Wheel alignment

Thursday 4 April 2024

Two steps forward, one back

It's been anything but a routine existence in the James household since my knee replacement at the end of last August.  The surgery itself was pretty much painless and testament to the wonderful surgical team lead by surgeon Melissa Rossaak at Ormiston private hospital in Auckland. Rehab has been anything but painless. Getting started with a proper rehab programme was delayed due to a shortage of public health service physios in our region so I went privately after losing patience.  The rehab pain was due to the exercises to regain flexibility.  It's unavoidable that these will hurt when you're pushing hard.  Being grumpy and a little depressed was inevitable and massive kudos to Jennie for taking it in her stride and only telling me to pull my head in on far fewer occasions than I deserved.

After several months of flexibility exercises, it was time to graduate to cycling again.  Stage one was mounting my ancient road bike in a simple resistance frame and doing lots of static pedalling in a lean-to shed attached to the house.  The biggest hurdle was getting my rebuilt knee over top dead centre because of the degree of bend required but we got there with much sweat and bad language.

Pedalling fast and going nowhere

Muscle strength was markedly improving and knee stability was outstanding compared with the previous few years. In the new year, it was time to try out the e-mountain bike, albeit sticking to sealed roads for a while to gain confidence.  Sitting on the e-bike in the shed for the first time revealed some ergonomic problems as the configuration was markedly different to my old road bike. Some adjustments saw a very careful first ride without too many anxious moments. Yippee!  

Three or four more shortish rides and things were going well, so I booked an appointment with Bryan, my village GP for a progress chat.  Bryan is a great guy and like most GP's in a rural environment with proper hospitals few and far between, he has an amazing array of skills but he's really down to earth with no pretentions.  This is where the "one step backwards" in the title comes in.  After expressing pleasure at the progress made, he points at the side of my knee and says, "What's that?"  "It's a mole", I say - had it for at least 2 decades.  Bryan was uneasy about it, made an appointment for the next day so that he could remove it and arrange a biopsy.  Duly removed the next day in about 10 minutes and sent away.  Result came back that it was a low grade melanoma.  Heck of a shock, even though it was low grade.  Bryan didn't see any point in organising a specialist hospital consultation due to potential delays through the national health service so offered to do the larger excision the following day to make sure that it was all removed.  Absolutely brilliant as it stopped me brooding about it and letting the mind run wild.

The surgery session itself was a surprisingly social affair.  I guess that's what happens in a village of 1600-odd people where everyone knows each other.  Whilst Bryan performed the surgery, a nurse practitioner was there for routine surgical support duties and a final year med student was there to observe and suture the incision under Bryan's guidance.  While this was going on, we were all chatting about wine, classic cars and fishing; accompanied by much laughter.  What an incredible atmosphere to take one's mind off proceedings and an hour later, it was all done.  My knee surgeon isn't going to be happy though.  Her once arrow-straight incision is now crooked where the skin had to be stretched to close the latest battle scar.  Just call me Frankenstein's Monster!

Decent battle scar

The subsequent biopsy result was completely clear - a massive relief.  I owe Bryan big time for spotting it in the first place as I wouldn't have noticed anything. Also for all his additional experience and skills when they were needed.  Whilst not a big deal in the scale of things, with the skin in the area of the incision being quite tight, I wasn't immediately  able to cycle or do anything else strenuous and risk popping the sutures - another time-related setback.  I've only been on the e-bike again for a relatively short time but everything is going well.  Hopefully, I'll be back on the dirt trails before long.  NZ and Australia have some of the highest UV levels on the planet and whilst I've always taken precautions, I'll be extra vigilant from now on, including regular mole mapping.

Out for a nice 25 km training ride - Te Kouma launch ramps

These delays have stopped progress on other jobs too.  The garden is in dire need of a tidy-up for starters.  We used a mowing contractor during rehab but the rest hasn't had much attention since last August.  Autumn pruning, thinning out our bromeliad collection and other gardening chores are all work in progress.  We had a massive crop of Luisa plums but we were able to  pick the lot and bag them for the freezer.

Impressive Luisa plum crop

Garden in dire need of tidying

Driving the MG has generally been limited to local trips but it's been a good time for routine maintenance - changing hoses that have gone hard etc.  However, we have a day trip with the classic car club from the next town coming up shortly and next month, a 2 day weekend trip with the MG Owners Club.  All great people with no egos or marque snobbery.

