Neville (“Nev”) Grubb picks us up at the Pukerangi train stop. Nev is the co-founder and managing director of Trail Journeys, the biggest (and first) biking expedition company for the Central Otago Rail Trail, a 150km long bike path built across what used to be a railway line.
Nev is fit and bald and, with his arms crossed in front of him, looks more than a bit like Mr. Clean. He’s driving a silver van and instructs us all to hop in. I commandeer the front seat. It’s about 20km from Pukerangi to Middlemarch where we’re to be fitted for our bikes.
“Probably best you’re not riding today,” Nev says.
He’s referring to the torrential rain and the temp which, I’m guessing, is in the mid-40s. “Got some foul weather riding gear, I’m sure,” he says with a smile.
Actually, I don’t. When I left Los Angeles it was in the mid-80s and although I knew that May is late autumn in New Zealand, I couldn’t convince myself that I’d need serious winter gear for a bike ride. So I brought my fly-fishing pants, a lightweight jersey, and my cycling gloves. That’s it. Not even a rain jacket. When I tell this to Nev, laughing, he looks at me with concern.
“Supposed to be ten below zero in Wedderburn tonight,” he says.
Wedderburn is where we’re spending the night before starting our ride tomorrow.
When I don’t respond, Nev says, “And if it’s not snowing, it will be raining for sure.”
Driving through rural sheep country, Nev grabs his cell and makes a call. He tells whoever is on the other line that there’s a wool hat and gloves and a heavy rain parka in the trunk of his car. Can they get all that and bring it to Wedderburn in the morning?
When he hangs up, he smiles at me and says, “You’re all set. I’ve got some gear for you.” And then, after a pause, “Assuming they remember to bring it tomorrow morning.”
I hope so. If not it could be a chilly bike ride.