Friday, November 5, 2010

North Shore Paddling - Nov 5, 2010

Two weekends ago there was high winds forecasted for Duluth which means that there was surf waves on Lake Superior. A buddy met me up there and showed me all the good places to go. We checked out the mouth of the Lester River, Stony Break, Boulders, and Park Point. It was pretty foul weather (windy, wet, cold) but you sort of have to have that to get the waves. And with all our paddling gear on we didn't notice it too much.

The following week the North Shore got lots of rain. All the rivers were running that I'd been trying to paddle all year. And with an invitation to join a group of solid paddlers, I was back on my way up to Duluth. Saturday we paddled the Stewart River. It was a little on the shallow but we were able to make it down. The run consists of mostly 3 drops which I ran two of. One is called Plumber's Crack. Here's a video of me running it that a buddy took.


The really neat part is that you paddle right out into Lake Superior going from whitewater in an intimate woods to open sky and an ocean sized lake. The tradition is that you have to roll in Superior. With the water being probably in the thirties, we all got ice cream headaches.

In the afternoon we ran the Baptism River from Eckbeck campground to Illgen Falls. Nobody ran Illgen since it was pumping at this level. Another great addition. More rapids in between with a few drops.

On Sunday morning we ran the Cascade River. At the first three rapids, I spent a very brief time looking at them before deciding to portage around them. Their names were Hidden Falls (long slide with two big holes in it), Discretion (appropriately named), and Moose Rock (huge rock in the middle of a long slide). The portage on Moose Rock was exhausting but I just wasn't confident about paddling it. Thankfully the rest of the river was much more manageable and I had a riot. It was still challenging and a step up from some stuff I'd been paddling but not so scary. Here's a video of me paddling one of the last slides on the river called Long John Silver. There was a rapid above the eddy I started in but to make things easier I portaged around that and just did the section in the video.

It was two great weekends of paddling up North, getting to see new rivers, and hanging out with good friends. You get a lot of laughs cramming 6 guys into 1 hotel room with a whole lot of stinky wet paddling gear.


Thursday, September 23, 2010

Car Repair II - Thursday, September 23

So the brakes on my car started making enough noise that I couldn't ignore them anymore. I pulled it into the garage and started taking everything apart only to find that one of the slide pins was frozen in the bracket. After a lot of persuasion (first with a hammer, then a torch, then a vice grips, then some liquid wrench and a bigger hammer), it finally came out. Unfortunately the parts warehouse was closed for today so I won't get my parts until tomorrow. Now I know why most people pay to get this done.

After the brake job, I'll have to move replacing the exhaust system onto the to do list because the tailpipe broke off when I was jacking up the car to do the brakes! Although it was long overdue as my neighbor reminds me when I drive in.

Other news: Deck materials are to be delivered Friday. They can't unload in the alley and the forklift won't fit down the alley with 18' boards so they're going to drop it off in the front. We'll get to carry the boards either down the narrow side of the house or around the block to the alley ourselves. My sister volunteered to be at our place when it gets delivered since Megan and I will be at work. Oh and the reason we're getting it delivered is that when they put half of the load on top of my Volvo it sank 8" and the roof rack sagged!

We still have to figure out some spacers to compensate for our footings sinking different amounts. Lesson learned is to tamp the dirt on the bottom of the hole before you pour the concrete in.


Saturday, September 4, 2010

Car Repair - Sept 4

So today's success story was fixing Megan's car. She'd been hearing some noises and took it in to the shop. They told her that the air conditioning compressor was going and would eventually seize up. The repair would be $1000 which was more than we wanted to spend right so we asked if we could just not fix it. No AC but that wouldn't be too bad right? Well yes but the same belt also runs the alternator so that would be a problem.

Given the mileage and age of the car we decided we still didn't want to spend that much money on the repair which meant spending even more on a new used car. We started looking online and even test drove a few from dealers to start figuring out what type of cars we could afford. It was starting to look like to get the age/mileage of car that we wanted was going to cost around $6000 unless we found a steal somewhere. Meanwhile the noises on Megan's car were getting worse so she was getting more anxious that it was going to seize up any day.

