This weekend marked my 7th MDA (Muscular Dystrophy) Ride, whereby we deliver presents to children in the Central and Lower North Island (excluding Wgtn). Over the past few years I have taken on the responsibility to maintain profiles on the children, as well as planning our route around the visits, but that doesn’t require much effort as it is just a tweek here and there now. I did introduce a couple of new route options this year though.
Our numbers almost doubled this year, with 19 bikes (2 with pillions) (it’s usually 10-12) and the programme was emailed a week before to offer the newbies an insight into the kiddies, and the navigators time to study the options, plan their fuel stops and ensure they wouldn’t get lost. By 0900 Friday we were assembled at Brown Owl and ready to go and once again, I nipped ahead to get some pix on the hill.
We regrouped in Featherston before carrying on to Masterton for another regroup to ‘kit-up’ (in our elf/fairy capes, wings etc) before going to Douglas Park School, where all the children were sitting patiently, lining the playground about 3 or 4 deep and looking excited to see us. Unfortunately though, the word was that Santa had been called to emergency visits in Christchurch, so they had to be content with just the unruly bunch of fairy’s, Attitudinous Elves & Pix-E’s.
I started the trip with 5 x 400gm bags of fruit bursts and barely seemed to have stepped off the bike before emptying the two bags I’d rationed for that school, but fortunately the big numbers on the ride this year would mean plenty to go around) By the time I had done that and got my act together to perform my official Pix-E duties, I found the presents had already been given, but I soon tracked down the three recipients to record their smiles and have a quick chat.
We were soon back on the road to head for St Anthony’s in Pahiatua. Once again, by the time I got onto the school grounds, the presents had been doled out and all the students, who were neatly seated in rows on the playground were about to perform a song for us…..so I started, accidently-on-purpose, sneakily dropping lollies to the wee ones in the front row. After all, Pix-E’s are supposed to be cheeky! With the song completed, I managed to get pix of Taylor and Roisin (Ro-sheen), then sidled up to Roisin to ask,
“Did I see you on TV” (she was in an ad’ for Starship Hospital).
Her eyes widened momentarily, before glancing sideways to me and replying, “You might of!”
I enquired, “It was for Starship, aye?”
“Yep” she says, still glancing sideways with a grin.
“When did you do that?” I asked.
“Last year.” She says.
“Ooohhh Roisin” I say, “You’re a star!” at which she grins as I add to her stash of sweets….what a pet!
We were treated to another song and I chatted to Taylor’s dad for a bit, to find she had recently had an operation to straighten her spine, then it was on to lunch at Woodville, where I treated myself to a Hawaian Burger.
After lunch I led out over Topgrass Rd, to avoid the roadworks on the Eastern side of Woodville….and because it’s not a bad wee frolic, but when regrouping as we emerged at the northern end of Dannevirke, we discovered we were short a couple of riders and corner markers. I sent the rest on to the next regroup point at Mobil Waipuk’, while I retraced top find Herman, then DaveN, who advised that the other Dave (K) was crook and those with him would ride direct to Napier. With that, the three of us struck out at a crisp pace, to rejoin the group.
The day was warming nicely by this time and after another brief stop in Waipuk’, I led out again through Waipawa and up River Rd to our next refreshment stop at Patangata. This was the first time I have ever called into this pub as usually, it’s too early (ie between 2am & 10am), or we’re on a mission to rack up Km’s, but it was rather pleasant to relax in the beer garden….and rather warm.
The day’s ride was finished with a scoot up Middle Rd, then over to and up SH50A to Westshore, where we settled in, had a couple of drinks, then went to Hammond’s for dinner and the formalities (3 children to deliver to). As usual, dinner was superb and we had a great time before returning to the holiday park and had a few more drinks at the pub across the road. (Well…some of us had a few, whilst some had more than a few)
After the temperature hitting 23° on Friday, Saturday dawned with the promise of more of the same, so I scrubbed up, opted for shorts and went to see if Ron needed any assistance for brekky. Unfortunately he needed milk, so that meant about a kilometre walk for me….and my feet aren’t used to wearing jandals these days!!
