Milton to Invercargill – 102 miles
My host recommended that I take a detour to the next town. He said the highway was very hilly and not so nice. He thought timing would come out the same because the route was flatter and emptier. I had every intention of taking his advice, but then I reached the detour junction and realized that the town was maybe half the distance as his detour. Hill or no hills, that seemed like an easy choice. I took the highway and had some really lovely downhill cruisers, the ups not that strenuous. The selling point, though, is that clouds rolled in right as I reached Balclutha, 17 miles from the hostel, and I was inside drinking hot tea as a brief rain shower hit.
Today is slow moving. Constant rolling hills, which could be really nice except for the strong headwinds resisting all uphill motion and eliminating the joy of the downhill as I am instead fighting to stay upright from the slight angle of the wind. I fought for 19 more miles then stopped at a cafe in Clinton. I met a nice Canadian couple stopping in for lunch. They are doing a motorbike tour around South Island. Very friendly.
I got back on the road and barely kept up morale on the 26 miles to Gore, where I stopped for lunch at Table Talk Cafe. Let me tell you how low my spirits were. Leaving Clinton, the wind became stronger, the hills continued, the clouds continued to loom overhead, and I made a choice based on advice from the cafe that I should stay on Highway 1. I have no way to know whether I made a good decision. The road turned up, changing the direction I was battered on to my side, but still sufficiently from the front that it didn’t relax any of the resistance. I was pedaling on the downhills just to keep up momentum. On a big uphill, I clipped out a couple times in quick succession. Further investigation revealed that I had all but lost the whole ridge on my left cleat, the right cleat looking not far behind. Not the end of the world, but losing the ability to use quad power to pull the pedal up sucked.
The road turned slightly into several small and closely packed hills, temporarily diminishing the wind. On the far side was a straightaway. I thought maybe finally I would get a break! By then I had been riding quite awhile, feeling like based on time, I should have been passed half way. Then the trifecta… Just as I hit the straight, where the road turned bumpy and shitty, the winds slammed into my face, literally almost pausing my forward motion. I saw a sign for Gore revealing that I was barely half the distance. Then it started to rain. In an anguished scream at the weather gods, a sound only possibly from a person at the lowest point of desperation, I was ready to give up. Fortunately, or unfortunately, one cannot really just stop riding on a trip like this. It is not like I was going to stand around in the cold rain instead of ride through it. What would that have accomplished beyond extending my misery?
At the cafe I sat staring out the window for a long time like a crazed person. If the cafe had not closed, I likely would have sat longer. I knew I would keep going, no matter how bad things were while riding. I think that is why I have a high capacity for activities people find unappealing: hike all day every day for 2660 miles; run samples for two weeks straight, barely getting an hour of sleep each day; bike 100 miles through miserable weather. My answer continues to be “Yeah, sure.” It might suck while you do it, but are there repercussions? Usually not. Are there rewards? I think so. So as quickly as I stop doing that activity, things are immediately improved. Zero incentive to stop myself from doing it again.
I rode an additional 40 miles to Invercargill. What a stupid day. Clearly New Zealand did not get the memo that I am on holiday. The weather is supposed to be perfect. Or at least moderately pleasant. In Gore, at the Golden Age Tavern, a waitress checked the weather for me and it said 33 km per hour winds. I made it into the city at a snail’s pace, barely before dark. Both shoes coming unclipped at an annoyingly frequent rate, usually just on the steeper climbs. Pure misery. With the wind blowing, I had zero interest in setting up my tent, so I headed to a hostel. At 9:30PM on a Friday night, the hostel was locked up with a sign to call for late arrivals. In no mood to find a way to call someone and sit around waiting to then share a dorm, I went to the first hotel I saw. Kevin Hotel. And what a genuinely grand experience.
They were so friendly and accommodating. No one batted an eye at my filthy legs. They talked pleasantly of a hot shower and getting a good night’s rest. I was able to put my bike in a downstairs office to not bother taking it up to my room. The price was well under the cap I made in my head when I decided the convenience of a hotel was worth the money. I had a clean, private, and plush room all to myself up on the fifth floor, overlooking the city. I showered with soap, shampoo, and a rag to finally scrub off the layered-on sunscreen. I sat surrounded by pillows on the giant fluffy bed in my pajamas with my hair wrapped up in a terry cloth towel watching Zoolander 2 while eating snicker bars, banana chips, and free milk from the dairy fridge. I dumped out all my meager possessions just because I could, and so they could air out after two days of rain. I even had wifi! I could not have asked for a better setup. The only damper on the moment was the discovery that my pelvic bones are more than bruised, there is a new development of chaffing from riding in wet shorts for two days. Great timing to be done riding for a bit.