Thursday, January 31, 2008

Mostly Cloudy. Long Flat Roads. Te Aroha.

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There's nothing like a good night's sleep, and I've had nothing like a good night's since I've been on the road. I'm not sure that the Thermarest and I are cut out for each other. A couple of more tries and it will be time for a good hotel (or at least a clean cabin).

The Miranda Hot Springs campground is as clean and nicely kept as ever (as long as you don't have to stay in the Dog section). I had a nice quite shady spot under a tree, complete with a picnic table that I dragged over from an empty site--at least until a couple of Swiss cyclists camped next to me and commandeered it while I was taking a shower. They have bikes with panniers.

From MirandaHotSpr...

It is nearly twice as efficient to tour as a couple, rather than solo. Most of the load is shared. Basically, only clothes and sleeping bag, which are light, are the only things which are duplicated. I'm not doing the next tour, wherever it is, without you (It's either that or credit card touring).

When I got up this morning and was going over to the office, to get some yogurt from the camp store, there was a trio of motorcycles, packed for touring, outside one of the rooms, BMW 1200GS and two Honda Transalps. I didn't meet the riders, but they passed me heading south, this morning.

From MirandaHotSpr...

I rode from Miranda to Te Aroha, which turned out to be almost 82km (this includes the 5km detour when I misinterpreted the map and didn't realize the road turn-off I was looking for was actually on the other side of a bridge and it includes the 6km ride back to Te Aroha for food, since I forgot the campground was so far out of town).

The day was quite warm and humid, but it was mostly cloudy, which kept the radiant temperature down (and kept the roads from melting). I dressed quite a bit lighter today as well, wearing just my ventilated hi-viz riding shirt, rather than the New Zealand Merino one I'd worn the past couple of days (duh, no wonder I was dying). The ride was mostly on very flat roads through the Hauraki Plains. It is mostly cattle country with a bit of corn, for the cattle I expect.

From MirandaHotSpr...
From MirandaHotSpr...

Aside from the cows, about the most interesting event was the hare in the road. (I don't count going the wrong way interesting). I was riding along and there was a hare loping up the road in my direction. It didn't notice me until I was almost on it, at which point it hopped off the road and continued in the same direction, only much faster. As I was moving at about 20kph, it ket running, faster and faster until it about doubled my speed, but always in the direction I was traveling.

When it was far enough away (in its mind), it would stop until I got closer and then it would tear off again in the same direction, up the road and parallel to it. This continued for about 2km until we reached an irrigation ditch where it finally bore off away from the road.

The ride was about 25km more than I had estimated and about 35km m ore than my legs really wanted. At least the roads were flat until the last 15km and it stayed mostly cloudy. I had hoped to stop at a dairy or takeaway for lunch and kept looking at my AA map for places (yellow dots) that seemed like towns, but they were all just yellow dots on the map.

Fortunately, I had stopped at a dairy at the end of the road from Miranda and picked up an extra 1.5 liter bottle of water and I sure was glad to have it. I went through just about all of it before I reached the next store, just outside of Te Aroha, where I was able to guzzle down a sports drink, have a sandwich, and a cookie before going the last 10km to the campground.

So far, the riding has been very different from the North Island and it seems that it will get even more different. On my South island ride, I could count on finding a tea room or dairy or at least a petrol station every 25km or so, so I had a chance to rest and refuel. I think that because it is so much more crowded on the North Island and and there is more traffic, the small spots (yellow dots) that would have had a store have disappeared and people just drive to the bigger towns.

In looking at the map, trying to plan a route that has days that are not to long, but still end with a campground or hostel (none yet), I haven't been able to find short routes. The campgrounds and hostels are completely clustered in tourist areas, where there was always something, even in the smaller towns on the South Island (maybe it is generally more rural touristy).

After I got to the Te Aroha Holiday Park and set up my tent, I had to return to the town, about 3km away, to get some food as there were no shops nearby, not even the most rudimentary camp shop. By the time I got back to town, it was after 4pm. I stopped and got some fruits and veges at the local Fruit & Veg, by-passed the butcher and went to the Woolworths supermarket. I wanted to get more groceries and some meat to make a curry (from a can), but the Woolworths only sold portions that were much to large (my refrigeration is non-existent, so saving any is out). I got my other groceries and headed back to the butcher only to find that the main street in Te Arhoa closes at 5pm (it being 5:05 at that point).

I had an onion, a carrot and a packet of tuna, so dinner was carrot and tuna roganjosh.

