Rest Area 300m: September 2005

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Don't Bogart That Toad, My Friend.

CHILDREN as young as 12 are licking cane toads in an attempt to get high, the Northern Territory News has learned.
Some children and teenagers in Katherine and Arnhem Land are even drying out the skins of cane toads and rolling them up as joints to get a hit.

But Territory health authorities have warned that those who lick or smoke cane toads are dicing with death and stress that there are no hallucinogenic effects possible from bufo toxin, the toxin excreted by the introduced pest.

Maranboy police also report they had to take a road worker into custody last month after he licked a cane toad while intoxicated.

It is understood the man's eyes rolled in the back of his head and he became extremely aggressive, and began shaking uncontrollably after licking the bufo toxin.

Officer-in-charge of Maranboy police, Brevet Sergeant Angelo Denale, said it was unclear whether the man's aggression was caused by alcohol or bufo toxin but warned against experimenting with the dangerous substance.

"Whether or not he became aggressive from licking cane toads, smoking cannabis or alcohol, it is a recipe for disaster," he said.


Wednesday, September 28, 2005

For Bruce & Charlie

I had a mate once, a rather "cosmic" sort of a guy, quiet but zany. He was a bit soft.
I was always on at him to harden up and be a bit more manly.
He ended up living in a housebus with a partner and a slew of kids.
One night the housebus caught fire, he got a couple of the kids out and died going back in for the third.

Another friend of mine once pulled a fisherman out of a big surf, got him breathing with CPR and then quietly disappeared as a crowd gathered.

There are a lot of heroes out there. Unsung and anonymous.
I always think of that lone Chinese man standing in front of those tanks,
he could just have been bloody foolish, but I don't think so.

There was Stanislav Petrov who should have pushed the big red button and didn't.

If you search the web, 90% of the people listed as heroes are really adventurers, or sports stars.

It's those quiet ones, that when their moment came, didn't hesitate, that are my heroes.

I'm proud to have known a couple.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

"Hold The Front Page"!

My first attempt at a career was as a very junior reporter on Wellington Newspaper.
I fluked a start by being cheeky and crashing the Editor's office.
I fancied being "Scoop, Ace Reporter on the Crime Beat".
I was going to track down villains and uncover rampant political corruption.
My first, and many most subsequent published masterpieces would go something like this.

"At a recent annual meeting of the Belmont Branch
of The Women's Division of Federated Farmers,
the following officers were elected;
President Mrs Elsie Power-Creamcake
Treasurer Mrs Gwen Pocketbook
Secretary Mrs Doris Fartsalot."

Not like Edna Buchanan

"Buchanan was a relentless collector of detail ( Ask one more question, knock on one more door, make one last phone call, and then another .. ), and a relentless questioner of those in authority. One officer said he'd sooner be interrogated by Internal Affairs than by Edna. The result was an extraordinary portfolio, ranging from the rape victim who, running in distress down the street, came across another rape victim running in the other direction; the 72-year-old man who ran away from home because his 103-year-old mother wouldn't buy him a car; the mother who framed her own two-year-old for the murder of his playmate; and Jacinto Roas, who murdered a man only to find that an iron security door had slammed shut and trapped him with the corpse.

The Great Reporters
via PLEP

Monday, September 26, 2005

In My Day .....

I used to love Formula One motor racing.

I grew up with heroes like Fangio, Stirling Moss, Mike Hawthorn, Jack Brabham, and of course the flying Kiwis, Bruce McLaren, Denny Hulme, & Chris Amon.

The cars they raced had no computers, traction control, or telemetry down loads. You could see the driver wrestling with the wheel and powering around corners in a controlled slide. While the car was important, the driver was everything.
Bruce McLaren invented, built and raced cars. Team McLaren races to this day

"Since McLaren cars first appeared on race tracks in 1966, there have been 11 Formula One Driver's World Championship titles; eight Formula One Constructors' World Championship titles; between 1988 and 1991 it won four Constructors titles consecutively, the only team ever to do so.
To date McLarens have raced in 496 Grand Prix and have scored 123 wins. This places the team second behind Ferrari by 6 races, however Ferrari started racing 16 years before McLaren cars."

