Wheel alignment

Monday, 14 November 2022

Pedal power!

I stopped riding motorcycles on my own terms in March as the time felt right for a bunch of reasons.  It was made much easier because of other fallback interests.  Having turned 75 in October, maintaining fitness is a significant consideration.  I enjoy generally good health apart from damaged knees from old sporting injuries.  Walking any decent distance  is problematic but cycling is good for them.  The next step in cycling enjoyment and to walk longer distances in comfort is to hopefully get a knee replacement 2023.  Not exactly looking forward to it but it should help in the long run. One issue is that (to use a colourful phrase) there is bugger-all flat land where we live and some serious hills which are an almost insurmountable issue on my 30+ year old road bike.  Hence the purchase of an e-mountain bike in June to help with the hills and also to ride on many of the off-road trails in our region (but not the challenging ones).

Tokatea Hiil - a climb of around 450 metres

Riding the MTB has been a lot of fun and as fitness has increased, reliance on the higher power options has decreased apart from a few killer climbs.  It's enabled access to places never previously explored.  With the better weather here, more off-road riding awaits. 

A broken rib (blush) and Covid meant no riding for 6 weeks, plus the occasional burst of winter weather but a few days ago, a milestone of 1000 km was reached - yayy!

A decent milestone, all things considered!

Considering the minimalist plank that masquerades as a saddle, my arse has survived remarkably well, mainly thanks to a gel insert in the riding pants.  Haven't needed to use the camelback much for hydration yet but the water in the bladder tastes like it comes from a chemical plant.  Guess I should fill and flush a few times before I really need it.  

Whilst cycle farkles are generally cheaper than motorcycle accessories, they're certainly not cheap.  In a nod to technology but mostly to look cool, I did fork out for a carbon fibre drink bottle holder.  Jennie just rolled her eyes and sighed in that manner which we males know so well.  

Overpriced but way cool carbon fibre drink bottle holder

The standard OEM flat pedals were small, serrated and generally uncomfortable.  I needed a bigger, better pair.  Our Australia-based daughter has surprisingly developed a love of cycling and for my birthday, gave me a voucher for a UK cycle accessory supplier she deals with, bless her!  Cool-looking high end pedals were duly ordered and they arrived last week.

Everyone loves cool farkles

I didn't think that the change in comfort levels from swapping pedals would be so dramatic but it certainly is.  Better pressure distribution and superior grip.  It's still going to hurt if you rake your shin or calf down them if you slip off a pedal in an incautious moment but not as much as the serrated OEM versions.  Happy camper!

As well as road riding and the many gravel trails on the Coromandel Peninsula, a mountain bike park recently opened at Coromandel Town for use at no cost to riders - how neat is that?  All ages from small children to old farts like me are catered for with a sealed pump track, skills training area, jump track and official grades 2-4 cross-country trails. Link: Coromandel Bike Park .

Part of the bike park (source: Ride Coromandel)

Fast riders having fun - I am not one of them (source: Ride Coromandel)

My trusty steed at the start of the Grade 2 trail

The bike park is less than 10 minutes from home. You will note that the photo above shows a deserted park which is the only time when I make an appearance.  With a skill level bordering on zero, I really don't need a 5 year old (plus parents) laughing at a spectacular face plant.  The grade 2 trail is just fine to sharpen my bike handling in relative safety.  Unfortunately, I recently took a wrong turn and ended up on a section of the grade 4 trail.  I didn't know this until unexpectedly facing a short, steep drop-off.  Trying to stop would have posed more risk than continuing, so shouting a profanity into the wind; I shoved my butt as far back as I could go and prepared for a world of hurt.  That I made it with no repercussions is thanks to Aussie blogger, mountain biker extraordinaire and motorcyclist Dave Hoswell of  A View From Above fame.  When I first bought the bike, Dave gave me some advice on body position which clearly got lodged in muscle memory.  Thanks a million, Dave!

A gentler gravel ride - Coromandel Peninsula

Saturday, 29 October 2022

Back to the future again

Back in the early 90's, I rode a BMW K100 RS.  It was a heavy old beast but handled well and was pretty quick.  Reliability was excellent which was just as well given the outrageous cost of parts.  By way of a minor example, a BMW replacement accessory port (much like a cigar lighter socket) was over twice the price of one marketed by Hella.  Probably manufactured by the same company as the only visual difference was the packaging.

