Friday, December 19, 2014

Two out of three ain't bad

After a highly successful spring cycle tour in 2012, both Simon and I were disappointed not to get away together towards the end of 2013.  We'd simply not been able to find the time.

Simon was busy designing the first section of a track at Makara Peak MTB Park that would become "Three Brothers", named after him and brothers Paul and Jonathan - a fitting tribute to not only their collective efforts at Makara Peak, but throughout the MTB scene in NZ.  And, I was house hunting, successfully as it turned out, blending the Randals and Tumens into one family under one roof. 

It was starting to look like the 2014 version might also slip through our grasp - I was flat out racing every other weekend or so in the inaugural North Island Series and Simon was designing the first piece (and second to be built) of Three Brothers so that volunteers could crack into the actual building over the summer months.  But, this time we had our eye on the prize, and we locked in the second weekend of December.

I'm as race fit as I've ever been, and while I've not clocked up big miles on the bike this year, the intensity's been there, and my legs well remember how to move a bike forward.  Simon's had a relatively quiet year riding-wise, though it's been a delight to see he and Miro rocking Kaitlyn's old Phillips Trailer-bike.  Perhaps on account of our own relative strengths, we agreed to dust the tandem off, charge the Di2 battery, and load it up with kit for two.

Route-wise, we probably let logistical convenience dominate common-sense, and we settled on a reprise of our Triangle Trip - the second spring tour we did together - back in 2010.  For a bit of variety, we'd thought we'd do it back to front, leaving the car in Ashhurst, just north-east of Palmerston North, and riding via Taihape and the Hawke's Bay in a big old loop. 

I'd been lecturing on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings, so we had the option of Friday-Sunday, or Saturday-Monday.  The weather looked better for the later grand depart, so it was on Saturday morning that we drove north out of Wellington at a very civilised 8.30am.  The tandem was hung across the back of my corolla - on the diagonal in at least a couple of dimensions to minimise the overhang.  Joining it was my partner Sarah's road bike.  We dropped her in Waikanae, and she rode home via the Akatarawas.  Not bad for a woman who's undergone the sort of transformation as a rider that you only get to do once in your life (if at all)!  It was an absolute pleasure to see the txt a few hours later:  "best road ride evaaaaaaa!!!!!". 

Our usual strategy of parking outside the local police station was stymied by Ashhurst's Santa Parade.  An overly officious fire man refused to let us between his cones to park on a side street (he must have been worried we'd push our way into the parade).  Simon and I had a bloody good laugh at his expense when at the next intersection, we found ourselves on the "wrong" side of another set of cones.

A couple of minutes later, we were not yet done mocking that prick, but we were parked up outside a nice looking home with no fence, and were getting ready to ride.

The Revelate Viscacha behind my saddle, though a mouthful to pronounce, is outstanding kit for this sort of ride, and accommodated both of our overnight gear, plus my phone and GPS charger (!!!), and some extra riding gear should the weather turn foul.  Most of our tools were in a Revelate Gas Tank, and on the handlebars was a very nice 2.7L Ortlieb handlebar bag, loaded with sun cream, butt butter and a whole lot of food.

We also had a custom-made frame bag suspended below my top-tube, courtesy of Michael Tridgen, a local guy Simon had fortuitously bumped into a few weeks earlier at the Eastbourne Fair. He owns and operates Stealth Bike Bags and had not only whipped up a custom bag for the tandem, but had also paid a house-call to measure up.  Impressive - many thanks Michael.  In this bag we put our rain gear, pump, a few tubes, and some more bars.

Loaded, and almost ready to go
Before too long, the was no good reason to linger, and we hit the road.  After a short stop at a handsome map board promoting the Manawatu Cycleway the next milestone was missing the turn off onto Pohangina Valley East Road, nestled between the Pohangina River and the Ruahine Ranges.

