This year was my 11th MDA run after missing the 2014 ride …and it still hasn’t lost its charm of being a great ride while serving a great cause to see some joy brought to the lives of some children afflicted with Muscular Dystrophy.
This year my involvement included sorting a budget and coming up with a ride plan, which was to be very different from all the other years I have been attending.
Last year would have been the worst (hardest) year because we had 5 schools to visit through the Wai’rapa on the Friday before provisioning and preparing a bbq for the Hawkes Bay children that evening, then we had 8 visits through Taranaki and Whanganui on the Sunday so didn’t get home until about 6pm.
This year we only had one school to visit on Friday and we didn’t have to work the Friday evening as it was catered for us, then on the Saturday we had lost out little man north of Taupo, but we had 10 visits to make on the Sunday. This really opened up the route options so Route 52 from Masterton to Waipuk’ instantly entered the mix and not having to travel the Western Access road was a relief because having moved the run forward a week, we would now conflict with the Round Taupo Bike Race, so two really easy days but we would be very loaded up on the Sunday.
Several options were considered and in the end we settled on a couple of weather-dependant choices that could be made on the day …and Friday was looking dismal! Sheesh, the end of November (a few days before summer), it was only 14° and looking decidedly gloomy over the Rimutakas, so I rolled out of Brown Owl with the thermal liner still in my jacket and my wets on. By Featherston it was looking clear, the temp was up a few degrees, so the wet jacket came off, then at Carterton with the temp still rising the liner came out.
At this point it was time for the ‘D’ on route and with it looking clagged-in to the west and clear to the east, Route 52 was the option of choice, so after pausing in Carterton to re-register the bike, then regrouping with the others at the fuel stop in Masterton, I led out through Te Ore Ore and Alfredton to Pongaroa, where we had a lunch stop. …and what a big burger that was!
From there we headed up to the Weber turnoff, then over to Porongahau and that bit of road is a bit marginal at the moment with a couple of sections where there are cracks in the road and damn, they have got weeds growing in them!! Once one is past Wimbledon the road does get wider and smoother for an easier pace and a couple refuelled in Waipuk’, but I wasn’t finished with them yet, we turned off at Waipawa to head for another break at the Patangata Tavern before finishing the ride with a jaunt across Middle Rd, then over to Bayview where we were staying the night. The temp leapt up to 24° through here so I even had to open the vents on my jacket.
We arrived at Bayview at 1630, settled in, showered up, chatted for a bit before kitting-up in Santa outfits, or in my case, my Pix-E cape and we were taken for a bus ride so that we could arrive back at the hall for Santa to make a grand entrance. That all went well and that was day 1.
I awoke pretty early and eventually arose at 0530 to what was shaping to be a cracker of a day in Hawkes Bay. I scrubbed up, put air in the tyres, fuelled, packed up and we had breakfast at 0700 for an 0800 start. We’d opted for the Gentle Annie route but a couple of the guys and the car took the Napier-Taupo option (which, according to MapSource, should have been about an hour quicker). Tiny from HB led us over to Omahu via Puketapu, then another couple of HB Ulys joined us there, but they were on cruisers and Trev led out at a reasonably brisk pace, so they peeled off once it started to get curly.
Once we started to climb, I had the GoPro set up and I captured the ride through the middle part where the temp dropped from 18° to 14° and I was really feeling the cold, but it wasn’t until we arrived in Waiouru for a fuel stop for Woody that I realised the vents were still open on my jacket from the day before …what a dickhead! At this point we were running 1¼hrs ahead of the predicted MapSource time so we continued on to Ohakune to have a refreshment stop.
About half an hour later we continued to Taumarunui where we filled, made our visit, relaxed for lunch, then continued up SH4. We got a bit of a fright through here when a cop going the other way turned his lights on after just passing us and we might have been 1 or 2 km over the limit. That pushed the heartrate up a bit, as we reviewed our options …19km to our turn-off – nah, …take the Ohura road – nah, take our medicine - *Sigh*!! But he never turned and then Trev advised that his detector device hadn’t activated!! That turned out to be pretty bad timing as he must have received an emergency call right as he passed us!
We soon took Ramaroa Rd for Aria and I had a blast through there, but Totoro Rd was as bad as it always seems to be, and then we were poised to enjoy the Awakino gorge…when it pissed down. Fortunately I had donned my wets at Taumarunui so I limped on at a nanny pace until about half-way through the rain eased so I was riding on a steamy, wet road, then at about three-quarters the road became more dry than wet. All in all it must have been one of the slowest transitions I’ve made through that gorge.
Awakino was time for another refreshment stop after which we continued to Urenui for more fuel for the tiny-tanks and to get supplies for the evening before finishing the day with visits to Waitara and Bell Block, after which we were then welcomed on to the marae before settling down for the night. …and that was day 2 done.
Well almost!! …I was awoken a few times by Mike who was snoring up a storm and I’d left my plugs in the bike.
