Updated: Mar 10
I've been a road trip schemer all my life, but always hustling for a taste of that freedom. It has brought me all around the world on 2 wheels, given me amazing experiences, meaningful friendships, and forever memories. But I'm selfish and want more. Always. Being married to an occasional pillion without that wanderlust has both its perks and disadvantages, but whenever I go solo, I get to ride my ride and do what I want. Bliss on a bike. So naturally, when you get new wheels, you NEED to spin them. A lot. There's an entire story behind acquiring a new 2020 Energica Eva107 & selling the trusty Zero SR, as well and ripping around the Coromandel Peninsula with New Zeroland Sam, but maybe next time. For now, it's all about the electric road trip of dreams and drama!
Let's all start where we all naturally would find ourselves: thirsty for a road trip, a bit light in the wallet, and uneasy about planning. My biggest hurdle isn't time, as I'm a part-time dive boat captain, but the cost of touring in New Zealand. Overseas is usually easier, but Covid-19 has crushed those dreams for now. Unless you camp, and I do, travel in NZ is not cheap. It also didn't help that February is always my busiest month, and yet the best for riding consistently good weather, usually. With all that in mind, I just carved out a block of time, about 9 days in February to ride, and to hell with the consequences. The only problem was that when I was just about 5 days out, I hadn't made a single plan! Sometimes, however, that's the best way to start.
With time sorted, it was on to the next major hurdle: moolah, folding, Benjamins (Hillarys/Rutherfords/Ngatas in NZ), dosh, dong (if you're in Vietnam), good old cash. Of course I had some, but it was earmarked for responsible things that the wife knew about. So I started hustling. I was to the cords on the original Rosso III after only 6500kms/4000mi. I was able to wrangle a set of brand new, fitted Metzeler Roadtec tyres from my LMS (thanks, MotorcycleLab), free A to B shipping of the bike from a motorcycle moving company (thanks NZ Motorcycle Movers), and a multi-location, speaking and showing gig from Bike Fest here in NZ that would pay for the entire trip with leftover dong. Yes, I wanted to say it again. The best plans are still, and reigning champion, last minute!
I'm in the North of the North Island, about 2 hours from the end of the road. In order to ride the epic South Island and make the first of my paid gigs I needed to get about 900kms south fast and over the straight by ferry. No problem, just bomb it like a hill, and after a solid 16hr ride through great weather and crappy sleep next to the bike I was in Wellington: the capital, my original home town, and residence of New Zeroland!
After a good meet-up, ride, and massive feed at the legendary Midnight Espresso, I was put up by our 4th electric rider, Jez. Thanks, Jez! He joined us to eat, but couldn't ride as he was waiting on parts for Pinaero's old Zero DSR, MAX. A dark, early start saw me on the ferry via the iconic bucket fountain and I was suddenly in Te Wai Pounamu, the beautiful South Island of Aotearoa/NZ!
I was pretty exhausted after a late night and a big day riding, so decided to take in the scenery and do my first mission to a place I hadn't been to for over 15 years called Te Aumiti (French Pass). It's very off-the-grid, has about 50km of gravel to ride, and is the fastest bottleneck of NZ ocean water at 9-11 knots. I got there with plenty of time to set up camp and chill while E-otearoa charged at the dairy/post office/community hall/mechanic/boat shed/nightclub. So great to be back and people were stunned by the emoto of course! Hooray for free charging, electric yarns, and alcoholic sunsets!
Woke up to overcast skies threatening to rain on my camping parade, so I packed up early and got away just as it began to spit. I stayed ahead of the wet, and it kept the gravel damp and non-dusty all the way to the seal. This was meant to be a huge day riding, and it was for all the wrong reasons. I stopped in Motueka to have a cuppa tea with a mate and give the bike a basic clean and lube. Weather on the West Coast had heavy rain warnings, so no thanks! It's beautiful along that coast, but not when you can't see it through the sleet and 30 knot headwinds! Unfortunately for me though, I realized after stopping for a charge in Murchison that going over the Lewis Pass to the sunny East was too far to the next charger at 195km! I had to head towards the 'Wet' Coast slightly and suck from the charger in Reefton before chasing the sun Eastward. It got a little wet here. Ok, a lot wet. The bike was fine of course, but my 'waterproof' phone decided it was not. Bye distances, maps, camera, and comms. As we say over here, BUGGER! Reefton is a tiny town, and I needed a burner phone at least to get my PlugShare working again, so at Inangahua Junction I went more west, and much more wet.
