Wednesday, January 06, 2010

I had the opportunity to spend a day at Omarama gliding while on a a tour of the south island over New Years. It was about half-way through our trip and the weather had been mixed but mainly good up to that point. We showed up in Omarama the night before at about 9:00PM to see a couple gliders landing so that was a good sign. They were just starting to pack up shop at Southern Soaring but Chris Rudge and I went though the weather maps for the following day. He predicted westerly wave in the morning changing to a south westerly at about mid-day.

After a restless night of sleep trying to shake off the visions of wave flying we woke up and were on the field by 9:30 and in the air by about 10:00 as the wave was working with a 15 knott westerly wind on the ground just as expected. We took a slightly higher tow to try to tow into the wave using rotor thermals but after a couple attempts we failed and went back to the ridge which was working nicely. Initially Chris was flying to try to get us set up in the wave but I found that in those bumpy conditions I got seriously motion sick if I wasn't flying. We almost had to come down because I got so sick.

Luckily though I powered through the sickness and worked the ridge up to 8000 ft which we hoped would be enough to break into the wave. We pushed forward into the wind and went through some seriously bumpy air and then all of a sudden it was smooth with a 2 knot climb. We held solid and eventually that 2 knot climb turned into 4 and we were up. Chris called Christchurch Control and we turned on the oxygen and we broke though 10k ft. The 4 knots then turned into a solid 8 knots and at one point we were averaging 12 knots.

We put the nose down and tracked towards Mt. Cook climbing the whole way. When we got to Mt. Cook we were at almost 21k ft and although there was thick cloud cover on the mountain the views were amazing. We spun it around and came back to Omarama still at about 19k ft. It takes a while even with full airbrakes and in the down going portion of the wave to get down from that high. The flight was 2 hours 25 minutes long and one of the best that I have had.

So that you know that I am not making this all up here is a picture of the vario on 8 up and the altimeter on 20k+ ft

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Japan Part 1 - Tokyo Super Mega Happy Post

We arrived into Tokyo after a twelve hour flight from Frankfurt feeling fairly refreshed after an evening of doing nothing in the hotel. No walking around checking out old buildings. No expeditions to discover new evening eating establishments. It was nothing but room service and German TV. That was all to change, oh yes.

We arrived into Tokyo with enough information to get us from the airport to our hotel in Shinjuku. Prior to setting down in Tokyo, James and Junko had scared the living crap out of us making it seem like it would be a monumental feat for us to get to our hotel room. It seemed like we would have to prove our worth by fighting Godzilla before the magical portal to our hotel would open and beckon us in.

It was actually no more difficult to navigate here than anywhere in Europe that doesn't speak English. Usually there are some English signs about the import points to get you going in the right direction. There was a train that left from the airport and got to the Shinjuku station without a transfer. Shinjuku train station is one of the busiest train stations in the world with over 3 million people traveling through it per day. They pride themselves on their bullet trains being late by on average 6 seconds which includes all mechanical failures.

I was worried a bit because our plane got into Tokyo at 7:30 AM which would put us on the train at about 9:00 during rush hour. We had our luggage with us so the thought of getting pushed onto a train and spilling out the other side was not appealing but the train wasn't packed and we had seats for the whole trip. Very enjoyable. Here is a blurry picture of a packed train though:

The first thing that you will notice when you get to Japan is how nice everyone is. In a US airport you would see people screaming and just generally unhappy. In Japan everyone without fail was happy and cheerful. If you got a cup of coffee the waitress would make it seem like you are the coolest person in the room and that it is an honor to have you purchasing the cup of coffee from her. Basically you constantly feel like a celebrity. When you go into any store the people there greet you with a Japanese saying of some sort. With that many people jam packed into such a small area I am very pleased that they are unreasonably nice.

Anyhow, enough with that, onto our voyage to our hotel. We got off the train at Shinjuku station and it was pretty busy but nothing unbearable. You could see that there were definite traffic patterns in the people so you just got into the flow and went where they were going. Roberta had printed out a map and we followed it directly to our hotel. No problem. After a room change due to them giving us a smoking room we were off and running.