Simon, admiring the mapboard
I was soon using Simon's back as an excellent mapboard, as we'd sailed past an intersection which had a small sign reading "Sealed route to Apiti".  We'd stayed on the road which would soon turn to gravel, and I merrily consulted the AA map now laid out across Simon's back.   We wondered outloud what other things we could use it for, and wondered if we might cope with a game of cards in the future...  

As we headed north-east, the riding got progressively less tandem-friendly, and unfortunately the scenery was quite enough to offset the physical challenge.  The countryside was mostly open, with occasional tracts of native bush, and one superb letterbox.



Simon pointed out the Takapari Road turnoff, an 800vm MTB climb which I've not yet had the pleasure of doing...  One day, I'm sure.

Eventually we dropped down and re-crossed the Pohangina River, and started heading away from the mountains.  The river crossing was a bastard, and was a sign of things to come - a steep drop into a one-lane bridge which had Simon relatively hard on the brakes, and then a desperate shift through ALL the gears to finally get into granny gear at about the time that the bike had rolled to a halt...! 

The Pohangina River

At the intersection with Oroua Valley Road, we took a punt and turned right.  The various maps we'd consulted all promised an unsealed section, though none had agreed on the length (between 3 and many kilometres).  In the end, it turned out to be a very short section indeed, and it was so hard-packed that it might as well have been sealed.  On the other hand, the very sharp stone that we clipped within seconds of the "gravel" starting had us digging out a tube and the pump moments later.

Uh-oh

I'd grabbed the pump off my commuter bike, and while it does a great job of filling a road tube quickly (and to a nice high pressure), it has no clamping mechanism.  When I tried to put a bit more air in the rear tube, I discovered it wasn't quite sealing on the limited valve stem protruding from the rim, and I was losing pressure instead of gaining it.  Luckily, I had a brass adaptor in the patch kit, and the pump has a reverse (Schrader to Presta) adaptor, and the combination had us back in business...!

That was the good news.  The bad news was that we'd had one puncture in the first 100m of gravel, and we thought we had at least 3km to go...  Lousy odds, perhaps, but we needn't have worried.  We stopped to let a flock of sheep by, and when the cockie kindly stopped for a natter, he told us that we'd be back on the seal momentarily.  As an added bonus, dodging the sheep-shit wasn't too hard either, and we were heading "downhill all the way to the Rangitikei River".

The traffic was crazy...
Downhill it might have been, but time had marched on, and when we saw a picnic table at the turn away from Rangiwahia, we took the opportunity to sit in the sun for a while.  On the mountain bikes a few years earlier, we'd been able to stay off SH1 a bit more successfully, but this time we had to stick to the seal, and emerged onto the highway at Mangaweka.

We detoured down to the "Mangaweka International Airport" and I smashed back a can of coke, while Simon had an icecream.  As we were getting set to leave, an unlikely looking cycle tourist pulled in - wearing jeans and a pisspot helmet, but he claimed he'd come from Hunterville, and somewhere else before that.  I felt glad to get away unscathed, and felt somewhat safer riding on the shoulder of SH1...!!



The long climb north of Mangaweka was a beautiful gradient relative to the shorter but steeper climbs that had punctuated the riding thus far.  And, that was a welcome relief!

The descent wasn't quite as hair-raising as I'd expected it to be, and Simon reeled the bike in as requested just short of the bridge at the bottom.  It is one of my very favourite moments on SH1, and I hoped to get a good view of the deep gorge beneath.  I was slightly disappointed to realise there was no shoulder, and I couldn't quite justify walking out onto the bridge just for a photo.  The unsuspecting motorists didn't deserve to have to deal with an amateur photographer taking up valuable real estate on their roadway.

I always regret not getting a better view off to the left of this bridge
We did notice a ladder, and took it down to a ledge below the bridge.  We admired the steel-work for a little while, and lamented the fact that the view from the top of the bridge would have been a lot better.  Once back at road level, we pushed the bike back up the hill 50m, and when we couldn't hear any cars coming, took a good run at the bridge. 



