Yello Peril Rides - Mountains, Memories and Magnificent Flying Machines
It must have been one of those days when the planets were in alignment or the Gods smiled down upon the little Yello motorcycle.
We’d had 10 days of rain, so to wake to beautiful sunshine was all I needed to say “screw work” and hit the road. Then an invitation came from my mate Boulder to pop over to the other side of the city to pick up some fresh fish he’d saved for me. How rude would it be to say no to that?
On a bog-standard CB125 with 9 tyre-shredding horsepower on tap, day-long rides tend to be short – no 500km blats for a coffee just because you can. Riding along the motorway to get out of the city and being out on the open road invariably means having a large truck uncomfortably close to your arse with dire consequences just a gust of headwind away. So you look for manageable rides that don't involve open road speed limits. It's a challenge I am prepared to take on - me and The Yello Peril.
Sculpture under the spaghetti junction
A visit to Boulder’s place opened up the possibility of riding up two of Auckland’s prominent volcanic cones, One Tree Hill and Mt Eden. An interesting day was shaping up.
Coincidentally a visit to Mt Eden and One Tree Hill was a challenge thrown to me by “Tenere Mezo” when I first got The Peril running – this was the days before an unfortunate altercation with the mods on this site saw him high-tail it out of Dodge City.
I’d been waiting for two things – for the rain to stop and for sunshine to happen. Photography is all about capturing light and the only light around here had been coloured a dark shade of grey with a touch of black thrown in.
Then some bloody volcano in Chile started behaving like a politician. The spewing of hot air sent a huge ash cloud right round the southern hemisphere that covered the country. It turned our watery winter sun into a thin grey haze that was so weak the roads were still wet late in the afternoon from the morning’s dew.
But on this single magical day the big yellow thing appeared in the sky and it was perfect for the little yello thing on the ground.
I could have taken the car to Boulder’s cave for the fish retrieval mission but where’s the fun in that?
However, taking the bike would mean conquering my last great fear – riding through spaghetti junction, NZ’s most complex and certainly busiest stretch of motorway. It’s quite a steep hill going south too, not The Peril’s strong point.
I did it, but let’s just say that when there is a Kenworth truck wheel spinning at 50mph just three feet from your lightly -clad shoulder, mortality has seldom felt so tenuous.
I got to Boulder’s, had a coffee with him, picked up the fish (I’d put a freezer pack in the tank bag to keep it cold) and went a-ridin. He lives a short distance from Cornwall Park and One Tree Hill.
Cornwall is a magnificent park, topped by One Tree Hill and a striking stone Obelisk. I stopped often to snap photos and dangnabbit the little Yello thing was looking so good I couldn’t resist photographing it. I’m learning about a foo-nah new camera that has a lot more buttons than my old point-and-shoot - so the results aren’t quite what I’d like, but I will get there.
Earthworks left by the Maori forebears who lived on the hill. Mostly food storage pits - the hill would have been fortified so they could retreat there to fight off other maurauding tribes. They did a fair bit of marauding, the Maori.
See the obelisk at the top?
It is a monument that signals to all the world that the Auckland Council are a bunch of complete tossers.
They had to put the granite spire up because they couldn’t work out how to plant a tree.
Let me explain. There used to be a single pine tree on One Tree Hill. From that you may work out how it got its name (there’s even a U2 song with the hill’s name as its title.)
Then, in 1994 the tree was attacked by activists with a chainsaw and not surprisingly it died. The equivalent of a medium sized African nation’s GDP was spent trying to revive the pine but it was finally removed in 2000. Eleven years later, the council has not been able to plant a replacement tree despite there being a special committee and dedicated staff to oversee the project. A local radio jock planted one a couple of days after the first one fell but this was soon removed as being culturally inappropriate (read: Not enough people have guzzled from the public money trough dedicated to this project.)
Nah, I'm just pulling yer tit. The obelisk was really built by Sir John Logan Campbell and commemorates the Maori people and his respect for them. Sir John also donated the land for One Tree Hill and the surrounding park, Cornwall Park. (But the story about the One Tree is true.)
He was rich, being one of the founders of New Zealand’s first significant brewery, Campbell & Ehrenfried (aka Lion Breweries. Steinlager anyone?)
Sir John is buried there.
Nice views from up there too.
Stay tuned, thrillseekers, there's more to come on this epic, 30 mile ride...
Loving it so far :lurk
The Peril turned towards the next volcanic cone, Mt Eden. It has the best views of Auckland and for me, represents a slice of motorcycling history.
First, a pic of The peril on Mt Eden, overlooking Auckland City. Guess why the less reverent among us call the "Sky Tower" the sparkplug. Bloody horrible thing. A radio station ran a competition to recommend a colour for the tower - one caller suggested "pink, with veins." I nearly fell off my chair.
