Dale Says

December 17, 2008

Cycling New Zealand’s Otago Central Rail Trail

Filed under: Travel — Dale @ 6:08 pm

Are you looking for an international cycling adventure that is exhilarating yet realistic?  New Zealand’s Otago Central Rail Trail may be the answer.  This one-week tour is invigorating and unique – yet has relatively easy cycling, familiar language and culture, and enough creature comforts to make virtually anyone feel at ease.  It’s a good choice for couples, families, and anyone looking for excitement, good food, and beautiful scenery. 

New Zealand:  Safe, Clean, and Friendly 

New Zealand is a good vacation choice with a secure infrastructure, common language, similar customs and food, and familiar monetary system.  It’s also a clean, safe, and friendly country that welcomes tourists (especially Americans!).  And now, due to a favorable exchange rate, New Zealand is relatively inexpensive.   

It’s a long way to New Zealand, but easier with non-stop flights from the U.S.  Several airlines (e.g., Air New Zealand, Qantas, American, United, U.S. Airways, Lufthansa, Mexicana, Air Canada, British Airways) fly to New Zealand from San Francisco or Los Angeles, with flights of around 14 hours.  Overnight flights make the trip easier, since you fly (and sleep) during normal sleep time, and help you adjust once you get there.   

The closest airports to the Rail Trail are Christchurch and Queensland, and you will likely have to go through either Auckland or Sydney to get to one of those cities.  We flew United Airlines from San Francisco to Sydney, then Air New Zealand from Sydney to Christchurch.   

Otago Central Rail Trail:  A Good Cycling Choice     

The Otago Central Rail Trail is a good choice for beginners and more experienced cyclists.  It offers relatively easy cycling, an interesting historic perspective, the experience of riding a rail trail, and incredible views of charming country.   

The tour follows the path of the Otago Central Railroad, which linked Dunedin to the Otago gold mining area.  After the railroad closed in 1993, it was transformed into the Otago Central Rail Trail.  The train tracks were removed, a suitable gravel surface was put down, and all 68 bridges on the route were re-decked and equipped with handrails.  The Rail Trail officially opened to cyclists and walkers in February, 2000. 

Daily rides on the Rail Trail range from 15 – 37 miles, with optional rides for those who want to do more, and a comfortable van for those who want to do less.  The terrain is relatively flat, and everyone in decent cycling shape should be able to handle it. 

Adventure South:  A Well-Organized and Equipped Tour Company 

Our tour was fully-supported by Adventure South, which has been in the business since 1992.  They supplied a guide, support van, bike trailer, bikes, accommodation, and two meals per day.  Our equipment consisted of hybrid bikes with handlebar and rear bags, helmets, cyclometers, and water bottles.  It was very good (among the best we’ve had) and completely appropriate for the conditions.  

Louise Shillits, our guide, is experienced, capable, helpful, and friendly.  She has a great sense of timing and she kept us moving at a steady, comfortable pace throughout the trip.  Louise is well suited for her job, and she treated us with a wonderful mix of patience and respect.  She is hard-working (doing it all – from hoisting our bikes on and off the trailer to pointing out the flora and fauna and steering us to the best sights, restaurants and night spots.  One of her most delightful attributes (and there are many) is a knowledge of where the best coffee can be found along the route (we stopped at all of them). 

Louise is a strong cyclist and she rode with us whenever she could, taking turns riding with each of us, carrying the conversation, and pointing out highlights.  Although she did innumerable large and small things for us that week perhaps the best was helping us fight a headwind the last day, when she drove the support van to the end of the trail, cycled out and rode back to the finish line with each of us, encouraging us along the way.  For that, she has our eternal gratitude!

December 16, 2008

Savory Pies, Fine Wines, and Ginger Beer

Filed under: Travel — Dale @ 6:08 pm

While not widely recognized for its cuisine, New Zealand has very good food – especially for cyclists.  Our meals were generally hardy which we appreciated after cycling 4-5 hours each day.  They were also tasty and healthy, with excellent meats and seafood and a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. 

Breakfasts were included in our accommodations and generally included hot and cold cereal, breads, fruit, juice, and coffee or tea.  There was plenty and it was all good.  A special treat was Marmite, which is a thick, earthy spread for toast that is particular to New Zealand and can only be fully appreciated by the locals.  

New Zealand is known for its savory pies, which are single-portion sized entrees with top and bottom crusts filled with combinations of vegetables and/or meats.  We began to look forward to them each day as we pedaled along the rail trail and planned and debated which type of pie we would order. 

Evening meals generally offered a variety of appetizers and entrees with excellent lamb, beef, venison, fresh seafood, vegetables, and salads.  Our meals were fresh, nicely-presented, inexpensive, and the servings were ample.   

Central Otago is one of the world’s southern most popular wine producing regions. The summers are hot and dry and the winters crisp and snowy and some of New Zealand’s best Pinot Noir wines are produced in this region.  New Zealand wines are plentiful, inexpensive, and good; among our favorite varieties were Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc.    

An excellent alternative to wine is New Zealand’s wide selection of ginger beers.  These refreshing non-alcoholic drinks have a nice zing that perked me us, and I found myself ordering them at afternoon rest stops and dinners.

