Category - motorcycle

1
Milford Sound New Zealand
2
Haast to Cromwell New Zealand
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Chasing the New Year with Rain
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New Zealand’s West Coast
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Tasman Bay to Charleston and Glow Worms!! New Zealand rocks!
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Picton to Tasman Bay, New Zealand day 3
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North South Island, New Zealand that is…
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Adventure in the Southern Hemisphere.
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Yellowstone National Park
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Montana to Wyoming, Beartooth Hwy here we come…

Milford Sound New Zealand

Today would be on of the most beautiful days of our trip.  The night before we had checked the weather and it looked like it was safe to head to Milford Sound. We had a lot of miles to cover, and we would also be heading into some areas that were used in the filming of The Lord of the Rings.  I didn’t really do too much research, but I can assure you that even without having the exact points plotted out, the areas we would go through today were stunning and more than worthy of a movie location. For your future plans to visit New Zealand, here are the sites of some LOTR locations.  We hit it hard first thing in the morning, and made good time.  Paul rides a BMW R1150, with Catherine riding pillion, and he is a former and current racer, so he kept up a spirited pace throughout the whole day. We had read and been told that there would be a lot of tourists and tour buses, and that the road is long to get into Milford Sound.  I was expecting today to be slow going and possibly tedious.  This would not be the case, and the whole day would be an exercise in good timing,  low traffic, and gobsmacking views.  Part one,  just outside of Cromwell is a section of road that goes through the Kawarau Gorge, home of the world famous bungee jump. Lots of great twisties to start off the day. We did a lot of miles (or should I say kilometers ?) and did not stop at all except for gas and lunch. We stopped for pie in Te Anau.  Paul let us know that we would be having lots of chances to try pie over the next few days. Challenge accepted!! I have already started to fall in love with NZ pies.  I have never liked the American version we have which are chicken pot pies.  I am not a fan of that yellow gooey chicken gravy soupy filling.  NZ pies are filled with meat and cheese or other yummy goodness, but no icky heavy sauce. With tummies happy we continued on. We entered Eglinton Valley, and I imagined myself with the crew of Hobbits and Dwarves as they journeyed. The wide valley space was stunning, and there was still snow on the mountains, and views of waterfalls. Absolute heaven to look at plus the freedom of being on the motorcycles.  We tried taking pictures and video with the goPro.  Frank has mastered the feat of taking pictures with our good camera while he is riding.  We caught up to Paul and Catherine in front of a tunnel opening, already off their bike and enjoying the view, while waiting on the side of the road next to the line of cars for the tunnel.  We took some pictures and Paul said “do you want to wait around 20 min or go with the next group of cars?”  Cars from[…]

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Haast to Cromwell New Zealand

Today would be another short day as we would only be heading to Cromwell.  I had recently met someone who had just been to New Zealand, and she gave me some advice on her favorite things to see here.  We would stop by the Blue Pools today and go through the Remarkables Mountain Range. The sun was out, and the sky was clear, so I was happy. If you have followed along on any of my past trips, you know that I hate being cold. We stopped at Thunder Creek Falls, which have a little pool at the bottom. This reminded me of many films and commercials where someone is at the bottom of a perfect waterfall, bathing in the pool below…so picturesque. Down the road a little further we found the blue pools. Another suspension bridge and a 15 min hike was well worth the pristine cleared aqua blue water that we found beneath a second bridge.  New Zealand really loves bridges, and loves to torture me with wobbly bridges. We soon learned that the water was extremely cold. Locals were taking the plunge, as well as a few tourists.  One gentleman from Canada exclaimed “Whew! that is brisk.  Even for Canada that is cold”.  We only put our hands in, and can confirm that the water was pretty icy. We continued south and passed by two large lakes, Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea. I was loving the sun and warmer weather compared to the recent rain.  We found lunch in Wanaka, which was a super busy holiday spot with tons of people enjoying the summer sun.  The place was packed, and it took us quite a while to find parking.  Many of the cafes and food stands had lines out their doors. I’m sure everyone thought Frank and I were crazy dressed in full motorcycle gear while everyone else was in shorts and tank tops. Our final push south would take us to Cromwell.  This would be where we make use of Motostays for the first time.  It is a network of motorcyclist that host you in their home for free.  You in turn list your home as a possible place for other motorcyclist to stay. It seemed like a great way to to meet locals that knew all the details about the area and could point us in the right direction, especially all the best roads and sights to see.  We found Paul and Catherine who were located in Cromwell, and prior to the trip Paul and Frank had been emailing back and forth. He gave us a great general itinerary for the whole South Island based on how many days we had, and with that info I was able to plan out where our hotel stays would be. But last night was the last reservation I had made.  Paul told us not to make anymore reservations, because we would have to wait and see how the weather was. So the next few days, we would literally[…]

