Day 14 – St. Arnaud to Nelson

St. Arnaud to Nelson
95 km today – 868 km total
The sky was clear and beautiful this morning and I took my time packing up from the backpackers place for the hopefully mostly downhill ride to Nelson. Even though this was not my initial plan, I have started to think it will work out for the best. I left right after 8:30 am to make the 5 km climb to the turnoff that would lead to Nelson. Once I got moving, the wind came up and clouds hid the sun entirely. I had to put on arm and leg warmers and my wool vest (which smells like a wet dog from the other day riding in the rain. Actually, maybe a wet dead dog. Truly offensive!).
The downhill’s came soon enough and the cool temperature and lack of sun was actually refreshing! I descended along a river valley for a while but then (as usual!) opted for side roads that involved much more climbing than the most direct way. But, with no remaining vestige of my saddle sore from last week and with legs fresh after a rest day, it was quite a pleasure to push a bit and climb my way over ridges on quiet roads. The sign below of the car on the hill should be a theme for the day. Most of the day was characterized by descent, and good speed. As I looked back at St. Arnaud, I saw the whole area clogged up with raining clouds and pretty much dodged the bullet. The forecast was for rain in Nelson this afternoon so I kept waiting for the onslaught but save for a few isolated sprinkles, I made it dry all the way.
I passed an open café (curses!) but it was too early to warrant a stop, and then every potential little town I hoped would have a café came up empty. DOH! So today, saddle management was good, leg management was reasonably good, but caloric/caffeine management scores a failing grade. I bonked for real. But, not before making some seriously good time! I found a nice café that was closed and as I pulled out, I noticed something strange in my mirror – it was a paceline of roadies! Did I jump on the back of that action? Hell yeah! They weren’t very friendly, barely acknowledging me as they passed, but once I saw them (as all roadies can attest will happen) I put the hammer down to make them work to pass me. I was humming along at about 27km/h (slight downhill, but headwind). They passed me at about 35 km/h but thanks to our blessed lady of slipstream dynamics, the headwind was gone and thanks to 9.8m/s^2 my trailer kept me kicking along on the down. It was the perfect recipe for me to hook up a sick draft. Like, for an hour. The problem was, I could feel the bonk coming on. I was already past due for a break at 65 or 70 km, but I just couldn’t give up the opportunity for the assist. Once the gentle downhill dissipated, I had to fall off the back and fight the wind on my own. The last 20 km were a bit rough and I kept looking for a café stop but once I got close to Nelson, I figured there was no reason to settle for some bad coffee when I knew there would be a good spot once I got there. So, I fought through the bonk and at about 130 pm reached the (somewhat overly touristy) Trafalgar street and hooked up a Panini, a phat latte and an orange-poppy seed cake. Day done, good times!
I went to the i-centre to seek out a place to pitch my tent and the cheapest place not requiring a climb (which my bonked self could not handle!) charged $34 to pitch a tent. WTF!?!? I just can’t pay that much money to sleep in my own tent. I found a bed at a hostel for only $30 which is not the greatest (sharing with three other people) but somehow easier on my conscience.
I ran into Daniel again on the street! (he’s the German guy who works in Akaroa who I met in Picton. Dude is everywhere!). Also met a genki couple from Auckland (guy on a Surly Long Haul Trucker very much tricked out with everything I’ve ever seen recommended on a website for touring) who are riding Rainbow Road next week. My transformation must be complete – even as I usually seek solitude, I think I’m getting plenty. I was all manner of stoked to hear that was their plan and tried to coordinate to ride with them, but alas, they will go while I’m on Queen Charlotte Track. Oh well.
Also went to a bike shop to get more spokes (was nice to hear from the mechanic that he breaks spokes like nobody’s business and he’s a skinny little dude. Makes me feel less incompetent. Incidentally, when I changed out the two broken spokes yesterday, I spend some time evening out spoke tension and truing up my rear wheel. Today it was rolling like it had Spreewells – pimp!). The folks at the shop asked where I was headed and I told them Queen Charlotte Track followed by Rainbow Road. They were totally stoked for me, telling me all about both and saying they were jealous of my schedule. I owe Cath Moore a big thanks for setting up QCT, inviting me along, and for recommending Rainbow Road. I’m amped for both, the end of which is in Christchurch in a bit over a week, with Chandra arriving soon after! There is balance in the force tonight – fo sho! Mebbe I got out to the movies…

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