Two of the scariest incidents I’ve experienced astride a motorcycle occurred on a tour of New Zealand’s South Island in 2000. The trip was my retirement gift to myself, and I rode a BMW 800, a bike provided by the tour company. Judy came along but rented a compact Toyota Echo and became a part of the adventure. This is the tale of one of those gut-wrenching episodes.
Just the two of us traveled together our last riding day before returning our wheels in Christchurch. The route wound us down the coast and inland through Arthur’s Pass, the highest pass over the Southern Alps. On State Highway 73, we encountered a road crew blasting a narrow, curvy road out of the side of a mountain. Heavy machinery, yellow behemoths, inhabited the area, blocking the single traffic lane. We would have to negotiate the pass with only the help of timed traffic signals at each end of the stretch. We soon learned those signals were out of sync.
When the red light turned green, we naively proceeded, unable to see far enough ahead to discern “the mess.” Navigating a couple of curves, we came upon the snarl and had to brake and stop on a hill. Three vehicles were still in the lane, coming toward us! No place to move over! In order to get to a wider spot, I had to back down the left-leaning gravel-strewn road, countering the tilt of the road. After a bit of maneuvering, all of us managed to squeeze past each other. Judy and I snugged up to the rock to our left, and the cars coming at us crept along with their passenger-side tires half off the cliff.
I let out the deep breath I’d been holding. Whew! The worst was over! But around the next bend, I came upon a huge crane that occupied the entire lane. No big deal after what we’d already survived. We were stopped on a slight hill this time. But, when the equipment moved and we could continue, my eyes bulged as the six vehicles that had been stopped on the other side of the crane headed toward us. For an interminable ten minutes, everyone inched forward, negotiating the pass, while the road crew urged us on with wild gestures and shouting, “You’ve got plenty of room!”
After untangling, all the vehicles in our line whizzed down the other side of the mountain and stopped at the first café. Judy and I parked the car and bike then hugged each other and screamed. “Plenty of room,” she said, “A feather’s width does not equate to ‘plenty of room’!” Then we groaned our fears and chatted with the Kiwi couple who were in the Toyota SUV ahead of us. Now we were like old friends; we’d survived a helluva experience together.
~ xoA ~
(Photos from the Internet)