Another year has rolled by and another Muscular Dystrophy ride (my 4th) has been done, but this year Ann joined me. Of the 14 bikes, 5 carrying pillions, only 3 hadn't been before so most knew what a great weekend we were in for when we met at the Brown Owl shops for a departure at 0900 hours on Friday.
This year Ann and I decided to dress for the occasion as Santa's Mr & Mrs Pix-E (the official photographer for the trip) and we had my mum whisk up a couple of capes. I'd checked the tyres the day before, packed Thursday night and we were away from home by 0800 to give us time to fuel at Caltex Rimutaka, check-in, then depart a few minutes early to photograph the other riders as they came over the hill. That done, we joined the rear of the group as we headed for our first stop at Douglas Street School in Masterton.
In the past this has been the most chaotic of the visits but this year the teachers managed to ensure some order and before long Stanley had received his present, lashings of Magic Fairy Dust (lollies) had been distributed and we were back on the road for St Anthony's School in Pahiatua. This year we had two young girls here as we had added Roisin (pronounced Ro-sheen) to our list. She doesn't have MD but is wheelchair bound so it only seemed fair that she and Taylor should receive special attention from Fred Claus. That done and more Fairy Dust distributed, we were treated to an action song, after which we got back on the road for lunch at the Boots 'n Braces in Woodville, where we were joined by Goldie from Napier.
On the sections of the ride where there are no children to see we tend to split up and travel to the next point in small groups at a pace or with stops as required, so from here it was just a straight run through to Kennedy Park in Napier. We ended up in a group of four but about half way from Woodville to Dannevirke a bee slipped just over the top of my screen and splatted against my glasses. I was extremely lucky not to get stung but it made a huge mess and some goo must have also made it into my eye, impairing my vision somewhat, between the gooed-up lens and irritated eye. We therefore pulled into the BP in Dannevirke to clean up, then continuing on behind Buzz on his trike, with just a short pause at Tikokino to find the pub was closed again, so we went straight on to Napier, arriving at 1430, 338Kms done for the day. As the others started to pull in, we found out that Fred had sheared the axle on his sidecar when hitting a pothole in Dannevirke and, taking his job as Santa very seriously, he had hired a car and was coming through with the presents, but would be a little late. Also, for the third year in a row, Steve had punctured his rear tyre just out of Dannevirke and had to get that repaired.
The rest of the afternoon was spent relaxing, over a few wines, as we waited for Fred before going to the Hammond's to do the Santa thing for the Hawkes Bay children, finally getting there at about 1800. We enjoyed a great feed, had a few drinks and one of the best things was to hear that Peter, whose health had prevented him from riding for some years, was finally well enough to be back on a bike, had bought himself a 400 Bergman and would join us to escort us out of town in the morning.
Saturday morning dawned a great day and we were up early for breakfast, pack-up, wait for Peter and head off at 0900. We only had two drops for the day, one at Oruanui and the other at the T&C Club where we would dine that night in Waitara, so we were free to enjoy the Napier-Taupo road at our own pace. After filling at Bayview, Ann and I found ourselves behind Steve and Debby (who just happen to have a whistler) and got along at a nice pace. Unfortunately I didn't get much warning as we passed a reasonably well obscured, parked blue van, hit the picks and now we'll wait to see if we were quick enough (or more correctly, slow enough) to avoid contributing to the consolidated fund. Once we got to the straights, we eased back to 110kph until we got to Trikeworks, the prescribed regroup point. As it was closed, we continued onto the BP where most were able to refuel, grab a coffee and snack as we waited for the rest to arrive.
Once everyone was ready, we headed off to see Jac at Oruanui, a few Kms up and off Poihipi Rd and though the temp had dropped to 14° on the Napier-Taupo, it was now clear skies and heading into the 20's. Jac was a very timid wee fellow last year but warmed to the invasion of bikers a bit more readily this year and thought it was odd that Santa would turn up inside 4 wheels. After observing the rental that Fred was driving he disappeared briefly then returned, thumbing through a magazine and when Ann asked what he had, he replied “Santa's Car!” revealing a picture of the vehicle...........pretty cool!
