In a world increasingly preoccupied with throwaway materialistic things; where people are constantly busy earning money to pay for those things, or so their children can have those things;
This is the story of my dreams of travelling the world by bicycle. Because it's there. And because I dont want to die without experiencing the truly important things in life .

A sense of wonder and a sense of adventure.

Friday, 23 December 2011

Happy Summer Solstice to Everyone!

Happy Summer Solstice to everyone out there!  All of us on the top side of the world are basking in heaps of sun.
And a Happy Winter Solstice to all those on the bottom side.

Two more days and we are all free of those annoying Xmas carols and the hard hit advertising everywhere. Even another big earthquake in Christchurch didn’t stop the politicians and business leaders from warning people that this should not stop them doing their duty and filling the new malls with their gay jingling pockets.
I'll Get Through Xmas by Breaking into the Liquor.
I’ve decided that I like summer so much that I will chase it on my treadle Eastwards across South America and then with the help of a bit of high octane jet fuel  arrive in Morocco just in time for spring on the bottom side of the world, just as it emerges from the Southern Hemispheres’  shadow.

I continue to tune in to some of the other past contestants in the Global bike Race. It never fails to amuse me as to how two months from the start of our individual challenges they can still be going on about finding sponsorship or lack of finding it.

I really would like to know what it is with the younger generation and sponsorship? Firstly I’d like to know something about how much of the sponsorship money is going to the charity and how much is going into their pockets towards their trip? Because it sounds to me like they themselves have little cash to cover their expenses while they are away on the adventure. I mean it’s a wickedly good plan if you can pull off a free trip in the name of a charity. And on top of that big business can get a tax break by sponsoring you. The charity won’t complain since they’ll be happy to get the crumbs once it’s all settled. But I can’t help getting that ‘this isn’t right is it’ feeling.
If it smells a little off I think it probably is. It’s the same feeling I get when I hear of Adventurers and Racers going past people on the route who need assistance and who then  don’t stop to render it because it will cost them either time or position.  And for that matter people who will not wait for slower members on a group training ride.

It’s the “You got any free stuff for me?” generation.

I filled up my Optimus primus last week with petrol, stood back and lit it. Imagine my relief as it roared away happily. The implications of this are immense. With auto fuel being the most ubiquitous liquid on the planet outside water I should be able to fire up for a hot coffee or one pot meal anywhere. I just have to smuggle the old cooker past the customs officers at the airport and I’m set. Rest assured that Optimus are not sponsoring me on my adventures so I won’t be making up any crap about how my cooker lights with a single match and will happily burn for 6mths without a recharge. In fact I recall last time I used my cooker it nearly took my eyebrows off when I prewarmed it with too much white spirits! That’s when I made the startling discovery that I could prewarm it with antiseptic hand wash. It was during the bird flu scare and there were free hand wash dispensers everywhere. Who would have thought you could use the stuff as a fuel. (Niel the Wheel’s previous life as a microbiology student, and tight arse nature helped there).
The Gift Wrap for an Overseas Adventure.

O it’s so exciting! It’s the night before much of the Western World swaps big screen TVs or beach balls or whatever other toys take their fancy and the tooth fairy, (probably Diane), has dropped off a few Visa applications for me. That will give me something concrete to do tomorrow between berry hunting and paddling at the beach. Actually may flag the paddling at the beach as it’s all polluted with sewage after last week’s heavy rain. What and you non New Zealanders thought we were clean and green? Unfortunately where there are people there’s poo. I might just leave the swimming for a week or two.

Filling in Visa applications before heading off on my last training session down South sound’s much more appealing.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

What I've Been Unemployed For A Month!

It’s been a week or so since I last reported on progress towards my world cycling domination. So what has been happening on the old training front? Well actually nothing much. Kilometres travelled on the bike have been at an all-time low. I have to say that I’m not really at all concerned about this because in two weeks’ time I’ll be on my bike again cycle touring the South Island. And at 150-200km per day I should be back up to full fitness in about 3 days.

