Archive - 2017

1
Tasman Bay to Charleston and Glow Worms!! New Zealand rocks!
2
Picton to Tasman Bay, New Zealand day 3
3
North South Island, New Zealand that is…
4
Adventure in the Southern Hemisphere.
5
Yellowstone National Park
6
Montana to Wyoming, Beartooth Hwy here we come…
7
Back in the USA to Glacier National Park
8
Our last day in Canada
9
Day 7:Banff Area
10
Day 6 in Canada

Tasman Bay to Charleston and Glow Worms!! New Zealand rocks!

At the farm B&B in Tasma, we had a room and bathroom with a small fridge and sink in the corner.  The host provided hot and cold cereal, fruit, bagels, toast and jam.  So our breakfast today was an improvement.  Our host also gifted us a bottle of her homemade organic olive oil from their own trees. It was a beautiful day, the sun was out and the forecast was sunny and warmer than yesterday. We headed north out of Tasman on The Coastal Hwy, before turning onto the Motuka Valley Highway.  We took this south to Hwy 6 where we made a quick stop at Hope Saddle Lookout, where there was a geographical marker. In NZ they call it a Trig marker.  It had a great view of some of the best named mountain peaks I have heard of:  Mt Fairy Queen, Mt Misery, and Mt Hopeless. Farther down the road, we would parallel the Buller River and the Buller Gorge.  We stopped at a tourist trap of sorts, just past Murchison, the Buller Gorge Swinging Bridge. For the small price of $10NZ I got to torture myself by facing my fear of heights and my fear of falling to my death. I often am very nervous about stuff like this, and will be shaking slightly, or my heart feels like it is going to burst out of my chest. But I surprised myself and went all the way across. There is a 15 min hike on the other side if you choose, and then I had to walk back across that bridge.  Frank made sure to bounce up and down to give me my money’s worth. We stopped for a lunch at a small Cafe and Groceries in Inangahua, I dare you to say that 5 times really fast.  It was on a sweeping corner, that suddenly became a hot spot for a big group of other motorcyclists.  It reminded me of the Rock Store back home in California, a place to take a break from riding, get some food, and hang out with friends.  It was time for pie again! I got the steak, and Frank got the chicken and mushroom.  I also order a pineapple ring, which is a pineapple ring deep fried in a light beer batter.  It was really good.  It is such a good thing that I don’t own one of those home deep fry cookers, or I would be deep frying everything. We continued on to the Upper Buller Gorge Road, as it is called on the map, along a cliff edge that was at times only a one lane road. Dinner at the Copper Pot Indian food, in downtown Westport.  I decided to try something different and ordered a Mango Chicken dish, that turned out to be fantastic, while Frank struggled to breath because he ordered a Lamb Vindaloo that he requested to be spicy. We stayed at this really old farm house in Charleston, called Pyramid Farm, which is about[…]

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Picton to Tasman Bay, New Zealand day 3

We stayed at what I loosely call a Bed and Breakfast last night.  I think their kids are all gone, and they rent out rooms. The owners were very nice, but leave for work at 7 am, so we were instructed on where to find the bowls and cereal.  I was a bit surprised because every B&B I have stayed at before, the owner made you a hot breakfast.  There was also another couple staying in the room next to us, but they left early. I know this because for some reason I woke up at 6am and could not go back to sleep. The Queen Charlotte Drive was calling, and we headed out. This time I used the GoPro to capture some video of me pretending to be fast! We have been watching the videos back each night to see if it’s even working or if we need to tilt it differently.  I now know why people put music to all the motorcycle videos I see on YouTube; the sound of the wind noise gets pretty annoying. I am already making plans to try to edit all the videos together with a music soundtrack. After all, riding a motorcycle is like living in your own personal movie. Frank had 2 fun looking roads on his agenda for the day. The first one would take us toward Mahua Sound and Kenapura Sound.  This road feels like it could go on forever, and it did not disappoint.  Turn after turn, with lush trees and ferns, that would open up to get a peek at the aqua water below. It was a beautiful ride, but I was feeling the effects of getting up too early.  Because of the position of the sun, and all the trees, my eyes were getting fatigued from scanning the shade and sun on the tight curvy road. We decided not to go all the way to the end, and returned south to the main road. Cullen Point Outlook was a fun little hike up to a series of steep steps with a nice view of both bays and Havelock to the west.  We stopped for lunch in Havelock, and sat next to the marina at the Slip Inn, where I had some amazing fish and chips Up next was Opuri Rd, which turned into Ronga Rd. that again was a really long one way in and out type of road. Halfway in we stopped at Okiwi Bay, which was so beautiful and peaceful. Lots of families out enjoying the day on a small boat or kayaking.  I was really tired from having woken up too early so I sat down for a break on the beach and took a power nap. After that I caught up on some typing while enjoying the the beautiful bay as my office. Oh, did I mention that people here use their tractors to put their boats in and out of the water?  We stopped in Mapua for dinner and to buy some snacks[…]

