One fine day in summer…literally!

Welcome to 2014, and the shittiest Summer I have known in years.

In New Zealand the official summer months are December – February.
Frequently we end up with the reality being late January through March.

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Last year we had epic record stretch of sunny dry days (in fact we had our first official drought since the 40’s for the Wellington region) and it was awesome. Not so this year, it’s been…WET!

In fact, I want to know where our summer is, someone stole it and I want it back.

We had the most stunning weather on Saturday, spent the day wandering along to a mates holiday bach on the beach in Waikanae, with awesome views of Kapiti Island and a BBQ in the sun.  Riding there via a stop at the Tram Museum and a nice pub for lunch, we arrived to coastal paradise!

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A night of drinking and games, crashed in the tent and back home Sunday morning.
Kelly rode her bike along, and we carried all our camping gear and luggage on the Ducati. We had a great day Saturday! She was buzzing from riding so far, and we spent the evening with awesome people (thanks to our hosts and friends present!)

SO……. after such an awesome Saturday came the Sunday. A different day indeed.

Sunday morning as we got ready to head home, a light overcast was in but still warm, bright and calm. However by the time we had ridden halfway home the wind was up big time and the odd spot of water fell here and there from the very high, light looking overcast.

After getting Kelly and her bike home, I took off out again solo for a ‘boys ride’ with the intention of crossing the Tararua Ranges at least 3x in one day. Alas, as I rode further afield the weather got progressively worse, but I still managed to cross the ranges 3x!
It went downhill from Woodville on though.

Riding into light rain at Palmerston North on the homeward leg, I stopped and put on my wet weathers leggings and my high viz vest as an extra windbreak layer. Holy crap, was that a good decision because within minutes it was bucketing down with visibility down to a football field on the open highway…and I had my tinted visor on the helmet (sigh.. bad planning).

Adding to my woes, as I navigated south just north of Otaki township I ran into a massive ‘end of holidays’ traffic jam, and one thing the Ducati hates is crawling at low speed. The traffic was stand still, in fact so bad I wondered when I would come across the crash that caused it…there was no crash (thankfully) just a shitload of folk wanting to use the same road on the same day, damn them all!

Creeping down the side of the lane in the breakdown strip I rode into Otaki and stopped for a coffee at the servo, and passed time chatting with Phil, a KTM RC8 rider.
I used to have a KTM Super Duke so we had a few minutes talking shit about KTMs and the fun they provide.
The rain and traffic were getting visibly worse so he offered me a stop at his place just south of town to wait out the worst.

A mate of mine (another Phil) and his lovely wife happened to turn up as well and they had just travelled from the south, confirming this abysmal traffic queue went for miles… all the way south along the Kapiti Coast.
This cemented my decision to stop and wait it out at my new friend Phil’s place.
Bikers, total strangers yet brothers in arm regardless. Thanks Phil, (and Phil)!

As soon as we got to his house the sky opened right up in a massive deluge. I have never seen rain so heavy in my entire life, and I  sure was glad to be out of it.
Phil sat a bucket under the runoff from his roof, and filled 3x 10 litre buckets in 3 minutes… 30 litres hit his roof within 3 minutes…wow!

So finding myself still 100km’s from home, a non moving traffic jam in my path, shit weather and soggy leathers… even my boots were starting to leak by now, so it was decision time. Stay here and crash the night on Phil’s couch, or ride on….

I rode on. I needed to be home, work the next day and a worried woman at home incentive enough to brave the conditions. And to quote a wise man I know, we are all waterproof under our leathers so suck it up get wet and keep going.

Sneaking down the left most edge of the highway on the slim track of tarmac, I felt the envious looks of the cagers trapped in their humid metal shells, burning fuel and going nowhere. Mind you at 20-30 KMH it’s not like I was flying past by any means. At least the deluging water was running down the inside of the fairing and helping keep the radiator of the Ducati cooler, evidenced by the solid wall of hissing steam rising in front of my face whenever I slowed below 10kmh.

Choosing to take the Akatarawa Hill Road to get round the SH1 traffic I knew it was a bit of a risk. While 60km’s shorter a route, it’s not a very motorcycle friendly road.
It’s a goat track, not really a great ride on a dry day, and 996cc of Desmodromico power plant was never designed for prolonged periods in first and second gear as I was forced to do, especially in these conditions, it was frequently first gear, in some places for hundreds of meters of tight twisties covered in wet leaves.
On the plus side, I would probably maintain a higher average speed without the two lanes of standstill on the main highway, as well as chop 60 kilometres off the longer yet normally faster highway route, and considering I could only get 30kmh up on the highway breakdown strip…this detour was a choice I had to take.

While the plan eventually worked out (I got home by 7pm at least, 1.5 hours after leaving Phil)) it was a hairy, sphincter puckering exercise all right!
Smoky visor, darkening dusk conditions in a heavy rain….. 90% of the ride was visor up, squinting into the piercing cold rain, watching for the tell-tale glimpse of any other vehicles coming round the sightless bends on the one lane goat track that was once a bullock logging track (and still as wide!)
The wind was up, branches and wet leaves all over the one lane road, parts of it had washed away from the deluge and in one place it was almost totally blocked by a fallen tree (but the bike squeezed past).

I must say when Akatarawa Cemetery finally slid into view, and I knew I was only 6kms from home, my heart certainly lifted a little.
I was frozen, soaked, stiff, tired, sore, and pissed off with myself for not running the route I took in the opposite direction (would have been no traffic jam had I gone clockwise on the map, grrrr).

Arriving home about 7pm I was shattered, cold, soaked right through (even the best waterproof gear has limits and mine was far from the best kit)

Main lesson I learned, if you’re leaving later in the day, and KNOW a weather change could be coming in, make sure you take better wet weather gear, and a clear non tinted visor for the helmet.

I was a victim of my own zealousness to ride, lack of planning, and lack of consideration of well known factors (holiday traffic/Sunday queue, shit wet weathers, dark visor…doh)!
Note, no photo’s of Sundays ride, didn’t want to expose the ‘droid to the water….

But back to the point of the post….where the hell is our summer?

StoneY

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