Wheel alignment

Saturday 21 January 2012

A nice run on 4 wheels

Dontcha hate it when the weather refuses to play ball?  Normally, the weather is pretty predictable in NZ from Xmas until the end of April with warm, settled weather.  However, this year, the La Nina weather system has been hanging around the north island and has given us the odd few days of unpredicted rain and high winds when we least expect it.

We had to defer a planned fishing trip for a few days finally getting it in mid-week (with Jennie out-fishing me as normal) and yesterday, we finally managed to do a 420 km round trip to the lighthouse at the Manukau Harbour Heads on the Awhitu Peninsula .  I'd been there with my riding partners over a year ago, enjoyed the run and had promised to take Jennie.  Mind you, the day didn't start on a promising note as Jennie's cat Thomas was clearly unwell when I got up to feed him.  Fortunately, the vet in Thames, some 50km down the coast was able to see him so we set off in Jennie's two-seater with Thomas perched on her lap in a cage.  We left him there for diagnosis whilst we carried on to the lighthouse.

Awhitu Peninsula and the lighthouse location

The Awhitu Peninsula is sparsely populated despite being quite close to Auckland.  It's also exposed to strong westerly winds and big seas coming across the Tasman Sea from Australia and many vessels have got into trouble on the bar at the harbour entrance.  The next picture will give you some idea of the average wind speed in this area!

No mistaking the prevailing wind direction!

It wasn't blowing all that hard as we drove up the peninsula although there were some very dark clouds in the direction we were heading, despite an encouraging weather forecast.  The roads are a motorcyclist's dream - continuous twisties all the way although you need to be on maximum alert on the narrow roads for the few sightseers on this route who inevitably have their brains in neutral.  The last km before the lighthouse is hard-packed dirt with gravel on a downhill gradient.  Fine on a road bike if you take your time and no sweat on 4 wheels.

It's a bit of a steep trek from the car park to the lighthouse and we were both fairly warm by the time we reached the top (err......  trying not to say too much to each other to hide the panting!).

A 100 metre climb from the car park!

By Awhitu Peninsula standards, it wasn't blowing all that hard and although we only felt a few spots of rain, it was really laying it down on the north side of the harbour, courtesy of a sudden summer squall.  Pretty spectacular as long as you weren't out in it!

Moody shot of squall passing through

The CEO enjoying the spectacle

The lighthouse itself was restored in quite recent times, having originally been built to guide ships through the treacherous harbour entrance in the mid 1800's.  The lack of bureaucracy is refreshing.  It's open all day with no-one in attendance.  Apart from very informative info on the history of the area, there is one sign politely asking you to close the lighthouse doors on the way out and another asking you put a donation in the coin box for upkeep if you've enjoyed it.  Wonderful in this day and age!  Oh, and not the slightest hint of vandalism anywhere - fantastic.

The Awhitu lighthouse

Harbour mouth - blue skies on the horizon

Apart from the odd sheltered area, plants don't grow very tall at the lighthouse but I was rather taken with the shrub in the foreground below which resembled an out-sized hedgehog with all its spines.  Wonder if it would grow in our garden?

You wouldn't want to fall into this shrub!

On the sheltered eastern side of the Awhitu Peninsula, there are (apparently) lots of pretty beaches.  Unfortunately, road signage isn't all that flash on the maze of tiny roads and even with a GPS, finding one was more by luck than good judgement.  Graham's Beach below was virtually uninhabited and we must go back up that way do do some more exploring when we have a little more time (getting back to the vet's before they closed was in our minds).

Graham's Beach - where is everyone?

Arriving back at Thames, the vet announced that Thomas had a throat infection which antibiotics would clear up but there were some other treatable issues which older cats can get which would require attention in due course.  (Vet-speak for saying that we'll be taking out a second mortgage in the coming weeks to pay for it!!).  Still, animals are family so all we can do is grit our teeth and pay up.  Nonetheless, a great day out together which we thoroughly enjoyed.  The Street Triple is hopeless for 2-up riding but trips out in Jennie's sports car are great fun too.

