When Rod Barnes drives from Richmond to Nelson, he is usually behind the wheel of an NBus.
But this weekend he will be on a Harley Davidson decked out with tinsel and toys.
On Saturday, Rod and hundreds of other motorbike riders will participate in the 32nd Ulysses Nelson Toy Run.
Organised by the Nelson branch of the Ulysses Club, the run gathers new toys and donations for the Salvation Army to distribute, helping Nelsonians in need during the Christmas period.
Rod joined Ulysses in 2008 and this will be his 10th Toy Run.
He has been a bus driver for 24 years, but he’s been riding motorbikes since the early 1970s and is the proud owner of a Harley Davidson 1200 custom.
“I’d had my bike for about eight or nine months and was out one night and started talking to some friends who were in the club, and they said ‘gee whizz Rod, it’s a cool club, why don’t you join?’”
And he hasn’t looked back.
“I remember my first Toy Run very well, and one year, I think it was 2009, we had one of our biggest turnouts of around 600-700 bikes.”
And he always makes sure he has a passenger, helping him collect toys along the way.
“I always take someone on the back with me. For the last three years I’ve taken my daughter, and my oldest bus driver friend came one year – she was 74 and had a great time,” says Rod. “I’m not sure who I’m taking this year yet, though.”
He says the run brings out the wonderful community spirit of Nelson.
“The community support it so well – all the toys we get for the Salvation Army is really good.”
“Things have changed a bit over the years, and we have had to bring in traffic management, but the police are very helpful.”
Rod says the run always gets lots of support from the West Coast and Marlborough branches of Ulysses too, and any member of the public with a motorbike or scooter can join in.
The Toy Run is on this Saturday, 25th November, starting at 10am at Papp’s Carpark in Richmond. It will travel along Cambridge St, Oxford St, Salisbury Rd through to Stoke, Waimea Rd, Rutherford St, Selwyn Pl, Trafalgar St, Halifax St, Paru Paru Rd, finishing at the Trafalgar Centre.
Donations can be made on the day at the start and end points, or by waving down the Salvation Army truck which follows the procession.
The public are being asked to keep an eye out for the bikes and give them a wave or a donation.