The MDA Runs (Muscular Dystrophy Assoc) were started by the Wellington BRONZ Club around 1990. The ride is done (normally on the first weekend of December) to deliver presents to between 20 – 30 children in the lower North Island, suffering from this debilitating disease and it leaves one filled with mixed emotions as you are touched, in some cases by the condition of these children but mostly by their spirit. This was my third year on this ride, which I enjoy doing as the Pix-E, and it can be quite sad to hear that one we visited last year may have since died, or we turn up to find a little chap who was jumping around last year is now in a wheel chair. The other strange aspect of the disease is the lack of consistency, in that some appear to be quite frail by the time they start school whereas others are affected much later. One thing is for sure though, very few make it into their 20’s.
The BRONZ Club ran the ride for about 10 years after which time, it was kept going by a chap, Pete Cox, who after a few years, passed it on to Les Prescott, a Ulyssian, who finally arranged with the Wellington Branch Co-Ordinator, Ron Meiklen, to adopt the ride into the Branch Calendar in 2004, and after all those years, there are now many riders who proudly retain their badges of status as Muscular Dystrophy Riders.
Up until this year, the ride was carried out in two parts, a Short Ride (300 – 400Km) through Paraparaumu, Palmertston North, Feilding and Marton, and the Long 3 day Ride (1300’ish Km) from Wellington to Napier on a Friday, across to Waitara on the Saturday and return to Wellington on the Sunday, but this year the MDA took the teenagers off the list, reducing the number of recipients in the area to 16 and therefore, only a single ride was required.
As usual, leading up to a longer ride, the long range weather forecasts were watched attentively, bikes checked out, and in my case a new back tyre fitted, our World Famous in Wellington/Kapiti, Santa, ‘Red Fred’ Bonnette & his V-Max were deemed healthy and available for the ride and costumes organized. (I was supposed to sort out an ‘Attitudinous Elf’ outfit like Ken’s, but was too slack, so most of us settled for hi-vis vests and Red Fred supplied Santa Hats).
We met at the Brown Owl shops for a 1000 departure, paid for our badge, accommodation and breakfasts, gave a donation towards next years run, then had a chat and photo from the community newspaper before 15 of us, on 12 bikes, departed. It was overcast and about 16˚ when we left for our first stop to see Stanly at Douglas Park School in Masterton. We stopped there last year and caused mayhem and this year the mayhem was just slightly more orderly but we came prepared with extra lollies. It was now a magnificent day and the temp was up to 20˚ as Buzz headed back and we moved on to our next stop for Taylor at St Anthony’s School in Pahiatua. She’s a wee cutie at only 5, but already wheelchair ridden and the atmosphere at this school was more orderly but very warm with several children requesting hugs from Santa, which were generously doled out with lashings of lollies and un-PC Ho-Ho-Ho’s.
Our next delivery wasn’t ‘til Napier so from here we nipped up to the Woodville for lunch, after which John headed back leaving 10 bikes for the rest of the trip which, at this point took us to the Tikokino Pub on SH50 for a refreshment stop, but it was closed for renovations so we continued straight on to Napier. The road north of Tikokino was atrocious whereby it had been resealed but not rolled and the chip which was thick and loose, was just flicking up all over the place. It was particularly bad following Warwick on his Hyosung 650GT with its’ high rear mudguard and at 15kph he had a rooster tail of stones as high as his helmet. The tar smeered stones got everywhere and Steve had a minor moment when he went to change down for a hill and couldn’t, but he managed to continue on to a level area where it was safe to stop and remove the chips that had gathered under the mechanism on his Beemer.
With no other incidents we soon made it to Westshore, settled in then headed off to Peter and Ann Hammond’s in Taradale. Peter is a Ulyssian who can no longer ride but has opened his home to the MDA children and riders for the last 10 years, whereby we all gather there for Santa to do his thing, then enjoy mingling with each other over refreshments and a meal. In the past this was done on the Saturday morning but getting these children organized and away early in the morning can be a major effort for the parents, so for the last 2 years we have arrived earlier to do it on the Friday. With that done, we rode back to the motor camp and had a quiet beer at the pub across the road before calling it a night by 2200, about 370Km for the day.
Saturday morning dawned another beautiful day and I arose shortly after 0600 to find that Ron & Sue already had a hearty breakfast of bacon, sausages and eggs cooking. We enjoyed the meal, packed-up and were on the road to fill-up at Bay View before 0900 and I pulled out of the BP at 0910, with the temp at a very comfortable 17˚. As always, the Napier – Taupo road provided a great ride and we regrouped at the turn-off before briefly stopping at Trikeworks, where Steve had decided to change his rear tyre. We headed around to the BP to fill-up and enjoy a cool drink while we waited for Steve & Fred. (Of course the ST wouldn’t need gas ‘til Waitara, but the others weren’t so lucky).
The Round Lake Taupo Cycle Race was on so the town was very busy but fortunately we were able to bypass most of it and were soon on the road to see Jac at Oruanui. He was very tentative at first but a few lollies had him out from behind dad and I was able to get a photo of a happy-chappy getting a special visit from ‘the man himself’. From there we continued across Poihipi Rd and over SH’s 30 & 32 to Bennydale then on to Piopio for another gas stop for the Sprotty-Riders.