We were soon off again and enjoying the ride through to Bennydale, where we stopped for a drink before continuing on, cutting across to SH4 from Kopaki, then heading to Piopio via Aria. Some of the guys had to refuel there before we could enjoy one of the treats of the weekend, the Awakino Gorge, however, much of it had liberal sprinklings of loose stuff and with the temp climbing into the mid-20's, patches of slick goo, so what should have been a good fang, was somewhat tamed by having to pick safe lines. It was still a good ride though and we were soon having another stop at the Awakino Pub, which had a cop car outside when we arrived. When I saw that, I grabbed a handful of Angel Dust and offered the uniform at the bar a sweetie, stating they were a reward for being inside and not out nabbing us.
We now just had the last stretch for the day, along the coast, over Mount Messenger and to the Marae in Waitara, arriving at 1700 having done 436Kms for the day. It was still a warm 21° and after settling in and cleaning up, we strolled down to the T&C Club for a few drinks and a great feed that was shared with Grace’s family. Then it was back to the Marae to prepare for the evening chorus by ensuring I had the MP3 with noise reduction earphones handy.
Sunday dawned another crystal clear day and we were on the road again by 0830 after breakfast, tidying up and refueling. I managed to snap a couple of magnificent shots of Mt Taranaki as we got around our four stops in Bell Block and the Inglewood area and as usual, Jacob turned out to be a hard case. To get his first lolly, he had to assure Santa that he had been a good boy, but after a grunt from his mother his response altered slightly to, “yeah I've been good........except for yesterday”. The pleasantries over, he finally got to open his pressy to which a “Holy Shit!” blurted out when he realised it was something he wanted. He's a spunky little fella who nearly died of pneumonia earlier in the year.....and that would have been a real tragedy.
With only four more visits to make, we made our way to Wanganui, regrouping at the Gull service station before heading over to the Wanganui East Club for lunch. It was getting really hot by now and the break was pleasant before finishing the weekend but unfortunately neither of the two girls in Wanganui were home so we continued on to Marton for Olivia, then the final stop in Palmy for Jedd.
That done, we were all pretty knackered so we split up and headed for home. Ann & I followed Steve & Debby and Ken & Shirley out of Palmy for Shannon and SH1. Steve pulled off at Levin and Ken almost got taken out, by a young lady driving a red car with L-plates, as we were coming on to SH1, south of Levin. We were about to merge as she flew across SH1 from the other side to get into our merge lane. Ken managed to avoid her and the verge as he shot to the left and I had to hasten my line onto the main road to avoid plowing into her……stupid bitch!! Anyway, that little burst of adrenalin absorbed and we cruised on until the traffic got thick at Parkak’ at which time my aqueuephobia kicked in and I had to resort to slipping up the inside, thanks to the proliferation of cheescutters on Centennial Highway, getting home just after 1800, having done 435Kms for the day, 1,22Kms for the weekend at an average of 17.4k/ltr. 56,450kms now on the ST.
It was another great weekend! Once again we were blessed with magnificent weather with which to enjoy good biking roads and a worthy cause to make it all worthwhile. It was Les’s 12th time on this trip and several others had done 8 or more, so the combination of roads, mates and MDA kids keep us coming back year after year. Once again, Red Fred showed what a trooper he is by getting a rental car to continue on, after his Sidecar (in the words of Jac), ‘shit itself’, then persisted in wearing his suit even though the temps were soaring and he was almost expiring. The Hammonds, once again, were marvelous and generous hosts who contribute to make the event what it is and I had goosebumps as we followed Peter out of Napier. Ron & Sue Meiklen who organise the trip getting the list and addresses for the recipients, buying the gifts, organizing the accommodation and breakfasts, and cooking breakfast for us all, make it very easy for the rest of us to just turn-up-and-ride.
Apart from the odd time when a rider got split from the group, it all went pretty smoothly and….
………to sum it up…it was bloody marvelous!
Motorbikes were Brett's passion and he and his partner, Kari, were always opening their home and hearts to total strangers who were bikers in need. They spent countless hours on KB, organising weekly rides, assisting and mentoring new riders, and were both very involved in the Victoria Motor Cycle Club who organise a series of race meetings.
