Thursday, October 27, 2011

Well, it's had a good life.

Looking back through more than four years of photos, it's pretty clear just how much my little bike has been involved, how much it's been used & how much it has travelled. Apologies for the gratuitous photo dump - but I'm feeling nostalgic & really don't care. But after over five-thousand kilometres, five continents, fourteen countries (including ten US states & two Canadian provinces that are bigger than most of those countries), many great friendships made & strengthened and more memories besides - I think I can be excused. (The frame cracked badly on Monday & that bike is no more, in case you're wondering.)

Brand spanking new, June 2007

With British riding buddies, John, Rich & Andy - Craters of the Moon, Taupo

Many, many days at the Redwoods - Rotorua

Four day weekends were good for travelling - with Luke, Craigieburn, Central South Island

Also with Luke near Oxford, Central South Island

Near Pokhara, Nepal - February 2008

With Luke again at the end of the 42nd Traverse, Central North Island

One of a few 24 hr relays - this one a muddy Moonride - Rotorua, May 2008

Packed up for another plane trip - off to UK & Europe, June/July 2008

Three countries in one day - Switzerland, Germany & France

Road-trip around the UK with Mum & Dad

Glentress, south of Edinburgh

Exmoor National Park, SW England with John, Andy & Rich

Back in NZ making a splash on the Wires Track

End of Luck at Last - one of many rides with Pukekohe riding buddies Mark & Roger

After a late Christmas, hitting Coronet Peak near Queenstown

I still maintain this is the best ride I've done - Queen Charlotte Walkway, Easter 2009, top of the South Island

Two & a half years since I left NZ - exploring San Diego

I met many riding buddies online for California riding - this friendship still going strong, cheers Chip

9am & it was already 40ºC/110ºF - riding near Las Vegas, June 2008

Cannell Plunge, CA - still on of the top rides I've done in the States

Joining thousands of cyclists taking over Central London for the Mayor's Skyride - over Tower Bridge

Visiting Adrian - Kenya, November 2009

A bleak, wet & freezing ride on Exmoor - right at the end of 2009

Somehow I ended up moving to Canada - it was a lot rockier & the riding was fantastic, May 2010

Minnewanka Trail, Banff National Park

Visiting school friends in Kelowna, BC

Razor's Edge - just out of Canmore & one of my favourites

Last Canmore ride of the season before the snow came & took the riding away for six months, October 2010; the end of a great summer riding with Alex

The snow was beautiful, but it wasn't good for riding on this bike

It was good for snow-bike-angels

After the riding hibernation, what better return than a three-month riding road-trip in the west-USA?  The world famous Slickrock Trail, UT, May 2011

I rode around the top of the Grand Canyon!  Well, a little bit of it.

Emma & Brent (Kiwi mates) were doing a similar road-trip in reverse; we met up near San Luis Obispo, CA

There was a little bit of snow still at the start of the Downieville Downhill, but what a ride!

McKenzie River Trail - central Oregon.

Definitely looking forward to the next bike, whatever that may be. I just hope it's soon.

A good, but sad, Quantocks ride

I finally dragged myself in to London to watch a Rugby World Cup game with a bunch of black-clad Kiwis. The final deserved such commitment (getting up at 6.30 on a Sunday) & it was great to meet up with Anna (a family friend from Te Puke), her boyfriend Luke & an assortment of their friends for the occasion. It seemed that I would finally visit a Walkabout pub, but the line outside dictated otherwise & we ended up in a pub around the corner. It was good fun being surrounded by rather excited Kiwis, even if the game didn't exactly go as planned & was rather tense in the later stages - the celebrations were worth waiting for. Over brunch it was neat to catch up with Anna & Luke and share various travel & living-in-the-UK stories. With a drive across the city we parted ways & I headed home to pack wet-weather riding clothes & my bike in the car & head west to Taunton for a few day's riding - my first MTBing since the last shoulder incident.

