It was a long walk to and from the restaurant and it was worth it on the way back so that we could settle our stomachs after all of the food.
January 28-30 - Home to Auckland
BAC New Zealand - 2015
Our neighbors, Howard and Betty Shugart, dropped us off at Rockridge BART on their way to buy ice cream at the new Safeway store. We caught the 5:20PM train to SFO. Arriving around 6:20, we found the Air New Zealand counter with hardly any passengers checking in. We were a bit early for our 9:00PM flight, but I expected some congestion. It was the same way going through Security. Based on this experience, I will consider evening international flights from now on.
Because we had a long wait for our boarding call, we decided to use our Mileage Plus free tickets to the United Lounge. It felt good to relax and to eat a few snacks so we would not be starving by the time we got on the plane.
While waiting at the boarding gate, we ran into Karin Nelson and Vickie Romo who were on our Bike and Barge trip last year. We knew that they were signed up for the New Zealand trip but we did not expect to see them on our flight.
NZ15 boarded smoothly and we found our seats in a cramped economy section on our 777-200 - Ann in the middle and me on the aisle. The window seat was occupied by a recent college grad who said that she was going on an Outward Bound excursion in the South Island.
After watching "Boy" and eating our hot meal, Ann and I took sleeping supplements and had a relatively good sleep. We awoke with about three hours remaining on our twelve hour flight. We had decent omelets for breakfast along with large cups of coffee.
After we landed at 6:30AM on Friday (we lost Thursday), we had huge lines going passport control and horticultural screening - New Zealand does not want any objects coming into the country that could carry infected dirt. They look for drugs, too. Ann was accosted by a drug sniffing beagle who was alerted by honey in the candy in her carry-on bag.
We went outside and caught a Super Shuttle to our hotel. Four other passengers - Sheila Coe, Greg and Kathe Fowler, and Bob Barrows - were also on our tour so we had a nice chat on our long ride. We had to stop twice to leave off other passengers. We got to The Quality Hotel Parnall way too early to get into our room. So we checked in, left our luggage and took a walk down to Dove Myer Robinson Park. The park has a very aromatic rose garden and and shaded walking paths that lead down to the water. We saw a sign that pointed to a swimming pool that caught Ann's interest. So we walked to the swimming beach. Although it was a nice sandy beach, there was nobody swimming even though the temperature was close to 80 and humid. We then walked up to a really old white clapboard Anglican Church and graveyard. Most of the tombstones were dated in the early 1800s.
Our route back to the hotel went through oak tree lined streets that had many very nice large houses. When we reached the hotel, it was still too early to get into our room, so we decided to walk to lunch. We found a cafe on Parnall Rd. Ann had pumpkin soup and toast while I devoured callamare and chips.
We discovered that Auckland is spread out over low hills. They gently rise from the bays that are on two sides of the city. There are lots of trees on the land and lots of boats in the water. The people are very friendly as we expected and they have heavy accents. The traffic is moderate and polite - they stop for you at crosswalks.
When we got back to the hotel, we were able to get into our room. It felt really good to take a shower, shave and brush my teeth after two days without doing so. Our room is on the fourth floor. Out the window we have a good view of the city and the harbor.
While Ann was cleaning up, I was able to unpack my bicycle and put it together. I will give it a test ride tomorrow.
Ann talked me into going to our hotel's cafe for a snack. We had apple pie with vanilla ice cream.
We spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing in our room and checking out our battery chargers and my GPS. We met John Gradwell, David Williams, Paul Ciano and Richard Hanke in the lobby and went to dinner at Hog Heaven, a Lousiana smokehouse. I had baby back ribs while Ann had a pulled pork sandwich. We both had average tasting beers. I have been advised that strong tasting and high alcohol beers are hard to get in New Zealand.
It was raining when we woke up after a good night's sleep. Being 21 hours ahead of Pacific time is like a three hour time change except that we are a day ahead of home. Jet lag is not a major issue than trips to Europe. In any case, we expected rain and it was refreshing considering the draught conditions on the West Coast.
We decided to have breakfast at our hotel. The continental breakfast was enough for me. I had juice, cereal, breads, coffee and yoghurt. Ann settled on scrambled eggs on toast along with her coffee. We went back to our room until 10:00 when it was time to take my bicycle case down to the lobby. This was the rendezvous spot to load a courier van to transport all of our cases to Queenstown, our tour destination.
