2010 Energywise Rally - Day Three Blog by Geoff Bryan

You know you are not in Auckland any more when you see a family out for a walk on the suburban streets of Palmerston North, and on a leash are two sheep.

It has been quite a nostalgic day.

Before we left Palmerston North for the spiteful morning run to Napier which had been put together by someone with sadistic tendencies (you know who you are – i thought the heavy rain was a masterstroke), I had two radio interviews, one of which was with Mike West who I had worked with on 2ZM in Wellington 30 years ago.

There was another change in our crew as the roller-coaster open-door policy in our Honda Accord Tourer continued. Regular co-driver Michelle Gimblett pulled off one of the best moves of the rally – she must have known what was to come as she skipped out of the morning stage to take the direct route to Napier and slipping into the navigator’s seat was Honda’s Lisa Campbell.

After a tiny piece of mis-direction which meant that we saw a little more of Palmerston North than we should have done, we were away, heading to Napier while working to keep a smooth, fuel-saving style going through the constant twists and sharp corners – corners that seemed about to open, and then closed, hills that seemed to go on forever, as you tried to keep the momentum going while trying to use as little fuel as possible.

Visibility was poor and there was more rain and dark brooding scenery than you’d find in a Vincent Ward movie.

And just for an added touch, as I was struggling for momentum to get over the brow of a particularly sharp hill, I was forced to jam on the brakes to avoid two ducks who had chosen this precise moment to attempt a road crossing. Half way across the road – perhaps aware that their timing was unwise or that tackling the Honda Accord head-on was unwise – they stopped. After a moment’s pause to consider a plan, they decided the best course of action was not to cross to the other side (after all, they were not chickens) but to try to out-run the Honda.

Once the ducks had come to the obvious answer about getting out of the way, we were hoping for our luck to turn. However, we came across a curious scenario. To the left-hand side of the road was a truck, and leaning against the back of the truck was one of those Stop/Go lollipops, that was showing “Stop”. There was no-one actually holding the sign as the two men associated with the sign were standing on the other side of the road.

Instantly, my training for this rally kicked in. Anxious to recover time lost in the duck rescue, I scanned the road ahead as far as I could see, and there were no obstacles in my way. Therefore, I concluded that as no-one was holding the “Stop” sign, I could go through. A rough shout indicated that my conclusion was flawed – the shout was unintelligible but it’s meaning was clear enough. I stopped. A man came to the driver’s window. He pointed out some men cutting down some road-side trees with a chainsaw. I asked what I thought was a perfectly reasonable question, suggesting that surely the men were not cutting down the trees so that they would fall across the road. This question, obviously, confirmed for him that I was not from the country.....and the reason he had been on the side of the road and not holding his sign was that he had been resting, and why not. As he pointed out, in this part of the country you don’t often see 50 cars go by in a morning.

Two minutes and 52 seconds we were stopped there.

After that, those tight, winding, sharp corners almost seemed a pleasure.

Three hours and 57 minutes after leaving Palmerston North, I arrived in Napier – it would be fair to say that while Hawke’s Bay prides itself on the amount of sunshine hours it receives, today would not have helped the annual average.

I had been the last to leave in the morning stage because of those radio interviews.

Unfortunately (and I wouldn’t be surprised if this was done by the same person who had devised the morning route) I was fourth away after lunch which meant my food went down like a starving teenager who has gone flatting but come home for a good meal.

My mood at lunch was, however, lifted by a catch-up conversation with Neil Dunn, Sales Manager for Russell Greer Honda in Napier. Neil and I had worked in radio thirty-mumble years ago – I was at Napier’s Bay City Radio and Neil was at Apple in Hastings. I came close to being thrown off air on my very first day on 2ZC, and a colleague tried to console me with the words “you think what happened to you was bad, you should have seen what happened to Neil !”.

The afternoon stage was from Napier to Rotorua, and Michelle was back in the driver’s seat, bringing with her an unexpected touch of glamour. The shoes in which she had originally intended to drive had developed some holes, so she was tackling this stage in elegant footwear that sparkled....maybe this is what is needed to wrestle the world title from Sebastien Loeb.

The bad weather stayed with us until we were closing on Taupo where problems arose. The new by-pass had been completed quicker than the organisers had expected – who would have thought.

The instruction was issued at lunch not to use the by-pass, and to stick to the original route but 143 kilometres is a long way to travel while relying on memory. There were some who fell victim to the temptation of the bright, new shiny road.

What will the organisers do ?

Michelle did a great job of avoiding the many trucks on the road and we are improving all the time in terms of getting fuel efficiency out of the Honda Accord Tourer...if only we knew what we know now on day one.

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