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There and Back Again - Another Hobbit's Tail

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From: 19-20/03/16

Things have been pretty busy lately, both at work and on the biking front, doing prep work for this year’s Nth Island 1600 in October. My big job in that area right now has been fine-tuning a route, then preparing the Rider’s Guide, which was all but done except for the sample checkpoint photos, (although it did have streetview photos in there for now)… So a plan evolved.

I decided to have a big weekend away, riding both the NI1600 and the NI800 back to back to get all the photos in one hit. The plan was to leave home at about 0800 on the Friday morning, get to Turangi by 1130, then continue straight into one ride (thinking that it might be best to do the 800 first), have a sleep overnight, then start the 1600 and continue straight home Sunday. That would be 1100+ Friday and 1900+ Saturday-Sunday ….but alas the best laid plans of mice and men!?

The weather for Friday was looking like crap, so the plan altered and I dropped the 800 and worked Friday, but would leave home at 0800 Saturday morning and go straight into the 1600. Then the plan evolved further as it occurred to me that, “Who (in their right mind) would have ever done a continuous return trip the full length of the North Island?” (that’s about 1100km each way). Steve and I did Cape Reinga to Wellington in 12 hours on the 2009 Southern Cross, so this would just be the next step!?

I’ve never been a Boy Scout, but I packed a bag with overnight gear anyway and hit the road just before 0800 with several options. a) to complete the NI1600 within 24 hours, which would get me all the CP pix and free me up to be a volunteer in October. b) ride from Wellington to Cape Reinga and back in one hit. …Oh yes, and did I mention that the route would include a scoot around the Kawhia Harbour! …just for good measure!

Sedate and easy was the plan ….but the best laid plans of mice and men!?

I hit the Plimmerton roundabout, transitioning from 50-60 kph to 100kph in a wonderful state of lean, then cruised up the two lanes within the allowable limits, passing a few cars and trucks as I passed Whenuatapu, where I noted a car and ute in front of me and some bogan in a big Holden or Ford, gaining on my rear. I figured I didn’t want him passing me and it would be quite good to get by the other two before Pukerua Bay and then the 80kph zone, so I tweaked it a bit.

I hauled in the ute as we hit the single lane but he left me plenty of room, so I slid past, then the same thing happened with the car ….and then the bogan turned his lovely array of lights on!!! FFS! Talk about shit Trev! …well, not really …I just had that big sinking feeling and considered what a dickhead I was. *Sigh*

…Apparently I hit 117kph and a quick bit of mental arithmetic figured that was worth about 35 points, on top of the 55 I was already sitting on. Hmmm…90 points and my licence was hanging by a thread. The man asked if the bike was mine, had my licence and was on the phone or radio or whatever, but I was still plugged up and helmeted so I couldn’t really hear what was going on, then he returned the licence, made some comment about obviously being experienced on the big truck and gave me a warning about being more considerate to the lesser mortals stuck in their cars!!!!!????? Well bugger me! I was gob-smacked! I can only assume that he had followed me for a bit, observing the generally sedate mode, then the unconventional but legal passing manoeuvers …and he was a senior man and not a young wannabe in search of a good quota?

So I got off …but I did lose about 50 places in the queue! And so my quest resumed.

I took the most sedate and easy riding route up SH1, arriving in Turangi at 1130 and because the bike was only down one bar when I left home, I still had three bars to go, so decided to continue to Taumarunui to fill on BP98 and get a discount. More easy riding and I activated the Glympse at Taumarunui, sending it to Hitcher, James and Ann (I didn’t have Mike’s number).

More easy riding and I was pulling into Te Kuiti BP Truckstop to take the first CP pic, and now my ride was going to be fun, once I turned off to go past Waitomo. And so it was. I had a great time as I made my way past Te Anga to my next stop, which was the Kinohaku Hall at the start of the Kawhia Harbour. Pic taken, relief sought, snack snacked and water gulped and I continued. …and it was marvelous, even if I did encounter more than my fair share of March Roadworks.

In no time at all I was around the harbour, heading in toward Otorohanga, then onto SH39, through Ngaruawahia and rejoining SH1 at Rangiriri for the trudge up the Auckland motorway to my next stop at BP Orewa.