As always, it was great to see John, Anna & their young twin daughters. Richard had also travelled west for some riding; unfortunately for us, there was a heavy rain warning for the west-country on Monday. But most of the rain seemed to fall during the night time so we were left to watch out the window as light rain fell & we hummed & hawwed about when to go out & ride around the Quantocks. Eventually we got out the door & managed to ride for about three hours with little rain falling on us. We still managed to get quite wet as the ground was still wet from the previous night's rain. As it was extremely blustery on the top of the hills, we spent most of our time riding down in to & up out of the coombes in amongst the trees. It was a nice little 24 km ride, with nothing too technical or steep to test my lack of biking.

It was with some surprise that I looked down at my bike during one of our many rest/chat stops to see a crack working its way around the top of my top-tube. Closer inspection showed that it had started on the bottom of the tube at the weld to the down-tube & propagated up both sides of the tube. My bike was dead & there was to be no more riding for me this week (or for a while - it's terminal) - I did manage to get up the last hill & back to the van, when fittingly the heavens opened & further dampened my spirits. Various plans were hatched on the drive home - basically, I'll get a hardtail frame & ride that around flattish-Hampshire when I get around to it. But with dealing with a new car, moving city, finding somewhere to live, starting a new job & waiting for that first pay-packet - it's something that will be on the back-burner for a while.

Whether it was in deference to me or John & Rich were also a little tired from Monday's ride, there was no riding on Tuesday. Instead we took the van down to Sidmouth through the beautiful Somerset & Devon countryside to pick up a table from Johns' parents. We managed to eventually find our way down on foot to the nice little town center & the non-commercialised seafront & spy the mouth of the Sid (strange name for a river that). We managed nicely with the weather - that is until halfway through fish & chips on the shore it started raining on us. We walked home much more directly.

John & Rich went out for a much longer ride on Exmoor yesterday, but I was happy pottering & amusing the girls - even if Esther was rather poorly. I broke the drive back to London up visiting family & then having dinner on the side of the Avon with Andy.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Little Dover drive

Around the MRI last week, I was looking around for a little cheap & cheerful car to buy. I had tried to see if I'd be able to get away with living without a car, but work is just a bit out of the way to commit to riding every day (especially through winter) & moving is difficult without a car. I looked at a few cheap little hatchbacks from some rather dodgy dealers not far from home. I went private in the end & found a guy that gets part-exchanges/trade-ins from a local dealer - this one had a good service history & I was really just after something small & reliable that would swallow my bike (wheels off). So even though I really wanted a car with five doors & a smaller engine - I wasn't keen on hunting around any more, so got this little car. Dad should be pleased I finally got a Nissan - hopefully it's much more reliable than the Outback, time will tell.

So keen to see how it would run on a trip out of town, Trish & I went down to just north of Dover for the day to see Trish's sister, Jan. It was great to finally see Jan again - it had been so long since my return to the UK that I forgot to take all my Canada & US photos to show off. We had a nice big walk along the top of the cliffs through numerous, surprisingly dry, fields & then down to St Margaret's Bay. Unfortunately it wasn't quite clear enough to see France this time.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Shoulder MRI

Thanks to my gammy shoulder I've spent a lot more time visiting hospitals (for me) than any other time since my best attempts to get a new face (it wasn't a well thought out plan - 1st & 2nd degree burns don't go hand-in-hand with such things) in 2007. Today was finally my turn to go in & get my shoulder filled with dye & then have the MRI done - nice & early too. As I was first up for the day & they knew I was coming, it all went very smoothly. First there were a few needles - two or three locals in the back of my shoulder. After the second deep local I didn't have any idea how many needles were going in & eventually the 12 mL of gadolinium (the dye) was in & I was sent down the corridor to the MRI room.

After confirming my name & date of birth for the umpteenth time & assuring the radiographer that I had no metal in my body (the closest I've come to metal infiltrating my eyes would be all that ironsand that I had washed & scraped out back at NZ Steel), I was fitted with some sort of cuff around my shoulder. Then it was just a case of lying back on the table, putting on the headphones (so I could hear the radiographer & not hear the MRI itself so much) & taking hold of some sort of "abort" button. Gradually the table slid me back in to the throes of the instrument. As my right shoulder was the target, I was right up against the wall of the tunnel on my left side staring up five to ten centimetres at a rather uninteresting grey surface.