By 0530 I’d had enough so I got up for a scrub, then go through the motions of tyres, pack etc before brekky at 0730 to get back on the road by 0800. The day was looking dismal and we even had a few dumpings before we left so everyone was fully kitted in wets as we went about our business of 8 visits for the day.
There’s nothing worse than getting on and off the bike in these conditions and sure enough, it transpired that after one of the visits I didn’t do my gear up properly and the moisture got in. Bugger!
We ended up making the visits in a real mix of conditions, but made quite good progress so we had time for a fuel and snack stop at BP Whanganui before our two visits there and the last one in Palmy, where we got dumped on big time before our work for the day was complete. We just had to make our way home and as one would expect, having left Palmy fully kitted, by the time I got to Opiki it was clear, by Levin it was nice and by Otaki I was starting to overheat …but I wasn’t stopping because I had an ETA of 1600 and I just wanted to get home.
The traffic from Shannon on got thicker and thicker with big queues at several places where I was glad I was on the bike and could just scoot along the line of cars. In the end I got home at 1603, satisfied that we had done a good job of bringing some joy to otherwise less than fortunate lives, satisfied that I’d enjoyed a bloody good ride and enjoyed a few jolly good fangs, and satisfied that that was pretty much me done for the year as far as organising rides etc was concerned.
I’m looking forward to a break.
In 2005 I did my first Muscular Dystrophy Ride with the Wellington Ulysses and in 2007, a couple of us decided we needed a decent ride, so we orgainised a 1,000Km ride and called it the C1KC (Capital 1,000 Km Cruise). Within a couple of years the C1KC morfed into a fundraising ride for the MDA Ride and now the success of the C1KC (now the 1KC (Nth) & (Sth)) ensures a decent standard of gifts are purchased for the children, as well as making a reasonable donation straight to the MDA.
This is most fortunate as this year the number of children rose to 30...and this after several children from last year fell off the list as we stop seeing them once they have turned 14. I might also note that one unfortunate wee chap died died during the year and this is one of the things that makes this cause and ride special.
There was also another glitch along the way leading up to this year's ride, in that Ron, who has been organising the ride for the past 11 years, took ill (and subsequently died before Christmas). This turned things on their ear because the organisation was half-baked, but a committee pulled together and kept things on track so that on Friday 04 December, 9 riders, 1 pillion and 1 driver departed at 0900 from Brown Owl on a mission.
Friday is a ride up to Napier and this year we had gone from two school visits to five, so the pressure was on. Fortunately, two children were away for the day, so that resulted in stop-'n-goes as well as reducing our lolly requirements by about a kilo per rider! It also meant that we had time for lunch and a refreshment stop at Tikokino before finishing the day with a bar-b-que for the Napier children. Friday is always a bit of a highlight with the distribution of lashings of lollies, masses of hugs, high-fives, low-fives and group-hugs from Santa, songs from the children and Buzz's group song that stumps them everytime.
The programme for Saturday was as per usual with a ride from Napier to Bell Block, with just two children to visit along the way, so it could be deemed as more of a 'Ride Day', with the Napier-Taupo road, Western Lake Road, SH41, the Awakino Gorge and Mt Messenger for us to enjoy. We had a refuel and refreshment stop at Z Tauhara, arrived in Taumarunui just in time to join the Santa Parade, but sanity prevailed and we refrained from making their Santa look bad because ours was riding an ST. The town was really busy, so we made a change of plans and lunched in PioPio.
I was leading into the Awakino Gorge and I had the GoPro fitted, so as I came out of the tunnel I said to Trev (via the Sena) to come through and I would turn the camera on. Well!, he just heard heard “come through”, because that was all he wanted to hear and he just interpretted the rest of the garbled message as, “and go like hell”!?...and I had to try to keep up.
Saturday night was relaxing with us being catered for at the Te Arei Marae and we needed the rest because Sunday was another hectic day where we delivered to children in New Plymouth, Inglewood, along the coast and Whanganui and I finally got home at about 1745.
What a special weekend. Visiting children with Muscular Dystrophy makes one realise that we don't have much to complain about. Seeing the children, some standing, others in wheelchairs eagerly waiting for Santa and his altitudinous, attitudinous elves to turn up on their bikes, then watching them open a gift which Santa knew they really wanted, the bright eyes and beaming smile is heartwarming. Watching a dad hold up his son's arm so he can wave goodbye is enough to bring a tear to an eye and seeing a mum in tears because someone cares about them and has taken the time to bring a gift to their child leaves a lump in a throat, then watching school children mobbing Santa for a group hug is at the other end of the emotional spectrum and is hilarious...and after all that, there's a good ride on good roads with great mates.
Another year almost over and we've just completed another Muscular Dystrophy Ride, whereby we take Christmas gifts to children in the central and lower North Island.
