Category: Travels

Day 1 – San Francisco

We arrived in San Francisco yesterday lunchtime, all completely exhausted after getting only 3 hours sleep on a very noisy 777. I’m not complaining – it’s part and parcel of getting halfway around the world for a holiday. But we were knackered.

The apartment is great. We were met at the door by a heavily tattooed cleaning lady who turned out not to be the owner. We wasted no time beginning our exploration of the Mission neighbourhood.

First stop was the highly recommended Philz Coffee, literally one block away. We’re spoilt for choice in Wellington so when we walked in to find three people making coffee from around 30 different flavoured and roasted beans then we thought we were in heaven. Looks can be deceiving. Weak, insipid, watery…sorry, just not good enough. All filtered too, not an espresso machine in sight.

We wandered as far as 16th Street and Dolores Park. A gentle slope on the western hills overlooking the city was completely crammed with young-ish hipsters playing frisbee, throwing balls for their assorted dogs, drinking wine, and, by the smell of things smoking the occasional herbed cigarette.

We stopped for groceries at the famous Bi-Rite grocery store on 18th Street, battling with the locals for the most amazing produce. Funny thing was Sugar couldn’t find acodophulus yoghurt. We did manage to find some wonderful eggs from chickens fed on sea kelp, and some fabulous smoked bacon.

By the time we got back to the apartment we were completely busted. Finding a restaurant to eat in can be stressful, and in our family often causes the most arguments. This time we all agreed – the closest thing to an American Diner we could find in our neighbourhood – St Francis’ Fountain – an original 1940′s diner that sold the best burgers and BLT’s in the neighbourhood.

We wandered through the dark streets around 7pm, past the Latinos playing cards across the street from our house. They looked threatening but the Guest Book in the apartment says they’ve been doing if for decades.

Bring on Day 2!

Mexican wrestling masks - The Mission

Mexican wrestling masks – The Mission

Near Dolores Park, San Francisco

Near Dolores Park, San Francisc

Dolores Park

Dolores Park

Shops on 24th Street, Mission

Shops on 24th Street, Mission


Update to pre-cursor to the Rusty Nuts

Received a speed camera fine last week – caught doing 63 km in a 50 kph area in Patea at 8.01am in the morning. From what I can remember I was the only person on the road at that time -not that that’s a valid excuse.

I have graciously accepted responsibility and paid up.

Turned out to be an expensive one-day-jaunt!

Pre-cursor to ‘rusty nuts’

Bloody hell – my body aches, and it all has to do with rusty nuts.

Not those rusty nuts. These rusty nuts…the Rusty Nuts Grand Challenge – 1,000 miles in 24 hours on a motorbike – scheduled in my calendar for the last weekend in October.

There are two training regime techniques for this ‘event’:

  1. Don’t train
  2. Train

I, this weekend, chose the latter.

As any good fitness trainer will tell you, “Don’t go run a marathon the month before you run a marathon!”

Likewise – don’t ride 1,000 miles six weeks before you ride 1,000 miles.

OK then. How about 809.7 km?

I planned a route a few months ago and was waiting for a day off from the family so I could do it. I was going to ride from Wellington to Stratford (Taranaki) and then take the Forgotten World Highway inland to Tauramanui, then down through Raetihi back to Wanganui, and back home to Wellington.

Google maps reckoned 10 hours 41 minutes. Sunday (today) was the day.

I checked the weather each day leading up to the ‘ride’. It wasn’t looking great. But then I thought – man up! It might be crap on the day of the Grand Challenge, and I’m going to have to deal with it. So I did.

I watched Argentina nearly beat the British, and went to bed a little nervous of the day ahead. Too nervous obviously. I woke at 4.00am and couldn’t get back to sleep. I tossed and turned for another 30 minutes.

Bloody hell – why don’t I just get up and go. I may as well be awake on my motorbike than awake in bed where I can do no good.

So, I got up, had a quick breakfast, pulled on my gear, set the GPS to track my route and headed North into a very dark, but still, morning.

Hitting the straights at Te Horo into Otaki – the sunset was stupendous – the reddest morning sky I have seen in a long time – mainly because I haven’t been up at 5.30am recently. It’s wonderful how the horizon looks so sharp against a red sky. I wanted everyone to be up to experience this, but I was nearly all alone on the road. Great riding conditions – no traffic, no wind.

Nothing more to say for quite a while – just me and the road.

I have a vague recollection of re-fueling at Hawera in the Taranaki. I do remember removing my balaclava and helmet and going in to pay, then being surprised by the girl behind the counter. She had a very, very deep voice. I swear, if my eyes had have been closed she could have been Barry White. She also had the remnants of a passionate encounter, perhaps in the back of a car, with an amorous local – three day old hickeys on her neck. I’m only guessing (or hoping) that it was amorous.

By the time I reached Eltham (around 8.00am), the rain had started. And it came down in buckets. I pulled over  to put on an extra layer of wool (I was shivering) and my rain suit and over gloves. Got my stuff sorted and then carried on.