On a whim, we decided to call O'Reileys (car parts place) and see if they sold an idler pulley. Basically it would replace the compressor pulley to allow the belt to function but not be connected to anything. They didn't sell such a part for Megan's car but they suggested just getting a shorter belt and not going around the compressor. Genius, pure genius! Jason had thought about this idea but figured it must not be possible since the car mechanic that diagnosed the problem hadn't suggested it.

We got the old belt off with a bit of work and measured the length for the new one with a piece of string. Megan's little hands came in handy since there wasn't a lot of room to work. The new belt slipped in without any problems. We were a little nervous starting up the car afterward but it purred just great. Megan was elated that the grinding noise was gone. No AC but summer is mostly over anyway, right? Of course we still need to do a test drive but we don't expect any problems.

So with 2 hours and $11 we were able to postpone purchasing a new car! Now that's a good time.

Other news: We have our decking on order and today we marked where the footings will go. We're hoping the local gnomes will dig them while we sleep. Otherwise Jason will start them in the morning.


Saturday, August 28, 2010

Grape Juice - August 26

We planted grapes to shade our deck (which is currently demolished) and they were getting ripe.
Megan decided it was time to press them since the raccoons and wasps were eating them. We cut them down and filled one side of our kitchen sink with them. It was more than we were expecting and probably 5 times what we'd harvested the year before.

The first batch we just tried throwing them directly in the small press that we had. Even after cranking it down quite a bit there were some grapes in the middle that hadn't popped. Must be that great spherical shape that transfers the pressure so well.

So on our second batch we broke the skins with a potato masher. (I had suggested we use our feet but since we weren't making wine, Megan didn't think it was such a good idea.) That seemed to do the trick and we got a lot more juice out of them without having to work as hard.

We ended up with about a gallon of juice by the end. It's sweet and a bit sugary. Pleasant to drink but a small glass is enough. You're welcome to come by and try some if you're in the neighborhood.

Deck Demo - August 7

Well the deck in our backyard was starting to rot away. There were a few places you could put your foot though it even. So we started demo on August 7. My sisters, brother-in-law, and nieces came to help. Here's a picture of things part way through.

It was a little drizzly which made things muddy once we got the floor up but we finished all the demo in one day. Unfortunately my momentum has tapered a little since and things haven't progressed but there is motivation to finish things quick for our cider party this fall.

Sturgeon Falls - Manitoba, Canada

So two weeks ago I took a trip to Canada with a few other paddlers (Scott, Scott, Jeff, Danielle, Bill, and Brian). It was about a 10 hour drive the the cities with two stops to switch cars/pick up paddlers. We arrived around midnight and set up camp in the dark. The next morning we got all set by 10AM and went to go check in but the office wasn't open for another hour! With no self check in we had no choice but to wait. And when we checked in we found out we'd set up our tents in the wrong site! So that was another hour delay of carrying tents to our new site. And then there was a slow paddle out on basically a lake with these waves in the distance. They didn't look so big from far away but as we got closer they got bigger. Imagine ocean waves that stay in one place and are in the middle of a lake. That's what it was like.

One of the coolest feelings was getting into the waves. You'd turn your back to the wave and be looking at this glassy lake. Slowly you'd start to feel yourself slide down into the trough. This roaring sound starts and gets louder and louder until BAM the pile of surf just hits your back and shoots you forward. The anticipation and thrill made me think of an amusement ride.

Here's a video of me surfing Chameleon (one of the waves). Scott told me to do something cool but I just couldn't perform on demand like that.

There were also surfers there that would get towed into the waves behind jet skis. Luckily the waves they liked and we liked were different so everyone got plenty of surfing. I think we were out there for 5-6 hours just surfing and hanging out. I even had packed a watermelon in my boat to share but we didn't eat that until the 2nd day.