This year we had a bit of a change and the week before the main MDA Ride, we took presents to MD children in Wellington on the way to our Cancer Kids Ride (which involves turning up to the Cancer Kids Christmas Party and taking them for rides)...so the last two weekends have been a lot of fun and quite fulfilling. We have never included these kiddies in the past as we were under the impression that they had a Wgtn Christmas party and gifts but it would seem, not so.
After a bit of work to tweek the children's profiles, adding a couple of new ones to the list, then making a few minor amendments to the route plan, we were ready to go and this year, Ann was coming again. The only other items we had to attend to was getting a new Z8 fitted to the front of the bike and buying a couple of new slimline sleeping bags.
Friday morning finally rolled around and we made our way to Brown Owl to start our adventure. We were packed to the gunnels (including 2.5Kgs of lollies), GPS was programmed, GoPro charged up and fitted, Camera packed and my Pix-E cape ironed and at the ready.
We trailed out and puttered over the hill, then slipped to the front at the Featherston regroup to lead to the first stop at a new addition's place on the main road in Carterton. It was lovely to see the family support here with grandparents and parents in attendance along with older sisters home from school.
We trailed the pack to the next stop, which was Douglas Park School in Masterton and on the way here it became apparent that none of my mateys had read the ride instructions because as I pulled around the corner onto Ngamutawa Rd......hello.....there was nobody home where we should have been regrouping to dress-up and arrive as a unit!!.....*sigh*. Oh well, just to make things worse, we got to the school to find they weren't expecting us!!?? Hmmm...not a problem though, they whistled the kids out of class, we dipped deeply into our supplies of lollies and were soon in the giving groove.
Next stop Pahiatua and Ann & I led on again, then paused to mark the corner at the red pub...only to watch the riders continue down the road to the school instead of regrouping at the pub! ...*double sigh*...what did I expect?! I got Steve to take over at the corner so I could go fetch the others before the kids started coming out of class before we all got there. We eventually all assembled at the pub then made our way to what seemed like a deserted school, although a quick check revealed not so....we weren't expected and most of the school were down the road at a big sports day! *triple sigh*....Oh well, there were some kids there so we treated them to lashings of lollies, then scooted down to the park to see the girls and give them their presents
From here we made a decision to deviate from the programme which had us stopping for lunch in Woodville, but instead we decided to go to the Purple Haze Cafe in Mangatainoka. This sounded like a good idea but I'm not sure if 20 bikers turning up out of the blue, made their day or ruined it. They were certainly stressing somewhat as they started taking orders and saw the queue! By this time we had done our deliveries though so we weren't in any rush and all was good. This stop also meant that we didn't need to go via Woodville so a quick tweek of the GPS and I re-routed us around the back roads, across the river and out to Oringi via Jacksons Rd.
From there we paused for some to gas up in Dannevirke, then Steve led out, diverting us through Ormandville and Takapau....because we could....then on to the next refreshment and regroup at the Tikokino Pub, before finishing the day with the scoot over SH50 and to the marae in Taradale.
Well we didn't quite finish the day with that, just the riding part, because we still had to do the Powhiri thing, then go for a bbq and give presents to the local MD kids.
Saturday started with a good feed, pack-up, I gassed the bike and added some pressure to the tyres, we had a group photo, then left for Taupo. Ann & I settled at the rear through to Tarawera, then led away through to Z Tauhara at the bypass and on to our first delivery of the day at Oruanui. From there it was across to the Western Lake road and down to Kuratau through drizzle, but it got a bit heavy so a couple of us paused to put the wets on.
The word I passed around at Jac's place was, “Stop'nGo Regroup at BP Taumaranui, on to the delivery, then back for lunch and fuel!” Yes well, even this was just a repeat of the instructions in the booklet, but we arrived at the BP to find most of the bikes lined up at the pumps.... “FFS!!!! What part of stop 'n go don't those guys understand?!” *Quadruple sigh* …. after our stop-extended pause-go regroup we did the delivery which was the saddest of the weekend because one of the boys had progressed to being confined to a mobile bed. MD is just so Bloody sad!
As we were about to leave there, the last three riders turned up and seemed a bit miffed about something, but I just re-iterated the instructions given and that was that. They accepted that but did grumble that the instructions weren't fair on their geriatric bladders...ho-hum, I just rolled my eyes...then we returned to McDonalds for lunch.
Then it was time for the fun part! A scoot up '4 to Ramaroa Rd, across to '3 via Aria, and over the Awakino Gorge to the pub. I had the GoPro set up for this section and even though the ST rear suspension felt really soft and wallowy, we had a blast. I'll mention here that I thought it was odd the suspension was so soft on this bike and even though I had the preload fully wound up, it kept bottoming out. After getting back, I dropped into Boyles when I was passing during the week to discuss it and when we were having a look at the bike, I noticed that there were all these lines along the preload stalk?? “'That's odd' I thought so I grabbed the dial and gave it a good twist....and bugger me, it moved!! Shit, it was just stuck and I've been riding around for the past year with it set on soft. We haven't done much two-up so it hadn't been much of a problem until now...but please!! There's just no helping some people!!
