Thursday, September 27, 2012

How to Lose Friends in the Forest, Shooting Dogs, and the Awesomeness of Commuting...

I don't remember, up until about a week or two ago, when the last time was that I woke up in the morning full of energy, jumped out of bed, and headed out the door as soon as I could pull some clothes and shoes on... It's an awesome feeling, and all I can put it down to a total change in lifestyle... Making my own bread, eating eggs from my chickens and riding to work every day... Speaking of which, I must admit that I used to have this image of commuters as grubby, smelly, fashion victims who rode with a pannier on one side of their bike and their trousers tucked into their socks. Well, I'm a convert, and my stereotype is way out of line. Commuting to work on my bike every day is, I am quite sure, one of the many reasons I feel so damn good in general lately. There are a bunch of reasons why commuting is awesomely cool:
1. Having and old skool Yak chromoly frame, spokey dokeys and special UV pedals is completely acceptable.
2. After the morning commute into work, you feel full of beans and ready to go whilst others are often hauling themselves in the door in their half-awake, coffee-deprived state.
3. It keeps you fit, and if you ride a lot, like I do, there is nothing better than a leisurely ride in the morning and afternoon to spin the legs out.
4. You save on petrol and car expenses (nearly two weeks since I started my car now!)
5. It saves you money at the supermarket... When you have to haul all your shopping home in your backpack, you tend to shy away from buying things you don't need, simply because you need to find a way to carry them home.
6. You can take awesome detours via the forest on the way home.
7. You see, notice and experience things in a way that you simply can't when you are surrounded by a hunk of metal and glass.
8. You develop incredible problem-solving skills (see above comment regarding shopping).

Last week's weather was absolutely stunning... A few rides, a bit of work here and there and then an amazing weekend to top it off. I have gotten into the habit of being out and about at 6am each morning to take Paddi for a walk through the Redwoods. It's such a peaceful and relaxing way to start the day. We really are very lucky for what we have right on our doorstep here in Rotorua. I got as far as Friday and, had my week finished there, I reckon I would have been pretty happy with that. Friday morning I spent with the Rock FM crew running around on TeNgae Road in a blue wig collecting donations for Blue September at the traffic lights. Come the afternoon, I was offered a bit of an early mark at work, so headed over to Brew Bar to shoot the breeze and talk shit with a bunch of other biking types. I've only been here in Rotorua a few weeks, and I already feel like part of the furniture... The mountain biking community here has welcomed me with open arms... It just goes to show, in all my travels in the last 6 months or so, that it doesn't matter where in the world you are, there is always a family of fellow mountain bikers happy to take you under their wing. Thanks guys!

Saturday morning I woke up nice and early to a very crisp, clear day. My partner had arrived the night before from Palmerston North and I left her curled up in bed and ventured out the door just before 7am to hit up the forest with my mate Tony from Magellan. I am convinced that my partner must think there is something wrong with me. I doubt there are many people who believe it is normal for someone to spring out of bed at 6am and dance around the house in lycra singing little made-up tunes about how they are about to go for a bike ride... Tony and I rendezvoused and then set off up Nursery Hill. I had some trails in mind that I wanted to try and find... One new trail in particular which adjoined the top of the newly-built "Corridor". We took the long way up Tokarangi Pa Road... Partly for the sake of adventure and exploration, and partly because I wasn't really sure where this new trail was located. It was an absolutely stellar morning to be out, and there wasn't another soul in sight at such an early hour. I'd only just recently picked up the Ninja from the workshop with newly serviced forks and rear shock and it was an absolute dream to ride (many thanks to the guys at Cyclezone!). It also gave me the opportunity to take the new Magellan Switch Up GPS out for a spin... It's early days, but so far, I am pretty impressed with it's functionality and size... Seems to do all the things my Garmin Edge 500 does, but in a smaller, more lightweight casing.

