And we're off cycling through the countryside, whistling a merry tune. Several of them were very annoying and got stuck in the mind on repetitive loop track. The Green Goddess wins the award for most irritating number to be lumbered with: It's a Hard Knock Life from Annie. I know: why?
First stop; Omakau Commercial Hotel. Drinking bubbles and beer and still smiling.
And then we're off again, 'suitably refreshed' with lashings of beer. We feel like the Famous Five, except there are twelve of us, and no dog.
Lunch at Lauder is mainly chips and toasted sandwiches, which are deemed to be sufficiently fortifying for the next leg of the trip.
We reckon this bridge and the later tunnels are the money shots of the rail trail.
Innovative bicycle design may be laughed at now, but apparently saves a sore neck later. Double-decker handlebars, bells and baskets are this season's hottest accessories.
Hurrah; there is light at the end of the tunnel! It doesn't come soon enough for one of our party who manages to cycle straight into the wall and give it a hefty shoulder barge. (That would be Him Outdoors) Don't worry, the wall is fine.
Wedderburn Station was made 'famous' by Grahame Sydney's painting, and it is easy to see why it stood out for him from the surrounding landscape and frequently dramatic skies.
Ranfurly is the end of the line for us. The Returning Officer tells us this is the second time she has been glad to see Ranfurly. Apparently the first time was when she last cycled the rail trail two years ago.
We stay in the Ranfurly Lion Hotel which boasts a fine blue cod burger and 'the most comfortable carpet I've ever slept on'. We make our own entertainment by way of tipsy charades and quite possibly the most thoughtful present yet (if by 'thoughtful' you mean completely useless) - Mad Alice brings a box of balloons and an almost-empty helium container. There is just enough gas for us to place our orders with the waiter and then tie a floating birthday balloon to my wrist. Eventually this is sacrificed (but only after dinner and the charades) as I am The Oracle and can answer any question, if only I can undo the knot. There is enough for just one question as I finally inhale the helium and I am quizzed, 'Seven twelves?' 'Eighty-four' I squeak which may indeed be correct, but is not exactly earth-shattering.
The next day Ranfurly is completely dead, so we sidestep the tumbleweed and drive to St Bathans, where we do a spot of riding and reading.Oh, and did I mention drinking? We do a wee bit of that too at the Vulcan Hotel.
Our weekend is rounded off at Rabbit Range where we barbeque with friends in the most idyllic landscape and commune with the dogs, cats, ducks and horses. We don't so much as commune with the lamb as eat it, but it is incredibly tasty.
Thank you to all my fabulous friends for making my birthday weekend a special one. I had a great time and hope you all did too!