Tomorrow it's off to Matamata, a town I don't think we've stopped in before, but it is a much shorter ride.

Here's today's album, not very interesting:

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Hot Hot. Miranda at last. Tired Legs.

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I'm now at the campground at Miranda Host springs. I was a 37km, 2 1/2hour ride. There weren't any big hills, but I was just worn out. For thelast 5k, it was "Where is that campground, it should be here by now!".

In hindsight, I should have been thankful for all those cold morningstarts on my South island tour, where I had to wear fleece pants and myrain jacket to keep warm. This morning the sweat was pouring off beforeI even got the tent packed up (and my site was in the shade).

I don't know if I'm just not fit enough or it is the heat, but I have noleg stamina. They were just tired when I got here. I thought that Imight not be getting enough electrolytes or something, as I have beendrinking a lot of water, so I even had a sports drink at the Kaiauastore on the way. I felt a little better, but it was short-lived. Myknees have been hurting a bit as well, particularly the left one. Ihaven't had knee pains before, so I need to keep an eye on it.

This big gray heron keep flying by outside the window I'm next to andlanding in a tree nearby. It seems to just come and go as I've noticedit do this three times so far (or it might be several birds, all of whomlike the landing spot).

The ride down the Seabird Coast was thick with birds. I certainlycouldn't identify many of them but there were hundreds of black swans inthe ponds behind the gravel pit along the coast and there were lots ofsmall wading birds in the shallow flats in the wildlife reserve. Therewere also lots of campervans along a strip of coast where they canfree camp (But that's a whole different kind of bird).

I also saw some wild turkeys on my ride out of Orere Point, one with four or five small chicks (or whatever baby turkeys are called).

I may stay here an extra day to recuperate and then head towards TeAroha and Matamata. I was tempted to go along the coast, but the onlyroute is RT 2 and that is really busy and fast, so I think I'll take aninland route. After Te Aroha, it depends on how my body feels.

As son as I get some free Internet time I'll update these posts with route maps and add some photos (there aren't many yet).

Here are some photos from this morning:

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

So'west Winds. A BIG Hill. Chipseal agin.

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I got off from Peter's around 8 am and stopped at the local Woolworths supermarket as I hadn't stocked up on ay provisions. I probably should have done it on Waiheke. You can't buy small amounts. I tried to get the minimum but when I checked out it was all too much and I ended up returning half. I can't remember how I managed to always have a enough bits on the last tour without is weighing a ton and taking up a lot of space.

As I was riding along I shifted into the high gear going down a hill (yes more hills) and there was this horrible clattering noise. Needless to say, I stopped, assuming that the new rear derailleur cable I installed had stretched a bit and needed adjustment.

Not so,I had lost the bolt holding the bottom shaft of my rear rack and the shaft had wedged between the frame and rear cassette. I shifted it back outside the frame and altered course for the Botany shopping center, which was practically on the way (fortunately). A quick stop at Hedgehog cycles for a new bolt, a stop for a cafe latte at Starbucks (and use of the hotspot there), and I was back on my way.

I decided to bite the big hill bullet and go via Clevedon and Kawakawa Bay. Normally, this means climbing up a couple of significant hills on Redoubt Road before getting to the flats in Alfriston, Then it is fairly flat to Clevedon. I noticed on the map that if I went straight rather than left at Redoubt Road, it would take me through a neighborhood that went to the Botanical Gardens. I figured I could cycle through the gardens and it would be less hilly and I'd end up in Alfriston, which is on the way to Clevedon.

Not quite, when I got to the end of the road, I found that bicycles were prohibited in the gardens (dogs were allowed though). There were, however, side roads that went over the highway and around the gardens, which were not hilly and I ended up where I wanted to be.

The ride to Clevedon was pretty flat, but the wind had picked up and was from the Southwest and I was going South into it. Now that I'd finally gotten out of the city the road surface had reverted to the ubiquitous chipseal, large gravels spread over tar. It is not smooth and one cannot coast on it. Needless to say, I had to pedal all the way to Clevedon, no coasting allowed.

I made a short stop in Clevedon for lunch and then continued on to Kawakawa Bay. The road out to the bay is pretty rolling and by that time it had gotten quite warm. About midway, I was passed by a young woman cyclist out for a training ride out to Kawakawa Bay. She slowed down for a chat and some encouragement, then zoomed off (not that encouraging). She passed me going the other way before I got there as well (of course, she wasn't pulling a 50lb trailer--not that being about 35 years younger mattered).