So after we hit up Corridor, we made our way across the forest to head up towards Frontal Lobotomy. The plan was to hit up Tihi O Tawa and then do a bit of a time check before we made a call on the last half of our ride. Tony was a bit quicker on the climb up Direct Road than me, so I just let him go and do his thing, assuming I would see him at the next trail junction... Little did I know that was the last I would see of Tony that day... I arrived at the next trail junction... No Tony... I assumed he must have kept climbing and that maybe I would see him at the head of Frontal Lobotomy... Nope... By now, I was a little bit cranky... What sort of riding buddy pisses off all the way up the hill and doesn't stop to regroup at the trail junctions??? Maybe I would see him at the top near Tihi O Tawa? Nope... Little did I know that Tony wasn't as rude as I was thinking... He had headed up towards Hot X Buns at the first turnoff... Thank God those Magellan GPS units have an infinitely more reliable sense of direction than the dude that is selling them!!! In any case, it was a blast catching up with him and I'll look forward to our next ride!
I eventually resigned myself to the fact that I was going to be completing my morning's ride by myself. I headed back up to corners, then back up again to Be Rude Not To. The trails in the forest right now are running super super fast and I must admit I have had my share of sketchy moments when I have hit kickers or come into a corner faster than expected, more often than not with pleasing results. The amazing condition of the trails was compounded with the fact that I was really quite stoked to be out on the Ninja again. It truly is such a pleasant ride. As I belted down Be Rude Not To, I remember finding myself airborne on one particular section of trail for longer than I had expected. I landed it really well, and spent the next few minutes feeling quite chuffed with myself. My arrogance was then rudely interrupted by another very similar incident. I hit a small kicker with some good speed and popped off the top of it, but off to the side a bit... My front wheel landed on a collision course with a tree, and a last minute manoeuver meant that instead of hitting the tree front on, the edge of my handlebars caught the tree and threw me off (still not ideal, but preferable). Even luckier was that instead of striking the ground with my outstretched hand (an almost certain broken arm or collar bone), my hand went straight into a drainage hole on the side of the trail and my body took the brunt of the force... PHEW!!! It all happened so quickly, but I remember it very vividly. A passing rider assured me he saw nothing as I sheepishly picked myself up and continued on a little more cautiously.

Back home, my partner had enjoyed a lazy morning. I swapped the Ninja for my little purple Yak commuter and we headed into town to pick up some veges at the local markets before stopping by Eat Street for a coffee and then heading home the long way via the lakefront. I had the best intentions of mowing the lawn, but these were quashed when I fell asleep on the couch only to wake up an hour later, just in time for our Trail Dogs photo shoot for Spoke Mag.

My dog is a bit of a ratbag, and admittedly, not the best behaved animal on this planet, and our afternoon didn't start out well when she hunted down one of my chickens. I can imagine it was a rather amusing sound to behold for the neighbours... It may have sounded something like this... "BAWK BAWK! WOOF! PADDI! BAWK! PADDI!!! PADDI!!! NO! BAD DOG! BAWK! WOOF!" Somehow the chicken is still alive... After that drama, we headed to the gate on Long Mile Road and met up with Graeme Murray, photographer extraordinaire. He had decided that we would do the shoot somewhere up the top of the forest (at a surprise, undisclosed location!), so I offered to time trial my way up there with the dogs to rid them of their excess energy (it didn't work)... Asides from Graeme's amazing photography skills, I was highly impressed with his patience. It's one thing to photograph a human, who will listen and generally do as they are told... Try getting a dog to do the same (and in particular, MY dog to do the same), and the afternoon becomes somewhat more challenging. Paddi frequently went AWOL, ran the wrong way down the trail, and was increasingly distracted by the abundance of pine cones in the area (she loves pine cones!). It was a complete fluke when she happened to end up doing what we wanted her to do, so you can imagine the feeling of despair I had when Graeme said "do you think you could get her to run on the inside of you around that corner?" It was an amazing evening, with the perfect sunset... Just stunning, and Graeme got some incredible shots that I can't wait for you all to see! It was such a privilege to work with such a talented photographer and all-round good dude (thanks so much for the jacket at the end of the afternoon Graeme. I may have been immortalised in ice cube form at the top of the hill otherwise!). I really hope I get the opportunity to work with him again at some stage.