New hoses ready for fitting

Unfortunately, there's one more cloud on the horizon.  I had a call from my surgeon asking when I wanted the other knee replaced, with a strong recommendation that it should be done by the end of the year.  It's something I've deliberately avoided thinking about but the replacement has been so good that having another like it will be amazing.  I guess having it done next spring should be the goal and rehab should be faster this time.  However, something to look forward to beforehand is our 52nd wedding anniversary trip to Australia to an area we haven't visited previously.  Starting in Adelaide, South Australia; we're going through the Outback in a 4WD truck north to Uluru (formerly Ayers Rock) via some of the famous landmarks.  That should help take my mind off things.  Perhaps we can get back to normal in 2025 - I'll be 77 by then but still trying to live life to the fullest.

Outback 4WD adventure

Monday 5 February 2024

A day in the sun

For the second post running, we feature some classic cars.  Every year barring Covid or natural disasters, the Coromandel Car Club puts on a car fair with vehicles from all around the peninsula and beyond.  The majority are American classics, with a smaller number from other countries, including some really rare vehicles.  It was held yesterday in perfect weather in a farm paddock just south of the town (village).  Entry was via a gold coin donation - fantastic value for money and extremely well organised with food and live music too.

The following photos only scratch the surface but are of vehicles which caught my attention.  Apologies if any of my descriptions are inaccurate but it's only 2 and a bit years from first classic car ownership!  Delighted to say however, that our MGB GT attracted a fair degree of attention, even in the presence of some seriously nice (and expensive) hardware.

We open with a location shot.  One side of the paddock borders Coromandel Harbour and the opposite direction shown here looks towards Castle Rock, the core of an old volcano. Pretty much the perfect setting on such a great day.

Backdrop towards Castle Rock, Coromandel

Some serious money on show here - miscellaneous Americana

Dodge produced some wonderful muscle cars in the 60's and 70's, particularly the Charger and Challenger.  I'd never seen a Coronet R/T in the flesh until yesterday but you can certainly see the lineage.

The Coronet R/T

Matte orange finish Chevy pickup with a natural finish V8 engine.  Looks far better than chrome in this application.

Chevy pickup with flawless matte paint

The European Ford Capri is becoming increasingly rare in NZ, particularly the 3 litre version and commands a premium price.

Ford Capri 3 litre

The Ford Falcon GT is arguably Australia's premier muscle car of the 60's and 70's (ok, the Monaro too for Holden fans!). Available with a range of engine options - 289, 308 and 351, plus various bolt-on goody options; it had a great racing legacy. I seem to remember that a top spec Falcon GTO sold last year for a tad under AU$2 million which is really serious money.

The one in the photo below has modern mags which suggests that it's either a low spec GT or a non-factory GT which has been upgraded.  Serious collectors tend to stick to originality.  Still a nice car though and sounded great.

Falcon GT

Beautiful Chevy pickup

In a departure from Americana, the following photos are of the Saker GT.  I must admit that I'd never even heard of one, let alone seen one in the flesh.  There's plenty of reading about them on the internet, but in short; they were originally designed and built in NZ.  Full production was subsequently carried out in the Netherlands, with some controversy about the legality of the arrangement.  A gorgeous-looking car and the owner had some trouble getting it into the paddock because of the minimal ground clearance.

Saker GT

Saker GT front end - crash rating???

Mercury Cyclone GT - a seriously large car

Something a little different was a Toyota Landcruiser set up for long distance travels and camping.  I understand that the owner brought it to NZ after owning it in Australia, which makes sense.  Incredibly well set up.

Toyota Landcruiser

There were a couple of all-black vintage cars at the fair, both of them with paint like a mirror - no dust, fingerprints or any other form of blemish.  An absolute tribute to their owners.  I'd happily own this but I guess super-deep pockets might be required.

Model A Ford - 1926?

Model A Ford interior

The following Vauxhall Viscount represents a bit of nostalgia for me.  Growing up in the UK, a mate had a Vauxhall Cresta with the same body shape.  The Viscount was the top of the range version.  We all used to pile in it and head off to the pub or longer weekenders and it had a surprisingly good turn of speed with a 3.3 litre engine. Ahh.... carefree days!

Vauxhall Viscount (UK made)

Nice airbrushing on a Ford saloon

Two Fords from different eras

Early Mustang fastback

A Corvette in Lamborghini Muira livery

Finally, a very nice Ford coupe hot rod.  A black finish still looks classy!

Ford Coupe hot rod

A great day, only 10 minutes from home and kudos to Coromandel for putting on a great show with some unusual machinery. 

