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Friday, 22 December 2017

That was the year that was - 2017 in pictures

2017 was a year that seemed to be over in a flash.  I thought it would be nice to show the year pictorially with a few photos which I haven't  previously published on the blog.  Every month of the year is represented.

January
Summer in the Southern Hemisphere and a time for the grandkids to descend on us ('cos Nana J makes great cake, haha!)  The photo shows us in a corner of the garden with all the grandkids and two of our 3 adult children.

Some of the James clan

Although January is mainly warm and sunny, the heat sometimes brings summer storms.  The next photo was taken from our deck at dawn, a few hours before a big storm swept through.

The calm before the storm....

February
This photo is important to me for several reasons. Rob (L) was one of the Institute of Advanced Motorists Trainee Observers (Instructors) that I was mentoring.  He had just passed his written and practical Observer Test with flying colours after about 8 months of intense work.  Keith (R) is on his assessment ride prior to joining IAM.  Rob went on to coach Keith and at the time of writing this, Keith isn't far off taking his Advanced Roadcraft Test and then beginning his journey as a Trainee Observer.  It represents a wonderful cycle of raising skills, improving road safety, increasing riding enjoyment and it's all done on a voluntary basis.  The perfect example of paying it forward!

Rob and his Hayabusa and Keith with his FZ6R.  Some old geezer's bike in the middle

March
A highlight was meeting Aussie moto-blogger Steve Hoswell of  Road to Nowhere fame and his mates during their NZ north island tour.  It was only for a few hours but it was a genuine pleasure to ride with them and make an instant bond.

Steve and his mates on the Coromandel Peninsula

A trip to the top of the south island as part of an annual long weekend get-together with friends from down country.  Visiting the World of Wearable Art museum and adjoining motor museum in Nelson, then enjoying the stunning scenery in the area.  The photo was taken at Tata beach with the rugged hills in the background.

Magnificent Tata beach

April
April in the north island of NZ and the Coromandel Peninsula in particular wasn't much fun at all weather-wise.  Unrelenting torrential rain and gales saw us cut off from the rest of the country for a week with landslips and virtually no riding in the month.  Remedial work to roads and cliff faces is still going on!

A massive slip on the Thames coast road (courtesy of Thames District Council)

Flooding less than 1 km from our house (courtesy of  Coromandel Civil Defence)

May
Nearly into winter and NZ's nectar-eating songbird, the Tui; is enjoying the nectar that is produced by one of the large succulents in our garden.

Communing with nature

June
Not my photo but racing catamarans was a passion of mine when younger and fitter and I still follow sailing from the armchair.  NZ won the Americas Cup in Bermuda with their foiling catamaran Aotearoa.  A nice short video summary HERE .  Particularly notable that a country of 4 million was able to defeat the massive resources of Larry Ellison and Oracle USA by sheer innovative thinking in their design.  Long live the people of the world who think outside the box, no matter what field of endeavour!

What a spectacle - 40+ knots over the water!

July
A very special milestone with Jennie and I celebrating 45 years of marriage.  I genuinely don't know what she saw in me all those years ago as I was a shy professional engineer without too many social graces.  The most appropriate photo is one I dug out of a shoebox.  It was taken on what was effectively our first date when I took her to the wedding of mutual friends in 1971.  The rest is history......

Still totally crazy about her.....

August
More winter IAM duties, this time out with Hamilton riders Paul and his wife Joy.  Both are BMW fans with Paul having a K-series road bike and building a cafe racer.  Joy is the proud owner of an R9T.  Paul is shortly due to sit his Advanced Roadcraft Test.  Joy comes along for the company and is an extremely accomplished rider.  Next step will be to encourage her to join IAM..... no pressure, Joy!!!

Immaculate Beemer and matching immaculate riding gear!

September
The trip of a lifetime to celebrate our 45th wedding anniversary.  Flying business class, a stopover in Qatar and a safari by Landcruiser through Kenya and Tanzania including ballooning on the Serengeti.  Lots of animal and other photos posted earlier in the blog so we'll avoid those already posted.  The shot below was taken in the Qatar desert across the Persian Gulf to Saudi Arabia in the distance.  We look pretty relaxed considering that the temperature was 44 deg C (111F) and windy. You could feel your skin shrivelling by the second!

44 deg C and survival time not very long without water and shade!

Skimming the Serengeti at dawn

October
My 70th birthday but mercifully, there are no photos to mark the occasion.  A very pleasant evening at a local restaurant with cherished friends.  It also marks 54 years of motorcycle ownership.  However, the photo I've chosen is of the house and garden as spring is well underway and plants are coming into bloom.

A long way from civilisation....

November
The weather in the North Island is hot and dry with rainfall way behind seasonal averages.  Not good for the farmers and horticulturalists but great for motorcycling.  A mid-week ride 25 km up the coast was accomplished with all of 3 vehicles being sighted and me being the only person at beautiful Waitete Bay.  That's a ride which is good for the soul!

