Family Adventure Project and
Family on a Bike e-newsletter
Welcome to our
February 2005 update
We're now 2300km and three months into our journey.
While the first month was full of novelty, the second established
a routine. The third was tough and all of us lost it at some point
but we persevered and made it to the top of South Island. We're
all well, looking a bit wild with clothes a bit tatty, but feeling
pleased to have made it from one end to the other of New Zealand's
South Island on pasta power. We've now crossed the Cook Strait
and are looking forward to the challenges of the North Island;
apparently hills, hills and hills.
Before we left home, which seems like a very
long time ago now, we received an email invitation to join a classic
New Zealand mountain biking event, The Big Coast Ride. Organised
events like these are a great opportunity for families to get
out adventuring together and a good social scene too. We couldn't
resist the opportunity to throw away our baggage but couldn't
find a way to offload the kids. So, here's how two novice mountain
bikers got on towing toddlers and trailers on some of Wellington's
classic off-road trails at this family friendly introduction to
the Kiwi mountain bike scene.
If you prefer you can read this story online
where we've included a few pictures to accompany it. http://www.familyonabike.org/familyonabike/InSearchofTour/2005_02_14_bigsausage.htm
The Big Sausage:
A Family Challenge
"I can't do it. I just can't take any
"Oh come on. You're three quarters of the way there."
"My body just can't take it. I'm stuffed."
"Look just three more to go. I know you can do it. Just take it
slowly, one at a time."
"No I really have had enough. We've gotta stop."
"OK, you've done really well. Let's pack the last three in foil
and maybe we can manage them later."
It was lunchtime
on the second and last day of the Big Coast Ride; a two day, 109km
mountain bike challenge over the Rimutaka Incline (North of Wellington)
and around the windy South Wairarapa coast to Eastbourne. In a
field of just over 800 committed mountain bikers, numbers 804
and 805 (Family on a Bike) rolled in for lunch with the safety
sweepers but without kids. The boys had been confiscated for their
own safety and our sanity while crossing bouldery scree slopes
on the way to the lunch stop. By the time we arrived the volunteer
caterers had already served up nearly three thousand sausages
in an hour and were busy scraping the grease from barbeques and
tidying up. "Would you like some extra to take home?" asked a
friendly old guy trying to offload a tray of left-over bangers.
While we were coping OK with the race, the sausage challenge had
by now defeated us. We managed three at the registration evening,
three more at the pre-race breakfast, another three for dinner
on day one, but could not face the deadly trio offered at lunch
on day two. This event is for serious sausage eaters and we were
out of our depth.
"Seven and a half hours I reckon" said one official
to another as he nodded at us crossing the starting gate. The
electronic timer beeped and the clock was running. With strong
legs, no luggage and just the kids in the buggies, we settled
in amongst the pack confident we would finish and hoping we would
not be last. There was a party atmosphere as glittering wigs,
tandems, tag-alongs, choppers and the meanest of mountain bikes
began the challenge ride. As we climbed the Rimutaka incline,
the more serious bikers began to pass while fun-riders came alongside
for a chat or to offer words of encouragement. "Awesome" "Good
on ya" "Room for one more in there?" "That's the way to travel"
The boys hooted and waved. "It is going to take seven and
a half hours at this rate," said Kirstie exhausted from trying
to chat while climbing. Stuart knew better than to try and converse
with Kirstie on a hill.
Riders and bikes everywhere at a lunch
This classic ride follows the route of an old
railway through long, dark railway tunnels. Unnerving for the
riders but a lot of fun for little boys with head-torches and
horns. We wove an unsteady path across unseen ground in the pitch
black, headlights occasionally picking out tunnel walls as they
veered towards us. We followed the meandering light of the rider
in front, aiming for a pin-prick of light at the end of the tunnel
while praying that no-one would fall and start a game of sardines.
After 17km of ascent, we arrived at what looked like the scene
of a serious accident. Bicycles lying abandoned, sometimes three
deep, with trucks, landrovers and emergency vehicles all around.
People lay spread-eagled on the grass while Red Cross officials
in luminous orange boiler suits chatted intensely. This was Station
Summit, the morning tea stop, where Scouts tended giant tea urns
and refreshed tired legs.
