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Selected ponderings from my life

There is no logic to riding.

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There is no logic to riding. (Or: Napier – Timaru return on a Honda NV400)

I have all my life been proud of my logic. It has always been my strongest attribute. When at school I soon realised that my memory had faults, and if it had been a Hard Drive it would have been sent back for a warranty replacement straight away. But I sadly did not come with a warranty. So I learnt to rely on my logic to fill the memory gaps.

When all others in my class would learn the mathematic formulas and eagerly implement them at any opportunity, I forgot them as soon as I did see something else I liked (and in a dual sex school there was much I liked…). So when confronted with a problem that needed an answer for me to pass a test, I always needed to understand what it was all about. Then my logic would do the rest.

As part of the problem solving, we were required to present what we did to get the answer. All others would use the mentioned formulas, but I would explain in my own way how I came to the right answer. In the beginning I would often fail the tests. Not because my answers were wrong, but because the teachers did not believe me, they figured that I had cheated and someone else gave me the answers. But as this continued they concluded that nobody would be so stupid that they would try to cheat time and time again using the same method, and so they started to accept my logic, even if it at times only made sense to me.

So you see, I have learnt to rely on my logic and for many years it was all I accepted. My logic became my crutch, what I reverted to when I needed guidance.

As I grew older I also slowly developed a “gut feeling”. But I did not listen to this feeling, as it often would be in contradiction to my brilliant logic.

While the years passed I started noticing that often if I had trusted my gut feeling instead of my logic, the outcome would have been quite different, and often better… As an example; I would now have been married in Thailand to a rich hotel owner who had no brothers or sisters and who’s parents were old. (Don’t ask!)

I have been riding motorbikes since I was 12 years old. There has always been one in my possession. Not always a road bike, but a running bike has always been there for me.

But when I now look at the reasons why I have been riding, I to my surprise find that there has never been any logic to it. And there still is none.

Here: I was to travel from Napier to Timaru for a two days work conference. It was simple: book the plane tickets and fly down one morning, stay one night and fly back the next day. Clean, simple, very little could go wrong. And there were no costs for me. Logical you would say.

But I decided to ride my bike down. 12 hours riding and 4 hours ferry travel one way.

And that is where it all started; My current bike is not completed yet. It is a Yamaha XV750 that I was half way down the customising road with. Still needed much done. But as the decision was made close to two months before the trip I had heaps of time. Too much actually… I kept my self busy completing other projects as I knew I had all that time to get my bike done; I completed my youngest sons dirt bike, I worked on my car, I fixed up another car that had been sitting for some time and sold it, I helped others with their projects, and so on.

Then one day, two weeks before it was time to ride down, I got stuck in. But inside a few days I realised that it would never happen, there was too much to be done and I had no intentions riding something half done. Dilemma; I had told everyone who wanted to listen that I would ride down. And I was really looking forward to the ride. So what now?

My oldest son owns a Honda NV400 that he had crashed 6 months ago. He broke a leg and the bike had a twisted frame. The bone healed, but the bike needed more then to be put in a cast to fix it.

I had already a few months ago picked up a cheap second bike for parts. It had all that I needed. So plan B was borne: After 6 months of “I get that bike sorted tomorrow”, tomorrow had arrived. More specifically, it was now Sunday and I had six days until I needed to be on the road…

I got stuck in that Sunday and then took two days off my real job (that pays for all this) to complete the bike. I spent nights sanding and painting and any spare time swapping bits between the two. Daytime I would source bits I realised I was missing: handbrake and clutch leaver, bulbs, screws and some rubber bungs. And on Friday one day before I needed to be on the road she was completed (well almost, I had taken two shortcuts, but more about them later…)

Time for WOF and REGO. I rode her to the testing station. As I was standing there in the line waiting for my turn, I realised that I had not put a nut on the bolt holding the muffler. So I did quickly run across to “Super Cheap Autos” and spent $7,95 on a pack with four bolts and four nuts, fitted one nut as tight as I could with my fingers and put the rest in my pocket for a rainy day.

