Wheel alignment

Sunday 5 December 2010

Bikes and Planes - a great combination

Some spur of the moment rides can often be some of the most memorable....
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!


  1. Looks like a great day out Geoff....and twisty roads with no cars..What more could you ask for!

    Love the plane photos, and the shots of the Triple....It looks amazing from any angle.

    Have a great weekend.

  2. Cheers Anthony! Must say that I was still grinning this morning. Saw all the flooding in inland NSW on TV on Friday night. Hope it hasn't reached your neck of the woods!

    You have a good one too - strictly domestic duties for me today!

  3. Time well spent! If I were to chose between household and riding, I would have done the same. Chores be damned.

  4. Hmmm, cool combining bikes & aircraft. Did two trips to WOW many moons ago - now that's an awesome trip. Perhaps you should pop down for this: http://www.wings.org.nz/

    Have been around the Miranda bit of your route but not that bit through Hunua...

  5. Sonja:
    Couldn't agree more but I'm gardening today. Note that this is by choice and not by edict :-)

    I wouldn't mind going to WOW if there was nothing conflicting. Used to go to UK airshows with Dad on a regular basis when I was growing up and loved them. One of my riding partners did a Friday-Monday round trip to the Wanaka air show a few years ago which I thought showed a certain amount of dedication given the distance from his home in Rotorua!

  6. Geoff, nice reading and pictures (I love planes too) but one thing I have noticed from all New Zealand bloggers is that there's always the cops (officers?) on the road, is it that bad down there?
    I think I live in the worse state in the US for cops on the road but you guys seem to have a problem with too many on your beautiful roads.

  7. Thanks George. My late Dad was a scientist with the Royal Aeronautical Establishment in the UK so aircraft are in the blood!

    The Highway Patrol are principally on the main highways to keep a lid on poor driving, although the one I mentioned was on a country road. However, they have an "unofficial" quota of traffic tickets to issue, most of which are for speeding. The national open road speed is 100 km/hr (61 mph)with a discretionary tolerance of up to +10 km/hr(although I've been let off for far higher speeds because the conditions have been ok). I don't have a problem with the cops, they have an unenviable task and in all fairness; I've got away with far more than I really deserve. So overall, they're fine as long as you choose your time and place to indulge in a bit of high speed fun!

  8. Nice combo with riding and planes, Geoff. I have a warm spot in my heart for the PBY. I had a nice model of one along with other planes.

    I like your comment about the Bentley people looking down on you while eating corn chips in your leathers. Don't they know that corn chips go with any attire!

  9. Airplanes and bikes seem to go together well. It sounds like it was a great trip. I used to fly 30+ years ago (just Cessnas and Pipers) and enjoyed it for some of the same reasons I now enjoy riding. It just got too expensive. great write up.


  10. Mike:
    Likewise! I think that mine was a Revell kit. I didn't mind the Bentley people thinking I had no class but I dread to think what that well-known gastronome Bobscoot will think of my meal on the run compared with his elaborate meal breaks!

    Couldn't agree more. Add sailing to the other two in terms of going well together. I've only been at the controls of a Blanik glider fleetingly but the skill sets for all of them (and the enjoyment)are very similar.


  11. Nice write up Geoff. If only aviation wasn't some damn expensive! I think that 'planes would make motorcycling look like an inexpensive hobby!

    I must take a leaf out of your book Geoff and start adding some maps to my posts - it really does add quite to it.

    We've had it really humid here after torrential rain on Friday - managed to get out today and came across some interesting older motorcycles which I took a few shots of.

  12. Nice blog and the pics are great as usual. Makes me very envious as we are in the grip of a big freeze at the moment and I have not been out for ages. The planes look great too.
    Glad to see you are building up the goodwill points with your good lady too.

  13. Nice write up Geoff, I dont know if you know, but Armore is actuallu NZ's busiest airport! More take off and landings than any other. NZ weather..........four seasons in one day!

  14. Thanks Jules! Yep, winning lotto seems the only way of enjoying flying although gliding isn't too eye-watering if you don't own the plane. Sorry to hear of your rain. Our short, sharp downpour on Saturday was our only rain for the best part of a month - we desperately need some. Look forward to seeing your photos!

    Hi SB! Have seen the UK conditions on the TV - awful. In fact, our UK visitors are flying back to London and then Manchester Airport right now, en route to north Wales. Hope they can get home!

    Morning Roger! No I didn't but it makes sense as there was so much going on. Many moons ago, our company had a Piper Navajo based there for ferrying people between the various pulp and paper mills round the country. The weather always seemed to be appalling at Ardmore on the few flights I took - scary stuff!

  15. geoff:

    I'll have you know that I also like chips, but I'm particular. I like the Kettle type more upscale. the kind that you eat while wearing leather. We are getting torential rains. We had 2 inches one day last week, and other inch or so tonight.

    bobskoot: wet coast scootin

  16. Bob your Highness:
    I bow to your better taste. I also like kettle fries but being a Triumph owner, it's beholding to look a bit rough and ready :-)

    Sorry about the rains. Do a dance over goat entrails and send a bit our way would you please?

  17. The Bristol freighter - as a boy we used to fly cross channel Lydd to Le Touquet with the car (that was the Super Freighter model with longer nose - would carry three cars and 20 passengers at the back).

    Real old crate!

  18. Nikos:
    Oh dear, you're giving your age away too, but do we really care? :-)

    Have a wonderful festive season!


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