Oh, and one other thing.  Not that it's any big deal but this is the last blog post, at least for the foreseeable future.  They say in retirement that you're busier than when you were in paid employment and that's certainly true in our case.  Jennie and I are both voluntary computer tutors for Senior Net, a nationwide organisation to provide computer tuition and support for senior citizens.  I've also recently been appointed national training co-ordinator for both the motorcycle and car divisions of  IAM (Institute of Advanced Motorists).  This will involve designing and running a database to ensure that members receive training in a timely manner.  This will be the main focus for some time, so more than happy to put blogging at the bottom of the pile. 

I'd like to wish my fellow moto-bloggers in particular every good wish, safe riding and thanks for such entertaining blogs.  I've really enjoyed them, not only because of our shared love of two wheels, but also for the comradeship and a peek into lives in other parts of the world.  We're not so very different are we, despite politicians trying to raise unecessary artificial barriers between our cultures.  Take care and I'll try to make time to see what you're all up to on the odd occasion!


  1. Geoff: Well you have ben to a place I havernt, I had better get off my bum and get there. It has been one of the places I have been wanting to see ever since you went with your biking mates.

    The cat...I know what you mean by second mortage! Holy crap I could of got the latest GPS on the Beemer for what I have spent on Moses the last few months. Still, he is family, been with me since 1997, and i would be devasted if anything happened to him.

    I really got to know you from your blogging. I remember when I started reading your blogs how I thought here is a man who has some thing to offer, Knows his stuff, and I can learn from.
    Beause of you I started blogging, and my blogs pale in comparision with yours, but your encouragement I have kept going.

    My life is richer because I met you through blogging, we share a common love of biking and New Zealand. Because of your encouragment I am a better and safer rider. because of you I no longer feel the need to ride above my ability. You have inspired me, motivated me, encouragede me. Regardless of weather you continue to post blogs or not our friendship will continue to strengthen.
    You had a desire to put something back into biking, I am in no doubt, that as far as I am concerned you have accomplished that. Cetainly with me anyway....

  2. Hi Rog!
    You know what it's like about not visiting places which are right on your doorstep! It's only during the last year that we've visited some of the out of the way places on the Coro Peninsula with more to come yet. Your Beemer would be the perfect bike to visit Awhitu, even though there aren't heaps of dirt roads.

    Haha - we're in the wrong profession mate. Being a vet is a license to print money! Having lost Henry last year, we're not about to lose Thomas - we'd be devastated too.

    Thanks for the kind words pal but just to give you a mild telling-of, your blog is the equal to anything on the net and that is sincerely meant.

    Yeah, blogging does have some fantastic side-benefits doesn't it and your sentiments are certainly reciprocated. I'm not about to become a reclusive monk with the other commitments and hope we meet up at the IAM meeting next weekend. If not, it won't be long anyway. Maybe at the Classic Races the following weekend if it's good weather. Will be in touch shortly and good luck with the check ride on Tuesday!

  3. I love the dramatic scenery of the clouds.
    Ah, you retired people. Also my mom never has time and is always on the go. Busy folks those old-timers.
    Honestly, I will miss your posts dearly but I also understand that there is so only so much time in the day. However, if you may, please keep posting pictures every once in a while to keep my yearning for New Zealand alive ;-)
    I still regret that I missed you by a few klicks when I was traveling the Coromandel peninsula. Maybe one day...

  4. Thanks Sonja - I love brooding clouds too.

    Hehe - Easy to fall into the trap of 60 hour weeks like I did for 0ver 30 years pre-retirement and that's not going to happen now!

