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Thread: Dougie's Grand Challenge Report

  1. #1
    Join Date
    15th November 2005 - 10:09
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    Dougie's Grand Challenge Report

    Question: It’s 3 in the morning, torrential rain and you are somewhere north of Auckland on an unfamiliar road. What do you do?
    Answer: Keep going - it’s the Grand Challenge!

    After some years of thinking I decided to head north to Turangi this year for my first ‘Grand Challenge” This is a yearly event in its 21st year that is run by the Rusty Nuts Motorcycle Club. The idea is to run 1000 Miles (1610km) in 24 hours – starting and finishing in Turangi.

    Preparation

    The bike you are going to do this run on has to be well prepared. Full working wet weather gear is a must, and I packed a few other items that I don’t normally carry. A First Aid Kit, Tow Rope and Tie Downs, Torch and Maps of various scales. The ST1300 was given a good check over before departure. Others do practice rides leading up to the event, but I didn’t do any. In fact the last time I had ridden a decent distance was in April on the Southern Cross Rally. I had done a lot of reading on the do’s and don’t’
    s - and it seemed nearly everyone I spoke to had a different strategy!

    I left Wellington with John (KoroJ – another ST rider and fellow Ulyssian) at 1030 on Friday 12th. We had a leisurely trip north via the Wairarapa, Manawatu Gorge and Vinegar Hill arriving in Turangi at about 3.00pm. Then it was straight in to scrutineering. Brian “Rusty” gave the bike a thorough check over. And I do mean thorough. The theory is (and rightly so) that the bike should be capable of doing the run again when it finishes 1000 Miles. Therefore tyres, brakes etc have to have 3200km worth of wear left on them; all electrical equipment is checked and must be working. There is even a turntable to accurately check steering head bearings. I nervously waited while he looked over/around/under the bike and eventually gave me the thumbs up.
    The map showing the route goes up at 7.00pm on the Friday night. Then it is out with the maps for a careful tracing of the route and calculating of fuel stops. Missed turns and wrong routes can cost you a lot of time and extra km on this event. That done it was time for a quiet beer or two and a catch up with some riders that had been on the Southern Cross. Sleep that night was very broken – the anticipation was huge..

    A nice cooked breakfast Saturday morning started the day off. Then it was back to the map for final confirmation and fuel calculations. I managed to have a break away from the camp for a couple of hours. When I returned just after midday, the mood at the camp had changed. People were milling around in hushed conversation, gear was being checked and rechecked, and final route knowledge preparations were being made. The tension in the air in the last hour was electric. A quick photo with the fellow Ulyssians on the ride at 2:15, and then the riders briefing was at 2:30pm. It covered important things like timings and road works. Also mentioned was the extension for this year’s trip. To qualify, you had to complete the 1000 miles by 9:30am. That was 18hrs 23mins after my start time. I took a mental note that I would see how I was going at Kaitaia. I couldn’t do the extension, as this was my 1st Grand Challenge, but I thought it might be fun to see if I could qualify anyway. John was booked in for the extension, so I thought I could do him a favour by pushing him along a bit too.

    3.00pm came and the first riders were away. I had decided to start the trip in my full wet weather gear, as I had studied the weather carefully and rain was anticipated. Final adjustments to gear and I was away bang on time at 3.07. The first leg took us around the west of Lake Taupo towards Tokoroa and then on to one of many rural side roads to the first time check at Puketurua. 144km travelled. I had caught up with John by now, and we managed to stick with a group of 7 odd bikes through to the first checkpoint at Paeroa via Te Araroa Road. 250 km run.

    This is where the ST’s had a distinct advantage. We were nowhere near needing fuel at 250km run, so it was a quick clip of the check in ticket and carry on. I lost John on the next Section (SH2 & SH1 to Auckland) so I carried on riding by myself for quite a while. In fact this was the last time I rode with another bike until Auckland on my way back! I stopped for fuel at the motorway services just north of Auckland. At each fuel stop it was a banana and a bite sized Moro bar. I was very glad of a 2 litre ‘camel back’ water system tucked in to the back of my jacket, so I could have some water any time I wanted it. This saved me a hell of a lot of time at and between stops. By this time the weather has really turned nasty. The rain was torrential, and it was just getting dark. From here it was pretty much wet/greasy road all the way to the finish. The road north to Dargaville was challenging. By now the traffic was very scarce, so I was able to open up the ST a little on the straights bearing in mind the wet roads, rain and by now the wind was also starting to pick up. Once again, I just got the ticket clipped at Checkpoint 2 at Dargaville and just carried on – 556km run
    Regards

    DougieNZ
    J'Ville
    Wellington

  2. #2
    Join Date
    15th November 2005 - 10:09
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    Part 2

    I knew that fuel would be tight, but calculated that I would hopefully make the next checkpoint at Kaitaia on my remaining fuel. It was after the Dargaville Checkpoint that I had my first real “moment” of the trip. I was doing about 110 when I came across a load of wet cow shit on the road. There is nothing like that 2 wheel drift feeling. I throttled off and waited for the ST to find her feet. Gladly it did, but I think it was a very close thing. That gave me a real fright. This was an amazing piece of road. Narrow, winding and bush clad. There were also very strong winds to contend with in the open sections, and bits off trees littered the road at various locations. Gladly, the road eventually comes back to normality. I was a little concerned about fuel so stopped for a quick “splash and dash” at Kaikohe. As it worked out, I would have made Kaitaia, but the quick stop did do a lot to ease my mind about the fuel situation. It was then a quick trip through the Mangamukas to Kaitaia. Wet or dry, day or night this has to be one of my favourite stretches of road in the country. I remembered it fondly from the Southern Cross Rally. It certainly did not disappoint this time either. Arrived at Kaitaia just before midnight – 789km run.