The 2nd day was windy and rainy but with all our paddling gear on it wasn't too noticeable unless you got out of your boat. Here's a clip from that day that also has a 360 pan so you kind of get an idea of what the surroundings were like (beautiful).

WARNING: Make sure to turn your speakers down because the wind noise is really loud!

The wave behind Chameleon where you see people also surfing was called Triple S. It was another fun spot to surf and we even got 4 kayaks on it at once. There was a bit of bumper boats going on but we had fun.

There were other waves we played on too, including one called Big Mouth. It had this really weird pattern of building up (almost like a huge hand coming out of the water) and then crashing down suddenly. The thing to try to do is surf right next to where this mouth forms and just before it crashes slide over into it and get shot forward. Easy to say when you're sitting on shore. A whole lot harder when you're staring at it. There were times where I was just hanging on for the ride. Amazing how much power there can be.

The weekend was a blast. Okay weather, great waves, and awesome company. Looking forward to going back again some time.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

"Laser" - August 1

So I've had three weeks now at Medtronic and things are going well. Lots of training on all the systems and software programs but I think most of that is behind me. I've actually gotten some real work to do and am finally contributing to the progress of the project. What is the project I'm working on? It is a new battery for one of their ICDs (implantable cardioverter defibrillator). An ICD is basically an implantable version of the paddles that get used to jump start a person's heart. It works by using the battery to charge up a capacitor which can store the energy and then discharge it rapidly (sort of like how flashes work on cameras). If you'd like to know more or hear it from a more credible source, here is Medtronic's webpage on ICDs:

So it turns out there is a lot that goes into batteries and I'm getting to learn all about it. Anodes, cathodes, electrolytes, electrical insulation, shorting, electrical connections, etc. One of the processes that I'm working on is how the pieces are attached and sealed which involves ... "lasers". There's some resistance spot welding as well but the whole laser thing is really cool! To help me learn the processes, I've been trained to run the equipment and actually helping with the builds. Pretty sweet. I think it would get a bit old if I were doing it straight for 8 hours a day but it's new and exciting right now.

Other news: Our wood patio outside is in need of replacement so we're going to start that project soon. I went to Menards to shop prices and learn about all the options. The garden is doing well and producing more cucumbers than we know what to do with. The tomatoes, peppers, and basil were ready too so Megan made some salsa and pesto today.

Wisconsin Whitewater - July 17

A fellow paddler in the Eau Claire, Wisconsin area (Brian B)called me to let me know that they'd gotten a lot of rain recently and the rivers were running high. I grabbed another local paddler (Dan M) and drove out at 6am on Saturday. We met up with Brian and some other local paddlers to test out the Black River, Jim Falls @ 8,000 cfs (10x normal spring release), and the Chippewa River.

The highlight was definitely the Chippewa River which was at 24,000 cfs and pouring out of the gates at the downtown dam. The standing waves were all on the other side of the river but still looked big from where we were. After a bit of discussion about planning and safety, we did a flyby to check things out with out committing too much. Everything looked good so we decided to give it a go and actually try to surf some of the waves.

Even though we'd floated past and looked at them, it's still a little unnerving purposefully paddling into the waves and seeing how big they are. Basically it was like having an ocean wave, crashing surf and all, sitting in one place on a river. I'd guess it was 8'+. Turned out to be a riot with great surfing. It was retentive enough that you could spin and stay on it but it would still let you wash off if you flipped or wanted to get off.

Unfortunately the video we took is zoomed too far out to see much but it gives you an idea of the scale of things. Watch how quickly I move once I get in the current and zip past Dan (in the yellow boat). It's hard to see the individual waves but if you look on the far shore you can see some of the ones we couldn't get to because the current was so fast. There's not much to see after the 1st minute but if you bother watching the whole thing, listen for my yell of excitement as I get on the wave (1:40) and the photographer laughing. He wasn't a paddler and thought we'd just end up getting flipped around out there.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Kayaking Out West - July 8

I just got back from a week and a half of paddling out west. I went with five other midwest paddlers. We spent three days in Boise, Idaho paddling on the Payette River. This was big water! Huge waves and holes. I stuck to the Class III stuff and had a blast. Here's the group hanging out after Swirly Canyon in a natural hot spring. Great way to end a paddle. The other shot is of Brian below Howard's Plunge which was named after a fellow who drove his car off the road in the rapid, not once but three times!