Next stop was Taihape, and soon after we'd found our lodgings.  The proprietor of the Taihape Motels seemed happy to see us, and even offered us a cold beer.  I gladly accepted - the first I've had in many months - but the cold, savoury beverage was a perfect antidote to a dry, and mildly irritated throat.  (I'd been making good use of the Fisherman's Friend I'd taken to France since Mangaweka.)

After showers, we strolled down the main drag, and grabbed some supplies from New World.  I was keen to buy more than we could possibly want, while Simon was in weightloss mode, and wanted less of everything.  We finally agreed to supplement our cereal with a pack of crumpets and small jar of nutella, and then it was off to find some dinner. 

I'd had a bad experience at the Chinese place near the BP four years prior, so we opted for the only other thing that was open.  Soon after, we were tucking into a chicken, brie and cranberry pizza.  I couldn't see the chicken, but at least I could taste it, and Simon generously offered me the 8th piece, which rounded the meal off nicely.

We only came back to this once the next day, but our hearts weren't in it this year

The finest lancewood I've seen, on the main drag in Taihape

Haha...  A 50c piece glued to the footpath, and a sucker.
Then, it was back to the motel, where be borrowed Shooter on DVD from the office, and settled back to watch Marky Mark (sans the Funky Bunch) shooting people with aplomb...!

Feet up
We smashed back a couple of nutella-laden crumpets each at intermission, and enjoyed a good solid sleep once the movie was done.

The motelier had indicated quite clearly that he wasn't keen to give us access to the bike until 8am, so we had a relatively gentle start to the day.  Things worked out well, and we were able to use the time we had effectively, and were ready to roll as soon as we got the bike back.

As is often the case in those first few minutes of the day, we both quietly ran diagnostics to make our first predictions of how the day would play out.  We were both feeling pretty beat from a hard day before - it had only been 120km, but it hadn't been particularly tandem-friendly. 

GULP!
It didn't help that the first 10km out of Taihape were mostly climbing.  On a short descent, Simon indicated that the front derailleur wasn't shifting, and when that fault repeated soon after what appeared to be a local highpoint, we stopped the bike to check it out.

We were wracking our brains to remember how the Di2 indicators worked.  A red-flashing battery light looked ominous - frustrating since I'd charged the battery a fortnight before and we'd only ridden an hour or so since.  We did a couple of resets, but the front shifting didn't return.

Ahead lay Hawke's Bay.  Between us and it, were 150km of sealed but almost completely uninhabited road.  We had height to burn off, but we'd do so in a series of steep descents followed by long steep climbs.  We focussed on the risks:  if the battery were going flat, we'd soon lose the rear shifting too.  Then, we'd be in the middle of nowhere, and be stuck with manual shifting between granny gear, and the third, second, or first cog at random intervals, if history was anything to go by.  Not only that, but neither of us were feeling that flash.  Not a good state, if things were to go bad. Finally, even if we did get to Havelock North that day, we'd still be a loooong way from the car, and we didn't think hitching with the tandem would be particularly fruitful.  After debating all this for 5 minutes or so, we made the difficult decision to turn the bike around, and to head back to the car in Ashhurst.

Simon gazing longingly East...

The first stretch back the high point brought back fond memories of the end of our second day of the original Triangle Trip. I'd had to walk up this "incline" - a big ring climb on a good day - due to empty tanks.  Even Simon's strepsil hadn't really perked me up.  It was funny to see that slope again, to remember the one square meal bar hiding away in my bag, and to pedal up the hill with relative ease.

While Simon had been up front stressing out about the shifting, I was having difficulties of my own in the back seat.  Slowly but surely, I worked out that Simon's red coat was the source of my problems.  Seated, I was able to look to one side, or over the top of him, but when we'd stand to climb, my eyes were about 20cm away from his coat, and it was literally freaking me out...  Like a red rag to a bull, I guess. 

