Six years ago I was looking at the Cascade Bike Club website (probably reading something about the STP) when I spotted an ad for a bike tour of New Zealand called "Lord of the Chainrings" (guess what movie was out). I looked at the photos and the itinerary and decided than and there that I was going to do that bike tour for my 50th birthday. It was 14 days of supported touring on the South Island. It was going to cost $1700 not including airfare. I figured I would just save up the money over the next 6 years.
Between then and now, I became much more interested in loaded touring. So much so that I bought a touring bike and all the necessary gear. I started out with a 4 day trip to Port Townsend and back with my oldest son, Kyle. Over Labor Day of that same summer, I did a solo 3 day ride out toward the coast and looped around back home. I had truly become bitten by the bike touring bug.
Next June I conned (er, I mean, TALKED) Kyle into doing a 17 day trip around the State using Adventure Cycling's Washington Parks maps. I also convinced my friend Julie that she would love to celebrate her 50th birthday by riding down the Oregon Coast for 13 days in July! When Julie and I reached the Oregon/California border, I just wanted to keep going. I was now completely consumed by my love of seeing the world from the seat of my bike.
The next summer I did the Oregon Coast again. This time solo and I kept going; all the way to the Mexico border. I met so many wonderful people including Christian from Germany who I have continued to cycle with. At the end of that 33 day, 1,702 mile trip I still wanted to keep going.
By this time, my 50th birthday was looming closer. Now considering myself a pretty experienced cycle tourist, I realized I didn't want to do a tour planned for me. I wanted to plan my own tour of New Zealand and 14 days wasn't gonna cut it! As I was reading about New Zealand and looking at maps, I knew I wanted to spend at least a month. I wanted to not only do the South Island, but also the North Island. Afterall, I may get just this one chance to go to New Zealand. I'd better do it good!
My friend Leandra had said (in the early days) that she would like to go too. She agreed that we could manage this on our own. She started collecting the necessary gear. It was beginning to look like we would really do this!
Before really getting down to brass tacks and purchasing the plane tickets to New Zealand, I had one more big solo trip to do. I started my Sierra Cascades trip by flying Stella and myself to San Diego. I could now say I had flown with my bike. We both survived it unscathed. Now, I felt ready to take on an international tour.
Upon returning home from Sierra Cascades (and a little non-cycling trip to France), Leandra and I purchased our plane tickets. It was real now! We were actually going to New Zealand! Due to her work schedule, she would only be able to do the North Island. But, that was okay because in the past 6 years, I had gained the knowledge and confidence to do the South Island on my own. And, I stretched it to be 5 weeks (after planning too many miles per day on Sierra Cascades).
So, here I am, 1 short day away from realizing a plan I started 6 years ago. Yes, I am now 50 and, I have to say, it is going to be AWESOME!