|I've always been physical|
I wasn't born to ride a bike like Niel was, I was born to be a physically active person. My Father was a tramping enthusiast. As soon as we could walk, we'd have a small hand made packs attached to our backs and we would walk the tramping tracks in and around Wellington where I grew up. Sure - it was hard work some days, but I love it
|Tramping in my youth|
From a young age I learnt that things don't make you happy, but being in the beautiful bush and National Parks left you feeling at peace and alive.Other family members went on to try their legs at Mountain Climbing, but that was never my thing. All I knew was the lure of the outdoors, and that whatever money I managed to accrue, was spent on trips away tramping, snow skiing, or simply being outdoors somewhere, away from people and things.
I hated school, as I was trapped indoors, staring out the windows. I learnt enough to not be ignorant, but if I could have been educated outdoors, I would've learnt a lot more! The school system just doesn't suit some people, something the educators still haven't clicked onto.
When I entered the job market, I was still the same. Staring out of windows and quitting jobs frequently because I couldn't stand it any more.I still loved anything outdoors, rather than accumulating things. However I did have a basic bicycle and a VW Beetle to get to places to go skiing or tramping. The car didn't rule my life, still cycled to the shops and even did a small cycle tour in the Marlborough Sounds with my then boyfriend. By now my jobs where outdoor jobs, usually physical - the only was to keep sane. My love of outdoor beauty led me to working with plants. Everything from Market gardening, National Park track maintenance, Nursery work and Garden centre work. I even went to University for a few years to study Natural sciences to prove to myself that I wasn't dumb. A lot of this work was seasonal, so I interspersed it with Nanny work, it was at this point that I met Niel.
Niel and I thought alike. He'd never met a girl with no 'stuff', so when we moved in together, we didn't have anything. The pots and pans and plates his Mother gave us are still our pots and pans and plates today 27 years later. Our ability to live on practically nothing, set us up for a life of adventure. I'd now transferred my love of tramping for a love of cycling - particularly touring. Come to think of it - it's really a faster form of tramping.
I may not be a natural cyclist, as he is, but I know all about fitting everything I need in a small bag and being self - sufficient, not needing the comforts others can't do without. You can cycle - tour any country without a word of their language. It doesn't mean I didn't suffer at times.
I first learnt to suffer in silence on a day's ride from Dunedin [ our City of residence at the time], over a 1,000m hill to Blueskin Bay, 20 kms North. While staring at lovely gardens I got my bicycle tyres trapped in some railway line ruts, that were at a diagonal line across the road, and I went down like a tonne of bricks. Cradling my arm at the beach I thought I'd broken something. Niel was convinced it was "all in my head". It was a very painful ride back up the hill, but more excruciating down the other side clenching the brakes while the bike bucked and vibrated at speed downhill. .......Particularly with a broken Wrist and Elbow!!
|The locals told me the Midges are harmless - you should see my arms and legs!!|
In France we got Hypothermia, in Spain I crashed twice and had a damaged Arm, Groin and leg. In Ireland, I had severe foot problems, and an allergic reaction to Midge bites. In Germany I damaged my Knee joint, In Fiji I had a severe food allergy and was very sick. In the USA I firstly got Altitude sickness, Niel told me to " Buck out of it - do you see other people trembling with fatigue, gasping for breath and with blue lips? No", then I got burnt Lung lining from the heat of the Nevada Desert in a 40 degrees [Celsius] gale force head wind. I was told it was my fault for sucking on an Asthma huffer!! Sure I overcame all these problems, but I knew I was frustrating Niel. And a frustrated Niel frustrates me. This is when the Scooter entered the picture.
|Bumping into Niel's Brother and kids in London 1994|
|Having a rest near Paris France 1996|
|Our first Mountain pass in Switzerland 1996|
|Spain / Portugal 2000|
|Halstatt in Germany / Austria 2005|
I first got a Scooter when we bought our first house in the fore mentioned Blueskin Bay. It was too hard cycling that huge hill twice a day to get to work in Dunedin. We aren't all supermen like Niel. There was a bus once a day both ways, but it didn't run on the weekends. The Combi was too precious to use commuting, so I bought a Honda Lead 125 cc. It was great fun until winter set in. One day with snow on the hill tops, my rear wheel skidded when I braked for a corner, it scared me, but I was unscathed. Then the next week on my way to a job interview, I hit a frozen cow pat and came off. Needless to say I didn't get the job covered in cow dung and cradling a broken hand. The scooter went into the shed until Spring.
It was 15 years later when I next wanted a Scooter. I was struggling to keep up with Niel cycle -touring. I wasn't incompetent, I had been racing at the lowest grade at club level, and entered cycling events. I'd also discovered a talent for race walking [perhaps from my tramping background], and won a few walking triathlons. But as Niel got fitter in the racing fraternity, the gap between our fitness levels widened.My body started to object in a number of ways. The desire for long distance rides never abated, but the aches and pains started to override my mind trying to ignore them, and I had to concede that something had to change.
|Winning the walking option of Triathlons|
The idea of Niel cycling and me on a Scooter was born. I only had a learners licence, so if I was ever to travel overseas on a Scooter I wanted to have a full Motorbike licence. I needed a bike to practice on. With Niel being obsessed with anything Italian, the bike had to be a Vespa.
Little did I realise at the time what an awesome vehicle it would turn out to be. Niel loved it , he even volunteered to clean it without any urging from me. It wasn't long before Niel wanted one too. It was only a few months before I had a full Motorbike licence and we had found another fun thing to do together. Niel being Niel though, he wasn't content to stick to nice sealed back roads, the roads got rougher and rougher. Forging rivers, and steep 4WD tracks. Again I ended up at Accident and Emergency. I did hone my bike skills, which is I'm sure what Niel had planned all along.
|The long straight empty roads of the Nullabour crossing Australia 2008|
Our first Scooter /bike trip was organised. Across Australia from Perth to Sydney. It was a huge success. When I got my aches and pains under control, I'd still cycle - tour and we completed an arduous 8,000 km trip around the USA. I should have done it on my Vespa though. I lost 20 kgs in weight and damaged my lungs so badly that a year later they were still not back to normal.
|Amazing Utah USA 2010|
|Utah again 20 kgs lighter than when I started.|
I'm now 50 years old. I've thankfully navigated the minefield that is Menopause, still pretty fit, and still obsessed with the outdoors. We have a lovely old unrenovated house in the country side - we'll renovate it when we retire. And joy of joys a large1/2 acre garden, and a cat who is my child substitute - he actually behaves like a human child too. I can't forget Woo the adopted Bantam hen [she turned up one day and decided to stay], who is so hilarious, she keeps us very entertained. I try to grow most of my own vegetables and cycle everywhere [having sold our cars], averaging 200 kms a week. I still race walk and jog to keep fit, and work part - time at our local 4 square shop. Life is pretty good.
|Woo the Bantam hen eating the cat biscuits indoors!|
I hate leaving the house and garden, the cat and chicken, but the world is waiting. When we where in the Nevada Desert in the US, a Dutch couple come over to talk to us, they said: "If we were from New Zealand, what were we doing here ?" There is beauty everywhere in the world, if you don't leave your front door, you'll never discover it . New Zealand does not have a monopoly on natural beauty or 'clean and green'.
|Still pretty fit at 50 years old.|