Sunday started out a little more leisurely, rising at a civil time and having a lazy breakfast out on the deck with the sun on our backs, overlooking the forest and listening to the birds. Once I had a full belly, I kitted up again for a ride. My partner mentioned that she might go out for a ride while I was gone and I said "well, why don't you just kit up now and come out with me for a bit then make your own way home when you are done?" Once we were on the bike, I revealed my plans for the day's exploration activities. I had been told there was an alternate route into the forest from Long Mile Road, so went in search of it. In a short period of time, we arrived at the foot of "Tank to Town" a 2-way dual use track which winds it's way up the side of the hill directly to the start of Gunna Gotta and Corridor. This track is definitely more fun on the way down than on the way up, but the climb is an amazing workout, with the last section up to the end of Tokarangi Pa Road relegated to the status of "hike a bike". I thought it was great... My partner wasn't so impressed, and even less impressed when I took her down Corridor before we parted ways and she headed home. I continued up to the top of the forest, past Billy T and then on to Tuhoto Ariki... I'm pretty sure I have only ever ridden this track once before, and it definitely hasn't seen a great deal of love or riding of late, which made it even more awesome. I had a great time negotiating the technical, rooty terrain before making my way back across the forest, back up Katore road and then back down Tank to Town. It really is a sweet little trail, but it is highly disappointing to see the damage that horse riders have done to the surface. Just make sure that if you hit it up, you keep an eye out for other trail users!!!

Satisfied with a good weekend of riding, I finally got those lawns done... What a relief! Daylight savings starts next week and I can't wait for the warmness of Summer to come along with a few more adventures. I was also stoked to discover the other day that for the first time in 16 years, I have this Christmas off!!! What do people do at Christmas when they don't work??? I guess I'll just ride my bike...

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Taking the Long Way Home

I didn’t think I could do this week justice by cramming it in with my previous post. There are times in life where I distinctly remember having this amazing “feel good” vibe coursing through my veins, when I was just stoked on nothing in particular… Just the fact that things were pretty bloody awesome in general. Last week was party to a few of those occasions. It’s been lovely to settle back into a schedule, ride my bike, do my job and feel at one with the universe again (so to speak).

I’ve been in my new job for nearly a month now, and living a mere 4km away from the office in the mountain biking capital of NZ, it just didn’t make sense to me starting the van every day and driving into work. I finally got my act together enough to do my first commute on Wednesday, and haven’t looked back since then. I remember sifting out the back gate at 8am on a crisp, clear, frosty morning and disappearing into the forest on my way to work. As the week wore on, I found different routes to make my way into town, eventually settling on the course that took me through the forest, under the bridge and along the trails through sulphur point, delivering me straight into the centre of town… No roads or tarseal required. Perfect!!!

The other thing I discovered about riding to work each day was that it was the most amazing way to motivate myself to train after work… Once you ride into work in the morning, the fact that you are committed to riding home (unless you want to sleep at the office) means that once you kit up, are on the bike and just happen to be going through the forest anyway, you may as well just stick around in the forest and play for a while! Brilliant!!! So my week consisted of leisurely rides to work, playtime before bed and some excellent productivity in between… It has now been a week since I started my car, and I don’t think I could possibly feel any better for it!

As I was gloating about my amazing ride to work on Friday (I don’t think all my workmates fully appreciate my innate love of the bike), one of my colleagues tipped me off that there was a longer path I could take to and from work that would take me through the sulphur fields and along the lake and was apparently quite spectacular. Not one to shy away from any adventure or some exploration, I followed her loose directions on my way home and found myself blasting home along the waterfront, with the stellar blue sky reflecting off the lake, past the floating wetlands and through the sulphur fields. It was a part of Rotorua I hadn’t yet seen and it was a stunning ride. I was surprised by just how many thermal areas were so loosely guarded, but it was refreshing to be able to cruise along and check it out without fences and signs impeding your enjoyment of the scenery. Instead of heading straight home, I continued along the river which borders Scion, then up around to the corner of the TePuia carpark, where I knew Red and the crew had been building a new trail that linked up to the Waipa entrance to the forest. I located the trail head and descended off the road into a surprisingly serene canyon, where the punga-lined trail wound its way along the edge of the river and popped out near Waipa Mill carpark. It was evident that the trail wasn’t quite finished yet, as I had to scramble across a makeshift bridge created by a pipe and some wire roping with my bike. From there I disappeared into the forest and emerged from exit trail in the dark a couple of hours later with a huge grin on my face… What an amazing way to end the week!

