In comparison with a lot of countries, NZ has so far escaped the ravages of Covid fairly lightly with occasional lockdowns and other restrictions in various regions for varying periods. Whilst there were no outbreaks where we live, travel was difficult on occasions which curtailed going all that far. It was hellish tough on some sectors of the community and small businesses in particular really struggled. Our hearts went out to friends in that position. It's been an uncomfortable feeling that being retired helped us to lead a relatively normal but restricted lifestyle. Motorcycling and other leisure activities such as sea fishing took a hit but we still had plenty to keep us productively occupied. Looking back on the year, there was plenty going on and I've attached a bunch of photos which haven't been posted before. I suppose that it's a good means of raising the middle finger to the effects of Covid by celebrating some of the nice memories.
This was dawn from our deck on Jan 1st 2021. NZ was pretty much Covid-free at that stage and the summer weather held a lot of promise.
Coromandel dawn, January 2021
In a past life, I used to sail competitively. Even for people with little interest in sailing, NZ were defending the Americas Cup in Auckland in a new class of foiling yacht and the design captured the public imagination. They are capable of a little over 50 knots and very difficult to sail. Three months of racing and NZ went on to retain the Cup in March. The video below shows the NZ yacht Te Rehutai sailing from their base out to the race area. The buildings and traffic in the background serve to show how awesomely impressive these beasts are.
Out conducting potential new member assessments with the Institute of Advanced Motorists. It's always a real pleasure meeting riders who are keen to lift their game but every so often, you get to meet someone a bit special. In this instance, it was Barbara on her Yamaha MT-09. Barbara's partner David had been riding for many years so when Barbara decided to ride, it was a full-on commitment to excellence. Her early training to get a full license was with a riding school run by a former Chief Examiner of IAM. She then worked her way through the NZ-wide Ride Forever coaching programme and the California Superbike School track programme. Not satisfied with that, she has embarked on advanced police roadcraft training with IAM. Now that's dedication for you and boy, does it show in the standard of her riding!
Some old geezer and Barbara
My Shoei GT Air helmet has an internal smoked visor which is quite effective in most sunny environments. Where it falls short is on the coast road home where the reflection off the sea is horrendous and made even worse by diving into shaded areas of road thanks to overhanging waterside trees. From past experience, iridium-coated visors work pretty well, the downside being price. A genuine Shoei is about NZ$200, an expensive mistake if my memory was rose-tinted. Contrast this with an iridium visor ex-AliExpress for about NZ$60, shipping included so the risk was worth taking. Expectations weren't particularly high with respect to quality but what a bargain it turned out to be! Already set up for a Pinlock anti-fog insert, it was a perfect fit and 12 months later, the iridium coating is still in superb condition. Best of all, its reflective qualities work an absolute treat and it works better in low light than a solid tint. The gold coating looks pretty cool too.
Looks cool and works a treat
Nothing particularly noteworthy in March, some enjoyable local riding and a bit of sea fishing with Jennie. However, a chance photo taken from our garden turned out to be a particularly pleasing one. It was a hot day and storm clouds were boiling up over the nearby Coromandel Range. The noise of a piston engine from the sky attracted attention and there was an old Tiger Moth biplane flying towards the storm clouds. The pilot must have had second thoughts soon afterwards and changed course but the photo was quite dramatic.
Not where I'd choose to be!
The Coromandel Peninsula (The so-called Coro Loop road) is considered to be one of the great motorcycling roads in NZ. It's also a tourist mecca and at peak times, traffic volumes and poor driving standards seriously detract from the enjoyment of riding on two wheels. Weekdays are somewhat different and one of my IAM riding partners, Tony; had taken the day off to celebrate his birthday with a ride round the Loop on his Yamaha MT10 SP. It would be rude not to join him and we had an absolute ball. It was one of those effortless rides where everything clicked and it was like we were on rails. Not going particularly fast but maintaining good corner speeds with an almost complete absence of traffic - motorcycling heaven!
Birthday Boy Tony and me at Whitianga Harbour
We also spent a few days in the Rotorua area doing a few touristy things. With the absence of overseas tourists, the lack of crowds was really pleasant. My personal favourite activity was walking on the suspended walkways in the redwood forest. We did it during daylight hours and at night. The lighting and special effects at night were absolutely world class.
Part of the suspended tree walk, Rotorua
Plenty of rain in our district but it allowed me to take an arty photo of raindrops beading on a yucca plant in our garden.