Then a chap with an English accent became the first person that proves why logic has nothing to do with bike riding: He was my inspector and wanted to fail me for not having the rear footpegs mounted. He reasoned that as the bike has a twin seat it MUST have two sets of footpegs. I explained that it was my sons and he was on a restricted license, therefore he was not allowed to have a pillion, and the pegs also annoyingly rattled, so we had removed them. I told him that I was travelling to Timaru the next morning with the bike and coming back in to Napier would delay my trip. I soon realised that he had no idea where Te Awanga was, so to his question how much time it would take I stretched the truth a fraction and answered “over one hour”. (I have done Te Awanga – Napier return on a bike in 20 minutes…) I also promised to fit the footpegs straight away. And to his credit he is clearly a decent chap as he passed me, but warned that “next time…” What he did not notice was that I had swapped the frame as the original one was bent… And the footpegs, straight away is a relative term…

Back home I decided that all was fine, and I would do some final work the next day: The muffler bolt and the new nut had gone missing on the way back from the testing station and had now most probably smashed in to a car radiator, so I would fit a new set and make sure they were tightened properly. I had also purchased new oil and a filter. The packrack needed straightening and fitting. Easy, I told my self. I sort that in less then one hour and I be gone long before midday.

At 3pm next day I was finally all packed and ready after the new oil filter was not sealing properly and I had to make a rubber seal; the pack rack was harder to straighten properly than what I had expected and I found that the special hex bolt, that by now was at the police station for fingerprinting, was the only one I had…

But at 3.12pm I texted Shirley in Wellington, who had, without ever meeting me, offered her sofa for me to crash on until I would board the ferry. She is a biker, so there was no logic, just gut feeling…

I rode to Havelock North 10 minutes from my home without any incidents and filled the petrol tank. I then pointed her out from the village and opened the throttle…and suddenly the front wheel locked up. At 70k/h it is not a major, but I can think of more fun things (having your fingernails pulled comes to mind…). Probably as a result of the quality road surface and my skill (read: LUCK!!!) she stopped and apart from the black line stretching some 15 meters behind me you would have had a hard job figuring out that my Guardian Angel was an alert chicky!

I put the bike on the central stand, grabbed the two cans of V I had purchased for later and skulled them (Luckily I had no JD in my pack…)

After some contemplating I decided that who needs front brakes anyhow and disconnected the hose hoping that it would release the solid wheel. And it did. So after 15 minutes, two times trying to piss (I put it down to my prostate as no way would I ever admit that my nerves had got rattled!), and some explaining to my oldest sons mates parents (that just had to come past!) what I was up to, I was off again.

15 k’s down the road the temperature was at red (she is a water-cooled girl) and somewhere in the back of my head the word “logic” was bouncing around and getting louder. I allowed her to cool down and turned back home. But if you were thinking that I was giving up you have clearly never seen me replace a Holden motor and a gearbox alone in the middle of the night without a crane while the city sleeps.

I was back home at 5pm. I parked her and got to work. My ex, who was staying at my place to look after our boys, who all live fulltime with me, just looked at me and left me alone. There are many reasons we are ex’es, and me not accepting defeat was one of her reasons. One of mine was her lack of belief in my ability to always conquer whatever life throws in my way.

You remember the two shortcuts I mentioned earlier? Well, they both came back to bite me. I had used the front wheel from the parts bike as it was still attached to the forks (saves time I reasoned) and also the radiator that was fitted to the frame (saves even more time I reasoned).

At 8pm when I finally got going I calculated that my “saves time” had cost me 5 hours less the one hour I had saved by not swapping the parts in the first place. I was now 8 hours behind schedule. But taken all in to account, it was much better then the option of using logic and taking the car. Or the other option of spending a couple of weeks in hospital if the front wheel had locked at 120k/h in a corner…

I texted Shirley again telling her I was on my way. Her reply: “Sweet, txt me when in Welly”. Did I mention I like bikers?

The sun had started to pull up the blankets for the night. And I quickly realised that the high beam adjustment was far to low. I could have high beam on all the time and nobody would flash their lights. That was the only advantage. The downside was that I often would hit the brakes (remember; front brake working again!) when suddenly a turn would pop up from nowhere. But it was cold and I was focused, so nah. We soldier on. And I did.