From there we drove on to Husum, Washington where we knew a paddler working at Wet Planet which is a rafting company. We spent a lot of time on the White Salmon which was right on our doorstep! Lori showed us the lines and gave us all kinds of great beta on other rivers and hikes. She was an awesome host.

A pair of our group ran Husum Falls and Punchbowl Falls (right). My boat apparently was feeling a little left out so it jumped off my shoulder during a portage around BZ Falls (below but w/ Brian and dog Cassidy), bounced twice on the rocks, fell in the water, and rushed right over the waterfall! Luckily it finally lodged on some rocks further downstream and the only damage was a crease in the stern. I emptied out the water in the boat and finished out the run.

I also got to do some hiking and caving with my uncle who lives in Portland. Photo on the right is from the top of Steamboat Mountain which was a quick hike with a great view. There was even some snow to play in on the hike up.

It's feels good to be home now with a few days to recover and be with Megan before starting my new job on Monday.


Friday, June 25, 2010

Jobs! - Friday, June 25

So it's been about 4 months of looking for jobs since we got back. There were nibbles, resumes, phone interviews, and such but no offers. This week on Tuesday I went in for a 2nd interview with the client of a contract company I'd applied to. As the hiring manager walked me out the door, he told me to expect to hear soon and that I was his favorite for the position but he'd have to talk to the other interviewees. That afternoon they called to say the position was for the taking. Since I'd submitted a rate with my resume and the few benefits that were available were set in stone there wasn't a lot of room for negotiation. After talking it over with Megan, I accepted the position on Wednesday afternoon. It is a processes design position working with batteries for pacemakers. The contract is until December 21st of this year. My start date will be July 12, the Monday after I return from a kayaking trip to Washington. The commute is short (10 min) and I hope to bike it often. This seemed like a good fit since it would let me brush up my skills, try a new position and company, and make sure the balance sheet was in the black.

The very next day, Megan got a call requesting a third interview. That interview turned into two interviews which turned into two job offers that afternoon. She accepted job #2 and has a start date set for July 7.

It's been interesting getting the feel for job hunting, riding the ups and downs, managing the uncertainty, and having fun all at the same time. Can't say I'm great at it but certainly better than I was before. Actually looking forward to using it again rather than being scared about it.


Saturday, June 5, 2010

Garage Sale - June 5

So the neighborhood garage sale was today. When we'd packed up the house before leaving for New Zealand we had set aside some stuff that we didn't want any more and thought we could try to sell. Neither of us wanted to commit to doing it though and sitting around in the garage all day. So Friday night we went to bed not planning to do anything.

This morning, Jason woke up and stuck his head in the attic. Realizing all the boxes that were full of stuff to get rid of he decided at 7am that we were going to have a garage sale! An hour later we'd cleared a space in the garage, set up some tables, and laid our wares out. Our first customer didn't have any change and neither did we so Jason gave her $1 worth for free. We closed the garage for an hour until the banks opened and we could go get change.

Things started out brisk the second time we opened. Megan just wanted to get rid of everything so she was more willing to take offers. Jason got a little insulted when people wanted to haggle on a fifty cent item that was already cheaply priced.

It was fun chatting with all the people and our neighbors that wondered in. One customer left their car keys behind so Jason tried to find him by running down the alley. No luck but as we were making a sign saying we had keys for sale, he walked by looking distraught so we flagged him down. We also had a lot of people ask about our kayaks that were hanging in the garage.

Unfortunately the weather didn't cooperate and the drizzle slowly drove people away. By 1pm the alley was empty in both directions so we decided to close things down.