Breakfast was great, we had a briefing for the day’s programme, then went about packing-up, fuelling and were on the road by 0855, with the temp already hitting 20° as we cruised from Bay View and onto the Napier-Taupo road. Peter had joined us and was leading on the Burgman as we pootled up to have a 20 minute stop in Tarawera, then onto our regroup at BP Wairakei, however by now the day had clouded over, the temp fallen back to a still comfortable 16°….but it was trying to rain.
From here, I led again as we went about 10Km up SH1 before turning off to see Jac and as we approached his place, we did get some precipitation….but he looked pretty happy to see us!
The next stop was Taumaranui and it was hard to decide whether or not to put the ‘wets’ on…and I didn’t. This was a significant decision because I trailed out of Jac’s place at the rear of the group, with Ken and Jude and as we slipped along Poihipi Rd we were treated to bursts of rain, with the weather ahead looking worse, so I decided that if I spotted a sheltered spot with room to get the bike off the road, I’d pause to gear up. I passed a couple of potential spots, but continued, then as we passed Marotiri Rd, without taking it, there on the right was a siding with what looked like a bus shelter…..just perfec’!
I pulled over as Jude then Ken, rocketed past with barely more than a glance and obviously happy that nothing was wrong…..so it was therefore safe to assume that they would continue behind the pack, happy that I’d do whatever I was doing and catch-up!!?? No worries!
My gear was quickly in hand (might have even already been there when they passed), the seat in the shelter meant the task was easier and my GSP Track Log tells me that I was back on the road in 2:41 (yes, that’s 2 minutes 41seconds)….lets say 2:50 shall we…..(but I swear at the time it seemed more than 5minutes).
Well, 50 metres back down the road, Marotiri Rd was calling me….Cooeee it said…..and I had to respond because it’s not often that a road speaks to you and, although I’d known of it’s presence for a few years, I’d never tried it! Was it wide smooth macadam,…or a narrow goat track…perhaps even some gravel….and of course, I was by myself so couldn’t be blamed for leading anyone else astray!!??
Well…..it was relatively wide, smooth macadam and within 2:42 I’d covered the 5Km….or thereabouts, giving or taking a 100 metres or so and in my mind, I was still behind so I embarked on the wet Western Access road at a very spirited pace!...expecting to catch site of the tail end of the group around every corner. I guess it could be argued that I should have known something was amiss by the time I passed Tihoi, but hey, I was making good time and I still had to catch the group!? Because it was quite wet and I had to be mindful to take care and after averaging a tad over the allowable limit at 116 down to Kuratau Junction, I thought, “Hell they’re going quick!” and I buttoned off a bit to settle into a brisk but allowable pace across SH41 to Taumaranui….and I was shocked to find I was the first to arrive!! Damn, I would have noticed if I’d passed a group that big, so I’d been chasing my own tail….and it trashed my economy by a full 1Km/Ltr, dropping from 17.1 to 16.1! Oh well, I texted Ken to let him know where I was, then gassed up and waited.
The rest (apart from Ken & Jude and maybe a couple of others) arrived and we tootled off to see Sam & Max, with Max now permanently wheelchair bound, but he still has a spark in his eye and competitive spirit shining through. He enjoyed being able to sit on Ron’s Spyder and was able to take the sweets from my hand, whereas Sam couldn’t pick them up and is due for a spinal operation soon. Before we left, I had to reply to a text from Ken and I don’t understand why but it was rather rude! Apparently, Ken has a conscience and he was worried that because I didn’t catch-up, I had probably taken Marotiri Rd…..but I might be lying in a ditch and he didn’t want to face Ann if that were the case, so he returned back to the shelter, then tried Marotiri Rd himself. I’m not sure if he was miffed because I wasn’t lying in a ditch….or because he had to do an extra 30Km…or perhaps it was because I got to do Marotiri Rd first??!!
We had lunch then due to the marginal weather, no one took the Forgotten Highway option. As the riders started to head for the Awakino Pub, I went down the road to collect DaveK and by the time we went back past the BP, there were only 2 or 3 bikes still gearing up to depart. We settled into an easy pace and passed JudeB, then Mike & Sandy before taking Ramaroa Rd to Aria. The road was generally wet but the weather had cleared and I was starting to expire so I paused to remove my jacket and change gloves, only to find that once we were barely 10Km down SH3, I had to stop again to put them back on. This proved to be a good move because the heavens really opened up through the Awakino Gorge and although it ruined one of the highlight roads of the weekend, it was still a buzz as we rode on the limits for the conditions.
