I started the day of the flood with a bike ride . . .

Instead of being lazy and taking a gentle walk to get the newspaper, still in my pyjamas, I hopped on my bike and took the slow climb up the grassy slope to the road.

At the gate I look right and left to check for traffic, which sometimes includes other cyclists — generally in full lycra, not pyjamas.

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These days logging trucks start coming through when it is still dark and, similarly, I can hear the early morning commuters coming, but the cyclists can sneak up on you.
Not wanting to frighten anyone by bursting out on to the road looking like Ichabod Crane on a pushbike, I wheeled across the road to the letterbox and grabbed the Wanganui Chronicle.

The push from a standing start and the climb up our entranceway always get my circulation going and then I freewheel down to the caravan and our early morning cup of tea and the local news.

After a bit of light housework and morning tea, I settled down to write the column.
I'd just typed in "On yr bike" and was staring at a blank screen when I got a text from Dave at the Savage Club. The roof was leaking and water was pouring in.

It was still pissing down as I grabbed a ladder and toolbox, leapt into the ute and headed for town. I passed the new roadworks at Mosquito Point and at Waireka Rd I came across cones in the middle of the road and signs saying "Sports Event".

With the windscreen wipers slapping time and mist forming on the inside, visibility was poor, so I slowed to a crawl and found myself in the middle of schoolkids coming through in relays in both directions. There were even a couple of teens in wet lycra trying to race the ute as I negotiated around the schoolchildren.

It turned out that the Aramoho campground was the base for a cemetery-to-Waireka-Rd-and-back cycle event.

I passed builders on the roof of the Aramoho Rowing Club in the rain and, at the Savage Club, I learned that Dave was right — water was pouring in through a ceiling.

Before Cyclone Gita I had cleaned out the internal gutters, but I had neglected to check the rainwater heads. Gita had brought down a dusting of pine needles from the old-man pines on Pukenamu and one rainwater head let out a satisfying sucking sound as I pulled out handfuls of wet needles.


Dave and I pulled up a few sodden old carpets and he told me about the last Whanganui Musicians' Club night (I'd been away, camping under a full moon).

"Best night for a year — everything the club should be," was his verdict.

In Somme Pde I came across Ross biking in the rain. I knew he was heading for Waireka Rd so I put his bike on the back and Ross in the cab.

"What do you think about Horizons charging us rates to put a roof on the velodrome?" Ross opened.

Ross told me about the cycle track that had been at Cooks Gardens before it was ripped up when they built the velodrome.

"I was there the night Peter Snell broke the record for the mile. The crowd came in Humbers and Zephyrs and stuff, and men with 'short-back-and-sides' stood around smoking, and they had cycle races and running races before Snell ran," said Ross, typically going into detail.

"I can remember a black asphalt track for the bikes, banked at each end and the lighting was a bit dim, but there was a full moon," he recalled.

"So they plunder tropical rainforests for a hardwood track that shouldn't be out in sun and rain, and now they want $2 million for a roof — what's wrong with asphalt?" he concluded.

Ross declined a ride up Waireka Rd and got out into the rain, extolling the virtues of wool versus lyra for biking in the rain.

That evening the river came over the road in three places, it stopped raining and the locals stood on the road talking.

"No cyclists tonight," someone commented.

Fred Frederikse
Fred Frederikse

When Fred Frederikse is not building, he is a self-directed student of geography and traveller, and in his spare time he is the co-chair of the Whanganui Musicians' Club