Stratford came pretty quickly. The locals were up and about getting their Sunday papers, milk and bread. The turn-off to the Forgotten World Highway was easy to find – I think it was the second roundabout. From here the road became more narrow and winding. Whangamomona was about 65kms away. I was hoping to get something to eat there, as the Hotel is owned by an old classmate of mine from college days and it comes highly recommended. Already though I was worried that I might arrive too early.

The Forgotten World Highway is a fabulous road. Obviously steeped in history judging by the number of historic place signs, but given that I was on a training run I couldn’t stop, or take photos. If you want the tourist photos and commentary go take a look here.

I pulled into Whangamomona at 9.50am. The hotel was shut. Bugger. I could have stopped and knocked on the door but it would have wrecked my schedule. I pressed on.

The road goes over several saddles. The second (I think) led to Whangamomona. Another, maybe 30kms further on culminated in a 15om long tunnel, hewn from the rock and supported overhead by wooden bracing. Stunning.

Further down the road I got to practice my Charlie Boorman and Ewan McGregor riding skills by standing up on the footpegs and riding the 15km of unsealed road through beautiful native bush. It’s still raining, and quite slushy, but I’m perfectly comfortable.

Tauramanui arrived. I stopped for my first bite to eat – a full breakfast of sausage, bacon, eggs, tomato, hash brown and toast. Plus the biggest flat white known to mankind. They like value for money in Taumaranui.

Breakfast or lunch in Taumaranui

Breakfast or lunch in Taumaranui

I re-fueled further down the road and had a nice chat to a truckie, on his day off, who wanted to know about my Revit rain gear. He had done the RN Grand Challenge three times previously so he could appreciate my enthusiasm for a long Sunday ride.

I’ve only ridden through National Park twice – today, and on the Grand Challenge last year. Both times the weather was atrocious. High winds, and driving rain. Miserable and often quite terrifying when I picked the wrong line and the rear wheel hit that shiny tarmac. But I pressed on.

The road through to Wanganui has been improved over the last 12 months – it was pleasant riding. The rain had gone but the road was still wet, and slippery. So I took it easy.

Made it to Sanson and stopped to stretch my legs and have an icecream. The road along the Foxton Straights was real busy, but I had the wind behind me, so it was pleasant riding. Made it all the way to Paraparaumu before I needed more fuel. I was on the home stretch.

I did the 809.7 km’s in 11 hours and 11 minutes. That’s with:

  • three fuel stops
  • one stop to put my wet weather gear on
  • one long stop for lunch
  • one short stop for an ice-cream.

Average speed: 72.4 km/h
Maximum speed: 140.3 km/h (don’t tell anyone – I think it was overtaking)
Start time: 5:18am
Finish time: 4:29pm

My route, beginning and ending in Wellington

My route, beginning and ending in Wellington - click the image to see it bigger

Air NZ, Rob Fyfe and the NZ Listener

Anyone know who does Air NZ’s viral campaign work? Only reason I ask is cos it’s good.

Here’s the latest – a sign-language response to an editorial in the NZ Listener magazine where that magazine suggested Air NZ would be becoming a budget airline by joining with Virgin Blue on the transtasman route.

The Air NZ response is so simple. Plus timely given that it is just weeks after NZ Sign Language week.

BTW – the woman in the clip is Victoria Skorikova – she works at the Deaf Association headquarters in Auckland.

Check the website here: While you are there check out the press release.

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Bondi ‘caveman’ moved on

We visited Sydney in August and on our last day in that great city we walked under overcast skies around the cliffs of Bondi Beach.

One of the highlights of that stroll was coming across the belongings and ‘dwelling’ of the Bondi Caveman, Jhyimy “Two Hats” Mhiyles. My boys were intrigued that this man lived in a cave next to and nearby some of the priciest houses in Sydney. His ramshackle belongings spilled out across the grey rock. He had views to die for and he didn’t pay a cent.

The Bondi Caveman's cliff top paradise

The Bondi Caveman's cliff top paradise (Photo by Skinny)

Like the Blanket Man in Wellington Jhyimy had become a local icon. A self styled poet, a harmless and intriguing tourist attraction.

It’s all gone.

Yesterday the Waverley Council demolished his hut, and disposed of anything that looked like rubbish, while keeping in storage anything that looked like a ‘normal’ belonging.

Jhyimy had recently been accused of sexual assault after luring a young woman to his cliff top home. So, now that he’s locked up and awaiting a trial the council has taken the opportunity to pounce and remove all trace of his presence.

Waverley Council mayor Sally Betts denied the sexual assault allegations had anything to do with the eviction, though she admitted the case had probably made it easier to obtain the eviction order.

It seems way too convenient to me. Check out the full story here on the Sydney Morning Herald website.

Skinny in KiwiRider magazine

picture-7I haven’t posted for ages. This post could be seen as a bit of a cop-out. Sorry.

But – the posts I made on this site back in March about my journey around the South Island by motorbike has been published in the October edition of KiwiRider magazine.

Page 57 to be exact :-)

$10.00 at all good bookstores and motorbike shops.

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