I stopped in Kawakawa Bay to refill my water bottles and take a short break before tackling the hill to Orere Point. As I was sitting in front of the store a fellow pulls in on a BMW K75. He was a German heading to Christchurch to visit his brother. He had gotten into Auckland a few days ago, bought the bike on Trademe (it was complete with side cases) and was on his way. He was going to sell it on Trademe when he got to Christchurch and his purchase price was less renting a bike for his trip. He figured he could get near what he paid for it. Sound like a win--Hmm, maybe I have the wrong set of wheels.

This became a question to ponder as I started up the hills to Orere Point. The route is uphill most of the way and has a 4km section that is so steep that we used to use second gear in the campervan to get up it.

I'd already ridden 55 km to the bay and I wasn't able to ride up the hill the whole way. It was several stops and I finally had to push it the last 500 meters to the top. It was mid-afternoon by this point and it was hot enough to melt the tar in the pavement. I could hear and feel it sticking to the tires.

After the BIG hill, it was just rolling for the last 6km to the Top 10 Holiday Park at Orere Point, where I just about faded completely. I set up the tent and just lay there for a while before taking a well-needed shower and made dinner. It was a 67km day, a bit too much, I think, for a first day out.

If there are going to be many more hills like this, I'm not sure that the North Island will be my friend (I was never a subscriber to the "hills are your friends" point of view), or that I'll make it to Wellington.

Tomorrow will be a short day, from here to Miranda, about 35km away, to a campground we've stayed in several times in the past. They have their own hot springs and I may need it by then, the legs are already toast.

I've been looking at the maps to figure which way to go from there. That used BMW is looking better all the time.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Slow Start. I am Knackered. Many Hills.

I finally got started with this tour. I'm still doubtful of beng able to ride the North Island, but I'll at least give it a start.

Time for hills and more hills under an almost full load. The good news is that the bike was more stable this time and going downhill didn't seem scary any more.

The bad news is that after the hill up O'Brien Rd, the hill up fromO'Brian to Erua Rd., the hill from the RTF to Ostend, the hill up fromthe Causeway and two more hills on the road out the the ferry--I was knackered.
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This was not a good omen. Finally after a few more climbs on the way toCockle bay and only 15km of riding, I reached my friend Peter's. House in Cockle bay, Howick.

Peter was busy working on a campervan conversion. It is coming along quite well. He took a used Fiat Ducato (sort of like a Ford Transit) panel delivery van. Added sliding windows on both sides, a vent on top,access ports for gas and water, 220v connections, cabling for 12V and240V inside, roof and side paneling inside, fresh water tank, underside grey water tank, tankless water heater, 12 volt lights like our cabinetlights in the ceiling, a toilet and shower, sink, and a settee and cabinetry for the refrigerator and stove and storage.

He still has to finish the cabinetry, install the refrigerator, stoveand gas connections, add a lowering table, install the teak trim and get it a WoF and CoF.

His wife, Ann, has made all the cushions for the inside. They are just like boat cushions.

Peter and I caught up on all the usual things, FTG stuff , his work,cycling, motorcycles, etc. We discussed the best (least hilly) routefrom here south. There isn't a non-hilly one. He suggested going toClevedon via Manuwera and Alfriston then up to Hunua and then it wouldbe downhill to Rt 2. A short bit of Rt 2 (which I wouldn't really lookforward to), before the side road to Miranda. That might be two days forme and trailer.
I'm not sure of that one. It is not the most direct and I'm not convinced that going up to Hunua is not any more hilly than the coastal route via Clevdon, Kawakawa Bay and Orere Point.

On Saturday. The Fulcum Exhibition. The Market.

On Saturday, I cycled over to the Ostend weekly market and to a Kinetic Sculpture exhibition at Cable Bay Vineyards. (Okay, it wasn't exactly direct).

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The Ostend market is a weekly institution, an open air (mostly) market with food, crafts, books, and used items. There are a few stalls with produce, but more prepared food stalls, so it isn't really a farmers market. My friends, Pieter and Russell share a section where Pieter has plants for sale and Russell has garden ornaments. Christiane, with whom I'm currently staying has a stall where she sell cat-oriented items, mostly cards and other gifty things.

Christiane and another acquaintance, Danielle Fillon, an artist, used to have tables inside the local hall next to the market, but decided recently to move outside and share a stall. I wanted to stop by and see it.