BMW K100RS, circa 1994, Taranaki Province
In 8 years of ownership, the only significant problem showed up on my first ever Rusty Nuts 1000 miles/1600 km in under 24 hours event I took part in.  That was 1996.  Late in the ride when giving it fairly large amounts of throttle, it felt sluggish but at lesser amounts of throttle, it behaved normally.  Over the following weeks, it got progressively worse.  Starting a ride, it behaved normally for half an hour or so then the symptoms started appearing, not responding properly to more than half throttle.  Leave it for a while and it was fine for a short while and then it started all over again.

I failed dismally in finding the cause and ended up taking it to a BMW dealer I knew and trusted.  It took them a while to find the cause but they discovered that the relatively new in-line fuel filter was full of a fine powdery substance.  Their theory was that when the bike wasn't running, the powder sat in the bottom of the filter but when it was running with high fuel flows, it gradually got stirred up and attached itself to the filter medium, partially blocking fuel flow.   A filter change completely solved the problem, but where did the powder come from?  It so happened that not long before I did the big ride, leaded fuel was discontinued in NZ and it was suggested that vehicles which relied on lead to prevent valve seat recession used a substitute called Valvemaster.  This was a viscous liquid which was squirted into a fuel tank via a syringe.  Many vehicles at this time were carbureted but fuel injected ones like the BMW used filters with an exceedingly fine mesh.  It was pretty clear that some of the particulates in Valvemaster were too big to pass through the mesh and that's what caused the performance issues.  After talking to the BMW national service manager, I discontinued using the additive and there were no further problems.  His contention was that the 30,000 km I'd already covered on the bike would have work hardened the valve seats.  A really odd problem but one that I've never forgotten and is relevant to the current time.

Moving forward to the present, we've owned our 1972 MGB GT for a little over a year.  The previous owner kept meticulous records of the 2017/8 restoration but nothing of consequence in terms of routine maintenance.  Most of my efforts have been directed at undertaking and recording preventive maintenance, including dates and mileages.  Harking back to the BMW problem, the 50 year old MG uses a fuel additive as a lead substitute so this week, I changed the in-line fuel filter as there was no record of when it was last done.  I also took to it with a hacksaw to have a look at the internals.  Here's a photo.

Sectioned in-line Fram fuel filter

The paper element has a considerable amount of gritty substance in it which doesn't appear to be ferrous (i.e. rust from the fuel tank).  Not sure whether it allows particulate matter from the modern lead substitute to pass through but in any event, fuel starvation hasn't been an issue.  There was a small amount of crap sitting in the casing itself which drained out when I cut it.  Difficult to know how long it took to accumulate with no maintenance history but it does serve to show the value of a fuel filter in preventing blockages and wear and tear to a vehicle fuel system.  Its replacement has a clear casing so I should be able to monitor condition from now on.

The new Repco fuel filter on the MG

My mate Rick in the UK and I have been exchanging emails about engine temperatures, particularly with respect to classic cars.  Rick has a Morgan V8 and a Jensen CV8 and over the years, has experienced overheating; particularly in slow, heavy traffic.  Fitting electric fans and modern alloy radiators has alleviated the problems somewhat.  It's not a problem I've experienced to date with the MG, particularly as a new radiator was fitted during restoration.  That's assuming that the temperature gauge is accurate of course!  Having been sucked into the discussion, my engineering background was keen to get objective data as a baseline.  What should show up recently on my AliExpress news feed but a digital infrared thermometer.  Oh goody, another toy, err... essential tool for the garage!  It arrived today and here it is:

Infra red thermometer

Note the awesome laser dots on the top right of the cold MG radiator!

As well as recording objective data for our MG, Honda and Toyota cars, I can check the accuracy of our oven, the temperature of beer in our beer fridge and even Jennie's rising temperature when she finds out that I've bought one!  Like great mates everywhere, I can even blame it on Rick for raising the whole subject.  Happy days ahead!