After a 30 minute pause at the Awakino Pub, we finished the fang with a spirited burst over Mt Messenger and that was hard case because after a jolly good thump on the stops accompanied with a big scrape on the centre stand as we swept through a right hander near the top, I felt Ann edge back out rather than sticking with me as I threw the bike into the following left hander....'oh dear' I thought, 'I must have given her a scare and better ease back a tad.' We got through OK though and were soon regrouping and buying 'supplies' for the night in Urenui before going to the marae at Sentry Hill as a group.
After being greeted, settled and fed at the marae, I found I was feeling rather shattered so retired early (even too tired to read) and didn't even find the snorers were a problem. Next morning dawned a great day but that didn't last and by the time we were ready to depart at 0830, I slipped into my wets. This sort of ride is no fun when you have to get fully kitted for the weather, but we had a job to do and just got on with it, with a couple of deliveries in Bell Block, one in New Plymouth, a couple more in/around Inglewood, then down by Normanby.
That last stop was cool as the wee chap had a wee bike of his own so when we were ready to leave, his dad went down the road with the camera and filmed the boy leading us out. From here it was to a lunch stop in Hawera, but Ann & I took the opportunity to visit her parents gravesite in Patea, then rejoined the other at the regroup at Whanganui Gull, then on to the last stop of the weekend in Palmy. We had been pretty lucky to miss most of the rain all day but shortly after we arrived, the heavens opened and it pissed down. (I knew I shouldn't have taken the wets off).
The weekend finished with an easy scoot back to Wellington and collapse in a heap on the couch. We arrived home at 1653 having done 1247Km and the bike now has 39,424Km on it. This ride continues to be one of my favourites, but it was great to have it done and dusted and now I'm already prepping for the Christmas Slow Ride and luncheon.
Another great weekend with another Muscular Dystrophy Ride done and dusted. I wasn’t sure if I’d make it last week because Ann came back from Melbourne on Sunday night with a rather nasty Gastro Bug, but fortunately, apart from a slightly queezy stomach (from the thought of catching it) I made it through the week and managed to escape on Friday morning (with nothing more than the odd fart...or two).
Once again this year, the trip started for me at the beginning of November with a bit of study over potential variations and diversions to the standard route, a quick tweek to the list of children and their profiles to update their pictures etc from last year and make any changes to the ride info, then send it out to the crew along with GPS routes on 19/11/12.
I prepped for the ride by replacing the Pilot Road 2 on the rear with a Metzler Z8, buying 1.6Kg of lollies (and the other 19 did the same so we were carrying a fair old sugar rush), I downloaded the route options to the GPS, ironed my Pix-E cape, bought a new pair of Cordura pants, packed my wets and everything and was all set to get away from home by 0800….with just a quick stop to do a couple of things at work.
I filled and topped-up the tyres at Shell Crofton and once I got onto the Hutt Motorway, the weather looked really gloomy ahead, so I stopped at BP Hutt Rd and put my wets on, getting to Brown Owl at 0854 for the 0900 departure. (We left at 0908 because I wasn’t the last to arrive…and we couldn’t leave without Santa…or Woody!) The road was wet and we encountered a couple of quite heavy showers so the pace was rather sedate with a pause in Featherston to regroup, then one along the bypass in Masterton to kit up in the elf gear for the first stop at Douglas Park School.
It wasn’t raining but the ground was still very wet so the children couldn’t sit on the ground, consequently between them being free tomove and Herman fizzing them up with some lolly-scrambles, we were treated to almost as much chaos as the first time we visited. We only have one child with MD here, but there are two others in wheelchairs that we also share Santa with, and I must say that our new Santa turned out with an untrimmed beard, lots of hugs and high-fives and did a bloody good job…..he rides an ST but!!
We were back on the road in 20 minutes, still with wets donned, and had a crisp ride to Pahiatua, where once again St Anne’s School have one MD kiddy, but three children for Santa to visit. We were treated with a couple of songs and the Irish Blessing, Buzz got them to follow him for some Welsh song and after 25 minutes we were kitting up to leave….when Woody turned up???….go figure!! (I never asked)?
Our next stop was lunch at the Lindauer Cafe in Woodville, before scooting up to a regroup at the Tikokino pub. Some headed straight there, but about nine of us pootled up Top Grass Rd to avoid the roadworks north of Woodville, then cut across to a dry Weber Rd to avoid Dannevirke by meandering up through Ormandville and Takapau. I’ve never done this road but found it to be quite delightful, with only the odd smattering of loose stuff and a critters.
We arrived at Tikokino at 1415, spent half an hour there, then I led up to Taradale, where we were staying at the Te Maara a Tawhao Marae. This was a first for us as we usually stay at Westshore, but this alternative allowed us to have a bigger group as accommodation can be a bit tight at the motorcamp. It was great and we were made most welcome, we settled in then went to Hammond’s to finish the day's formalities….ie enjoy a huge feed and have Santa deliver to our last three children (although only two turned up).