The bathroom in the hotel lobby had the mother of all electronic toilets. When you walk up to them the lid opens and a blue neon light in the bowl turns on. I don't think that I need the glow from below lighting up my poop. Then the control mechanism was more complex than most microwaves. I was so amazed that I shut the door to the stall and took a picture of the controller. The flash went off and I walked out just as the bathroom cleaner was coming in. Don't know what he thought.

One nice feature of the bathroom in our hotel was how space was limited so they combined the bathtub and shower area into one room. Imagine a typical stand up shower stall right next to a tub so that the shower door encompasses the shower and the separate tub. If I ever design a bathroom I will add that feature. The room was relatively small but for being one block off one of the busiest strips in Japan I was pretty happy.

Pretty much right after we got there James showed up and checked in. Roberta needed a nap but I was ready to go so James and I hopped a train to Akihabara. On the train trip there I realized how tired I was an took a little nap. James was cracking up because I had only been in Tokyo for a few hours and I was already blending in sleeping like a Japanese salary man.

Akihabara is the biggest electronics/nerd sport shopping area in the world. We started wandering around through alleys of stalls selling everything from capacitors to robots to hentai porn-o mags.

Since population density in Japan is so high you will have stores and restaurants that take up 10 stories of a building. In Akihabara the theme seemed to be the higher that you went the less kid friendly the material was. If you take into account that ground level was barely kid safe then you can imagine what the 8th floors were like. Almost all the stores sold big pillow cases with naked women on them that you are supposed to cuddle up with. At one point we ended up on the 6th floor of some place and I realized that it was a gay comic book room.

The comic cover that will stick in my mind forever was one with these two girls getting friendly who just happened to be naked, pregnant and covered with some sort of gelatinous goo. I should have bought it to share it with the world. One of the places had a whole floor that just sold vintage gaming gear. Everything from old consoles to old PC games. There were some real gems in there. That was on the second floor, the other floors sold crazy offensive squid porn.

Smoking cigarettes in Tokyo is funny. There are signs all over the streets saying that you can't smoke in the streets. There are official looking men walking around with the "no smoking on the streets" symbol on their jackets obviously waiting to yell at any street smokers. But then you can go in any restaurant and they are packed with smokers. We actually went in a Wendy's today (we were craving something we understood) and people were chain smoking in there. Smokes are fairly cheap at $3.00 out of the vending machines. Also, all over the place the signs that indicated no smoking were more often then not worded "No Smorking". I love it.

I have seen some funny Engrish language on Japanese goods before but never understood how deep it went. The english phrases on buildings will never cease to amaze me. "Super happy fun cafe". Also a fair portion of the Japanese teens wear t-shirts with English sayings on them that almost make sense. They are usually supposed to be some sort of phrase with deep meaning but end up being a comical combination of words. Junko's mom actually has a shirt that says "Sometimes I pee when I laugh" She had no idea what it meant until Junko told her but she kept wearing it anyway. The Japanese definitely have a good sense of humor.

In Shinjuku right near our hotel there was a cat cafe where you can go in and have a cup of coffee and pet kittens. They had a sandwich board out front with pictures of all sorts of cute kittens. We wanted to go in but James was concerned that we would end up accidentally adopting a kitten. One reason that will draw us back to Tokyo is to visit a cat cafe.

One of the most memorable moments throughout the trip was when we had gotten lost and were wandering around Shinjuku at night. We stumbled down this street which just happened to be packed with restaurants and other nefarious businesses. At one point the volume of the street got so high that it was deafening. It was a combination of people talking, restaurants announcing their wares, music streaming from buildings and who knows what else. It was so loud to be actually amazing.

We walked through Shabuya during the day which is one of the more mainstream shopping districts. We were craving something we recognized so we went into Krispy Cream donuts for a break. They had the donut making machine in front of a bunch of glass so that you could see the whole donut making process. Once we got to the end they gave us free donuts for taking such an interest in the process. Fresh off the presses(or out of the boiling oil to be more precise). Mmmmm....

