Sunday, September 20, 2015

A rainy Sunday outing with Kaitlyn

The highlight of just about every Sunday morning is picking Kaitlyn up from her mum's, and being reunited is usually celebrated by doing something as a family of four.  We've been on some cracker rides together, most recently on the Timber Trail, and I've also had some wonderful rides this year with just Khulan or Sarah's company.

Today offered a rare opportunity for Kaitlyn and I to do something together.  Khulan was signed up for the second race at PNP's Spring Series at Wainuiomata Trail Park, and Sarah was keen to get out on her road bike for a bit. 

Inspired by Roadworks team-mate Kerrin's recent ride out to the Wainui Coast and around to Eastbourne, I hatched a plan for Kaitlyn and I to emulate his ride (sans the nasty climb into Wainui!).  We'd deliver Khulan to her race, and do our ride from there.  Sarah could collect Khulie and the car at the tail-end of her road ride, and then meet us in Eastbourne.  Not at all complicated...!

The fly in the ointment was the weather.  Kaitlyn and I had a brief txt exchange this morning:  "How inclined are you to go for a ride in unlovely conditions?!" elicited the delightful response:  "I think I would still be keen to ride. Unless it's super duper unlovely".  And then it was off to pack the storm gear!

Not long after, the plan had mostly been enacted, though Sarah had sensibly pulled the pin on her ride and so we had a tweaked collection plan. 

We arrived at Wainui about 35 minutes before Khulie's race was due to start.  She got herself organised, while Kaitlyn and I cowered in the car for a bit longer.  We waited with her until she was set to go, and wished her a good race.

We were on our own bikes a few minutes later.  I had a few snacks in my backpack, but thought we should probably pick something up at the supermarket.  At the last minute, I changed my mind and we headed for the BP instead.  We ordered two hot chocolates (one with a double-shot of coffee), and I grabbed a couple of cookies and a small bag of chocolate-covered raisins.

When we'd pulled in, I thought there was a slim chance we'd go no further than the BP, but once our bellies were full of hot drink, the weather seemed slightly less bad.  A sign on our left suggested it was 20km to the coast, and our turn-off was a few kilometres short of that.  Not so bad...?

I had three layers on - a merino shirt with a fleece front, a short-sleeved Gabba, arm-warmers and my parka.  I was also wearing my Ground Effect overtrou, and my roadie booties.  I had my buff around my neck, a beanie under my helmet, and some neoprene gloves on.  The car thought it was 8-degrees when we left it, but the windchill was worth most of those.  It was bloody cold, though I was cosy. 

Kaitlyn less so, and at the Moore's Valley shops, she inherited my buff, and soon after that, she got my sunnies too - her wee face was looking pretty pink on account of the wind and drizzle, and I suspected she was also getting a bit of spray in her face off my rear wheel.

For the next hour or so we rode down-valley, enjoying the offsetting effect of gravity over the nasty headwind.  It was still hard work, but a damn sight better than it would have been on the flat, or heaven forbid, a climb. 

Despite racing along these roads quite a few times, and the occasional training ride, I didn't recall ever taking in the surroundings to the same extent.  From time to time I'd drift into the centre of the lane and ride alongside Kaitlyn for a bit, chatting briefly before the next car would force me back in front.  I told her how horrible it was to race here in a northerly wind.  "You get to the coast feeling like superman, and then turn back uphill and into the wind.  Bam, it's like you've hit a wall..."

At one point someone's driveway had belched a lot of gravel onto the road.  I held my line and shouted back "we're about to do some mountain biking!"  Sometimes it's bloody nice to ride on the road and actually enjoy the blemishes!

We passed horses and sheep, and the odd cattle.  They were clearly not enjoying the wind-chill either, and some had the common sense to hide behind something.  I found this increasingly endearing each time I saw it, and finally decided I'd better stop and grab the camera out.

Kaitlyn wrapped up warm, and a couple of sheep hiding behind a wall...
A sudden downpour made me regret the stop, but three or four minutes later we were sheltering at the Rimutaka Forest Park's information centre.  It was not only nice to have a roof over our head temporarily, but it was also a nice milestone on our slog to the southern-most point of our ride.  We celebrated by sharing a chocolate and apricot cookie, and continued to watch the rain fall!