I ended up calling it a night fairly early…only to find myself being sandwiched and serenaded between Mike and Dave. Sometimes they did the duet statement then response….and other times they harmonised….ahh the joys of sleeping in a wharenui!!
Day1 358Km; 77kph Moving Average
I arose at 0530, scrubbed up, packed-up, dumped the tracklog into the notebook, then cleared the data from the GPS for Day2, partook in Ron’s Best Breakfast of Bacon, Scrambled Eggs and Tomatoes on Toast (I passed on the fungus), went down to the local BP to top-up the air and fuel and after we had a group photo, as we were all ready, we brought the departure forward from 0900 to 0800.
Peter H led us out, stopping at Bay View for those that still needed gas, then we hit the Napier Taupo road. It was a brilliant morning, although it took awhile for the temp to recover from the southerly that went through on Friday, so it was only around 9°. I decided to scoot ahead to setup for a ride-through photo op’, and found I didn’t like riding from the brilliant daylight into the shade as the conditions were too similar to the day I had my wee write-off moment. It was hard to find a good spot that; was a good corner, had good sun, and somewhere to get the bike off the road so I didn’t get taken out, but I found one that was OK and got a few good shots. After a pause at Tarawera, I went ahead again and setup on the tight hairpin for some more pix, before carrying on to our regroup point at BP Wairakei…only to find it closed for improvements!!
Oh well, we waited while those that needed gas went into Taupo for it, then headed to Jac’s for his Santa visit. We got there by 1113, loaded him & his sister up with sweets, gave him his pressy, chatted to mum & dad and were away again in 20 minutes. A few of us waited for Santa to disrobe at the bottom of the driveway (the day was warming and he was starting to expire) then I led out over taking Tuingamata Rd to Poihipi Rd and thought I'd take Marotiri Rd as well because that would pick-up about 3-4Km on the rest of the fleet, but was really surprised that as we turned onto SH32 (Western Access Rd) I had ther whole convoy behind me!!?? (It's really great to find that they had all read the ride plan, knew where they were going and how to get there!!)
The ride down the Western Access was quite good but there were a few spots that were getting plenty of sun and not much wind so I was taking care to avoid the potentially oozy ruts, we paused to regroup at Kuratau Junction then embarked on SH41. Ron had left a little ahead of us on the Spyder and we were slowly catching him until we got to the section with a string of 35kph corners, when I found myself suddenly up his date. There was no hurry though so I settled in behind him and at one corner, noted to myself, “Gosh, he seems a bit wide there....Odd style Ron....He looks a bit frantic there and that outside wheel looks bloody close to the edge?....Holy shit....!!” Ron had had one of those momentary lapses where one finds themselves a little off line and reaching deep into the bucket of experience to salvage the situation, which he did by throwing his line of sight deep into the corner....meanwhile, back in my world, my conversation with me continued. As I said, “Holly shit!!, you're a bit wide there Johnny!.....What the f@%# are you looking at him for??!!” as I hit the picks to scrub some speed before swinging the ST through the bend. “You bloody fool...Wake Up!”
We settled back into our ride only to find a fews more Km down the road that JohnM (not me...another JohnM) was coming back towards us and waving us down! Shit, that could only mean one thing and sure enough, there was Woody standing beside his bike looking somewhat bedraggled and worse for wear.
We pulled up, parked up and reviewed the situation. It seemed that he must have gone into a corner a little hot....no biggy, except it was a S-bend so that left him on the wrong line and a little hot to take the 2nd bend....so his Kermit looking Kwaka frog decided to find a pool of water. The damage to the bike looked superficial, but it was unridable as the foot brake mount had broken, the handle bars were bent, and Woody couldn't take weight on his right knee.
Fortunately, this year Herman had brought his car, so he took Woody to the Taumaranui hospital, Dave and Steve waited with the Bike, while Brownie went to organise a tow and the rest of us continued to the BP to get the others, do our visit to Max & Sam, then relax over lunch until things sorted themselves out. It worked out that Woody had wrenched the ligaments in his knee, the biked got transported to town and stored, we only lost 15minutes at the accident site and enjoyed a 50 minutee minute lunch in the air-conditioned McD's. (First time in years that I've bought a feed at the Golden Arches, I had the Moroccan Lamb Burger and it was OK).
At 1433, I led out up SH4, then I waited to ensure everyone took the turn at Ramaroa Rd for Aria. We caught up the others again by Totoro Rd so I ensured they were all on the right road and waited again to make sure the stragglers took the turn as well....and then we enjoyed the Awakino Gorge, had a 40minute rest at the Awakino Pub, then finished the day with a blast over Mt Messenger before regrouping at Shifty's in Bell Block.....only to find the last fews had gone straight to the marae!! Good to see they'd taken note and followed the Ride Plan!!