    I regret it too, particularly as you were in sight of our house and the fact that we were at home. Definitely one day and perhaps sooner than you think, even if not in NZ ;-)

  5. Geoff - - HOW DARE YOU RELEGATE YOUR BLOGGING TO THE BOTTOM OF THE PILE - some of us very much look forward to your blogging and this is going to cause withdrawl symptoms of horrific proportions.... (Good to see your talents being put to excellent causes and I look forward to your regular blogging return soonish)

  6. Geoff
    Being new to blogging myself and only just discovering the great blogs out there I have to admit that yours is one of the best one's I've come across. It is well written, always entertaining, often amusing, and just down right informative. The blogsphere will not be the same without you.

  7. Geoff this is not goodbye only au revoir, 'til we meet again. I've enjoyed your posts but one can only do what one can do and retirement is not meant for working harder than one did before. Enjoy some time and drop a line - or a photo - when you can.
    Enjoy the ride.

  8. Loui:
    Hahaha - thanks but I wouldn't hold your breath. Getting good administrative systems into the IAM to support their world-class advanced riding programme will take a bit of time. As W Edwards Deming once said: "If you have great people and poor systems, the poor ststems will win every time"!

    That's very kind of you mate. Maybe one day!

  9. VStar Lady
    Thank you! I've enjoyed writing but I hope I'll be more useful on the other priorities. All too easy to spread yourself too thinly.

    Have very much enjoyed your blog.

  10. I, too, will miss your blogging, but have no doubts you are following your heart's way in doing this thing for IAM. It seems to be just a wonderful fit. I share VStar Lady hope that occasionally you will throw us a bone.

    I really appreciated your thoughts on aging and riding. As another sixty something rider it was interesting, informative, and inspiring.

    Ride on, be safe, and follow your passion!

  11. Keith:
    Thanks so much for the sentiments - it was David Hough's gentle prodding which set me on the IAM course in the first place so ageing and riding well will always be in the forefront.

    There's only so much any of us can do but I never want to be in a position to say those dreaded words, "If only......".

  12. Geoff, another great post, however, I feel genuinely sad that it will be your last for some time.

    Ride safe mate!

    Cheers Jules.

  13. Thanks Jules. No real intention to start again although I might possibly do a post about our 40th anniversary mystery trip in April as a few people were curious. You're one of the very few who already knows!

    Have a simply fantastic trip to the south island - that's one post I'm very keen not to miss!

  14. geoff:

    shucks, don't hide too long. If I had only known a month ago . . . I was half way to NZ, you could have met me for coffee. I know what you mean about lack of time. I'm so busy I don't have time to go to work but I manage to squeeze it in. Weather patterns have gone upside down, we hardly ever go below freezing, nor do we get much snow, until now.

    I'm also sad, but I know you'll find a way to make time for us, once in a while

    Riding the Wet Coast

  15. Wow, I didn’t see that one coming.

    There I was, having an early morning cup of tea, reading Geoff’s post about driving with Jennie in a car on a windy day with a sick cat and you announce there is just one other thing.... this will be your last post! What????

    Re-reading those last two paragraphs was essential to make sure I had correctly understood. Yep, it was true. It is not hard to relate to what you are saying though and I think like me, you haven’t really retired, but simply moved onto the next stage of your life. I bet people asked you (and you wondered the same things occasionally) what are you going in retirement and will you have enough to keep you busy? Little did they know, eh?

    What I found incredible about your blog was the detail and care that you put into it. You almost never skimped with your words, but crafted them well. Almost everything you said was clear and made a great deal of sense. Your posts spoke volumes about who you are, what drives you forward and what you enjoy and darn it Geoff, that made very good reading that a lot of people will miss!

    However, sometimes priorities change and we have to accept that. Many congratulations indeed on your appointment as the national training co-ordinator for IAM. Our loss is their gain and I am sure you will do a cracking job with them.

    Good luck Geoff with everything you do with your future. Be sure to pop back and read about some other bloggers every now and again and be sure to occasionally let us know how you are getting on. Posting “I am still here and still enjoying myself” will suffice for a while!

    That of course settles one thing. I will now definitely have to come to see you next year in NZ to check up on you, so I can tell people how you are getting on in your busy life!

    Oh, and one final thing. It is Utter Bollocks that you are leaving us like this, so I have voted accordingly!

  16. Bob,
    Thanks pal. I'm sure I'll look in from time to time to see what all my friends are up to but until we get all the IAM systems running like clockwork so that anyone can take them over, I'm on a mission!

    I think you've hit the nail on the head about "retirement". I don't see it as putting your feet up and waiting for God either, it's simply an opportunity to do stuff you didn't previously have time for. The IAM is really in its infancy in NZ and being largely voluntary, needs people who are prepared to put in stable systems as a growth platform (the anal engineer coming through, haha!). The training I've recieved over the last 9 months or so has literally been a life-saver and putting in some effort right now is a small way of helping to pay back the debt.

    If you do ever make it to NZ, it will be wonderful to meet you and take it as read that if I can help in any way, just ask.

    And bollocks to you too ;-)

  17. I'm glad that Thomas was easily fixed up. I know what you mean about family and costs. :) but we love them and they mean so much to us.

    I'm going to miss your blogs and trips. You're gonna miss us!! Keep in touch when you can and do your mighty work. :)

  18. Hi Lori!
    Yep, whether they're a human or animal doesn't seem to matter much, does it? They're still family.

    I'm certainly going to miss all you guys. Have loved "meeting" everyone and seeing other parts of the world, not to mention being united by 2 wheels!

    Take care...

  19. There are only so many hours in the day. I understand about not having enough time to blog, but you will be missed. I think you might miss blogging too.

    Please check in from time to time to let us know how you, Jennie and the kitties are doing.

    Good luck and have fun in your endeavors.

  20. Thanks Trobairitz, the last couple of years have been real fun. I'll still be doing some writing putting together the quarterly IAM newsletter. Not blogging I grant you, but still about 2 wheels.

    You and Troubadour take care and enjoy yourselves. Regards to Squire Basil!

  21. I agree with all the comments here and I am sad to see you go, you will be missed. Can you send us a link to the newsletter so we can still read your scribe and if it is not too much to ask, I am with Sonja - please post a photo or two on occassion.
    Shiny side up friend.

  22. Hi Troubadour,
    That's very kind thanks. The newsletter won't be on line for a wee while as the December copy was the first one and I'm emailing it to members for the time being. However, it will presumably go on the IAM website in due course and I promise to let you know when it does!

    I'm know Roger and Bandit Rider will post their usual high quality photos and narrative of life in NZ so you won't miss me too much :-).

    Safe riding....

  23. Hi Geoff!

    Don't gooooooooo! I'm almost certain that it won't be long before something fires you up enough to draw you back to your blog, where of course we'll be waiting! Sure, life intervenes and drags us away from our blogs, often for quite some time - but I think 'once a blogger.....' At least, I hope that's the case.

    Hope to see you around now and then (and all the best with poor old Thomas in his twilight years...)

    Ride safe and stay well!

  24. Sue:
    Haha - flattery will get you everywhere! Who knows what the future holds? I've already got of great potential blog material but have resisted getting diverted!

    Good news with Thomas, he has a moderate thyroid condition which is eminently treatable (albeit with $$$)and the vet thinks there's no reason why he shouldn't continue for a good few years).

    Hope that the new term goes well for you. Loved your "fridge" post!!! It's a few years now since I've had to really do my nut with a service provider!

    Take care and enjoy your new retreat!!

  25. Dear Geof James (and Jennie the CEO),

    You have given me many hours of enjoyment when I have dipped in to read your blogs. I am sure others will also miss reading them and have, like me, carelessly never taken the opportunity to thank you. Let me correct that omission now:- Thank you.

    I came across your blog some time ago while searching for pictures of my brother Ag MacPhail’s early machines. He and I are cursed/blessed with the need to innovate and his very early Ariel Arrow sprinter is shown on your site (Ag’s Barra). It is, I believe, the first ever “kneeler”. Its was created to reduce frontal area and thus air resistance on this tiny machine. To see one of the many examples of Ag’s extraordinary engineering skills there is a good video of his “Jade Warrior” in action against an equally mad Dutchman, Henk Vink, at this web site :-


    It shows Ag’s “Jade Warrior”. Surely the ultimate demonstration of how to keep frontal area small. It also shows how to keep weight as low and far forward as possible to enable the most weight transfer onto the driven wheel on acceleration. It incorporates my tiny bit of innovation - how to further increase the effective weight over the driven wheel while not increasing the actual weight of the vehicle. I originally invented this for my (rather rusty) Nitro burning sprint Mini Cooper S to compensate for its being front wheel drive which gives totally wrong weight transfer. An injector tee on the exhaust creates a vacuum in a chamber under the driven wheel/s giving immense down force to the road. Worked spectacularly well in my Mini – ‘til the rusty floor got sucked out onto the road! Red faces all round. Ag and I were and are inventive geniuses. One of us just happens to be better at measuring twice and cutting once – not me, it turns out!

    In the video can just be seen, an injector tee on the exhaust and the vacuum chamber under the bike. I believe Ag and I were the first to use down force created this way to better transfer available torque to the road. The vacuum breaker valve can be seen to be opened by Mick Hand in the red top (a friend of Ag’s and another unsung, fantastic engineer) to let the back wheel spin to cook the tyre. After “burning out” the valve is closed to create the vacuum for acceleration. The video clearly shows the originality of Ag’s engineering and the advantages of negative ground effect. Just don’t use it on a rusty Mini!

    I am sorry for the waffle but you will perhaps now better understand the nostalgia about Motorcycles and the enjoyment you have generated that makes me want to visit New Zealand. I am sure I could still recognise a a badly torqued Pahutacawa and know that a Paua shell is beautiful but not a patch on the Guernsey Ormer shell! I was trained in Kiwi years ago by a lovely Lower Hut girl, and my comments like that often risked World War three.

    Perhaps you could wean us off your blog gradually by posting an occasional update? Thanks again for wonderfully descriptive narratives of your trips around New Zealand (Possible book? Please.) and the enjoyment you’ve given me and, I am sure, many followers. All the best for whatever road you travel.

    Nick MacPhail
    and Irene (his Ministere de Finance)
    Channel Isles

  26. Nick - what a pleasure to hear from you (ahem... and best wishes to your CFO)! I didn't have the pleasure of meeting Angus (or yourself come to that)when I was racing my short-stroke Triumph although Ag's Barra was never hard to recognise in the pits! Thanks so much for the link to "Jade Warrior", I had no idea that it was on YouTube. I've admired it as another brilliant example of innovation as my good friend Pete Miller who was a past world record holder in the 500cc class mentioned a book on British drag bikes of the 60's 70's and 80's. I bought it last year and was delighted to see Jade Warrior mentioned. I also had no idea about the vacuum system for increasing down force - what a brilliant idea and hearty congratulations for keeping innovation alive!

    I chuckled at your mention of the lass from Lower Hutt. I know several women from this area and understand your remark. They most certainly aren't the equivalent of Essex Girls - far more down to earth and feisty..... just fabulous!

    You live in a lovely part of the world. I had a grand holiday there in 1970 and recently found the 35mm slides which I took at the time. Hope it hasn't changed drastically. A girl I went to school with, Sandra Morgan (her maiden name) still lives on the island as far as I know. She was/is a sports car enthusiast.

    Thanks so much for the kind words, although I'm not sure they're deserved. I'm afraid I can't give you any assurance about the future as it depends on IAM commitments. However, I was so delighted to hear from you and both yours and Angus' past innovations that I will make one more post especially for you and Angus! It involves a trip I made yesterday and I'm sure that you will enjoy the level of innovation in the photos I took. Bear with me for a few hours whilst I put it together.

    With very best wishes,



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