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Chasing the New Year with Rain

It rained all night at Franz Josef Glacier.  We checked out the weather forecast and it was going to be heavy rain all day.  We decided to just hang out and try to wait it out. The normal checkout time was 10am, so we asked the manager if we could stay till 11 or 12, and he gave us the OK.  He said as long as we left before his cleaning staff at 2pm, because he did not want to clean the room himself!  We took advantage of the the hotel having a laundry room, and after I bothered the other guest for coins, I managed to find someone who had change for a NZ $20 bill. We started the laundry and walked to find breakfast in pouring rain.  As we turned the corner we saw the big group of motorcyclists that we had met at the lunch two days earlier. They looked completely soaked, and I hoped their gear was more waterproof than it looked. We all waved in recognition, and Frank and I took shelter in a cafe for breakfast.   We went back, finished laundry, and packed up.  It was still only noon, and the rain was not letting up. We then went to the West Coast Wildlife Center to kill more time.  They take injured animals, rehabilitate them and release them back out into he wild. We learned a lot about the different native Kiwi birds and their predators.  I learned about the Stoat, which I had never heard of that before, but is very similar to a weasel. The stoat is the biggest threat/predator to the Kiwi bird. The center also had a big room that simulated night time, so we had a chance to see Kiwi birds up close in a pretend habitat. We were not allowed to take pictures, so unfortunately I have no way to prove that we saw the Kiwi Birds. We also met the Tuatara, not a lizard, but it sure looks like it.  They are great at being completely still. For a long time.  A really long time.  I know, we waited for a really long time. Did I mention it was raining outside?  After we had our fill of all things Kiwi, we decided to hit the road even though it was still raining.  We had reservations in Haast, which we originally thought we would cancel because it was not that far down the road.  But we were glad to have the stop in Haast so we would have a short drive in the rain. We were heading south and the rain was heading north, but it was really coming down, and we were in heavy rain for about two hours. We stopped by Fox Glacier, but decided against the 20 min walk as it was pouring. Finally, as we got closer to Haast the rain stopped and the sky cleared. We made a stop at the Salmon Farm and cafe, to take a stretch and snack break.[…]

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New Zealand’s West Coast

Don, our B&B host, was already awake and had the breakfast table set with beautiful china, ready to serve us cereal, toast, coffee and tea. He had a container of what he called rata honey. He gave us a quick lesson about New Zealand honey and the difference between Manuka and Rata honey.  We learned that they can test honey to tell what flower the bees collected from, and if it is 80% of that type of flower, than that is the type of honey it is. The Rata honey has a higher sugar content and is more white in color than the Manuka honey.  It is pretty thick to spread, but I can also tell you it tastes great on toast.  While we ate Don gave us a lot of great tips on where to stop for pictures, and to turn down a gravel road to try to find some white Herrons in a lagoon. We said our goodbyes to Don and the family form Spain, and hit the road.  The next section of our trip was a combination of amazing roads with even more amazing views.  We would also have a chance to hit a few touristy spots. We took a short hike a long a river, which bring us to your new words of the day. Here in New Zealand, when you go hiking it is not called a trail, it is called a track. They also use the word tramping instead of backpacking. Our next stop was Pancake Rocks.  This was a 20 min walk through a track to see something I have never seen before. A unique geological area that has scientists puzzled as to how the layers of rocks formed in this pattern. We also got to see some large flat seaweed called Mermaid hair, which was easy to see how it got it’s name flowing in the water. Farther south we took a quick detour to Lake Mahinapua, which had a rich history of steamboats used for commerce and travel, and saw many foreign dignitaries visit.  We had the chance to see Weka Birds wandering near the shore.  These are the birds that have been fooling people into thinking they are Kiwi birds. They were not too afraid of us, so we got close enough for pictures. Next was a stop at Okarito Lagoon, to look for white Heron, but unfortunately none were to be seen.  When we read some information about there only being 30 breeding pairs, I figured it was okay that they were keeping themselves out of sight. I could live without a picture of the Heron, so we took one of the bike next to the Lagoon. Our final destination for the night would be the famous Franz Josef Glacier.  Rain was in the forecast for tonight and all day tomorrow, and it was getting late.  It started to rain as we pulled into town.  We checked into our hotel, then went to the glacier.  The car park was[…]

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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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