Finally, a serendipitous encounter. About 10 years ago, I had an email from a chap called Roy in the UK who had seen a post on the blog about the drag bike I campaigned in the late 60's. Although we'd never met, he'd been at Santa Pod Dragway meetings I'd competed at and was a keen motorcyclist. That was the start of correspondence over the years.  We also both lived in Northamptonshire at that time and had similar professional career paths, albeit in different organisations.  Roy and his wife Dawn are also classic car enthusiasts and have a Hillman Imp which featured on a UK TV programme, plus a Triumph Spitfire.

Roy and Dawn had planned an overdue organised tour of Australia and NZ.  Their schedule was tight but the plan was for them to spend the day with us in Coromandel, travelling via the ferry from Auckland.  Unfortunately, the ferry company recently announced that there would be no sailings this summer due to staff shortages.  Bugger - the legacy of Covid strikes again and time for a Plan B!  It so happened that Roy already had contact with Brian,  an Imp and Sunbeam Rapier owner in Auckland who was a committee member of the NZ Humber/Hillman car club.  A plan was hatched for Brian to drive Roy and Dawn to a mid-point rendezvous for lunch at Kaiaua on the western shores of the Firth of Thames and all have lunch together.

That happened yesterday and was a rip-roaring success and we all got on famously, with the same cynical sense of humour and attitude to life.  We chatted for several hours with much laughter and it was over way too soon, but we'll carry and cherish those memories.  Isn't it fantastic when you get to meet wonderful new people?  That's happened a number of times over the decades and what a great part of life!

Jennie, Dawn, Roy and Brian at Kaiaua with our MG and Brian's Rapier

Monday, 26 September 2022

The MGB - 60 years young!

Last week was 60 years since the first MGB rolled off the production line.  The Auckland chapter of the MG Car Club marked the occasion yesterday with a drive-in for MGB owners with the hope of having at least one car of each year and variation - MGB Roadster, GT, 1800cc, V8 etc.  Jennie and I decided to do the 360 km round trip to represent 1972 and to meet other members, seeing as we live out in the boondocks!

A great drive to Auckland using twisty country roads, with city driving for the last 15-20 minutes - perfect!  In lovely spring weather, close to 100 MGB's turned up, plus a handful of older models from the 1940's and 50's - amazing!  

Our 1972 GT in Blaze Orange

There was even a vary rare Costello MGB V8 in attendance.  Back in the 1960's, enthusiasts pushed hard for a V8 version to complement the 1.8 litre 4 and the 3 litre straight 6.  Senior executives at British Leyland were adamant that this was not feasible.  Enter Ken Costello who was an engineer and successful race car driver.  In 1969, he shoehorned a Rover P6 V8 into an MGB chassis which was favourably reviewed by the motoring press.  He decided to put it into production which inevitably attracted the attention of British Leyland.  BL started producing their own version in 1973 which effectively killed off the engine supply to Ken Costello.  Incredibly, BL didn't consider selling the V8 to the US market which I guess was a good example of poor decision-making endemic in the British motor and motorcycle industry at that time.

A V8 example

The 3 litre straight 6 was somewhat problematic because of indifferent handling when it was first launched and production only lasted for a couple of years.

The MGC 3 litre straight 6

The following photo shows a metallic blue V8 which I wish I'd paid a bit more attention to the detail of in retrospect.  It had clearly undergone a major (and phenomenally expensive) ground-up rebuild with the interior completely modernised as shown by glimpses of the bucket seats and roll cages.  Everything under the bonnet was polished alloy and chrome and someone remarked that the engine put out about 380 bhp.  Not a classic restoration but it was a real work of art.

Electric blue MGB V8 special (photo: Roger Fleming)

Some of the MGB's on display

MGB's of all sorts are active in classic racing and in the photo below, a number of them are on display at the left end of the line-up.

Part of the line-up including race-prepped versions

Other members of the MG car club turned up in their MGA's and older T-series cars which made for a colourful spectacle.  Considering that there are branches of the MG Car Club in many other regions of NZ, it looks like the future of this make is in good hands.

T-series MG's and MGA's - beautifully restored

Just as we were about to head home, who should turn up to have a look but my Institute of Advanced Motorists mentor Philip McDaid, who coached me from someone who thought he could ride but couldn't, through to an IAM Examiner in the space of 6 years.  As well as his voluntary work with IAM, Philip runs the renowned Riderskills motorcycle training school in Auckland.  Unquestionably, the best rider and coach I've ever encountered, as well as the most ego-free.   All in all, a wonderful day and kudos to the organisers for putting it on.

