Saturday 30 December 2017

Forestry Trails & Face Plants

One of the worse things about running your own business is working when everyone else is on holidays, but one of the best things is you can take a day off when you feel like it...and that's exactly what I did yesterday. Marks birthday was a good reason to go adventuring for the day.

I had read about the mountain bike trails in the Naseby forest and was keen to go and have a look, so that is where we went. There is 500 hectares of privately owned forestry full of mountain bike trails of all different grades. (If you are interested in finding out more click here.)

It was also a good chance to check out the road from Lawrence to Middlemarch, as that is the next challenge I am setting myself...30 kms of gravel and hills, then 50 kms of highway and hills. And not nice gradual hills but steep and short (ish) ones.

Naseby is a lovely town with a lot of history dating back to the goldminers, and still quite a few original old buildings.

We both needed to eat before tackling these tracks and and headed to the only cafe in town, The Black Forest Cafe. The food was so good and I filled up on sourdough bread, sundried tomato chutney type thing with avocado and feta mashed on top and a poached egg. 

Now it was time to check out some trails. There was a bike trail map available from the info centre but it wasn't that detailed. There was a trail that seemed to be the main one with other trails branching off it.
This main trail is called the Mt Ida Water Race Trail and does follow an old water race. I think we took a wrong turn to get to it and ended up on a single track that was way out of my capabilities, but as we all shame in walking!

Once we got to the water race trail it was really easy riding and very well maintained. Amazing to think that this water race was all dug by hand back in the 1870's. They even had siphon points where the water race crossed a low point and you can still see all of this when you ride the trail.

We passed some lovely dams and forested areas, also quite a bit of the forestry had been logged and replanted. It's such a great idea to be able to utilize all this land for trails. 

So there I am..riding along a nice easy trail and come to a slightly narrow part. The rain had washed a big groove into the trail so my brain said go around that but what did I do? I went straight through the groove, my pedal hit the side and I veered sideways to the left and plummeted down a 5ft bank! Somewhere between leaving the trail and landing at the bottom, I face planted down into the scrub, rolled and Birdys handlebars hit my cheek. All I could do was lie there and laugh since I wasn't hurt. Poor minute I'm riding in front of him and then bang, I'm heading off over the side!

I was fine though and we kept riding, but when I woke up this morning my body sure did ache and my ankle was pretty swollen. But minor injuries and it could have been worse.

After riding the 20kms there and back on the water race trail, we investigated some of the others. I was OK on the Intermediate Grade 3 trails but I think any more than that and I would be struggling. I enjoy single track biking to a certain degree, but would much rather ride long km's on good trails. Also I just don't have the skill nor the balance to feel confident riding difficult terrain.

After mucking around on the trails for a while it was off to the Ancient Briton Hotel for a beer and sit down. Jess, the hotel dog was big and friendly and the beer went down a treat. It was such a hot day that I could have easily sat there all afternoon and had a couple more.

For anyone who likes biking I would recommend you check Naseby Forest out. You can get to Naseby from the Otago Rail Trail..its not too far to ride from the trail and there is a camping ground to stay in.
It was a fun day out and I will definitely be heading back to Naseby.

"Crashing is part of cycling as crying is part of love."

                                                                                         Johann Museeuw

Sunday 26 November 2017

Pack up the gear RB, we are heading off!

We have been having some gorgeous weather here...lovely hot days that are perfect for riding except work seems to get in the way. So I decided to head off this weekend for an overnight camp to my favourite camping ground at Millers Flat.

I haven't had a night in my tent since the end of the bike tour and to be honest, I was missing it. I love my little tent. So I packed up the panniers, loaded Birdy up, tucked RB (Roadside Bear that I found by the road in the USA, but RB  to his friends) into a secure spot and off we went. ( Buggy gets to go on the overseas trips Elsie!)

It was a scorcher of a day which suits me, I love riding in the heat. Pulled over here for a drink and the locals seemed very interested in Birdy.

The trail is in such good condition now. There were so many washouts and slips after the torrential rain and floods through winter but the trail committee have got it all back in peak condition. With all this warm weather its lovely and dry too, perfect riding conditions.

Got to the campground after a slight detour to have a wee nap by the river. It was so nice to be setting up my tent again!

I decided that since it was still early I would ride to Roxburgh, only another 19kms further on the trail, and grab some fish, chips and a beer to picnic by the river. It was a beautiful ride, the Lombardy Poplars were shedding all their seed tufts and it looked like snow in some places.

Of course the Clutha River was looking as stunning as it normally does. One of the great things about this trail is how it follows the river, and the river and flora around it is always changing. I never get sick of riding through here as its different every time.

Fish, chips and a beer with a view. What could be better?

Needless to say the trip back was a bit slower. There was storm over the hills and it was kinda cool cycling towards the sun while behind me I could hear thunder rumbling. 
After a shower, some red wine and a lovely chat with Marise it was time for bed.

I really enjoyed camping out again and can't wait until my next tour. The plan is in April to bike the length of the south island here in New Zealand, and then in September get myself to Western Australia to ride the Munda Biddi Trail. This is a 1000kms off road trail and in September the wildflowers will be out, so it should be spectacular.