Bruce didn't get it easy;
"At the age of nine tragedy struck. Bruce developed Perthes Disease, a rare condition caused by insufficient lubrication of the hip joint. For the next two years he was confined to the Wilson Home for Crippled Children, harnessed into a contraption called a Bradshaw Frame."

I wonder what he would make of todays races, where races are won or lost on computer determined fuel stops, and the drivers top pocket advertising space is worth the gross national product of a small country.

I think it's boring.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Some very rare steak on it's way home from a Russian supermarket

The Skippers Canyon road in Central Otago is pretty breathtaking. The old road builders hacked and blasted a dray road out of rock and schist, in an area where the climate is extreme. It would have been a brutal undertaking. Poems have been written about it.
"A three-kilometre stretch of the road involved hand drilling and blasting solid rock to create a road platform, 183 metres above the Shotover River. This daunting task called for men with a head for heights who had to hang on ropes to complete much of the task. They built impressive stacked revetments to support the road from beneath and stone walls to provide a safety barrier for horse and dray. Today this section, aptly named Pinchers Bluff and the Devils Elbow remains as the most intact memorial to these pioneer road builders."
Built to help get heavy machinery to the quartz gold mines, these days it takes white knuckled tourists to the Shotover River.
Facing ever increasing traffic use, some of the historic hand stacked schist walls are under threat. Fortunately the Historic Places Trust is on the case.
Tourism is now the country's biggest overseas money earner, worth $7.4 billion a year.
We are in danger of becoming one giant theme park.

Friday, September 23, 2005

This looks a pretty harmless corner. On a good stretch of road.
The woman involved in this accident was OK and the car suffered little damage.
I know of two fatal accidents at this spot. (Uruti)
In one a car left the road where the man is standing and punched through two deer fences before landing inverted, killing the driver.
In another a truck went off where the car is and ran down the drain till it hit an embankment killing the passenger.

There is a long straight leading into it, so speed may be a factor, or inattention. Very puzzling.


Thursday, September 22, 2005

Soft Mud

Cleaning the roadside drains, and culverts is a messy job.
The eels aren't too keen on it either.
Here one is making a break for it at our tipping site.
It is lucky one of my mates didn't spot him or he would have ended up on his menu.
They don't do anything for me unless smoked and even then I have to have had a few beers first.

Driving a truck with fairly shallow sides, and a load that is mostly liquid mud is interesting, a bit like bike riding with a bowl of soup. You have to be a bit cunning and use all the camber on the corners, dropping the wheels on to the road shoulder if need be. Of course if you brake hard, you wear the lot.

There is something though about drains, diggers and mud. I suppose it is the small boy thing.
I like it.

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Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Hard Rock

We have had a few slips over the last few days.
A slip is usually a soft muddy thing if you have misfortune to suddenly arrive on one in the middle of a rainy night.
This one was very hard. It came down in "Downers Cutting" in the Uruti Valley.
If you hit one of these boulders, the boulder would win.
Our front end loader was struggling to lift them, and even the short drop onto the tray causes an almighty bone jarring crash. You soon learn to get out of the truck, or you get fired into the roof.
They fell from over 50 metres, off a steep bank.
Some time ago in the same spot a fully laden semi trailer hit a similar mudstone boulder at 3 a.m. in the morning.
It tore the whole front suspension out of the truck, which then careered across the road and through a paddock, nearly ending up in a river.

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Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Another Nautical Post

I think a farm worker might be in a bit of strife here. The tractor has been ramming fence posts which have been carried on the forks of the front end loader. The posts are now seaward bound, and soon they will need to row to the tractor.
A high tide and a bit of a fresh in the Awakino River have caused someone some ribbing at the local pub.

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Monday, September 19, 2005

Rolling Down, From Rio

Standing a mile off the dark Coromandel Coast, you could smell the fires in the southwesterly breeze. Ahead, Great Barrier Island slowly grew bigger in the moonlight. All was quiet, just the chuckle of water, and a rhythmic creak from the rigging. Not a light, no sign of life, just the sweet smell of a burning Manuka, coming off the coast.
"It was just like this", I thought, "it was just like this."

