Riders in the Mist

Date: Sunday 10 March 2013
Route: Reefton to Murchison
Distance: 86km plus 4 around town
Weather: mist in morning, very hot in afternoon
Accommodation: Kiwipark motel and holiday park cabin

Our first 30km this morning was in thick mist. I had to take my glasses off as they became too wet to see out of. I was nervous because the visibility was so bad.
Joe caught up with us and we rode together for a few hours which was companionable.

The first 50km of the ride was easy, until we reached the upper Buller River gorge. Here we had lots of up an downs through the gorge beside the river. The river is large and green blue with steep green mountains on either side.

We arrived in Murchison just as it was getting really hot – the heat this afternoon has been almost unbearable. We stayed here a couple of weeks ago on our way down to Springs Junction.

A Long Ride

Date: Saturday 9 March 2013
Route: Hokitika to Reefton
Distance: 122km
Weather: hot and sunny
Accommodahtion: Old Nurses Home Backpackers – recommended

Today was the longest ride of the trip. The fact that there were no major hill climbs made it do-able – however I was exhausted at the end of the day.

We stopped at Greymouth outskirts when we saw a church fair. We had scones and bought a date loaf and biscuits. The road followed the Grey River and the main railway line from Greymouth onwards. We passed some historical coal mining works on the river.
We passed through farmland and many small towns.

Our ride was extended by Kris breaking a spoke – this one broke in the spoke nipple, so we had to take the whole tyre off (luckily we had a spare nipple). It took around an hour causing us to be on the road after 3pm – the hottest part of the day.

It became more wooded and hilly just before Reefton. Reefton is a cute little town and our accommodation is in a large, restored nurses home. Shared bathrooms, but with lovely large well equipped lounge and kitchen, leading out to a large garden.

We felt too tired to shop and cook, so we went to the pub in the local hotel that was advertising a “world famous roast” – it was very good. Kris had the large and had to share some with me, as I had a medium roast. We also enjoyed the Speights dark beer. There was a cute bar cat that was so confident he slept stretched out across the bar counter.

We ended up watching the Super 14 rugby again – the Cheetahs (Free State) against Invercargill. The Cheetahs won. We sat beside a party from Wellington who had also been to the Hokitika wild food festival and had a good banter.

We also met Joe from the Chatham Islands and his support part again – they were eating at the same pub.

Kiwi bicycle tourism

We have toured the South Island by car many years ago but after recent NZ marketing we decided to tour the South Island by bicycle.
Basically, touring cyclists require an environment where you can cycle anywhere safely and where accommodation is readily available. NZ fails dismally as a cycle destination.

In Europe a lot of the routes have separate roads for cyclists.
In NZ none of this exists (of course). The next option would be to have shoulders on the roads. Most roads in NZ do not have road shoulder. The situation in NZ is much more dangerous than no shoulders. Perversely the dangerous roads with little visibility have no shoulders and the straight roads have shoulders.
This sets a dangerous precedence as motorists may be conditioned into thinking that their behaviour to cyclists can assume shoulders, exactly in scenarios where it should not.

The majority of drivers are well behaved towards cyclists. Unfortunately, some trucks think they own the roads (might is right), and demonstrate this by driving past you as close as possible.

Cycle road planning in NZ is hilarious. There are some goat tracks that have been created, or have been rebranded as cycle tracks. So the local tourist office may typically advertise paid pickups and transfer of luggage. This may be good for the occasional family outing on mountain bikes, but if you attempt this on a typical haul of 80 km between accommodation possibilities, you will be midway, repairing your bicycle when it gets dark.
It seems like the NZ bicycling strategy has been planned by a 10 year old. Sorry, I have to apologise. A 10 year old would do much better.

I would advise cycle tourists to avoid New Zealand.

Tending the economy

An economy is an infrastructure for growth similar to a garden. Economies need regulation (tending) just like a garden does.

Whilst establishing a civilisation we humans have made a choice to order our environment. So its is contradictory that some people advocate an unregulated economy.

A self-regulatory (untended)   garden (economy) will let unwanted plants prosper. Weeds will take over and the most useful plants and fruits die out in untended gardens.

The flipside is also true. A good gardener (economist) will not be heavy handed on pesticides. The garden ecosystem require spontaneous interaction between organisms.

Market forces” is just another name for greed that must be constrained in a civilised society.