Amongst the debris we found other families brave
enough to tackle this family friendly, entry level event. Hiding
behind a tree we found a soulmate, David, tending his four year
old daughter Gracie, long blond curls resting on a yellow pillow
inside her bright blue chariot, purple ribbons and pink tinsel
trailing in the wind. Five year old Campbell was the youngest
pedaller in the field, riding stoker on his Dad's tandem. Dad,
a bearded figure who would have looked equally at home in a gang
of Hell's Angels, offered us some advice about getting Matthew
to contribute some power. "Campbell loves it up there. He's been
riding over a year now and pedals all the way," he said proudly
about his son. Kids from 6 to 10 were on tag-alongs while those
over 11 rode solo. Most were with their parents in family teams;
younger ones riding with Mum and Dad while older ones asserted
their independence, shooting ahead with their mates.
challenges: Playing sandcastles on the trail
Never too young to contribute
Mountain bike riders face the triple
challenges of terrain, distance and elements. For many, the killer
on day one was the wind, the enemy of all cyclists. Out of the
800 cyclists, the Red Cross treated 47 for injuries, many of those
riders blown off their bikes in gale force Northerly cross winds.
The wind played shoot the duck, picking off riders as they entered
exposed sections of trail. One moment you'd be chasing a rider
up ahead, the next you'd be in the lead, passing a body forced
flat onto the grass verge, wheels spinning, feet still clipped
into pedals; hardened professionals baffled by their vulnerability.
The wind played havoc with the overnight camp
too, pulling tent pegs like teeth, ripping nylon like paper, turning
tents into kites and scattering sausages everywhere. A Dunkirk
spirit prevailed over the day's competitiveness as people helped
each other recover tents, keep toilet doors shut and retrieve
flying bread and sausages. As the sun set, a band braved the elements
and those with energy left danced in the wind.
No guy ropes, no tent
On events like this, family teams face an additional
challenge, that of keeping the family happily, coping with tiredness,
tantrums, mixed ability cyclists or restless passengers. Our kids
were up dancing until darkness, refreshed by an afternoon snooze
in their buggies. "Look Mum, a cow poo dance," laughed Matthew
as he imitated the ska dance of the band while compressing a cow
pat. The morning after they were shattered; as far they were concerned
the race was over and it was time for a lie in. While early riders
were setting off and late risers were queuing for breakfast, we
spent an hour trying to wrestle Matthew's thermarest from under
him and cope with a tearful tantrum. We were one of the last to
leave the campground and faced a day full of further challenge
having missed breakfast altogether. "One biscuit each," said Stuart,
"we'll fuel up at tea break.. it's only 20km."
"One biscuit each," said the official handing
out the rations at tea, some 2 hours later. Feeling pleased we'd
overtaken a few stragglers on the Ocean Beach climb, we were confident
a biscuit would see us through to lunch. "Can't be far," said
Kirstie, "probably half way, maybe another 10km."
Still in touch with the pack on the
Ocean Beach climb
We'd been warned the going would get tough but
were still in denial. We thought we'd seen it all in our travels
so far, but touring and mountain biking are very different disciplines
as we were about to find out. The trail looked flat and easy,
yet everyone was walking. It was hard to understand why, until
the sand gripped your wheels and your feet sunk into the deep
soft ground. With four wheels to push and the weight of the children
in the buggies, progress was slow to stop. For two kilometres.
Arms straining, feet slipping, wheels spinning and sliding, sweat
dripping, tongues cursing, we inched our way forwards with a little
help pushing from Matthew. "Why are we last in this race Dad?"
he asked as he puffed, panted and helped us along.
It looks straightforward but this sand
is a killer
You know you're struggling when you meet Sweeper
Sid, the cheerful yellow jacketed rider who sweeps for stragglers
at the back of the ride. Sid and his mounted marshals swept in
to help us out as we arrived at a long section of bouldery scree.
"It's going to be real bumpy for the kids along here. Would you
like us to give them a lift in a truck?" The boys were keen and
it seemed a safer option looking at the distorted terrain ahead.
They jumped happily into Ted's bright red Truck clutching Puppy
The Wuppy, Spiderman and a lollypop each. The quartet waved us
goodbye as we bumped and scraped our way through the rock slides.
We were the only riders in this alien landscape
but we were not alone. We began to feel looked after as men in
yellow jackets appeared from behind boulders to give us a push
on steep sections, haul the bikes through swamp or lift us over
a tricky ditch. A convoy of official vehicles sweeping the trail
followed behind, having as much trouble as we were negotiating
the terrain. We wondered whether Matthew and Cameron were faring
any better than we were. An hour and a half later, powered only
by two biscuits, we were reunited at a late lunch. "Going in the
truck was fun," said Matthew, "I liked the bumpy bits. Cameron
nearly hit his head." "I not hungry I had a lolly Mummy," said
Cameron looking disgustedly at yet another plate of sausages.