We got to the marae at 1814, and I was surprised to find that we were to have a Powhiri as they (the tangata whenua) were aware that we had no one to Karanga or Whaikorero. When asked about what was to happen, I speculated, we winged it and I was glad to see there were no men on the paipai (no one to korero).....but once we were seated, sure enough,we were formally welcomed. After their waiata, I gulped, looked at Ron who was giving me the 'eye', so I reluctantly got up, stumbled through a very brief whakatau, anounced who I was and that Ulysses was my iwi and that motopaika was our maunga (mountain), awa (river) and waka (canoe)....except that one of our members had lost his 'all' earlier that day....etc, etc. We then manage to mumble our way though a waiata that the locals helped us with and were soon enjoying there hospitality.
Day2 496Km, 87kph Moving Average
After a pleasant evening of chatting and giving Woody plenty of stick, I had a better nights sleep, but was up at around 0530 again, scrubbed, packed and fed by Ron again. It was very gloomy so we all kitted up in our wets and were on the road by 0830. What a miserable day to be out doing the Santa thing...on the bike, off the bike, crawling around at slow speed where the visor wouldn't clear, would fog up when closed and spray would get over ones glasses if opened. By the 4th stop I found that most of my problem was that something was wrong with the pinlock insert and most of the fogging was between the pinlock & visor...bugger! I whipped it out at the next stop and the problem diminished significantly.
By this time we were in Okaiawa (by Hawera), we left there, filled at the Z in Hawera then stopped at McD's, down the road (I refrained though as I'd eaten too much for brekky). We were now down to the last leg as I led out for our last stop for the weekend in Palmy. Riding at a moderate pace and downwind led to an economy of 19.7Km/Ltr by the time we got to Jed's at 1410.
20 minutes later we had finished our weekend's business, were heading for home and it wasn't until now that we were heading across the wind that we realised how strong it was. I was tempted to up the pace to make it an easier ride, but decided to preserve the economy instead, so I generally sat in the traffic at around 90-100kh until coming out of Shannon, when I let it drift up between 100-110. That was pretty brief though as once I was back on SH1, the traffic was quite heavy and the abundance of double yellows ensured that my passing opportunities were limited, so I did quite well to maintain an average of 85kph to get home at 1611...rather weary, but pleased at having spent a weekend on the bike and with a great bunch of folks!
Day3 409Km, 69kph Moving Average
That now has 23,426Km on the bike and I guess I'll need a service after the next ride.
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.
The Muscular Dystrophy Ride is one of the ‘not-to-be-missed’ annual rides and I’ve just completed my 5th.
This year, to assist Ron to organise the event, I prepared profiles on the kids as well as a ride plan with maps, noting the visit and regroup points. Also the funds raised on the Capital 1000K Ride helped to buy better presents, so come Friday, we were ready to embark on our adventure.
At one stage we were looking at having 20 riders but as things transpired, there were only 11 bikes (3 with pillions) that met at Brown Owl for a 1000 hrs departure on Friday and after sorting badges etc, we were away promptly. The weather forecasts during the week had been a bit grim but the day was quite pleasant at 15° with clear skies and 300+Kms ahead of us.
I had a new Storm fitted to the rear on Wednesday, scrubbed it on the way home and the bike was good to go although the ride over the Hill was rather pedestrian, thanks to the traffic. I did manage a wee moment though as I scrapped the right peg at a time when I wasn’t pushing the pace and didn’t seem to have that much lean on, so I made a mental note that we were very well loaded and to take care. We regrouped in Featherston and from there Ann and I rode TEC to Douglas Park School in Masterton for Stanly. The first time we visited here was utter chaos but the teachers certainly have the place under control now with all the kids being marched into the quadrangle after we arrived and seated in rows.
Gift given, pictures taken, and lashings of lollies lavished on the lovely wee children by Santa and his elves and we were away again, heading for St Anthony’s in Pahiatua. Once again I was bringing up the rear behind Santa, Ken and Mike & Sandy on the ZZR, pleasantly pootling along the Wairarapa countryside heading into Eketahuna when the singing, dancing Little Ted escaped from Mikes tank bag. Fortunately I was staggered out to the left when Little Ted made his move and sailed from the right, to float past me, and I was able to watch a stunning series of cartwheels and flips in my mirror before he came to rest in the middle of the road. I hit the picks and swung around to fetch him and could see that he appeared to be in tact, but I feared there would be no song or dance left in the poor we plastic chap after that spectacular display. A cursory inspection revealed little damage and a functional test was carried out once we arrived in Pahiatua,….Little Ted was fine!!!
Our arrival at St Anthony’s didn’t seem to be as keenly greeted as usual and it soon became apparent that we were competing with a ‘Pet Day’ and other festivities. There were sheep and what looked like sheep-eating-dogs, even a calf to prove that the country kids still really know how to keep a pet and not just the tamagotchi versions that the towny kids are into….and of course, our wee pet Taylor was waiting for us in her wheelchair. She seemed delighted to get her gift, then we waited for the return of Roisin, as she had had a fall and had gone home for some attention, but was soon back and once again, gift given, pix taken, lollies doled out and we were off to Woodville for lunch …. Ann & I still bringing up the rear.