I've only known Brett for a couple of years, first meeting at the Ulysses Ambulance Run, then later at various KiwiBiker (KB) rides. The first time we actually rode together as such though, was last year's Capital Thousand Km Cruise (C1KC), when we started the ride together and rode the leg up to Pongaroa.
This year, once again, at the same event, we happened to be riding together quite by chance. I started the ride at the back ensuring there were no stragglers riding by themselves, then gradually worked my way through the field tagging onto various groups until after leaving Waiouru and stopping to take a photo, I ended up hooking-up with my good riding buddy Steve and another Ulyssian, Trevor. We ended up riding Fields Track and The Parapara Rd with a Dozen bikes until National Park, where half continued on SH4 to Taumaranui, while the rest of us took the prescribed route to enjoy the delights of SH's 47 & 41.
I was the second in line to take the turn and didn't know it at the time, but was following Brett as he lifted the pace to between 130 & 150Kph, apparently easing when he suspected any revenue collectors and we did actually encounter one who didn't even appear to blink as we whistled past at 120kph. After the Rangipo turn-off, Brett slowed a bit so I slipped past and settled the pace at 140, maintaining that all the way over the Ponangana Saddle and down to Tokaanu where I paused for a regroup with Steve and Trevor while Brett and Bryce continued for gas at the Tokaanu pumps.
From there, three of us continued on to Taumaranui at a sedate 120, gassed up, then were rejoined by Brett & Bryce for lunch. Brett and I were still fizzing about the blast we had over the saddle and he declared, “We own the Ponangana Saddle”! We had lunch, chatting amongst ourselves and other riders who came and went, before gearing up for the next leg over to Whangamomona.
Once again, I led out and noted that Trevor was on the phone, so we puttered along at 80-100kph to give him a chance to catch-up and it was also good to ease back into the ride after the lunch stop. Just before we entered the Tangarakau Gorge I noted that Brett & Steve's lights were missing from the group, so I slowed a bit more before deciding I better stop and wait for them and take the opportunity to photograph them when they turned up, but after a minute or two I figured something must be wrong and turned back, meeting Steve a Km or two along the road.
He was visibly shaken and informed me that Brett had gone down and was in poor shape, that there were several bikers accompanying him, but they couldn't get any cell coverage and the only houses in the vicinity were empty so we decided that I would go on to raise the alarm and he would return to the scene.
I took off like a startled rabbit, worried shitless, but not really knowing what the situation was, just that it was urgent. I kept an eye out for any dwellings and soon found myself flying over the unsealed section of road at up to 100kph and thinking, 'you dumb ...., if you come off, what good are you going to be to anyone'! But continued on nonetheless. I was soon out of the gorge and in Tahora, noting the front door on the first house was open so I lept off the bike and ran into the house yelling if anyone was about, only to find it was long abandoned, so I retreated and ran across the road and up a driveway to another house. This one had a couple of kids home but no phone and they informed me the people behind and up the hill were always home. I ran back to the bike noting the lights were still on, so I had left the key in the ignition and on. I went up the road and whipped into the next house. Finally, a phone, the lady called 111 and what a relief that they reported a call had already been logged.
At this point, I asked where the nearest cell coverage was and was directed to the top of the Tahora Saddle, ending up at the Kaieto Cafe, which is owned by Rusty Nut members who I have met at the Grand Challenge. There was no cell coverage but they loaned me their phone to call Kari to come and get the bike. I couldn't offer any other info except that an ambulance had been ordered and with that done, I headed back to the site, which I then found was actually 20-25Km back down the road.
I finally got back to the scene (about an hour after the incident) as the chopper was hovering, looking for a place to set down. Brett was still in the middle of the road, with Jane (a pillion from one of the bikes who happened to be a GP) trying to comfort him. I went straight over to find he was still lucid but struggling for breath and the paramedic and Jane were soon at work, cutting off his gear to get a look and preparing oxygen.
We stood around, helping where we could but their efforts proved to be in vain and we were soon confronted with the gutwrenching situation of a mate's life slipping away. Trevor appeared numb, Steve doubled-up in anguish and I wandered off a little to shed a tear while the medics strived to revive him, but to no avail, and sometime later they were forced to call the situation. From there on we just had to wait around for the serious crash unit, as Steve was the only witness and we were totally helpless to advise or update anyone of the situation, particularly Kari.