December 15, 2008

Learning to Appreciate the Sport of Curling

Filed under: Colorful Characters, Travel — Dale @ 4:29 pm

In the small town of Naseby, New Zealand we developed an appreciation for the sport of curling. Prior to this, curling had been one of those sports (like fencing and water aerobics) we saw only on TV during the Olympics. And while we assumed that participants were skilled at what they did, we had little understanding why grown-ups would chase a chunk of stone down the ice with brooms.

Naseby, as it turns out, has the only dedicated indoor curling rink in the Southern Hemisphere and by a fortunate coincidence the Pacific Curling Championships were taking place while we were there. So off we went to watch this peculiar sport. We saw Olympic-level men’s and women’s teams competing from Australia, China, Japan, Korea, and New Zealand, watching from a spectator’s gallery above the ice. We happened to sit behind the Australian women’s team, who were watching their male counterparts and waiting for their turn to compete later that night. The ladies patiently explained the sport to us.


Curling is a team sport with similarities to shuffle board and bowling, played on a rectangular sheet of ice by two teams of four players each. Teams take turns sliding heavy, polished granite stones down the ice toward the target (called the house). A game consists of ten “ends” (an end is similar to a baseball inning). During an end each team delivers eight stones – two per player. The object is to get the stone as close to the center of the circles as possible. Two sweepers with brooms accompany each rock and help direct them to a desired resting place by smoothing the ice in front of them.

As the Australian ladies instructed, “it’s all about the last throws.” Early throws are designed to set up obstacles in front of the target, or to knock those obstacles away. The last throws for each team are aimed at the target and decide who gets the points (only the closest one or two score). The team with the most points at the conclusion of ten ends is the winner.

Most curlers have other full time jobs, and some have to pay their own way to regional matches like the one we saw. Most of the Australian women players are also mothers, and they talked about the difficulty of leaving their families behind as they compete. But it seems to be in their blood, as they have been curling for most of their lives.

Curling is an interesting and graceful sport. The next time we see curling on TV during the Olympics, we won’t dismiss it so lightly. We now know it has a world-wide following and requires a great deal of dedication and skill. And we have now added it to the list of sports we respect.

December 9, 2008

Jerry Fehringer

Filed under: Profile — Dale @ 2:43 pm

Jerome Fehringer passed away November 22, 2008 at Miller Memorial Nursing Home in Chappell, Nebraska.  Jerry was a long-time resident of Chappell and will be remembered by many for his community involvement and as the John Deere man.

Jerome A. Fehringer was born on September 2, 1919 to John and Clara Fehringer at their farm west of Peetz, Colorado, the second child of 13. He attended school in Peetz and Sidney and graduated from Peetz High School in May, l938.   After graduation, Jerry farmed at home with his father and worked at the John Deere store in Peetz.  December 7, 1941 changed a lot of people’s lives, including Jerry’s.  On Jan. l7, l942, he was sworn in to the U.S. Marine Corps in Denver.   After training in San Diego, Chicago, and North Carolina he was sent to the Pacific front where he was squadron leader of a unit that kept airplane engines running for fleets of U.S. bombers.  During the 14 months he was overseas Jerry served in Hawaii, New Hebrides Islands, Stirling Island, Munda, and Emerus Island. 

During a military leave in March of 1945 Jerry served as best man at the wedding of his former classmate, Bill Armstrong.  At the wedding he met the bridesmaid, Kathleen (Kay) Mohatt, who would later become his wife. 

Jerry was honorably discharged from the Marines in November 1945 and came home to Peetz.  He worked for local farmers and at the International Machinery Co. in Sterling and later for the John Deere dealership in Sidney.

Jerry and Kay were married in Sidney, Nebraska on September 23, 1948.   They lived in Sioux Villa in Sidney and were in their 3-room apartment when the “Blizzard of ‘49″ hit.  It lasted 3 days and nights and the only time they left their apartment was to get coal for the stove.

In the fall of 1949, the John Deere dealership in Chappell was put up for sale and Jerry met with the owner.  That same day, Dale Fenster also made overtures to buy the business.  Jerry and Dale wound up buying it together and ran it as partners for the next 26 years.  After the Chappell John Deere dealership closed in 1975, Jerry worked as parts manager at Reed-Merrill, Inc. of Julesburg, Colorado for l3 years. 

Jerry was a long-time member of the Lion’s Club and a lifetime member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.  He was a member of Chappell’s Elementary School Board when the building was expanded, a member of the local Chamber of Commerce, and an active member of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church where he was on the Church Board.

After their children had grown, Jerry and Kay enjoyed traveling and attended Marine Corp reunions, joined their siblings on cruises, took trips to Hawaii and Florida, and spent time with their children and grandchildren.  Jerry and Kay took square dance lessons in 1981, and joined the “Hicks ‘N Chicks” club from Ovid where they danced together for 21 years. 

Jerry and Kay were blessed with eight children:  Dan, Dale, Ray, Anne, Ralph, John, Joe, and Ed.  The whole family along with spouses and grandchildren often gets together for reunions, and Jerry treasured those times with his family. 

Jerry loved his family, his wife, Kay, the town he spent his adult life in, and his country.  He had many friends and his generous and gentle nature will be remembered by everyone who knew him. 


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