With just running sails set during the night, Endeavour was trimmed with a bit of weather helm; any sudden gusts, and she would safely head up into the wind and spill the wind from her sails. It makes for heavier work, the wheel is basically a winch, pulling the tiller over with a heavy ropes. It could have weighed a ton for all I cared; nobody was going to get me off it.

In the early afternoon we had sailed from Tauranga, in the replica Endeavour, on a section of the millennium voyage. It was to be an amazing experience.
I have always been a Captain Cook fan. He was such a brilliant seaman, and manager of men.

So Pirate Day it may be, but I would sooner be making landfall in unknown seas, where a nail would buy you a Polynesian maiden, where you saw strange and wondrous things, and you made history.

Still, I am a lucky man. The sudden smell of a cooking fire; and there I am, the dark coast, the wheel kicking in my hands.


Mind Your Buccanneers....

Today, me hearty's, our scurvy crew cruise the shipping routes of State Highway 3, seeking plunder & potholes. We visit the various hell holes of the pacific, though sore sick with the grog from the night before.
Gather round ye swabs,
Here be a pirate tale about a bonny lass.
Anne Bonny

"She soon became romantically involved with the dashing pirate "Calico Jack" Rackham (nicknamed for his loud striped pants), who had just commandeered a ship full of liquor from his former boss, pirate captain Charles Vane. When James Bonny objected to the affair, he abducted Anne, brought her naked before the governor and charged her with the felony of deserting him�Anne was considered to be stolen property. Calico Jack suggested instead putting Anne up for sale to the highest bidder, a 'kinder' legal practice for divorce at the time. Despite Jack's rather less-than-romantic proposal, as well as a court order James got forbidding Jack and Anne to see each other, Anne ran away with Calico Jack, joining his ship's crew, apparently disguised as a man."

Wikipedia, Pirates

Friday, September 16, 2005


Today a nice lady put her finger up my bottom. It is all part of the requirements for driving a juggernaut, (or any combination vehicle with a gross weight of over 25000 kgs.)
I also had my arm pumped up, and had to read meaningless words off an eye chart. Then with my piece of paper saying I was alive and fit to cope with rigours of the road, it was off to get a 5L learners juggernaut licence. They give you a scratchy card of questions, of which you have to get 33 of 35 right, and take $79 off you.
Now this idea could be extended to Lotto, making sure you were a fit and proper poor person to get a chance. Boring people that save money could also be ruled out, thereby boosting the economy. Teenagers and the extremely doddery near death could also be banned, plus religious nuts, people with grey shoes & little taste. Basically I whittle it down to just me..
Anyway, I passed, and on Monday take an instructor, in a truck and trailer unit I have never driven, with a gearbox pattern I know nothing about, to a place I have never been. I hope he can't smell fear.

Now if we could store the hot air generated over the election campaign, we could solve the fuel crisis at a stroke. I have steered clear of politics. It seems to me that the NZ political blogging community are basically talking to themselves. Who gives a stuff what Joe Blogs thinks anyway. Down here at the bottom of the food chain all politicians are suspect.
Money spent on roads always seem to be spent on some Auckland Megaproject to get people to work a minute faster, and potholes appear no matter who is in power. I guess my fellow workers will vote Labour, despite being disgruntled over the nanny state encroachment, and smoking bans. Most come from a background where the Employment Contracts Act decimated their pay & conditions, and they have long memories, so National won't get a look in. Generally they are more interested in the fact that we have had rain, and there are some good tides coming. So the big question is, will the whitebait run?