I eventually asked Simon if he'd consider turning his coat inside out, or popping my black one over the top.  He pragmatically suggested we swap seats for a while, and we did so out of Taihape.  The long climb, now after the bridge, wasn't too bad, but we stopped at the top anyway to catch our breath. 

Rest stop? Don't mind if we do...
With no access to the big chain ring, we were coasting anything other than an incline, so we rolled all the way into Mangaweka.  We didn't go into the village, and turned off to drop down to the Rangitikei.  We were waved on by a loon, who Simon identified as the chap we'd seen at the "airport" the day before.  Another bullet dodged. 

From the river, we had a long climb up onto the plateau between the river and the Ruahines.  Near the top, we stopped and had some morning tea, before cruising on up the remainder of the climb.  We past the intersection where we'd sat in the sun, and Simon briefly cursed his burnt knees.  I must've sat with my legs under the picnic table, and hadn't been affected. 

We had a brief stop, and some honey roasted peanuts, in Rangiwahia, and Simon took over on the front again, this time sans red coat.  The climb up to Peep-O-Day was pretty sweet, and there we stopped to replicate our Graperide trick of sticking some cardboard through the front derailleur parallelogram.  With the big chainring engaged, we picked up some speed along the relatively flat ridge, but the inevitable happened, and we were both chuffed to muscle our bike up some slopes which definitely called for the smaller ring.  Simon's pacing and gear shifts were spot on.



We soon reached Kimbolton, and the first signs of commerce since Taihape.  We felt compelled to stop at the cafe, and we were soon tucking into a bowl of fries.  While we did that, Oli fixed our bike for us, and so when we were ready to set off, we again had a full complement of gears. 

Oli, fixing the front derailleur while Simon and I wait inside the Kimbolton cafe
 
I'd fired a photo up on Facebook when we passed through Taihape, indicating shifting problems, to which Oli had commented: "Loose lead? At the derailleur, battery or under the lever hood?"  I'd checked the lever hood, since that was where the Graperide fault had been, but hadn't checked the derailleur itself.  When I gave the lead a tug, there was no resistance at all, and I immediately knew it had been the culprit.  I pushed it back into place, Simon gave the lever a nudge, and voila, we were (sheepishly) back to 20 gears...  

The next stretch was a dream - we had a tailwind, and elevation, and proceeded to blast down the long straight run into Cheltenham.  I was on the front, and enjoyed seeing our speed in the low to mid 50s for what seemed like an eternity.

All good things must come to an end though, and boy did that.  First, we lost gravity, as the road levelled out.  Then the wind dropped.  By the time we made the left turn onto Colyton Road towards Ashhurst, we had a very strong block headwind.  55km/h was replaced by about 16-17km/h, and the riding slowly but surely sapped the last energy from our legs.  

While we were sharing the pedalling load, I dare say both of us was wishing for a bike of our own, so at least we could have some short turns in the lee of the other.  On a bicycle built for two, the stoker feels every bit as much headwind as the captain, even though he can't feel it on his chest...

As if the wind wasn't enough, we had a few short hills to contend with too, which added insult to injury.  The last few minutes of the ride weren't all bad though - we had a nice descent into the edge of town, and then Simon took what seemed to me like a random left turn that spat us out onto the main drag about 10 metres from the car!

Our 400km-plus, three day loop had turned into a 250km out-and-back over two days, but I don't think either of us was disappointed.   We were both feeling pretty shagged, which surely meant we'd got in some excellent training.  We were both also glad that we weren't in the middle of nowhere - despite the bike being fixed, we were both conscious of the fact that in a parallel universe, things might not have worked out nearly so well.

The shortening of the trip also had its benefits, and we had both started to look forward to seeing our families again, and had begun plotting what we'd do with our windfall gain of a Monday!  

Most of all, we appreciated that the trip had served one of its primary purposes, and that was to enjoy a weekend away together, out in the open.  However inappropriate the tandem had been for the terrain we'd chosen, it had ensured we were always within earshot of each other, and we'd made the most of that charming feature.  