Helping hands get us over the bouldery
We crossed the finish line after a final gravelly
20km from Pencarrow Head to Eastbourne grinding against a blustery
coastal headwind. As the electronic timer beeped for the last
time, the Event Director sounded his car horn to mark the end
of the race. "Seven and a half hours" said one of the
officials as a round of spontaneous applause rippled around the
school field and the marshals quickly dismantled the finishing
gate before we could even get a photo. When you are trailing buggies
and transporting children, it's not the time or the winning that
matters but taking part. Well, we'd have to say that because we
came last, accompanied by David with Gracie in her buggy and a
relieved Sweeper Sid. Elated and exhausted we collapsed on the
field with a box of left over muffins donated by the caterers.
"Look, there's our luggage," said Stuart pointing out four lonely
bags transported all those bumpy kilometres for us. The kids ran
wild on the playground, celebrating their freedom and the end
of the race. "Why did we lose the race Dad?" asked Matthew. "We
won our race Matt, in our own way," said Stuart.
We finally made it.....four lonely
bags greet us... but where is everyone else?
The few remaining riders hopped into their cars
and headed for home. The masseurs and caterers packed and tidied
up around us. With the competition finished, we transformed ourselves
from hardened mountain bikers back into tired tourers. We were
pleased to have completed the challenge and grateful for the help,
support and professionalism of the whole event team who helped
us to do it. We are especially proud of our two boys for tackling
the event so cheerfully and pushing when it mattered. Families
are made of this.
We left the site last. It's habit forming. "Would
you like a sausage for your tea?" asked a kindly caterer as we
set off, "We've got loads left over." Matthew pulled out a little
tin foil parcel from his buggy. "No thanks, we've got some,"
said Kirstie. As the caterer drove off laden with sausages, we
tossed our foil package in the bin and headed off for a celebratory
pizza. No pepperoni.
In the news
The media interest in our tour and project
continues. Since our appearance in the Southland Times way back
in November, we've been featured in The Christchurch Press, had
a mention in the Wellington Dominion Post, and spent an enjoyable
half hour on National Radio (RNZ) being interviewed on their afternoon
programme. Each time the coverage has generated a lot of interest
in the project and some good leads for other families to make
contact with, meet and interview. We hope over the next few months
to start publishing some stories about what other families get
up to. If you have a story you'd like us to feature or know of
someone else with one, then do get in touch.
What's new on
A few people have wondered why they aren't
getting more emails from us. Well, we don't want to clog up your
inbox with things you may not want to read. The majority of our
journaling is posted directly onto the website and is not emailed
So if you want to know more about what
we've been up to, take a look at our postings from the road page
Since the last email we've posted stories
about: how we gatecrashed a beautiful honeymoon (The
Wedding Party), what happened when it all got too much ('Boiling
Point' and 'Breaking
Point'), and how Cameron keeps losing it ('Lost
again' and 'Another
Lamby to the Slaughter'). Check back regularly and keep up
with what we're up to.
We're continually touched by the unsolicited
kindness of the people we meet through this project. Big thanks
this time to Lou, Bruce and Dean who shared one of their cows
with us and gave us our first experience of a waterbed; Sam and
Helena who serenaded us, served us pasta and contributed to a
mighty hangover; Suzy, Andrew and Angus who treated us to a picnic
in paradise; Simon Bannister for sharing his thoughts and experience
on mountain biking with a baby; MSR and their New Zealand distributor
for fixing our stove when it fell apart; Steve Hart and all the
Big Coast crew who shepherded us around theWellington Coast.
Keep in touch
If you have any suggestions for things
for us to see and do, or you'd like us to personally deliver a
message to friends or relatives, drop us a line and we'll see
if we can follow it up. It's always nice to hear from people so
don't hesitate to e mail or give us a call. We still welcome any
contributions you have for the web site and your ideas for things
we might write about. Our appeal for a publisher on RNZ fell on
deaf ears so if any of you know anyone..
You can send us a message by replying
to this email newsletter, by mailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org
or by calling us on our mobile +64 (0)21 203 2392! Our technology
pannier means we're contactable throughout our travels. We'd love
to hear from you.
And that's it
from us for now as we head North towards Cape Reinga
Until next time,
Stuart, Kirstie, Matthew, Cameron, Puppy The
The Family on a Bike
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