After a quick visit as the market was quite crowded, I was off to Oneroa and Cable bay Vineyards. They are having an exhibition of "Kinetic Sculpture", titled "Fulcrum", by a Christchurch artist named Phil Price. The sculptures are relatively small. Evidently, most of his works are large scale. From a size perspective, the ones in the exhibiton wouldn't be out of scale in our yard; esthetically, on the other hand... They are made out of carbon fiber and move in even slight breezes. They seemed to sell in the $25-50K range and about $250K worth were already sold. The exhibit opened last weekend.

The winery building has been open less than a year, quite modern withthe requisite tasting room and and what looked to be a high endrestaurant. You might get by with $100/person if you didn't go overboardwith the wine.

Here are some photos of the sculptures:

On my way back from the exhibition, I stopped in Oneroa and was chatting with Paora, a greenstone sculptor who has a studio/shop there and another American friend of his came in,a fellow who moved to New Zealand in 1985 and lived on Waiheke, but hassince moved back to the US and lives on Nantucket. A relatively smallworld. His wife is a Kiwi, so they were back visiting friends and family. He is involved with the Whaling Museum and Historical Society and is trying some type of arrangement for Paora to visit and do a piece for the museum. It turns out that the character of QueeQueeg from Moby Dick is based on the Maori chief Tupai Cupa. Paora's Maori ancestry stems from Ngāti Porou, the tribe of the Whale Rider. I'll try to take some photos of his work when I come back to Waiheke, meanwhile, here is a link to his website Ikonz, which is a bit out of date.
This afternoon, the adventure begins, I am heading off to visit my friend Peter at his home in Howick and then onward south. The initial goal is to bicycle to Wellington, but that could change at any time. It all depends whether or not I can do the hills of the North Island. I'll continue this when I get to places with Internet access.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Pedal quickly. Savor the view. Ride slowly.

Another haiku-like title--How long will I be able to keep this up?

It seems a good mantra for bicycle touring. The "Pedal Quickly" part is about keeping up a fast cadence, which means that one uses lower gears and puts less strain on the joints, strain being something to avoid over the long term.

Savor the view. Ride slowly. These go together. One of the things I noticed during our travels through New Zealand when Ellen and I lived here was that there was a distinct difference in experience between touring by bile and touring by car or campervan. By car, you cover more distance and "see" more over a given time, but when traveling by bicycle it seems that you sense more. On the bike the environment is more noticed, you have the smells and the sounds that you miss in a car.

Traveling slowly you can look at the countryside and focus on what you are looking at without running off the road (most of the time). You can just stop easily to look at something that catches you attention. (On New Zealand chip-seal roads this happens automatically if you stop pedaling). You interact more directly with the surroundings, whether it is the herd of cows that takes an interest in you and follows as you ride by, the person working in his yards who greets you and you stop for a chat, or the shorn sheep coming out of a roadside shed, which leads you to stop and get invited to watch a shearing shed in action.

Ride Slowly.

Of course, traveling slowly can have a different meaning. The other day, I decided that I had put together pretty much all I needed for touring, except food, so it was time for a test ride.

It seemed that a good first test would be the short ride to Ostend from Rocky Bay as would mean two hills in each direction. So, I packed up the trailer, which seemed to have more stuff on it than I expected, and headed off.

All I can say is that if the ride was any indication of the speed I will be capable of on the my way south, it will take me two months to reach Wellington. It took 45 minutes to do 9 km round-trip, mostly in my lowest gear.

Based on my trailer-less riding in the last few days, I didn't think that I was in poor shape for Waiheke hills (I haven't tried Hill Road though). The bike was heavy going up and one had to be really careful going down as any wobbles were magnified and it felt like the tail was wagging the dog.

Just like last time, it seemed that some trimming was in order. I carefully went through all that I had and I think that I was able to drop at least 10 pounds. I removed the extra tools I'd brought along to assemble the bike that were above and beyond the normal tool kit. I also removed a few clothes and decided to leave my backpack behind. It was empty and just strapped on top. The bag was certainly smaller.

The next test will be the real thing--starting Monday

Thursday, January 24, 2008

On Waiheke. Much to do. Too much.

It has been too long since the last post. I arrived on Waiheke on Friday and it has been nearly non-stop since then.

