I get very excited at the prospect of a long ride. It’s therapy for me. Time away to smell the fresh air and think about – well – not much at all.
Each time one of these rides comes along I vow to be well prepared. Every time I seem to leave preparation until the last moment. The 1K ride was no exception.
Here’s the tech that I take with me:
- GoPro Hero 4 Black camera and remote control
- Two spare GoPro batteries pluggable into a USB port
- Garmin ZUMO 590LM GPS
- Camera to take checkpoint pictures
- Cell phone to record the trip statistics, using either Geo Tracker and/or Spotwalla using the Bubbler GPS app as the phone connection
The night before the ride here’s what I was doing:
- Charging my GoPro, and looking for the remote
- Trying to get my Garmin to sync with my laptop. I’d lost the original Garmin USB cord and after many attempts with various cords the only one that would transfer data was the USB from my Kindle
- Find the charger for my camera battery cos it wasn’t where I thought it would be, and my camera had no power at all
- My phone is always charged but needed to remember to take my charging cable with me.
I finally got to bed at around 11 pm. When I set the alarm it calculated I’d be awake in 6 hours and 8 minutes – that’s if I immediately fell asleep. I got to sleep around midnight, and ’slept’ fitfully until the alarm went off at 5.20am.
I gobbled down a few pieces of toast and a strong cup of instant coffee (an oxymoron), although “Moccona heft meer Mmmmm”. I was heading down my driveway at exactly 6.00am which left me 30 minutes to get to Caltex Rimutaka, fill up with gas, check in, and head out onto the open road. Everything was running like clockwork.
When I arrived at the start there was no queue for petrol even though there were around 20 or so bikes on the forecourt. I said gidday to Brett, signed the mandatory waiver, took a photo of my start odometer, and was given the all clear to depart.
About 2k up the road, I realised that GeoTracker wasn’t recording anything, except time. I’d also forgotten to set up a Spotwalla track. See what I mean about preparation?
I pissed about for a few minutes on the side of the road trying to fix things that I should have sorted the night before. A group of riders zipped past me. Damn. I’d have company on the Rimutakas.
An uneventful trip over the hill with only a short stop at the roadworks. The group of riders ahead let me pass in Featherston. Around Mt Bruce, the rain started. I was hoping it would be a short burst, but there was rain all around me, and no hint of sunshine. I pulled over at the picnic area near the Anzac Bridge to put the rain-suit on and at the same time invested a few minutes in getting my tracking app working properly. The group of bikers from Featherston passed me.
Riding in the rain isn’t much fun, but I had 20 hours experience under my belt from the NI1600 a few weeks before, where I learnt to breathe underwater, such was the intensity of the rain.
A damp road is terrifying to me – more so than a road teeming with water. The road to Ormondville was not pleasant. Lichen and moss in the middle of the lane, white lines in the middle of the road, and general agricultural detritus everywhere else. At least the tarmac was in good condition.
Bandit Rider and his group arrived at CP1 just as I was packing away my camera. If I’d known he was taking this pic I would have smiled.
Nice ride through to my hometown of Waipukurau. I filled up at Caltex where the petrol is usually cheap (not this time), then popped around to surprise my 88-year-old Mum. She was turning 89 in two days so I was a welcome ‘birthday present’ despite the fact that I couldn’t stay long.
The roads in Central Hawkes Bay are some of the nicest roads to ride. They are in great condition, ridiculously scenic, and just damned pleasant to ride.
The leg from Coronation Park to Argyll East School and through to SH50 was spectacular. The road had dried out and the temperature was climbing. It was going to be a spectacular Hawkes Bay day.
I was following my nose along Raukawa Road and missed the Whakapirau Road turnoff. After a few hundred metres I realised my mistake and made my first and only U-turn of the day to get back on track. I limit myself to two U-turns per trip – yeah right!
There were a few bikers at the Whakapirau Road checkpoint. As has been well documented the ‘sign’ was missing from the fence so I took a pic of my bike in front of the letterboxes and followed the other bikers out to SH50.
Riding through the vineyards of Hawkes Bay I came across a lonely biker in a bright orange T-shirt sunning himself on the side of the road. Turned out it was John Maroulis who had had an ‘off’ earlier, resulting in an eventual loss of forward motion! John was patiently waiting for roadside assistance and looked sanguine about his experience.
By the time I hit SH2 I was sure my GPS was playing up. I knew I needed to head to Wairoa but I was being told to do a U-turn. WTF! I was on the right bloody road! Doesn’t Garmin know anything? Then I noticed it was saying “U-turn 75km”. Surely Bushy Knoll Road wasn’t that close. As the kilometres passed, and the “U-turn” got closer it became evident that Garmin was reading the Devil’s Hairpin corner as a U-turn. As soon as I passed that corner the system resumed to normal service! That corner is bad (fun?) but not that bad.
I stopped at Z Wairoa, where, from previous experience, I can recommend the New York Black-Pepper-Steak pie. I filled up, bought a pie, and stood on the forecourt looking forward to – actually, salivating – that first delectable bite. Turned out that it was a butter chicken pie. Some idiot had put the peppered pies on the wrong shelf. Shit.