Yours truly and Philip McDaid

Thursday, 8 September 2022

Classic car ownership - the first 12 months

As the title says, it's been 12 months since finally taking ownership of the MGB GT.  It's good to take stock of how it's gone and might be of interest to anyone who entertains the thought of classic car ownership at some stage.

Regular readers will be familiar with the thought processes which helped to decide what to buy HERE and the handover problems we had with an unhelpful government transport agency HERE .  The purchase of a vehicle in good condition was the primary consideration as I didn't want to spend vast amounts of time and money stuck in the shed doing a major rebuild.  I had enough of that building and campaigning a drag bike decades ago and it wouldn't be fair to Jennie who's suggestion that we buy a classic car kicked the hunt off.  Hitting 75 next month meant that actually getting out on the road and using it was the priority although routine tinkering is just fine (and fun, although the CEO just rolls her eyes).

The 1972 MGB GT on a sunny day at Te Kouma

Making the purchase
My close friend Rick in the UK and an acquaintance in NZ both recommended an MG as they were generally reliable and parts available internationally at reasonable prices.  It also appealed emotionally in terms of looks - an important factor.  The car was spotted for sale online and had been restored by the previous owner in 2017/18 with all receipts available for the work undertaken.  It was in pretty much stock trim apart from 185 section tyres which were standard on the V8 version. It also had Spax adjustable rear shocks and electronic ignition to improve reliability.  There was no rust whatsoever, it had been rustproofed and the original Blaze Orange livery respray used an expensive 2 pack lacquer.   We paid NZ$22,500 for it (Approx. USD/EUR 14,000, GBP 12,000, AUD 20,000) which we thought was a very reasonable price for something so beautifully restored.  The interior is flawless and is like new.

Immaculate interior

New carpets and interior linings throughout

Building up knowledge
In terms of reading material, it came with a Haynes manual and a full parts list from an MG specialist in Auckland.  YouTube is a fantastic source of knowledge for MGB's and there's nothing like watching someone doing a job to avoid all the potential pitfalls through just reading about it.   However, it didn't stop me spilling oil from the upright filter on my first oil change all over the concrete drive! Fortunately, it cleaned up ok.  Another awesome source of knowledge is the MG Experience international website forum.  The members have decades of experience and go out of their way to help.  The NZ MG Owners Car Club is also a great source of knowledge.  Chewing the fat with my classic car and bike-owning mate Rick in the UK has also given valuable insights.

An engineer's porn - a parts catalogue

Part of the knowledge-building is the ability to have a good poke around in the car and underneath it.  A normal roadside jack isn't a safe option for grovelling under the car so I bought a good quality 3 tonne trolley jack, not an el cheapo from popular auto store chains.  I also bought some good quality adjustable axle stands for further confidence.  If greater access is required, then it's off to our village garage owner and his hoists for the price of a few beers.

The 3 tonne trolley jack

Any classic car is going to require more maintenance than a modern one but one of the positive aspects is that much of it can be done by the owner without too many special tools or an electronics degree!  I ended up supplementing my meagre collection of Imperial spanners and sockets plus one or two other odds and ends which didn't involve much expense.

The previous owner mainly relied on one of his local garages for routine maintenance.  I can't be sure whether he got value for money or not because the Zerk grease nipples on the suspension and driveshaft looked dirty and dry of grease.  Based on these observations, I started keeping records of the maintenance I performed to set up a baseline maintenance schedule - all done on an Excel spreadsheet, sad bugger that I am.

Many (most?) classic vehicle engines require a high zinc content non-synthetic oil and the priority was to find a reliable local source, which was less challenging than expected. The oil was changed just after initial purchase as part of a routine maintenance timeframe, along with the filter.  Part of the reason why I dumped oil on the driveway when removing the filter was that with its vertical orientation, the anti-drain back device didn't appear to work properly. It was replaced with a filter which received favourable reviews from MG owners.  We'll see how good it is when the oil gets changed in the very near future.  

Easy access under the bonnet

Incidentally, the car has covered a little over 3000 miles/5000 km in the last 12 months.  In that time, I've topped up the oil with ~300 ml, which is fine.  There's a slight weep from a pushrod access cover but overall, it's pretty good.  There's also a very slight weep from a cover on the overdrive and steering rack but neither require my immediate attention. All part of classic car ownership!

