(Warning, quite a lot of words and gratuitous location shots follow...)
There was a time when I thought the Yello Peril did not want to awake from his many years of slumber, after being tucked up under a blue tarp in a warm garage, surrounded by other bikes.
It became a battle of wills between mechanic Lloyd, who’s many years of similar battleswith recalcitrant hunks of metal won out as he mercilesssly sorted many small faults until Yello finally coughed and farted into life.
But getting the thing to wake up in the morning still wasn't always a happy experience. I need to show the thing who was boss, so a little trip was in order.
Now, doing battle on the open blacktop with your weapon of choice being a 38 year old single-cylinder Honda - that's been sitting in a shed for the last 20 - is a bit like playing Russian roulette. Honda propaganda of the day suggests a CB125 will sit all day on 60mph. Hah! It might without a rider, downhill with a 30knot tail wind. But decades years on, the mighty Yello will reach 50 but getting the speedo needle past that number takes so long you have almost always reached another hill or corner or intersection. Trucks are a lot bigger than they were in 1970 and they want to go places faster than an old one-lunger can.
So I chose an area where there are lots of interesting roads and locations pretty close by and the traffic would be light and mostly doing a lot less than 60mph. The CB is an OK round-town commuter, so I tried to keep it to that. But Yello needed a good run to burn out ... stuff, like carbon and old gas, mice droppings, owls' nests, spider webs and whatever else can accumulate in a stationary combustion chamber.
It had also been three years since I was able to ride a bike due to medical issues... three years dancing a vile and deadly jig with the grim reaper. You never win, but hopefully I've bought some time.
That's when Yello came into my life. I wanted a small and easily manageable bike to get things rolling again. At least, that's the excuse I gave my wife - what really happened was I was offered the bike and couldn’t resist the little thing.
"Fark me, it's yellow, isn't it?" I said to John, the seller. I was on crutches and couldn't even lift my leg over the seat.
The original plan was to strip it and return it to a more original colour, something, well, less yellow. But dammit, the yellow grew on me and now I wouldn’t have it any other colour. Even if people laugh at it. Who gives a shit?
So this, dear readers, is the inaugural Yello Peril ride report. It may be the only one, we'll see in time. It takes place an hour's drive north of Auckland, New Zealand.
There's a lovely twisting coastal road to the small fishing village of Leigh. If you keep going you end up in Pakiri, a long and stunning beach of brilliant white silica sand. That's it in the distance in the pic below.
We used to take our trail bikes there and enjoy great rides through the sand dunes. (They don't tolerate that sort of carry-on these days.) I stopped at the top of the hill - it's my first ride on the Yello Peril, it's a nasty steep gravel-covered downhill into the Pakiri Valley and I'm not game to take that on yet.
Snap! Coincidental colouring. I think Yello liked this sign.
Looking south from the top of the hill with Whangateau Harbour, Big Omaha Bay and the Tawharanui Peninsula in the background. Stunning beauty.
The Leigh Sawmill cafe is a great place, with good food and excellent beer brewed on-premises by Peter F, who reckoned he could do a good job with his own brewery after his ardent studentship of the amber liquid from the other side of the bar. Peter plays tennis with a mate of mine - they fill their water bottles with Leigh Sawmill Brewery's outstanding wheat beer and it messes with the oppositions' heads.
The Sawmill used to be a sawmill and they've retained a lot of the original structure and atmosphere - the cafe still has the massive electric motor, drive belts and gang saws in place. The roof bearers are whole trees, lying horizontal. I'm coming back next weekend to the launch of Graeme Crosby's book, "Larrikin Biker."
Leigh is one of the few small coastal fishing villages left by the increasing corporatisation of the fishing industry. The couple sitting on the wharf were enjoying fish & chips from the local village - which boasts one of the best fish & chip shops in the world. I could smell the food from the other side of the wharf.
Of course Yello chose here to let me know that the headlight, easily seen several hundred miles away when it's turned on, is too much for the battery, which is about the size of a cigarette packet. I let the battery recover and Yello starts. Later, surgery extracts an 80 watt quartz halogen bulb. 80 effing watts?? On a 125?
Big Omaha Wharf was about to be demolished a couple of years ago. But it's seriously historic and local people banded together to save it and have the wharf rebuilt. To the left of the wharf was the busy shipyard of Meiklejohns and to the right, Darroch's yard. These two yards churned out dozens of coastal trading sailing ships, including most of the fleet of flat-bottomed sailing scows that carried the materials - metals, sand and timber - that built the infrastructure of early Auckland. Every square metre manually shifted on board by wheelbarrow.
This is the estuary that saw sailing vessels inbound to the wharf loaded with fittings, rope and canvas to the yards - and food and household items to the store that was next to the wharf.You can see why flat-bottomed, shallow-draft vessels became popular.
Not far from here I called in to see Graeme Crosby, former superbike and Isle of Man TT champion. "What the hell is that?" he asked when he saw Yello. "A man's got to have some serious horsepower between his legs Graeme, you know that." I said.
I think he struggled to take me seriously. Well, he was in the middle of respoking the wheel off a Kawasaki Z1 resto he is working on. "Trust me, the yellow grows on you."
The Whangateau Harbour from the Point Wells boat ramp - the Meiklejohn yard was located over the other side and the wharf in the photo above is just to the right of where this pic ends. The boat ramp was slippery as hell and I thought I was either going to end up on my arse or in the water. If I'd had a big flash BMW GS or even my own TDM, I'd have been toast. Wet, muddy toast.
On the road again. That front brake is a huge twin leading shoe monster replacing the standard cotton reel size thing - it's so effective that I keep going into braking points and throwing out the anchor only to find I'm well short of the corner and need to drop it down a couple of cogs and move a bit closer to the corner. I barely have to touch it to stop the bike.
This pillock in the Audi stopped in the middle of the road. I wasn't sure what he was doing - then I remembered - being an Audi driver, the road laws don't apply to him. He's lucky I didn't run into him because at this point my braking hand is operating a camera and the foot brake may as well not be there.
A long boring road with a mostly 30mph (50kph) speed limit ends up at Sandretts and for me quite an emotional visit to a place I spent several summers when I was about 10 or 11. It's just been opened as a regional park but back then it was a working farm. We stayed with Bill McDowell and his wife Elsa in a caravan located just where the road kinks right. Bill took us fishing, instilling in me a love of both fishing and this magnificent, beautiful area. Ever since then I've spent as much time as possible around here. You're also spared more gratuitous location shots of the Yello Peril because you can't take vehicles past the carpark (which looks pretty much like every other carpark).
The Scandrett homestead up to the right is still there and won't be going anywhere in a hurry. It was built from an early form of concrete with walls 22cm thick. It cost the equivalent of $450,000 - a huge fortune in 1884.
I can remember the milking machine firing up early in the morning and Bill going over to help out, then the churns of milk going up the steep hill on the back tray of an old tractor out to the road where it was left for collection. Bill sometimes brought back fresh, warm cow's milk for morning breakfast. I couldn't stand the stuff but my brothers got stuck in.
Home again home again. I've spent most of the last three years in bed, enduring surgery and all manner of abominable drugs and treatments, so that I might crib a few more years from the reaper's grasp. To say there was a silly grin under my helmet this weekend is an understatement. It just felt so amazing to be on the road again. It doesn't matter that it was only an old CB125 - at this point my legs aren't yet strong enough to hold up the 850 sitting on stands in the garage so the CB will do just fine. Sure beats anything on ward 8, North Shore Hospital.
It was just a blast.