I have been busy over the last couple of weeks though;

Firstly I had to make a trip to the dentist who managed to wrestle $360 out of me and a couple of teeth that I really didn’t need anyway since I can easily gain all the sustenance I need by sucking my chocolate as I sip my coffee. One thing I must warn others about though is never drink really hot coffee while your mouth is still anaesthetised because you can burn the roof of your mouth without realising it and then wrongfully accuse the dentist of being overly rough with said mouth.  If I had done what Adi said and taken painkillers I would not have had to have an afternoon in bed. But since it was raining cats and dogs that day I couldn’t have done anything else anyway so thought I might as well practice getting over the dental treatment the hard way.

So after I had recovered from the dentist’s chair and enormity of the bill appearing in our letter box the next day (NZ mail gives special post haste to dental bills) I needed to focus on the cost of next year’s firewood. Because as we all know there’s no point in trying to burn wet firewood. So while people were out all over the world buying Christmas junk for friends and family Adi and I bought each other the best  blue gum firewood. A whole wood shed full. I spent a whole day carting it to the woodshed and then another day stacking it in. I’m pretty proud of stacking it in, in such a way as to give maximum airflow around each piece. Adi’s a Virgo so I‘ve learnt not to let her stack firewood as each piece is arranged in such a way that it fits perfectly into the adjacent piece. Five years of drying wouldn’t achieve the desired result! There’s nothing quite as satisfying as a full woodshed. Thank you Father Christmas. Off course come next winter I should be in China somewhere but Adi might still like to warm her booties in front of the fire before she comes to visit me.  Mr Stewart the woodman recognised me and wished me a happy cycle trip which was nice.  He then prised open my hand relieving me of $500 and was merrily on his way. Ho Ho  Ho
As Neat as a German Wood Shed.

As I mentioned above it rained for a few days on end this week and we ended up having a once in forty year flood. While the hill suburbs slipped towards the sea we gained some pretty big puddles around the house and once again the road disappeared under about 2mtrs of water. The upside though is that now our well has a staggering 3 ½ metres of water in it! A new record! If I fell down the well I could drown. Or another way of looking at it is that the ground water is now only 2mtrs below the surface. Since we rely on the ground water for pretty much everything round here, including making a mug of coffee, it’s pleasing to know that I can easy source it.

While the rain fell I decided to try to figure out why the engine on my Vespa was always covered in oil despite my motorbike being only a couple of years old while Adi’s Vespa has a shiny clean engine at all times. This is not because Adi cleans her engine but because my motor has always had a bit of a leak and I don’t trust letting NZ mechanics have a go at my Italian masterpiece. I’ve seen how NZ mechanics work. Since most of the Italians in Nelson seem at the moment to be occupied with growing tomatoes I tackled the job myself. A few hours of hard graft while the rain drummed down on the workshop roof and I had the offending gasket identified and sealed. Time will tell how effective the operation was. I just hope I haven’t sealed it so well that the oil has stopped flowing through the engine as well as out of it.
Vespa 'Be Happy'.

Adi told me the other day that I had been officially unemployed for a month! It certainly doesn’t feel like it. Bunnings hardware staff are getting used to me turning up on the Mercian for building materials and the record for lengths of supplies on the BOB trailer keeps getting broken. This time I managed to bring home 3mtr lengths of guttering and down pipes.
The Gutter Man's on the Job.

 It would certainly be easier if I had the kombi running. But then I’d be paying the Government even more tax. So I think we’ll keep that van in the garage where it doesn’t cost us anything.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Solo Around the World for 'the Wheel'

Not knowing whether I am going to London to join the remainder of the Global Bike Race entrants or go off and do my own Around the World attempt has begun to make me feel a bit stressed. Time is now running out with things like vaccinations, visas and tickets needing to be organised. But more importantly   , I need to focus on whether I am headed for South America in February or Europe. The whole indecision is doing my head in!

