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Sliding into Smash Palace

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    • Town/City: Wellington
    • Bike: BMW R80 G/S, R100GS & M72 Sidecar, Gilera Runner ST200
    • Rank: 1200cc Rider


    So the over arching intent was to take slidecars down to the Smash Palace bike show, through as many interesting roads as we could manage.

    Things quickly went sideways after a storm through the Molesworth / Rainbow. That caused the Clarence River to shift in it’s bed, taking out Tophouse Rd in a couple of places, & wiping out bridge access at Acheron. That same storm caused slips thru the Rainbow, which meant off season access wasn’t possible. So a moving feast at the planning stage.

    The crew:
    Me, Box’a’bits – 1986 R80 (100) mono, & a LHS velorex sidecar
    Ken, Dnepr repowered with R100 engine & drivetrain. RHS sidecar
    MD, 1971 Ural 650 repowered with R100 engine & drive train. RHS sidecar
    Bill, 2008 Ural 750 2WD, RHS sidecar
    Norbert, R60/6 (100) with LHS Ural sidecar

    Day Zero Wed 1st Nov:
    Met the crew at the Bluebridge terminal at 10.15pm (we were booked on the 2.30am sailing). An early boarding time potentially allows you to sleep through loading & sailing – I guess mainly aimed at the transport industry.

    Loading the sidecars was relatively straightforward – a calm sailing was expected, & sidecars don’t (generally) fall over. A couple of rubber stops under the wheels, & a cursory tie down, & we’re done.

    We’d all booked cabins on the Straitsman, with a view towards an 6.00am start from Picton. The cabins were nice, albeit small, with individual ensuites. Unfortunately it didn’t work so well for me. The squeal of truck tires loading kept me awake until just before the sailing. I didn’t hear the safety announcement that was piped into the cabins though. Then they woke us again early, so all up 2½ – 3 hrs sleep for the night.

    Day One Thurs 2nd Nov – Picton to Hamner Springs
    We took Queen Charlotte Drive thru to Havelock, which was entirely pleasant with no tourist traffic at that time in the morning, & no real rush.

    At Havelock the Singapore Army was on exercise, & viewed the Ural with suspicion. Big breakfast at a cafe.

    The Whangamoas had a few trucks on it & we also ran into the first of the numerous South Island road works.

    Called into The Pacific Motorcycle Co in Richmond to see Ron & Andy. They have an amazing workshop, & quality output that just needs to be seen. They were building up an R80 as a beach cruiser, a reworked GSX1200, and various flat trackers & what looked to be a GS450 dragbike with supercharger. Amazing stuff. They’ve been using their CNC machines to make up one off parts.

    Fuelled at Richmond, then over the Hope Saddle. First stop was at the junction of SH6 & 65 to check directions. Was rushed by fan-girl ambulance staff looking for photos. Ah, celebrity lifestyles of the not-so-rich & famous. Sidecars are like that…

    We were swarmed by midges at Lake Rotoroa, but took some time to cook up some lunch – sausages on bread, & plunger coffee. My stove didn’t seem to want to start cleanly, so there was a fire hazard for a bit there.

    Then across the Braeburn track. Four shallow fords through there – all concrete bottomed. That was in pretty good nick.

    Through Murchison (starting to worry about gas here), huge dust through Matakitaki Rd (but MD very nicely allowed me to go first) & up into the Maruia Saddle. Very scenic, meadering through beech forest. Another four fords, this time unformed, & a bridge.

    The guys topped up at the top of the saddle from their jerrycans – I didn’t have one.

    Rather than just follow the Shenandoah Highway to Springs Junction, we took Westbank Rd on the other side of the river. That was gravel & kept us away from the truck traffic.

    Fuelling at Springs Junction, & I was really happy to find I was using two litres less fuel for the same mileage as the others. Lightweight sidecars rule.

    Lewis Pass, then into Hanmer Springs for the night. Stayed in the Alpine Adventure Holiday Park in a kitchen cabin – $27 ea. All linen provided. A few whiskeys to pep up the old fellas, then into the Saints Cafe Restaurant & Bar for dinner. I got the ribs, special of the day, came with a pint of tap beer. Delicious. MD & Ken opted for a slab of raw pork (cook it yourself) on hot rocks. Dunno. More work that I felt like, but it takes all sorts to make the world go round. The Chefs must have been happy. High profit expensive dish, no work, & no returns on that lot. Wins all round.