Until then I have to be happy with short overnight trips and day rides. Heres a few pics of recent rides to whet the appetite of all my overseas friends to come to NZ and ride with me!

" Travel is not really about leaving our homes, but leaving our habits."

                                                                                                              Pico Iyer

Thursday 16 November 2017

Sedona & L.A

20, 21, 22, 23, 24 & 25 July

By the time we got back to Williams on the train it was late afternoon, but it was only just over an hour to get to Sedona so not to bad. I was looking forward to seeing Sedona as it is known as a big centre for the arts, so I was hoping to see some weaving.
We drove through some beautiful scenery especially as we hit Oak Creek and I got my first glimpse of the colours of the rocks. The sun was setting as we got to Sedona, so I could only see the outlines of the surrounding landscape and not the colours.

We were staying in a great Air Bnb place Alan had found, for 5 nights...plenty of time for hiking, biking and relaxing. Waking up in the morning and walking outside I was speechless at the landscape. It was stunning and these huge red, red rocky outcrops right on our doorstep.

It was a toss up what to do the first roading in Hobbes or biking? We ended up driving to the Broken Arrow trail, then going for a ride. Unfortunately Birdy still had on her slick tyres for the road which made navigating the rocky trail a bit of a nightmare, with hardly any grip whatsoever. Alan on the other hand with his chunky fat tyres, went roaring over the rocks as easy as anything. But at least even though I had to take it really slow, I could feel smug that I was so much fitter!

The afternoon was spent checking out Sedona. Firstly up to the touristy part of town...given that I have about a 15 second tolerance in tacky tourist shops, it was a quick visit to this part of town. 
After that Alan took me to place called Tlaquepaque Arts and Crafts Village. There was some amazing work in these galleries and shops, beautiful jewellery and bronze work, a fabulous rug shop with beautiful Navajo Rugs but what I loved the most was the complex itself. The architecture was gorgeous, and the outdoor sculptures, garden and fountains so stunning. I could easily imagine myself setting up a studio here!
We also visit a couple of other in particular who's name I have forgotten, is listed as one of the top 10 galleries in the USA. There were some outstanding artworks and sculptures in this gallery but no fact I saw no weaving besides Navajo Rug weaving in Sedona. There was one weaver who had a studio but it was by appointment only.

After a good meal, wine and a relaxing evening we woke to another perfect weather day and decided to go off roading in Hobbes. Alan has been coming to Sedona for many years and knows the good trails to go on. I was really keen to go down some super steep ones so we headed off to the Broken Arrow trail again.
I had so much fun from the minute we hit the trail and rocks. I have never been "proper" off roading before and what was so amazing was the places that Hobbes the Jeep could go with no problem. We headed off first to a popular spot for views and a stroll around. 

On the photo above you can just make out a white line running around the rockface on the right. Hardcore mountain bike riders ride this line! Its right up there as one of the hardest rides to do.

So far the trail had been fairly tame, not too steep but that was about to change! Alan first took me to a smaller incline and the poor guy...after the first time I was grinning from ear to ear and said can we do that again? And we did...4 times! Then he had to do it again so I could take photos.

Its hard to show in the photos the gradient of this slope. It was much steeper than what it looks.

So after going down this one a few times we drove to the Devils Staircase. I think the name says it all. If I was grinning from ear to ear before, now I was nearly jumping out of my seat having so much fun! I loved going down this track and Hobbes is such an awesome vehicle, I never understood before how well these Jeeps perform...just incredible. So at the top of the Devil's Staircase I looked down and thought this is going to be epic...and it was!

After the Devils Staircase Alan drove to an easier trail and it was my turn to drive. OMG this was great fun! At first it was all pretty flat with some rocks, I kept veering to the right hand side of the road and Alan would have to say "tree, tree" so I didn't scrape the side of Hobbes, but I did get the hang of this wrong side of the road driving eventually. (Well nearly.)
Then we came to a slope which I thought uh oh, way out of my skill level but my very good instructor had confidence in me and with his guidance I made it slowly to the bottom. I have to admit it doesn't look steep in the photos, but when you are driving down it, it is. We named this Lindys Slope!

It was so pretty at the bottom of  "Lindy's Slope".

I loved, loved this day and had such an awesome time..hence so many photos. Alan is very skilled at off roading and knew what he was doing. I knew he wouldn't take any unnecessary risks. I was unsure about heading down "my" slope, but his confidence in me and direction enabled me to do it AND drive back up the slope and down again! I drove us out off the trail until we met the road again. (My confidence doesn't extend to driving in traffic on the wrong side.)
When he told me that he had never taken out a "first timer" who drove as well as I did, I felt pretty chuffed, but I probably have an unfair advantage as I'm use to driving on winding gravel roads in snow and rain.
The landscape is so breathtaking...the intensity of the redness in the rocks is hard to capture in a photograph. The rock formations themselves are beautiful. It truly is a special place.

