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Old 03-12-2011, 02:10 PM   #1
skyguy OP
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The Other Down Under: New Zealand by V-Strom



(V-Strom under snow - February, 2010)



Call me Skyguy.

Sometimes the greatest adventures have the least auspicious beginnings.

This one started in a blizzard.

Way back in the winter of 2009/2010, the Washington DC area (where I live) was hit with back-to-back blizzards. Not the tasty Dairy Queen kind; these were snowstorms that dumped more than two feet of the white stuff. It was the snowiest winter ever recorded in the region. I haven’t seen that many flakes since my high school reunion.
Schools were closed for a week. The federal government was shut down. The entire population was stuck in their homes for days.


I decided to use my trapped-at-home time off constructively:

I watched the entire “Lord of the Rings” trilogy on DVD. The extended versions. All of ‘em. It was great.

And it got me thinking. I was due for an adventure.

Overdue, really. In my youth, I spent my summers doing long bicycle tours. Like Denver-to-Boston long. I’ve ridden the entire west coast, all of the Rocky Mountain states, in all but a handful of the United States.


(on a bicycle)

Going-to-the-Sun Road? Did it. Icefields Parkway? Check. Alaska? Canadian Maritimes? Yep and yep. Iceland? Yes, Iceland. On a bicycle, loaded down with camping equipment. Sometimes with a group, sometimes alone. Always good fun.





(topping out on Going-to-the-Sun Highway, July 17, 1983)



I don’t really know why I stopped. Guess I just never got around to planning The Next Big Trip. Work consumed more time, vacation hours were scarce, and money was tight. Pick an excuse; most people have buckets of excuses in stock. And I kept getting older in the meantime.

It’s not like I wasn’t having fun. I took up skydiving, and pursued that for a decade or so. I’ve logged 1,587 jumps. I’ve taken a few scuba trips, too. And the sky and the sea will always be a part of my life.



(West Point, VA – that's me facing you in the yellow)


Then, a couple of years ago, I took up motorcycling… and it was like reuniting with an old friend. The motorcycle took me places I’d forgotten I loved. Two wheels, the open road, and the endless black ribbon of possibility… all that life-affirming, soul-satisfying stuff. That’s where I wanted to be.

Which brings us back to the snowy winter, and the Lord of the Rings. I was rapidly closing in on my first half-century of life on this planet, and wanted to do something momentous to mark the occasion. The movies got me thinking about New Zealand, which looked spectacular.

And I could use me some spectacular.

So, to celebrate my 50th birthday, I decided I would ride a motorcycle around New Zealand.





While I compost my thoughts, here are a few photos of coming attractions:






































Coming soon!

skyguy screwed with this post 03-15-2011 at 08:20 PM
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Old 03-12-2011, 03:14 PM   #2
madeouttaglass
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I'm in! I'm hoping to do the same thing next year while I visit my brother over there.
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Our ride across the USA on a Ural Gear Up- http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=781149

Escape from NY- http://advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=955520
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Old 03-12-2011, 05:11 PM   #3
whatsgnu
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I'm in....love my V strom, always wanted to go to NZ, need an adventure !
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Now, if I could just put off procrastinating
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Old 03-14-2011, 05:43 PM   #4
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More!
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Our ride across the USA on a Ural Gear Up- http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=781149

Escape from NY- http://advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=955520
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Old 03-14-2011, 06:48 PM   #5
tuhughes
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More!

I had the same thought as I was driving around the south island a couple years ago, now I just need as excuse to go back!
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Old 03-14-2011, 07:20 PM   #6
GB
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Beautiful teaser pics

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Old 03-15-2011, 07:42 PM   #7
skyguy OP
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DAY ZERO - Long Day's Journey Into Night

So, where was I? Oh yes - to celebrate my 50th birthday, I decided I would ride a motorcycle around New Zealand.

