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Diary 15

6 Oct.

Leaving today.

Drove to the outskirts of LA and headed up Hwy 2, the road along the hills to the North East of LA.
Unfortunately the wildfires in the area had closed the road beyond a certain point so I parked up, got out a book & planned to kill a few hours.
After I'd been sitting there for a while I noticed that the local sheriff had decided to park next to me.
Now I knew that I'd done nothing wrong but you always get a little nervous when the local law enforcement arrive. Especially when they arrive in a helicopter.
OK - it was a big parking lot & there were no other cars but it's the first time I've had a helicopter that close that I wasn't planning to get into.

Headed for LAX for 4 pm.
My flight wasn't till 9 PM but I really hate LA traffic.

Got to the hire car drop off at almost exactly 4 which was non too soon as I was bursting for a piss.
There was a shuttle bus to the terminal waiting that I could have jumped on but there was a rest room in the office that I had to visit.
As I was 'relaxing' in the rest room I was wondering about my luggage and was everything in the appropriate bag for security and what was in each pocket and where was my wallet.
It was still in the car.
I am so lucky that I didn't jump that waiting shuttle.

At the airport I picked up a rucksack big enough to hold the tank bag and the laptop.
I knew that I wouldn't be allowed to take three items as hand luggage.
The helmet was one so the tank bag & laptop had to be the second.

Checked in, saw the luggage cleared through security (they ask that the cases not be locked. I've got Givi bike boxes - they are either locked or are wide open - so I was happy to see the security guy taking them from the x-ray box and putting the 'cleared' stickers on them).

Headed for the bar and on the way in there was a girl walking out.
She was wearing a leather jacket that had obviously been bike worn.
After she passed I glanced back and saw that she was carrying a Shoei helmet bag with helmet inside.
It's good to know that there are other travelling bikers around.

8 Oct.

Managed to get some sleep on the plane.

I was reading "Coldheart Canyon" by Clive Barker which I'd picked up for less than a buck at a second hand book store in Barstow when it became apparent that it was somewhat more erotic than his other books - I was a little self conscious when I realised that the female half of the elderly couple sitting beside me had noticed the stirring in my trousers.
Time for airline blanket, lights out and sleep.

6 am into Auckland.
Thunderstorms and thick cloud.

I left the US (in the high 30's) because the summer was ending and came to New Zealand (maybe double digits) because the summer would be starting.
Interesting call.

Ian was waiting at the appointed air bus stop and loaded me and my luggage into a car.
15 minutes and we're back at his place.

Even though this is a long flight the time difference for my internal clock isn't that much so I don't feel too bad.
I do however feel weird.
The world is spinning the wrong way.
In the north it goes windershins but here it goes clockwise.
Now I intellectually knew it would be different but it really messes with the instincts.

Talking about time difference - I don't know if you noticed but there isn't a 7 Oct. entry.
That's cos there was no 7 Oct.
It didn't happen.

At Ian's place.
Food, coffee and conversation finally became food, beer and conversation.

Again more good biker people.
Friendly to a fault.

9 Oct.

Chillin' on a Sunday.

I helped Ian fit a new Factory Pro Evo Star Shifter Kit™ to his VFR.
I'm loosing the fear of working on a bike what with today & the draining of mine.
Not what I expected to learn on this trip but anything new is welcome.

Ian posted a note to the Kiwi Biker forum and this has resulted in a number of "I've got a spare bed" replies.
The NZ part of the trip is coming together.

10 Oct.

Waiting for the bike.

From what ETC told me I'm hoping that it will turn up today.

It's kinda easy to do nothing. Browse the internet, catch up on all me regular on-line reads and wait.


In the early evening Ian took me round some of the viewpoints to get a hill top view of Auckland and a view of the Tasman sea.

11 Oct.

Waiting for the bike.

It really should be here today.

I decided to call LA and speak to the shippers - but by the time I made that decision it was too late - the LA office was closed.


I'll call LA tomorrow morning.

This is becoming a little embarrassing.
I didn't mean to move into Ian & Karen's place.
It just kinda happened.
Really hope the bike turns up - I feel like I should be on my way and not outstay my welcome.
Not coz they aren't nice people - just the opposite in fact & I feel bad about taking advantage of them.