All said and done we got rid of half the stuff we no longer wanted and made just under $100. Not too bad for a Saturday morning. So now it is raining and Megan and Tanya are making plans to go shopping for fabrics.


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Rejection Letter - May 11, 2010

Dear Applicant,

Thank you for applying to Red Bull Flugtag Twin Cities. We were flattered and amazed at the number of people who applied and overwhelmed by the creativity of the entries. But unfortunately, with so few openings available, we are sad to tell you that we are unable to offer you the opportunity to compete.

What you showed us was full of great creativity and imagination (we would have never thought to fly something like that). You obviously put a tremendous amount of time and thought into your creation and we want to applaud your efforts. These six energy shots may not take away your feeling of disappointment, but it will give you the energy to apply again next time. And we hope you do. In the meantime, we invite you to join the crowd at Red Bull Flugtag Twin Cities, July 24th at Harriet Island.

Warmest regards,

Red Bull Flugtag Ground Control

Well we didn't make the cut for Flugtag. Guess that means I can return all the hang gliding books I checked out from the library and Megan can stop worrying about me injuring myself.


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Hard Work - April 20

Well I was getting a little discouraged with the job hunting so I decided to browse Craigslist for some temporary work. I found one posting wanting help moving a dishwasher, another for a SCUBA technician to remove weeds from Lake Minnetonka, and a third for buck brush removal. A phone call later I was signed up to remove the noxious invasive tree. After seeing the space where he wanted it torn out from, I thought alright a few hours right? Three hours and one broken shovel later I'd barely gotten through a third of it. I realized it was going to take longer than I thought and with the sun setting I called it a day. Next morning I started bright and early at sunrise but six hours later I was bushed and now only half way through (I hadn't figured on the time to cut and bundle it all). So I've realized that manual work is hard and the pay isn't so good (at least for this job anyway). On the bright side, this has turned into a really good motivator for job hunting! -J

Red Bull Flugtag!

Back in May I found out that the Red Bull Flugtag event is coming to the Twin Cities on July 24, 2010. Shortly afterward, a good friend of mine asked if I was interested since he was putting together a team so I jumped at the chance. What is Red Bull Flugtag you ask? Basically it is an event where teams of up to 5 people propel a human powered craft from a platform 30 feet above the river in an effort to a) go for the furthest distance or b) plummet spectacularly earthward. We're not sure which we'll end up doing but it ought to be fun!

If you want to get a better idea of what Flugtag is all about, just do a YouTube search. Here's one example:

Well actually we haven't been accepted yet. There is an application process where you submit your idea for the craft, an outline of a brief skit, and any other information you think might impress the judges. We submitted three concepts with the hope that at least one will be selected. We'd been keeping our ideas under wraps but now that the application deadline is passed I thought it would be safe to share them. In case any of you are on the judging panel, you'll know which ones to vote for. I think we find out in May whether or not we made the cut. If we did, I'll let you know so you can come watch the spectacle. -J

Broomball and Couches in Iowa - April 16-18

Last weekend we took a road trip to Des Moines, Iowa for a broomball tournament. The team was a combination of people with a good majority made up of Barons (Jason's men's team). Megan played with us too even though it was a men's division. We won our two pool play games and the semi final game on Saturday. The final on Sunday was a rematch against the Whiskey Sticks, a team from Rochester put together by another Baron. It turned out to be a fast paced, high scoring thriller that ended 5-4. We had successfully defended our title from last year.

The other highlight from the weekend was our foray into CouchSurfing. Basically it is an online community that connects you with people who are willing to let you crash on their couch. We met Nathan and Erica who hosted us for three days. On Friday, we took a canoe down the North River which turned into a grand adventure! Plenty of wildlife including eagles, owls, floating muskrats, geese, ducks, deer, and a mink. But the memories mostly came from dumped canoes. The first was a failed attempt to sneak under a log. Luckily the water was only waist deep so it was easy to empty the canoe afterward. The second was due to an overzealous landing which resulted in a thorough drenching of another paddler. Besides the paddle, we also enjoyed chatting and a potluck with other couch surfers. It was a great first experience with Couch Surfing. -J

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Spring Paddling - March/April

When I'm not looking for a job I've been trying to get out paddling as much as I can. Here are a few videos of places I've been this spring. Most of them have suitable background music so be sure to turn your volume down or mute it if you're at the library! If you're not, crank it up.