There were a fair few images taken, the first three only took fifteen seconds each; the last four were six, six, five and a half & four and a half minutes. But after having to stay completely still & listening to various operating sounds - varying from a jack-hammer, to muted beeping, & to chirping [that was the cooling pump] - for almost half an hour, those last four minutes felt more like ten. By then I had an annoying itch on my chin & my right elbow was doing its best to spasm itself sideways. If you're bigger than me & claustrophobic, it can't a fun experience. Apparently they have methods for getting obese people in - that's good, so long as they have ways of getting them out.

No side-effects, I managed a good little 30 km ride out in the Kentish countryside this slowly-warming afternoon.

Monday, October 17, 2011


I played the part of bad-son this weekend past & went off up to Colchester to distract Mum from her university studies. It took me a few trains & hours to get there, but it was a nice day on Friday to stroll through the City. Another bonus of living in London - in a short time I'd strolled past St Paul's, the Royal Exchange, Bank of England, the Lloyd's Building & the Gherkin, all architectural masterpieces in their own way, before eventually finding Liverpool St station.

Colchester was the Romans' first capital in England (before they moved to the more central Londinium) & is the oldest settled town in the country. Later on Friday afternoon we had a pleasant wander, checking out the Hollytrees Museum which gave a good outline of the last few centuries in Colchester, then enjoyed the late afternoon sunshine in the extensive gardens nearby, crossing the old Roman wall (also the oldest in the country) & checking out a large water-tower which could only be Victorian in its splendour.

The water-tower, Jumbo, through the old Roman wall (first century AD)

Colchester Town Hall

After a surprisingly good sleep on the floor of Mum's room, I settled for watching the first Rugby World Cup semifinal online - Wales vs France. A game that had a lot of the occasion taken out of it by that careless & dangerous tackle. I'm not completely surprised that the French made such hard work of it, but I was disappointed that the Welsh didn't have the nous or skill to put at least one more kick over - they missed so many penalty & drop-goal opportunities. We popped over to campus in the afternoon for Mum to get some books out of the library. Most importantly, this was my first opportunity to see & ride a Paternoster Lift - I had not know that they existed until the previous day when Mum told me about this example. Basically, it's a continuously moving chain of small boxes (two person) that you can hop on & hop off at any floor you want (there are no doors - so watch you don't have a go at self-amputation of an unwanted limb). All good fun - especially when you go in to the dark & over the top through the loft.

Mum about to disappear in to the unknown

Late afternoon was spent in the charming little riverside village of Wivenhoe, a short bus ride away. With little winding streets, houses & shops doing their utmost to stay close to upright, plenty of small yachts & boats docked & more bright autumn sunlight slowly sinking away it was nice pottering around.

More rugby on Sunday morning with All Blacks playing very well indeed in an intense semi-final to end up utterly outplaying & dominating the Wallabies. Once again, many missed kicks - but enough went through that it was a comfortable margin in the end. I might have to find some Kiwis to watch the final with next week - shouldn't be too hard in London. We had a good long visit to the Colchester Castle (a Norman one built on the remains of an old Roman fortification). Curiously, the castle has been a museum for eighty-odd years & a visit there is more about the museum than the castle itself. The museum mostly dealt with the Roman period of Colchester's history & was very good. After that I endured the perils of travelling by rail in the UK during the weekend, on my way home three separate rail journeys were disrupted by that scourge - Planned Engineering Works. Great to spend the weekend with Mum - hopefully she can now not be disrupted for a little while & settle down to the study at hand.

And Now For Something Completely Different - I've had to choose between two different process engineering jobs last week. In the end I went for the role just out of Southampton at a good [£5K+better benefits] less as Hereford is really so much further from an airport & London & all its travel options - travel is the main motivator for being here, after all. Also, I wasn't too keen on being told when to take three of my five weeks of annual leave a year (mandatory plant shutdowns). I feel like a bit of a wally turning down a much-better paying job from people that were really keen to employ me - but there you go. At this stage, I should be at work at the start of November - I'm looking forward to settling down to life for a while & having some money coming in so I can plan brief & not so brief trips to Europe & north Africa. The biking will be a lot flatter around Hampshire, but I might just have to build up a single-speed, come touring machine, & satisfy myself with mid-week rides in the New Forest & so on.