12 Oct.

I phoned LA this morning and now know where my bike is.
It's in the States.
The bastards haven't shipped it yet.
So what do I do - I still don't have a shipping date.
If I'd known it would be this long I'd have rented a car & had a look around but now I'm just hoping it will fly today.

The second phone call to the States elicited more unfulfilled promises so I sent the following to the agent.

Having arrived in New Zealand 4 days ago, and having dropped the bike off in LA some 12 days ago I have just found out that my motorbike is still in the US.
I believe that I gave you guys enough warning (what was it - 6 months) that I wanted the bike shipped and I'm paying in the region of $4000 for the service so I'm understandably upset when a) the bike hasn't yet shipped and b) I am unable to find out when it will ship.
I have sent a couple of e-mails to Debbie and have even phoned her twice.
I was promised an e-mail with the shipping details and I was promised a call back with a best guess for when the bike may ship and have received neither.
Vacation time is precious and sitting around waiting for the bike is really eating into it.
If nothing else can you let me know when the bike will arrive so that I can actually go and do something rather than sitting here waiting in vain for the phone to ring.
Can you please let me know what you can do to resolve this.
I will, of course, be reviewing the service you provide on HorizonsUnlinited.com - the round the world biker web site, which is where I got your number in the first place.
Yours frustratingly

I received an e-mail telling me that the crate was at the airline on standby and would ship within 2 days.
Boy that fukin helps !
What can I do - the terms and conditions that I had to sign state that they might or might not ship the cargo and if it gets trashed then tough - and if I didn't sign then they wouldn't ship.
These people are bastards and you are totally at their mercy.
If this was a two week trip then I would be buggered but as it's a nine week trip it's not too painful.
I'll hassle them & see if I can get some money off.

If the bike will fly in the next two days then my best guess for seeing it is Monday - so I went and found a bike hire shop.
It's way early in the season for them so even though they had loads of bikes, very few were road legal coz they hadn't been put through the spring 'on the road' mechanical test stuff for them to be legal.
The choice I had was BMW. Either the 650 GS or the 1200 GS.
I test rode the 650 in the UK and found it gutless and loads of folks tell me that the 1200 is great, so with the seat as low as it can go and my Givi bags slapped on the back and the pre-load wound down, there is a chance I will be able to get at least one foot on the ground.

What the hell - I pick it up tomorrow morning and will head south.
I need to get on the road.
I want to get out of Ian & Karen's hair.
They have a (good) life and really don't need some strange foreigner cluttering up their house.
When they read this they will immediately e-mail me saying 'but you're welcome to stay'.
I appreciate that they do actually mean that - but I am very aware that I'm living on the friendliness of the biker thing and do not want to do anything to endanger that.
I guess it works both ways.
"Of course you're welcome"
"Thanks - I appreciate - and I'll make as little mess as possible"
I've been here for five days now - and I remember reading somewhere "House guests are like fish, after three days they start to go off" and I know that I have felt that in my own home.

So tomorrow I'll pick up the bike in the morning & head towards Hamilton then East to Rotorua and see what happens.

Friday evening I'll aim for Coromandel for a 'boys weekend' which is a Kiwi biker, beer & bikes thing.

It's good to have things to do.

13 Oct.

Where to start.

My bike, the weather, the hire bike, the road signs, the scenery, the roads.

I picked up the BMW at 8am. Jumped on the motorway & got the hell out of Auckland.

As soon as I could I got off the motorway & took to the smaller fun roads.
The weather was overcast but not raining (well not then) and not too cold.

The BMW is kinda fun in a odd way.
It blats along quite happily at reasonable speeds and is a blast in the corners.
I used to make mock of people with heated handgrips - but never again. They're lovely.

I stopped to check the map & read a road sign to try and figure out which direction to go and discovered a problem with the bike.
If the side stand is put down on a slope so that it's lower than the wheels I can't lift the bike back up when sitting on it.
I have to push it round until the stand is level with the wheels.
The bike is fractionally too tall for me.

The roads and scenery are very much like Scotland. Most of the fields are pasture (presumably for sheep) with wooded hills in the background. OK so I don't recognise very many of the trees but the undulating land and twisty roads seem familiar.