The haiku-like title is a subtle reference to the premise of Michael Pollan's new book: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. ", which has been the subject of a pair of articles in the online New York Times, "Seven-Word Wisdom: The Contest" and "Hold Contest. Read 1,000 Entries. Name Winners!". Ellen sent me the link. They are worth a read and a chuckle.

Waiheke had been without rain since November, until I arrived, that is. We have had three days of on and off showers since then. Aside from the rain, the weather has been warm--too warm and humid on the rainy days, and I'm sure you folks in New England wouldn't want to trade.

The island hasn't changed much in a year, except for a few new shops, including a french bread bakery and a seafood and fresh fish market. I haven't been into Oneroa yet, however. All of our friends have invited me to various and sundry meals and visits, taking up time. Tom Hepburn, my host has been working on installing a new set of stairs to his deck and as the good guest, I have offered my services and advice. He has been kind to take some of it.

I have managed one trip into Auckland, on Monday, in the rain. Since it was wet, I walked rather than take the bicycle. Somehow the hills seem smaller than I remember. I needed a pair of cycling gloves and a few other bits and pieces, like gas for the stove and a set of AA road maps.

Here is the 6km route I took, more or less (Google Maps will not let you go the wrong way down a one-way street)

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Much of the week has been spent visiting our friends with a lunch or dinner almost every day. I've tried to get out on the bike as well. By the time the day ends, I am a bit worn and have not been able to get it together to update the journal.
Yesterday I visited with my friends, Pieter and Bonnie de Jonge. Pieter has just finished restoring a 1960 Triumph 350 Speed Twin.
Bikes & Cars
(click on the picture to go to the album)
In addition to visiting Pieter & Bonnie, I also stopped by to see my ex-neighbor Russell, who has a motoring project of his own, getting a 1960's Morris Minor to work. He bought this beast for $350NZ, but it needed at least a new head gasket.
From Bikes & Cars

I was hoping to get off today, but it's not going to happen. Since the weekend is approaching, I think I'll wait until Monday and catch the Waiheke event of the weekend, the Show n' Shine, where a large number of cars (mostly old American brands) come over to the island for a meeting. I attended last year and it was quite interesting.
Here's a slideshow of last year's event.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Arrived in New Zealand at Last

After the usual nine hour wait in the Los Angeles airport, I was finally on the way to New Zealand. The flight left only a little bit late, but the pilot said that we would arrive on time. It was a totally full flight, at least in "Pacific" class (otherwise known as "cattle" class) and I had an aisle seat. Unfortunately, the seat next to mine was occupied by a large heavy smoker (ahh!, the aroma of stale tobacco smoke) who had beer for breakfast. He was a pleasant fellow otherwise, but the atmosphere wasn't really conducive to sleeping. Fortunately, there was a large selection of movies and the flight was smooth and uneventful.

Start of Soapbox.
Like much of the world, the gap between the haves and the have-nots is widening in air travel. While the airlines have mostly eliminated the term "First Class", the difference between "Business Class" and Economy has become a huge gulf. Business class on long-haul transoceanic flights now has seating that virtually converts into a mini stateroom with a flat bed (they even supply pajamas), while economy class seems tighter and more crowded than ever. The airlines have also introduced an economy plus class where, if you pay a bit more than full fare economy, there is more space between the rows, although the seat width is no different. Although they don't admit it, it sure seems like the rest of economy has become tighter.
End of Soapbox.

Arrival in Auckland was fun. At this time of the year, Air New Zealand has three direct flight from LAX to Auckland each evening, 8:00, 8:45 and 9:30 pm. They were all full. Evidently, the two earlier flights were delayed on the ground long enough that all three arrived in Auckland at about the same time, along with several flights from Asia. I've never seen the lines so long. As I have a Returning Resident's visa, I go through a separate queue for NZ citizens and residents. Usually this means no wait at Immigration. This time it was about 20 minutes. Needless to say the visitor queue was even longer. The customs queues (four abreast) were about 100 feet long. The only saving grace was that with the immigration delays, luggage was coming out when I got to the baggage area.

Cycling in New Zealand is obviously popular. there were at least six other people waiting for bicycles to come out. They were on one on the "earlier" flights and were heading to Christchurch, but their flight was so late that they'd missed the connection. They were pretty mellow about it and even asked me to join their tour.

I sailed through Customs and MAF (Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries) inspections. They didn't seem concerned about cranberry jam this time and only wanted to know if I had a Mountain or Road bike (the right answer is "Road"). It might have had something to do with the volume of traffic--or maybe it was my mature bearded respectable countenance (Yeah Right!) .

