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Driving is one of life’s great pleasures. For me it is right up there with sex. Which is why I am always astounded when people say they don’t drive, or that they used to drive, but that don’t any longer. Me: “You don’t have sex!!” Them: “Well I used to but it got too expensive. Now I just take public transit.” Me: “Public sex!! Eeyewgh!” Okay, my analogy breaks down around there.

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I learned my love of driving from my Dad, who was a fabulous driver. Long before there were computers he could tell you how many miles per gallon he was getting, how many revs his engine was doing and how far from optimum his tire pressure was for the road conditions on that particular day. He could tell you the specs for every car we passed and its history from the day it rolled off the assembly line. Sitting in the passenger seat with him was like reading a living encyclopedia of the automobile. His peripherals were like Gretsky’s; he could see everything on the road for miles around and track and predict its movement for minutes ahead. He never had even close shave, let alone an accident, and he drove every mining road in Ontario in the fifties when he was carving out a sales career in diesel engines. He sits on my shoulder every mile I drive; I enjoy his company and his advice.

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He would have loved New Zealand. We have been driving her for the past four days, and every road has been an absolute delight. I think I might have been on an expressway for about a minute and a half coming out of Auckland, and again for about three minutes coming into Wellington. But that was it. All the rest has been rolling green hills and breathtaking coastal roads looking out over majestic oceans or mountain valleys. Straight stretches of road could be numbered on the fingers of one hand. And all along the road have been stately cypress and towering pine trees; russet-red flowing bottlebrushes and shrubs so silvery green they are almost grey. And of course the sheep, like breadcrumbs sprinkled on a rumpled green tablecloth.

I rarely listen to the radio when I drive; it takes away the enjoyment of the road. I prefer to listen to the wind and the birds; to chatter with Pam about other places we have seen, or just take in the view. The views today have been worth taking in, as have been the views on the last three days as well. The South Island promises to be even more spectacular, but that is for another day. Today we are just happy to be in Wellington. We surrendered the car and the GPS at the rental place, picking up an agent as we drove by on our way to the hotel; a local fellow who was good enough to help us with the luggage as well as give us some friendly advice about places to eat.

We are staying at the Comfort and Quality Hotel on Cuba Street, which thanks to Pam’s good planning happens to be the liveliest street in town. After supper at the friendly Southern Cross with its hearty comfort food, our first walk was down to Courtenay Place at the end of Dixon Street, to the Embassy Theatre where the world premiere of The Hobbit took place. We booked two seats at the front of the balcony, middle of the screen, for tonight’s nine o’clock showing. We then came back to our room to cop a wee nap before the show. Yes, I’m hopeless; don’t even bother.

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