This first one is of the Vermillion River in Hastings, MN. It is a 1/2 mile run that you can do the shuttle by foot. It has a few drops, holes, waves and is generally considered a "play" run. Brian Z shot this video on one of the early runs in the season.

Here is a video Nora shot of Donut, one of the spots to play on the Vermillion River. Other boaters are Paul and myself.

The other exciting event this spring has been my first decent of the lower St. Louis River. Here are two videos with different perspectives (helmet cam by Brian Z vs. stationary camera by Dan F). Don't bother watching for me but they give you an idea of the river. Swinging Bridge Falls is really cool because the second drop puts you in a "room" with waterfalls on three sides.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Back in our own home! - March 1, 2010

We had a wonderful weekend with friends up north near Cromwell, MN. Lots of laughing, stories, skiing, cards, eating, and staying up late. After being gone 4 months, it was fun to fall right back into the swing of things.

We've finally reclaimed our own home. We didn't find any holes in the walls or missing fixtures after the renters moved out so that is good. Pip is acting like his usual self and enjoying all the new smells to investigate.

So if you're in the area, give us a ring or just drop by to say hi. We'd be happy to share stories and pictures of our trip and once we get to the grocery store we'll even offer you a cup of tea in true New Zealand fashion.

Megan and Jason

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Visiting the new addition to the family

We got to spend a few days in Hutchinson visiting Deborah, Kyle, Abigail, and Ellinor. It was our first time seeing our new niece. She was pretty content to sit, eat, and poop but also shared a few smiles and baby cooing.

Here's Mom - multitasking.

It was also a delight to spend time with Abigail who was quite outgoing and talkative. She knew both of us by name and we got to play, read stories, tickle, mix muffins, and go for a walk.

Here's another picture of her. I liked it because it sort of looks like she could be a "monster" terrorizing the toys. Rarrrr!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Finally in MN - Feb 18

Well we've made it back to Minnesota. As the plane began the descent, the pilot reported that the weather was clear and currently -2. Megan and I both looked at each other in shock. Then the pilot added "which is 30 degrees F". Much better!

Grandma and Grandpa picked us up at the airport and we've enjoyed hanging out, shoveling the driveway, doing laundry, and eating pie at Baker's Square. Jason's managed to hunt down a broomball game already. We're planning to spend some time with our new niece in Hutchinson and visiting Megan's parents before moving back into our own house on March 1.

We're excited to be back and hope to run into you all sometime soon.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Back home, well almost - Feb 15

We landed in LA this morning at 6:30 AM. The flight back is quicker than the one out because of the direction of the earth's spin (as Megan smartly pointed out to me).

After several phone calls to Qantas, I was still nervous that I'd have problems at the counter checking my kayaks. To my surprise when I mentioned I had them, the agent just said "Oh yeah, no problem" and that was that! Here's a photo of the guys wrapping one of the kayaks in cling wrap so that the gear I had packed inside wouldn't come out.

A view of San Fernando valley as we drove toward Barb's house. The freeway was practically as wide as 4 Kiwi roads! The other thing that amazed me was how many cup holders the minivan has - I counted 7 just within reach of the driver.

We're spending two nights with Barb and also had a chance to visit with Kelly and Alan again. We fly back to Minnesota on Wednesday morning and expect to be a bit shocked by the snow and cold.