Saturday’s weather was forecast to turn nasty in the afternoon, so I made a point of getting out nice an early in the morning for a blat around the forest before jumping on the commuter bike and making my way out to join the More FM team and cook up some sausages to raise money for charity. It was whilst I was grilling a sanger or two that the rain set in, and it meant that I was in for a rather wet ride home, but it actually didn’t bother me all that much. On my way back, I stopped by the supermarket, chained the Yak up outside (hoping it would still be there when I returned) and set about doing my weekly shopping before cramming it into my backpack and making my way home in the rain. As I threw my backpack over my shoulder, I couldn’t help noticing the chaos people create in the rain… Everything seems to need to be done in a rush… Must rush the shopping, must rush to the car so I don’t get wet… I didn’t feel rushed or stressed at all… I just jumped on my bike and set off into the rainy afternoon to go and have a warm bath and sit in front of the fire. It’s amazing how relaxed I have felt this week, and I strongly believe I owe that to my morning and afternoon bike rides… There is seriously a lot to be said for going out for a nice relaxing ride… It switches me on in the morning, and then gives me time to process and lock away the day’s happenings at the conclusion of my afternoon… Not to mention the amount of diesel I have likely saved!
Sunday’s weather left a lot to be desired, and was better spent chopping wood, baking bread, and remodelling my bike room. When I was riding in the forest on Saturday morning, I can across a couple of top blokes in the forest who I got talking with. After justifying my Australian accent by telling this guy I live on the edge of the forest and race my bike for New Zealand, it came out that I had recently come third at 24 Hour Solo World Champs. He asked me if that’s what I did for a job. I said to him “nah, there’s no money in it… I work at a radio station”… It occurred to me later that it must have seemed to this guy like I was living in some magical fantasy land… I live on the edge of the forest with the most amazing trails laid out at my feet, travel all over the world racing my bike, and, just casually, spend my weekdays working at a radio station to top it all off… He wouldn’t have been far from the truth… It’s pretty amazing. It’s so easy to take the simple and good things in life for granted and this week provided a poignant reminder of just how awesome life can be if you just add a touch of adventure, a positive attitude and, of course, a bike…

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Things To Be Grateful For

It seems like an eternity has passed since I have written a blog, but when I went back and had a look, I realised it was only a little over a month since my last post (still not great, but better than I had previously thought). My mind boggles at how much has happened since I last graced these pages, and it has been a huge rollercoaster ride. There have been some amazing times, and some really tough times… And it’s funny how life often lands you right where you didn’t expect, but in a pleasantly more satisfying position than you once were.