We got to Shabuya a bit early so most of the shops hadn't opened yet. We decided to go for a walk and ended up in the area with the highest density of themed love hotels in the city. A love hotel isn't as bad as you think (at least my understanding isn't). They are themed hotels that offer 'per night' or 'just a rest' options. The themes range from a Thailand beach resort to a South African safari. To me it initially sounded like you get a prostitute and head to one of these places. James informed me that the apartments are amazingly small here and a full family lives together so there is rarely private time to get it on(hence the Japanese population declining). These love hotels offer the parents time to get away for some themed private time. To get a room in a love hotel there is a vending machine where you get the key so they are fully discrete.

The main intersection in Shabuya is the combination of about 6 pedestrian areas that all go at once. When the pedestrian walk light changes it is a flood of humanity streaming from all sides. Somehow you just start walking and without being too much of a ninja you are at the other side safe and sound. I do feel that people tend to get out of my way a bit because I am substantially taller then them.

When the kids here get dressed up to go out it is funny. The guys are a cross between urban hip and Fonzie from Happy Days. Many of the guys have long hair bleached on the ends and have it poofy and done up. They walk with a swagger that means business. The girls seem to have a competition to see who can wear the highest heals and the shortest skirts.

The Japanese vending machine scene is amazing. There are vending machines everywhere in every city. They sell all sorts of flavored sugar water and alcoholic beverages. Some of them sell hot coffee drinks in the can. Throughout out journey we were looking for the mythical vending machines that sold used underwear but were unable to find them. We actually didn't see vending machines selling anything other than drinks and smokes. Sad days. My favorite drink to get from the machines was a yogurt flavored drink. It was thin like any other drink but it tasted like yogurt. Yummm on a hot day.

It seems like there are two national sports here: Shopping and Eating. They combine them by putting amazing food courts in the basements of all malls. The food courts are an easy way to get food as all the food is right in front of you. The language barrier can sometimes be difficult as most restaurants don't have english menus. You are trying to order by pictures which can be sketchy at times. We never had a problem getting food to put in our faces.

Breakfast on the other hand was a bit odd. The traditional/typical Japanese breakfast includes some miso soup, dried salted fish and these fermented soy beans. I tried it but couldn't get into it for breakfast. The fermented soy beans were the strangest. They had this stringy brown good surrounding them and when you tried to pick them up with chopsticks it stuck to the beans and the bowl and fanned out like something that I can't describe. I only had Japanese breakfast once. We had the American breakfast in the hotel or went to Mr Donut for the donuts that had the consistency of Mochi.

We were also looking for the fabled 'No Pants Shabu Shabu' but weren't able to find it. We did have regular Shabu Shabu which was good. Shabu Shabu is where they bring you out a boiling pot of broth on a flame and then bring you various types of meat to cook in it. 'No Pants Shabu Shabu' is where the waitresses aren't wearing underwear and the floor is mirrored. I feel like to get the most out of Tokyo you would need to know someone here and have them show you around.

One morning we got up at 4:30 to visit the largest fish market in the world. The Tsukiji Fish Market was an amazing spectacle. Acres and acres of these little motorized flatbed carts racing around at full speed. This is a tourist attraction but I think that it was one of the more dangerous ones that I have ever been to. They guys on the carts are not going to slow down if you get in their way. There were all different types of fish from little micro-shrimp to the giant tuna auction room. There were eels still kicking around and big squid just waiting to get roasted. We actually got there a little bit late at 5:45 but the place was still buzzing. Roberta had open toed shoes on which was probably a mistake as the fish juice was flowing out of every where. Surprisingly it didn't stink too much like fish in the market. The only time I noticed a fish smell was right when we got off the train. Luckily because Roberta is sensitive to smell because of the preggers thing. I think that the fish markets were one of the highlights of the trip for me.

Then we were off to try to get pushed onto a rush hour train. During rush hour on certain lines they become so packed that there are specific people hired to push everyone into the trains. We tried a bit to find a train to get pushed onto but we were always heading the wrong direction and didn't get the joy of being on a super packed train. Roberta, being pregnant, wasn't all that hip on the idea either. Rats, another reason to come back to Japan.