    As I pulled up to Kaitaia, I saw John just getting geared up to continue, and wished him well. It was just before midnight, so a quick calculation said that both John and I were on budget to get back to Turangi by the 0930 extension cut off. A quick Pie and fill up and it was off again in to the night. Some idiot had put cones across the road at the turn off to SH 10 at Awanui. I weaved through those and set off south. It was nice to be heading south again and I remember this did a fair bit for morale. Road and weather conditions were favourable, so I was pushing it along again on this road. Then it was straight down SH1 to Wellsford and the turn off to SH16. I have often heard the Aucklanders talking about this road, and it certainly deserves the good reputation it has. A nice mixture of corners makes this an excellent motorcycling road. Like many we travelled on during this run, I would have liked to ride it in daylight on a sunny day! Once again approaching Auckland the heavy rain started.

    I missed the turn off for the Western Link Motorway and travelled a km up the road before realising my mistake after wondering why all the signs said “North Shore”. A quick backtrack and it was on to the motorway. The more tired you get, the harder it is to navigate. No doubt about that. But it’s all part of the challenge. Travelling along the Motorway, John pulled up alongside. I was a little surprised to have passed him, but found later that he had done a detour through Albany! We travelled together to the Bombay Service Centre and next Checkpoint 1202 km run

    A quick fuel up and we decided to quickly consult the map prior to departure. We calculated our route and turn offs. I was a little conscious here that a wrong turn could see a lot of additional k’s added to the trip. This was really playing on my mind, as I omitted to do something quite important! More of that later…

    So it was off in to the night again and on to the ‘back road’ through to Ngaruawahia. I must describe this road as … curious. I had been warned already that the Rustys tended to put you on a lot of windy roads – particularly when you were starting to get tired, and this was no different. This was nasty, windy, greasy SOB of a road. All manners of wildlife were present. Some of which I recognised, and some of which I didn’t! Maybe this was the start of the hallucinogenic stages. It was about an hour down this road that I realised that I hadn’t paid for the fuel at Bombay… ARRGGHHH!! I imagined an APB being put out for this guy in the bright flouro gear. It wouldn’t have taken a rocket scientist to track me down, that’s for sure! I was so nervous that I stopped at Ngaruawahia and rang the service station with my credit card details to sort the bill out. Gladly, though, I later found out that one of the Rusty’s at the checkpoint had sorted things for me. Arrest for “theft” could have been an interesting end to my trip! Phone call over, and it was southwards on familiar roads to the turn off to Ohura.

    Now this was about when the wrists and butt were starting to get quite sore. Thousands of gear changes and throttle positions had certainly taken their toll. Now was the time for straight roads and to relax in to the final 10% of the trip. YEAH RIGHT! The ‘Rusty’ sense of humour strikes again. Once again it is windy, undulating roads that seem to never end! When we checked in to Ohura, I calculated that we were slightly behind ‘budget’ for the finish. John must have realised the same thing, as the pace was picked up slightly. It is about now that fatigue and stiffness is really starting to set in. Those tight corners that you would normally enjoy and pick lines for quite easily become a real chore. After 60km of torture we finally emerged in to the run home, which was done at a decent clip. We pulled up at 9:07am, which made it 18hrs for me and 18hrs 7mins for John. We were 7/8th home out of about 110 starters. Unbelievably, John then disappeared to do the 500km extension to Foxton return. This left me to have a well earned beer, and head off for a change and shower. After a small sleep, I went back in time to welcome John in off the extension. A huge achievement for him given that only 4 riders completed it. 3 were riding ST’s – a testament to the electric screen I believe! Some more sleep and then a very enjoyable few beers/bourbons with Pete (Shafty), John (KoroJ) and others, and an uneventful trip home the next day.

    On the trip home, I could hardy keep the smile off my face. Achieving this rally and earning your badge IS a big thing, and I loved every minute of it. Those that completed the rally (and the extension) in those difficult conditions deserve respect.

    Now looking forward to my next challenge. Chatto Creek Here I come!

    BIG thanks to nadroj for supplying the below photos!
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    Regards

    DougieNZ
    J'Ville
    Wellington

  3. #3
    Join Date
    20th April 2007 - 22:06
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    Concours 14, S10
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    Nice write up! Have fun at Chatto Creek!

  4. #4
    Join Date
    20th June 2005 - 14:27
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    Fatbob
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    Nice write up dude .. .was my first too this year

  5. #5
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    7th May 2007 - 14:56
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    Good write up. Gald you enjoyed it. See ya back next year.

    Lets hope the weather is better.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    21st November 2005 - 02:14
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    Yet another excellent write up.
    Sitting here reading about your sense of pride at achieving this, I'm smiling and nodding thinking back to my own Southern Cross "afterglow".
    Soccer - A Gentlemans game played by Hooligans. Rugby - A Hooligans Game played by Gentlemen.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    27th November 2003 - 12:00
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    A top effort and a great read, Dougie. Next time you'll have to do this on an FJR!
    "Standing on your mother's corpse you told me that you'd wait forever." [Bryan Adams: Summer of 69]

  8. #8
    Join Date
    15th November 2005 - 10:09
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    A ride on one of those and the Coucours is on my 'to do' list. I tell you what though, they would have to be damn impressive to top the ST!
    Regards

    DougieNZ
    J'Ville
    Wellington

  9. #9
    Join Date
    27th November 2003 - 12:00
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    Quote Originally Posted by DougieNZ View Post
    they would have to be damn impressive to top the ST!
    I'll loan you my keys on a Wednesday night ride sometime, on the basis that I can have them back...
    "Standing on your mother's corpse you told me that you'd wait forever." [Bryan Adams: Summer of 69]

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