Journey of thanks and paying tribute
It was a quick visit in Palmerston North for a bloke and a bike of the same vintage.
But John Smithies is a man on a mission to raise money for Leukaemia & Blood Cancer New Zealand, and Bluff is calling his name.
The 72-year-old Lake Ohau resident left North Cape on his vintage bike on September 15.
The ride is a number of things for Mr Smithies, but mostly to honour Alison, his late wife and soulmate, to whom he was married for 48 years.
"When my wife was ill and we were travelling regularly to Christchurch for treatment, in conversation we decided it would be rather nice to do something for other cancer sufferers and to thank Leukaemia & Blood Cancer New Zealand for the help they were giving my wife," he said. "But events overtook and now I'm on my own and it's unfinished business I guess."
A short overnight stay was all Mr Smithies could afford in Palmerston North yesterday - but it was a well-earned break.
"The weather has been a mixed bag, ranging from some real summery days a couple weekends back, but they were my rest days, I hadn't planned it very well," he said. "And then in complete contrast the leg from Tokoroa through Taupo over the Desert Road has been hard.
"The weather threw everything at me. Temperatures dropped and there was a wind chill factor with a strong southerly."
The bike, a 1940s Fleet built by G.M. Bennett in Christchurch, was a casualty of the Christchurch earthquakes, Mr Smithies said. "I found the bike under a hedge in Christchurch, it was on a demolition site. I was wanting a point of difference and finding it was my eureka moment."
Mr Smithies said he didn't need to train for the 2000km journey, for which he has set aside the last quarter of the year.
"What I'm doing is what I do on a daily basis at home so I haven't trained for it," he said. "As my father used to say, ‘No matter how big the enterprise or undertaking every day begins with the first step'.
"So each day I just take the first step, I don't allow myself to be worn down by the whole project."
Mr Smithies said the best parts of the ride were "those random events that just happen".
"Like truckies giving you a toot and a wave, or once a car pulled up in front of me and this woman thrust $20 into my hand," he said. "She said she didn't have time to talk and the whole transaction took about six seconds but it was just wonderful."
Mr Smithies set a fundraising goal of $50,000, which he says was a bit ambitious.
About $7500 has been donated, but there is still plenty of time to go.
Visit www.leukaemia.org.nz to donate to Mr Smithies' ride and Leukaemia & Blood Cancer New Zealand.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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