Final thoughts on Tokyo:

At points in the trip I switched between being in awe of Tokyo and being disgusted by the rabid consumerism and seemingly fake nature of the whole thing. It is hard to really put Tokyo into your normal box of understanding though. There are all sorts of pointy bits that will stick out the edges that just can't get to fit in no matter how hard you push. Kiwis consistently told me that when visiting the states that their first impression was that when Americans were being friendly and outgoing they thought they were being fake. I get the same feeling here. Can an entire society be this friendly, outgoing and happy? Through working 12 hours a day in a mad dash society can a person internally really be this cheerful? It is hard to understand if not impossible in such a short visit.

Maybe after I have had time to decompress from the trip I will post a follow up post with my thoughts.

One thing is for sure though. Japan has been one of my most amazing vacations ever.

Click the link for more pictures

Monday, September 07, 2009

Vienna trip

After 35+ hours in transit we are finally into our hotel room in Vienna. As crappy as 35 hours on airplanes and in airports sounds it really wasn't that bad. As long as you have sleeping pills and a bit of entertainment you are ok. We are going to read this post in 30 years and laugh about having to travel like this since we will just be teleporting everywhere.

Some thoughts on Vienna
- Definitely the most beautiful city. The city was halfway demolished during worldwar II and the city rebuilt itself entirely along the original urban design style due to some strict city planning regulations. I only dream of working in a town with vision like that. On the other hand after awhile it all looked the same, whereas perhaps a few more modern buildings thrown into the neighborhood would have given it some historical context for comparison.



-The one exception to the above comment - I can resolutely state with some matter of fact'ness' - every major city had a modern art building that looked like some big mega block plunked out of some post-80's architectural handbook. In Vienna I spent a good deal of time in the Museum Quarter and can say I didn't really like the exhibits at the modern museum, but the natural history museum had the biggest rock rooms - AWESOME!

-Changed hotels to the Intercontinental wear Adam stayed on his first trip to Vienna as it had better internet connections, windows to the street, air conditioning, beds basically everything was nicer.

-I took a bike tour and I had a really good time, would highly recommend it as the first point of call in Vienna. It helped me get my bearings around the city the day before we were scheduled to depart. They had really nice KTM city bikes to go with the miles and miles of bike lanes. I was in heaven, every time I get on a bike it's perma-grin!

- We went to a mozert concert with some opera singers. Vienna is famous for being Mozart's place of residence where he did most of his work as the first full time artist contracter (they were usually employed by kings, etc). The performers were all dressed up in period costumes. I suppose we were suppose to envision ourselves as being in the mozart time period, but I just confirmed in my head I do not like classical or opera singing regardless of costumes and quality.



- Vienna food was great and is known for it's weiner shnitzel. I had it once to try it out but my conscious kept reminding me of what veil was. Thereafter I stuck to the cheese, breads, sweets and coffee - mmmmm the food was so good there.



More Vienna pictures here.

The start of our trip and our stop in Hong Kong

About 9 months ago I went to Europe for a business trip and Roberta stayed at home. When the plan started to formulate to send me back to Europe for work it wasn't even discussed. Roberta was coming along as well. There is something amazing about the history in places like London and Vienna that the locals take for granted. Sometimes it takes a tourist to remind them of how stunning their home is.

Our trip from Auckland started very nice with Roberta hooking us up with a business class upgrade from Auckland to Hong Kong. 12 hours on a plane and being able to lay down flat is pretty nice.

When we arrived at the Hong Kong airport there were signs all over the place saying that if you were sick then you need to get a health check to stop the spread of the dreaded swine flu. Roberta and I both had a slight cough so Roberta ticked the box. They instantly pulled her out of line and gave her a good going over to make sure that it wasn't swine flu. It was funny seeing her with a face mask on. That would have made a good picture.

Our plan was to get into Hong Kong and accomplish about 5 things in our 6 hour layover. Mainly we just wanted to see the city and get a feel for what Hong Kong is. Unluckily we got there in the morning before any of the shops opened so the city was fairly dead.