Here are a few photos from our time in Australia:

Jason and Chris enjoying some food at the international festival.
At the museum we got to design futuristic homes and cars and them see them in a 3D world.
At the wildlife sanctuary, there was a friendly wallaby. It was incredible to watch them move around. When hopping they used their massive tail for balance. When "walking", they support their weight on a tripod of 2 front legs and a bent tail and slide their back legs forward. The shuffeling sort of looked like an inch worm moving.

Matt, Hannah, and Megan with the emu.

We enjoyed some art at the gallery in Melbourne and other art we just shook our head at.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Australia - Feb 13

The flight to Australia was a mere 4 hours or so instead of 16 or so it would be from the states. We spent three days in Canberra visiting Chris, a college friend of Jason. Cannberra is the capital of Australia so we took some bus rides to tour the different buildings. We also visited a toy car collection in the local art museum, stuffed ourselves at a food and dance festival, toured the observitory and offices where Chris works, went to a New Zealand BBQ, played soccer, and watched some movies.

Then it was off to Melbourne via a 8 hour bus/train trip. We were surprised with how much hotter Australia was than New Zealand (yes we know it is further north). The high was around 40 deg C for one of the days.

We made it to the tram stop in Melbourne with no trouble but the tricky part was finding Matt (who Jason hadn't seen in 7 years) or Hannah (who we had never met). Turns out we met on a crosswalk, Matt and I both almost walking by but doing a double take. After a delicious pizza dinner, we went downtown to watch the fire towers and eat ice cream on the boardwak. Over the next couple days we also explored the Victoria street market, took the city bus tour, relaxed at the beach, visited the art museum, and went to a wildlife sanctuary. One of the neat things at the sanctuary was seeing the koalas just before feeding time when they were crawling around and jumping between branches.

The flight back to Auckland from Melbourne was a little bumpy but nothing too bad. We finally sold our car at the backpacker's car market after spending a day being a car salesman. Not too much fun but at least we don't have to worry about it anymore. We're spending the last few days exploring Auckland before we leave on Monday for LA.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Packing Up - Rotorua

We stopped to visit Buzz and Patsy in Rotorua on our way north. It was a wonderful break from camping with hot showers, a comfortable bed, and home cooking. We went out fishing the first night and caught two trout. The boat we took out was an old wooden one that was all fixed up.

Megan taking apart her new souvenir.

Buzz and Jason with their fish. It was Jason's first trout and weighed 4.5 lb.

Wrapping things up - Feb 2

Well things are coming to a close on our holiday. We fly back to LA on Feb 15 from Auckland and then on to MN on Feb 17. We've also arranged to visit Chris O (college friend of Jason's) and Matt O (high school friend of Jason's) in Australia. We'll be in Canberra Feb 4-7 and Melbourne Feb 8-11.

We've found someone to store our gear/luggage while in Australia and today we needed a jump start which a fellow camper happily provided. The people we've met here have been great and made the trip a wonderful experience.

In the meantime, we've been making our way north toward Auckland. Currently we're in Raglan which is the 2nd best beach in the world for left hand breaking surf. Jason tried it out in his little blue playboat. He looked a little out of place with all the surfers but he had a riot. We also hiked to Bridal Veil Falls which was an impressive waterfall. Today we're heading for a walk in the Pirongia forest which was recommended to us way back at the beginning of our trip but we missed it on the way south.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Garage Sale!

Here's the stuff we're trying to sell before we leave from Auckland on Feb 15. All prices are an asking price but we're open to offers, especially if you're buying more than one item. Items are in Auckland.

Bliss Stick Smoothy (playboat) - blue, used for ~ 2 months in good nick with all the padding and an uncut foot block - asking $950 NZD but open to offers

I also have some other kayaking gear shown in the photos that I don't need to sell but would be willing to part with if the price was right and you were buying one of the above items. ***Paddle no longer available.***

92 Toyota Camry Wagon w/ roof rack (perfect for the Smoothy!) - SOLD!

Email us at mjogdahl at gmail dot com with offers, questions, etc.

