Saturday, October 4, 2008

A much needed break

You haven't seen anything for months on this blog because life got crazy busy -- basically work intensified, and I didn't cope with it too well. Things are backing off, and I've hopefully picked up a few tricks about handling things better, but it was great to take a weekend away in mid September.

Continuing my campaign to exploit public transport, I put my bike on the Friday night train to Helensville and cycled four kms over to the Parakai campgrounds. The train service extended this far out about four months back, with a pilot program of one train each way per weekday. I was concerned that this one train on Friday night would be full and they'd prevent me taking a bike (let alone the big old Yuba), but got there several minutes early and nobody quibbled.

The campsite was pretty rundown, complete with sign in shower that it took two to five minutes to get hot water. I took a lukewarm shower after waiting 15, but the next day there was plenty of hot. Somewhat ironic since Parakai is known for its hot springs - as it happens I didn't visit them either as there were too many kids causing mayhem and I was out for a quiet weekend. I found a nice pair of trees for my hammock, and discovered that my friendly neighbour had lived there since 1982! Another neighbour had been a market gardener and his caravan-and-shed were a study in efficient use of land.

Saturday I cycled back to Helensville in the hope of finding a farmer's market mentioned on the internet, but none was to be seen. I enjoyed a morning free to wander the craft shops (looking for somebody's birthday present) with no real deadlines. Not that it took that long to exhaust my options in that booming metropolis. On returning to the campsite I had great plans to fix the rip in my tent netting, or maybe my bag liner, but ended up reading two novels I found in the kitchen. I can recommend Vernon God Little, but not anything by Clive Cussler. [I actually did need to fix the netting, so ended up sewing it as the sun set around 8pm!]

After I had planned this weekend around train trips out and back, the call went up for supporters at a Sunday afternoon rally advocating cycle and pedestrian access to the harbour bridge. Attending the rally met cycling in to town, which was only 50kms but much more than I'd tried with the Yuba. After some equivocation, and much studying of the unreliable elevation data on bikely and similar sites, I decided to give it a go--after all, I would still be very close to home and could easily organise a rescue if I got stuck.

As it turned out, the ride in was great. The weather was terrific (my first sunburn for the year) and none of the hills too steep. I did take 3:50 for just over 50 klicks, including about an hour of resting and lunch, but the bike steadily ate up the miles with all my luggage on it. (A duffel bag fits nicely on the back sidebars, btw.) I don't think that I could take the Yuba over the steeps on the way to Awhitu, but getting home via W. Auckland wasn't a problem. That was a great encouragement to me. Here's a view of the harbour over the motorway.

The rally itself was boring, and only about 400 showed up. Still, I'm glad that I went. A few disobedient types rode over the bridge, ensuring great coverage in the papers. Wish I'd been there. :-) It seems hard to know which way the various government authorities will go on supporting the cycleway, sadly. After the rally I ended up cruising off to a pub with some of the crew, who I'd been keen to meet. Like this guy's tattoo?

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