We took the train to the city center. The good thing about Hong Kong is that all the streets have english signs. We walked aimlessly through the city for a while then found our way to the vintage tram which takes you to the top of the big hill behind the city. At the top there was basically a big mall that went up about 6 stories to a viewing platform at the top. It gave really good views that were almost 360 degrees. I got a picture of what looks like a nuke plant on a small island behind the city. Seems like a dangerous place for a power plant to me.

One thing that I really like about Hong Kong was that to get anywhere you could take these elevated pedestrian walkways so you didn't have to be in traffic. It made for a much nicer city experience.

Our dreams of Dim Sum were dashed on the rocks as we had to hop the train back to the airport before our place left without us. I must say that Hong Kong has the most amazing airport. It is stunningly huge and clean. There is a whole entertainement area with an IMAX and arcade.

Back onto the plane but this time in economy. Luckily I got some good sleeping pills from the doc before I left.

Click for more pictures

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Stonehenge and off to Vienna

It was my last couple days in the UK and I was staying with Jarlath. They gave me a great place to sleep and cooked some awesome food. They also enjoyed playing the train game and stomping me at it. It looks like they play trains often by their knowledge of the routes. A gracious host would have let the guest win at least on game.

The final day in London went well. As I was heading to the airport it started raining for the first time on the whole trip. The weather in Vienna is supposed to be sunny and warm. Booya weather goblins.

Here is a final shot of the backside of the London Eye.

From Weekend in Vienna

The last customer that we met with happened to be near Stonehenge so after the visit we drove some back roads to the rocks. On the way we drove by seemingly ancient old houses. One of them had a 4 foot thick thatched roof that looked amazing. I wish that I would have gotten a picture of it.

I must say that if you are ever in the area then Stonehenge is a visit you must make. There is something amazing about looking at 5500 year old stones that are a big mystery.
From Weekend in Vienna

I left Saturday morning for Vienna so I have the whole weekend to see the town before the customer visit on Monday. It is only about a two hour flight from Heathrow, we barely got off the ground before we were landing again.

I really want to go and see Fritzie's house. The crazy guy who locked up his daughter in the basement. I am sure that I can find someone to take me on a tour.
From Weekend in Vienna

The architecture in Vienna is really nice because in the old town part of downtown all of the buildings are about the same height. It adds a really nice symmetry and flow to the town. On the weekend it looks like they close most of the downtown area off to cars so it is pedestrian only. The streets were packed with people, I was getting a bit claustrophobic at points but I didn't freak out. I am a zen master.
From Weekend in Vienna

MOVENPICK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
From Weekend in Vienna

Since the streets were so wide all of the cafes had ample room for sidewalk seating. This cafe that I ate at was inside a butterfly house, literally. Through screens you could see all the butterflies in a sort of rainforest environment. They had hammocks out front that people were not giving up.
From Weekend in Vienna

I found an oddly large number of statues of naked people fighting with animals. Why do they hate animals so much?
From Weekend in Vienna

St. Andrews church had an amazing roof.
From Weekend in Vienna

Here is the hotel that I am staying at. It is in a great location just a short walk to all the action.
From Weekend in Vienna

Here is the full photo album from the first day:

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Third day in London

The third day in London consisted of lots more walking which is the way to see the city. I left the hotel without any particular plan except I had to be to the Globe Theater at around noon to meet Jarlath and the Family to go to the open day.

Walking down random streets you will see a sign on the side of a building that says "Thomas Edison lived here". Huh, now that is history. Its nice that it is preserved fairly well.

I started by walking up north and ended up at St. Paul's Cathedral. There was a nice grassy area next to the cathedral so I chilled out and read a book for a while.

From Third Day In London

After that I headed over the Millennium bridge to the Tate Modern. I was standing there looking at a painting in a random room in the Tate and I was thinking "Wow, this is really good". I looked over at the info sheet and yup, Pablo Picasso. It wasn't even protected by glass or anything.
From Third Day In London


The Globe Theater was really nice. They were having a free open day and doing all sorts of demonstrations. My favorite one was the demonstration of female sword fighting.
From Third Day In London

From Third Day In London

Now it is a week of work. But each day will be a new adventure of traveling through the city.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Second day

Today it was off to the Camden Markets and then my first shot at the British Museum.

