Saturday, March 3, 2012

The Longest Night of My Life...

...Followed by the nicest evening.

Last night after I had finished my dinner, but was still in the kitchen, a guy came in and asked if I was riding a bike. When I said yes, he said, "You won't be riding tomorrow. Supposed to be gale force winds and rain." Ummmm, I should have paid better attention to what he said. I went to bed and it was raining. Nothing new there. I slept pretty soundly until around midnight or so when I had to go to the bathroom. By this time it was raining pretty hard and the wind was blowing. I pulled on my raingear and climbed out of my tent. The wind had pulled the vestibule fly anchor off the tent stake. I grabbed a big rock and pounded in all the stakes to the ground. My previously pretty dry campsite now had about an inch of sloshy water. My feet in my sandals were instantly soaked. I made a mad dash for the restroom. When I got back to my tent, I took off the raingear and left it in the vestibule as it was all wet. I climbed back into my sleeping bag and went back to sleep. Next thing I know, the wind is howling and it's still pouring buckets. The wind kept unhooking the rainfly from the stakes. I tried putting them back on, but the ground was so saturated that the stakes wouldn't hold. I gave up. I actually went back to sleep for a short while, but was having a dream about the wind blowing. I woke up to the tent wildly thrashing about. At this point it was about 4:30. I wanted to take everything to the kitchen and go sleep the rest of the night in the TV Room. But, it was too late. I couldn't get out of the tent without the tent blowing away. I would hear the roar of the wind, then brace my arms against the sides of the tent to keep it from rolling me over. When the wind would slightly abate, I would put my arms back in my sleeping bag until the next roar would start. At one point the wind was so strong that even with my arms and whole body bracing against the tent to keep it from rolling me, the tent was smushed down on top of me. It took all my strength to hold the tent in one place. My arms were so tired! I would try to rest between gusts, but there weren't really any breaks.

Finally, I decided I had to get out of there and get the tent taken down. It was about 6:15 and the wind and rain showed no signs of stopping. My raingear that was in the vestibule which was no longer a vestibule--just a flapping rainfly, was completely soaked. I couldn't bear to put it on. Instead I put on my freshly laundered black pants and my hi-vis jacket over my down jacket. I was just hoping the down jacket wouldn't get too wet. I didn't put socks on because they just would have been soaked in the flooded campsite.

Once I got everything packed up (putting a bunch of stuff in the Chinese Shopping Bag and putting my, amazingly, still dry sleeping bag, sleeping pad-not so dry, and pillow in their bag). I waited for the wind to die down just abit. Then, I made a mad dash for it. I got out of the tent and quickly undid the poles from the grommets. I just picked up the whole flattened tent and carried the whole thing to the laundry area. There, I just dumped it and went back to ferry the rest of my stuff to the kitchen. It took me about three trips. Then I went back and rescued Betsy (she was really the least of my worries as she was locked to a tree) and put her in the laundry area with the tent. After Betsy was all secure, I went back to the kitchen and started to lay out my stuff to dry. I realized I was also pretty hungry. Just as I was pulling out breakfast stuff, the power went off. Fortunately, the kitchen had a hot water dispenser with still hot water in it. I made some hot chocolate that went a long way to warming me up. A guy named Michael came in and wanted to make coffee. I told him the hot water dispenser still had hot water in it. He was grateful. He had slept in his car. Pretty soon the power came back on. Lanka (the Czech girl) came in and said how their campervan was rocking all night in the wind. Both she and Michael asked me why I hadn't moved into the TV room. I told them because I'd waited too long and couldn't get out of my tent without losing it.

Since it was still howling and raining outside, I thought I might be taking that day off in Picton afterall. That meant I wouldn't get to go to Motouka. I would have had 109 km from Picton to Nelson today.

At about 11:30 it really started to get better. The wind wasn't howling as much and the rain had pretty much stopped. I had done more laundry (including some of the stuff I had done the night before that got all muddy) and packed up the wet tent. By 11:45 I was reading to roll. I decided to shoot for Havelock.

I rolled onto Queen Charlotte Drive. It is a very scenic road that follows the coastline of Queen Charlotte Sound. Fortunately, for a lot of the up part, there was a great tailwind. I was in full raingear which was good because it started to rain again.

I made it to Havelock at about 2:00. I saw on my route map that there was a campground a few more Kms up the road at Pelorus Bridge. It is a DOC campground. I thought to myself, " Great! I'll finally be able to use my stove!". I pulled into the campground at 4:00. Not too bad for 60 some Betsy km! I registered and paid my $10 and rode to the campsite down a gravel/dirt road. As I pulled into the campsite I saw the new looking restroom building. I chose my site and went up to the restroom. There were restrooms and showers and...a kitchen. Once again, I don't need to use my fuel or my stove. However, this kitchen has less amenities than the holiday parks. It just has three cooktops and three sinks.

I took a very short shower since the water never warmed up. I did wash out my shorts in the sink and hung them with the rest of my clothes that needed to dry or just air out on the lovely clothesline provided outside. The sun was starting to peek through the clouds. I got my sopping wet tent set up and dried the inside wet floor with a bandanna. Then I walked down to the river to take a gander at what was there. I walked back and grabbed my food panniers and headed to the kitchen. As I was eating dinner, a couple came in and sat down. They were Bronwen and Jeffrey from Australia. They were travelling in a campervan, but have done lots of bike touring. I very much enjoyed chatting with them then the effects of biking 60 km on about 3 hours of sleep started to catch up with me. I cleaned up my dinner mess, bade them goodnight and headed into my tent. This DOC campground is so nice AND it's not raining AND there is no wind! I will sleep well tonight! I couldn't do another night like last night!

Here's some photos from Queen Charlotte Drive and Pelorus Bridge.


Amy said...

Glad you survived the wind! Keep on keepin' on!! :)

Bicycle Friends said...

Sounds like it was an epic night not to be forgotten. Wow ...

Marsha said...

Great story. It will make a very funny touring memory. Nice!

Debra said...

Ah, Mother Nature! I am exhausted just reading this. Glad you are okay.

Anonymous said...

The advantage to him is that he gets a new counter top and gets help paying for it. The obvious advantage to you is that it will cost you less to repair the damage you caused. All is not lost though. You get to live in a place with a new kitchen countertops.