Sunday, February 22, 2009

2/16/2009 - What Are the Odds?!

At the expense of ruining the suspense, I will just say now that I am fine and did not need to go to the hospital. You will understand below.

It's a leisurely morning, but camp is packed away eventually and we head to downtown Invercargill where we'll be leaving Zod while biking today. It is going to be a great ride as we are not carrying any baggage or trailers - just naked bikes. It is about 35km each way to Bluff, but we have time. I am a little worried that I am going to get left in the dust, as tandems tend to be faster on the flats and downhill (though at a disadvantage uphill). It is pretty flat to Bluff.

My worries evaporate, however, as we start pedaling. It is so nice to get back in the saddle again. I almost tap my speedometer and GPS to check that the readings are right - we are averaging 18-20mph without even working hard. I hit 33mph on the flat during a little sprint for fun. It is amazing. I have not used the big front chainring on this trip yet, but it is all I use today without any weight on the bike. I feel giddy. Erik, Kris, and I hold a conversation while we bike (and shoulder-willing). The scenery flies by. It takes only an hour to hit Bluff.

IMGP1820.JPGTown Motto: "Bluff: The Wart on the Chin of New Zealand"

For being a final destination in New Zealand, Bluff is just plain ugly. Old factories and rusty buildings sit in the background of rotting boats half-buried in the mud next to the road. The water doesn't look clean, and even the roads don't look as kept up as the rest of New Zealand. As we walk up to a store to grab some lunch items, two women that I am pretty sure are prostitutes walk by. (Don't ask me how I know. They may have been local nuns just out for a walk while their shawls were drying, but I have never known nuns to show THAT much behind, or I have been to the wrong churches.)

The actual southernmost point of Bluff is quite nice, though. And it really brings home that I have finished my cycling in New Zealand after around 1400 miles. I suddenly feel elated and ready for the next step in this trip.

IMGP1823.JPGThank God I didn't accidentally put the tearaway bike shorts on today. I did this with the van, as well, but we forgot to get a picture.

IMGP1825.JPGIf I didn't know he was a vegetarian, I would have said Erik is about to take a bite out of Kris or me. On another note, this is the first time EVER that I was not relegated to the back middle of the picture.

Soon enough, we start back. Erik and Kris really put the hammer down. We get some tailwind and average 23-24mph. I have to really work to keep up this time. It is still exhilarating, though.

We are within a mile of the van - less than a mile from the end of a 1400 mile trip that included hours of narrow, windy, and treacherous roads, massive trucks, and blind one-lane bridges - when it happens. I pull into a roundabout as a white van (without his blinker on) crosses over into my lane without looking. All I can see is flat white paint as I slam on my brakes, giving the van just enough time to get past as I catapult over the handlebars in a (I would like to think) graceful arc with my bike still partially attached to my clips. The bike and I separate somewhere in midair, and I hit and roll across the concrete shoulder-and elbow- first, hearing only the sound of my bike clattering to a stop.

Thankfully, the rest of traffic saw me. The van didn't even slow down. A quick status report from all of my assorted limbs shows that they are accounted for, though my left elbow and knee hurt quite a lot. Erik and Kris hurry over and help me to the side of the road while I recover for a minute and palpate the affected joints. The pain recedes, and I realize that I don't have a mark on me. Isn't this sort of how Clark Kent realized he was Superman? The popping of my elbow returns me to reality.

The bike is fine, and after 2 minutes, I am too. Kris and Erik saw the whole thing, and are very complementary about my full endo.

Make it back to the van without any further fun, though I can't quite straighten my left arm. We load up the bikes and head back to the Velodrome to see it in actual action (as we missed the races yesterday).

It appears to be the national team out practicing, and they are fast. They use a small motorcycle to pace them around and around the track. I have no idea how quickly they are moving, but it suddenly makes the day's cycling look slower.

IMGP1827.JPGIt doesn't look like much when still, but these guys appear to be just about sideways on the steeper parts of the track. The guy on the motorbike looks like Mac's manager in Mike Tyson's Punch-Out.

Once done with that, it is time to kick back and drive to Dunedin. It stays mostly on the coast, but gets quite hilly the closer we get. It almost looks like pictures of the Scottish highlands in some places, which is appropriate as the founders were Scots.

IMGP1828.JPGJust out of Invercargill. This is just so New Zealand.

It is a big city, and we find a campground that is about 4km from downtown. It is getting late by this time, so we grab groceries and Kris and Erik make up a fantastic Mexican vegetarian meal.

It starts dumping down rain before long, so I crawl into my tent early. After all, I need to recover a bit.

Tomorrow, we part ways again. I will be heading to Lake Tekapo, while Kris and Erik will jump back on their bikes. Going to be a long day of driving.

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