We watched and watched, and though the rain didn't ease much, I decided getting wet was a lesser evil than cooling down too much more.  Both sets of legs were noticably sluggish after our break, and it seemed like the wind was picking up too.  I struggled to get my pacing right, often looking back to see Kaitlyn 50 metres behind, and was relieved when the bridge over the Wainuiomata River finally came into sight. 

I was still warm, with the exception of my right hand.  I couldn't operate my phone with the glove on, and every time I took a photo, the glove had to come off.  With the exception of my face and neck, and a couple of inches above my socks, this was the only skin exposed to the elements.  

I'd made the mistake of leaving the glove off for the duration of our rest at the visitor's centre.  The problem wasn't so much that my hand had cooled down, but that all the water saturating the glove had become cold, and the effect on my hand was not great.  The gloves insulate well when warm inside, but when a hand goes in cold, they basically function like a tinnie-cooler does.  Go figure... 

In any case, photos were more important than my comfort, so off and on it repeatedly went! 

The end of the road!
Immediately after the bridge it was a little unclear which way to go.  There was a sign pointing to the left that said "Main track", with arrows to various other things, including a trig and bunkers, but no lighthouse.  The gravel road went right, and we took this option over the indistinct, and decidedly less "main"-looking track.

With the exception of the very inside of the first and only switchback corner, which Kaitlyn inadvertantly chose to ride, the gradient was pretty mellow, and for the meantime, we seemed to be a wee bit sheltered from the wind.  Before long, we got our first glimpse of the ocean, and I think we were both glad that we hadn't stuck to the road below us.

We got a nice surprise as we rounded the corner soon after - we were at the top!!  We crossed the narrow ridge, and the road almost immediately tipped down.  And, it was nice to be riding our mountain bikes in terrain they were designed for!

We were soon at an intersection, and I gave Kaitlyn a choice:  grovel into the headwind for a visit to the Baring Head lighthouse, or save it for a warmer day.  She bravely chose the longer option, and so we started to grovel, as promised.

The climb onto the headland was mellow, but the wind was strong and cold, and we'd been out in it for over two hours by this stage.  It was taking its toll on Kaitlyn's energy levels and consequently her speed.  We decided to get off and walk for a bit, and when I stopped to take my damn glove off again, I suggested she keep going. 

Baring Head ahoy!

Rainstorms in the harbour entrance, and on the South Coast
The wet glove was getting harder to put on each time, and I fumbled around with it for quite a while.  I figured I'd be chasing Kaitlyn for a bit, but when I turned to go after her, I was surprised to see she'd stopped only a few metres beyond where she'd been when I turned away from her a minute earlier. 

When I reached her, I saw why she'd stopped.  There was a gate across the road, indicating private property, and the track to the lighthouse was indicated off to the left.  She'd sensibly waited for me at the intersection.

Despite now being on a barely-worn track on the grass, the going wasn't noticably harder than on the gravel road.  As a consequence, we soon reached the top of the cliff above the Cook Strait, and though the view east was spectacular, the wind was trying to tear my helmet off and I decided to keep my camera in my pocket. 

We made our way through a gate into what was presumably the lighthouse keeper's garden, and found a perfectly located picnic table.  It had a great view, but more importantly, it was sheltered from the biting southerly. 

Snack stop number two!
It really was cold, and the riding from here was all going to be not only wind assisted but we had elevation to peel off too.  I figured we were only going to get colder from here on in, and recommended Kaitlyn put her down jacket on under her raincoat.  My lightweight synthetic-insulation jacket went on too, and we enjoyed a One Square Meal bar each.  They weren't as soft and gooey as I was hoping, despite having been in my pocket for the duration.  They really are better in warm conditions!

I'd been surprised to hear my cell phone notify incoming communications just above the switchback on the climb out of the valley, and was surprised yet again when it rang now.  It was Sarah - she told me my parents had arrived to see Khulan finish her race, and as a result she now had a means of getting my manual car out of Wainui.  I imagined Khulie was in desperate need of a shower, so wasn't surprised that she said they'd head home.  I thought we'd be about an hour, and promised to let Sarah know when we got to the roadend, at which point she'd come to get us.