Not “around” as in circumnavigate, more like “around” as in “generally go to lots of different places.” (ref. joke – “Your momma’s so fat, when she sits around New Zealand, she sits around New Zealand.” Discuss.)
And my actual birthday is in early July, which is the dead of winter in New Zealand. So some adjustments would need to be made.
After checking work and airline schedules, I ended up picking February 15th, 2011, as my departure date. I have a ton of Delta frequent-flyer miles, but they don’t fly to New Zealand. I could’ve taken one of their partner airlines, but the only one that goes to NZ was South Korean Air, and I’d have to go via Seoul – not the most direct route. So I ended up booking Delta to Sydney, then taking a little regional carrier (Pacific Blue) to Auckland.
But my lord… it takes a long time to fly halfway around the world.
DC to Atlanta.
Atlanta to Los Angeles.
Los Angeles to Sydney.
Sydney to Auckland.
(and back again!)
That long flight crosses two major geographical landmarks: the equator and the International Date Line. These are the lines that we humans use to divide the globe into eastern and western hemispheres, as well as northern and southern hemispheres. I’d crossed the equator before, when I flew to South Africa for a friend’s wedding. But the IDL was a new experience. Flying west, you lose a whole day when you cross that line. I took off from L.A. on Tuesday, then landed in Sydney on Thursday. Wednesday completely evaporated. I’ll get it back when I fly home; taking off on a Wednesday afternoon and landing 13-odd hours later on… Wednesday morning. Who needs that many Wednesdays? Best not to think about it.

I had a year to plan this trip. A whole year of maps and guidebooks; of pointing and clicking. I made the plane reservations first, then looked around for a place to rent a motorcycle. I ended up with Ardmore Motorcycle Rentals, mostly because they were in Auckland (well, near Auckland) and they would pick me up and drop me off from my motel. And, importantly – I could rent a Suzuki V-Strom from them. I ride V-Strom 650 here at home (yes, yes, the “Wee-Strom”) and I figured I’d have enough distractions riding in New Zealand without having to learn a new motorcycle as well. I reserved the bike, paid the deposit, and got on with the planning.
Alarmingly, a month or two later, I got an e-mail from Ardmore saying that the company had changed hands. It was always a sort of mom-and-pop outfit, but now it was going to be run by some other person. I thought about pulling the plug and trying another company, but first I exchanged a couple of e-mails with the new owner, and my confidence was restored. Mostly. But up until I got the bike, I was a bit apprehensive.
A year to plan. Naturally, being a lazy sack, I did most of the work in the last month or so. And some things remained unplanned even as I left. But planning – even a whole year of it – does not make for good ride reports. No, we need to get to the riding and the pictures and the adventures. And the misadventures.

So… on with the show. Let’s elide over that year of planning and jump ahead to January, 2011. Here’s what January looked like:






All too familiar. As my departure date neared, my anticipation grew. This winter, the east coast of the USA got hit with storm after storm after storm, and I was nervously tracking the weather – not just in Washington DC, but in all my connecting cities: Atlanta, Los Angeles, Sydney, Auckland. Australia was also getting hit with cyclones, flooding much of Queensland. But the stars aligned, and February 15th came, and the weather was good in all five cities. Hope I didn’t use up all my luck on the first day.

Time to go. I managed to fit everything – riding clothes, street clothes, camping gear, cameras and electronics – into two big duffel bags. My Wolfman tank bag, with accessory backpack straps, turned into my carry-on. Here I am at the airport –


I retouched that photo to look like I was a little softer in the midsection, and balder in the top section, so I wouldn’t be so intimidating. You’re welcome.

My nephew gave me these anti-jetlag pills. I’m going to try them on this trip. You chew one every two hours.





They’re made in New Zealand, so if they don’t work, I can always go to the company and complain in person.





Made it to Atlanta; the first and shortest flight of the day. Here’s my ATL-LAX plane, a 777 just like the one I’ll be riding from LAX to Sydney.





Sunset in Atlanta – note the planes all lined up to take off. Hurry up and wait.






Delta flight #17, seat 45-A.

Pillow: Check

Blankie: Check

We’re going to be spending a lot of time here.





Shout-out to Arizona, my old home-state, on the way to LAX.





An eye-blink in Los Angeles. And then, the long long flight into the darkness.