I was pleasantly surprised to find us sailing past the Boots ‘n Braces to dine at the café on the corner, lunch came and went and we were off again. Some refueled in Woodville and some stopped in Dannevirke as we headed for the Tikokino Pub for another refreshment stop, not because we needed it but just because!...and the temp was now most pleasant as it rose into the 20’s.
We were soon back on the road for the final leg to the Westshore Holiday Park and had no sooner had we settled in and we were off for the Bar-B-Que at Hammond's, where we would meet and deliver to the few Hawkes Bay children. As usual the hospitality was wonderful, the food great and day one was all but over……it just remained to quaff a couple of quieties back at the pub…..and then a couple more in our unit.
Saturday was predicted to be rough, but only dawned overcast and about 15°. As usual, Ron & Sue rustled up a pretty good breakfast of bacon & poached eggs on toast with an optional serving of fungus and we were all packed and ready to go by 0830. We were to be joined by Peter to the Summit of the Napier Taupo, Cliff & Beryl to Taupo and Goldie to Taumaranui and by the time we got away, the temp was up to a very pleasant 19°.
Ann & I started out at the back but by the Esk Valley, I decided to get in front of the group trailing Fred on his sidecar, so I could sit a constant pace and any traffic wouldn’t hold me up. It was most pleasant as we sat at about 110kph, not really having to worry about revenue collectors and seemingly catching any other vehicles at opportune passing spots, so barely being held up as we made our way to the regroup at the Summit. We stopped only briefly (just long enough to put a skivvy on as the temp was dropping) and the rest of the way to Taupo, we tucked in behind Ken to shelter from the Westerly and improve our economy. We paused for another regroup on the outskirts of town so Goldie could get us around the road works without having to enter town and get caught by the traffic and mayhem associated with the round Taupo cycle race, then stopped again at the BP on Tauhara Rd for those that needed gas.
We stuck together as a group as we crossed Poihipi Road, went up Oruanui and onto Wridgetop to see Jac, then we did our thing and got underway for the next regroup at Kuratau Junction on our way to Taumaranui. Once again, Ann & I started at the rear of the group as we crossed Poihipi Rd, but I decided to up our pace on SH32 so we could enjoy a more constant tempo. That turned out to be a good move as we were only expecting to encounter the odd cyclist doing the 2 or 3 lap versions of the cycle race, but from half way down the Western Access, the cyclists got thicker and thicker and we had to pass ‘millions’ of them. By this time, the weather ahead was looking much gloomier so whilst waiting at Kurutau Junction for the rest of the group, I removed my skivvy and donned my wets….and that turned out to be a very good choice.
It was wet all the way across SH41 as we sat at around 100-110kph, making our way through Taumaranui and out to see Sam & Max. When we arrived, the family were awaiting us in the garage, so I led the dozen big bikes up the driveway, almost entering the garage before flicking around to park heading back onto the street. The look on the boys faces was most amusing, firstly that of excitement to see all these fine machines and Santa, then shock-horror as they must have thought I was riding straight into the garage, then relief. As it turned out, they had lost their dad in a motorcycle accident a couple of years ago when a tree fell across a country back-road in front of him, leaving him no room to stop and nowhere to go. Sam was pretty quiet but the younger boy, Max, was full of beans and look on his face when Ken sat him on the ST, …then started the bike …then revved it up ….then tooted the horn and let him do it…... Well, anyone would have thought it was Christmas!
That done it was back into Taumaranui for more refuels and lunch before continuing up SH4. The instructions were to take the turnoff to travel along Mokauiti Rd for Aria, then continue on Totoro Rd to SH3, coming out just before Mahoenui. Sounds easy enough to me!
Ann & I ended up leading Brownie, in between two groups and sat around 110’ish. We passed the first group as they were checking their ride sheet, probably around Tapuiwahine, then they slotted in behind us as well. We hit some quite wicked roadworks and I was looking to the right side of the road for the cluster of signs that would indicate Aria, when we whistled past Ramaroa Rd. They must have removed the signs whilst doing the roadworks, so we swung around and I sent the others on as I marked the road for the last four riders (including Santa), who were only a couple of minutes behind.
We followed them for a bit, then shuffled ahead to mark the next corner for them, then slotted in behind once again as Fred led us onto the gravel and the sidecar soon disappeared out of site while I reflected, “Hmmmmmm…..there shouldn’t be any gravel on this road?? ….Oh well!! …..at least it was wet but not greasy and not dusty!!”