In the last 12 months, we've spent a little under NZ$2000 on the car.  This includes oil, filter, antifreeze, spark plugs and other items required for scheduled maintenance, plus a USB port for phone charging.  The biggest single expense has been a complete rebuild of the SU carbs by a specialist in Auckland.  This was prompted by a constant slight smell of petrol and evidence of leakage on the overflow pipes.  The rebuild cost was a shade over NZ$1000 and was worth every cent.  Far more bottom end and mid-range performance than previously.  The photo below shows the carbs cunningly braced together for removal and replacement to stop the linkages flying apart!

A strategic bit of fencing to stop the carb linkages falling apart

Now that we have a routine, maintenance shouldn't be too onerous in future.  There's one job which is being left for the Auckland MG specialist but isn't urgent.  Changing the diff oil revealed some small amounts of copper/bronze swarf.  

Diff thrust washer bits

It's common for diff thrust washers to progressively wear out.  With the aid of a proper vehicle hoist, they can be changed in about 4 hours by someone who knows what they're doing so I'll be taking the easy way out!

The choke cable didn't lock out and a replacement was purchased at a very modest cost.  The manual simply says "remove choke cable from the dashboard".  No mention that you need hands of a 5 year old and that you're going to bleed profusely whilst attempting to loosen the locknut.  Fortunately, one of the MG Experience forum members posted a photo of a tool he adapted from a cranked ring spanner.   I made one too and even at one flat per movement, it made life so much easier.  Told you they were great people!

Special choke cable locknut removing tool - easy peasy!

A few minor improvement opportunities have also been implemented.  The battery on the MGB GT is a bugger to get at (a technical term).  I've made up a power supply attached to the battery which can be easily accessed from inside the car for trickle charging if the car isn't going to be used for some time.  I've also made up a funnel attached to a length of fuel line for filling the gearbox on some future occasion.  Access is behind the lower part of the dashboard in a cramped position which is perfect for spilling oil everywhere.  Far better to have the funnel tied to the steering wheel with clear access!

Ready for future gearbox lubrication

So what's it like to drive?
The million dollar question, seeing that we bought it to drive and not be worked on.  In short, it's great fun and brings back waves of nostalgia.  The steering effort is ok when you're on the move but the lack of power steering makes it hard to park in restricted spaces.  Not a big deal though.  As you might expect, handling is harsher than modern cars but roadholding is surprisingly good.  I had to stiffen the damping of the Spax aftermarket rear shocks but it's good now.  The brakes don't have power assist and were initially a bit daunting.  However, it didn't take long to learn to leave a bigger gap when following other traffic!  The motor has a reasonable amount of grunt and there's no issue keeping up with traffic and tackling decent gradients, especially with the electrically-operated 2 speed overdrive.  It's a car that rewards well-considered driver situational awareness, just like a motorcycle and is a lot of fun to drive.  Absolutely no regrets buying it.  Mind you, in another 5 years, I'm not sure that an 80 year old body will find getting in and out of it a piece of cake.  Better keep up my fitness routine!

The MG was originally designed to run on 100 octane leaded fuel.  It runs just fine on 95 octane with a small amount (1ml per litre ) of lead replacement additive added to the fuel tank every time it's filled up.  No hassle at all.

Where to from here?
At present, Jennie isn't keen to drive it because of the extra physical effort required in combination with a manual gearbox but is more than happy to be a passenger so that's ok.  We have near-neighbours who own classic cars and the Coromandel Peninsula is a perfect venue for impromptu runs.  

Social run to Cook's Beach with neighbours Vic and Denise

The MG Car Club run regular events and later this month, it's the 60th anniversary of the MGB.  We'll be attending a gathering/photo shoot in Auckland of around 100 MGB's representing every year and model variation.  In February next year, we'll also be attending the Brits at the Beach 3 day weekend.  Should be a lot of fun!

As a final remark, insuring the "B" was extremely reasonable.  Fully comprehensive insurance for any driver over 25, limited to no more than 10,000 km annually was approximately NZ$250.

So that's the journey so far - plenty to keep occupied after a lifetime of motorcycling.  I also hope it's been of interest to anyone who might be considering a classic car purchase at some stage.

