Ride in a Holden ute

Holden ute (coupe utility) vehicle in Yankalilla, Australia.

Today I sighted my first classic Holden ute. Then I got to ride in one.

The first time I ever heard of a ute (a utility coupé automobile) was in church. Delilah and I had gone to the Christmas tree festival at the Willunga Uniting Church—the same community that organized a Blue Christmas service for people not happy about the holidays.

The ukulele choir had led us on a rousing version of Aussie Jingle Bells. The chorus rang,

“Jingle bells, jingle bells,
Jingle all the way.
Christmas in Australia
On a scorching summers day.
Jingle bells, Jingle bells,
Christmas time is beaut.
Oh what fun it is to ride in a rusty Holden ute.”

“What’s a ‘Holden ute?'” I asked Delilah. The five-year-old looked at me as if I’d just asked what colour the sky is.

“It’s a kind of truck,” she responded.

Fast forward to today, in the yard behind the 21 Junk Street café in Yankalilla, South Australia (map). I’ve finished my healthy lunch and have wandered out back to use the toilet.

What’s that? Why, it’s a beaut of a ute. I know because it says HOLDEN in block letters. The car, er, truck is elegant and streamlined and it reminds me of the 1970s-era Chevrolet El Caminos I’ve seen in North America.

Details of a Holden ute (coupe utility) vehicle in Yankalilla, Australia. (photo: ulrike.ca)
Detail of a Holden ute (coupe utility) vehicle in Yankalilla, Australia.

Holden is an auto manufacturer that started as a saddlery in South Australia in 1856. It moved into the automotive field in 1908 and became a subsidiary of General Motors in 1931.

Later in the day, Ruth drops me off at Scott’s place in McLaren Flat for a visit and a tour of his studio. We have a beer next to his pool and he asks if I want to join him and some friends at The Willunga Hotel (“the middle pub”) for Happy Hour. Sure, I say.

We walk around the corner and there is pretty well a carbon copy of the ute I saw in Yankalilla.

“Climb in,” Scott beckons, “But the seat might be a bit wet.” I get in the ute and it feels like—a car. I look back. It’s the payload of a hard workin’ truck.

It’s  the mullet of cars, I say to myself—It’s business out front and a party in the back.

Happy Hour at the Willunga Hotel (the "middle pub") in Willunga, South Australia.
Happy Hour at the Willunga Hotel (the “middle pub”) in Willunga, South Australia.

Flirt with a biplane pilot

Coffee milkshake at Adelaide Biplanes museum near Aldinga, South Australia.

I imagined that if I arrived at the Adelaide Biplanes aerodrome on a bicycle in a breezy summer dress, I could flirt with a pilot and sweet-talk my way into his cockpit.

That didn’t quite happen. I did cycle a few kilometres from McLaren Vale to the airfield and museum, and I did scan my radar for pilots, but the place was quiet and none were to be found.

Instead, I ordered a thick coffee milkshake and watched a small plane practice taking off and landing from the comfort of the airfield’s vintage-themed café.

Says the Adelaide Biplanes website,

“Based at the vintage and charming Aldinga Airfield, Adelaide Biplanes is all about delivering some of the most awesome flying experiences it’s possible to imagine. From the joy and sheer romance of a gentle Waco biplane flight at 1,000 feet, along the scenic Adelaide south coast, or a vintage Tiger Moth flight with a stunning sunset as your personal backdrop, to an extreme Great Lakes biplane open cockpit Aerobatic Flight that offers a totally unique, adrenalin-pumping experience, that literally puts all your senses on overload. To the ultimate buzz of actually learning to fly at the most motivating, challengingly-fun, inspiringly-easy going and singularly safe Flying School. At Adelaide Biplanes, we have a passion for pretty much everything there is to do with aeroplanes.”

I was grounded this time, but rumour has it Santa Claus has logged a flight plan with the tiny airport. Maybe I’ll bump into the big fella next time around.

Cafe and museum at the Adelaide Biplanes airport near Aldinga, South Australia.
Cafe and museum at the Adelaide Biplanes airport near Aldinga, South Australia.