We pressed on for a few Km’s until we came across Fred, waiting for us at a Junction and I took the opportunity to check the map….Drat!, we were on the wrong road so it was back to Aria and try again. This time I led away and got a little ahead so as we entered Aria I paused until I saw three of the four headlights come into view before continuing a Km or so up the road to mark the Totoro Rd junction. We waited a couple of minutes and when there was no show we turned back until we could see the road was empty back to Aria…..Double Drat!! They could be anywhere so I decided to press on for Awakino, turned and scarpered!!
With no one in our sights to worry about, I slipped into ‘GC mode’ (Grand Challenge – where a smooth, but quick pace is maintained to eat the Kms without causing undue pressure or fatigue) and enjoyed a wee fang across, the previously untravelled-by-me, Totoro Rd and continued at a very brisk pace through a wet Awakino Gorge. With the bike really loaded up, it still sat like a brick on the wet roads and we made good time, getting to Awakino at 1702hrs to join the other half of the group. I felt really guilty about losing Santa and the others but enjoyed a ginger beer anyway and settled down to wait as Ron & Sue went on to ensure we weren’t locked out of the marae in Waitara. Sometime later, Mike & Sandy turned up with their own adventurous tale and finally Santa, his Ingratitudinous Elf and couple of other helpers turned up, wet and a little worse for wear. I knew they were wet by the pool of water forming around Santa’s boots…and the way his suit seemed to be hanging off his body.
A drink was had after which there was just Mt Messenger to be negotiated through the gloom to finish off the ride, getting to Waitara at 1830hrs. We got settled in then headed straight to the T&C club to catch-up with the others for a drink and dinner. We had a most pleasant evening sharing lies and noting candidates for potential fines, finally getting back to the marae after 2300hrs. I put my MP3 on and had a great night’s sleep, to arise for the new day at 0600.
The drizzle had cleared for a bright but slightly crisp morning and thanks to Ron & Sue’s efforts, everyone was fed, packed and ready by around 0800 for a start at 0830. We had a few new kids, to deliver to, in the area and this was compounded by some having to attend church, hence resulting in a slightly earlier start than usual and we scooted straight out to Lydia & Bethany’s in Inglewood, then back to Callum’s, then Jacob’s before returning to Bell Block for Aimee, Matthew & Ethan. The trip out to Inglewood put us into the fog, which soon burned off and by the time we got to Simon at the Salvation Army Citadel, the day was starting to warm towards the 20’s.
From New Plymouth we embarked around the Mountain for lunch in Wanganui. Knowing that Fred would need a fill by Hawera, Ann & I pushed ahead at a brisk pace in order to visit her folks, just out of Waverly, figuring we would have about 10 -15 minutes there. It was quite breezy, but the Nor’Wester was on our shoulder so didn’t present any problems riding and even aided the economy slightly, so we made good time but did manage a couple of near misses. The first just South of Hawera where I slowed after spotting a vehicle parked on the opposite side of the road ahead and no sooner had I decided it wasn’t a mufti and started to accelerate, than I caught a red flicker and sure enough, the mufti car was behind him and the poor sod was getting booked….oh well, saved my bacon! The next was entering Kakaramea and I was just easing up after passing a truck as I approached the restricted zone, when a cop came the other way but barely gave us a 2nd look…..must have been my lucky day because the overtake took us up to 140’ish.
We regrouped at the Gull station in Wanganui then headed to the Wanganui East Club for lunch where Santa continued to impress the local kids with sweeties and a ride on the V-Max & sidecar….3 at a time around the carpark. By now everyone was starting to get a little weary and we just had the last two visits to make as I led out on No 3 Line for Fordell, Turakina and almost Marton. One to go and the planned route via Halcombe – Mt Stewart went out the door as we just nipped back to SH3 then straight to Palmy for Jedd.
Done for another year! We just had to get home and opted for the most direct route via Opiki and SH1. Once again Ken & I led out to ensure Ron & Fred got onto the right road and they stuck with us until South of Levin when we struck one of the longest traffic queues I can recall, so the trike and the sidecar had to sit while the ST’s scooted up the shoulder and passing lanes to eventually find that it was just due to the Otaki Round-about. It astounds me how useless some people are at negotiating these simple Traffic Islands and also that along the 4-5km queue, we would pass 4 or 5 bikes sitting in the midst of the cars. We made good time but!
We finally got to J’ville for a fill-up at 1805 (I wasn’t sure I’d make it home after 498 brisk Km’s but I only took on 25.7Ltrs so I guess I would have) and we had a spa to wind down. We’d managed over 1380kms for the long weekend, taking 190 photos as we delivered to the 20 wee souls with MD. Ron excelled in organising the event, whereby we just had to turn up, ride, dole out lollies, hit the sack, eat and ride some more. Fred, as usual, performed his part going above and beyond the call of duty and we are actually worried that perhaps he is Santa! And Ken also shone in his satin elf suit, ensuring Santa didn’t get lost without him, heightening the children’s anxiety and expectations as he searched for their gifts in Santa’s sack and generally ensuring a good interaction which would provide the children with a memorable event to look forward to next year…..as we, the MD Riders do
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!
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.