By reaching the actual coast of Westport, after being rained heavily on, I found a cheap burner phone and a bag of rice to try to resurrect my dead smartphone. I did another 120km push along the coast through the driving rain and arrived nearly swimming in Māwhera/Greymouth. Such a depressing English name! It was getting dark now in the summer evening, and most things were shut. I plugged in and went to the first building with lights on next door: the cop shop. I was given a nice hot cuppa, and told to stay as long as I needed. It was at that point that I also realized my promo plate 'EV NV' had fallen off! Good thing I noticed and had my old plate in my bag as a backup. It had been a full-on day with 500km of gravel, twisties, heavy rain, detours, and drama. I was tired. Smart-me decided to call it a night and rest, instead of heading over the next pass to the East in the dark storm.
After a much-needed sleep and semi-drying at the basic motel, I was off again early and it was sunny! Well, sunny for the West Coast anyway. For about 10 minutes. The heavy rain came again and this time I headed through the famous Arthur's Pass where trolls and Gollum lives. It rained 90mm in just that hour and a bit, so I was soaked to the core again even with a Gore-tex jacket. But, as E-otearoa was lonely-charging in the rain, the ranger station showed me live pics on the other side of the pass just 80km away was sunshine! I was off, and it was glorious to find that sun!
I was beaming when the heat hit me and the 10c degrees through the pass started climbing. I stopped in Springfield for a Homer doughnut, hot drink, and warm veggie pie while my gear and I dried in the sun. I was considering a couple of huge consecutive riding days on the emoto of 750+ kms just to touch down the bottom of the South Island and attend a rally, but they weren't paying me and it was going to be torturous. My main, paid gig was back at the top of the South Island in Whakatū/Nelson in just 5 days, and I wasn't going to miss that one. This was always going to be a long day regardless, so after a very much-needed refresh, I was off towards the Canterbury Lakes District and Aoraki/Mt. Cook. It was the right call to just enjoy the riding in my favourite spots, and as if confirming that decision, my zombie phone woke up again from the rice coffin. Woohoo! The road was long and winding, and the scenery was sublime; this is what I was longing for! I rode for at least 14 hours and after over 650 electric kms, I arrived in Wanaka, the beauty queen of the South!
The next morning I had a scheduled talk with EV enthusiasts and a showing of the bike. It went well, but was only small with about 15 people showing. The event was scheduled for an hour, and it went a little over with their enthusiasm and questions, but I was ready to get moving and hit all my favourite roads in the area. They are simply spectacular and the best NZ has to offer, generally. This day and the next were really all that I was after; it could only have been better if there was more days to ride here. I think I need to move or get a tiny home in the South. I spun the wheels from Lake Wanaka to Lake Hawea, back towards Wakatipu/Queenstown, out towards Garston then back again to Glenorchy, another 550km day of stunning riding. The following day was to Paradise. Almost, but actually Routeburn start. See below. Then back to Glenorchy, Wakatipu, Tīrau/Cromwell, and through the lakes all the way around to the other side and back, yet another +500kms of near-perfect riding.
There was probably about 900km of riding in these two days, but totally didn't notice it due to laughing and singing in my helmet most of the time. It just doesn't get much better. And even when I pushed it a little too much, things still worked out. On day two I went back to Glenorchy from Wakatipu early with a full charge on the my favourite road. I used up waaay more juice, but still wanted to push to the tiny but stunning hamlet of Paradise. Yes, that is what it is and it is called. I didn't really have enough to get back to Queenstown and the Glenorchy DC charger was down for repairs. So, I slowly creeped along the road to reach the sign and take the money shot. Unfortunately I forgot to turn off on the gravel for it and missed it completely until I hit the end of the seal! Not enough juice to double back to it, I had to return to Glenorchy and hunt for a charging solution, which I found! Free type 2 charging with their supplied cable, and all I had to do was buy an amazing veggie pie & homemade chai to wait 30min for more emoto juice! That was enough to ride back north the way I liked: not slow!
I'll get that sign again, but I had to continue north 750kms, and back to the top in Nelson!
