The Greater San Fransisco Area

Continuing my quest to travel the world.

It has been my quest to cycle around the world for a very long time, although I have ticked off 16 countries to date, I still haven't achieved the ultimate goal of cycling the world. I cannot wait any longer for the conditions to be perfect, age is catching up with me, so it is now or never.

picture drawn by Jim my Step - Father on our trip across Australia

picture drawn by Jim my Step - Father on our trip across Australia
After our trip to Vietnam in 2012.

Monday, 28 November 2011

3 things.

I don't make a good sick person. For me, it's a double edged sword. I cannot rest, do nothing, and wait to get better, that just makes me anxious about:
1] Not getting any exercise, I can almost feel the weight piling on and my fitness ebbing away.
2]  Not getting any chores done, when there's always so much to do.
3] And when you are married to someone like Niel who is super fit and never gets sick, it's intolerable when I do.
Being sick makes me very stressed and stress does not help you to get better.

I haven't been a 'happy chappy' this week. It started off with a migraine headache and hay fever last weekend, which I had to go to work with, as no one could cover me having a sick day. That left my resistance low and I got 'the flu' - fever, nausea, aching joints - the works. On top of that my knee that keeps on swelling up for some unknown reason, swelled up again and I ended up with a tennis ball sized lump on my knee and could barely walk.

I'm a firm believer in mild exercise when you're sick. Surely getting your blood moving and lungs working has got to be good for you. They don't recommend exercise to people with depression for nothing - those endorphins make you feel good. I have to get things done to relieve my stress levels - less anxiety means getting better.

So there I was, while my knee was still very swollen, in between bouts of fever and nausea, planting veges in the garden. When my knee got a little bit better, I was out on my  bike for short rides around the block, basically pushing with my good leg, and letting the other follow. This continued till my swelling had all but gone and I was able to push with both legs.

I finally got to see a doctor. Yes I had the flu. The most interesting thing, [and yes i suppose you could say a good thing] is I've finally found out what is wrong with my knee and troublesome feet, which still give me pain.

Enough of sickness. I'm over it mentally, if not physically. I've been burning the candle at each end of the day catching up on things. I have a spare hour before work so I was out cycling down to the beach and back. i was out with a torch in the evening watering the garden after a week of gale force winds.

The truly remarkable thing this week is Niel. His global bike race fellow competitors should be afraid - very afraid. He is a machine. What he can achieve on his bike never ceases to amaze me. Not only has he ridden 1,500 kms in 11 days with only a 1/2 day off, but he manages to finish the 160 km race [ over 33 demanding hills remember] on a hybrid mountain bike in just over 5 hours. We are talking bicycles here, not motorbikes!!

Niel riding along the Volcanic Plateau just south of Lake

You may have wondered why I called this blog entry as '3 things'. Things always happen in 3's. So how do you end a crappy week of injury and sickness? You fall off your bike of course.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Fast Food.

I thought it would be a dull week, with nothing too much to report. But it only started off that way, it ended so busy I made myself sick. I keep of thinking of the saying :' It never rains, but it pours'.

Niel and I were talking early in the week about where I want to go, and what I want to do, when his Global race is over, and it's my turn for some adventure. Well aside from what I'd like to do, I realised I'd have no money to go anywhere. My reduced hours to spend more time in the garden, was all very well and good,but there would be not even coins left over for a holiday anywhere. So I asked my boss for my old hours again, and apart from saying "I told you so", he graciously gave me them back. He really is the best boss around. However the shop was understaffed this week and I've gone from reduced hours to 6 days in a row without a day off. Needless to say the garden is very neglected - right when I can't leave it, being spring / early summer.

Actually it decided all of a sudden to be summer. Just like that. We've suddenly gone from using a hot water bottle at night, to sitting around in the evening in shorts and a t-shirt. In a perverse way, I know why it's happened, Niel left to cycle to Lake Taupo this morning and after his drenching a few weeks ago, he put waterproof covers on his pannier bags, and that bought the sun out and the summer on with a vengeance.

It's been hot all week, but a gale force wind has kept the temp down until now. This gale force wind with the hot sun, has dried up the ground and there is a lot of dust in the air. This dust gave me chronic hay fever, combined with worrying about the garden and getting quite exhausted working so much I ended up with a migraine headache as well - not a good combination - I think I was a bit grumpy at work.

Anyway enough gloomy stuff- some really great things happened this week. Getting my old hours at work was only one of them, the other was -  that we have  some more friends that want to sponsor Niel. Markus and Kerstin [and family] are from Germany. They are a truly lovely couple that I met about 20 years ago cycle touring the west coast of the south island of New Zealand. They have been friends ever since, and we always try to met  up every time we go to Europe. They now have 2 great kids. Their English language skills are good, but limited, our German language skills are non existent, so they have the tough job trying to translate and understand our letters, emails, and conversations. Top points to them for this effort. I don't know if they realise how grateful we are for them not giving up on us. Markus informed us this week that he and Kerstin would like to sponsor Niel. Thank you so much, you two are awesome. It's people like you that reassure me that there are some good people in the world. Even in a global recession, these two lovely people have reached out to help. Fantastic.

