Wednesday, September 2, 2015

A Flat White And A Flat Tire

The only road into Golden Bay (the twisty elevated one we came in on) was closed yesterday because there were four inches of snow up there at 2500 feet. What a surprise to hear this from our camp host this morning. She told me it's still closed to vehicles towing. I guess we'll let the universe decide when we leave, not that we're in any hurry.

(I wrote that paragraph at 11 am today and it's now 6:25 pm. What happened in between is today's story.)

15-foot swells bashed the shore yesterday, chewing up the edge of the camp property, shown here.

Two things are clear this evening. First, kiwis are some of the nicest people I've ever met and it's always a good idea to ask locals about things (like snow--who knew?--but also other stuff). Second, plans change and, believe in the universe or not, you have to go with the flow.

We took off late morning for Farewell Spit, the northernmost spot on the South Island. I know some of you swoon over lambs while others prefer lamb chops, so on the road out I snapped a couple pix. Something for everyone.

The rain comes down in tremendous sheets and then stops, like someone flipped a switch. Yesterday it rained 2+ inches, but look at all that green.

Heading north to Farewell Spit, the road got a bit complicated due to the beach rocks, sand, and tree detritus the waves tossed ashore yesterday. The aftermath of fierce storm, coupled with a full-moon high tide--what our camp host called a king tide--brought out the crews to clear this road lying perilously close to the water. Art actually thought we were moving from pavement to gravel here, but there's an actual road underneath.

Looks like they cleared one lane here.

The weather shifts from pounding rain to gorgeous as we move north. Good--it was pouring when we left but we decided to give Farewell Spit a try.

Soon we run over yet another pile of rubble and, window open, I hear a sssss sound.

Yep, it's flat

Still, I think, could we be in a better place for it (thinking of at least 40 spots we've been on this trip that would have made this impossible)? Art gets the spare on in record time after unloading most of our worldly goods to get at it.

Farewell to Farewell Spit. We turn around and head back the way we came toward Takaka, population 1149, the largest town in Golden Bay. They have a Firestone tire place.

Still clearing the beach road

We arrive and Art takes the tire in to see if they can patch it while I make this photo.

Then I decide to go see what's up. Turns out it's a gash from a sharp rock and can't be repaired. We need a matching tire. I'm riding with someone who's serious about his tires and I'm glad of it. Art purchased four new Pirellis for the Rover at Tyreland in Blenheim back in May and they've served us well. These nice guys at Firestone are calling around to see if they can locate a replacement, but they can't.

Time to make an alternate plan, maybe over lunch at The Brigand?

Magnificent magnolia

These will help

A little chowder too, this one ranking in the top five.

Art looks happy but he's concerned about making a plan. We can't drive around without a spare, and we certainly can't drive back over the road we came in on without one (though god only knows where you'd change a tire if you had to).

Once nourished, we decide to call Tyreland in Blenheim and see if Manager Mike can order a matching Pirelli, but when we connect they tell us that they've tried this before and that Pirelli is not willing to ship to a non-Pirreli dealer (like the Firestone place here) to mount the tire. What? Turf wars.

But the flat white has kicked our little grey cells into action. What if we shipped the rim to Tyreland in Blenheim, had them mount the new tire, and had them ship it back to us. We wait for a return call.

I keep telling Art it'll all work out. On the way back to Firestone we wander through a captivating alleyway and discover Schnapp Dragon Village Distillery, home to booze hand-crafted out of very local materials right here in Golden Bay.

Here's Sue, extraordinarily friendly, knowledgeable about the product, and practically forcing samples on me.

 First, their vodka (remarkable)

Also, TeKiwi's tequila-like spirit, whose name endures even though the Mexican government came down hard on them for it being too close to "tequila." Someone brought blue agave seeds to Golden Bay 18 years ago and germinated them, and now there are fields of it. This sample, too, is impressive, utterly smooth finish with a distinctly clear flavor. More here.

But the next sample is what nearly bowled me over. Waitui Single Malt whiskey, aged for six years in manuka honey mead barrels. First they make the mead, empty the barrels, and then age the whiskey in them, the divine manuka honey flavor just hinted at in the final sip, with no overt sweetness. I have no words.

While I'm sampling (our driver is not), Art's been back on the phone with Tyreland arranging for them to order the tire and mount it on the rim we'll ship.  Meanwhile, Sue and I have been happily engaged in a discussion of all things Golden Bay. I ask her if there's someone in town who could ship our rim to Blenheim and in walks Vaughn, who works for the only shipping link in and out of Golden Bay (and was buying a bottle for his accountant). Can you say synchronous?

Vaughn gives us the name of his boss Colin in Nelson (on the other side of the mountain--Vaughn makes the runs in and out), Sue finds his number, I call him, and take down instructions on labeling the rim, where to leave it, and when. He says he'll arrange transport to Blenheim. 

Sue and Vaughn direct us to Orange Mechanical a few blocks away, where Vaughn picks up larger items to ferry to Nelson. Sorry to leave the tasting bar, we head over with the rim.

Cheryl Orange, owner, rigs up a shipping tag, I fill it out, and we tie and tape it on. Tomorrow the rim will go "over the hill," as the locals say, and on to Tyreland Blenheim. One moment to the next, helpful people all around.

Since Art enjoys his rum and it's been a very long day, a fitting purchase. This one's a standout too. It might be next week before we see the new tire, but we should be content until then.


  1. Whew, what an adventure! PK

  2. It seems I always comment with a new "favorite" but this post and the story is incredible! (during my viewing of Art changing the tyre at rapid pace I had pit crew sounds going through my head... hah!)

    Single malt aged in mead barrels?! And TeKiwi?!! Where were these when I visited? That distillery looks magical, glad to see you were able to visit a local producer of spirits. -bahns

  3. It WAS an adventure, Phyllis. And bahns, as long as you keep finding new favorite posts, we'll keep trying to write them. Thanks, you two.