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North South Island, New Zealand that is…

I have to admit that I am pretty bummed that we are only doing the South Island of New Zealand because I really wanted to go to Hobbiton, which is on the North Island.  But that just means I will have to come back for another trip! I wanted to come to NZ even before the epic trilogy was made, but seeing all the amazing scenery in the movie just added fuel to the fire. Our first day yesterday was filled with rain, and last night we stayed in Kaikoura.  We walked into town (in the rain) and ate dinner at the local Thai place.  Pretty good food, however I fell in love with our waitress because she actually told a girl to get off her phone, and pointed to the sign that says no wifi, no phones.  Gasp! We should actually talk to each other at dinner! We woke up to everything covered in rain drops, and ducks and cats outside our little cabin. Franks original plan was to take the inland mountain route because he thought that it would be more interesting than just Hwy 1 up the coast.  The forecast was looking like it would stay clear on the coast, and rain inland. I vetoed the all day in the rain route, and we headed out in search of breakfast. We found a place were I got my first order of pancakes and they put the syrup on for you, and don’t leave any syrup on the table.  I should start doing this with my kids, since they pour half the bottle on theirs. Back to the trip. To the North there was going to be road construction. In November of 2016, there was a 7.8 earthquake that hit this area of New Zealand and completely took out the coastal highway.  The road had just recently been reopened, but only during daylight hours, so we would be able to make our way up to our next nighttime stop, Picton. We got some pictures of the landslides and rocks, it took them about a year to reopen the road. A local that we chatted with told us that the seabed rose 8 meters from the earthquake, and the land formation in that area was very different. If you have time checkout internet images of the earthquake. After lunch in Blenheim, we saw a stream train and got to wave at the passengers. Then instead of continuing on Hwy 1, we did our first bit of “Adventure Riding”.  We took the Port Underwood Road, which was a combination of paved and gravel road that took us on a steep and winding road through very lush vegetation and scenic views.  This area reminded me a lot of Kauai in Hawaii.  Very few cars would join us, but the ones that did really knew the road well, and were zipping along pretty fast. The rest of the day was pretty easy and since the sun stays up till around 9pm, we[…]

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Adventure in the Southern Hemisphere.

About 20 years ago, Frank and I almost went to New Zealand.  He was in Australia for work and I joined him for vacation.  Our plan was to do 2 weeks in Australia, then go to NZ.  However, it was winter there at the time, so we decided to go to Fiji instead.  Not a bad substitute at all, but we have talked about going to NZ ever since.  Well we had finally accumulated a lot of frequent flier miles and decided that we could use them on a big trip, and we bit the bullet and made the reservations almost a year ahead of time.  We talked about the possibility of bringing the kids, and maybe even shipping the sidecar over.  But the planning stages of this trip escaped us so quickly that we did as much research as we could but never found anything that would work in terms of shipping our own bikes over. This would also be the longest trip we would go on with out the kids. After lots of research, Frank found Circle NZ, and it’s owner Clive Chapman.  He would set us up on two Suzuki VStrom 650’s.  After a few emails back and forth, they showed us how right everyone is about how friendly Kiwi’s are.  They have a Christmas tradition of going over to a friends house, and when she found out that Clive would be picking up 2 American tourists from the airport on Christmas day she told him to invite them over.  We were just the right amount of curious and crazy and joined over 15 strangers for Christmas! Plus it was perfect timing as we were starving, and they had a feast that all of them contributed to. The other bonus was that Clive and his wife Kasha allowed us to stay in the separate quarters that Kasha’s parents live in as they went on holiday for a few days.  Amazing hospitality and great conversations.  I was already starting to learn a lot of fun new words.  My favorite of the day was “Suckee do”.  That is what our host calls the air vent over the stove that “sucks’ the air out. My VStrom was equipped with 3 hard bags, Frank’s had a hard top box and the soft side bags are SW Motech, and I think I really like the design idea of those bags.  They are waterproof, and the top rolls down just like most dry bags.  This is useful if you need to add stuff to the bags later, like for food or souvenirs or an extra pair of boots… We headed out on Tues Dec 26th, Boxing day in NZ.  very grey and cold morning and about a mile down the road it started raining for real, and we pulled over so that Frank could but on his rain gear.  As we continued I realized that my pants were not covering my boots.  I had brought my water proof ICON Raiden Adventure suit and[…]

