It is customary at the start of a new calendar year to set goals for the next twelve months, as well as look back over the year that has just finished. At the start of 2005 we boasted 16 “official” Ghost Riders, at the beginning of 2006 this has now increased to no less than 30 fully qualified riders. In addition to our rapid membership growth we have also had a significant number of exciting developments including the establishment of our Bendigo Chapter, the start of our Tuesday evening rides, our first overseas adventures – even regular contact with our cycling friends in Russia. Could it really be less than 12 months ago that Gary joined us and became our resident cartoonist ? We can now even boast our own doctor, ambulance paramedic, nurse, veterinary surgeon, fireman and soon we will have our first policeman. Yes it really has been an exciting 12 months.
On our first Thursday ride for 2006 I had been told to expect some new riders, so I was not altogether surprised when the crowd began to assemble at Mt Evelyn. The first guy introduced himself as “Willem Schad” (or was it Wilhelm, Willim, Wiilliam, Willard or something?). When he said he liked chocolate it seemed so logical to change his name to “Wonka”. If only all nicknames were as easily derived.
The second guy, also looked like a likely looking recruit and introduced himself as Nick Gordic. Since he was a big guy with a friendly looking face he was christened “Paddy” (as in Nick Nack Paddy Whack, etc). It was encouraging to see that, even though it was their first ride with us, they both had decided to start at the beginning of the trail. I also noticed that they were both wearing moustaches in the John Seamons style and started to wonder if all Hooters’ friends were locked in some weird 1970’s time warp.
“Will John be joining us here ?” Wonka asked me. I tried to keep a straight face while I informed him that Hooters only ever rode from Milgrove to Warburton. He thought I was joking, since John had apparently spent many hours hours recounting his magnificent cycling exploits to him. It appeared that he was led to believe that John’s dedication and stamina was the catalyst that motivated us all.
By the time that Brendan, Lex, Bob and Little John had arrived the initial group was ready to start. As we progressed down the hill I quickly saw that Wonka and Paddy were quite capable cyclists. They had no trouble keeping the pace and seemed to be enjoying themselves. Ten minutes later we were at Wandin, just in time to witness a miracle of mammoth proportions. We were amazed to find that Hooters had actually left his car at Woori Yallock and ridden back to Wandin to meet his friends. Since this was the first time that he had shown any evidence of backbone at all, we were all speechless.
Also joining at this point were Doctor Phil and Ben. The peloton was starting to fill up nicely, although even greater surprises were waiting for us at Woori Yallock where we were joined by a sizeable group of riders including Lisa, Doc Mackay, two of Paddy’s children, Spanner Billson, Peter Warren and Robyn Wood. Peter also introduced us to another (rather keen looking) cyclist called Ray. Since he appeared to be an experienced cyclist with a few km in his legs he earned the name “Ray’s Outdoors”. It truly was an amazing sight to see so many riders forming into a group. Although it was somewhat difficult to count them all, it was obvious that our previous Thursday record had easily been broken.
The fine weather had also brought a large number of other riders out onto the trail and meant that we had to keep an alert watch for oncoming riders if we were going to avoid an unfortunate collision. We even managed to keep a reasonable degree of pelotonic order during the ride. Mr Outdoors quickly demonstrated his riding prowess by taking up a position about 500m in front of the peloton, presumably because he did not want to get caught in our billowing dust cloud.
With so many riders heading down Settlement Rd it was interesting to note that the passing cars showed us an unusually high degree of respect and gave us a wide berth as they drove by. There was none of the usual hoots and loud shouts of abuse – maybe there really is safety in numbers. We also managed to keep within the clear sprint rules, until Peter had a rush of blood and bolted prematurely (and was immediately disqualified).
Although I had taken a risk and phoned the coffee shop to order sandwiches the girl had informed me that she was “too busy for our business and would only make them if she had time”. Great public relations from a business that we have supported to the tune of thousands of dollars throughout the past three years. When I arrived at the shop I discovered that they had only made about half of the sandwiches we had ordered, leaving us in a bit of a mess. There would only be enough sandwiches for half of our group. This left about 12 riders to fight over the last remaining burnt sausage roll that was curled up in the pie crematorium.
Somewhere between Woori Yallock and Warburton we had been joined by yet another rider – “Jack” Horner. The spectacle of 20 riders descending on a coffee shop is indeed an imposing sight and the four motorcycle riders that were sitting at the outside table were obviously impressed when they were surrounded by such elite athletes. One wanted to take our picture while we made disparaging remarks about his motorbike.
On the return ride we stopped at El Capitan to give the new riders a chance to tackle the incline. Paddy O’Gordic, in the style of the finest Irish-Yugoslavian hill climbers, rode halfway back to Warburton to build up a head of speed but only managed to get about 5 metres up the hill before falling off. On the other hand, one of his boys made a valiant attempt and succeeded in reaching a point about two metres past the sign. This certainly earned him the distinction of achieving a new “junior record”.
At Woori Yallock we bade farewell to a number of riders, leaving only a small group to continue on back to Wandin and Mt Evelyn. Everyone seemed to have had a great time and we certainly hope that these new riders will be back to join us on future rides. We also trust that Hooters will finally cast off the shackles and maintain his new increased distance EVERY week from now on.
2006 really has got off to the best possible start.