New Zealand - Headed Home

Back from New Zealand - our final day we woke up slow, took the bikes to the Antartic Center and toured around, then took the bikes back to Mike to check in. New Zealand is the launch point for all Antartic trips for all countries.

McMurdo is the Antartic center that supports up to 1000 or so people mostly scientists and is part of the National Science Foundation.

Also cool to see at the Antartic Center was a collection of Blue Penguins that have been injured or otherwise wouldn't live on their own, so flap thier flipper for tourists all day. The Blue Penguin is the smallest Penguin of the some 20 types of penguins on the planet.
It was a great trip - sad to see it end. Great getting to know Wade better, great seeing the South Island countryside, great to have a first of probably several New Zealand trips completed, fun to ride bikes for a week and it's probably great that it's over so I can get back to real life before I fall in love with New Zealand and refuse to move back. *smile*


New Zealand - Day Seven

Equal parts sad and glad to be leaving. Writing from the flight to Auckland where we'll leave for San Francisco later tonight. Bikes are turned in, bags are packed, on our way back. It's been great getting to know Wade, we're having an amazing time.

I realize I've talked very little this week about the actual people or country of New Zealand, so here's a couple tid bits to go with the beautiful pictures... There is so much more to learn about this place, one week really only whet my appetitite for more. Wade potentially moving here gives a great excuse to come back soon, "I reckon." (Kiwi-ese for, "I suppose")

I have never seen so many Range Rovers, Jeeps, Isuzu Troopers and other rugged type cars in one place before. Aparently Kiwi's have this mentality Wade was telling me about that if they can't make it out of materials readily available in New Zealand then they don't need it. Similiarly if they can't fix it with a little duct tape and wire then it's probably junk anyway. This fierce independence is one of the more pronounced things I've seen this week.

The "paper" money is plastic (like in Mexico lately) or some polymer/synthetic which holds shape better than paper and is more counterfiet resistant and better at repelling dirt and generally more durable. Fitting for transacting small amounts of money as in: selling one sheep or buying a small amount of some crop from your neighbor.

They have a thing here for corrugated metal. They roof things with it, build things with it, even decorate in nice restaurants with it. I dig it - very industrial and cold yet sturdy - kinda medical or modern looking.

They have a thing for fish and chips I think was mentioned earlier. Kiwi-ese for "to-go" is "for take away." Like you can have your coffee for here or for take aways. The Subway serves a lamb sub with mint jelly. They have many kinds of cars we don't. Some brand made in Australia is in fierce competition with Ford for pole position in this market. Some cars we know by other brands/names are marketed here different. A car I know in the US as a Lexus is marketed here under the Toyota label. Japanese cars are everywhere - very little Audi or BMW or Porsche and really little/no Dodge or Chevrolet.

Boarding flight to SFO now. More pics later when I can find chargers and have time.

New Zealand - Day Six

Last night at dinner was pretty hillarious. Wade was so tired from the trip riding so far that he literally fell asleep at the dinner table - not once, but twice. Now when your dinner companion falls to sleep at the table, you gotta take a good look at yourself and ask, "Am I really that boring to talk with at dinner?" But I was pulling out some of my best material: "Would you for a million dollars..." and recounting things from the trip that had us in hysterics laughing. So I think he was just really wiped out. Er... I think. Anyway the waitress walked by the table and pointed and laughed. Wow do I wish I had a camera on hand that was funny. By the time we got back to the hostel we both crashed immediately.

Today we woke up and went to sleep in the same town - Christichurch, which is the biggest city on the South Island. We drove out to Akaroa (~ 90 km) which was a French colony during the Brittish monarchy rule of New Zealand. They were the first place in New Zealand to generate electricity, grew timber prized for shipbuilding in the early 1900's, and were known for some kind of grass they made popular used for grazing fields for cattle. Oh, and most importantly they are known for the best sportbike roads on the South Island. Yes, finally after six days on this island I found where the leather suit, 150 mph plus, liter sportbikes hang out. It looked like Highway 35 outside Alice's on a Bay Area Sunday - and it was awesome riding. New Zealanders call the road to Akaroa, "the racetrack."

We had lunch in Akaroa, then booked a trip to swim with the blue dolphins (a small New Zealand type of dolphin). Pretty wild, you can actually swim with wild dolphins. They boat you out for thirty minutes, ten people at a time, then dump you in the water with one to thirty dolphins swimming around. The dolphins aparently love playing with the humans. Sadly we didn't get to find out. Wade suited up in a wetsuit (which made him look like a seal and I'm sure shark food) and got on the boat - but the weather turned on our boat out and we had to turn back. Got some good pictures of this I'll post later when I can get battery and Internet connection and connection cables for things.

Walking around Christichurch looking for a dinner spot we wandered into a tourist trinket store, I had Wade (and store sales staff) doubled over laughing at the lamb and kiwi bird hand puppet show I put on. Turns out the lamb was a pretty good dancer - again wish I had a camera or video to watch Wade crying his eyes out laughing. I'm sure we're quite delerious at this stage of our trip, while there's another week or two of things to see here it's good we're headed home tomorrow.