I got down to Welly at 12.30AM. Against the wishes of a Pukeko and a Possum that are now in their respective heavens. The Pukeko was a sole warrior, but the Possums clearly have telepathic abilities, as their roadkill mate had sent them a message to avenge him. But they really have to learn new tricks. Doing the freeze is so old. (One of them would have woken up the next day with the mark of a size 13 army boot in his forehead).

The ones of you who have been to Welly would recognise this: Where the motorway starts, so does the rain. I had my leather pants and jacket on and I could see nothing through my sunnies. (Yes I know, but I am an oldtime biker; open face and black leathers!) So I did what I always do; pick a set of red car rear lights and follow. If I am lucky enough they are going where I want to go. The times they have not has become interesting…

I pealed off at a Caltex station close to the city and phoned Shirley (Why text when you can talk???) She told me where she would stand waiting. Opposite a New World Supermarket. “Straight ahead” she said. And there she was waiting at 12.45AM in the rain for a biker she had never met, only emailed a few times and talked to once!

I parked the bike in a small alley next to the 4storey building and she took me in. Yep, you guessed it, she lives at top floor and there is no elevator!

When we got to her studio apartment I was introduced to the owner: A small moggy with a face that indicated she also rides bikes but had forgotten to brake when coming up to a truck. As I have no memory (as indicated in the beginning of this tale) I have no idea what the orange fluffy things name was, but something Egyptian would definetley be purposeful.

The moggy sniffed me once, looked at me and decided that I did not belong there. (I have a dislike for cats. As a result 3 stray cats have moved in to my place totally disregarding my “piss off, I don’t like you!”)

Shirley then showed me where I could dry my gear (amazingly my leather pants were totally dry! After been pelted with water the size of pebbles for 30 minutes! Considering that I have owned them for close to 20 years and done nothing apart from wear them, there is clearly something to learn here! Oh, did I mention that I am proud I can still fit them…).

I am a clumsy man. And I managed to step in to the pussy’s water dish… (my socks are clearly not made by the same crowd who made my pants!) I also crushed my sunnies that some idiot had left on the floor! (But I always travel prepared: I have three pairs. Just in case…)

Luckily as I was sober I did not put my foot in to anything else. We chatted to after 3AM. Shirley has my full admiration. She has more demons to fight then a family of Vampire slayers. Somehow I think that being a biker is what keeps her going. (When I dream I often dream of a country where only bikers are allowed to live! I also have this idea re a Biker only political party. Something like “Biker Strength”, or the “BS Party” for short… )

6.45AM the alarm pulled me from the arms of a Egyptian princess with catlike eyes (anyone know how to put dreams on hold?). After some yummy toast, a cuppa and a hug, I was on my way to the ferry.

$107.00 later I was riding towards where I could enter the ferry. There was a long line of cars and I was planning to sit in the line (Honestly! Would I ever jump a line?) But then the rain got heavy and I passed them all, stopped, flashed my ticket, smiled at the lady in the boot and I was on my way to the ferry.

As I entered the last checkpoint a car just left the chap. I stopped and he took my ticket and then told me: “Watch those guys in that car as they want to smash your head in for jumping the line…” then continued: “It’s not nice to pass the others, people don’t like it”

What was I supposed to say? “I have been naughty, I go back to the last place and start again!” Or perhaps: “What was I thinking! Now I will never get to heaven!” At 7.15AM my brain does not come up with anything fancy, so I told him: “It’s raining, fuck em!!” They never eventuated.

I tied up the bike as instructed. Luckily Shirley had done this before and she gave me a set of tiedowns, as the ones the ferry provided were as useful as a chocolate teapot. (She had also lent me a set of dry riding gloves!)

There were two other bikers on the ferry. While I was strapping the NV400 to the deck, and they had already completed the task, the female was looking at me and then said smiling: “I used to have one of those…” I never managed to figure out if it was an opening or a closing of the doors. As her travelling companion was a very likeable chap I did not try to find them on the ship. But if you are reading this…

Apart from that the crossing was a non-event. There was a bunch of German girls that were all around the place. I was sitting there in my wet leathers and waiting for the trip to be over. I had no problem with them commenting that I am old. I know that I am. I had no problem with them wondering if I had drugs. I knew I had none. But when one of them started wondering about the bulge in my leather pants I had to clarify: “Ich habe keine Socke in dort” Sadly none of them came to confirm.