Leaving Wairoa I headed left out of town towards Lake Waikaremoana. I was aiming for Tiniroto, and Bushy Knoll Road which would be a real U-turn and the nominal half-way point of the ride. The last time I travelled over this road was on my very first long-distance ride on the 2010 Rusty Nuts Grand Challenge (see link). Easier to ride in daylight, that’s for sure.
Working out my route on Basecamp I had considered heading on towards Gisborne and returning to Wairoa via SH2. It was going to add some extra kilometres but it’d be a faster ride – at least that’s what I was thinking. After riding to Bushy Knoll Road though it was too nice a road not to return via the same road. It reminded me a little of Fields Track just out of Ohakune, but with more trees, and in most cases, a wider road.
I saw a few other riders on my return, most of them riding in small groups. Made it back to Wairoa without issue. There was no need to stop for fuel as my well-considered calculations had me filling up at Bayview.
I followed two bikes for quite a while, through Raupunga, underneath the Mohaka Viaduct, all the way through Lake Tutira. When I was nearly at the SH2–SH5 intersection I changed my mind and decided I’d make it through the last checkpoint on Glengarry Road and towards Flaxmere, instead of making the detour to fill up at Bayview. I peeled off from the others and headed up SH5.
When I got to Checkpoint #6 there was nothing there. Clearly, my GPS was playing nasty tricks. I parked up and pulled out the rider instructions to see if there were any clues about where I should be. I was looking for 893, and I was sitting outside 719. Which way did the numbers go? Only one thing to do – keep riding. After a couple of minutes, the number on the next letterbox confirmed I was heading in the right direction so I pushed on. Coming round the bend there was a group of around six riders all waiting on the side of the road. Checkpoint #6 had been found.
One of the riders was on the phone, trying to track down some lost members of their group. I assumed that the people they were looking for were the two I had followed, and who, logic would suggest, had continued on to Bayview for re-fuelling. They were by now quite a long way behind. As I pulled away I heard one of the bikers yell at the group “So shall we wait, or not?”. I’m guessing they waited.
One of the things I do to keep me occupied on rides is calculate, in my head, how far I can travel on the fuel I have available. I know that my bike will get to around 300km before the warning light comes on. I had already thrown away my well-considered plan for the ride by filling up in Wairoa. The second deviation from the plan was not choosing to fill up at Bayview. Where would my next fuel stop be?
I didn’t want to make a detour through Flaxmere to find petrol. If I did that then I’d likely get stuck in 50kph traffic for 20 minutes or more. I made the decision to push on down SH50, knowing it would be touch and go that I’d be able to find fuel.
By the time I was halfway down SH50 and through Tikokino I thought I might be able to squeak through to Dannevirke. I was trying to remember how far Dannevirke was from the SH2-SH50 intersection. I guessed around 36km, knowing that it takes around 35 minutes to travel from Waipukurau to Dannevirke (remember I’m an original CHB lad). That intersection was about 35km away and my fuel gauge was telling me I had 85km left – actually I’m making these numbers up. Just go with me – it was getting tight, and I was getting nervous that I was heading for a long walk.
Then, like a light from the saviour, a badly painted billboard in a paddock declared FUEL – 7 DAYS – Onga Onga. It was nearly 5pm and a Saturday. Should I risk the small detour taking a punt that fuel would be available, or should I continue and chance my luck trying to get to Dannevirke? I pulled off SH50. The Onga Onga General Store and Tearooms was open! Hallelujah! I was saved.
I filled up with 91 – not really a compromise as it was that or nothing – bought an ice cream, and sat on a bench seat under the wide verandah, letting the Hawkes Bay sun wash over me.
When I eventually made it to SH2 I realised my fuel-stop choice had been the right one. If I’d continued on to Dannevirke I would have been short by about 20km, which is a long way to walk by anyone’s standards.
The road through to Wellington and to the Back Bencher is well known. For a bit of variety, and because I thought the traffic wouldn’t be bad, I decided to head over the Pahiatua Track, and down SH1. Uneventful would be the appropriate description for this stretch of road. In hindsight, I was lucky I came this way as there were terrific winds on the Rimutaka’s which made that route almost perilous. One rider was blown off his bike twice. He pushed his bike over the summit before it was safe to continue on.
By the time I arrived at the finish line I had been on the road for 13.25 hours. I’d done 1,069 km. I did not plan a route and ride it, I planned a route and then changed my mind. Fortunately, it paid off. I felt in remarkable condition when I finished. It wasn’t until I woke in the morning feeling rubbish that I realised I hadn’t drunk enough water. That’s always one of my regular failings. You’d think I’d learn, but perhaps teaching an old dog new tricks is hard to do after all.
Thanks to John, Brett and James for another great Distance Riders event. And thanks to Nigel James for recovering my GoPro remote charging cable at CP#2. That was a lucky find!