This weekend I once again enjoyed one of my favorite annual rides, the Musclar Dystrophy (MDA) Run. The ride entails taking presents to children suffering with MD, from Wellington to Napier on Friday, across to Waitara on Saturday and back to Wellington on Sunday and there are several factors that contribute towards creating an epic adventure each year…
Santa is now 70 and his health wasn’t up to a 1250Km ride this year, so Camp Mother went to work and managed to get Apex Rentals to provide a nice red sleigh, in which Santa could be chauffeured over the course. This and all his other usual tasks done, Camp Mother also traded his spurs for the reins and became the chauffeur.
My part started about a month out. This was my 6th MDA Run and I sort of grew into the job of official Pix-E, capturing the event on jpeg files, so eventually that and being part of the Branch Rides committee led to me producing and maintaining profiles on our recipients and doing a bit of planning for route options, putting the info together to distribute to the riders. The route doesn’t change much so it was just a matter of tweeking last year’s info, noting any changes to the list of kiddies, then send it out the week before.
Come 0900 on Friday we were off. The weather forecasters had advised no rain for the weekend, so I hadn’t packed any wets, Ann & I had brought our fair ration of sweeties for distribution, the ST had been serviced and a new Avon Storm Ultra fitted to the rear, we had a full tank, it was 19º (so I was wearing shorts under the corduras…and my Pix-E cape) and we were keen to get on the road.
Our first stop was for Stanly, Sarah & Mika at Douglas Park School in Masterton. We’ve visited Stanly every year I’ve been on the ride (and it’s great to see him still on his feet), but Sarah was spotted in her wheelchair last year, so although she doesn’t have MD, we added her to our list and Mika, who has Spin Bifida, was another late addition. The first year we visited this school, we caused utter chaos but now the chaos is more organised…except for when Gus and Andre decided that scrambling for lollies is much more fun than having them doled out. Another nice wee moment was when Santa was asked, “Did you get my letter?”
From here we moved onto Pahiatua and St Anthony’s School. Taylor was there but Roisin (Ro-sheen) was down at the hospital getting a treatment, then we continued to Woodville for lunch, after which we took Top Grass Rd to Dannevirke, paused again in Tikokino for some refreshments then finished the day’s ride to the Westshore Motor Camp. The day was completed by enjoying a feed and giving gifts to the Napier MD children at Hammonds, then chatting over a few drinks back at the camp.
Saturday morning dawned a mixed bag with the temp at 17º and overcast skies which tried hard but couldn’t quite squeeze more than a few drops of water out. I managed to start my day with a 50cent (4minute) shower, followed by Ron’s Delight, a short briefing to the riders on the day’s programme and Marae protocols for that evening. Then it was pack the bags, check the tyres and wait for Peter to turn up to escort us to Tarawera on his Burgman 400.
We were underway, gassing at BP Bayview before 0900 and the pace was spot-on, because any quicker and we would have been pinged by the arsehole in the Camera Van who had it hidden and pointing the right way to catch us from behind!...it wouldn’t surprise me if Goldie hadn’t put him up to that since he wasn’t with us this year! Anyway the brief stop at Tarawera allowed Santa’s Apex Sleigh to get ahead, so once we’d stopped for gas at BP Tauhara, we weren’t too far apart for our first call of the day to Jac, up in Oruanui. He’s a nice wee chap and getting more used to the grumpy old farts who dole out lashings of lollies. He’s still not quite up to girlie hugs, handshakes or high-5’s with Santa but!
By now the temp was climbing in the 20’s as we lit out for our next stop in Taumaranui. Ann and I took the lead and maintained a brisk pace along Poihipi Rd and SH32, we paused briefly at Kuratau Junction, then we were near the rear as we traveled over SH41 to Taumaranui. I think ’41 is a delightful road but this would be the first time I haven’t enjoyed riding over it, as it had a proliferation of works and grit. I managed to earn a dig in the ribs from Ann when I bottomed out and scraped as we took a dip in the middle of a right hand sweeper, then later twitched on some larger rubble but the worst part was trying to read if the hump was coated with loose stuff or not, so I opted to ride the rut and that always takes the edge off.
Our visit to Sam & Max was a little sad as Max is now in a wheelchair (Part-Time) and we learned that Sam was close to dying earlier this year when he contracted pneumonia and his lungs collapsed. They are alright now but it reinforces the fragility that comes with MD and we noted further, that on our departure, Sam’s Step-dad had to hold his arm up so he could wave good-bye.
By this time the temp had gone through 25º and I was forced to drop my pants and reveal my hairy legs while I enjoyed a sandwich and Peachy drink for lunch. I note here also that I was wearing shorts under my corduras so I wasn’t being rude!
