91-year-old knocks off one adventure at a time


They started as activities to "fill in time", then he ended up having the time of his life.

Cambridge's Reg Rye has skydived from 4500 metres in Taupo, taken a glider flight in Matamata and has now become the oldest rider on the Avantidrome's books.

And that's just in the last month, at the tender age of 91.

He's been learning to fly at Waikato Aero Club since Christmas, mostly in a four-seater Cessna, and has taken three helicopter flights over Mount Cook.

Deputy chief flying instructor Peter Wilson took Rye on his first flight from the aero club. Rye has since done eight with five different pilots, and even taken the controls of the aircraft. "I love it".

And all that having already beaten cancer, and having had a heart attack.

As Rye puts it, age is no barrier. If you want to do something it's never too late and he intends making the most of whatever time he has left.

"I'd hate to get to the end of my life thinking 'I should have done that'. I'm probably doing everything in a bit of a hurry, but we never know what's going to happen tomorrow do we?"

Rye's adventures began after his wife of 64 years, Joy, passed away.

"When she went, I just couldn't stay home."

So, he bought a "life-saving" organ piano, upgraded the car, and started road tripping around the Waikato.

"I travelled about 7000 kilometres in my previous car. In the 13 months I've owned the new car, I've travelled 26,000km."

Rye has lived in Cambridge for 75 years. His foray into riding at the Avantidrome was the first time in 35 years he had been back on a bike.

He has ridden around the lower grey portion of the Avantidrome track on four occasions, most recently last week.

"It's just fantastic, marvellous," he said.

Avantidrome programme co-ordinator Dean Forman was Rye's instructor.

"I just made up my mind one day to go out there and fill in some time. Dean was there and said to me: ‘Would you like to try it out?', so I did.

"It's awesome really - it's very easy."

Rye recently walked the Te Awa cycleway to the Avantidrome and back, a 6.4km distance.

His renewed vigour harks back to earlier days, when he played rugby and was a track athlete, twice winning what was then the 100 yard championship at Cambridge Athletics club, where he is now a life member. Hurdling was his speciality; he represented Waikato in the discipline.

For 20 years Rye also made and sold wooden toys and donated about $30,000 to charity.

The skydive, which took place in late March, was what Rye called "a real family affair", but he was quick to point out jumping from that height was "not my doing".

Rye did the tandem jump with his great-nephew and Skydive Taupo owner Roy Clements, and was supported by his nephew Bill Fletcher. Rye's great great-nephew, Roy's son Chris, was the cameraman. "It was awesome. People, mostly women, have said I'm brave and ‘good on ya' and the men, well, I won't tell you what they call me, because I don't think you'd print it," he quipped.

"The freefalling, I thought, was far too long," he smiled.

"Roy has done it that often, he was really enjoying himself. And getting to take his uncle, he just thought it was marvellous. Once the chute opens and you're gliding down, you can see all the mountains and all of Lake Taupo, you see for blooming miles up there. It's magic. I'm glad I've done it, but I don't think I'll do it again."

Now content to leave the lifestyle of an adrenaline junkie behind, he is unsure of his next challenge.

Some have suggested jet boating, but he doesn't like anything to do with water. Bungee jumping, he reckons he could probably do but he has already had one hip replaced, and besides, he would like to take a second glider flight in Matamata. "I can't really tell you what the secret to remaining young is, or anything like that really, because most of my adventures have been a spur of the moment thing."