    Norbert had disappeared off to the Hot Pools. The balance of us decided to leave that for the return trip.

    • Town/City: Wellington
    • Bike: BMW R80 G/S, R100GS & M72 Sidecar, Gilera Runner ST200
    • Rank: 1200cc Rider

    Fri 3rd Nov – Hanmer to Chch.

    From Hamner we headed towards Cheviot, linking onto Kaiwara Rd. That reminded me a bit of Admirals Rd, in Wairarapa – almost farm road, with grass starting to grow in the centre of the track. The road sweeps up onto a hillside, giving views back down onto the Waiau Valley. On the other side the road looks to have been hand hewn through a hill. There was another ford there.

    That linked into Random Spur Rd, which is a non maintained road (farm track) running to Cheviot.

    I got caught in the 1st set of ruts there – started to head into them, then changed my mind as to the best line. That of course got me cross rutted. The thing with sidecars is that they are too heavy to pull out of things like that yourself, so it’s good to be riding with others. I’d heard a sound like something breaking when I stopped suddenly, but later wasn’t able to find what that might have been. In Chch I noticed one of the link bolts was MIA.

    Of course the RHS chairs behind me made that rut look too easy.

    Lunch at The Paddock Cafe in Cheviot.

    Droned up SH1 towards Christchurch, getting bloody hot, but took time out to visit Alan & Andrea at Kiwi Motorcycle Rentals. They are located in Leithfield, just outside Amberley. They stock Heidenau & Shinko Tyres, & is where I sourced the rear tyres for the tug (& Gus’s last set of 805s). Impressive set up, which I totally failed to take any photos of.

    The final stop of the day was in Christchurch, at the Mike Pero Motorcycle Gallery. A collection of 70’s & 80’s race & race replica bikes.

    Took 2 units at the Amber Holiday Park on Blenhiem Rd, in Chch.

    Burgers & a few beers at Smash Palace. Norbert very kindly chaffeured me there & back – my 1st time in someone else rig. I could definitely get used to that. Very relaxed.

    Smash Palace is a result of the earthquakes, & is spread over a demolished building site. The bar is a large converted bus. The loos are in a temp building, & I didn’t see where the kitchens were. We arrived in the middle of the after work Friday Crowd. Later in the evening there was a queue for entry. It was loud. You couldn’t get away with that if there were apartments near. The place must make a bomb financially.

    • Town/City: Wellington
    • Bike: BMW R80 G/S, R100GS & M72 Sidecar, Gilera Runner ST200
    • Rank: 1200cc Rider

    Sat 4th Nov, Chch:

    Up earlyish to get to the bike show at New Brighton Beach. Unfortunately the cleaning fairies hadn’t been to polish up the sidecars, so we guessed we’d just have to take them as they were – covered in dust, mud, & cowshit.

    The bike show also included ‘demonstration’ beach racing for girder forked bikes, running under pier. Hand change & foot clutches made some of these a handful on the beach.

    The Quake City Rumblers were out in force.

    Best of British…

    Replica boardtracker, self made

    The runner up Euro Trash, next to the Euro Trash winner…

    A VW show was also set up just across the road from us, so plenty to keep the automotive enthusiast happy.

    I picked up a reasonable sunburn during the day. Should have used subscreen, but the day started out cloudy.

    We also had a poke around the Army & Outdoors shop in Woolston, before a few quiets at The Brewery.

    There was an awards night back at Smash Palace, so after dropping off the sidecars, four of us piled into a taxi so a few more beers wouldn’t result in a discussion with the nice policeman. Norbert won the Eurotrash award for his rig, but wasn’t present at the awards, so that went to the runner up. We all jointly won furtherest travelled, & were awarded with a small trophy & the ladies leopard skin brief ‘flags’ that were used for marshalling the demonstration beach racing – which would have made excellent chopper flags (if we had anyway to attach them).

    Norbert & I left earlish – I squeezed into a spare helmet which I couldn’t do up, no jacket, no gloves – but stylish. Safety third…I did wonder as to the legality of that when the nice policewoman was travelling with us back to the camp.

