President’s Ramble – August 2018

We are about to have our AGM, and with that in mind I would like to ask for volunteers to step up and take on roles in the committee.  In particular we are in need of a new secretary for next year. Wynne has decided it is time for her to step down after 24 years in the role – can anyone remember who had the job before her? Certainly not me. I have only been a member for 19 years now. Anyway please consider yourself for this role. This will be Wynne s last AGM as secretary, but we will need someone else to take over next year.  The role I believe is not too arduous, mostly taking and distributing the not quite monthly committee meeting minutes.  Please step up and volunteer for this role.

I myself have been rambling (in the USA) and missed the last committee meeting, I would also not be surprised if Don will be standing again for the last time as a committee member. He has been threatening to not stand for at least the last three AGMs.  Therefore as per usual some fresh blood amongst the committee is also more than welcome. We have been lucky to have Xerxes join us this last year and his contributions have not been unnoticed.  Others are also welcome. Being a committee member is also relatively easy; occasionally you may get a small organising job to do, usually by volunteering to do it, but other than that it often involves no more than expressing your ideas at the meetings and helping stuff the envelopes with the magazines.

Other club matters to keep in mind are the upcoming events we have in October and November.  In October is our annual Pride of Ownership, no date announced as yet, but keep it in mind, come have your car judged.  It doesn’t have to be the shiniest car there, in fact I have won the “05” category before by simply turning up and being the only one in it. I have my name on the Trophy to prove it, and probably still came last overall!  As it hasn’t been discussed I can’t even give you a venue, however I would not be surprised if it is in Cornwall Park again.

The other event to keep in mind is the first stage of the Navigation Trial. It is our year to organise it.  If anyone wishes to have a go at setting one this November please get in touch with a committee member.  A number of us have set them in the past as well as competed in many.

My rambling to and within the USA has seen me mastering driving on the wrong side of the road again, mastering sitting on the wrong side of the vehicle and trying to remember which way traffic should be coming from.  To achieve this I largely discipline myself  so that as the driver I need to be sitting in the middle of the road, not by the kerb.  I do find that every intersection takes more concentration to check I turn to the correct side of the road. It didn’t become habit despite driving close to every day there for 16 days.  I am glad to say however no mishaps or even anything remotely like a close call except on the freeway in Los Angeles where I found the 12 seater Ford Transit van I was driving still managed to have a bit of a blind spot on the passenger side, all this despite having the best wing mirrors I have ever driven with! Even then it wasn’t so much a ‘close call’ situation as a ‘be aware’ one.

We spent the majority of our time away in Wyoming, Montana and South Dakota, especially exploring National Parks, National Forests and State Parks.  The most beautiful was probably the Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming which seemed to combine mountains, forests, meadows and lakes in the most picturesque combinations.  Yellowstone (the world’s first National Park) on the other hand is beyond compare with its diversity of geography and wildlife, and its sheer size.  The geysers, springs and mud pools make those at Rotorua almost a non-event, and yet those at Rotorua are quite something.  To see a bison up close and personal is really quite something, then to see a large herd is something else again, and in the Lamar Valley in particular we saw many herds.  We were also very fortunate to see 6 brown bears whilst there, we met some who had been more than once and never seen any, we managed 6 in 4 days, so very pleasing.  In South Dakota we visited Mount Rushmore National Monument. Although I have seen many images of the four presidents etched in stone before, seeing is really comprehending, especially if you are lucky or organised enough to get one of the ranger talks about the making of the faces.  The drives through some of the other South Dakota parks were also quite something, in particular The Needles Highway comes highly recommended, and we went underground at Wind Cave National Park.  Wind Cave has something like 90% of the world’s known box lattice work; the rest apparently is spread scattered across the globe in small amounts here and there, even other large cave systems that are located very close by do not have it.

In Montana we visited the site of the Battle of Little Bighorn, the location of “Custers Last Stand”. This is a truly well laid out experience with great interpretive panels, and again with a superb Ranger’s talk.  My favourite spot was the Big Horn Mountains in the Big Horn National Forest.  Here the views are just phenomenal and the roads at times unbelievably steep, but well made.  A small fortune must have been spent to build them.  Despite the challenging gradients some big rigs still use it as a route to traverse Wyoming. On the downhill runs on the western side were a number of emergency run offs. I would not have fancied using them in a kart let alone a multi ton rig. The views are remarkable, farmers have leases and we observed both cattle and sheep (the only spot we saw a sizable flock) being rounded up in high mountain meadows. Elsewhere we observed moose grazing amongst willows and elk grazing on the forest edge.  Yellow Bellied Marmots were found amongst the peaks near the “medicine wheel” archaeological site and I was very fortunate to see a rather rare pika – a type of small and rare alpine rodent.  I talked to the rangers and they informed us that as well as elk and moose, bighorn sheep can be found (though only rarely now due to a disease outbreak) and with them predators such a wolves, cougars, coyotes and foxes.  Eagles and other birds of prey abound and can occasionally be found diving on the pika and marmots, which keep a constant and shrill chatter going amongst the mountain tops, talking to each other about what predators may abound.

From a motoring point of view, I was initially apprehensive about the size of the Transit Vans I was to be driving. They are over 6m long, though once you are driving them I found them not to be overly large compared to the many large pickups. This part of the country is full of large vehicles and this is reflected in the size of the car parks, not the same as in NZ.  Much to my surprise it also has a very responsive power steering system and was much easier to manoeuvre than my smaller Mitsubishi Ute back home.  The Transit van is an American morph of what was a European design. I suspect they make them larger and unlike the Europeans they are not diesels; instead Ford USA has a 3.5 litre turbocharged V6 petrol engine in them.  Although at times I felt it lacked power, I suspect it was more an issue of the gear ratios, I did get the big bulky creature up to 80mph, which was the limit on some of the interstates.  Most of the time 55 to 65 was the limit.  In South Dakota many of the highways were concrete (at least in the Black hills – Rapid City area) and they whined.  It was inescapable, it was almost as if we were travelling in a jet aircraft such was the constant  background noise.  I never figured out exactly what they did to those roads to create the sounds; interestingly enough one section there were visible patterns in the road and this was one of the few silent ones, whereas visually it looked like it should have been the loudest!

I am going to run my ramble down now to its conclusion with one last story. Whilst in the Custer State Park in the Black Hills of South Dakota we were caught in the most magnificent hail storm any of us had experienced. Some of the hail stones were larger than golf balls, most not much smaller, though interestingly they were more ovoid than round. All traffic stopped and tried to hide beneath pine trees; at least two cars slid off the road not getting enough grip on the instant ice. We have some incredible photos of the road and landscape looking like summer snow-fall, but it wasn’t!  The sound of the hail on the roof was incredible, sounded like we were in a tin drum and we had expectations that the glass might break. It didn’t and casual observations revealed no dents though we didn’t climb on the roof to check. I didn’t time it, but can confidently say that the hail would have fallen intensely for more than 15 minutes and less than 30. Torrential rain followed for a similar amount of time afterwards followed by brilliant sunshine. Three days later we were flying out from Rapid City regional airport.  Whilst in the rental car park area we observed a Ford Mustang Convertible. Every panel was pock marked, the rear window smashed through and the front windscreen had a number of impact marks as well as cracks of some length throughout it.  We observed that like us they had the obligatory Custer State Park fee paid sticker in the window. Clearly the hail was somewhat larger than that we had experienced – or alternatively the metal on the Mustang is somewhat thinner than on other vehicles; I suspect the former.

See you at the AGM at Armstrongs dealership in Greenlane; remember to volunteer to be our new secretary or to join the committee,

Catch you soon,


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