Time to move on and we now split into two groups as three riders embarked on the Forgotten Highway while the rest of us went for Aria and the Awakino Gorge. I led out, pausing at the Ramaroa Rd turnoff to ensure we all took the turn, then enjoyed the Aria Rd. It was delightful to be finally enjoying real Summer conditions, but there wasn’t much wind through here so the sun was melting the tar and when you’re running a fully gassed, pillioned and loaded ST at 500+Kgs, one must take care not to enjoy the ride too much in case the earth moves. This did happen a couple of times, whereby the bike wasn’t actually sliding but oozing sideways in some corners (a bit like running on semi flat tyres) but it was a most enjoyable section for me.
Through Aria and onto Totoro Rd and this was more of a challenge as there were a few sections of road works and the powers that be had been sprinkling ice grit to combat the tar melt…but they hadn’t been sweeping. This meant that the hump and ruts were to be avoided if possible, which doesn’t leave one with a lot of options so I often found myself trying to run on the narrow line between the two and we had a wee moment on a long section of works as well. The gravel had been rolled and compacted so it was a good surface and I let the speed creep up a little but was surprised by a 10 metre section that was loose and the front wheel was going its own way.
We made it through to SH3 though and marked the corner until the last riders got through, then I switched into ‘Fang Mode’. I love this road and we were soon on Les’ tail as he maintained a very brisk pace which had us catching the ‘Sleigh’ in a tight section. I primed myself to take any passing opportunity by running in 4th and when I got a sniff of clear road, I chopped to 3rd and gave it heaps. Now I don’t normally ride like this, so Ann wasn’t prepared for it and although she had the top-box for support, she had been leaning forward to move with me through the corners and the sudden and vicious explosion of speed had her grabbing and holding on to me for grim death…..until the g’s abated and I got a good slap around the helmet. Fortunately I had the earplugs in and MP3 going so I didn’t catch any of the expletives but I did get a good serve at the Awakino Pub and a threat that any further shenanigans would have me buying an airfare home from New Plymouth. That didn’t mean too much, but….. I do know what’s good for me!
Needless to say, we enjoyed a shandy to quench our thirst and ‘cool off’ in Awakino, then we assumed the role of TEC to Urenui, where there wasn’t any cell coverage, so we just continued to the designated meeting point at Sentry Hill on SH3A. The three Dirt Trackers were already there so we continued down the road to the Marae and prepared ourselves for the Powhiri.
Ann, was able to Karanga, and Ken able to speak for us, Sue had made a tino flash flax-money-flower to present our koha and we had prepared a wee waiata so we soon had the formalities behind us, settled in, cleaned up, went out to Bell Block for dinner then enjoyed a night full of laughs before retiring after 2300….What a great day!
We were pretty shagged so I don’t recall too many interruptions from the snorers and was up before 0600 to take on the last day. Camp Mother was already well into the breakfast preparations and although it had only been mentioned late the night before that Sunday was Ann’s birthday, a cake had also been sorted to celebrate which truly surprised and amazed Ann. By 0800 we were pretty much ready to go and got away before 0830, it was another overcast but warm start to the day, we gassed up, visited Aimee, then Jacob, then sisters Lydia & Bethany and finally Callum before hitting the road for Wanganui.
We were ahead of schedule at this stage so a few last minute amendments were made as Santa visited Shirley’s rellys, the main group paused in Stratford to meet with Pete (an MD rider who now lives in the backblocks of the ‘Naki), then we all stopped at Ann’s parents place in Moumahaki (South of Waverly) for what turned out to be lunch. This was in part due to it being her birthday but there was no getting out of it once a mention had been made of whitebait.
Finally we finished our duties by refilling at the Wanganui Gull, visiting Olivia (who unfortunately is another who is now in a wheelchair) and finally Jedd in Palmy. We did have another wee moment as we exited Olivia’s though when I crossed the cattle-stop and the front sank into a thick, loose mound of gravel and sand on the other side. Instinctively the feet shot out ready to kick as the front wallowed and emerged onto hard seal liberally coated with marble-like stones…and all this time, I was having to apply the front brake and stop because a bloody great sheep truck was bearing sown at warp speed. Thank God for ABS, a light touch and a shit load of luck!!!
With all our visits done, we headed for home by the most direct route which was Shannon and SH1, encountering heavy traffic before Otaki, at which time we lost the rest of the riders and finally made it home by 1645, shattered but most satisfied with a job well done.
We had a great time doing something special for some unfortunate children. It’s fantastic to see their smiles and attitude…even when it can be an effort for some of them to even tear the wrapping off a present.
We enjoyed some great riding in great weather.
We had a great time and lots of laughs with a great crew.
We enjoyed a smooth trip thanks to Ron’s efforts and preparation behind the scenes.
We were treated to witnessing another superb performance from the consummate Santa…
…and that was also thanks to the generous support of Apex Rentals for supplying an enclosed sleigh to keep our Santa on track.
Many thanks to all for making it a great weekend in temps from 17º to 28º. Ann and I managed 1241Kms at economies from 16.7K/Ltr on the Awakino section to 19K/Ltr or close on the others and I now have 103,178Kms on the bike.
These blogs were posted on the KiwiBiker forum but I decided it was time for a change.