Wednesday, September 14, 2005


I was a fireman once. In my spotty youth.
I joined the volunteer fire brigade. Obviously this was so that I could drive a V8 fire engine, sirens & lights going full blast, and be a legitimate vandal. You could smash down doors with an axe, shatter windows with the nozzle of the hose, and generally create mayhem.
I remember the satisfaction of blowing assorted canned food off shelves in a blazing grocery store with a high pressure hose. Seeing an old style set of scales melting like a Dali painting, a burning wheel of cheese that smelt delicious, & being blown back out the door by an exploding case of fly spray.
Putting out fires was a crude art consisting of dumping a huge quantity of water on to it, generally we put the fire out but left a heap of charred wreckage behind.
A Couple of years ago I had a shop. It caught fire about 3 in the morning, and soon spread into the joining camping ground kitchen and ablution block. The local fire brigade arrived in about 25 minutes from 35 kilometers away. They arrived to an inferno. The flames were twice as high as the building. They were cool efficiency. Using a mist nozzle they went around the building and damped the fire down till it was just a fire. Then they tackled the fire itself. In twenty minutes it was out. They saved a good half of the building and did little damage. They were brilliant.
I had invested every buck I had into stock for the shop, suddenly it was gone, alas no insurance. The fire brigade left me a leaflet, "After A Fire", then left.
I struggled along for a year, mostly numb. You really do feel grief for what was lost, but fire also cleanses and causes new growth.
Now I work on the road. I enjoy it. I hardly ever think of what I had. Only when the fire siren goes off in town and the engine races past.


Monday, September 12, 2005

Roadworker near Dunhuang, China.

It's getting quite hot in the middle of the day now. We have had three weeks of no rain, the rivers are low and the whitebaiters grumpy.
On the highway though it is all sweetness and light, the road has dried out, and we are on top of the potholes.
We are aware of preparations for a burst of activity on the horizon as the construction season starts, but for now, we are cruising through our routine work, and with the luxury of time, fixing all manner of small problems which if unchecked could grow into major ones in a month or two.
There have been a few small slips, just a wheelbarrow full of material here and there, a phenomenon known (delightfully) as "fretting", and a warning that heavy rain could have us in trouble, as the ground has dried out and cracks have appeared.
But all looks fairly settled on the weather front, the sea is flat, and rumour has it the fishing is good.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

In a week or so, I may get the chance to get a name painted on my new truck.
I have been racking my brain.
Most truckies have Manly things like "Rolling Thunder", or "Gear Jammer" or some other such innanities.
I rather liked "Sweetheart Of The Rodeo" (old Byrds LP) but that's a bit long and a wee bit obtuse.
New and shiny things are hard to name. Animals are dead easy, especially female ones, I always name them after old girl friends. If they are male, then whatever fits. ( I've always wanted a pig called Jethro.) Boats too present no problem, the vulgar fizz boats that pass us on the road generally have the vulgar names they deserve, something of wood and sails deserves something more romantic.
I'm not going to give up yet, but a shiny new work truck that will be the Swiss army knife of the road deserves something.
It's a worry. Suggestions on a post card please, a free set of steak knives could be yours.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Sunday Morning, Coming Down

He's Back. Practicing for his early morning wake up call.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Like A Virgin

My first car, I had only an eighth share in. It was a 1937 Austin 7.
I managed to convince 7 school friends to chip in half a crown each (50 cents) and so raised the 2 Pounds it took to buy it.
Of course I would be the one to "look after" it, in fact I looked after it to death.
It expired a couple of weeks later on the mud flats in a welter of spray and oil.
There followed a succession of venerable machinery, which all met a similar fate.
It is only recently that I have managed to own a car that was built in the 1990's.
When I was called to my vocation as keeper of the State Highways then, it was fitting that my truck should be of vintage.
It is a mature Isuzu, rapidly closing in on three quarters of a million hard kilometres.
It clangs and rattles and oozes body fluids. If I ever need a bolt or nut, I can just scratch around on the cab floor, they shake out of everywhere.
Today in the back of a Rotorua workshop I was taken to see the replacement.
It was under a cover while they fitted a sliding deck to the chassis.
It has 45 Kilometres on the clock. I have never, ever, driven such a new machine.
I feel like a groom in an arranged marriage.
In two weeks I can lift the veil

Rest Area 300m


Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Sleazy Riders.