As always, it was bloody good to get out.  


Sunday, May 25, 2014

2014 Metlink City Safari, aka sifter's really bad at running

These days, if I'm working up a sweat, it's a fair bet I'm either on my bike, or digging trail at Makara Peak.  But, there is the odd exception, including a recent highlight, the Metlink City Safari.

The event is basically a six-hour treasure hunt, with no bikes allowed.  I'd normally be very reluctant to turn up to such a thing, but this event has a special twist.  As the naming sponsor might suggest, the event incorporates public transport - the Seatoun Ferry, cable car, three train lines, and dozens of bus routes.  Though a bike would trump a bus any day of the week, the alternatives offered in this event extend my range just enough to cope with six hours on foot.

I wrote about my fourth City Safari back in 2011, and it was with some delight that I caught wind of the 2014 edition, after a two year absence from the calendar.  The training for this year's event was the same as usual - some riding - but Family Randal did innovate on at least one dimension.  Khulan was invited to join us, and Family Randal-Tumen was born!

The event necessitated a bit of an early start for a Sunday morning, and Kaitlyn, Khulan and I were dropped off by Sarah at the new start location, Civic Square, shortly before 8am.  We got our race packs and vests and were soon joined by Uncle Diggy, who we'd successfully intercepted before he reached the usual start on Queen's Wharf.

There was a relatively cool wind blowing, so we grabbed four seats on the bus parked up in the square and got planning.


Getting organised

The map had a bunch of distinct clusters:  Petone, Tawa, J'Ville and Ngauranga, Karori, Northland, Berhampore and Seatoun.  Our map booklet had been really well put together:  as well as an overview map, and several zoomed-in maps, we had a schedule for all the public transport on the course, event rules, and a couple of pages of clues.  In addition to about 60 controls we might arrive at on foot, the organisers had set 19 extras - all of which were visible from public transport.  They'd also clearly identified the latter on the map and in the clue list, so it wouldn't be easy to miss them during the day. 
The Seatoun Ferry is not only a novelty, but is a very quick way to get to Seatoun from town - it takes about 20 minutes rather than 40-odd on the bus.  Our first plan was to jump on the cable car up to the top of the Botanical Gardens and then collect a few controls under the positive influence of gravity before getting onto the 10:30am ferry.  But, we soon learned that the cable car was closed until midday, so it was quickly onto Plan B - the 10:05 train to Petone.  From there, we had a bunch of options, but we'd let the public transport connections dictate exactly where we went next.  The 12:30 ferry was a possibility, but timing that right would be tricky. 

We had a race briefing at 9am, and then got organised for the warm-up event - a 10-minute prologue.  We were allowed to open our maps for that two minutes before we started, leaving only a small amount of time for planning.  While I was oblivious to the fact that controls we didn't get in the 10 minutes would be available for half-price in the main event, I was conscious of the need to get back on time and was keen to not over extend ourselves.  And, for good reason:  Dave was nursing a calf-strain, and I had been receiving physio on my lower back for a week.  Consequently, we devised a simple route with a couple of bailout points.

The Civic Square is large, and there were just over 50 teams of at least two people in each, so it was easy to casually move to the edge of the crowd closest to our first control.  Not cheating at all, but a useful 20m head start on where we would have been if we'd stayed put.

About one minute in, I noted a couple of things - I'd forgotten to start my stopwatch and so we wouldn't be working towards an accurate deadline, and of even more concern, both my quads were cramping up already!  Not good with only 6 hours and 9 minutes left to go.

Dave and I were on navigation, and Kaitlyn had been delegated the responsibility of txting in our answers.  Khulan was free to enjoy her first orienteering event with no responsibility! Proof-of-visit this year consisted of a multichoice answer txted in to the organisers (or their computer system, presumably).  "2b d" was soon followed by "1e a", "2a b" etc.  We did an anti-clockwise lap of the lagoon, heading home via Harris St.  Our final control was at the top of a short flight of steps to a wall of the City Gallery.  The answers were one of "Get", "Your", "Feet", "Wet" but luckily I had time to take my shoes and socks off, and we finished 90 points in hand, a minute or so later with me trailing in barefoot.


