The ride up was fairly average with some heavy rain over Vinegar Hill, more wetness around Taihape and a fairly damp Desert Road too. I didn't hurry, stopping for fuel and warm gloves in Taihape before carrying on. There were definitely a few slippery places and the below section (picture actually taken on the way home on Sunday) was "interesting" in the wet.
|Slippery when wet...|
In Turangi I checked into my cabin and started catching up with everyone before we all wandered off for tea in town.
After tea it was time for the route reveal - what all the riders were champing at the bit to see. This time there was a bit of change too. In order to try to attract more riders into distance riding, the team were putting on two rides: an 800km (in twelve hours) and the famous 1,600km.
|The big boys' and girls' route|
After plenty of yarning and receiving my orders for the next day I headed off to bed somewhere around ten. Most of the others were also doing the same, the riders hoping for a good night's sleep but if they were anything like me before the ride, probably not getting it.
During the night the temperature plummeted and I froze in my sleeping bag. I ended up getting up and adding more layers but still didn't have a great sleep. I gave up on sleeping, getting up just before 6 and hitting the kitchen early to try to help out.
In the kitchen, the Boss (Ann) put me to work as we started to get the breakfasts underway. By 7 the first of the early risers was in for a good feed and the rest were not far behind. By 9:30 everyone had been feed and 36 NI800 riders were lined up getting their ride briefing. I also had been able to sneak away to get some snaps of the bikes waiting patiently for their workouts.
|Make sure you check that bloke's spokes!|
|All shapes and sizes...|
|Plenty of green machines|
|Two slightly different options for long distance riding...|
|Sexy little 300 ready for a flogging|
|Law being laid down to the NI800 riders|
After their briefing the very keen 800 riders commenced their suiting up and formed up for the official start. They were let off in small groups and I managed to catch them (all but one I think) as they tore off on their mission.
After watching the NI800 riders get on their way there was still a two hour wait for the NI1600 riders until they too got their briefing and finally got underway. A couple of BRR riders and a certain blogger were just three of the guys patiently waiting for their getaway...
With both rides now in full swing we had time for a bit of a break and to monitor things as best we could from HQ. Alan, Mike and Teresa were manning the phones and computer to keep a good eye on things and we spent the time chatting about past rides and guessing on how things were going. We did have some entertainment when one NI800 rider got himself lost and well of track - listening to one side of his conversation with Alan was pretty funny but no so much for poor Stretch on the other end of the line.
The predicted finish time for the fastest of the NI800 riders was around 7pm so well before then we started preparing meals. We also started receiving the odd NI1600 update when James went live on Facebook a few times - pretty neat being able to be kept in the loop as it all happened.
Not long after 7 the first two riders did indeed roll in and had great things to say about the ride. They'd managed to stay dry all the way around and had a blast.
|Here they come...|
|Nearly ready to lower the landing gear...|
At one stage a small group of riders came in and started telling us the story of the little XT250 riding in the event. They were more than amused that they had caught and passed it a number of times but never spotted it pass them back...apparently it was also receiving quite the workout...And then...
|The XT that could!|
As it got closer to the 10pm cut-off we were still missing a few of the NI800 riders and were also starting to here more on the progress of the 1600. Just before 10 a group of 3 NI800 riders (including one GN250) pulled in with very little time to spare and that was it - anyone in after that wasn't going to get their badge. In the end a few missed out (including Stretch who was still MIA) having possibly not quite understood what they were undertaking when they left...
I hung around for a while longer hoping for more info on Stretch and also the NI1600 progress but eventually hit the hay just after midnight. About half an hour or so later I was woken by my next door neighbour arriving in - yep, Stretch was back in town...
I had set my alarm for an 06:30 wake-up as that was when I was needed next but was woken up just after 6am my an SV1000 arriving - yep, the first of the quick NI1600 riders had landed just over 17 hours after setting out. By the time I'd got my act together Glen on his S10 and a 'Busa had also rolled in. They were a little damp as they'd been ridding in some reasonably wet rain for the last hour of the ride. I took a quick photo and they were off inside to claim their badges and warm up with some hot tucker.
|Glen parking up next to a quick SV|
|John starting to remove wet gear.|
|Colin getting the all important final odometer reading.|
If my memory serves me correctly, Phil came in somewhere around nine and had a big smile on his dial. He also passed on the meal and set off on the trip home to add another 300 odd km to his 1,600...
|Phil and the mighty FJ (240,000km under its wheels)|
And so, after farewelling the team it was my turn for a quiet little ride home. The traffic South of Turangi was quite busy but the weather quite nice in a grey sort of way. To give me something to do I turned on the GoPro to nab a few pics.
|Ok, so the road wasn't always busy...|
This time around there were no fuel stops needed and I had a magnificent run in the dry over Vinegar Hill. I'd post the video but perhaps better not...
And so ended a bit of a different NI1600 for me. It was definitely different seeing the riders off and not suiting up with them but it was pretty neat to get to know them better and hear their stories as they came in. I also got a very good idea of the amount of work the team go through to put on such a great event. I reckon that setting the route must be the easiest thing they do...working out all the other logistics must be a nightmare!
Thanks once again for having me John, Mike, Brett and James. And man what a fantastic job Ann did organising the kitchen gang! Hopefully I didn't just get in the way...
Now, about next year...