On a fine summer's day, it would have been great to wander around the grounds, and check out the lighthouse for longer, but we made do with a quick photo, and then it was back onto the bikes. 
"Strike a pose!!"
Having battled into the wind for so long, having it at our backs and a bit of gravity-assist was quite a treat.  We were soon on flat ground, but the wind alone was still excellent.

We passed a small quarry, a steep 4WD road to our right (which we both agreed we were glad not to be taking), and were ourselves passed by a couple of SUVs which had appeared out of nowhere. 

I'd expected it to take a lot longer, so was pleasantly surprised when the hulk of the S.S. Paiaka came into view (wrecked in 1906, and alongside the road since 1987, according to the memorial stone, which I read just now on the internet - it's a lot warmer there, and more suited to lingering).  We'd been here on a family ride with Brendan and Simon a couple of months ago, and I'm sure any nervousness Kaitlyn might have had about the remaining distance eased a little.  I was regularly checking in with her, but she was reporting being warm, and feeling OK, if not a little tired.

S.S. Paiaka
The scenery continued to be frustratingly good, and I'd long ago committed to putting some words to the images I was collecting, and so the glove kept coming off!
Pencarrow Light(s)
I was surprised to see Kau Kau sitting above Seatoun as we rode around Pencarrow Head - a fascinating reminder of how far south we were.   

Just north of Inconstant Point, we spotted half a dozen surfers, and we stopped to admire their fortitude.  No doubt the guy that waved to us as he made his way back along the beach to put in again was thinking the same about us! 

Surf's up!
We saw the surfers' bikes stashed in the bushes, and I wondered how on earth they'd managed to transport their boards into the wind.  Maybe there was some sort of a trailer apparatus that I hadn't noticed in amongst the bikes?

The road-end soon came into view, and I kicked myself for not telling Sarah I had a spare car key with me, and to ask that they leave the Corolla in Seaview.  Despite promising to ring at the road-end, I figured another 10 minutes waiting in the cafe at Days Bay was no bad thing, and opted to keep my hand out of the elements until we got there.

We rode the Esplanade path, and enjoyed some of the unique architecture we passed, including a house that was shaped like a boat.  I realised how much of my riding is done with my head down these days, and really appreciated how I'd been able to look around a bit more on this ride. 

Kaitlyn was enjoying doing the same, I think, and while she wasn't quite as perky as she'd been early on, she was still ticking along at a good pace, thanks to the wind, and her not inconsiderable fitness and tenacity! 

As we arrived into Days Bay, I got a lovely surprise, seeing a wee yellow car which I instinctively knew was my parents'.  A couple of parking bays down was our Suzuki, and just beyond that, the Corolla!  Awesome!

We headed straight for the cafe, and bumped into not only Mum, Dad, Sarah and Khulan, but my bro Ed, his lady Jean, and his mum, Linda.  What a small world!  After a whirlwind of hi's and bye's, we found a table close to a heater, and went in to order a late lunch!

The insulating layer we'd both put on under our coats, and the relative lack of rain since, meant we weren't actually too cold, and the hot food and heater meant we didn't become the shivering wrecks I'd imagined Sarah would arrive to.

It was lovely to hear about Khulan's race, and what Sarah and my folks had been doing, but eventually the draw of a hot shower became too great, and it was time to break into three lots of two, and drive back into town.

Despite the ridiculous conditions, Kaitlyn and I were both so glad we'd stuck to our guns and headed out, as we'd predicted not 15 minutes into the ride.  Despite barely touching her bike since the Timber Trail ride, being too busy with school, or football, or other weekend activities, or from aversion to riding wet singletrack close to home, Kaitlyn had once again risen to the challenge. 

Two Yetis, after jobs well done!
We covered almost 43km, spending about three hours on our bikes and close to four hours out in the elements.  We'd managed not to get too wet, nor too cold, and as a result were able to regard the ride as a roaring success.  

God-damn it was good to get out, and thanks so much to Kaitlyn for making it so (not to mention Sarah and Khulan for also facilitating it).  I'm sure we'd have found something nice to do while Khulie was racing, but cheating the elements in the way we did was something special. And, the foulness definitely added to the sense of adventure we both felt! 

I truly have a remarkable family, each and every one of them, and our time together, in twos, threes or four is often worth celebrating.  What a lucky and proud man I am.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, what a pair of hardouts! Great to hear you got out into it, even if it makes me realise how damn soft I've become, haha! Top stuff!