Feb 26, 27 - Free Time in Christchurch

Feb 26. Odo reading 46640

Slept pretty well through most of the night. Woke up a little early, and just tried to relax. I'm very excited and apprehensive - this is the day I pick up the bike!

I go just down the street to Sophie's for breakfast - several locals had recommended it. It seems that the owner is a famous NZ personality, or at least she's been involved with a bunch. I have pancakes with bacon and "mayple" syrup - and it's like being at my grandmother's place. The pancakes taste almost just like hers, and the bacon still has the rind. It's like being back on my families farm. It's great! Oh. "Mayple" means commercial syrup.

When I get back to the hotel, the staff are doing my room, so I went to hang out in the bar. A couple of (quasi)-locals are there, and seem to have been for some time. Turn's out that they had been out dancing, then to the casino, and now were waiting for the cricket to start. As drunken locals go, they were very nice. I got a lesson in the rules of cricket, a discussion of rugby (which deteriorated into a sort of "does too!", "does not!"), and was offered several drinks. I had to refuse, of course, 'cause it's bike day! The locals were not quiet enough for the manager, and they were shifted off. I had a coffee, and worked on yesterday's page.

I returned to my room. The weather was grey, and a little drizzly. I uploaded the page, and then call the shuttle service to go get the bike. I'm delivered to NZ Motorcycle Rentals, where Gordon gets me fitted out with my BMW R1100GS. I immediately christen it "Big Red". Yeah, because it's big and red. Exactly. If you come up with something more creative email me. So, I drove back to the hotel, to adjust mirrors and what not. I had no problems driving around downtown - all I have to do is follow the traffic. The bike, while different from mine, is very smooth and tourquey, and very controllable. And it's a fine, comfortable riding position. Excellent. Gordon is kind enough to take my picture, both with my still camera, and with the PictureBook, which he finds quite interesting. He says he's going on a European tour in the winter, and this would be just the ticket.

After adjusting the mirrors, I decide to ride around downtown, and scout out Winnie Bagoes for supper. I checked the map, and off I went. And I failed miserably. I go around the block three times, trying to find this place, and when I pull over, to check the map, I find that I had left it in my room. Smart. After a brief return to the hotel, I return, and finally locate the place. I then go for a familiarization ride, and head down Hwy. 75 to Akaroa.

After the suburbs fall away, I'm left in a wide, grassy valley, with soft, rounded ridges to the north. The road is excellent, well marked and well maintained. There is a bit of a panic after my first photo stop - I get back on the bike, and I cannot get the starter to turn.

Now, the fine BMW engineers have made a great bike, and they have worked very hard to keep you from starting it by accident. It won't start if the kickstand is down, for instance. (Note to BMW - if you make a bike that needs as much warm-up time as this one, perhaps the stand interlock is really annoying. It means you have to ride around with the choke on for 5-10 minutes. With my own bike, I start it, store stuff away, and put on my helmet and gloves while it's warming up. Thank you.) So, I'm on the bike. Key on, kickstand up, kill switch to "on", hit the starter. De nada. Review. Key on, kickstand up, kill switch to "on", hit the starter. De nada. Sweat. Key on, kickstand up, kill switch to "on", hit the starter. De nada. Panic. I haven't seen a house for 5 minutes, nor any traffic for 10. What am I going to do? Key on, kickstand up, kill switch to "on", hit the starter. De nada. Promise to become a monk. Some of you have already guessed the inspiration I had then. Kickstand up and in neutral. Big Red cranks, and away we go, having incurred one more sin. 

I proceed along, the clouds break up, and I'm in the sun. This place is stunningly beautiful. This is going to be a great, great time. After all my self-inflicted terror about driving on the left, it turns out to be no big deal. I'm as comfortable as if I was home. And this place reminds me, to some extent, of New Brunswick, with the twisty roads through the hills near Petersville. I look down to see how far I've come. The trip meter says 19.2Km. That can't be right. The regular odometer is racking up the Km.s, I just wish I remember what it started at. Oh, well. I don't have my rain pants, and I'm wondering if I should turn back, because of dark clouds to the south, when the road turns north, and suddenly there's a yellow sign that might as well be "Snake Crossing", considering the number of curves on it. And the corners are now marked "35" and "25". Oh, baby.

I go up through the switchbacks, with each corner being a choice of 1)blind curve, rocks on the left, or 2)way too not-blind curve, drop-off on the left. Plus, of course, the distraction of the actual landscape. Wow!.

I get to the summit (465 m) and pull off in the rest stop.  The road down to Akaroa is revealed, but it's under a dark cloud.  I decide that discretion is the better part of valour (and low insurance rates) and head back to Christchurch.

The sun retreats back behind the clouds, and the temperature drop reminds me that I need to pack more clothing for a ride. I arrive at Winnie Bagoes, which is so empty I thought it closed.  I order a pizza (for some reason, maybe I wasn't paying enough attention, I was thinking they did fish'n'chips), and suddenly the place fills up with people.  Where I go, others follow.  I return to the hotel, and do a little work on the web file, and am asleep at 8:00 p.m.  Hey, I'm on vacation!

Feb 27.  Odo reading=46800

Today is windy, with high cloud cover. There are hints of blue between them, though. I return to Sophie's for breakfast. Today it's French Toast (and that fine farm bacon again) - another excellent choice. I can't figure out why everyone in NZ, or at least Christchurch, isn't a blob of fat. There hasn't been a meal since I got off the plane that I could finish the whole thing, and they've all been excellent!

Once again, the PictureBook generates attention - a couple of diners, and then the staff are surprised to find this is a full computer. Here's this mornings: Sophies staff: Kieth, the Headwaiter; Ngaire, the Head Chef, and Serina, the tattooed waitress Actually, from left to right, it's Serina, Kieth and Ngaire. As promised, you're on the web!

While the fine staff redo my room. I adjourn to the lounge. Unlike yesterday, I'm the only one here. America's Cup pre-race coverage is on the telly, the wind is somewhat down to a breeze, which carries the scent of some sort of flowers, from the decorative hedge. I did some postcards. 

Due to a complete lack of ambition, I accomplish nothing in the early part of the afternoon; except for waiting for the America's Cup race to start - it's finally cancelled. I find some more things to do, later. I went for another photo walk around the city, and have a Hokey-Pokey ice cream cone. Say, what if the Hokey-Pokey is what it's all about?

I return to the hotel, do my laundry (yep, even on vacation, somebody has to do it). Then, off to the hotel restaurant for another fabulous meal. I chat with Swiss, Dutch and Australian tourists, then it's off to bed. Tomorrow, the rest of the tour arrives, and in the evening I join the organization.