New Zealand cycle trek, Chapter 1: Father and son embark on adventure

Chris Bateman
By Chris Bateman January 31, 2016 11:45
Photo by Ben Bateman

Enjoying larger-than-life Kiwi news

Bateman’s Blog

Journalist Chris Bateman, 69, and son Ben arrive in Christchurch to prepare for a 500-mile ride across New Zealand.

“Let’s go bike riding this winter – somewhere in the Southern Hemisphere.”

The idea was my son Ben’s. The guy’s 28 years old, so it was easy for him to say. My translation: “Let’s go to some beautiful, exotic place where it’s summer in February, then I’ll kick your butt out on the road.”

I went for it.

So here we are in Christchurch, New Zealand, getting ready for a 10-day ride on the mountainous South Island. Beginning tomorrow, we’ll pedal over 500 miles and climb more vertical feet than I care to think about.

In the abstract – looking at maps and gorgeous photos without sweating a drop – it sounds great.

Last time I bike toured was in 2008, when Ben and I took more than two months to ride across the U.S.

But the pain of climbing those passes in the Rockies and Sierra and of crossing the sauna of Kansas in July has faded over the years. A nostalgic haze has erased the groans, sweat and heat cramps into something adventurous, romantic and almost totally fictitious.

But I do remember Ben’s repeated question, asked amid particularly tough times on the road: “Remind me again, Dad, why are we doing this?”

“Because of how good it will feel when it’s over,” was my answer, embellished by some Cub-fan claptrap about “character building.”  Then I’d tell Ben that if he felt sufficiently terrible about the trip for three days in a row, we’d ditch the bikes and fly home.


Ben hoists bike at Continental Divide during 2008 trek. Read about that trip at finding-joy-in-the-father-son-journey.

We never did. Not only that, but two years later Ben and Sonora friend Sam Welch rode nearly the entire length of South America, not only pedaling in at-times horrendous conditions, but camping every night and cooking their own food.

In New Zealand, as we did back in 2008, Ben and I will be staying in motels and eating in diners – although I hope none is as bad as a Kansas dive that issued us flyswatters on the way in.

In years since that trip, Ben has not only gotten a good job and prospered, but kept himself in shape as he advances irrevocably toward 30.

Me? I quit my own job five years ago, underwent hernia and kidney stone surgeries, got my prostate biopsied, had my heart shocked into rhythm and, just last week, had my creaky left knee shot full of cortisone.

“You’re nearly 70,” said one friend after hearing of the NZ bike ride. “Can’t you take a pass on this kind of stuff?”

Well, I could, but don’t want to.

I’ve continued riding since retiring from my newspaper job and have actually lost a few pounds. It won’t be easy, but I think I can get this New Zealand trip done – and feel good when it’s over.

I’ll turn 70 in April, but that doesn’t worry me. When I start taking passes on bike rides, now that will worry me.

Which, of course, is easy for me to say before I’ve pedaled even  a mile on this one.

Chris and Ben will pedal their first miles on Monday and, assuming they aren’t too exhausted to do so, will file regular reports from the road.

Photo by Ben Bateman

Earthquake recovery continues in Christchurch

Kiwi Notes  

Poultry? In airports?
“Will passengers on Flight 370 to Christchurch please report to the chicken area.” I did a double take – until I realized the airport PA announcer meant “check-in area.”  Give me a few more days, and maybe I’ll master the Kiwi dialogue.

Honey, no one shrunk the papers
I don’t know how well the print media are doing here. But daily papers in New Zealand – unlike those in the U.S., which have shrunk to the size of comic books – remain startlingly large. Fold open the “Weekend Press,” and it’s nearly a yard across, suitable for use as a sail, tablecloth or movie prop for a 1920s-era US production.

Six years later, still quaking
Hit by devastating earthquakes in 2011 and 2012, Christchurch still is in recovery. Its landmark 1881 cathedral remains in ruins, with local factions arguing over whether it should be razed and replaced, or restored. Meanwhile, its windows are boarded up, its walls are partially collapsed, piles of rubble surround it and pigeons perch on its exposed rafters.

Once occupied by shops and businesses reduced to rubble by the quakes (measured at 7.1 and 6.3), many blocks of the downtown area remain flat and empty. Elsewhere, dozens of towering cranes mark a rebuilding skyline. Recovery will take a generation and cost billions. Yet the town perseveres. Reassuring Christchurch’s residents and citizenry, a multi-colored neon sign on the side of the city’s art downtown gallery proclaims “Everything’s going to be alright.”

Stay tuned for the cyclists’ updates in the coming days at Bateman’s Blog.


Chris Bateman
By Chris Bateman January 31, 2016 11:45
Write a comment


  1. Wells January 31, 16:11

    Looking forward with great excitement and anticipation to tales of the Kiwi Cycling Adventure! I went for my first bike outing in CubLand during a break in the weather, so this will be a vicarious thrill.

  2. Nancy January 31, 21:07

    Woo hoo!! The dynamic duo are back in the saddle again. Thanks for the blog, Chris, I LOL’ed several times – as usual – and really look forward to reading your entries in the coming days. Have a blast, you two!

  3. Peter February 3, 17:11

    Such a Cool Adventure… have fun, be safe, and if they offer you a fly swatter… leave.

View comments

Write a comment

Your e-mail address will not be published.
Required fields are marked*