Thursday, 28 July 2022

When life hands you lemons.....

Fate has a funny way of dealing the cards sometimes.   I've been really enjoying the new e-mountain bike.  Fresh air, getting fitter - what's not to like?  I haven't been on any demanding trails but felt quite comfortable on the ones I've tackled.  It's much closer to home where skill improvements are clearly required.

Coming home from a ride 3 weeks ago, I went to dismount right outside our garage and the elastic lace on one of my cycling shoes caught on one of the serrated pedals.  Time slowed down whilst I slowly toppled over and smacked into the garage door opening and felt a rib let go.  Pain and a lot of bad words!  It's not been as bad as expected, just a bit uncomfortable in bed, with sneezes and coughs to be avoided.  Under normal circumstances, I'd be chomping at the bit to get out again but for the last few weeks, the NZ winter has been horrendously wet so some enforced chilling hasn't been a big deal. 

A ride along the coast on the fateful day

As mentioned in a recent blog, Jennie and I are celebrating our Golden Wedding anniversary (actually tomorrow) and as part of those celebrations we invited our friends to lunch at a local restaurant last weekend.  It was a wonderful occasion, full of laughter and irreverence.  Not that we needed reminding, but we're genuinely blessed to have such great friends.

Mercifully short speeches

Cutting the cake, 50 years after the last one!

From that high point, things went downhill the next day with me testing positive for Covid.  Couldn't believe how quickly it came on.  Jennie tested positive shortly after.  Fortunately, the symptoms have been relatively mild with fatigue being the biggest issue.  Very sad that a number of our friends also became unwell although not seriously so.  It would appear that we became infected at a pub quiz earlier in the week but at least we won the quiz!  We've had to postpone a family gathering this weekend but not a big deal in the scheme of things as we'll get together again quite soon.

We had an email from friends in the UK who married a few weeks after us in 1972.  They attached a photo which we hadn't previously seen which was taken at their wedding.  It has Jennie standing with some mutual friends, Roberta and John; and it has special significance.  Roberta and Jennie were good friends at uni and John and I were mates at school.  They married the previous year and Roberta decided that Jennie and I would be good together.  We only found out later that Roberta pulled a number of devious tricks to make sure that it happened.  Pretty good judgment on Roberta's part!

Roberta, John and Jennie - 1970's fashion icons!

So there we are, a bit of serendipity to offset the curse of Covid!

And in a non-relevant moment yesterday, we were blessed with a flock of Royal Spoonbills feeding in the harbour at the front of our house.  That's the first time we've seen them since we bought the place in 2003.  Absolutely majestic birds.

Royal Spoonbills - Coromandel Harbour

Saturday, 2 July 2022

Where did the time go?

Well, 2022 has been a year of different events so far including retiring from motorcycling and buying an e-mountain bike to explore the cycle trails, both in our area and in other scenic locations.  However, the most important event of all is celebrating our Golden Wedding anniversary at the end of this month.  Fifty years together without me being stabbed or disposed of in any other way is a minor miracle.  It speaks volumes about Jennie's tolerance!  Mind you, it's probably been a close-run thing as I recently said to Jennie that I don't know what she saw in me all those years ago and she said she didn't either.  That's me firmly put in my place then, sigh.....  She once said that it was like living with a 5 year old but I put that down to her being a primary school teacher and me doing "guy stuff" at the time.

With all the Covid lockdowns, one of the things we did to keep occupied was to scan and digitize about 2000-odd photos, 35mm slides and negatives which were scattered around the house in various boxes.  If only I could find the 1969 Isle of Man TT photos and 1970 Transatlantic Match Race Series which I took, but I digress.  We decided as part of our anniversary celebrations to select about 50 photos from 1972 to 2022 and have them printed as a coffee table book.  This has come out impressively well so I thought I'd share just a small selection of  them here.  My dress sense in the early days is a bit cringe-worthy but how come that Jennie always manages to look so elegant?  Maybe that's guys for you!

We met in 1971.  A mutual friend thought we'd be good together and as part of her cunning plan, she organised me to take Jennie to her upcoming wedding in Wales.  Here's Jennie in her "flower power" finery at the wedding.   The scheming to get us together didn't stop there and the rest is history....