One of the virtues of the txt-in system was live scoring, but it seemed to have a few glitches, namely some inconceivably large tallies!  It was interesting to find later that the largest prologue score of all was by a team that collected all the controls, but were ten minutes late.  They gathered a whopping 230 points, but lost 100 of them due to lateness (10 per minute). Yet another innovation this time was that any uncollected prologue controls were available for half price in the main event.  So, the only disadvantage of being super-late that I can see is being unable to collect any of the controls later.  We got 90 in our ten minutes, but did collect the remaining 140 points in the main event, costing us little time, but netting us an additional 70 points. Food for thought...

The 20-minute hiatus following the prologue was a good opportunity to rearrange clothing, and for me to do some stretching.  My hammies had joined my quads in complaining, and I knew I'd be in for a long day!  At least my lower back seemed fine.

At 9:45 we were off.  We grabbed the northern prologue controls that we hadn't already visited, and then popped over to the Lambton Quay bus terminus to get the price of a can of coke.  The store was closed, but the girls were able to make out the price through the window.  We made the Upper Hutt train with a minute or so to spare.  Perfect!

The public transport controls were all flags, and Dave made out the Brazilian one we weren't supposed to be able to see from the train.  Score!  It was also cool to spy our dear friends Simon and Miro on the poster advertising the event.

A poster featuring Simon and a very young Miro
Our route through Petone was designed to minimise walking, and we were one of only a few teams that stayed on the train until the Ava Station.  We picked up control 17 just adjacent to the station, and then 69 outside the local pool, a couple on Jackson Street, and then a few more on the way back to the Dowse Interchange.

The map showed a simple route to our next control in the bush below Dowse Drive.  There was a track exactly where we expected one, but there was also a team studying the mapboard there intently - not a good sign.  We went confidently past them, and started down the track, but there was no immediate intersection as we expected and the track was definitely heading in the wrong direction.  So, we went back up to the road, and after a minute or two, headed into the bush.

We quickly picked up an old bench which was easy going and may even have been what was shown on the map!  After a little bit more cross country walking, we were back on a main track, and a minute after that we were txting in the answer for another control.

It was almost a kilometre's walk to the next point of interest, after which we knew we had 12 minutes to get back to Petone Station for the southbound train.  While I was navigating, Dave was busy with his iphone, and the Didibaba app which he'd installed especially for the event.  Its ridiculous name aside, basically it was a google map with all stations and busstops shown on it.  By selecting any of these stops, live timing was given for the next transport options.  Very handy and much easier than entering the stop code into Metlink's website.

Our final control of this cluster was worth 80 points, but necessitated a trip into Korokoro Stream, to read some graffiti on the underside of one of the buildings built over it.  I drew the short straw, and opted to keep my shoes on for this one.  It was a squelchy jog/shuffle back to the station.

We made the northbound platform on time, but Dave and the kids hadn't noticed the underpass to the platform we needed so looked a little concerned once they'd seen the train arriving.  It had just stopped when we emerged on the other side of the tracks, so not a moment was wasted!  Perfect, again!

We liked the look of some controls in Ngauranga, so jumped off the train there a few minutes later.  There was a 10-pointer right at the station, but it involved climbing over a small fence to a "stock effluent disposal facility", and nobody seemed keen!!  I was worried about getting stuck on top of the fence, but Kaitlyn took point, and in the end Dave was needed to solve the clue.

It was then over to the bus stop, and we enjoyed a ten-minute wait for the 54 bus up into Newlands.  Had we been keen runners, we would have had enough time to scramble up the hill immediately behind us to pick up a 30-pointer in the pine trees, but, we weren't, and instead enjoyed a nice rest and a bit of lunch!   Knowing exactly when the bus would arrive made for a stressfree wait, and Khulan made creative use of the time.  The photographic output was not the creative highlight though of the break though.  That has to go to the caramel slice she'd made for us the day before, and it was very hard to save some for later!