By the time that the van was loaded, the rain had disappeared and the streets were getting dry. I decided to put on my cycling gear to do a short shakedown ride to make sure that I reassembled by bicycle correctly. I rode down the hill in front of our hotel and took a right when I got to the water. I cycled a few short miles along the beach. I started out on a rough bike path but soon jumped onto the street where it was smoother. I watched several serious cyclists hammering up the road before I knew it would be safe and legal. Drivers are very courteous and leave lots of space when passing.
My ride went past several small districts with shops and cafés serving to full houses. On the beach side of the road, there were lots of people strolling but few people in the water. It was lots cooler than yesterday and a little breezy.
I turned around and headed back, catching some good views of the city. I rode past my turn back to the hotel so that I could visit the local bicycle shop and see the main waterfront area of the city. The bike shop was large with lots of upscale bicycles and accessories and friendly clerks. They were very interested in my S&S coupled bike which they had never seen before. I saw Bob Barrows and Michael Blake at the shop. Michael's Richie breakaway bicycle also caught their attention.
I rode down the road a little farther to reach the old ferry building and the cruise port. The Sea Princess was at the dock.
I turned around and found my way back to the hotel. Riding on the left side of the road is not so difficult if you concentrate all of the time.
After I showered, Ann and I went to a small cafe down the street called Rosie. We heard good things about it from some of our group. It is very popular so we had to wait for a table. Were we're glad that we waited because the food was delicious and the staff was super friendly. I had hot chocolate with salted caramel along with an omelet with smoked fish with a caper sauce. Ann had a watermelon mango drink along with brisket on a toasted ciabatta bun with bread and butter pickles.
Our first meeting for the trip was at 5:00. Everyone had arrived and was there. John Gradwell, our ride director, went over all of the introductory subjects. He passed out really nice cycling jerseys to us. We introduced ourselves. The co-leader, David Williams from New Zealand, and our driver, Asbjorn Pettersson from Australia, made remarks. Then we filed out to a banquet room where we had a decent buffet dinner.
February 1 - Auckland To Pukekohe
The sky was grey when we got up this morning. There was a slight drizzle as we walked over to our special breakfast buffet room at 7:30. There was lots of food including eggs, ham, sausage, potatoes, mystery pasta, cereal, fresh fruit, juices, yoghurt, coffee, etc. We ate our fill.
We all met again at 9:00 for our group photo, posing with our new New Zealand cycling jerseys.
Our bags were loaded in a trailer being pulled by an 11-passenger van by Asbjorn Pettersson. Then we were gone.
It took us 35km to get out of Auckland and its suburbs. Most of the time we were on the Great South Road. We rode past many districts with their strip malls and residential areas. The traffic was moderate on this main road and the drivers were courteous. We even had some of them welcoming us to New Zealand.
When we turned off of the main road, we were in bucolic country where we could see grazing cows. It was along this stretch of road all the way into Pukekohe where the rain started. It was light, but it became heavy on the steep downhills. I was riding with Pam Kane and Michael Blake. We decided to stop and put on our rain jackets. It was still warm (in the low 70s), so we did not have to cover our legs.
We arrived at The Countries Inn around noon.
Our ride was short and reasonably flat.
I met Ann at the hotel. She is riding in the van. To do so, she is in charge in setting up our nightly social hour. Our room was not ready, so we walked down the street with Michael Blake to a local cafe. We were soon joined by Pam Kane, Paul Ciano and Richard Hanke. We had really good sandwiches and salads. We also had fun rearranging the furniture so that we could sit together. We got some strange looks from the staff and other customers.
After we got back to the hotel, Ann went shopping with Asbjorn, our driver and general Australian nice guy. They brought back supplies for our social hour. The social hour began at 5:00 in our John Gradwell's room. It was crowded, noisy and hot. We had to have it in a guest room because of a liquor serving policy - the hotel must supply the liquor if we had the meeting in a conference room. It was pleasant, though. Everyone was happy and everyone could make their PB&J sandwiches for tomorrow's long ride. During our route review for tomorrow's ride, there were some changes in the route because of road construction. I will let you know how many riders got lost.
Asbjorn drove several of us into town for dinner. We had a decent meal in a Mexican restaurant. On the way back, we missed a turn and were able to see a very nice neighborhood.
I took no photos today. The run out of Auckland was not very inspiring and once we were in the country, it was raining.
February 2 - Pukekohe To Cambridge
We awoke to very cloudy skies and puddles on the street. Not a good omen. Our breakfast buffet was at 7:20. It was very basic. There was no hot food unless toast is considered hot. Coffee was the instant variety that came in little plastic packages that were difficult to open especially with arthritic fingers.
I started riding around 8:30. Nobody else was lingering at the start so I went off by myself. I navigated through the town and eventually got to the countryside on fairly quiet roads. At 21km the route put us on SH1 (State Highway 1), which is a major highway with lots of fast moving cars, trucks and buses. The shoulder was smooth and wide at first, but it became very rough for most of the time.
