just a couple more minutes. Then it was 8am. I’d tried recording his snoring during the night, but it didn’t come out too well.

Up, packed… lugging my stuff down to the panniers is a total pain compared to carrying the panniers to the bike and locking them on. Down to the shell to fill again (this time I actually filled – which meant I could reach Picton without filling). We met a guy on a Harley on his way to Invercargill, after the HOG rally up Raglan way.

Toto decided to count the number of buttons my bike had as this point, and came up with 35, including the GPS, CB Radio, Radar etc. I counted Toto’s to show I didn’t have that many, and got to 6. Ok, so it’s a GN. The Harley would be a better comparison. 8.

OK… so I have a lot of buttons.

From Oamaru we headed north at 10am, needing to be in Picton by evening. I just about fell off my bike exiting Oamaru watching Toto pass a truck. He rode up right behind it, pulled out to pass, and got about 2 feet up the side of the truck. He’d evidently not realised that drafting the truck was allowing him to go faster than normal, so after briefly trying to pass the truck, he gave up, with a shake of his head in disgust and slowed down, and pulled in behind the truck. He later complained it sped up in the passing lane. It took me a good five minutes to stop laughing after the failed pass.

We stopped briefly at the field again, found the brake lever unit, but couldn’t secure it to the bike, and I also found my missing rainoff.

We stopped several times, I lost count of the places the little GN needed more gas. On the outskirts of Amberley we stopped for lunch, at a place Toto had found, called the Spoon Café. I had a really nice steak sandwich and pasta salad. Toto liked the free wifi for customers (normally I’m the one wanting that).

It was a slow pace for riding. From Christchurch north we ran into a head wind, which slows the GN’s pace from a respectable 90kph to something more like 70-80kph, depending on the strength of the wind. The upside (if you could find one) is that I was scoring the most impressive fuel economy ever. Before the headwind, with full luggage and big panniers, the 1.2L BMW was scoring 4.6L/100km. After the headwind it was still 4.9L/100km. Instead of passing everything in sight… we got passed by everything in sight. Passing lanes were for the queue of cars behind to finally pass. Passing a truck was a touch and go thing, sometimes he could, sometimes he couldn’t. I learnt not to pass, and wait to see if he pulled out a gap on the truck, before passing myself.

I learnt the trick the hard way, after almost becoming a big speed bump a couple of times, when he couldn’t go fast enough to keep in front of the truck. I had offered to tow his GN up hills, but he declined. I started to think I should just tow it all the way to Auckland.

We reached Picton in the early evening, around 7pm. Both of us were in pain from the long hours on the road. Toto had a quick shower, then we walked into town to grab some dinner. Toto would ask where it is, not wanting to walk far, so I said, “You see that intersection?”, “Yeah”, “Not that one”.

Back to the backpackers it was into bed (we’re real party animals, can’t you tell?). It starts to rain that night, despite Toto’s prediction it would rain all Tuesday and Wednesday.


Another early morning alarm… I’m over them, and at least this is the last one for a while. 4.30am it goes off, and we’re up packing. It’s raining hard, and I tell this to Toto, only to be told its really raining when he goes outside. The boy is a genius.

We’ve just finished loading the bikes and we’re about to head off at 5.30am when the backpacker owner comes along, and doesn’t seem to be impressed about our early rising (Ok, so apparently we were noisy… isn’t everyone up at that time?). We make our apologies and leave.

There is a queue outside the ferry, made much more enjoyable by the rain bucketing down. The check in girl offers us the booth next door, but doubts how much it would protect us… no point. We queue up in Lane 9, and Toto says there is somewhere we can shelter ahead, so we walk over to have a look… nothing. The rain is almost horizontal from the wind, so I figure we can stand behind the horse float in front of us, and sure enough, we’re completely dry.

Eventually we’re motioned up the ramps and negotiate the slippery deck to our tie down points. While tying the bikes down we show a couple of people how to get to the passenger deck, and one older lady says “Gosh, I felt so sorry for you guys outside”. I laughed and said thanks. Lucky bikers don’t melt.

We planned to have a late breakfast at 66 on 1 in Foxton, so didn’t eat the over-priced food on the Interislander. We napped a little, as I knew the trip north would be boring, and Toto was still refusing to be towed. How about a match then Toto?