The trip was nearly over by now and the kms have been pretty long in order to go from the North, to the South, and back to the North. But, after staying at my friend's place and giving the bike another hose-down and lube, I had another day or so up my sleeve. So, I headed off from my digs after a late breakfast and chat to the best road riding near Ōtautahi (Christchurch) called 'Akaroa'. It's a small French-inspired town, originally called Wakaroa but they messed that up too, the colonists. Thankfully, the scenery and weather were great, along with the drunken engineers who built up the road from Little River to Akaroa, the Summit Road around the top of the mountains, and every twisting road to each secluded bay. It was going to be another glorious day, then sadly more drama. The DC charger in Little River would not initialize with my bike! I knew it worked, as New Zeroland was there about a month ago, and I could still AC charge. So after a couple calls and further inspection it was determined my actuator lock wasn't working! It was a small servo that pushed the locking pin into the DC charge cable to safely initiate the power delivery. Luckily, I could manually manipulate the plastic armature that moves the pin, and problem solved with an extra 30sec on each charge until fixed. I grabbed a traveler's dinner on the other side of the pass in [W]akaroa that included rolls, vegan cheese, tomato, mustard, and a smoothie. Then I headed for secluded LeBon's Bay for another epic bike camp.
It had all been a blast, but as I was on the clock to arrive at a major event, it was time to get there. Another 500km day back north and another stunner. The road was sunny and barely populated with other vehicles. So that's enough text for this day. I made it in the evening to the flash Whakatū/Nelson hotel that the event put me up in. Cue the photos!
The big BIKE FEST day had finally arrived; I was well-rested and happy to have made it with only a minor issue being that darned actuator I kept having to manipulate up and down. I got up a wee bit early to tart up the young mistress for her big show, so a quick water-less wash and wipe-down got E-otearoa looking sharp! I had the motorbike cops staying at the same hotel asking questions and drooling at the quiet Italian model, and then it was off to the start of a cracking-good day. We had a little over 1000 people attend, and it seemed like every one of them stopped by my marquee for a jack and a chin wag. There was so much enthusiasm for electric motorcycles, I was waiting to be 'punked'! Even one or two doubters got the answers to surprise them into switching sides. I had local friends turn up, and even people I'd met on this quick road trip decided to stop by! I had a 30 minute talking spot that spilled over to nearly an hour with questions and further discussion. It was over too soon, and I couldn't wait for the last two events in the North Island! I took the afternoon to chill out, talk with someone on the phone needing an ear (ALWAYS DO THIS!) and meet up with another friend to stay with his whānau/family for the night. We played some games, shared some laughs, and in the morning it was time to head off.
It was finally time to make tracks on the last leg of the South Island journey. I needed to head BACK to Ōtautahi/Christchurch to get the bike movers to collect the bike to bring E-otearoa home while I visited with more friends and got a lift back north the fast way. But I decided to return over the Lewis Pass and stay overnight at the amazing Maruia Springs Spa, Hot Pools, & Accommodation. I planned to reach there that night and arrive in the city the next day, but FINAL DRAMA! I made it from Motueka and Kaiteretere to Murchison once again and charged up to full on the DC-charger in Murchison when I managed to break the actuator off! No more fast charging was possible! :( Stuck in a remote mountain town with the cable locked to my fully charged bike, I managed to release the cable to my great relief! I had just enough go-go electron juice to make my overnight stay and slow-charge back to 100%, so I went for it. The next day would need only 1 top-up to make my final destination, luckily, so that's what I did. I had a very relaxing evening at the resort, they gave me satellite Wi-Fi to try to arrange things with shipper and Energica, (thanks, Chris!) special accommodation, and 24hr access with a massage and a towel. So good!
My last day was long, but mostly waiting at the small pub in Culverden for a 6hr slow AC charge! The people were super nice, as was the food, I got plenty done online while waiting, and even beat the bike movers by an hour. Mission complete! Unfortunately, however, the final drama was a Covid outbreak in the big city of Tāmaki/Auckland where the last 2 events were scheduled. They were cancelled even though a week and two weeks away! Still paid, but I was really looking forward to more interaction. Next year I guess, don't screw it up again, Covid ya dick! I didn't get everywhere I wanted due to the awkward timing & spread of the events, but it was fully funded and getting paid to be a 'professional emoto rider' as one friend put it, so I was pretty chuffed with that! It was the first but not the last time I'll be there for sure on the emoto. Holy crap you made it, thanks for sticking with me!
Jef & E-otearoa out (part arrived/fitted/working again, new adventure planning already)