Bradley mentioned that I should go to the Camden Markets. I had no idea what they were about, I didn't read anything, I just went. Off to the tube...

The underground system here is amazing. It seems like a model of how mass transportation should work. Also, when they say "Underground" they really mean it. When I arrived at the Holborn station on the underground I got off and found the exit. After a short set of stairs I got on my first escalator. It went up and up and up and up. Then I got off of that and found another sign that said "Exit". Turned a corner and there was another monster escalator. I must have been 12 stories under ground.

Also, the tube system here is amazing easy to understand. I think the hardest part was figuring out where to buy tickets and how they worked. And it wasn't difficult at all. I never had to wait more than a couple minutes for one to show up.

Anyhow, back on the Camden Markets. Off the tube I was thrown onto a street scape that I could only describe as a post-apocalyptic goth-punk mecca. Tons of stores that were selling leather body suits, not the BDSM ones, the "I am punker than you" type leather body suits.


From Camden Market


With no map I just started walking around checking stuff out. People were sort of filing into this area with a few stalls of things for sale so in I went. I just kept walking and walking and walking and there was no end to the little stalls with things for sale. Anything that you wanted for an Alt lifestyle was found here. From Candles to wind chimes, from Rave gear to Antiques, from jewelry to Japanese items. Hundreds upon hundreds of stalls. I was just completely overwhelmed. I realized that when I got back on the Underground to come back that I didn't buy anything.

From Camden Market


Back in on the tube and it was off to the British Museum. I was pretty beat by this point so I only spent about an hour in the museum before heading back to the hotel room to chill out. I will give the full details after I spend more time there.
From Camden Market

After the conclusion of day 2 I am really impressed with London although I don't think that I would live here. The cost of living is through the roof.

Here are all the the pictures:


Saturday, April 18, 2009

London - More than half way around the world

The First Day:

My trip to London is starting off great. The flights from New Zealand involved a 3 hour flight to Sydney, then an 8 hour flight to Singapore, then finally the long haul of 13 hours to London. Luckily I magically got upgrade to Business class on the flight from Singapore to London. Business class is much nicer than premium economy since the seats fold almost flat and I got to live out one of my life's dreams which was to ride on the top floor of a 747.

In the airport in Sydney there was one of the new Airbus A380 planes. From the side it doesn't look all that big, then when you see it from behind it looks like a monster. Supposedly my flight that I have back from London is an A380 on the days other than my flight.

I left New Zealand at 1:30PM and got into London 26 hours later at 6:30 AM. It sounds like hell but it wasn't really all that bad, maybe because I was in Business for the worst of it.

Check-in to the hotel room wasn't until noon so I had a half day to check out the sites. My first stop was Trafalgar Square.


From First day in London


Just on the walk from my hotel to the square the history was amazing. The buildings are mostly ominous big stone constructions which are ornately designed. The detail on them is amazing.

All of the sites that you have seen in movies or pictures are larger than life. When you see Westminster Abbey in the distance or Big Ben come looming out from around a corner it is an unmistakable experience.

From First day in London


I heard that the weather here was bad, they weren't wrong. Rainy and cold with a hint of depression in the air. People are just hoping for the sun to come out. But as Kevin always says "Hope is not a strategy". Now here is an optimist:

From First day in London


Buckingham Palace was pretty cool:


From First day in London


There was no shortage of pubs:

From First day in London


I think that the highlight of the day was Westminster Abbey. As most of you know, I am not the biggest fan of churches but I really wanted to go see Charles Darwin's grave. The abbey's construction is really a wonder of the world. The whole thing seems to be constructed as a monetary pissing match between rulers. All of the monuments to the leaders needed to be more grandiose than the previous one which caused an almost nuclear war type escalation waged with money.

I did get to stand on Charles Darwin's grave which was awesome. My brain couldn't comprehend the awesomeness of that.

From First day in London



Big Ben at noon:

From First day in London



Now my goal is to get my body clock back on the local schedule. I slept from 10:00 until about 3:00 so I am almost there.

Today I am off to a couple markets and then to start my expedition to the British National Museum.