But back to Mt Eden. In the early '70s I had six months to kill before I was scheduled to start a course at Auckland Technical Institute and spotted an advertisement for a spare parts bloke at the Auckland Kawasaki dealer, Laurie Summers.
It was based in the suburb of Mt Eden and they must have been desperate because I got the job. I commuted daily about 30 miles from Orewa where I lived. The bike I had at the time, in the bulletproof mind of a bulletproof young man, was not fast enough for the job. Oh no. But I’ll get to that in a minute.
When I arrived at Laurie Summers there was an amazing range of characters. Graeme Crosby worked in the Onehunga branch along with an extraordinary racer called Eric Bone. Eric only has a birthday about every 6 years, making him a well-seasoned 18 so far. Or so he says.
Below - Eric Bone (on the right) racing his H2 750 Kwakka circa '74 or '75, turn 4, Bay Park Raceway. He still rides the same H2 in post-classic races.
Even then, Croz was the sort of rider that you’d take your mates to watch and say “check this guy out!” Every time the flag dropped it was like lighting a jumping jack firework. With that boy, you were never sure what was going to happen.
There was Glen Williams who went on to be a champion rider, and Wayne List who had a brand new Mach III (he became spannerman for legendary rider Rodger Freeth, who once fitted aerofoils to a TZ750. How big do your balls have to be for that?).
I was domiciled in the spare parts cave downstairs with Colin Macalister, whose photographic recall of parts numbers never ceased to amaze me. Someone would come in for a wheel nut and while I headed for the parts book Colin would call out the number.
Below: Where Laurie Summers was. Now a Korean souvenirs shop - the lady inside was suspicious about why I was taking photos and when I told her the sorry tale of my MT 250's throttle, she laughed. That story is told below ....
Back then, up in the roof was the mangled frame of the first Kawasaki H2 – the awe-inspiring and really bloody scary 750 triple.
It had been ‘road tested’ by one of the staff by blasting off down Mt Eden road with the side stand down, finding itself embedded into the side of a brick garage when the rider was unable to lean into the left hand corner.
In fact it had been a nasty accident, the rider being seriously injured with many broken bits inside.
Below: More Mt Eden, looking up to the summit.
The Onehunga Branch had a nice 350 Suzuki at a decent price so I bought it. It may have shortened my commute time but the thing frightened the crap out of me.
The forks were made from two inch plastic water pipe, or at least they felt like it, and the shocks were filled with pieces of well-used chewing gum.
The frame had a hinge in the idle and the seat felt like it had been replaced by a metal one off a Massey Ferguson tractor. It would have stopped better if I’d held a piece of wood against the tyre.
The bike needed some serious sorting out. So what we did to solve all these woes was remove the standard bars, which were wide enough to be motocross handlebars and were mounted on rubber grommets so they flexed liberally back and forth.
We put racing flat bars on it. Yeah, that should fix the problems. :rolleyes
We did this one fine day at the top of nearby Mt Eden and we used that location for two reason - we didn’t want anyone to ask where the A7 Avenger flat bars came from and because the staff were banned from working on their bikes on the footpath outside during the day.
Fair enough, we’d have spent the whole day out there if we could because none of us could afford a bike that didn’t need constant love and attention.
The only minor problem was a lack of care in routing the throttle cable. The problem manifested itself as an awful lot of go-pedal as I came down the road off the mountain. It sloped steeply off the summit and ended in an Armco railing and a cliff.
Below: The T350. Looked good, but had the typical traits of a 1970s Japanese two stroke. Cool bars though!
Fortuitously. I had adjusted the front brake so both the shoes were in contact with the drum and I had just enough stopping power from T-boning the railing and flying through the air with the greatest of ease to serious injury or death a long way below.
And this thrillseekers, is the road down from the summit, with the welcoming armco at the bottom.
For a while I drove the courier van that delivered packages of immense importance around the city, culminating in two events that signaled the end of the old Commer. The first was the throttle jamming fully on, meaning I had to drive the thing from Onehunga to Mt Eden by turning the key on and off. I started it by putting it in first gear, then winding the starter, bouncing along the road until it fired. When the head gasket blew, turning the interior into a sauna and steaming up the windscreen so bad I couldn’t see, the Commer was dispatched to the car knacker’s yard.
I left The Count’s (as we called the place) did my course and got another job. But the final sting in the tail was visiting Mr Macalister one day on a brand new Honda MT250. It had been running a bit lean and while fiddling round with it on the footpath, the no-working rule not applying now I’d left, I managed the jam the throttle open.
I switched off the key but the thing kept running, as we motocrossers used to say, WFO. Firing on the hot sparkplug. I stamped it into gear and dropped the clutch, an act that merely resulted the bike dragging me round in tyre-smoking donuts, much to the amusement of the many bikers around. Eventually the carb flooded and the MT coughed to a halt.