    • Town/City: Wellington
    • Bike: BMW R80 G/S, R100GS & M72 Sidecar, Gilera Runner ST200
    • Rank: 1200cc Rider

    Sun 5th Nov. Chch to Hanmer:

    Three riders didn’t seem quite as enthusiastic this morning. Don’t know why.

    Anyways, the plan was ride out to Oxford, then Lees Valley, through McDonald Downs Station, & back to Hanmer.

    Part way along the motorway, Norbert realised he’d left a jacket back at camp, so peeled off to retrieve that. The rest of us toddled along at a very moderate pace, doing mainly straight gravel roads, & inhaling dust. The winds were up so riding wasn’t as pleasant as a sunny day might have made it.

    Norbert caught us just as we were deciding to coffee at Cafe 51. That had great food, but was a little disorganised presenting it all together – I got my Latte just as everyone else was leaving.

    Lees Valley was a little potholed, & the wind was annoying. Once we reached the flats, rain clouds started rolling over the hills, & we started getting skiffles of driven rain – annoying & unpleasant.

    The Okuku River had flooded in the past few weeks, so the ford was gone. Needed someone to re-bulldoze the access & exit.

    While Norbert’s bike looks like it was about to ford, that was only one branch of the river – we later turned it around & rode it back out of that initial attempt.

    MD was having an issue with starting. That made him reluctant to try fording, as he thought retrieving the sidecar after a stall would be difficult. It turned out that it was the load shedding relay, which he eventually located, & bridged.

    Ken was also having starting issues which he intially thought was charging, but has subsequently turned out to be issues with a new Valeo starter motor. That’ll be a warranty claim.

    In the meantime Norbert, & I scouted for simpler fords. The issue was that the river had broken into 2 or more channels, & some banks were just too steep to use. Eventually we agreed a path & I went first, given the R80 is the shortest of the five. I stalled a few times but made it across okay with assistance. The others then followed, some making it all look too easy.

    Once we were all on the other bank the rain came in again.

    I had the final electrical issue – the batteries died in the GPS (when it was raining). So that was three – we should be good for now.

    GPS up & running again, we found the turn off to MacDonald Downs Station. That was no farm track. Effectively it was a scenic dirt road super highway. We took that to avoid having to go back down to the Ashley Forest & back down to SH1. The rain eased off through here, so we had a few muesli bars in leiu of lunch, then gravel roads though to Culverden & Hanmer.

    Stayed in the same cabin, but I cooked (not going back to that Pub). Then off to the Hot Pools. We got bailed up by an Alaskan Ural rider. I have to say he came across as a bit brash. His introduction to the group was ‘who are the Uralistas & who has the barstardised BMW’. I’m guessing he was referring to my bike as he referenced the ‘Flying the chair’ website stickers on the rear. He perceived that we gave a ‘cool’ response, which didn’t impress him. He then carried on the conversation on farcebook (forgetting it may be somewhere we might also inhabit), so didn’t exactly cover himself in glory with us.

    Weather reports were warning of another adverse weather event. Ken & Norbert needed to be home for work, & had always planned on going back Monday. Bill & Michael decided to accompany them which left me to do – well whatever I wanted…

    • Town/City: Wellington
    • Bike: BMW R80 G/S, R100GS & M72 Sidecar, Gilera Runner ST200
    • Rank: 1200cc Rider

    Mon 6th Nov. Hanmer to Kaikoura:

    With the rest of the boys heading for home, I decided go to Kaikoura for a bit of a look around. I’d been going to do that from Cheviot on the way to Chch. In the end I was pleased I hadn’t done that – that ride was just too hot, long, & boring.

    Took the inland road, with an intent to come back in a circuit via SH1 & the Hundalees. Unfortunately when I reached Waiau, signage indicated SH1 was closed for 5 days. Talking to the local cafe owner, normally they closed the roads on 3 day rotations – when the inland route was open, SH1 was closed & vis-a-versa. Pity. There goes that plan.

    The road itself wasn’t in bad nick – but you could definitely see where slips & other deformations had caused issues.