The three of us finally got away at dusk, heading for Whangamomona. We travelled at 60-80kph, not feeling very great and by the time we got to Whanga' we needed to pause for the guys to clean their visors when the publican insisted that we come in to get a coffee down us, which was on the house. We continued on, finally able to pick up the pace as we approached Stratford, then Trevor took the lead to take us to his daughter's home in Eltham for a feed.
At this point my bike felt like crap and had moments where it seemed to float and wobble but I thought it must be my imagination and it wasn't until after our feed and finally reaching Hawera for a refuel that I actually checked if something was wrong. As it turned out, there was only 15psi in the rear, so I pumped it up and we took off, checking it again in Wanganui to find it had only lost a couple of psi so topped it up again and headed for home.
By this time the temp was falling from 10° to 8°, but it felt much colder as we were feeling the effects of the day with the knowledge that we wouldn't be home until 0230. As we approached Wellington, the temp continued to fall to 5° and by the time I got to bed, I was chilled to the bone and it was about 0330 before I finally slipped into a coma.
I spent today chatting with different ones about the tragedy yesterday and Ann and I visited Kari. She had reported the loss on KB and the comments and condolences were flowing thick and fast and were a testament to what Brett was really like. That his passion for bikes and caring nature had made him somewhat of a Biker Evangelist, spreading the good word and doing his utmost to help anyone in need. He died living his passion and in full knowledge of the risks involved, but wasn't deterred by it, even though he was on medication to thin his blood. Some would say he was crazy but I believe he was just living his dream and sharing it whenever and with whomever he could.
I didn't really know Brett very well but I did share his last few hours. The buzz of pushing ourselves and our machines to high boundaries, the camaraderie that bikers share on a ride and relaxing over a burger and a drink, then the anguish and tragedy of his loss. I have been blessed to meet a man of his character. Cheers mate.
What a day! Where to Start???
After the successful day last year in which we ended up with 19 riders and lot's of positive feedback, we thought about what had gone right and wrong in order to improve the event and over a period of time, thought about interesting prospects for this year’s route.
In the end, we decided that SH43, or the Forgotten Highway should be the focus of the ride and then it was a matter of filling in 1000Kms, getting there and back on roads that the riders wouldn't find boring and in the end, we thought we had a great ride that would be even better than last year. Other changes we made were to have ribbons tied to the back of the bikes so riders could identify each other and wouldn't be inspired to follow non-C1KC riders off-course, we organised to finish at Petone Working Men's Club which would provide a good place for food and refreshments afterwards, and as a last minute thing, we organised a badge for the event.
With our route and date finalised, ride instructions written, flyers placed and the event posted on the KiwBiker and Ulysses forums, it was sit back and wait for the registrations to see if the positive feedback from last year would translate into a bigger turnout. Naturally enough, the first response was from an excited SweetP and from there a steady stream of entries were received, right up until the day of the ride and we ended up with a field of 50.
The long range forecast for the day was good and during the week before the ride, I emailed the Ride Instructions out on Monday, was itching to go and finally 0500 Saturday 08 November was upon us. I lay in bed, listening to a couple of songs before getting cleaned up and away from home at 0530. The morning was very crisp for November (5°) but a clear warm day was promised for most of the ride, I'd checked the tyres the night before so just needed to swing by the supermarket to pick up some water and nut bars before heading up to Caltex Rimutaka, arriving at 0550 to fill-up, set-up and be ready for the first riders to pull in.
Sure enough, no sooner did we have the table out of Steve's van and they started filling up the area to the side of the forecourt, gassing up, getting odometers checked, buying badges, tying yellow and black ribbons to their bikes and chatting. What a crowd, it was awesome and I only remember seeing a few that I knew from previous rides, but I guess we were a bit preoccupied. By 0650, we were running out of time, but fortunately the badges had been sold (including all but one 2008 year bar), the odo's checked and we started the briefing by drawing the spot prizes. With that out of the way, I mentioned a couple of areas to be wary of etc, and we were off.