I haven’t spent that much time up in the air since I shared a see-saw with Carla Blavinovsky back in kindergarten.
You know that sleepy-wakey feeling that you get when a small car falls on your head from a moderate height? It was like that, for some twenty-odd hours. I watched a couple of movies on the back-of-seat screen; INCEPTION was a perfect film to watch in this condition, especially when the aircraft turbulence synced up with action in the film. And that scene at the end (SPOILER ALERT) when everyone is waking up in the airplane? The sunrise hit right on time, when everyone was waking up on MY airplane – if I wasn’t so loopy, it would’ve been ever so cool.


Sunrise over the Pacific.

Finally hit Sydney, parked next to a massive Airbus A-380 (Emirates) which is quite a behemoth, making even the ever-present 747s look a bit small. Well, in comparison.



(moooo...)


Sydney customs were fine, but they’re very particular about biological contamination. I had to inform them about the granola bars I had in my luggage, because they had seeds in them. Good thing they didn’t ask me about that jar of Zebra Mussels, kudzu, and the Pine Beetle larvae in my carry-on...
Grabbed a quick bite, and checked my bags in to the New Zealand flight, for an extra $90 in excess baggage fees ($10 per kilo x 9 kilos over). Boarded the little-by-comparison Pacific Blue 737, and took off for my fifth – and final – flight of this journey.


That’s the Tasman Sea down there, a couple thousand kilometers of open ocean between Australia and New Zealand.

Less than three hours later… What’s that up ahead?





“Feet dry” – over NEW ZEALAND.





N E W W W W - Z E A L A N D



I finally landed in NEW FRICKIN’ ZEALAND.

Collected my bags – they made it all the way with me – snagged some NZ cash at an ATM and caught a cab to the motel. Wandered around and found dinner. (you know what McDonald’s calls a Quarter Pounder in New Zealand? A Quarter Pounder. Screw the metric system) Activated my cell phone and misspelled a text to my friends back in the US: “Full moon over Auckland – I have aprived.”

Slept. Woke. And the real adventure began.

Next time: Less airplanes. More motorcycling. Sorry about all the preamble.



skyguy screwed with this post 03-15-2011 at 07:54 PM
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Old 03-15-2011, 10:00 PM   #8
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I'm in. Great writing.
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Old 03-16-2011, 02:18 AM   #9
madeouttaglass
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I'm loving this report and picturing my own dashing self in your place next year.
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Our ride across the USA on a Ural Gear Up- http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=781149

Escape from NY- http://advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=955520
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Old 03-16-2011, 05:54 AM   #10
Dudelookslikealady
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Keep it coming!
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Old 03-16-2011, 06:48 AM   #11
Speeder54
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Man do I miss home... have a safe trip and enjoy the country.
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Old 03-16-2011, 07:25 AM   #12
madeouttaglass
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Speeder54 View Post
Man do I miss home... have a safe trip and enjoy the country.
You lived there and LEFT!???!!!! Why on earth?
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Our ride across the USA on a Ural Gear Up- http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=781149

Escape from NY- http://advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=955520
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Old 03-16-2011, 01:31 PM   #13
silly torque
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Quote:
Originally Posted by madeouttaglass View Post
You lived there and LEFT!???!!!! Why on earth?
we tend to do that........ here's a figure to ponder.... New Zealand has a population circa 4 million. There are 9 million passports.........

We travel like crazy and sometimes we get lost along the way..... or kidnapped by a 6ft tall dutch girl as in my case... .

Back on topic....nice report.. keep it coming. ( i didn't start riding until i got to Europe but really want to go back and do a tour of the homeland... so look forward to reading the rest)
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Old 03-16-2011, 04:39 PM   #14
amsterdamned
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Enjoying the ride,...and, next?
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Old 03-16-2011, 04:48 PM   #15
PacificPT
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Waiting for more.......
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There's roads and there's roads and they call, can't you hear it? Roads of the earth and roads of the spirit. The best roads of all are the ones that aren't certain. One of those is where you'll find me till they drop the big curtain. Bruce Cockburn
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