So I have made the decision to go it alone on a solo around the world adventure. The decision was partly made easier for me by the fracturing of the other entrants and the fact that some of them aren’t even going to start together now in London but leave from other locations. I honestly feel that it’s stupid for me to pay the extra money to get there when I too can start from my home ( Nelson, New Zealand) and circle the world from here.

So now the decision has been made I can get on with planning again.

It was organised that I go on a long day ride today but I didn’t have the motivation for it. But feel better now that I have finally made up my mind. I’ve got a 14 day block of long distance touring scheduled in January so am not too concerned about losing a bit of fitness. 14days of 200km per day on the loaded touring bike will put me in the best form. Adi will follow me on her Vespa and we will camp around the South Island.  Then it will be a few weeks back home to fix up some last minute house things and then kiss my girl and…. Off to South America! Scary!

I hope they’ve got McDonalds over there so that I can send blogs free. My intention is to blog a few times a week. You get to send blogs for free but you have to put up with the other crap. And I don’t mean the food. What crap you ask?

The stuff that goes like this;

You’ve spent some time outside looking at the specials and have decided on something. “I’ll have the McChicken lunch combo special thanks”

“Sorry only available until 1pm” said Mr McD

“What time is it now?”I said.

“Ten past 1”said Mr McD

O shit so you frantically sort out a whole new thing in your head.

“But I can still do it”….” But it won’t be a special “said Mr McD

“How much more expensive will it be? “I said

“50c” says McD

“O for goodness sake just give it to me!!! “

Then you get the would you like x or y with that, black or white, sugar or sweetener richer or poorer. … By this time your bikes been stolen and you’ve forgotten that you only came in to use their Wi-Fi.

What I really struggle with regarding McDonalds is in countries like France where the posted wall menus are all in English but  you say McCheese or McMuffin and they don’t know what you’re talking about???

Petrol? Petrol's got to be Good for Something.

Next week I’m going to find out whether my white spirits cooker will run on petrol or whether it will explode engulfing me and Potters-End in a fiery inferno. Comments concerning this would be appreciated before I light the match on Wednesday.

Friday, 9 December 2011

18000 kms and the Year is Not Out.

What a great week. It started with a couple days of torrential rain. This weather only emphasised the fact that I had made the correct decision about spending more time on the repair of our old house. Although the roof didn’t leak the gutters were clearly not coping and in need of a redesign. I’ll tackle this in the next few weeks as I repaint the roof. Water damage on the lower weather boards, commonly described as rot, due to these defective gutters will also need to be sorted before I head off cycling the world. But first things first. It’s so easy to get distracted at Potters-End because there’s just so much that needs doing. Too much time in the past working at the bike shop and cycling and not enough time looking after what really matters. Namely a roof over your head.

Not to be distracted I started work on the back room generally used as a study. When we bought the house 20years ago my friends advised that I pull the back room down and use the wood to warm the rest of the house for the winter so rotten it was.’ Ye of little faith’ I said. And with the help of the work car and the generous amount of time my employers gave me to do very little, I managed to bring supplies home and at least stabilise the structure. Twenty years later and I’m still working on it. But it is looking better and it gets a lot of sun. I’ve always said that I should be able to fix this house quicker than it can rot and now that I’m more focused I should make some progress.

Procuring building materials now that we don’t have an operating motor I knew would be a challenge. Three options immediately presented themselves. I could fix the combi, pay for delivery or bring home what I needed on the bike trailer. The fairies in the garage told me the combi engine recon had not progressed to a level that would enable me to get the VW started let alone out of the garage and I wouldn’t make Adi work for two hours to pay for delivery. So it was connect up the BOB trailer and see how much timber I could get on board. As you can see from the photo the staff at Bunnings were very obliging in holding my bike while I loaded up. I’m not sure that my frame guarantee from Mercian covers this sort of thing but after a 15km ride I was home. Mission accomplished.  I have worked out that 2metre lengths and 40kgs seems to be the BOB’s limitation when being used as a builder’s trailer.
Just Hold Her There. Back in a Minute.