As I came out of the terminal, the Airport shuttle bus was waiting, so I dragged the bike box, giant 70 pound bag with trailer, backpack and computer case aboard and off to the city we went.

I was heading to Waiheke Island and the bus drop-off is across the street from the ferry terminal. The street is six lanes at that point and I must have been a reathr strange site to be continuously running across in the traffic to the ticket building, first with my backpack and computer, then the bike box and, finally, the trailer bag.

The bus was just five minutes too late for the 10 am ferry, so I had nearly an hour to get some cash and the necessary cafe latte.

An hour and a half later, I was finally on Waiheke with friends.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Traveling Through LAX

Finally, I'm off, but it is through LAX rather than San Francisco. This morning's 8 am flight was delayed to 9:27. It seems the co-pilot got into Logan late last night and we had to wait until he had the mandated eight hours of hotel time. So I was at the airport about four hours early.

After waiting in the TSA line (behind a woman with fragrance to gag by!) for about half an hour, I got to the gate, only to see that it had changed. It seems that the 8 am San Francisco flight had a problem with the plane, so they shifted to the aircraft that had been assigned to go to LAX. This didn't look good--but they fixed in time for the re-scheduled departure.

Five hours later we were in LA. Well, at LAX anyway. Time for another nine hours of waiting--to have the days of business class travel and airport lounges back again... LAX is probably one of the least comfortable places to wait around, particularly when one is tired. The gate areas are big open hard surfaced spaces that are incredibly noisy with lots of loud announcements. I've found a spot on the upper level of Terminal 2, where the business lounges are. I relatively comfortable seat with an electric outlet nearby to charge up the laptop. Only 3.5 hours to boarding.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

How not to get started

My flight out of Boston was scheduled for 8:07am EST today, to San Francisco. It didn't happen.

Since we were about to get another Monday morning Nor'easter this morning, we rose at 3:15am to get an early start to the airport. It was just raining when we left at about 4am.

The first mistake was not calling to confirm the flight. At 3:30 in the morning it was raining and it never occurred to me that there would be a problem.

In the past, when I was traveling by air every week, it was almost always true that the early flights would get out. The planes were already at the airport, so if the destination wasn't having bad weather, the plane would go if it could take off. This was a wrong assumption in the new world of air travel.

We drove into the terminal at Logan Airport, I took out my bicycle box and bags and after the usual good-byes, Ellen headed back home, hopefully beating the snow. I walked into the terminal and up to the United counter to find that all morning flights were canceled. They didn't even bring the plane in last night.

I quickly called Ellen to find her at the toll booth entering the Ted Williams tunnel. Unfortunately, there was no way for her to turn around, so she had to go through the tunnel. Following the tool collector's directions, it lead her onto the wrong ramp and she ended up on the Mass Turnpike heading west and had to go all the way to Cambridge to turn around--and now it was snowing fiercely.

Meanwhile, I had gotten in a different line to see what could be rescheduled. The airline, United, had rescheduled me on a flight this afternoon to San Francisco. This one, however, arrived after my flight to Auckland is to depart. They had already figured this out and had me booked from San Francisco to Los Angeles, where I was now booked on the Air New Zealand flight leaving on the 16th!

At first I had a bit of trouble understanding what the agent was saying, as it made little sense. After I pointed out that I had to spend nearly two days in LA, which they weren't going to pay for, and that I had expected to fly from SFO, the agent looked around a bit more. All of the flights from SFO to Auckland were totally booked for the rest of the week, so LA was my only choice. He booked me on the 8 am flight to LA on wednesday and the LA-Auckland flight that evening.

By that point Ellen had made it back to the airport and we reloaded the bike an bags back into the car and headed home in the heavy snow.

Fours hours sleep, a 4 am, 45 minute drive in the rain, a half hour backtrack and an hour's drive in the snow and no flight out is not how to get started. At least the current forecast for Wednesday is for partly cloudy.

Monday, January 7, 2008

First Post

It's time again for the winter escape to New Zealand. This year I am bringing my bicycle and trailer back for another tour. I did the last long tour in 2002, riding the length of the South Island from Picton to Bluff. This year it will be a tour of the North Island. I haven't quite decided what kind of route to take. Either south to north, starting in Wellington, or in two parts, starting from Auckland and going south, then back to Auckland by train or plane and then going to the Northland from Auckland. We'll see. I leave Boston on January 14th, just over a week from now.