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Yellowstone National Park

Today we had the chance to take our time and meander through Yellowstone and look at all the thermal pools and geysers.  Immediately south of Mammoth Hot Springs is a group of thermal pools, and a dormant geyser called Liberty Cap. This was our first walk near the thermal activity and Spencer was quick to announce his dislike for the smell. We avoided telling him that the smell of sulphur is like the smell of rotten eggs.  He already did not like eggs, so I didn’t want this to be the cause of him never eating eggs again.  (Later on in the day a sign would give away this secret info). There is also a great little drive called the Upper Terrace Loop. We again were using our helmet communicators to listen to the Gypsy Guide app, so we could hear all sorts of fun and interesting info about the area. After that we continued to the east side of the Grand Loop. Our next stop would be to take a look at the petrified tree. There is a large metal fence around it, because over the years people have been vandalizing it or stealing pieces for a souvenir. Next we stopped at Tower Junction for gas, then continued on to Canyon Village for for lunch and souvenir shopping of our own.  The kids decided on a “bag of rocks”.  Yes that’s right. A bag of rocks.  They have come to love the little displays of different rocks at gift shops where you can fill a bag with as many rocks as you can for one price.  I had been the mean mom and kept refusing to buy them rocks.  But I gave in this time because even I had to admit the rocks were really pretty, and the price was cheaper than we had seen elsewhere. Back to the road trip. Next stop was the Brink of the Lower Falls. A steep downhill hike to a viewing point were you are literally right at the edge of the top of the waterfall.  Such a mesmerizing spot to look at the water of Yellowstone River rushing over the rocks. The walls of the valley are also brightly colored in different hues from the minerals and water. Our home for the night would be the beautiful and historic Old Faithful Inn. I had forgotten how large it was (I forgot a lot about that trip 10 years ago, and I am blaming it on pregnancy brain). The inside of the Inn was made of real trees that had been shaped by nature, to make the decorative supports and handrails.  We arrived just before dark and enjoyed a dinner in the restaurant.  The power went out during our meal in the back section, and did not come back on.  As the waitress stated, “the fun of working in a building that’s really old”. The next day we explored all the geysers around the inn, then headed back west and north to find some[…]

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Montana to Wyoming, Beartooth Hwy here we come…

Our 10th day of being on the road would be a day to get some miles behind us.  We needed to go over 300 miles to get to Bozeman for the night, that way we would be closer to Yellowstone.  There wasn’t any sightseeing to be done today. This area looked similar to most areas of the midwest; with large areas of crops going on plains or rolling hills. That night we scored and found a great Chinese Buffet within walking distance of our hotel. The next day we drove the final leg to Yellowstone, going in from the north entrance, and arrived in Mammoth Hot Springs around 11am.  We would be staying at the cabins there.  As soon as we drove into the area we were greeted by an elk. Our luck continued as they let us check in early.  We unpacked and unhooked the trailer. We didn’t needed any extra weight going up Beartooth Highway. We went to lunch at the Terrace Grill at the same time everyone else in the park did, but the service was fast. We made a quick stop at the visitor center and got the mandatory park sticker to add to the sidecar, then we took off, with all four of us on the sidecar. We headed east toward the Towers Roosevelt area, then into Lamar Valley.  We saw so many animals today we lost count. First there was a lone coyote who looked very sickly at first glance, but then he got more energetic like he saw some food to chase.  Next we saw a very young, I might even  say a baby bear wandering along side the road.  Then we saw hundreds of Bison in Lamar Valley.  Frank and I spent the next hour saying Tatonka every time we saw one. We continued out the Northeast entrance of the park and made our way higher and higher up the mountains. Frank and I took turns piloting the Shadow.  It kept getting colder and colder, and the threat of rain was following us a little too closely. We put all our extra layers on, and we set up the kids with jackets. We also have a system for them in very cold weather. We lay a heated vest over their laps (turn it on of course) then cover that with a fleece blanket, and they say nice and toasty warm. We got to the top, to an elevation of 10,947 feet. There was very little traffic up there, and very few bikes. The threat of cold and wet had kept people away. We are never that smart. The weather finally caught us and we put on our rain gear and headed back down. We were literally in the clouds so the going was slow. Our visibility had dropped since we were battling the cloud “fog”, rain, and the fogged up helmet visors. It is always an adventure isn’t it? We made our way back down the mountain, back into the park and[…]

