After having visitors from the UK for a few days which was great fun but didn't involve 2 wheels, I was itching for a ride. Woke up early, decided to go for a blast, grabbed a shower and the heavens immediately opened - couldn't believe it as the forecast was supposedly for great weather. Resigned myself to aborting the ride and doing something productive indoors, only for the sun to come out after a few minutes and start drying the roads. An hour later, I was on my way.
Decided to ride to Ardmore airfield, south-east of Auckland. Ardmore is the home of several flying schools for various types of aircraft and it's also home to the north island chapter of the Warbirds - WW2 aircraft or thereabouts. You never know what you'll see up there! The 320-odd km loop through the countryside to get there and back is almost continuous twisties with minimal traffic - what more could you ask for?
320 km of heaven!
The intent had been to head inland and approach Ardmore from the south but travelling down the Coromandel coast, the rain which cleared from home earlier seemed to be heading across that way, so going anticlockwise and travelling north up the western Firth of Thames coast road seemed a sensible option. Beautiful warm weather with a mixture of cloud and sun, deserted roads..... magic! A quick drink stop in lovely Kawakawa Bay and then on to Ardmore. A Highway Patrol car was discreetly tucked away near a hedge along a tempting country straight near Clevedon but the officer was being lazy and not using "instant on". My detector picked him up the best part of a kilometre away which saved any grovelling explanations to Jennie.
Kawakawa Bay - not a soul in sight
Arriving at Ardmore, what struck me is the completely relaxed nature of the place considering that it's an operational airfield. You can wander right up to the aircraft and whilst there must be some degree of discreet security, it's certainly not obvious and long may it be so.
First port of call was to the far end of the airfield where the Warbirds hangar is located. Unfortunately, the hangar was shut so it wasn't possible to see what treasures were inside but right outside, there were some Harvards and Russian Yaks being readied for flight. Alongside them was a PBY Catalina flying boat, one of a handful still in flying condition. A rare treat to see it close up!
PBY Catalina and Yakolev aerobatic aircraft
The pilots started walking towards the Yaks, so it was time to scoot down to the other end of the airfield to see them take off. However, just as I arrived, 4 Harvards were taxiing down the approach and parked in formation waiting for their turn to take off.
Clearing its throat or practising laying smoke?
Formation lift-off. Big radials sound magnificent!
Low pass before flying off into the wide blue yonder
Ardmore has a slightly genteel air about it. A vintage Bentley cruised slowly past whilst I was munching a bag of corn chips. I think the occupants looked down their collective noses at someone in leather eating junk food. The occupants were in period costume - strawberries and champagne for them rather than corn chips methinks; perhaps in the beautifully-restored DC3 which does charter flights around the Auckland area. The genteel atmosphere extended to the photo below. It looks like an English cricket pavilion but is in fact the Ardmore Flying School
Caviar and a cigar before your next flight old chap?
Shortly before I left, an aerobatic aircraft came out for a bit of practice. Hard to see in the photo below but they're tiny little things - more like a home-built than a serious competition aircraft. It had only rolled a few metres before it took off - power to weight ratio must be enormous.
Tiny little aircraft but really, really fast
Finally, I couldn't resist a photo of the Triple against what remains of an English-built Bristol Freighter transport plane. Hard to accept that these were front line cargo planes when I was a kid! They had clamshell front loading doors and were pretty basic in their construction. One Kiwi pilot likened it to 40,000 rivets flying in close formation!
Old meets new - pity about the vintage rider on the new item
The ride home through the Hunua range of hills was magic - literally two or 3 cars in 50 km and also pretty light for the rest of the run home, perfect for behaving irresponsibly (well, just a bit). Guess we have to thank the nation's wives for keeping their husbands off the roads and busy on domestic tasks before they're allowed out to play. My turn will come tomorrow but what a great day today has been!