SLIDING INTO SMASH PALACE (DAY ONE) So the over arching intent was to take slidecars down to the Smash Palace bike show, through as many interesting roads as we could manage. Things quickly went sideways after a storm through the Molesworth / Rainbow. That caused the Clarence River to shift in it’s bed, taking out Tophouse Rd in a couple of places, & wiping out bridge access at Acheron. That same storm caused slips thru the Rainbow, which meant off season access wasn’t possible. So a moving feast at the planning stage. The crew: Me, Box’a’bits – 1986 R80 (100) mono, & a LHS velorex sidecar Ken, Dnepr repowered with R100 engine & drivetrain. RHS sidecar MD, 1971 Ural 650 repowered with R100 engine & drive train. RHS sidecar Bill, 2008 Ural 750 2WD, RHS sidecar Norbert, R60/6 (100) with LHS Ural sidecar Day Zero Wed 1st Nov: Met the crew at the Bluebridge terminal at 10.15pm (we were booked on the 2.30am sailing). An early boarding time potentially allows you to sleep through loading & sailing – I guess mainly aimed at the transport industry. Loading the sidecars was relatively straightforward – a calm sailing was expected, & sidecars don’t (generally) fall over. A couple of rubber stops under the wheels, & a cursory tie down, & we’re done. We’d all booked cabins on the Straitsman, with a view towards an 6.00am start from Picton. The cabins were nice, albeit small, with individual ensuites. Unfortunately it didn’t work so well for me. The squeal of truck tires loading kept me awake until just before the sailing. I didn’t hear the safety announcement that was piped into the cabins though. Then they woke us again early, so all up 2½ - 3 hrs sleep for the night. Day One Thurs 2nd Nov – Picton to Hamner Springs We took Queen Charlotte Drive thru to Havelock, which was entirely pleasant with no tourist traffic at that time in the morning, & no real rush. At Havelock the Singapore Army was on exercise, & viewed the Ural with suspicion. Big breakfast at a cafe. The Whangamoas had a few trucks on it & we also ran into the first of the numerous South Island road works. Called into The Pacific Motorcycle Co in Richmond to see Ron & Andy. They have an amazing workshop, & quality output that just needs to be seen. They were building up an R80 as a beach cruiser, a reworked GSX1200, and various flat trackers & what looked to be a GS450 dragbike with supercharger. Amazing stuff. They’ve been using their CNC machines to make up one off parts. Fuelled at Richmond, then over the Hope Saddle. First stop was at the junction of SH6 & 65 to check directions. Was rushed by fan-girl ambulance staff looking for photos. Ah, celebrity lifestyles of the not-so-rich & famous. Sidecars are like that... We were swarmed by midges at Lake Rotoroa, but took some time to cook up some lunch – sausages on bread, & plunger coffee. My stove didn't seem to want to start cleanly, so there was a fire hazard for a bit there. Then across the Braeburn track. Four shallow fords through there – all concrete bottomed. That was in pretty good nick. Through Murchison (starting to worry about gas here), huge dust through Matakitaki Rd (but MD very nicely allowed me to go first) & up into the Maruia Saddle. Very scenic, meadering through beech forest. Another four fords, this time unformed, & a bridge. The guys topped up at the top of the saddle from their jerrycans – I didn’t have one. Rather than just follow the Shenandoah Highway to Springs Junction, we took Westbank Rd on the other side of the river. That was gravel & kept us away from the truck traffic. Fuelling at Springs Junction, & I was really happy to find I was using two litres less fuel for the same mileage as the others. Lightweight sidecars rule. Lewis Pass, then into Hanmer Springs for the night. Stayed in the Alpine Adventure Holiday Park in a kitchen cabin - $27 ea. All linen provided. A few whiskeys to pep up the old fellas, then into the Saints Cafe Restaurant & Bar for dinner. I got the ribs, special of the day, came with a pint of tap beer. Delicious. MD & Ken opted for a slab of raw pork (cook it yourself) on hot rocks. Dunno. More work that I felt like, but it takes all sorts to make the world go round. The Chefs must have been happy. High profit expensive dish, no work, & no returns on that lot. Wins all round. Norbert had disappeared off to the Hot Pools. The balance of us decided to leave that for the return trip.