So, it was time to turn talk into pedal pushing - I've no doubt we all sized each other up and came to the conclusion that none us were carrying any extra ballast.
Our genetics had been (predictably) fortuitous - but what about the fitness? Had we maintained the regime of the committed cyclist?
"Oh, I haven't done any special training", sayeth George, but eyeing those chiselled calves, one could tell he was no stranger to the saddle.
And Dave?... Well, he was a six-pack on legs. (Guinness, probably...) After all, his favoured at-home wheels were the super skinny kind, and he wore lycra without shame.
Itinerary: Sunday, 29 November
Pick up Bikes (as-new Giant Sedonas) at Trail Journeys in Clyde
Set off to Lauder
We kitted up the very capable looking vehicles with what was necessary for the day ahead (Trail Journeys carted our bulky gear to pre-arranged stop-overs - very civilised). "What was necessary" entailing, essentially, snacks, jackets and cameras - we were going to see a lot of them.
The first stretch was to take us to Alexandra, 10km or so away. We could either go the strictly 'rail' route - fairly straight and uninteresting we'd been told - or we could cross the Clyde River and follow a more adventurous, undulating path, weaving around the trees along the banks.
We did more weaving than anticipated as there had been a big blow go through a day or so previously and there were sizable limbs scattered the length to test our alertness. A rollicking start to the ride - and I guess wasn't too surprised to see that none us were going soft - there was going to be a competitive edge to this adventure - cool!
After a barely earned but most enjoyable coffee at an old converted public building (PO?) we found ourselves at last on we could actually call the Rail Trail. We got our first inkling of the terrain we'd be tackling - pretty cushy it would seem. Seeing as the route was originally designed to be as easy as possible for steam trains, the trail generally didn't go over hills but through them.
An easy or hour or so ensued, humming 'round gentle curves and up gentler inclines watching the scenery change surprisingly spectacularly, until we hit a traditional watering hole - The Chatto Creek Pub. A couple of brethren had already hitched up, including a family with a little kiddy-trailer. Cruising down the traffic-worn track, high up, with fork suspension is one thing... but either side, where the unsprung trailer wheels travelled, was pretty rough - and you'd have Dad's bum for a view for 4 days!
And look at that weather - spoilt, what?
Anyway, we were greeted with the lashings of charm and hospitality we were already getting accustomed to, snarfing down about the best toasted sandwich I can remember - superlative.
Historical note - Chatto Creek is home to NZ's smallest (and almost certainly most miserable) Post Office - still set up just as dear old Millie Allsop (or whoever it was) serviced it all those years. Isn't that interesting?
Setting off satisfyingly fed & watered, we ambled (not so competitively after all) on until we reached the bustling metropolis of Lauder ("Lorder") - our first stopover. We had booked into a converted (they love converting in these parts) old schoolhouse - dead charming. Eeh - I 'ad a trike just like this when I were a lad...
How does the urbane-sophisticate-about-town occupy oneself in Lauder? Why a rubber or two of Boule at Ye Inne, of course. I think the publican said we were the first to try out the new... er... rink. He hadn't been sure how they were usually constructed and had gone for a bed of inches deep gravel. We ended up playing on the grass.
After settling on the pub as our dinner venue (yes - the only actual option) we enjoyed a hearty meal before settling in with Day 2 to greet us in the coming morn.
PS: I had intended to include some gripping clips of the Trail so far, but Blogger won't let me bloody upload 'em.
PPS: As you can see, I got a couple up!