The garden is used as a comic metaphor in Being There.
The terms “Capitalism” and “Socialism” introduce ideological prejudices into viewpoints on money and equity .

Fix the NZ exchange rate by NOT using interest rates

We can get the exchange rate down by having a negative balance of payments with the rest of the world.

Unfortunately a negative balance of payment causes debt that has to be paid off!
The solution is to invest in large capital projects and infrastructure that will provide a return on investment.
We go into debt and get delayed payback over one or two decades (the return on investment gradually pay off our debt).  In the first decade our exchange rate will go down and we will stimulate our job market through a negative balance of payments.

The caveat with the above strategy is that we have to be smart when we select capital projects (investments).

The crazy thing is that the current New Zealand  government (John Key and friends) is doing exactly the opposite. The government is hiking up the exchange rate by signalling that we are going to sell our assets (achieving a good balance of payments, but destroying our ability to export).  As a double whammy the income from sold assets will go elsewhere, causing a negative balance of payments in the future.

The only way to have a healthy economy is to have one that produces, and for that we need infrastructure.

Maximum wage

One of the things that is bothering me is obscene salaries. Some CEO’s earn more in a day than many people earn in a year.

We can resolve this by legislating that organisations may not pay anybody ten times  more than any wage in their organisation.
So a CEO can earn no more than ten times the minimum wage paid by their organisation.

This may also be the most effective way to lift wages above the minimum wage.

Fresh horses

When a knight travels and his horse gets tired, the often try to exchange the horse for a fresh one in the next town.
There comes a time when the bicycles need a lot of maintenance. The most prominent maintenance issues were the worn chains and tires that needed replacing and my saddle that was cracking up. If I had the time I would have bought new components, and fixed the bikes. I had the cunning plan to by-pass the maintenance by buying the cheapest suitable touring bikes available. Bicycles are reasonably cheap in Europe.

We look for the following things in a touring bike

  • bicycles with a design that facilitates road-side maintenance. They should have generic parts that are easily replaceable.
  • durable wheels (minimum of 36 spokes. 36 spokes are standard in Europe, but the standard in New Zealand is a poor 32 spokes),
  • simple design that leads to a light bike (for example shock absorbers are heavy and impedes the carrying capacity of a bicycle)
  • adequate frame mounting points on the bike for bike rack and other components.
  • large clearing between the wheel and the frame to enable the bike to operate with a broken spoke
  • comfortable saddle (Jenny voters for a molded Gel seat)handlebars of suitable height and comfort or handlebars that are adjustable.
  • bike stand (Jenny’s requirement)

.

So we got some cheap bikes that improved the number of spokes from 32 to 36 with adequate space between the wheel and the bike frame. Unfortunately the frames are not as good as the old ones. They have few frame mounting points and we are having to make do with rubber straps to mount our water bottles.
We transferred our pedals and Jenny’s molded Gel saddle across to the new bikes. (we obviously also moved our pannier carrying racks across). We added a bike stand for Jenny and adjustable handlebars for me.
The new bikes are more comfortable because they have thicker tires. With Jenny’s comfort saddle she has to take care not to doze off. The thicker tires have noticeably more road resistance, making the bikes a bit slower.
All in all this was a quick and dirty solution that affords us the pleasure of new bikes for not much more than the cost of the maintenance.
These bikes are not a long term investment and I am already concerned that my bearings in the pedal housing may be faulty because they are making a noise.
We will leave four bikes in France (unless we decide to get new bicycles on our next tire change).

I wonder if the old bikes we left next to the bike shop will be taken care of by someone else?

Cycling on Spanish roads

Spain does not have independent cycle roads. Spain provide roads with shoulders that are normally adequate for cycling. This works well for thoroughfares, but is dangerous in areas where there are lots of intersections. In such intersections cyclists often have to cross against fast moving traffic.

Whilst driving through Spain it is obvious that there has been a huge recent investment in road infrastructure. Many large graded highways have been built and preexisting roads are often relegated to service roads to these highways that then become the roads designated to cycling. Whilst these roads are often good, they are not consistently available, indicating that the Spanish road infrastructure upgrades were not designed with cycling in mind, again making entry and exit to cities dangerous for cyclists.

The cycle infrastructure is much better than New Zealand. New Zealand has no cycle infrastructure.