    One place had a new section of road dropping down into a stream bed, & then back up to the original road. You could see where the old road was on the other side of the stream – until it wasn’t…

    Followed a logging truck heading for Kaikoura, & wondered about that – until I realised the trains are running again, & I’m guessing that it was probably headed for Lyttleton.

    Kaikoura itself seemed relatively normal, except for the raised seabed.

    I went as far north as traffic control would let me. Lots of activity – nothing to see. Buzzed by a helicopter doing sluicing work. Loads of NCTIR utes & trucks.

    The wharf & the old Whale Watch haul out areas were a bit high & dry, as were the Kaikoura heads.

    It amused me to see a new boating ramp almost being tunnelled into the rocks near the old wharf.

    Back to Hamner for the night. Stayed on a $25/night cabin, no power (the switches in the next picture don’t do anything), but a solar light – worked well for me instead of needing to put up the tent.

    Talked a Dutch couple out of driving up to Lake Tennysen in their people mover, on their way through to the Rainbow Station road. Just because Google Maps says you can…

    • Town/City: Wellington
    • Bike: BMW R80 G/S, R100GS & M72 Sidecar, Gilera Runner ST200
    • Rank: 1200cc Rider

    Tues 7th Nov – Hanmer to Murchison:

    Beautiful start to the day, but the weather forecast was for a ‘severe weather event’ in the evening, with winds rising during the afternoon.

    I’d been keen to look at the Molesworth, so rode up there in the morning. Jollies Pass was rough, but once down in the Molesworth it was just gravel road. Fun sliding on that (at the mandatory 50 kph of course).

    The Acheron bridge has had no remedial work completed yet. You could see where larger vehicles had created a ford, but that was far too deep for motorcycles – green, swift, & no sign of the bottom. The access repair will need to include a river diversion, or the access will wash out again at the next flood.

    Back the way I came, & up Tophouse Road. The Clarence River washouts have been repaired, but were rough to cross. I discovered how to do 180 degree brake turns here, when I decided I wanted a photo of something. Exciting. Wouldn’t want to do that at high speed. Heavy corrugations in this side of the Molesworth.

    The weather started closing in, with the winds picking up & some threatening clouds scudding across, but it didn’t actually coming to anything, aside from a few sprinkles on the visor.

    Visted Lake Tennyson – typically cold & uninviting.

    Crossed Island Saddle. The climb up to that had been rutted up in a few places by heavy traffic. There was still pockets of snow on the top.

    Went up as far as the Severn Sedgemere track. That had a big ‘go away’ padlock on it, so there went that alternative route.

    Given limited gas, I turned around just after that point, & headed back to Hamner.

    Coming down off Island Saddle….

    Did a few of the heavy vehicle fords on the way back. I mean it’d be rude not to after they went to all that effort of putting them in..

    Late lunch at Springs Deli Cafe. Coffee & wedges. Good quantity, but needed a sauce (aside from sour cream) to give it some zing.

    Lewis Pass was WINDY. To the extent that the wind got under the bike at one point, & I swear I could have turned the bars from lock to lock without any impact on direction. Wouldn’t have wanted to have been on a solo. Worst fuel consumption of the trip. Difficult going playing with trucks too.

    On the top of the pass, struck up a conversation with a stop go person’s supervisor. He’d had a Velorex on a K100 in the past. He commented on damage to the mudguard, which I didn’t pay too much attention to at the time.

    Springs Junction suffered from the wind picking up the grit from the large unpaved areas, & driving across the carpark. Unpleasant. But I needed a stop, & a muesli bar, so tolerated it.

    Didn’t do Westbank Rd – I was worried about the weather closing in, & the time. A few roadworks along that stretch.

    Maruia Saddle had some deadfall from the last low (that passed Sunday). Stopped & had a chat with a chap in a 4WD. He’d had to drive from Clarence to a meeting just above Chch. Should have engaged him more – would have been interested if he had land access.

    Just after that I noticed a scrapping sound & vibration from the tub, & decided to investigate. The tub mounting bolts had let go at the rear, & so the tub was bouncing around on just the front mounts. This meant the mudguard had moved across the wheel & was now making new grooves in the sidecar wheel. I now also understood a funny piece of metal & rubber I’d seen on the side of the road coming back on the Molesworth. That’d be my tub cradle. Fortunately I had a bolt & nyloc nut I’d bought to fix one of the link mounts, so was able to McGyver a repair. But my more expeditionary riding was over, & I decided I’d better head for home.

