Granny's Notes - the writing of Sue Gerard

Long bicycle trip yields strong memories, friends

All of us on the plane from Honolulu to Auckland, New Zealand, earned certificates for crossing the international date line. Suddenly Saturday became Sunday. I was on sabbatical leave, with pay, to "research, travel and rest," and, because I taught philosophies of recreation, I wanted to observe the use of leisure among people of other cultures. I scheduled stops in Hawaii, American Samoa, New Zealand and Australia, staying in youth hostels. The international date line was not important at the moment because I had a travel problem: Would I be able to buy a tire in New Zealand to replace the spare, which was now on my bicycle wheel?

I was alone and had ruined a tire in Hawaii. At the Auckland airport I topped up the air in my tires, strapped the saddlebags on the rear rack and was about three miles from Auckland. "BANG!" The other tire blew out and I had no spare. Tiny cars sped past, so I slipped off the front wheel. The next car stopped and a fellow said, "Let’s see if we can get your bike and bags in here somehow." We did.

Not only did he take me to Auckland, he located a bike shop. By looking through the window we saw everything bicyclists needed. On the way to the youth hostel he drove past several interesting things I should see later. I asked myself how I could have found such a helpful stranger. The answer is that New Zealand’s three islands are far away from Australia, their nearest neighbor. Early Europeans found it to be three days away by steamer. No wonder they enjoyed tourists.

On Monday the bike mechanics stopped work to talk about my trip. Clerks at a woolen shop were delighted that I could pay in U.S. dollars; they had little money coming into New Zealand, and there was a limit to the amount local people could take out. They were delighted that I could pay in American $20 bills.

About unstructured recreation: It was no surprise to find children creating their own fun, much as we kids did on the farm when I was a youngster — tag games, towers with driftwood sticks, climbing, swinging and impromptu races. In Samoa, boys went "to sea" in cobbled-up boats they’d made with scrap wood and tin. Older boys, barefoot and physically fit, scampered up the leaning palm trees to get coconuts. Girls, unsupervised, gathered shells and waded or made sand castles at the beach. One held a 20-foot octopus by the head, stabbing it to death. She offered to sell it to me for "a quawter." We spoke in pantomime, otherwise.

New Zealand’s young people were also spontaneous and creative in their play activities. Thirty-six youth hostelers invited me to go with them, by bus, on their three-day trip to Mt. Cook. My seatmate said, "I can’t believe that I’m sitting here talking with an American woman!" We hiked and sang and went to a Roman costume party. I made Roman costumes for the girls by taking down the hostel curtains and using lots of safety pins to drape their "robes;" we rehung the curtains after midnight. Spontaneous recreation.

The day before I left for Australia, we hostelers spread out our various foods to share for breakfast and talked as we ate together like family. We were from Canada, England, Germany, Australia, the United States and New Zealand.

Recently, on New Year’s Eve, I recalled the certificate and that breakfast. One fellow said this about recreation: "When I get on that wheel o’ mine and ride out 15 miles and back, I get the feeling that I’ve done somethin’."

Click here to return to the index

 Subscribe in your RSS reader

Copyright © 1994-2010 Sue Gerard. All Rights Reserved. No text or images on this website may be reproduced in any form without written permission of the author, except small quotations to be used in reviews.