TABLE OF CONTENTS

LONG GREEN ROLLER COASTER RIDE

We are located in sunny WHITE ROCK, BC, CANADA

Contact Jim Bush by email

Phone 604-535-5800

 

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BAD PUSSY CATS

BAD PUSSY CATS! An Encounter Down Under:
Originally Published in a 2004 issue of GOOD VIBRATIONS, newsletter of the BMOC.

February in New Zealand is definitely the best time of the year to visit. The weather is hot and sunny, the kids are back in school and the roads are quiet (compared to the month earlier when the entire country takes 4 weeks holiday all at once). I made a rapid 10 day trip back home to NZ to visit with my family, leaving on February 6th - it had been over 10 years since I had made the trip home.

The family visit went well, I was able to catch up and step back into life like no time at all had passed. My parents are centrally located in Auckland and I was able to take advantage of free accommodation and transportation, and not to mention food. Many of my favorite food specialties were sampled again – home roasted lamb dinner, snarler’s (pork sausages), L&P (Lemon and Paeroa spring water pop), hot dog on a stick, fush-n-chups, meat pies, hokey-pokey ice cream, banana milkshakes – all the good stuff of Kiwi cuisine. Good coffee seems elusive in this country and there is no such thing as half & half coffee cream – only thin milk.

Through the internet I have been able to keep in contact with many of my riding buddies from the 70’s and 80’s, but only a handful remain in Auckland. I rode as part of a bike group for many years, every holiday we would take to the road, every weekend we would ride hundreds of miles just because we could. The roads around Auckland are legendary; there are so many options for a quick escape.

My best man from my wedding turned up on his old BMW R80 (ex cop bike still with white faring) to take me up to his house for the night - with me on the back of the bike! The ride out of town through the rush hour traffic was horrifying. Besides driving on the wrong side of the road, you are allowed to lane split. Riding at 80kmph between two lanes of slow moving traffic was a little unnerving. There is an art to it and a few rules to abide by – but generally the motorists think nothing of it (maybe the sight of the cop faring put fear of the law into their minds). Dave lived about 50km north of Auckland and the ride took us thru some of the great twisty country back roads, past vineyards, horsey farms, sheep farms and large estates. Pulling up to a stop sign after a tidy ton-up, I felt the back end a little wobbly – yeap a flat tire. Running tires down to the canvas is normal here it seems, and Dave’s beemer was no exception. A 2 hour wait by the bike while he hitch hiked back home to pick up a car and trailer, was a suitable time to become one with the chickens and sheep over the fence in the next field. The late supper of barbied steak and chicken on a balcony overlooking the Huraki Gulf (course of the Americas Cup yacht race) was quite a treat.

A few days later another buddy Lloyd turned up on his 2003 Triumph Tiger to take me on an adventure. He had arranged with my old boss from the bike shop in Mt Roskill, now owner of one of the biggest bike shops in town, to hand me a bright Lucifer orange 2003 Triumph 955 Tiger for the day, FREEEEEEEE!!!!!. This was a big surprise. We wrestled our way through the tedious traffic (again with me on the back) to Auckland Motorcycles. I was welcomed by Ray Pratt the owner and my old boss. I worked for Ray when he was just servicing British bikes and selling parts in the late seventies and early eighties as Universal Motorcycles from a converted old roller skating rink in Mt Roskill. He managed to sell new Harris Triumphs for a couple of years and I was the one who assembled most of them out of the crate – including a couple of Wedding Specials, TSS, T140ES etc. Ray has always been well respected in the motorcycling community, because of his fairness – whilst other shops in town were into the rip-off mentality, Ray was not. He had raced speedway sidecar in the 70’s – had a Vincent outfit and when that blew went to a Norton 900 rocket. As owner of Auckland Motorcycles today he sells Harley Davidson, Triumph, Moto Guzi, Buell, Aprillia, KTM, Honda & Kawasaki. Obviously the Harley side is the main emphasis – he sold 9 Vee-rods before they landed and markets a new $76,000 shop custom HD fat tire “chopper”. Last year Ray sold over 60 new Triumphs and does plenty of business in the other brands. Ray generously let me take the key of one of his rental Triumphs, Free for the day.

Lloyd and I headed south on the motorway (3 lane freeway) out of Auckland to Waiuku. The traffic was light and the two TIGER CATS weaved in and out at a steady 120kmph. There are plenty of cops around in Auckland and they really go after speeders, this just adds a little bit more excitement to the game. I felt right a home on the Tiger; it is a plush ride, with an easy slightly leaning forward riding position and wide handlebars. It is a little higher than my Tbird, and with the small faring the wind is not bothersome.

Off the motorway we headed west on a typical NZ main road – wide single lane each way, wide shoulder, carefully crafted to make a curvaceous road path through the undulating countryside. We wicked it up to 140-180kmph. Passing maneuvers were handled seamlessly at this speed as the traffic was light. I would have loved be to be sitting in a car as these two BAD PUSSY CATS blasted by in choreographed symmetry.

Riding with Lloyd again brought back a lot of memories – especially as we have never to this day determined who top-dog is. As part of a group dynamic, we spent most of our previous riding years jockeying for position – to ride up front and be the top-dog. On a ride years ago in 1980, I managed to get in front of him in a twisty section by out maneuvering him on my 850 Norton – only to have him come around the outside of me in a series of blind curves on his T140. I thought he was seriously suicidal and from then on carefully planned my moves to limit his come back. This ride put me right back into the groove: on a curve, I could see Lloyd hesitate for a split second and I took my move around on the inside – big smile. Got him! We later reminisced about the 1980 maneuver – it seemed to hang around like a trophy for Lloyd, though he did confess that the secret to those particular curves was a peek-a-boo view through the trees that I hadn’t seen – he knew there was no traffic coming.