Absolute solitude

Arty farty attempt


On the shores of Coromandel harbour

December
There are so many options as it's been a busy month but will finish with just two photos.  The first is Jennie's 70th birthday which all the kids and grandkids came along to.  The first is of Jennie cutting the white chocolate mud cake and the grandkids impatiently waiting for a slice.

Hurry up, Nana J!

The second photo is of IAM member Colin who rides a Harley Road King.  Colin is only a ride or two away from taking his Advanced Roadcraft Test but that's not the end of the story.  Colin lives 160 km south of the city of Hamilton, the nearest spot where he can train in city, country and motorway-type environments.  To come on a mentored ride, it takes Colin a couple of hours to get to Hamilton, a couple of hours being mentored under the critical gaze of an Observer and another couple of hours to get home.  That typifies the dedication of riders who set themselves the goal of raising their skills to an internationally-recognised standard.  That dedication is also why Observers are happy to donate their time - it really makes a difference.

Colin and his immaculate Road King

Well, that was my 2017 in pictures - a lot of fun.  May we all have a safe, healthy and enjoyable 2018 despite a number of world leaders apparently trying to achieve the opposite result! There are some real advantages to living at the bottom of the world at the moment!

Thursday, 7 December 2017

A good day on the road gets even better.....

Summer's here, a beautiful warm morning today, the important chores all done.  What could be better than jumping on the bike and riding round part of the motorcycle nirvana where we live - the Coromandel Loop?  Well, the ride itself was just wonderful with very little traffic about but it was all the other unexpected things which served to make it particularly memorable!

Kit up and head into the village to fuel up.  My local garage and gas station, Furey's Creek Motors; is so-called because it's on the edge of a short, deep tidal creek to Coromandel Harbour.  Opposite  the gas station, there's a hard-standing area for boats of all kinds to be maintained.  The garage keeps an old tractor there and for a few bucks, will haul boats out onto the hard.  At present with with the so-called Supermoon, there are king tides.  They were so big this morning that the tide had overflowed onto the hard standing area and had caught their tractor on a little rise.  Great for an opportunistic shot!

Water, water everywhere.....

Whilst on the road to the town of Whitianga, about 45 km from home, I was thinking about Christmas.  Jennie and I thought we might treat ourselves to to a new fishing boat for a Christmas present.  (What about a Thruxton Bonneville, I hear you ask?)  Answer: I don't want to be sucking hospital food through a straw, thanks!

Anyway, with a boat in mind for fishing and towing the grandkids about, I stopped off at a marine shop to enquire about a Stabicraft Fisher.  The dealer said that there's up to a 3 month waiting list whilst they build to customer specification but they were actually receiving a high spec model in January and if we were interested, he'd be happy to take us for an obligation-free spin in it.  Sounds good to me, the Chief Financial Officer is beaming, so watch this space - old boat shortly for sale!

Stabicraft Fisher

As I was about to chuck on my helmet outside the marine shop, I heard a piston-engined plane approaching quite low and looking up, saw the Titan T-51 kitset 3/4 scale Mustang which lives at Whitianga airfield less than 1 km away coming in to land.  Quickly jumped on the bike and hared round to the airfield but by the time I got there, it had taxied and parked outside its hangar.  Still nice to see it though. 

Titan T-51 Mustang

As I was putting the camera away, I heard yet another big piston engine approaching and was amazed to see a P40 Kittyhawk on final approach!  Excuse the focus but there were only a few seconds to wrench the camera out of the bag, point and hope for the best!  The Kittyhawk is part of the Warbirds collection based at Ardmore near Auckland.

P40 Kittyhawk on final approach

After it had landed, it taxied right back to where I was standing before taking off again, so the following photo is a lot better quality.  So many surprises at a grass airfield mainly full of Cessnas and the like!

P40 Kittyhawk throttling up

The surprises hadn't finished though.  As I was about to leave, up rocked a Bond Bug!  This is the first one I'd seen on the road in NZ, other than a stationary exhibit in the Southward Museum, down Wellington way.  Many readers of this blog will probably have never heard of them but for those of us of a "certain age", they are the epitome of the Swinging Seventies in the UK!   Manufactured between 1970 and 1974, the 3-wheeler had a fibreglass body and a 700 cc 4 cylinder alloy engine (later uprated to 750cc).  Rare as hen's teeth but in the modern era of micro-cars, it doesn't actually look out of place.   I guess beauty is in the eye of the beholder but I reckon it looks pretty cool!  Here are a few shots,

The ubiquitous Bond Bug

Straight out of early TV budget sci-fi programmes

Forget modesty if you had a mini-skirt in the 70's!

After all the excitement, it was round to Subway to pick up some lunch and to eat by the Whitianga waterfront with all the Pohutukawa trees coming into bloom.  Wonderful spot for a feed,

Pohutukawa coming into bloom

Doing it tough - Whitianga Harbour

All this variety from what started out as a rambling ride with no particular destination or purpose in mind.  Some days are extra special and today certainly fell into that category!