After the ferry landed it was straight down to Timaru. The road between Picton and Christchurch is a joy to travel on a bike. I have always liked Kaikoura and it was filled with tourists. I decided to stay there a few days on the way back. I also managed to hit a swarm of bees. They do not taste anything like honey…

But Christchurch to Timaru is a bore. Straight roads. No action.

I got to Timaru and realised I had no idea where I was booked in. So I went to the centrum and parked. What has always surprised me in NZ is how dead city centres are. There is a handful of people walking, but that’s it. And Timaru followed the mould.

I found my Motel and two nights and two days was spent on work.

Came Tuesday afternoon. The conference finished at 12 noon. And there is a promise of heaps of rain travelling up from the south. So it was a no-brainer. I needed to be home to take over from my ex by Thursday 4pm. And now it was Tuesday noon. I packed up and headed for Kaikoura.

The bike was running well. After the initial issues the only thing I had to attend was the speedo cable falling out. Just push in and tighten the screw and solved. I had travelled at 120 – 130k/h all the way. OK, so coming from Harley and Triumph background it took a few hours to get used to 5,000-6,000 revs. ( 120k/h in my book is max 3,500 revs!) But clearly she was made to do this and happily kept it up. So once the initial concerns disappeared it was all go. I even found my self taking her up to 8,000 at a few times. (She red-lines at 10,000, but no way was I going there! A V twin doing 10,000 revs. Forget it!!!)

I had managed to stay ahead of the rain. I had just passed Oaro (About 75 k south of Kaikoura) I was sitting on 120K/h. And on a straight (luckily!!!) the backend started to wobble. It got bad and I stopped.

Yep. Flat tyre! I looked but could not find any nails or similar, so I came to the conclusion that it was the heat/valve.

I did some thinking. I could have her on idle and push towards Kaikoura (I was thinking 5 – 10k, it was 65…). I could do the same and go back. Or I could try to get a lift and get one of those “fix the puncture” spray cans.

Option 3 was the logical decision (see, logic still plays a part…)

I pushed the bike behind some bushes so it could not be seen from the road. I took my helmet (always have your helmet if you want a lift!! You be surprised how many people are bikers at heart!!) and walked out on the road deciding to hitch hike to Kaikoura (remember that I was thinking I was close…)

Pig hunter/sheep farmer Paul was the first one to pass and stop his car. He asked what was up. I explained and he told me that it was approx 45 min to Kaikoura and I be better to go back to Oaro that I had passed 10 minutes ago. (He had just been to the petrol station there to get some ciggies and did see me go past). I say thanks and cross the road to hitch hike in the other diredtion.

Paul drives up the road and turns round, comes back and stops. He says: “I have a weak spot for a biker in distress”. Turns out that he had a loved sporty a few years earlier before kids and child support changed his life. We talk bikes while he takes me to Oaro. There I try to buy that magic spray. But they have none!

The owner, John, asks me to bring the wheel and he will sort it! So Paul takes me back, I take the wheel off (The NV has a shaft drive. I love them!!!) and he offers to take me back again and be there until I am sorted! I have a new friend!

John and I see that there is a 2 ½ inch split in the tyre and so he takes it off the rim. Inside is a totally shredded tube. We discuss the options. He has no 18” tyres, but a 17” tube. So we decide that he will try to fix the split as good as possible and then fit the 17” tube. When all is done he charges me $40 for the lot!! I like him too!!

Back at the bike I fit the wheel. Paul and I have discussed more bikes and we realise that we might know same people; He is close to the Jokers SC from Ashburton that are holding their annual show the following weekend. Small world!

We shake hands, I give Paul my details and I ask him to come for a visit when in HB.

The tyre is no good for normal speeds, so I settle for riding at 60 – 70k/h. I stop now and then to check, but the tyre holds up well.