1971 - the days of Flower Power

We were married the following year.  I caught a stomach bug the day before the wedding and it was touch and go but everything worked out ok.

Cutting the cake

We honeymooned in Yugoslavia and Venice. This was at a time when Yugoslavia was ruled by a communist government, albeit with a very light hand.  The local airport was a dual civilian/military base with strictly no cameras in the vicinity.  Rows of MiG fighters parked on the taxiway.

At a Roman Amphitheatre in Yugoslavia

Piazza San Marco, Venice

We emigrated to NZ in 1975 and bought a bright orange Mk 1 Ford Escort which carried us reliably all round the north island. 

Geothermal area near Rotorua.  The era of flared trousers and sleeveless sweaters - ewww....

Sailing at the local yacht club became a passion and I switched to single handed yachts when we started to raise a family.  Haven't sailed for many years but still retain a strong interest in the Americas Cup.

Our first yacht in NZ - Frostply class

Raising a family and building a career were the priorities.  The next photo was taken at a friend's party in 1982.  Noteworthy only for my appalling taste in beer shirts and for Jennie condescending to be seen in public with me.

That shirt - oh dear......

Skipping forward to 1998 which was the year the first of our 3 children graduated.  The last of them completed her postgrad qualifications not that many years ago and I'd hate to total up how much their education cost.  Well worth it though to see highly motivated and caring young individuals succeeding and contributing back to society.

Proud Mum and Dad with the first of three to graduate

When the last of our kids headed off to varsity in the south island in 2001, we took a month off to tour down south in the first of Jennie's MX 5's.  One memorable activity was riding quads into the foothills of the Remarkables mountain range on 2 stroke Polaris "screamers".  Jennie took to it like a duck to water and left me for dead on a rock-strewn downhill section.  Massive pride in her giving me a riding lesson!

Riding quads near Queenstown in 2001

Jennie was a regular pillion on my bikes.  In 2003, I sold the BMW K100 RS and bought a Honda Blackbird.  A friend from the UK was visiting and the mate I sold the Beemer to loaned it back for the friend to use during his visit.  Here we are at Wairakei near Taupo.

With the K100RS and Blackbird in 2003

In 2012, we were driving past the Warbirds base just outside Auckland.  They were closed to the public on that particular day but we were invited in anyway which was great.  They were preparing a P51 Mustang for flight and we were allowed to park Jennie's limited edition MX5 alongside for a memorable photo!  

A great shot with a P51 on the tarmac

Retirement at 60 in 2008 gave us the opportunity to travel extensively and we had some fabulous trips through Australia and the Pacific islands, Canada, Alaska, Africa and much of Asia. As they were all so different and enjoyable, it's genuinely hard to pick a favourite which is as it should be.  Everywhere we went, people were really friendly and helpful, just wanting to get by.  I guess it shows that most of the world's troubles are largely caused by a tiny percentage of the population, not pointing the finger at politicians :-).  On our China trip, we were in Wuhan not long before Covid was first reported - a lucky let-off!

2016, standing either side of the Equator near the Rift Valley in Kenya

The Great Wall, China in 2019.  Temperatures in the high 30's C

In 2019 before the pandemic brought travels to a shuddering halt, we were travelling around the top of the south island of NZ and stopped off at a motor museum in Nelson.  They have an amazing range of vehicles but the one which meant the most to us was a Wolseley 6/110.  This is the car we did our "courting" in (such a quaint term).  Ahhhh.... happy days. The wheel had come full circle, so to speak.

Wolseley 6/110 - much merriment over the memories

As already mentioned, 2022 is the year that I hung up my motorcycle helmet.  Absolutely no regrets as I'd done everything I wanted to during a 58 year riding career and figured that it was better to stop on my terms than be forced to due to health or other reasons.  I suspect that Jennie is secretly relieved.  I still retain a strong interest in bikes though.  It is perhaps fitting that the KTM 790 made me laugh more than any other bike I've owned.

Yours truly and the KTM 790

With the bike gone, Jennie and I spend time together sea fishing from our boat and exploring the back roads in our 50 year old classic MGB GT -  a fitting way to celebrate 50 years of marriage.  May there be many more years of action-packed adventure.

Waitete Bay - Coromandel Peninsula