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Back in the USA to Glacier National Park

Our time in Western Canada had come to an end, and it was time to cross border and head back into the US. We headed to the border crossing at Babb, and were soon in Montana. We stopped for a quick picture in front of a unique sculpture of horses made out of car parts, and sign for the Blackfoot Indian Nation. Hwy 89 would take us south through Babb and St. Mary, and the entrance to Glacier National Park, also called the Crown of the Continent. This would be the first time to Glacier for all of us, and the first time we went into a National Park this year, so it was time to buy our annual pass.  The good thing about the annual pass is it is good for two people (they make you both sign the card right then) and it gets both of us in, even if we are on separate bikes. The cost is currently $80, but if you are military you are free! Off we went on the appropriately named Going to the Sun Road. We used an app called Gypsy Guide while we rode through Glacier National Park. I highly recommend this app. It uses GPS and tells you when you are coming up on important things to look at, what side of the road it is on, what the parking situation might be, and if there is a hike. It even tells you how far and how long it might take you. The app plays automatically while you drive, and it even has some neat historical facts and info about the area. It didn’t take long for us to get some great views of Lake St Mary, more glaciers, and the Red Jammers. These are the red tour buses of Glacier Park. We stopped many times to take pictures of all the views, water falls, and more beautiful scenery.  The weather was fantastic and the sky was clear and blue. Our first major stop was at the Logan Pass Visitor Center, so we could go on the hike to Hidden Lake.  Make sure you plan to do this when you visit Glacier Park.  It is a little over 5 miles round trip, but so worth it.  It is steep in some areas, with boardwalk steps and stairs, but the payoff is waterfalls, streams, beautiful scenery and there is still snow on the ground for parts of the hike.  Bonus was seeing many mountain goats and a Hoary Marmot. I had never heard of this type of marmot before, and he was quite a character. We got a great shot of him in action as he paralleled the trail for quite a while. I just need to learn how to photoshop a superhero cape on this photo! It was slowly becoming a hot day, and we were in the sun for quite a while. We hadn’t planned well for lunch so all we had was some granola bars and some carrots. After the[…]

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Our last day in Canada

We had now been in Canada for a week, and had covered a lot of miles at a bit of a whirlwind pace.  It was now time to head south once again, as we needed to start the process of heading back home. We took the TransCanadian Hwy (2) for a bit, then 40 south which is called the Kananaskis Trail. This took us past the former 1988 Olympic Ski event venue, then we continued over Highroad Pass. This is the highest paved pass in canada. and it is usually closed from December to June due to snow. Today it was beautiful, sunny, with sweeping curves and beautiful trees and mountains on each side. We stopped for gas and lunch in Longview. Right next door was a local art museum and we had a nice chat with the owners about the different horse saddles they had on display.  They recommended that we stop at the Bar U Ranch, which was just a ways down the road.  I am really glad we took their advice. It is part of the Parks of Canada system, so admission was free (all parks are free in 2017 to celebrate their 150th).  We got to walk around what used to be Canada’s largest ranch. Frank took the lead and was telling the kids what some of the farm equipment was used for, but there were lots of friendly workers that would tell us about the ranch and all its workings.  We were also treated to see the giant Percherons they use on the farm. Back in the day they had 1000 of these horses working on the farm. We all tried our hand at twirling a lasso and trying to rope a hay bale cow.  We got to talking with the cowgirl that was teaching us and what a surprise, she goes to college in California, but comes back home and works on the farm during summer. Small world, aye? I had to fit that in before we left Canada.  And wouldn’t you know it, we found another set of big red chairs! these ones were easy to spot as they were right out in the open compared to the other chairs we found at the other parks we had been to. Our final stop in Canada would be at the Cobblestone Manor Bed and Breakfast in Cardston.  An unexpected and uniquely decorated place. Tomorrow we would cross the border back into Montana.  