We stopped by a friend of Lloyd’s farm to have a coffee and view his collection of bikes – amongst some early Hondas a 69 A65 BSA and a 79 Triumph T140 in final stages of restoration. After a quick lunch stop of fish-n-chips and a hamburger in Waiuku (about same size town as White Rock), we headed up the quiet country lanes to the Manukau Heads. These twisty roads were all gravel in the 80’s and now they have been transformed into a ribbon of weaving black asphalt – a new ride for me. Yippee!

The Tigers bobbed and weaved thru these lanes with ease. There was one section of road repair on a corner where I locked the rear wheel in the gravel and thought I would be off-road for sure, but by releasing the brake and allowing the wheel to turn, the bike continued on in the intended line. Big relief, nice recovery!

We were riding at a more sedate speed through the narrow lanes, enjoying the incredible scenery. This area is where they filmed the Weathertop scene from Lord of Rings and is extremely rugged. The views are wild Pacific Ocean to the west and the quiet peaceful Manukau Harbour to the east with distant views of the skyline of Auckland across the smooth water. Farm pastures are dotted with sheep and cattle.

As a couple of guys always riding to the limit, it was time for a top speed test – we both max’d the Tigers out at an even 200kmph – they are supposed to do more, but not on this day. Despite Lloyds having an aftermarket exhaust can and remapped ignition curve, the performance between the two bikes was pretty even. Lloyd waved to me he wanted a rolling drag race (to prove his bike was superior I guess) only problem was I was in 3rd gear and took a giant leap ahead, whilst we was wallowing around in 6th gear trying to catch up. Got him again!

The ride back to return the Tiger was a mirror image of the ride out, with the exception of the motorway traffic was building and we would have to lane split all the way into the city. I was not really comfortable being sandwiched between big rig trucks and vans, so I took my time and carefully picked my line. A few close calls with elbows and mirrors – it seems everyone drives with their elbow out the window. We managed to clock about 300km on that ride – what a memorable event. Best part was being with a buddy that hasn’t allowed the years gone by to tarnish the hard edge of riding to the limit. The Tiger is a fantastic ride, top of my list. Thanks Lloyd, Thanks Ray.

Back at my parents, my Dad had arranged for me to visit a friend who had recently bought the 1914 Model T Ford that I had helped rebuild with my Dad a number of years back. Best part was this guy Murray was also into bikes. The T was a treasure and ran like a top on the short ride we took – open air in the face like a motorcycle with a lot of rattles and squeaks that adds a real character. Murray has quite a collection of bikes – 1st off was a 95 Thunderbird just like mine – a daily rider to his work. He races a AJS 7R and has two bikes on the go. But his main interest is with the early veteran bikes. I spotted a 1929 Henderson Excelsior basket case, all there waiting for restoration. He says he found that bike not more than 2 miles from where I grew up in Blockhouse Bay and only four years ago (scooped again!).

Other bikes he had tucked away were a 1909 Reading Standard, and early Indian Scout 500cc, and a 1920’s Harley Davidson 350cc single. He also has a number of Goldstars tricked out for racing at his shop across town.  It is always good to see other enthusiasts deeper in the hole than I am.

One other highlight of my trip was an evening gathering of more old riding buddies and
families around a smoked trout dinner. The setting was on a 5 acre “lifestyle block” of  Mark’s, the one largely responsible for me getting totally involved in British Motorcycles back in 1973. Mark and I started High School together and have remained good friends ever since. He has the unfortunate distinction of having one of the worst weekends I can remember: He broke up with his girl friend, got his club colors jacket stolen, and was then caught speeding at well over 100 miles per hour (fit of rage) on his Gus Kuhn kitted Norton 850 (nearly got locked up for that one). The next day on the way to reconcile with the girl friend, he managed to smash head on into his girl friends mother’s car in a tight corner. That pretty much put an end to that one, as the mother was against her daughter going on bikes in the first place. The Norton was a write off. To soften the pain, be ended up buying a Ducati Darmah 900 and found another girl friend that he later married.

Mark had quit his job in a dot-com company and relocated to a hobby farm north of Auckland. The plan is to raise his family and grow high quality olives, so he is in the midst of transferring a clay hillside into the future venture. The Queensland style stone rancher house with full perimeter verandah overlooking a valley was an idyllic location to catch up with the others, including Lloyd. Four of us old buddies and family gathered to shoot the breeze. Nothing much has changed with the friendships – it is close to 20 years since we really rode together – but the fact that we had covered many many thousands of miles together is a bond that will not diminish. Of the four, only one has traded in the bike, and that was for a tractor to build the farm.

My trip back home to NZ was quite exceptional – I managed to pack an enormous amount into a very short time. I am planning a visit again next Spring break with my two boys to show them the unspoiled beauty of part of their cultural heritage.

If you are considering a riding holiday to New Zealand, look up: Auckland Motorcycles and Power Sports. They are located at 234 Khyber Pass Rd, Newmarket Ph: (09) 300 7500, website http://www.amps.co.nz/  Owner Ray Pratt. Rental rates for Triumph motorcycles run around $230 per day, or $1400-$1500 per week with 500 free km per day.

 

 

 

 

 
 

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WAIKATO HEADS - magnificent!!!

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2 Bad Pussy Cats - TRIUMPH's lovely 955 Tigers

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Gavin, Mark Bond, Me, Lloyd

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The LAST RIDE EVER with my Dad (on left) in the 1914 Model T Ford that we built up together before my departure to Canada

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