Santa Rides a Goldwing

Forget the quaint old reindeer and sleigh, these days Santa rides a Goldwing. Complete with white beard and red suit, Reg Woods has played Father Christmas ever since 1964 and his space-themed trike ‘Fantasy’ is a regular at the BRONZ Auckland Toy Run each year.

6 cylinders and 1500ccs make much more noise than sleigh bells, hands down. Then there’s the cassette player, Reg’s favourite feature on the bike. Whether he’s in the mood for classical chinese music or some traditional Christmas carols, the ample storage space near the dash means the tape is always at his fingertips to provide a surround sound soundtrack to his ride.

No stranger to distance, Reg has two vests dripping with badges from rallies and rides all over the country. A member of Ulysses and Kiwitriker, he rates the longer events such as the Kiwitriker thousand miler as the most memorable.
The longest ride he has done is the Southern Cross rally that took him to all four corners of the country, covering over 6000km over 4 days. This was the epitome of motorcycling, representing the freedom to ‘do what you like, when you like’. Reg is no fair weather rider either, having survived cyclone Bola enroute from Auckland to New Plymouth, although he admits that trip was ‘a bit tricky’.

For most of the year Reg goes incognito, leaving the red suit at home. Still, his Goldwing trike is rather hard to miss with the yellow trimming and custom Bruce Rule galaxy paintjob. Reg bought his first Goldwing in 1978 and has owned various versions of the Honda ever since. This is his first trike and has been 3 wheeled since the early 1990s. After several close calls riding through the Haast pass Reg decided to take the plunge and order a kitset from the states, reasoning that while a bike tends to ‘slide and fall’ a trike would only do the former. The 2 day conversion took place in Whakatane and has done wonders for its handling, particularly on gravel where it ‘cleans up Harleys’.

These days the conversions take place in own backyard and Santa’s workshop is everything a grease monkey could wish for. A home built trike chassis takes pride of place in the middle of the garage, alongside the Jaguar back end that will eventually power the machine. Reg has already built four trikes from scratch – three VWs and one Ford Prefect – so the assembly line is a well oiled machine and no elves are needed. Come December he will once again don his red coat and swap grease for gifts. You can catch Reg at the BRONZ Auckland Toy Run on December 3 2011.

Originally published in KiwiRider Magazine

The drive-by postbox

I was asked the other day what makes Ashburton unique, and there was one very special feature that sprung to mind. Not the town clock, not the giant flying fox, but the drive by post box. It’s like a drive through in reverse: pull into the specially built bay, wind down your window, deposit your one card application and tax return and take off again, all in one smooth action. It’s a wonder that every town doesn’t have one.

Call me old fashioned, but I really enjoy receiving mail and sending real live letters in return. When my sister came down to visit we had a ball, choosing postcards of local attractions such as the clock tower to send back to cousins, grandparents and assorted distant relatives. (Actually, all of the postcards were of the clocktower – but none of my northern rellies need to find that out). There’s something so very satisfying about starting with a ‘Dear Mum,’ scribbling small talk about the local attractions, slapping on a stamp and slipping the finished product into such a conveniently placed roadside structure.

Ashburton is also conveniently laid out for the local posties. As a flat town with straight roads, they actually have time to smile and strike up a conversation. Unlike the Auckland variety of post dispatchers, they’re not gasping for air having just battled another 45 degree incline on the fourth volcano of their mail run. Those who require geared bikes to do their job may be somewhat glad to hear that the contents of their satchels are dwindling. NZ Post is not. Battling to keep letter numbers up, the company has been in the news recently thanks to the humble stamp, with its cover price set to rise a whopping 16% to 70c this weekend.

Apparently kiwis are not utilizing the service well enough, but Ashburton is putting in a valiant effort. Mail is used for plenty of purposes down here, including reminding patrons of their library fines. I know this for a fact, because a bill for my tardy tomes arrived in the letterbox the other day. Having been raised in the eGeneration, constantly saturated with emails, the stern warning on an official letterhead took me by surprise. Still, it’s good to see that there are still some local institutions helping to keep our national postal service alive. It also gave me an excuse to write out a cheque, slip it into an envelope and do another drive-by posting…

Originally published in The Ashburton Guardian

Friday Poem

Friday Poem

The hours stretch out
as far and flat as the surrounding plains.

In this town
‘as far as the eye can see’
is an optical illusion
and ‘are we nearly there yet?’
has long since been left unsaid.

Kilometres tick by like minute hands
steady, steady, going nowhere fast
but adding up to distance
and to dinnertime
tomorrow after tomorrow after tomorrow,

leaving the future
a horizon never reached
on the long drive home.

Thursday Poem

Thursday Poem

The clock chimes every quarter hour.
My watch doesn’t agree – on strike,
it’s ticking backwards.

‘Light Moisturising Handcream’
tries in vain to hide
the troughs in skin
and bridge crevasses:

Like an ice bridge, it’s temporary
and not to be trusted
with the weight of a life.

The clock strikes four.
It’s cold outside.
Another Winter, on its way.

Monday Poem

Monday Poem

The clock chimes ‘lunchtime’
and echoes through the square
in the crisp midday air.

The sky is high today
and glazed, like blue pottery.

In the domain
orange leaves shake themselves free
at their leisure

Inside, the fuschias are wilting.

Tuesday Poem

Tuesday Poem

The grass is getting cut,
razed back,
and invading my lunchtime
with the energy
of a munching HummmRAAARhumm.

The room is in shadow.
On the windowsill my
pot plants struggle
to defeat gravity
and yellow lilies wilt.

Outside, the grass
grows shorter.