The new position of the raised bed.

On the home front, the raised bed has been relocated and ready to replant. We've been doing a bit of road side harvesting. There is a very big loquat tree [not sure if that is how it's spelt - I can't find it in the dictionary] just down the road - covered in ripe fruit. I didn't know what a loquat was until a few years ago, working as a parks and reserves gardener. My work colleague was obsessed with them, and was trying to grow one from a cutting. I introduced Niel to them, he also had never heard of them before. For those of you who don't know about them. They are a tree of about 5 meters by 5 meters when mature, they have big leaves a bit like a Rhododendron - possibly tropical - I'm not sure. The fruit is yellow, the size of a plum, and it  tastes like a peach or nectarine.

I thought the bantam / chicken was going to give us eggs under the dining room table. Talk about 'fast food'!! She likes to go to sleep there after eating the cats biscuits. Her bottom was going up and down and pushing in and out, and I was sure there would be eggs before you could say 'chicken noodle soup', but no, she managed to do it outside - 18 eggs this time. the silly thing laid them on a sloping bank this time and they kept rolling down in to my waiting hands.

Just before Niel left to cycle to Taupo, I got him to start the lawn mower. I can't start it to save myself, every time I try, I end up spraining something. Anyway no sooner had he left down the road and out of sight, when one of the wheels  falls off the mower. Half and acre is a lot of grass to mow with 3 wheels around beds and shrubs. Move 2 meter, push the wheel back on, move 2 meters, push the wheel back on. Talk about making a job unnecessarily difficult. I got there in the end, and there's another little job for Niel when he gets home.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Proud of myself.

I'm feeling pretty proud of myself this week. Did I sweat off some excess kilo's to fit into a summer bikini? Don't I wish. Did I find Niel a sponsor? No, not yet, but maybe that will happen indirectly.

Wait for it.... I managed to get Niel free entry into the 'Round Lake Taupo' - New Zealand's most popular cycle race event. That largest cycle event in the southern hemisphere. It is limited to 10,000 people. Is that awesome or what!?!

Hopefully they will advertise Niels epic global challenge, and hopefully someone will see the opportunity for sponsorship, but if not, whatever way you look at it - it's great exposure and promotion.

10,000 cyclists waiting to start.

Niel wanted to ride the 600 kms up to 'the Taupo' [ in the middle of the north island], at the end of November, alter his bike for racing, do the 160 km race over 33 demanding hills around the lake, adapt his bike back to touring again and ride the 600 kms back home. Excellent training, but pricey. the price of the event, as you can imagine, is a hefty $100 just to enter.

I wrote to the organisers and told them what Niel was doing, saying that as we had no main sponsor, that we were trying to fund this ourselves, and would it be possible to waive the entry fee. They get to hear all about his global challenge. I didn't expect anything positive, so imagine my surprise when we got an email with : "I am pleased to inform you..". Someone donated an entry to someone worthy and Niel got it.  10,000 people get to hear his story. That sort of publicity is worth it's weight in gold.

For those that have never done 'the Taupo' - it's an awesome event. They cater for everyone. Elite road cyclists are given a head start, so that they don't get caught up in the masses. All the solo riders [around the lake once and not as a team], are the biggest group and broken down into sub groups of expected finish times. Everyone has a transponder, so your time is taken as you cross the start line, and then cross the finish line, so the up to 1 hour it takes to shuffle  to the start line once it's begun isn't counted as cycling time.

Loading some of the teams bikes on trucks.

There are teams of up to 4 people and they, and their bikes, are transported to selected places around the lake. And they even have a race for children. They also cater for long distance cyclists with 2 times around the lake [ Niel did this last year], 3 times around, and 5 times around. These are qualifying events for races like the Paris - Brest - Paris, and the race across America [ RAAM]. There is a huge carnival like atmosphere at the finish and prize giving with prizes like cars and trips to Europe. So you can see it's a big deal getting a free entry. I'd love to do it too, but I have to be totally selfless in the next year.

Six months ago my carbon fibre road bike needed  new bottom bracket bearings, and they were not a priority to get repaired. This week I finally got my road bike back. I felt like I was fighting with it the whole way on our 105 km ride this week. The handlebars are so twitchy that I fought the steering, the gearing was so high, [even with a triple chain ring] that I had to ride off the saddle more than I'm comfortable doing, just to get 'on top of the gear'. I'm sure I'll get used to it again.

Me on my road bike.