A wet yucca "Sapphire Skies"
The start of winter, such as it is. The deciduous trees in the garden look a picture but will soon turn into a soggy mess. Unusually mild which why leaf fall is only just starting.
Early winter colours in the garden
A great day out delivering the first part of practical training for new IAM mentors, including two police officers. It started off in dry, overcast conditions and ended in heavy rain for the 160 km journey home. At least we got a variety of weather to practice our skills!
Some of the IAM team getting ready
We celebrated our 49th wedding anniversary at an upmarket lodge and out of the blue, Jennie suggested that we buy a classic car so that we could explore NZ's back roads and scenic spots in some style. Finding something we both liked was a major stumbling block until we found a 49 year old MGB GT in stunningly restored condition. However, taking ownership took 3 months thanks to the monumental incompetence of a government department which deals with transport matters. A complaint was jointly lodged by the vendor and ourselves which finally led to a formal written apology from the department. It's doubtful whether their processes will have changed as a result though.
Puka Park luxury cabins among the trees - bliss!
NZ native songbird, the Tui drinking nectar from our winter flowering cherry tree
The Covid Delta variant appeared in NZ for the first time and all sorts of restrictions were imposed as a result. Fortunately, our area wasn't affected and we were still able to travel to some extent. The lack of people from other regions made motorcycling a real pleasure and on one ride round the Coromandel Loop, we passed just 4 other vehicles over a distance of 200 km! I was also able to observe and test one of our IAM Trainee Observers (mentors) who conducted a coaching ride for one of our trainees. Delighted to say that he passed with flying colours. It was also my last official duty within IAM before retiring in December.
Trainee Josh (KTM 390) and a relieved but proud Chris (GSX-S 1000) on passing his Observer Test
Sometimes, unplanned events turn out to be the most memorable of occasions. I was browsing through an online NZ buy and sell website and happened to see a rocking chair for sale. It was made from a beautiful native timber called rimu in the 1980's by a craftsman in Northland for a couple who were downsizing and were reluctantly selling it. Showed it to Jennie and as we both loved the craftsmanship, we put in a bid and won it for the ridiculously low price of NZ$175! It was in flawless condition and clearly cherished. We met the vendors at a halfway point between where we all lived and took them to lunch - really enjoyed their company. It now graces our upstairs living area as an art object although it's supremely comfortable as well. Our daughter thought it was hilarious that "the oldies" had bought a rocking chair. Sigh....
Rimu custom rocking chair
All the bureaucratic bungling regarding the MGB was addressed (almost) and we finally took ownership - it was worth waiting for! It was also my 74th birthday and my present from Jennie was a robust trolley jack for doing routine maintenance on the car. Hardly romantic but just what I wanted! A fair bit of time since then has been spent on setting up a routine maintenance regime which is now almost complete (we hope). One little postscript about the bungling. When the new ownership papers arrived, the car had been mis-identified as an MGB Roadster, not an MGB GT. Keeping my temper, it took several protracted phone calls to the authorities to get the correct papers issued and they only arrived in the last week of December. Lord protect us from pen-pushers!
The MGB GT at the Firth of Thames, Coromandel Peninsula
With neighbouring regions locked down, it was a great time for social riding in our area with virtually no weekend traffic and perfect weather. Getting together with some of the IAM team from our region and riding on uncluttered roads was an absolute dream.
Meeting up with the team in the town of Paeroa
Whenever I'm in the nearby town of Whitianga, a quick trip to the grass airfield is often worthwhile as a range of unusual aircraft can often be seen there. A recent example is the De Havilland Chipmunk. Designed in Canada in the 40's and entering RAF service in 1950, it was a popular flight trainer. It was delightful to see the flight instructor swinging the prop to start it, then hopping in and taking off in no time at all. Wonderful to still see old aircraft in regular use.
Going through the starting routine
....and away we go
As of today, I've retired as an IAM Examiner and mentor after 10 years of lifting my riding to a level that I'm quite proud of, having never dreamed of getting this far. Also proud to have coached many others to attain their advanced roadcraft qualification and continue on to become mentors themselves. That's what you call a win-win. Just social riding from now on but also spending more time with Jennie sea fishing and enjoying the MGB GT. As mentioned in the previous post about keeping occupied during retirement, I've got plenty of fallback interests so boredom is unlikely to be an issue.
Who knows what 2022 and future years will bring but at least we can make the best possible use of our time whatever things outside of our control bring us. Every good wish for the future!