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Tour de Vineyards!

by Pamela Blalock

Summer started out promising enough, with lovely warm sunny weather. After a week of riding with our new friend Eva, we were in relatively good shape. Denis and Frith came around for dinner on Christmas Eve, and invited us to join them for part of their planned ride up to St Arnaud on Christmas Day. We had a glorious time, and thoroughly enjoyed the tailwind on the way home.

The next day, Boxing Day, we headed out for another ride, this time east of town, with a screaming tailwind on the way out. We hit our top speed in NZ, 99 kph, on the way down the far side of the Whangamoa Saddle. The next day, we got out for our first ever sea kayaking experience. We'd been planning to get out with (Betty riders) Paul and Zanahé for a sea kayak, and Saturday morning, Paul called to say today was a good day. Paul's brother-in-law, Jim and niece, Georgia, as well as regular Betty rider Ross, all joined in for the fun.

We headed out to Cable Bay, and got a few doubles, one for John and Zanahé, one for me and Ross, and one for Jim and Georgia. This would have experienced people partnered with novices, and leave Paul free to dart around, in case any one got in trouble. Well, the winds picked up, and the swell got bigger, and I didn't do so well. Fortunately the waves washed all the puke off the kayak!

Paul and Zanahé would be heading off to snowboard in Canada for a few months, so we planned a Betty ride and farewell party for the following Sunday. But then things got hot and hectic. John and I went downtown on New Year's Eve to watch the Cathedral Criterium, and John got inspired enough for Denis to talk him into doing the Tour de Vineyards, a 4 day stage race, starting the next day! Fortunately it started in 2004, and John is now officially an old guy and could do the vets race!

I guess we can thank Eva for getting us out riding regularly before Christmas, because John had really not done any other training, and apparently rest is the best thing for him. He held his own in the first circuit race, stayed with the lead group on the second stage, with a couple of mountain climbs, and then placed third in the sprint for the top of Takaka hill - our local hard core climb! This was really impressive, because their was a prime for the first three to the top.

While John was racing the first day, I was out riding my single speed in the local forest. The temps were about as hot as we've experienced here, and I just about melted. If you've looked carefully at other photos from the forest, you will note that often there are no actual trees. It's plantation forest, and there is a lot of logging going on here. Every once in a while during my climb, I would find a tree still standing, and a tiny sliver of shade, where I had to stop and show appreciation!

The next day, Marian, Ross, and Jane had planned to ride out to Kerr's hill to cheer the racers on, and invited me along. It was another hot day, and we had some pretty good headwinds on the way out. Fortunately they held, and we had a nice wind assisted ride back. We talked about riding out to view the third stage the next day, but in the end, decided to load up the car with inner tubes for a float down the river, after we handed up bottles to John, Denis and Frith on the second climb of the day! Denis and Frith were looking after John, providing him with rides home from the end of races, so I could play. It was the least I could do.

But once they were fed, it was off to the river! I thought of the poor racers hammering up Takaka Hill in the heat, and I floated lazily down the river with my bum in cool water.

It was a hot race, and John was burning up the road, as evidenced my the melted pavement on his tyres!

The final stage was Sunday, the day I'd planned to Betty ride and party, and I phoned all around the night before to see if folks wanted to come out and cheer for John and then go for a spin. The hot weather broke briefly, but returned in the afternoon. John finished with the main bunch and held onto to third for the overall!

We had a really nice gathering of Betty's to send Paul and Zanahé off and celebrate John's victory.

It seemed shortly after that though, summer reverted to spring, and we've had very unsettled weather ever since. We've had a few record rainfalls. The lakes that supply our electricity are all at capacity, so there should be no power shortages next winter. We've had several good days, but several torrential rainstorms.

Susan and Maureen came in the middle of January. We hiked the Heaphy and Queen Charlotte and did a day of sea kayaking at Abel Tasman. I did much better!

We've also been working to finish the house. We finally found a time when Thomas was available and we didn't have company to get the new floor sanded and polished! We ordered architrave's and skirting boards and hope to get them installed this week. Then we'll get some photos and get the house up for sale! The cats are off to live with our friend Terry Zmrhal, in Seattle for a few months, so we can get the house sold and travel a bit before settling down back in Massachusetts.

 

 

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