Reporting from the Other Land Down Under
While the Pacific Northwest is having an early spring, fall is fast approaching in the southern hemisphere. Scooterists in New Zealand have been riding up a storm—New Zealand Bureau Chief Ken McGrath brings us up to date, after the jump.
AUCKLAND, New Zealand—Unlike much of the northern hemisphere, New Zealand has all-year riding in the cities and towns over most of the coastal lowlands. Some parts of the deep South get a little icy, but the greater part has mild, temperate winters. The mountainous areas are just as snowy and cold as anywhere else (including Hawai’i and Kenya), so our Vespisti ride all year round and only have to endure the rainy season during winter. I have never heard of anyone winterizing or laying-up a Vespa for the winter in NZ.
Here in Auckland, the climate is sub-tropical—just—and our rainfall is similar to the PNW. Thus scooter riders have a great summer and autumn, and develop gills during winter and early spring. Our coldest winter weather is in July when we can get a few frosts when the rain stops and cloudless nights allow land temperatures to leak off into space. Summers are dry and warm—20 to 30°C (68 to 86°F)—a dreadful temptation to ride without the gear. By mid- to late-February, tropical air masses drift down onto the northern provinces making things rather humid. In autumn, only the nights begin to cool such that we have Indian Summer for much of March and sometimes into April.
You will therefore understand why we cancelled our monthly rides in July and August. I missed September by being in Wellington. October was swapped with the anniversary ride of the big general scooter club Magnetos, a sunny romp through the city ending with a BBQ in a central park. For once, I enjoyed the opportunity to ride in the pack instead of leading it.
November 7th, the weather was excellent. For some reason we had a small turnout, but to my astonishment it was a totally PX fleet. The first picture shows the line-up just before we set off, with Goetz of Scooter eMotion, our intrepid Commissary, at the far right and my PX200 second from the right. The three other PX200s to the left of mine were part of the world’s last shipment of PX200s (including mine—2 white & 2 black).
In December the rain held off again for our ride to a harbourside park to share a fish & chips meal as the sun went down (no pics, sadly).
Early January is a write-off because NZ starts its summer holidays with Christmas, the weather is often unsettled, and nobody is in town until the end of the month. The weather got warmer and dryer as the month wore on, so an excuse to ride became imperative. With a great ride in the offing and a need to have a discussion about its logistics, we decided to have a Saturday run on the 30th. I am not sure if I have explained that Auckland is probably unique in the world by being built on at least 47 volcanoes, all mercifully extinct (we think). They are not very large, rather like the mounts in Victoria, B.C. with my suburb’s, Mt. Eden, being the highest at 196 metres (643 feet). I have taken rides up the main ones last year, but Mt. Roskill and Mt. Albert are seldom visited by most residents, so a trip up each for different vistas of the city made for some fun.
The following weekend saw us leave early or a whole-day run (our first) to Clevedon. A new member who commutes the 30km into the city on a GTS 250 owns a farm and vineyard just outside the village. This map shows the location and route:
She made an invitation too good to be missed with the prospect of a fine lunch at her home. The ride was largely through the southern suburbs with about 15km of county riding at the end. We planned to keep speeds below 50 km/h if any small-bore scoots joined, but we ended up with all large frames and riders with full licences, which enabled some open throttle riding in the country. A beautiful set of twisties at the end of the outbound leg brought us to the bottom of the low range behind the farm.
This pic shows about half of the swarm lined up at a lookout point on the edge of the city with a view northwards over it; you may be able to spot the Sky Tower (7th tallest structure on earth) on the skyline towards the far right (my scooter is the far right with the ‘sailing directions’ stuck on the screen).
We’re enjoying Marcia’s fine cooking and the goodies brought along by the swarm. (I am at the head of the table in the black Vespa t-shirt)
We had a very convivial few hours and then rode down the valley to Clevedon village, turning north along the coast to return home via Maraetai, Whitford, Botany Downs and Pakuranga (route not marked on the map). Most of us got home at about 5:00 pm, having had the best Vespa run I have experienced.
Our last ride was a major tactical error, for it was so successful and so enjoyable that Goetz and I are at a loss to find another that will keep to such a standard.
I have been planning the ride for next Saturday. The weather is still dry and warm; superb riding conditions, but where to? I am considering the beautiful Scenic Drive (so named) over part of the Auckland Centennial Road that runs across the top of the Waitakere Range to the west and through primal forest. I shall send a timely report on how it goes.
Finally, a personal note: my beautiful PX200 had his 2nd anniversary on Friday last and I roared up the Northern Motorway to Long Bay for a staff BBQ (about 30km). On the way home he turned over 11,000km. When I bought this Vespa, it was for fun and nostalgia; I had no intentions of commuting with it. I took it across the bridge to work in the first weeks to get the run-in over with quickly, but the convenience and pleasure took over.
I find it astounding to see PXs 3,4, or 5 years older with 2000-5000km on their clocks. Their owners obviously never do any decent runs and cannot contemplate a 300+km trip like I did last May. From the very beginning of my Vespa career in 1966, it never occurred to me to think of these scooters as personal ‘buses’ around town. I did long trips from the start, just like you. The PX continues to perform faultlessly which is a great joy. I cannot put into words the fun I have had on returning to Vespas. They are a lifestyle! My poor Corolla has not been used at all this year and is covered in dust and cobwebs!