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...

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