I spotted a lovely sign approaching road works.
"Please stop when requested"
How polite - in the UK or the US the sign would say "Stop when instructed". No please or request.

Just after lunch the rain started.
I usually consider it wet enough to need the rain suit if I can hear the rain hitting my helmet. Only occasionally did it rain that hard but the atmosphere was just full of water. Not mist, just water.
On one occasion wiping my visor wasn't helping and there was a film of water flowing down the visor that I could kinda see through. The world kept squiggling around and seeing the road was tricky. I over shot one corner and ended up on the other side of the road so I backed off.

I was expecting to have problems riding on the left as I've been saying to myself 'On the Right' for months but after an hour or so it seemed natural again.

The roads here are lovely.
Off the motorway and major 'single digit' roads they are almost constantly twisty.
I spend most of the day in 3rd and 4th and a couple of times had the bike on the throttle stop (It'll do 180 kph and was willing to do more :).

Having dodged Hamilton (a reasonably big town) I've ended up in Rotorua for the night.
It's in the middle of the active volcanic area and the sulphur makes you realise that no matter what the scenery looks like - this is not Scotland.

Luckily I checked into the hotel at around 3pm.
This meant that I checked my e-mail around 3:30 (on a pay as you go Internet box in the hotel lobby - damn I miss the free access that everywhere in the US provided).
Checking my e-mail I discovered that my bike is in Auckland.
There was some discussion about the fact that the carnet wasn't stamped when the bike left the States but I contacted the importing agent and informed them that a carnet was not required for a UK bike entering or leaving the US.
I then got a call from the boss at the agents who informed me that 'No - the problem is that you haven't signed the Carnet'
So he's couriering the Carnet to me at this hotel, I'll get it tomorrow morning & courier it back to him.
I'm not losing any time with this as the bike still has to undergo inspection by customs and the Ministry of Agriculture (just in case I have slipped some sheep into the fuel tank). There was some questions about the contents of the crate as the bike is recorded as being 210Kg and the cargo is marked as 450Kg.
We guessed that the extra weight was the crate it's self.

It is good to know where the bike is and the agent expects it to be released Monday so that works out perfectly.

14 Oct.

The courier didn't turn up until 10:30.

On the front of the Carnet was a box that says "Owner must sign here". I had read all the instructions inside - but missed that one - pillock.
I got the courier to wait, signed the carnet, put it in the return envelope and sent it back with him.
That's the official stuff done.

On the edge of town I'd seen clouds of steam rising so went to check out the local geyser.
This one is called "Te Puia"

Joined a guided tour in the pissing rain and couldn't see much but the tour guide kinda adopted me as I was about the only person without an umbrella so she insisted that I shared hers. "Where is my good friend from Scotland" was the usual shout.
At the end of the guided tour was a dance & song show by Maori folks.
I had been thinking of skipping that part as I've seen a number of 'native' shows in different countries and they tend to be a little dull. I am so glad I didn't skip this one.
Complex harmonies, good music and entertaining dance.

After lunch I headed for Coromandel for the 'boys weekend'.
Within a mile the heavens opened.
Back in waterproofs.

After a 3 o'clock snack the sun was starting to beat down so I packed the waterproofs away.

Once off the main road I started heading up the side of the Coromandel peninsula.
If the roads yesterday were good, these are fabulous.
The only down side was that a lot of the time I was running straight into the sun so couldn't see much - and when there are blind right angle bends with a cliff on one side and sea on the other then seeing where you are going becomes important.

Geoff, who is hosting the weekend, had heard that I might be arriving earlier than he would so he arranged for a neighbour to unlock a door for me. I turned up and wandered into the house. Put my beer in the fridge, found a folding chair and something to use as an ashtray, got my book and chilled.
Talk about friendly - I'm sitting on some guys deck. Some guy I've never met and he's not even here.

Geoff turned up a couple of hours later & we drank, ate & chatted.

I like this place - and the people.

15 Oct.

Ian & Matthew arrived around 9 and Martin turned up at 11.

After some lunch we headed out on the bikes.

The roads round there are absolutely wonderful.
Steep & sharp corners up hill and down dale.

Ice-cream by the beach - this is what I came on this trip for.

After the riding it was time for barbie & beer.

16 Oct.


A gentle run from Coromandel to Auckland.

Diary 17