Here is a slideshow of the rest of the pictures from the day:


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

X-Terra Triathlon


This weekend I'm heading down to the X-Terra Triathlon in Rotorua. I'm doing the swim (1000m) and the run (11k trail run). I don't have a mountain bike so a friend is going to do that bit. I'm easily in shape for both legs. I'm just a little bit nervous about riding my motorbike down to Rotorua as I haven't done a distance ride in sometime. I should be fine.

So for now I've banned myself from (kinda) high heels for the week as my arches have been killing me.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Bianchi Volpe 1 Yr Challenge Month 9

My Bianchi Volpe is still holding up quite well on month 9 of my one year bicycle challenge. Last month I had an accident and landed on the hood of a car and luckily did not get hurt. Landing on the hood of a car is a lot softer than landing on concrete. The Volpe took some damage to the head gear and that had to be replaced for $90 but had it been in a car the damage would have been a lot more expensive.

Adventure Cycles is now my favorite bike shop. The owner is fantastically patient with his motley crew of local budding young bike mechanics and a significant contributor to other community activities. I like supporting the next generation of bike mechanics, even if I had to teach them a few things about replacing head pieces, which isn't something that you do very often. (Un)Fortunately I'll have to ride across town to get to his new bike shop location.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Northland NZ Tour - 6 Highlights

I went up north with a friend who was determined to go to the tip of New Zealand. So we did just that this last 'extended' weekend. Here are the six highlights and all of the pictures:

1. Paihia (Bay of Islands)- nice little town with ferry access to Russel and is where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed aka birthplace of New Zealand. Would recommend the Pickled Parrot hostel. I could easily spend a few weeks in this area exploring.



2. KeriKeri - is a cute little cafe town and check out historic stone store.

3. Mahinepua - absolutely stunning views and lots of little coves and beaches to explore.


4. Coopers Beach - great place to bring parents and family.

5. Ahipara - Nice 'easy going' town. Good small surf break at high tide and access to 90 mile beach. Avoid at low tide as all the 4-wheelers take over the beach. Would not recommend the YHI in this town. Overpriced not too nice.

6. Cape Reinga - Must see the tip of NZ. Great views, good for a walkabout. Be warned it's a 'tapu' site so you aren't supposed to eat or drink at the park. Wasn't sure why there was a drinking fountain?


7. Rawraw Beach - The softest most beautiful white sand I've ever walked on. Period. I've spent a lot of time beach bumming and this sand was so soft because of all of the silica that naturally occurs in the area. Favorite NZ beach... for the moment.


View Larger Map

Well the last of my mad cartographic skills are now gone as illustrated with this rough sketch of our trip, from my ozone proof lips to your fingertips.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

National Party is messing up transport in Auckland now

Did you mark my words..?... oh wait I did...where I posted here about how National Party was doing OK but needed to do something more with sustainable transport.

Well they messed up by reallocating all of the money set aside for public transport to more state highways. They divert your attention away from where the money came from by saying it was through administration costs. This doesn't stack up because how can they have streamlined $420 million on administrative costs if they haven't laid anybody off? Yes they have probably saved some on paper letterhead costs but the organization still has the same people, just governed by a different board. That money is coming out of money set aside for public transport, and walking and cycling funding. They've conveniently left out that sound bite.

I understand that Mr. Keyes may be hesitant to try to 'force' people from their cars. But the Auckland Northern Busway is an example of a well run public transport system that is packed full of people who find it more convenient and cheaper to use than driving.

In the rural areas, yes, roads are better for transporting agriculture goods. But a rural solution cannot be imposed on a growing metropolitan area constrained by the harbours. It's just not going to work and now it's going to take another year for them to figure that out, just like it took the Labour party to figure this out . It's just a matter of time before the gas prices rise again and little ol' NZ will be at the bottom of the proverbial barrel.

The logic is by investing in more infrastructure New Zealand will boost the economy with jobs. Well this logic applies equally to public transport in the Auckland area. Auckland is geographically constrained. There are no more places to build roads so now they are just gold-plating the motorways. Well if that is the case they might as well gold plate them with cycleways.

Bring on the Auckland Royal Commission, as the system we have now is not delivering, no matter what party is in flavour. Maybe they'll be able to provide some leadership.