As per last year, I waited until the last rider was away to ensure no one was left straggling and we got on the road at around 0715, taking it easy as we headed up the Rimutakas. Once we started to descend, at times we would catch glimpses of the long snake of riders ahead and by the time we got to the bottom of the hill we caught the rear of the main group. Mike, the Rusty rider I was with at this time, latched on with the last couple of riders as I moved ahead from group to group until slotting in behind about 20 riders as they wound through the Masterton Bypass, across the Loop Line and up through Mauriceville before getting back onto SH2 just South of Eketahuna. At that point I slipped ahead of them to give myself a free run at the Pahiatua Track which offered the first blast for the day. I treat this road with the greatest of respect but managed to pass a few more riders through here, finally catching Ken (a Ulysses mate) and Alyson along the Aokautere Road as we headed for Ashhurst and up the Pohangina Valley.
These guys would sit on a nice pace, so I sat behind them and was enjoying the ride so much, we nearly missed the Pohangina Valley East turnoff, but that was made and we settled down to business and struck the first problem of the day. We arrived at a junction and Ken and Aly stopped and I stated, “we go right and stay on Pohangina Valley East Road”! “Well that's not what your instructions say”! Replied Ken......and I thought...... “Bugger”!!!
This was the only section of the ride that neither Steve nor I had checked and I realised immediately how the error had occurred when I created the instructions off the google map, not noticing that it took a short-cut. Oh well, I couldn't do much about it now, we were about half way through the field, I hadn't been on that road, so opted to check it out, rather than stay at the corner to direct the rest of the riders. Big mistake, this road was a few Kms less but 90% (about 15Kms) of reasonably loose gravel so we lost heaps of time. Fortunately many of the riders were following the Manawatu crew and took the intended route but quite a few didn't. Oh well, chalk that lesson up for next time.
We finally arrived in Apiti to find the pumps were open so Aly filled-up, Ken headed on and I enjoyed my first of many 'natural breaks' for the day, thanks to the cool air which was only now started to climb into double figures. That done and I led on for Rangiwahia and Mangaweka. and just before we got there, we caught up to the others as we were flagged down where one of them had a wee oopsie on some very loose road works. No damage done and we were now in a group of six as we headed on for a coffee stop in Taihape.
This wasn't a planned stop for me as I had only used just over half a tank but I topped-up with the others, enjoyed a pie and drink and we relaxed before finally heading out again on Spooners Hill Rd for Waiouru. Once again, I left by myself and settled in behind a half dozen other riders for a bit, before moving ahead. The mountain looked spectacular today with a full load of snow and crystal clear skies, so I was on the lookout for a good photo op', which I found just out of Waiouru on the road to Ohakune. I stopped to get the bike in the picture, then waited for a couple of riders to come by and I captured them as well, then Steve and Trevor arrived so I slotted in behind them and headed for the next sweet section of the day, Fields Track and the top half of the Parapara Rd.
We caught a group shortly after turning onto the Whangaehu Valley Road, swelling the numbers up to 12 and we snaked our way through at a leisurely pace, enjoying the scenery, but once we were on the Para's I didn't want to waste the opportunity for another blow-out so a couple of us made our way ahead of the group and nearing Raetihi, we set-up on a corner to capture the riders on film as they came through. That done we slotted back in behind and followed through to National Park where half continued on SH4 to Taumaranui while we took SH47 to Tokaanu then SH41 back to Taumaranui.
I was 2nd round the corner after Grub, with Bryce, Steve and Trevor behind me and we ramped the pace up somewhat, flying through to the Rangipo turnoff where Grub eased up slightly and I took the lead over the Ponangana saddle. We were honking and I was really surprised to see Trevor, keeping in contact on the ME109, with Steve having a good fang on his GS1100. I paused at SH41 (exactly half way on the ride) to regroup with Steve and Trevor, while Bryce and Grub headed on and we passed them while they gassed up in Tokaanu as we headed for Taumaranui at a more respectable pace, arriving for our next fill and lunch. Once again we were joined by Grub and Bryce and enjoyed a relaxing feed, drink and chat and a few other riders as they stopped.
It was time to move on once again and I led out but Trevor was still on the phone, so we took it easy for him to catch us as we pootled through Ohura and the next stop at Whangamomona. Just before the Tangarakau Gorge, everything turned to custard as Grub dropped back slightly and I found myself just riding with Bryce. I eased up as Bryce went ahead, and stopped for another photo-op but after a minute of two, realised something must be wrong and I headed back. I met Steve, who was looking for a house or cell coverage and he outlined that Grub had offed and needed an ambulance, so I went on to Tahora to raise the alarm while he headed back.