Happy shopping.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Back in Christchurch - Jan 18

After Pukaki, we went to Mt. Cook and hiked around there for a day. There were several glaciers and lakes with small icebergs floating in them. We decided not to go swimming. We then went to Waimate (little town on east side of island) and spent a few days relaxing at a holiday home of Neville who we met at bowls in Diamond Harbor. We enjoyed showers and sleeping in a proper bed while baking.

We got to enjoy a 20/20 cricket game (shorter version than the 5 day w/ tea breaks type). The spectators all sat right next to the boundary rope and we were quite close to the action. Kids would line up by the fielders that were in the "outfield" and get autographs between bowls. There was also a streaker who sprinted across the field and hurdled both wickets so we got the full experience.
We stopped in Geraldine to see the world's largest jersey (sweater). It weighs 5.5 kg and was made on knitting machines. Megan had bought 6 kg of roving so I suggested she start knitting a bigger one to steal the record away.

One of the great things about New Zealand driving is the custom road signs! We saw this one and had to get a picture of it.

We stopped into a small town of Fairlie which is in the McKenzie region. It was named after a Scotsman, James McKenzie, who was a sheep thief. He used some unknown mountain passes to take 1000 sheep from one of the wealthier stations in the area. After being arrested, he escaped multiple times until being granted a pardon just because it was so much work trying to keep him in jail. This the statue of him with his sheep dog Friday.

Unfortunately the Tekapo Whitewater Course release did not go as scheduled on the weekend. They had too much water (also the reason for the crazy video in the last post) and were not able to open the gates to let the water in. The gates are basically like a miniature version of the dams on the Mississippi River where the water pressure keeps them closed. Too much water and there is too much pressure to overcome. A few other people from Dunedin (Harry, Ian (who was hairy too), and two other guys I didn't get names for) showed up and we paddled down the Tekapo river which was in flood but very tame (Class II).

We've driven to Christchurch now and are staying with Becs and Dave (paddlers we met). Sunday was another paddle on the Huranui river which was fun and there is a BBQ/slideshow from the kayaking Christmas trip tonight. We're planning to head north toward Nelson to pick up Megan's spinning wheel next.

Monday, January 11, 2010


We drove to Twizel yesterday since there was free camping and it was close to Mt. Cook. After setting up the tent we went to check out the spillway where there is a short kayaking run that requires a dam release to be runnable. Usually these are scheduled but there had been lots of rain and they were trying to drain the lakes. We also happened to bump into a kayak club from Auckland and 4 of their members (Martin, Katalla, Jen, and Eric) wanted to run it so that worked out perfect. Here's a picture of the spillway at the put in (no we didn't slide down that).

Meg took a short clip of me running the first drop which was a big tongue of water into waves crashing from both sides. Scouting it from shore and even paddling up to it, it didn't seem too bad. Just hit it down the middle right? Well once I was dropping down into it I realized how massive it really was!

That first drop was by far the hardest part of the run (I actually went back and ran it again it was so much fun). Most of the rest was big wave trains and avoiding a few scattered holes which Martin did an excellent job of guiding us around. The water was so high there were small pine trees underwater in the eddies. The run took all of 10 minutes since the water was moving so fast (usually 30-45 minutes I think?). The next morning we asked what the flow level was and they were releasing at 342 cumecs (cubic meters/sec). Normally they do 100-120 cumecs for scheduled kayak releases.

Today we're off to explore Mt. Cook. We won't be climbing it but we'll be in the park at its base. It is in the background of the picture below.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Away in Alexandra

Well we finished the Christmas paddling trip - 14 days, 10+ rivers, 2 lost paddles (not mine luckily), multiple swims (not mine either), and a roaring good time. We're in Alexandra now at a wash and surf where you can use the internet while you do laundry. We'll try to post some pictures of the kayaking trip later.

We're hoping to spend a few days in Waimate at a rental house of Neville (a lawn bowler we met in Diamond Harbor) to recover and relax in a real bed. The whitewater park in Tekapo has a release next weekend which we're hoping to go to. There is free camping!