Cavernous bus stop at the bottom of Ngauranga Gorge!
All four of us missed the flag on the left of the bus on the way up Ngauranga Gorge, but we txted in a question-mark anyway and were subsequently credited with the points.  We jumped off the bus at Salford Street, and began our walk back down to the train station!
Another price check on a can of coke
Our route was via Wakely, which pretty much connected Clive's Foodmarket containing our third can of coke control to the bottom of Ngauranga in a straight line.

There was a 70-pointer half way down to keep us entertained (and to justify the walk) and a Japanese flag near the bottom.  I was lucky enough to get my feet wet again soon after.  While I would have liked dry feet, it was actually quite cool walking from one side of the gorge to the other through a large culvert.  I could have done without counting the 33 brackets holding one of the service pipes to the wall, but I did like the 100 points we'd just gained!
I drew the short straw for wet feet (again)!
While I was under the road, Dave was scoping out our transport options, and it seemed like the train was the way to go.  Nearing the station, the kids asked "will we make it if we don't speed up?" in response to being told the train was three minutes away.  It was about 12:30, and we had just over two-hours to go.  Energy levels were definitely waning!

We'd decided to head to Seatoun, but the train was really slow after the Kaiwharawhara stop, and by the time we'd made it to Lambton Quay, the Valley Flyer was long gone.  The next promising option looked to be an Island Bay bus, but that wasn't due for a few more minutes, so we jumped on an Eastbourne bus heading to Courtenay Place.

Resting up, and scoping out the next connection
We were off it only a few stops later, ducking into the now-open Cable Car for another 70 points.  It was a slightly stressful visit on account of all the other patrons (including a large number of City Safari teams), but it was made easier by the woman at the ticket counter who told us exactly where we needed to look for the answer to our clue!  From there it was across the road, and almost immediately onto the Island Bay bus.

The ride to Berhampore was another nice opportunity to rest up.  It was lovely to see Megan on the bus, with whom I'd written a stats textbook - she'd just returned from a trip to Croatia, and had plenty of stories to tell.  I managed to keep one eye on the map, but my teammates were doing the same and didn't miss the two flags out the window!

The map had the bus stop we wanted on the wrong side of the Dawson St intersection, so we ended up staying on the bus and having to walk back - luckily only a short distance.  Control 81 was a nice mural opposite Martin Luckie Park, and it was a surprisingly mellow walk from there to the rear boundary fence of the zoo, from where we could see a "White/Blue/Yellow"... Facade.

Our next control was a hundred metres down Rodrigo Rd overlooking Kilbirnie, from which we planned to drop down to the Zoo entrance (50 points), and down the main drag (20 points) to jump on a bus up Constable St (20 points).  Unfortunately, we had only 8 minutes to make the 11 to Seatoun, and a couple of extra to make the 44 to Strathmore.  We didn't think we'd make either if we stuck to our plan, so headed down the Kilbirnie side.  On the one hand, we'd forgo 90 points, but on the other, the extra distance the buses would have to travel would ensure we'd be able to catch them.

It was frustrating walking down to Crawford Road.  The missed points grated, but equally as much is was a shame to be missing out on seeing Siobhan, Dave's partner, in Newtown.  It was a sound sacrifice though, and we only had to wait a minute for the Seatoun.  The Strathmore was 4 minutes behind, so we planned to get off the Seatoun at the Strathmore shops (50 points) before catching the Strathmore up the hill.  After that, we weren't sure, but we were enjoying making it up as we went along!

No sooner had we made this plan, than the bus stopped at the Kilbirnie shops, and the driver proceeded to get off.  His replacement seemed to be taking ages to get organised, allowing the Strathmore bus to catch up.  We were worried the 44 would be faster, so gave up on our complicated transfer plan.  It was probably just as well, since the new Strathmore driver seemed to understand the urgency, advising us to get on before the old driver signed off.

