Am actually really excited this morning. Hop out of bed at 5:45AM, have to eat breakfast and put away camp and make it the mile to the train - plan is to take the 7:45 train south to Pukekohe which will bypass the serious traffic and is only 10 miles from Pokeno, where we started our trip in 1985.
This is how I know I have been here waaaaaay too long.
I am driven. Everything is put away. Everything is packed. The panniers are on the bike. I hook up the trailer. . .
No, wait. I DON'T hook up the trailer. Because the little piece of aluminum that connects the trailer to the rear axle of my bike is not there. It is in North Shore, Auckland, about 30km away, at the Avanti dealer who forgot that it went on this particular bike.
Seriously sad face.
The funny sound I heard at that point was my heart dropping directly into my size 14s.
Recovered after a minute and made alternate plans. Mad Max offered to watch my bike and have the holiday park people hold on to it once they came into the office (as he was going to catch a plane). I, meanwhile, head toward North Shore. While waiting for the shop to open, grab coffee and breakfast. By 10:00, I have taken the bus all the way up to the bike shop. I misread the bus schedule and waste 40 minutes waiting for a nonexistent bus. It takes approximately 3 minutes at the bike shop before I head off again with my tiny piece of aluminum.
Mad Max is still there at 11:00 when I make it back. I'm a little frustrated - the trains don't run to Pukekohe this late, so I head to a town (Papakura) that is further away from Pokeno, but should get me around traffic.
On the train platform, smile is back. The weather helps.
It is about noon when I finally jump on the pedals.
Finally have started just after noon. No, this was not taken in a blonde forest, that's just my copious arm hair.
Luckily, the day is prime Broken clouds give me equal amounts of sunshine and shade, and the terrain (at first) is easy, rolling hills.
Perfect cycling day. Even though I'm starting late.
I just follow the GPS, which I have programmed to take me to Pokeno, the town where we started our journey in 1985 and the start of Highway 2. It is avoiding the expressway, which is off limits to bikes.
Hit a couple of MAJOR steep hills on the backroads here, and it is at this point that I notice that my nice, new derailleur will not give me my lowest gear. This leads to some painful hill work and a new annoyance at the North Shore Avanti guys (who, overall, have actually done a lot for me, even with this).
At this point, I would like to to give a quick rendition of the last 2 miles to Pokeno, based on the GPS point of view versus the reality of the situation.
GPS: Turn left onto road.
Reality GPS: Pass the correct road while going too fast down a hill. Try to turn around and get into your low gear. Barely catch yourself from falling over as you forget to unclip your shoes from the pedals and cut your leg with the large front gear on the bike. Head back uphill and turn down the correct road. Realize that the reason you missed the turn was because the "road" is a twin set of gravel ruts.
This is the road my GPS told me to go on.
GPS: Continue on road to Highway 2 and Pokeno.
Reality GPS: Head down a hill on the gravel ruts. Stop suddenly in a wash of gravel as you come up to a set of unkempt farmer's fields and a "Do Not Enter" sign on a deserted water treatment plant. Curse once, loudly, as you realize that the road has ended completely. Consider pushing bike and trailer through fields for a mile or so.
Recover yourself, then perform a legal U-turn.
Slip your way up the gravel road. Curse Garmin as you check over the map and realize that it will take about 10 miles of biking to get to Pokeno by back roads that actually exist, even though the town is only about 2km away and in sight.
Find expressway. Illegally walk your bike the wrong way down the offramp as there is no onramp at this intersection. Illegally ride your bike the 800 meters along the expressway to the Pokeno intersection.
Turn left to Highway 2 and Pokeno.
Long story short, I made it to Pokeno.
This is roughly the same spot. . .
. . . as this picture, taken at Pokeno in 1985 just before we set off on that trip. The trees have grown up big time since then!
Started to bike, realizing that my planned journey totals about 65-70miles (not including the walking this morning) that will get me past Paeroa around dark, if I don't collapse first. My previous longest day was 57 miles, and I have not been riding for 2 weeks.
Despite this, I am feeling good. The day is still excellent and I have beaten the backroads to Pokeno.
At some point, I get spit on with liquid of some kind by a passing car, with no real explanation. Not sure what kind of liquid it was, but it was welcomed as the sun was out and I was HOT!
Start running out of energy when I see the sign for an orchard. This turned out to be the place where we first camped back in 1985.
Gielen's orchard back in 1985.
The orchard, today
Back in 1985, we grabbed a bunch of random fruit here. Today, they have ripe plums - NZ$3 for a big bag. Sold! I talk to the guy running the place - they say that they inherited it in 1984, but he doesn't recall the name at that time. I eat about 9 of them right away and still have a 2/3 full bag. Deee-licious. Hope there is a bathroom near wherever I camp tonight.
Moving on. Hit rain for awhile, which drenches me, but then the squall is past and the sun and wind dry me off again. I use up all 4 liters of water I have and refill them at a cafe.
Random picture while bicycling. Lots of ant-cows.
I closely watch the distance to Paeroa. I am in the zone for awhile, and there is only about 30km to Paeroa when a very kind lady flags me down.
"Hey! Do you want a ride? We can toss the bike and trailer in the back of the van," she says, smiling. Her name is Vianna (like "Dianna" but with a "V"). She has done this for several bicyclists and is heading to Tauranga (my goal for tomorrow evening). Somewhat due to the nice day, but mostly due to plain old stubbornness (I have decided that, despite all the misfortunes the day has thrown me, that I am going to make it to Karangahaki Gorge tonight), I kindly refuse her offer. We talk for a bit and then she zips off to Tauranga.
The last 10 miles were not fun. I was rapidly running out of water and calories, but mostly my legs were simply getting ready to give up the ghost. At last, around 7:45PM, I roll into Paeroa. I stop at a gas station there to pick up milk for the morning. That's the point I realized I was really calorie-deficient and a bit dehydrated - I almost couldn't make a normal sentence, and just couldn't THINK when I was asking the person at the counter about campgrounds and places to grab quick food. She gave me a funny look but was kind enough to give me some places to eat that were open late. Ate some quick energy and pushed to the downtown where I picked up a burger and fries (the only place left open). Started to feel better.
Pushed on past Paeroa. The campground should be about 5km beyond the town. Alas, it was also uphill. My legs were quite unhappy about this development, but made it the requisite distance with the help of some beautiful sky candy.
Paeroa. It is starting to get late.
I can see a lightning storm ahead, and hope that it pushes away rather than toward me. It would just suck to make it this far almost entirely dry only to pitch my tent in a downpour.
Unhappy-looking sky over where the campground should be. Small rainbow from the angle of the sun.
After all that, I pass the area the campground is supposed to be, but. . . No campground. After another km or so, pull over at a rest area. Ask two people about local campgrounds, but they do not know. That is it. I am at the end of the daylight and the end of energy. I pitch my tent in a secluded part of the rest area without a care. It does not downpour, and I crawl into my sleeping bag after locking up the bike and trailer and. . . crash.
Just before going to sleep. Pretty drained.