Another very interesting, but not unexpected thing that happened last week while I was away training and confirmed by email this week was the falling over of the Global Bike Race. You might think that this would really rock me. And it would have  if I had not been half expecting it and had I not put a plan B into action a month or so back. The organiser of the Global Bike Race has been so poorly organising it that  it seems  most of the intended riders have left him and decided to try and put their own race together. Others have simply pulled out totally.

The rider organised race will be run on similar lines but I have to decide whether to participate in this event or go solo on my own around the world. Not riding around the world is simply not an option for me now as I have made a commitment to friends, family and myself that cannot be undone. Good on the English riders for trying to salvage something from the fiasco but at the moment I’m the only overseas rider and I have to seriously look at whether it’s worth spending the extra $3000 dollars to get to London for the start and the return afterwards and in addition any costs associated with the new event.  

My plan B is to cycle my route around the world as previously described (see 'Wheel Around the World' Route section) but to start and finish in Nelson NZ and to cycle it instead from West to East. This works better for climates. If I adopt this plan it will see me leave Nelson for Lima South America in mid Feb next year and then once I’m across Sth America I’ll continue on to Morocco and Europe etc.

I’ll make my decision in two weeks and then rush over to Diane my travel agent and arrange the ticket I’ll need.

I’ve almost clocked up 20000kms on the Mercian this year. It’ll probably be 19000km odd by Christmas. If I’d driven my ass around in the car over the last 52weeks I would have used 1900litres of petrol and at $2.15 a litre that’s an Around the World airline ticket. And people wonder why they can’t afford to eat. It’s because you’re feeding your car and in doing so helping the Government balance its books.

They’ll be coming for me; I’ve got to go..

Sunday, 4 December 2011

It's All About Hours on the Bike.

So here I am back home at Potters-End. I’ve still got a few days left before the end of the week so I should be out cycling. Last week you can see from my mileage that I covered 940kms. This week although I cycled back from Taupo I did not have a race to come back too. I also cycled directly back so my mileage, unless I go out and hit the roads, will be quite a bit less. It’s hard to motivate yourself to go out on your bike after you’ve just come back from ten days of nearly continuous cycling.

So since it was hard to motivate myself I found the perfect solution. I found something else to do and didn’t bother swinging my leg over my bike. There’s always work to do in the garden and I found a job that kept me busy for half a day. I tidied up last spring’s daffodil bulbs and put them away for replanting later. Boy we’ve got some whoopers.

Wondering if You Can Eat Daffodil Bulbs.

I also managed that day to catch up on what’s been happening on face book regarding the Global Bike Race. Things are constantly changing regarding the organisation or dis-organisation of the race. I can’t blame the Northern Hemisphere contestants for feeling a bit frustrated at the moment as they slide into winter. I went through a lot of indecision a few months ago with snow on the ranges and not enough hot water bottles to go around. Adi got a nice new pink hot water bottle in the shopping but I didn’t see a new blue one for me anywhere amongst the groceries. Potter’s-End austerity measures bite pretty hard. Anyway at least twice I got cold feet on the whole ride around the world idea. I’m back on course now but I don’t know if the race is?

On Friday to salvage what was a promising start to the week I begrudgingly went out on my usual 130km circuit leaving after lunch, and after coffees, and then also after anything else I thought I could do to put it off. I got on my bike and just felt like a steam train. Admittedly I didn’t have any luggage on board so I suppose I should have felt ok. But at the 110km mark I usually feel some tiredness since this course is quite hilly. Afraid that I might come down quickly and that the last 20kms could be a grovel I stuffed down a couple of chocolate bars. The tiredness never came and I walked in the door shouting to hottie hogger that” I was the man”! And,” what’s for dinner”?

