Distance Traveled: ~335km (Trip total: 2905 km)
Today has been a simple, but very enjoyable day so far, thanks to meeting some more fantastic people. I sleep in late, and check out of my hotel just before the 10am cutoff. The weather is gray again this morning, and I set off under a heavy ceiling of clouds, navigating city traffic as I get onto the highway.
While I’m in the neighborhood of Wellington, the highway really is a highway with multiple lanes and a good deal of traffic. I feels a lot like I-95. Nothing too impressive to report here, other than it’s fun to see all the makes and models of cars that are not sold in North America. Pugeots and Alpha Romeos, but also recognizable brands like BMW and Toyota. Man are there a ton of Toyotas on the road out here. More by any other manufacturer by a huge margin.
Once I get past the suburbs of Lower and Upper Hutt, the highway turns back to single lane and weaves up through foggy mountains. Visibility is reduced and the air and road is damp. There are signs that warn motorcyclists specifically to take care.
Despite the tricky conditions, I’m feeling pretty mellow and happy. BMW, in their infinite wisdom, saw it as prudent to fit Olga with heated handgrips. They warm my fingers and palms and make the ride much more enjoyable. Sometimes it’s the little things that make a big difference.
Eventually I make it through the winding, murky, and misty haze, and rumble through a small town and give Olga some more gas. On my way out a spot a street sign and pull over immediately. The name is familiar.
I spent the first 6 years of my life living in a white house on Clifton Avenue. Only this Clifton Ave was in Connecticut. Still, this street sign is the only other Clifton Ave I recall ever seeing.
As I travel on the weather gets sunny again and I ride through rather open but plain looking farmland of plowed fields and gently rolling hills. In another small town I decide to stop for some coffee, and run into a fantastic new friend.
This is Geoffrey, spelled the same way my name is spelled. He’s an Englishman out on a World Tour. Seriously. He’s been away from home for 8 months so far as he’s bikes his way through most of Europe, Scandanavia, Russia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Korea, and Japan so far. He’s now down in NZ for a while, and will be in Australia next.
Geoff is kind of retired now after being an auto-mechanic for most of his life. The kids are all grown up and he has an arrangement in place with his family that he can go travel the world as long as he comes home for a while once a year. We share stories, though he understandably does more of the storytelling. He says traveling solo is the only way to really be open to meeting new people, and offers countless examples of the ones he’s made across the face of eurasia. He also recommends I ride a lot now, then marry a biker girl, get the kids raised and off with, then go cruising around again. Sounds like a pretty good plan to me!
His trusty steed is a very weathered but still standing Suzuki 350. The engine is making kind of a nasty knocking sound and he’s got a mechanic in Wellington lined up to take a look at it.
It was such a chance meeting, but a very welcome one in the end. We’re trading places, in a sense. He started the day in Napier and is heading to Wellington. I started the day in Wellington and am heading to Napier. The law of conservation of Geoff’s is running strong!
Geoff was a true pleasure to speak with over some coffee and some war stories. I give him my card and invite him to contact me if he’s ever in the US. We trade website URL’s. He’s doing an online travel blog thing too, but it’s not day to day. In fact, he admits that he’s a few months behind. His website is: http://www.motopangaea.com
Eventually we part ways and ride off in different directions. I discover that not a kilometer down the street is yet another brewery! Beer makes every day better! This brewery is for the Tui brewing co. and I’ve seen their logo and beer all over, but have yet to try some. Therefore, it is my duty to stop and pay my respects.
Its admittedly not much to look at from the outside, but inside is a neat gift shop, a bar, and some nice young ladies staffing it. The tell me that the brewery in back produces somewhere around 2,000,000 liters of beer a week!
I just taste a few samples of the different beers on tap and make pleasant conversation, omitting the real drinking until I have nowhere to be. I buy a neat little banner from the gift shop as a souvenir.
I ride on through more farmland and scattered vineyards. It’s pretty, but it’s not the South Island.
As I get into the home stretch, maybe 50 km from Napier, the weather gets gray again, which is kind of a shame. The main drag leading into Napier is very pretty, lined with tall well groomed trees on a straight boulevard that runs right along the water.
I have to say, the room I have here is one of the classiest ones I’ve had so far. Not only does the mini fridge come with beer,
But my room also has this:
If there are any attractive and available 20-something year old girls who ride motorcycles in Napier this evening, come to the Nautilus hotel. Just follow the trail of rosepetals and the sound of smooth jazz.
I fire up the tub for a nice hot soak after a pretty long day on the bike, and then go strolling around the town. I find that the streets are quite quiet, and I don’t see many people. Those that I do run across are usually a decade older than me or more. After poking my head in a few bars and getting a few beers and some food, I’ve yet to meet that dream kiwi girl who rides a Triumph. Oh well. The princess is in another Castle.
I have a very short route tomorrow, so I’ll be sticking around in Napier through the morning and hopefully getting a ton of shots while the weather is clearer. I hope everyone is alive and well back home.