    The rain came in in earnest as I was bodging the repair.

    There was one slip that I reckon would have closed the Saddle the next day. The slip had blocked the culvert that a streamlet usually went through, so it had cut a track across the road. Narrow then, but it absolutely bucketted down overnight, so I think there would have been a new ford in the morning.

    Stayed the night at Kiwi Camping Murchison. Got the last of their accommodation (good job I called from Hamner), but spendy. Filled with loads of road workers. Not a night to be tenting.

    • Town/City: Wellington
    • Bike: BMW R80 G/S, R100GS & M72 Sidecar, Gilera Runner ST200
    • Rank: 1200cc Rider

    Wed 8th Nov – Murchison to Wellington:

    Howled overnight, & heavy showers were still scudding in during the morning. I waited a while to let it settle, which it didn’t really do. So packed the bike, wiggled into my rain gear, & headed out.

    There was a lot of debris on the road, so I half expected to get turned back before I made the Braeburn Track. The Braeburn had a lot of deadfall on it. I needed to stop a few time to move dropped trees & branches.

    The first ford was ‘interesting’. I thought it was shallow enough for me to get through. I didn’t count on the algae on the concrete, which allowed the flow to push the rig almost to the edge of the concrete bottom. I was fairly relieved to reach the other side intact.

    The second ford I decided to take further to the right, & with more momentum. Of course that caused more splash back & the motor all but stalled in the middle of that. Fortunately it coughed & kept going so we made the other side. The other two were further up the hill so had less flow.

    Stopped at Lake Rotoroa.

    Looked at the beginning of the Porika Track, but it wasn’t really the weather for it, so I backed off.

    The weather gradually improved, & the winds dropped the further I went. Lunch at Wakefield, & another coffee at Pelorus Bridge, which was very pleasant.

    Had a wee snooze on the grass at Picton, & then lined up for the Interislander ferry (Aratere) at 5.15pm for the 6.45pm sailing. I was the only bike on that sailing, & overall car & passenger numbers were also well down. The check-in lady indicated moderate (2m) swells in the strait. Strapped things down a bit more securely for that crossing. Why doesn’t Interislander have tie down points closer to the wall?

    Just on dusk as we moved through the Tory Channel.

    Home just after 10.50pm.

    It’s taken me a few days to recover from this…

    • Town/City: Wellington
    • Bike: BMW R80 G/S, R100GS & M72 Sidecar, Gilera Runner ST200
    • Rank: 1200cc Rider

    SLIDING INTO SMASH PALACE – POSTSCRIPTJust a wee postscript to add in how the other four sidecars got on, on Monday. You’ll recall that they were all heading for the ferry home. Bill decided to ride by himself, mainly because he felt the Ural would be slow going over the Lewis Pass.

    From MD ‘After we left you we drove over Lewis Pass, with snow to the road edge at the high point.

    At Springs Junction Norbert made a run for the early boat which he achieved.

    Ken & I rode up the West Bank & then over Maruia. Ken thought Maruia was so nice that he wanted to live there. Food at Murchison River Café (excellent).

    Couldn’t help but notice how many pretty stop / go girls there were on the road works.

    Just out of Blenheim Ken’s repro rubber seat mounting block fell to pieces. A block of wood & a stretchie fixed that problem.

    Saw Bill at a roundabout in Picton. He was heading for Bluebridge.

    Compulsory Guiness & food at Seumus’ Irish Bar.

    Smooth sailing home.

    Looking at chair yesterday I found my rear petrol can mount almost falling off. Eight inch crack where holder mounts and starburst cracks from bolt holes. Cracks might have started years ago but four days of gravel don’t help.’

    From my side, one of the sidecar mount bolts was MIA on Random Spur Rd, the rear tub cradle, rubber dampers, & mounting bolt nuts were MIA at Maruia Saddle (but probably abandoned ship on the Rainbow side of the Molesworth), I picked up an extra ‘rain groove’ from the sidecar mudguard running on the sidecar tyre, & I noticed my RHS muffler was loose & not far off falling off just as I was about to board the ferry. So the road corrugations claimed some scalps for this trip…

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