Alan Perrott tags along with Mr Whippy to experience the icy rivalry that is the icecream vending business.
We're in stealth mode. Which I never thought I'd say of sitting in a Mr Whippy truck.
The best we can do is cut the looping Greensleeves jingle and hope we look like an eccentric campervan. With any luck he won't see us until it's too late ...
We wait for our moment, then slip out from our hidey-hole and fall in behind a passing rubbish truck.
Each time it pulls out after emptying a bin, I look to see if our nemesis, Super Cool guy, is still there. Well, I assume he's a guy. We've only ever seen his blue ice cream van in the distance and the tinted windows aren't giving any clues.
We pass within touching distance and still can't see him, he's serving someone and there are no windows on the roadside.
Which is fine. It means he can't see us either. But he'll hear us all right. With the flick of a switch, we crank up our Greensleeves victory cry and rattle on to tempt the campers at the far end of the beach with frosty desserts.
I imagine our stymied opponent shaking his fist in frustration as small children begin popping up and yelling "Muuuuum!" as they hear our approach.
This is how you sell icecream.
Yet, Carl Russell doesn't seem to be enjoying the cut and thrust of the marketplace as much as I am.
He's a Mr Whippy idealist and all this competition is bringing him down.
"The thing for me is that this job should be a joyful experience. We're everyone's childhood and I love the excitement you see in the kids' faces, the waves you get, all that stuff. This [the competition] is making everything a bit tense. I don't think you're getting the real Mr Whippy experience."
Super Cool guy is feeling the tension as well. He's just done a quick U-turn and skedaddled.
But only for now. There are plenty more beaches where people have yet to realise how badly they need an icecream.
And Russell knows how that feels.
It's why he got into the business.
It was 1996 and he was at home in Glen Innes, contemplating his schoolmates getting supermarket jobs, when that familiar tune drove him outside to get his favourite chocolate dip cone with a flake.
How cool it must be to drive about in one of those, he thought. So, after wiping off his icecream moustache, Russell got out the Yellow Pages and found the phone number that changed his life.
The 32-year-old is relating his life story as we zoom around and around an industrial block in Otara. A couple of kids wave as we complete each lap. His old truck, "Florence", has been idling at the Otara Market for the past three hours - her engine powers the icecream machine - and she needs a good blatting to clear her pipes.
The Otara Market is one of the mainstays of his east Auckland patch. You'll always find him in the same spot - his "gold mine" is sandwiched between the steamed mussels, a guy with a guitar and a hot dog stand - and he's done pretty well since handing over his first cone at 7.45am.
But back to his story. He called his local franchise-holder, asked if he could do some shifts and was out on the road the day after.
"I just loved it from the start, there's this fantastic mentality to it. I mean who doesn't love Mr Whippy? I can induce people to leave their homes with this magical tune. They'll walk out, give me money, and everyone's happy about it. It's like liquid gold. How good is that?"
All the same, when Russell left school he launched his own "Snow Man" brand and went head-to-head with the icon. That lasted three years, then he began wondering what else life had to offer.
Because for all the joy and the money, working in an icecream truck can be a lonely business. You work alone and after your 10th customer every conversation starts to sound the same.
So, at 21, Russell went into sales, then had a quick OE featuring several stints working on superyachts, before returning to get married, have kids and find his other current job, selling amphibious cars.
That's the thing. He doesn't have to sell icecream. He wants to.
He gets his weekly fix then employs two guys to trundle Florence around for the other six days.
"I really don't know why it is, but I'm happiest when I'm driving around in my truck. I've no idea how many times I've heard Greensleeves. I end up humming it when I go to sleep, usually after having an icecream for pudding."
Actually, for me, the tune is light relief. One of the unexpected things about Mr Whippy is the noise. It's constant.
The engine never stops, the gears graunch, and everything rattles. Even when the truck isn't moving, including at lights, Russell switches on the icecream machine to stop its contents from becoming slush.
He may be right in thinking Florence is the oldest Mr Whippy truck in the country, and, for all the inconvenience, that's a selling point. He gets quite a few private bookings for parties, corporate events and even television ads.
There's definitely an old-school joy to driving her. Partly it's the cones stuck on the front but it's also because icecream trucks are exempt from seat-belt laws. That brings back memories.
Anyway, we're now parked up above Bucklands Beach, literally chilling. The sun is out and summer's in the air. But there's no water in the sea. The damn tide's out.
Our first stop isn't looking prosperous until a short burst of music brings a woman dashing from her home. We know Super Cool will be out today, so Russell casually asks if she's seen a blue truck.
"Oh, I saw one about an hour ago. I thought it was you."
Aha, we've got his scent ... We kerb-crawl our way along the beachfront without any luck when Russell does a double take ... that's his old boat. He stops to say gidday and the family helping its current owner load up for his fishing trip surround us. Within minutes he's sold 20 icecreams, with some coming back for seconds.
Caught up in the frenzy, I have one myself. Right, time to change location. We're off to Eastern Beach.
"There he is," hisses Russell and we pull over. This is when we concocted our cunning plan to beat him to the big family groups way over yonder. Game on.
Everywhere we went, we'd scan for blue before even thinking about punters. Whoever spots the other first turns tail and goes after fresh pastures.
While we're willing to take a punt on the side roads, Super Cool sticks to the easy pickings on the beach. That's because we're the hardworking-icecream-truck-of-the-people, we tell ourselves.
But sometimes it means we arrive at a likely spot only to find everyone already clutching cones, Super Cool cones. Drat.
We stay frosty and show no pain.
"The thing you always have to remember," Russell keeps telling me, "is that you're always being watched. Mr Whippy attracts attention, people will even turn to look at you from behind their curtains, so never pick your nose."
"Hmmmm?" I reply from somewhere inside my second icecream.
And on and on it goes - sometimes we're the cloak, other times the dagger - until the inevitable happens.
We've just said goodbye to a woman who'd waved us down, when who should pop out of a side road a few metres ahead ...? So, Super Cool guy, we meet at last.
I'd imagined him as Dick Dastardly from Wacky Races, all sinister moustache, great coat and flying goggles, so it was a let-down to discover he was a pleasant-looking chap.
Russell plays it cool, offering a collegial wave and eyebrow-raise.
Super Cool guy replies with a wry smile and a brief blast of his Home on the Range theme song as he cruises by.
"You know," says Russell, "this is kind of a hobby for me as much as anything, but ..." He sighs. Ideally, he'd negotiate a compromise where each truck works alternate weekends. Then he could indulge his unusual passion without the angst.
Oh well, there's always his own kids. As far as they're concerned, they've got Willy Wonka for a dad, although he rations their intake tightly.
Then there are the neighbour's kids and a whole bunch of others at his local mall. In their eyes, he's a celebrity and they shout "hi Mr Whippy" when they see him.
Such reflections have him in cheerier mood when he drops me off, leaving me like one of those waving children as Greensleeves slowly dissolves into the traffic noise. Damn, I could really go an icecream.By Alan Perrott Email Alan