The next day I went for a quick ride around the neighbourhood checking out the houses, then we went for another bike ride on the Soldiers Pass Road trail. After a quick bite for lunch we headed off to a place called Jerome...about 50kms from Sedona. This is such a cool town, set up in the hills and it use to be a mining town then everyone moved out. It was pretty much a ghost town until hippies and artists moved in. Now it is full of quirky shops, galleries and a supposedly haunted hotel.

I really liked Jerome and it is probably one of the few places I visited on my trip that I could imagine myself living in. The town had a great feel to it and there seemed to be a very vibrant arts community. Looking at the cars and traffic, it looks as though it has become a destination for people to visit when they are staying in Sedona.

That night we had a BBQ at our Air Bnb. The woman that owns the house had talked about the javelinas getting into the rubbish and neither of us knew what they were. I imagined she was talking about some critter that looked like a possum, but that night we were sitting outside BBQing and we saw some! I didn't take a photo so grabbed one off google so you can see what they are.

This big male came right up to us and then a female appeared with some youngsters. There ended up being quite a lot of them wandering around.

Our last day in Sedona was spent hiking. I had dropped Birdy off at a bike shop to get cleaned down and boxed up ready for the flight home, so we drove out to Doe Mountain and walked up to the top for a spectacular view of the area.

After walking up this trail, Alan wanted to take me to another one to see The Arch. By now it was getting on to the hottest part of the day, but there was a 4 wheel drive road to the start of the trail. I did feel sorry for all the people we passed who didn't have a jeep and had to walk the extra kms to to the start of the track. It certainly was hot walking to the arch but I coped with minimal complaining (though Alan may disagree with this) and once we got there it was so worth it.

We picked Birdy all boxed up on our way back and it hit me then that in 2 days time I would be back in New Zealand!
I really enjoyed our break in Sedona...the scenery is spectacular, the colours of the landscape at times look so vibrant and are changing all the time. Sedona itself is an interesting town with some stunning houses, interesting galleries and great restaurants as well as a plethora of new age and alternative practitioners doing all manner of things! We couldn't have asked for better weather, and then waking up on the last day it was raining! Here some photos of the Air Bnb place and a rainy Sedona as we were leaving.

We were heading to Phoenix today so I could meet up with a friend for lunch, and then a long drive to LA. The rain stayed with us all the way to Phoenix, but after lunch it cleared and got very hot. We stopped at a gas station and I jumped out with barefeet. If I hadn't run fast I would have burnt the soles of my feet. The temperature in Hobbes said it was 117 degrees F outside, which in my language is 47 degrees C or pretty damn hot!

Classic Road Trip photo!

Even though we were driving through the desert, it was still on a 6 lane highway all the way to LA. We passed some huge windfarms, they stretched for miles and a couple of dinosaurs too! The scenery was pretty much the same all the way until we reached the outer, outer reaches of LA and the strip malls.

I was in for a treat on my last night of my big adventure. A couple of months earlier Alan had sent me a message to say he had booked a place to stay on my last night. I assumed it would be a generic airport hotel but last night was to be spent on the Queen Mary! She is a beautiful old ocean liner that since the 1970's has been permanently moored in Long Beach.

I have never been on any type of cruise boat before so was looking forward to this. The added bonus was we struck hardly any traffic all the way into LA and Long Beach, which is unheard of.

We had a quick explore around the boat then settled on the deck for pre dinner drinks and a relax. The Queen Mary is moored opposite Long Beach Marina, so you get a great view across the bay and at night, the city lights.

My flight didn't leave until late the next day so we booked in to do a tour of the ship. We had the funniest tour guide and the tour was so interesting seeing the berths that the Queen stayed in, and the theatre, photos of all the old Hollywood stars from the 40's and 50's partying onboard...there is so much history on this ship. Everything even the accommodation, has been kept in the original condition with beautiful wood paneling in the rooms, I think he said there is something like over 50 different woods used on the ship.

(I can't take the credit for all the photos in this post...some are Alan's again.)

After the tour it was time to head off to the airport. I am one of these people that like to arrive early for a flight, and I get all antsy until I am safely at the airport. So we left in plenty of time assuming there would be a lot of traffic but no...I think I bring good karma to LA traffic as we didn't get stuck in any at all, even at the airport Alan dropped me off right in front of the terminal and got a park right near the entrance!

Got Birdy and my bag all checked in, had something to eat then I was off to my plane. It was hard saying goodbye to Tinker in Seattle, and it was just as hard saying goodbye to Alan. We had such a great time away, this was our third roadtrip together and we are good travelling friends. Thankyou Alan for everything and for being my support guy for Birdy and I.
I am very fortunate to have such a great best friend in my life and to be able to spend time together is very special.

I wasn't looking forward to my adventure being over, I could have easily hopped on Birdy and kept going, but I was looking forward to seeing Mark after nearly 10 weeks away. We did keep in regular contact on Skype, but I had so much to tell him about all my adventures!

I met some awesome people on my travels, saw wonderful things and had the best time. I would do it all again in a heartbeat. So thankyou to everyone who's path crossed with mine (sorry I didn't get photos of you all) and made my adventure one hell of a good time.

This isn't the end of my adventures with's only the beginning.