Eric Thompson: Road monsters surface as summer arrives

Warm weather brings out Aucklanders with their surfboards and 4x4s, heading north to the beaches. Photo / NZPA
Warm weather brings out Aucklanders with their surfboards and 4x4s, heading north to the beaches. Photo / NZPA

I can definitely tell that summer has arrived though I don't go by the traditional methods such as how warm it's getting, that it's daylight when I get up at 6am, the trees are getting greener, the birds are going at it hammer and tongs, or people are wearing fewer clothes.

I know summer is here by the number of folk who suddenly and inexplicably decide to take their monster 4x4s - which in most cases with Aucklanders is the only time the vehicle ventures off the tarmac - and head for the beaches up where I live.

Those who drive off-road vehicles for a living, or regularly take them off road, are always at pains to mention how different the 4x4 is compared to a normal sedan.

Also mentioned in the same breath is that a different skill-set is needed when negotiating a gravel road.

Summer to me has arrived when I start seeing big, new and shiny 4x4s plodding along a dirt road heading to a slightly remote beach.

I go surfing at a local beach a lot and I dread this time of year.

I have no idea why all these city dwellers for the most insist on driving past around 15 beaches to head north of Warkworth with a truckload of screaming children.

I always try to leave for the beach before this lot arrives and hog everything, but occasionally get caught out. They either barrel along at about 60-70km/h flinging their big bus around with gay abandon, obliterating everything in their path, or crawl along at 5km/h in the middle of the road and won't move over to allow cars coming in the opposite direction to pass.

On the most recent occasion, I was forced off the road by a woman in a black Audi Q7 who was barrelling along in the middle of the track.

I moved over, as my Honda is no match for a couple of tonnes of German tank, thinking she'd give me a little bit of room to manoeuvre. Fat chance of that happening even though a bus could've fitted on the other side of her car.

Deciding getting close to the dirt bank was a better option than the imprint of four rings on my windscreen, I moved rapidly left and slid off the road.

My driving experience and advance skills courses came in handy as I controlled the skid, didn't lift off the accelerator, and continued up the hill with the rear wheel of the car in the culvert and the rear panel dragging against the dirt bank.

Thankfully the car pulled itself back on to the road but I'll tell you something for free: Come the revolution, if I find out who the bloody hell that driver was, they'll be the first one up against my brick wall.

I'd have to say most of the women who drive these large 4x4s on narrow gravel roads for the first time are not only a menace to other users but negligent to the children in the car.

Who in their right mind would put their children in vehicles they don't know how to operate properly on a road surface they've never driven on before? Is it arrogance or stupidly?

I'll let you decide.

As a general rule of thumb, if I have to head to the dark side (Auckland, south of the bridge) I keep going on the motorway and won't get off until I'm past the Bombay Hills.

However, of late I've had to venture into Auckland and, much to my surprise, I spent more time laughing than cursing my bad luck.

First up I was waiting outside a bar in Ponsonby when I heard a rather loud thump. I turned around to a great big black 4x4 repeatedly mounting the kerb. So it's not just dirt roads these city slickers can't drive on.

I watched for the next five minutes, much to the annoyance of the vehicle's occupants, as the woman tried to parallel park in a space you could've fitted an aircraft carrier.

In the end, glaring at me, she just drove off - no doubt looking for a football field big enough for her to park in.

- NZ Herald

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