The mechanics over the road, the sales staff at The Count’s and the people inside Bill Russells over the road, clapped as they pissed themselves laughing.
Below: Looking west - the stadium you see will be the home to the next Rugby World Cup, scheduled to kick off in just a few weeks' time. Rugby is a bit of a religion in NZ, so this is a very big deal.
Gratuitous Auckland shot.
There's still more to come thrillseekers, don't move that tuning knob.
The Spark Plug!!!
I very much appreciate you sharing these day trips, Mister Bender.
The photos are excellent, the verbiage engrossing.
You've got such a whimsical-yet-gritty perspective, and so many crazy stories up your sleeve -
please keep it coming!
Nice work mate!
Auckland's volcanoes definitely do not suck*. On occasions when I find myself up there with time to kill I often go for a look up one of the cones.
*Auckland as a whole however... :D
We Get to the Planes at Last
You might have wondered where the "magnificent flying machines" bit comes from in the heading. I'm about to get to that but first a problem.
RTW Doug loses his charging system in the back blocks of Ziggastan, Simon and Lisa Thomas get blown shocks and engine trouble, Colebatch gets cold feet in an icey river on the BAM road .. the Peril suffers from non-idling going across the city. We all have our 'adventure' crosses to bear.
(If you think riding a 125 across Auckland isn't an adventure, either try it some time or have a look at this country's road accident statistics...)
By now it seemed like The Peril had an automatic red traffic signal activator. They go red every time the bike is near a traffic light and the bike had decided that idling was for dweebs. He’s cool, see? The traffic control authorities are rationing the colour green, so the default setting for traffic lights here is red ... with the occasional flash to green. Makes for painfully slow progress.
So I lurched my way from red light to red light until eventually, I found myself at the War Memorial Museum. It’s a striking building way up above Auckland with a row of commanding white granite Roman columns across the front and granite steps leading down to the Cenotaph.
Locking the Peril after a brief chat with a Honda 400TT rider I went inside and photographed the Spitfire display, the Mitsubishi Zero display and the V1 rocket display. I used to work not far from here in a job designed to make eternal buggery in the fires of hell seem like fun. (Thanks a lot Greg Scott, try looking up the word "karma" some time.)
When things got too much I’d slide on up to the museum and look at the planes which for some reason I found therapeutic. Nothing like studying the complexity of a Rolls Royce V12, or the utter perfection of the Spitty’s elliptical wingtip, to take your mind off a missed deadline.
The rare Mitsubishi Zero. Very capable aircraft in the early part of the war.
Everyone knows what a Spitty looks like, but I find this aircraft so mesmerisingly beautiful that I never get enough of staring at it.
Merlin cutaway, astonishing engineering.
The V1 Bomb, disappointingly displayed. However, look at that pulsejet engine. Look familiar? Would it surprise you to know that the man who invented the two stroke expansion chamber, Walter Kaaden, worked on the V1s at Peenemunde and developed his theories on two stroke power then.
It is unfortunate that the V1 has been relocated into an alcove with poor viewing and it is not possible to photograph the whole thing in one go. Definitely a retrograde step.
Around the front I took the Peril to one of the two huge guns mounted in front of the Museum and overlooking Auckland Harbour.
The guns were part of the armament from HMS New Zealand, which was a gift to Britain from the Dominion of New Zealand. The ungrateful buggers only kept her for 10 years and decommissioned the ship 10 years before our country had even paid for the thing. We got to keep the 4-inch guns, which we repatriated to NZ and used as saluting batteries, some on North Head (http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=662678) . Two are now part of the extensive war memorial and hallowed ground area in front of the museum.
One more port of call before heading home, this time to photograph The Peril under a big and shapely lump of carbon fibre. The story behind this started with a tilt at the America's Cup in 1987.
New Zealand sailors, for the first time, became involved with the America’s Cup yachting regatta when it was held in Perth. This was after the Aussies had finally managed to relieve the New York Yacht Club of their precious Auld Mug, thus ending the longest unbeaten run in sporting history. The sailing world gathered in Perth to try their hand at winning the thing.
For New Zealand, the frustration of coming close in Perth (beaten in the finals of the chellenger elimination series by Dennis Conner), led to one of the most bizarre events in the Cup’s history when our challenger – 90ft on the waterline (120ft overall) as specified in the Cup’s Deed of Gift, was soundly defeated by the US in a 60ft wing masted catamaran.
For some reason this piece of folly is immortalised on our waterfront. Yes, this giant yacht sits in a cradle so everyone can look at its bottom.
There was great national fervour for the contest back then with everyone getting hot and bothered about every detail of this venerable sporting institution. Now we can't even spell Dennis Conner's name right - and no one cares.
That's it for now thrillseekers, hope you've enjoyed a busy day aboard The Yello Peril. The idling problem was gunk in a worn out carb. I hope I've sorted it.
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