Tuesday, October 20, 2009

2009 Grand Challenge

Right, so I got home yesterday after a great ride back from Turangi via Taupo and Napier (more on that later) so it's about time that I finally wrote up my report on the Grand Challenge.

As mentioned in an earlier post Meanie, Cowboys, Mark & I rode up to Turangi on Friday afternoon, got wet in a few places, got the bikes scrutineered, had tea at the truck stop and parked up at the motel to put the route maps into Mapsource.

Over the course of the night we had a lot of rain with it waking me up on a couple of occasions - it was that hard. The rain also played a part in a particularly annoying incident overnight - the Connie fell over on her right side sometime in the middle of the night. Luckily there was very little damage apart from a broken mirror because she had her cover on and this prevented any scratches to the fairing etc. Still very annoying and mirrors are $170 to replace.

Come morning we got up, picked the Connie up off the ground and spent the morning just relaxing until Meanie turned up to take us off to breakfast - at the truck stop again. After brekkie we fuelled the bikes and headed down to the motorcamp to await the kick-off. We spent the next 3 hours or so just relaxing and chatting to other riders and being impatient.

While we were waiting Bazza turned up on his ZX-14 - he had ridden up from Dannevirke so had already done 200+km as a warm up for the next 1600. I asked him if had also milked the cows before he left but he hadn't quite been that keen...

Eventually it was time for the rider's briefing and then to start getting ready for the ride. Cowboyz and Meanie were a couple of groups ahead of us so got a head start on us that we never managed to make up. Quite funny really - we never saw them at all on the ride but weren't that far behind them at the finish.

When we finally left Turangi the weather was fine but we were heading towards some grey looking clouds and new we were in for weather at some stage. Regardless we had dry roads at the start and it was nice to finally be on the road and starting to eat into those 1,000 miles we had to cover.

As it turns out it didn't take long to hit the wet stuff - probably only about 40km in the first shower came through. We didn't stop immediately as we could see blue sky in places and we seemed to be riding in and out of the weather. But about another 10 minutes on we got a real dousing and ended up pulling over with a couple of other groups of riders and climbed into our wets. This turned out to be a pretty good idea as things got very wet further on up the road and the roads were doing good impressions of streams or small rivers...

Mark and I had decided that we would make our first fuel stop early at Te Awamutu as this would easily give us the range to get to the first proper checkpoint in Whangamata. We weren't the only ones with the same idea as a few others pulled in behind us. We quickly fueled the bikes and were soon on the road again.

At Whatawhata we turned West onto the Raglan road and the time checkpoint (no ticket punching here) at Te Uku. This was a new road for me to ride and what a road! Lots of delicious corners and some of them were even dry! At Te Uku we didn't even shut the bikes down and were very quickly onto some lovely back roads to Huntly - slightly windier than the Raglan road but in great nick and we fell in behind a ZZR-1100 who was getting along quite nicely.

After a very short stint of Highway 1 (sucky-moto) we were back onto back roads heading towards the Coromandel. These roads were all good and I can't remember it being too wet either so we made pretty good time. The only boring bit was the big long straights coming into Kopu and it appeared that these had got the better of one Blackbird pilot as when we went past him he was having a nice chat to a police officer - sucked to be him!

From Kopu we rode over the hill to the Whangamata checkpoint- a great ride, more hills and delicious corners. Here we got our cards punched, filled the bikes and had a quick bite and drink before disappearing off into the gathering darkness. Over the hill to Waihi and then just after turning off at Bethlehem we ran into the first issue with the GPS map. For some reason it decided to take us in the wrong direction and onto a gravel road - this can't have been right so we turned back and eventually found our way onto Pyes Pa road and heading in the right direction again.

It was quite wet again through here and we had to negotiate some nasty road works before finally cruising into Rotorua and back onto some familiar roads. Cutting across Highway 30 through Atiamuri, Whakamaru and Benneydale was all familiar territory and even though it was very wet we clipped along nicely. Dropping down into Te Kuiti I was feeling a little crappy so it was nice to stop and have something else to drink and eat at the checkpoint.

Just after midnight we were on the go again and it was great to be doing roads you know in the wet and dark conditions. The only concern we had was the state of the Paraparas given the weather we were experiencing. It was very wet from Tamarunui through to Raetihi but pretty easy going and when we finally hit the Para's they were not really an issue - just one patch of muddy road works and a few slips here and there - oh and plenty of moisture.

At the Wanganui checkpoint Mark was feeling a bit crappy so I led us off around the coast. Unfortunately our rushing at the checkpoint meant another unscheduled stop on Opunake for a comfort stop but it was quite nice standing under some shelter as a real downpour hit for a few minutes. Continuing around the coast to New Plymouth was a bit of a mission as it was now not long before dawn and this always seems to the time of day that is hardest to get through - tiredness really makes itself known and concentration can wander if you are not careful.

So it was good stop again at the New Plymouth checkpoint and have a coffee (my only one for the ride and I normally never have them on the GC) before pointing the bikes Northwards again. As we rode out of New Plymouth the skies were beginning to lighten and with the growing light came our second wind and the hope for some sun.

The sun didn't seem that keen but as I took the lead it was nice to hit Mt Messenger and the Awakino gorge (very wet) again. We splashed our way up the road and then turned East at Kihikihi to Putararu. We actually had a very good ride through here with no mucking around and Mark and I were joined by Steve on his 'Busa and another guy on his Beemer - all happy just to tuck in behind us.

At Putararu Mark and I gassed up for the last time while Steve chanced it and went on ahead of us. From Putararu we got take in the Kaimai's - a great ride in the dry but we got to sample it in the wet (although the sun was also shining at the same time) as we made for Tauranga and the last checkpoint at Te Puke.

At Te Puke we met up with Steve again and after having our tickets punched we were keen to get started on the last leg back to Turangi. Once again we had to pick our way through Rotorua before crossing through Atiamuri to Whakamaru and finally Turangi.

All the way we were still in and out the rain and at one stage it looked like we'd get some fine weather but as we dropped down into Turangi it really hosed down - just great.

Coming into Turangi we caught up with Bazza and it was nice to follow him the last couple of k's into the camp where we finally caught up with Meanie, Cowboys, Koroj, Steve and others and got a nice warm meal into us. Lee Rusty also made sure to mention that I only have two more GC's to go to get my engraved mug...

Following our lunch we said our goodbyes and headed for our motel, a hot shower and bed. All done for another year!

A few stats courtesy of Captain Zumo:
Total distance: 1,681km
Total time: 21 hours, 20 minutes
Riding time: 19 hours
Stopped time: 2 hours, 20 minutes
Moving average: 88.5km/h
Overall average: 78.8km/h
PS: Bazza rode home after the ride so he ended up doing well over 2,000km without a break for sleep. Meanie and Cowboyz also rode home as they seem to have become addicted to riding in the rain...

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