Washing marker pegs on our patch used to be a faintly ludicrous & mundane chore.
Now in a sudden burst of sanity and good sense, the Sleazy Riders, on their Hardly Davidsons, have come to the rescue.On their dinky scooters they each wash an alternate marker peg, and are making good progress down our road.

They are very happy in their work, and we are happy too.
We can get on with our hole digging and other manly tasks, though on a nice day like today, I was a tad envious, it looked like fun.
Rest Area 300m

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Breed More Gear Jammers...

I had a lecture from the police today.
The Commercial Vehicle Unit no less.
I've had one before, but this time it was all smiles, slide shows and doughnuts.
In a stunning blow for commonsense, the company arranged for a presentation and an informal forum where we could go over the increasingly complex legal requirements to operate a truck lawfully, and the paperwork and requirements around logbooks etc.
They (CVU) believe that 30% of all transport industry crashes are as a result of fatigue, and pointed out that most of the truck smashes occur in the centre of the North Island, about 8 or 9 hours out of Auckland or Wellington.
Another interesting observation was the fact that there are few younger people getting into the industry, and the average truck driver (like Me) are 50 plus. One of the cops said that he thought that a reason for this, was that kids don't go for a ride with Dad in his truck any more. Firms don't allow it. I think it is a good point. If your Dad was a truckie, you grow up knowing how to tie knots, change tires, get unstuck, and where the local cop hides. You will probably know how to drive before you even get behind the wheel for the first time. Kids watch. Another reason is economic. These days to get the various licences is an expensive business, and takes time. The current driver shortage is also caused by the fact that there are very few companies that will take on and train a young person, something that is only now starting to dawn on the industry. Meanwhile we geriatrics will carry on trundling about the country, delivering freight, and pontificating about it on the interweb thingie.
Pedal Car Photo Link

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Monday, September 05, 2005

Doddery is one smug old roadworker today.
In fact vast quantities of smugness are oozing out of every pore.
Today, the crew got a dinky little clock radio thingie for not having any lost time injury accidents for a year, & I scored a couple of pairs of new overalls, some new boots, and a brand new truck.
At this very moment a highly skilled team of engineers and truck builders are painstakingly crafting a real roadies truck with every conceivable folding out, and tucking in, extra. Sliding deck, winch and all.
I am also authorized to oversee the finishing touches, placement of lights, lockers etc.
( a stainless steel galley & en suite would be nice, oh and a high speed wireless data link)
Truly my cup runneth over.
I haven't had the heart to tell my old truck yet.
Terminating a long relationship is never easy, especially when a shiny new, low mileage replacement comes along. I may have to try and break the news gently, over a service pit with some heavy duty grease, and low sulphur diesel.

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Saturday, September 03, 2005

I See Red, I See Red, I See Red.

There is nothing so dead as a phone with no dial tone.
There is no organization worse to deal with than a phone company. They seem to be the same anywhere in the world, God knows what they must be like to deal with in Russia.
Thursday afternoon I arrive home to a dead phone. Ring Faults on cellphone. After enduring incredibly distorted muzak, I am told it will be sorted by 1p.m. Friday
Friday afternoon I arrive home, dead phone, ring faults and endure another endless selection of incredibly distorted music and am told, "It's fixed".
I point out to them that I am here, they are there, and it is not fixed.
"We will have our technician get right on to it & he will ring you himself, sorry about that etc.etc."
Nothing happens.
Saturday morning, I ring faults and after 11 minutes of kiwi music, recorded underwater on wax cylinders, I am answered, then immediately cut off again.
I dial again. After 9 minutes and just as SplitEnz finish "I See Red.." I get another promise.
Finally a Ute arrives, a nice man climbs a ladder and fiddles with the wires on the pole. In ten minutes the long lost dial tone returns and the computer announces that it has two zillion emails.
When the revolution comes, and we have strung up the lawyers and politicians, I have Telecom next on my list. I intend hunting management with a pitchfork, and some badly recorded Barry Manilow.
Rest Area 300m

Male. Lives in New Zealand/North Island/The Road, speaks English. Eye color is blue.
This is my blogchalk:
New Zealand, North Island, The Road, English, Male.

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