Sunday 28 January 2024

Wings and Wheels 2024

What with cancellations due to Covid and the tropical storms in NZ last year, I've missed attending Wings and Wheels at Thames until now.  The location is only an hour down the coast too.  What a great day it turned out to be, with excellent organisation and everyone chilled and simply there to have a good time.  As I've remarked previously, there appears to be little or no snobbery or a hierarchy among NZ classic car owners which leads to some great discussions.

Even better, any classic cars or light aircraft owners were admitted to to the airfield for free and had a ringside seat for all the activities.  Can't be bad, can it?  The weather was warm and dry, although rain was forecast later in the day.  The following photos are only a small selection of the zillion I took and the sheer variety of vehicles and aircraft was guaranteed to avoid boredom.  Even Mrs James was moved to remark that she had a wonderful day out!

Great retro poster and pilot information

After we'd been directed to a parking spot between a Model T brewery delivery vehicle and a supercharged Model T bucket hot rod belonging to a middle-aged woman, we noticed something a bit different parked about 50 metres away.  This was a rolling chassis powered by home made pulse jet engines running on LPG, very similar to the WW2 German V1 flying bombs.  Even better, there was to be an engine run every hour!

Not something you see every day!

Starting it involved the use of a leaf blower to get the air and LPG circulating.  The noise and particularly the frequency was unbelievably loud and actually vibrated the bones and organs inside the body.  Pretty unpleasant but nonetheless impressive.

We have ignition!  Note all the fingers in ears

Being local, we were quite early and it was enjoyable to watch other classics drive in over the next hour.  A line of vehicles from the Austin Healey Club made for a great sight.  They sell for serious money, especially the rarer 100 series models.

Various Austin Healey models driving in

An Austin Healey Sprite with aftermarket bodywork

There was a pretty even split between British and American vehicles and with a population of ~ 5 million in NZ, I'm always amazed at just how many classic vehicles there are lurking in sheds around the country.  You can add light aircraft too, judging by how many private aircraft were arriving for the show.

Citroen with forward opening front doors

  Ford Cosworth Sierra RS500 - a rare beast

Ford Corsair GT - haven't seen one since leaving the UK in 1975!

Dodge Challenger R/T - shades of the cult movie "Vanishing Point"

A Packard Special which would look at home in a Mad Max movie

Ridiculously wide tyres on this Stingray

Plymouth Barracuda - yummm!

A Dodge 6

Supercharged Holden Monaro towing a racecar

Superb retro caravan

Jaguar XK150

Heaps of E-types on display

Mrs J and a certain MGB GT!

1952 Morris Minor - 918cc side valve, I think

We simply ran out of time to look at some of the vintage bikes which were at the other end of the airfield but a bike on the back of a ute (pick up truck) near us caught my eye.  This is the Honda XR500, first introduced in 1979.  This particular bike looked like it had never been ridden.  Whether it was new or flawlessly restored was hard to tell but I'd imagine that it would fetch a premium if ever sold.

Honda XR 500 trail bike

So many other vehicle photos which deserve to be posted but it's the turn of the aircraft now.  When we arrived, there were already lots of planes parked up but there were a constant stream on final approach. A quad bike customised to look like a mini-hot rod was tasked with guiding them to an allocated parking spot.  As a point of note, the pilots of the WW1 replicas and WW2 Warbirds could pretty much be described is "mature" with plenty of grey hair on display.  I found this strangely reassuring!

A Corsair taxiing to its designated spot
Arty shot of Yak tail fins

A couple of biplanes of unknown make, both of them in flawless condition........

In magnificent condition

The Warbirds Havards then put on a formation flying and aerobatic demonstration which was really impressive, especially against the ever-lowering cloud base.

Havards ready for takeoff

Formation loop

Barrel roll with smoke

There were also some WW1 German and British replicas flying.  For me, they clearly illustrated the fragility of combat in those days.  These photos scale up well.

Albatross, Triplane and Bristol Fighter

Albatross low pass

The Fokker Triplane

After the demo by the WW1 replicas, the weather was closing in and although there were to be demo flights by other aircraft, we didn't want to be trapped with every attendee trying to leave at the same time onto an arterial road which was already packed with long weekend traffic.  A reasonable number of people had the same idea but getting out was no hassle at all.  It was also great to meet up with Peter, the organiser of the MG Owner's Club for the Bay of Plenty region. He had driven up with a number of members. Where we live is a long way from the regional bases so we don't often meet up with other members.  What an excellent day and looking forward to next year!