Niel is trying to use up old tyres and tubes to save money. He was using some old tyres of mine and kept getting punctures. I told him they were past it, and now he finally agrees. I couldn't believe he was still persisting with a tube that had 12 patches on it. There's being thrifty and there's being silly - I think he's being silly - 12 patches!!

Fixing yet another puncture in a bus stop.

Can you count the 12 patches?

Monday, 7 November 2011

Planning intensifies.

The planning and Niel's training has intensified. There is only 3 months until Niel leaves for London. To the normal person doing a daily routine 3 months is a long time, to us it's no time at all.

Most of the equipment has been bought or ordered. There is still a few things to get - GPS for example. And things needed here to keep the home fires burning - literally - we need a load of firewood for next winter.

His kilometres within the correct amount of days, have been perfected [with some days off to retain  his sanity], to equal Vin Cox's current record. [Assuming nothing goes wrong.] All maps bought, and some large scale maps photocopied, joined together and marked with a highlighter pen.

Niel is starting to look at Airfares. They very wildly. To book and pay in advance is almost twice the price of booking and paying as you go. You'd think it would be the other way around. So we are trying to work out the best plan of action ,to streamline things for Niel as he's cycling to his limit every day. Unfortunately for us, he has to go around the world twice, as he has to get to London for the start and home from London afterwards. So his airfares are twice the price as everyone else's from Europe. That's one of the reason's I can't afford to be at the finish to watch him complete his global challenge.

He might be disadvantaged financially, but on the plus side, he's the only competitor who can go home for a day off half way around.

Bob the cat and I seeing Niel off  on his long ride.

He left on a 435 km 2 day training ride this week. It was lovely weather when he left. 20 kms later it rained for the rest of the day. Coming home it not only rained [heavily], but it hailed and snowed on the hills [which is where he was]. He never gave up, so completely wet through, with his gear weighing a tonne, he made it home. His mobile phone got so wet, that 4 days later it's only just starting to show signs that it might work again.

On the home front, he's helped me shift the raised bed in the garden from a shady spot where the plants struggled to grow, to a sunnier spot closer to the house. It's been a big job, transplanting lots of plants and bulbs, not to mention actually getting the frame work moved. So I'm thrilled that it's finally nearing completion. I think I'm going to have a sore back tonight!

The framework of the raised bed.

A huge pile of dirt to shift.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Generous Friends

The 'two gay girls' tent.
Karyn and Jane are arguably the nicest people on the planet. With planning for Niels 'Global Bike Race' speeding up, our two friends have generously gifted us some money to buy a tent. With us on such a tight budget and Niel leaving work to concentrate on training and fixing up the house, the gift of money was kindness beyond measure. Not only that, we can legitimately call them our first sponsors.

Karyn has cycle raced for many years and has done long distance events with Niel. They would be called Audax events in Europe, so she knows what Niel is capable of. Her and Jane's sponsorship shows they believe in him and his chances. Do you know how good that feels? Unbelievably good.

Niel said they could name the tent. So now it is called 'Two Gay Girls'. So that Niel can claim that he's the only competitor to sleep with 2 gay girls!!

Every competitor is given a global bike race logo in a different colour, so as they travel across the globe you can follow their colour. Niel's colour is brown. so if you want to follow him search or join the open 'Global Bike Race' site and follow his progress as the brown cyclist.

Look out for the brown cyclist.

I've been busy perfecting his route and correct amount of kilometres, so that we have dates we can give our travel agent for the bits he needs to fly. I couldn't believe it when he said : " It doesn't matter how far the distance is each day, it's not the cycling that bothers me, it's the loneliness". I couldn't believe it, because if he had to do 250 kms one day, he reckons it's no problem.  And he's such a self sufficient loner anyway, so if anyone could cope with the loneliness - he'd be the perfect candidate.

Oh to have that strength. And it makes me feel pretty special that he'd miss me that much ............
unless it's the house, sofa and chocolate he'll be missing.............. no, no I'm sure it's me. I'll miss him too terribly -  6 months is a long time to be apart, but it's a good opportunity to start my book.

I'm not sure when I'll get my next overseas cycling trip. Niel won't be able to face another trip for a while once he gets home from his global adventure. Maybe he could manage a few weeks in Vietnam at an Adi pace, surely that's not too much to ask? I'll have to wait and see. In the meantime, as part of his training,we will be Vespa/ biking  together around the South Island of NZ in January, each carrying our own gear, He can do 200 kms a day -testing out his gear, and I can zoom alongside on 'Fart  - Bottom' the Vespa. I may strap my bike on and ride back to met him from our destination - that way I get some exercise as well. It will be lovely to have that time together before he leaves for London.

The garden is just a cacophony of colour at the moment, everything is in flower [even the weeds]. There are petals everywhere. You'd think autumn is a busy time for sweeping paths of leaves, but spring means petals galore.It's a beautiful time of year for cycle touring.

Flowers everywhere.

Petals everywhere.