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Day 7:Banff Area

We were not able to hike Johnston Canyon yesterday, so that was our first stop of the day. To get there we took the scenic Bow Valley Parkway.  I am really enjoying all the signs that are in English and French, and Makayla is having fun practicing her French as she took it as an elective last year.  I love this road, as it meanders back and forth it occasionally splits in two, so your side of traffic is all alone.  It is like having your own one lane normal speed raceway through a gorgeous forest.  We get to the canyon, park and proceed to hike up. All I have to say is thank God my fear of heights and unstable things like gondolas and elevators is getting better as I age and not worse.  This trail might even be hard for some people with vertigo issues. No matter what if you are in the area you definitely need to do this hike.  Parts of the trail are attached to the side of the mountain and you are basically hanging over the water.  I kept praying that whoever designed the walkways had a good grasp of physics and planned for 2 tour buses to arrive at the same time, because there was a lot of weight on those things.  The first one had a few loose boards, so it was not confidence inspiring, but I managed.  At the end there is a cave you walk through to get blasted by the mist of the waterfall. Our next stop took us over Yoho Valley Road, which is listed as one of the most dangerous roads in the world.  I chuckled about this after we passed by the one set of hard switchbacks.  I guess some people get really freaked out by steep curvy roads, but it is by no means dangerous.  We eventually get to Takakkaw Falls, which is the second highest waterfall in Canada. The other fun thing was we found another set of those big red chairs!  We are getting good at this game! We  then needed to back track and start heading back south again to try to fit in things we had passed.  We stopped by the sprial train tunnels, hoping that a train would go by, but we were not that lucky. I also forgot to take a photo of the area, but basically it is a set of spirals of train track that go in and out of tunnels to help trains get over the steep Kicking Horse Pass (another great name). Check out the link for some cool history about the project. Our final destination of the day would be Lake Louise.  My pictures don’t do it justice, especially because of the time of day and it was a little grey.  But looking at the lake you get a sense of magic about the place I think because the color of the water is so different, I believe Willy Wonka would approve. There is[…]

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Day 6 in Canada

It was time to leave Radium Hot Springs, but I must admit I kept calling it Radiator Springs.  This little town is known for its naturally-heated, mineral-rich hot pool between the walls of Sinclair Canyon. It is this canyon that reminds me of the Disney movie Cars and Radiator Springs.  We hit the visitor center before we left town, where they had some great displays and a kids area with interactive animal sounds and info.  We were even greeted by some Big Horn sheep right outside.  Thanks to the girl working the desk, we headed to a most unexpected place. The Radium Woodcarver and his strange and whimsical tree house. He does his carvings with a chain saw, feeds goats, squirrels and skunks, and has trick water features that get you wet if you try to open certain doors. Next up was the Paint Pots Hike in Kootenay National Park.  This hike takes you to an unusual orange ochre bed which was important to many Aboriginal peoples who gathered the ochre for centuries for use in ceremony and trade. In the early 1900’s ochre was mined and shipped to Calgary, where it was used as a pigment in paint. Remnants of twentieth century mining are still visible along the trail. Our final hike was up Marble Canyon to a series of bridges across a deep gorge with rushing waters.  I am noticing a trend in this area of the world.  Lots of amazing canyons that have been carved out by rushing glacial waters, each one more stunning then the last. We also found another set of the big red chairs! We stopped for a very late lunch in Johnston Canyon, and planned to hike there as well, but the weather quickly took a turn for the worse. We aborted the hike and jumped on the bikes as the wind picked up and it started to rain.  We headed south as fast as we could and made it to Banff before any heavy rain could get us.  Another great day of exploring in the books.

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