I get to Kaikoura and I have my plan all sorted: I stay two nights, Thursday when my salary goes in to my account I buy a new tyre and then I be home in HB Thursday afternoon. Painless and all happy!

I am looking forward to that. Heaps of tourists, places to sit and watch the world go past. And who knows, perhaps…

Then I get a text from my ex…

“Fuck U need 2 be home 2moro I need 2 work” Another reason why she is my ex. Lack of compassion. I ring her and try to reason, I tell her that I need a tyre, that I don’t have the money and that the plan was that I was to be back Thursday afternoon… I get slammed, told I don’t care about anyone and that “she always knew that I was useless on fixing bikes…” I hang up while she strangles my Kaikoura plan and so I decide to travel to Picton that night.

I have been told that the last ferry goes at 10pm. It is now 9pm. Even if I had a good tyre it would have been a lost cause.

So I travel at 60k/h to Picton planning painful ways to kill her slowly…

I arrive at 11.30PM. I ride down to where vehicles go on the ferry as there is a ferry being loaded. (I have an inborn disregard for signs saying “Do not enter!”) I chat to a few people asking if I can add my bike and me, but they are all truckies and have no say.

Then at last a little bit of luck my way: I am pointed towards a chap in blue T-shirt. Apparently he has some knowledge. Turns out that Russell is working in the harbour and his job is to load trailers on the ferry.

“Sorry” he says. “You have a shit show getting on this one. But at 2AM Monte Stello will depart and you might be able to get on that one. I should not tell you this, but if you go and see Bill at the “Straight Shipping” office he might let you get on. He is normally quite relaxed.”

So I ride to the office. I walk in to see Bill. I already have a sob story ready re my bitch of ex and my poor kids alone at home.

“Hi” I say. “I have a dilemma….”
“You want to get across?” Bill asks.
“Yes” I say.
“Done” he says.

I really want to tell him my story as it is a good one. But he is too busy. He charges me $69.00 and that includes free food and a cabin. I will never travel across any other way again!!!

I sit outside his office watching the trucks come and go and I chat to a driver who tells me he spends two weeks of the month away from home. He loves his wife and their two girls, who love to sleep in the bed while he is away. He is also a good one to tell my sob story to and he wonders how a mother could leave her children alone at their dad’s home just because he can not get there in time…

Shirley sends me a text asking if I need a place for the night. Time of arrival is un-important. I reply telling her re my plan, and she tells me to have a sleep.

I load the bike at 1.30AM and I am the only non-truckie. I go to my cabin, #600, where I find a simple set-up with two single beds and a small toilet/shower.

There is a knock on my door at 5.15AM. I put my gear on and walk in to the “restaurant”. A young chap asks me if I want a cooked brekkie. I say yes and 5 min later I am presented with 2 fried eggs, 2 sausages, bean on toast and some bacon. OK, so it would never win any competitions. But it's free and will make a nice shit!

While the ferry is finalising it’s reversing in to the harbour we are told we can go to our vehicles. I have a chat with a Murray who is working in the loading deck, and he tells me that they often have bikes on-board. Only when they transport dangerous goods will you be left ashore.

I follow a truck out from the area and as soon as I hit the motorway I am back to 70k/h.

12.30PM I arrive at my home.

There is no logic to travels like this. But logic has nothing to do with it. My memory is crap, but I can remember all bike travels I have ever made. And this one is up there. If I had taken the plane I would by now have forgotten the trip.

When we are old and sit in that rocking chair on the porch, the only thing we will have are memories. How sad if there is nothing to remember.

Start building memories. Perhaps that is the logic in all this??

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  1. gijoe1313's Avatar
    Outstanding. What a legendary ride. Those are the sorts of moments that define motorcycling to me, I love your stream of consciousness and the narrative makes me see the scene in detail so clearly.

    Thanks for sharing and making it so enjoyable.
  2. Spyke's Avatar
    Marvellous road trip!!! Bloody good to hear you made it in one peice! sounded like an interesting and non logistical plan.

    Great write up.

  3. KoroJ's Avatar
    Good encourages me to stick to the ST and and continue to leave my servicings in the hands of the experts. Does bring back a few nostalgic memories that are best left in the past but!