By the time we left the Awakino Pub, the weather had settled again, but I left the wets on and accompanied JudeB to fill up and ride to the next regroup at Big Jims, before going to Te Arei Marae altogether. It was more pleasant pootling, but I was surprised to get to the SH3A junction to find everybody there, because the Café had closed with the Garden Centre (I hadn’t thought of that). We then went down to the marae by 1740, were welcomed on, going through the formalities before settling in, enjoying a great meal catered as a fundraiser by the local scout group, then settled down to enjoy the evening….over which time, Ken was able to go on and on about the areshole that went AWOL….I just couldn’t understand why he had such a bee in his bonnet over the opportunity to do an extra 10Km’s…..or whatever it was! (truth be known, he probably rested on the side of the road for 30 minutes and said he had to do an extra 50Km’s)!! It was also noted how early many of the party retired for the evening, with most being in bed by 2100. (We managed about 2200)
I was up by 0545, scrubbed, checked the tyres and packed before breakfast at 0700. We had another short briefing, took a group photo and were on the road before 0800. Some gassed in Bell Block before we started the rounds and we were all geared up as it wasn’t raining heavily but it was steady and a real nuisance. The big problem in these conditions was that, with all the gear on, all the stops and slow riding, one got very hot.
We had soon visited Aimee though, then nipped down the road to Matthew and Ethan where I approached the boys with a handful of lollies each, going first to the younger 2 year old Ethan, holding out my hand and expecting him to take the lot. He chose one sweet, then when prompted to take more, he took another, then turned and offered it to his brother. It was rather sweet. Next it was over to Jacob’s, down to Bethany’s and back up to our last stop for the trip at Callum’s. Fortunately, not a lot of apparent change for these ones and we were heading for Stratford by 0955. Pete was going to be peeling off here, so we arranged to have a coffee to finish the ride, as from here some would be heading home and some would be going to the Canteen Christmas party at Adventure School, to take children for rides.
I got back on the road at 1037, on a mission to maintain a crisp, steady pace at or around the allowable limit and although I had a few other riders following, they seemed to drop away by Hawera. I eased up behind a couple of cars before Patea, passed the rear one and settled in behind the front as his pace was acceptable. I then started to wander what sort of comm’s he had for two, biggish aerials and once I notice the odd rectangular plastic thingys on his parcel tray, it clicked….”Oohh, he’s wearing a blue shirt….it’s one of those cars!!” That was close. I’m sure he was maintaining a pace that was just low enough to entice me to pass at a speed that would attract some unwanted attention, so I bided my time up the passing lane out of Patea, waited until he braked for the 65 then 75kph corners, then slipped past before he could get back to speed. There was another car close ahead, so I slipped past him too then had a buffer to ease the gap out. He kept in sight until Waverley, when I managed to slip past another 3 or 4 vehicles and after that I didn’t need to be quite so vigilant. to slip past another 3 or 4 vehicles and after that I didn’t need to be quite so vigilant.
I caught and past Herman coming out of Bulls, he sat with me until Levin, where he dropped back a bit and I could see his light appearing until Otaki, but then saw no more of him after that. I finished off with a jolly good fang up the Paekak’ Hill arriving at Adventure School at 1340, at an average speed from Stratford of 96kph….which is good, because that meant I can’t have been speeding!!??
We took the children for rides on the playing field and I finally got away just before 1520, getting home at 1540 having done 1261Km for the long weekend. The black is going sweet with 7413Km on it now….but I look forward to getting the better economy of the red. (I guess it will only take 60 or 70,000Km for that).
It was another great weekend and one of the highlight rides on my biking calendar, with great roads, great company and a good dose of down-to-earth, wake-up-and-smell-the-roses, thank-your-lucky-stars as we visit the unfortunate but spirited children afflicted with Muscular Dystrophy (plus a couple with other disorders).
……I just need to convince Ken now that ‘potential shortcuts’ should be a valid and reasonable option to take when trying to catch-up to a group!!....and he should be thanking me for the opportunity to ride an extra 100Km!
These blogs were posted on the KiwiBiker forum but I decided it was time for a change.