Still not enough kms saw me out on the bike the next day. But really I could only face a ride into town and back. I mean what’s the point. It’s like when you’re studying, and you feel ok because you’re at your desk staring at your books. Let’s face it it’s not quality study so you’re just fooling yourself.

 So the total for the week was 710kms. Most of it quality loaded touring and tenting. But the rest… a fill in. The last couple of weeks have shown me that I’m on track and pretty fit. So for the next month, basically all of December, I’m going to do…………………. Nothing!

Just kidding. No I’ve decided that for December I’m going to do virtually nothing, except two separate long day rides. On two separate Sundays I’ll do 270km rides on my Mercian with just a day bag under the saddle. Weather permitting. If it’s raining I’ll leave the next day. I’m posting this now so that if any of my roadie friends are reading this they may express interest in coming too. In fact I may even see if I can drum up a bit of interest for this with the Sunday bunch crowd?

This sounds a bit desperate but I may even consider riding Adi’s carbon road bike if that would make them feel more comfortable. Riding on carbon fibre would certainly make me feel nauseous but if it gets me a bit of company it might be worth it.

Since I’m no longer employed as a cycle shop boy next week I will begin home maintenance. Then next Sunday a nice 10hr return ride to the north westerly tip of the South Island where all the whales keep getting stranded.  I’ll take my camera.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

I May Look Like A Tourist, But I Live Here.

Day 10.

The final days ride home dawned clear and sunny.  A picture perfect day in the Marlborough Sounds. After sleeping in a bit I packed the’ Gay Girls’ away.

After a bit of entertainment watching a couple back their campervan into the campground service building I was on my way. Actually a better description of their van would be holiday home on wheels.  You could probably pilot it across Nevada ok but in New Zealand on poorly designed roads with impatient drivers why would you bother.

Talking of impatient drivers one must not forget that’ Niel the Wheel’ was born and bred in this country and has like most NZers  passed all Kiwi driving tests and can thus foot it with the best of them.

The first 22kms of my ride was along very picturesque but twisty roads and I was focused on getting to my morning tea stop at Havelock not really enjoying the view. So imagine my annoyance when all the tourists wanted not only to enjoy the view along this road but also take their motel rooms on wheels with them and thus HOLD ME UP. No sooner had a diesel burner past me by they then would decide to stop, take pictures from the dining room window, and then want to pass me again so they could stop further up the road.

I have to say Dad taught me the way of the road well. The challenge was on because all kiwi drivers know that driving is a competition in this country. I could take control of this situation by riding hard and fast and sticking well out in the road. They just couldn’t get past. I had in no time formed a campervan convoy behind me and was in full control of the situation. That will teach them for trying to bring their apartment on holiday with them.

Another little ploy I have found mildly amusing with campervan owners is to pull off the road somewhere where they can’t stop due to lack of room and then point into the landscape as if something amazing is happening (works best if you’ve got another cyclist to point with you). They look really miffed because they think they’re missing something. I used this little game along the cliff edges of the Nullabor in Aussie when there were often whales in the ocean. And more often there weren’t any. But it didn’t stop me from pointing.

From then on it was head down and over the two hills homewards. My roadie mate Brian had come out to meet me and it was good to chat to him for the last 50kms or so. I’ve given Brian a hard time over the years due to the fact that he’s an American. But I have to say I admire his drive and interest in everything. I was going to say everything cycling but I think Brian is just interested in anything. I can always count on him to be a goer on long rides or other adventures. And I’m sure if it was not for his desire to help his partner Jeannie’s cycle racing dreams come true and a lack of finances he’d be joining me around the world.

By this stage Adi had met me also on her Vespa and told me I was to stop in 10kms to talk to a local reporter about my training. Which I did.

Josh from the Nelson Evening Mail wrote a nice article about me shown below;

The day was great with my only regret being that I missed the bunch ride which apparently had also gone out to meet me. But due to a pretty good tail wind and a can or two, or three of energy drinks I had missed them due to being too early.

But thanks everyone for making the effort to meet me.