Zen On Dirt

Dear Wind: Please go away

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We didn’t get the best of best nights sleep at the arboretum. While we were parked under the branches of a massive tree that provided a spectacular wind block, the wind was still loud, roaring through the branches above.

And I think there was also the dread of knowing that we’d have to get up an pedal into said wind, if the forecast proved to be correct. North west winds. Strong. We were headed north.

Scott woke up with the grumpies, and frankly, I can’t blame him. Until we made it to Lumsden and were able to get on the Round the Mountains NZ Cycle Trail, we were on roads for upwards of 50 miles.


But touring is touring, and after a halfhearted attempt at hitchhiking from Centre Bush (lemme tell you, bustling metropolis, population 0) failed, we resigned ourselves to pedaling. I put on a podcast, Scott put on some music, and we spent the next 2.5 hours pedaling in silence, which was probably good because we weren’t really finding a whole lot of nice things to say to each other.

I hate hitchhiking with a bike. Scott hates wasting energy credits pedaling into the wind. (*Scott is making me add that it’s only flat pavement headwinds that he dislikes) Plus, we were both suffering from massive grass allergies from the farms.


In the end, it turned out okay. The wind wasn’t too bad, the road was deserted, and I listened to two episodes of the Savage Lovecast (which always makes any current relationship troubles seem silly, even if Scott is sitting two inches behind my wheel sulking) and an episode of Invisibilia, which was fascinating.


We’d decided to pedal to Lumsden based on two decisions: a) free camping in town and b) the next lodging would be several hours up the NZ cycle trail, and we were definitely in farm country, so camping opportunities were slim.

We first tried to set our tent up in the designated tent area. The wind blew it down before we even had the fly on. This wasn’t going to work, so we moved it behind a train car, hoping that it would act as a wind block.

It did, until 2am when the wind shifted directions. We dealt with the collapsing tent for the better part of an hour before we finally resigned ourselves to taking it down and sleeping on top of it.

So, as you can imagine, when we finally got ourselves up in the morning, neither of us were in a particularly good mood, and we once again had little nice to say to each other, and then the cafe didn’t open for another hour.

Things got a little better once we found a solid wind break, made some coffee and oats, and warmed up in the sun. It was a rough night!


Given our current state, we opted to aim for Athol, some miles down on the Cycle Trail. This would put us at a prime launching spot for making it to Old Woman hut the next day. At some point in time, NZ decided to sink a bunch of money into long-distance gravel bike paths and this one was part of the same one that we’d taken south from Queenstown. This, in my opinion, is awesome. It was wide enough for two people to ride happily next to each other, mostly flat, and fairly to mostly beautiful.


The wind, while strong, was bearable, and we didn’t have many miles to go. We even got the occasional wind break from farm hedges.


Athol is a cute little town of two cafes, a fly fishing shop, and a lodge that has both camping and rooms. With the wind still blowing, Scott wasn’t hesitant to get us a room, which also got us access to couches, a kitchen, and indoor space for 16 hours that was out of the grass.


Plus, showers were included, as was shampoo, conditioner, and body wash. And laundry was free. So in the end, when you add up what you’d spend on those things around here, it was actually a pretty solid deal. And the bed, that bed was the most comfortable thing I’ve ever slept on. It had one of those down mattress covers, giant pillows, and billowing blankets.

Plus, it had exceptional sound insulation so that the birds didn’t wake us up at dawn. All in all, the perfect reset button after two days of…difficulty. Not every day is rainbows and unicorns, but as long as we can maintain a majority of magic and stoke, we’re doing okay.


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