I have a philosophy that I don’t write a blog until I am satisfied that I can portray my experiences in a positive and inspiring light. It would be fair to say that I have found that last month or so to be rather challenging, and to be honest, I have only just felt ready to sit down and tap away at my keyboard on the topic with enthusiasm and positivity.
If you had asked me six months ago what I was going to be doing right now, I could have told you exactly how my life was mapped out for the next year. I was going to South Africa and Europe to race my bike, then I was returning home to Palmerston North for three months before moving to Rotorua to take up a position with the employer I was with at the time. That plan all ran quite smoothly until about a month after I returned from my trip. I think it’s fair to say that when you leave your home and your job for two and half months, chances are that when you come back, things will have changed… In my case, they certainly had. My workplace had changed, and I Had changed… Let’s just say, to oversimplify it… We grew apart in the time I was gone, and I decided that it was a more positive step for me to move on and choose a different path. My experiences and the wisdom I gained during my trip probably helped make the decision easier, or at least made the risk seem more adventurous and exciting. I knew quite explicitly what I wanted out of life and my career, and to stay where I was wouldn’t contribute anything beyond financial stability. It was a bold move, and a decision I didn’t take lightly. It was the first time in my life that I had left one job before securing another.
I was committed to my move to Rotorua. It was what I wanted, and I was going to make it happen. So in the space of about a month, I left one job, started another, moved towns, bought a house that backs onto the Redwoods (AMAZING!), built an awesome bike room in my house, unpacked, constructed numerous pieces of flat pack furniture (the bane of my existence), started a vege patch, a compost heap and got some chickens (how very environmentally aware of me), done various gardening and handywork chores around the house, fixed the fence that my dog broke, then lost said dog riding on the trails in the forest, and presented another photo evening… All with the unwavering support and help of my partner and friends (you guys know who you are), and my amazing Mum who came all the way from Australia just to help me move my shit from Palmerston North to Rotorua (there is a lot to be said for just paying someone to pack up all your shit and move it, as opposed to doing it yourself, although I can guarantee that next time I move, I will promptly forget this lesson in the bid to save a few dollars)… Oh, and in that time, I aged another year… Like I said earlier, it seems like far, far longer than a month ago! It is frighteningly easy to go about being so busy in times like this that you forget to express your undying gratitude to those around who helped, and let’s face it, you can make things happen, but part of making things happen is relying on those who care about you, and maintaining those relationships, to me, is most important above anything else, so for those of you who helped me out over the time of my relocation and premature mid-life crisis, please know that I am forever indebted to your kindness and you have earned a very special place in my heart.
For the last 6 months of my life, throughout my trip and my move, I have constantly been in transit… It has been unsettling, but like I have said on so many occasions to so many people… Things happen for a reason and opportunities often present themselves in the most unorthodox of fashions, and I have always found it to be good advice that you should never shy away from something that is a challenge, or looks like hard work, because underneath that is where opportunity often lies.

My farewell dinner was an amusing affair... A group of close friends threw a little do for me at the Coachman, and it was never going to be a "normal" gathering. Of particular note was my ability to get completely sloshed off half a glass of wine, and then Emma's amazing ninja cake, carefully crafted just for me... I felt very much loved! I've always said that the thing I will miss most about Palmerston North is the people, and the evening of my farewell was a testament to that. I will especially miss Barb's amazing sports massage!

I was really excited to pick up a role the day I arrived at my new home in Rotorua as an Account Manager for the local radio network with Mediaworks. The juggling of job interviews in amongst vanloads between Palmy and Rotorua was an interesting task that I managed surprisingly well in between having phone conversations in my best “friendly interview voice” then getting off the phone and saying “F#@k! I have less than 24 hours to drive back from Rotorua to Palmerston North, load the van again, clean the house, get my bond back, attend dinner commitments and get back to Rotorua for a second interview”… I made it happen, and I got the job (and I’m sure my new boss will find this hilarious if she happens to read this post!). My passion years ago when I was just out of school was in audio engineering and radio and it’s kinda cool to have done a full circle and return to that passion with a wealth of new knowledge and skills. The people I work with are all awesome. They are all as crazy as me in their own unique way and it’s been refreshing to learn some new skills and be back in a positive environment.
So now, time to talk about riding. As I alluded to previously, I bought myself a lovely little 4 bedroom house right on the edge of the Whakarewarewa forest… And I mean right in the forest. I ride straight out my back gate and touch tar seal for only a matter of metres to cross Long Mile Road before I am hooning my way around some of the sweetest trails in the world. My first week or so in my new home, I didn’t touch the dirt with two wheels I was so enthralled in unpacking, doing gardening and getting into my new job… But once I had all that under control, nothing could hold me back. I was arriving home in the evening, kitting up with my Ayups and heading off on missions into the forest. Already there are some fond, vivid memories of those first couple of rides and the buzz I got over just been able to sift out my back gate and straight into it. Wallabies bounding around over the trails in front of me, possums the size of dogs that scampered up trees as I rode past, watching from Katore road as other rider’s lights seemingly hovered in the darkness as they descended Be Rude Not To. I remember one evening the full moon was so bright and the sky so clear that I was able to switch off my lights as I rode up Katore Road to the start of Gunna Gotta, then as I crested the peak of the hill, seeing the lights of Rotorua glistening back up at me, and the moon reflecting off the lake… I finally felt, for the first time in 6 months, like I had a home again.
 The other thing that is amazing about living so close to the forest is doggy recreation. My first ride out in the forest was on a weekend and I hauled my partner and our two dogs out of the house and up Nursery Hill to sample the trails. My partner hasn’t really done a lot of mountain biking, but there sure is nothing like a baptism of fire… our first ride was a nice little loop around Genesis, and asides from the obligatory bruising, she seemed to enjoy it and handle it fine (and the dogs loved it!), so that week, as I was entering myself for the final Winter Nduro, I decided I would “surprise” my beloved by also entering her in the 15km category. This meant that the following weekend, we needed to go on a “training” ride. One thing my partner hasn’t quite figured out yet (or hadn’t at that stage), is that a “short” ride for me can range anywhere from ten to fifty kilometers. My full intention was to take her out for a 15km ride, and it was entirely with her best interests at heart. I figured that if she could bust out 15km without even realising that was what she had done, then it would give her some confidence fronting up to this lovely little race I had entered her in (I know what you’re thinking right now… Just how thoughtful and loving I am, right?). Anyway, she smashed out the 15km with relative ease (the dogs did a pretty good job of it, too), and even managed a clean run of Gunna Gotta. I was well impressed, and pretty proud of her efforts… So much so that I took her out for another 15km the following day (I think I was pushing my luck by then!).