We're making our engagement rings


We're taking a jewelry making class at workshop 6 in Kingsland here's a picture of our first silver rings, pendants (with brown stone), engagement mock ring (copper silver) and the beginnings of our wedding bands. For our engagement rings we are essentially piecing together three different bands trying to keep it simple yet interesting.

The gold came from these mini 'bars' of gold that we stretched through a 'ringer'.

We bought the gold through there wholesaler, but it wasn't cheap like silver that's for sure.

Monday, March 02, 2009

4 Things the National Party is Doing Right

I'll just say it right now I did not vote for the National Party (it's the republican equivalent). I was very excited to vote at a poll in NZ, as I have always done mail ballots in Oregon.

So here are 4 things the National Party is doing right.

1. They didn't mess it up with a bad copyright law and made it onto boingboing.
2. They are reviewing the Resource Management Act. It's their version of land use planning, but it really sucks, as it doesn't achieve good results. Whenever you say that to planners in NZ they look at you like your a pariah. In their minds, the only other alternative is going to be horrendously bad. The problem is it takes twice as long to permit projects as most other countries and this costs MONEY! As I've been told, the RMA was the national party idea, and they can now fix it. ...nuff said
3. The National Party is talking about a national cycleway. A cycleway? That's right, while most local councils are cutting back on walking and cycling infrastructure, they are talking about a national cycleway.
3. The National Party is continuing to invest in broadband infrastructure, despite telecos 'promising' they can deliver better than the govertnment. Yeah right! Cell phone reception sucks and the pricing structure is really expensive. Last week vodaphone voicemail went out for a day. They are barely keeping the systems running as it is. They have no incentive to provide cheaper more reliable services. We had better internet connection in Costa Rica than New Zealand.

Some things that are questionable - They are increasing spending in State highways. However, these projects are mostly in rural areas where the permit process had been completed. Somewhat logical but they still need to find some ways to quickly support sustainable transport in Auckland. This is urgent.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Muriwai Beach first day of summer

 


Thanksgiving bbq at the beach in Muriwai

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Moving to New Zealand Plug

You may have missed it but some folks in Wellington posted a comment requesting to plug a new dvd about moving to New Zealand. They are from the east coast US and are now living in Wellington. Anything that helps skilled labour move to NZ is OK by me. Granted I've never seen this video so can't vouch for it. But if they wanted to send me a free dvd, and I'll check weather its good, and later post a nice review I would.

send to:
21A Cathedral Pl
Parnell, Auckland

Yes it's a shameless ploy for something free, but hey, I'm already in NZ and don't really need to watch it.

My first duo sport swim/run

I did a Stroke and Stride event at St. Heliers. 750m swim, 3 k run and I am pooped. I was really nervous about it, mostly about the transition and not having the flash gear, and having my blabs hanging out everywhere.

When I arrived at the race there were some real pros (totally buff hot people) walking around. Crap-oh-crap I thought. Well I walked around and eyed some ladies that looked more my style sat down and set out my stuff. Turned out they were talking about doing other runs/thons/tris etc or about how they got home drunk the other night. Whew! My kind of people.

I pushed it really hard for the 750m swim because I knew swimming was my better suite. What sucked is that I got out of the swim early in the pack and then just had everybody pass me on the run. I only passed two people running a - girl walking and an old man doing a half gnome like kiwi-shuffle (the guys start 20 minutes before the girls).

And I won a cool hat at the prize give away. I'm definitely going to do another event soon. I'll drag Adam along next time so I won't have to ride my bike home. That was the grilling bit. That added another 25km to my day on top of 8 hours at work. Work is definitely going to get in the way here soon.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Parenting Beyond Belief

For all the parents out there, I came across a really cool seminar for parents:

Participants learn effective ways to encourage religious literacy without indoctrination; help kids interact productively with a religious world; help kids develop active moral reasoning; weigh church-state issues in the public sphere; address sensitive issues with religious relatives using the principles of nonviolent communication; help children develop a healthy understanding of death and a joyful love of life; build a family atmosphere of fearless questioning and boundless wonder; and much more.

Here's the link: