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Thursday 1 November 2012

A magic morning!

With all the lovely spring weather, domestic activities in the James household have been on the back burner for at least a week.  Gardens need weeding, house needs vacuuming but what the hell, it's time to get out and have fun!

Last night, we decided to leap in Jennie's car first thing today and head for Ardmore Aerodrome south east of Auckland.  It's NZ's busiest in terms of take-offs and landings as there are helicopter and fixed wing flying schools, plus all manner of other stuff there.  Falling in to the "other stuff" category is that it's one of the locations for NZ Warbirds who are dedicated to the preservation and operation of ex-military aircraft in flying condition.  Jennie had never been there but was enthusiastic on the grounds of a spirited drive on the Firth of Thames coast road, plus lunch at an excellent cafe not far from the airfield!

Arriving at the Warbirds, we were disappointed to find out that it's only open 3 days a week and today wasn't one of those days.  However, there was someone just inside the door who saw us pull up and invited us in anyway - simply awesome!!  The lovely guy who invited us in gave us the full run of the place, both inside the hangar and out on the taxiway outside - a wonderful lack of formality which is typical of NZ.

Skyhawk, Aermacchi and something Czechoslovakian in blue camo

I think the CEO would like this Skyhawk rocket pack on her car!

Sharp end of a Skyhawk

 Great crest for NZ's 487 Squadron, which flew Mosquitos in WW2

DH Beaver - flawless condition

Harvard trainer

The aircraft below is a T28 Trojan US Navy trainer, complete with arrestor hook for carrier landings.  It has a 9 cylinder radial engine which sounds like it's about to expire because of the odd number of cylinders!  The pilot was preparing it for a flight and very kindly invited me up to have a look in the cockpit.

Trojan T28

9 cylinder, 1425 hp radial 

The Trojan cockpit - more complicated than I thought it would be

Enthusiasts everywhere are so generous with their time and although the pilot didn't know us from Adam, he was more than happy to spend time talking about his passion. The generosity extended as far as being allowed to bring Jennie's car round from the car park to the taxiway and put it right next to the P51 Mustang.  Probably not many places in the world you'd be allowed to do that nowadays on an operational airfield!  Here's the million dollar shot:

 Mazdaspeed-prepared MX5 and P51 Mustang - 2 beauties!  Errr... 3 actually.

The Warbirds have many other rare aircraft but a lot of them periodically rotate to other locations in NZ.   However, aviation enthusiasts world-wide will have probably seen that the only flying WW2 Mosquito was recently restored in NZ for an American collector.  It's based at Ardmore but sadly, we weren't able to get to its hangar.  The following fantastic photo recently shown on TV New Zealand of it flying over Auckland in the company of a Warbirds Vampire jet is well worth posting though.

DH Mosquito and DH Vampire

After leaving Ardmore, we headed for an excellent lunch at nearby Clevedon.  I don't normally do food photos as our moto-blogging friends from the US and Canada do such a great job but this is an exception.

Iced coffee for both of us, smoked salmon with hollandaise sauce on bubble and squeak (fried mashed potato and vegetable mix) for Jennie and pork belly with Udon noodles and stir-fried Asian greens for me..... both delicious.

Smoked salmon on bubble and squeak

Pork belly and crackling on Udon noodles and Asian greens

After lunch, it was the 150 km haul back to Coromandel on the twisty coastal roads which are made for Street Triples and MX5's.  Days really don't get much better than this one!!!

 No room for error! Thames coast road

Up into the hills on the coast road

The twisties with Coromandel Harbour and mountains in the background
(Typical traffic congestion!)

And domestic activity will have to wait a bit longer as the boat comes out for a bit of fishing tomorrow.  I know....... this retirement business is tough but someone has to do it!

Oh, and nothing to do with today but for the cat-loving bloggers, I took this photo the other day of Annie kitten making herself comfortable under the duvet in one of the spare bedrooms.  Awww....

Annie, aged 18 months


  1. How cool is that, giving you the tour even when officially closed. I love the old planes but the one with Jennie and the Mazda is by far the best. Priceless! You should frame it and put it up on the living room wall.

    The food arrangements look delicious. I bet you have earned it after this long stressful day ;-)

    And a big AHWWWW! for sweet Annie.

  2. Hi Sweetheart!
    Yeah, the Warbird guys are just the best! Maybe we should have that photo framed. The only downer is that one of my riding partners has a part share in a light aircraft which is kept at Ardmore. I thought he'd be at work but it turned out that he is on holiday this week and would have taken us for a flight. That would have really capped off the day!!!

    Yep, Annie is still as cute as ever :-)

  3. Goodness me....you do twist things abit, the guy was just taking pity on a couple of oldies form the hicks.....;) The fact you got to have a looksy while with out fighting your way thrugh the crowds would of been a wonderful experince.

    Food looked great to..

    By the way....Annie looks guilty...she been up to anything?

    1. Rog you bas*tard :-).

      I know it's hard to believe, but the guy who let us in was even older than me :-). Yeah, getting the personal treatment was pretty special.

      Probably why Annie was hiding!! Haven't discovered anything yet but will have to wait for the smell of one of her prey decomposing somewhere to be absolutely sure!

  4. Wonderful photos Geoff, especially the 2 D-H aircraft flying together...quite emotional.

    N from where it definitely is not Spring.

  5. Cheers Nikos!
    If you type in NZ Mosquito in the You Tube search line, there's some wonderful footage of it flying. I saw the Vampire at the back of another hangar today but didn't have time to go down and photograph it. Also, in another hangar, I could see through a tiny bit of a covered window, part of the tail fin of a military jet but not enough to identify it. I know there's a MiG 21 over here somewhere and a Hunter too - may have been one of those.

    Take care on those roads.....

  6. You realise you need a piccy of a trumpy in front of the P-51 don't you Geoff?

    Still kicking myself for not getting up early a while ago to come up and see the Mosquito put through here paces. Apparently they are going to do a quick flyover at Karapiro next Sunday. Trouble is I've got a 1,000km ride the day before.

    Might see how the weather is on the day...

  7. Andrew,
    Maybe now I've got my foot in the door so to speak, they'll let me back in. Didn't know about Karapiro but the T28 pilot said there was an Ardmore open day on Dec 9th (I think) and it was going to fly then.

    Good luck on the Capital Coast 1000. One of my mates from Wellington is doing it - Nils Poulsen on a candy red VFR 800.

    1. Thanks! Let me know if the 9th is definite eh? It's such a shame she is leaving our shores - I just hope the 2nd one hangs around. A beautiful aircraft with two magnificent Merlins making music...drool...

  8. I won't be going so it might pay to Google it. There's an unrestored one at Moutere, as well as other stuff.

  9. What a fantastic day out Geoff. And you got a personalised tour when they were closed, does it get any better than that!!!!!

    I'm loving your congested roads, i think I need some of those. It looks a little bit like the Otago Peninsula road out of Dunedin, but your road looks a lot longer with some sweet sweet mountain passes....drool.......

    1. Gidday Steve!
      Yea, pretty cool eh? Yep, the Coromandel Peninsula roads are not unlike Otago, but more of them, even better scenery and it's warmer! The only time the roads get really busy are the 2 or 3 weeks over Xmas.

      I have the best road through the Coromandel Range less than 10 minutes from our doorstep - just ask Sonja, she took my Triple over it when she was over from Canada earlier in the year!

  10. Old planes, lunch and a nice ride, it looks like the perfect day!

    1. Hi Erik,
      Yeah, it's hard to beat. Lots of long hours pre-retirement so I'm addressing the balance now!

  11. Planes and cars are cool, but.... kitties!!!!!! So sweet!

    1. Hi Martha,
      Annie has adopted me right from the start. Out in the garden or doing other stuff, she's always there keeping an eye on me! Licks my face first thing in the morning to wake me up but that's pure self interest - wanting breakfast!

  12. Geoff:

    I keep thinking about that complicated Trojan cockpit. So many gauges and dials to look at.

    You don't require any training taking Phood Photos. They looked delicious. Also it gives some of us cooking ideas. I think I would order the salmon, the one Jennie had.

    I'm thinking that Jennie was doing the piloting in your MX-5 and you were taking the road photos. I wouldn't mind travelling on that road sometime. Hmm, spare bedroom . . . Hmmm.

    Thank goodness fishing season is here, I get to see your lucky red shorts again

    Riding the Wet Coast
    My Flickr // My YouTube

    1. Hi Bob,
      Yeah, much more complicated than a Spitfire for example. Maybe because it's carrier-born?

      Thank you, but you guys have it down to a fine art!

      I drove it to the destination and Jennie drove it home. She was getting along at a fair clip, I can tell you!

      Sorry to say that the lucky red shorts are virtually retired. Jennie hated them so I now have "lucky russet shorts". (One of those colours that only women know).

  13. Great day! I love the old planes. My son and I have toured several airplane museums and love them.

    1. Hi Thomas and thanks for dropping by!

      Aren't they great? Even better when they all fly or are in the process of being restored for flight.

  14. Glad to hear spring is on its way down there. We're going to have to live vicariously for a few months as the fall is well under way here and snow won't be far behind. So keep those pictures, ride reports, and descriptions of fishing trips coming!

    1. Thanks Canajun,
      Snow..... ughhhhhh!

      Will do my best. Looks like we have a trip to Tasmania coming up in February so should be able to report from "foreign climes too".

  15. Brandy,
    Apologies, messed up your response (fat fingers, small iPad) so have reproduced like this using my "proper" PC!

    Trobairitz has left a new comment on your post "A magic morning!":

    That is awesome that they let you in to peek around when it wasn't open. The whole place to yourselves is pretty darn cool.

    I love wandering around air museums, airfields and the like to see all of the old planes. I like how the DH Beaver is orange and black I think it is funny as our Oregon State University sports teams are the Beavers (Go Beavs!) and their colors are orange and black. I just didn't know those colors were associated with beavers.

    It looked like a perfect day to bugger off and not do yard work.

    Thanks for the picture of little Annie too, such a cute face.

    1. Brandy,
      I think most enthusiasts, no matter what they're enthusiastic about, go that extra mile for people. That's certainly my experience in NZ anyway. I guess that if it was a normal open day, we wouldn't have been able to drive the car onto the taxiway either.

      The Beaver is built in Canada and I wonder if it was their main manufacturing colour?

      Perfect day it certainly was. Yep, like most cats, she knows how to use her cuteness too :-)

  16. Thank you for the airplane photos. I used to go to a lot of air shows and such when I lived in CA. Not too many opportunities up here. It looked like a great day for a Miata trip. Mazdaspeed prepared, eh! You need a post about that...

    1. Richard,
      No worries! I've always been to air shows since I can first remember as Dad was a physicist working at the Royal Aeronautical Establishment in the UK.

      The Miata was brought in directly from Japan for us by a local dealer. As well as Mazdaspeed body trim, the engine is tuned for midrange and has a stainless steel extractor system. A touch noisy, but still legal. It has a competition clutch, limited slip diff and several suspension mods. Seats are cream leather and it has a 100W Bose stereo. Tyres are sticky Bridgestone RE002. Next best thing to a bike, I suppose!

  17. A private tour and special parking privileges, must be nice. Too bad you didn't get to "taxi" the Miata down the runway just for good measure. I've heard great things about the Miata yet have not had the opportunity to drive one, I fear I would like it too much and fall deep into debt to acquire it. The same reason I won't let Brandy test drive a Fiat 500 or me the Abarth.
    I am still confused with your terminology and had to Google "bubble and squeak" evidently named from the sound it makes when cooking. It's a good thing you don't name all dishes from the sounds they make as bacon and sausages would be called pop and fart. Keep the foodie photos coming, if not for our sake, to keep Fuzzy amused.
    Annie is cute as ever, thanks for sharing.

  18. Hi Brad!
    Yep, occasions like that are to be treasured. It would have been nice to have a high speed run down the main runway - have never had it flat out! The Miata is pretty popular among bike owners (or their wives) because they handle so well. They're pretty cheap to buy second-hand although this one(Jennie's second)was a bit more expensive because of all the goodies on it.

    Haha! I think bubble and squeak originated in the UK as a means of using up leftovers from the previous day. I had it occasionally as a kid and it was often mashed potato and cabbage with a bit of cheese grated in. Thank you for the new definition of bacon and sausages - they will henceforth be known as such :-). I shall attempt to include a photo of a fully-decorated Pavlova at some stage. This is a dessert dish with both NZ and Australia claiming ownership. I don't care though - it still tastes divine :-)

  19. Afternoon Geoff, I think you might have the caption wrong on the photo of Jenni with the Skyhawk - I can remember when they were first delivered and landed in the port at Auckland and "towed" out to Whenuapei along the Great North Rd. I think they avoided the north-western motorway because of the low overpasses at Te Atatu and Lincoln Rd. Anyhow, the caption, in my humble opinion, should read: No, you're not having one! And stop that whining!"

    So where are the retired going this week for their outing?

    1. Yo' Mark!
      Hmmmmm.... you could be right with Jennie's body language! Those Skyhawks are noisy buggers, weren't they? We were sailing at Napier in the 1980's when one flew over us about 100 metres up. Didn't hear it coming and just about had a heart attack!

      The retired have mainly domestic activities this week apart from me having an IAM Trainee Observer check ride on Wednesday!

      Enjoy the working week ;-)

  20. Nice pics there Geoff and I like the CEO's car! I'll bet that sportscar handles that Coromandel road very nicely. I was interested to see that picture of the Harvard trainer, we have a military air base nearby and they used to fly Harvards over the town all the time, they're like the Harleys of the air, an unmistakeable engine noise - I was sorry when they retired them.
    Oh and that Salmon on bubble and squeek - my kind of food right there!
    Keep up the good work bro.

  21. Hi Andrew, yeah, there are 4 Harvards based at Ardmore and when they take off in formation, boy, is it noisy! That T28 Trojan is even worse though.

  22. Great blog, you are so lucky. Over in the UK it is overcast, cold and we have had the the first signs of winter....

  23. Hi Nigel! Thanks for dropping by. Also had a near-600km run yesterday in perfect conditions being tested as an IAM trainee Observer by the Chief Examiner. Will post about it and other cool stuff next week. You should try holidaying over here in the winter to avoid the snow!

  24. Your posts keep on making me homesick, Geoff! Now, if we could only pick up our property and animals, and transfer it back to Northland or somewhere........

  25. Gidday Jon!

    Sincere apologies (well.... maybe not totally sincere *grin*). Guess the latest post didn't help either! Maybe you could transfer to the Coromandel Peninsula! I dunno though mate, Western Australia is pretty darned nice. We're off to Tassie for a holiday in February - have never been there before.


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