After getting through to emergency services and advising Nasty that her mate was down, I headed back, arriving just before the chopper and we had to wait as they set to treating Grub. Unfortunately, despite their efforts, he didn't survive and the three of us were finally able to continue our journey just on dusk. We were pretty shaken so took it very easy, stopping at Whangamomona to clean the visors and have a coffee before heading onto Eltham for a feed at Trevor's daughter's home.
On the way into Eltham I noticed that the ST felt a bit 'floaty' and odd but didn't think too much of it. After the feed and we were on the way to Hawera for gas, it was worse and I found I had to straight line the corners as much as possible, using all the road and after filling-up I checked the front before noticing the rear tyre was down a bit. On checking the pressure, I found it was down to 15psi and I'd chewed a fair chunk of life out of my lovely Storm so I pumped it up and we hit the road with the plan to check how it was holding up in Patea, but it seemed OK so we continued all the way through to the Gull in Wanganui. At that point it was only down by 3psi so while I pumped it up again, the others topped up their fuel and we got back on the road.
By this time it was 0030, the temp was falling back through 10°, we had been on the road for 17½ hours, were getting tired and the trauma of the day's events was starting to impact. We puttered off down to Sanson and SH1, I had 3 layers on under my corduras, was squirming to keep warm and I was noting the temp still falling down to 8° and finally 5° as I pulled into home at 0230.
I was so shattered and frozen, I just hopped of the bike and went straight up to bed but as Ann was away for the weekend, the bed was off and I had to grab her blow dryer to warm it up. It smelt like something was burning so I hopped in but was still cold and shaking so I grabbed it again and cooked myself some more, rang Ann to fill her in on the day, finally conking out at about 0330.
Sunday dawned another great day and I got on the phone to Ron and Jim. Ron had helped at Caltex Rimutaka in the morning and both he and Jim were at the Petone Working Men's Club to greet the riders and issue certificates after the ride.
I found out that only about half of the field had checked in and Ron had stayed there, sitting in his car after the place had shut, until 0130. So it had been a tough day all round.
The feedback has been generally positive though and having noted our errors again this year, we plan to organise another ride next year.
I'd like to thank all the riders who participated, all seemed to enjoy the day, albeit being a bit tough. Then the helpers, Cheryl and Ron in the morning who also took care of things after we left, Kari and her trailer for being oncall as the recovery vehicle if needed and Jim who helped out at the end of the day.
This year FMR Magazine sponsored us by producing the flyer for the local bike shops and putting it on the inside front cover of the last issue, NAC fronted with some promotional items for spot prizes and Affiliated Insurance Brokers provided the certificates and assisted in getting the badges done.
This ride is just a social ride and intro for many riders who have never sampled the delights of endurance riding, but the helpers and sponsors have all contributed to make this a popular ride and if the numbers continue to rise next year, we will have to look at how we can manage...or how many we can cater for.
Grub's demise was most sad, and put a big damper on the day, but these things do happen, there was no alcohol or speed in the equation and it was just an unfortunate event. All our best wishes and prayers go out for him and Kari.
Thanks all, it won't be this hard next year.
Some Stats for the day:
50 starters (2 with pillions)
30 finishers (or at least checked in - eg Steve, Trev & I managed 1000+ but didn’t bother trying to check in at 0230-0300)
6 ladies started this year (only 1 in 2007)
5 completed (and I put Elle’s withdrawal down to Mechanical failure)
Well done ladies
Hyosung 2 (both 250’s – 1 of the riders on a Restricted Licence)
1st & 2nd home were FJR’s, laying down the challenge for the ST riders to ease up on their coffee stops…..or sort the navigating and keep off the gravel.
As usual with this sort of riding, those that maintained a steady, continuous pace finished in a reasonable time.
40 badges (with 2007 & 2008 bars) were sold ($10 per badge and $5 per bar) raising $272 for presents to children with muscular dystrophy.
These blogs were posted on the KiwiBiker forum but I decided it was time for a change.