Monday, August 10, 2009

NZ 1 - getting ready

Before I get into the actual trip, I thought it might be worth while to give a little background on how we (myself and my school mate Dan Cantrell) got ready for our trip.

It was really Dan who suggested the original idea. He knew several people who had been to New Zealand and had brought back great stories. One of his co-workers had done a long bike trip there with a few friends, so that was the main inspiration for our trip. We gathered bits of information about traveling there, where we should fly into, what time of year would be best for bicycling, what kind of weather we could expect - things like that. We didn't do a whole lot of planning in terms of the specifics of where we would ride though. We decided to take 3 months, the max travel visa, and kind of wander, letting many decisions about where we would ride be made in the moment.

Over the years, Dan and I had done a good deal of hiking and back country camping and skiing together, so we had made plenty of mistakes in trip planning and gear selection, and learned from some of them. We were able to draw up a pretty good list of the items we would need to live off our bikes for three months. We ended up each taking a BOB bicycle trailer to tow behind our mountain bikes, instead of the popular pannier setup. We thought the bike trailer system sounded very flexible - allowing us to leave the trailers at times to do some trail riding if we found ourselves in the right place. And the trailers sounded like they would provide better handling riding off road than a heavily loaded mountain bike. In retrospect, I glad we opted for the BOB trailers - they proved to be perfect, well almost perfect (more on that later). I would recommend anyone considering a similar trip to at least check them out ( We would pack each trailer with a 2 person tent (parts of NZ have some pretty aggressive rubber attacking parrots, so it was handy to be able to have enough room to bring all gear inside if necessary, and 3 months is a long time to share a single two person tent), sleeping bag, sleeping pad/chair combo, a camp stove, reading material, a basic maintenance kit and clothing. I also had a set of cooking gear and a basic camera. My clothing packing was pretty minimalist, probably beyond what some people would be comfortable with, but I wanted to keep things light. We also rode with Camelbak packs, which I would not consider going with out after that trip.

For those of you who are more particular, here is a list of the items I had for the three month adventure:
borrowed mtn. bike and BOB trailer
bike helmet, gloves and shorts
repair kit - allen keys, patch kit, chain lube, spare inner tubes
Mountain Hardware Room with a View 2 person tent
white gas camp stove and spare fuel bottle
2 pots with lids
insulated cup
leatherman utility knife
35mm camera, lens, and film (which crapped the bed)
rain suit with separate jacket and pants
folding saw
headlamp and spare batteries
small backup flashlight
4 piece fly rod and reel
box of flies and tippets
candle lantern
water filter
calapsible water bucket and storage bag
2 water bottles
camelbak pack with 100 oz capacity
first aid kit
quick dry towel
wool hat and baseball cap
3 t-shirts (1 cotton, 2 synthetic)
2 pairs socks (cotton, synthetic)
underwear (synthetic regular and long)
1 pair quick dry pants
1 wool sweater
waterproof bag for books

We got everything together and roughly packed in Vermont in late December (overloading Dan's Peugeot a wee bit in the process). And then we hit the road -cross country drive through Canada and the northern US to connect with our good friend Johnny Ellis in Seattle. The cross country drive was an adventure in itself, but that is another story. (We probably should have shipped some of that heavy stuff.) Once in Seattle, we had to quickly take care of some logistics, fit in a sweet powder day up at Steven's Pass with Johnny, and then head to Vancouver for our flight to NZ. The bikes got broken down and put in bike boxes, and the BOB trailers packed away into the bag they come with.

It was a long, long flight, but we eventually made it to Christchurch, NZ, our beginning point for the bike trip. A friend of a friend, Tony, was kind enough to pick us up at the airport and put us up overnight. (This kind of generosity and hospitality is the norm for the kiwis that I met.) We spent the next day in their back yard, talking with his wonderful kids, reassembling the bikes and getting ready to live on them for the next three months. Tony's kids gave us all kinds of great suggestions as to what parts of the country were best to visit, what might be most fun, how hard the riding would be. I have to admit, kid's advice is often my favorite. They were also quite interested in the reassembly of the bikes and trailers, as I had been at their ages.

(our hosts in Christchurch - photo Dan Cantrell)

And then we started out...

Friday, August 7, 2009

Kick Off

Well, it's time to kick off this blog. I don't spend enough time out riding around, so I figured it was time to have a place to document some of the good times I've had on 2 wheels, or to hatch a plan for the next adventure, big or small. I think I will start things off by trying my best to remember the details of a bicycle trip I took almost 10 years ago now. A friend and I rode around the South Island of New Zealand, seeing some amazing places along the way. So next up, Entry 1, NZ by Bike...