This has been timed to be a manned CP and will pull the ride away from the toll road, and according to my research, it was time to don the wets. Because of grabbing the extra 70 km to Taumaranui on the last fuel stop, I also didn’t need to fill so cruised on to Wellsford and that would make it an easy haul to Kaitaia. So another stop at Wellsford and I tried to reset the Glympse for another 4 hour stint but it wouldn’t oblige, so that was that. …and it was still dry …and I was cooking a bit, but I didn’t take the skivvy off because it would be night soon and get cold …yeah right!

So on-on through Whangarei, Kawakawa, onto SH10 and up to the next CP at BP Kaeo. It was supposed to be dark by now, but I hadn’t accounted for the differential between Wellington and Northland, or the 1½ Hrs earlier than normal start, so it was dull, but still in dusk mode. …and although I’d encountered sporadic bursts of precipitation, it still wasn’t raining …suited me!

Photo taken and more snacking etc, and I was on my way again. I’d been this way at about midnight on the 2007 GC, albeit in the other direction, and it was delightful to note that at times I was riding along the coast, although it was getting a bit dark to see at this time and I was soon heading north from Awanui on SH1 again.

It was around this time that I straight-lined as I approached a massive wet slick section that encompassed the full width of the road and was about 10-15mtrs long. Holy Shit, I thought, as the front wheel, attired with brand new T30 did a shimmy on me! ..and I was just starting to like these tyres!

The rear has been on for a few thousand Km, but the front was just fitted a couple of weeks ago and I shit myself on the first corner after fitment, when it felt like the rear was going to step out. That was most disconcerting and it took a few days before I realized that the contour on the front was more vee-shaped than the Z8’s I’ve been running and that was resulting in the bike being keener to drop into the corners. I’m used to that now, but to feel the front do a left-right slide as I’m dead-vertical and heading dead-straight was NOT a nice feeling! …especially when the roads I’m riding are littered with exceptionally wide sections of slick wet tar!

Oh well, get over it and focus on the job in hand. It was now dark, more wet than dry and I had a new problem as well. The glare from the road signs was so bad that I was often having to dip my lights …for bloody road signs!

The upside being, one generally couldn’t see the slicks!

A bit over an hour on SH1 and I was pulling onto the carpark at the ‘end of the road’. I half-pie (or should that be ½п) expected to see the odd freedom-camper parked up there, but it was totally deserted, and totally black with not a single light anywhere. That made it marginal to get a photo of the archway and there wasn’t even a light in the dunnys, but fortunately I carry a couple of LED torches, so I didn’t have any issues seeking relief …and I was over halfway (825 into the 1633km and 1150+ km total …and about 11hours into the 1600 and 14.5hrs all up on the bike)…and I was heading for Kaitaia.

It still wasn’t raining badly but the weather was getting worse so more care was required and the pace reduced.

I got to Kaitaia Mobil, filled, took the CP photo, fluffed around cleaning the visor etc and set out for the Mangamuka Gorge. It’s been a few years and it was just dry enough to enjoy a reasonably spirited pace and then I was into uncharted territory as I turned off from Kaikohe to take the road via Twin Bridges and the next CP. But the combination of weather, roads and marginal vision in the conditions had my average speed closer to 90 than 100 kph. Not a problem though as long as one keeps progressing at a steady pace.

When I departed from Wellington in the morning, the GPS ETA (for Turangi) was 0645 (plus stops), but I was shaving more time off the ETA than I was expending at the stops, so by the time I got to Orewa, the ETA was down to 0604, however, I was now back to about 0640 and gradually losing, or barely holding time on the road. This was compounded by the combination of requiring more time at the stops to stave off the effects of fatigue (thanks to the 3½ hrs tacked on to the start) and the weather requiring more time spent on visor etc.

This is just a fact of life that one lives with in the world of Distance Riding, and the key is not to get silly and try to make the time up. After all, I had 24 hours to do the 1600, so time wasn’t an issue …and I just plodded on.

Twin Bridges proved to be another lightless black, damp hole but I managed a pic and made my way back to SH1 just south of Whangarei, then back down to Wellsford, where I took the turn towards Hellensville, but turned onto Peak Rd to cut down to the next CP at Z Kumeu. After that it was more motorway riding to the last CP and fuelstop at BP Bombay before hitting the last 280km for the 1600.

