The best thrill ride in Whangārei is free. Hop on a bike and see how far you can go "no hands" down the shared walking and cycle path from Kamo to town. There are some good open stretches, gently downhill, where you can coast with your hands off the handlebars, like a kid again.
It's just one of the joys I've discovered regularly cycling the path.
The other thing I've enjoyed is how social it is. I save my "no hands" riding for when it's clear, which isn't often.
There are cyclists going the other way, who sometimes raise a hand from the handlebars to wave.
I put this custom down to the shared understanding that on a bike you're doing something good for your body and the environment. That little wave is like saying: "Well done, good on you, keep it up!" It's a not-so-secret handshake between initiates.
The cyclists on the path, I would say, though, are currently a minority.
Other regular uses include older folk in mobility scooters, who relish the even surface and lack of driveways.
They sometimes lift a hand off the wheel to wave also. Or simply smile a greeting.
Then there are runners, retired couples taking a walk, workmates taking a lunchtime stroll, local residents just getting from A to B, and people walking their dogs.
During weekdays (when I'm making the trip), mothers or fathers with preschool kids on scooters or bikes with training wheels are frequently seen.
I like coming across these family units the best. The kids look so happy to be exploring the wide-open spaces of the path, just that little bit in front of mum or dad.
Their parents, free from the worry of cars and trucks speeding past, only having to worry about grazed hands and knees.
Before and after school time, there are teenagers in large numbers making their way along the path at the speed of untroubled wildebeests on the African savannah.
Riding through them can require patience. And you get the odd sarcastic comment or greeting.
But I've never had any problem. On the shared path, as the name says, it's about being courteous.
Only one time have my heckles been raised, when a man, in his late 50s perhaps, whizzed past on his electric bike going full tilt downhill.
"Just chill," I wanted to tell him. "Relax, sit back and look at the scenery, enjoy the people. You're missing the point, going at that speed."
(Though I probably wouldn't have put it quite as nicely at the time.)
Cycling the shared path is so much more relaxing than on the road, with cars and trucks going past your right shoulder.
On the road, you often want to get where you're going as quickly as possible, keeping a very straight line. There's not much head-swivelling looking around.
On the shared path, however, you can drift along, nosing into people's backyards, admiring their gardens.
The railway track, which the shared path runs alongside for much of the way, has its own charm. A pity there's so few trains running on it.
There are big established trees and new plantings of natives along the path, which will make for a very green thoroughfare in a few years. Already the first third of the cycle from Kamo has a pleasant park-like vibe.
As I've got fitter, going back from town has gotten surprisingly easy. The incline is never too difficult, and the concrete — so much better than tarseal — makes for smooth, almost frictionless riding.
The northernmost point of the track ends with an exit/entrance point on Fisher Tce. There are plans for it to be extended through to Station Rd.
For me, the Kamo shared path is one of the best and farsighted improvements to Whangārei's infrastructure.
It's going to give a lot of pleasure to people for a very long time.
Hope to see you there soon. I've been known to smile and wave.