In other news... I've been practicing all week and I can nearly stand upright on my bike and ghost ride the whip. Trying to bring a little bit of Oakland to New Zealand. We've been getting hifey with it - and I hella love Oakland. Oakland on three... ONE... TWO... THREE... OAKLAND!
Pictures later - running out of time here and have things half packed up to head home.


New Zealand - Day Five

We planned on staying overnight in the town (village really) of Lake Tekapo (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lake_Tekapo), but when we got there realized that wasn't an ideal way to spend a Saturday night. So we plowed on another 300 km back to Christichurch where we started our trip and rented the bikes.
They rent these crazy vans here with graffiti all over the back. I guess the deal is you can return it in any condition you like - so people are encouraged to write on them or do art with/on/within them. They're pretty cool to see on the road.

The view of Mount Cook from Tekapo was amazing, the lake itself was pretty amazing. The water is an electric blue color - it looks like Pixar created it - very surreal and beautiful.

On the way to Christichurch we got stuck behind a group of harley riders, looked like we joined a biker gang. Except for Wade's glow in the dark vest of course. And our BMW bikes. Oh and our generally not black bike gear. But other than that we totally fit in.
We have another 36 hours before returning the bikes and heading for the airport, so we'll take it easy tomorrow and have a day ride down to the French Village of Akaroa, take a boat trip around Akaroa, hopefully see penguins, and relax in Christichurch in the evening.

More later - I'm starving and we're off to a vegetarian restaurant (so I think I have my work cut out for me to get full).

New Zealand - Day Four

Woke up slow today, got breakfast in Queenstown around 8:00a, went bungee jumping at the bridge that was the first bungee jump in the world. I jumped off much to the delight of the Japanese tourists wearing all my motorcycle gear: pants, gloves, helmet, jacket... basically looking like a power ranger. The bungee jump guys debated the right song to make the themesong for my jump and settled on the soundtrack from "Knight Rider." So I got that going for me... which is nice.

Happy Thanksgiving! Realizing it was probably not possible to hunt down turkey and cranberry sauce, Wade and I celebrated by calling our families and getting pizza tonight. It's 21 hours later than PST here, so we celebrated on Friday, the 23rd which is when it was Thanksgiving in California.

After bungee jumping we rode two hours to a place some of the Lord of the Rings was shot - driving past fields of sheep and again, breathtaking mountainscapes and ocean views. I'm sure the guy who rented the bikes to us didn't intend for off roading, but we found 20 km of gravel road leading into the woods today across streams and took advantage of the particular bikes we're on not being fragile sportbikes.

I thought about jumping in the water for a dip, but quickly realized when witnessing how cold the water was that it would probably be just as gratifying to take a picture of me standing in helmet, boots and little else by the water's edge. I think it's equal parts hillarious and funny - really captures the essence of our day.

We had a relaxed time today with a few hours walking around town and only a few hundred km of riding - it was nice to be off the bikes for a little. We probably laughed more today than any day yet - partially from the exhaustion of our trip so far lending to a good dose of delerium, and partially because we're getting to the point of conversation over four steady days that some pretty good stories are coming out.

Tomorrow it's off to some lake three hours ride away which is supposed to be amazing beautiful water....


New Zealand - Day Three

Today was another intense day of riding. We started out at Franz Joseph Glacier (both a town and a geological formation) and took our time with breakfast and getting out to a trail that gave a good look at the glacier. From there it was 500km along the Western Coast of the South Island to end up in Queenstown.

Queenstown is a resort town - mostly snow sports and summer resort and vacations. It's the slow season here between winter (summer months in the US) and summer which starts around December or January. Great food options here and abundance of great coffee shops to check out tomorrow.

We've met people today from Argentina, Ireland, Mexico, Japan, Canada, London, Australia and a few locals. It does feel a like an island - to drive in one day past the Southern Alps, the ocean, rainforest, and miles of road twisting between canyons has been a little surreal. Amazing landscapes around every bend in the road - from a riding terrain perspective this is everything we could have hoped for and more. Still wishing I had a faster/ better cornering bike, but having fun on the BMW.

Bungee jumping was started here in Queenstown by a guy AJ Hacket who's company currently provides all the commercial bungee jumping for this market. Hope to jump tomorrow of the bridge which was the first bungee jump in the world.

We finally met the local law enforcement this afternoon. I suppose it's overdue, but this wasn't how I anticipated it happening. At one point this afternoon after an admittedly *ahem* dubious passing of a car - the car driver decided he didn't like being passed. He proceeded to bump his car into my bike as he passed me back up to regain a position in front of me. By some stroke of luck I did not lose control of the bike and escaped with only a swipe of plastic missing from the bike's luggage bag. I chased him through the streets of Queenstown for a while trying to point out to him how dangerous it is to run your car into a bike, but lost him in town through traffic lights and crosswalks. Fifteen minutes later as we pulled into our hostel he pulls up behind us with a friend in his car yelling expliciatives. HE actually called the police which was probably a great idea to lend calamity to the situation. This guy runs a little hot and continued yelling explicatives while on the phone with the police - probably not a great idea. Anyway when the police showed up we overheard the police radio saying this guy had a couple flags on his record for family violence - that plus his overall demeanor diminished his credibility pretty quickly with the police. In the end I had no proof or collaborating witness against him - and the cop didn't feel like writing me a ticket for illegal passing - so we parted ways shaking hands with the police officer.