As it turned out, come race day, she won the open Women’s category of her race, despite her worst fear being that she would come last. I knew this was dangerous, because it meant firstly, that I needed to lift my game if I didn’t want to be chicked by my own girlfriend, and secondly, that I needed to buy her a bike if I wanted to get my training bike back to achieve the former. Massive thanks to Bryce at Cyclezone for hooking me up with a deal that made the latter a little less painful than I was expecting!
 My effort at the last Winter Nduro, however, was a little less than impressive. I must admit I had expected as such, although I really hate the whole “excuses before a race” thing. The day previous, I had smashed out my threshold test on the road bike (something that needs to be done at the start of each training phase to gauge improvements and involves riding hard, and often vomiting at the end). So when I lined up for the 45km NDuro, the legs were a bit weary, but the mind and spirit were willing, so it was all go! No surprises that I wasn’t all that fast. No Brains was as sketchy as ever and resulted in a couple of rather ungraceful dismounts on my behalf but it was just so good to be out on the bike. I felt reasonably strong and comfortable for the larger portion of the day, but struggled significantly with the last 15km. I hit the wall in a big way and the lights were out in my head, although my legs kept turning. It was, once again, my old friend complacency paying a visit. So often in these shorter races, I neglect to look after myself because I so arrogantly view them as being just that… A “short” race. I remember riding along Chinese Menu with the full knowledge that I still had to ride up Direct Road to the top of Hot X Buns, but hoping that maybe it had been taken out, or someone had forgotten to mark it and send us up there… No such luck, and had it not being for the lovely young lady handing out jet planes at the bottom of the climb, I may have ended up lying on the side of the trail in a quivering mess. Exaggerations aside, I made it to the top just fine and then edged my way back down Hot X Buns. It was running pretty rough, and my low blood sugar meant my head wasn’t quite up to the task of negotiating technical pieces of the trail. After the previous day’s effort, my legs were buckling underneath me as I tried to stand on the pedals… It was such a relief to cross the finish line to be greeted by cupcakes, ginger beer and treats! As with all NDuro events, Ra turned a standard old race into a stellar day out with special little finishing touches. It was also great to catch up with my old mate Paris, who was there with Tony representing Magellan and their new line of cycle GPS. There were an inordinate number of people in the crowd that day that won themselves a new Magellan Switch Up GPS and it was refreshing to see an event sponsor see the value in getting their product into people’s hands and getting people excited about it. I was lucky enough to pick one up for myself, and will fill you all in on my thoughts once I have had the chance to put it through the usual treatment.