By the time I left there, my ETA was out to 0748 and I determined that I was back to easy riding and would try to get to Turangi by 0730, for a 20 hour time on the 1000miler. This did two things because the fatigue was getting worse. It dragged me back into ‘the zone’ whereby one’s heightened focus helps stave off the effects of fatigue, and setting and monitoring the goal and progress also kept the brain occupied and more alert.

The weather was much drier through here as well so my motorway scoot back to Rangiriri was steady, the fang down Te Ohaki and Hakarimata Rds was rapid, then the trek back down SH39, over to Te Awamutu and onto Kihikihi was steady. More steady through Waipapa Rd to Whakamaru and it was getting lighter and quicker down the Western Lake road and voila, I was back at Z Turangi by 0730 to photograph the odo and the bike in front of the sign.

Decision Time: I had now done about 1967km in 23½ hours. I was buggered. Would I stop or continue?

Being a drongo from wayback, I had a goal and I knew I could do it …and I could be home before lunch. I wouldn’t need gas until Bulls, but my new plan was for longer and more frequent stops, so the ride would now become a series of short hops, with decisions made on the fly.

It was still only 13° so the first plan was to stop at Waiouru to remove the wets, then Taihape for fuel.

The skies were clear by Waiouru, but the temp was only up to 14°, the heated grips were still on, so I continued and the plan changed to remove the wets at Taihape.

By Taihape the temp was still down and I didn’t need gas, …and I felt OK so I shifted the stop to Hunterville.

Hunterville came and went and the plan was now a definite fuel etc stop at BP Bulls. …and I pulled in there pretty shattered.

I took plenty of time filling then peeling the wets off, snacking, drinking and finally, struggling to throw the leg back over because my rear inner thighs were feeling the effects of 26 hours on the seat …but otherwise I actually felt pretty good as I seemed to be bouncing into a second wind.

…so from here on in it was easy going and I felt quite alert. This was probably thanks to the traffic and having plenty to occupy one’s mind doing the normal stuff and by 1132 I was hauling my sorry arse up the drive!

I put the bike away in the garage, unpacked and dragged myself up the steps to collapse on the couch. …and that was my day pretty much done.

I had a snack to accompany the most delicious nespresso coffee, exhaled and felt pretty smug. I’d just ridden to Cape Reinga in back, with the Kawhia Harbour thrown in for good measure. I’d only done 2267km and it had taken me 27.5hrs …but I’d just ridden from one end of the island to the other…and back! …and I’d just completed my 2nd 1000 miler for the year! …and my 10th in total! I had a moving time of 25:15 for a moving average of 90kph and an overall average of 82kph. The top speed was a little higher than expected …but that must have been a blip, or an aberration because the GPS has been playing up lately!!??

Bugger me! I relaxed, dozed a little, watched TV and finally went to bed at 2130 to watch some more TV, then awoke out of a coma at 0300 to turn the TV off, then got wrenched out of a coma at 0600 to turn the alarm off, then drifted out of the slumber at 0735. …and I still felt pretty good but the worst part was …now I couldn’t tell anybody until after the NI1600 in October …except of course a few non-bikey type mates and family that wouldn’t have a clue and would just think I’m a dumb bastard anyway!

Whilst reveling in my smugness, I recalled that while riding in the middle of the night…??....Ok, at about 3 in the morning, as I was frolicking through the drizzle, carefully picking my lines through the abundance of slick, deadly macadam which was conspiring with the blinding road signs to try to put me on my arse, a question randomly popped into my mind. “What the hell are you doing this for?” As quick as a flash, certainly in no more than half a heartbeat and perhaps as quick as a quarter of a wrist pulse, the answer manifested, “Because no one else, or not many if any will have!” There was probably another retort that got lost in translation or buried under the myriad of activity being dealt with, that would have gone something like, “But why would they want to!!??”

A day or two later when talking to a mate, he asked, “Would you do it again?” and once again, the answer just slipped off the tongue, “Umm…Yeah….but in good weather as I’d like to do it in under 24hours!!”

Bugger Me! Us Distance Rider bikers are a sorry arsed lot!
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  1. KoroJ's Avatar
    This ride was from when I pre-rode this years North Island 1600 ...but I couldn't post it because the route was a secret.