All in all it was probably enough police for the trip and while they are friendly and kind (and a little hard to take serious not carrying firearms and driving an orange and blue Subaru patrol car) I hope to not spend any more time this week talking with them.

The hostels we're staying in are nice enough and amazing for the price. This $25 place we're in tonight in Queenstown has a $5M view out the back yard over a garden. When I climb into bed each night I try to little success to imagine the last person who had my bed was a sexy European coed - but in all reality it was most likely either a dirty hippy backpacker dripping hemp oil and sweating granola all over the pillow, or a heavy set Lord of the Rings fan who left some of his ponytail in the bed for me to snuggle up with at night. Oh well.

Anyway, Queenstown is pretty Internet connected and we should have no trouble tomorrow getting back online so I'll post again about bungee jumping and we're also going to ride out to where some of the Lord of the Rings was actually filmed nearby.


New Zealand Day Two

Writing from Franz Joseph Glacier. We rode hard all day, only one quick stop for lunch in Punakaiki - there's "pancake" rocks here that are basically a layered rock formation. Breathtaking views around every corner. The ride past Mt Cook was beautiful, the town we ended up in is surrounded by rain forest. Franz Joseph feels like Whistler or some resort town but much smaller than a ski slope. Basically everyone here is visiting the glacier or working in the hostels (aka backpackers in New Zealand-ease) and hotels and restaurants. The girl who checked us into the hostel moved to New Zealand from the United States a few months ago. She hitched to Franz Joesph then ran out of money so decided to stay here and work at the hostel. Pretty funny - but this whole town feels bohemian like that.

It's fun talking with Wade getting to know each other better - we really did not know one another outside work much before this trip. We're laughing basically all day when we're not on the bikes.

Turns out the BMW 850 I'm on can't wheelie. Darn. Have to find some other way to make it hooligan, having tons of fun riding.
Tomorrow it's off to Queenstown.

New Zealand - Day One

Day One of the New Zealand motorcycle trip. Flew from San Francisco to Auckland - Auckland to Christichurch - rented bikes near Christichurch airport - then hit the road. We got off to a good start - until we realized we spend our first hour traveling entirely in the wrong direction. Turns out Wade is nearly as abysmal at directions as I am, which should make for an interesting week.

We started riding out from Christichurch around 1p Tuesday New Zealand time (San Francisco time plus 21 hours).

We got into Nelson near the North tip of the South island around 7p after a good 400 km ride. We stopped briefly for lunch but otherwise rode all day. I'm not kidding, we passed probably 30 places on the side of the road advertising their fish and chips. It's like the national food here or something. Everyone we meet is fun and helpful and friendly - meeting other bikers on the road and talking briefly at gas stations with anyone who seems interesting or talkative. I love the accent - people say crazy things like "reckon."

Amazing roads, beautiful scenery. The bike I'm on leaves someting to be desired, it tops our around 120 mph - which is probably good to keep me out of jail I suppose. It's comfortable to ride - heated grips, upright riding positioning, a little squishy in the corners but it grips the road well. The roads are manicured - amazing like they were just built.

Hostel in Nelson was great - we crashed after foraging for good and woke early to head out again. Day two is a 500 km from Christichurch to Franz Joseph glacier...


Business School

I'm getting an MBA at UCLA currently, in the executive program. I fly to LA every other weekend for two full days/nights of class. It's a two year program, average age of my classmates is 38; average income $165k; 80% married; 80% men - a diverse and intersting group for certain. This quarter has blown by, I can't believe finals are in two weeks. It's fun to be in school again, the deft required to balance work and school is both mysterious and daunting to me at this point. Can't wait for a month off in December to acclimate and readjust. Anyway school is getting more fun as everyone settles in and relaxes a bit. What a great group of people.

Key thing I'll reflect on from this weekend: professor Sarin's advice which went something like this... In life we have balls of responsibility that we juggle. Sometimes it's too much to work, do school, take care of ourselves, be a good family member, be a good spouse/partner, fit it all in. That's really ok. If we drop a ball from time to time it's not the end of the world, the balls bounce back. Except for one: family/ friends we treat different - this is like a glass ball.


Four Airplanes and a Funeral

Went to Ohio last minute over the weekend for the funeral of my grandmother (right). Patricia Jones was in declining health over the last year, nonetheless it was somewhat abrupt how she left us. She was a loving and sweet woman. In hindsight, I am glad I went to Ohio a few months ago to visit. It was a short and intimate service, which is how she talked about wanting it. It was bittersweet to connect with family who I don't often see - everyone seems to know in their hearts she's in a better place and this was a transition that is for the better. She will be missed. My heart goes out to Barton Jones, her husband of 62 years, my grandfather.


A Fresh Start

Looking to breathe life back into this blog. What a good time to start - I'm off to New Zealand in a couple days to ride motorbikes for a week with a friend Wade...