In Mana we stopped at the BP for gas, the rain still coming round the side of the shelter. I filled up, and wouldn’t need another, at the GN’s economical pace. I was a little nervous about an undercover unit at the pump next to us, as I was still missing an indicator and tail light. Her look was more of pity… or she thought we were crazy. Once we cleared Wellington and the surrounding cities we got clear of the rain, and we settled back into the snail pace. Toto seemed mostly unable to do more than 80kph, and I reckon he was trying to turn me into road kill. We rode on the hard shoulder a bit, to let more vehicles past… the speed differential was that great.

Foxton was a welcome break. Stopping at 66 on 1, Toto tried to order the restaurant, getting about 3 plates of food, while I just settled on a toast sandwich and an enormous burger called the Milwaukee Monster.

We stopped in Hunterville for more gas, and at Turangi (another fuel stop) I asked if he wanted to stop at the bakery (who can ride past yummy bakeries without stopping huh?). Evidently Toto could, probably wanted to get home, as we had an ETA around 8pm. No bakery.

Tokoroa called for more gas (seriously? Does he have a hole in the tank?) and I was updating GiJoe on our progress, as he had mentioned he fancied riding down to greet us, then following us back. With all the rain it almost sounded like he didn’t want to ride… we were a bit stunned.

Onto the backroads at Tirau, the pace still slow, using the hard shoulder to let vehicles past. It was also a bit more difficult as I couldn’t indicate left easily, to show I was pulling onto the hard shoulder to let them past, but once they understood, away they went (sob). There had been one truck up a passing lane, going very slowly, and I pulled alongside Toto to encourage him onwards, to pass the truck. He made it… just before the end of the lane.

The road flattened out again, and he was holding up the truck, despite his best efforts. The truckie was apparently laughing, motioning for him to go… but he couldn’t. The truck passed him again. Again… it took a while to stop laughing as I’ve never travelled so slowly and been passed by EVERYTHING.

We had a road side stop on SH27 to transfer gas from his can to his tank, as surprise surprise, it was empty again. A final txt to GiJoe and I’m still not sure if he’s actually coming. At Maramarua northbound was closed and diverted through a long detour through Coalfields Rd and Island Block Rd, getting onto the motorway well south of the SH2 onramp. My fuel economy is still excellent, at 4.7L/100km. The official rating for the bike is 4.6L/100km at a constant 90kph, so with panniers etc, I think I was doing very well.

On the motorway, entering the bottom of Auckland it starts raining. A lot. The spray on the motorway is strong, it’s starting to get dark, a lot of traffic, and I’m so happy. No indicator, no taillight, I’m finally going to be road kill at 80kph. A car flashes me, and I nod once he passes… Yes, I have no taillight, when I really really want one.

Just before Takanini, Toto suddenly slows, and I have to dodge trucks to get to the roadside. It appears that after 4000km up and down the country its crapping out 50km from home. GN’s are obviously not water babies. Toto asks what we can do, so I said GiJoe is nearby, lets head there and look at the issue. We eventually get there after he cuts out a few more times… only to find GiJoe has left to come greet us.

Kathy sends him a txt, and he’s on his way back. It takes a while, but in the meantime we put more fuel into the GN and fire it up… seems it’s a bit happier. GiJoe eventually returns, and we ask him where he’s been… seems the roadworks and our direction being closed made us miss him. We announce to him that Toto’s bike is cutting out, mine doesn’t have a taillight (it’s now dark), and could he follow me home, then follow Toto home, so we can get home safely? Any excuse for a ride, he doesn’t mind.

The motorway is quieter, and I set a GN pace along the motorway. When I pull off, Toto doesn’t bother, and carries on. GiJoe makes sure I get home safely, viewing some of the damage to the bike, then he’s off on his merry way. Despite the change in plans, I still managed 5000km in 7 days, not bad when you consider 2 had almost no riding. Southern Cross abandoned for the second time, (last time the KTM was in the shop… hmmmmm) hopefully there is a next time.
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  1. gijoe1313's Avatar
    Just another atypical road trip with you Gremlin, when will you do something surprising like just have a "normal" ride without life or death situations in a humourous way happen?

    But big ups for for the write-ups and at least you rode! You also owe TOTO big time! (if only just for the laughs!)