Our next control was about a minute from Mum and Dad's place, so we let them know our ETA, secretly hoping they'd be waiting for us at the control with some pick-me-ups!  They didn't disappoint, and as well as hugs and kisses, we were treated to some chilled water, sliced apple, and some chocolate!  Nice work team!
Grandparents ahoy!
The Eastern Walkway was a very quick connection across to Beacon Hill - even on our weary legs we probably took less time than it would've taken the grandparents to drive there.

Always time for a quick photo.  Here, atop Beacon Hill
By this stage we knew we couldn't get down into Seatoun in time to make the bus that would get us back into town, but points-wise, that wasn't a disaster.  Only 110 points waited down there and we were able to salvage 70 by taking the quicker route into Strathmore.  We grabbed a 30-pointer before peeling off most of our elevation on a long flight of steps.

Down, luckily!
The price of the can of coke at the Strathmore dairy had changed since the multi-choice answers had been set, but we didn't waste any time asking what the old price had been.  We had about 20 minutes to get to the airport terminal for the Valley Flyer, so kept moving.  We were also ahead of a Seatoun bus which would get us into town on time, which gave us an alternative option.

We'd just picked up a 20-point control on Crawford Green when Dave said the Seatoun was imminent.  We saw 2 or 3 teams waiting at the bus stop, and they started waving us on when they saw the bus coming.  We ran, and a minute later were sitting on the Seatoun.  This worked out well, since we were soon passing another control.  By the time we'd passed the Kilbirnie fire station, Dave pointed out there was an Airport bus just behind us - this would not only save us heaps of time, but also take us past a control just outside the bus tunnel.  Sweet!

There was another team waiting at the bus stop, and we all protested when the driver of the Valley Flyer told us his bus was excluded from this game we were playing.  Our saving grace was the logo printed on our race booklet, and he quickly backed down, thank goodness.  I now wonder if paying cash would've crossed our minds...

The 15 minutes saved on this bus was put to good use in town.  We jumped off in Courtenay Place, and swept up the remaining prologue controls before hobbling back into Civic Square...!

4 sets of sore legs, but 4 smiles too!
Unlike a traditional race, where everyone goes the same way, the aftermath of these events is always an interesting highlight.  I enjoyed catching up with various folk, especially Michael Wood, who'd been the previous organiser of the event and who'd obviously been on hand to ensure this one was a great success.

I completely missed us being announced as second-placed family, so was surprised to be congratulated.  Managing sixth overall was very satisfying, but didn't bring nearly so much satisfaction as how much we'd all enjoyed ourselves.

Dave had been an absolute gem with Didibaba (urgh) and I enjoyed being lost in the map.  My experience rogaining with Simon has basically been to come up with a solid plan at the outset, and to execute it.  With Dave and the girls, we were thinking a lot more about "what else could we be doing" and that was all facilitated by the public transport.  It does much more than offer progress to those with weary legs, and really adds and exciting dimension to an already complex event.

The girls had been wonderful motivators.  They were great with the clues and answers, a few "what control are we at again" queries aside!  I loved seeing them hooning around our fair city, and hearing them chat and laugh away.  As all our legs got tired, the absence of serious complaint, especially from them, was very impressive.  My greatest source of joy from the day was knowing Uncle Diggy was seeing and hearing all of that too - coordinating all of us to be together more often isn't as easy as it should be...

Sarah came to collect us (with down jackets x 4!) which was just as well, since we'd had to hand in our bus passes in exchange for our afternoon tea.  She was a good sport and walked to the car on her own, returning a minute later to pick us up outside the library.  That 100m to the carpark was 100m too far for the rest of us!!!

We all can't wait for next year!  (Now that our legs have stopped hurting...)

From www.citysafari.org.nz, with thanks