Now, our man ‘Red Fred’ is not only famous in our parts as the real McCoy Santa, but also as a man in serious need of a compass swing, and generally requiring guidance on a trip of this magnitude as, in the past, he has been known to end up in Te Kuiti or even Te Awamutu. To alleviate this problem I nipped ahead to the Kopaki turnoff to block Fred’s path should he attempt to stay on the main road. Problem was, Barry, the last rider but Fred to come past, informed me that Fred had decided to stop for a cup-of-tea in Bennydale so I thought, “Stuff it!’ he’d been given plenty of coaching…”Don’t go to Te Kuiti!!” so I joined Barry and headed on to Piopio where I stopped briefly before tackling one of the best rides in the North Island, the Awakino Gorge and a late lunch at the Awakino Pub.
After a real blast, I arrived first and was set-up to photograph the others as they pulled-in. We ordered lunch, relaxed and chewed the fat over a cool drink but by the time we were ready to leave, Red Fred still hadn’t turned-up…..Bugger!! Les went back to Piopio to find him while the rest of us pressed on, with a warning from other patrons at the pub that a couple of ‘Mufties’ were patrolling around Mt Messenger. With that in mind we took it easy, sort of, with the added insurance of a ‘Whistler’ at the front of our group. Another great ride over the ‘Mount’ and we had no sooner come down off it when who should we pass but….Yep…Santa-in-a-VMax-Side-Car…..Most odd because he certainly hadn’t passed us whilst we napped and chatted in the beer garden???
We arrived at the Marae in Waitara at 1620 with the day still at a very pleasant ride temperature of 17˚ after it briefly dipped to 15˚ around Taupo. Fred pulled in shortly after and entertained us with his mini-epic-adventure.
Now, as mentioned earlier, it had been drummed into Santa. “Don’t go to Te Kuiti, we’re gassing in Piopio” and fortunately he saw the Piopio sign at the Kopaki turn-off…Good-oh!! ….But what we should have said was, “Turn-off at Kopaki!” because when Fred got to SH4 and he saw a sign pointing to “Te Kuiti / Hamilton”, he went the other way and turned left, toward Taumaranui…..??? (It didn’t help that there was no mention of Piopio) Unfortunately he didn’t realise the error of his ways until after the Aria turn-off, so when he saw ‘40’, he took it, and wound his way through to Matiere where he stopped to enquire why Piopio was now 50Km north?? After being advised that 40 was the best way to continue he meandered on to Ohura then enjoyed 13Km of loose gravel over the top and a further 17Km of packed gravel before emerging on SH3 at Ahititi, just north of Mt Messenger. The funniest part though was when he informed us that he came across five pig hunters, who offered him help when they found him stopped, but he explained that he had run out of gas and was just going to fill-up from his jerry can. (The short range of the V-Max and prior experiences ensure that Fred is always prepared). When he offered them a sweetie from the bag of ‘Magic Flying Dust’ attached to the rear of his side-car, they declined, but stated that they could really go a cool beer. Well…it just so happened that Santa was carrying the remains of Herman & Mike’s beer from the night before, so much to the surprise and delight of the five, Santa reached into his sack and produced a can of Tui each, which the pighunters promptly downed in unison whilst blocking the road, much to the consternation of the car that Fred had passed 10 minutes earlier. Remembering the appropriate protocols from their childhood days, the pighunters didn’t have any Christmas cake for Santa so duly offered him a sandwich before he departed. At this point we all visualized these fellas in the pub, relating the tale of how, while minding there own business in the back blocks of rural NZ, parched as an old chamois that hasn’t been used for a year, on the hottest November day in recorded history, when, all of a sudden Santa turned-up with a couple of Tuis……..”Yeah right!! …and Santa lives in Whangamomona!!” would be the reply ……and even Les didn’t mind because he got to do the Awakino gorge three times on the Hornet.
A great day was had and we were soon settled in and walking down to the T&C Club for drinks and a feed before retiring, knackered after our 420Kms. All except Mike who had a fair bit of chainsawing to do until Ken, who was wearing gel-plugs, had had enough and suggested he turn onto his stomach so he didn’t do himself an injury……and we could all get some sleep.
We were all up by 0615, once again Ron & Sue had breakfast ready and we were gassed-up and ready to depart at 0820 for our first stop at Aimee’s in Bell Block. From there it was off to 3 families just south of Inglewood, the last of which, Jacob, who had been for ride on the back of Santas Side-car last year, was now in a wheelchair, but he is still a happy chappy and delighted in demonstrating that his ‘wheels’ had a horn. It was 18˚ so very warm in our riding gear at the stops but there was a slight nip in the air as we rode and very pleasant. We headed down with fuel stops in Hawera, except for Fred who had his in Patea and Ron who loves his Wanganui Gull, by which time the temp was getting up to 25˚ when we stopped for Amelia, then lunch at the Club in Wanganui East. From there it was on to Olivia in Marton, and finally, Palmerston North via Halcombe and our last stop at Jedd’s, where mum had baked cakes and had cool drinks for us.
We separated at this point to head back via different routes with 4 of us opting to take the Track and Rimutaka’s. It was now up to 28˚ as we blasted over the ‘Track’ and I was most surprised to see the gauge hit 30˚ as we bypassed Masterton at around 1700, dip back to 28˚ then rise back up to 30˚ again before we stopped at the White Swann in Greytown for another Ginger beer. The bike read 50˚ before start-up and the final drag over the ‘Hill’ and it was still 22˚ when I finally arrived home at 1835, 480Kms for the day, 1270Kms for the weekend, still 2 bars on the fuel gauge after averaging 19k/Lt for the day (it had been hovering on 20 prior to the ‘Hill’) ….. I was totally shattered, but damn I love these MDA runs.
These blogs were posted on the KiwiBiker forum but I decided it was time for a change.