At 58km, we were routed into Huntly partly because of road construction and partly because it was the only place to get something to eat. I met several people in our group at a market where they were buying some snacks. Most of us had packed PB&J sandwiches and a banana, so I settled on eating mine.
I left the market along with John Gradwell and Michael Blake. John was acting as our navigator because I was having issues with my GPS. We got back onto the dreaded SH1 or a few more kms. Then we turned onto traffic-free (almost) country roads. This lasted until the outskirts of Cambridge when traffic picked up again.
I discovered that John was also having issues with his GPS when we missed a turn or two. That is when I finally figured out how to use mine. So with sublety, I became the navigator for the rest of the ride through Cambridge and to The Riverside Motel.
I learned that this is grazing country (a sign next to the road said so). We saw lots of cows, some horses, and some shorn sheep. One of the riders saw a kiwi farm but we didn't know if it raised fruit or birds. The crops that we saw were corn, potatoes, sunflowers and more that I didn't recognize.
Our ride was over 70 miles. That is the longest distance that I and most others have cycled in a long time.
The Riverside Motel looked like ones that my family and I stayed in in the 50s. It was clean and comfortable, though.
We were able to hold our social hours outside on the motel's picnic tables. It was a refreshing change.
Several of us were driven into town for dinner. Ann and I ate at a pub. We sat at a table with Pam Kane, Roberta Vallejo, Andrea Kneeland and Germain Berube. Ann had a lamb shank (were are in New Zealand after all) with a pint of Guiness. I had chick schnitzel with a pint of Kilkenny ale. Yummy.
We walked back to the motel to settle the our meal.
February 3 - Cambridge to Rotorua
Our 50's motel had a decent buffet breakfast this morning. There were scrambled eggs and bacon along with the regular breads and juices. We were, however, served see-through coffee. I had enough protein to support my riding in the morning.
When I left the motel, I quickly discovered that I had selected the wrong route on my GPS. It kept telling me to make a U turn. I was lucky to meet up with David Williams who created the routes for this tour. So I followed him until the U turn beeping on my GPS drove me crazy. I turned off the routing feature and starting using my queue sheet.
The weather was cooperating again. It was partly cloudy, but there was no rain. The route took us on a nice cycling path that parallel the main road. The road surface was smooth and fast. This lasted for about 6kms. Then we turned onto a secondary road, went past a dam with its reservoir and started our first climb of the day. I had caught up with a few people in our group at the start of the climb, but I soon fell back when we reached some very steep pitches. A few short years ago I would have kept up with them. But I was too slow today. That was OK because I could stop a take some photos without feeling pressure to keep up.
We were in rolling hills. I saw some sheep and cows. Flowers along the roadside were prevalent.
After 40+ kms, our route joined a series of main roads where we were again subject to high-speed traffic and rough shoulders. We soon began our second and last climb. We passed through some tree groves where the road narrowed, the shoulder disappeared and the sunlight went away. I was very tense in these stretches, fearing the big trucks that had little room to pass. I was told that these areas were Maori territory and could not be arbitrarily widened. We had a bonus, though. In a field next to the road were several totems supposedly carved by the local Maori.
It was a relief to stop at The Roadhouse, a cafe/store where I could rest and get some food. My scone was warm and had butter and jam.
After this break, I was back on the main road. I had another 15kms to climb. The ascent was gradual but the temperature had risen to the lower 80s making the climb a bit more difficult. The trucks were still rumbling past and the shoulder of the road was still rough.
At the top of the climb I stopped to try to help Karin Nelson change a flat tire. She borrowed my pump while Vickie Romo and I watched.
Here is today's ride:
Our motel is nice. All of the rooms are suites. Each room has a secluded soaking tub in back. This is a thermal area and the water is heated by the steam. There is a lingering smell of sulfur in the air.
We were lucky to have our social hour outside again. Ann and Asbjorn served us fresh fruit. It was a welcome change.
Several of us rode the van into the city center for dinner. We ate in a brew pub. Ann had a pate plate along with a local stout. I had a huge apple stuffed pork chop with potatoes and greens. It was garnished with bernaisse sauce and maple syrup. It sounds strange but was very good. I had a pint of local IPA. The IPAs here are not dry hopped so they are not very flavorful. Our waitress recommended this IPA. She said it was her favorite. When we questioned her whether she was old enough to legally drink, she said: "Well I'm 20, aren't I"? The legal drinking age in New Zealand is 18.
We were back at the motel around 9:30.