So like I mentioned previously, not my best day on the bike, but we all need days like that to provide a kick in the bum… It’s funny how when you don’t train, riding seems to become a more onerous task, but if you train too much, the same occurs. It really is a delicate balancing act. My best times on the bike are always when I am fit and fast and enjoying being on the bike (because let’s face it, riding a bike fast is way more fun). So now that I am settled into my new home with my new job, time to crack out Sadie P’s recipe of pain to kick start a new season, which will begin with the Yeti Tribe gathering and Deans Bank 10 hour in Wanaka on the October long weekend!
Now onto the story of losing my dog in the forest… I have taken Paddi out riding with me hundreds of times… She is extremely well-behaved on the trails (in stark contrast to her general behaviour in everyday life) and knows to run behind the bike, and knows how to get out of the way if she does happen to end up in front, so you can imagine my surprise when I took her out one morning and she did a runner on me. I was already pushed for time, so I was moving at a pretty steady pace, but for some reason, Paddi really seemed to be dragging the chain. I remember riding along thinking how amazing it was to be out riding early in the morning before work on such a lovely day, and even having a giggle at Paddi’s amazing drift into a bermed corner at full speed. Next thing I knew, Paddi took off up the embankment along the side of the trail and disappeared, obviously seriously intent on chasing whatever scent she had picked up. Firstly, I was pissed off… It meant I was going to be late for work, but after standing there calling her for 15mins, the realisation set in that she definitely wasn’t in my general vicinity anymore. I felt sick in my stomach and I searched around desperately for her to no avail. I love my dog and the thought of returning home without her and leaving her in the forest made me so sad, but I knew I had to get to work, and realistically, where the hell do you look for a dog in the forest??? It would have been like trying to find a needle in a haystack. I rode home with tears streaming down my face, calling her the whole time. I was hoping that maybe she had just decided she didn’t want to ride today and had made her own way home, but when I returned home, no such luck. I was absolutely beside myself and I had to go to work! I couldn’t bear the thought of not seeing my doggy again! I popped next door to my neighbours and asked them to call me if she came home and I left some food and water for her, then I turned to Facebook for help. The power of social media these days is mind-boggling. Within the space of an hour or so, I reckon half of Rotorua would have been keeping an eye out for my dog. I headed to work and about four hours later, received a call from my next door neighbour that Paddi had found her own way home and was in the backyard! I was so excited that she was back, though I must admit, I felt a bit bad that I wasn’t able to thank everyone personally for keeping an eye out for her. She was a very, very thirsty and tired doggy when I arrived home to lock her up inside!
 Right now is probably a good time to mention just how amazing my new neighbours are here in Rotorua. I’ve never felt so welcomed into a neighbourhood before. They have street parties, drop by with food, keep an eye on the house when I’m not home… And help me find my dog when she has gone missing or escaped from the back yard (again). I’m really stoked to be surrounded by such an awesome bunch of people, and I hope to make a valuable contribution to the community here. I was also stoked to hold my third photo evening not long after I moved here before my new home audience. It wasn’t a huge turnout (and for my lack of marketing beforehand, I couldn’t have expected any better), but everyone was so engaging and interested, and it made it so much easier and so much more relaxing than presenting to a room full of silence. I found it incredibly fitting that the set of Ayup lights up for grabs actually went to one of my new neighbours!!!
This week just gone has been a cracker, but in getting back into my correct blogging behaviour, I think I may save that for a post of its own. Earlier this week, the mountain biking community bid farewell to a mountain biking legend, James Dodds. I didn’t know James very well, but I certainly knew of his reputation of being an all-round good dude with a zest for life and an energy that could fill any room. It’s a sobering thought that someone can have such a huge influence on a community, then all of a sudden, not be there anymore, and for me, it was a timely reminder to live each day like it is your last, and to be thankful for all the amazing things you have. I’ve had a challenging month or two, but through it, have seen how bloody good I have it. I live in an amazing place, surrounded by amazing people, with amazing trails on my doorstep. I have an incredible partner, family and friends who have been there for me unfailingly when I needed them most, and a dog who loves me enough to find her own way home to me. Regardless of what comes my way, life always turns out to be bloody awesome, and I don’t know if that’s just because I’m lucky, or because I just make it happen… Either way, there’s always something to look forward to, and I find that pretty exciting!